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Spring, a New Prime Minister, and a New Reef Report Card

It’s now Spring – and it is very evident in Toowoomba – host to the annual Carnival of Flowers!  This year we even got to the parade and viewed some of the flowers – usually we are away somewhere and leaving Toowoomba for the tourists!There are other ‘new beginnings’.  Australia has a new Prime Minister and who knows what that will bring for rural and agricultural policy?  One interesting change already is putting agriculture and water together in the hands of the rural focused National Party!  Agriculture certainly has a strong interest in water and its management and it is hoped that it is mature enough to recognise other water needs and to be able to negotiate mutually beneficial policies and approaches.

We’ve also seen the new Report Card on the Great Barrier Reef – with concerns about slower than desired progress.   There was a change with this report card where reference was made to ‘hectares of (agricultural industry) managed under Best Management Practice’ for such areas as nutrients, pesticides and soil.  This is a more useful number than previous ‘numbers of producers who made a (water quality friendly) change’ and it does signal the need for evaluations to include relative ‘on the ground’ impact.  These figures would be based on assumptions and extrapolation – and it is hoped over time that accuracy continues to increase to show the base actual data available.  Recent surveys we have undertaken for the sugar extension and grains BMP programs have been structured around the Water Quality Risk Framework and linked changes to areas affected.  Monitoring and Evaluation of practice change is also a stronger component of the updated Reef Plan Extension Strategy and implementation guide.  This is certainly providing improved data for assessing change – but there is a way to go yet to capture the full measure of what is happening across all agriculture in the reef catchments.

What is emerging is a need to get better at capturing practice levels and change across agriculture in all its forms to assist in planning, targeted RD&E and more accurate reporting in achievements and outcomes.  It has been great to see the Rural Development Corporations rising to this task.

Coming up are some interesting travel experiences – back to Chile to assist in a project targeting capacity building for consultants who provide government funded support to smallholders; to NZ for a very short sabbatical at Waikato University and then as part of the GRDC ‘Extension Adoption, Training and Support’ (EATs) program field visit for participants.

Meanwhile we take a short visit ‘back to the future’ to PNG to celebrate our October birthdays – calling in to Alotau – where it all began in 1976 (first position post-degree) – see the photos of the then main street of Alotau and (then) young Volunteers!  So quite a packed ‘rest of year’ program.