Pastoral Land Management and Conservation (Use of Pastoral Land) Amendment Bill
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 14 September 2023.)
S.E. ANDREWS (Gibson) (16:37): I rise to continue my remarks. This bill confirms the Pastoral Board's ability to approve a range of uses of pastoral leases, including for conservation and carbon farming, which have been in place on the ground for over 30 years. We want to make sure this can continue, as we are about enhancing practices and improving flexibility for our farmers.
This bill will enable the ongoing efforts by lessees, Aboriginal people and regional communities to manage pastoral lands in a variety of ways. These changes confirm that significant environmental benefit offsets and heritage agreements under the Native Vegetation Act 1991 can be implemented on pastoral leases. These tools provide leaseholders with opportunities to receive funding for conservation activities on their lease.
Clause 3 of this bill introduces a definition for carbon farming, that is, land management activities that avoid or reduce carbon in the atmosphere or sequester carbon in the landscape as defined in the regulations. This bill also formally recognises previous Pastoral Board decisions, approving the use of some or all of the pastoral lease for non-pastoral uses. The Pastoral Board's powers in relation to the management of pastoral lands will not change. Current leases will not change. All leaseholders will still need to actively manage their leases and remain subject to Pastoral Act obligations.
Clause 3 also introduces a definition for conservation purposes, which is conservation of biodiversity, ecosystems or native vegetation, including by way of heritage agreements or environmental benefits under the Native Vegetation Act 1991 or other ancillary conservation uses. These definitions achieve our mission to ensure that current practice can continue and be enhanced by this bill. Pastoralists and conservationists have worked together side by side across the rangelands for more than 30 years, and this bill confirms they will be able to continue this.
Twenty-one pastoral leases are already wholly used for conservation with the approval of the Pastoral Board, and five leases are being used for carbon farming. This work is critical, as the Ecological Society of Australia informs us that since European colonisation 100 Australian species have been listed as extinct and further that nearly 1,800 species are listed as threatened with extinction. This is in addition to the biodiversity and ecosystems that have been changed or lost as a result of climate change.
The bill also amends the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989 to insert the requirement that:
(3) The Minister must consult with the following bodies on any regulations proposed to be made for the purposes of the definition of carbon farming in subsection (1) before those regulations are made:
(a) the Board;
(b) the Conservation Council of South Australia Inc.;
(c) First Nations of South Australia Aboriginal Corporation;
(d) Primary Producers SA Incorporated;
(e) Livestock SA Incorporated.
This consultation is important, and it is crucial that it is undertaken with these groups to ensure that the perspectives of everyone who cares about land are being considered, starting with our First Nations people, who walked the land long before any agriculture was undertaken; the Pastoral Board with their diverse expertise; Primary Producers SA and Livestock SA, representing those who work the land; and the Conservation Council, representing those who protect, restore and conserve the land.
Clause 4 of the bill amends the act to allow pastoral land to be used for conservation purposes and to allow pastoral land that is being used for pastoral or conservation purposes to also be used for other appropriate purposes, such as carbon farming. This clause, along with clause 6, provides farmers with the flexibility to use their land for pastoral, conservation or other purposes. This protects families who may have farmed the land for generations.
These changes will not impact on native title rights or agreements. The government recognises the importance of Aboriginal peoples' spiritual, social, cultural and economic connections to country. I thank everyone who has participated in consultations regarding this bill. Further discussions occurred with pastoralists coordinated by Livestock SA and several conservation organisations coordinated by the Nature Conservation Society of SA.
I would like to conclude my remarks by stating that the main point of this legislation formalises what has been occurring in South Australia for over 30 years. We can trust our pastoralists and conservationists to continue doing great work as they both care deeply about their work and our state. I commend the bill to the house.
The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS (Black—Leader of the Opposition) (16:42): I rise as the opposition's shadow environment minister to be the opposition's lead speaker on this bill, although despite being the lead speaker my contributions will still be quite brief overall. I am pleased to make a contribution on behalf of the opposition to this bill, which will amend the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act, which was brought into force in 1989.
The scope of this amendment is very discrete and will allow the holder of a pastoral lease to use the land for purposes other than pastoral purposes. The amendment will allow pastoral land to be used for conservation purposes and other appropriate purposes, which specifically aims to make sure that our pastoral leases across regional outback South Australia can include carbon farming.
During my time as South Australia's environment minister, it became apparent that there was some ambiguity around the operation of this act and it could have meant—I say could because we are not 100 per cent sure; it had not been tested in the courts and I am glad that was not the case—that existing conservation purposes which are underway, and have been for some decades in the case of some pastoral leases, could have been operating illegally. It is unlikely that they would have been punished for doing so, and it is unlikely that anyone would have ever pursued this to the courts but, equally, clearing up this ambiguity is a good thing.
The previous government had a reform imperative around the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act. I think it is fair to say that, certainly from my perspective—and I think it is important to reflect on this—that was not managed or engaged in with both the conservation community and the pastoral community in a way that might have led to meaningful and appropriate reform.
I am pleased that the government is moving ahead with this, but moving ahead with the reform of this bill in a tight way and in a way that cleans up the act, modernises it with the addition of just a handful of words and ensures that conservation activities happening on our pastoral lands—our rangelands, as they are often referred to—can occur legally under this legislation. It is important that it happens for a couple of reasons; firstly, as I mentioned a moment ago, for the fact that this is something that occurs anyway.
Of the 323 pastoral leases across South Australia, 21 of them are already used wholly for conservation purposes. These are large properties. They are by and large remote properties. They create the opportunity for very significant landscape-scale conservation projects to be undertaken, and those projects are underway. As I mentioned, they have been underway for several decades in the case of some of the better known properties. We want to make sure that is encouraged where appropriate, we want to make sure that it happens under this legislation in a lawful way and we want to celebrate the success of these conservation projects to date.
Some of these pastoral leases are exceptionally well known. They are almost household names, as far as pastoral properties can be household names across the state—Arkaroola, for instance. I know the Deputy Premier was in Arkaroola recently and one of the places that—
The Hon. S.E. Close interjecting:
The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS: I actually heard about that, too, Deputy Premier. For the benefit of Hansard, the Deputy Premier referred to her flat tyres.
Arkaroola is a place that is almost life changing when you go there because it is so different from probably anywhere else in the world and, to have that in our far-flung backyard in South Australia, is phenomenal. It is hard to get to, it takes a while, but it is very much worth visiting. It is a place of significant geological interest and also of conservation importance. I remember being there in 2017 and seeing the yellow-footed rock wallabies bouncing around that landscape. You would not go so far as to say they were common, but they have a healthy population in that landscape, a population that has been restored through sustained effort to remove feral species from that pastoral lease.
Other projects in the conservation realm that sit across our pastoral leases include the Arid Recovery project, which is a big environmental benefit project initiated by BHP just out of Roxby Downs. Kalamurina, adjacent to the Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert National Park, is the largest national park in Australia and its landscape-scale benefit is expanded outside the park boundaries by the privately owned Kalamurina pastoral lease, a conservation project led by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy, like many conservation organisations in this nation, is a brilliant organisation leveraging private money from right across the world to do really significant conservation work up there in the north-eastern corner of the state of South Australia.
Witchelina and Hiltaba are both well-known pastoral leases operated by the Nature Foundation. They are often held out as the real jewels in the crown when it comes to conservation activity happening over the long term because, to be successful, all these projects must happen over the long term. It cannot be something that happens for a moment in time and then you withdraw the effort, because the feral species and the degradation of that landscape will quickly take over again.
The work of the Nature Foundation at Witchelina and Hiltaba needs to be recognised, celebrated and, quite frankly, needs to be replicated as well. It has largely taken place through private philanthropy over an extended period of time, making a real difference to the environmental sustainability of the rangelands. We have to recognise and celebrate the volunteers who have been part of these sorts of projects over an extended period of time.
It is one thing to get the private donations and the philanthropy; it is another thing altogether to put it into action on the ground in an intensely remote part of the state, a part of the state where it is actually almost impossible to work for several months of the year because of the heat. Those initiatives, those volunteers, we really do need to recognise them. Because they are so far away and because they are fairly hard to access, the excitement and the success of what ought to be celebrated can be that little bit harder because not a lot of people in the scheme of things have been able to celebrate and visit those places firsthand.
This act will not only clear up the ambiguity around the conservation side of things but also ensure that carbon farming can happen across the rangelands landscape. We know that significant market-driven opportunities around carbon farming are available now. We want our rangelands and our pastoral lessees, whether they be for conservation purposes or for more traditional pastoral purposes, to be thinking about the opportunities to undertake carbon farming. We do really want to make that as easy as possible. Investment requires certainty. When you have ambiguity sitting in the legislation, it is going to inevitably deter investment and inevitably deter the significant long-term planning and commitment to carbon farming projects that are necessary to get them across the line.
From a conservation point of view, from a carbon farming point of view—which is linked to conservation—other activities could also fall under the appropriate purposes clause here as well. The most significant one that springs to mind in my thinking is tourism. We see tourism across that landscape. Tourism is a significant part of what happens at Arkaroola and also in Witchelina, Hiltaba and Kalamurina from perhaps a less significant point of view, but it is still an important part of the offering of those sites and those lessees.
I think the approach of the government here is to just tidy up this legislation in a way that is fairly light touch, that does not go too close to the quite significant. It can be a difficult space here, the pastoral rangelands policy settings, because getting the balance between pastoral activity and conservation can be difficult. There are loud voices, influential voices—and it is appropriate for them to be so—on both sides of the debate there. That is really not what this bill is about today.
My party may propose some amendments in the upper house, but for today as the state's shadow environment minister I want to strongly suggest that the party that I lead is supportive of this legislation. I think it is a sensible approach and worthy of support. I commend this legislation to the house and again thank our volunteers and conservation pioneers who are looking after that far-flung part of our state.
Mr HUGHES (Giles) (16:54): I also rise to add my support to the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation (Use of Pastoral Land) Amendment Bill 2023. Given it covers a vast area of our state, it is good to see this bill has bipartisan support. It will be interesting to see what the amendments are in the upper house, but I am sure they will be in the spirit of doing the right thing by our pastoral lands.
There are a number of members here who have very extensive pastoral lands within their electorate, the seat of Giles being one of them and the seat of Stuart. The seat of Flinders would have some and I believe the seat of Chaffey would have some unincorporated pastoral land as well because we are talking about a vast area of the state—400,000 square kilometres. You can compare that to a place like Germany. The whole of Germany, including some of its coastal areas, is only around about 357,000 square kilometres, so our pastoral lands alone are larger in land mass than the nation of Germany.
I always like pointing out that the electorate of Giles is the largest of the state electorates, with close to 500,000 square kilometres, and I also like to then compare it with the seat of Unley. The seat of Unley is the smallest seat, when it comes to land mass. I think it is something like just over 14 square kilometres. It is interesting making that comparison between one and the other. Of course, it is all, at the end of the day, governed by the number of voters.
Whyalla itself is built on land that was at one stage part of a pastoral station and indeed the Mount Laura Homestead, which is next to the Westland Shopping Centre, used to be the home of the Nicolsons. It is probably worthwhile acknowledging the Nicolsons, who are no longer on the land adjacent to Whyalla because of the massive defence department extension.
In a lot of ways, the Nicolsons epitomised the sort of approach by a lot of pastoralists when it comes to that combination of running a business and also looking after the land. They certainly looked after the land around Whyalla in an exemplary fashion. Indeed, on part of their holding, they had the Middleback research station of the University of Adelaide. I am not sure if Flinders Uni was involved as well where a lot of semi-arid land research was done.
Unfortunately, a lot of that has now gone because of the defence department expansion, but we see throughout the state pastoralists taking on board a stronger conservation effort and some of them have for many years. Not all of them have, but certainly most of them, so that is a real plus.
Of course, this bill before us is relatively simple. It is straightforward. It is, in a sense, providing some clarification and legislative and regulatory certainty around what can be done on pastoral properties. Carbon farming has been taking place on a handful of leases already on pastoral lands, as has activity around conservation. I think the Leader of the Opposition indicated that there were 21 leases currently dedicated to conservation. In that vast area, we have 219 stations and 323 leases and many of these leases cover vast areas, as has already been indicated.
When it comes to Australia's record on conservation, it has not been a particularly proud record when you look at the number of mammalian species that have been lost since European settlement. We have lost 34 mammal species and we are still losing on a regular basis each decade between one and two species, so it is important that we act to ensure threatened species are conserved. The pastoral lands do play an important role when it comes to that.
Last Friday, I was in Roxby Downs. We went to Lake Mary, which is full of water at the moment, and that was to launch the Kokatha Ranger Program. That is an exciting initiative, funded by the state government. I think it is great the Aboriginal Ranger Program has support and it would be great to see even more support because of the on-the-ground really practical work that is being done, but in some places being done in partnership with a very strong scientific approach.
Not only was it the launch of the Kokatha Ranger Program but it was also a time to celebrate the partnership with Arid Recovery, which is just outside Olympic Dam. Arid Recovery is just over 12,000 hectares, completely protected by vermin-proof fencing. That particular initiative is doing great work. Some of the stats around it are quite amazing, with around 250 species, both botanic and animal, within the enclosure.
Out of the work that has been done at Arid Recovery, 107 peer-reviewed scientific papers have been developed. There is a lot of fencing, 80 kilometres of fencing, and there are 76 collaborative research organisations involved with Arid Recovery. There are seven threatened animal species within the site itself. There are some specialised enclosures within the site and some of those specialised enclosures are about getting native animals used to, to a degree, predators, such as cats, which in the semi-arid and arid areas are incredibly efficient killers.
These little bastards knock off millions on a continental scale and are one of the drivers of extinction, along with a number of other feral animals, but if you are going to pick out one you have to pick out the cats because they are incredibly well adapted to the dry areas of the continent. What they are attempting to do at Arid Recovery is expose native animals to cats, at least in low numbers, to see if they can change their behavioural repertoire.
This is important because Arid Recovery are entering into a partnership with Kokatha Pastoral. There are a number of stations around Roxby Downs: there is Roxby Downs Station, there is Andamooka and there is Purple Downs. Kokatha manage those three pastoral leases, if you like, on behalf of BHP. So a partnership is being entered into between the Kokatha and Arid Recovery to start releasing some of these threatened species on to the stations. This is where the Kokatha Ranger Program starts to play an incredibly important role.
These stations are partly commercial. There are some cattle run on some of these leases and there is some outside expertise that is providing assistance. There is also conservation effort, there are conservation corridors between these leases and there are also sites that are very significant to the Kokatha people, the recognised traditional owners in that area. I probably should add that, given there is sometimes a bit of conflict about who has got what, but the Kokatha are doing some good work and that work is now going to continue with Arid Recovery.
This bill, in a sense, is supportive of those approaches. One of the elements in the bill, and I am not sure if it has been mentioned, is that there is that capacity to adapt when it comes to carbon farming. Sometimes this is a bit of a vexed area about the decent accreditation of carbon farming initiatives and carbon offsets. There has been in this country a significant amount of controversy. Indeed, the United Nations actively promotes the need to urgently respond to climate change, and quite rightly, but it appears that the United Nations itself, when it comes to some of the carbon offset programs for their own carbon use, has been caught out getting what could be called junk carbon offsets.
So there is a real issue, in both this nation and globally, in ensuring that what is done is properly accredited and is monitored in a decent way so that there is compliance, so when people do enter into offset arrangements, it is a genuine offset that is going to make a genuine difference and not something that is just ticking a box and often making middle people a significant amount of money. That is something that has to be watched.
People have mentioned in the pastoral area that for a lot of stations tourism has become very important. There are station stays, and there have been in this state for many years. I think it might have been the Fels up near Flinders Ranges who were one of the first of the families, because they went through a really hard period, to combine a pastoral property with a tourism outlet as well. All these years later, tourism provides an important contribution to their business.
They get onto me on a regular basis when it comes to the state of the roads up there. I should one day talk about the state of the roads. We really do need to review the maintenance that goes on in the unincorporated areas. I am going to be formally bringing it up at some stage, because there is a real issue. Like a lot of things, it is about drawing on the local knowledge that exists. When you get told about the way some of the maintenance is done and some of the gear that is brought in from elsewhere, it just does not make much economic sense. So I think there needs to be a bit of a look at that.
Going back to when Ian Hunter was the conservation minister, there was a tweaking of the act at that stage as well (I think it was this act) to enable pastoral properties to potentially benefit from renewable energy projects. When I drive up to Roxby Downs, there are dune areas and then you have these vast gibber areas with major transmission lines going up to Roxby Downs. There is the capacity to do some very significant development in areas like that—it would be solar up there, not wind—where some of the infrastructure is in place. It will probably have to be enhanced, and there will have to be discussions with BHP. I think there is some real potential there.
We have been debating the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill this week. I think most of us appreciate the scale of some of the things that are being proposed. I always look at these things because Whyalla is a bit of an epicentre when it comes to a lot of this stuff. In one sense, I am an enthusiastic supporter, but in another sense I have been around for a long time and I do not count my chickens before they hatch.
I know that we are involved in a very intense global competition. We will never be able to match, nor should we, what has been put on the table in the United States and European Community when it comes to subsidies. We just have to be smart and we have to play to the strong comparative advantages that we have when it comes to both land and our natural resources in the form of wind and solar.
If some of these projects do go ahead, these major hydrogen-based projects, pastoralists will benefit and they will benefit significantly. We should ensure that they do benefit. They will get a decent income stream that will secure them through the climatic changes, through the changes year to year, that will help secure their businesses for the long term, and there might also be other advantages in terms of the infrastructure that goes in and a whole raft of other factors.
One of the organisations that is heavily involved with the whole of the unincorporated areas is the Outback Communities Authority. I hate using a fossil fuel term, but they are expected to cover those areas on the smell of an oily rag. I am hoping that one of the things that some of these major projects in the outback will deliver is more funding for outback communities.
These are communities that are often expected to get by on a voluntary basis, with a small number of volunteer hours that have to go into some of these small communities. They are unincorporated, out in the pastoral country. You see people get burnt out in some of these communities because of what it is they have to do. It is stuff that people in larger communities in the city take for granted and gets done for them, yet people in small communities are expected to do it often on the basis of voluntary effort with not much in the way of support.
So, if we get some of these major projects in the unincorporated areas, there needs to be an income stream that is going to support the pastoral areas, the small communities in the unincorporated areas. Indeed, even in communities like Coober Pedy, which is not unincorporated, there needs to be a decent income stream to support these communities and the pastoral areas of our state.
It should not be forgotten that we talk about tourism and we talk about carbon farming, we talk about the potential for renewables, we talk about conservation, but the primary business of most of the pastoral leases is around providing wool and meat. These are industries that have been sustained for many, many years, and they make a contribution to our state. In terms of the overall scheme of things, people can say it is neither here nor there, but that is not true. It is significant and it does generate employment elsewhere apart from just on the stations themselves, with the abattoirs, the supply chains and a whole range of things.
The other thing about it is if these properties were not there, if these businesses were not there, the land would be virtually empty. There would be nobody looking after it. The challenge for the state when it comes to managing vast areas of land is usually from a conservation effort. Yes, that is challenging in a place the size of Australia. So the pastoral properties and the businesses that are there do play an important role, and we should recognise that and we should enhance that role, if anything.
In recognising it, maybe at a federal level, there should be financial recognition when it is done properly. When conservation on leases is done properly, and even on freehold where some good work happens as well, there should be a reward of sorts for being the custodian of the land that people find themselves on.
I have spoken at length about what is a very simple bill. It is a simple bill, clarifying stuff that is already happening and giving it a bit of a legislative tweak so that we do have that certainty. I commend the bill.
Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (17:14): I, too, rise to make a contribution in support of the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation (Use of Pastoral Land) Amendment Bill. I would like to start with a little bit of history of our pastoral lands, because it is a really interesting history lesson in one way, shape or form.
While my family have not technically owned pastoral lands, my father travelled much of the pastoral country for many years, buying sheep. We know that pastoral lands, in a good year, are one of the great lands for breeding sheep, raising sheep, and producing some of the great pastoral livestock industries.
First and foremost, if we look at the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act—and we are about to amend that—and back at 1894 to the state's first Pastoral Act, the first Pastoral Board was formed of three prominent public servants, and the first major issue was the northern drought of 1902. If you look back in the history books it was a drought that changed the landscape forever in those pastoral countries; however, the main task was to oversee the establishment and development of pastoral leases throughout South Australia. That, more or less, went unchanged for more than 95 years.
In 1936, the new Pastoral Act was introduced to manage overstocking and land degradation—which continues today, sadly. The pastoral lands have seen significant challenge: we have droughts and we have floods. They are a giving land, but they are also a very fragile land, and we see the impact of some of the natural events that really do change the landscape.
In 1948, Fred Jessup was appointed Chief Scientist and joined the Department of Agriculture to further investigate land degradation while also surveying the arid lands. Until 1989 a long review of the lands was undertaken by H.P.C Trumble from the Department of Agriculture, who worked alongside the Minister for the Environment back then, the Hon Don Hopgood. There were great gains and achievements in those early days to better manage pastoral lands. What we saw back then was really a change in the landscape, a change in the way we treated those fragile lands until 2000.
After another 10 years, and $6 million, we saw that leases had been scientifically assessed, and once those leases had been assessed we had a much better understanding of exactly what that meant, until 2004 when the Arid Lands Information System was formulated. That saw data management adopted in assessing plant species, soil types, stocking densities, the relevant aspects of arid lands.
That is where we get to today. We know that pastoral lands are very fragile, as I have said, but the 40 million hectares covered by 323 pastoral leases represent about 43 per cent of the state. A pastoral lease allows the occupation of Crown land for grazing and raising livestock, but it is more than that. It is about conservation, about pastoralists conserving those fragile lands but also those almost uninhabited lands that very few people understand in terms of their isolation, their tyranny of distance, the scale that pastoralists have to work with to make their businesses viable, as well as the independence they have to work under to make a successful go of being a pastoralist.
The Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act ensures that pastoral leases are well-managed, resourced and maintained, but we have to tweak the act to better manage our lands. I want to commend the majority of the pastoralists for the work that they do in arid lands, in rangelands and on our pastoral lands, and for the work that they have done over many years to keep that country alive. When we talk about the challenges of natural weather events, when we talk about overgrazing or mismanagement in certain aspects, pastoralists know that is unviable. They know that it cannot continue to happen because they are there for the long term.
In my most recent visit, I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to fly at low altitude through a lot of pastoral lands in South Australia and into Queensland, into some of that Channel Country up there, just to understand how that landscape works, how the waterways, the tributaries out of some of those river systems and creek systems work and how they feed life into our pastoral lands. It really is a sight to behold.
Pastoralists make a valuable contribution to not only exports but the economy at large. As the member for Giles said, there are very few people up there but it is a large economy that is derived. We see large numbers of livestock coming out of that part of the world, but we also see large environmental benefits. The management of those lands is not about locking country up, it is not about walking away; it is about managing it and making sure that pastoralists breathe life and hope into what is known as one of the great land management exercises in this country.
I will touch on a little bit of what is happening in Chaffey; I do travel the electorate often. There are 19 pastoral leases partially or completely within the electorate, and the pastoral areas cover about one-third of the electorate. Twenty-five per cent are wholly used for conservation purposes, and I have visited a number of those conservation parks, Danggali being one. We know that Danggali had a significant fire through it not that many years ago, as did the Cooltong Conservation Park. Those fires in one way promote regeneration, but again they do change the landscape.
We look at the Murray River National Park. The Chowilla Game Reserve has seen significant change, particularly with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the re-management of the basin that travels through some of that pastoral country. We are now seeing that a lot of that reserve has changed, particularly at Chowilla. My most recent visit was out to Gluepot. The volunteer bases and the work that they do at these parks is to be commended. It is all volunteer-based. They go out there, they care for the wildlife and they care for the lands. In a 10-year period, what those volunteer groups have achieved is nothing short of amazing.
There are comparative photos of what was and what we have now—the tree planting and the native fauna that has been promoted into some of that landscape—but it is also attracting wildlife. It is attracting the regeneration of birdlife species in particular, which have almost disappeared. They are now flourishing and it is a sight to behold. In particular, at Gluepot they have won a number of environmental awards that have been second to none. It is all driven and derived by good leadership and the volunteer base, so I really do commend that group.
The act will confirm that pastoral leases can be used for conservation. As I have already said, there has to be a balance. The conservation of those parks cannot be derived by locking country away. It has to be derived by opportunity. It has to be derived by pastoralists, it has to be derived by conservationists, it has to be derived by passionate volunteers and it is also, as I said, derived from economic opportunity.
We are on the cusp of a changing landscape. We are talking about variable climates. I must say that I think a lot of people, particularly some persuasions, dramatise climate change. They dramatise what is currently underway. I am proud to say that if you look at a glacier, if you look at it over thousands or millions of years we are all going through different stages of climate variation, whether it is ice ages, whether it is heat, whether it is dust, whether it is wind, whether it is rain and flood or whether it is drought. It continues to evolve and over the course of history that landscape is affected. It changes, it adapts, it manages, just as we do. As a primary producer, we have to deal with a varying climate every year.
As I have said, 21 leases in South Australia are already wholly for cultivation. That is, I think, a finely balanced conversation. There cannot be an overarching mass shift to conservation only. We need to make sure that there is that balance, I think, managed by a variety of the leases: individual, family, non-government organisations. I am sure every person in this chamber has visited Arkaroola. It is one of the great wonders of this country, in the Flinders Ranges. The Sprigg family has been custodians for many years. You can go up there and understand how that landscape is working, how it is managed, how it is mined and how we have that very fine balance with pastoralists, with mining and making sure that the conservation agenda is also maintained.
At Arid Recovery, BHP has quite a significant program. Kalamurina country is also the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. I think that has been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, as well as Witchelina and Hiltaba through the Nature Foundation. They are being managed well. They are not having their gates locked. They are up there making sure that there is regeneration, there is opportunity. They are programs that I fully endorse.
I must mention again the important work of conservationists in our regions. The largest pastoral lease in the electorate of Chaffey is Calperum Station. They are doing some very good work training in Indigenous programs and in regeneration of our flood plains. A lot of Calperum Station has recently been underwater, and to see the regeneration once those floodwaters recede is nothing short of amazing.
That gives an opportunity for those training and education programs now to go out and again promote the landscape, promote planting of native flora and make sure that the work out there under the custodianship of the Australian Landscape Trust is progressed. It is the responsibility of government to make sure that they are given a level of support and funding to promote traineeships, people who are custodians of that country.
Calperum starts about 10 kilometres north of Renmark and runs almost to the top of the border, but the habitat and, as I have already said, the species, the conservation, the research and the public education are resulting in more and more visitors in the tourist sector going out there, inhabiting some of the quarters. People come away from Calperum in awe of what is being achieved out there. It is about scientific research and the public education to understand exactly what pastoral leases can achieve and how well we can manage them and the results that we get.
Regarding declared critical habitat for species conservation under commonwealth legislation, I think it speaks for itself. That is a corporate responsibility on any pastoral lease, any Crown lease or any lease, full stop. It is very fragile country, and it does tell a tale very quickly if those lands are not being managed and if those lands are not being looked after to a high degree because, as I have stated a number of times in my contribution, it is a very fine line with that land, that very fragile, low rainfall land. It does rely on opportunity.
I do want to touch a little bit on carbon farming, and I think a few have made contributions on this. Carbon farming is in its infancy. We know that carbon farming is going to present opportunity. Until we can actually understand what carbon farming will mean—if we are talking about credits or if we are talking about the management of farming carbon, we have to better understand it. I think governments need to work better, work harder and promote it more, to make sure that we extract the most out of the carbon opportunity. Whether it is about credits, whether it is about farming or whether it is about sequestration, we have to understand and educate ourselves as legislators so that we can promote the opportunities for carbon farming.
There has been talk about opportunities for transmission lines and wind towers. It really does beggar belief that we could degrade pastoral country with lots of towers, lots of poles and lots of wires because, let's face it, wind farms equal transmission lines and transmission lines equal electron loss. We look at the long distances that we will have to string wires across our pastoral lands, and it will mean that there will be huge loss—
Mr McBride: Opportunity.
Mr WHETSTONE: It is opportunity—but also, for those who are economic rationalists, how many poles and wires do you want to put across our country for some gain? Let's be real. How much loss in a thousand kilometres of transmission line, and for what gain? Yes, I am a supporter of renewable energy, but there is a place and there is an equation about reducing the number of poles and reducing the number of towers to achieve the same result. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.