Study investigates changing land use in the Upper Clarence

Published 23 May 2008

A community based study investigating the costs and benefits of changing land uses is under way in the Upper Clarence Catchment.

The study, by Southern Cross University PhD candidate Andrea Leys, is looking at the impact of changing land uses from traditional farming such as beef cattle and dairy to new industries such as cropping and hardwood plantation forests.

Ms Leys said changes to traditional land use practice often generated a range of reactions within local communities and it was important people had the opportunity to discuss the potential impacts and benefits.

A number of families in the Upper Clarence area, including Bonalbo, Old Bonalbo, Urbanville, Woodenbong, Tabulum, Mallanganee and Kyogle, have already completed a survey, which was distributed through the Kyogle Council newsletter, and were further involved with interviews in the field.

“The positive response to the study and community willingness to share views and experiences shows that the community is interested in this research,” Ms Leys said.

“This is a pleasing result and we encourage more community members to get involved.”

Community meetings and computer modelling exercises are also being planned for Bonalbo and Woodenbong later in the year.

The study uses a ‘participatory modelling’ method, which allows stakeholders to build their own computer-simulated model to examine the dynamics of an issue being discussed.

“Using a computer model we can simulate the economic impact, for example, of a particular land use in a particular area,” Ms Leys said.

“The model can be used to examine future scenarios under different assumptions. In this way, the whole process encourages informed discussion of land use options and can help to institute management practices that are sustainable and acceptable to stakeholders.”

Ms Leys said where this technique had been used overseas, it had led to new insights and had led to better and more profitable land use, while concerns arising from misunderstandings about land use practices had been reduced.

Ms Leys’ PhD is being supervised by Professor Jerry Vanclay, Head of the School of Environmental Science and Management at Southern Cross University, and Dr Jacki Schirmer, from the Australian National University.

The study is part of the National Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Forestry’s ‘Communities Project’ which involves a series of research projects into the social dimensions of forestry throughout Australia. The CRC for Forestry is funded by the Australian Government, universities, and government agencies and private forestry companies. Other CRC studies in the ‘Communities Project’ are being conducted in Tasmania and the Green Triangle area of Victoria and South Australia.

Community members who would like to contribute to the study, please contact Andrea Leys on mobile 0438 875 935 or email andrea.leys@scu.edu.au. Further information about the Communities Project is available at www.crcforestry.com.au. More information about participatory modelling is available at http://epubs.scu.edu.au/esm_pubs/48/

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748