Natural sequence farming expert lends a hand on Pilbara stations

[July 2015]

Peter Andrews, a grazier from rural New South Wales who developed Natural Sequence Farming methods visited five pastoral stations in the Pilbara this month to help identify, plan and construct on-ground works to reduce erosion and increase rehydration of the land. The collaboration continues work Peter commenced with the station owners a few years ago.

Peter visited Limestone, Warrawagine, Wallal Downs, De Grey and Yarrie stations over eight days and gave a public talk in Port Hedland on Friday 10 July.

The visit was organised by the De Grey Land Conservation District Committee (LCDC) and made possible by support from Rangelands NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme and support for the De Grey LCDC by BHP Billiton’s Community Development Program.

Rangelands NRM Program Manager (Desert and Pilbara), Chris Curnow, said the project is about trying to improve the health of the whole De Grey River catchment.

He said approximately sixty pastoralists across the Western Australian rangelands have now undertaken Ecologically Sustainable Rangeland Management (ESRM) plans, funded by Rangelands NRM's sustainable pastoralism program, with a focus on improving rangeland rehydration.

"The ESRM planning has been conducted by Tim Wiley, an expert in rangeland rehydration, who has worked closely with Peter Andrews and LCDC members over recent years," he said.

"What’s unique about the De Grey River catchment is, with the enthusiasm of its LCDC members, most of the catchment has now been assessed via Landscape Function Analysis using Google Earth. This is what puts their pastoralists in good position to work with Peter Andrews."

Bill Currans, Executive Officer with the De Grey LCDC said he was delighted to have Peter continue to share his expertise with local pastoralists, including De Grey Station’s Mark and John Bettini, Annabelle Coppin of Yarrie Station, the Mills from Warrawagine Station and the Brooks from Limestone.  De Grey and Yarrie stations both completed earthworks under Peter Andrews’ guidance.

“Despite it being a busy time with mustering, the timing of the works was great so banks can settle and hopefully experience some local rainfall and plant growth before cyclone rains and floods hit the De Grey area in summer,” he said.

Mr Currans said De Grey LCDC members are also employing a variety of management tools to maintain vegetation cover and prevent excessive runoff into the De Grey River system, including remote feed budgeting, walk-over-weighing systems and rangelands self-herding techniques. 

Peter has gained fundamental insights to the natural functioning of the Australian landscape that leave him almost without peer. He has applied these insights in restoring his and other properties to fertility levels that he says existed prior to European arrival in this country. 

Peter is well known for the model he established and proved on Tarwyn Park, which was an example of a sustainable agricultural system. His restoration of Tarwyn Park has been well documented on Landline and Australian Story, and he has gained national and international interest and acclaim from his insight and experience. In 2011 he was awarded Australia's highest public award: The Order of Australia Medal.

Rangelands NRM funding for ESRM planning is provided by the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme.  

For more on activities of the De Grey LCDC, see their facebook page

Images courtesy of Bill Currans. 
Photo 1: Scott Mills, Bill Currans, Peter Andrews and Caitlin U'Ren looking at how flood waters move over claypans on Warrawagine Station, July 2015. 
Photo 2: Mark Bettini and Peter Andrews discussing the variety of plants on the De Grey floodplain, De Grey Station, July 2015.