Q: What sort of property business do you run Mike?
Mike: We have two businesses really. One is our property Marengo, a 54,000 acre timbered place north of Aramac, Qld, which runs 1500 cattle, and the other is a dozer operation where we contract to do earthworks and timber pulling to rehabillitate and develop land.

Q: You are a bit of paradox aren`t you, being a landcare chairman and a dozer operator that contracts to pull timber?

Mike: No not at all. In both cases I am working towards a more sustainable environment which will be more productive as well. The perception that bulldozers are always destructive is one of the myths we have to counter. They are one of our best tools for rehabilitating land that has become capped and bare between timber that is thickening. The future of our civilization depends on a balance between enhancing biodiversity and producing food and resources. We want the world to know we are capable of doing a good job of it, but  we don`t want over-restrictive laws, red tape and unnecessary processes to hamper us.

Here is a photo of  a paddock on my property. The background has been pulled. The foreground is in it's "natural", degraded state.

  You can see what is happening to the timbered area when the trees get thicker and less grass grows.  In the background of the photo is the pulled area which is now growing a mix of native and introduced grasses as well as young trees.   
When we pull we don't lose the trees but we do get grass as well. We are helping to get the water cycle, the mineral cycle and productivity of the land to be on the improve, which you can see in the pulled (grassed) area.

Q:Do you really believe landholders can be trusted to do the right thing as far as
managing the land correctly goes?

Mike : Look landholders have a lot more motivation to look after the land than most other business operations.
First they buy the land and in most cases like my own it involves a lot of debt.
Secondly we take pride in the asthetics of our property for our own  enjoyment. We love healthy plants and animals, it makes you feel good.
Thirdly, we want the land to be as productive as we can make it become. That involves a constant thirst for better understanding and methods which work with nature and not against it.
Fourthly, we want to leave the land in better shape than we aquired it for any of our children who take it over from us so they don`t have to battle so much.
And lastly we want the land`s value to be enhanced so if we sell it  has as high a value as possible. Why should we go about  destroying anything  that is in our interests to maintain?

Q: How much affect do you think Landcare has had on the farm community?

Mike: A fair bit. Not in major projects as much as it has brought people together to work on landscape challenges. There is a lot more of an environmental thinking done by people before making a decision than say 15 years ago. I`m always happy to find a better solution to managing the land, and when I take people around our property I ask them for their views. Only once did one lady say she didn`t agree with our land rehabilitation  (tree pulling) methods. I asked her what she would do to fix the problem instead of pulling trees and she didn`t have an answer.

Q: You have done contract  dozer work for the government as well as landholders, What your view about the governments Quality Assurance methods?

Mike: They`re not worth the paper they are written on. I  won some tenders for powerline tree clearing and they had a heap of guidelines we were supposed to abide by, but because the land has little value to the people who are making the day to day decisions, it all goes out the window.  It`s not much better with national parks either. The people having to manage the parks don`t burn when they should, or control feral animals properly and as a consequence the conservation values are deteriorating. The irony is that as governments restrict our management, the community believes the land will be getting better, while landholders know it will deteriorate into a mess of weeds, feral animals, less grass, more trees, more runoff and erosion, and all under the name of government best practice. I`d hate to see their worst practice.



Everyone is a part of development using food, fiber, timber, oil, steel, etc. in every day life. The community is probably not aware of their level of dependence on natural resources and its development. The world's population increased by four folds over the past century. India's population alone increases by 16,000,000 per year. The world may well be over populated but I am happy that I won't be deciding who stays and who goes.

Development of natural resources can increase production of life sustaining foods and fibres many times over, thus creating wealth as well. The main contention being sustainability and nature conservation. People certainly have an obligation to work towards sustainability, and there has to be a lot more scientific research done into salinity, carbon emissions, carbon credits, run off, tree thickening, tree invasion etc. so we can make informed decisions.

 I would like to give some examples of tree thickening in Queensland as below,
Mitchell Grass Downs-6mill. ha studied, 11% of area lost to woody weed invasion.
31.8% increase in boree,gidyea,blackwood.
Bunya Mountains- 26% of grassy holds invaded by forests Fitzroy Basin-7mill ha,  est 20% increase
Grazed Woodland Forests-60mill ha, significant annual growth of tree basal area. Av 0.15sq mtrs. per ha. per yr. Equates to an increase in basal area of 14.35mi11 sq mtrs per yr. on the 60mill ha studied.
Extensive thickening of Mulga Larids
Tree thickening is mainly caused by lack of fire since European settlement and has major implications for loss of production and should be factored in to the carbon debate as well.

There appears to be a compete lack of acknowledgement of the degradation reversal that often goes with good development as in reduction of run-off, establishrnent of pastures, reduction of wind erosion and removal of stocking pressure on natural open country and native pastures.

While anecdotal, I would have to say that in my 27 years of (bulldozer) contracting in development I have worked in many areas of the state, and it is my observation that most developed enterprises appear to be more sustainable than a lot of undeveloped enterprises. A lot of the undeveloped enterprises suffer from tree thickening, decline in pasture species, increased run-off and erosion. To reinforce this issue I must add that my wife and I have made a strong cornrnitment to buying undeveloped, degraded properties. With good planning and development, including tree clearing we have turned these properties into good sustainable viable enterprises. With the 20% retention areas and re-growth ,biodiversity is alive and well. On the other hand, hypothetically if our ecosystems and our neighbours ecosystems were endangered and he was not permined to develop any, all honest observers must realise that my neighbours property is being locked up for conservation.
Recenfly another neighbour flew back from Melbourne to Ararnac in a small aircraft. He could not help but notice the large amount of water storages in Victoria and New South Wales whereas there were very few in (central) Queensland The common theme today is Queensland must not make the same mistakes as the southern states but surely that must not exclude us from responsible development which will include tree clearing and water storage.

In my opinion the main reason why the government and the community want to slow development in Queensland is for conservation purposes. Queensland primary producers are expected to largely carry the cost of conservation for the rest of the Australian community.
It seems an insult to me when a figure of approximately $100,000,000 for compensation for freeholders and nothing for leaseholders was being bandied around when in comparison a package of over $1.2 billion for dairy farmers has been proposed, who are only being asked to compete interstate. Dairy farmers who would already have their treeclearing done are being compensated handsomely for the loss of protectionism only. The Native Vegetation Management legislation will defintely inhibit and in some cases will render landholders unviable. It will also have a dramatic effect on property values

It is of interest that we and our bulldozers were featured on a Landline program. We were clearing thick gidyea on land that had previously been and could be proven to be semi open grasslands. We were leaving a lot of larger trees and a fair percentage of area was not cleared at all. It was extremely interesting to note that the next program on Landline was about replanting of trees in the southern states. I believe they were trying to return the tree areas to 10% of original cover. This was thought to be very responsible and yet even though we were only clearing down to approximately 20%-30% it was not as palatable, so to speak. It is our observation that the government and the community are prepared to spend millions of dollars on tree planting but are prepared to spend very little on retaining trees. Another favourite saying of mine is "If governments cannot afford conservation how the hell can individual property owners afford to pay for conservation for the rest of the community".

I'm not even going to try to quantify the cost of conservation on landholders. The variations between ecosystems, management options and development options are extremely complex. But I will say the cost of conservation to landholders is very high. I have been encouraged by Reay Cowan of Woodbine, Prairie to include the letter he sent to Mr Welford (former Qld Environment Minister) back in February. This certainly illustrates what the cost of conservation would be to him within the gidyea ecosystem. I would encourage you to take note of the attached letter from Reay and note that he is leaving 20% of the ecosystem as retention. I would also like to point out that beef prices have increased by 30% on Reay's figures. I think any retention beyond best practice limits on commercial enterprises whether they are freehold or leasehold should be avoided completely. Then other conservation should be mainly represented by voluntary arrangements and incentives with individual landholders and acquisitions of more national parks where the whole community, me included, will pay for the conservation with our taxes. I must reiterate that my treeclearing has been done and my concerns regarding the adverse effects of this legislation on landholders is not self-serving. It is also my belief that if extra taxes need to be levied to pay for conservation, well so be it, we as tax payers will have to pay for conservation if the government and the community demand more conservation.

My vision of the future is highly sustainable and productive developed land with best practice vegetation retention, alongside areas of extra voluntary retention and then areas of state or community owned and managed untouched land spread through the state. The combination would provide employment, wealth and life sustaining foods and fibres along with a good balance of conservation.

I have faith that good governments will not discriminate against private landholders forcing them to being unpaid conservation park rangers and I look forward to an amicable resolution to this matter.

Mike Price, 'Marengo", Aramac
Chairman Aramac Landcare.
PhoneNo:     0746510555

Reay Cowans letter

Letter to the editor

Mr Welford has Invited graziers to ask him any questions regarding his
I have this question.
Under Your legislation there will be ecosystems like gidgee is in my  region that will not be able to be pulled for development

Presentiy I am Involved with the managernent and future Planning of a
5000 acre paddock of gidgee scrub.
Present Carrying capacity is 50 head of cattle
Annual Weight gain per beast 80 kg
Total annual weight gain from paddock - 4000 kg

Gross annual return from this paddock in its present state @$l/kg is
Value of this paddock in its present state at $300/beast area is $15000
Figures from an adjoining paddock developed 10 years ago as follows
Pull 80% of the timber and seed - 4000 acres at $14 per acre=- $56,000

Carrying Capacity at 1 beast to 15 acres of Pulled Country 4000/15 =
266 head of cattle
Annual weight gain per beast - l40kg
total annual weight gain from Paddock - 37240 kg
Gross annual return from Paddock @ $1/kg is $37240
Value of improved Paddock at $300/beast area is $159600
Gross annual increase in Production - $33240
Interest on development Costs @ 8% p.a. $4480
Net value of extra Production per annum  $28760
Net increase in value of Country - $144600

My question is  - Assuming I am not able to develop this Country, what

compensation would be available? How would that figure be arrived at?  And would there be an appeal Mechanism in place? (* Mr Welford had this letter sent to him via email but never responded)
Reay Cowan
     Ph 0747415126     Praire Qld