Speak­ers com­mend project part­ner­ships

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - OUT & ABOUT -

Two lo­cal speak­ers at last week’s NAPREC con­fer­ence shared lo­cal suc­cess sto­ries where good ex­am­ples of part­ner­ships work­ing in prac­tice — be­tween farm­ers, sci­ence and gov­ern­ment — oc­cur to­day.

They in­cluded the on­farm Pri­vate Prop­erty Wet­lands Wa­ter­ing Project (PPWWP) and ephemeral creeks scheme, spear­headed by NSW Of­fice of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter man­age­ment of­fi­cer Emma Wilson.

In­stead of ap­ply­ing ‘‘top down’’ pro­cesses, Ms Wilson re­vealed how she en­gages ‘‘bot­tom up, grass­roots’’ meth­ods to im­ple­ment pro­jects — some­thing that was com­mended by con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants.

With PPWWP in­volv­ing 150 land­hold­ers across 84 wet­lands and three creek sys­tems, the project is the largest of its kind.

Ms Wilson said the ir­ri­ga­tion wet­land project very much re­lies on land­holder knowl­edge and the OEH pay fees sim­i­lar to any other wa­ter user util­is­ing Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Lim­ited in­fra­struc­ture.

‘‘We couldn’t do this with­out the land­holder as they pro­vide things like mon­i­tor­ing and lo­cal sup­port, knowl­edge and ex­per­tise,’’ she said.

‘‘We rely quite heav­ily on them to tell us what’s hap­pen­ing on their wet­land. They play a mas­sive role in telling us what’s hap­pen­ing with wa­ter lev­els and if we have to top things up,’’ Ms Wilson said.

‘‘We try to stream­line pa­per­work and we have a ‘gen­tle­man’s agree­ment’, not a le­gal bind­ing one, which states the land­holder will be re­spon­si­ble for get­ting wa­ter to the wet­land. It doesn’t mean ar­eas are locked up and the key thrown away — a lot of farm­ers will (have stock) strate­gi­cally graze on th­ese sites.’’

Ms Wilson said the project, once a trial, has since grown and is to­day used as a frame­work in other parts of the coun­try.

Deemed an­other lo­cal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ecol­ogy suc­cess story is the Bit­terns in Rice project, man­aged by Rice­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­jects man­ager Neil Bull.

Mr Bull’s pre­sen­ta­tion, like many oth­ers, dis­cussed the po­ten­tial role for agri­cul­tural land­scapes to pro­vide habi­tat to wildlife and how the rice in­dus­try can take a lead in bird and frog con­ser­va­tion in Aus­tralia.

He ex­plained how farm­ers can play a crit­i­cal role in crop man­age­ment to im­prove habi­tat for the en­dan­gered Aus­tral­asian Bit­tern bird — de­liv­er­ing a ‘‘win:win’’ sit­u­a­tion for en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and farm­ers.

‘‘Re­gard­ing the food se­cu­rity and bio­di­ver­sity con­ver­sa­tion, we don’t think that more farm­ing equals less bio­di­ver­sity; we can do bet­ter . . . there is a need to in­cor­po­rate more bio­di­ver­sity in farm­ing land­scapes,’’ Mr Bull said.

How­ever, Mr Bull did not ig­nore the ‘‘real threat’’ of low or non-ex­is­tent wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions to lo­cal rice farm­ers and its im­pact on bio­di­ver­sity pro­jects like Bit­terns in Rice.

‘‘We need to chal­lenge the per­va­sive di­chotomy of wa­ter re­sources, which posits agri­cul­ture and the en­vi­ron­ment in op­po­si­tion. And we are look­ing at in­ves­ti­gat­ing in­cen­tives for bit­tern friendly rice grow­ing be­cause there are real con­flicts with wa­ter use ef­fi­ciency and habi­tat.

‘‘We need more con­ver­sa­tions on mak­ing it work — work for ev­ery­one.’’

Emma Wilson

Neil Bull

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