11 – Clean green beef – the importance of free-flowing rivers in the Lake Eyre Basin 117 The Lake Eyre Basin has oil and gas resources (see Chapter 19), bush tracks, wildlife and blue skies that draw visitors (see Chapter 13). Wise use of these resources is essential if we are to benefit in the long term from this special environment. We have to plan well. The people of the Lake Eyre Basin are not demanding massive developments and so there should be no rush to exploit the values that are special to all of us. It is all about wise use. What is wise use? Is it measured in money or sustainability? High-value mining resources are generally extracted over a short period of time (see Chapter 19), whereas beef production and tourism deliver low to medium value over generations. All industries need to be sustainable with appropriate regulation to ensure there is no damage to the Lake Eyre Basin (see Chapter 22). We still want visitors from here, other parts of Australia and overseas to be able to experience the incredible diversity of our country for centuries to come. Governments need to protect the values of the Lake Eyre Basin river systems, particularly the Channel Country rivers. It is critical that the rivers be allowed to flow uninterrupted, following their natural behaviour. Water management plans guided by scientific knowledge need to adequately protect the rivers (see Chapter 22). Downstream habitats and values cannot survive if we divert, diminish or corrupt the free-flowing nature of our rivers. This has allowed a clean and green livestock industry, our organic enterprise, to prosper in one of the drier parts of Australia. It has also fostered a tourism industry, which grows rapidly with improved access. When the great rivers flow to Lake Eyre, they bring unimaginable numbers of bird life and publicity to our region. We need to live in harmony with these values and demonstrate that our industries of livestock production, mining, tourism, towns do not degrade our great environment. All industries have to be clean and green, with a strong sustainability focus. We need to keep it this way. Conclusion The Lake Eyre Basin rivers are a long way from intensive agriculture and use of chemicals. The rivers and floodplains of the Channel Country are proving to be ideal for successful organic livestock production. Prices and demand have grown, allowing the industry to become increasingly environmentally and economically sustainable. We continue to brand our industry with this regional identity, also benefiting tourism. My plea is for wise use of our Lake Eyre Basin resources. We already have vibrant and viable agricultural and tourism industries. Those of us who live on the upper reaches of the Lake Eyre Basin understand our rivers. We know how important they are for downstream communities. We must not divert or diminish the volume and quality of water which flows naturally into Lake Eyre. The community in the Lake Eyre Basin can be a world leader in managing this amazing river system for future generations. References Australian Organic Ltd (2014) ‘Australian organic market report 2014’. Australian Organic Ltd, Nundah, http://austorganic.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/AO_Report_2014_web.pdf. McLaughlin C (2006) Tracks of Yesterday. Central Queensland University Publishing Unit, Yeppoon. Monk A, Mascitelli B, Lobo A, Chen J, Bez N (2012) Australian Organic Market Report 2012. BFA Ltd, Chermside.
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