21/12/02

Hi Everyone,
                      A few interesting comments on beauracracy this edition.

(1)Qld Desert Uplands Vegetation plan released.
(2) Salinity survey finds farmers active
(3) Graziers battle drought and wild dogs -
(4) Controls on clearing NT native vegetation -
(5) SA Roo quota lowest since '82
(6) Viewpoint - Stu Higgins,  QLD
(7) Car Industry support & votes compared to Agriculture - Judith McGeorge
(8) US Radio show on Eco Extremism - Ruth Quigley
(9) PUTTING SUSTAINABILITY INTO PRACTICE
(10) ABA considers local content increase for regional TV -
(11) New CRC to halve water use?
(12) SA Irrigation Project published.
(13) Alex Jay comments on recycling city water
(14) Bureacrats & decision making - Ian Mott
(15) Future Generations will judge todays Conservationists harshly - Dixie Nott (Qld)
(16) New NSW Coalition policy on Veg Committees - Marsha Isbester (Cobar, NSW)
(17) Property rights & Communal societies - Alex Jay
(18) Property Rights & COAG - Leon Ashby
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(1)Qld Desert Uplands Vegetation plan released.

For those interested , the web site  http://www.nrm.qld.gov.au/vegetation/rvmp_sdu.html has the plan.

I had a quick look and some of it is quite good.
However there appear to be are a few weaknesses in it .

(1) I couldn`t find a definition for terms such as "ecologically sustainable development" etc which is important because having no definition leaves a number of decisions open for interpretation by the DNRM staff without any comeback for landholders

(2) The science surrounding  "salinity" and the "intake area of the GAB" are unproven in the Desert Uplands and therefore any policy on these issues should be deferred until detailed scientific research confirms conclusively what the facts are..

Like all DU graziers, Dennis Fahey received a recent survey about vegetation management for his freehold property "Keen - Gea" . Here is an excerpt of his reply.

Dear Ms McLaughlin,

The interpretation of the contents of these correspondaence would insinuate that my business has forfeited or relinquished to the state Govt, the entitlements of our freehold land tenure. I am not aware of my business participating in such an undertaking, nor do our records indicate that the Department of Natural Resources & Mines has requested in writing, my business to do so.

I invite you Ms McLaughlin, on behalf of the Govt of Qld , to contact my office to arrange an appointment , where you can present the relevant information that depicts where the grazing business of  A.J. & D.J. Fahey has either relinquished or invited the Department of Natural Resources & ines the following.

* an offer to DNRM to undertake the resource management of the freehold land owned by our business.
* Where our business has gifted the freehold entitlements of our land to the Qld Govt.
* That our business has been invited to donate the entitlements of our freehold land to the state govt.
* Finally where the Qld Govt has personally corresponded with our business, advising of their intent to confiscate the entitlements of our freehold land


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(2) Salinity survey finds farmers active

Australian farmers are taking steps to manage salinity. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has just released the largest ever survey of salinity and it shows that while 20,000 farms (covering 2 million hectares) are affected, 30,000 farmers are actively managing the land for salinity.

The survey's director Bob Harrison from ABS says WA has the greatest problem but proportionately Victoria has just as much land affected. Over 20% of farmers are actually doing something by introducing salt tolerant plant and pasture species, levy banks and earth works etc. to limit the problem. Mr Harrison was particulalrly surprised by how aware and concerned farmers are for the environment but says money and time remain the main barrier to change.
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(3)

Graziers battle drought and wild dogs -






The Australian sheep flock is at an all time low, ABARE says there are just 52 million breeding ewes, others say the figure is much lower, and there are fears the industry won't be able to service hard won overseas markets. In Queensland, the meat sheep industry has been secondary to the wool production, but now with wool prices bouncing back, there are calls for Queensland to expand wool production. But Charleville grazier Bill Taylor says as much as he'd love to get back into sheep, he can't, wild dogs decimated his flock and unless more landholders take the issue seriously the industry will continue to shrink. And for Bill Taylor, it's a depressing sight out his back window, dust, dead kangaroos and wild dogs tell the story.


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(4) Controls on clearing NT native vegetation -

There's to be constraints on clearing of native vegetation in the Territory with the government announcing a permit system will now apply.  Minister for development Kon Vatskalis says the brakes had to be put on the wholesale clearing of native vegetation. People pulling timber on country without a permit will be hit with fines up to $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for corporations. One producer who's been felling timber for a few years says he'll continue to do it. He says he'll work within the system but he always leaves some standing and he expects to get clearance to do this under the new regime.

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   (5)

SA Roo quota lowest since '82




The severe drought conditions in SA may take its toll on our kangaroo industry. SA`s 95 field processors face the prospect of a 25 per cent cut in quota. The Department for the Environment and Heritage has proposed the cut after estimating kangaroo numbers from aerial and ground surveys. The Federal Government will decide on the quota early next year but at this stage the quota proposal is at 472,700 kangaroos. Rita Borda is the State President of the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia. She says the quota is at its lowest since the 1982 drought when it dropped to below 200,000. But she says the industry will suffer not because of the proposed quota cut but because they might not be able to find enough animals to fill it. She says this year the expected industry take is 280,000 kangaroos which is only slightly lower than last year. "The quota wasn't fully utilised last year and it certainly won't be this year so even though the quota has dropped by 25 per cent, that still gives the industry here in South Australia, expansion of over 100 per cent. The reality is that kangaroos will be harder to find, they will be leaner, it will have a huge impact of all processors that operate in this state."


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(6) Viewpoint - Stu Higgins,  QLD

Just as you choose to wear cotton, I choose to grow it.

Unfortunately nature didn’t design many plants to produce enough food and fibre unassisted to feed and clothe the demands of six billion people. This is where farmers like me become involved.

My role is to place seeds in the soil, expose them to the right balance of nutrients, sunlight and water, minimise the effects from competing weeds and pests, and create a consistent product for consumers at a realistic price for an indefinite period of time. This is a challenge. I find it difficult. I find it rewarding.

As consumers and producers we have values, we both make choices and we act on these choices. How we interact as consumers and producers ultimately shapes our society and the environment we live in. At present most dialogue between us is translated through the complex language of ‘market forces’.

I feel we lose a lot of important information in the translation so I will resort back to my native tongue, ‘bluntness’.

Let’s talk about one of the major concerns we all have in this country - the amount of water used to grow crops such as cotton. As an irrigator, yes I do use water.

I pump it from a creek and an aquifer to the highest point in the field. I then let gravity take over and run this water down the furrows in the crop.

To highlight my usage here are a few statistics from my farm. It takes me about 1000 litres of water to grow the cotton for just one T-shirt in your draw. Before you get too upset, it’s equivalent to the amount of water an average family consumes in a household every two days. Trust me, when you live off tank water you measure it.

I am guessing that my ‘bluntness’ is a bit hard to understand at this stage and you would like to reply in the ‘questioning’ dialect.

Why don’t we wear hemp? - I am interested in growing it, but at this stage the adoption of hemp as a world fibre appears to be trapped in what I call ‘the lively dinner conversation’ phase.

Why don’t we all use polyester? Well there’s a non-biodegradable, petrochemical product I know little about. And I don’t know about you, but I reckon a night spent on polyester sheets would be an interesting experience.

Why don’t we grow cotton somewhere else? Not many countries have water to spare, least of all Australia.

I am in no way wishing to appear flippant with these responses. Just as people have trouble understanding my blunt voice I have trouble understanding their questioning tone.

What about if we combined the bluntness and the questioning to form a common dialect called understanding.

Best intentions are not the way forward…understanding between consumers and producers followed by an equal prepardness to act will bring about real changes in management and consumption of Australia’s natural resources.

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(7) Car Industry support & votes compared to Agriculture - Judith McGeorge
Dear Leon and Jane

In the relativity of things- vote wise- an approx 20,000 Australians are employed (in marginal electorates) in the car industry-

This warrants a $4.5 billion (over 4 year ??) grant- to this industry to counter lower tariffs- no mention of loans- but straight industry assistance to maintain Australian production. (* about $2,800 per Aussie produced car)

Compare agriculture suffering its worst drought in 100 years- with 1million dependant on this sector for employment-
household support (dole equivalent)-  up to $400million  other assistance will be Exceptional Circumstances - an interest subsidy on new loans!!!

Obviously we aren't considered an electoral risk!!  Also there is NO TARIFF PROTECTION FOR AG PRODUCTION!

As many of the jobs relating to ag are lacking an obvious relationship- governments tend to ignore- as in forgetting many of the enterprises flour mills etc require wheat- transporters require commodities- manufacturers of packaging have to have goods to package etc etc.

Regards Judith

Hi Judith, I saw an interesting quote this week that the federal govt acknowledges that only 30 % of any of the funds they allocate for farmers will get distributed anyway.  

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(8) US Radio show on Eco Extremism - Ruth Quigley

Here`s an interesting radio sample from America  
http://www.stevewampler.net/broadcasts/March/March172002.ram

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(9) PUTTING SUSTAINABILITY INTO PRACTICE

New research has indicated that farmers still need to be convinced there are
benefits when it comes to adopting new practices, including sustainable natural
resource management.
The research findings from Land and Water Australia's Social and Institutional
Research Program reveals that landowners are far more likely to adopt sustainable
land management practices which are observable and testable, are not expensive
to implement and able to be widely implemented.
The research report, entitled Understanding Landholders' Capacity to Change to
Sustainable Practices, concludes that the capacity and desire of farmers to
change varies greatly from region to region and according to socio-economic and
local conditions.
Copies are available by contacting Caroline Makings at the BRS on (02) 6272 4068
or by visiting http://www.affa.gov.au/brs (social science).
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(10) ABA considers local content increase for regional TV -

The Australian Broadcasting Authority is considering imposing new licensing conditions on regional television stations that would force them to broadcast more local news and current affairs. This is in response to an inquiry finding local content in regional areas is declining constantly.

Under the proposal from July next year, 13 commercial operators in regional Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria will have to broadcast at least one hour of local news each week, or at least two hours of local programming, including current affairs.

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(11) New CRC to halve water use?

South Australia is to get a new Cooperative Research Centre which will endeavour to halve water use in Australia -
The new CRC for Irrigation Futures will define sustainable irrigation areas, as well as practices and it's received $16 million in the 2002 round of CRC funding.

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(12) SA Irrigation Project published.

An Irrigation benchmarking project has just been published and it shows that even when soil moisture is monitored and used to decide when to water, irrigation water use comparisons can vary enormously.
15 dairy properties were monitored around Mt Gambier, (one of them was Leon`s) and despite all of them using soil moisture monitoring to accurately decide when the next watering should occur, the range of water use varied from 5.31 megalitres / ha to 9.46 ML / ha.

There were 10 different types of comparisons done across the 15 properties and the variation in production, efficiencies etc, was very surprising. A good future project would be to find out why the results were so varied. I know some of the properties and their soil types and situations were very different.

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(13) Alex Jay comments on recycling city water

One of the problems with this suggestion is the NIMBY (Not in my backyard) phenomenon. A local example:-
Ballina Shire (north coast NSW) is currently reviewing its future water supply and treatment options. One option is that fully treated/polished effluent be piped up to the downstream base of a potable water supply dam on Emigrant Ck, and released into the Ck to supply environmental flows, thus alleviating the need to release water from the dam and effectively increasing the potable supply. Sensible idea? You'd hardly think so given the noisy local protest.

People just can't adjust to the idea of treated water being acceptable for anything, let alone domestic re-use. Since a few locals swim in the creek, and others pump from the Ck for domestic non-potable uses, the env-flows plan might be lost in favour of more expensive, less environmentally-useful alternatives, eg construct artificial wetland then use some of that water for irrigating sports fields and pump the rest miles out to sea.
Then there's the costs. 2000 GL? 16M people? Only if they're prepared to  pay for the installation of dual suburban reticulation and domestic plumbing systems, ie thousands of $ extra tax/rates capital works then usage costs. Couldn't we spend that money better on other things?  

Could we pump the water inland to the dry country for irrigation?. I can't see that happening because the economics don't look favourable (unless of course city users were charged double their present costs, ie an extra $1 per kilolitre, or about $350 per year for average household). It would work only if the distances and elevations are not too great, and the crop value earnt a return on the water cost. At $1000/ML, which is a current "drought rate" capital cost (ie not annual usage/licence cost) for irrigation water entitlement,  2000 GL could be worth $2000M. If there were 20-200 thousand farmers willing to buy water at that capital cost (and most will use 3-5Ml/ha/yr for crop irrigation) and they had capital resources of $10-100 thousand each for the water, and were then prepared to pay annual pumping cost to farm gate, then also had capital to spend for on-farm reticualtion, re-use of city effluent on agriculture might be feasible.

Thats a lot of ifs. Hence the crop value would have to be able to pay for a capital investment of perhaps $5-10 thousand per hectare, ie two to three times what good quality agric land is worth in coastal districts, plus pay for annual runing costs.  There might also be restrictions on some uses because of heavy metal content, viruses and bacteria etc ( I wouldn't want to eat lettuce grown under treated effluent sprays, though this is not an issue with the Emigrant Ck re-use where the treated effluent is highly diluted in an existing flow) .
Its an interesting idea, but I can't see it happening until we get much cheaper energy costs (eg solar, see Lomborg's book).

Alex Jay , NSW

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(14) Bureacrats & decision making - Ian Mott

While state governments may be mandated to deliver majority, middle ground  environmental policies with a solid grounding in market reality, the bureaucrats are delivering no such thing.

They now see nationalised ecology as synonymous with justice, equity and sound administration. And the maintenance of this nationalised condition, free of any reference to a functioning market place, is now perceived as fundamental to their own self preservation and future prospects.

It is now a fundamental article of faith that the absence of bureaucratic input into land management is synonymous with environmental harm. Yet, the evidence is overwhelming that this article of faith is also not just wrong but extremely costly in economic, social and ecological terms.

Koalas & Habitat
One excellent example is the vegetation controls over the so-called Koala Habitat on Brisbane's South Side.  This is a large tract of 30 to 40 year old regrowth which, in its earlier years, produced such an abundance of green tips on the vigorously growing stems that Koala numbers became much higher than their natural occurrence in old growth forest.

The vegetation controls discouraged the thinning of this regrowth and the resulting increase in competition between stems reduced the growth rates and hence the supply of green tips for the Koalas. This forced the Koalas to travel further afield where they fell victim to the expanding road system and dog attacks.

This population is now returning to the lower levels of it's original footprint but the bureaucrats are using the decline in total numbers as evidence that the viability of this population is under threat. Their solution to this 'problem'? You guessed it, more regulation, more of their own 'input' to land management decisions and more costs imposed on land owners.

Ignoring the obvious
A policy to encourage voluntary thinning (of regrowth) to effectively double the Koala food resource, with allowable private sales of the resulting Koala surplus, was never considered because the trust towards landowners had been destroyed.

Ironically, A Zoo in the USA has recently returned its Koalas to Australia because the nationalised cost of maintaining them amounted to half their entire budget.
In a world where Australian Eucalypts are demonstrating a capacity to grow just about anywhere on earth, and where live sheep and cattle can be delivered by the boat load, the bureacratically run ecological services industry couldn't deliver and maintain a pair of Koalas for under US $120,000 per year.

Ian Mott
(Manly, Qld & Byron Bay, NSW)

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(15) Future Generations will judge todays Conservationists harshly - Dixie Nott

It is very heartening to read comments that are considered and balanced from your readers. The debate it generates with those supporting other views is very proactive

Koalas
An article from the newsletter of our Regional Forestry Association recently caused us to redirect our efforts to identify our koala habitat areas on our property and lo and behold we find they exclusively prefer our thinned forests to the overstocked even aged regrowth we have not managed for forestry/grazing and biodiversity as yet.
This drought is causing much tree death in the thickened forests and the heads of the trees in these areas are all sparse and damaged.It is claimed that koalas cannot feed on these drought effected trees and its not hard to see why.

Add to these personal observations the comments from environmentalists that koalas are being drought effected and the conclusion I reach is that the continual "vegetation management prescriptions" on private land and "lock up" of plant communities without management on public land will have a very negative impact on native fauna.

The conservation community will be judged by future generations to have caused immense damage to the species they claim to know how to manage.

Thats what happens when a pressure group is not honest about their agenda.

Dixie Nott (Qld)

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(16) New NSW Coalition policy on Veg Committees - sent in by Marsha Isbester (Cobar, NSW)

NSW Shadow Land & Water Conservation minister  Don Page has said a NSW coalition Govt would restrict bureacrats to an advisory capacity on catchment management, water committees, & native Veg committees. Don also said community representatives would be required to live in the area, and these arrangements would give a greater sense of ownership at a grass root level

(* This is the same approach the SA rock Lobster Industry has secured in recent years, and which has now turned that industry around into perhaps the best managed sea-based resource in the world - Leon)

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(17) Property rights & Communal societies - Alex Jay

Leon, you are right about our property rights needing to exist in other peoples minds. I guess this is also what makes paper money of any use.

Having lived and worked (plantation forestry project) for three years in what is probably one of the more economically progressive Aboriginal communities (Melville Is) , I think the concept of individual incentives/rights is almost unachievable in the general case of communal cultures, including others around the world.

On Melville Is.,  I saw "communal culture" constantly in action, and for better or worse it meant that it was extremely difficult for those individuals who had "wealth" thru employment to acquire or retain any property. People aspired to own a boat or car or rifle or TV, but these items were soon consumed by family and hangers-on as they were treated almost as "commons", ie I'll borrow your car and use your petrol but if it has a flat or breakdown, then it's not my problem.

Often as not, individuals were not happy about lending out their property or giving away money, but if pressed they were unable to say no. They had to make themselves grumpy and unfriendly in order to save enough to buy anything or preserve it after buying, thus causing real internal angst, and had almost no prospect of borrowing (no collateral or credit rating). The only real benefit of employment thus appeared to be status, and the future beholdeness of others that comes from being the initial giver/disperser. However the debit/credit ledger was rarely balanced in equivalent monetary terms.

As I recall and understood them at the time, Noel Pearson made comments which were pitched at communities as a whole and individual repsonsibility for things like alcoholism. However I don't think he has really made comment on the culture of individual mutual beholdeness, and I would be interested to see if or how he thinks it would be possible to reconcile that concept with broader community economic development that is business-based, ie NOT dependent on handouts.

The Tiwi people in my estimation, did not by and large have a "handout mentality" in the sense that they were not constantly griping that "gummint orta" do this or that, and they were quite well organised in terms of their local community government structures that ran the power supply, roads, garbage water etc. However no-one ran a business, and they had no real need for individual land titles or borrowing to purchase houses as these were all supplied by the gummint, and needless to say, such property was not treated as if it were especially valuable. At the same time, whilst the leaders understood the prospective commercial benefits of the forestry program, the plantations were tolerated by individuals, rather than "owned" in the sense of expected future personal benefits to flow from them. It was a constant battle to prevent hunting fires being lit in or around plantations, although it was interesting that with certain family groupings "owning" or identifying with certain parts of the islands  (eg "thats my (family's) country"), it was OK for the "owners" to light fires in "their" plantations but not for outsiders to do so !

The Tiwi also have a thriving arts market with international reach and copyrights and royalties held by individuals. This means ownership of intellectual property is recognised and understood, but any royalties or sales income are of course dispersed thru the wider family group.

The "partial" native title concept is an interesting one for debate; on the whole I think it is a reasonably fair balance of competing interests on pastoral leasehold countries in northern Qld, but as a general claim on say riparian zones and various Crown lands (eg as per whole of NSW) it is a expedient manipulation by government to gain control for preservation purposes by proxy.
Personally I don't see a problem with involving aboriginal groups in mining negotiations, so long as they don't have a right of veto above the national interest.

Regards

Alex Jay

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(18) Property Rights, COAG & BushVision - Leon Ashby

Hi Alex,
             Thanks again for some interesting observations.
I am wondering where the Current COAG /  property rights issue is now going to go.
The latest COAG meeting didn`t look at the issue again.
I believe the real problem is the bureacrats being in turmoil over how to address natural resource management, because their current approach (of removing rights) will then become too costly to continue.

As I see it their beliefs (that State Governments are the boss  of resources) has to be modified into one where state governments become co managers (along with landholders).
This might not sound like much of a change to some, but it is like a boss becoming a co worker and as history shows, bosses don`t like to lose their position.
While the issue has come a fair way from where it was 3 years ago when Mike Price & I first called a meeting on property rights in Aramac, (Qld). I think this last hurdle is going to take a bit of "selling" to the state bureacracies.

As more and more data comes in on what is the most cost effective way to get results on conservation and sustainability, there will be a gradual realisation that a voluntary land management  incentive system based on monitoring and appropriate incentive / market premium payments (e.g. Jock Douglas`s ALMS concept) is going to probably be the best way to go.

If we can get the BushVision community television concept up & running, we will then have a communications tool that can spearhead moves to resolving contentious issues for rural Australia.
In the case of the property rights issue, the members could decide if any of the following were appropriate.

(1) Feature landholder stories of injust property rights removal
(2) Publicise a number of "just" and environmentally positive options for the public (& bureacrats) to consider.
(3) Hold a televised nationwide interactive public meeting on the issue.
(4) Hold televised debates between dissenting state government ministers and landholders / farmer groups on the issue.
(5) Bring landholders together to organise Australia wide action against any state bureacracies that refuse to work with landholders towards a just and positive outcome.

I just mentioned this to highlight the potential of BushVision in the light of the Property rights issue because not everyone has realised it`s potential as a tool to empower the rural community to reach fair and reasonable outcomes.

Trust you all have a good Christmas

Leon & Jane