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Transcript of interview with Scott Tourle: Wellington, NSW: 13 July 2009: [Landcare]

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The Hon. Tony Burke MP

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Tony Burke - speaking with Scott Tourle, Wellington, NSW

13 July 2009

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke discussing Landcare activities with Scott Tourle at Wellington, near Dubbo, NSW.

TONY: G’day it’s Tony. I’m out in the Wellington area at the moment - near Dubbo - here with Scott Tourle, thanks for having me out on your property. Now, before we talk about Landcare, what’s this building behind us?

SCOTT: This is the school house. Our family settled in this land in 1840 and my great-grandfather had 13 children, one of which was my grandmother.

TONY: Right.

SCOTT: So there were 13 kids, they needed schooling, so they had to accommodate the governess or the tutor or whatever. So the tutor lived in one room-

TONY: School for one family?

SCOTT: School for one family. So it really was just the school for this one family, plus, I s’pose a few locals that might have been just working on the place at the time.

TONY: Okay.

SCOTT: So, yeah, it’s all just built out of stone, built probably about 1870 or somewhere about there.

TONY: Okay, but you’re getting on towards, what, 150 years of family on the property.

SCOTT: Yeah, well the main homestead, it was 150 years old two years ago.

TONY: Okay, so the land here - the work you’re doing with Landcare - what sort of challenges have you had over that time? Can’t ask you to speak for the whole 150 years, but you would have seen some of the issues build up that you’re now starting to remediate, I mean.

SCOTT: Well, when I first came home from school we were still knocking out trees - taking out your bigger trees so we could farm it. Now we’re starting to put trees back, we’re doing a lot more fencing of subdividing to try and make smaller paddocks, we’re rotating our stock. We’re trying to keep at least 70 per cent ground cover on our ground, but we’re aiming for 100 per cent. And as I said to you a little bit earlier, what we’re in a way doing is going back to the way our ancestors did it: using shepherds.

TONY: Can you explain that? ‘Cause you’re not employing shepherds.

SCOTT: No, we’re not employing shepherds, but we’re doing it in a different way. Years ago the shepherd would have a big mob of a thousand, two thousand sheep, and he’d work those sheep - graze them across a paddock - that night he might put them into a yard. The next day he goes and takes them to a nice fresh bit of grass. So we’re doing the same sort of thing now with fences.

TONY: Okay.

SCOTT: So we’re moving - we’ve got big mobs of stock - so we’re moving them, not on a daily basis, but every few days, a couple of weeks even maybe, depends on the size of the paddock. We’re moving them to fresh pasture.

TONY: And fences are the new shepherds.

SCOTT: Fences is the new shepherd.

TONY: And what’s the difference in how your pasture survives by doing that form of rotation?

SCOTT: Rest is the biggest thing. To me, no matter what you do, as long as you let your pasture rest. Let it grow, let it strengthen its roots - that’s the main thing. Where in the past, we used to just continuously graze it and it never got a chance to get that root system going, so now it has. I think that’s the biggest thing we’re allowing it to do now - giving what’s on the ground a chance to recuperate.

TONY: Okay, and in some of your improved pasture that you’ve been working through and dealing with salinity - how important has Landcare been in all of that?

SCOTT: Well really, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to do it without Landcare involvement. It’s very costly to be fencing off small areas of land, pasture improvement on that, especially with saline seeds. It’s very costly to do that. We’re happy to be able to contribute certainly some, but to have to do it at this sort of financial time, it’s pretty tough without having some assistance. So yeah it’s been just great to have some Landcare involvement, and CMA and whatever, so it’s just very important.

TONY: Okay, and the work we saw before - we saw the difference between where you’re putting the improvement down and areas where it’s just been fenced off with no land management. Some people try to run an argument that all you’ve got to do is fence something off and it’s better, but that’s not what you’ve seen here.

SCOTT: No, I think any land needs some activity. The worst thing you can do for country is just fence it off and do nothing with it. We’ve got some areas here, which we have had to fence off for certain reasons, but we’re lacking that animal impact. I think is very important to have that, because again it stimulates the plant growth. You need grazing, you need soil disturbance; you need those sorts of things to get things motivated

TONY: Okay. Well, Scott, thanks for having me out on your property.

SCOTT: It’s been great. Loved having you.

TONY: Thanks very much.

SCOTT: All the best.

TONY: Thank you.