More backing for rangeland reform

Rueben HaleCountryman
Cue pastoralist Michael Clinch supports the Lands Administration Act rangelands reform Bill.
Camera IconCue pastoralist Michael Clinch supports the Lands Administration Act rangelands reform Bill. Credit: Countryman

Cue pastoralist Michael Clinch says he needs to diversify his pastoral property in order to survive.

Mr Clinch is one of a growing group that are seeking to soften their rangelands reforms issues with the State Government, rejecting the Pastoralists and Graziers Association’s hardline approach in rejecting the Lands Administration Act Bill in its current form.

Mr Clinch said he believed the PGA’s approach was out of line with the current needs of many people in the pastoral industry who were desperate to find alternative revenue streams away from total reliance on livestock.

The PGA, which claims to have the support of a majority of the State’s pastoralists, stands opposed to the State Government’s Rangelands Reform Bill in its current form because it vehemently opposes the scrapping of the Pastoral Lands Board, as part of the Bill.

But many groups in support of the Bill are concerned if the PGA get its way and the PLB is retained, diversification opportunities will be stymied.

A fortnight ago a splinter group of pastoralists, led by Austin Downs station manager Tom Jackson, broke away from the PGA’s tough stance, arguing the industry could be put at risk if the PGA was not willing to compromise with the Government.

Last week, Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association executive chairman Peter Camp joined the fray of dissent when he said the Bill could be passed with some “sensible discussion”.

Mr Clinch said economic activity like carbon farming and sequestration is one piece of the economic diversification puzzle needed to secure greater economic viability for the rangelands.

Carbon farming companies estimate sequestration opportunities could be a billion dollars in the Murchison alone, with a 10 per cent return on capital.

“As a pastoralist I need to be able viable alternative uses for the land I am responsible for, like carbon farming and sequestration,” he said.

“This station used to have Merino sheep, but that has been unviable for many years because of wild dogs,” he said.

“These days I run a heard of Shorthorn and Brahman cattle, but the enterprise is failing because of the extent of the depletion of perennial and annual grasslands.

“I want to continue with my cattle, but in order to survive I need to be able to diversify and explore possibilities for alternative revenue streams.”

Environmental sustainability organisation Pew Charitable Trusts WA outback manager David Mackenzie said that the passing of the rangelands reforms in their current form was critical to making a positive and wide-ranging reform.

“The squandering of the opportunity, which would facilitate investment in the rangelands would, in our view, have serious repercussions for outback WA,” he said.

Meanwhile, PGA president Tony Seabrook said the organisation is not opposing rangeland reform.

“What the PGA has and will continue to do is oppose bad legislation, and that is what is being offered in the draft Bill 2016,” Mr Seabrook said.

“The draft Bill 2016 currently on the table delivers little value or benefit to pastoral lessees and does not deliver on any area that the industry has been seeking for many years.

“Central to the all considerations by the pastoral industry is a tenure system that allowed more flexibility and freedom for how pastoralists could earn a living, encourage investments and enhance the earning capacity and business expansion through land tenure reforms. The PGA has now finalised its review and we do not believe that this draft Bill 2016 in its current form provides this. While there are some positives in the proposed Bill, the negatives make it impossible for the PGA to support this Bill.

“The PGA has long supported the opportunity for pastoral leaseholders to diversify into additional activities including horticulture, tourism, carbon farming and cropping. Any proposed changes to the legislation should allow the flexibility for pastoral leaseholders to enter into diversified activities at minimal cost, and without added bureaucratic red tape.”

Mr Redman is still considering changes to the draft Bill based on feedback presented from the consultations and stakeholders last month.

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