Rangelands Policy Dialogue: After drought and debt, what next?

Rangelands Policy Dialogue: After drought and debt, what next?


An interactive workshop in Brisbane on 1,2 July 2019 brought together people with knowledge of rural and regional Queensland to craft a strategy that can lead the pastoral industry to a future that is sustainably profitable and environmentally sustainable. Drought policy, stewardship incentives, climate change and many other themes were covered. A flyer , the rationale for holding the event and the program as at 28 June are available.

The event was hosted by The Royal Society of Queensland, the state’s senior scientific society, co-organised with AgForce, representing broadacre rural industry and NRM Regions Queensland, representing the 12 regional NRM bodies.

Policy settings need amendment to incentivise landholders to preserve ecosystem functions, more funding needs to be invested in managing our pastoral landscapes, population drift must be reversed, and new thinking is required to manage drought and floods in an era of climate change. A “roadmap” is required to allow the potential of the Government’s Land Restoration Fund to energise a transition to sustainability to be fulfilled.

Invitations were extended to policy-aware individuals and organisations involved in rural affairs, from a wide range of sectoral groups, scholarly disciplines, departmental portfolios and community organisations. Public servants attended but did not participate in crafting the resulting declaration. Chatham House rules operated (no attribution without consent). Some 110 registrants participated. On 11 July Queensland Country Life published a news item quoting AgForce CEO Mike Guerin and Royal Society President Dr Geoff Edwards.

The end output sought will be a “Rangelands Declaration” that will be presented to political leaders at a subsequent event.


Major supporter. Costs of this event were covered by the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science. Its “$500 million Land Restoration Fund will support Queensland-based land sector carbon farming projects that deliver environmental, social and economic co-benefits for land managers, their communities, and ecosystems.” (However the Department will not be involved in crafting the final declaration).

Foyer sponsors

Australian Electric Vehicle Association

The Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) has since 1973 been a not for profit, volunteer-run association dedicated to promoting electric vehicle (EV) technology. Our organisation seeks to educate and inform the public about all EVs including cars, bikes, buses, boats and aircraft. Our members represent early adopters, enthusiasts, and end-users of EV technology.The AEVA exists as a federation of state branches with an elected National Executive . The Queensland branch meets on the third Wednesday of each month at Albion Peace Hall in inner north Brisbane. http://www.aeva.asn.au/

Cibo Labs

Cibo Labs Pty Ltd is an agricultural data analytics company based in Toowoomba and Brisbane. The company was established in early 2018 with the mission to bring a completely new approach to monitoring Australia’s grazing lands aimed underpinning more profitable farms and more sustainable landscapes.

“We are using world-leading science in remote sensing and machine learning (aka artificial intelligence) combined with on-farm knowledge to bring new levels of understanding in pasture productivity and land condition to every farm, paddock or field in Australia.” https://www.cibolabs.com.au/

Resource Consulting Services

“RCS is Australia’s leading private provider of holistically-integrated education, training and advisory services to the agricultural sector, both nationally and internationally. We work with individuals, families, corporates and government groups, empowering them to grow productive, profitable agricultural businesses within regenerative landscapes.” https://www.rcsaustralia.com.au/


Documentary outputs from the event will be posted here as they are finalised.

Reading materials

The Dialogue was triggered by the launch on 28 May 2018 by a Discussion Paper From Red to Green to Black . The paper argued that the income that pastoralists receive from sale of commodities is disconnected from the costs of running their enterprises. Further that landholders produce ecosystem services (fresh air, fresh water, biodiversity) for which traditional markets do not reimburse them. After the paper’s release, drought tightened its grip and climate change has embedded itself into landholders’ sights.

Responsibility for all materials below is taken by the authors, not by any of the co-organisers.

Panellists’ Presentations

Dr Geoff Edwards’ Stewardship Presentation of May 2018 has been edited to emphasise that stewardship incentives are only one tool and that a much broader re-calibration of policy is now required.

Economist Ben Rees has submitted a working paper Rural Debt and Viability to support his Dialogue presentation. This paper is evidence that the Dialogue is not constrained by current orthodoxy in economic policy, unlike many other contemporary exercises in policy analysis.

Rangelands Briefs

Attendees were invited to contribute a “Rangelands Brief” of up to two pages according to a Style Guide .

Non-peer-reviewed briefs

Howard Briggs: Reflections on the future use of rural land in Australia.

Clem Campbell: The Earth Charter and Sustainable Rangeland Management.

Peter Dart: Mining Effects Rangeland Management and Integrity

Geoff Edwards: As if for 1000 years: A land-use planning authority for Queensland?

John Gavin: Rangelands Policy Paper.

James Hansen: Managing Extreme Natural Events.

Elyse Herrald-Woods: Supporting North and North West Queensland primary producers to recover after the unprecedented 2019 monsoon trough event.

Rowley Hutchinson: Rangelands Challenges.

Ross Hynes: Crucial concepts when developing Rangeland Policy in 2019.

Don Keith: Native Forest Changes and Apiculture.

Ken Keith: Re-visioning Landcare to deliver ecosystem services west of the Divide .

Dana Kelly: International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists.

Alan Lauder: It is “carbon flows” that drives land restoration.

D L Lloyd, D A George, J F Clewett: Climate change adaptation, risk management and education to meet needs in rangelands.

Peter Macdonald: The Qld Vegetation Management Framework

Paul McDonald: We need to start with where people are at, not where we want them to be.

Aoife McHugh: Soils For Life Synopsis.

David Marlow: Small Water Cycles.

Bob Miles: Three summary points .

Geoff Niethe: The last 50 years of pastoralism – what impact drought strategies?

Ben Rees: Rural Debt and Viability.

Paul Sattler: Key Initiatives by the Royal in Conservation and Management of the State’s Rangelands.

Jon Stanford: Economic Cost of Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change.

Martin Taylor: National parks and tourism in the rangelands.

Michael Yeates: Transition and history in the grazing industry – then … and now?

Peer-reviewed briefs

The Royal Society of Queensland: Science, climate change and The Royal Society of Qld .

Submissions after the event

Heather Douglas: Rangelands – Context & Issues.

Ian Heiner (presented by Andrew Drysdale): NRM Regions Queensland

David McKellar – Why a Vision Statement and Vision Support Plan are essential framework scaffolds.

Background reading

The 37th column in Alan Lauder’s series on carbon stocks and flows – Controlling kangaroos is essential to increase carbon flows deals with the impact that kangaroos can have on a modern pastoral landscape. (The full series is available elsewhere on this website and on Soils for Life).

CRC for Greenhouse Accounting archive at National Library of Australia. (“The Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting was established in July 1999 with a seven year grant, located at the Australian National University. The Centre carried out research in soil science, ecosystem ecology, remote sensing, ecophysiology, ecological modelling, forestry, agroecosystem ecology, education and science-policy interface” ANU accessed 10.6.19). The rich archive has disappeared from known departmental websites, though much of its research was published in scientific journals.

Principles for Sustainable Soil Management – Contributed by participant Dr Donnell Davis, President of the UNAA Queensland chapter. The United Nations Global Compact Principles for Sustainable Soil Management (“Soil Principles”) build on the United Nations Global Compact Food and Agriculture Business (FAB) Principles.

Participant the Pew Charitable Trust has drawn to attention its recent Nature Refuges in Queensland and Strengthening Conservation Outcomes on Queensland Private Land .

Participant Dr Mark McGovern has drawn attention to his contribution to the October 2018 Drought Program Review Submission by Queensland’s RAPAD (Remote Area Planning and Development Board). This is one of the few reports on rural viability that depart from the pro-market economics consensus.

The Independent Panel report to Queensland’s Drought Program Review was released on Friday 28 June. Three documents are brought to the attention of the Dialogue: the Independent Panel report itself, a five-year Drought Management Framework and the Queensland Government’s response.

The Government’s Drought and Climate Adaptation Program (DCAP) managed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is explained here: https://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/dcap/. The Queensland Drought Mitigation Centre initiative supports Rangelands – arose from DCAP: https://www.usq.edu.au/research/environmental-sciences/qdmc-drought . The Climate Mates program (link: https://www.usq.edu.au/news/2018/08/climate-mates) is also funded out of DCAP.

The Commonwealth’s Joint Agency Drought Taskforce wound up at the end of June 2019: Announcement.

The Western Queensland Drought Committee’s publication ‘Beyond the DUST’ (summary here) outlines the need to consider rangelands communities in discussions of resilience.

For additional background reading on rural affairs, refer to our Background Reading page.