(1) Barrier Reef Report
(2) tree clearing & sediment
(3) Canegrowers Furious
(4) Capital Gains Tax & conservation covenants
(5) Questions & answers on Gidgee
(6) Details on clearing at Badgingarra WA
(7) Craig underwood suggests protest in WA
(8) 3 stories of injustices - timber too valuable to mill
not valuable enough for conservation
(9) World Heritage listing - 18 years of Heartache
(10) Water rights evaporate
The big news this week is things are hotting up in WA plus
some interesting comments from Craig Underwood (WA)
First some points raised in World Wide Fund for nature`s recent "report" on
the Great Barrier Reef. It`s available from the WWF web site and is a rather
long report which gives a lot of data including Pre European levels of
sediment, nitrogen etc , which are based on assumptions (guesses) and the
"report" is quick to condemn almost everything landholders do on the land .
Here`s a few excerpts
Beauty and biodiversity is being threatened by this land-based pollution.
Inshore reefs and seagrass meadows, habitat for the threatened dugong and
green turtle, are suffering from what we do on the land.
Some of the key findings are:
28 million tonnes of sediment flows into the Reef on average every year -
that's equivalent to 3.5 million dump trucks emptying their load of soil into
the Reef every year, or nearly 9,600 a day
Land clearing and overgrazing is responsible for the vast majority of this
The Fitzroy River dumps more sediment into the Reef than any other River.
About 60-80% of freshwater coastal wetlands in the Wet Tropics have now been
lost due to cane growing and other coastal developments, removing the filter
mechanism for water flowing to the Reef
By 1994, 8,800 tonnes of nitrogen was lost to sea from Queensland's
canelands, most of which lie along the Great Barrier Reef coastline
Pesticides from cane and increasingly from banana and cotton growing are
contaminating inshore seagrass meadows and even the dugong that live there
The Report concludes that the Reef needs our urgent help. If the catchments
are cleaned up, then the Reef has a much better chance of looking after
Now for a couple of replying comments
from Leon Ashby(QLD & SA) r.e. tree clearing and overgrazing causing sediment
load into rivers.
Russell Turkington (Brisbane valley) said his catchment was accused of
causing sediment accumulating into a large dam several years ago and
restrictions on cattle and timber management in the "higher" part of the
catchment were initiated by the "experts" . Russell took some of them for a
tour in the rain and they viewed the clear water flowing off his supposedly
"over grazed" and "over cleared" country. (The sediment was found to be
caused by ploughed paddocks which were right next to the dam.)
Conclusion: "Experts" can make wrong assumptions on the causes of sediments
Also (1) Water flowing at speeds of less than 0.5 metres/ sec had sand fall
out of the water and tends to look clear. (The aim and result of most
treepulling is dense stands of perennial grass which can slow down shallow
runoff water very well)
(2) Water flowing faster than 1 metre /sec accumulates sand and silt in the
water which tends to look murky.
There are solutions to this if this occurs for some reason on timbered
By using earthen banks or pulling trees across the area or gully (an early
landcare video featured this good management on "Leander" at Longreach) or
stickraking the pulled timber into rows, water speeds can be reduced and
eroding gullies can begin to heal. This helps establish more grass cover,
and possibly can also encourage more biodiversity with the greater amount of
shelter (timber) on the ground or in the stickraked timber rows. And as we
all know, in northern Australia some of the trees will regrow.
At the moment this sort of practice gets classified as treeclearing and the
new laws now prevent people like myself from doing this sort of work on
eroding water courses/ creeks on our properties.
Conclusion: Restrictive treeclearing laws can prevent landholders from
healing the land.
Jennifer Marohasy (canegrowers) has replied with a letter to some newspapers
which has these comments in it
Response WWFâôs Attack on Queenslandâôs Sugarcane Farmers
I was stunned by last weeksâô unwarranted attack on Queenslandâôs sugarcane
farmers by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. The WWFâôs so-called Pollution
Report Card and the intense media attention that followed, accused primary
producers, but in particular cane farmers, of virtually setting-out to
destroy the Great Barrier Reef. WWF focused on total volumes of the inputs
used in cane production without consideration of the size of the sugar
industry or, for example, how judiciously chemicals are applied to cane
fields. There was no reference to water quality data or any recognition of
the vast amount of work undertaken by the industry over the last 15 years to
improve farming practices and reduce the potential for off-site movement of
In contrast to the WWF report, the most recent scientific review of coral
reefs worldwide states that, âúAustralian reefs continue to be the best
managed in the world with the lowest levels of anthropogenic (human) impacts
of any continental reefs.â This scientific review indicated that global
warming is the greatest threat to reefs worldwide. In 1998, coral reefs
suffered from coral bleaching associated with rising sea temperatures. While
the GBR was affected, damage was apparently much less intense than on others
reefs including reefs in the Indian Ocean and in South and East Asia.
In my four years working for the Queensland cane growing industry I have
tried to foster an improved working relationship between the industry and
various conservation groups including the WWF.
Ms Imogen Zethoven spearheaded last weekâôs WWF attack on the Queensland cane
industry. When I asked her why, she responded that there was a meeting of
State and Federal Government representatives at the end of the week and
through this meeting potential to secure more funding for reef protection.
Apparently attacking cane farmers is an effective way of applying pressure to
government through media headlines and in this way securing funding.
Dr Jennifer Marohasy
Environment Manager, CANEGROWERS
This comes from ABC news
Capital gains tax break with covenants -
Landholders who are prepared to place part of their land under a conservation
convenant are set to benefit from a lowering of the capital gains tax, under
new arrangements announced by the Federal Government. Until now, farmers who
received payments under such convenants would have to pay capital gains tax
on what they were paid. The new arrangements will lower the tax rate, while
scrapping it all together for landholders who've owned their properties since
1985. Jamie Pittock from the World Wide Fund for Nature is applauding the
(*Unless I misunderstand this transcript, this sounds dubious - What farmer
receives payments for conservation covenants? - and capital gains tax applies
only when you sell the land, and selling land with a covenant on it would
rarely increase it`s value hence rarely result in a capital gain anyway )
Jo Wearing (QLD) has asked these Questions
Perhaps you can help me. If gidgee has been cleared by blade ploughing what
methods could be used to revegetate with the original vegetation.
Is gidgee invading grasslands? If so, on what scale? What are the triggers,
or disturbances which are moving grasslands to gidgee. Is there any evidence
of previous vegetation cycles ie was gidgee present in the past on those
What is the difference between black and silver gidgee? Do management
techniques for each differ?
Hi Jo - The situation may be different in the different areas of Qld, (so
other people may have different views) but around Aramac, both Black gidgee
(Blackwood) and silver gidgee are invading new areas including the Mitchell
grass Downs. It seems that the seeds have spread by water, wind, & animals.
According to diaries and maps, there was little or no gidgee in these new
areas at the time of the early settlers, and no evidence of past cycles (Bill
Burrows carbon isotope analysis method could confirm or deny this, but from
the data I`ve seen, there was no previous treecover on the grasslands he
tested (except those where trees had been removed in recent times)
Dennis Fahey (Torrens Creek) has a 1912 map describing a total of 1,000
acres of blackwood on his property It spread to 35,000 acres by about 1989.
The scale of invasion is difficult to say but "considerable bits scattered
everywhere" might be one way of describing it.
The Aramac Stock route west of Aramac was almost clear in the early 1950`s,
but when I took sheep along it several years ago, I couldn`t ride a motor
bike through the gidgee for several kilometres of it, in fact we took the
sheep though a neighbouring property where the trees had been thinned, so we
wouldn`t lose them in the stock route.
The main trigger seems to be a good wet year, but that is just anecdotal -
nobody has researched it properly that I know of. The gidgee seedlings just
come up on mass some years and a bit sporadic others.
The difference between the gidgees is noticeable in the bark (black &
stringy, vs silver and scalely) and the leaf shape. The timber is quite
different too. Silver gidgee is dense and knarly while black is straighter.
Silver is used for paddock posts and Black for posts in flooding areas. One
amazing fact is that there are occassional Silver/ black Gidgee crosses, of
which there are a couple of trees on our property.
Blade ploughing is rarely done in the Aramac area, but my guess is, if gidgee
has been in an area, it will always have some seedlings re emerge, when and
how many is anybody`s guess. Fire is about the only thing that I have heard
can kill gidgee.
Does anyone else have more info to share?
Now to some WA news
Craig Underwood (WA) sent us a fax of several newspaper articles on 500ha of
land recently cleared for pasture establishment at Badginarra 200 km north of
Perth. The facts surrounding the issue are.
* No permit was applied for
* A previous owner had a permit for clearing 164ha but this expired when the
new owners bought the place
* Other landholders are waiting to see what the govt`s reaction is to this
* It is not a pollution case so does not come under the environmental
* It is not a land degradation case as that only applies after an application
to clear is rejected
* It appears to be only a "failing to submit a permit " offense and a fine of
* Environment minister Judy Edwards says she will introduce legislation
shortly to change the act. This will provide for maximum penalties of
$500,000 or 5 years in gaol for illegal clearing.
* In the past 2 years, the commissioner has prosecuted two farmers for not
applying for permission to clear. One farmer Cleared 130 ha without
permission and was fined $300 . Another cleared 5 ha after being refused a
permit and was fined $750.
* The commissioner apparently can order the farmers to let cleared land regrow
* The 500ha of area that was cleared was in an area that is possible to find
up to 100 different species growing in an area of 100 square metres. (*
Personally I can`t understand why the government doesn`t buy this sort of
land rather than force landholders to be unpaid park managers?)
* This case has highlighted the bungling of the land clearing issue by the
bureaucrats and their refusal to acknowledge that land clearing was a
serious property rights matter.
Craig also said that the Peel area has 303 properties that have been zoned to
stay as they are (no improvements of any sort can be done). Last year there
was a landholder protest in a local town, but the Court Government did
nothing. - Obviously protests have to be in their face and not 100`s of kms
Craig is currently planning to sue the WA government over the illegal refusal
for his property to be developed. He is on several Pastoralist & Grazier
association committees and is working on trying to get a protest action going
This will involve people driving into Perth with bales of hay on the back of
their utes. At Parliament House they hope to have a rally and perhaps spread
the hay thinly around Parliament House. It would not cause any damage and
make a good visible protest, using Biodegradable material and the only law
that will be broken is a littering law with a fine. They plan to drive into
the city at the minimum legal speed too with placards over the hay.
Does anyone think that it`s time to organise something similar in other
cities if Craig and Co can get their protest organised in WA
(Our view is to find the best moment to do something like protests, and if
someone else has started a ball rolling, then the media and public sentiment
are more likely to be interested, and then pick up on your issue.)
And finally 3 landholder stories that come from the "cost of conservation"
Inquiry and are on the govt web site. We would like to put these on a page on
The Landholders website. If you are one of those listed below, please let us
know if you do not want part of your submission to be used or you want to
change something. The stories we want to use come from submissions made by
Dawn parker & Warren Thomas, NSW Farmers, MR & DS Clapham, Mark Douglas, Tom
Price, Joe Crowe, Don Fleming, Margaret House, James & Louise Foster, Warren
Wait, SA Advisory Board of Agriculture, & Fiveways Landcare group
Personal stories are very important for our lobbying.
Timber too valuable to mill, but not valuable enough for conservation - Dawn
Parker & Warren Thomas
We bought our property in 1984, prior to the introduction of the land
clearing regulations. The 916 hectares comprised about 180 hectares cleared
and sown to pasture, the balance supporting many stands of mature timber
suited for sawlog and pulp production. Timber production has long been a
major industry in the area , on both private and public land, so it seemed a
sound business decision.The plan was to harvest the timber gradually and
selectively, using the process and the proceeds to bring into grazing
production a further 300 ha., thereby creating a viable farming enterprise.
The eventual sale of this developed asset would provide for a reasonably
comfortable, independently funded retirement.
It is probably important to state that we do not belong to the 'rape and
pillage' school of natural resource use and the plan for clearing took sound
account of the need to leave many hectares of timber standing where it would
provide shelter for stock, protection from erosion by wind or water, seed
banks, filter areas and buffer zones and preserve aesthetic values. We have
also spent much time and money voluntarily initiating or cooperating in
action to address some necessary restoration or preventative works. (for eg.
fencing watercourses against damaging stock access, fencing remnant
vegetation, establishing shelterbelts , replacing and supplementing sofl
nutrients, etc.)When introduced, the clearing regulations stopped this
development by forbidding the establishment of pasture on large areas and
therefore preventing the cattle herd expansion expansion. Without the extra
cattle numbers the cash flow level was not sufficient to satisfy the normal
requirements of a progressing business.In addition, the asset value of the
land was reduced, rather than increased, since it was earning nothing and was
made unsaleable.We could not go forward and the restrictions placed on land
use ensured that we could not call it quits and go out sideways. No farmer
wanted to buy the land, the government didn't want to buy the land, (the
timber species were of such value that we must leave them growing, but not so
valuable as to warrant government purchase), no "bush lovers' wanted to buy
the land because, as one estate agent pointed out, 'There's lots of public
bush nearby and they can have that for free.
Farm size too small ( in terms of carrying capacity) to be viable
Debt still with us and of course, still costing money
Reduced asset value
Unsaleable and unusable assets
Little or no prospect of a 'comfortable' let alone a self- funded retirement
The anxiety continues.
A conservative estimate of the difference between the actual and what would
have been without the impediment of land clearing restrictions. This does
take into account other things which interrupt progress, like droughts,
floods, drops in market prices, periods of high interest rates. But these are
normal risk management matters and are planned for.
What If Actual
Land Value $1,170,000 $501,000
Cattle Value $300,000 $150,000
Annual Income (gross) $180,000 $90,000
Cumulative income loss over 10 years allowing for incremental growth in herd
size and the cost of achieving that: $412,000
The calculation of actual costs would dig deeper and include, for example,
interest costs for debt maintained at a high level rather than reducing,
income foregone from diversified investments of surplus, etc.This calculation
also assumes some degree of farm and financial management skill, of course,
but there is some evidence that we do have a bit of that.
Time spent travelling and lobbying-all to no avail so far-Lots
Time spent preparing documentation-Lots
Time spent trying to think of ways forward-Lots This is not facetious. I just
don't know how to calculate it.
Anxiety and stress-Lots and lots.
I do not think it extreme to suggest that the expectation that private
individuals must bear the costs of public good conservation measures, and the
distress caused by the trapdoor thus opened, has actually ended some lives
prematurely.This may seem dramatic, but I'm fairly sure it's real. The point
is perhaps, that the sheer magnitude of the effect on individuals and
families has been sufficient to cause this. Perhaps not on its own but as a
last straw or as the factor which made a bad situation inescapable. Certainly
the quality of many lives has been most adversely affected.To us, this is not
a question of whether the inequitable Imposition of costs on individuals must
be redressed now and avoided in the future, but just how can it be done and
how soon.Dawn Parker and Warren Thomas Genoa Vic
World Heritage Listing - 18 years of heartache - Ted & Marianne Richardson
Ted and Marianne Richardson live in the far southwest of NSW. They were
married in 1981, and purchased "Gampang Station" a property about 180kms from
Midura, that had been owned by Ted's father, and had been In the family for
over 70 years In that same year, 1981, the Wran Government recommended to the
Fraser Government that Ted's property and those of sixteen of his neighbours
should be included in an area to be designated the Willandra Lakes World
Heritage Area, under the United Nations World Heritage convention And so the
Ted and Marianne only found out that their property was included In the
World Heritage area when local newspapes carried the story. They were
reassured by NSW government officials. that the listing would have little
impact, and that a plan of management would be In operation within 12
months.Little more was heard about the listing. Then suddenly in 1983, Ted
and his neighbours were toId they could no longer crop any of the land
included in the Heritage area.Not surprisingly, the landholders were very
upset and called for a socio economic study to be carried out, which would
be the basis of any compensation they might receive
Finally in 1985 the Commonwealth and State Governments agreed that the study
Would be conducted. Despite the concerns of the farmers, nothing much
happened. They became caught in a bureaucratic "bIackhole" where the
Commonwealth and the NSW Government alternately blamed each other for the
lack of any action.
In 1989, eight years after the listing, a consultant was finally engaged to
develop a plan of management tor the area. That initial plan of management
was rejected and a subsequent plan was started in 1993. This resulted in what
was called a 'strategic issues document being released in 1994.
By this time the power-that-be had decided the landholders could resume
cropping.By 1994, Ted and Marianne had 5 children. Their eldest child who
wasn't even born when the area was listed was now ten years old, and still
the landholders were in limbo.During that year UNESCO Visited the area, and
recommended that almost half of the land should be removed from the listing,
and the status of the rest significantly downgraded. This was vehemently
rejected by the relevant scientific experts in Australia, perhaps because it
would have cast doubt on the professionalism of their Initial
assessments.Work progressed on the management plan, and the June longweekend
in 1995 was set down for its release. All the relevant State and Commonwealth
bureaucrats, the scientific experts, and the landholders met over three days
at Mungo National Park to consider the plan.There was a lot of preliminary
discussion until finally the time came for the scientists to put up the maps
of each of the properties, with the areas at total exclusion outlined In red,
and areas requiring special management in orange. it was clear to all that
seven properties would have to close down.
After that meeting, work finally started on the socio economic impact study
that would detemine the compensation each of the landholders should receive.
On and on went the processes - draft socio economic study, consultation,
arguments between Common wealth and State, negotiations over compensation,
even negotiations over who shouldpay the legal costs associated with the
compensation.finally, the first of the landholders were paid some
compensation for their properties in mid-1997, sixteen years after the area
had been listed.Settlement for the finaI two landholders was made in June
1999, eighteen years after the area was world heritage listed.
Ted and Marianne live in Mildura now with their kids, the youngest of
whom is now ten There is some irony in the fact that Ted now leases the bulk
of his original property and runs sheep on it and as yet no work has been
undertaken to exclude the areas that were considered so 'Important'
'Water Rights evaporate - MR & DS Clapham
I borrowed sixty thousand dollars and spent one hundred and ten thousand
dollars on an irrigation system after obtaining a water licence to extract
water from Lawsons Creek at Mudgee to grow lucerne.
Two years later, when renewing my licence, a condition was added which
restricted my licence. I could only pump while there was a visible flow one
kilometre upstream. This on average prevented me from pumping from mid
December until an autumn break , even though the creek continued to flow
underground and there was a good flow at the point of extraction . The creek
is unregulated.The land I irrigate is leased. Mudgee Shire Council is the
Lessor and utilize the ground water for town water supply. A condition of my
lease is that I may not extract any ground water.
I have had my gross income from this business cut in half on average with no
recompense. The conditions for water extraction to come out of the current
round of water reform will be interesting for me to say the least. I cannot
do capital works to store water. The land is riparian and flood prone.We
expect Governments to act in the interests of the wider community,but their
decisions should reconcile with a "code of ethics" .The legislation that they
bring in should be fair and equitable and represent balanced views.In NSW we
as farmers have seen little of that.
MR & DS Clapham,Ilford NSW