Tourism in mix to shape pastoral enterprises

Diversified station income key, writes STEPHEN SCOURFIELD

Country and cattle.

Terroir and tourism.

The pastoral industries have surprisingly deep roots in the dust and rangelands of the Gascoyne region of Australia’s Coral Coast.

George Grey came through here in 1839, naming the Gascoyne River for Capt. John Gascoyne, an important member of the London-based Western Australian Missionary Society.

Nearly 20 years later, Francis Gregory travelled here extensively, declaring it highly suitable for pastoralism.

The area was being settled through the 1860s, it is recorded that by 1880 there were about 20,000 sheep in the region, and Carnarvon became a town in 1883.

Today there are 80 pastoral stations in the Gascoyne, with an average pastoral lease of 149,405ha.

But these rangelands are marginal and fragile, and some regions show their history of heavy grazing.

Modern pastoralists look at the wear and tear on their land, the impact on the environment and the sustainability of their land, and look for ways to reduce stock levels but maintain income.

They look for diversity, and that is leading an increasing number to station stays.

Tourism can support the recovery of the land, along with other diversity, to horticulture and inland aquaculture.

Despite its history as a wool producing region, the main production from the pastoral region in the Gascoyne is now beef, sheep and lamb meat.

But the productivity per hectare of the rangelands is low compared with that of the southern agricultural regions of WA.

The Gascoyne Murchison Strategy encapsulates the move towards diversification to protect this marginal region, and it has just been announced that nearly $1 million is being put into a 362km dog-proof fence to protect pastoral stock from wild dogs.

The Gascoyne Development Commission sums it up: “Pastoral stations represent more than just an industry to the people of the Gascoyne.

“It is a way of life that characterises the history and people of the region.”

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