Don’t Choke the Bush

Blueprint for State Health

Enhancing Living Landscapes, Delivering Local Livelihoods, a foundational document offering a viable plan to maintain, sustain and improve natural resource management in Queensland, has been launched by the State’s NRM groups’ peak body.

NRM Regions Queensland (NRMRQ) is asking all candidates in the imminent Queensland election to commit to this document and its underlying principles.

Enhancing Living Landscapes, Delivering Local Livelihoods has five key components:

  1. A set of guiding principles for natural resource management across Queensland;
  2. A five-year action plan targeting priority threats to viability and sustainability of natural resources;
  3. A State-wide NRM Council to ensure efforts are coordinated, effective and focused;
  4. Funding that appropriately targets capacity building and recognises those making a difference on the ground (landholders, communities, local NRM groups); and
  5. Increasing the capacity of these key groups to deliver change.

Natural resource management groups across Queensland work on maintaining the health and productivity of our land and ocean ecosystems, the quality and supply of water resources, and support for resilient and engaged communities.

The Enhancing Living Landscapes, Delivering Local Livelihoods manifesto calls for a Queensland NRM Council which would drive government agencies and non-government organizations to better integrate their activities for the benefit of Queensland’s environment and productivity.

Leadership provided by the 14 NRM groups and their peak body, NRMRQ, delivers at multiple levels, from a statewide approach offering direction to fulfil these aims, to the local approach through the regional bodies themselves, with workers on the ground, feet in the dirt.

Every day in Queensland, NRM groups disperse information to local land managers through extension services, communication officers, and community workshops and activities.

Over the past 20 years this has become one of the main avenues of spreading natural resource management to landholders, from threats of invasive weeds and feral animals through to ways to reduce erosion and nutrient runoff and improve productivity.

The manifesto supports global recognition of Queensland’s acknowledged outstanding biodiversity, from the outback deserts, through the rangelands to the rainforests and reef, across more than 185 million hectares of land and 6,900 kilometres of mainland coastline.

In just the last three years, these NRM groups helped more than 850 farmers to improve land management practices across 3.3 million hectares of productive land.

More than 6,000 hectares of wetlands have been protected or restored and riparian vegetation has been protected along 900 kilometres of the state’s priority waterways.

Successful pest and feral animal control has been carried out over 7.7 million hectares of the state, and 6,000 hectares has benefited from soil restoration and weed control projects.

This list of completed work by NRM groups goes on with more than 16,000 landholders being engaged in more than 800 NRM capacity building activities.

More than 600 partnerships have been established, improving production outcomes through resource management and productivity efficiency.

These figures demonstrate the effectiveness of NRM groups in Queensland, and underline the importance of Enhancing Living Landscapes, Delivering Local Livelihoods and its endorsement by candidates in this Queensland election.

Queensland’s NRM groups are calling on the State’s elected representatives as they shoulder new responsibilities over coming weeks to find the political will to stand up and deliver for regional Queensland a healthy and sustainable future.

An Uncertain Future

An Uncertain Future

The climate is changing. Even climate change deniers agree that things are changing and, according to some, perhaps for the better.

The enormous amount of scientific support for anthropogenic climate change does not have to be accepted, not everyone takes an evidence-based road to their opinions and beliefs.

Even if we aren’t sure we are descending towards climate armageddon with rising oceans and temperatures and drastic impacts on civilisation, the precautionary principle dictates that we should act.

The precautionary principle means that while you may not be certain of a threat or potential threat, you still take precautions, ‘just in case’.

People closest to the land – farmers, landholders, land managers – and people working close to the ocean, know ‘something’ is going on, that we live in a time of climatic change. The predictable regularity that we, our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents once knew was the foundation for primary production decision making.

We all realise that in geographic time, this has not always been the case. Severe peaks and troughs in global temperature have occurred, as climate change denialists are quick to point out, conveniently forgetting those extremes have always caused mass extinctions.

There is a solid body of evidence suggesting we have had a comparatively smooth climatic ride since the last ice age glaciation retreated around 12,000 years ago.

But what has climate change, real or hypothesised, have to do with natural resource management in a subtropical and tropical state like Queensland? Do land managers need to understand this change?

Undeniably, the answer to these questions is yes! We are seeing the manifestation of change today, oceans are warming and species are experiencing habitat shift to the cooler south, seeking optimum sea temperatures and invading habitat traditionally dominated by other species.

Similarly, change is occurring on land. Changes in habitat bring changes in species, both plant and animal.

This change brings unpredictability. Different temperature profiles mean a change of competitive viability among species and, often, the most competitive species are weeds.

There is much we do not understand about environmental triggers that can turn a relatively benign species into a dominating monoculture.

Take athel pine, a favoured shade for chook houses and cattle yards across much of the top half of Australia for more than a century. Totally benign, quite happy to shelter the fowls, no eco-ambition to venture forth and dominate. Until suddenly, for some reason, athel pine got a bee in its collective bonnet and exploded down the Finke River in the Red Centre. Extruding salt, as is its wont, athel pine changed the landscape along that ancient river, creating a monoculture along the floodplains, and cost landholders millions of dollars in control.

Changes in weather conditions change ecosystems. Benign plants can turn into Genghis Khans of the plant world… we don’t entirely understand the triggers, but we do know it happens.

We have seen prickly acacia, rubber vine and parthenium dominate large tracts of Queensland’s rangelands, costing many millions of dollars in control. And who is on the forefront of this weed control? Land managers and NRM groups. Natural Resource Management groups, their employees and their contractors are out there every day spraying, flying drones, researching, coordinating, innovating, documenting and fighting these menaces to our environment and productivity.

NRM groups and the communities they work with are the border protection agencies of ecosystems throughout the State of Queensland, observing, then controlling when needed.

Change is happening: worse droughts, worse flooding, more severe storms. We are seeing increased firestorms around the globe. This all affects primary production and the State’s GDP. The threat is real – Queensland has seen it all before, from prickly pear to prickly acacia. With ecological change, benign and even beneficial plants can change their nature and become land hungry and takeover huge areas.

This is the strength of having NRM people in the field, talking to landholders, observing and interpreting change, being part of the ongoing coordination of various agencies of which the NRM groups are but one.

NRM groups need to be maintained so they can do this work with confidence and strength.

Candidates in the Queensland election must stand up and be counted and undertake that, if they come to power in whatever form, they will turn around the dwindling funding support of NRM groups across most of the State.

This is a simple but necessary precaution against the drastic effects of climatic change in the future. Queensland needs leadership. And the State needs its NRM groups.

Stop the Bleeding

Stop the bleeding

The future management of Queensland’s natural resources is under threat with the reduction of support from State and Federal governments for regional natural resource management groups and the ongoing centralisation of State Government agencies.

This reduction, some might say collapse, has forced job losses, a reduction in efficiencies of scale, a loss of expertise in the regions, and a reduced ability to complete essential natural resource management (NRM) work.

Natural resource management groups fulfill an important role supporting Queensland’s primary producers, agribusinesses and communities.

NRM Groups work on the frontline in the defence against major threats to Queensland: holding back the tide of noxious weeds and their calamitous effect on production, and waging an ongoing war on feral animals and their impact on primary production with species such as feral pigs becoming a potentially uncontrollable vector in the spread of contagious disease.

Coastal NRM groups improve the health of the rivers and landscapes of coastal ecosystems, and work on projects to reduce the outflow of nutrients and sediment so damaging to the already threatened Barrier Reef, while inland groups rise to the production challenges of weeds, feral animals and grazing pressures.

NRM groups have professional and technical officers in the field collecting and collating data, assisting in the defence of immediate threats to the biosecurity of our broad and sparsely populated state but their effectiveness is draining away.

This bleeding of financial support is choking the bush and Queensland’s coastal farming regions.

The 2017 Queensland election campaign offers politicians and candidates an opportunity to reaffirm their support for natural resource management in the State.

NRM Regions Queensland (NRMRQ) is asking all candidates to consider this parlous situation that potentially leaves Queensland open to threats on many fronts brought about by the reduction of Government and NGO services.

Through NRMRQ, the State’s NRM groups are asking all candidates standing in the State election to undertake to support the ongoing work that these groups carry out, ensuring a viable future for all Queenslanders.

Twenty years ago, research and service provision to landholders by Government departments such as Natural Resources and Primary Industries, was being withdrawn in the name of rationalization and centralization.

These were traditional service providers to Queenslanders living in regional and remote areas, and their reductions were counterbalanced by the establishment of designated regional groups with adequate funding and headquarters and infrastructure in regional areas.

For the better part of the past decade, we’ve seen the ongoing reduction of funding going to these groups, and increased competition from non-specialist organisations, with local governments, Government agencies and others pitted against NRM groups for the ever-shrinking dollars.

This bleeding of funding for natural resource management and the specialist groups who deliver it is a concern for all Queenslanders, not just landholders in the bush, but urban people along the coastal strip, including residents in the south-east corner who wish to see Queensland and its future safe from current and future threats.

Queenslanders need a guarantee that our magnificent landscapes, rivers, ocean and reef systems that we have enjoyed for generations, remain for our grandchildren and beyond.

All Queensland election candidates are being challenged to stand up for Queensland and support policy that ensures the ongoing effectiveness of these important NRM groups.






Blueprint for regional jobs

In the lead up to the State election, Queensland’s leading natural resource management body is urging all political parties to endorse its blueprint for securing rural and regional jobs and the viability of communities.

As the State’s rural industries continue to reel under the weight of soil loss, declining water quality, exotic pests and extreme weather events, rural jobs are evaporating and communities are withering.

Natural Resource Management Regions Queensland (NRMRQ) Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Drysdale, said the considerable expertise of NRMRQ and its 14 member groups has been brought to bear to develop a simple, five step plan to arrest the decline, strengthen rural and regional jobs, and ensure our communities are secure.

“Our member groups have more than 200 years of combined experience in what makes our regional communities tick; we know when we have a healthy, well managed landscape, we have productive rural industries that generate jobs and support our towns,” he said.

“Whoever forms government after the election, our Enhancing Living Landscapes, Delivering Local Livelihoods document is a blueprint for action.”

In relation to natural resource management in Queensland, Enhancing Living Landscapes, Delivering Local Livelihoods advocates:

  • a detailed set of guiding principles;
  • a five-year action plan targeting priority threats to viability and sustainability;
  • a State-wide NRM Council to ensure efforts are coordinated, effective, and focussed;
  • funding that recognises the ones who make a difference on the ground (landholders, communities, local NRM groups); and
  • increasing the ability of these key groups to deliver change.

When calling on the State’s political parties to endorse these five key components of the Enhancing Living Landscapes, Delivering Local Livelihoods document, Mr Drysdale said that while great progress has been made in managing Queensland’s natural assets, significant challenges remained and more work was needed.

“Every Queenslander and every community in Queensland benefits from a healthy landscape; there’s an economic and social dividend when we achieve an environmental dividend.”

Safety Net Unveiled

Around 70 Traditional Owners, cattle producers and other supporters gathered in Chillagoe recently for the launch of Living Landscapes; Local Livelihoods, a blueprint for Queensland’s future agricultural productivity and environmental health.

According to NRM Regions Queensland Chair, Stephen Robertson, Living Landscapes; Local Livelihoods is our road map to a future where healthy ecosystems and water resources are harnessed by engaged communities for sustainable production.

Continue Reading…

Flood Recovery Support Offered

In the wake of ongoing floods down the east coast, rural and urban fringe landholders are being urged to make use of all the resources, support and expertise available to them in coping and recovering from Nature’s lashing.

Mr Andrew Drysdale, CEO of the Regional Groups Collective, said his member bodies stand prepared, after emergency services and local government, to assist rural landholders with flood recovery.

Continue Reading…

Have your say on draft environmental values and water quality objectives for Queensland waters

You are invited to have your say on draft environmental values and water quality objectives for Queensland waters under the Environmental Protection (Water) Policy (EPP Water).

The Queensland Government has released draft consultation materials (reports, mapping) for Queensland Murray Darling-Bulloo and selected Great Barrier Reef waters. These and an online survey/submission form are available from the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) website and via the Get Involved website.

The updated draft water quality objectives are derived from local water quality information where available.

Further information will be released when available for South–east Queensland and Wet Tropics waters, and groundwaters in Reef catchments.  Refer to the EHP website for more details.

All feedback will be considered in the finalisation process. Final materials may (pending Government approval) be included in schedule 1 of the EPP Water.

For more information on the draft consultation materials, view the Ministerial Release.

Submissions close 31 May 2017.

Report card shows continued progress in improving reef water quality

report-card-cover-finalThe latest Great Barrier Reef Report Card details some positive news but also identifies areas where more effort is needed.

Report Card 2015 assesses the reported results of Reef Water Quality Protection Plan actions up to June 2015.

It shows almost half the horticulture and grains land across the Great Barrier Reef catchments is already managed using best management practice systems, both scoring a C overall. However, more work is needed in the sugarcane and grazing industries which both scored a D reef-wide.

Modelling of pollutant load reductions resulted in a reduction in sediment of 12.3% and a reduction in pesticides of 33.7% which is more than halfway to the 2018 targets.

Inshore marine condition remained poor but coral and water quality improved from a D to C, in part due to some recent drier years. This gave the reef a chance to recover after a number of floods and tropical cyclones.

The marine results do not pick up the impacts from the worst coral bleaching event on record. More will be known about the results of this event in coming months and will be detailed in the next report card.

Everyone, not just farmers, need to play their part to improve water quality. Over the next 12 months, governments will be working with councils, industries and communities to identify actions they can take to improve water quality.

Report Card 2015 and more information about Reef Water Quality Protection Plan outcomes can be found on the website.

Greening Australia launch Reef Aid program

Jonathan Duddles of Greening Australia shows Sir Richard Branson a soil ...Greening Australia have just launched Reef Aid, a program of work to fund and deliver major restoration activity in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

Reef Aid will work with landholders to undertake gully and coastal wetland restoration projects to improve water quality and the health and resilience of the Reef.

Last month, they were joined by Virgin Australia founder, Sir Richard Branson to launch the program at an event in Sydney.

The public appeal aims to raise $10 million over the next three years for the first stage of the estimated $100 million major restoration program. The Australian Government Reef Trust will match private contributions dollar for dollar up to $2 million.

Reef Aid will be a collaborative program, with a number of research, funding and delivery partners to make this vision a reality, partners currently include:

  • The Australian Government’s Reef Trust
  • The Ian Potter Foundation
  • Virgin Australia
  • Conservation Volunteers Australia
  • Birdlife Australia
  • Wetland Care Australia
  • James Cook University
  • Griffith University

The Virgin partnership is just one example of how Greening Australia is leveraging co-investment in environmental programs. Reef Aid will raise funds from multiple sources to maximise the value of the investment and achieve the scale required to make a real impact on this important issue.

Reef Aid will also include a number of fantastic ways for the Australian community to get behind this vital work including a social media competition. Fish Up Your Face will ask participants to post a fish-face selfie to social media, make a donation for their chance to win a trip for a family of four to the Great Barrier Reef. The other big event expected to be launched this year will be a national Great Barrier Reef BBQ fundraiser.

Find out more about Reef Aid on the Greening Australia website and be sure to follow Greening Australia on social media and keep an eye out for your chance to Fish Up Your Face!

Watch the Reef Aid video on Youtube

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