Rural and regional residents and community already have a good idea of what they need to thrive in the 21st Century – trustworthy data and decent access to it.
It’s a message heard loud and clear, says Professor John McVeigh, Director of the new Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales Drought Resilience Innovation and Adoption Hub.
“Our team have just completed an initial round of workshops to help us plan the Hub’s activities for the next three years, across topics such as data access, wellbeing, emerging environmental markets, decision making and drought preparedness.
“Community and industry are calling the shots on this drought resilience planning. We’ve held workshops across the region and due to COVID-19 four online workshops as well so that our stakeholders could ‘point us in the right direction’, and they weren’t shy,” Professor McVeigh said.
He said across all of the sessions, data and connectivity were raised again and again.
“Whether it’s on the farm or on the other side of the gate, people want access to solid, reliable data that’s relevant to their local area. They want to be able to make good decisions,” Professor McVeigh said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s about insurance, weather forecasting, pasture condition, personal wellbeing, water quality, risk management or nutrition. We’ve heard pretty clearly that people want this data presented in a user-friendly way, that they can integrate into their on-property operations or within their regional businesses.
“And they want trust. They want to be able to a) trust the data is relevant to them, especially if they’re changing their management based on it and b) they want to be able to trust in their data ownership and privacy.”
Professor McVeigh said this was definitely an area for the new Hub.
“This is the Hub in action. Our Hub is one of eight nationally now operating as part of the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund, to help rural and regional areas build resilience and foster ag innovation. With our extensive network of partners, providing a trustworthy source of information is clearly something we can deliver,” he said.
“Of course, that leads us into the second common point raised: people need access to reliable mobile and internet coverage,” he said.
“It’s the 21st Century, and being disconnected from the internet has been stressed as a major roadblock to participation in a modern economy.”
Professor McVeigh said other important areas identified by the 80+ workshop participants were building the hands on skills of land managers in restorative practices, the importance of investing in property infrastructure to build resilience, the potential of emerging environment markets, and personal and family wellbeing to help maintain community connections.
“Our members, partners and other stakeholders also gave us some excellent starting points, with practical options for on-ground works and capacity building events. The Hub nodes at Armidale, Narrabri, Lismore, Stanthorpe, Roma and Longreach are now in the process of prioritising and planning, so we can help and support regional communities and businesses.
“One of the definite next steps for the Hub is to spread the word about existing innovative practices that we know some primary producers are already using, and getting existing research in front of people so it can be adopted.”
The Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub has received funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.
For more information, contact SQNNSW Drought Resilience Hub Communications Coordinator Lisa Yorkston: 0448 263 767 or Lisa.Yorkston@usq.edu.au.