Digging the good dirt

Soil Conservation Service digs the good dirt for NSW


Next Crop Sponsored
Soil Conservation Service general manager Tim Ferraro with conservation field officer Brett Learmonth.

Soil Conservation Service general manager Tim Ferraro with conservation field officer Brett Learmonth.

Aa

Please share any good initiatives to help improve the economic and social viability of rural and regional parts of NSW

Aa

Describe your good initiatives to help improve the economic and social viability of rural and regional parts of NSW.

The Soil Conservation Service (SCS) is fundamentally about ​natural resource management projects in rural and regional NSW that deliver long term, triple-bottom line results.

So while we are doing environmental works, we have an economic and social impact and one way we do that is by employing a hell of a lot of local contractors.

I describe our work as ‘anything to do with dirt’ and it ranges from on-farm conservation earthworks to large-scale projects including contaminated sites, derelict mines​, river restoration, coastal rehabilitation​ and emergency response work.

I describe our work as ‘anything to do with dirt’ and it ranges from on-farm conservation earthworks to large-scale projects including contaminated sites, derelict mines​, river restoration, coastal rehabilitation​ and emergency response work.

In all of those projects there is local engagement. For instance, in the $10 million Urunga contaminated site project near Bellingen, which was funded by Crown Lands, we had 2000 purchase orders flow through to local suppliers.

What sets your company apart from others in the industry?

We provide end-to-end services from concept to delivery including design, costing and approvals, through to managing project construction or engaging local contractors.

The other thing that SCS has is its 80-year history of service and wonderful reputation, which has taken us to where we are today.

How can Australia grow its agriculture sector?

It is very much around where markets are heading in that people are ​becoming ​more ​​interested in broader clean and green concepts, including the sustainability of the product.  SCS can help because ​our on-farm projects deliver​ ​production and conservation ​benefits.

What have been the game changers in the agricultural industry in recent years?

Increased use of technology has been the big game changer in agriculture ​historically and we also see pressure to respond quickly to changes in seasonal conditions and markets.

​What do you see are the major economic challenges faced by farmers and people in rural and regional areas, and how can they be overcome?

The major economic challenges have not tended to change a lot over time and they are the vagaries of ​commodity prices and international market​s along with ​​our frequent variable seasonal conditions.

​While lots of big picture work is happening for instance with trade, to me it is about how people best position themselves for economic challenges. It is about harnessing the tremendous amount of information and ​knowledge available to build resilience on farm​s and communities.

What do you see are the major social challenges faced by people in rural and regional areas, and how can they be overcome?

A sense of a lack of social connection and a degree of isolation.​ This is multi-faceted and some of it comes from our rural towns becoming smaller ​for all sorts of reasons.

Technology is a double-edged sword because while it can lead to social disconnection, it also provides opportunities to improve connectedness.​ I think we will continue to see good things in coming years through government and non-government initiatives as part of a push for more resilient communities.

What do you see are the major health challenges faced by people in rural and regional areas, and how can they be overcome?

The statistics tell us that generally people in rural and regional Australia are less ​physically and mentally ​healthy than those in major cities​, ​which is pretty sobering.

There are more resources being allocated, but there are also fantastic local initiatives all over the state. For example, I have been heavily involved in the Dubbo Stampede Running Festival, which has led to more people getting active and connected again. I see lots more of this happening​.

How can NSW businesses attract young people back to rural and regional areas?

It is about ​getting people across the opportunities of rural and regional areas. When people come out and live and breathe smaller communities they often are amazed at how good ​it is. I live in Dubbo because I want to be here. I love the place, its people and the opportunities.

What can your business deliver that helps solve these issues?

We are growing the business and have just finished some recruitment, with more planned, so we're really trying to get some more jobs in rural and regional towns in very diverse roles. Some of our staff have also recently made the ‘tree change’ out of Sydney which is great to see.

Any other success stories you wish to share?

SCS has this marvellous 80-year legacy of literally thousands of projects. For instance, we built nearly all the contour banks around the state and most are still there, decades on, doing the job they were designed to do. Today, we are building on those successes as we meet  contemporary challenges.

Do you have any initiatives in the Monaro region?

Works have just begun at the Tumut Bush Common to help rehabilitate the area and protect it from damage by four-wheel-drives and dirt bikes. Measures include a steel barrier fence, stabilising a drainage line and surveillance cameras and these are strongly supported by local landholders.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by