Our Hero Nativist. (Or how the Australian Humanist of the Year 2005 has made my family miserable and set back riverine repair by decades)

The Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group blog is a collaborative effort. We’re happy to publish your contributions as part of this Landcare Network discussion. See the collaborate-contribute page for a range of topic suggestions or get in touch to discuss your idea.

Here’s a new post from Mr. Peter Marshall (see introduction and background here), in which he points out that even our most respected scientists are sometimes liable to provide poorly-reasoned nativist prejudice in place of rational ecological assessment and objective science.

Our Hero Nativist.  (Or how the Australian Humanist of the Year 2005 has made my family miserable and set back riverine repair by decades)

Had yet another Field Day at our place recently. The usual inspiring, educational, well catered for gift of a day from my family to the Landcare world. But there was hostile body language and muttered comments from one group when viewing a stand of Heritage Cricket Bat Willows (single sex, non invasive, far from water courses).

As we were making our goodbyes the alpha male of the group stepped forward. He said, “Tim Flannery thinks you are a horrible person!” then turned and ran up the bus steps. A real downer for my hospitable family after an exhausting few days.

I’ve had similar comments for years but group dynamics never gave me a chance to ask why the Australian Humanist of the Year 2005 had an opinion on my character. Nor why he appeared to have shared this opinion with many others, particularly as he would never of heard of me.

Now I know whats going on and it really snits me.

The Professor has expressed his Nativist opinion, without reservation, on national TV. We just got caught in the headlights.

Exhibit A
ABC DVD I got for Christmas: ‘Two Men in a Tinny’.
John Doyle and Tim Flannery travel the Murray Darling.

Episode 3.
Having travelled for 30 days along the bare banked Darling our heros are cheered to find life on the Murray banks below Hume Weir.

Flannery: ‘More wildlife!’ (A big willow grove full of Ibis)
Doyle: ‘Almost an infestation of Ibis!’
F: ‘Wonderful! River coming to life.’

Good, thinks the viewer. They have noticed that willows are the only ecostructure for miles.

Wrong, keep watching.

D: ‘The Chief Culprit is the weeping willow. Pretty on the Thames perhaps but plainly stupid on the Murray.’
F: ‘We need a National Willow Action Plan. Yeah ‘
D: ‘Rewards for numbers of willows poisoned.’
F: ‘Yes.’
F: ‘There will be no weeping or gnashing of teeth for the willows. Just get rid of the blooming lot.’


A hugely respected national figure has set the nativist agenda hard in the minds of several hundred thousand viewers.

Fair enough, even rigorous scientists can fluff it on camera. Lets give Dr Flannery a chance to make good by entering into a productive discussion, we thought. So I looked up the three high profile addresses for him on the wonderful web and sent the nice letter below to each.

Caxton Consulting: His lecture agents.
Macquarie Group: Where he tells us how to manage our water resources.
Climate council: Where he tells us how to manage our climate.

Not the courtesy of a reply. Either he has sloppy minders or is too famous to bother with dirty on-ground peasant issues.

Either way, a bloody disgrace.



Dear Professor Flannery,
Best New Years wishes to you from Braidwood, Southern Highlands, NSW.

I introduce my family as self funded land repair operatives, students of bioengineering, farm forestry and mycology.

We have followed your career with great interest, read all your books
and many of your papers and greatly appreciate your role as an educator . You are a bit of a hero to us.

However it might surprise you to hear that something you said on TV
years ago has contributed to making our land repair job very much harder
than it should be.

Your chat with First Mate Doyle of the Bismark helped inflame the War
Against Willows.

The War has escalated beyond science and sensible land management to
become a well funded industry of carbon emission and erosion creation.

We have pleaded before the Landcare/Catchment Management/NRM
bulldozers for some restraint and proper planning before the next
kilometers of streambanks are torn open.

But the panic merchants always have a clinching argument. The deeply
respected Prof Flannery told us to do it!

Ben Gleeson has established a website to discuss advanced thinking about
Salix management. A crucial subject which deserves the attention of the
best thinkers.

I invite you to read www.nonnativistlandcare.org

You would be very welcome to visit our demonstration sites to see how
Salix (and other exotic genetic resources) can be utilised as a
successional tool to speed up stream repair, rather than be a target
for ruinously expensive eradication campaigns. We would appreciate your

Very Best Wishes,

Peter Marshall
(02) 48461070


www.earthintegral.com – “A Tour of Sunningdale“.

24 responses to “Our Hero Nativist. (Or how the Australian Humanist of the Year 2005 has made my family miserable and set back riverine repair by decades)

  1. Tim Flannery and his nativist acolytes are academic trendies ~ After reading Flannery’s book, I realised he is lost in the knowledge world and cant see what happening in front of his eyes. Like so many academics with head fulls of knowledge, Tim Flannery is an ecographic illiterate. Chinese sages have a way expressing this realty which boils down to “knowledge and intelligence are inversely related”…..

    Chinese post grads claim PhD means Permanent head Damage. Poor ole Tim! Doesn’t he know the River red gums are ecotoxic, and that the River Murray ecosystems thrive on willow ecosystems….He should check out the research on the origins and fate of organic matter in Australian streams.

    The amazing work of the Marshalls at Braidwood will surive and thrive long after Tim’s words are gone and forgotten…..Tim will be remembered though as the eco-colonial that failed to comprehend ecogenesis and ecosynthesis because he was stuck in the antiquated world of closed systems science ~ the science of machines. All ecosystems are complex open systems where Nature is an equal opportunty employer. When it comes to Nature its what works best ! And willows are the world’s No 1 riparian community.

    Only people filled with race hate vilify biota on the basis of race and species… Dont they know that Nativism ~ the belief in the inherent superiority of native species ~ is the founding tenet of white supremacy and racism… At the ANU we were taught this in Jurisprudence ~ in studies of the Nuremberg Trials ~ oh yes Tim’s a true Aussie, A biological Hansonite!

  2. I hope that you don’t let these events really make you and your family feel miserable. It’s pretty shocking and ugly for sure, but don’t take it personally. It’s just another case of a human struggling to reconcile opposing narratives in their head. When one speaks out against deeply ingrained cultural myths there is always going to be ugly back-lash, confusion, even anger. It seems we humans are far more interested in keeping all of the elements of our world view internally consistent than we are in being open to the truth. I was sent this link the other day – a little article about some of the theory behind how to communicate to debunk myths.


    I think I will look a little deeper into this field of research because it seems to me that this is really what it boils down to… not whether something is right or wrong, or more holistic or cohesive, but whether we employ the right tricks and techniques to bend those rigid minds.

    Great letter to Tim F. Hope he responds.
    Love your work.

  3. Peter,Ben and others thanks for hanging in there; as Lisa may be suggesting you have opened up a much broader front than disagreement about the value of willows, or not.
    In my experience science aint always science. We have to live with that, but ‘that’ can only be accommodated ‘safely’ if peer review extends to the public arena; in a palatable form.
    We are not experiencing full engagement here and I suspect we won’t for some time to come. I think populist-environmentalism has captured the moral high ground, a worthy objective, but is now faced with holding the hard won position without a willingness to engage in ongoing evidenced based public discourse; like what is being conducted right here.
    Leadership is the word that comes to mind. Our world is inhabited by ‘managers’ leading!

    occupy flood creek

  4. Dear Lisa ,

    Thanks for kind thoughts. We try to rise above it .

    In my various careers I have more than often had to walk into a room full of ‘ subject matter experts ‘ , who actually know a whole lot less then I do . Always an uncomfortable experience .

    I observe two types of reaction from a functionary who has just realised that they are outclassed .

    1 / Feel threatened by the expertise of the newcomer . Work fast to demean , marginalise and neutralise them so you don’t get found out as not really an expert after all .

    2 / Be happy you have a chance to learn new things . Absorb and enact the newcomers expertise . Become better at your job, get results .
    If cunning , take full credit for it later .
    If big hearted , share the satisfaction and keep growing as a person .

    I suggest training for Landcare office biro pilots so they might see the value in tactic 2 /
    Because the danger in Tactic 1 / Is that the knowledgeable genuine expert might be infuriated at being disdained and go out of their way to expose the false expert for what they are .

    On a nicer note , the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association has been a great source of comfort to us for 25 years . They have institutionalised Tactic 2 / . Are you a member ?

    Hakai , talking about real experts . Can you send some of those references over so we can read them , even if Flannery doesn’t ? And do you have copy of Dr Baden Williams report into productivity of Landcare movement ?

    Ile Castore Ardente .


  5. Managers manage and leaders lead.
    I believe voluntary Landcare groups have the wrong structure to develop and encourage grass roots leadership. Evolution is a threat; revolution follows. Or mediocrity reigns.
    Biro pilots, love the term, have tasks to perform and manage to the satisfaction of many. Clarity and transparency of and within the structure is important. Upper ShoalHaven Landcare might be a special case in point. It seems USLC is a mixture of ‘direct individual members’ and group membership. It would matter little except that funding for the most part is at the discretion of Local Land Services.
    Just how the interests of competing landcare groups within ‘their district association’ can be weighed against the interests of the direct individual members in the same association, by LLS when allocating funding, has me flummoxed. How Landcare Groups in general could be better structured is something I would like to argue in the future. Suffice to say for now, how the USLC council come group, operates, would be of some benefit to me.


  6. ACK .

    Bring back the Civil Conservation Corps and the draft .
    6 weeks service under Army NCOs .
    Compulsory tool skills .

    Put Bennett , Ayres , Leopold and Bromfield in charge . They knew leadership , landscape , science and hard labour .

    Pity they’ve been dead for 60 years because the four of them embodied ten thousand times the knowledge of the latest crop of iPhone addicts we have in charge .

    Community is a lovely concept .
    Except it dumbs down Landcare to the knowledge level of the pushiest apparatchik in the committee room .

    The CCC and US Soil Conservation Service were not democracies , and they worked .
    Turned around the Dustbowl and saved the country
    A bloody sight more impressive than a few patches of Boorowa mix surrounded by dying habitat trees and some half finished gabions in dumb places .
    Oh , and nice certificates for your wall instead of rigorous cost benefit reports .

    Occupy , Rehabilitate and Rename Flood Creek .


  7. umm peter, spose off hand you wouldn’t know the hours and stuff. , start times and smoko kinda thing. think i’m all for it. i’m a bit of a hard task master myself, before the mast and stuff like that. reckon I could be a big help. You know I developed ‘the plan that is now called the green army’, in it’s original form it was about amateur science in the bush. WWD, WOOFERS with Degrees getting down and dirty. I was ‘infiltrated’ and the whole thing was renamed ‘turn project officers into unemployed minders’. I will dig it up. ha ha, ahem.
    It was originally posted on the ‘catchment action plan’ review site a couple of years ago. I think that evolved into SELLS and was subsequently squeezed out by other important press releases. It might just be what you’ve always wanted but were to reserved to say.

  8. Robbo ,

    Please do . Dig it up and give us a look .

    Our chef friends say that their apprentices aren’t real professionals until they can show the burns and cuts on their hands .

    Might be bit harsh . We settle for a few blisters and a firm grip from our farm forestry students .

    All Best


  9. Revisiting ‘alternative’ Landcare structure Jan 19, I should have pointed out that this group, FCNNLC, has no structure, notwithstanding mine moderators indulgence; I suppose it is one alternative! The fall back position is USLC’s structure, to which it is affiliated. . An oddity by design I might say
    And yes PM I’m ‘digging’, but have to say it’s not my forte.

    • Robbo, by default, everything has a structure. Do you mean “has no formally imposed structure” or “has an organic structure” or something else? How about sending in a post which puts forward your ideal local Landcare group “structure”? Is it incorporated or not? What does it do? How often does it meet? etc… You provided useful input in ‘the perspective’ about the USLC structure, but how would you structure ordinary local community groups like ours? A post on this might prompt useful reflection for Landcarers and community groups in general.

      Also, I’ve made the point before, you are your own moderator. I don’t like being called that, it’s exactly what the Landcare “industry” seeks to install; exactly what the Landcare “movement” doesn’t need. My role is as a volunteer online facilitator. You’ve done more moderating here than I have so far. If you call me a moderator again, I will call you a dingbat.


  10. Peter, I watched the DVD of this series (as far as the willow stuff, I doubt I’ll bother with the rest). It is excruciating and well worth calling out regards the willow discussion. You’re right, Flannery and Doyle cut almost straight from observing all of the ibis nesting in the willows to insisting the trees should be got rid of! The bare and eroding vertical banks in the background as they talk about removing all the trees on the opposite side make a very effective point, completely lost on them.

  11. dingbat: a digit used to provide instruction to a printer
    How very dare you, Ive never been so insulted. what are you insinuating. The simple act of turning on a printer is erotic! I use the words mine moderator as a term of endearment. From now on you are just a plain facilitator.
    Also, Ours is no ordinary local group. it’s a revolution, in case you haven’t noticed what you’ve started. How often should revolutionaries meet is a moot point, saying where and what time is not something Mandela would have recommended, even in this politically correct age of courageous listening. i will get around to the ‘structure’ or not, sometime soon.

  12. Some people are elected leaders and some have leadership thrust upon them .
    The instigator of NNLC is charmingly self effacing but by no means facile Despite his moderation , he is no mere facilitator .
    NO ONE else in the long , unproductive , mediocre , self congratulatory history of Landcare has had the guts to declare a relationship with exotic
    tree species .
    He isn’t a chairman , we’ve got no chairs . Can’t be Fearless Leader , Rocky and Bullwinkle trademarked that one .
    Dr Flannery is the Celebrity Scientist , John Doyle the Acerbic Commentator

    So what to call our reluctant boss ?
    Call me a Dingbat ( ouch ) but get used to being appreciated,Mr Gleeson .
    This project will make you famous and admired , like it or not .
    As Courageous Listener Robbo says , this is something different and better .I add , its not a democracy . Good .


  13. Dear Ben ,

    You didn’t sign on , you drafted yourself by setting up this useful blog
    . That shows leadership .

    A facilitator is a shallow potato .

    Now we have established who’s boss can we hear about plans for FC ?
    Got a nursery full of trees here at your disposal .

    No reply from Flannery to date .


    • Peter, I think I like ‘boss’ even less than I like ‘moderator’. But I could own up to ‘deep potato’! I know who I’m the boss of!

      Very seriously now though, I will shortly write up a new post as a summation of where I think we’re at. Can discuss/gather feedback from there.

  14. facilitator: insider placement…’appointed’ conflict resolutionary!

    May I call you Ben.
    The structure I have in mind Ben mimicks this interactive blog thing; less a moderator/facilitator. Who outside of us would recognize this site as our correspondence-inbox. The pixels do the talking but only a ‘structure’ can legitimately dig a hole in a public place. Sure, If you want only to be a pixel-pilot you’ve arrived. Or, if USLC was to be the official entity, one can presume the non nativist impulse has served it’s purpose: USLC reformed/reshaped…over and out.
    More to come Ben. Only respond now if you are totally comfortable.
    Hint. LandCare could be a vehicle for many pressing rural issues, beyond embracing non nativist values, but exhibits little interest. So to might LLS. But if the LLS blog site is anything to go by, I won’t hold my breath. I think Leadership-Thinking in Australia is a bigger issue than competent technicians right now. See manufacturing. So here i am Ben, I have no where else to go.


  15. my initial response to ‘non nativist progress’ and the efforts of others here.
    I don’t know where else I get to watch the real value of tax payer investment in higher education unfolding as it voluntarily returns to the community. Rich pickings for an ancient and early school leaver.
    There is a lot going on here.

  16. I have a colony of rufous night herons that live in willows!
    Sugar gliders eat the bark of female honey locusts!
    occasionally some willows should be harvested for fodder(achieve a yield)

  17. ‘ Willow Fodder Blocks containing Condensed Tannins for growth and sustainable management of internal parasites in grazing lambs ‘

    Carolina Macarena Diaz Lira
    Massey University NZ

  18. http://www.poplarandwillow.org.nz
    See IPC Working Party Gisborne 2014

    Eastwoodhill Arboretum NZ
    Douglas Cook

    Hackfalls Arboretum NZ
    Bob Berry and Diane Playle

    Aspendale Manakau NZ
    Allan Wilkinson

    Dr Chris Van Kraayenord

    Anyone have info on Prof Pryor and his poplars work around Canberra ?
    Please post here .


  19. I sent another note to Professor Flannery a few days ago .

    Very pleased to advise that he replied by email last night .

    We will shortly chat on the phone . Will advise on developments .



    • Excellent news Peter, well done!

      Once familiarised with the drawbacks to wholesale removal of willows, I’m sure Dr. Flannery will appreciate the need to advocate for a far more nuanced approach.

      We’re talking about a dramatically changed environment across most of Australia. Willows and other non-natives may be an indicator of change and disturbance, but are not automatically the cause. In fact, they are more often than not part of the stabilisation and regeneration process, as you know well.

      Their removal should not be thought of as a solution to anything.

      Regards, Ben

  20. Good one.PM, look forward to hearing the good professor’s response.
    I don’t know how you find the time but I for one think we are indeed fortunate that you do.

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