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Monday, 21 June 1999
Page: 5851


Senator O'Brien asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, upon notice, on 30 March 1999:

(1) What was the basis for the amended application from the New South Wales Government for an exceptional circumstances declaration for the Wentworth Rural Lands Protection Board (RLPB) which was notified to the Minister on 3 August 1998.

(2) Did the Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Council (RASAC) assess the above of the event; (b) the impact of the event on: (i) pasture condition, (ii) soil moisture and pasture response, (iii) weeds, (iv) the impact of insects and other pests, (v) the condition and productivity of livestock, and (vi) water supplies; (c) the extent of the damage caused by the event; and (e) other forms of support to deal with the event.

(3) Applying `normal risk management' criteria; what was the RASAC conclusion about the impact of the event in the Wentworth RLPB for each of the above criteria.

(4) Did the former Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Mr Anderson, accept the RASAC conclusion on all the above criteria; if not, on which criteria and why did the Minister reach a different conclusion than RASAC.


Senator Alston (Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) NSW Agriculture identified the event as the cumulative impact of ineffective rainfall in the Wentworth RLPD during the growing seasons, in particular very dry autumns since the severe drought conditions experienced in 1994. The impact of these dry conditions was increased by temperature extremes and wind after the spring rainfall of 1997 and 1998.

(2) Yes.

(3) Given the `normal risk management' criteria, RASAC made the following conclusions.

RASAC was of the opinion that the cumulative impact of ineffective rainfall in the Wentworth RLPD during the growing seasons, in particular very dry autumns since the severe drought conditions experienced in 1994, and the temperature extremes and winds after the springs of 1997 and 1998, have together constituted a rare and severe event.

It was evident on the RASAC visit and from other evidence that poor pasture production was the result of poor growing seasons which had not enabled recovery in biomass levels despite significant reduction of around 40% in domestic stocking levels over the period.

(4) The Minister accepted the RASAC conclusion.