Sustain Northern Rivers

SCU is one of 26 peak regional organisations in the Sustain Northern Rivers (SNR) Collaboration

In 2008, eight Northern Rivers peak organisations formed an alliance to communicate, consult and collaborate for action on climate change. This alliance has since grown substantially to 26 members and is now known as the Sustain Northern Rivers (SNR) Collaboration. It seeks to build social capital and respond to issues for householders, small, medium and large businesses and community enterprises.

SNR has developed a successful and innovative collaborative model, based on distributed leadership, with the recognition that no one organisation has the mandate or resources to deal with all of the interrelated complexities involved in responding to climate change. To date, SNR has established three major programs of collaborative activity:

  • Sustain Food - aimed at securing a sustainable food future for the region by increasing capacity for growing affordable, nutritional and accessible food locally and mitigating climate change impacts of food production, distribution and consumption.
  • Sustain Transport - addressing the region's high dependency on car transport and vulnerability to increased fuel costs with the aim of reducing transport emissions, increasing transport options, and increasing physical activity, social capital and resilience.
  • Sustain Energy - focusing on reducing the region's dependence on external energy sources, and increasing sustainable practices in energy generation, transmission and consumption.

As a founding member of SNR, SCU has demonstrated ongoing and significant leadership in the provision of expert advice on the development of collaborative governance, member roles and processes; strategic planning; the provision of secretariat roles facilitating core functions; and, the convening of working groups to achieve project outcomes. In 2011, SCU hosted a Complexity Leadership Course for 40 senior managers from the region that focused on developing capacity for distributed leadership, adaptive management and collaboration in SNR partner organisations.

In collaboration with SNR partners, SCU has identified strategic priorities for research and education projects. SCU is well placed to contribute expertise to SNR: in 2012, its research strengths in Earth Science, Geochemistry, Agricultural Science, Crop and Pasture Production and Forestry Sciences were assessed by the Australian Research Council to be 'well above world standard'. In support of Sustain Food, SCU has established a Regional Food Research Network bringing together food systems researchers from across a diversity of academic fields.

SNR has provided the Northern Rivers region with a successful collaborative approach to address the 'wicked problems' of climate change and sustainability. The Collaboration has successfully attracted substantial external funding to progress key regional projects and achieve tangible outcomes of benefit to regional industries and communities. It has become the 'network of networks' in the region and the focal point for regional consultation and coordination.

Under the Sustain Transport program, for example, the Northern Rivers Carpool developed and at April 2012, had 1,300 people registered to share their journeys travelling to work or study.  Under the Sustain Energy program, two major projects are currently being conducted: skill requirements for securing the region's future energy sustainability; and, a bioenergy scoping study.