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Grazing in Alpine high country, Victoria: (Melbourne) Essay Example

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The Australian Alpine high country has been in itself part of Australian history for a long time. High country is region falling in the foothills of south eastern part of Alps mountain and it covers 25% of the Australian land mass (Beer et al., 2006). It comprises of a large extensive mass of land of about six million hectares (Parliamentary Commission for the Environment, 2009). In the same way as it has been part of Australian history, pastoral activities have been largely criticized especially by the environmentalists. Land in this region has been under the ownership of crown (white, 2006) or rich farming individuals on leasehold basis. Soil erosion has been a major issue in this region. It is for this reason that land tenure review has been a major subject. Australian Aboriginals are believed to be first ones to use the high country as a grazing land (Costin, 1971). This essay will discuss the land use, management issues and conflicts in this region.

The most distinctive physical feature of the high country is the great dividing range. As a result of this changing topography, the climate vary from one place to another. For example, the rainfall amount in this region ranges from 500mm on the plain areas 2000mm on the alpine region (Paech, 2008). This climate is suitable for agriculture especially livestock farming. The key pillar to the prosperity of this north eastern region of Victoria is agriculture and diversity (Paech,2008). Livestock rearing is a distinctive agricultural activity of north eastern region of Victoria and it has been the largest contributor to the economic wellbeing of this region (Paech, 2008). Sheep rearing in particular is a common element of high country and it dates back to 1830’s when this region was first used for this activity. The central plateau and snow mountains which are the most extensive lands have been used as grazing grounds since the 1830’s when grazing activities started in high country (Costin, 1971). The steep topography of this region suits pastoral activities. Besides the snow mountains and central plateau, the mainland and adjacent lowland form good grazing grounds for livestock. This extensive land in the high country is used for merino sheep rearing (Costin, 1971). Besides livestock farming, forestry is another major economic activity in the high country. 61% of this region is public land and it is under forest cover (Paech, 2008). However, there are softwood plantations which are owned by private investors. Forestry for commercial purposes has been in existence since the 1920’s and it is also a major pillar to this region’s economy.

Over many years, the extensive land if high country has been under the ownership of farmers on leasehold basis. The lease tenure provides exclusive rights over the land upon acquisition (Parliamentary Commission for the Environment, 2009). However, the commissioner of Crown Lands has full rights to control the number of animals to graze on the land. Leaseholders are required to practice diligent farming and avoid activities that disturb soil.

In the recent times many of these leases have been cancelled as a result of tenure review. The key driver to this tenure review is the environmental concern and there was a fear that pastoral farming was marginalizing (Parliamentary Commission for the Environment, 2009). Proponents of this tenure review were therefore putting pressure for the activities in this region to be diversified. Activities such as tourism which were slowly gaining growing were equally important and could even boost the market for agricultural products such as wool. The aspect of tenure review has resulted to battles resulting from the opposing groups having varying views with regards to its management. It has therefore led to verbal abuses, threats and calls for sanctions (Parliamentary Commission for the Environment, 2009).

In conclusion, the idea of tenure review is a good idea that can help the high country region avert environmental problems. Tenure review terminates the lease agreement and in many cases leads to the land being subdivided. This will allow for the diversification of activities.


Beer, K., Caldwell, P., Gordon, F. & Hunter, B. 2006. High Country Tenure Review: Implications for the Conservation of Braided River Systems. New Zealand: University of Otago.

White, M. 2006. High Country Hijack. North & South Magazine.

Costin, A. B. 1971. Characteristics and Use of Australian High Country. Canberra: CSIRO.

Paech, A. 2008. Agricultural Resources in North East Victoria: The Alpine Valleys. Melbourne: Department of Primary Industries.

Parliamentary Commission for the Environment. 2009. Change in the High Country: Environmental Stewardship and Tenure Review. Wellington : Parliamentary Commission for the Environment.