24/4/01
(1) Greenhouse comments from Judith McGeorge
(2) Greg Burrows comments on Salinity
(3) Leon Ashby explains Qld`s treepulling practices
(4) Jo Wearing discusses Salinity article
(5) Landholders rights and Native title
G`day folks,
                  We have several interesting views for you to read today.
Please feel free to correct any details so we all can be confident details
are accurate to use.
Also there are a couple of developments (one in NSW, another in ACT) which
may unfold shortly which could have major implications to landholders across
Australia. We will let you know when we get written details.

Firstly some comments from Judith McGeorge (Qld)

I have been following much of the debate on
greenhouse emissions et al and the "scientific" data  - I am afraid I remain
sceptical about many findings- one has to ask who funded the research and
what credibility it may have- we have streams of scientists who debunk much
on greenhouse and climate change on the grounds of lack of substantiating
data. (yes we agree - a recent tv program claimed the oceans could rise the
height of a two storey building but 2 different scientific web sites say 1
metre is the  maximum by 2100)
Good management practises of livestock industries is an improving figure in
Australia as we learn more of sustainability- I find it difficult to reason
that Australia can have massive methane emissions when our stocking rates
are limited by fodder availability- say compared to NZ and then the northern
hemisphere.
I have recently been having dialogue with some scientists on wool research-
and have found some peculiar findings being published which are utter
rubbish-as this is a subject which I can  say I have researched myself
utilising technology- hence my reason for being so sceptical. They don't
even test the same animals over a period of years , on the same nutritional
plane before writing a paper!  (We are finding similar problems with the
research methods used in animal habitat surveys - heaps of variables not
acknowledged)
I do not like the idea of becoming the guinea pig for some scientific theory
and it remains of concern that anecdotal evidence is not given much
credence.
On the question of landholder compensation- it is of interest that the
Greens believe farmers should not have "property rights"  and as such should
not be entitled to compensation to shut down production  to satisfy some
dubious environmental theory!  (we have been trying to find out which groups
have stated an opposition to property rights and found a couple - can anyone
else help us)
The Great Artesian Basin control project as stated by Richard Makim has a
funding problem- it is a very worthwhile and practical solution- yet has
anyone noted the
ballooning of staff in DNR and other Ag Depts- perhaps they are going the
way of Health which has seen administration become 90% and service delivery
10%.
It is a great pity that $300million can be found for Lang Park sporting
stadium- but money to protect the GAB is in short supply

Regards Judith McGeorge

Greg Burrows (W.A.) has written

I hope farmers arent the last ones to find out that in the not to distant
future quality rem veg will be worth more than cleared, grazed land, the
banks are a bit slow on this too!  (Can you tell us where you got that
information from Greg - who said it, & who is going to be prepared to pay
for
it)
Some of my views on (Dr Christine Jones - NSW DLWC) salinity article
Salinity is obviously governed in many ways, geology being the major, there
are some very broad assumptions & conclusions drawn in this article some I
agree with (groundcover) and some I disagree, It does suggest 30 % tree
cover which in our area is 98% cleared (and) presents some problems with the
100
times recharge bit.
It also raises the issue of grazing, which by this article (means) in this
area (it)
would be extremely reduced. (maybe a good thing)
It also brings to point biodiversity, Aust stands to loose at least 50% of
its native species over the next 50 to 100 years, our lifetime (almost) and
this will mainly be due to loss of habitat of which Australian farmers own
or control around 50% (Of-native habitat) (Have you got a source for this
info? so we can check it out) so this article with some more
extreme feral control could if clearing rem veg stopped, considerably
reverse
current extinction trends
again introduced unmanaged grazing is
casing loss of species & habitat on an unprecedented scale.
Yes this article raises some valid points, but it also raises some points
that also need to be addressed.
I have to say when the watertable is at 3ft below the surface at
5000ms+-over a valley floor3kms wide and recharge is up 100 times with 400
million years salt storage, groundcover may not be the simple solution---
Cheers,
Greg Burrows

You`ve raised some points Greg that I will answer  and  hopefully clarify in
regards with species survival and  vegetation.

* Queenslands 60 million hectares of grazed woodlands are adding over 900 kg
biomass per hectare per year (Dr Bill Burrows, Qld beef institute) - thats
over 54,000,000 tons of trees. Substantially more than is reduced by
treepulling annually.- 32,000,000 tons ( 80 t/ ha x 400,000 ha (pulling rate
in 2000 ))
* All Queenslands endangered ecosystems are protected. ( All other states
have something similar)
* Under the Federal  Environment protection and biodiversity conservation
Act
1999, it is an offence for a person to take an action that the person knows
will significantly damage the critical habitat of a listed threatened
species, or a listed threatened ecological community.
* Of the 1400 endangered and threatened species in Australia (Threatened
Species network) There are very very few that occur in rangeland areas where
timber pulling is used and if they do, are not reliant on the vegetation for
their survival (i.e.fish in springs etc)
* One endangered species that might be affected is the Gouldian finch and
that is not threatened by a lack of habitat but a lack of perennial grass
seeds. (Environment Australia) Treepulling is a tool used to increase
perennial grasses and along with other good grass management, can help this
species survival.
* Other  common species such as the red backed fairy-wren have been
demonstrated to increase on improved pastures.(EPA - Qld)

TO IMPROVE OUR RANGELANDS WE SHOULD AIM AT
* For Salinity --- Dense stands of deep rooted perennial grasses - with or
without trees (Dr Christine Jones DLWC NSW)
* For Biodiversity --- Some trees (alive and dead) and a  variety of grasses
(especially perennials). Along with having all endangered species and their
habitats protected. (which they are)

Many landholders have recognised these goals and are working towards them
already.

We believe if Landholders rights to counter  tree thickening are taken away
then 60 million hectares of Queensland  will become an unmanageable mass of
trees that
* Were never there in 1788 (explorer's diaries)
* Reduce  grass cover and biodiversity and put pressure on some species
survival.
* Cause environmental degradation ( less grass means extra runoff & erosion)
* Landholders will go broke and will not be able to stay on the land to
manage it.

Landholders need all the tools they can to care for the environment and
their
livelihoods. Landcare groups across Queensland affirm treepulling is just
one of those tools. - Leon Ashby (former secretary of the Aramac Landcare
Group)


This comment comes from Jo Wearing (Qld)

Thankyou for an interesting article (on salinity). I note several references
lately to the value of perennial, native grasses in maintaining or improving
soil structural health and organic carbon. The critical indicator seems to
be
plant basal area.

Our short period of experience with long rest; short, high impact grazing
regimes confirms the observations in this article.

I wonder how the function of a perennial, native tussock sward compares with
that of a buffel monoculture?  (*yes, it would be good to have research on
water infiltration rates, soil biota mass, soil carbon mass, plant dry
matter
yield etc - Leon)

We, and a significant number of graziers we speak to, have concerns about
buffel, especially Gayndah buffel. Soil in a Gayndah buffel monoculture
appears over time to get harder, with less visible biodiversity. (many
graziers note the same affect in spinifex monocultures)
Currently our grazing management is directed to ensuring high levels of
litter left after grazing and to encourage other grass species, especially
3P
grasses. (* Jo could you explain what a 3P grass is, and  therefore why
encourage
3P grasses rather than 4P)
re

"If too much goes down it will come back up - with salt!"

If I understand Dr John Williams correctly salt may move sideways to
severely
salinise streams and rivers before it moves back up to become a major
problem
in soil.

"However, recent research has shown
that plantation tree-lots, widely promoted as bandaids to utilise saline
discharge water, often use the fresher water from the top 1-3 m of the soil,
leading to an upward movement of the saltier groundwater from below, and
slowed tree growth rates.  That is, the movement of groundwater upwards
becomes self-defeating.  If you’re relying on trees alone to solve your
salinity problems, you’ll be waiting a long time."

Rather than demonstrating that plantation trees are not part of a solution
this report demonstrates how complex the hydrological system really is, how
little we understand it and a very good reason why our practices should
endeavour not to disrupt it beyond the capacity of the system to adjust. The
precautionary approach requires that we should first ensure that we can
restore land already degrading and land which will continue degrading in the
future as a result of changes effected 20, 50 years or more ago.
(* Would you include land that is degrading from tree thickening too Jo?)

I look forward to other articles in the series. Could you please include the
source of articles and references for Dr Christine Jones, and other
contributors.

Cheers,
Jo Wearing

Finally some comments on Landholders rights from Lindsay McDonald (Qld)

Land management, Land tenure and Landholders' Rights - updated from 29/1/00

When the High Court Wik judgement was handed down in December 1996, it
overturned 150 years of land tenure development in Australia.  The flow-on
effects may not be confined to leasehold land.

The greatest concerns leaseholders have always had as a result of the
decision in fact have nothing to do with Aboriginal people.  It is the
effect
on tenure that is the big problem, as that will affect the ability of
families to stay on their land.  For example:
  a.. potential changes in bank attitudes to leasehold land as an asset
  b.. whether the crown or native title holders own the land and or
resources
(water, minerals, vegetation, wildlife associated with the land
(Mirriuwung/Gajerrong Federal Court decision relating to a claim in the
Kimberleys has given ownership of all of these to the claimant tribe,
entitling them to a 'share of the resources taken off by others'.  The full
bench of the Federal court overturned this aspect of the decision and it is
now currently under appeal to the High Court )
  c.. potential changes to statutory laws to benefit native title
claimants/holders relating to land management etc. without compensation to
the leaseholder
  d.. potential loss of right of expectation of lease renewal where land is
under claim
  e.. loss of common law rights on leasehold land, now the perogative of
native title claimants/holders (which means long established practices,
which
are not specifically mentioned in either lease documents or land laws may be
challenged by native title holders/claimants
NB:  The High Court in Fejo v. Northern Territory (Sept. 1998), found that
freehold does extinguish native title, so I am not suggesting that freehold
is under threat of native title.  However the proposed Heritage legislation
is far more draconian for all title holders, with far reaching implications
for all activities on all tenures.

The attack on freehold title by the Beattie government through the tree
clearing and vegetation management issues highlights some of the flaws in
Australia's land tenure system, particularly since the Wik decision has
undoubtedly weakened the whole system.

To the best of my knowledge all other developed countries have a concept of
freehold which is quite different to Australia's.  That is, that freehold is
a 'centre of the earth to the heavens' title.  Freeholders in other
countries
own the land, and what is beneath and above.
There are a few small pockets of country in Australia which have this type
of
freehold - some Western Australian farm land has this type, and some small
parcels of land in the central coalfields area of Queensland.

However, the vast majority of freehold titles in Australia do not apparently
give the title holder actual ownership.

The then Chief Justice Brennan said in his Wik judgement:
"If it were right to regard Crown leaseholds not as estates held of the
Crown
but merely as a bundle of statutory rights conferred on the lessee, it would
be equally correct to treat a "grant in fee simple" not as the grant of a
freehold estate held of the Crown but merely as a larger bundle of statutory
rights."

As we now all know, Chief Justice Brennan was in the minority in asserting
that leasehold did in fact extinguish native title.

Because the majority found native title could coexist on leasehold, it
appears that leasehold is only 'a bundle of rights' (Leases are now
described
by many lawyers and Aboriginal spokesmen as merely licences) freehold land
may now be considered in future court judgements to be merely 'a larger
bundle of statutory rights."

All landholders, freehold and leasehold, should be very concerned about the
weakening of the whole land tenure system and loss of rights.

This comes at a time when there is a concerted, continuous city-based push
to
strengthen Indigenous 'property rights' via native title, as a separate
freehold-equivalent title based on race.

Incidentally, will land held by native title holders or as Aboriginal tenure
of some sort be subject to these tree clearing and vegetation management
Laws?  Since those tenures can never be sold, and therefore have no
commercial value, fines are meaningless, so there can be no enforcement for
Indigenous owners on land held in those special titles.

As atApril 01:
I recently learned of a case from reliable sources that an advisory panel
applied for a clearing permit in respect of land in the Central Qld area
held
in Aboriginal title, only to be told that permits were not necessary for
that
particular title type.  It also appears that $100,000 of taxpayers' money
was
found to enable the clearing to occur, though I'm not sure whether the money
came from state or federal sources.

One further recent development:

The High Court recently handed down a judgement on a long running case to do
with just compensation when state governments compulsorily acquire private
rights.  Briefly, in the 1980's, a coal mining company in the Hunter Valley
had its coal mining rights compulsorily acquired and was paid less than the
company claimed was just.

The Federal consitution requires that just compensation be paid if private
property rights are compulsorily acquired.

The High Court ruled that this only applies to the Federal Government, not
to
state governments.  In this case they specifically said that the NSW and QLD
governments do not have to pay just compensation when they acquire rights
from private property holders.

My reading of this, which needs to be confirmed by the legal profession, is
that native title (recognised under Federal Law even though it is
administered by the states) cannot be acquired/extinguished for any purpose
without just compensation being paid.  Just compensation at present seems to
mean 150% of freehold value.

Whereas our rights, whether leasehold or freehold, can be removed without
just compensation, as they come under state laws, not federal ones.

Lindsay McDonald
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