Continuing on from Betrayal of Trust – Part 1
There was a time when there existed a very positive relationship between Government agency staff and landowners. In my own area great strides of progress were made in an environmental problem of soil loss under traditional farming practices. QDNR staff brought new information, the building of contour banks and later on zero-till farming.
Photo, contour bank construction 1960 era
This was taken to the farmer and together, landholder and the Department cooperatively rectified a serious problem In 1999 the options were open to the Qld Government in what laws it used to implement this new philosophy of vegetation management. They chose a very authoritarian approach and both oppressive and punitive to the people it applies to. Trust is not going to happen within the current legal/ administrative structure.
A co-operative model has been replaced with a coercive one.
The power of the State is now available to determine what landowners can and can’t do in very significant ways in managing their own properties. The highly significant change in the role of agency staff and the employment of compliance officers has resulted in a change of culture and a change in attitude towards landowners. These changes have been directed from the political realm at the top and influenced by the extreme end of the environmental movement.
To drive results the approach is now all stick and no carrot. There appears to be an inability to recognise and to congratulate progressive practical, hands on conservation work by individual landowners or by community groups such as Landcare. The perversion of the original Landcare ethos that was rewarded by NHT 1 funding to Catchment Management Authority’s with the power of prosecution is very worrying indeed.
- Prior to the 1990's a relationship of trust & respect developed between landowners & departmental field staff.
- There was a shared two way exchange of information & ideas to improvement in on farm productivity & environmental outcomes
- Soil conservation work is a good example of using contour banks & then zero till farming to combat soil erosion
- The then QDNR also promoting both good production together with environment
- Research had been conducted over extended periods of balancing farm production with environmental outcomes. Dr Bill Burrows had collected data since 1965, as have others scientists involved in this field including local Landcare groups.
- Qld Govt. chose to ignore some of the available science in the passing of the native vegetation laws & the like.
- Research appears to be now suppressed.
- eg. burying in cabinet documents the report the Govt commissioned Dr Bill Burrow's to undertake
- There has been a change in culture and a change of attitudes towards landowners. Inaccurate stereotypes have not been helpful; in some cases developed to the degree that justifies an approach of vindictive vilification towards landowners.
- Changes of agency staff roles have been directed from the political realm at the top and influenced by the extreme end of the environmental movement.
- Qld Govt chose to ignore local expertise & dedicated effort when it ignored significant portions of the Regional Vegetation Management Plans.
- The attitude of a few in Govt & DNR head office towards the few landowners with poor environmental record imposed on all an approach of animosity & adversarial.
- Co-operation between landowners & departmental field staff was replaced with coercion
- All Department field staff have been affected, not just vegetation management officers
- All landowners have been affected: not just those with significant percentage of remnant vegetation.
- Loss of national productivity from the agricultural sector: hard to measure but logically must exist in a climate of distrust with little focus on farm productivity.
- Within landowners there has been a rise of negativity, reactionary attitudes; a hardened mindset
- The lack of recognition of landowners continual contact & life time observations of their land had profoundly impacted the Landcare movement.
- Community organizations like Landcare & Greening Australia have lost the original concept of community direction. As quoted previously from a paper by James Whelan, “no longer have the capacity to engage meaningfully in either decision making or on-ground environmental projects.”
- Direction now comes from Govt which is often not meeting community needs
- Funding is now through Regional Bodies that were supposed to channel monies to the community level
- Regional bodies have been allowed to operate beyond their guidelines and have absorbed much of the funding in establishing their own governance system.
- Local community Landcare groups and environmental organisations are being strangled out of existence.
- In some States, Regional Bodies have been called Catchment Management Authorities (CMA's) with the power to report & prosecute: Will this eventually happen in QLD as well?
- CMA's have perverted the Landcare ethos drastically to be yet another adversarial, coercive force against landowners
- There is no system to congratulate or reward good environmental endeavours by landowners
- There has been a chronic misunderstanding of the culture of rural Australian communities