Paul Erkelenz – 1964 to 2022
In late December 2022, we said a sad goodbye to Paul Erkelenz, a long-standing member and Councillor of the Australian Rangeland Society and lifelong rangeland practitioner and scientist, and devoted husband to Nicole, father to Tom and Hannah and grandfather to their children. At a service in the Uniting Church in Goolwa on 13 December 2022, his life and his faith was richly celebrated by his family and his many friends and colleagues.
Paul was a great ‘all-rounder’ in rangeland science and management, able to turn his hand to address most problems and able to provide practical solutions in many rangeland environments. And … he just loved the bush and the many adventures he and work colleagues and family enjoyed.
Paul was loved by his family and many others, and to use the vernacular, was just a ‘great bloke’. He will be missed by many and the ‘rangeland community’ is much the poorer for his passing. He was taken too soon.
Paul was born in 1964, and after education at Urrbrae Agricultural High School, he went jackerooing on Bulgunnia Station in the North West Pastoral region of South Australia prior to undertaking tertiary studies at Roseworthy Agricultural College where he completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Agriculture in 1986. He returned to work at Bulgunnia during university vacations, an experience that gave him invaluable insights into the challenges in operating a grazing enterprise in the semi-arid chenopod shrublands.
Over following years his enthusiasm for on-going learning resulted in his completion of a Graduate Diploma in Agriculture, from Roseworthy in 1992, Diplomas in Accounting and Project Management, and qualifications in Workplace Assessment and Training and Basic Investigation Techniques.
Paul’s career has spanned many landscapes and many disciplines. He worked with rural and remote businesses and communities of SA, WA, NT and NSW; focussing on farm business management and natural resource management issues, particularly in a rangelands pastoral context.
After graduating, Paul commenced professional employment with the South Australian Government in technical work in livestock and soils; and as a regional adviser with the Animal and Plant Control Commission. In 1993 he was back in the SA pastoral areas in property management planning and pastoral lease inspections. His focus on business management in agricultural and pastoral enterprises increased through the early 2000s and he also became involved in state-wide drought programs, and community band industry development.
He left his position as a Senior Consultant with Rural Solutions in November 2012 and took up the challenge of becoming a Regional Land Care Facilitator, and then the Sustainable Pastoralism Manager in the Southern Rangelands of WA. While in WA, he provided business plans and property management plans for pastoral clients.
Not long after, in 2015 he established his own consultancy Astrebla Agribusiness & NRM Consulting where he specialised in weed management in pastoral lands. In this important area of activity he developed the Western NSW Regional Strategic Pest Animal Management Plan and the Western NSW Regional Strategic Weed Management Plan, both completed for the Western Local Land Services. He followed this with the production of an Identification Guide for Western Region Priority Weeds, and an identification of High Risk Pathways and Sites Survey for Priority Weeds in the Unincorporated Area of NSW. More specifically he completed an assessment of the Distribution of, and Effectiveness of Previous Control Programs for Willow rhus (Searsia Lancea) in the Western Division of NSW.
Beyond weeds, he completed a Financial Feasibility Study on Carbon Farming in the SA Rangelands for the South Australian Department of the Environment, Water and Natural Resources and he continued his commitment to providing business plans and property management plans for clients in other parts of the rangelands.
Paul had a well-earned reputation as an excellent facilitator and communicator experienced in working in a wide range of contexts (including community consultations, conferences, group training and family business meetings) with a wide range of stakeholders. During his time with Rural Solutions SA, Paul developed and delivered a basic facilitation skills training course to colleagues and participants from other organisations. He was renowned for his meticulous preparation and high delivery standards.
His most recent role – from 2019 onwards – was as a Rural Financial Counsellor (Pastoral and Upper North SA), undertaken for Rural Business Support. Paul was the Rural Financial Counsellor for the Northern Pastoral region of the state, with some additional clients in the Upper North agricultural district.
Paul’s contribution to the Australian Rangeland Society
Paul was an active member of the ARS and contributed to and participated in many ARS Conferences, particularly those held in South Australia (Port Augusta 1996 and 2017; and Renmark 2006). Most notably, Paul was a member of the Organising Committee for the 19th Biennial Conference of the ARS held in Port Augusta in 2017, where he was in charge of developing the conference program. He did a great job in assembling an excellent program for that very successful event.
Subsequent to that Conference, Paul joined the Council of the ARS in September 2020 and made a fine contribution to the work of the Council until his increasing illness required him to resign during late 2022. Paul also agreed to be a Director of the XIIth International Rangeland Congress Inc, a company established to organise the Congress which will be held in Adelaide in 2025.