G`day all,(1) "Growing Together" - a new plan for farming & conservation
(2) Groundwater cuts to NSW irrigators
(3) State Nature Conservation Strategy
(4) Contradictorary land use regulations
(5) Farming economics and city based creation
(6)Caught in Native veg controls
(7) Qld Veg committees going well
(8) Fight over Sunraysia water changes
(9) Sustainability discussion
(10) The Great Salinity Debate:  Part II

              Our news this week is Chris Dyer, & Dennis Fahey have met with
6 liberal senators at Barcaldine to talk about landholder issues. Our
position was put that landholders were very unhappy with the lack of security
of property rights whether it be vegetation, water, managerial rights or
native title, and the dictatorial process we are getting more and more with
every aspect of regulation is anti democratic.
   I think it would be fair to say the 6 senators thought there is no real
reason for us landholders to complain and that Senator Hill is doing a
marvellous job with the environment portfolio.

If any one wants to inform our politicians of their views and would like some
email addresses, let us know.

  Our other news is we have begun contacting  many politicians and green
groups and some government people with an e-magazine of news, views, stories
and articles.
Several have replied including the Victorian shadow Ag minister who rang us
and is very supportive. Just so you know what sort of material they are
getting, we will inform you on News & views.
  On e-magazine no1 was a comment on the WA land clearing at Badgingarra,
comments on WWF`s report on the Great Barrier Reef, Dawn Parker & Warren
Thomas`s story of injustice, and Dr Christine Jone`s second article on

Since there are many people who have just begun receiving News & Views, we
will incude that article at the end of this email. Our apologies to those who
have read it before.
Here are some reports from ABC radio              

(1) "Growing Together" - a new plan for farming & conservation
A major new environmental paper prepared by the NSW Farmers' Association
calls for a more constructive approach to controversial environmental issues
by traditional adversaries -farmers, greens and governments.
NSW Farmers' Association President, Mal Peters, said â˜Growing Togetherâ™
paper would mark the beginning of a new challenge for the environment
movement, farmers and politicians to cooperate to achieve environmental

âœFarmersâ™ opposition to increased environmental regulation has been
misunderstood by some people as opposition to environmental initiatives.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mr Peters said that if â˜Growing Togetherâ™ were adopted by governments and
the green movement it would help to forge a different approach to
environmental management.
âœThe key to â˜Growing Togetherâ™ is that it is based on identifying and
achieving environmental outcomes on the ground where it counts, rather than
putting in place blanket laws that are inflexible and incapable of achieving
what they set out to achieve.
âœThere is no difference between growing environmental outcomes and growing a
paddock of beans. Neither can be done from an office in Sydney and the farmer
is crucial to both.

âœThe past regulatory approach has been inequitable for landholders,
inefficient for the economy and ineffective for the environment.â
Mr Peters said crucial to future environmental management will be to identify
a minimum standard or duty of care landholders have to look after the
environmental health of their land.

âœRegulations that impose additional management restrictions in excess of this
standard should trigger public funding to offset the cost of those
restrictions on individual farmers.â

Greens claim still a long way to go - Georgia Bateman
The green groups, who have traditionally have been poles apart from the
farmers approach to land management, say the document "Growing Together" is
still a long way from the "seachange" required if the two parties are to see
eye-to-eye. While the Nature Conservation Council welcomes the farmers
"working together" philosophy the Executive Director, Kathy Ridge, says they
have already been co-operating on the issue. Ms Ridge says the reliance on
the "duty of care" is "interesting" but they still have a number of issues
with the concept and they need to consider it far more carefully. Contrary to
the proposal, Kathy Ridge believes there would be a need for more regulation
to ensure protection of the environment, not less.

(2) Groundwater cuts to NSW irrigators

The Department of Land & Water Conservation has defended its management of
ground water in the Namoi, Murrumbidgee, and Macquarie Valley's. Ground water
users in all of those regions say they face economic loss, and in some cases
disaster, because of plans by the Dept to drastically cut their bore water
irrigation allocations. But Senior Departmental Officer, Des Cleary, says
'MOST' irrigators won't be significantly disadvantaged. (* What happens to
the remainder?)

This is from Tas Country Hour - ABC

(3) State Nature Conservation Strategy - Sally Dakis

The debate over land clearing on private land has been fuelled by the recent
release of the state government's Nature Conservation Strategy. The product
of 12 months work, the Nature Conservation Strategy has been drawn up by the
State Biodiversity Committee, headed up by Professor Bruce Davis. The
strategy is aimed at providing an action plan for protecting Tasmania's
natural diversity and maintaining our ecological processes and systems. It
offers 64 recommendations and 15 priority recommendations for the next 5

(4) Contradictorary land use regulations

This Is from Graham Brooks (Aust Forest Growers)

Dear all
This is one of my favourite topics - I wish someone could explain to me why,
in a
day and age when we have uniform legal frameworks for so many sensitive areas
food safety, pesticide usage, road safety codes, quarantine, etc, that there
is a
proliferation of unduly prescriptive regulatory requirements in terms of land
use -
each state and territory redesigning the wheel so to speak!  We rave on about
focused on global markets, while remaining parochial in terms of our
essential legal
frameworks for land-use within Australia.

In a fairly high level meeting recently on forestry, an industry CEO said
that the
two major impediments to private investment in plantation development were
(1) failure of the States to honour their obligations under National
Competition Policy (and fully recover the costs in log pricing), and
(2) the proliferation of contradictory land-use regulatory frameworks  across
state boundaries.
Unfortunately the extreme green groups have often stolen the high ground and
influenced politicians against the best sustainable NRM scientific
principles.  Then
again the more moderates are talking with us quite constructively,
about the distortions about NCP.
Graham Brooks
National Policy Director
Australian Forest Growers

(5) Farming economics and city based creation

This is form David Chambers

It is very possible you have not heard of our Society. We have been working
in the area of ecologically sustainable farming since 1983. Invested a lot
of effort and have been very frustrated by the reality of farming within the
Australian ecosystem.

The overiding challenge is that even when farmers wish to remediate damage
or change to more ecologocally sustainable practices there is one major
limitation. Their rising costs as more is demanded and their low returns as
corporates compete for the consumer dollar. The net result is little
financial reserved against natural droughts etc., dropping return per
hectare and farmers striving to survive let alone invest back into
ecological sustainability.

Those in government do not seem to understand the basics and are creating
great overheads of consultants and trainers to extract more dollars from
farmers. ( First be more efficient, next a better manager and now a multi
facet specialist). We are currently watching a mammoth industry arising
which the government regulators insist must be farmer demand driven. Yet
there are tight demands on trainers and consultants to spend to remain
qualified, this in itself moves the action from farmer demand driven to a
need for these newly created jobs to sell and earn income. The reason stated
is that farmers will spend a $1000.00 per day if they see benefit!!!  It is
our experience that this type of expenditure only occurs where a buck is to
be made. When it comes to environmental reparation, where we have long
experience, farmers do not see the return/cash that they need to survive.
Therefor $1000.00 per day is very unlikely. It seems that the government
administrators can not discern the fact that farmers in general can not
afford to pay what it takes for environmental recovery. The answer must lie
in better returns so that profit is available for re-investment.The public
purse is the only other alternative.

City people seem to have forgotten the farming is the basis of city
creation, no mass produced food, no cities. The city based demands upon the
very worthy farming workforce are incredible, where is the tangible, food on
the table reward?

We are involved in some interesting activities.
1. Participation in the Redesigning Australian Agricultural Landscapes
2. On-farm monitoring
3. One day awareness courses for farmers

Just a few thoughts which I guess reflect some frustration. Would like to
hear from you.
Take a look at our web site.  www.lmsinfo.com.

Keep up the good work.

David Chambers. Director Farm Monitoring
(6)Caught in Native veg controls

From Jenny Blake (Vic)

Hi, I found your letter to the Geelong Advertiser interesting in that for some
years Kevin and I have been actively been promoting Nv (native vegetation)
and its values and are of course now caught in the web of Nv controls.
Last year I travelled to England and looked at the Environmentally sensitive
areas schemes and other ideas in vogue there and came home and prepared
detailed work for anyone who may listen but as you are probably aware the
ears here are very deaf.

The one who may listen is Wilson Tuckey who I heard at a Timber Towns
meeting in Melb recently - I have not yet tackled him - Hill I do not
believe is worth the effort.
We won a landcare award in 1993 so we do have credibility.

I am very much afraid that the green movement is carrying such a huge vote
that we will be swamped.

Regards Jenny Blake
(7) Qld Veg committees going well

This is from Jan Oliver (Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland)

Thanks for your email newsletter
I am passing on your address and web page to other landholders as I talk with
them because the issues have to be mulled over - even if we as a Society do
necessarily agree with everything!
The (QLD) Vegetation Management committees are going well, with an amazing
amount of compromise and resolutions amongst very different participants
in many cases. Good to see.

More abc news

(8) Fight over Sunraysia water changes - Lyndal Reading

The reduction of private diverters licences from a 15 to a five year term has
incurred the wrath of the Victorian Farmers Federation. The VFF has
criticised Sunraysia Rural Water for a move which it says threatens the
security of the farmers' supply. However Sunraysia Rural Water says the term
of the licences needs to be shorter to react to the changing needs of the
environment. Chair of the VFF Water Resources Committee, Doug Chant, says
irrigators will be reluctant to spend money on reducing water consumption if
they can't plan for the future. Don Rowe from the Sunraysia Rural Water
Authority says the VFF is stirring up trouble. Mr Rowe says the Authority
need to be able to address the changing needs of salinity and biodiversity.

(*Once again the issue of who is in control flares up - Is it the whole
community taking a holistic approach deciding with the best science available
and being fair to everyone, or is it a beauracrat with his own views and

(9) Sustainability discussion

Greg Burrows (WA) has replied to last weeks comments

Just like to comment on point 1 (sustainable production will not conserve
every species)
your idea of sustainable development is ecologically unsound. How many
species do
you draw the line at and what happens to the chain of the natural system
they were in? ESD has nothing to do with producing more of something off the
same area.
Almost all Australian cropping is obscenely high input, it is not
sustainable on the fact that almost all the inputs are from non renewable
natural resources ie they will run out, which leads on to
point 2  this feed the world stuff is crap, Brazil ( one country has at
least 200 million acres that can and will come into production of the next
decade, Australia has less than 1%  of the world grain market all we do is
try and make as much money as we can supporting an array of multinational
fuel, fertilizer and chemical companies who do a cost analysis on us  and
also contribute as less as possible back into the country(& that includes
environmental management).
Just to reiterate another point rem  vegetation is what provided fresh water
and clean air in the first place, what is the value of these two things?
Greg Burrows

From Leon Ashby - My comment on sustainable production not conserving every
species is based on
(1) Some native species are in conflict with production e.g. heartleaf and
bracken fern poison stock, Dingoes reduce productivity etc. These species are
in conflict with production and are actively destroyed.
(2) Some native species are weeds or annoying to production or not very
productive. These too are actively reduced.
(3) Some introduced or invading species displace native ones e.g. the Dingo
replacing   the Thyracine (Tasmanian Tiger), The rabbit replacing many small
mammals. We could try to stop them but once they get going, no amount of
effort will stop them.
(4) Then there is the fact that even with the best management, there will be
occasional situations where one slight difference will be enough to push a
species into decline. With many millions of species yet to be identified let
alone understood, and then let alone be managed, how can anyone be able to
claim anything but, many (but not all) species can be conserved via
sustainable production.

In reply to the "Feed the world" comment - It is interesting to note that a
university environmental text book "Universal Science" says "If populations
continue to grow at present rates, the production of food must double or
triple by the first decade of the next century for all people to be
adequately fed." The book devotes a question in relation to increasing
Population & needs at the end of each chapter.

Fresh air is provided by all plants that photosynthesise - not just from
remnant vegetation
Fresh water can come from any unpolluted source. Remnant vegetation is not
the only non polluting land use, as many organic farmers are demonstrating.
Does anyone else want to comment?
(10)Now for Dr Christine Jone`s article. Christine has had 100`s of replies
supporting the new  model she suggests. We will feature some evidences that
support the new model  later on .  Cheers for now

The Great Salinity Debate:  Part II

Why the recharge-discharge model is fundamentally flawed

Christine Jones

The recharge-discharge model which has been used to describe the changes in
water balance since European settlement is based on false assumptions
i) the nature of pre-European vegetation and
ii) the way water moves in the landscape.  
The use of this flawed model as a basis for strategies to combat dryland
salinity underpins the poor success rates achieved to date.

Native vegetation
We hear a lot about the clearing of native vegetation in relation to dryland
salinity.  Most people assume that the words "native vegetation" mean "trees
and shrubs".  Contrary to popular opinion, the historical record clearly
shows that in the early years of European settlement many of the higher
rainfall areas of temperate Australia were grassy woodlands, that is, widely
spaced trees with a grassy understorey.

The explorers and early surveyors described the richness and diversity of
this vision splendid, with grasses frequently up to their horses' bellies.  
Many of the hills were recorded as being grassed to their summits, having
only thinly scattered trees, or being treeless.  The descriptions of the
grassy vegetation were remarkably similar across the temperate parts of
eastern, southern and south-western Australia, and the comment was invariably
made that, unlike many parts of America where clearing was a prerequisite,
here most of the land was immediately ready for grazing or the plough.

Early settlers could not have anticipated the rapid deterioration in the
quality and diversity of groundcover and the decline in soil quality that
accompanied European style grazing and cultivation.  In parallel with the
loss of grassland habitat was the extinction of 20 previously common species
of small marsupials and the near extinction of a myriad of others.  The
significant role that these native fauna played in soil enhancement is not
widely recognised.  In combination with the cessation in aboriginal burning
and soil disturbance regimes, the widespread loss of the thousands of small
animals that loosened soil, buried organic matter and consumed emerging tree
seedlings, produced massive changes to the ecology of the Australian
landscape.  So much so that today's "remnant vegetation" probably bears
little resemblance to the plant communities in existence 200 years ago.

Europeans were caught unawares by the sudden explosion in the numbers of
trees and shrubs which followed settlement.  In 1848, Thomas Mitchell,
Surveyor General for NSW, described "thick forests of young trees, where,
formerly, a man might gallop without impediment, and see whole miles before
him". Observations of regrowth were reported many times thereafter by other
observers across southern Australia.  For example, Howitt (1890) described
the tree regrowth in Victoria "â¦After some years of occupation, whole tracts
of country became covered with forests of young saplingsâ¦and at present time
these have so much increased, and grown so much, that it is difficult to ride
over parts which one can see by the few scattered old giants were at one time
open grassy country".  Subsequent generations found it necessary to clear
this regrowth in order for agricultural activities to proceed.

The changes in the quality and quantity of the groundcover since European
settlement have had enormous implications for water balance in the Australian
landscape.  The diverse perennial grassland communities which proved so
productive for early settlers could respond to rain at any time of the year.  
Furthermore, the soil organisms which proliferated in response to the high
root biomass and the activities of the grassland fauna, produced humic
materials and microbial gums which glued soil particles together, creating a
crumb structure which resisted erosion.  Soil microbes also produced plant
growth hormones which stimulated root growth and enabled plant roots to
penetrate clay subsoils.  The many pore spaces in these healthy, living soils
enabled them to hold large volumes of water.

The movement of water in the landscape

Dryland salinity is the result of a water cycle that is out of balance.  The
salt is an unwelcome fellow traveller with rising groundwater, and even
though serious in its own right, salinity is merely an indicator of a more
deep-seated problem.  It is therefore extremely important that we look very
carefully at what is happening at the landscape level, sooner rather than

In comparison with pre-European times, there is now LESS water entering
aquifers in the HIGHER parts of the landscape (and hence LESS fresh
groundwater available to feed springs and streams), MORE runoff and lateral
subsurface flow on undulating country (which may be intercepted by dams and
contour banks and may not necessarily reach rivers other than in periods of
high rainfall) and MORE recharge to water tables in the LOWER parts of the
landscape (Fig.1) below.

Prior to settlement                                              today
   [Unable to display image]               [Unable to display image]          

This is almost the opposite of the widely accepted recharge-discharge model
on which most salinity "solutions" are based.  The recharge-discharge model
depicts MORE water entering deep drainage in the higher parts of the
landscape with the removal of the original native vegetation, which is
assumed to be trees, which in turn are assumed to be deep rooted.  This
excess water then apparently travels underground, collecting salt along the
way, to emerge as discharge at the break of slope or in low-lying areas (Fig.
2).  Although the model appears seductively simple, there are no biological
or physical mechanisms by which these processes can occur at the landscape or
regional scale.

(Fig 2) current assumed model

Prior to Settlement                                                      
[Unable to display image]                         [Unable to display image]

"Recharge" in the upper catchment

Imagine that you're standing on the side of a fairly steep hill in the
pouring rain.  The hillside is completely bare.  Where does the water go?  
Straight down the side of the hill, taking soil with it.  Not directly into
the soil and into "deep drainage" as the recharge model tells us will happen
if there are no trees.  Any water that does infiltrate will also run
downslope on top of the subsoil as lateral flow, under the force of gravity.  
If there are rocky outcrops, some water will seep through cracks, but this
will only account for a small percentage.  The remaining water has no
mechanism for becoming recharge until it reaches the lower parts of the

Now imagine that there are trees on the hill, but no grasses or other
groundcover.  Where does the water go?  Again, straight down the side of the
hill, perhaps a little more slowly.  If there's leaf litter, at least some of
the rain will infiltrate, but it will then also travel as lateral flow unless
the soil is high in organic matter.

Finally, imagine that the hill is covered with dense tussocky perennial
grasses which have deep, fibrous root systems.  The soil is well mulched and
you can't see any bare ground.  Where does the water go?  The V-shaped grass
architecture, in combination with high levels of organic matter both in soil
and on the friable soil surface, will facilitate the rapid infiltration and
storage of rain as it falls.  The chance of water moving downslope will be
significantly reduced.  The water held in pore spaces between soil aggregates
in the root zone will be available for later use by the grassland plants and
the soil community of invertebrates and microorganisms.  

A small amount will slowly percolate through the subsoil (or enter cracks in
the parent material) and provide clear, filtered water for springs and
streams.  It is extremely important for future generations that this process
continues.  When the water runs on the top of the ground instead, or on top
of the subsoil, we get into the all too familiar flood/drought cycle, with
rivers carrying either too much or too little water, while freshwater
aquifers are shrinking.

Recharge in the lower catchment

The conventional recharge-discharge model has provided landholders in the
lower parts of the landscape with a scapegoat for their own inappropriate
(although unintentional) land management practices.  Where there are annual
crops or pastures, or where perennials are overgrazed, enormous amounts of
water enter the groundwater below the break of slope.  Despite this, the
tendency has been to point the finger at others higher in the catchment and
blame them for all the recharge.

Certainly, some water has travelled downslope, but the lower parts of the
landscape normally account for the major portion of the total land area, as
well as for most of the recharge if conventional cropping or conventional
grazing are the major land uses.  The fact that the eruptions of saline water
are often at the break of slope doesn't necessarily mean that all of the
water came from above - it simply means that the rising groundwater put
backward pressure on any water moving downhill and there was nowhere else for
it to go.  This phenomenon can be demonstrated by placing a piezometer above
the high water mark on the beach.  As the tide comes in, the water level
rises in the tube.  If you were only observing the water level in the
piezometer and couldn't "see" the tide coming in, it would be natural to
assume that the water had moved downslope from the sand dunes behind.

In the lower parts of the landscape, fibrous-rooted perennial grasses and
associated organic components will again hold most of the rainfall in the
root zone, where it can increase the productivity of a wide range of
enterprises.  Remember, a pulsed grazed native pasture base will be more
nutrient and water efficient than a high input introduced pasture and will
complement, rather than compete with, pasture cropping, viticulture,
horticulture or silviculture.  If the main land use is grazing, a diversity
of cool season (C3) and warm season (C4) perennial native grasses will
provide year round productivity, stability and drought tolerance, provided
the management is appropriate (refer Part I this series).  A small amount of
water will still go through to deep drainage, but that's what was happening
200 years ago.

The rate of movement of water in underground aquifers depends on many
factors, but in most situations takes between 300 and 1000 years to travel
one kilometre.  For water to travel 50 km underground could take up to 50,000
years.  If you have saline discharge on your property, the chances are that
recharge also took place there.  The good news with respect to this local
hydrology scenario is that landholders can have some control over their own
destiny where dryland salinity and other land degradation processes are

In some places freshwater aquifers are drying up while saline water tables
are expanding.  How could those two things be happening at the same time?  It
can be explained quite easily if the recharge-discharge model is in fact
upside down.  The conventional model states that recharge occurs high in the
catchment and discharge occurs lower down.  The available evidence suggests
that there is very little true recharge at the top (albeit too much lateral
flow, which adds to the discharge at the bottom) and that both recharge and
discharge are occurring in the lower parts of the landscape.  Unfortunately
this has resulted in some of the freshwater aquifers beginning to backfill
from enlarging saline aquifers below.

The current situation

The recharge-discharge model as shown in Fig.2 also at the bottom of this
article is being taught in schools across Australia today.  A whole
generation of children will grow up believing that it is their duty to plant
trees in the upper parts of the landscape to "prevent recharge".  Meanwhile,
dryland salinity will continue unabated.  

Furthermore, our children are being led to believe that all trees have deep
tap roots, as depicted in salinity models.  The tap root of the seedling tree
degenerates over time, and although some fine roots may occasionally follow
rock fissures, most mature trees of the species commonly found on hillsides
do NOT have a tap root.  More usually, up to 90% of the root mass is
concentrated in the top 50 cm of the soil profile.  Once the water has run
off a hillside covered in trees, there is no way the trees can get it back.

The recognition of urban salinity as a mostly local hydrological phenomenon
has clearly demonstrated that we don't need a fool on the hill, or even a
hill, or even an agricultural landscape, to encounter water balance problems.
 In the urban context, dryland salinity results from the combined effects of
activities such as watering shallow rooted lawns (all short grasses are
shallow rooted) and rain falling on impermeable structures such as rooftops,
paths, driveways and roads, and becoming runoff.  That is, urban salinity is
the result of excessive runoff added to excessive recharge in situ.  

I fail to see much difference between this and the expression of dryland
salinity in agricultural landscapes.  Planting trees on a hill 20 km away
will do little to resolve the problem in either the agricultural or the urban
context.  Trees and shrubs form an integral and ecologically valuable
component of grassy woodland vegetation and I am by no means dismissing their
importance.  My concern is with the promotion of broadscale tree planting
(mostly same-age monocultures) as a panacea, not only for dryland salinity,
but for all land degradation problems.  In a healthy perennial grassland
soil, there may be 50 tonnes of biomass (roots, soil organisms and humic
materials) below ground for every tonne of biomass above ground.  In forests,
there is far more organic material above ground than below.  The fact that we
can only see the biomass above ground may explain the distorted image many
people have of these respective plant communities.

We certainly do have to mimic the native vegetation to restore hydrological
balance, but let's get the facts right.  The vegetation of the temperate zone
was almost exclusively perennial 200 years ago, but Australia was not a
forest. The majority of aboriginal people were not forest dwellers.  Neither
do we have to be.  How many rural communities will be lost in this mad rush
to return Australia to a land of trees we never had?

The aboriginal people lived in a diverse and dynamic grassy ecosystem. So can
we.  Grasslands produce more food than forests and the intuitive response
would be to manage the landscape to favour grassland species.  To refer to
the pre-European vegetation as "natural" or "pristine" totally ignores
thousands of years of prior habitation, exceptional observational skills and
active management to achieve desired outcomes.  Australia has been mismanaged
for the last 200 years.  Now it's crunch time.

In our low and variable rainfall environment, the increasing reliance on high
water use plants or engineering solutions to "dewater" soils makes neither
ecological nor economic sense.  We can restore water balance and improve soil
health, nutrient cycling and productivity if current agricultural and
horticultural activities are conducted in an appropriately managed perennial
groundcover base.  That's the topic for the next issue.
 The assumed model
Deep rooted trees USE large amounts of water and keep water table in balance.
    Tree removal results in water table recharge in upper catchment and
discharge in lower catchment.
Prior to Settlement                                                      
[Unable to display image]                         [Unable to display image]   

B: a more realistic model

Healthy perennial groundcover, fibrous root mass and associated humic
materials HOLD water where it falls with some percolation to groundwater.     
Loss of healthy groundcover in both upper and lower catchments results in
more runoff, lateral flow, recharge and discharge. Replenishment of elevated
aquifers may be reduced.     

Prior to Settlement                                                Today      
 [Unable to display image]                       [Unable to display image]