Highlights from the 2nd CRC for WSC conference in Brisbane

Mid-September, over 220 government, industry and research participants in the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) gathered in Brisbane for the 2nd Water Sensitive Cities Conference. The conference, managed by the CRCWSC, featured 50 researcher and industry case study presentations and 12 industry-led panels.

For Carol, who attended on behalf of Clearwater, one of the highlights of the conference was a presentation made by Tony Wong, CEO of the CRCWSC, in conjunction with David Pannell, from the University of Western Australia.

Their case study, entitled ‘a whole of government approach to delivering Water Sensitive Cities’, is part of Project A3.3: Strategies for influencing the political dynamics of decision-making. The idea was for the research team to make a case for a water sensitive city in front of a mock-up government led by Brumby. The experiment was particularly interesting given its novel approach and the willingness of the project team to take risks in a fail-safe environment. 

The outcomes from this case study were as follows:

  • the CRC was great at articulating their case for transitioning to water sensitive cities;
  • they failed at offering solutions that would resonate with politicians;
  • their ‘case’ was deemed not good enough to get fast-paced politicians' time, ear and goodwill.

The research team acknowledged that in past times, scientists were ‘trusted advisors’ whereas in today’s world, they are increasingly politicised – a difficult space to be operating in. Some of the lessons learnt included:

  • Ensure you have a champion in cabinet;
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare (meet with the advisors prior, research their point of views, policies and associated stakeholders);
  • Brake the issue of transitioning to water sensitive cities into smaller and more tangible challenge segments to make a convincing case for change;
  • Clearly articulate tangible solutions for cabinet;
  • Allude to new legislation or address other important topics relevant to the top of the political ladder.

The boldness of the presentation and frank admission to failures and associated learnings of this experiment were an incredible statement of strength and commitment to pursue the case, learn by doing and do better next time around!