The Victorian Catchment Management Council (VCMC) released its five-yearly Catchment Condition and Management Report at the end of 2017. The report highlighted, for the fifth consecutive time, the need for better data monitoring and reporting, not just in terms of the quantum of data but also in aligning data with strategic outcomes.
This recurring theme first emerged 20 years ago in the 1997 Catchment Condition Report, where inconsistency in indicators and data availability and suitability presented challenges for establishing a baseline understanding of Victorian catchment condition and management. The report stated that “ultimately, all indicators should report on trends over time and we would have available the information needed to interpret why changes have occurred.” Three years earlier, the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 was established, with one of its objectives being to “establish processes that can be used to assess the condition of the State’s land and water resources and the effectiveness of land protection measures.”
Establishing outcomes, indicators and measures and the processes for monitoring and reporting against these is challenging. In the water and land space, there is a diversity of agencies involved in management, responses in the system can extend beyond political timeframes, budgets and resources can vary, and there will always be events such as floods, fires or drought that may impact on the good work of our catchment managers.
But these factors make it even more important to prioritise developing a shared understanding of what success in catchment management looks like and identifying appropriate, consistent and practical ways of measuring that success, identifying improvement opportunities, capturing the impacts of those things outside the industry’s control, and communicating success in a meaningful way to the Victorian community.