1/10/01
Hi Y`all,
            Thanks for the information, ideas and questions being sent in.
Some interesting views to think about this week, including suggestions we
should try to get as many groups as possible from around Australia to start
demanding that we all want property rights from our politicians e.g. via
sending emails, letters, faxes etc. Let us know what you think, and if and
when you want us to kick off this action etc. We believe it`s a good idea,
but want to listen before we leap.  

This weeks News & views is
(1) Green groups put out their election wish list
(2) Tree clearing compensation
(3) New Great Artesian Basin Paper
(4) Biocredits recieve luke warm support
(5) Sustainable agriculture lifted into political limelight
(6) Groundwater turn around in Gippsland
(7) VIC Farm Dams legislation receives 2nd reading
(8) Natural Resurces  Atlas Online
(9) WPSQ has questions on maintaining biodiversity in closed woodlands  
(10) Researcher plans to help with appropriate research for landholders
(11) "Duty of care" is a tax
(12) Next step to get visible unity on property rights
(13) Cape york situation and US property rights success
(14) WATER PROPERTY RIGHTS  POSITION PAPER
(15) UNDERSTANDING WHAT SORT OF DUTY OF CARE IS ALREADY LEGISLATED IN
AUSTRALIA AND WHY NONE  ARE ADEQUATE
=====================================
(1) Green groups put out their election wish list
With a federal election now looming, green groups are gearing up to ensure
issues like salinity and landclearing are given due attention. The Australian
Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, Greenpeace and Friends of
the Earth have joined forces to map out their demands. And they plan to put
out report cards that'll assess the major parties and their environmental
policies.
=====================================
(2) Tree clearing compensation

Agforce has released details of a plan to provide compensation for
landholders affected by Queensland tree clearing laws. Agforce's Paul Bidwell
says because tree clearing is under control of the state, any hope of
compensation means a change to state laws is needed. Until September last
year freehold landholders were able to clear their land at their discretion,
but those rights were restricted by the Queensland Governments Vegetation
Management Act. Farmers argue the restrictions have reduced the value of
their property and they should be entitled to compensation. Paul Bidwell says
the Agforce proposal provides a blue print for how a compensation scheme
would work, in essence if the farmer's loss of clearing rights is for the
benefit of the broader community, the tax payer should foot the bill for
compensation. Agforce will take the plan to the State Government next month.
========================
From Professor Lance Endersbee

(3) New Great Artesian Basin Paper

Dear Leon,

Here is a link to my most recent paper.
http://www.atse.org.au/publications/occasional/occ-endersbee2.htm  
Click Here to view the article

I trust you and your colleagues find it of interest.
I am impressed by your work on the internet and think that free speech like
that is wonderful,
All the best,
Lance

(*Lance`s newest paper has proposed some details about the Great Artesian
Basin including.
(1) How the waters originate from under the earth and not from rainfall
therefore making it a finite water resource.
(2) How an early scientist (Gregory) also explained the GAB by the same model
as Lance has.
(3) How there are large mineral deposits around the perimeter of the GAB (Mt
Isa, Broken Hill, Cobar) which support his model. The map which shows
Australia`s mineral deposits overlayed with the GAB basin is very compelling
and fascinating.

* Just to broaden the minds of sub artesian basin irrigators like myself in
SA & Vic, I will raise another question. Could Australia`s other artesian
basin`s such as the Otway Basin under the SE of SA and Western VIC also be a
similar to the GAB and be a limited resource?  The Otway Basin is identical
to the GAB and has bore water levels rise after they are drilled into a
certain confined aquifer and you can get flowing bores at lower (300 metres)
depths.  - Leon
===================

(4) Biocredits recieve luke warm support

Most of Australia's environment ministers have endorsed new biodiversity
conservation targets. The Federal Environment minister and ministers from New
South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT have
committed themselves to implementing the new targets between now and 2005.

But the targets have already been criticised for not going far enough. Max
Kitchell from Environment Australia says the new national targets are an
update of those set in 1996. The document has already been criticised for not
having enough teeth. Charles Sherwin from the Australian Conservation
Foundation says he's pleased to see the environment ministers working
together, but it shouldn't become simply another book of targets. Mr Sherwin
says a tougher approach is needed to reduce landclearing and protect native
vegetation. However, Vanessa Drendall from the Hindmarsh Landcare Network
says legislation isn't the way to go. Ms Drendall says incentives for
landholders to look after the environment is the only way of meeting the
targets.

(* Nice to see incentives get a mention)
==============

(5) Sustainable agriculture lifted into political limelight

Prominent Australians such as Sir Gustav Nossal (Australian of the year ) and
Labor stallwart Barry Jones are making a concerted effort to raise
agricultural sustainability as one of the issues to decide the upcoming
federal election.  Sir Gustav has dubbed the issue one of Australia's most
pressing. He says agriculture will be sustainable into the next century but
private irrigators must not be as greedy and wateful with water. Sir Gustav
also believes water is wasted in the city too but technology and science are
the keys to more sustainable resource use into the future

(* Why not introduce water efficiency incentives for everyone)
==================
(6) Groundwater turn around in Gippsland

In what could be a landmark turn around for water management in Victoria, a
moratorium on new groundwater licenses is to be lifted after 5 years of
restrictions on local landholders in southern Gippsland.
Eric Greenaway says huge volumes of water are also being used offshore on
rigs.
 He says the water level in bores has dropped 150 feet in some areas
================
(7) VIC Farm Dams legislation receives 2nd reading

New legislation governing the licensing and registration of irrigation dams
is set to be passed through the lower house of parliment after the second
reading of changes to the water act.
Sheryl Garbutt is confident she has secured the support of both sides of
parliment with only minor changes to the governments response to the Farm
Dams review. She says the heat of the debate has been largely taken out of
the issue since the first government response to the Farm Dams review. The
legislation is expected to come into place as of February next year.
=================

(8) Natural Resurces  Atlas Online

The Australian Natural Resources Atlas, www.nlwra.gov.au/atlas, (click here) has an online website  
It provides comprehensive and up-to-date information on Australian land,
water and vegetation resources including dryland salinity, catchment
management and biodiversity.
(* I had a quick look and found a couple of errors. The views are based on
standard assumptions, but a lot of the statistics & facts are very useful)  
===========================================================
(9) WPSQ has questions on maintaining biodiversity in closed woodlands  

Dear Leon and Jane
It's great to see the effort you two are putting into your News and
Views
I am hoping your email viewers and yourselves can help us in WIldlife
Preservation Society of Queensland.
As you know, our members are sitting as conservation representatives on
all the regional vegetation management committees set up under the
Vegetation Management Act in Queensland. These committees have
represetnatives of all stakeholders and community representatives as
well, and are meeting regularily over a two year period to sort our
which regional ecosystems should be preserved, which can be cleared with
permits, and to ground truth the mapping dones by the Herbairum.

Our Society believes this will lead to a positive, concensus-based
management plan for vegetation. Most of the committees are working
really well, and everyone appears to be putting in a lot of energy to
getting on with each other even though they don't always feel the same.

We are all facing one big problem however - and this is where I need
viewpoints and help from all graziers.
My main concern is that I need some opinions on how landholders cope
with thickened scrub such as eucalypts, gidgee and other acacias if the
scrub is so dense that seedlings don't regenerate and cattle can't get
through. Biodiversity is the key - if the patch of thickened scrub
maintains biodiversity in the area, then it shouldn't be thinned or
cleared; if it meets the guidelines of the Vegetation Management Act in
Queensland and grows trunks of over 30cm or has a canopy of 70%, then it
is considered a remnant and can't be cleared without a permit.

All the regional vegetation committees are considering what areas have
to be conserved - if there is only 10% vegetation remaining of the
original cover, then it is classed as 'endangered' and must not be
cleared. If there is between 11 and 30% remaining, this is 'of concern'
or threatened and most committees are trying to conserve this too,
especially if within those regions, there are regional ecosystems which
are valuable or special or contain certain vegetation which is
considered valuable for salinity reduction (e.g. poplar box) or prevents
soil erosion. If the region  has only 30% of its original main
vegetation types, then that is protected too (e.g.. Granite Belt around
Stanthorpe region which is called 'New England', has cleared down to 30%
of all vegetation  so no one can clear anything there at all, except for
normal farm maintenance like fire breaks).  

Many of the committees are now facing these sort of technical questions
about thickening (bushland) and thinning (management) .
Apparently, not many botanists etc. have done much work on this.

Cheers
Jan Oliver
Director Wildlife Preservation Society
=========================================================

From Adele Vagg (QLD)
(10) Researcher wanting to help with appropriate research for landholders

Dear Landholders for the environment members,
    Hi, my name is Adele Vagg and I am interested in receiving your news and
views email. I have been able to gain a good idea about your group and the
issues you are facing from your website, so I thought to be fair I'd include
some background (below) about myself and the reasons why I'm interested in
the issues your group is tackling.

Background:
I am originally off the land. Up until 4 weeks ago my parents owned two
properties ("Weimby Downs" and "Retro") located about 1/2 hour NW of Capella
in Central Queensland. They are now on a cattle property ("Silverton") in SE
QLD near Blackbutt.

I have completed a degree in natural resource management and have recently
begun postgraduate research at Gatton college within the natural resource
management field. I am somewhat concerned about the trends of many
environmental issues (i.e vegetation and water management) being governed by
top-down approaches with the allowance of only tokenistic involvement by
those who the issues effect. I want to ensure that any research that I
conduct is actually going to be of value to landholders, hence the need to be
in close contact with landholders from the start.

Regards,
Adele Vagg

You can send any  ideas to Adele at
School of Natural and Rural Systems Management
University of Queensland - Gatton Campus
Gatton  QLD  4345
email  a.vagg@mailbox.uq.edu.au
==========================================================
(11) "Duty of care" is a tax

Harvey Bryce (QLD) writes

Dear Leon,

The "Duty of Care" that is being pushed on landowners is, in fact, a tax.
Any compulsory reduction from maximum production (ie the basis on which the
land was purchased or assigned) is a tax-in-kind. And when it involves
portions of land it becomes a tax on capital as well as on future income.

In the past most of this sort of tax was levied by Local Government on
developers who make such significant "super profits" from the developed
portion of the property that they can easily afford to set aside an
undeveloped portion for public benefit.

But when land clearing was deemed to be "development" this "super profits
tax" was levied on people who are merely trying to maintain the productive
capacity of their pastures in the face of major thickening and regrowth.
There are no "super profits" from pasture maintenance that would compensate
for the loss of the taxed portion of land

This is a tax that is not paid by shop owners, urban householders or most
companies because their routine activities are not subject to development
approval. (and no-one wants their backyard for a nature reserve) Yet,
Landowners are being asked to pay anything from 10% to 50% of gross revenue,
and are then fully assessed under the normal income tax system, including
GST.


True, the general public do make a contribution to environmental duty of
care by way of government expenditure. But this is limited to spending on
parks and wildlife (and some of this is of very dubious benefit) and
landowners already pay their share of this.

It would seem that the only way to ensure equity in respect of an
environmental tax would be for the value of public good benefits to be
included in each landowners annual tax return as tax that has already been
paid. In this way those that have made a high environmental contribution,
while foregoing income, would get the relevant tax refund while those who
made no contribution would get a tax bill.

I don't mind paying my share of tax in the form of environmental benefits.
But I do mind being expected to make total payments that are more than
double the company tax rate.

Cheers
Harvey Bryce

(* Hi Harvey, You are correct in stating current duty of care to be an
impediment (tax) as they are written to suit a conservation goal.( See bottom
of this email) If the farm land "duty of care" goal was instead "the best
ecological conditions for production", then it would suit landholders and not
be an impediment. )
============================================
(12) Next step to get visible unity on property rights

From Michelle Ward (NSW)

Hi there,
I'm writing as EO of the irrigator group in the Macquarie Valley in central
west NSW.  I always find something of relevance and some interesting
discussion in your news and congratulate you on having a go on doing what
we're historically poor at as rural industries, and that is unifying across
groups to develop louder voices and common positions.  I believe a valuable
next step in the process of being AND appearing much more cohesive to those
in Government should be to get endorsement or at least informal
communication links with all the recognised peak bodies and lobby groups in
agriculture  

Macquarie River Food & Fibre has done a fair bit of lobbying at the Federal
and State level alongside our peak body groups of NSWIC and Cotton Australia
on the issues of property rights, balanced implementation of COAG water
reforms etc, and have developed an understanding of  and relationship with
National Competition Council along the way.  I was recently part of a NSWIC
effort to develop a common position on property rights  and
endorsed by Cotton Australia and National Farmers Federation

Michelle Ward.

===========================================================
(13) Cape york situation and US property rights success

From Annette Davis (QLD)

Hi, I will fill you whats happening in Cape York and the issues here.
Some years ago when Goss Labour government was in power, they proposed a
Wilderness Zone on Cape York Peninsula in  Queensland.

Many grazing properties were going to be compulsory acquired right along the
east coast of Cape York.  At the same the then (Cattlemens Union) had signed
an agreement with the Cape York Land Council, ACF(Australian Conservation
Foundation) and Wilderness society this was know as the HOA (Heads of
Agreement). This not only allowed for the acquistion it also established a
regional agreement (across Cape York) that would have brought in World
Heritage and Native Title issues (the native title issues would also have
involved possible nation/state issues establishing problems similar to the
Canadain Inuit nation.) .
Of course quite a few people were upset in the communities. So a group known
as the Cape York Land Defenders organisation was set up. At that time there
was a marginal seat in Townsville (Mundigburra) that would have toppled the
government. We also knew that our organisation was too small to allow the
government any interest in us, so we tied with other organisations through
out Australia with similar problems. We knew that the network was then
stronger and had more support.
Eventually the government was chucked out and the National party took power
which amongst all people involved we thought we had the problem solved. Not
so.
Along came CYPLUS Cape York Pensilulia Land Use Stradegy, this was a study
funded by state and federal governments to assess the resourses in the Cape
and with the help of all the people decide a future for the Cape. The people
were concerned about this organisation for several reasons. The people who
sat on CYPLUS were the similar to the people who proposed the HOA and
imput from local people was being ignored by the organisation. In fact the
HOA is part of their stategy and is still continuing as the CYRAG (Cape
York Regional Advisory Group) in which they still recieve funding through
the National Heritage Trust Fund (Federal) and the State government.

The local council Cook Shire Council was concerned about  the direction of
the organisation and the lack of voting power that they had on the
organisation I think it was 1 vote in 13 and the land mass which is involved
in Cape York in something like 60%. Most of the people who sit on CYRAG are
from out side the region and just about all the organisation recieve
government funding one way or another. Any other organisations that tryed to
get a seat was denied by the Government.
So whats happening now, well the HOA is still there CYRAG is still going as
well as the other proposals. The council had initally pulled out of the
process and they (CYRAG) were having some difficulties in endorsing their
process. As it needs the local people (even though they were ignored).
However, the Cook Shire councillors have recently voted to participate in
the process the then Mayor Graham Elms has resigned because of this issue.
The Cape York Land Defenders was in existance until recently however all
the money comes from our own back pockets and the distances, road conditions
and poor communication takes it toll. Some people have being fighting for
over 10 years.

Many of the people are sitting on land with no lease due to the government
trying to force them into a term lease arangement or to tie them up in
Native title agreements, property management agreements and with other views
of acqusition. So you can see the tactics they can apply to get their
way.
However the issue here is beware of Land Use Studies, and those who sit on the
organisations to represent your views. The people here are still fighting
and we have a few tactics up our sleeves but its organisations like yours
that will add strength to the people and their rights. I hope you can help
us in our fight against this injustice.

Annette Davis.

* Annette also sent a web site address
.(http://sovereignty.freedom.org/p/land/biotreatystop.htm  click here
to view it). It describes how US grassroots landholders stopped at the last
moment, a biodiversity bill that did not consider it`s effect on landholders
rights etc
 It included a letter of opposition signed by the grassroots organizations
involved with property rights and natural resources.  The letter was faxed to
75 selected organizations  with a request to refax to their respective fax
networks. 239 organisations put their names to the faxed letters of
opposition.
======================================================

From the NSW IRRIGATORS’ COUNCIL

(14) WATER PROPERTY RIGHTS  POSITION PAPER - 12 September 2001


NSW Irrigators’ Council (NSWIC) fully supports a Federal definition of a
water property right and believes that the construction of this definition
must be based on a set of key principles or characteristics that together
will ensure the security of the asset. The six characteristics outlined below
are based on work undertaken on behalf of NSWIC, by John Sheehan of the
Australian Property Institute.

It should be noted that these six characteristics are reflected in the
principles for a water property rights regime, enunciated at different times
by ARMCANZ, CoAG and the National Competition Council.

Most importantly, it must be recognised that these characteristics are not
mutually exclusive, they must all be present for a true property right to be
acknowledged and no alteration to one characteristic ought to be able to
erode any of the other characteristics (particularly relevant for
flexibility).

1.  Duration - the period that the property right is held (NSWIC preferred
position is a continuous property right);
2.  Flexibility - recognising that the resource is constrained and the need
for government management of the resource including the ability to purchase a
“right” if required for the environment or any other purpose (management of
the resource must not impinge on the other five characteristics);
3.  Exclusivity - allowing a value to be placed on the water property right
by the market with a profit or saving enjoyed by the holder;
4.  Quality of Title - including a register/protocols for ensuring tracking
of transfer of ownership, which is critical to the success of ‘the market’;
5.  Transferability/tradeability - the measurement of the market for the
permanent sale or temporary transfer of the particular property right; and
6.  Divisibility - allowing for the 5th characteristic to be enacted and the
‘right’ to be shared.

NSWIC is of the opinion that these characteristics are the basis for the
recognition of a bundle of rights as a “property right”. Additional research
will be required to ensure the construction of a comprehensive definition
that also examines other issues such as reliability and security of supply.
============================================================
And Finally this is from NSW farmers

(15) UNDERSTANDING WHAT SORT OF DUTY OF CARE IS ALREADY LEGISLATED IN
AUSTRALIA AND WHY NONE ARE ADEQUATE

QUEENSLAND.
Under the Queensland Environmental Protection Act, a general environmental
duty is spelt out under the Environment Protection Act.


This statement qualifies the need to avoid harming the environment by giving
consideration to risk, sensitivity, current knowledge, and financial
implications.

The Queensland Land Act is more specific in spelling out that holders of
leases issued under the legislation have a duty of care, but it does not
provide an explanation of what the duty of care actually is. As a result, it
would be assumed that the common law definition is applied, which is a
requirement to avoid causing harm to another person or another person’s
property. This has been clarified to some degree by referring explicitly to a
requirement to ensure the land is used sustainably, and in a way that avoids
permanent or serious land degradation.


Under section 219 of this legislation, the Minister may approve a Code of
Practice for specific industries or industry sectors. A Code of Practice for
Agriculture was adopted in 1998. As a result, compliance with the Code
enables farmers to demonstrate ‘due diligence’ in complying with legislated
environmental requirements, in the event that an allegation on non-compliance
is made. There is no offence committed by farmers who do not comply with the
code, however, compliance with the code is a defence in the event of a
prosecution.

The Code spells out the responsibilities of landholders in relation to
conserving native plants and animals, land and soil conservation, water,
waste management, air quality, noise, and other ‘nuisance’ activities. For
each of these, the Code provides a list of reasonable steps that a farmer
would be required to take to demonstrate compliance with the code.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Similarly, under South Australian legislation, a general environmental duty
is spelt out in environment protection legislation, and a more explicit and
different requirement is incorporated in legislation dealing with land
management.



The legislation further specifies that failure to comply with this
requirement does not necessarily constitute an offence, but can trigger a
remedial order which it is an offence to fail to comply with.


A duty of care in relation to land management is detailed in the Soil
Conservation and Land Care Act.

A similar provision exists in Section 7 of the Pastoral Land Management and
Conservation Act (1989). It explains that it is the duty of a lessee to
operate a lease in accordance with good land management practices, to prevent
degradation of the land, and to endeavour within the limits of financial
resources to improve the condition of the land.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

In a similar manner to some States, the ACT Environment Protection Act (1997)
spells out a general duty of care to the environment, with similar wording
and qualification to that observed in other State legislation.
There does not appear to be an explicit duty of care standard for owners of
land that is incorporated into land management legislation in the ACT.

TASMANIA
The general environmental duty detailed in Tasmanian environmental
legislation is similar to that of other States. Non-compliance does not
constitute an offence, and compliance with standards set in industry codes is
taken as complying with the duty.Tasmania also has legislation that protects
the ability of landholders to carry out farming activities on land.

The Primary Industries Activities Protection Act 1995 specifies that farming
activities that are carried out on farm land cannot be considered to
constitute a nuisance by Courts, as long as the activities have been carried
out for a period longer than one year, and they are not carried out in an
improper or negligent manner.  This provision would presumably protect a
farmer from prosecution for nuisance in the event that noise, dust or odour
affected a neighbour, although the effectiveness of this legislation in
preventing an environmental regulation being imposed by Government is
doubtful.

VICTORIA
Victorian environmental legislation does not appear to contain specific
provisions spelling out a duty of care to the environment. The Catchment and
Land protection Act is specific in relation to the duty that is placed on
landholders.


NORTHERN TERRITORY

The Pastoral Land Act provides a statement detailing the duties of
landholders. In contrast to other jurisdictions, it imposes a requirement to
participate to a reasonable extent in the monitoring of the environmental and
productive health of the land, and to improve the land to the extent that
financial resources and technical knowledge allow this to occur.

An examination of relevant legislation in New South Wales and Western
Australia did not reveal any definitions of a duty of care, either to the
environment or for owners of land.

Conclusions from existing models

* Almost without fail, normal farm operations would result in a technical
breach of all the relevant environmental protection legislation.

The simple act of planting a crop or sowing improved pasture results in harm
to existing biodiversity, by harming existing plant species so that a more
productive variety is established. Spraying weeds or burning off also has the
same impact. Even grazing by livestock has a detrimental impact on
populations of some species of plants. None of these pieces of legislation
appear to make any differentiation between introduced or native species, or
indeed between land that has been altered, and land in its natural state. All
simply list harm to the environment as an offence, which in the absence of a
qualifying definition of the word ‘environment’ makes farming an offence!

* The environmental legislation, almost without fail, is written from the
basis that the species of plants or animals present in an environment at a
particular point in time are desirable species that require protection from
harm, from that point forward. It aims to protect that land in its current
state, and to prevent any harm occurring to the species that are present on
that farm. Nowhere is a distinction made between ‘good’ species and bad
species or to the goals of the land use.

* Landholders could be managing their land in a way that complies with any
duty of care that is spelt out in land legislation (where such a duty is
detailed) but could at the same time potentially be in breach of a general
environmental duty incorporated into environmental protection legislation.

* None of these legislative models (especially those dealing with land)
provide any upper threshold on the duty required of an owner of that land. In
the case of freehold land where historically it has been considered that
governments do not have a role in dictating landuse, this omission would be
understandable. It is only since the early 1990s that Governments have
removed some of the rights associated with ownership of freehold land.
However, in a leasehold situation where the lease agreement is essentially a
contract between the owner (the Crown) and the leasee, it would be logical to
incorporate a clause that states something like “The leasee will not be
required to exceed the standard duty of care requirement for management of
land unless the Crown first provides appropriate compensatory measures.”

* A more general conclusion is that the general duty of care for the
environment spelt out in State environmental protection legislation is not
appropriate or workable in relation to farmland. Farm operations of even the
most basic kind result in harm or change to some species (biodiversity),
which by definition would fall under the definition of ‘environmental harm’.
The ignored issue is whether that change is sustainable - whether in twenty
or fifty years time the land will still be productive, and will not have been
degraded or have resulted in harm to neighbouring land.

A more appropriate basis for a general duty of care for farmland is probably
found in the various State land acts.
These pieces of legislation focus more on the sustainability of the changes
that occur to land and the environment as a result of farm operations, rather
than presuming that any change is bad.
 It is also evident these pieces of legislation say nothing about an upper
limit to the required standard of care for land, which an owner of land will
not be required to exceed without appropriate compensation.