Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Monday, 14 August 2017

More bad news for NSW coastal forests


The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 2017:

A draft bill to revamp regulations for native forestry in NSW was slammed as "overly complex" and inequitable, and it failed to address "an inherent conflict of interest" in the oversight of state-owned Forestry Corp.

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media show the NSW Environment Protection Authority found the government's draft native forestry bill unfairly favoured Forestry Corp by remove licensing requirements for the corporation while maintaining them for landholders or industry seeking private native forestry.

It would also leave the corporation with powers unmatched for a state agency, including its protection from third-party challenges such as from environmental groups. 

"The inherent conflict of interest for a corporation in having a concurrency role for negotiating, revoking or changing the terms of their licence ... and the removal of third party legal rights, exists nowhere else in NSW legislation or regulation," the EPA's leaked assessment made last December shows.

Fairfax Media understands the EPA also sought legal advice on how to restrict "very intense" harvesting that the Forestry Corp had conducted for years in areas such as the blackbutt-dominant forests of the NSW mid-north coast.

The Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs) that permitted the logging were, however, found to be poorly worded, curbing the watchdog's ability to take legal action.

Even if it could act, though, the penalties available remain tiny. While other breaches, such as by coal mines, could attract fines of as much as $1 million, most forestry penalties were in the hundreds of dollars.

Many of the sanctions were decades old and although the cabinet had discussed a review of the penalties in 2014 – and agreed on million-dollar fines for forestry impacts on threatened species in late 2015 – it is yet to update them......

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Still feel unhappy with the Turnbull Government's policies on underground, land surface and marine waters? So you should


“Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world's oceans and large lakes, caused by "excessive nutrient pollution from human activities coupled with other factors that deplete the oxygen required to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water.” [US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration]

Every Northern Hemisphere Spring this dead zone occurs in the Gulf of Mexico and increases in size over time.



It is only one of more than 400 hypoxic areas world-wide which were mapped in 2008.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Andrew H. Altieri et al, 2017, Tropical dead zones and mass mortalities on coral reefs:

Oxygen-starved coastal waters are rapidly increasing in prevalence worldwide. However, little is known about the impacts of these “dead zones” in tropical ecosystems or their potential threat to coral reefs. We document the deleterious effects of such an anoxic event on coral habitat and biodiversity, and show that the risk of dead-zone events to reefs worldwide likely has been seriously underestimated. Awareness of, and research on, reef hypoxia is needed to address the threat posed by dead zones to coral reefs.

Degradation of coastal water quality in the form of low dissolved oxygen levels (hypoxia) can harm biodiversity, ecosystem function, and human wellbeing. Extreme hypoxic conditions along the coast, leading to what are often referred to as “dead zones,” are known primarily from temperate regions. However, little is known about the potential threat of hypoxia in the tropics, even though the known risk factors, including eutrophication and elevated temperatures, are common. Here we document an unprecedented hypoxic event on the Caribbean coast of Panama and assess the risk of dead zones to coral reefs worldwide. The event caused coral bleaching and massive mortality of corals and other reef-associated organisms, but observed shifts in community structure combined with laboratory experiments revealed that not all coral species are equally sensitive to hypoxia. Analyses of global databases showed that coral reefs are associated with more than half of the known tropical dead zones worldwide, with >10% of all coral reefs at elevated risk for hypoxia based on local and global risk factors. Hypoxic events in the tropics and associated mortality events have likely been underreported, perhaps by an order of magnitude, because of the lack of local scientific capacity for their detection. Monitoring and management plans for coral reef resilience should incorporate the growing threat of coastal hypoxia and include support for increased detection and research capacity.

Anyone still in favour of allowing an expansion of coal mining in the Galilee Basin, Queensland?

Anyone still comfortable with the amount of agricultural/industrial run-off into the Great Barrier Reef, marine protected areas and Australian coastal waters, which is allowed under state and federal policies?

It’s not just our rivers and aquifers which are suffering from political inaction and vested interest greed.

BACKGROUND

The Australian Government’s OzCoasts website states:

A reduction in dissolved oxygen concentrations is amongst the most important effects of eutrophication on aquatic organisms [4]. Hypoxia can cause direct mortality, reduced growth rates and altered behaviour and distributions of fish [4] and other organisms. In addition, bottom-water hypoxia can interact with elevated water temperatures at the surface to produce a "temperature-oxygen squeeze" effect, which can greatly reduce the amount of summer habitat available for some species [12]. Eggs and larvae of fish (and crustaceans) may be particularly susceptible to this effect because these life history stages are less able to avoid unfavourable conditions, and because they live in near shore areas, such as estuaries, where too-high water temperatures and too-low oxygen conditions often occur [5]. Changes in fish assemblages and crustaceans in response to hypoxia and & anoxia can render these organisms more susceptible to fishing pressure, and can increase the abundance of non-targeted species in by-catch [4].

Dissolved oxygen status also influences the uptake or release of nutrients from sediment. When oxygen is depleted, the nitrification pathway is blocked, and efficiencies may be lowered. As a consequence, more nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorous) are released from the sediment in bio-available forms [7]. These nutrients help to sustain algal blooms, and therefore continue the supply organic matter to the sediments [7]. With organic matter (energy) diverted from invertebrate consumption to microbial decomposition, the natural pattern of energy flow is altered, and pelagic and opportunistic species are favoured [8]. Indeed, an increased ratio of planktivore:demersal fish biomass is an important effect of eutrophication [11]. Low bottom water oxygen concentrations are also conducive to the build-up of toxic compounds such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia gas, which can also be harmful to benthic organisms and fish. Even short-lived anoxic events can cause the mass mortality of fish and benthic organisms [10].

Overall, anoxic and hypoxic events can cause large reductions in the abundance, diversity and harvest of fish in affected waters [4], and can contribute to an overall loss of bio-diversity[9]. However, the extent to which bottom water anoxia causes declines in overall fish production depends on a balanced between the negative and positive and effects of eutrophication in the full spectrum of habitats within the system [4]……

Major research institutions, universities and government (local and State) agencies gather oxygen data for specific research studies. Some information on anoxic and hypoxic events in Australian coastal waterways was compiled during the National Land & Water Resources Audit. In most cases, no data was available. However, localised or short-lived periods of hypoxia were reported in the Derwent and Huon estuaries (TAS) and in the Tuggerah Lakes (NSW). Prolonged and extensive anoxia is experienced in the Gippsland Lakes.

Note:

Anoxia is an extreme form of hypoxia.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Politicians and Water: The Murray Darling Basin Scandal Fallout


The ABC Four Corners program “Pumped” which was screened on 24th July has illustrated how important scrutiny of the establishment is to the rule of law in our democracy. It also illustrates why the ABC is under threat from many politicians and other powerful players who see any effective scrutiny of their operations as an intolerable threat to their way of doing business, a way that is against both the general community interest as well as the national interest.
The outrage from the revelations of water theft and other illegality by big irrigators in the northern NSW area of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) has increased over the days since the program was screened.  Politicians have been left scrambling and forced to change tack following the strength of the reaction and the condemnation of the inadequacy of their initial responses.
In NSW the Nationals Minister for Primary Industry, Niall Blair, was forced to change from an internal inquiry conducted by his department to an independent inquiry.  Blair was excessively optimistic in thinking that such an internal inquiry would be acceptable given that Four Corners had revealed a questionable relationship between Gavin Hanlon[1], his department’s Deputy Director General (Water), and big irrigators in the upper MDB.  In addition there was the important question of why the department had failed to act on departmental compliance officers’ reports of licence breaches and meter tampering. And there were questions about the role of the former water minister Kevin Humphries in dealing with the large irrigators.
The NSW Opposition has also taken action referring both the former Nationals water minister Kevin Humphries (Member for Barwon) and a senior bureaucrat (presumably Gavin Hanlon) to ICAC.
The Federal Government reaction was initially almost dismissive.  The Minister for Water Resources, Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce[2], as well as attempting to downplay the water theft by comparing it to cattle rustling, claimed that it was a matter for NSW and that there was no need for Federal Government involvement. Billions of dollars of taxpayer funds have been used to buy back water for environmental flows and instead of being used for this purpose this water has gone to the big irrigators in the upper Barwon-Darling.  Presumably the taxpayer funds had come from the Federal Government. This would surely make it a matter of very great interest to this government which, seeing it is so concerned about budget repair, would surely be appalled at the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars.
Joyce’s totally inadequate initial response was compounded shortly afterwards with what he said in a speech to irrigators in a hotel at Shepparton, a speech which was recorded by one of those attending.
Joyce said, "We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don't have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask.”
"A couple of nights ago on Four Corners, you know what that's all about? It's about them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity. A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down."
Even a dinosaur like Barnaby Joyce should have been aware that anyone carrying a smartphone has the capacity to secretly record what others are saying.  In the political sphere we have seen how damaging this can be in the cases of Christopher Pyne and One Nation’s James Ashby. The Shepparton recording has certainly damaged Joyce and has added volume to the calls for him to be sacked from the Water portfolio.  Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen as the Prime Minister has enough problems in his own party without alienating Joyce and the Nationals.
By Sunday 30th the scandal became a matter that the Federal Government had to act upon despite Joyce’s earlier labelling it a state matter. The Federal solution was for the Murray Darling Basin Authority to carry out an independent basin-wide review into compliance with state-based regulations governing water use. The Authority is to report by 15th December 2017.  The Government saw this review as complementing the other investigations of the Four Corners allegations.
However, this is a case of far too little too late.  The MDB Authority is scarcely a body able to conduct an independent review of what has obviously been happening under its watch.  Furthermore a cynic would see the reporting date of 15th December, just before the Christmas holiday season, as a typical government move to ensure that the review report would receive minimal attention and be forgotten about over the holiday break.
The Federal Opposition, like its NSW state counterpart, has also taken action on the scandal.  It requested that the Auditor-General expand his current audit of the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.  The Auditor-General will now include how the federal department is monitoring the performance of NSW under the National Partnership Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the MDB relevant to the protection and use of environmental water.
Unsurprisingly, the South Australian Government, which has long been concerned about the lack of water reaching the end of the Murray-Darling system, was outraged by the allegations.  It is calling for a judicial inquiry, a much stronger investigation than those arranged by NSW and the Federal Government.  SA senators from Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Party and the Conservatives have joined their state government in calling for a judicial inquiry.
This scandal has a long way to run yet.  There are major questions to be answered about the National Party – both state and federally - and its relationship with the big irrigators and its apparent indifference to the needs of other irrigators further down the system.  There is also the question of its influence on the workings of the NSW Department of Agriculture.   And just what role has it had in limiting the effectiveness of – perhaps even of sabotaging - the Murray Darling Basin Plan?
For both Federal and NSW state Liberal leaders there is the question about the advisability of having resource management portfolios in the hands of Nationals and of putting both Agriculture and Water in the same portfolio.  Each of these governments has a very poor environmental record.  What has been happening on the Barwon-Darling reinforces the view that keeping “in good” with the Nationals is far more important for the  Liberals than ensuring that environmental policies are in the best long-term interests of the state and nation.
[1] Gavin Hanlon joined the NSW Department of Primary Industries in December 2014.  Prior to this he had been Managing Director of Goulburn Murray Water since 2011.
[2] The water portfolio was removed from the Environment Department and allocated to Joyce as a result of the agreement with the Liberals in 2015  following  Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister.

Hildegard
Northern Rivers
2nd August 2017

Guest Speak is a North Coast Voices segment allowing serious or satirical comment from NSW Northern Rivers residents. Email northcoastvoices at gmail dot com dot au to submit comment for consideration.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Quotes of the Week


“These days, it's not just leftie troublemakers who doubt that benefits going direct to big business will trickle down to the rest of us, it's every punter in the street.”  [Economics Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins, 24 July 2017]

“Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump is saddled with a stalled agenda, a West Wing that resembles a viper’s nest, a pile of investigations and a Republican Party that is starting to break away.”  [Journalists Julie Pace and Jonathan Lemire writing in The Washington Post, 29 July 2017]

“This White House is broken, perhaps beyond repair. It can’t do anything right. It can’t issue executive orders that are enforceable. It can’t pass legislation. It can’t prioritize the president’s agenda. It can’t get anybody on the same page. In a normal White House, all of those things flow from an empowered White House chief of staff who can execute the president’s agenda and most importantly tell him what he does not want to hear. And none of that is happening.”  [Author Chris Whipple quoted in The Washington Post, 31 July 2017]

“Yeah. He’s like a conveyor belt for bad overseas ideas.” [Journalist Richard Chirgwin tweeting about Australian Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull on 2 August 2017]

“By August 2 2017, we will have used more from Nature than our planet can renew in the whole year…..This means that in seven months, we emitted more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb in a year, we caught more fish, felled more trees, harvested more, and consumed more water than the Earth was able to produce in the same period.” [World Wildlife Fund quoted in the Independent on 2 August 2017]

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Australia's future water security losing out in the water wars


ABC News, 24 July 2017:

Billions of litres of water purchased by taxpayers to save Australia's inland rivers is instead being harvested by some irrigators to boost cotton-growing operations, in a policy failure that threatens to undermine the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The pumping of this environmental water means taxpayers have in some cases been effectively subsidising already wealthy agricultural interests, including those of Webster Limited, a publicly-traded company which holds a $300 million water portfolio — the largest Australian-owned private holding in the country.

A Four Corners investigation has found that in the Barwon-Darling system — a critical link in the wider Murray-Darling Basin — NSW Government water extraction rules have given irrigators more reliable access to water than prior to 2012 when the Basin Plan was signed.

Long-time farmers' advocate Mal Peters, who chaired a Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) statutory committee examining the Barwon-Darling, described the rules as "bloody disgusting".

"It rendered the whole plan, in my mind, completely null and void because the amount of water that could be taken out was huge," he said.

University of New South Wales scientist Richard Kingsford said the revelation "goes against the whole tenet of the [Basin] Plan".

"Environmental water bought by taxpayers is going through pumps into storages to grow cotton, and to me that is the biggest problem that we've currently got," he said.

Between 2012 and June this year, more than 74 billion litres of environmental water has flowed into the Barwon-Darling system — including when the controversial 2012 extraction rules allowed irrigators to pump it.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is explicitly aware of these concerns.

In July last year, the MDBA board held private discussions on the problem.

Board member George Warne emailed minutes from this discussion to other board members, including Phillip Glyde, the MDBA chief executive.

His email, seen by Four Corners, described the policies in the Barwon-Darling as an issue which "appears to enable gaming of water extractions ... enabling much higher use of water".

The email also acknowledged "water use behaviours that effectively mine the E-flows that make it into the Barwon-Darling".

These "E-flows" are those that taxpayers had purchased through so-called "buybacks" to save the river system.

Since John Howard announced the Murray-Darling initiative, taxpayers have spent more than $3 billion on water buybacks.

Graziers and townspeople downstream who rely on the river have expressed anger and dismay at the extraction rules, claiming they have seen the river diminish since the new policies were introduced in 2012.

This is what the Murray-Darling Basin Authority states of itself:

With the enactment of the Water Act 2007, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) was established as an independent expertise-based statutory agency.

For the first time in the Basin's history, one Basin-wide institution is responsible for planning the Basin's water resources, with all planning decisions made in the interest of the Basin as a whole….

We are responsible for directing the sharing of the River Murray's water on behalf of the Basin states. The Murray–Darling Agreement, (a schedule of the Water Act 2007) spells out these arrangements.

Under the Agreement, we operate the River Murray system and oversee asset management (Dartmouth and Hume Dam, Lake Victoria, Lower Lake barrages, weirs and locks) with our state partners.

The Authority has over three hundred employees and is headquartered in Canberra.

As the MDBA declares it is responsible for planning decisions and directing water sharing its governing body and the federal water minister have some explaining to do.

The six member Murray–Darling Basin Authority governing body having responsibility for the authority living up to its mandate:

Neil Andrew AO (Chair) – former Liberal MP in the federal parliament, current Chairman of the Crawford Fund in Australia and Commissioner to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
Phillip Glyde Chief Executive – former Deputy Secretary at the Department of Agriculture
Professor Barry Hart director of environmental consulting company Water Science Pty Ltd and emeritus professor at Monash University 
Ms Dianne Davidson – farmer, agricultural scientist and horticulturalist
Mr George Warne – current chairman of construction company Lipman Pty Ltd, former CEO and Project Director of the Northern Victorian Irrigation Renewal Program, former general manager at Murray Irrigation Limited and former CEO State Water New South Wales
Ms Susan Madden – a principal economist at international consulting firm GHD Pty Ltd engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services to private and public sector clients

Portfolio responsibility for the MDBA is held by Australian Deputy-Prime Minister, Water Minister, and Nationals MP for New England Barnaby Joyce.

Aside from the limitations imposed by having the inept Barnaby Joyce as water minister, a hint as to why this body appears to be dragging its feet over the issue (of improper use of ‘buy back’ and state-gifted waters earmarked for environmental flows) might be found in this exchange previously reported by “Four Corners”.


For better irrigation and for better farming. I mean I just I'm sorry I can't see what's evil about that, I have real trouble understanding why anyone would object to a farmer using the water smarter and better to grow more crops and do it better, I mean has the world gone mad.

This attitude is far from unique and threatens the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

ABC News, 24 July 2017:
The top water bureaucrat in NSW, Gavin Hanlon, has been secretly recorded offering to confidentially share internal government information with irrigation lobbyists — documents he proposed to strip of government logos and share via a special Dropbox account — to assist their lobbying against the contentious Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The recording of the 2016 teleconference also reveals the NSW Government has been actively considering plans, in discussion with irrigators, to abandon the Basin Plan altogether, and has sought legal advice about doing so.
A Four Corners investigation has confirmed that Mr Hanlon, Deputy Director General of the NSW Department of Primary Industries, did not approve a major operation targeting non-compliant irrigators in the north of NSW — an operation urged upon him by his own investigators after they collected evidence that billions of litres of water had been improperly pumped.
"I think that it was clear that there was no appetite for compliance anymore," said Jamie Morgan, who until midway through 2016 managed the department's Strategic Investigations Unit.
"It was odd timing in my view. It was only when we went to the north-west of the state, where we found significant problems, that our team was very quickly disbanded after that.
"Our briefings weren't being answered. And to this day, no-one has actually addressed those issues in that area."
It should come as no surprise that at the heart of the biggest gamer of the Murray-Darling Plan, Webster Limited, is that epitome of far-right, free market greed Chris Corrigan who is this corporation's Chair.

The principal connnection 180 year-old Webster Limited now has to Murray-Darling Basin land under Corrigan is the 200,000 megalitre water entitlement it harvests and can sell-off at will for maximum profit.

Nor should it come as any surprise that the NSW Berejiklian Government supports Corrigan and Webster as well as the other water raiders under the guise of supporting "real world" decisions.
North Coast Voices readers may recall that irrigators, mining corporations and local governments in the Basin region have more than once turned rapacious eyes towards the NSW Northern Rivers, proposing to dam and divert coastal waters for their use.
Proposals which have been strenuously rejected by local communities and Far North Coast councils.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Greed, plain and simple, is killing off NSW koalas and the Berejiklian Coalition Government continues to ignore this vandalism of habit


ABC News, 20 July 2017:

A koala habitat 50 per cent larger than the Royal National Park has been destroyed by logging, according to a new conservation report.

The report titled Clearing Koalas Away by conservationist Dailan Pugh, says more than 23,000 hectares of koala habitat near Coffs Harbour has been "virtually cleared".

"They're hitting them really hard. We're looking at about 40 per cent of koala habitat in state forests," he said.

Mr Pugh, an environmentalist for over 40 years, sourced the forestry data under freedom of information (FOI) legislation, in a bid to measure logging against known koala habitats.

Last year, then-environment minister Mark Speakman admitted "intensive harvesting" on the North Coast was "not consistent" with regulations, and said the Environment Protection Authority was investigating.

An EPA spokesperson declined to answer questions, but said "current rules are over 15 years old and lack clarity in important areas, including intensive harvesting".

Recent studies suggest less than 9,000 koalas survive on the North Coast, a 50 per cent decline in the past 20 years.

Habitat loss is widely acknowledged as a driver of the decline.



Mr Pugh said a sustainable logging method called "single-tree selection" is being misused by Forestry Corporation.

Single-tree selection permits the selective harvest of just 40 per cent of eucalypts trees in a logging zone — leaving 60 per cent of trees as off-limits.

But the off-limits status is temporary, and evidence shows these trees are heavily logged in later operations.

The reports highlights examples like Kerewong State Forest, with photos showing the heavy clearing of a mapped koala habitat.

Echo NetDaily, 13 March 2017:

A representative of the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) was ejected from a meeting that he called with the Environment Protection Authority at Gibberagee State Forest after it was ‘gatecrashed by the Forestry Corporation’.

NEFA auditor Dailan Pugh said he was invited to Gibberagee by the EPA on Friday (March 10) so that he could show them logging was taking place into what were meant to be exclusion zones around the nationally Endangered Narrow-leaved Melichrus, which only occurs at Gibberagee.

But he was directed to leave by the Forestry Corporation without being allowed to show the EPA anything.

‘A month ago I sent the EPA a complaint after identifying that the Forestry Corporation were refusing to identify the legally required buffers around the Endangered plant Narrow-leaf Melichrus,’ Mr Pugh told Echonetdaily.

He added they were ‘recklessly damaging hollow-bearing and recruitment trees, and logging “unmapped” streams in the immediate catchment of the regionally significant seagrass beds of The Broadwater.’

‘Bryce Gorham of the EPA invited me to come out to the forest last Friday “to accurately identify (on ground identification) of the alleged breach of intrusion into a Melichrus sp.Giberagee exclusion zone”,’ he said.

‘I expected that the EPA would only invite me if they had the authority to do so.

‘The EPA were late, so while waiting I looked around, finding two more places where logging had extended into what were meant to be 50m exclusion zones around Narrow-leaf Melichrus, in one case by 22m.

‘When the EPA belatedly arrived they had a Forestry Corporation employee, Jamie Churchill, with them.

‘He told me to leave the forest on the grounds of occupational health and safety. I insisted that I had been invited into the forest by the EPA and that, in the area where we were, logging had finished some three months ago so we were not interfering with an active operation and there were no safety issues.’

Mr Pugh said he told both the EPA and Forestry Corporation that he had just found another legal breach nearby, and asked to at least be able to show it to them.

But, he added, the Forestry Corporation refused ‘and the EPA went along with them’.

‘After driving two hours to get there I was forced to leave without being allowed to show the EPA anything.

‘The EPA should never have invited me if they don’t have the authority to stand up to Forestry Corporation bullying.

* Image of  koala mother and cub from Independent Australia

Friday, 21 July 2017

A plea on behalf of NSW Liverpool Plains communities


LOCK THE GATE:
It's been a difficult week on the Liverpool Plains.
Yesterday the New South Wales Government paid coal company Shenhua $262 million dollars in a deal that removes part of their larger exploration licence but still lets the company go ahead with it's full coal mining project on the irreplaceable Liverpool Plains.

There is a lot of public relations spin from the NSW Government, but the cold hard truth is that they haven't stopped the Shenhua Watermark coal mine and the company now says it plans to proceed to start the project.

The consequences for local farmers adjoining the mine, and the productivity of this vital national foodbowl, will be severe.

Phone in 4 the plains button
The Government is trying to throw the coal dust over our eyes by telling us this is a great win for the Liverpool Plains.

But in fact, all they have done is pay an exorbitant price for some areas that Shenhua never had any intention of mining, whilst allowing the full 4,000 hectare mine with 3 massive open-cut coal pits to go ahead full bore on the Plains.

The NSW Government has the legal power to cancel the entire Shenhua exploration licence and put an end to this dangerous mine proposal once and for all.
Phone in 4 the plains button
This is an incredibly crucial moment. We need a crescendo of voices demanding full protection of this magnificent country and an end to the Shenhua mine project.

Thanks for your help,
George Woods
Lock the Gate Alliance
http://www.lockthegate.org.au/
Lock the Gate Alliance · PO Box 6285, Sth Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia
.
You can also keep up with Lock the Gate Alliance on Twitter or Facebook.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Koalas in Iluka, NSW lead such interesting lives


One young well-known koala attempting to hide in Loxton Street from the Iluka paparazzi……

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Well done, Iluka Green Army & Landcare volunteers


And well done Clarence Valley Independent for reporting this local content on 7 June 2017:

The team replanting trees in Everlasting Swamp, at Lawrence. Image: Contributed.
New homes for birds and fish are being created as the Iluka GreenArmy and Landcare help the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) replant tree cover in Everlasting Swamp National Park at Lawrence.
NPWS Project Officer Dean Egan said restoring tree cover will create habitat for birds, provide shade and structure for fish and assist in improving water quality in the park.
“More than 140 trees were planted in recent weeks, adding to the over 1200 trees planted in since start of 2016,” Mr Egan said.
“A big thanks to the dedicated team of ten GreenArmy crew and five Iluka Landcare volunteers.
“The Sandon to Wooli Community Nursery and Iluka Landcare have worked with NPWS to source local seed, raise young trees and the Envite-led Iluka GreenArmy has been planting the trees.”
Envite GreenArmy Coordinator Mick Webb said it is great to see this improved wetland health achieved through this community partnership of both young and old.
“The incredible birdlife, fish and rare wetland vegetation needed a bit of a hand up. Parts of the new park were devoid of creek-bank trees, with older trees being hit hard by dieback and lack of habitat,” Mr Webb said.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Everlasting Swamp from the air

Photo: abc.net.au

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Are Berejiklian & Co attempting to pull an environmental sleight of hand on NSW communities who value their green and biodiverse landscapes?


On  23 November 2016 the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (repealing the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 and the animal and plant provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974) became law.

On the same day the NSW Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016 (repealing the Native Vegetation Act 2003 and amending the Local Land Services Act 2013 in relation to native vegetation land management in rural areas) also became law.

Currently the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government has these documents on exhibition:
Regulations and other key products to support the Government's new Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016, are on exhibition for six weeks from 10 May until 21 June.
Facts sheets and guides that provide detailed information on key topic areas are also available to assist you in making a submission.
Loud warning bells should be ringing in all ears – not least because the draft regulation document State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation) 2017 is nowhere to be found.
Instead there is a slick 22-page Explanation of Intended Effect booklet (highlighted in red) which is not worth the paper it is printed on at this point in time.

Why the Berejiklian Government assumes that it is best practice to place major policy change on exhibition with a crucial SEPP not yet drafted is unexplained.

Nor is there any indication as to why this as yet unformed vegetation SEPP is to be signed into government regulation in eleven weeks' time without voters having the opportunity to assess and comment on its precise provisions and wording. 

One has to suspect that the reason for such sleight of hand is that State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation) 2017 will contain a workaround for property developers to clear environmentally valuable native vegetation using the new permit system long before land comes before a council for consideration as the subject of a development application.

As the Explanation of Intended Effect now stands it appears that local government will have less control over clearing of native vegetation than it had in the past.
The Better Planning Network (BPN), a state-wide not for profit grassroots volunteer-based organisation, has also highlighted the following issues:

The detailed map of land classified as 'Environmentally Sensitive' is not publicly available.

- The map of Category 1 and Category 2 rural land (ie- land that can be cleared under self-assessable codes or otherwise) is not publicly available.

- The mapping of core koala habitat across NSW has not been completed (we are aware of only 5 NSW Councils that have identified core koala habitat under SEPP 44 Koala Habitat Protection.)

- The details of the Biodiversity Offsets Calculator are not publicly available.
It is impossible for the public to provide accurate feedback on the draft Regulations, Codes and SEPP without access to the above elements.  It is also irresponsible and risky for the Government to operationalise its legislation and regulations before these elements have been finalised. ​

On this basis, we urge you to contact the NSW Premier and the responsible Ministers (UptonRoberts and Blair) to ask them to: 
- ​Extend the public exhibition of all Regulations and Codes under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2017, as well as the Vegetation SEPP, until the components listed above are made publicly available.

​- ​Ensure that operation of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2017 does not commence until all relevant mapping, included that listed above, has been completed and reviewed for accuracy by key stakeholders.

An analysis of the draft Regulations, Codes and SEPP has been provided though the Stand Up For Nature Submission Guide. We are preparing our own draft submission which we will circulate to you as soon as possible. However, accurate comment on the full package is not possible until all of the components listed above are made publicly available.

The Environmental Defenders Office NSW (EDO) uploaded this video which walks through the documents on exhibition:



EDO 1 June 2017 seminar slides can be found here. Included in these slides is some advice on what to cover in submissions.

According to the EDO "There are some serious weaknesses" in these draft documents which are intended to become operational on 25 August 2017.

These include:

* Repeal of Native Vegetation Act and environmental standards that go with it, replaced with Codes
* Heavy reliance on flexible and indirect biodiversity offsets – weaker standards in the BAM and for biocertification
* Conservation gains aren't guaranteed in law, but dependent on funding decisions
* There is significant discretion for decision-makers
* Significant risk of policy failure

Locally one can add to this list the fact that Clarence Valley Council has stated:

A review of the draft Sensitive Biodiversity Values Land Map released by OEH reveals that it is missing areas of the Clarence Valley LGA which are known to contain habitat for threatened and critically endangered species or significant biodiversity value (for example core koala habitat identified in the Ashby-Woombah-Iluka koala plan of management, as well as significant areas of littoral rainforest and coastal wetlands).

Concerned residents can have their say until 21 June 2017 by:

Or writing to the Land Management and Biodiversity Conservation Reforms Office,
PO Box A290, Sydney South NSW 1232

NOTE

At least one local government, Clarence Valley Council, has requested an extension of time to make a submission on these reforms and to date this formal request has been met with deafening silence.