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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

9 July 2002
Wesley Vale, Tasmania

Greater Rubicon Management Status Report and 'Rip-Mulcher' Launch Speech

Thank you for inviting me today to officially launch the Rip Mulcher. Finally the rain has stopped, however we desperately need the rain throughout Tasmania, Victoria and most of Eastern Australia right now.

Firstly I would like to acknowledge the long list of people who have been associated with the Status Report.

I am a 6th generation farmer myself, and when I was growing up on the farm in Northern Victoria, I have memories of the northern plains being treeless, except for some vegetation along the creeks. We spent a lot of our time, getting the timber from the creeks because that was the best soil. Then of course we had a major salinity problem set in, when I was about 12 or 13. It was terrible.

And of course when something like that occurs on your own property, you become very conscious of environmental degradation and the impacts of farming on the environment.

Here, you don’t have a salinity problem, but you have had issues with soil erosion.

So what you have combined is your own family farming - which we all know is not a business of 'get rich quick' - with big corporations on the manufacturing side. And what we have to be able to do is to understand the catchment so that there is a total integration of its biodiversity and sustainable production. We need to make sure that biodiversity exists below the surface, as well as above it.

Our vegetation and soils are critical to keeping the bird life, which in turn attracts insect life and the control of their habitats is so critical also.

But in terms of our own culture, the sheer intrinsic value of our vegetation is of critical importance. We have to make sure that our landscape doesn't become monoculture, like in some countries where it is just wheat growing or dairy and nothing else. We need that biodiversity.

What you have done in your status report is that you have gone through this magnificent part of the world, where you are working to have a mega diverse landscape and at the same time agriculture diversity, so you can always be productive.

This is the challenge in Australia.

How do we have good water quality, not soil erosion, how do we make sure that we have the nutrients in the soil and not in the streams and how do we keep the feral animals at bay.
The successful people that I know in agriculture have always been 'green' - you have to be or you go broke. And I have to say that where I grew up in northern Victoria, we live on very heavy clay soils.

Now where they were previously digging up rich soil, they are now bringing up clogs and small pebbles, only a metre and a half below the surface.

The way that your group has gone about tackling this issue is just superb, you have tapped into the Natural Heritage Trust, you have got the state agencies and Federal support, you have got your own local people working away and you have got local businesses involved as well. When you have got business, government, private enterprise and family farming, the results just have to be good.

I understand that you have even got the hay donated from a government agency, so this is a great example of communities working together, supported by Government.

You might be interested to know that one storm in one day in Cowra in 1992 resulted in 362 tonnes per hectare in soil loss. Who can image how much soil we have lost in this country over the last 200 years? As you know soil just doesn't replenish. So I believe that this new piece of machinery is just brilliant.

You have found a solution of how to work with your high agricultural activity and a machine that is going to help you with your erosion. I can also understand how much you have been gaining by interacting with neighbouring communities.

My parliamentary colleague, Senator Colbeck, is also very keen to make sure that the new natural resource management arrangements, including the Natural Heritage Trust Mark II and our national salinity action plan, work for you. He will be watching very carefully to make sure that there is 'seam free' transition from Natural Heritage Trust Mark 1, and that the State Government are contributing funds where they should be.

Tasmania is a rich state, in terms of its environment and natural resources, and one where we want to make sure retains both ecological values and its agricultural productivity - that is the challenge for us.

Your mulch ripper hugely impresses me and I will be telling a lot of people about it, particularly those in my electorate of Murray.

Thank you very much.

Commonwealth of Australia