Regulations | Landholders Driving Change

Bob Harris, Glencoe, Lisa Hutchinson LDC, Peter Webley, DNRME.

Andrew Yates LDC, Susan Vail, Salisbury Plains, Lisa Hutchinson, LDC, Jessie Norman, Mt Aberdeen, Kerry Hammett, DNRME.

Grazier Peter Anderson,

Glenlea Downs near Clermont

“I thought it was a great day and a fantastic initiative. There was a genuine spirit of cooperation by all participants and all worked collaboratively towards finding workable solutions.”

Grazier Susan Vail,

Salisbury Plains near Bowen

“Navigating the regulatory process can be confusing resulting in time delays and additional requirements, especially when you’re being passed from one government department to another trying to get an answer.”

Grazier Bristow Hughes,

Strathalbyn near Collinsville

“As a grazier, there can be short windows in which you have the time and money available for a project to improve your land and business. As soon as you start the process of seeking approval for that project, you lose momentum because it’s so drawn out. If the government can close that lag time, then that would be a good outcome for the grazier, the environment and the government.”

Regulating for agricultural and public outcomes

TO address frustration about the complexity of the regulatory system affecting agriculture – specifically grazing – the LDC project has held a focused roundtable with graziers and government agency representatives to tackle the challenges head-on.

The regulatory environment has been a longstanding concern for agricultural producers.

From a graziers’ perspective, the montage of regulations affecting their business is often cumbersome and confusing, can stifle environmental performance, and delay innovative projects.

The cost of compliance with regulations is often cited as a major barrier to the viability and profitability of graziers.

Regulators acknowledge the problems conveyed by the agricultural sector.

However, they report that the static nature of current laws and regulations does not provide the flexibility or adaptability needed to address the concerns in a quick and timely manner as desired by the agriculture industry. Limited resources and competing mandates further compromise regulators’ ability to address many of the challenges.

At February’s roundtable, held in Townsville, these stakeholder groups met in good faith to identify areas of agreement and to identify short-term and long-term actions to help address key regulatory challenges faced by graziers.

Given the complexity of this undertaking, February’s roundtable is the first of what is expected to be a series of roundtables to be held this year.

Initial actions that were identified fit into two categories – relationship building among stakeholders and easing navigation of the regulatory system – and serve to improve and simplify the existing regulatory system.

Desired long-term outcomes identified by the stakeholders:

  • Reduce frustration and misconception by building understanding among stakeholder groups
  • Increase the flow of critical information between regulators and the regulated
  • Engage stakeholders early and effectively in policy rule making and implementation planning
  • Improve interagency coordination
  • Provide a regulatory roadmap for common agricultural business activities to easily learn the requirements for project implementation – case studies to be developed to demonstrate impacts of legislation on the day to day management of a grazing business
  • Establish one-stop-shops for permit assistance
  • Improve the technical support capacity of agencies and others to assist farmers in meeting regulatory requirements
  • Better accommodate innovative on-farm practices through through a co-mentoring program between graziers and government department/s

The roundtable focused on four regulatory areas.  This is a summary of agreed actions which will be followed up at a roundtable planned for mid-year.

REGULATION AREA ACTIONS
Protected plants
  • Investigate consistency in mapping across the government departments
  • Investigate possibility of including protected plant information and explanations in the vegetation reports
  • Identify legislation that affects the control of native invasive species
  • Identify ways to interface with federal legislation
  • Develop a graduate program that fosters co-mentoring between graziers and government departments
Water Act
  • Develop case studies to demonstrate impacts of legislation on the day to day management of a grazing business and submit to government for consideration.
  • Identify linkages and barriers for legislative requirements across agencies
  • Investigate how best to provide feedback to people who make submissions as to why their suggestion was not included
  • Investigate how to improve pre-lodgement support
Vegetation management
  • Investigate opportunities for cross compliance, for example, the Vegetation management team could also do compliance for Reef regulations and vice versa
  • Identify if there is a ‘middle ground’ that can lead to sustained vegetation management that will benefit both farmers and the environment
  • Investigate strategies to ensure a platform for interactive communication is provided to all stakeholders
Reef regulations
  • Continue to work with graziers on the Reef regulations guidance material and approach for implementation
  • Form a subgroup of producers and industry stakeholders to develop strategies to engage bottom end of the industry
  • Develop a number of proposals for on-ground works that demonstrates positive outcomes across both the Reef and Vegetation management regulatory areas, submit to the Office of Great Barrier Reef for consideration.  If approved, these are to become case studies to be distributed to the broader grazing industry.

For further information, or if you want to be involved in the roundtable sessions, contact Lisa Hutchinson on lisa.hutchinson@nqdrytropics.com.au or on mobile 0427 594 192

Elisa Nichols, DES, (left), and Queensland Food Futures president and grazier, Josie Angus, Kimberley Station.

Jessie Norman, Mt Aberdeen, (left) and Meghan Blackburn, OGBR.

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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.

KEQ #5

KEQ #6

KEQ #7
KEQ #8

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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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