Pastoralists demand carbon farm action

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Pastoralist Jason Hastie with his petition.
Camera IconPastoralist Jason Hastie with his petition. Credit: Nic Ellis

Pastoralists have accused the Pastoral Lands Board of dismissing a call to back a $60 billion carbon farming industry in WA.

Gascoyne Catchment Group committee member and Meekatharra pastoralist Jason Hastie said the PLB should be called out as being disingenuous and insincere in support of carbon farming industry in WA.

Mr Hastie has stewed for months on the time it had taken for the PLB to respond to a letter sent late last year calling for the PLB to support the development of options for carbon farming on pastoral leases.

Mr Hastie had also delivered a petition earlier in the year to Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan calling for the State Government to develop a framework to allow for the issue and management of carbon sequestration rights in the rangelands, which cover 87 per cent of WA.

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Conservative estimates for carbon sequestration in the WA rangelands is 5 gigatonnes — equal to a potential $60 billion industry.

The group argues carbon farming can provide economic and environmental outcomes that support the aims of the Pastoral Lands Board and the broader objectives and expectations of Government.

It said the PLB should advise the government to make available all necessary resources to develop policy so that carbon farming can begin in WA’s rangelands.

The committee also asked for a resolution in favour of the immediate development of a rangelands carbon farming industry and that it develop and adopt a policy in support of this industry and the opportunities it offers WA’s pastoralists.

The PLB response stated it was supportive of the carbon farming industry expanding further than it already had.

The letter said it encouraged GCG members to contact relevant Australian Government agencies for advice and obligations required to undertake carbon farming projects, but also would be subject to WA land tenure and tenure approval processes.

Mr Hastie said the PLB response was “pathetic double-speak”, seeming to offer solutions while none existed.

“The response demonstrates incompetence in understanding the carbon environment for rangelands, incompetence in comprehending the thrust of the initial GCG letter and a distinct lack of intention of showing any leadership about WA rangelands future management,” he said.

“Carbon farming represents an additional source income, which pastoralists in other States can access, which can boost productivity, help restore degraded lands, and diversify the rangeland economy,” he said.

Meanwhile, PLB chairman Tim Shackleton said the organisation understands the frustrations of some pastoralists about the length of time it is taking for the policy and regulatory environment to develop.

“The PLB will be holding meetings with pastoralists in both the Gascoyne and Pilbara in coming months and expects there to be discussion regarding carbon farming at these meetings,” he said.

“Our organisation is responsible for the regulatory administration of pastoral leases and the provision of strategic advice to the Minister for Lands related to the development of the pastoral industry.

“Within the scope of its role as administrator of pastoral leases, the PLB is committed to clarifying for leaseholders what pathways and opportunities are available for those interested in exploring carbon farming.”

Mr Shackleton said the group would consider and respond to the GCG’s feedback about the importance of carbon farming as an economic diversification opportunity and their perception that the PLB is showing a lack of leadership on the issue.

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