Presidents Report October 2017

 

I would like to thank our committee members for their work and support this last year and to our administration officer, Karlette Perry for the great work she does behind the scenes.

Probably the biggest change this year and has been somewhat confusing for the membership is the change from the Circular Head Business Group to the Smithton Retail Group. Business owners have a choice of belonging to either the Progress Group or the new Smithton Retail Group depending on where your interest lies. The Progress Group is interested in the growth and economic development of the broader Circular Head community whereas the Retail Group is purely about retail.

Our work with trying to expand the pasture base for both dairy and beef in Circular Head is ongoing. We travelled down to Hobart and met with Forestry Tasmania CEO and an advisor from Victoria and pointed out underperforming native  forestry blocks in Circular Head that adjoined existing privately owned beef or dairy operations and put our case that it would be for the greater good of our local community as well as the state’s for these to be leased out on a long term basis to the neighbours. Under the Permanent Forest Estate however the Government says that is not allowed to clear native forest and convert it to pasture, no matter how poor and unproductive this native forest is, but there is no problem converting plantation to pasture. Discussion then centred on the fact that the state owns approx 50,000 ha of plantation and that 30,000 ha of this was to come on the market but only as leasehold. We had no problem with that in fact it we had suggested long term leasing a long time ago as a means of getting around the problems associated with selling state owned land.             They said that they had invited interested private forestry companies to tender for this 30,000 ha. The question was asked whether neighbouring pasture based enterprises would be invited to participate in the tender process or in fact any farmer who might be interested in clearing the trees and  sowing back down into pasture for beef or dairy. The reply was that they had not thought of this. Because this land is in plantation it was assumed that it would stay in plantation. It is frustrating that no one in government seems to be looking at the bigger picture and looking at the highest end use for this land. I’m sure that Greenhams, J.B. Swift or Dairytas would have liked to see an extra 50,000 to 75,000 more beef or dairy cows in their production cycle, year in , year out for the next 99 years which is the length of  the lease.  Sadly a missed opportunity.

 We met with Guy Barnett and Joan Rylah and showed them a large grazing block in Togari  that had been cleared, drained and converted to pasture and will eventually be the site of two 400 cow dairy farms. We brought along the farmer who is doing this to meet the Forestry Minister and our member for Braddon. An adjacent block had just recently been harvested by the then Forestry Tasmania,  it was mostly tea tree with some gum scattered about, the economics of such a harvest would be questionable. This block we pointed out will return nothing to the State for another 60-80 years and yet the same land if leased to an interested dairy farmer  for drainage and conversion would return around $100,000 a year in rental to the government and approx. put $2,500,000 each year into the local economy. They asked the farmer what his land had looked like beforehand and he replied “exactly the same as this”.

 

We made the argument that once cleared and drained what if 10% of this area was then set aside as pruned hardwood plantation to give a good future feedstock for local sawmillers. It  would most likely provide more timber than being left to natural regeneration, in a much shorter timeframe and providing either beef or dairy with the ensuing employment and millions of dollars circulating throughout the community. It would seem like a win/win situation but the Permanent Forest Estate Policy prevents the conversion of native forest. However if it can be shown to be of substantial public or private benefit the Minister can provide an exemption. This is an area that has yet to be tested.

As a member of the Pro Dairy group originally formed to investigate the shortfall in available dairy farm managers and related staff,  we came to the conclusion that we need to change perceptions about agriculture and the career paths that are available for young people.

At Timboon in Western Victoria a programme has already been rolled out where agriculture has been imbedded in the school’s curriculum and retention rates, attendance and general pupil engagement has been a real positive outcome. To facilitate a similar programme in Circular Head we brought over Timboon Agriculture Project co-ordinator, Andrea Vallance, a qualified teacher and a dairy farmer. She met with 30 school teachers and outlined the programme to them and how it would work. From that evening we realised that many of the teachers had little or no agricultural background and so now we are about to take them out onto farms and factories so they can see for themselves and also become familiar with agricultural terminology. I would encourage everyone to watch this Landline video :  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-30/farm-studies/7129466   and I’m sure many of you will have a light bulb moment and think why has this not been done before. This great teaching aid has been right in our community all along but because curriculums come from Canberra it has been , until now, sadly overlooked.

I also represent the business community on the Circular Head Education and Training Consultative Committee (CHETCC) where we are trying to bring about educational outcomes relevant to local employer needs whilst still meeting the aspirations of the student. I played the above Landline clip to the mainly academic committee and they could see the value in this as a way of engaging students in a practical, hands on way.

I also chair the Destination Action Plan for Circular Head, a group set up to improve visitor experiences through selecting priority activities that will make a difference in our area. This initiative from the Premier as Minister for Tourism, is being spread out across the state and it is up to each region to identify and prioritise the actions needed to enhance the destinations and experiences for our visitors. This group is made up of representatives from Council, Circular Head Tourism Assoc. Stanley Chamber of Commerce, Parks, Cradle Coast Authority, Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation, the Circular Head Business Group and myself representing the Circular head Progress Group.

Many will have noticed the fresh new sign welcoming visitors to Smithton with a mention as the Heart of the Tarkine Coast and the flags flying at the Smith St. roundabout. Our launch of the Tarkine Coast occurs this week and a visit to our website www.tarkinecoast.com.au  will give more info for those who have been following our progress. This has been 2 years in the making and I hope that producers, tourism ventures and the general community take up this chance to reinvent ourselves as somewhere fresh and exciting to be part of.

John McNab.

President

C.H.P.G.