Soil health

DRAFT - Submitted to Minister for government consideration

A building block of life and prosperity

Healthy soils are central to human health and wellbeing.  They support the production of food and fibre we need to survive and support the ecosystems which enable clean water, pure air, biodiversity and environmental quality.

Soil is a mix of mineral particles, organic matter, gases, water and living organisms. A teaspoon of soil is estimated to contain several thousand species of micro-organisms, and other invertebrates such as nematodes (round worms), annelids (earth worms), and microarthropods (springtails and mites). These soil organisms play very important roles such as breaking down organic matter and providing nutrients to plants.

Soils provide the physical substrate that supports our buildings and infrastructure in urban and rural areas. Healthy soils are also vital to our region’s economic prosperity, helping to generate more than $1.66 billion worth of agricultural production to the region’s economy each year.

Soils are a key component of the geodiversity of our region, the geological and physical elements of nature that, together with biodiversity, constitute the natural diversity of the region. The rocks and landforms of the region are other major components of the region’s geodiversity. Soils, rocks and landforms are also integral to the region’s geoheritage, by providing a natural record of land forming events.

Our region’s soils are ancient and fragile. The plants, animals and microorganisms that have maintained them for millennia are stressed through the introduction of European plants, animals and farming techniques. Today, there are many issues that affect our soils and landscapes including climate change, acidification, compaction, salinity, erosion, dumping of clean or contaminated soil, fertility decline, and decline of biodiversity.

Safeguarding the health of our soils is vital to our region’s future. The costs from degraded soils and their management can be very high and impact agricultural producers, commerce, industry and urban users, and the natural ecosystem.