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Shared vision for a better future

PASSION is popping up in the most unlikely places and over the most amazing things – like salinity in our wheatbelt.

Two weeks ago, more than 240 very prestigious, talented, com-mitted, passionate people, including Environment Minister Judy Edwards, converged on the wheatbelt town of Merredin for a three-day conference to create a shared vision on what needs to be done about salinity. Because of their passion, however, most stakeholders were cynical about succeeding.

Arguably the world’s leading and very passionate, yes, passionate, WA and Canberra scientists, engineers, agronomists, and dryland farmers shared their knowledge about salinity to the assembled mob of federal, state and local government senior bureaucrats, government agency technocrats, agribusiness community members, and one futurist.

One thing became clear – we know very little about salinity, how to stop its increase and what to do with what we already have.

We have a lot of it and we are all affected. Who can forget January 2000 and the closing of the Swan River for 12 days due to salinity-nurtured algae bloom.

Farmer after farmer showed pictures of their green lush paddocks from 10, 15 years ago and the same land now – vast soggy barren brown and crusty white nothingness – up to 60 per cent of their farmland unusable.

But the experts predict enginee-ring and biological solutions. Salinity might even become an asset.

Farmers from around WA, often a stubborn, terse lot, passionately joined the debate, sharing their go-it-alone solutions.

There are the passionate drainers who believe drainage systems are the answer. The perennialists believe planting trees will adequately drop the watertable. The reclaimers believe in restoring the original ecology, and anyone suggesting anything else is a quitter and turncoat.

Passions run deep. The future of families, businesses, communities, towns is at stake

Is there a shared vision for dealing with salinity in our wheatbelt? The answer is yes … a preferred vision emerged, plus a plethora of actions for the stakeholders to pursue.

Salinity may be crippling our second largest industry, agri-business, but through passions and good faith, the key stakeholders are now working together for the win win win.

The record of this conference is a global benchmark of knowledge about salinity and landscape.

Wow WA, well done.

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