The new WA Agriculture Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, has flagged carbon farming as a key priority for the southern part of WA’s Outback.
This is a strong indication of the new Labor government’s focus on some of the challenges facing people and nature in the Outback.
According to the WA Country Hour, Ms MacTiernan has said that she wants to work with the pastoral industry to look for innovative, alternative options to help address the challenges faced in some parts of the southern rangelands. It's clear that Ms MacTiernan considers carbon farming to be an important part of that mix.
"Looking at these other solutions such as carbon farming, [there’s a] proponent ready to go with a big project," Ms MacTiernan told the Country Hour. "Maybe that’s really part of the solution... happy to work with the groups to look at what else we can do, being a bit innovative about what you can do with that land.”
This is great news for Outback land managers who are chomping at the bit to capitalise on the opportunity presented by an emerging carbon farming industry. Those land managers are currently held back by the unfair Outback laws that restrict pastoral leaseholders from diversifying into enterprises such as carbon farming or tourism.
A lack of government policy and of a clear investment pathway means carbon farming on leasehold land, for the purpose of selling carbon credits and gaining a new income stream, is not yet feasible in WA. The full potential of carbon farming cannot be realised without significant reforms of WA’s outdated Outback laws.
While pastoralists in other states such as Queensland and Northern Territory are beginning to capitalise on the growing market for carbon credits – earned by changing land management practices to enable increased storage of carbon in soil and vegetation – WA has so far missed out on this opportunity.
Now, things might be about to change. Yesterday's comments come in the wake of news last week that Ms MacTiernan sees a pressing need for additional research in the northern part of the state, particularly to address developing areas such as carbon farming.
Carbon farming has become an increasingly hot topic for conversation in recent months, following the release of a report (full report downloadable here) in December that demonstrated an average southern rangelands pastoral station could earn $194,000 per annum from carbon farming.
For more news on carbon farming in WA's Outback, please visit the Outback Carbon website.