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Managing rangelands the key to new opportunities in northern Australia.



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AFFA03/342WT - 19 November 2003

Managing rangelands the key to new opportunities in northern Australia

One of the keys to developing new opportunities in Australia's vast northern rangelands is a better understanding of their complex ecosystems, Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

Opening the ABARE Regional OUTLOOK Conference in Darwin, Mr Truss said that boosting our understanding of northern Australian rangelands would help to protect their long-term environmental integrity.

"Australia's northern rangelands cover a vast area, and include native pastures vitally important to the livestock industry," he said. "Their rugged beauty, and strong cultural and historical values, has also encouraged a burgeoning tourism industry.

"There has, however, been little agricultural development. If this is to change, and we are to look at new opportunities, we need to know more about rangeland ecosystems.

"To give this process impetus, the Australian Government is providing $386,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust this financial year to further develop the Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System (ACRIS).

"ACRIS will build on the excellent work of the National Land and Water Resources Audit, and provide us with the first national assessment of pastoral areas within our rangelands - including those in northern Australia.

"This will help identify ways of boosting production and profitability in the pastoral industry, while at the same time, protecting the environment.

"It will also help highlight opportunities for rangeland managers to diversify into other areas, such as producing bush foods, making use of native or feral animals, as well as assessing a range of potential agricultural activities.

"The Australian Government is keen for rangeland managers in northern Australia to look at the options for developing new agricultural and horticultural crops - but only if they can be undertaken in harmony with the environment.

"In this regard, we are funding research into irrigation opportunities in northern Australia, including a number of case studies in the lower Burdekin, the Katherine-Daly Basin and the Kimberly region."

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433