Tilba Tilba and South Narooma Landcare group Inc President’s report to the Annual General Meeting of the Association held at the small Hall, Central Tilba on Thursday, 19 April 2018
This Association, having been formed to combat the menace of fireweed in the area, was incorporated as an association by the New South Wales fair trading branch on 4 December 2015 .We have had a busy time since over the last 2 ½ years.
The past year has been no exception, although sadly we have seen some of the initiatives that had previously been taken neglected by the New South Wales government and somewhat in the Federal context too.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ROLE:
There has been too much talk and not enough action at the Federal government level.
However we thank our Federal member the Honourable Dr. Mike Kelly for his interest in follow-up We trust we will see his strong support and effort continuing as well as growing support for the research being undertaken in South Africa, but currently delayed by the safety checks that have to be made and other local circumstances there (see Report and notes in the Secretaries Report (CLICK HERE) for detail).
NEW SOUTH WALES GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITY:
As to the state government and its Role the less said the better.
However perhaps in the current Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Nial Blair, we at last have a Minister with genuine interest and hopefully perserverance to match.
Sadly our Local Member Andrew Constance seems so engaged and pre-occupied with his own Ministerial Portfolio as Minister for Roads, and his Governments concerns for new football stadiums etc in the greater metropolitan area ,that he can barely lift his gaze to take in his own electorate’s concerns with this pernicious weed nor the potential for harm which it poses to the food chain if not checked .
This weed which represents only one of the many serious noxious weeds introduced by European settlement of this continent even so ,has the potential to encroach into his own Portfolio and his Government’s current and ongoing obsession with population growth as an economic drive factor.
This in turn leads back to Federal Government policy as well.
For example,when I asked Andrew, to read the 2008 Poisons Report on the weed by former CSIRO Scientist Dr John Edgar and handed him a copy of this report at a public meeting with his constituents which he had called now more than 2 years ago, he declined and referred me instead to Mr Noel Watson also one of his Constituents who had through his Association commissioned the report in the first place.
I might add that this report by Dr Edgar graphically depicted amongst other things the effect of liver damage to mothers and their unborn embryo’s arising from the toxic poisons effect found in this plant and others in its species. It had apparently penetrated the food chain as so called “bread disease” in South Africa in the 1920’s and Afghanistan in the 1970’s when thousands died before the cause was discovered.
Now it threatens to break through the food chain in the small cottage industries and hobby farming industry so popular with baby boomer retirees and in our dairy and meat industries as well .
If not checked it could even impact disastrously with the boom export industry of concentrated milk powders in our export trade .
What is the State Government’s response?
more metropolitan population growth , development and football stadiums and freeways for our gridlocked cities .
This head in the sand approach is un-sustainable.
It is short sighted insofar as the needs of the coastal farmers and its industries have been met by patronising cutbacks of State Government services to help produce this Government’s surpluses –and for what just to be squandered on football stadium re-builds! It is just plain short sighted and stupid.
I don’t propose to digress further on the politics of the situation we find ourselves in .
However It has already gone on too long and we have certainly seen the New South Wales government use the country Landcare services as a whipping post for expenditure cutbacks , leaving landholders and producers to “carry the baby” and hope for a miracle, before the rains come and the Fireweed seeds ignites again.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CUTBACKS_LOSS OF “THE GREEN ARMY”:
It was also disappointing at the Federal level to lose the initiative of the green army, now having been wound back and discontinued.
Whilst that initiative was too small to make a huge difference on the ground ,it nevertheless energised our local effort ,as those young people, otherwise out of the workforce had proved to be, just what was needed to back up the initiatives that we have identified as we fight to hold the line against apathy and neglect by hand picking and other initiatives.
THE YEAR AHEAD:
However rather than look back and focus on these Government leadership failings and disappointments,I believe that we as a group of individual businesses and community volunteers need to look ahead.I would venture to suggest that the next year will test us and we will have to rely on the old-fashioned hands-on approach to a large extent as well.
Therefore, I will simply commend the extensive correspondence that we have had and which will continue and focus on some of the health issues and the challenges it will bring.
THE HEALTH CHALLENGES:
-It is absolutely essential that the food products in an area affected by Fireweed be tested by the New South Wales government for contamination and thereby to measure the level of the toxic poison that may have been secreted to ensure it is within safe levels and tolerances.
-This must be carried out by the State government and we cannot leave it simply to the various food producing industries to do the testing or to be self-regulating. Further, the standards to be applied must be clearly understood and followed up without exception .
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMMEDIATE REFORM:
my specific recommendations would be:
1. That the State government greatly increase agricultural advice services throughout the coastal and country areas of NSW;
2. Provide a monitoring service through either existing services and Landcare generally for monitoring levels of toxicity penetration in food production, including honey milk, eggs and meat and thereby advise and define safe levels such as exists already in the wheat industry in its silo collection;
AND UNTIL THIS OCCURS:
3. No silage to be cut in Fireweed affected paddocks where there has been a serious build up of Fireweed over the last 5 years which has the potential for food producing animals and dairy herds in particular;
4. Subject again to control and monitoring-free range poultry production be limited from Fireweed affected areas until preventative measures are being taken to ensure that NO grazing occurs in about or over flowering or particularly seeded plants;
5. Provide government leadership through local associations such as ours to ensure that all information from research be taken into account and disseminated amongst small holders and food producers as they become more and more significant in the food production process.
I emphasise that these suggestions are My personal suggestions made in the public interest and arising from my experience as your chairperson since the inception of our Association and its registration as an incorporated association on 4 December 2015.
They have not been adopted, although often discussed by the executive of this Association and its members at our various meetings. I think they reflect our broad concerns and they need to be urgently considered by Government for urgent and immediate action for all the reasons noted above.
Now I would like to thank all of our committee members who have been fantastic in putting aside any questions of self-interest as we searched for some solution or to expedite those solutions said to be already in the pipeline, but which have been for the reasons set out in other reports somewhat delayed if not too optimistically presented.
There is still an ongoing need for follow-up and probably another delegation should be sought through our local Federal member Mike Kelly to see the new hierarchy or ministers in the agricultural sector in Federal Parliament-given the resignation of Mr Barnaby Joyce Minister who presided through his assistant minister, when we attended by our delegation in late 2016.
Because I no longer live on acreage , I think that it is appropriate that I now not seek to carry on my Chairmanship role, so I will not be standing for re-election .
However, I indicate that I would be happy to continue to serve in an executive role as an ordinary committee member or alternatively in an ex officio capacity while I continue to be an ordinary member of the Association.
I wish my successor as Chairman all the very best and particularly thank our secretary, Mr Harry Bate; Colin Eddie as Treasurer; committee members Dr Ken Doust and Merrick Willcocks and all the other people who have assisted from time to time.
We saw our role as community activists and also in helping on the hard practical matters of handpicking and supporting members and the small agricultural communities within our area with advice and hopefully some inspiration.
Thank you one and all.
Note: I emphasise these are my personal views