While contemporary land managers across the Mitchell Grass Downs can see that gidgee is encroaching, inexorably, on the grasslands, it’s the stories and photographs of earlier generations that really drive the seriousness of the issue home. An initiative of the Queensland Government has provided some welcome relief from the regulations and processes hobbling landholders as they battle to retain their land’s productivity …
For generations, Landholders have noticed that heavy sheep grazing, or a good fire, will get rid of the gidgee seedlings that come up like moss after a run of good seasons. Equally, they have realised that when you replace sheep with cattle, and suppress fires, the right combination of good years gives you the beginnings of a problem that, over the subsequent decades, turns into an intractable nightmare.
Adding to this problem has been Government-imposed restrictions on clearing vegetation that hasn’t distinguished between what is there now and what, historically, should be there.
In 2011, the then Bligh Labor Government recognised that land managers needed relief from unreasonable strictures on their activities, and funded DCQ to undertake the development of an Area Management Plan, or AMP, for the Mitchell Grass Downs areas of the Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall-Tambo and Barcoo shires. Desert Channels Queensland engaged the expertise of PRW Agribusiness and 20 landholders to assist in this process.
The resulting DCQ Thinning and Encroachment AMP allows self assessment for thinning in areas where thickening can be demonstrated, and clearing where encroachment has occurred. It also covers removal of vegetation to manage non-natives, ensure public safety, establish necessary fences, firebreaks and roads, and harvesting fodder.
At the end of October 2012 land managers around western Queensland converged on Verastan near Muttaburra and Royston near Longreach, to get to know this simplified process for treating gidgee thickening or encroachment, courtesy of funding from the Australian Government. Under the recently approved AMP, landholders can go out in the paddock, assess their problem, submit the relevant form to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, and crank up the dozer.
Speaking at the Royston field day, AMP developer, PRW Agribusiness’ Peter Whip, said that while permits are no longer required, there is still a process that needs to be followed. As Peter Whip explained, landholders need to mark out a 50 metre transect through a representative gidgee growth, do a stem count, run the calculations, then give the instructions to the machinery operator on how many immature trees need to be left for every mature tree.
“Basically, once we do what we’ve done today,” he said, “we send a form into the Department saying this is what we’re going to do … that’s it. We don’t have to wait for a permit to come back; we don’t have to wait for someone to come and look at it.”
The importance of retaining adequate vegetation across the landscape was reinforced by David Akers of Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. “If you’re a small mammal or a small bird in the landscape, you have to be able to find the same things that we have to find,” he said. “You like to have something to eat. You need somewhere to live, hopefully you’ll find a partner, and hopefully you’ll produce a family. Basically, you need a source of food, a source of shelter, and a means to get across the landscape without becoming a food source for something else.”
For more information on the AMP, or assistance with mapping or completing the necessary steps, feel free to contact Desert Channels Group.
“I reckon getting control of the gidgee has probably made the difference between existing there and having to get out.” – Bernie Faggotter.
“I can go home now and fill out a bit of paper and start kicking my dozer over tomorrow.” – Neil Rogers.
“One of the best supported roll-ups, well run, very informative … terrific day.” – Paula Dean.