Hi there,
             This weeks News & views will be in three parts due to our email service having problems and not being able to send the normal sized email.
We have started compiling where each of the political parties stand on property rights and we will send a special email prior to the election on the details.

Water issues dominate this week.
Hope you enjoy The Skeptical Environmentalist article.

(1) Nationals and Labor fight over water
(2) Marine Parks threat to  SA Rock Lobster Industry
(3) Two Landholders comment on water rights
(4) Professor Cullen’s Next 10 Steps in Water Management
(5) Qld Thickening vegetation study
(6) $1500 Fine for Dozing rubbervine without a permit
(7) Land Clearing Report called "Turning the Tide"
(8) NSW  water reform
(9) Farming and Biodiversity
(10) Report calls for big increase in enviro flows for Murray
(11) Ken Wells comments on Leon Ashby`s  "defining biodiversity duty of care" article
(13) Article - The Skeptical Environmentalist
(1) Nationals and Labor fight over water

Federal National Party Leader, John Anderson, has pledged to crank up his efforts to secure compensation for farmers who suffer cut-backs in their water allocations. In officially launching his election campaign , Mr Anderson said he would convene a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments if the Coalition wins a third term. The aim of the meeting would be to get State Premiers around the table in a bid to settle on a national definition of water property rights. It appears both Labor and the Nationals are as one on this issue, with the Opposition making a similar announcement last week.
John Anderson;
"This is a major national debate and it's going to take a long time to win and to work through the issues and to win. But I'm trying to set out a process to say that A, we're fair dinkum, B, we're going to have to work together on this. And I am determined to provide, you know, the national leadership through the Federal Government that we can, if we're re-elected, that is needed to resolve this."

Shadow Agriculture Minister, Gavan O'Connor, says the National Party is simply copying Labor's long-held policy, of calling a meeting of COAG to thrash out the issues of salinity and water.
"Well we put into the ring two years ago the need for the issue of salinity to be tackled at the national level, and for the COAG mechanism to be used to leverage the states to get their co-operation in the battle against salinity and on the issue of water. John Anderson is now merely acknowledging what Labor has been saying for two years."

  (2) Marine Parks threat to  SA Rock Lobster Industry

The SA rock lobster industry is furious over  marine park proposals covering large areas of commercial fishing grounds. The Fishermen say there is no need for the marine parks as the fishing resources is now on a sustainable management regime. (self regulated Quotas)
They believe that if these parks are implemented, then up to half of the fishermen may have to leave the industry or the remaining fishing areas would get over fished.
(3) Two Landholders comment on water rights

Several people have recently commented on water rights saying how inconsistent the different state approaches are to water and wondering if landholders across Australia should discuss what their preferred approach is.

Greg Bowering (SA) has suggested all land with access to water (underground, rivers, runoff etc should have a percentage as a statutory right attached to that land. Those rights could be leased but always remained with the land. Greg acknowledges there would be inconsistencies to sort out initially, but existing access/rights have to be respected and not removed injustly.

Craig Underwood (WA) has mentioned the need for perpetual water rights, so investments can be planned, as paying for all the water infrastructure within 5 to 10 years can be difficult when markets and seasons fluctuate so much. Craig also likes the idea of a percentage of water available being attached as a right to land.

The NSW IRRIGATORS have stated they want water plans to include
1.   a continuous property right
2.  Flexibility - E.g. purchase / leasing etc (where possible)
3.  Exclusivity - allowing a value to be placed on the water property right
by the market
4.  Quality of Title - including a register/protocols for ensuring tracking
of transfer of ownership
5.  Transferability/tradeability - 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.

* Does anyone want to suggest other ideas?
From QFF
(4) Professor Cullen’s Next 10 Steps in Water Management

Professor Cullen from the Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology has proposed the following 10 strategies to improve rivers as he believes that efforts to date ‘do not seem to be getting on top of these problems’:

* Irrigators return 3% of all water used each year as an efficiency dividend to the environment;
* Annual clawback of water for the environment in rivers that more than 30% of the median flow is extracted until this level is reached or a sustainable level of extraction is determined through sound research. Compensation should only be paid where there is a genuine legal right to the water;
* Any proposal to extract water from any river to be accompanied by studies of the impact on downstream river health;
* Ongoing catchment and river health audits based on the Land and Water Audit reporting every 5 years;
* Establishment of a national system of heritage rivers under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act to ensure undamaged rivers are protected;
* Management planning and funding to assess and protect nationally important wetlands;
* Establishment of an expert body to advise the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council;
* Integrated natural resource management of catchments and organisational structures to address this integration;
* Capital and recurrent funding for regional and freshwater ecology laboratories to address river health, environmental flows, salinity impacts and the management of invasive species;
* Funding for large-scale catchment research to identify and predict the ecological impacts of climate change, land use and alternative farming systems on streamflow and river health.

QFF says the experience of rural industry is that Governments to date have failed to address a comprehensive program of the nature proposed by Professor Cullen preferring to adopt a policy/regulatory approach leaving farmers to bear the full costs and risks of reform.  Governments are not providing the required commitment to integrated catchment research to back demands for clawback of entitlement. Nor is there adequate consideration of water property rights.  Unless Governments address these commitments water management will increasingly develop as a politically charged planning process.  

* We also have concerns with several of Peter Cullen`s suggestions. Many landholders have said the people in each catchment should be the formulators of water resource management. Scientists such as Peter Cullen can give advice & suggestions but those directly affected (landholders, local communities etc) should demand it is their decision as to the best way to proceed. Anything less is dictatorship from outside people who do not have to wear the consequences - good and/or bad
(5) Qld Thicke(ning vegetation study

A new study looking at the thickening of native vegetation will add new, scientific evidence to the state's controversial and ongoing tree clearing debate. The study, which will run over the next two years and cost 90-thousand dollars, will use soil carbon and grass trees to determine the changes in tree densities at a number of sites across the state. Researchers say while there's plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting vegetation is thickening there's a shortage of hard data to back that up,

* We wonder what is wrong with Dr Bill Burrows 37 years of hard data on tree thickening!
(6) $1500 Fine for Dozing rubbervine without a permit

Graeme Acton pleaded guilty to clearing trees on a leased block of land without a permit at Croydon Station, near Nebo. He used a bulldozer to clear about 50 hectares of land and has been fined 15-hundred dollars and told to pay for the revegetation of the area. The court was told he was trying to eradicate rubbervine but DNR says regardless of the reason he still needed a permit.

* We have had people contact us who also cannot eradicte weeds of national significance because the vegetation laws are inflexible to their circumstances.
(7) Land Clearing Report called "Turning the Tide"

QFF is currently reviewing “Turning the Tide”, a report produced by Environs Australia: the Local Government Environment Network.  This report examines ways to reduce land clearing in Queensland through communication processes and the assistance of local governments.  
(8) NSW  water reform

Farmers and environmentalists in New South Wales both claim the State Government has failed to deliver on water reforms, risking millions of dollars in Commonwealth payments. . The Nature Conservation Council claims the Minister for Agriculture has failed to divert adequate water flows to the environment. The farmers believe while delivering sufficient water to the environment, the Government has failed to set up adequate "property rights" over water.

Amery defends water management

The Minister for NSW Agriculture defends his management of water policy saying the National Competition Council has given the State Government the tick of approval. He says the timeframe for implementing "property rights" and the consultation process are all in train

Irrigators want firmer committment

North West irrigators, facing water allocation cuts of up to ninety-five percent, are glad that at least water is starting to registering on the ricter-scale. The Namoi Valley is the first catchment in NSW to receive cuts and has been pushing for security over property rights, to protect their livelihoods.
(9) Farming and Biodiversity

Department of Natural Resources and Environment scientist Dr Isa Yunusa from the Rutherglen Research Institute is currently begining a pilot project for such a policy, called "Biodiversity and intensive agriculture : a fruitfull marriage of the Victorian Riverina." Dr Yunusa says new ways need to be found to increase production whilst recognising the need to conserve our valuable native species.

Ian Lobban, from the Victorian Farmers Federation is not so convinced of the state governments push. He says farmers are dealing with such issues already. Lobban does acknowledge the state governments "Bush Tender" program is heading in the right direction but believes smaller block holders or "hobby Farmers" are the main landholders to benefit from such a scheme, not the larger farmers with the bigger holdings of native vegetation. He says the government is wasting money on such programs that often do not come up with real, tangible outcomes.

Dr Isa Yunusa hopes his project will come up with real answers to solving the paradox of conservation and productivity on private farmland.
(10) Report calls for big increase in enviro flows for Murray

A new snapshot of the health of our rivers in the Murray Darling Basin has painted a grim picture. The study compiled by the Murray Darling Basin Commission shows the current level of health is less than what's needed for ecological sustainability, saying evidence of degradation is inescapable.

Tim Fisher from the Australian Conservation Foundation says the equivalent of 20 million swimming pools of water must be found every year in his view, to restore the Murray
 He says the water will most likely come from irrigation entitlements, for which irrigators must be compensated for.

Any change in environmental flows along the Murray will mean a cut to irrigators and therefore a cut to food and fibre production from the basin. Bruce Jones is an irrigator at Tyntynder just outside Swan Hill and says the issue extends well beyond just compensation for irrigators as entire towns and industries will die if the conservation foundations wishes to return 20 million swimming pools full of water back to the river every year. Jones acknowledges the health of the river must be adressed and says much greater irrigation efficiencies have to be found.

Murray River not a lost cause

The author of a recent book looking at the history of the river and the people who depend on it suggests we need to learn from the past. Paul Sinclair grew up at Kerang and paddled along the river from the Hume dam to Mildura last year to research the book.
He says we must learn to live with a new river and listen to the mistakes of the past 50 years. Sinclair says more salt tolerant trees will replace many of the old red gums the area is famous for, and industries will adapt.
"The river's been in decline for fifty years, and people have known it's been in decline for fifty years. And it always struck me, I thought, well if we've known that, why haven't we done anything about it? Pumping salt water here and there, that's part of the solution. We need to actually say, we're here to stay, and we need to actually learn to live with a degraded environment."

(11) Ken Wells comments on Leon Ashby`s  "defining biodiversity duty of care" article

Ken sent us what he wrote to a colleague

I found this communication very disturbing. The depth of ignorance and
misguided self interest manifest in the statement is breathtaking. I
think these people (Landholders) should be reminded that as members of the national community
they are merely custodians of the land from which they are priviledged to derive a living, no matter what their tenure. The idea of compensation
for NOT practicing environmental vandalism, through ignorance or greed or
both,on the most precious possession of us all, is out of the question.
  I must say I found  difficulty in interpreting some of the statements.

The ABC's telecast of the National Press Club's Guest Speaker,  Dr.
Harris from the C.S.I.R.O.,  on 27th. September (  repeated  on 3rd. October ) was extremely relevant to the above. I sincerely
recommend Dr. Harris' speech to all with an interest in sustainable land
and environmental management , and especially to the
members of Landholders for the Environment.

 Yours sincerely - Ken Wells.
Leon Ashby replies

Hi Ken, We believe you have misunderstood what the difference is between a custodian and a landholder.
 My daughter`s school dictionary says a custodian is "a guardian or keeper, especially of a public building."
 That means in relation to land it would be a Ranger or a caretaker. Someone whose job it is to look after the land on behalf of someone else. A custodian would also be paid for doing his job but would not have to pay for the land (e.g. the property rights).
On all these counts a landholder is different.

As far as wanting compensation for not practicising environmental vandalism goes or being ignorant and greedy, we hope you check out our web site and News & views archives and see where we are at. We encourage you to discuss any subject you want with those on the network.
 (12) Article - The Skeptical Environmentalist
Bjorn Lomborg is a statistician at the University of Aarhus, Denmark,
who once held what he calls "left-wing Greenpeace views". In 1997, he set out
to challenge Julian Simon, an economist who doubted environmentalist
claims-and found that the data generally supported Simon. His book, "The
Skeptical Environmentalist", will be published in English by Cambridge
University Press in a month's time.

Environmentalists tend to believe that, ecologically speaking, things are getting worse and worse. Bjorn Lomborg, once deep green himself, argues that they are wrong in almost every particular
      ECOLOGY and economics should push in the same direction. After all, the "eco" part of each word derives from the Greek word for "home", and the protagonists of both claim to have humanity's welfare as their goal. Yet environmentalists and economists are often at loggerheads. For economists, the world seems to be getting better. For many environmentalists, it seems to be getting worse.

      These environmentalists, led by such veterans as Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, and Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute, have developed a sort of "litany" of four big environmental fears:

      1. Natural resources are running out.

      2. The population is ever growing, leaving less and less to eat.

      3. Species are becoming extinct in vast numbers: forests are disappearing and fish stocks are collapsing.

      4. The planet's air and water are becoming ever more polluted.

          The trouble is, the evidence does not back up this litany.

First, energy and other natural resources have become more abundant, not less so since the Club of Rome published "The Limits to Growth" in 1972.

Second, more food is now produced per head of the world's population than at any time in history. Fewer people are starving.

Third, although species are indeed becoming extinct, only about 0.7% of them are expected to disappear in the next 50 years, not 25-50%, as has so often been predicted.

And finally, most forms of environmental pollution either appear to have been exaggerated, or are transient-associated with the early phases of industrialisation and therefore best cured not by restricting economic growth, but by accelerating it. One form of pollution-the release of greenhouse gases that causes global warming-does appear to be a long-term phenomenon, but its total impact is unlikely to pose a devastating problem for the future of humanity. A bigger problem may well turn out to be an inappropriate response to it.

Can things only get better?
      Take these four points one by one.

First, the exhaustion of natural resources. The early environmental movement worried that the mineral resources on which modern industry depends would run out. Clearly, there must be some limit to the amount of fossil fuels and metal ores that can be extracted from the earth: the planet, after all, has a finite mass. But that limit is far greater than many environmentalists would have people believe.

      Reserves of natural resources have to be located, a process that costs money. That, not natural scarcity, is the main limit on their availability. However, known reserves of all fossil fuels, and of most commercially important metals, are now larger than they were when "The Limits to Growth" was published. In the case of oil, for example, reserves that could be extracted at reasonably competitive prices would keep the world economy running for about 150 years at present consumption rates. Add to that the fact that the price of solar energy has fallen by half in every decade for the past 30 years, and appears likely to continue to do so into the future, and energy shortages do not look like a serious threat either to the economy or to the environment.

      The development for non-fuel resources has been similar. Cement, aluminium, iron, copper, gold, nitrogen and zinc account for more than 75% of global expenditure on raw materials. Despite an increase in consumption of these materials of between two- and ten-fold over the past 50 years, the number of years of available reserves has actually grown. Moreover, the increasing abundance is reflected in an ever-decreasing price: The Economist's index of prices of industrial raw materials has dropped some 80% in inflation-adjusted terms since 1845.

      Next, the population explosion is also turning out to be a bugaboo. In 1968, Dr Ehrlich predicted in his best selling book, "The Population Bomb", that "the battle to feed humanity is over. In the course of the 1970s the world will experience starvation of tragic proportions-hundreds of millions of people will starve to death."

      That did not happen. Instead, according to the United Nations, agricultural production in the developing world has increased by 52% per person since 1961. The daily food intake in poor countries has increased from 1,932 calories, barely enough for survival, in 1961 to 2,650 calories in 1998, and is expected to rise to 3,020 by 2030. Likewise, the proportion of people in developing countries who are starving has dropped from 45% in 1949 to 18% today, and is expected to decline even further to 12% in 2010 and just 6% in 2030. Food, in other words, is becoming not scarcer but ever more abundant. This is reflected in its price. Since 1800 food prices have decreased by more than 90%, and in 2000, according to the World Bank, prices were lower than ever before.

Malthus was wrong: population growth has not been exponential

           Thomas Malthus claimed that, if unchecked, human population would expand exponentially, while food production could increase only linearly, by bringing new land into cultivation. He was wrong. Population growth has turned out to have an internal check: as people grow richer and healthier, they have smaller families. Indeed, the growth rate of the human population reached its peak, of more than 2% a year, in the early 1960s. The rate of increase has been declining ever since. It is now 1.26%, and is expected to fall to 0.46% in 2050. The United Nations estimates that most of the world's population growth will be over by 2100, with the population stabilising at just below 11 billion

           Malthus also failed to take account of developments in agricultural technology. These have squeezed more and more food out of each hectare of land. It is this application of human ingenuity that has boosted food production, not merely in line with, but ahead of, population growth. It has also, incidentally, reduced the need to take new land into cultivation, thus reducing the pressure on biodiversity.

      Third, that threat of biodiversity loss is real, but exaggerated. Most early estimates used simple island models that linked a loss in habitat with a loss of biodiversity. A rule-of-thumb indicated that loss of 90% of forest meant a 50% loss of species. As rainforests seemed to be cut at alarming rates, estimates of annual species loss of 20,000-100,000 abounded. Many people expected the number of species to fall by half globally within a generation or two.

      However, the data simply does not bear out these predictions. In the eastern United States, forests were reduced over two centuries to fragments totalling just 1-2% of their original area, yet this resulted in the extinction of only one forest bird. In Puerto Rico, the primary forest area has been reduced over the past 400 years by 99%, yet "only" seven of 60 species of bird has become extinct. All but 12% of the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest was cleared in the 19th century, leaving only scattered fragments. According to the rule-of-thumb, half of all its species should have become extinct. Yet, when the World Conservation Union and the Brazilian Society of Zoology analysed all 291 known Atlantic forest animals, none could be declared extinct. Species, therefore, seem more resilient than expected. And tropical forests are not lost at annual rates of 2-4%, as many environmentalists have claimed: the latest UN figures indicate a loss of less than 0.5%.

            In London, air pollution peaked around 1890

      Fourth, pollution is also exaggerated. Many analyses show that air pollution diminishes when a society becomes rich enough to be able to afford to be concerned about the environment. For London, the city for which the best data are available, air pollution peaked around 1890  Today, the air is cleaner than it has been since 1585. There is good reason to believe that this general picture holds true for all developed countries. And, although air pollution is increasing in many developing countries, they are merely replicating the development of the industrialised countries. When they grow sufficiently rich they, too, will start to reduce their air pollution.

             All this contradicts the litany. Yet opinion polls suggest that many people, in the rich world, at least, nurture the belief that environmental standards are declining. Four factors cause this disjunction between perception and reality.
   Always look on the dark side of life

      One is the lopsidedness built into scientific research. Scientific funding goes mainly to areas with many problems. That may be wise policy, but it will also create an impression that many more potential problems exist than is the case.

      Secondly, environmental groups need to be noticed by the mass media. They also need to keep the money rolling in. Understandably, perhaps, they sometimes exaggerate. In 1997, for example, the Worldwide Fund for Nature issued a press release entitled, "Two-thirds of the world's forests lost forever". The truth turns out to be nearer 20%.

       Environmental groups are much like other lobby groups, but are treated less sceptically

           Though these groups are run overwhelmingly by selfless folk, they nevertheless share many of the characteristics of other lobby groups. That would matter less if people applied the same degree of scepticism to environmental lobbying as they do to lobby groups in other fields. A trade organisation arguing for, say, weaker pollution controls is instantly seen as self-interested. Yet a green organisation opposing such a weakening is seen as altruistic, even if a dispassionate view of the controls in question might suggest they are doing more harm than good.

      A third source of confusion is the attitude of the media. People are clearly more curious about bad news than good. Newspapers and broadcasters are there to provide what the public wants. That, however, can lead to significant distortions of perception. An example was America's encounter with El Niño in 1997 and 1998. This climatic phenomenon was accused of wrecking tourism, causing allergies, melting the ski-slopes and causing 22 deaths by dumping snow in Ohio.

      A more balanced view comes from a recent article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This tries to count up both the problems and the benefits of the 1997-98 Niño. The damage it did was estimated at $4 billion. However, the benefits amounted to some $19 billion. These came from higher winter temperatures (which saved an estimated 850 lives, reduced heating costs and diminished spring floods caused by meltwaters), and from the well-documented connection between past Niños and fewer Atlantic hurricanes. In 1998, America experienced no big Atlantic hurricanes and thus avoided huge losses. These benefits were not reported as widely as the losses.

      The fourth factor is poor individual perception. People worry that the endless rise in the amount of stuff everyone throws away will cause the world to run out of places to dispose of waste. Yet, even if America's trash output continues to rise as it has done in the past, and even if the American population doubles by 2100, all the rubbish America produces through the entire 21st century will still take up only the area of a square, each of whose sides measures 28km (18 miles). That is just one-12,000th of the area of the entire United States.

Ignorance matters only when it leads to faulty judgments. But fear of
largely imaginary environmental problems can divert political energy from
dealing with real ones. The table above, showing the cost in the United
States of various measures to save a year of a person's life, illustrates the
danger. Some environmental policies, such as reducing lead in petrol and
sulphur-dioxide emissions from fuel oil, are very cost-effective. But many of
these are already in place. Most environmental measures are less
cost-effective than interventions aimed at improving safety (such as
installing air-bags in cars) and those involving medical screening and
vaccination. Some are absurdly expensive.

            Radically cutting carbon-dioxide emissions will be far more
expensive than adapting to higher temperatures

      Yet a false perception of risk may be about to lead to errors more
expensive even than controlling the emission of benzene at tyre plants.
Carbon-dioxide emissions are causing the planet to warm. The best estimates
are that the temperature will rise by some 2°-3°C in this century, causing
considerable problems, almost exclusively in the developing world, at a total
cost of $5,000 billion. Getting rid of global warming would thus seem to be a
good idea. The question is whether the cure will actually be more costly than
the ailment.

      Despite the intuition that something drastic needs to be done about
such a costly problem, economic analyses clearly show that it will be far
more expensive to cut carbon-dioxide emissions radically than to pay the
costs of adaptation to the increased temperatures. The effect of the Kyoto
Protocol on the climate would be minuscule, even if it were implemented in
full. A model by Tom Wigley, one of the main authors of the reports of the UN
Climate Change Panel, shows how an expected temperature increase of 2.1°C in
2100 would be diminished by the treaty to an increase of 1.9°C instead. Or,
to put it another way, the temperature increase that the planet would have
experienced in 2094 would be postponed to 2100.

            The Kyoto agreement merely buys the world six years

      So the Kyoto agreement does not prevent global warming, but merely buys
the world six years. Yet, the cost of Kyoto, for the United States alone,
will be higher than the cost of solving the world's single most pressing
health problem: providing universal access to clean drinking water and
sanitation. Such measures would avoid 2m deaths every year, and prevent half
a billion people from becoming seriously ill.

      And that is the best case. If the treaty were implemented
inefficiently, the cost of Kyoto could approach $1 trillion, or more than
five times the cost of worldwide water and sanitation coverage. For
comparison, the total global-aid budget today is about $50 billion a year.

      To replace the litany with facts is crucial if people want to make the
best possible decisions for the future. Of course, rational environmental
management and environmental investment are good ideas-but the costs and
benefits of such investments should be compared to those of similar
investments in all the other important areas of human endeavour. It may be
costly to be overly optimistic-but more costly still to be too pessimistic.