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GRASSROOTS INPUT TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEBATES

Kachana Pastoral Company comment to the draft document entitled:

“A VISION FOR THE RANGELANDS”

“Prepared by the Natural Resource Management Office for consideration by the Natural Resource Management Council – for recommendation to the Minister for the Environment”

KPC comment:

There should be no dispute about the need for a shared vision to guide day-to-day decision-making both at policy levels and at the grass-roots. The good work that has gone into preparing the present Draft Rangelands Policy paper is commendable. With reference to our original input we herewith offer comment:

  1. Whilst the vision needs to outline where we wish to be headed, it is important that the general public, our policy makers and those on the ground (who are faced with the challenge of making this vision a reality,) are equally aware of the ecological “starting point” of wherever we happen to be geographically situated. In this sense it may be dangerous to omit reference to the fact that at the moment our rangelands are made up of landscapes that are generally dysfunctional at ‘eco-system function’ levels.

    In the context of the outlined vision this of course implies that in many instances “stabilisation”, “rehabilitation” and “enhancement” take precedent over “sustaining”. It would be socially unacceptable, managerially dubious and economically foolish to sustain degraded or dysfunctional landscapes. However it is generally beyond the scope of private enterprise to effectively address situations that are a result of historic mismanagement, years of negligence or the legacy of ill-informed policy-making.

    It would therefore seem appropriate to clearly state that the burden of “duty of care” in such instances remains with the community at large and not only with the current land-manager/tenant.

  2. Would it not be appropriate to complement the enterprise/industry stance (as predominantly reflected in this document) with a clearer focus on other vital functional roles that our rangelands must perform if we are to sustain Australia’s big-city and nutrient-export culture?

    Functions like:

    • Higher solar-energy intake and storage in rangeland environments
    • Higher carbon intake and storage in rangeland environments
    • The purification of the air and water
    • The capture, retention and then perennially reliable release of water
    • Providing for ecological stability at microclimate levels

    Leading edge technology now available in Australia enables us land-managers at the grass-roots to obtain a better understanding of these functions and what impact our individual and collective management actions may have on them: www.soilfoodweb.com

  3. The final document should be simply worded with transparent parameters so that it attracts ownership not only at policy and management levels, but also more importantly at the operational levels where the actual (day-to-day) human impacts on our environments occur.

    We cannot speak for other regions, but certainly the Kimberley has been subjected to much “land-care rhetoric” for well over a decade. This has (with few exceptions) been accompanied by continued environmental deterioration and a lack of effective communication between government bureaucracies and immediate stakeholder parties. This is the reason we are promoting a focus on practical solutions that people can see for themselves.

  4. Given the importance of such a vision there needs to be a transparent way of amending/enhancing the content, as new knowledge and experience is gathered out in the field.

    Appropriate incentives need also be put into place to gather, analyse and disseminate such knowledge. The fact remains that for each parcel of land the people directly on site and those directly dependent on its health (be they “downstream” or deriving a living off it) are those best suited to perform these tasks. To accept and to accommodate this calls for a further shift of paradigms.

    In this light we would also welcome a shift of focus from “condition” to one on “health”. (Healthy situations – be they at individual organism, at community or at landscape levels – can always more readily accommodate a change in conditions.)

Chris Henggeler, 05.08.2003