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In the wake of the terrible fires, I couldn't sleep.
Posted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:51 pm
Night after night I lay awake, usually giving up and grabbing a book, or writing. But one night I turned on the TV in the early hours and caught the replay of Question Time from Parl House in Canberra. It was devoted to condolence motions.
Amongst the moving speeches was one from the Federal Minister for Agriculture (I don't recall his name).
He said that the 2 greatest problems facing farmers affected by the fires were "soil erosion and the influx of weeds".
Are there any farmers so affected, who might be able to demonstrate that the Minister is right about erosion, but wrong about weeds?
The best way to minimize erosion is surely to let the weeds flourish. Best way to restore fertility too.
I'm a long way away (Cape York Peninsula), but I'd like to help if I can.
Posted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:04 pm
Your spot on CYPAC!!
That is THE role nature designed these plants for. Let them recover the system first, mulch and slash them, rebuild fertilityand stop the erosion, which will be immense.
Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:19 am
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry Tony Burke
Transcript of speech in House of Representatives
Motion of condolence: Victorian bushfires
12 February 2009
SUBJECT: Victorian bushfires, impact on farmers, Exceptional Circumstances drought assistance, Caring for our Country funding
There will be a time when farmers turn to the costs to their business and move forward with respect to their businesses. Understandably, they’re all dealing with the human tragedy in advance of dealing with the business cost.
It’s hard to focus on counting your lost stock while the nation is still counting your lost friends. Notwithstanding that, the Government has been working to assess precisely what sort of damage we’re talking about with respect to farmers and forestry workers in Victoria.
Stock losses fortunately have not been, to this point, as serious as we thought they might have been. Fodder loss has been extraordinary – stockpiling gone in flames in seconds.
Permanent plantings have done very badly in many areas. Dairies, in some cases, are now unusable and farmers who had invested extraordinary amounts of money on better water management and on-farm irrigation systems have found that if those systems were concrete, they have cracked, and if they were polypipe, they have melted.
Similarly, timber workers are now dealing with what was something in the order of 100,000 hectares of native forest available for production no longer being there. And something in the order of 20,000 to 30,000 hectares of plantation forests no longer being available.
This is compounding the loss of life and loss of property with a loss of future resource. Added to that has been the loss of some mills.
Before assistance came from Government at all, that direct farmer-helping-farmer support was happening on the ground.
Dairy farmers, where the neighbour no longer had a usable dairy, understanding that if cows that are currently in production are not kept in production, then they might be alive but it will be a long time before they come back in production.
And allowing the neighbour who used to be just over the fence – when the fence was there – to use their facilities.
Similarly, there has been extraordinary work from farmers interstate, particularly NSW, South Australia and Tasmania, working through systems that have been put immediately in place by the Victorian Farmers Federation, with the transport costs supported by the Victorian Government.
A number of Members from each side have already contacted my office with offers that they have had from their own farmers, wanting to help out with fodder in particular.
The VFF [Victorian Farmers Federation] number for those donations of fodder is 1300 882 833.
As well as donations that people around Australia are making, I would launch one extra appeal to every Australian when it comes to their role as a consumer.
Australian consumers often get a bit fussy as to whether their fruit and vegetables have the tiniest blemishes, even though it might make absolutely no difference to the flavour. If people were ever going to be fussy about their fruit and veggies, please don’t do it over the next few months.
People accepting that it tastes just as good, and being willing to be a bit more tolerant than they might have been on other occasions, allows the retailers to continue to buy the produce and farmers who are facing extraordinary difficulties to be able to do the best with the produce they have.
The Government has also moved forward with existing programs and, in addition to the work that the Prime Minister has already announced in the House, seen where existing programs could be modified or acted on quickly in order to be of assistance.
At a time when we’re talking about loss of life and we have the image of buildings being destroyed, it’s very easy to discard the actual significance if natural resource management is not brought into play very quickly.
If you have, following a fire, an opportunity for massive erosion and an opportunity for a massive influx of weeds, that can be a good deal more damaging to a property than the loss of a building itself.
For that reason, Minister Garrett and myself have extended the application deadlines on Caring for our Country and all uncommitted funds from this financial year are now being redirected to natural resource management work in the state of Victoria.
The National Rural Advisory Council has also been responsible for a number of drought reviews. For states other than Victoria, an announcement will be made very soon as to the Government’s response.
But I think it’s important to inform people in the House now as to the Government’s response with respect to the state of Victoria. NRAC had conducted its reviews on drought assistance for a number of areas within Victoria, which were coming up to expire in March.
In every instance, they have been extended for a further 12 months. A number of areas were also due to expire in April and were not yet ready for full assessment. NRAC held an emergency meeting and they too have been extended for a further 12 months.
There are some areas in Gippsland which came out of drought assistance some months ago. When an area comes out of EC, it’s not simply because the drought has ended. It’s also because the recovery has begun.
And arguments in some of those areas in Gippsland about the recovery having commenced, that might have made sense some months ago, now demand serious review.
Minister Helper, the Agriculture Minister from the Victorian Government, and myself are currently in talks to make sure that we can also have a sensible outcome for those areas in Gippsland.
Overall a very good speech showing he appreciates the wide spread consequences and difficulties caused by these fires even if he needs a few clues on natures helpers.