Leon and Lynette Stasinowsky
Tourist cabins at Yatco Lagoon.
Landowners at Moorook.
Leon is also the Mayor of the Loxton Waikerie District Council.
Interview: 7th July 2011
Leon and his wife Lynette, together with brother Dennis and son Shaun Stasinowsky, run a sheep and cattle grazing property on land adjacent to and including Yatco Lagoon and its surrounding floodplains. They also run a small tourism cabin business overlooking the lagoon.
Reflecting on his experiences at Yatco lagoon Leon recalled having his 21st birthday portrait photos taken by “Johnny” Gurr in a small photo studio on “Johnny” and Mal Gurr’s property now owned by Brenton Schober and family. The year was 1968. Leon’s wedding photos were also taken by Johnny at the Copeville Hall in 1970.
The Stasinowskys have managed the property for almost 25 years. Prior to purchasing the property, the previous owners Martins and Zadows also grazed the floodplain. Martins owned the southern portion of the lagoon and Zadows owned the northern part of the lagoon.
About 15 head of breeding cattle and 25 rams are at times grazed on about 150 ha of floodplain from October through to end of April each year before returning to the high ground (Mallee) to calve.
Cattle grazing period is shown in colour.
1. Grazing depends on the occurrence of frosts which limit the availability of natural pasture.
Sheep grazing period is shown in colour.
The wind movement across the lagoon creates a wetted fringe up to 25 metres wide along a 7 km shoreline that provides natural pasture for sheep and cattle. Cattle naturally seek out the most palatable food sources. The Spit carries the most reliable and palatable food source due to wind creating a variable water level in this area.
Leon emphasises that the grazing at Yatco lagoon is sustainable based on maintaining low stocking levels with slight adjustments according to the seasonal conditions. During the 2010 and 2011 high rivers there was no grazing on the floodplain and in 2008 when the wetland was dried out to save water, grazing ceased because the absence of water removed the natural fence that prevents stock crossing the Loxton-Moorook road and entering neighbouring properties.
The benefits of sustainable grazing include maintenance of open areas within the reed beds that allow waterbirds to feed around the lagoon margins. Overall, an economic enterprise based on a healthy ecosystem provides the incentive to sustain a healthy lagoon environment.
The Yatco Wetland Management Plan and the construction of the embankment to dry out the lagoon during the drought — presents challenges for floodplain grazing, because complete drying and flooding reduces the ability to graze the area during these phases, although the likely vegetation response can benefit grazing when animals can return to the floodplain. During the drying phase there is a risk that animals will become bogged in the lagoon.
One of the major challenges is that the plan does not document the grazing regime on the lagoon and therefore it is not well understood by decision makers, which is important if future plans and actions are to recognise grazing around Yatco Lagoon as a sustainable land use.
Stock can be used as a management tool to create other benefits for the lagoon including reduced fire risk, reed control, increased plant biodiversity and increased bird feeding areas around the margins of the lake. This could create further economic opportunities by encouraging bird watchers to the margins of the lagoon.
In times of complete and significant drying – it may be worth considering lucerne pasture establishment to supplement the lagoon food sources. Mark Stoeckel at Bunyip Reach north of Paringa may be able to share his experience on this.
In developing an ideal hydrological operating regime for the lagoon, there should also be some consideration of trigger points based on salinity levels at which the culverts in the new embankment are opened up to freshen the lagoon.
The Yatco cabins were built by Phillip and Maria Martin . Lynette and Leon employ a manager who resides in the house near the cabins. There are two cabins which can be hired for $80/night for a standard family of 2 adults and 4 children. The Loxton Visitor Information Centre helps to promote the cabins and occupancy is always high during the major public holidays. The cabins have decks that provide the opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the lagoon panorama. The cabins are separate from each other and visitor feedback reinforces the peaceful nature of the site especially at Easter when the river can be noisy with boat traffic. Most visitors travel from Adelaide and country South Australia.
Long term plans include promoting the cabins on a web site.
Leon’s early recollections of leadership examples in the community included the Burdon family who were one of the first irrigator families to adopt dripper irrigation on tree crops. He recalled other irrigators being sceptical.
The leadership reputation gained by the Yatco Wetland Landcare Group and the wetland plan has been important for attracting the support of Government funding. However, there have been some negative aspects – whereby the increased publicity for Yatco Lagoon has attracted many yabbying groups to the lagoon during the recent floods. Many yabbiers did not seek permission to yabby on the privately owned lands that were underwater during the high rivers, and in many cases created a disturbance to the tourism accommodation and residences on the lagoon.
Leon believes that yabbiers and others who wish to enjoy the Yatco Lagoon should seek the owner’s permission first. Certainly those who ask are more likely to be given permission. Signs could also help to inform visitors to the lagoon that the floodplain is part of a sustainable farming and grazing operation.
One of the reasons for the floodplain being in such good condition and so peaceful includes the landowners being able to control access to the floodplain and river for camping. Campers are restricted to friends and family.