12/2/03
Hi Folks,
This edition features a letter from Ashley McKay (Qld) who is being prosecuted for illegal Land clearing after clearing within the permit guidelines he was issued.
Two more Landholder bodies have formed recently with aims parrallel to Landholders for the Environment. Details are in this edition.

To those with interesting information, please keep sending it in as Landholders for the Environment will eventually become the Environmental side of the BushVision television concept.

In this Edition

(1) 40 year revegetation effort shows 11% vegetation cover brings back almost all pre settlement bird species.
(2) City V Bush - Ross
(3) State of the Reef - the Baker report
(4) Canegrowers rejects the Baker report - Dr Jennifer Marohasy
(5) $10 million Drought Recovery funds available
(6) Putting a value on ecosystem services?
(7) Canegrowers organises Property Rights Forum to be held in Cairns in April
(8) Kathryn Varrica (CLEG, NSW) reports on Landholder issues
(9) The ACF & Property Rights
(10) BUSHFIRE ‘GREENIE-BASHING’ MISGUIDED says conservationists
(11) Combined Landholders Association (CLA) was forms in Manning (NSW).
(12) Two Letters concerning unauthorised Dams in the US - Judith McGeorge
(13) PROGRESS REPORT ON PROPERTY RIGHTS AUSTRALIA. - ASHLEY McKAY

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(1) 40 year revegetation effort shows 11% vegetation cover brings back almost all bird species.

A 1999 publication from Dr David Kemps office has some interesting data for landholders who are involved in vegetation management groups.

A Victorian property "Lanark" which was almost totally cleared and it`s wetlands drained (decades earlier) began a revegetation plan in 1967 and over 30 years a variety of trees (native & exotic) were planted across the property.
Wetlands were also restored and naturalist Murray Gunn meticulously monitored the property`s bird fauna over 45 years from 1956 (11 years before revegetation began.)

The results are very helpful to vegetation groups.
It shows
In 1956 there was 39 bird species with 0.3 percent woodland cover.
In 1976 there was 134 bird species and 2 per cent woodland cover.
In 1996 there was 157 bird species and 11 per cent woodland cover
According to the booklet, this represents almost all the species before settlement, except for birds that live in hollow trees & logs. They are not expected to return until the trees become hollow in about 140 years time.

The publication is written in the usual style of believing Conservation of all native species equals Sustainability (which is incorrect because sustainability is about conserving enough native & /or exotic species to maintain ecosystem function).

Ian Mott will elaborate on this booklet in the next edition. If anyone wants a copy of the original booklet, contact Ian at PO Box 5375 Manly Qld 4179 (talbank@bigpond.com.au), ph 0738930612

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(2) City V Bush - Ross

Leon,
I cant remember where I got the information but in the 1950 the
average consumer spent around 24% income on food - not much of it processed.
Today the figure is under 10% and that includes restaurants, takeaway,
processed etc - rural degragation and unviability is insufficient funds/
prices from the urban majority. Urban water waste is criminal.

Cheers
Ross
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(3) State of the Reef - the Baker report
Qld`s chief scientists are calling for a 'whole of community' approach to reducing sediment runoff onto the Great barrier Reef. The latest and most extensive report into the affect land-sourced pollutants are having on water quality.. has taken 8 months and involved consultation with all relevant stakeholders. Yes, cane farmers are mentioned in the report but the scientists also recognise the many improvements the sugar industry has made in recent years. Chairman of the group responsible for the report, Joe Baker, is not recommending stricter legislation to change land use practices, but he says he's in no doubt human activity is having a significant impact on water quality and the inner reef.


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(4) Canegrowers rejects the Baker report - Dr Jennifer Marohasy

Brian Williams’ trite assertion (The Bottom Line, CM Jan 30) that the sugarcane industry would deny a nuclear explosion in a cane field because it disputes the Baker report indicating that the industry is impacting on the Great Barrier Reef is worth exploring. I advise the industry, to the extent possible, on the basis of fact. We do not deny that, along with European settlement we have impacted on catchments and we are working as hard as others within the community to reduce this impact. However, there is simply no evidence of a negative impact on the Great Barrier Reef from sugarcane farming.

Following Mr Williams’ analogy, if a group of nuclear scientists claimed that a nuclear device had exploded in a cane field, and a properly structured on-ground research effort failed to uncover any trace of the explosion, then yes, I would state that the claims were unfounded. If nine scientists were then paraded to claim otherwise, I would still ask them to produce evidence. Call me stubborn if you like, but science is supposed to proceed on the basis of evidence.

However, with regard to the reef, it is not the sugarcane industry which is in denial, it is those people who have failed to produce evidence of environmental degradation of the Great Barrier Reef from cane farming, despite decades of searching. Such people simply cannot bring themselves to accept that cane farming and the Great Barrier Reef have successfully coexisted for over 120 years.

Dr Jennifer Marohasy
Environment Manager
CANEGROWERS

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(5) $10 million Drought Recovery funds available

The NHT Drought Recovery Envirofund will target works to protect land, water and vegetation from drought-induced
environmental damage or for projects that are best undertaken when
water levels are low. Grants of up to $30,000 are available.

Community groups and individuals have until February 14 to apply
phone 1800 065 823 or visit www.nht.gov.au.

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(6) Putting a value on ecosystem services?

The new method links the provision of ecosystem services to the property
market, which has a highly significant relationship with population
density in a region, thus the increasing value of ecosystem services due
to the level of development reflects the economic concept of scarcity.

Values can be derived for individual ecosystem services as well as for
groups of services, constrained within the overall value for the full suite
of services. Offsets and trade-offs across borders or local government
areas can be easily accommodated to permit mitigation of a development
impact away from major development centres.

Contact Ian Curtis on (07) 4042 1470, mobile 0419 303
969 or email ian.curtis@jcu.edu.au

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(7) Canegrowers organises Property Rights Forum to be held in Cairns in April

Ian Mott from Landholders for the Environment will be one of the speakers
check the following link for details
http://www.canegrowers.com.au/forum.htm

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(8) Kathryn Varrica (CLEG, NSW) reports on Landholder issues


We are dealing with the following plans - all with the potential to sterilize land, manage our business or shut it down, all with the capacity to erode our rights and all for adoption within roughly a 6 month period.

Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management
Local Strategy, Recreation Plan
Regional Veg Plan
Acid Sulphate Soil -

It's simply too huge for the average, run of the mill, head down bum up, garden variety landholder. The timing, incessent, relentless process couldn't be more effective if it were designed to inundate, confuse and irk us into submission and out of making submissions.

Our collective problem is that the volume of localised activity creates a "can't see the forest for the trees" condition. The big picture becomes obscured as we battle for our rights locally. Ironically , the big picture (Australia wide) requires honest and factual answers and landholder rights assurances. More effetive conservation will be a by product of providing landholder security along with positive policies, incentives and practical solutions.

Local government and local members seem powerless, or unwilling, to be able to stop these ravages because there is no finite definition to what rights a landholder does have. There is no exact measurement to the damage being done to the value to people's properties.
Landholders actively support the "ideals" on which these above mentioned activities are supposedly based, but in a sensible, practical and fair manner. They now have to consider the above ideals as a very real risk to their investments, future and way of life.

We need a serious urgent undertaking by government (all levels but particularly; the top) for the consideration for legislation that will give substance to the rights of landholders as acknowledged by Prime Minister Howard's radio interview with Jeremy Cordeaux of 5DN Brisbane that aired 6 November 2002; when asked if farms "should be compensated for missing out on water?" The Prime Ministers response: "Well I said earlier, that where somebody has a property right, and water rights are property rights, they shouldn't lose those rights or have those rights diminished without compensation".

This is very much in accord with my view, the view of various landholder groups I am involved with and I daresay most Australians who own property.We require consideration to amendments to the "Constitution of Australia" to be put to the people at the next election that will give greater and permanent substance to these land / property rights.

Bushvision may provide some of the medium for this result.

In August many landholders (approx.156 submissions) made their feelings known about the Manning Regional Vegetation Plan (MRVP). We are delighted that at least the MRVP is on “hold” – to be determined after the State elections.

Kathryn
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(9) The ACF & Property Rights

The ACF has released its position on the contentious property rights
debate, asserting that: "The public should not be expected to
compensate landholders who, because of environmental regulation, are
prevented from using resources in an unsustainable way and causing
long-term damage."

http://www.acfonline.org.au/asp/pages/document.asp?IdDoc=1110

*Ian Mott & David Coonan have suggested "Landholders for the Environment" asks for funding to conduct research from 1,000 landholders who owned/ leased land before 1950 across Australia
this would establish what property rights actually existed in the past to assist with future court cases across Australia.

If any other groups wish to be a part of this idea, please let us know.

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(10) BUSHFIRE ‘GREENIE-BASHING’ MISGUIDED says conservationists

Politically motivated attacks on environmentalists
over bushfire management made headlines in the wake of the tragic
Canberra bushfires. The NCC (NSW) refuted similar
criticisms following last month's bushfires in Sydney's northwest,
which followed horrific firestorms brought on by drought conditions,
heat, low humidity and high winds. At the time NCC said that claims
'green opposition' to bushfire protection had put lives and property at
risk was completely misinformed political opportunism.

http://www.nccnsw.org.au/bushfire/news/media/20021209_bfireresp.html

* The ACT farmers whose places were burnt out in the Canberra fires put it this way. While we cannot control the weather, we can control the amount of fuel available to be burnt, and current conservation practices do not believe in reducing bushfire fuel, so that practice is the reason the intensity of the fires were beyond normal intensities.

On the video David Hill & I are making there are pictures of forests with reduced fuel (due to grazing) next to forests without grazing. The difference in the intensity of the fire in each section is obvious.

There are now landholder moves underway to seek compensation for property losses due to this increased fire intensity as evidence is compiled.

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(11) Combined Landholders Association (CLA) was forms in Manning (NSW).

CLA's objectives are as follows:

1. To protect the landowners right to conduct farming practices in a sound agricultural and environmental manner without unnecessary and costly Government and Council controls.
2. That any committees, both local and statutory, which involve farming or associated works should have adequate and fair representation on them by practical farming landholders and such representatives be locally based.
3. That prior to any restrictions being placed on land just and fair compensation be agreed to by landholders.
4. That this association be a means of communication between groups so that each group has a better understanding of the workings of State and Local Government and how to deal with both authorities.
5. That the freehold title of land must be always recognised as an inalienable right not to be interfered with by Government or any Semi-Government Authority.
6. That besides the issues of land controls other matters affecting farm practices such as water rights, wetlands, roads and bridges are matters of which this Combined Association will be involved.
7. That we are committed to sustainable and best practice agricultural and environmental uses. To encourage other to do likewise and offer cooperation to Council and Government in carrying out research and other acceptable methods in relation to farm practice to achieve these aims.
8. Under special circumstances this Association could support proposals to secure funds which could improve viability of landholders.
9. That we are strictly Not Politically affiliated.
10. That todays attendance represents the affiliation of various groups to constitute the Combined Landholders Association. Any other group desirous of joining our associations may make application and such application will be considered as long as it meets our objectives.
11. The existance of the Combined Landowners Association in no way effects the work and freedom of any affiliated groups.
12. These objectives are subject to change by a majority vote of delegates.

Groups represented included: Upper Manning Water Users, Oyster Reach Landowners Group, Manning Public Gates & Motor Bypass Task Force, Gloucester Rural Lands Protection Board, Lansdowne Landcare, Community Landholders Environment Group, NSW Farmers, NSW Regional Farmers Group, Dairy Farmers Group, Private Native Forestry, Manning Delta Landholders Protection Committee.

Many individual landholders have since joined the group. While the many groups represented and individuals are anxious about different specific issues, all the issues share a common theme of landholder land / property rights.

Thankyou to the many people working toward a fairer, more equitable solution for these issues.

Kathryn Varrica
(Group Liasion Officer - CLA, Coordinator - CLEG)

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(12)Two Letters concerning unauthorised Dams in the US - Judith McGeorge

Dear Mr. DeVries:
It has come to the attention of the
Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent
unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property.
You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor
who did the following unauthorized activity: Construction and
maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of
Spring Pond. A permit must be issued prior to the start of this
type of activity. A review of the Department's files shows that no
permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined
that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and
Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act,

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed
during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at
downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are
inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department
therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this
location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by
removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream
channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than
January 31, 2002.
Sincerely,
David L. Price
District Representative Land and Water
Management Division

This is the actual response sent back........
Dear Mr. Price,
Your certified letter dated 12/17/01 has been
handed to me to respond to. First of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not
the legal Landowner and/or Contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson,
Michigan. I am the legal owner and a couple of beavers are in the
(State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two
wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond.
While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam
project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their
skillful use of natures building materials "debris." I would like
to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam
project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can
safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills,
their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam
persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.As
to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they
must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of
dam activity. My first dam question to you is: (1) Are you trying
to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or (2) do you
require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam
request? If you are not discriminating against these particular
beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request
completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits
that have been issued. Perhaps we will see if there really is a
dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural
Resource and Environmental Protection Act.

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(13) PROGRESS REPORT ON PROPERTY RIGHTS AUSTRALIA. - ASHLEY McKAY

Dear Friends,

This report is to inform interested people of progress in the on-going saga of prosecutions for land related allegations by Qld Department of Natural Resources and Mining (D.N.R. & M.)

There has been one meeting held at Torres Park on December 1st and another was held in Charleville on December 20th. These meetings were to offer moral support and pledge financial support to me and my fight over alleged tree clearing breaches with D.N.R. & M.

As a result of these meetings an organization name PROPERTY RIGHTS AUSTRALIA was formed. Dominic Devine, principal of Devine Agribusiness, Charleville, is the interim Chairman of the group. The organization already has committed support from landholders, stock agents and rural based businesses, such as fuel suppliers and rural merchants. It is clearly understood that all rural people are involved and that this is a fight we cannot afford to lose.

Property Rights Australia is independent and is focused on Land and Water rights. It will complement existing organizations such as Agforce and National Farmers Federation. It is not an opposition organization.

It is our aim to encourage all Queensland landholders to take out a “Legal Expenses Insurance Policy” through the AON Group. The contact number is 07 3223 7400 and the Manager is Ken Shaw. The Policy covers up to $50,000 for any one claim and $100,000 overall cover, including Tax Audits in any one year. This cover gives vital protection to the Policy Holder should they be prosecuted for any of the highly technical, suspect and trivial allegations being pursued by the D.N.R. & M. Compliance Unit.

The Fighting Fund is to cover the Landmark Cases where the Insurance Policy cover has expired or been expended and where funding from the N.F.F. / Australian Farmers Fighting Fund is not available.

The interim Executive has pledged to support the landmark Torres Park Case as their first priority. At stake are some principals and precedents which will effectively cripple landholders’ rights to exercise permits and authorities granted by Departments in the State.

The facts are:
Torres Park was granted no less than four permits to clear land infested with Cypress Pine.
The land under permit was inspected no less than three times by DNR & M officers.
The last inspection viewed clearing already carried out under the first two permits, including pine infested clearing. No breaches of the permit were found.
As a result of this inspection and obvious satisfaction with the compliance standard, a further two permits were issued which doubled the area permitted to be cleared.
This increased area to be cleared under permit was inspected as far as possible.
The area under permit included areas that DNR Forestry later claimed, after the clearing was completed, were Commercial Cypress areas.
The permits did not prohibit the clearing of virgin Cypress Pine in the initial clearing operation.

The vital principle now at stake is this:

1. What is the validity of a Tree Clearing Permit issued by D.N.R. when one section obviously approved it but another section has a different interpretation and prosecutes the holder for exercising the Permit ?
2. Is a permit worth the paper it is written on, when a clearing standard that was lawful, after inspection in 1997 by D.N.R. Officers, is deemed to be unlawful in 1999 after inspection by different D.N.R. Officers.
3. How can a Landholder have any confidence in exercising a Permit, when on the one hand the Permit Map approved the clearing of large areas of Cypress Pine type country, yet on the other hand the Department can claim that it is an offence to clear one single Pine Tree in the Permit Map area. Clearly this is an impossible task and renders the Permit worthless.
4. If the Principle of interpretation, which underpins the Crown’s Case, is not defeated in the Courts, then no Permit Holder in the future can ever be sure that they won’t be prosecuted under some obscure interpretation which was never that intent of the original Permit.

CONCLUSION:

We now have a Landmark Case, which will have dramatic and far reaching consequences for all Landholders in Queensland. To lose this case and establish a precedent that a Government Agency can successfully re-interpret or make a “correction” to a permit after the work has been done will virtually bring all major land development work in Queensland to a standstill.

An acquittal on the major Case should reinforce the following principles/precedents.
No Government Agency that makes an error when granting an authority/permit is allowed to prosecute the holder of the authority/permit for exercising the flawed approval.

If a Government Agency issues an authority/permit which includes a condition that is impossible for the holder of the authority/permit to lawfully exercise and is subsequently breached, then the Agency shall not be permitted to prosecute the holder for failing to abide by the impossible condition.

No Permit/Authority can be interpreted to give a changed condition to that Authority after the work has been carried out and then use that changed condition to prosecute the holder of that Authority.
The support of all Queensland Landholders and Rural Businesses is sought. Stock Transporters and Meat Processing companies also have a lot to lose if Landholders and their production regimes are reduced by draconian and idealistic Land and Water Policies.

PRA has my full support and confidence to carry a focused campaign against the forces currently arranged against the interests of Queensland’s Landholders.

It is a fact that in the main the only views that count in current land related Policy are those of the Government, the Department and the Conservation movement. Landholders views are largely ignored.

If you support D.N.R. Officers who recommend prosecutions on false grounds then do nothing.
If you support D.N.R. Officers who give verbal authority for action but other Officers Charge people for that action, do nothing.
If you believe that the Regional Ecosystem Maps and the Salinity Hazard Maps are accurate in context and pose no threat to your future, do nothing.
If you support the secret tape recordings of Landholders by Government Officers, do nothing.
If you support the destruction of $400,000 worth of crops because of a D.N.R. decision then do nothing.
If you support the changing of an Ecosystem Map after a purchaser has spent over a $1m on a property and consequently it cannot be developed as per the original advises from D.N.R., then do nothing.
If you support an order that requires a Landholder who has never been convicted of an Offence, to destock land, and interfere with the management of dams, cattle yards and the homestead, for alleged remedial purposes to allow regrowth to establish on old rung-barked country, then do nothing.

I ask you to become involved in this battle. If we lose this fight we simply lose everything we have all achieved over many years and the sadder part is that there will be no future for our Children. Please help if you can.

Ashley Mc Kay,
Torres Park,
AUGATHELLA. 4477 ph 07 46 549 157

* Property Rights Australia is now asking for donations to help it fight the Torres Park Case. Give Ashley a call if you can help.

See you next time

Leon Ashby