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Kachana News

Kachana at the end of 2004

As 2004 draws to its end we have much to digest...

In short life is both interesting as well as exciting and the team is well...

Wishing you and your loved ones all the blessings of Christmas and a rewarding 2005!

The Kachana Team.

Please find below further reading, which gives an up-to-date insight to the challenges of building ecological foundations in an “inaccessible” part of Australia’s magnificent Kimberley Region:

A “last frontier” ?

or is this perhaps

“One of the first regions on the planet that experienced human-induced climatic change” ?

December 2004 and the conclusion to a two year episode in our management history:

Kachana Station, Kachana Pastoral Company P. L. and KSRP;

Kimberley Sustainable Regions Program…. (The Kimberley region of North-West Australia)

As surely as profitability is most easily measured in dollars, so could “sustainability” be measured in carbon. This may seem a simplification and perhaps it is… of course there are other criteria we can look at e.g.:

In the bigger picture however, nothing can be considered to be sustainable while landscapes surrounding farms and towns are losing groundcover, soil and moisture. Carbon increase in our soils through natural means is one of the surest ways to measure a net increase in natural wealth. (It really is as simple [and as telling] as whether a growing child is losing or gaining weight. It seems that all functioning landscapes on the planet will “grow” soil and in the process tie up carbon until a limiting factor is reached, or a physically, biologically or human induced event causes a release, a transfer or a loss of carbon.)

As managers of Kachana Station we have since 1985 been in a position to gather much first-hand experience of what is actually taking place in remote upper-river rainfall-catchment areas of the central Kimberley. Magnificent as the country is, the story that it tells is one of ecological woe; one of neglect and ignorance reaching from the managerial levels to the most senior levels in government. - We attach no blame in this statement; it is simply an observation. We are confronted with a situation that primarily calls for “regeneration”, not “sustainability” (as a community we cannot afford to sustain this scale of deterioration occurring in our remote rainfall-catchment areas). As new-comers to the area it took us a few years to realise what was happening, but we were not the only ones… modern science too, is only just catching up and it is most heartening to see that the Australian Landcare Farm Journal of December 2004 dedicates two whole pages to “Keeping an eye on the ground…” (P 26, P 27) and a further two pages on renewable fuel (P46, P 47).

Still intent on eventually justifying our pastoral tenure we continue to explore options that may be of local relevance. Our results are encouraging. As we approach our fourteenth wet season living as a family in a camp that is exposed to all the elements that shape our landscapes, the basic challenges remain:

We voice our concerns and ideas on the web

We back up our talk with action:

When the Kimberley Sustainable Regions Program came along with a “… vision … to have regions with a viable foundation for the future… ” (Page 5/48 in the Final Report Vol. 1., November 2002), here was a Government endorsed initiative funded by the fellow tax-earner that mirrored our own vision. We saw an opportunity to:

Given that tax-earner funds in excess of three million dollars are currently being spent on further researching the use of fire in this region, here was also an ideal opportunity to demonstrate how some of Australia’s “new mega-fauna” (in particular herding herbivores) could be used as an alternative to (or in combination with) ‘fire’ as a ‘tool’ for managing our landscapes. (See ABC TV Landline program: “To burn or not to burn”)

Lee Scott-Virtue and Danny Waser invested much time drafting out a proposal to that effect: i.e. a small scale model (but large enough to be commercially credible) using a trained cattle herd to revitalise the productivity of currently unproductive watershed country. After close to two years of changing goal posts, lost files, much talk, many meetings and number crunching the Kachana proposal was rejected.

There is little sense in speculating about what the real reasons were for the rejection.

One valuable lesson learned during this tedious process was that we do have a small, but growing number of supporters within the local community. (We sincerely thank you and we really value your support!)

It seems the other lesson may be that the local sustainability debate does not yet extend beyond sustaining measurable cash-extraction, and that “sustaining existing commercial activity” seems to take precedence over “learning how to stabilise or how to enhance our natural production base”. Furthermore it struck us that “cash-flow” seemed to be the main criteria for judging “sustainability” and that the carbon issue did not even rate in this program.

Though we really do regret the loss of time and effort we put into promoting our project submission, enough thought and planning went into it that we feel confident to proceed with many aspects of the proposed project. Obviously under the circumstances, our progress will not be as rapid as planned, because we cannot justify concentrating all our energies in just one area, nor can we justify the costs of gathering data and scientific substantiation of what takes place. The Alligator Creek Project will however continue to go ahead to demonstrate that the methods we use, do have commercial justification, as well as producing the more important long-term social and ecological benefits we require; progress will be reported as appropriate.

After all at the end of the day it's the results on the ground that count. Despite their great importance to the region/nation, remote upper-river rainfall-catchment areas remain commercially unattractive for most industries, with the exception of mining and tourism (Ironically in both of these cases landscape deterioration could arguably enhance profitability by lowering access costs and by highlighting geographical features!); existing industry cannot therefore be called upon to fund the restoration required. Hence the onus rests with government and government agencies. We feel it is primarily the lack of practical knowledge and skills within these circles that limit the speed with which desired results are being achieved out there in these broader landscape settings. To some extent there may also be a lack of perception of the level of urgency that these challenges deserve. We hope that discussions leading up to the official rejection of our submission for project-funding, have at least been helpful in creating more awareness within the ranks of bureaucratic decision-makers.

Meanwhile Kachana Pastoral Company aims to consolidate its position to cater for a portion of a growing demand in an exciting new growth area: The demand for regenerative practices. We can already offer:

The Alligator Creek Project will put us in a position to also service some of the demands of the existing red-meat industry.

As we now look forward to a new rainy season and a productive 2005, we wish you all the blessings of Christmas and a rewarding New Year.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Henggeler, Manager, Kachana Pastoral Company