4 - 5 May 2002
In Western Australia, there are about 548 pastoral leases covering
some 870,000 square kilometres of rangelands - more than one third of
the State's landmass.
Since the current structure of pastoral leases was established in
1933, new demands for rangeland use have been generated by resource
development, the growth of tourism and other recreational pursuits, and
increased recognition of indigenous and conservation interests.
Pastoral leases in Western Australia expire in 2015.
Many issues and challenges are currently facing the pastoral
industry. These include:
- Future pastoral land tenure options, which is a primary issue for
- Exclusions from pastoral leases in 2015 for public purposes.
- Concentration of ownership of pastoral lands.
- Foreign ownership.
access to pastoral leases, which is becoming an increasingly
controversial issue. The community at large has reasonable expectations
regarding access to remote areas of interest, whether it be for
camping, fishing or passage through the land. The denial of entry or
charging of substantial fees has attracted increasing comment.
- Aboriginal access to pastoral leases for social, ceremonial and
- Tourism activities by lessees and non-lessees, in particular how
we ensure fair access and competition.
- Multiple use and diversification on pastoral leases.
- Pastoral lease rents and local government authority rates over
The Government required that the interests of all Western
Australians be considered before pastoral leases covered under the Land
Administration Act 1997 were renewed.
To ensure a broad consultation with all stakeholders the Minister for
Planning and Infrastructure hosted a Pastoral Forum, The Gascoyne
Muster, held over two days in May 2002 in Carnarvon.
The issues were highly emotive and the overwhelming press given to
the forthcoming event was negative.
The Consensus Forum is a method of engaging all key stakeholders in
the development of policy and input to the decision making process. The
key issues are explored using 'open book' information. Opportunities
are given to understand different viewpoints and to deliberate in small
groups. The focus is on the search for common ground. The findings
become integral to the decision making process. The key stakeholders
are integral to process of developing policy.
350 participants attended the two day forum, often driving many
hundreds of kilometres to attend. The first day was limited to the
broad range of representatives from the pastoral industry, including
indigenous groups, local and state government. Anyone with an interest
in pastoral lease access and multiple use issues, eg tourism, mining
industry and aboriginal groups, were welcome to attend on the second
Participants sat at tables of 10. Each table was provided with a
scribe. Participant groups were mixed to provide a broad range of
interests and views at each table.
The Minister was present throughout the proceedings and, unlike many
other participatory democracy initiatives, played a key role throughout
the two days in responding to issues.
To provide opportunities for participants to have their say in
forging the future policies for the management of pastoral lands in
The first day focused on pastoral lease management and associated
issues. The second day considered public access, tourism and multiple
use of pastoral leases.
Day 1 commenced with the Minister outlining the purpose and
potential influence of the Gascoyne Muster process, and introducing
other Ministers and Members of Parliament. Participants then introduced
themselves to their table colleagues.
To encourage informed deliberation, papers were presented, followed
by panel responses to participant questions.
- Profile of the Pastoral Industry: Who owns what and what the Act
says about concentration of ownership;
- Viability and Amalgamation of Pastoral Leases.
Following these sessions, tables deliberated on the issues of
ownership, viability, lease fees and rates and any other associated
issue. Each participant was asked to fill out their thoughts on an
individual form under three headings:
- describe issue (what),
- reason for issue (why)
- suggested resolution (how).
Individuals' issues were then discussed by their small group to
determine the table's key issues, reasons and suggested resolutions. A
joint table submission was then written on a similar form. If any
individuals felt their issues had not been documented to their
satisfaction in the joint submission, they could also submit their
In a plenary session, some of the key issues, reasons and
resolutions were outlined.
This process was repeated in the afternoon with a presentation
followed by panel discussion on:
- Lease Fees and Rates: Pastoral Lease Rents and Local Government
As in the morning, small group discussion was then held on future
land tenure, exclusions and other associated issues. Once again,
individuals filled out their forms. The issues were discussed as a
small group and a joint submission was developed by each table. Both
joint submissions and on request, individual submissions, were
collected to provide a full record of the thinking in the room.
At the evening plenary session, some of room's key issues, reasons
and resolutions were outlined.
On day 2, the process was repeated. Few people left, more attended.
Participants were asked to join different tables. Following the table
introductions, once again there were presentations followed by panel
- Public Access to Pastoral Leases;
- Multiple Use and Diversification on Pastoral Leases;
- Tourism Activities by Lessees and Non-Lessees.
Individuals had the opportunity to write their issues, reasons and
potential resolutions on forms. These were discussed during small group
discussions to determine the key themes. Once again, the table forms
were submitted as were any requested individual forms.
In the afternoon, there were the final presentations and panels:
- Aboriginal Access to Pastoral Leases;
- Mining and Prospecting on Pastoral Leases.
The small group discussion process was repeated for the last time.
At the final plenary, not only were the key themes outlined, but
also any remaining issues of contention. The Minister outlined the
continuing process as follows:
- All the individual and table forms submitted during the two
days as well as the outline of the presentations would be written into
a report which would be distributed to all participants;
Groups of all the key stakeholders would use the Muster report to
develop policy and recommendations which would be submitted to the
Pastoral Lands Board and the Minister;
- Government response to the submitted final report would be
The feedback was very positive. Participants had thought the Muster
would be little more than a 'brawl'. Instead, it was a productive
discussion of issues where everyone felt their views had been heard. In
particular, the Minister was commended for being willing to respond on
the spot to the extraordinarily broad range of issues that were raised.
To the surprise of many, the Pastoralists and Graziers' Association
published a very complimentary press release on the positive nature of
the Gascoyne Muster and its outcomes.
Post 1st Muster
All participants were sent a complete report of the 1st Muster Forum.
Following the Forum, five working groups were established to report
on and recommend workable solutions for the key issues confronting
Western Australia's pastoral industry. The working groups brought
pastoralists together with representatives of other rangeland
stakeholders, including indigenous communities; mining; recreational
and tourism interests; conservationists; and local and State government.
Broad issues affecting the pastoral industry were examined including
sustainability, access, economic monitoring and tenure. Three of these
groups prepared interim reports to aid the determination of land for
exclusion from the 2015 renewal of pastoral leases.
The Access to Pastoral Land Working Group investigated and reported
on potential solutions to issues associated with access to pastoral
lands. These issues included mining, prospecting, recreation, and
tourism access, public access routes, camping, pastoralists' public
liability and fees for access. Aboriginal access was allocated a
dedicated working group.
By June 2003, all five groups submitted their final reports to the
Department of Land Administration, which together with the Pastoral
Lands Board's comments, were forwarded to the Minister.
All Forum participants were sent a copy of the five working group
final reports. This was followed by a call for public submissions. The
submissions process was widely promoted via advertising in regional and
local newspapers. Copies of the final reports were disseminated
broadly. All pastoral lessees were forwarded submission forms and a
copy of all the work produced to date.
The recommendations from the working group reports were considered
at a second Forum that was held in September 2003.
Muster II was open to all interested persons. Just over 200 people
attended, representing the pastoral industry; key government agencies;
local authorities; indigenous interests; mining interests; and tourism
The final reports of the working groups were discussed in small
groups and then in plenary sessions - recommendation by recommendation.
A Final Report was prepared that combined the outcomes of Muster II
as well as the public submissions. This Report has been submitted to
Government for their response.
When the issues are broad, complex and emotive, with varied and
strong stakeholder views on how the issues should be resolved, the
Consensus Forum is a valuable technique. Holders of differing
viewpoints are engaged in small group dialogue that is grounded on open
information, willingness to listen to other�s perspectives and to
deliberate issue by issue. This offers the opportunity to forge new
understandings and new ground.
This was made patently clear when the extraordinarily high level
cynicism that had been expressed by participants before the first
Muster was turned into good will, hope and improved trust at its
Inclusive processes such as this tend to take longer than estimated
(years rather than months), and to cost more than the usual community
consultation processes (eg advisory groups or one-off workshops).
However, the policy and recommendations that eventuate are more likely
to be 'owned' by the community, hence implementation is facilitated. In
the long run, deliberative, inclusive processes could well be the less