Geoffrey Kavanagh was intimately involved with the water reform process in Queensland for over 30 years. The Fitzroy Basin was one of the first areas in Queensland to go through the water resource planning process and Geoffrey was one of the first to investigate the complex issues involved in formulating such a plan. Geoffrey was an initial member of the working group, providing practical implementation advice and working closely with all other stakeholders. He maintained his level of involvement in water reform issues, consequently becoming one of the few individuals in Queensland with in-depth knowledge of how the system actually worked. Geoffrey was a member of the board of the CRC for Irrigation Futures, and held positions on a number of water advisory groups and committees. Geoffrey was also involved in all state-wide water pricing processes in Queensland dating back to the beginning of the water reform agenda. Further, in his spare time, Geoffrey managed water for a number of small businesses in the Emerald area as well as local mining bodies.

C&R first met Geoffrey during the flooding of the Ensham Coal Mine in Emerald. The C&R brief was simply “tell us what happened”. A second brief – or rather a command – was to “talk to Geoffrey Kavanagh”. The meeting was set up for the front of a service station in Emerald where we rolled up to meet a man lolling on the front bonnet of a ute. The meeting began with the typical male stand-off – C&R’s Chris Cuff wondering why he had been directed to meet with this laid-back bloke on the front of a ute, and Geoff who – we now know – totally sceptical of this “university know-it-all who had probably never got his feet dirty”. Within minutes, the two knew they were equals. Geoffrey, with a pencil and paper – and a lounge room floor instead of a computer – had come up with exactly the same reasoning and explanation as Chris with the years of education. The two men never lost admiration for each other. Geoffrey had acquired his knowledge by looking at the country. Chris had been busy teaching students exactly the same topics. In Chris’ words: You cannot come up with a solution if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Geoffrey knew that without being told.