Still a landcare champion

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Pam McGregor may have stepped down from her role as WISALTS secretary after more than 30 years on the committee, but she plans to remain a familiar face in the society which triggered WA's landcare movement.

"I'm not retiring from WISALTS, I'm just retiring from the secretary position. I still plan to be around and available for a chat," she said.

Mrs McGregor and her husband, Jim, joined WISALTS as members when it formed in 1978.

They were concerned about salinity on their home farm, then at DenBarker, so used the Harry Whittington-designed banks (nicknamed Harry banks), which have proven successful in restoring water balance, thereby controlling salinity and water logging.

Mrs McGregor then joined the committee in 1982 and over the subsequent 34 years held official roles including stints as president, secretary, treasurer and publicity officer.

In 1991 she was granted honorary WISALTS life membership for her contribution.

The McGregors moved to WA from the east coast of Scotland in 1973, initially to Mt Barker. In 1998 they relocated to Kojonup where they run the successful Ardcairnie Angus cattle stud which hosted its 18th annual bull sale last week. The McGregors also run a commercial beef operation.

Because of a lack of saline affected land at their Kojonup property there has not been the need for the Harry banks, but they continued as strong advocates for WISALTS, both playing important leading roles in the society over the decades.

In terms of achievements, Mrs McGregor said she takes most pride in the fact WISALTS sparked the WA landcare movement by highlighting the issues of land degradation.

"WISALTS had around 1200 members at its peak back in the early years," she said. "WISALTS was very active in running field days and drawing attention to the salinity and water logging issues. This meant the Government stood up and took notice of the serious issues affecting WA agriculture.

"They realised they needed to do something which led to the landcare movement starting and the forming of district landcare groups. Over the years this has morphed into the natural resource management catchment groups."

In terms of personal achievements, Mrs McGregor said she was most proud of the fact she wrote a WISALTS column every week (with the exception of just a few when she was away) for seven years, which was published as regular column in the rural press.

Meanwhile, her major frustration is that the reputation of Harry banks was tarnished when people attempted to copy these without proper consultation.

"There was a lack of understanding about WISALTS banks, and a lot of copy-type banks were constructed without proper consultation," she said.

"It was probably partially our fault as we held a lot of field days and shared information.

"Even though we made it clear these required proper consultation, many people thought because they had a bulldozer they could go home and do their own.

"But their land wasn't properly surveyed by an approved consultant, and they weren't proper WISALTS banks, so they didn't work and that reflected badly on the Harry banks."

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