Australia's prosperity has been built on the use of our considerable natural resources which are intricately inter-connected with our natural and cultural heritage. At the same time, our rural environment faces problems caused by land clearing, river regulation, farming practices, industrial development, urbanisation and the introduction of non-indigenous plants and animals have adversely affected our biodiversity, river health and water quality, as well as contributing to increased salinity and soil acidity. Some of these problems now threaten the sustainability of the communities that comprise the social and economic fabric of our rural environment.
Many of these regional, rural and remote communities are undergoing significant restructuring including changes in employment opportunities, community services and infrastructure, and the demography of the population. There are increasing differences between rural and regional communities and their urban counterparts on a number of social indicators.
These issues are not being ignored and have attracted increasing attention from the communities themselves, as well as governments and industry. As a consequence many communities are increasingly looking to themselves and their regions as well as to governments to support basic services and infrastructure and chart a course for the future.
Substantial funds are being invested in the regions where CSU operates, for example, through plans developed by catchment management authorities and natural resource agencies. However, despite increased investment there may not be sufficient resources to address many issues, protect all important assets and ensure that livelihoods and lifestyles are not compromised. Priorities need to be established.
ILWS has established a substantial research capacity and commitment to partnership building to support community, industry and government efforts to safeguard our biodiversity and land and water assets and to ensure a dynamic and sustainable future for our regional communities.