There are a number of issues we deal with everyday that have a significant impact on us, particularly in relation to Curtin Srpings Station.
BUT, to survive, it must be your deep understanding of and commitment to the land, that sustains the business.
Our passion for our land is our greatest asset and at a personal level it is always about ‘what is the best thing today….?’
Weather: Our rain cycle is 7-10 years. The good seasons leave us exposed to fires. The vast majority of fires in Central Australia are deliberately lit and started off our property, however we are responsible for trying to pull them up on our land. These unplanned fires do a lot of damage and are devastating in our landscape, when it could be many years before the next good rains.
The dry seasons have a wide range of issues to manage which we do by leaving a light footprint on the landscape, running a conservative number of cattle and protecting our ground cover.
Compliance: The level of bureaucracy and interference with no obvious benefit is increasing at an astonishing rate. Eg. Windmills provide one of the most efficient means of moving water, with a renewable source of energy, very little ongoing maintenance costs and it never takes a holiday. However, the workplace health and safely requirements mean that it is all but impossible to send an employee up a windmill for maintenance or repairs. Therefore, in the future, they will be come obsolete, needing to be replaced by newer technology.
Legislative responsibilities: We have responsibilities under a range of legislation for control of feral animals, fire management, land management, vegetation management. Most of these ‘responsibilities’ do not acknowledge the existing health of the country under our stewardship and set out to demonize the pastoral/food production industries. The biggest challenge is that these responsibilities are not applied consistently across all land tenures.
Mining: All stations have most if not all the stations covered by multiple explorations or mining licenses. Unlike some land tenures, we have few rights in this matter. Our greatest concern is that, unlike other part of Australia, we have not alternative water sources. If mining disrupts our underground aquifers, then there is NO water for humans or animals. NT Cattleman’s Association has worked very hard over a long period of time to create a recognized dialogue between the pastoral estate and mining companies. We hope that this will allow for some honesty and integrity and holding to account. eg Mining companies for Curtin Springs have been a source of weeds, that we are then answerable under legislation to control and/or eradicate. The mining companies face no actual accountability for identifying or removal of the weeds they bring onto our property. Mining companies have been given exploration rights in areas that are identified as Sites of Conservation Significance and areas that we have trod very light on.
Media misconceptions: Some parts of the media seem to only react in a sensational manner and don’t allow the truth to get in the way of a good story! It is very frustrating to continually face the stories that Aboriginal people are the only ones who care about the land, who care about animals, who can manage the land, who can manage fire. In most cases this is completely untrue and false. In Central Australia the land that IS well cared for, is managed properly, that has fire management strategies in place, deals with pests and pays it’s way without government funding – is land that is managed by the pastoral estate. However, this is not routinely recognized or acknowledged and the pastoral industry continues to be demonized in many arenas.
Self Interest Groups: Groups that have little or no experience in our industries (whether it be the tourist or pastoral side of our business) consider that their myopic ill-informed opinions are gospel. Our position is that if you wish to have an opinion, then have an informed opinion. If you still must have an opinion, it must be one that you are prepared personally to pay for. So, for example if you believe all chickens should be free range, then you must be prepared to pay higher prices for them. If you want you bread GM free, then you have to be prepared to pay more for it. If you don’t wish the camels to be culled to meet our legal obligations to remove feral animals from the land we are responsible for, then buy your own property, employ your own staff, find your own water, build your own fences, pay your own mortgage and we’ll send you as many as you want. Until then YOU don’t have a right to opinion that WE have to pay for our of our own pockets (eg destroyed infrastructure causing our cattle herd management to be halted as we replace 140km of fences, environmental damage that we have to answer for under legislation).
Increasing distance between food production and food consumption. It was very frightening to read recently that 45% of Yr 6-Yr 10 students surveyed did not identify the bread, cheese or banana in their lunch box as coming from a farm and that 75% of students think cotton comes from an animal. This increasing divide means that many people do not have any idea of where the food they eat comes from and therefore have little respect or understanding of the importance of these industries or the farmers that feed them every day.
Vast increasing difference between the cost of production and income. In 1912, you could send your child to boarding school for a year for the equivalent of 4 bullocks. Now you need 50 bullocks. In the 1950s, 1 bullock paid a stockman’s wage for 5 weeks. Now 1 bullock pays for less than one week. In Mar 2005 what we were paid for 1kg of steer could buy 3.02 litres of diesel. In March 2012 1 kg of steer would buy 1.7 litres of diesel. In Dec 2016 1kg of steer would buy 2.7L of diesel.
Although Australian farmers are amongst the most efficient and productive in the world, we have very little control of our income and must seek to find our own niche markets.