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Regional Towns the Hardest Hit by Climate Change Funding Cutbacks

Research station

Bathurst Agricultural and Advisory Centre first began operation in 1895. Photo: Phoebe Newling

By Phoebe Newling

Bathurst’s Agricultural and Advisory Centre has long played a major role in agricultural experiments and research.

With climate change upon us, the research station is now playing an integral role in researching how farmers can best adapt to a warmer climate.

In August, the Climate Council released a report identifying how climate change impacts are disproportionately affecting regional and rural communities. The report On The Frontline: Climate Change & Rural Communities highlights the disadvantages experienced by rural and regional communities compared those in urban areas. It could be argued that with these growing challenges, industry research and government support needs to increase, not decrease. However, funding for agricultural and climate change research continues to decline, a situation that has affected our own research station.

The Climate Council report states that despite systemic disadvantages regional and rural communities are adapting to the impacts of climate change but are limited due to financial restrictions. As climate change continues to change adaptation becomes increasingly challenging.

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screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-46-53-pmAdjunct Professor of Climate Science at Charles Sturt University Dr. Andrew Rawson agrees that regional and rural communities are consistently faced with altering farming practices to adapt to climate change impacts.

“There are many many ways to adapting, they could be transforming what you do, moving away from what you’re doing or even moving locations,” he said.

“Or it could be some sort of an incremental change, a little management change along the way to keep pace with the change of the climate.”

Where does one draw the line when it comes to supporting climate change adaption? Australia’s national research body the CSIRO has taken steps in the past to reduce funding that would help alleviate sectors of Australia’s agriculture history that may or is currently experiencing these impacts.

What about the researchers?

Roy Menzies a Horticulturist who has worked at the Bathurst Agriculture Advisory Centre for over 40 years, has seen dramatic changes due to changing climate. Key research undertaken at the centre includes virus testing propagation material, experimentation of organic agriculture and alternative fruit crops.

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This research that has played such a critical role in developing and enhancing Australia’s agricultural industry particularly fruit industry that even then has the centre faced cutbacks form the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

“It’s been hard, as the years have gone by more and more sectors want funding so its more difficult to ask and receive funding for new projects,” Mr Menzies said.

“They’ve definitely tightened the belt a bit, since I first started working here.”

Bathurst Agricultural and Advisory Centre was first established in 1895 as one of the first experimental and demonstration farms set up by the then NSW Department of Agriculture. The centre remains one of only three experimental farms in New South Wales. 

The future of research stations such as the Bathurst Agricultural and Advisory Centre remains uncertain, with consistent funding cuts forcing the station to reduce research ventures annually. Further support is necessary for regional and rural communities if the future of Australia’s agricultural industry is to continue to adapt to one of the century’s worst natural disaster, climate change. 

 

Image Credit: Phoebe Newling, Charles Sturt University 

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