Listening to the community about seasonal variability and climate change.

Over recent weeks Natural Decisions, together with Scarlet Consulting, has been discussing climate change and climate variability with people across North Central Victoria. This work is part of assisting the North Central CMA to develop a Carbon Action Plan for north-central Victoria, with funding from the Australian Government. To inform this plan the North Central CMA wants to understand the consequences that may arise for primary producers and the regional community, as a result of climate variability and long-term trends in climate. The plan will capture local knowledge and outline options for the future management of natural resources in the region in response to a changing climate.

A series of community meetings were held, in six locations – Charlton, Echuca, Raywood, Lockington, Castlemaine and Trentham, with a diversity of participants including primary producers, landcarers, sustainability advocates, conservationists and townsfolk … not surprisingly some participants belonged to all of these categories! Many different community groups were represented, including Landcare groups and networks, local sustainability, soils and energy groups.

A feature of the workshops was listening to locals recount their memories of climate events, in one case back into the 1930s!

“As a kid there were always a few water holes in the Avoca River. It was a very social thing and the reason I came home. My kids think I am mad now. Now it is just a dry river bed. My kids have got no memories of what I had as a child.”

“My grandfather grew 3 bags/acre in 1902. My parents missed five out seven harvests from 1938 to 1944. The 1940s was the worst drought ever in living memory in this area. We did not see another drought until 1982; even 1967 was very good in this area.”

As well as understanding how people were adapting to seasonal variability and climate change, we were able to gain some first-hand perspectives on topics including carbon farming, flood and fire responses, and how natural resource managers and communities could be better supported in a variable and changing climate. The results have been enlightening and will contribute to the development of a relevant and practical carbon and climate plan for the region. A strong theme that emerged from the consultation related to the risk and uncertainty associated with carbon. The following comments  were indicative of much of the discussion on this topic.

“Don’t put a price on carbon. Show farmers how increasing carbon levels benefits productivity.”

“The whole carbon issue is awfully complicated.”

“We need practical information on carbon farming. The North Central CMA has a role as the honest knowledge broker.”

“Carbon improves soil structure and water holding capacity. It is not just about the price for carbon.”


The workshops saw many an animated discussion amongst participants!

Here are some of the other quotes that emerged from a fascinating series of meetings.

“There used to be a fishing club at Wycheproof that would hold a competition every Sunday. But in 1967-68 it started to go dry and the club folded.”

“In the future we are not going to have the patterns we used to have.”

“As far as I am concerned climate change is a reality. The science is conclusive and it is a global phenomenon. I have lived in this area for 15 years and in that time I have been amazed by the adaptations of landholders. In that time dust storms have stopped, largely due to practice change. By building up carbon in the soil it will give us more choices in the future. Active adaptation is happening. There is a lot more knowledge being shared today in a lot more formal ways than in the past.”

“Powlett Plains is disastrous this year and they will only harvest seed, whereas at Mitiamo farmers are talking about the best crop ever.”

“We have moved to a lower risk farming model. A bit of pasture cropping but no cropping in its own right. That is too high a risk. We tend to trade more animals. We have more feed so we can get into the market before the others. It flattens the profitability line but is more beneficial in the longer term. In 2009 we changed from all breeding to trading. We have stubbles up north we can put the sheep on. Diversity is the key.”

“Our landcare group has installed moisture meters across the district. This is leading to a lot more trial work and a lot more formal learning opportunities.”

Cairn Curran Reservoir in the grip of the Millennium drought, March 2006.

Cairn Curran Reservoir in the grip of the Millennium drought, March 2006.

Posted 24 November 2014 in News