Stories of injustice
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Opal Mining Regulations - The Two Faces of the NSW Government
As the Premier vows to apply the full weight of the law on alleged juvenile arsonists, who he believes have destroyed huge areas of forest, his own Ministry supervises the destruction of a large track of land in north western NSW.
The Narran-Warrambool Reserve Lightning Ridge was formed in 1988 and encompasses approximately 52,000 sq km of the Western Water Catchment and the Great Australian Basin. Its boundaries are Queensland to the north, the Narran River (which supplies water to Ramsar protected wetlands "Narran Lake Nature Reserve") to the west, the Big Warrambool River to the east and the Barwon River to the south.
The Department of Mineral Resources is responsible for granting or renewing of authorities, mineral claims and opal prospecting licences. Opal mining began on the Grawin Field in the Lightning Ridge area between 1901/05 and since the discovery and establishment of the Sheepyard Opal Field in 1986/87, the Coocoran Opal Field 1989, there has been continuing concern expressed at the impact such `rushes' have on the environment and the viability of agricultural enterprises.
The impact of a new rush or field results from the speed at which it develops and the apparent unplanned manner in which it is established. The Mining Act provides that, subject to registering a claim and entering into a compensation agreement with the landholder, a claimholder is entitled to commence mining activities on a claim immediately without any other form of prior approval. Should the landholder not agree to the mining activity, the matter is referred to the Mining Warden, who then adjudicates the mining activity. There is no recourse by the landholder.
When, within a short period of time, a large number of claimholders seek to exercise their rights under these circumstances, the existing provisions of the Mining Act provide little effective practical means of managing a planned development of a new field or the environmental impacts.
The Mining Act pays particular attention to the marking-out and registration of claims and provides, in part, for the control of activities of claims. It also provides the landholder or occupier with various rights in respect of notification, compensation for agricultural land and general nuisance caused by claimholders.
These provisions, however, can become less than effective as the number of registered claims and claimholders within a very localised area increases beyond a certain limit. Where a `rush' on a new field develops, a large number of claims are marked out and registered in a matter of a few days. During this period miners establish access in and out of the area, and very quickly these tracks become the recognised roads. Problems with fencing, stock access to water, disturbance to residences, and environmental damage, are very likely to become major issues of concern for the pastoralists. Rubbish and litter are left behind as prospectors and miners move camp, leaving the fields strewn with car bodies, household items and general rubbish (media release 07/01 DMR Cleanup Annoucement).
There are more than 6,000 mineral claims active each year in the Lightning Ridge area and currently over $7,000 a year is forfeited in security money to clean up sites and an additional $20,000 has been allocated to the Lightning Ridge Opal Fields under the Derelict Mines Program for 2001/02.
The Mining Act, and its Regulations, does not satisfactorily provide for the management of this type of mass involvement as acknowledged by Mineral Resources on behalf of the Lightning Ridge Mining Board in 1997 (publication A Management Plan for New Opal Fields).
In 1986/87, opal bearing clays were discovered at what is now called the Sheepyard. As the result of a combination of factors, the area developed almost overnight into a major and very substantial rush, resulting in the registration of over 800 claims and the establishment of a new community. This happening at the sheepyard had a major impact on those concerned.
Since the beginning of the 1980's a series of events have overtaken the traditional operation of the opal fields. These include the development of drill rigs fitted with 9 inch auger drills for prospecting, a substantial rise in the price of opal, an increase in the level of mechanisation (both underground and open cut) and an increased capacity to process opal clay. In combination, all these factors have resulted in two significant changes - the incentive to prospect for opal beyond the old fields and an increase in the total number of registered claims.
As a result, new areas of country are being intensively prospected and undisturbed areas are now the subject of intense mining activity. In March 1995 the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (DUAP) issued its "Best Practice Guidelines for Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979". This document presented the factors that should be taken into account when considering the likely impact of an activity on the environment. One of the points raised in DUAP's document was that all proposed activities should have an appropriate level of environmental impact assessment (EIA). Additionally, the level of EIA should reflect the level of likely environmental significance of impacts.
Currently, the onus is on the proponent (miner) of the mining activity to demonstrate the likely significance of impacts upon the environment. To date there has not been an EIS, EIA or the very minimum, a species impact statement preformed or a socio-economic assessment to ensure all stake holders are compensated accordingly.
The establishment of an Environmental and Rehabilitation committee comprising representatives from all stakeholders, should be established to assess the overall environmental impact of ongoing mining activity and ensure the Department is following its own guidelines.
There isn't a great deal of scientific logic behind allowing self assessment, when it comes to ones economic viability! We would all chose to earn more given the appropriate capacity to do so.
Timber too valuable to mill, but not valuable enough for conservation - Dawn Parker & Warren Thomas
We bought our property in 1984, prior to the introduction of the land clearing regulations. The 916 hectares comprised about 180 hectares cleared and sown to pasture, the balance supporting many stands of mature timber suited for sawlog and pulp production. Timber production has long been a major industry in the area , on both private and public land, so it seemed a sound business decision.
The plan was to harvest the timber gradually and selectively, using the process and the proceeds to bring into grazing production a further 300 ha., thereby creating a viable farming enterprise. The eventual sale of this developed asset would provide for a reasonably comfortable, independently funded retirement.
It is probably important to state that we do not belong to the 'rape and pillage' school of natural resource use and the plan for clearing took sound account of the need to leave many hectares of timber standing where it would provide shelter for stock, protection from erosion by wind or water, seed banks, filter areas and buffer zones and preserve aesthetic values. We have also spent much time and money voluntarily initiating or cooperating in action to address some necessary restoration or preventative works. (for eg. fencing watercourses against damaging stock access, fencing remnant vegetation, establishing shelterbelts , replacing and supplementing sofl nutrients, etc.)
When introduced, the clearing regulations stopped this development by forbidding the establishment of pasture on large areas and therefore preventing the cattle herd expansion expansion. Without the extra cattle numbers the cash flow level was not sufficient to satisfy the normal requirements of a progressing business.
In addition, the asset value of the land was reduced, rather than increased, since it was earning nothing and was made unsaleable.
We could not go forward and the restrictions placed on land use ensured that we could not call it quits and go out sideways. No farmer wanted to buy the land, the government didn't want to buy the land, (the timber species were of such value that we must leave them growing, but not so valuable as to warrant government purchase), no "bush lovers' wanted to buy the land because, as one estate agent pointed out, 'There's lots of public bush nearby and they can have that for free.'
Farm size too small ( in terms of carrying capacity) to be viable
Debt still with us and of course, still costing money
Reduced asset value
Unsaleable and unusable assets
Little or no prospect of a 'comfortable' let alone a self- funded retirement
The anxiety continues.
A conservative estimate of the difference between the actual and what would have been without the impediment of land clearing restrictions. This does take into account other things which interrupt progress, like droughts, floods, drops in market prices, periods of high interest rates. But these are normal risk management matters and are planned for.
What If Actual
Land Value $1,170,000 $501,000
Cattle Value $300,000 $150,000
Annual Income (gross) $180,000 $90,000
Cumulative income loss over 10 years allowing for incremental growth in herd size and the cost of achieving that: $412,000
The calculation of actual costs would dig deeper and include, for example, interest costs for debt maintained at a high level rather than reducing, income foregone from diversified investments of surplus, etc.
This calculation also assumes some degree of farm and financial management skill, of course, but there is some evidence that we do have a bit of that.
Time spent travelling and lobbying - all to no avail so far - Lots
Time spent preparing documentation - Lots
Time spent trying to think of ways forward - Lots
(This is not facetious. I just don't know how to calculate it.)
Anxiety and stress - Lots and lots.
I do not think it extreme to suggest that the expectation that private individuals
must bear the costs of public good conservation measures, and the distress caused by the trapdoor thus opened, has actually ended some lives prematurely.
This may seem dramatic, but I'm fairly sure it's real. The point is perhaps, that the sheer magnitude of the effect on individuals and families has been sufficient to cause this. Perhaps not on its own but as a last straw or as the factor which made a bad situation inescapable. Certainly the quality of many lives has been most adversely affected.
To us, this is not a question of whether the inequitable Imposition of costs on individuals must be redressed now and avoided in the future, but just how can it be done and how soon.
Dawn Parker and Warren Thomas
World Heritage Listing - 18 years of heartache - Ted & Marianne Richardson
Ted and Marianne Richardson live in the far southwest of NSW. They were married in 1981, and purchased "Gampang Station" a property about 180kms from Midura, that had been owned by Ted's father, and had been In the family for over 70 years.
In that same year, 1981, the Wran Government recommended to the Fraser Government that Ted's property and those of sixteen of his neighbours should be included in an area to be designated the willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, under the United Nations World Heritage convention
And so the heartache began.
Ted and Marianne only found out that their property was included In the World Heritage area when local newspapes carried the story. They were reassured by NSW government officials. that the listing would have little impact, and that a plan of management would be In operation within 12 months.
Little more was heard about the listing. Then suddenly in 1983, Ted and his neighbours were toId they could no longer crop any of the land included in the Heritage area.
Not surprisingly, the landholders were very upset and called for a socio economic study to be carried out, which would be the basis of any compensation they might receive.
Finally in 1985 the Commonwealth and State Governments agreed that the study would be conducted. Despite the concerns of the farmers, nothing much happened. They became caught in a bureaucratic "bIackhole" where the Commonwealth and the NSW Government alternately blamed each other for the lack of any action.
In 1989, eight years after the listing, a consultant was finally engaged to develop a plan of management tor the area. That initial plan of management was rejected and a subsequent plan was started in 1993. This resulted in what was called a 'strategic issues document' being released in 1994. By this time the powers-that-be had decided the landholders could resume cropping.
By 1994, Ted and Marianne had 5 children. Their eldest child who wasn't even born when the area was listed was now ten years old, and still the landholders were in limbo.
During that year UNESCO visited the area, and recommended that almost half of the land should be removed from the listing, and the status of the rest significantly downgraded. This was vehemently rejected by the relevant scientific experts in Australia, perhaps because it would have cast doubt on the professionalism of their Initial assessments.
Work progressed on the management plan, and the June long weekend in 1995 was set down for its release. All the relevant State and Commonwealth bureaucrats, the scientific experts, and the landholders met over three days at Mungo National Park to consider the plan.
There was a lot of preliminary discussion until finally the time came for the scientists to put up the maps of each of the properties, with the areas at total exclusion outled In red, and areas requiring special management in orange. it was dear to all that seven properties would have to close down.
After that meeting, work finally started on the socio economic impact study that would detemine the compensation each of the landholders should receive.
On and on went the processes - draft socio economic study, consultation, arguements between Federal and State, negotiations over compensation, even negotiations over who should pay the legal costs associated with the compensation.
Finally, the first of the landholders were paid some compensation for their properties in mid-1997, sixteen years after the area had been listed.
Settlement for the finaI two landholders was made in June 1999, eighteen years after the area was world heritage listed.
Ted and Marianne live in Mildura now with their kids, the youngest of whom is now ten There is some irony in the fact that Ted now leases the bulk of his original property and runs sheep on it and as yet no work has been undertaken to exclude the areas that were considered so 'Important''.
Water Rights Evaporate - MR & DS Clapham
I borrowed sixty thousand dollars and spent one hundred and ten thousand dollars on an irrigation system after obtaining a water licence to extract water from Lawsons Creek at Mudgee to grow lucerne. Two years later, when renewing my licence, a condition was added which restricted my licence. I could only pump while there was a visible flow one kilometre upstream. This on average prevented me from pumping from mid December until an autumn break , even though the creek continued to flow underground and there was a good flow at the point of extraction . The creek is unregulated.The land I irrigate is leased. Mudgee Shire Council is the Lessor and utilize the ground water for town water supply. A condition of my lease is that I may not extract any ground water.
I have had my gross income from this business cut in half on average with no recompense. The conditions for water extraction to come out of the current round of water reform will be interesting for me to say the least. I cannot do capital works to store water. The land is riparian and flood prone.
We expect Governments to act in the interests of the wider community,but their decisions should reconcile with a "code of ethics" .The legislation that they bring in should be fair and equitable and represent balanced views.In NSW we as farmers have seen little of that.
MR & DS Clapham,
Guidelines don`t enhance Sustainablity- John & Ann Madden
John Madden and his wife Ann have four children and live on their property 100 kilometres west of Moree. John owns and runs the property in partnership with his sister.
Their property is just over 8,000 acres and is run as a mixed farm comprising Wheat, cotton cattle and sheep. The Madden's only cuitivate 2,300 acres of their property, leaving 5,700 acres under native vegetation. However, they need to work at least 4,000 acres to break even and upwards of that to be financially viable.
Unfortunately for the Madden`s their application to farm another 700 acres was rejected under the seemingly ever-changing guidelines governing native vegetation.
The land in question contains some Coolibah trees but the majority of groundcover is scrub, thistle, roly-poly and weeds making it unsuitable for grazing. The Madden's had wanted to use the land to plant wheat to enable better crop rotation thus protecting current cropped land from over use. It has been difficult to achieve good weed control because of the problems with drift to surrounding crops and the high cost of chemicals.
John Madden will abide by the decision but he doesn`t believe it is fair that his family carry the entire burden for the whole community.
"It`s not right that someone sitting in an office in the city has the power to make decisions like this. Some property owners will get through and be given another chance, others like my family have that opportunity taken away."
We`ve been told not to use part of our land because it should be preserved and as a result we face the very real prospect of going broke," said Mr Madden.
Strangely, under the criteria for rejection, the response from the State Government stated that while the extra 700 acres would be beneficial economically to the Madden's and the local area, the economic benefit would be insignificant to the state and as such was one reason the application was turned down.
In this situation the current guidelines on clearing don't enhance sustainability and good land management practices
Ann has travelled to Moree for the past 14 years to help pay the bills and educate their children who had to go to boarding school because there is no local high school. They are still supporting two daughters at university
John Madden fears for the security of his family farm, a property that has been part of his family since 1896.
Walgett Property Locked in - James & Louise Foster
The State has taken away many of my assets and opportunities without paying for them. I have a 6000- hectare property, which has 28 km of river frontage. What I once considered an asset is now a liability. I cannot develop 500 m's on either side of the river, nor can I develop any of the flood plains because they might be potential-habitat for three species of birds listed as threatened and one skink listed as threatened. There is no doubt in my mind, my right to earn a living has been taken away. On my application, under financial benefits the economic return to the community was not considered high enough. i.e.If I could employ five or more people, instead of one, it would have been beneficial. No consideration was given to me and my family. It was a case of bad luck - move somewhere else! I estimate my losses at a minimum of $100,000.00 per year. All of the above is for the public-good conservation.
The state has locked me into a sheep enterprise which is becoming less profitable, in order to meet public policy outcomes that are of no benefit to me! The urban population that supports these policies have no idea of the impact on farmers - nor do they care! It doesn't impact on them. They can sit in their lounge rooms sipping wine, and tell each other what a wonderful cause they are supporting and how they are saving the bush from the red necks who live there. Occasionally they venture over the Blue Mountains and use my back yard as their personal playground, then head back to suburbia leaving their rubbish and effluent. Ignorance is bliss because they don't contribute a single dollar to the cost of public-good conservation.
Nor do they understand locking up country without managing it is a bigger environmental problem.
Many farmers, like myself, are being forced to run more stock and put more pressure on our land, just to stay afloat. It's not something we want to do, but are being forced into by current legislation. Charles Sturt University scientists did a study on the value of native vegetation conservation to farmers. They concluded that the costs clearly outweighed any benefits and that conservation requires significant financial incentives. Melbourne University has released two reports and reached exactly the same conclusion. The industry Commission report released said the same thing. Farmers will have to be paid for the extra costs, and the lost opportunities. In my mind, conservation by confiscation is nothing short of theft!
Custodial taxation is a major factor in the demise of our rural heritage, premature reallocation of primary production resources and destruction of traditional rural social fabric. Its iniquitous administration places almost the entire physical and financial burden on the .6% of the NSW population with less than .1% of that population incurring more than 80% of the total cost. "Custodial taxation is regressive, inconsistently applied and directly affects societies lowest personal income earners." - Micheal Brennan, Ecological Economist.
On my property (3rd generation), conservation is second nature. I know my property and can decide what areas need protection and what areas would benefit from development. The State and Commonwealth can tout the benefits of conservation and do the top-down approach to enforce their beliefs, but in the end farmers are part of the equation and you have to take us into consideration!
James and Louise Foster
Walgett, NSW 2832
WA Landholder enterprises sacrificed for Public Good - Mark Douglas
A case in point is the example of a young farming family from Binnu, located at the northern end of the Northern Agricultural Region of Western Australia. With about 22% of the property left as remnant vegetation and 300 hectares designed for development for agricultural purposes the Harris family commenced initial communications with the Government agencies playing a role in the Notice of Intention to Clear (N.O.I.) process.
At a very early stage of those discussions it became quite evident that their intention to clear and develop the 300 hectares would not meet land-clearing guidelines. From that point their communications with the agencies was discontinued. 300 hectares effectively locked up. Property development plan reviewed. Public good intact.
Clearly this has placed a significant financial impact on the farm business' forward plan. Over the working lifetime of the Harris family the figure would probably be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Property values at this point in time are correlated to cleared, arable hectares therefore another property value constriction is placed on this property in the name and spirit of the public good.
Mark Douglas Geraldton WA
Only offered 25% valuation after rights removed - Tom Price
I am concerned at the gradual but certain erosion of property rights.When such rights are taken for the Public Good then the public must expect to give a just compensation as we are all citizens of the commonwealth . I can not see why the states are not forced to conform to the same laws as the commonwealth.We are already victims of this situation and having the right to clear our land taken from us we have been offered 25% of the valuer generals valuation.
T G Price
RMB 221 PINGELLY WA 6308
Regulations make bushland worth 8 % of original value - Warren Wait
I am writing to express my concerns with regulations that have been placed on my property. We have approximately 500 acres of bushland which cannot be cleared , before the regulations came in this was worth approximately $125.00 per acre now it is battling to be worth $10.00 per acre. This is an injustice that I
have had to suffer. Its alright for all those people in the cities to want to save the trees etc but I am the one that bears the cost of it. I am the one that is responsible for the rabbits in that area, I'm the one responsible for the weeds, I'm the one who has to do the fencing around the area. I can't heavily stock the area in case I harm the trees. I believe that I should have been entitled to some form of compensation or even better still they could have bought the land at valuation , the cost of saving native vegetation would have then been borne by all the community.
In our community there is a lot of examples of how regulations are making it harder for farmers to survive. Farmers in the main are into conservation but I believe that regulations have gone too far here in Victoria.
Warren Wait, Edenhope, Vic
52 native species on 12 ha costs owner over $3,000 / yr - SA Advisory Board of Agriculture
A 12 ha block of native bushland situated near Saddleworth in the Lower North of South Australia contains at least 52 native plant species (recorded during a recent survey). This represents a high plant diversity for B. odonata woodland, given the size of the block and the level of clearance in the district. It is one of only a few, relatively undisturbed areas of natural bush being preserved in the area.
The valuation for rating purposes is $44000 or $3 700 per ha. Current Council rates are $270 annually. An Emergency Services Levy of $61-05 has been added. If the valuation is correct (it is actually way above current cleared land values), then to preserve this area for community benefit, the owner is paying at least $3000 a year.
The area was placed under a Heritage Agreement 12 months ago but Council rates in 1999 were still paid by the owner and it has not escaped the Emergency Services Levy.
There are many more examples where it is the landholders that pay for the benefits of conservation for the whole community. There needs to be more equitable cost-sharing arrangements made to accompany conservation controls.
Rodney Bell CHAIRMAN
Advisory Board of Agriculture SA
Endemic Species conserved by struggling graziers - Margaret House
Our next door neighbours have several hectares of wonderful natural springs. In these springs there have been identified a species of fish and two species of plants which are found nowhere else in the world! Totally unique to this place.
These people are struggling financially. We have had drought for seven years in the last eight and a half. These people could greatly increase their overall production and help to drought proof themselves if they fenced off the total springs area, planted introduced non-native pastures in the springs, then, when the next drought comes they would have abundant feed for their stock.
They have received advice from naturalists that this course of action would almost certainly choke out the rare plants, greatly reduce the water supply and probably kill out the rare fish. Our neighbours have agreed to preserve the springs in their current natural state.
However, as you can see, it is at great expense and future sacrifice to themselves. They alone are sacrificing their own income and standard of living to protect a wonderful natural resource. For whom???
The rest of Australia. They receive not a word of thanks, not a cent of assistance!
Is this fair and Just?
Margaret House, Aramac, Qld
Trees not endangered enough and land disappears off a title - Joe & Georgie Crowe
I have a farm with an arable area of 380 ha situated in the southwest of Victoria. One block of 130 ha still has around 32 ha of so called remnant vegetation which has become a considerable burden to our overall viability since the anti clearing legislation was introduced.
Initially the local shire had it valued at $700 per acre - the same as the surrounding cleared and productive country. After the anti clearing legislation, we naturally lodged an objection with the local shire who did reduce the value of the bush section but to what we don't know, and can't seem to find out. We suspect it to be around $300 to $350, as there was a similar block brought by a conservation fund (with government assistance) within a couple of miles of this block. After numerous meetings with various politicians and the DNRE, etc., we are told there could be a possible further reduction -From a commercial point of view this block of trees is totally worthless and a burden to our enterprise and so are the rates we have to pay on it.
We have also tried to sell it to various people including the trust for nature. After several visits from various environmental representatives it appears it is not endangered enough to be given any consideration. Again this leaves us with little or no room to manoeuvre. Carbon credits seem to be targeted towards the plantation industry and there seems to be little or no information on the subject or time frame on implementation which suggests that they will be of little or no benefit.
We are also in a burgeoning blue gum area. They are prepared to pay up to $4000 per ha for clear sowable county compared to $270 per ha for bush which in all likely hood would be deducted from the sowable ground. This leaves us with a loss of $119,000 which could make all the difference in our ability to up-grade, and to remain financially sustainable. Token gestures of $1.20 contribution to internal fencing (nothing for boundary fences) and rate relief pale into insignificance in comparison.
There are also many neighbours in the immediate area with the same problem.
PROBLEM 2 potential problem
The Eumeralla river also splits our main block in two. There is no easement on either side of the river so we assume to own to the banks of the river. Over most of the year it is just a stream but in winter it can inundate large areas of the farm, so drainage or removal of cumbungi to improve water flow is crucial. This is also exasperated by people up stream improving their drainage into the river so we have to cope with larger amounts of water over shorter periods of time. A lot of the up stream works has been funded with government money through drainage schemes etc. We have no problems with the above, providing we can keep our section relatively clean (always done at our own cost) For the last decade or so we have had to apply for permission to clean the river out ,why I don't know. A wetland heritage area has been applied for downstream and if successful could severely impact on our drainage program.
We also now find a "river zone" has been created which consists of an arbitrarily line drawn some distance out from each bank of the river. The lines' course doesn't seem to follow wet land areas so how a decision was arrived at in regards to its placement is a mystery - Also, no person or person came to investigate the natural topography of the land, nor to inform us this was indeed even happening. It seems to have been implemented by South West Water, but with no consulting landholders or the general public, some years ago. We had nearly completed all the conditions for a permit to mine agricultural lime when the council suddenly discovered the river zone. As luck would have it we were a metre outside this line which apparently must be rigidly adhered too. If we had been inside the line it would have cost $2000 to $6000 to shift the site.
Then there is the coastal zone which extends inland from the sea for some four to five hundred metres. Again introduced with no consultation and little or no publicity. The restrictions here are unknown to date, so we have no understanding of where we stand in relation to this area.
Just a few points in closing. This is not a degraded area, nor are there any salinity problems.
We are not environmental vandals and deeply resent being ostracized as
such. The religious zeal with which these policies seem to be implemented and enforced is worrying and fostering a strong community resentment. This is FREEHOLD LAND, so to be denied the use of it without being in any way compensated, but left with all the costs is "feel good" politics at its' absolute worst. Unfortunately I am not in a position to be a benevolent fund for the state of Victoria, or Australia and as no other sectors of the community have to foot the bill I am totally bewildered as to why I should.
My family has farmed this area since 1855. We have drained areas and we have cleared trees etc., as we were told to do by the governments ot the day. We are now sowing trees and I feel we are in a sustainable situation to the next 144 years - provided we are not sent broke under the guise of "environmental sustainability".
Joe Crowe Vic
PS In regards to point number 3. We have just had to change our Titles over from Old Law to Torrens The old title had a boundary at the high water mark which, due to the conversion, seems to have retreated some three or four hundred metres inland. Again we seem to have lost land we own and have paid rates on. That a government or any body acting on its behalf can fiddle with titles unknown to the title holder must surely be operating outside its own constitutional and legal parameters. Again I can only emphasize that this only gets people offside. In most cases these are the very people that if one is serious about conservation; are in control of the land and who are being alienated by the system. In a lot of ways you have to deal with a rural culture (independent, can do, anti authority) which policy makers seem not to have any concept of. If the system continues along these ways it might find little or no support from the people who can make the difference.
High Country heritage being stripped away - Peter Spencer
Peter Spencer should be on top of the world. After decades of work off-farm he has finally managed to buy back part of his lost heritage in the high country of the Cooma-Monaro.
But he says: "To me public good conservation means chipping away at my heritage until nothing is left"
Peter only has use of about 10 percent of his property and he says that if he wanted to proceed with an application to utilise more of his land under the Native Vegetation Conservation Act it would cost him $300,000 with no guarantee of success.
Who can afford that sort of gamble
Peter owns what is perhaps the highest farm in Australia reaching up 1600 metres into the sub alpine snow belt and watered by the icy cold, pristine rivers that tumble down the mountain side providing the only natural trout breeding environment in Australia.
Sixty per cent of the land that makes up his farm was ring-barked and cleared back in 1918 as a part of the soldier settlement scheme. Since then much of the vegetation has grown back as scrub - what Peter describes as rubbish when he compares it to the glorious mountain ash forest that sits high on his land like a crown jewel.
Yet, when Peter wanted to develop some of this previously cleared land for agro-forestry, growing eucatyyts and conifers to graze his sheep and cattle under, he was blocked by SEPP 46 and now the Native Vegetation Act, even though a massive agroforestry farm plan had been previouly drawn up and approved by the Department of Land and Water Conservation with the help of an international expert in agroforestry.
He was also blocked for three years from breeding trout in a series of ponds he wanted to build as a part of a recreational fishing/tourist enterprise. Massive infrastructure costs were absorbed as he built his tourist accommodation and significant opportunities for tourist revenue were lost from the local community.
Peter Spencer is no Chardonnay-sipping greenie, but nor is he a rip it up and tear it down red neck.
He had planned his heritage carefully. He wanted his farm to achieve the proper balance between the environment and production - selective logging of his mountain ash, trout fishing and grazing fine wool sheep and hardy high country cattle amongst a new forest of soft and hardwood timbers.
"Instead I've been blocked at every point. If I was not fortunate enough to have had access to off-farm.. income; I would have gone broke long ago because of the restrictions the government has placed on me."
Nursery gets caught doing the right thing - Don Fleming
Whilst we empathise with the thrust of conservation controls within reason, our concern relates to a rural property we purchased in late 1989 for the purpose of growing nursery trees thereon.
We initially checked that the property could be used for our intended purpose, however during the course of time the Act changed and the current planning scheme has now rendered the property worthless in regard to the purpose for
which it was originally purchased, or for that matter to even sell it to anyone else at a reasonable price.
In the interim, we have been required to ensure noxious weed and blackberry control and the removal of vermin, feral cats, etc. Added to this was a problem with squatters facilitating the old sheds and the property was used as a dumping ground for old cars and associated rubbish.
The sheds were in a dilapidated state and we therefore removed these as well as the dumped cars with the use of a bulldozer. Now we are before the tribunal for "damaging the undergrowth".
From our viewpoint, the conservation movement has placed a blanket control on our property without any redress by us. We fail to see why we should be penalised by covering the cost of the property and its ongoing maintenance and this does not even take into consideration our obligation to pay rates, land tax, etc. for land that we cannot utilise. From our viewpoint, the land has not only depreciated in value, it is a costly encumberance. In essence, this is privately owned land is being maintained for the public at the expense of the owner.
Don Fleming, Monbulk, Vic
Responsible Investment plan sunk- Fiveways landcare
The devaluing of the capital value of landholdings is one of the hidden costs associated with these measures. For example, a property of 3107.59ha was purchased in 1994 for $105,000 for development purposes. From 1911, when the settlement lease was taken up, until 1994 an area of 120ha had been cleared, leaving 2980ha of modified timber and vegetation. From 1994 to 1999 a further 280ha were cleared, to a total of 400ha, leaving 2700ha. Under the current plans for maintaining remnant vegetation, no substantial clearing will be allowed, so the 2700ha now has a limited capacity to produce a return on investment to the landholder. It was the intention of the landholder to develop the property to a level of 2000ha cleared, leaving 1100ha in its current state (modified timber, regrowth and vegetation). if this additional development occurred the commercial value of this property would be increased to $456,000). This one landholder is forgoing $351,000 in capital improvement on his land investment.
Gabriella Holmes - Fiveways Landcare Group , Nyngan NSW