LDC lodges submission with Agriculture Inquiry

The Landholders Driving Change project has lodged a submission with a Parliamentary House Standing Committee inquiry.  The Agriculture and Water Resources inquiry explores the impact on the agricultural sector of vegetation and land management policies, regulations and restrictions.

The submission was provided on behalf of the landholder representatives from the LDC project, based in the Bowen, Broken Bogie (BBB) sub-catchments of the Burdekin region.  

The LDC aims to concentrate a broad range of complementary interventions and management efforts at a catchment scale, and fully evaluate their effectiveness in reducing nutrient, sediment and pesticide loads into waterways and the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

The LDC project comprises five core activity areas.  One of those activity areas is Policy Engagement. It’s aim is to link landholders and policy makers to facilitate better landholder engagement in relevant policy development and implementation.

We will provide updates about the inquiry through upcoming editions of The Grit.

What the Inquiry is looking into:

The House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources is looking into the impact of land management and vegetation policies on the agricultural sector, with particular regard to:

  • Past and current practices of land and vegetation management by the agricultural sector and regional industries;
  • The science behind activities such as back burning, clearing and rehabilitation;
  • The economic impact of vegetation and land management policies, regulations and restrictions;
  • The impact of severe fires on the agricultural landscape, agricultural production and industry in regional, rural and remote areas;
  • Factors that contribute to fire risk in regional, rural and remote areas; and
  • The role the agricultural sector has in working with emergency services and forestry management officials in managing fire risk.

The Committee is no longer accepting submissions.

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KEQ #1

Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

KEQ #3

*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

KEQ #4

The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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