When faced with the dilemma of how to manage the region's natural resources, the Murray Darling NRM board chose to undertake a deliberative panel to understand local citizens' views on the key issues including possible rate increases, farming, tourism and protecting the environment.
Problems and Purpose
The Murray Darling region is important for South Australia and surrounding states for its agriculture, tourism and unique environmental properties. In 2015 the South Australia Murray Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Board (SAMDB NRM Board) was faced with the need to increase levies in the region in order to pay for required environmental projects.
A deliberative panel process was deployed in order to understand the community's attitudes towards potential rate increases . The board also used surveys and consulted with stakeholders to garner feedback from a broader public .
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The deliberative panel was convened by the SAMDB NRM Board and designed under the guidance of Emily Jenke, who was a member of the Board and the co-founder of deliberative practitioner democracyCo, who also conducted the participant recruitment. The panel was facilitated by Max Hardy and Danielle Annells .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participants were recruited from across the region with 10,000 invitations initially sent out . In total 53 people participated and participants were selected to reflect the region's demographics .
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The panel met three times over two weekends and heard from a variety of experts. In addition to the panel, the Board sought feedback directly from stakeholders and from the broader public through a survey and through discussion on the government's YourSAy online portal .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The final decision of the Board was to go ahead with increasing rates for NRM projects. In their new plan, the Board reports that the panel and community feedback had a significant impact on this decision:
"This input provided the Board with a deeper insight into the values of the SAMDB community. The Community Deliberative Panel members provided specific advice to the Board on the importance of natural resource assets to them and the value they assign to projects and services funded by the Board from the levy, State and Australian Governments. The input from this randomly selected cross section of the SAMDB community provided very strong guidance to the Board in considering the program and funding option and ultimately the investment program decision outlined in this Business Plan." 
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 democracyCo (2019) South Australia Murray Darling Basin NRM Board Deliberative Panel. Available at: https://www.democracyco.com.au/our-projects/south-australia-murray-darling-nrm-board-deliberative-panel/
 South Australia Murray Darling Basin NRM Board (2017). South Australia Murray Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Plan. Available at: https://www.mdba.gov.au/sites/default/files/pubs/sa-mdb-natural-resource-management-plan-dec-17.pdf
 democracyCo (2019) South Australia Murray Darling Basin NRM Board Deliberative Panel. Available at: https://www.democracyco.com.au/our-projects/south-australia-murray-darling-nrm-board-deliberative-panel/, p5.
 Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin (2016). The SAMDB NRM Board Deliberative Panel 2015. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8q1kuR1RFM
 South Australia Murray Darling Basin NRM Board (2017). South Australia Murray Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Plan. Available at: https://www.mdba.gov.au/sites/default/files/pubs/sa-mdb-natural-resource-management-plan-dec-17.pdf, p5.
 Ibid, p5.