Keith Noble, PhD Candidate at James Cook University to present at the Developing Northern Australia Conference 20-22 July at Rydges Southbank Townsville.

The Association for Sustainability in Business Inc will host the Developing Northern Australia Conference to ensure Business, Academics, NGOs, Community Groups and all tiers of Government have the opportunity to address topics that are relevant to the future plans of Northern Australia.

Keith Noble
Keith Noble

Speaker Intro: Having spent the past 12 years farming tropical fruit in Far North Queensland, only to have both farm and industry destroyed by two cyclones, Keith is keen to understand how a more robust future can be achieved for agriculture and the communities who rely on it.

He is particularly interested in community participation in natural resource management, having previously worked 20 years in agriculture and natural resource management throughout Australia including indigenous land use, and would like to further explore building resilience through industry association, regional NRM bodies and community interaction.

Farming in the tropics is a risky business, and operates in the convoluted environment of world markets and social systems whilst also being expected to provide non-commodity outputs such as ecosystem services, landscape amenity, and cultural heritage. Is our future family farms or corporatized agriculture, and what will it mean for regional Australia?


Presentation Title: Eyes Wide Open: Planning a Resilient Future for North Australian Agriculture, Come Hell or High Water.

Overview: Keith is a Tully FNQ tropical fruit grower and Industry Director for Terrain NRM, the Wet Tropics NRM representative body. In 2011, Cyclone Yasi blew out all the fruit trees Keith had replanted after Cyclone Larry, along with the economic base of the emerging tropical fruit industry; whereas the banana industry nine months later was again facing chronic over-supply and depressed prices. The incidence of such disasters is predicted to increase as a consequence of climate change, yet an expansion of North Australian agriculture is being actively promoted.

Agriculture is a risky business, and natural disasters are only one of the variables farmers have always had to plan for, yet producers hang in there. The Commonwealth Government’s Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia describes exciting challenges and possibilities, particularly for agriculture, but in what appears increasingly to be a new geological era – the Anthropocene.

Will these opportunities translate into tangible outcomes for existing industries, individuals and communities?

This is not the first time grand plans have been espoused for North Australia, based on the premise of underutilised land, abundant water, and proximity to Asia, so: what lessons might history save us having to learn again; what are the opportunities for community NRM governance to transcend top-down (or should that be south-north?) government-imposed environmental decision making; and how might policy be better aligned to deliver real benefits to existing and future industry participants? Through his PhD research and industry experience, Keith is attempting to answer these questions and understand why some North Australian agricultural producers thrive.

About the Conference

The Developing Northern Australia Conference will bring together Business, Academics, NGOs, Community Groups and all tiers of Government to ensure discussion and the opportunity to address the unique topics that are relevant to the region’s future.  The forum provides delegates who live, work and represent  the various communities and industry sectors in the region, the opportunity to network, engage and formulate new partnerships and solutions.

To register for the Developing Northern Australia Conference please visit the registration page here.