The history of NRM within the coastal plain portion of the Peel-Harvey catchment is best described in the book “Peel-Harvey, The Decline and Rescue of an Ecosystem,” (Bradby, 1997, available from the Peel Development Commission).  This publication comprehensively describes the Peel-Harvey estuarine system from a time when the Aboriginal community managed the land through to the first signs of eutrophication (nutrient build up) and algal growth resulting European settlement and agricultural expansion. It then describes progress towards catchment repair and improvement resulting from community and government inputs.

Peel-Harvey map

The Landcare movement was a key to the large scale, on-ground action that was needed to tackle the diversity of environmental issues that threaten the Peel-Harvey catchment.  Landcare groups and Land Conservation District Committees were formed, and over time these community-based bodies have become empowered decision-makers on improving all aspects of the catchments’ natural resources.

To assist this community effort the Community Catchment Centre was opened in Pinjarra in September 1990 and originally staffed by people from the (then) Department of Agriculture, also had Officers from the (now) Department of Conservation and Land Management and the Water and Rivers Commission.  The Catchment Centre had the aim of forging strong links with the rural community and was about developing ‘on-the-ground’ approaches to Landcare instead of conducting further research.

There were several attempts through out the years to establish a formal “Catchment Management” body. Although the government agency responsible for the development of a “Catchment Management” process continually bought up the issue with the community, it was many years before the broad community saw the value in a regional catchment management planning group to complement the on-ground work that they were doing.

In March 2000 the Peel-Harvey Landcare community formalised an integrated approach to managing the catchments natural resource issues with the establishment of the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council. The PHCC recognised the need for community led, catchment planning and initiated the process with the release in December 2000 of a discussion paper titled The Future of Natural Resource Management in the Peel-Harvey Catchment (PHCC 2000).

With community input the 2000 Discussion Paper evolved into a Draft 2002-2007 Action Plan for Natural Resource Management (PHCC 2002) following the release of the South West Catchments Council’s first draft South West Regional Strategy for Natural Resource Management (SWCC March 2002).

Along with Leschenault, Geographe and Blackwood Catchments, and the Cape to Cape and Warren subregions, Peel-Harvey catchment subsequently became part of the South West NRM region when the December 2002 NHT bilateral agreement ushered in the current regional approach to NRM in Western Australia. Peel-Harvey Catchment Council currently has two representatives (with coastal plain and wheatbelt experience) on the South West Catchments Council.