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Recognition of indigenous water values in Australia's Northern Territory: current progress and ongoing challenges for social justice in water planning

Planning Theory & Practice journal
TitleRecognition of indigenous water values in Australia's Northern Territory: current progress and ongoing challenges for social justice in water planning
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsJackson, S, Barber, M
JournalPlanning Theory & Practice
Date Published10/2013
ISSN1464-9357 (Print), 1470-000X (Online)
Keywordscustomary water governance; indigenous rights; indigenous water values; Roper River; water justice; water planning
Abstract

This paper details indigenous Australian water values and interests, highlights progress towards improved distributive outcomes from water planning and analyses the remaining challenges in meeting indigenous aspirations for cultural recognition. It describes the significance of water to indigenous people living in the Roper River area of Australia’s Northern Territory, reports on innovations in water allocation planning processes aimed at accommodating that significance, and analyses the implications of this case study for water planning generally. We describe rich cultural and historical connections with water places, protocols governing human conduct towards water, custodial assertions regarding the need for “water for the country”, distinctive values relating to riparian vegetation, and claims of ownership and economic rights in contemporary water allocations. Current water planning objectives such as sustainable development, protection for groundwater-dependent ecosystems, and protection of indigenous values accord with contemporary indigenous perspectives in the Roper, and in a national first, the local water plan specifically proposes reserving a significant water allocation for commercial use by indigenous people. Yet that allocation is seen as unjust from a local perspective, and further analysis demonstrates a range of other limitations: the scale and boundedness of the demarcated plan area, the neglect of riparian vegetation management, insufficient resourcing of local indigenous capacity, mismatches in planning and local governance structures, and the broader question of whether a rationalist planning process can simultaneously advance indigenous claims for recognition, equity in distributions and parity in participation.

DOI10.1080/14649357.2013.845684
GeoTerm: