Hi everyone,
                   Our first feature for the new year is an interview with
Jock Douglas regarding the ALMS environmental management system. It should
give everyone some finer details about how an EMS might work. Hope you enjoy

This editions News & views
(1) Soil phosphorus research
(2) Protected heritage land clearance draws debate over the worth of SA
(3) Wild dog court win
(4) Yorta Yorta Land Claim Revived
(5) Defining property & water property rights tops Truss`s agenda
(6) Mallee Fowl in decline from foxes, dogs & cars
(7) Environment Minister listens to landholder concerns
(8) Pressure mounts to secure property rights over water in NSW
(9) Qld Tree clearing in court
(10) WA Land clearing
(11) WA GM discussion paper
(12) Calici virus resurfaces
(13) Sustainability -  fertility & consumption  - Sheila Davis
(14) Leon`s reply
(15) ALMS - Jock Douglas interview
(1) Soil phosphorus research

 Dairy research by Dr Sharon Aarons has found microbial phosphorus is greater
in grazed pasture, than ungrazed areas, and by improving pasture production,
microbe numbers increase also.

Another (unrelated) bit of research has shown by applying sugar to soils with
known locked up or fixed phosphorus values, plant available phosphorus

example 1 went from 20 ppm of P before sugar was added to 130 ppm after
example 2 went from 350 ppm of P before sugar was added to 1000 ppm after.

* Sugar is high in energy, is easily digested by microbes and therefore
stimulates activity.
(2) Protected heritage land clearance draws debate over the worth of SA

Land protected by a heritage agreement has been cleared in the SE of SA to
build a drain. It was cleared by the region's largest land holder, Tom
Brinkworth, whose rags to riches story and Ned Kelly approach to the
environment and to land management authorities has turned him into either a
hero or a villain, depending on your perspective.

Tom owns an enormous amount of country inland from the Coorong and runs it
both as a grazing venture and as a conservation wetland at least partly based
on the duck shooting and deer hunting ventures he promotes to overseas
visitors. Recently he dug a very controversial drain through scrubland at
Bonney's Camp, without permission, a matter the Conservation Council says has
been largely passed over by authorities.
However Premier Rob Kerin was recently singing his praises at an Opera in the
Wetlands, an event staged by Tom Brinkworth to celebrate the opening of the
very same drain. A few weeks ago Brinkworth bought another property called
South Flagstaff, and immediately set to clearing more land covered by a
heritage agreement to install another drain to remove water that was
threatenning his wetlands. This  is now being investigated by the Environment

The Conservation Council is calling for Tom Brinkworth to be prosecuted.
Jasmine Rose is concerned about the latest allegations of a breech because it
challenges the very nature of Heritage Agreements, of which there are about
1200 in SA  which have cost the public 80 million dollars in compensation.
(3) Wild dog court win

A Corryong farmer has set a precedent after successfully suing the Vic Govt
for negligence and is now calling on other landholders to take a stand. RON
STOCKWELL was forced off his property after wild dogs, harbouring in a
protected area adjoining his farm, mauled and killed hundreds of his sheep.
The Supreme Court awarded damages of 108 thousand dollars for negligence and
nuisance - and the government ordered to pay his court costs and legal fees
of 600 thousand dollars. In 1983, the crown land surrounding Mr Stockwell's
farm near the Kosciusko National Park was declared a 'reference area'. He
says as a result he lost hundreds of sheep to the wild dogs living in the
protected area, claiming the State Government did little to eliminate the

While Mr Stockwell is disappointed other aspects of his million dollar claim
were dismissed by the Supreme Court, he hopes other farmers will take similar
action. Mr Stockwell's lawyer, John Maitland says the protected area
prevented Mr Stockwell from going in and taking his commonlaw rights to
protect his property from the wild dogs. He claims, as a result the State
Government had an obligation as a landholder to control the wild dogs.

The DNRE however doesn't expect this win to open the floodgates when it comes
similar cases of wild dog attacks.  Regional manager in the North East KEVIN
RITCHIE, says they were surprised at the outcome of the case, given it was
fifteen years ago. And he maintains it doesn't reflect bad management on the
Department's behalf
(4) Yorta Yorta Land Claim Revived

One of Australia's most valuable farming areas is again the focus of a native
title claim, after the Yorta Yorta people won the opportunity to have their
case heard in the High Court. The case is significant because it could have
implications for more than 500 other native title claims, and also influence
access to natural resources that exist in the area. The region under question
includes crown land and water, spanning from west of Echuca through to
Albury, and from Jerilderie in New South Wales down through to Euroa. Mark
Love, from law firm Williams Love, is representing more than 100 farming
families and the forestry sector in the case. He says the decision by the
High Court to hear the case, comes after it was dismissed by the Federal
Court in 1998, then again in February this year.And he says it could also
have an impact on farmers' access to the Murray River.
(5) Defining property & water property rights tops Truss`s agenda

Minister Truss says farmers need to be able to plan with confidence and they
need to know what the rules are in relation to the management of their
vegeation, water and soil resources. He says it is important that we have
effective planning regimes in place, so it is important that agreements be
made between the Commonwealth and the states to give this sector the capacity
to plan with confidence. Minister Truss says I hope the issue of farmers
water property rights will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the Prime
Minister and Premiers and I hope it can be resolved in one meeting, but there
are some very significant issues involved, but there will have to be a clear
commitment by the Premiers and the Commonwealth to have this issue resolved.
(6) Mallee Fowl in Decline

The annual Mallee Fowl stock take is on for another year as native bird
enthusiasts hunt for the endangered species. And while farmers in the area
spend long hot summer days in the paddock ... this particular bird will also
be spending its days working in the sun, looking after incubating eggs.  
Preliminary reports from the annual stocktake show that the Mallee Fowl
numbers appear to be in decline. Barry Clugston chairman of Mallee Fowl
recovery group says there could be as little as three thousand left, as they
fall prey to foxes, dogs and cars. He says while his team may find the heat
uncomfortable during the stocktake, the bird uses the sun to help incubate
its eggs which are buried in mounds of sand and compost.
(7) Environment Minister listens to landholder concerns

Federal Ministers, David Kemp and John Anderson, continued their flying tour
of North Western NSW yesterday, with a trip to Bourke. There they were met by
farmers lobbying on vegetation and water management concerns. While both
issues are largely under State control, the landholders are hoping the
Federal Ministers will use their influence to encourage some flexibility on
both counts.
(8) Pressure mounts to secure property rights over water in NSW

Pressure is mounting on the Carr Government to adequately secure "property
rights" over water, or face the propsect of incurring the wrath of the
National Competition Council. The Council has put the State Government on
notice, giving it until the end of January to get the job done, or risk
losing millions of dollars in "tranche payments". The NCC is responsible for
overseeing the application of Competition Policy and in that role, asesses
and then rewards, or penalises, Governments. President Graham Samuels says so
far, insufficient progress has been made in giving irrigators security, over
(9) Qld Tree clearing in court

Charges against an Augathella grazier for unlawful tree clearing on his
leasehold property have been permanantly stayed as an abuse of process in the
Magistrates Court in Charleville this week. Ashley McKay was issued with a
permit to clear his land in 1999. However a subsequent investigation of that
permit led to charges of breaching a condition of the permit relating to
Cypress pines on his property. Mr McKay was also charged with unlawful
clearing on an adjacent road reserve. That charge was adjourned yesterday.
DNR says this case goes back to a period before they had experts to analyse
permits, but Agforce is extremely concerned if a grazier is granted a permit
and then the rules are changed, reducing certainty which is absolutley
(10) WA Land clearing

 Geoff Gare (PGA) says the WA govt is only concerned with imposing penalties,
with little effort going towards compensating landowners who're affected by
bans. The PGA, and others, want the state government to work with the Federal
Government towards a compensation package, something he claimed the WA
Government is making no attempt to do.
(11) WA GM discussion paper

 The WA government's inviting public submissions on a discussion paper on GM
Free Zones until the end of February. State Agriculture Minister Kim Chance
says it's hoped the process will make sure the community at large feel they
have been involved in all of the processes in determining this policy. He
says the paper released today deals with the question of GM-free zones and if
necessary, GM-designated zones. Minister Chance considers the paper to be
reflective of the cautious approach taken by the state government to the
introduction of GM crop varities into farming systems.
(12) Calici virus resurfaces

The Rabbit Calici virus appears to be back with a vengence. After a period of
relative quiet that saw rabbit numbers increase in the south west of WA there
may be some good news for those affected, with rabbit deaths now being
observed again
(13) Sustainability -  fertility & consumption  - Sheila Davis

Your newsletter contained the following item:

If it is true the world currently averages 2.2 ha of resources per person
and that 1.0 ha of resources per person is required to achieve a sustainable
Assuming an imposed limit on population is out of the question..."

Firstly, though the world average ecological footprint or ha of resources
per person may be 2.2, the ecological footprint of the average Queenslander
is estimated to be 8 ha per person (Queensland State of the Environment
Report, 1999). While the sustainable limit may be 1.0 ha per person, that
implies two things are needed, firstly, a rapid decline in consumption
patterns, especially amongst us in the developed world, and secondly a rapid
decline in fertility.

While it may be true that an imposed limit on population is out of the
question, at least at this point in time, indeed, we must do everything we
can to lower fertility, both in the developed and developing world. The most
humane way, and that agreed by the 179 countries represented at the 1994
International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo is to
increase access to women's education, maternal and infant health, and
availability of contraception, by increasing the foreign aid of all OECD
countries to 0.7% of our GNP, with 4% of that going to family planning

Australia has not contributed near its agreed upon amount of aid. We must
lower our impacts by both decreasing our numbers and decreasing our
consumption. There are ecological limits. Why should we turn the whole world
into a feed lot for more and more human beings? What about the other needs
of humanity, the needs of other species, etc.

Yes, we need more and better technology to get us out of this mess we're in,
but please not more of the same.

Welcome your comments.

Sheila Davis

Secretary, Sustainable Population Australia - South East Qld,
www.population.org.au  click here
(14) Leon`s Reply

Hi Sheila,
               Thanks again for more of your comments. Here`s a few thoughts
on the points you have raised.

(A) Ecological footprints - These indicate the total amount of food, fuel,
energy & other resources consumed per person and then it is evaluated in
terms of the ha available in each country     -  click here  for 52 countries world rankings

These calculations use the land area that is under crops, forest, grazing,
and built up areas, but it does not include desert areas. It also includes
all energy used plus resources imported minus resources exported.

Australia`s value is 9 ha / person but we have 14 ha / person available.
Compare that with
Bangladesh`s value of 0.5 ha / person with 0.3 ha / person available and
Hong Kong`s value of 6 ha / person with 0 ha / person available

My thoughts are that provided the world population moves towards using
resources sustainably, then whether a particular country, state, or even an
individual is above (or below) the world`s required level is not that
important. The issue only needs to be looked at in terms of the "Whole"
The "ecological footprint" is an imperfect but useful measuring tool that
applies to the "Whole" but should not be used to discriminate against any
hectare or person.  For instance, Londoners wearing wool from Australia,
driving a Japanese car, using Saudi fuel, and eating fruit from the middle
east have an ecological footprint of perhaps 6 ha per person, but it is
really a global ecological footprint, more than a London or UK ecological

(B) Rapid decline in consumption needed? - I view consumption as a secondary
issue. Sustainability is not so much about the level of consumption, but the
renewability or recyclability of the resources used.
It seems to me that if  energy generation is renewable, food production is
sustainable,  and goods consumed are recycled as much as possible, then that
will be as sustainable as we can get.

The level of consumption is not that important until either ecological,
energy generation or resource limits are being reached.
The ecological footprint value does not indicate these limits. It uses the
current average production per ha as it`s standard, but that value is fluid
and is still increasing.
In our experience of primary production,  there are large gains still
possible e.g.  last year Jane & I increased milk production on my parents
dairy property by 20%, mostly by improving the grazing management - other
landholders are also increasing production by up to 30% without adding any
extra inputs to their property.

(C) Decline in human fertility - Australia & most of the western world
already have birth rates at or below the level required for a stable
population (2.1 per female). Immigration is apparently what is increasing
some western countries population. Certainly the approach of education &
contraception options to developing countries is more helpful (if population
numbers are a problem), than imposing population limits and reducing people`s
human rights.

(D) Ecological limits - The text book "Environmental science" used in US &
Australian Universities says the estimated sustainable population of the
world depends on a range of assumptions (about what defines the ecological
limits), and therefore the answer (guess) can be as low as 2.5 billion or as
high as 40 billion people, (currently there are 6.1 billion with a peak of
11-14 billion predicted for 2040 - 2050)

(E) Australia`s ecological limits - I respect your concern that Australia
should be try to limit it`s population, but from my farming experience and
understanding, Australia could easily have a much larger population living
with a high standard of living and be able to do it sustainably.

Consider this
 Australia`s population consumes only approx 25% of it`s primary production.
 48% of Australia`s total production comes from just 1% of it`s landmass -
the irrigated part

Australia`s population can be fed from half of that 1% of our landmass which
is irrigated (and at a level of 40% more calories than we need).

On top of that, there are also unused resources going to waste e.g.
* Millions of kangaroo carcases rot because it is uneconomical to process them
* large amounts of slightly damaged, or under / oversized (but still very
edible) fruit & veges are dumped.

On top of that again, Australia`s water resources are capable of doing a lot
more. e.g.
* Irrigation efficiencies can be improved by up to 50%
* Water recycling technologies also promise large amounts of water savings
* Seawater and saline water is just beginning to be used for some types of
production (aquaculture)
* Some water from northern rivers could be diverted inland for irrigation
* Desalinisation is becoming more economical

as well as
* Improved management techniques resulting in gains of up to 30%

If all these ideas were to live up to even half their potential across our
landscape (hopefully a landscape with appropriate areas of sustainable
conservation), they suggest to me Australia`s population could be manyfold
more before any ecological limits are reached.
(15) Finally we have an interview with Jock Douglas. We would like to hear
any comments  either for or against the  ALMS idea, so Jock can keep shaping
the idea into an approach that will work for landholders.

(1) What sort of Farming background do you have Jock?

Probably a bit different from the norm.

As part of a family enterprise I grew up trading cattle, back in the days of
drovers, from the Gulf of Carpentaria to New South Wales. This plus buying
and developing properties north and south of Mitchell.  I Have had a
lifetime in the cattle industry in the Maranoa district of Queensland. I
about grain farming when the 70’s cattle depression required a new income
My wife Mina and I are currently into backgrounding cattle for the domestic
market, grass seed production and developing some irrigated horticulture
(desert limes) here near Roma.

 (2) Most people know you from being the first Qld Landcare Chairman. Why
did you take that job on?

I sometimes wondered.

It was mainly because of a belief that the voluntary approach of Landcare
was the best way to bring about improved natural resources management and we
need landholders in the driving seat locally to do it. Also, because I was
by the Minister for Primary Industries Ed Casey. This followed my
involvement in the genesis of the landcare movement.

I said that I would accept only if the Queensland Landcare Council (QLC) was
reformed with a role broadened from the narrow PR role it then had and made
some suggestions. Casey asked me to write a paper on an expanded role for
his consideration. I included:
* an advisory capacity for natural resource management issues;
* better representation from Landcare groups with representatives elected
rather than nominated;
* an assessment capacity for National Landcare Program funded projects.

 He accepted the proposed changes and I accepted the responsibility of
chairing the reformed QLC.

(3) During a vegetation forum at Roma last year, where 2,000 landholders
gathered and marched, you first suggested your concept of ALMS.(Australian
Landcare Management System) Why did you put that to landholders and what was
their reaction?

I wanted to try out my ideas with the people concerned.

This occasion promised plenty of people who were certainly concerned!

 The concept outline was put in a 10 minute address to a (fairly hostile)
gathering of some 700 people in the Sports Centre at Roma.  My talk
immediately followed the then Queensland Minister for Natural Resources Rod
Welford who had spelt out his proposed legislation on tree clearing - the
purpose of the gathering. The reaction as I read it was quiet, thoughtful
and positive. I requested a show of hands for and against.  Many raised in
favour and only four raised against.  Numerous people approached me
afterwards to
discuss it.  The typical comment was, “It’s the only way to go.”

The positive reaction from landholders that day and in that situation has
been the spur to further develop and implement the concept now known as

(4) What is ALMS and what is its ultimate aim?

 ALMS is about recognition and reward for good natural resource management.

It is a voluntary whole of farm environmental management system that will
lead to continuous improvement in resource management on farms and within
catchments. But ALMS is more than an individual farm based management

ALMS is aimed at improved natural resource management (NRM) and has three

1. ALMS as a stand-alone EMS:(environmental management system)
In other words, a monitoring system that does not have to be linked to
anything else

2. ALMS as a framework: that is, to link other accredited EMS’s to landcare,
catchment management and to NRM programs.

3. ALMS for recognition: By providing a nationally recognised logo for
products sourced from farms with a certified management system linked to
catchment management.  The logo association is of products that are clean
and safe and from environmentally caring farms.

 EMS’s have a continuous checking cycle, rather than a set
standard of resource condition. It is the cycle of monitoring and response
to that which is audited and certified, not the resource condition. The
certification opens the door for market benefits and for incentives

(5) What sort of reaction have you received from various people?

I keep being told that it’s a good (even a great) idea. However,
transforming the idea into action is frustratingly slow.

The ALMS concept has been further developed since the Roma rally and has now
been presented to over 1000 people, some 800 of whom have been primary
producers (Roma Meat Profit Day, Queensland, Tasmanian and South Australian
State Landcare Conferences)

The response has been positive with plenty of questions asked.
The main concern from producers is “Is this another bunch of paperwork to
contend with, with no benefits apparent?”

(6) And Is It?

No.  The real focus is in the paddock but there has to be a paper trail (or
computer file) to confirm that we doing this, that we are fair dinkum and
can stand scrutiny for local or international markets.

(7) How do you see it developing?

I have my vision which is shared now by quite a few people. But this concept
won’t go far unless it has ‘champions’ who are prepared to move it forward.
If it gathers momentum it could establish Australia's credentials as a
producer of clean, green and safe food and fibre.

Really, the concept of ALMS (or something like it) has to be taken up by
industry groups, key individuals and the political/policy process. Forward
thinking industry groups like MLA, R&D Corporations, CSIRO will be the key
leaders with the agri-political organizations more likely to follow than
lead; likewise the political/policy people.

(8) Who else is involved with the idea?

It’s like throwing a stone into a pool. The circle widens.

So far the development of ALMS following the Roma rally has been assisted by
a consortium of landcare groups in southern  Queensland and Meat and
Livestock Australia.  Tony Gleeson from Synapse Consulting has joined me
through this stage which has seen us involved in developing and testing
ideas in workshops, conferences and meetings.

(9) How will the incentives work?

Governments don’t spend lightly on things that happen behind our boundary
fences but there are ‘public good’ issues here which warrant public

Incentives for landholders will be needed for ‘public good’ outcomes on
issues such as salinity prevention and nature conservation. The Commonwealth
is now directly funding sub-catchment groups for outcomes. These Catchment
groups are deciding their strategies and priorities and it is proposed that
these groups oversee this. The landholder activity can be verified by ALMS
and once a landholders achieves this, they can receive payment.

(10) Can you describe what “Joe Bloggs” on a cattle and cropping property
does if he wants to get the ALMS system going on his place so he can
demonstrate being environmentally sound. He wants to be both rewarded in the
market place and paid for some "public good" conservation work (e.g.
wildlife areas)

This is the heart of it. What happens with people and in paddocks comes
and foremost. The paper/computer trail simply substantiates this.

First Joe, will be provided with a kit including a checklist of things to do
and tick off.

     The starting place for Joe is his maps and records of the property`s
natural resources. (e.g. soils, water, vegetation), of noting “hotspots” in
each paddock ( woody weeds, erosion, low soil fertility, salinity etc.)

    The natural resources are then checked (monitored) regularly to get a
indication of what is happening. Things like more perennial  grasses
establishing, erosion occurring or reducing, or tree seedlings germinating
etc.  This is the sort of information that Joe wants to know to manage his
property well anyway.

     The idea is that an environmental management system (EMS) is based on a
continuous improvement cycle - plan, do, check, respond, review. (Monitoring
could be done using tools like Grasscheck etc.)

    So Joe gets his family or management team together to do regular
property inspections (lets say quarterly). Armed with a camera? and
monitoring tools,
they inspect a variety of spots and record how they are going.  They`ll also
observe the wider landscape, the native fauna and flora species

     They will discuss the system of management for cattle and cropping, how
that might be improved given what is observed. The team will think about
long term plans and share experiences and knowledge.  There might be some
research information they’ll take with them to discuss.

Sometimes they could bring in a specialist when they need one and involve a
landcare group. It will be about building natural resource knowledge in the
family, or the team.

    Then the part comes where Joe puts all the information onto paper or a

(11) What sort of paper work does Joe have to detail?

     There will be a rundown of the legislated resource management
requirements that Joe needs to comply with. Also Joe`s catchment or regional
resource management priorities would be listed for him in the material
provided. Then the are the details of Joe`s monitoring. This information
gets sent to an ALMS Service Centre which provides it to the relevant
Catchment Group on a confidential basis. Some time later Joe
will then get his catchment`s collated information back.

This is to assist natural resource management at landscape scales out in
the catchment and at paddock scales back on the farm. It will also
contribute to a ‘live’ resources database for better catchment management.

    An auditor would visit and check that Joe`s ALMS management system is in
     * that he started with a resources inventory;
     * that he is monitoring the resources;
     * that he is carrying out regular inspections;
     * that he is responding to what is being observed and recorded &
     * that he is exchanging information with his catchment group.

     An auditor would not measure Joe`s erosion in his sorghum paddock but
would check if Joe is, and whether he had made management changes. The
auditor might well be the same person who is auditing his Cattlecare program
and does the ALMS audit on the same visit.

(12) Let`s say Joe has done all that and he wants some return for this
effort. What happens next?

    Once audited, Joe`s management system would be certified and his
property registered. His products are then eligible for a national
label that would accompany them through the value chains to the consumer.
ALMS and its label and logo is promoted as signifying producing landholders
natural resources nationally.  The label identifies an item made from
products from an environmentally caring farm with a certified management
system in place and which is linked to Catchment management.

    Joe`s product can now command consumer preference and marketing
The certification would be designed so his products would meet any
environmental approval requirements for international trade, a need which is
emerging rapidly.

    Joe would also be eligible for incentives for on-property action like
setting apart wildlife areas for special management.  Incentives would be
funded directly from the Commonwealth but would come through Catchment
Groups and  be designed to help achieve his catchment priorities.

(12) Is anyone test driving the idea yet?

No, Not yet. We are trying to set up the operational framework and we need
support. There are some Catchment Groups and some landholders keen to start.
We have a roll-out mapped out but that has yet to be taken up and
implemented by the major players. We would like to have an 'ALMS Bureau' set
up to do this. Leadership is needed from industry bodies and support is
needed from landholders to build momentum.

(13) Why will landholders want to take on ALMS?

Money will comes first as a driver but landholders’ values go well beyond
money, such as to improve how we manage our natural resources production base
and protect biodiversity and benefiting personally yet being part of
something bigger in
achieving community expectations and national aspirations.

But the three main reasons will be

(1) Getting a better handle on their property`s natural resources from the
(2) More money for their products and access to incentives.
(3) Personal satisfaction from the verification of their improving resource
management .

(14) Will governments be involved?

Yes, but in the background support role rather than on your property.

Governments will be important partners in implementation and
support. The partnerships will be most active within Catchment Groups.

(15) If someone wants to contact you to discuss any ideas or be a part of
the trials, who do they contact?

Jock Douglas P.O. Box 320 Roma  Queensland  4455
Ph:(07) 46 268100 Fax:  (07) 46 268139
e-mail:  douglasj@ripnet.com.au
Tony Gleeson
 PO Box 3746 South Brisbane Qld 4101 Ph.07-38442370   email: