Sustainable Development Goals: a win-win for Australia

The Conversation

On September 25 world leaders will meet in New York to formalise the new Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 goals will guide efforts to reduce poverty and increase well-being, without destroying the Earth.


Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs) that applied only to developing countries, the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) will apply to all countries, including Australia.

The SDGs offer the opportunity for a “win-win” for Australia: by promoting more sustainable development we can improve the quality of life and opportunity here in Australia while also promoting prosperity in the many developing countries in our region. This will be vital for our economic future and security.

The SDGs are relevant to developed countries like Australia in two ways. First, they represent goals and targets that can make Australia itself more prosperous, fair and sustainable. Examples include improving gender equality and reducing non-communicable diseases. Second, they encourage actions by Australia that will contribute to global sustainable development. Examples here are more sustainable consumption and production, reduced carbon emissions, and support for overseas development.

Perhaps one of the most significant applications of the SDGs to Australia will be in helping reduce the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. A core principle underpinning the SDGs is that “no one is left behind”: the goals and targets are to be met for all income and social groups, particularly disadvantaged groups.

As one of the world’s most urbanised countries, goal 11, to make our cities safe, resilient and sustainable, is clearly important. As a dry continent with an important agricultural sector, ensuring sustainable water management in cities and rural areas is critical (goal 6).

And with some of the world’s highest carbon emissions per person, the goals of sustainable modern energy (goal 7), sustainable consumption and production (goal 12) and action to combat climate change (goal 13) are clearly relevant. Some of the social targets such as reducing inequality, strengthening prevention of substance abuse and increasing access to early childhood development also rated highly.

The SDGs and targets are meant to take into account different national realities and levels of development. Each government is able to set its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances. Potential Australia-specific targets could be for non-communicable diseases, technical and vocational skills, gender equality, water efficiency, affordable housing and sustainable cities. The SDGs and targets could be incorporated into national planning processes but also into those of the states and local government.

Perhaps most importantly, Australia should look for targets that incorporate the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. It is in this way that we will maximise well-being for all rather than continue the unsustainable path of trading off social and environmental needs for economic growth.

View the full article here.


David Gilbert from Murrumbidgee Irrigation Ltd to present on Govt policy challenges for rural water infrastructure service providers

David Gilbert, Executive Manager, Planning at Murrumbidgee Irrigation Ltd will present at the Australian Regional Development Conference being held at the Commercial Club Albury on the 26– 27 August 2015.

The Conference is an initiative of the Association for Sustainability in Business Inc., a non-Government ‘not-for-profit’ organisation.

David Gilbert

David Gilbert

Presenter Introduction: Dave commenced in 2008 and was appointed as Executive Manager Planning in March 2014, responsible for corporate and water resource planning, asset management and regulatory compliance functions. He has previously been responsible for delivery of major capital infrastructure projects.

Dave is an electrical engineer who has held management roles in the electricity supply industry and also within the Australian public service that has included implementation of the National Electricity Market, administration of Australia’s export controls and defence-related research projects.

Presentation Title:
Government policy challenges for rural water infrastructure service providers

Co-Author: Karen Hutchinson, Customer Services Manager, Murrumbidgee Irrigation Ltd

Overview: Government water policy objectives typically seek to optimise economic, social and environmental outcomes, including from the sustainable use of available water resources and the promotion of efficient investment in water delivery infrastructure.

In establishing irrigation areas like the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA), which is located in located in the Murray-Darling Basin, the NSW Government undertook an enormous development effort that involved an entirely new agricultural enterprise for the state. This was supported by government efforts to divert the water resources of the Snowy Mountains as a means of supplementing the flow of the great inland rivers for irrigation to increase agricultural production and as a means for developing hydro-electric power.

Initial production within the MIA centred on horticulture, dairy and other pasture enterprises which led to the rapid expansion of the irrigation area into a diverse and highly productive agricultural region, rich in bird life and wetland habitats. The sustainability of the MIA, and other irrigation areas, is of local, state and national significance with the gross value of farm production, contributing to significant levels of regional value adding, and employment opportunities that underpin the regional community.

Government water reform efforts are focussed on the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to respond to threats to ecosystem health and sustainability in the Basin. This includes irrigation modernisation, environmental works and measures, and water purchasing. Investment in infrastructure and irrigation efficiency projects is expected to assist irrigation communities adjust to a future of reduced water availability and become more resilient to change. However, evaluation and reporting on the effects of these water reforms on communities and the environment continues to mature before flow-on effects will become apparent and unintended consequences emerge.

A number of indicators of the social and economic impact of the Basin Plan have been used to identify how irrigation communities are adjusting to less water, including on agricultural production and other local industries, community health and wellbeing, and wider social and cultural impacts.

Communities across the Basin are coping with water reform efforts differently. This paper includes preliminary assessments of water reform impacts from investment in irrigation infrastructure across the MIA, including on the productive capacity of the region.

To view and/or download the Australian Regional Development Conference program, visit the website here.