“It is absolutely essential to change the way we think. All other attempts at change will fail if we do not transform our thinking… A proper understanding of the way the world works requires people to think systemically, holistically, integratively and in a futures mode.” Lester Milbrath (1996) “ Envisioning a Sustainable Society’
Peter Andrews is a systemic thinker, environmentalist, a farmer and thoroughbred horse breeder from “Baramul Stud”, Widden Valley in the Upper Hunter. He is a man who many believe is way ahead of his time. Peter has spent a lifetime on the land and his Natural Sequence Farming principles have been derived from a holistic understanding of the unique processes laid down in the Australian landscape. Peter has gained fundamental insights into the natural functioning of the land that leave him almost without peer. He has applied these insights in restoring his and other landholdings, to fertility levels that he says existed upon European arrival in this country. His unique NSF methods have been thought out integratively by looking at the properties of whole systems that emerge from the interaction of individual parts. This interdisciplinary, holistic approach is then applied with adaptive management practices to create a sustainable system of farming at individual sites.
On ‘Australian Story’ recently, Peter Andrews, backed by Dr John Williams¹, asserted that NSF methods were the SOLUTION to restoring the health of the Murray Darling. This potentially has the capacity to restore to present and future generations an enduring legacy.
Currently, Peter Andrews is engaged in overseeing the implementation of NSF techniques at “Baramul Stud” in the Widden Valley. He is also acting as a consultant to private and public sector parties interested in installing NSF in other parts of the country.
Peter Andrews was born on a property outside Broken Hill and did not attend formal school until he was 13 years old. All the men were away at war and Peter grew up with the aboriginal stockmen who taught him how to ‘read’ the landscape, like the indigenous people would and to interpret it’s meaning. Later, he moved to Adelaide and then to Gawler in South Australia, to a small, degraded, salt-laden farm. It was here he began to explore the embryonic beginnings of NSF. Thirty years ago, Peter bought a larger, run-down 2000-acre grazing property called “Tarwyn Park”, near Bylong in the Upper Hunter Valley. He then set about testing his theories on a larger scale. With remarkable success, he converted a degraded, salt-ravaged landscape into a fertile, drought-resistant property. Peter Andrews has done what no person ever thought to do – he has reconnected the natural functions of streams and wetlands by “jump-starting” the Australian landscapes unique processes of managing drought, flooding and salinity.
The startling results of his ‘natural sequence farming’ have been achieved very cheaply, simply and quickly. Peter has recognised how important the chain-of-ponds system is to many landscapes but prior-farming techniques had basically destroyed the connection of many streams and rivers from the floodplains and aquifers. Peter’s NSF could ‘jump-start’ this system quickly and inexpensively. By 1976 Peter Andrews claimed that the model he had set up on “Tarwyn Park” was an example of a sustainable agricultural system subsequently verified by a CSIRO-led Expert Panel in 2002.
Since the arrival of colonial settlers in 1788 we have changed the nature of our rivers and streams profoundly. The balance and resilience that existed in the Australian landscape has been depleting since that time. Our river systems did not always have a strongly defined channel or gully in them, what scientists now call INCISED. In fact, they were dominated by slightly convex flood plains and chains-of-ponds. The explorer, Edward John Eyre, as he was exploring through South Australia in 1841, complained of discontinuous water, or chain-of-ponds separated by massive reed beds.
‘NSF describes an environmental management system or EMS, applied in agricultural landscapes, which is based on an understanding of landscape and ecological processes and implementing practices to achieve sustainability. This unique and affordable rural community-initiated method incorporates environmental management as part of a holistic farming system to restore hydrological connectivity between the stream and floodplain. Degradation from past management practices, compounded by natural climatic extremes, has caused the drainage and incision of streams and severed the hydrological exchange.
NSF restores the balance and resilience in the landscape by a very simple process. ‘Natural Sequences’ describe the way in which degraded stream systems can be better managed by utilising driving processes to enhance progressive changes via natural succession that restore ecological function. The NSF approach aims to effect long-term improvement in stream health and floodplain sustainability by the rehabilitation of a pool-riffle or chain-of-ponds type aquatic habitat together with inundated floodplain wetlands. The re-creation of a distributary flow system is achieved through the use of in-stream flow-control structures and secondary floodplain channels, combined with the effect of riparian vegetation changes, which provide morphological complexity in a degraded stream. Re-instating the hydrological balance increases groundwater storage in the floodplain aquifer, increasing freshwater re-charge and hence reducing saline groundwater discharge. This promotes the growth of pasture plants on the floodplain and riparian vegetation along stream banks.’ (Keene 2005.)
KEY NSF SEQUENCES
create landforms that mimic the chain-of-ponds and swampy meadows by installing leaky weirs at choke points in the stream. This slows and de-energises the flow and facilitates lateral floodplain recharge from the shallow ponds along with
creating braided steams or flow lines above the leaky weirs to distribute water from ‘freshes’ to the break of slope.
return the natural water management function to the clay areas
the leaky weirs and braided streams send water out and over the floodplain creating a FRESHWATER LENS at the root zone. This freshwater lens sits atop the saline ground water and decreases SALINITY incursions.
this raised freshwater lens, or water table, sitting in the landscape has a ‘cooling effect’, like dew and encourages “short” water cycling
spreads fertility over the floodplain which can be harvested and spread to the uplands
increases plant and animal biodiversity
NSF has the potential to transform agricultural production in degraded landscapes, which virtually are ALL riparian systems on the Eastern and Western areas of the country.
“ The way we think influences what we see” Stephen Stirling (2004)
Peter Andrews’ methods are so at odds with conventional scientific wisdom, that for 30 years he has been dismissed and ridiculed. He has had to have the resilience of personality to focus on restoring the natural resilience of the Australian landscape.
Currently, Peter Andrews is drawing the nation’s attention to NSF as a mainstream option of natural resource management. His present activities include engaging with the private sector in setting up a line of supply of produce from sustainable, NSF farming communities to the public.
He is also assisting urban developers and Local Government Councils in restoring degraded, eroded and incised creeks and developing sustainable landscape features. As well, he is in discussion with coal miners in the Hunter Valley to promote and restore degraded land on mining leases.
DEMONSTRATE HOW PETER ANDREWS HAS SHOWN COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP IN ETHICAL LAND STEWARDSHIP AT LOCAL, REGIONAL, STATE AND NATIONAL LEVEL. Peter Andrews came to national attention in June of this year when the ABC’s ‘Australian Story’ was shown over two consecutive weeks. At the program's conclusion it received the greatest response to any story in the program’s decade long history.
The showing of that program was timely, as the drought had been prolonged and devastating. The producer’s were able to show to the vast audience Peter Andrews’ insights into how the Australian landscape dealt with drought. His property at “Tarwyn Park” was still cutting lucerne-hay four years into drought, without artificial irrigation, whilst all those properties around him were dry and barren.
In 2002, the then Deputy Prime Minister, The Honourable John Anderson, visited “Tarwyn Park” and was absolutely astounded at what he saw. When he got back to Canberra he immediately commissioned the CSIRO to gather a panel of interdisciplinary experts to report on NSF at “Tarwyn Park”. Dr John Williams from CSIRO’s Land and Water Division, headed up the team that produced the Expert Panel Report in July 2002 entitled The “Natural Farming Sequence. (Now known as Natural Sequence Farming, NSF.)
Both the Report and the ABC’s story showed that Peter Andrew’s had displayed Community Leadership in ethical land stewardship. The Panel said NSF is a successful and sustainable farming system, which has led to substantial agronomic and economic improvements.
At a local level, “Tarwyn Park” at Bylong has promoted NSF as a natural resource management technique. At a regional level Barramul Stud in the Widden Valley, which is owned by Mr Gerry Harvey, has also engaged Peter Andrews to manage and install his NSF principles. And currently, the Hunter Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority is looking very closely at the Widden Brook to analyse the effects so that they might be able to apply them more widely through the Hunter Region.
Peter has also shown leadership with the uptake of his NSF principles in the Southern Rivers region of NSW. Its Catchment Management Authority is taking a lead in supporting a trial/demonstration project using NSF techniques at Bungendore.
The opportunity exists at Gumlu near Townsville, to develop an existing registered water storage facility so that it takes many of the characteristics of an oxbow lake. Peter Andrews, has advised the owner on various options for landscape hydrology management. The food industry, supermarket and leading takeaway chains are taking an increasing interest in the cost-effective sustainable techniques which are being developed here on a large scale using NSF techniques.
At a State level the South Australian Government is showing increasing interest in NSF and the South Australian Farmer’s Federation invited Perter Andrews to a crisis meeting on South Australian agriculture.
In NSW, a presentation of NSF has been made to all the Catchment Management Authority Chairs at the NSW Parliament House.
At a national level, presentations were made to Australian Government’s Regional and State Natural Resource Management Facilitators planning conference in Melbourne recently. In coming weeks Peter Andrews will be presenting an outline of NSF to Senators at Parliament House, Canberra.
DEMONSTRATE HOW PETER ANDREWS HAS DEVELOPED AND IMPLEMENTED HIGHLY EFFECTIVE AND INNOVATIVE EDUCATIONAL AND PROMOTIONAL PROGRAMS.
Peter Andrews has conducted regular field days at both “Tarwyn Park” and “Baramul Stud”. Peter personally gives these to anyone who wants to see first hand his NSF principles at work and they are free to all comers.
Recently, I attended one such field day along with 70 others mostly from rural and farming backgrounds and Peter generously gave of his time and knowledge to everyone present.
NSF has helped develop a very powerful and informative educational and promotional tool with a 30Mb power point presentation. For the last 4 months this presentation has been given to hundreds of individuals, private sector opinion leaders and to many State and Commonwealth departments on request following the increased awareness arising from “Australian Story”.
TELEVISION: AUSTRALIAN STORY
By far the greatest and most highly effective and innovative educational and promotional programs was the ABC’s ‘Australian Story’ which was aired over TWO weeks, on the 6th and 13th June 2005. The program was entitled “Of Droughts and Flooding Rains- Part1 and 2”.
To see information regarding Part 1 go to: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2005/s1383562.htm
To see information regarding Part 2 go to: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2005/s1388590.htm
This program will be repeated by popular accolade and there are further initiatives with DVD instructional techniques planned.
Peter Andrews and NSF have developed a very informative web site, which has been a highly effective promotional and educational tool.
Web addresses are www.nsfarming.com – www.naturalsequencefarming.com -
NEW ABC BOOK
The ABC is to release a major book about NSF and Peter Andrews in October 2006.
DEMONSTRATE HOW PETER ANDREWS HAS UNDERTAKEN OR PROMOTED RESEARCH OR THE APPLICATION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS THAT HAVE A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO THE ABOVE CRITERIA. The CSIRO-led Expert Panel produced their report in 2002 and determined that the implementation of NSF at “Tarwyn Park” addressed the following major environmental and agricultural issues:
The Panel recommended that a major scientific study of NSF be undertaken at “Baramul Stud” in the Upper Hunter. The outcome of this was a $1.5m Australian Research Council study commenced on “Baramul Stud” in 2004.
The consortium includes leading scientists from:
Southern Cross University
Australian National University
NSW Department of Natural Resources in collaboration with the Hunter Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority.
Amongst some of the published papers on Peter Andrews NSF are:
Anderson, P, Milne-Home, W A and Knight, M J, 1997, 'Hydrogeological evaluation of the natural farming sequence applied in the Bylong Valley at 'Tarwyn Park' and' Homeleigh' properties', Sydney, UTS, 130pp
2002 CSIRO Expert Panel “The Natural Farming Sequence”
2005 Keene, A., Bush, R., White, I., Erskine, W., “ A farmer’s approach to stream and floodplain management using ‘natural sequences’ “ see Attachments”
The above authors, Keene et al, state, “the NSF approach is a practical method for achieving stream health and floodplain sustainability…..This rural community-initiated stream and floodplain management method for sustainable landscapes has potentially significant social, economic and environmental value”.
Mr Gerry Harvey
CEO Harvey Norman
Ph: XXXXXXXXX Mr Harvey’s PA on
Dr. John Williams
Chief Scientist for NSW Dept of Natural Resources (DNR)
Former Chief CSIRO Land and Water.
8 Harcourt Street
ATTACHMENTS. See attached supporting documents.
¹ see interview with Dr John Williams from ABC transcript in Attachments.