Q: What management methods are you working towards on your 64,000 ha property "Arizona"?
Richard: We are currently putting more watering points across both our black soil flood plains country and sandy forest country so the cattle do not have to walk more than 1.5 km to water. At the same time we are fencing the place into 3km x 3km paddocks. Then by moving the stock at the appropriate time and resting country, we are stimulating pasture which increases the number of grass species, densities, growth rates and soil organisms.
Q: What sort of response are you seeing so far?
Richard: This year we have got bluegrass growing everywhere, where as a couple of years ago I remember being asked if we had any Bluegrass and I said I didn`t know what it was. It`s exciting, you can`t get enough fences and waters up quick enough once you start to see the results.
Q: What about your cattle breeding program - How many mobs do you run?
Richard: Our herd is in 5 breeding groups. I use 3 different composites such as Charolais over African Boran and African Tuli over Angus, and there are 3 smaller stud mobs as well to breed these sires from.
Q: What are your views on the direction of Landcare?
Richard: It worked well when the grass roots people had control of the decisions, but now it`s lost the plot, ordinary people have lost control of decision making. Advisors, coordinators etc keep sucking the money up and only a trickle gets to address the problem. Unless the process is changed , it`s doomed. People will continue to care for their land but not in a co-operative, co-ordinated way with loss of lobbying and educational power.
Q: Why did you go on the southern gulf catchment committee?
Richard: Landcare is a local movement, catchment management is bigger picture. Both are complementary. I could see we needed to take a helicopter view of resource management. There are some issues that shire boundaries do not confine such as weeds and a better approach to water management decisions. While the idea is good, there is a major problem with the way this process is going too. Landholders and community people who have to give up days at their own cost to go to meetings, are then confronted by fully paid government personel who have little on ground experience with the land. In the end only a few burnt out people make decisions for the whole community and no-one feels any ownership for it.
Q: Okay whats the answer to this - pay landholders to go to meetings?
Richard: That might get a few more there but it still wouldn`t be enough. I think we have to use technology such as emails and cameras on our computer screens and have meetings via the internet. And none of this high cost telstra rubbish either. Instead of daytime meetings that suit the government departments, we need night meetings that suit landholders, so they can do it with out leaving the property or wasting time travelling. But what`s really important is the right coordinator to help people be a part of the whole show and for trust to develop across each catchment. Landholders need to come forward and take control of these processes. And we need those people with computer skills to work with the ideas people. We have to have government coming to us and not have one or two reps going to Brisbane or Canberra doing the rounds. No one person can represent everyone. Every area is different and that has to be allowed for. We must make progress, have vision and take action, for achievements.
Q: One final Question. what is your view on the research process ?
Richard: It`s a Stuff up. If it wasn`t for a lot of fights, arguements and such, then some really vital research would hardly ever get done. The amount of money that is wasted via government people not knowing what the issues really are and therefore not funding the right projects is a tradgedy. For example, we had to fight to get enough funding for David Coates (CSIRO) to get the dung analysis research finished because it`s potential to understanding not only stock nutrition, but native animals nutrition was too important, yet CSIRO was wanting to give it the chop. Once again this process needs to have the people who can benefit from the research become a part of the decision making process at it`s beginning. Environmental progress is moving very quickly. Most public research is way behind, caught in old paradigms, losing credibility and people's interest.