Rous County Council Biosecurity Officer Rhett Patrick speaking at the first Lismore Biosecurity Forum held at Lismore Showgrounds on Wednesday.
Rous County Council Biosecurity Officer Rhett Patrick speaking at the first Lismore Biosecurity Forum held at Lismore Showgrounds on Wednesday. contributed

Wild dogs, crazy ants just some of our biosecurity threats

BIOSECURITY knowledge is power when it comes to being a landowner on the Northern Rivers.

Wild dogs and ants are some of the many biosecurity threats in the region and these were some of the issues discussed at the first Lismore Biosecurity Forum this week.

Event organiser and Rous Country Council weed biosecurity officer, Kim Curtis, said the forum provided education, solutions and information to land owners and the public about a variety of biological issues on the Northern Rivers.

"The forum was fantastic - we had more than 150 people attend,” she said.

"Biosecurity is important because it's everyone's responsibility, everyone has a duty of care to look after the biosecurity on your own land.

"If you don't know what you are looking for, and the threats, you can't avoid them.

"Landholders learnt about the innovative ideas for combating biosecurity issues. It was essential information for anyone interested in the health and productivity of their land.”

Keynote speaker, director of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance Lorraine Gordon, opened the forum, outlining why changing the way people farmed was key to solving the drought, climate change and could even help to mitigate floods in the Lismore area.

"Regenerative farming is beyond sustainable; put simply, it means to leave the environment in a better state than we found it,” Ms Gordon said.

"If you look west of the divide we are seeing soils that are completely degraded, it's a bit of a perfect storm as to what's causing it.

"It's not climate change doing it, that's been going on for ever, it's the effects of the way we are farming... industrialised farming with high levels of tillage, high levels of chemical use, spraying our paddocks and having bare ground so when you get periods of dry or dust storms you are just losing the top soil levels because it becomes like talcum powder.

"It's not one thing or the other, it's the combination of them.

"We have to change the way we farm here because traditionally we've been farming under European methods and our soils are far older than the European soils and in 200 years, we've done a fair bit of damage.”

Ms Gordon said everyone could get on-board with regenerative agriculture by adding compost to soil, implementing planned grazing to increase soil carbon and to reduce rainfall runoff through creating softer soils.

"The key to climate management lies in the soil,” she said.

"The carbon levels need to be lifted in the soil, for every percentage you lift it you are talking about swimming pools of water that it can hold. What that means for Lismore is by keeping the ground covered and increasing the carbon of the surrounding landscapes and farms - that can go a long way with mitigating the effects of floods.

Other forum speakers included Jeremy Bradley (soil scientist, Giant Parramatta grass), Donna Cuthel (red fire ants), Rhett Patrick (Tropical Soda Apple and new Biosecurity Act), Phil Kemsley (animal biosecurity), Troy Brown (Crofton rust, Cat's Claw and Madeira Beetle), Tony Heffernan (wild dog baiting), Bill Crisp (wild dog trapping) and Josh Wellman (yellow crazy ants).

"It was great to raise awareness about things like red imported fire ants are just over the border and how easily it is for them to accidentally be bought into New South Wales,” Ms Curtis said.

"Attendees learnt what they looked like and what it takes to bring them in, it's really scary stuff.

"There was a lot of concerns about the increase in Wild dog numbers and sightings in the area... at the forum, landowners learnt about ways to control them, with the wild baiting program and trapping.

"Ngulingah Aboriginal Land Council were represented by seven rangers came and spoke about the work they are doing, they are looking after Nimbin Rocks and about 5 other sights around on the North Coast - they have a fantastic Bush tucker nursery that people can buy bush tucker plants from at the Nimbin Rocks.

"They do the work culturally and listen to the land, which was very educational for land owners. They talked about cultural burning off and how the land will tell us when you burn off.  

"It was the first time we've had the event and we had great feedback from the land owners so we hope to have more.”