Text description for Figure 8.19

State of the Environment 2011 Committee. Australia state of the environment 2011.
Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Canberra: DSEWPaC, 2011.

8 Biodiversity

Text description for Figure 8.19 Historical changes in the resilience of the Goulburn–Broken catchment and major slow-changing processes that help to determine resilience


Pre European phase
Resources minimally exploited; many options open
Biophysical systems regulated by a combination of ecological processes and intervention by Indigenous people with fire management that maintained a mosaic of woodland and grassland supporting a high biodiversity
From European colonisation, about 1830 to 1960s
Widely shared values favoured development and resource exploitation
Options were gradually reduced due to modification of landscapes, reduction in ecological regulation of biophysical processes, and governance and land management becoming tightly constrained
There were few incentives for efficient use of water and other resources
1960s to 2009
Increasingly complex rules, investments and organisational structures were deployed to address problems initiated during the growth phase
The system had insufficient spare capacity to cope with the drought of the early 2000s so the resilience of parts of the system was overcome and parts of the system (e.g. wetlands along the Murray) shifted to a new regime
State and federal institutions, politicians, lobbyists for different values, voters and bureaucrats interact in a political–bureaucratic network of microdecisions and constant consultation
The authors argue that this institutional complexity is dysfunctional and prone to collapse