Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


The water method man

Story Suzy Young
Photos James McEwan

ImageJohn Seccombe's family - wife Pam and two younger children, Amanda and Jamie - are tearing around their property's wide brown paddocks on motorbikes, mustering for lamb marking, while overhead, in a light plane, John is swooping around, finding mobs of sheep, pushing them in the right direction and directing everyone by radio from the air.

This is his strength - seeing the big picture, grasping the situation, understanding the problem and working out the solution. And, more often than not, making it happen himself.

As a grazier in western Queensland, dealing with the challenges of woolgrowing in unpredictable times, it's a necessary talent, as it is for anyone on the land. But John has also put his skills to work on a much larger task: literally saving the future of rural industry in Australia.

Not surprisingly, it's uphill work. He is chairman of the body that oversees the capping of open bores around the country that feed from the Great Artesian Basin, the vast body of water lying under Australia that has made agriculture and grazing possible in most of the outback. There are, quite simply, too many bores, the water supply is under threat and the solution - John's work - is still not fully in place because of bureaucratic foot-dragging. Just like the water, John Seccombe's monumental, bush-bred patience is running out.

Queensland has 70 percent of Australia's 3700 bores and the area most in crisis, he says, is around St.George, where the pressure is dropping by 3pc a year, which could see the water supply exhausted in just three years years. Loss of pressure in the Great Artesian Basin, which would allow contaminated ground water into the supply, would spell the end of the purity of Australia's greatest resource - just as it has in many other countries around the world. Story end

Full story: Issue 21, February / March 02

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