The Avon River Basin in 2050: scenario planning in the Western Australian Wheatbelt
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O'Connor, MH and MacFarlane, MJ and MacRae, D and Lefroy, EC, The Avon River Basin in 2050: scenario planning in the Western Australian Wheatbelt, Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 56, (6) pp. 563-580. ISSN 0004-9409 (2005) [Refereed Article]
Scenario planning was used to identify issues and drivers of change that are relevant to community efforts to improve regional prospects in the Western Australian Wheatbelt. The region, some 20 million hectares in area, is under pressure to respond to a variety of environmental (salinity, erosion, acidification, biodiversity decline), economic (declining agricultural terms of trade), and social forces (rural decline, isolation). Regional strategic plans have been increasingly seen as the means of achieving sustainability in the face of these challenges, but until recently typically had single-activity outlook and timeframes of up to a decade into the future. Systematic futures-based research has been used in various regions to avoid reliance on business-as-usual as the default strategy, and to identify opportunities and challenges not presently apparent. The Avon River Basin, the central region of the Wheatbelt, was selected as the geographic focus of the project, and the time horizon was set at 2050. The project was developed by a group of 50 stakeholders from the basin, with expertise and strategic interests across a wide range of economic, social, and environmental themes. Through a series of workshops the stakeholders identified critical issues and their attendant drivers, then documented relevant past trends. Four regional scenarios, Saline Growth, Grain and Drain, Landcare Bounty, and Harmony with Prosperity, were developed based on positive and negative combinations of 2 clusters of uncertain and important drivers: environmental change and access to new markets. Common opportunities, threats, and critical success factors for the Avon River Basin region out to 2050 were also identified. We also found that the stakeholders have a tendency to strive for positive outcomes despite negative initial conditions. This resulted in 4 scenarios that were superficially similar due to the regional scale of analysis and the continuation of agricultural industries as significant shapers of economy, society, and environment. However, each scenario represents profoundly different outcomes for the residents and communities of the Avon River Basin in 2050. The triple-bottom line outcomes for the Avon River Basin in 2050 were estimated to be in the range 4.9-9.7 Mt of wheat (currently 4.0), 46 000-66 000 people (currently 43 000), and 10-30% of farmland salinised (currently 6). The application of these results to other regions in Australia is discussed. © CSIRO 2005.
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