Tony Gleeson, Synapse Research & Consulting
Alex Dalley, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Dili, East Timor
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
The purpose of this commentary is to discuss the implications of the data available for Australian State of the Environment 2006 (SoE2006) to inform the Australian community about trends in the condition of the land resource, the pressures on the land resource and the effectiveness of responses to those pressures since the publication of SoE2001.
A commentary on data is both a reflection of the data and a reflection of the lenses through which the data are viewed.
The data provided for this commentary to identify these trends since the publication of SoE2001 are very limited. This may be because the data are not available or because approaches used to assemble the data are not effective.
The extent to which the availability of trend data limits the usefulness of the commentary depends largely on the expectation or otherwise of discernible changes in key land condition indicators over what is, in the context of environmental trends, a short five years between state of the environment reports.
The commentary is based primarily on continental-scale data. The broad scale nature of these data obscures positive and negative trends that may be occurring in particular parts of the continent or in relation to particular landuses.
We viewed the data through two predominately rural lenses, one older and experienced in rural and environmental policy analysis and in land management, and the other younger and experienced in environmental management, communication and community development.
These lenses have concentrated our attention on agriculture, which is the principal landuse activity across much of Australia. We acknowledge however that impacts on landscapes arise also from other landuses, such as from human settlements and national parks.
A further limitation is that the scope of the commentary is limited primarily to the pressures and impacts on land arising from the activities of land managers. Reflecting a lack of data, there is little direct focus on the pressures and impacts arising from policies affecting consumption patterns for land-based products. For example, policies affecting the transport and retailing of food products affect the location and form of production, and hence land condition, as do policies promoting the industrial use of land based products, for instance for the production of ethanol. Nevertheless, this commentary does include an examination of the drivers of the pressures on the land resource. This examination raises the question as to whether or not these drivers support or retard the ecologically sustainable management of the land resource.
The particular issues dealt with in this commentary are: