Building Awards – Rural and Regional Innovation

Building Awards for Rural and Regional Innovation will be presented at the Australian Regional Development Conference dinner on the 15 October 2014 in Albury.

To find out more please visit the conference website

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Can carbon farming change the face of rural Australia?

By Rod Keenan, University of Melbourne and Snow Barlow, University of Melbourne

The Final Report of the 2011 Garnaut Climate Change Review made a strong case for including land based reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and biosequestration activities in a carbon pricing scheme.

Garnaut considers that payments for these activities could transform rural land use and greatly expand the economic prospects of rural Australia. To realise this potential, the government would need to directly link its proposed Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) and carbon pricing.

Save carbon in soils and trees, sell credits

Garnaut provides a framework to support carbon management across landscapes, as opposed to pursuing a more punitive approach to land sector emissions. Farmers and other land managers would sell credits as offsetts from these activities to companies who have to reduce emissions under the scheme.

These activities would generate two types of Australian Carbon Credit Units. Kyoto carbon credits would apply to activities that Australia currently includes under the international accounting and reporting for its Kyoto targets, savannah burning, agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

“Non-Kyoto” carbon credits would apply to activities such as increased sequestration in soils through cropland or grazing land management and forest management.

As the first commitment period of the Kyoto agreement ends in December 2012, the above classifications may well change in any new international agreements.

The Australian government needs to give strong assurances to land managers that currently covered activities will be part of any new international agreement.

Keeping a cap on credits

Garnaut proposed that the contribution of land-based credits would be capped, at least in the initial stages of the scheme. Perhaps this was because he considered these activities to have a very large “technical” potential. There are also concerns in some quarters that credits would severely reduce the need to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

A cap of 4% in 2012, rising to 10% in 2020, would apply to Kyoto credits. A cap of 2% in 2012, rising to 4% in 2020, would apply to non-Kyoto credits.

Garnaut estimated that total revenue generated by the sale of these credits could rise to $2.25 billion by 2020, or roughly the value of recent national wool production.

By 2020 up to 14% of total emission reductions could be met using land based credits. These limits would be removed when land sector emissions such as methane from grazing animals and nitrous oxide from fertilisers were fully covered by the carbon trading scheme.

Complementary incentives would be put in place to encourage design of biodiversity or other environmental benefits into these activities.

We agree with Garnaut: we are a long way from knowing how much of the technical potential for land-based emission reduction or biosequestration might be realised economically.

Getting into the details

Demonstrating activities are “additional” (or not part of the normal course of business) is particularly problematic.

In the Bill currently before parliament the test for additionality is two-fold. First a project cannot be already required by law. Second, the carbon abatement activities proposed within the project cannot be “common practice”.

Both the interpretation of these tests and establishing acceptable proof will be a considerable challenge.

So what is the baseline against which we would assess credits? It could be based on recent historical emissions or a forward-looking, “business as usual” approach.

The CFI consultation paper places the resolution and approval of these issues with the Scheme administrator, on advice from an expert Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee.

Finding a place for saving forests

Garnaut looks at recent Tasmanian discussions about changing native forest management. He believes the carbon sequestration benefits of these changes are considerable.

This seems to ignore the many caveats on the CSIRO estimates of the potential sequestration from this activity, the benefits of carbon storage in wood products (which he promoted in the 2008 Review) and potential future carbon losses in native forest due to wildfire.

Due to uncertainties in potential carbon benefits, and future risks if management intensity decreases, we agree with him that carbon pricing revenue should not be used in any deal reached to reduce native forest harvesting in Tasmania.

Garnaut’s 2008 Review pushed for incorporation of international credits from reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing tropical countries (REDD+), but there is little mention of it this time. This might be because the international arrangements for this program are still in development.

A bright future?

Garnaut and his team are to be commended for their comprehensive analysis of the role of the land sector in arrangements for reducing carbon emissions.

Australia will need strong research if it’s to implement land based climate mitigation activities. We strongly support Garnaut’s view that investment in research, development, demonstration and commercialisation of new technologies in the land sector should be a major focus of expenditure from carbon taxation revenue.

There is a high degree of uncertainty about whether farmers will be willing to commit land to these activities, even if economic analysis suggests it might be the most profitable thing to do. Many farmers remain sceptical about the need for action on climate and are uncertain about the strength and durability of the market. Direct linkage of the Carbon Farming Initiative to the proposed carbon tax would remove some of this uncertainty.

They are also unsure what may happen to the price in future, the implications of a 100-year commitment and the impact of risk management arrangements. The availability of land, labour and capital and the supply of seedlings or other inputs will also limit the potential to rapidly scale up investment in biosequestration.

The challenge for government will be getting the linkages and implementation settings right so that an active, accessible and robust market can develop. This, is turn, will provide resources for much needed research and new approaches to land management. This chance to integrate carbon farming with the production of food and fibre and other environmental services must not be squandered.

Rod Keenan has received funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) for research on community based forest and carbon management in Papua New Guinea, from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment for research on biosequestration and biodiversity and from the ARC on Australia’s legal preparedness for climate change (with Lee Godden and Jackie Peel at the Melbourne Law School).

Snow Barlow and his partner own and operate a vineyard , farm forestry and farming operation in the Strathbogie Ranges of NE Victoria and market wine under the Baddaginnie Run label. These operations within the land sector could potentialy benefit from a price on carbon

The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation.  Read the original article.

There will be presentations on Carbon Farming at the Australian Regional Development Conference to be held on 15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury. To find out more please contact the Secretariat (T) 61 7 5502 2068 (F) 07 5527 3298, Email: or visit the conference website

Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Ai Group

innes_willox_hi_resMeet the Regional Development Conference speakers – Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Ai Group

Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Ai Group

Innes Willox is Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, a leading industry organisation representing businesses in a broad range of sectors including manufacturing, defence, ICT and labour

Innes joined Ai Group as Director International and Government Relations in 2008 with responsibility for policy development and advocacy acrossfederal and state government systems including in the areas of trade, defence, climate change, industrial relation.

Prior to joining Ai Group he held a number of senior roles in both the publiand private sectors. He served as the Australian Consul General to Los Angeles from 2006 to 2008, where he represented wide-ranging Australianinterests on the west coast of the United States. He was Chief of Staff to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, from 2002006. Earlier, he was Manager of Global

Innes began his working career as a journalist. His positions incof Staff at The Age newspaper in Melbourne and Chief Political

Mr Innes Willox will be presenting at the Australian Regional Development Conference.  To find out more about this conference please visit the website.

Asia home to world’s fastest broadband, Australia lags

broadbandThe top 20 places to find the world’s fastest internet and  Australia is not on the list

The top 20 places to find the world’s fastest internet:

  1. Hong Kong, 65.4 Mbps
  2. South Korea, 63.6 Mbps
  3. Japan, 52 Mbps
  4. Singapore, 50.1 Mbps
  5. Israel, 47.7 Mbps
  6. Romania, 45.4 Mbps
  7. Latvia, 43.1 Mbps
  8. Taiwan, 42.7 Mbps
  9. Netherlands, 39.6 Mbps
  10. Belgium, 38.5 Mbps
  11. Switzerland, 38.4 Mbps
  12. Bulgaria, 37 Mbps
  13. United States, 37 Mbps
  14. Kuwait, 36.4 Mbps
  15. United Arab Emirates, 36 Mbps
  16. Britain, 35.7 Mbps
  17. Canada, 34.8 Mbps
  18. Czech Republic, 34.8 Mbps
  19. Macau, 34.4 Mbps
  20. Sweden, 33.1 Mbps


Figures are average peak connection speeds in megabits per second. Source: Akamai
Read more:  Asia home to world’s fastest broadband, Australia lags. Date January 29, James W Manning  James W Manning

blog_col2Digital Futures and other broadband issues are to be discussed at the Australia Regional Development Conference, 15-16 October Albury 2014

Register now and save $$$

Rural population – Vacant dwellings in rural areas

Vacant dwellings in rural areas, posted by April 1, 2014 in the Id Blog

It might surprise some people that about one in ten dwellings in Australia are vacant on Census night.  What’s more, as we’ve blogged previously, there are distinct spatial patterns to vacant dwellings, with the highest proportions generally recorded in coastal areas with high amenity.  The reasons for this are well documented and are generally due to holiday or second home ownership.  However, there are inland parts of Australia where the proportion of vacant dwellings is quite high, and in some parts, increasing over time.  Some of these are in locations that are not considered high amenity, so what are the characteristics of these areas?  Let’s take a closer look.


What region has the highest proportion of vacant dwellings?

Rural areas, regardless of whether they are on the coast or inland, tend to have higher vacancy rates than metropolitan areas and large regional centres. Similar to coastal regions, many are located in areas of high amenity and hence are attractive locations for holiday or second homes. The table below shows the inland areas with the highest proportion of vacant dwellings across Australia. Note that inland areas are defined as those which do not share a boundary with the coast, and that the table excludes SA2s with less than 200 dwellings.

At the SA2 level, Central Highlands in Tasmania has the highest proportion of vacant dwellings in Australia – 64.2% in 2011. This roughly equates to the Central Highlands Council covering central Tasmania – a sparsely settled area with small towns. Apparently there are a number of fishing shacks around the lakes, which at Census time during the week in the middle of winter are unlikely to be occupied.

SA2 State Proportion (%)
Central Highlands TAS 64.2
Mansfield VIC 45.0
Mannum SA 41.3
Western SA 37.7
Cooma Region NSW 33.4
Mukinbudin WA 33.1
Bright – Mount Beauty VIC 31.9
Alexandra VIC 31.4
APY Lands SA 30.8
Tanami NT 30.2

Source:  ABS, Census of Population and Housing (2011) – unpublished data

Interestingly, there are SA2s in this list that are located in snowfield regions – an area were you expect any vacant dwellings to be occupied on Census night. In Mansfield, almost half of dwellings were unoccupied – surprising given that Mount Buller and its ski fields are located in this area. Other ski field locations with a high proportion of vacant dwellings on Census night include Cooma Region in NSW (33.4%) and Bright – Mount Beauty (31.9%). While the ski fields have their peak season in August, it may be affected by the quality of the snow season – 2011 was not a good season for the ski fields and this would have had an impact on vacancy rates. In addition, because of the high amenity of these areas there are a growing number of holiday/second homes.

There are also some very remote areas with high Indigenous populations in this list, namely APY Lands in the north west corner of South Australia and Tanami in the western part of the Northern Territory. The higher proportion of vacant dwellings may relate to the high rate of personal mobility amongst the Indigenous population but there may also be a number of abandoned houses due to the remoteness factor.


Small area 1991 1996 2001 2006 2011
Proportion (%)
Echuca 8.3 8.4 7.5 8.7 9.3
Kyabram 9.0 8.0 8.9 8.8 8.3
Lockington-Gunbower & District 8.7 11.5 11.3 15.5 19.1
Rochester 9.4 8.9 9.5 11.6 13.0
Rushworth & District 16.8 22.5 18.5 18.1 22.9
Stanhope & District 7.6 11.3 9.8 11.2 13.6
Tongala & District 9.0 10.5 8.0 8.6 10.8

Source:  Census of Population and Housing (1991-2011), compiled and presented in

Do you live in an inland area? Have you noticed changes in the occupancy rates over time? Give us your thoughts on the potential reasons in the comments section.

idMeet the Population experts at the Australian Regional Development Conference