Local Flinders Ranges NRM Volunteer, Nigel Carney has submitted his resignation to the General Manager of the SA Arid Land NRM Board, John Gavin.
In an interview with the Coober Pedy Regional Times former volunteer Nigel Carney speaks frankly about some common grave concerns of NRM’s choice and use of “banned” poisons and practices on the local environment, which created frustration for him, leading up to his resignation.
“NRM has just released their plan for 2010 which has done nothing to allay my concerns”, said Nigel Carney.
CPRT: After receiving a copy of your resignation letter dated Friday, 20 August 2010, can you explain more about your involvement with the NRM?
NIGEL CARNEY: “Two years ago I volunteered with the NRM to enable local participation with the state government in assisting to improve the local environment.
We live in an area that has suffered over grazing and mining and so this seemed a perfect way to contribute in a basic hands on way to weed management, re-vegetation and other projects to improve the health of the local ecology for the benefit of the environment and of course our immediate community.
CPRT: Can you tell us something about your own background?
NIGEL: I am from the big city (Melbourne) and arrived in the Flinders Ranges by fateful adventure in 2006. As an ex-corporate bounty seeker myself I imagined this was my “sea change” or “desert change”. I soon learnt there is no escape from the past or the present, and the future IS ours to see. I am not a ‘new ager’ but even quantum physics states that you need to see something for it to happen as that’s the nature of events.
My academic background is an economics major (Melbourne University) and 20 years in the corporate world with 5 years as technical writer. My first tour of duty was BHP-Steel Sales and Marketing – a great team. I was part of steel quality assessment on the ANZUS Ship Project – yes I have been a war mongerer in the past and probably still am.
In this region I am yet another new comer in the modern-day stream of pilgrims to an old and mysterious land that instantly held a magnetic attraction for me along with other people for whatever reason.
So in summary I’m not much different to others who have invaded this land. I do feel connected though and do feel I have purpose which I didn’t feel in my earlier life despite then, having more money and trinkets! That’s the paradox I guess of seeking out a different existence, which is what I’ve learned from my indigenous friends here and the other white fella new comers. We are all part of a similar but different experience if that makes sense?
CPRT: So why have you decided to resign as an NRM volunteer?
NIGEL: “As it has turned out the energy I have contributed in ideas and local information has fallen on deaf ears and after the late 2009 consultation about the 2010 plan I can’t see any inclusion of our local advice, so that for me has undermined my faith in the board and how they manage their funding….and on specific issues we have raised of huge importance I don’t feel local sentiment or logic has been embraced and that’s a bit frustrating, especially as a volunteer. I have offered my skills and education for free and I feel a bit offended that our simple efforts to help remove toxicity in this area have not been attended.
CPRT: Can you be more specific about your experience with NRM?
NIGEL: “It’s certainly not the people. They are all nice and say the right things but when you raise specific environmental concerns and potential solutions and they are ignored you start to wonder ?
CPRT: About what exactly?
NIGEL: “Well, for one thing animal cruelty and respect for the ecology of the land. I envisaged from the experience and information we shared and through the consultation process that occured, that we were part of some positive change. Maybe my expectations were too high or I am simply naïve.
CPRT: Why do you mention animal cruelty in relation to the NRM?
NIGEL: “They [NRM] endorse 1080 poisoning of wild dogs and dingoes. I prefer not to use the term ‘feral’ otherwise half of my friends would be targeted for the NRM campaign!
Our precious friend and loyal canine companion Laika took a 1080 bait locally, and we had to endure the hardship of watching a slow, sporadic and torturous death…I thought this was the sort of thing that would only happen in a horror movie or nazi germany, but its been happening in our own back yards.
Then we saw more dogs going through this gruesome process and so I did some research and it turned out 1080 has already been banned globally except in Australia and New Zealand. While US Congressmen were now pushing for the ban of its manufacture our pleas to stop the torture through the correct channels have been ignored in the plan.
CPRT: So what was your reaction?
NIGEL: “I wrote to the RSPCA, met some scientists in Melbourne and then represented the issue in the community consult document presented to the NRM.
I started to feel a bit disgusted with myself that I was still a part of an organisation that apparently had a very specific and narrow view about ecology and which didn’t seem to want to comment much at all about animal cruelty.
CPRT: What happened?
NIGEL: “Nothing happened and I think that’s probably the main reason I resigned. Apart from being ignored, how could I justify to myself and my own conscience being a volunteer for an organisation endorsing the use of such horrific poisons? The same poison that killed our friend and the same poison killing countless other canines across the outback.
In the last few months I wanted to share information about the locust plague and get some simple help with our local weed control and re-vegetation initiatives, you know simple things. But it’s been like talking to a two foot thick brick wall.
CPRT: What do you see as the possible motivation for pursuing the use of such harmful toxins?
NIGEL: “That’s a good question and I wish I could give you a good answer..ha! I don’t think people are inherently evil but we are mass consumers of materials and energy.
That’s the nature of homo sapiens or whatever you like to call us. The 10 digit folks that arrived on the planet…the digital generation. We have always been expert at exploiting the planet and shortcuts are part of the deal when you are so smart that you can use technology to conquer the world. I just see toxins as the stage we are at with exploiting resources and that is hydro carbons because that’s the fastest way for us to get heat and energy and we are a VERY restless species.
So I don’t know whether we are ‘pursuing’ toxicity or choosing conveniently to ignore the real consequences of our choices. We all enjoy the immediate and luxurious consumer benefits , but who among us is aware of or cares about the longer term and other not so well published negative impacts on our environment and on public health?
CPRT: What are your concerns over the locust plague?
NIGEL: “Chemical spraying of massive areas that includes pastures, farms all in the locale of people and towns. Diazinon was banned way back in 2000 by the US EPA on public health concerns and there is a whole smorgasboard of other dangerous chemicals about to be sprayed across South Australia.
I wanted feedback on what NRM were doing but I just got referred to the PIRSA website that said much the same thing. But it was wrong as well. The only safe CSIRO developed alternative listed – “Greenguard” was NOT available as many phone calls and visits to rural suppliers across SA and Victoria testified. I got no initial response from NRM and the follow-up didn’t make sense either. I did have a great response from the dozens of phone calls and I also visited dozens of farm supply outlets in rural Victoria and South Australia. None had Green Guard and they said it would be unfeasible to use anyway at $80 per hectare compared to the 50 to 80 cents per hectare cost of these dangerous and in many cases banned chemicals.
The whole object of volunteering and contributing to policy seemed wasted. It felt like all the public consultations were part of a public relations game and the same dangerous chemicals and practices were going to go ahead anyway. I enjoy community service but I don’t enjoy being made out to be an idiot while animal cruelty and insane poisoning is occurring in our locale environment.”
CPRT: What was NRM’s reaction to your concerns about public and environmental health?
NIGEL: “I am not sure I have an accurate grip on how reactions work.
I know the people I have worked with at NRM are personally concerned, but they seem to be tied up in a web of bureaucracy which has little or no effect.
As a local person I just want to get on with it, but it’s a long stretch between the public composting toilet I imagine and the front door of the responsible ministers office.
It’s the reality gaps and time delays in between that bug me more than the people. These are good people bogged down in the depths of mysterious processes, most of which seem outdated and not helpful to the immediate issues of the day.
When I get referred to further information and some ‘other’ body that is more responsible I run down that rabbit hole to investigate and most of the time don’t find the answers make much sense to me and the other people I speak to also. Obviously as a local volunteer I source others opinions on issues that concern us.
I just think its time for the NRM to reflect on their mission and where appropriate change their stripes.
CPRT: How do you see that these massive programs are being funded?
NIGEL: “How is anything funded? With either money or resources, depending on what exists and what is the approved and budgeted plan I imagine.
Industries lobby and co-fund areas of common interest and concern, mainly these days it’s about money and tax revenue and royalties and the share holders of the companies that supply all these things they say will make our lives good or at least better than the cave man clan existence of those long-lost cousins.
But is it better as such or different from the old times or are we just reinventing the wheel that we never needed? If I was really to dedicate the time to follow the grubby money trail it would probably originate from ‘us’, so we probably have ourselves to blame but of course the government is an easy target because they are falling apart at the seams.
When we respond to the Australia Day TV commercials to “Lamb It This or That” because some groovy Australian teen idol says we need it – then the buck stops with us and the rest of the mob we invited to the BBQ. So I don’t see any quick escape route for anyone in this dilemma….we are all part of the conspiracy whether we like it or not! “
CPRT: Are you seeing unrelated communities being siphoned (taxed) to help prop up otherwise unsustainable industries?
NIGEL: “It’s hard to say. The patterns exist and I think that’s what people have noticed, so maybe we are getting smarter or they are getting dumber or both.
Taxes are paying for good things in remote communities and there is no taking credit away from the good things that get squeezed from the public purse.
The view is we may as well make the most of the funny money while it lasts.
I don’t think there is consensus on the definition of that word ‘sustainable’ – what’s sustainable to a shareholder with a disposition and need for fine wines is different to the understanding of a person living on the borderline of society growing organic veggies and pondering the best soap to use in the shower.
A lot of terminology has become rhetoric and over time has no definable meaning, like Climate Change was as well relevant to the cave clans as it is to us but I don’t think they had the technology or the networks to convene a convention in Copenhagen, but then again maybe they did?
Maybe its fair to say outback communities share a common ethos and so are seeing the benefits in voicing the commonly felt effect, and that can’t be a bad thing surely?”
CPRT: Have the State and Federal members in your region heard your concerns? (Giles and Stuart)
NIGEL: “These members have heard my concerns and they have changed seats. They know who they are and they may have spoken to someone who spoke to someone else and then probably the alarm bells went off and they awoke from their sleep just in time to reach parliament.
There have been other appropriate responses from the Attorney Generals Office and a lot of other offices, but that’s a maze I have filed away, and maybe one day it will make sense. Whether there is any meaning or benefit in writing a letter is not yet revealed. There are better things to do outside in the real world in the local community in my opinion and experience at least! ”
CPRT: On the ABC morning show today [24-08-2010] PIRSA locust program manager Michael McManus was questioned about the Green Guard alternative to locust control. Mr. McManus said that Green Guard was too slow but referred anyone interested in pursuing Green Guard to the supplier.
What do you think of this reaction in light of the possible ramifications of using banned nerve agents which are known to affect humans?
Well, that’s another lie. I have tried to source Green Guard for 3 months and have probably spent over $200 on fuel and phone calls, including emails to the US Agent Becker Underwood. As far I am concerned it’s now too late to use that safe alternative and on the face of it, it seems that the ability to get Green Guard in time is more likely a government hoax.
CPRT: Later today [24-08-2010], Michael McManus was again interviewed, this time by Annette Marner of ABC. Mr. McManus stated in this interview that only three pesticides will now be used, being – 1.) Fenitrothion, 2.) Fipronil and 3.) Green Guard. The PIRSA website now reflects these three options only, where before their website, updated in April 2010 stated:
“The insecticides that are currently registered for locust control are: • Carbaryl • Chlorpyrifos • Diazinon • Fenitrothion and for locust management in grain crops and pastures • Fipronil • Maldison.”
How do you view the remaining choice of weapons against the locust in your area?
NIGEL: I understand what you are saying and am sure the organic and biodynamic farms will be concerned at losing their accreditation depending on which way the wind blows on the day. Why this is happening is anyones guess, but sadly my conclusion is simply that Australia is a very immature and backward nation.
My own research reveals these products are banned elsewhere. “Fipronil was used to control African locusts in Madagascar between 1996 and 1999, the mortality of many bird and mammal species increased, leading the government to withdraw authorisation of its use against locust swarms in February 1999…
…and Fenitrothion use was banned in Canada in 1997 after being linked to significant increased mortality of forest songbirds and was known to have harmful effects on terrestrial invertebrates including honeybees, ants and springtails”, however the negative outcomes are much broader.
CPRT: Thank you – that was Nigel Carney former volunteer for the South Australian Arid Lands Natural Resource Management group speaking with the Coober Pedy Regional Times.
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