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|Editions > 2005 > December||Friday May 24, 2013 - Melbourne Time: 11:29:47|
Trust sustains rural business
You do all this environmental work on the farm but how do you know it really makes a dent? This was one of the burning questions that prompted South Australia’s Eastern Hills and Murray Plains Catchment Group to trial an Environmental Management System (EMS).
This trial is one of 16 projects funded under the Natural Heritage Trust’s $8.5 million EMS National Pilot Program. An EMS is a tool for managing the impacts of an organisation’s activities on the environment. It provides a structured approach to planning and implementing effective environment protection measures.
Similar to the way a financial management system monitors expenditure and income and enables regular checks of a company’s financial performance, an EMS monitors environmental performance.
The Eastern Hills and Murray Plains Catchment Group falls within the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, which covers about 250,000 hectares from the Mount Lofty Ranges in the west down to the Murray Plains.
Landholder Bruce Munday is leading the EMS trial, which is funded by the Natural Heritage Trust. He says that while there are many signs of where the catchment group has been – large areas of revegetation, scrub blocks and watercourses fenced off – the question still remains, “where is the evidence that this is really making our farms more sustainable?”
“An EMS requires the landholder to monitor, evaluate and remedy with a view to continuous improvement,” Bruce said. “The model we’ve chosen is the Australian Landcare Management System (ALMS) because it is catchment based, meaning everyone in the catchment can participate, regardless of the enterprises on their farm, and information about the condition of the catchment can be shared.
“ALMS has the added benefit in that it demands an attention to native birds and animals, insects, water borne macroinvertebates, soil micro-organisms.”
The pilot began with about 30 landholders from across the catchment, representing a range of enterprises, large and small. A series of workshops has given landholders the skills they need. The pilot projects are testing the value and benefit of environmental management systems to achieve natural resource management, profitable and sustainable farming practices and the ability to demonstrate good environmental stewardship to consumers and markets.
Bruce said the group has learned a great deal about implementing a project across a whole catchment. “The plains and hills share some common interests but there are also some profound differences – they have very different seasonal demands and a comprehensive EMS that embraces several enterprises can look pretty daunting,” he said. “Many of our landholders are participating in industry quality assurance programs such as Cattlecare and Flockcare. They are determined that their EMS should embrace these programs and should not result in two sets of records.
“The appeal of ALMS is that it represents a big step forward for landcare, providing motivation for landholders who have taken the first steps in landcare but lack tangible incentives to go further. Recognition is still one of the key drivers for those taking part in this pilot. Most of us are proud of what we are doing and want others to know we are looking after our environment.”
For more information contact project officer, Steve Coombe, on (08) 8531 2077.
Dairy farming is the essence of Bega Valley on the far south coast of New South Wales. Worth more than $100 million a year, the Valley owes its success largely to its abundance of waterways – namely, the Bega Catchment. Waterways are at the centre of the Bega River Health Package, a project funded with $390,000 from the Australian Government’s $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust over three years.
The project aims to support landholders with effluent re-use opportunities, stream crossings, dairy laneway upgrades and river protection. This will be complemented by a further $180,000 for irrigation efficiency and training opportunities.
Driving this initiative is the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (CMA). It aims to provide incentives for farmers to improve management adjacent to waterways through a strong partnership between the CMA, Bega Valley Water Users Association and Bega Cheese.
The CMA’s Sue-Anne Nicol says the aim is to improve stock stream crossings and laneways adjacent to waterways and wetlands, in order to reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients entering our waterways and protect valuable water resources.
“Given prolonged drought there is increased awareness amongst the dairy industry that improved water storage and irrigation efficiency is essential,” she said. “A long term regional strategy is to reduce landholders’ dependency on low flows and increase capacity to store water during high flows.”
Funding has also helped employ a Waterwise Officer, who will provide training for all irrigators on the south coast and will be working one on one with interested farmers to benchmark their irrigation and storage systems with a view to improving efficiency and pasture production.
“There are significant gains to be made in irrigation efficiency and effluent reuse,” Sue-Anne Nicol said. “This will have major production and economic benefits for the farmer and eventually increase the overall sustainability of the Bega valley community.”
The effluent re-use program views effluent as an asset rather than waste. For example, by outlining ways to use it productively – such as woodlots, cropping and fertiliser substitute – and benefiting from keeping nutrients out of our coastal waterways, such as enhancing town water, the oyster industry and tourism.
“Twenty-five thousand cows would produce enough manure in one year to reduce phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen imports by a massive 175,000 kilograms, 1,350,000 kilograms and 1,475,000 kilograms respectively,” she said. “We believe that in the first three years of the strategy, effluent re-use opportunities could provide a positive alternative for up to 50,000 tonnes of animal waste.
“If this resource can be made productive then it should demonstrate reduced environmental risk and improved production at the same time. This should challenge views that environmental improvements simply impose extra costs on producers who are already squeezed. This is the best kind of demonstration to have when you are trying to achieve cultural change.”
For further information contact Sue-Anne Nicol on (02) 6491 6201 or visit www.nht.gov.au
Gascoyne and Murchison River catchments
Western Australia’s Gascoyne and Murchison River catchments barely resemble what they looked like five or six years ago. And that’s not because of the drought – it’s despite the nearly six years without substantial rain. That change comes in the form of the Gascoyne Murchison Strategy, which aims to achieve profitable and self reliant rural industries, sustainable management of the natural resource base and robust, equitable and prosperous communities.
From 1998 to 2003, a massive 570,000 square kilometres of this semi arid pastoral region received $35 million in Australian Government funding, of which $13.7 million was from the Australian Government’s $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust.
Property owner Tom Morrisey, of Thundelarra Station at Yalgoo east of Geraldton, said the main difference is the attitudes of the people and the confidence they have to embrace change. As a result of this project, sheep and cattle stations that owed their prosperity to fine wool or open rangelands grazing for more than a century have turned to more sustainable agriculture.
“Overall, the region’s economic base has been broadened with a new domestic goat meat industry, exotic sheep meat industry, ornamental fish, new horticultural areas and new areas opened up to tourism,” Tom said.
“But the thing that stands out is the people’s confidence in the future. Six years ago a lot of pastoralists were ready to leave the industry. They’d even put their places on the market. But despite the drought most of them are still here today and feeling positive. The strategy engaged with over half of the 253 pastoral leaseholders in the region and we are still receiving very, very positive feedback.” Gascoyne Murchison Strategy coordinator, Mark Lewis, said it delivers the skills and on ground infrastructure that gives people the know how to manage the variables that come their way.
“A big change was the almost universal adoption of Total Grazing Management (TGM) yards that allow pastoralists to control where their stock and all other animals, like kangaroos and feral goats, are grazing,” he said. “The funding helped build 1,369 TGM yards that now allow total control of animals on some 17 million hectares. As well, 3,413 km of new fences were built to improve animal productivity and land management, including 770 kilometres of fences to protect fragile land systems.”
A total of five million hectares of the region’s native plants and animals has been included in a reserve system, including 37 whole or part stations that were purchased for the reserve. By capping free flowing bores and replacing 88 kilometres of bore drains with underground pipe, an estimated 50 gigalitres of water is being saved every year in the Carnarvon Artesian Basin.
“This project, which benchmarks production and financial performance of the pastoral industry and provides financial advice to farmers, has become a landmark event and has been widely accepted by all stakeholders,” Mark said. “As a result, farmers are now far more able to make informed decisions about the future directions of their business.”
For more information on the Gascoyne Murchison Strategy visit www.gms.wa.gov.au
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