Future-proofing towns move farmers and communities away from the breaking points.
Much has been said about droughts and flooding rains since Dorothea Mackellar wrote her famous poem. Unfortunately, in recent years little has been put in place towards future-proofing or drought-proofing our regional, rural and remote areas. There is never enough action to match the rhetoric.
There are no easy answers. While it is not a one-size-fits-all problem, there are no one-size-fits-all approaches. Every town and village in Australia may look the same to the uninitiated. However, while there may be many similarities, they are all quite different, with different hopes and dreams for the future.
You have to ask, “Is the big thinking of yesteryear about such projects as the ‘Bradfield Scheme’ beyond the modern politicians, bureaucrats and community leaders”.
Today’s small regional towns and villages are alone and under attack from many angles, so they let future-proofing slip off the radar until it’s too late. People have become more uneasy, and many are reluctantly drifting to the more substantial regional centres and capital cities.
Some towns are dying slowly and bleeding to death as they struggle to keep up with the modern globalised world and the lack of action on futureproofing their community.
New programs are needed to regenerate towns and villages to keep pace with the changing commercial environment driven by new technologies and the problems and frustrations associated with droughts, floods and fires. Everyone needs to adjust to the impact or continue to decline.
Every town and village must rediscover its reason for being and reinvent itself to retain an excited and proud population. Helping to create a great place to live and work is the difference between being a run-down community and a great community.
Challenge your assumptions
Insight comes about when you see drought in a new light when you rethink beliefs and start to gather information and knowledge while challenging old assumptions. It’s time too stand up with a little political will and stop stuffing around before the people take things into their own hands.
We all know, or should know, livestock water and our drinking water are fundamental to our lives. Harvesting and storing stormwater and reducing our waste of water are the challenges. These challenges might be expensive to address, but if we were to harvest some of the money, we waste as a country on extraneous issues the funds would be there.
Trying to please those who lack experience, motivation, and stick rigidly to their old assumptions can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Once people figured things out, doing what they were meant to do about future-proofing and are enjoying doing it, good things happen. Unfortunately, many don’t step back to consider how compelling their story is, how it can be improved, and how it could help others and their community.
Future-proofing requires capacity
The will might be there; however, the ability to take on large projects is limited. It doesn’t mean towns can’t take on smaller projects and make a real difference. Many small projects quickly add up to significant improvements.
Smaller towns with assumed limited capacity, expertise and resources to manage significant projects, always requires a catalyst, champions and leadership. There are many examples of townspeople banding together and accomplishing extraordinary outcomes, particularly in times of drought and adversity.
When you compare where you are now with where you want to be, you often feel frustrated and defeated. Usually, you can’t see the trees for the leaves, because you have become bogged down in detail. When your dreams are big, progress can feel slow.
In the modern business world, patience and perseverance are essential attributes required to bring about change. While ‘knee-jerk’ reactions might bring about some change, they are rarely sustainable, particularly where significant changes are needed. It should not be confused with becoming action-orientated as small actions can quickly add up.
Academics and governments should hold the answers to future-proofing towns, but do they?
Regional and community development is a concept which has been abused and misused for a long time, particularly when it comes to drought-proofing towns and villages. We caught between tradition and change, individuals and government. There are plenty of “talkfests” without action. The movers and shakers are ‘flogged to death’, and community development has become a political football. It has become too academic for most people to relate to ad understand. Universities and governments should be sticking to developing essential concepts, not implementing them.
Academics and governments tend to discuss how global forces shape the choices we need to make about our communities and our lives, rather than dealing with the problems and frustrations along with the wants and needs of the real people who live there. It’s great to think in terms of ‘regional development’ and ‘economic strategies’, but it is the individual choices and actions that should be the primary drivers.
Stubborn people don’t ask the right questions when it comes to future-proofing towns.
The status quo is not sustainable in the longer-term when it comes to future-proofing towns when real change is needed.
Some people just don’t get it. You’re trying to help someone see the light, but nothing changes. Enlightenment happens when we see ourselves in a new light, which occurs when we rethink beliefs and challenge assumptions. Wisdom begins with not-knowing and is undoubtedly the enemy of innovation and being in the know. Those who know remain in the dark, need to open the windows and suck in some fresh air.
In particular, funding infrastructure is unaffordable for many communities, and local councils struggle to find and retain staff with specialist skills.
It can be challenging to see a change occurring which doesn’t result in some form of conflict of ownership or services.
Many towns have had to transition old infrastructure dating back many decades to modern infrastructure capable of delivering services for the next century. Future-proofing can be very expensive if actions aren’t taken each year by all sections of the community.
So far so good, however questions of future-proofing remain and empowering local people to make local decisions and holding those locally elected accountable to deliver on those decisions, with right-sized solutions and opportunities for local innovation.
Then we come to the floods
While changes may be required with infrastructure when future-proofing a town and accommodate the sudden influx of water, local communities could be better placed to meet the challenges of the future, by rolling out water infrastructure for future eventualities.
It will take much forward-thinking and planning, and this can be difficult during droughts when it looks like it is never going to rain again. Future-proofing towns must be a local and national priority.
So then we see the fires
With the floods, we see the growth of grass and scrub and fuels grow, giving rise to even more devastation.
Bushfires are frequent following heavy rain and floods throughout Australia. They are most likely to occur when the weather is hot and dry during or following a drought.
They can be started by human negligence, which can be either by accident or deliberately, or they can begin by natural causes such as lightning. High winds make fires a real threat as they can fan the flames and spread the blaze.
Fire-proofing, your town, should be a priority and community engagement in such activities is critical. Lots of things can be done to make houses and businesses safer and lower the risk of damage from bushfires.
“When you confront people with new ideas, they often turn away. However, when you help them to discover a better way, they turn toward you and your ideas”. Peter Sergeant
“As a general observation: Every problem created by human beings started as a solution to a previous problem. Therefore, in thinking about any solution for any problem, it is important to think about how it (the solution itself) would become a future problem”. Chade-Meng Tan