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 120 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 was a “Rangelands Declaration” that will be presented to political leaders at subsequent events.

Rangelands Declaration

The Rangelands Declaration was published on 20 August 2019. Documentary outputs from subsequent activities will be posted on a dedicated page as they are finalised.


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/

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.

  1. Greg Leach – intro of Geoff Edwards and Andrew Drysdale
  2. Rangelands: Context and Issues – Heather Douglas, sociologist
  3. Rural debt and viability – Ben Rees, economist
  4. Peak oil/peak demand – Michael Gutteridge, consultant geographer
  5. Banks as stakeholders in the Rangelands – Brad James, Queensland State Manager, Rabobank  – oral presentation
  6. Soils – Rod Chisholm, CEO, Soils for Life
  7. Climate change – likely impacts across bioregions – Roger Stone, Director, Climate Centre USQ
  8. Reflections from a grazier – Charles Nason, Banoona, Roma
  9. Climate change – current attitude of the farming community – Verity Morgan-Schmidt, Farmers for Climate Action
  10. Regional Ecosystem Biodiversity status and Biocondition assessment – Teresa Eyre, Qld Herbarium
  11. Conservation and management turning points – Paul Sattler, beekeeper, retired public servant
  12. How to transition to regenerative agriculture – Terry McCosker, CEO, Resource Consulting Services
  13. National Parks and tourism – Martin Taylor, World Wide Fund for Nature
  14. NRM regions: current capacity and future needs – Andrew Drysdale for NRM Regions QLD
  15. Sustainable management models, interstate experience – Kate Forrest, Outback Alliance, Regional NRM Alliance
  16. Carbon flows for graziers – Stephen Martin, grazier
  17. Potential unintended consequences of carbon farming – Geoff Edwards (on behalf of Alan Lauder)
  18. Reflections from a grazier and pasture scientist – Ian Beale, Mungallala
  19. Industry-led engagement in rural policy: Learnings from past, lessons for future – Mike Guerin, CEO AgForce
  20. Phil Tickle, Cibo Labs www.cibolabs.com.au – Terry McCosker, Resource Consulting Services, www.rcsaustralia.com.au
  21. Insurance and the future of risk: Rangelands priorities – Joel Berlin, Suncorp – oral presentation
  22. Earth Charter: a foundation for Rangelands stewardship – Clem Campbell, Immediate Past President of the United Nations Association of Australia
  23. Pastoralist’s View – Lindsay Godfrey, Mayor, Shire of Paroo and Tinnenburra, Cunnamulla
  24. Connecting to country, concepts of stewardship and the next generation of agriculture – Nikki Thompson, Soil2Soul
  25. Carbon farming – a sustainable future for Qld Ag – Don Butler, Senior Scientist, Land Restoration Fund, DES
  26. Reflections from AgForce – Georgie Somerset, Chair – oral presentation.

Rangelands Briefs

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

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.

Michael Gutteridge: Choosing a Future.

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.

Margaret House: Notes on tree clearing from an on-ground landholder.

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.

Nelson Quinn – Rangelands Issues.

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.

Kuala Lumpur Declaration On Cities 2030
Outcome doc of UN-HABITAT world urban forum 2020 (in our own region).
Strengthening inclusive participation in planning for resilient cities
Innovation in response to climate change (hazards & incremental burn) and financial tools for greater public good.
Peaceful resolutions for implementing new urban agenda & sdg 11.

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