G`day Folks,
                    With the election out of the way, we can now look forward
to some progress on property rights in the coming months.
Since Richard Makim has commented about the lack of vision for the Australian
landscape, we wondered if anyone wanted to send in their views of what sort
of landscape vision we as a country could think about.
Any ideas are welcome for discussion. It could be on production methods,
conservation, incentive ideas, education, land ownership, communications,
farm structures,  marketing,  transport, environmental goals, etc etc.-
Anything that relates to sustainable production and conservation.

Now to some News & views

(1) More on Kangaroo Island Koala`s
(2) Conservation Trust Calls for Halt on Dams
(3) Sea Level Clues
(4) WA Land clearing legislation turmoil
(5) Australian conservation groups slow on salinity understanding
(6) New Bushbank dubbed as a win, win system for all involved
(7) Territory's Voice on Water
(8) Fish on the move
(9) Organic sewage sludge for farmers
(10) Biological control unleashed on lantana in Qld
(12) Vic Farm Dams passes lower house with changes
(13) Rural R&D must deliver greater public benefit
(14) Judith McGeorge says Farm gate figures are not the full story
(15) Research Applications called for by MLA
(16) Lance Endersbee`s article receives some replies
(17) Comments on development and conservation from Leon Ashby
(18) Excerpts from a CROPPING & SALINITY article
(1) More on Kangaroo Island Koala`s

A recent letter to the editor in a SA newspaper from B.R.Grigg was scathing
towards the SA govt for the mess the Kangaroo Island Koala`s are in. The
koala`s have bred up to 5 times the level that locals say is sustainable, and
are now destroying the trees that they feed on. The writer says the SA Govt is

(1) Being cruel towards the Koala`s
(2) Wasting 10 times the amount of money for sterilisation rather than culling
(3) Being weak by listening to bleeding hearts
(4) Not educating the public on the issue & the need for some culling

* We would welcome views from anyone as to the way the SA govt and the
community should handle this issue.  Is culling the answer? What about
harvesting excess Koalas for pets / commercial uses? Should idealogy get in
the way of practicality? Should the Landholders who are culling some of the
Koala`s be stopped?
At a meeting in Aramac (Jan 2000) where community action about stopping the
erosion of landholder`s rights began, there was mention of animal management
as well. The view being that each local community should be the principle
decision maker in such issues.
(2) Conservation Trust Calls for Halt on Dams

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust is calling for a moritorium on new farm dam
approvals until the State government finds a way to account for the
cumulative effective of dams on rivers and streams. Director of the Tas
Conservation Trust, Michael Lynch says on farm dams and water storages are
being approved at the rate of five or more a week, but with scant regard in
the assessment & approval process for their combined impact. In the last
seven years over two thousand dams have been constructed for on-farm
irrigation and stock water. The Tasmanian Farmers & Graziers Association
deny's the charge that there's no process for accounting for cumulative
effects of farm dams on catchment health.

(3) Sea Level Clues

A  mark etched into a rock on the Isle of the Dead, near Port Arthur has
provided scientists with some of the most detailed data about sea level
changes over the past 160 years. In 1841 a local store keeper living in the
area carved the sea level mark into the rock and over the years data he
collected during his time has been discovered in archives around the world.
Oceanographer at the University of Tasmania, John Hunter, has analysed the
data which indicates Australia is at the lower end of the global average for
annual sea level rise.  

(*In fact it shows a sea level decrease during the last 160 years of 34 cm)
click here
or here for photo`s and
more info
(4) WA Land clearing legislation turmoil

Landholders wishing to clear land will have to wait at least another twelve
months before the whole issue is resolved. That's according to the Minister
for Agriculture, Kim Chance, who says the state government is working on
addressing the deficiency in the legislation itself. In recent months,
there's been a lot of inconsistencies that has left many farmers confused as
to just exactly what their rights are. Minister Chance says the legislation
is clearly not working well. He is also cautious about property rights as
that could mean huge liabilities to governments.
(5) Australian conservation groups slow on salinity understanding

Before the election Don Henry (ACF) was keener on labor`s policies than the
coalition`s. He said Labor committed to introduce national landclearing laws
with a serious budget commitment that will help the farming community make
any adjustments that would be needed to achieve those laws. He says the
reason that's so important is that we KNOW landclearing is the prime cause of
salinity and we're not going to properly tackle salinity unless we get at
that root cause.

(* We disagree with Don Henry`s belief about landclearing causing salinity,
which he claims is knowledge. Dr Christine Jone`s has three articles on
salinity (click here) -
which assert the decline in dense perennial grasses rather than trees is the
major cause of dryland salinity - this edition we also have Dr John Angus`s
(CSIRO) comments on cropping and salinity which have a similar thrust to Dr
Christine Jone`s ideas.
 - If Mr Henry is "successful", he will probably help waste millions of
dollars of taxpayers money by getting govts to address the wrong "cause" of
(6) New Bushbank dubbed as a win, win system for all involved

 Bushbank has just been launched  by the State and Federal governments to
establish a trust fund in which land with habitat value is put aside and can
be protected through a covenant. It's like a revolving fund in which the
interest is spent instead of the capital and is a win, win situation for all
involved, according to Nature Foundation SA's David Moyle. Mr Moyle says if a
landholder had land that they didn't particularly want to retain, or where
they found the natural habitat a bit of a nuisance to their normal farming
activities and if it ranked sufficiently highly, we would be interested in
coming to an agreement on that at normal commercial values.

He says we would then purchase it and once we own it we would then place what
we're calling a Nature Foundation Heritage Agreement on it. This would
involve a management agreement for the future owner just to retain the
quality of that habitat. We would then put it back on the market again and we
would expect to sell it for about the same price or maybe even more given the
protection to that habitat because a lot of people are looking for land with
a strong element of native vegetation on it.
(7) Territory's Voice on Water

The Northern Territory is seeking more input into one of Australia's most
important water resources. About one hundred community and government
representatives attended the Lake Eyre Basin Co-ordinating Group and
catchment committees annual meeting in Longreach.This group works to preserve
the basin's unique environmental, cultural and social values through
community consultation. But there's concern brewing over the strength of
links between Northern Territory communities and the implementation of a
strategic management plan launched a year ago. Regional Manager with the
Department of Lands Planning and Environment in Alice Springs Peter McDonald
says even though the Territory isn't formally involved, communities should
have more input.

(* Catchments like the Lake Eyre basin are so large and issues so different
in many areas, that a better communicating process is needed. The concept of
the people in the catchment deciding their own direction is a good one, but
it needs something like an open email discussion forum which everyone can be
on, because sooner or later the group is going to make a decision that
outrages some part of the catchment. Around the world, similar types of
community resource groups are forming, but the ones where real progress is
made is where genuine trust can be established through good dialogue.)  
(8) Fish on the move

Scientists in Tasmania had discovered that a striped trumpeter fish tagged
off the Tasman Peninsula has been spotted nearly 6-thousand kilometres away.
In Queensland we match that with a marlin that swam 15,000 km from Cairns to
Costa Rica.
(9) Organic sewage sludge for farmers

 Truckloads of treated sewage are being dropped on a dairy farm, outside
Lismore, on the north coast. Contracted by the City Council, the Arkwood
Company converts sewage-sludge into organic fertiliser, which is then
provided free-of-charge to farmers in the area. Reusing the sewage also
represents a significant saving to the council about seventeen dollars a

(* A Mt Gambier (SA) organic recycling company believes no organic material
should be ever buried because of it`s value to the environment )

(10) Biological control unleashed on lantana in Qld

A new biological control agent is being released to help control the noxious
weed - lantana. A fungus from Brazil that acts as a natural control agent
against the weed lantana is to be unleashed on the north coast. Introduced in
the 1800's as a garden plant, Lantana is one of the most invasive weeds on
the eastern seaboard .

(* Biological control is usually achieved by introducing (hopefully?)
beneficial exotic species into our country. This also increases the
biodiversity pool.   Landholders generally subscribe to the view that exotic
species can be just as important as native species to our ecosystems and
often make large improvements to the productivity of the land, e.g. ryegrass,
buffel grass, dung beetles, stock, rabbit calici virus etc)

NSW Shadow Minister for the Environment Peta Seaton said the NSW Government
should consider the possibility that the now redundant "dunny lanes" be used
for the location of domestic rainwater storage tanks if local property owners
choose to do so.

 Other options include the use of the extended areas as native plant
regeneration and bird habitat areas, or use of the bonus space to locate
rainwater tanks for use in gardens and laundries - and possibly other
household water uses.

Ms Seaton said Sydney's rainfall is twice that of the catchment area that
supplies Sydney, and while Sydney residents have made efforts to conserve
water and reduce water wastage, the amount of water that is wasted as it
falls on roofs and is piped out to sea in Sydney Water stormwater pipes is
the greatest waste of all.


(12) Vic Farm Dams passes lower house with changes

Irrigators putting in new dams will be compensated with 20 thousand dollars
as part of the final changes to the bill. The Victorian Farmers Federation
has welcomed the bill, but is not entirely happy with it.
The bill passed after four days of debate, with a few changes, the main ones
being money for irrigators wanting to build dams. Secondly, farmers will have
more representation on the streamflow managment plan committees, except in
wholly urban areas.

 (13) Rural R&D must deliver greater public benefit
(From the Farmshed )
 Agriculture's share of tax-payer funded research could diminish if rural
research projects fail to deliver greater public benefits to all tax-payers
in future.

Land & Water Australia executive director Andrew Campbell said Governments
were no longer happy to be silent partners in agricultural R&D projects.
Despite contributing just 2.8pc to Australia's national taxation revenue,
agriculture received 30pc of taxpayer funded research, and people were now
questioning agriculture's slice of those funds.
Projects most likely to receive funding in future would be those which could
demonstrate a tangible environmental benefit.
Mr Campbell said matching dollar-for-dollar Government funding programs would
also be pressured in future. Bureaucrats 'hated' matching funding programs,
he said, because they were extremely difficult to frame budgets around.
"Frankly, with a new review, there will be no Government funding for groups
that can not demonstrate wider public benefit from their funding," Mr
Campbell said.
(14) Judith McGeorge says Farm gate figures are not the full story

Dear Leon,

Mr Campbell is selective in his economic summation of Agriculture's
contribution to the taxation pool - quoting  farm gate taxation take as
opposed to the actual taxation pool achieved via marketing, processing etc
of rural produce- this is the fallacy often promoted by those who don't know
of or wish to ignore the employment created by agriculture in the total
The related post farm gate industries make up a very large part of Australia's
It is a very short sighted policy that might decimate goverment's
contribution to R&D funding - America is currently awash with unemployed IT
how will Australia with a much smaller productive sector  absorb this
abundance of consultants and technical experts in a shrinking productive
But returning to R&D funding in rural enterprise- a rural sector that  is
well researched in its activities achieves greater sustainable production
with greater awareness of research findings . After all Australians should
be aware that if they want to maintain their living standards agriculture
must play its part in providing the export dollars to balance  the
importation of goods to this country- the service sector after all is a
consumptive sector.

Bureaucrats are not elected and as such should not be in the position of
deciding whether funding is provided for R&D in any sector- because of their
dislike and  incompetence in framing budgetry requirements.

Like many primary producers the majority of whom are great managers of their
land, thanks to R&D and long experience. This insular opinion of rural
enterprise labelled
as rapists of the environment is galling  to say the least.

Being an island continent Australia is fortunate that our R&D has allowed us
to provide meat free of BSE and other disease problems rampant in other
parts of the world.It is due to our leading R&D that food production in
Australia can sustain  our  population with a supply of wholesome produce,
free of disease and contaminants.

Judith McGeorge (Qld)

(* We notice many regional groups have evaluated only farm gate values of
their region`s economic activity, because they supply other areas with beef,
wool etc. By not using the value added figures gives an impression the region
is not as important as it truly is to Australia )
(15) Research Applications called for by MLA

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) through its Northern Beef Program, has part
funded an extensive program of research, development and extension for the
benefit of the north Australian beef industry, operating across Queensland,
Northern Territory and the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia.

Expressions of interest are invited from consultants, research organisations,
producers and others with an interest in

* The development of adaptive grazing management strategies that will reduce
the impact of land degradation,
* dryland salinity,
* loss of biodiversity and
* global warming
* Improved understanding and management of tree-grass interactions,
* woody weed control and
* intensification of grazing utilization.

Further information can be obtained from John Childs, Program
Coordinator-Resource Management, on 0438 083 074 or bushbusiness@bigpond.com .

 “About MLA-Funding Opportunities” at www.mla.com.au
 Applications should be emailed to mdaniel@mla.com.au by 15 December 2001.
(16) Lance Endersbee`s article receives some replies

Sheila Davis has commented

We have no national development projects coming on-line that will
absorb the current unemployed, let alone vast numbers from overseas.
 (* I believe Lance was referring to the two rail projects, Adelaide -
Darwin, & Melb - Darwin - Leon)

Yes, water can be dammed (if the Northern and Kimberley Land Councils allow
but they have been trying for years to get the Ord River Scheme going and
until that is productive, any further thought of damming other rivers should
be forsaken.

"Tim Flannery said to a meeting in Perth in 1997 that an agronomist friend
had said farming in WA was like hydroponics. You put your seeds into a
sterile medium (WA soils) and add fertiliser and water. When we hit Magoon's
oil rollover and fertiliser becomes expensive, then farming in poor soils is
highly unlikely to be economic."

Hope you keep the discussion going.


MA Special Education, Columbia University

Gold Coast Environmental Citizen of the Year - 2001

President, Gecko, Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council,
Executive, Queensland Conservation Council, www.qccqld.org.au
Secretary, Sustainable Population Australia - South East Qld,

* The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering features
many of Lance Endersbee`s paper`s and their replies. Several are linked to
our web site, one reply is
http://www.atse.org.au/publications/focus/focus-hillier.htm click here

Lance is also featured on the email line
http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/2001/May01/Endersbee.htm click here

Mark ? has sent this

He says Paul Davies ( professor of Natural Philosophy at Adelaide) makes
similar comments to Professor Lance Endersbee

Davies argues that food and water are not what will impose limits to
Australia's future population, because "No one suggests Belgium or Singapore
must feed themselves" and because Adelaide for instance has as high an
annual rainfall as London (pop. 13 million). He forgets that neither city is
sustained by the water that falls on or immediately around it.

He also assures us that Los Angeles, though in a desert,  "manages
comfortably with
the help of an aqueduct". How simple! Further, the Northern Territory
"diverts a mere .5% of its water for human use."  From here it is a short
step to believing that "a chain of Adelaides across the Top End of Australia
could accommodate many millions of people with adequate water".

Davies does not mention that the water needed for human domestic use is
trivial beside the quantities required for industrial and agricultural
 Professor McMillan, in the Farrer Memorial lecture some years
back pointed out that it takes at least two and a half tonnes of fresh water
to produce a loaf of bread, half a tonne for one orange, one tonne for an
egg, four tonnes for a litre of milk, twelve tonnes for a kg of chicken, and
125 tonnes for a kg of beef. Indeed producing an average human adult's daily
diet requires about 35 tonnes of water per head --per day. This, says
Professor McMillan, is a scientific minimum, required for photosynthesis
etc., and assumes perfect farming techniques.

The vast rivers "going to waste" (i.e. being allowed to flow) in the Top End
is a hoary myth of the Northern Development lobby and more recently of some
business consultants. The usual method is to cite the total flow rates of
the Northern rivers, compare them with the water-supply currently
reticulated to Melbourne or Sydney, and calculate the number of Melbournes
and Sydneys that are "missing" in our Top End. (The thinking is of course
entirely human-centered).

In reality the Northern Territory's export economy depends on these free
rivers and would collapse --along with much of the region's ecology and its
attractiveness to tourists --if they were dammed.

The Top End prawn fishing industry, for instance,  is worth $100 million a
year.    The monsoon rains and the swift wet-season rivers scour vegetation
from the land down to the salt water where it wilts and becomes ideal food
for prawns.  On this rich feed the prestige export prawns can grow as fast
as a centimetre every ten days. They are netted by a labor-force a fraction
the size that would be needed if the same rivers were used to irrigate crops
like rice --which in any case might involve the political impossibility of
eliminating the region's flocks of brolgas, magpie-geese and other

If the Top End rivers were blocked and reticulated year-round to a chain of
"Adelaides," not only would we not have that $100 million to add to the
right side of our shaky import-export balance, but the millions of extra
consumers in this chain of cities would suck in billions of dollars in
additional imports.

(17) Comments on development and conservation from Leon Ashby

I have not heard of Paul Davies comments before, but the idea of using SOME
of the northern water that currently runs out to sea has been talked about
often. Ernie Bridge (former independant member for Kimberly, and Watering
Australia Foundation chairman ) has often spoken about how 23% of Australia`s
runoff water runs into the Gulf of Carpentaria, several times more than the
total Murray - Darling amount.

Bob Katter has tried to get federal governments to look at a modified
"Bradfield scheme" which could pipe water (using gravity) to vast areas of
inland Australia  including into the Murray River (and then to Adelaide).

The hope many landholders have, is that as a country we could avoid a "them
and us" row over all types of development ideas, and form a environmentally
sound approach to all development / conservation issues. The questions we
hope to see asked are.

(1) Should there be a non political body of conservationists, landholders,
developers, scientists, etc who could investigate TOGETHER the limits and
potential for sustainable production with adequate conservation areas /
plans, for all of Australia?

(2) Should this body define where the community wants production and where
conservation should be achieved and therefore help the nation  arrive at a
definite landscape vision for our land?

John Walmsley of Earth Sanctuaries is adamant that to restore biodiversity
and to allow native fauna populations to breed up, secure fencing and
eradication of all introduced predators is absolutely essential. This means
most mainland parks will only ever have limited fauna conservation success.

Would establishing many of our islands as native fauna sanctuaries, be a
better solution? Flinders island apparently has no predators on it and the
native wildlife abound.

Another point is that conservation areas can require as much money to
maintain as farming land, and the question about how much are Australians
prepared to spend on properly managed conservation should be answered also.

Leon Ashby

And Finally
(18) Excerpts from a CROPPING & SALINITY article

Patrick Francis (editor) has kindly given us permission to use this article
from the Australian Farm Journal

We recommend subscription to the Australian Farm Journal as this publication
is the best we know of for good cutting edge information. (Ph 02 9313 8444)

A SENIOR CSIRO scientist has added weight to the argument that the solution
to combating dryland salinity rests more with productive pastures and crops
than it does with tree planting programs.
Dr John Angus from the CSIRO's Division of Plant Industry in Canberra says
predictions for dryland salinity over the next 100 years in the
Murray-Darling Basin may be inaccurate and possibly even exaggerated.
"The groundwater recharge explanation is not universally accepted for all
regions," he says. "For example, one researcher reported increases and
decreases in salinity in the Yass region (on the NSW Southern Tablelands)
over a 40-year period that were related to rainfall levels, and the
fluctuations were not consistent with the progressive salinity that would be
expected from groundwater recharge.
"This scientist also challenged the data behind the estimated current area of
saline land."
Another example where salinity is not due to groundwater recharge was
reported by researchers for the Dundas Tablelands in south-western Victoria.
They showed evidence of saline land and water in the reports of the earliest
pioneers in the 1840s, before significant clearing of perennial vegetation.
They also showed that the current groundwater levels and salt discharge were
not related to clearing of native perennial vegetation.

Angus also says many models used for predicting dryland salinity were not
available for scientific scrutiny.  He says higher water use by crops and
pastures of the future may be able to prevent or greatly delay the predicted
salinity threat.
He says groundwater recharge in an agricultural region reflects the leakiness
of the crops, pastures and fallows of the past. But there have been three
major improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 20 years which
have the potential to alter the negative predictions made.

These are: increased crop yields, reduced fallows and the sowing of perennial

Increased crop yield:

Crop yields have risen, particularly in the past 20 years. For example, in
the southern NSW shire of Cootamundra, wheat yields reported by the
Australian Bureau of Statistics show a rise from about one tonne per hectare
in 1950 to over 4t/ha at the end of the 1990s.

"These yield gains are not due to increased inputs that disguise an inherent
productivity decline due to land degradation, because there is evidence of
increased productivity per unit of inputs,"
The consequence of higher crop yield is increased water use. According to
Angus it is likely that yields and water use will both continue to rise

Reduced fallowing:

  A few decades after the original vegetation was cleared, crops were
normally grown after the soil had been cultivated for a period of up to 10
This practice conserved soil water, controlled weeds, allowed time for
nitrogen mineralisation, and suppressed root disease.
"However, fallowing led to the most rapid levels of groundwater recharge,"
Angus says.

Perennial pastures:

 The third change has been substitution of annual pastures with perennial
pastures, particularly lucerne.
Angus says in an experiment at Junee in southern NSW, measurements of soil
water show that lucerne left the soil drier than crops, which in turn left it
drier than annual pastures. Lucerne dried the soil profile within one year of
establishment and kept it dry for the following five years of the experiment.
Soil under the annual pastures contained about 200mm more soil water than
under perennial pastures while soil under the crops contained about 100mm
more. The implication of this result is that annual pastures and crops should
not be considered as equal contributors to groundwater recharge.
"The result also confirms the common observation that lucerne is an effective
means of drying the soil," Angus says. "However, the contribution of lucerne
to reducing regional groundwater recharge is limited by the relatively small
area grown."

But there are business management reasons why lucerne is not being grown.
Without a profitable animal enterprise (wool or sheep meat) to graze the
lucerne there is little incentive to grow it.

Trees or agriculture:

 According to Angus, eucalypt woodland was the original vegetation of much of
the mixed farming land of the Murray-Darling basin. It has been estimated
that 12-15 billion trees had been cleared from the Murray-Darling basin, and
there have been suggestions that one-third of the farmland should be
replanted to prevent salinity.
To be effective, trees must cover most or all of the landscape, because trees
do not extract water far from the trunks.
"The time and cost required to re-forest the agricultural landscape would be
greater than for perennial pastures, which can be established extensively and
cheaply by undersowing with a crop," he says.
"While the Landcare movement strove to plant one billion trees over a decade,
a single farmer could sow one billion lucerne plants in about 11 weeks, using
an airseeder for eight-hour days."
Isolated trees on farms are doomed for biological reasons - old age, insect
pressure and lateral salt movement. They are also mostly in the wrong place
for efficient crop production using wide equipment.
They are a hazard to agricultural aircraft, which are increasingly used for
applying herbicides, insecticides and fertiliser. Trees in rows are also
herbicide targets.
Nevertheless native perennial vegetation is an important solution to salinity
in parts of the landscape - for example, in clumps on rocky outcrops and
streamlines, and in parts of paddocks where the returns from crops and
pastures are consistently less than costs.
Yield monitors and remote sensing are promising tools for targeting areas for
revegetation, but the methods for using them are in their infancy.
Angus says trees are essential for preserving biodiversity.
"Some of the trees that remain or are re-introduced should be part of remnant
vegetation patches containing under-storey plants and some of the original
fauna," he says.
While there are sound ecological reasons for preserving biodiversity to
conserve Australian animals, plants and microbes, he introduced another more
practical reason for farmers to be involved.
"Remnant vegetation areas conserve soil, which can be used as a benchmark to
assure the physical, chemical and biological status of soil in surrounding
farmland," he says.
A comparison of the quality of soil in farmland and under nearby remnant
vegetation could possibly be used as an indicator of environmental quality
assurance, which may develop as a condition for future trade, certified by an
international standards system.
"Such a system could give Australia a trading advantage, since many
competitor countries, with their older farming systems, would not have access
to remnant vegetation as a benchmark," he says.

Salt scalds recovered:

While lucerne pastures can prevent salinity outbreaks, he says there is also
a need to recover saline scalds for future production.
At Burke's flat, near Bendigo in Victoria, permanent perennial pastures
lowered saline water tables in a small catchment and returned previously
saline land to production. In another trial at Temora in southern NSW,
lucerne growing around a salt scald lowered the water table, allowing
sufficient leaching of salt from a scalded surface that crops could at least
be established.