In November 2002, after the first meeting of the Wentworth Group, the Blueprint for a Living Continent was published. It was founded on five key points that came from that first meeting. These were the key changes that needed to be made immediately to deliver a sustainable future for our continent and its people. They were:
- Clarify water property rights and the obligations associated with those rights to give farmers some certainty and to enable water to be recovered for the environment.
- Restore environmental flows to stressed rivers, such as the River Murray and its tributaries.
- Immediately end broadscale landclearing of remnant native vegetation and assist rural communities with adjustment. This provides fundamental benefits to water quality, prevention of salinity, prevention of soil loss and conservation of biodiversity.
- Pay farmers for environmental services (clean water, fresh air, healthy soils). Where we expect farmers to maintain land in a certain way that is above their duty of care, we should pay them to provide those services on behalf of the rest of Australia.
- Incorporate into the cost of food, fibre and water the hidden subsidies currently borne by the environment, to assist farmers to farm sustainably and profitably in this country.
The Blueprint proved that we have sufficient knowledge now to set a new direction in the way we manage our land, towards practices that are in harmony with the highly variable climate that is intrinsic to Australia. It concluded that, if we get it right, Australia will continue to produce food and fibre for us and for the rest of the world. If we fail to act, history will judge us harshly.
Prof Peter Cullen, Prof Tim Flannery, Assoc Prof Ronnie Harding, Dr Steve Morton, Prof Hugh Possingham, Dr Denis Saunders, Prof Bruce Thom, Dr John Williams, Prof Mike Young, Mr Peter Cosier and Ms Leith Boully