PhD Seminar - Epistemic landform, agriculture and water resource assessment to help courts determine land-use conflicts

This seminar will take place both in person, and online via a zoom webinar.

About the seminar

Litigated land-use conflicts are expensive, lengthy, and complex. They are mostly highly technical and courts often seek opinion-based help from experts. Whilst all experts must comply with rigid rules for preparing evidence, they must also collect adequate data on which to base their opinions. Here there is an inherent tension: even in specialist environmental jurisdictions, courts might be unable to recognise the suite and quality of data required to build a sound opinion. In the absence of a guide to the required data and its quality, decisions risk being influenced by the theatre of the presentation – the performance, rather than the epistemic substance of the underpinning assumptions, information, data and assessments.

This work examines the hypothesis that a systematic Indicant or guide to the critical measures and attributes relating to the assessment of landform, agricultural and water resources might help the efficiency and reliability of court decisions in land-use conflicts.

About the speaker

Neil Sutherland is an Agricultural and Environmental Scientist, a Hydrographer and a Farmer with a small beef herd in Northern New South Wales.

Starting out farming in the United Kingdom and after stints working in the Middle East, much of his career has been spent consulting in Australia. He has worked in all manner of challenging environments and assisted in controversial litigations - from coal mines to solar farms.

Trained in the UK at Seale-Hayne and Silsoe Agricultural Colleges in the UK and at Griffith University in Brisbane, he is regularly called upon to provide expert witness evidence.

Neil established the consulting firm Gilbert & Sutherland Pty Ltd in 1997 and has served industry and the community through voluntary roles as former Chairman of both the Queensland Acid Sulfate Soils Committee and the Gold Coast City Council’s Waterfuture Committee, overseeing the creation, consultation and implementation of the Gold Coast Waterfuture Strategy.

Recognising an increasing level of complexity in land-use conflicts, coupled with the increasing vagaries of our climate, he assists landholders resolve conflict over landforms, agriculture and water resources, where he can. He subscribes to the view of Nathaniel Kent published in 1796 that “Agriculture is unquestionably the first of all sciences, as it nurses and supports the rest."