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

Monday, 16 October 2017

Update on the proposed 140 lot community title residential subdivision in Hickey Street, Iluka, NSW


Hickey Street and environs in Iluka at the mouth of the Clarence River

The proposed 140 lot community title residential subdivision in Hickey Street, Iluka, NSW was declared a controlled action on 6 October 2017 and, as such, requires assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and ministerial approval before it can proceed.

According to Australian Government Dept. of  Environment and Energy the relevant controlling provisions are:

World Heritage properties (sections 12 & 15A)
National Heritage places (sections 15B & 15C)
Listed threatened species and communities (sections 18 & 18A)

There are five levels of controlled action assessment provided under the Act and the development proposal assessment for this subdivision will be by preliminary documentation, due to it being considered a proposal where the impacts are localised, easily predicted or where the impacts have already been adequately assessed under other legislation.

It is the responsibility of the development applicant, Stevens Holdings Pty Limited, to prepare documentation to support the assessment process.

Preliminary documentation assessment is one of the four levels requiring a public comment phase as part of the process. The availability of assessment documentation for public comment will be advertised in the relevant press and on the Department's website.

Monday, 9 October 2017

NSW North East Forest Alliance telling it like it is........




Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Under Turnbull Government's new plan "38 out of 44 marine parks will be open to trawling, gillnetting and longlining, 33 will be open to mining, and 42 exposed to the construction of pipelines"



Canberra Times, 17 September 2017:
In the corridors of Parliament House that day, as I met MPs of every stripe, I felt a great sense of promise, even pride. And it seemed for a while such hope was not misplaced. In 2012, after an exhaustive scientific process and wide community consultation, Tony Burke declared a system of marine national parks, one of the biggest and best in the world, the most significant conservation gain in Australian history.
That took courage. Because it put science before politics, prudence ahead of expediency. And it was popular. But as soon as he came to power in 2013 Tony Abbott announced an immediate moratorium on these parks and instigated a review. The purpose was purely political. To delay implementation, corrode consensus and deny the science. A move straight out of the culture warrior's playbook.
After decades of forward-thinking leaders, the nation had fallen into the hands of a man whose loyalties were only to the past. It was a low moment. But Abbott's reign was as brief as it was fruitless. It was a relief to see him replaced in 2015 by a man who'd actually done things, who believed in the future. Malcolm Turnbull did not scorn science. He seemed to understand the value and fragility of our natural estate. So there was new hope the marine parks review would now be expedited and redirected towards real conservation outcomes. With coral reefs bleaching and miners pressing for even more coal ports and seabed to drill, the need for protection had only grown more urgent.
Well, that moment of promise is long gone. Turnbull's period in office has basically been a hostage drama. The bargain he made with powerbrokers rendered him captive to the party's most illiberal wing, and if his performance on climate, energy and marriage equality aren't evidence enough, last month's announcement that marine parks would be slashed beyond all recognition puts it beyond dispute.
The agents of inertia control his government. And what's worse he's looking like a hostage who's begun to identify with his captors. How else to explain his radical lurch backwards on parks? The draft management plans recently released for consultation by Josh Frydenberg don't just signify the gutting of the national system, they represent the largest removal of protection for Australian wildlife in our history. What the government is proposing is a nihilistic act of vandalism. Forty  million hectares of sanctuary will be ripped from the estate. That's like revoking every second national park on land. Under its new plan, 38 out of 44 marine parks will be open to trawling, gillnetting and longlining, 33 will be open to mining, and 42 exposed to the construction of pipelines. In total defiance of the scientific advice upon which the original system was designed, 16 marine parks will now have no sanctuary zones at all.
The science shows that partial or low-level protection simply doesn't work. What the government is putting forward will radically diminish protection of habitat. It will also undermine sustainable regional economic development. What began as a quest for excellence based on the best possible science is now so miserably degraded it's turned the greatest step forward in marine conservation into a regime that doesn't even aspire to be second-rate.
Draft management plans for Australian marine parks/reserves:
                                                                         



South-west Commonwealth Marine Reserves draft management plan

As one South Australian voter put it after reading about the Turnbull Government's intentions; FFS ! These guys are proof that there are no time machines. Otherwise someone from the future would come back and mulch the pr*cks. (quote supplied)

Voters in NSW North Coast electorates should be aware that:
* Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan supported this review and to date has never voted against his party’s position in the House of Representatives. Therefore it is highly likely that he will vote for any government bill which will reduce marine park and marine reserve protections.
*Nationals MP for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker supported this review and to date has never voted against his party’s position in the House of Representatives. Therefore it is highly likely that he will vote for any government bill which will reduce marine park and marine reserve protections.
* Labor MP for Richmond Justine Elliot does not support a reduction in marine parks and marine reserve protections.

Brief background


The Turnbull government has released draft management plans for the nation's marine parks that amount to an "unprecedented roll-back" of protections, a coalition of 25 environmental groups say.

The long-awaited draft plans were released on Friday and propose changes to the 3.3 million square kilometres of Australia's protected offshore regions expanded in 2012 by the Gillard government.

The area of marine parks open to fishing would jump to 80 per cent from 64 per cent now, if the changes were to pass through parliament, WWF-Australia said.

"This is a huge step backwards for marine protection," Richard Leck, WWF's head of oceans, said. "Australia used to be seen as a global leader in marine conservation. That will no longer be the case if these proposals are implemented."

Other proposed changes would strip Shark and Vema reefs of  marine national park status, while Osprey reef - one of the world's premier dive sites - has lost more than half its protection, Tony Burke, Labor's environment spokesman said.

"Five years ago, Labor make the second largest conservation decision in history. Today the Turnbull Government announced the largest undoing of conservation ever," Mr Burke said….

Of particular concern to the green groups is the Coral Sea Marine Park, where a substantial area previously given the maximum protection had been reduced……

Ms Grady said the government had chosen to ignore the science contained in independent reviews that backed the original zones.

"All Australians will be justifiably distressed to know that science evidence supporting an increase in protections for marine life has been thrown out the window," Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said.

Friday, 29 September 2017

WA company with Chinese & UK backing announces a desire to mine near, extract water from and potentially pollute Clarence River catchment waters



The Daily Examiner, 29 September 2017, p.1:

JUST 35km north-west of Grafton is a block of private land with the potential to change the face of Clarence Valley’s industry as we know it.

Mt Gilmore, which lies between Fine Flower and The Gorge, has been revealed to be home to several deposits of high-grade cobalt.

Now Western Australia-based company Corazon Mining is trying to work out just how big that deposit is, and whether it’s worth mining.

On June 16 2016, Corazon announced it had secured the right to earn up to 80% of the Mount Gilmore Cobalt-Copper-Gold Project from private company Providence Gold and Minerals Pty Ltd.

Their project tenure included one granted Exploration Licence covering an area of approximately 25km by 15km, and over the past couple of months they have been drilling to in an effort to find precious metals.

Corazon managing director Brett Smith said so far, things were looking good.

“We’ve been saying that this is one of the highest- grade cobalt deposits in Australia, we just don’t know how big it is,” he said. “There was a lot of gold and copper prospecting there back in the late 1800s, early 1900s, and so it’s amazing where it’s located how little modern exploration has gone on there.”

The reason they have their eye on cobalt, rather than gold or copper, is that the element’s value has risen exponentially in recent years due to its use in lithium-ion batteries.

Mr Smith said demand from the battery sector had tripled in the past five years and was projected to double again by 2020.

It is most commonly used in smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles.

“Cobalt is the most expensive raw material used for building lithium-ion batteries, paying about $61,000 per tonne,” Mr Smith said.

“A lot of people have been exploring for cobalt in NSW but are looking at oxide deposits. Ours is a bit different in that it’s a sulphide deposit, and they are fairly rare to be cobalt dominant.

“It’s all in vogue at the moment so we’re pretty hopeful this can be used to produce cobalt salts for batteries.”

Mr Smith said the company was currently on its second drill program, which they hoped could be used to accurately determine the lay of the land.’

Exactly what mining exploration licence is this newspaper article talking about?

Well according to NSW Planning & Environment on 1 September 2017 it is  EL8379 granted to Mt Gilmore Resources Pty Ltd on 23 June 2015.

So who is Corazon  Mining Limited?

The company’s 2016-17 Annual Report states:

Corazon Mining Limited (ASX: CZN) (“the Company” or “Corazon”) is an Australian based company exploring and developing the Lynn Lake Nickel-Copper-Sulphide project in Canada and Mt Gilmore Cobalt-Copper-Gold project in Australia.

It has three main exploration projects -  the Lynn Lake and  Victory projects both in Manitoba Canada and the Mt Gilmore Project in NSW Australia.

This is the corporations current Board of Directors:

Clive Jones, Non-Executive Chairman - 4,235,330 fully paid ordinary shares, 5,000,000 options exercisable at $0.035 expiring 31 March 2020, total annual remuneration $154,607
Brett Smith, Executive Managing Director - 7,107,131 fully paid ordinary shares, 10,000,000 options exercisable at $0.035 expiring 31 March 2020, total annual remuneration $417,250
Adrian Byass, Non-Executive Director - 9,357,370 fully paid ordinary shares, 7,000,000 options exercisable at $0.035 expiring 31 March 2020, total annual remuneration $144,600
Jonathan Downes, Non-Executive Director - 11,154,512 fully paid Ordinary Shares, 5,000,000 options exercisable at $0.035 expiring 31 March 2020, total annual remuneration $190,557
Mark Qiu, Non-Executive Director (appointed 18 August 2017) - 1,269,300 fully paid ordinary shares, total annual remuneration unknown
Robert Orr is company secretary and Chief Financial Officer, shareholding unknown, total annual remuneration $114,360.

The last annual report indicated that the company share structure comprised 1,039,283,317 fully paid ordinary shares held by 2,135 individual shareholders and, 60,000,000 unquoted options are held by 10 individual option holders.


The largest options holders are Brett Smith with 10 million held and Zenix Nominees Pty Ltd with 20 million held.

On 1 December 2016 the Company announced the issue of 3,410,840 shares to key management personnel in lieu of cash-based salary. This strategy was implemented in order to conserve cash reserves for operational expenditure.

Corazon Mining appears to be operating at a loss and apparently paid no tax in 2016-17.

Corazon Mining Limited’s Purchase Agreement for the Mt Gilmore Cobalt-Copper-Gold joint venture project:

Under the terms of the agreement with Providence and subject to Corazon completing due diligence to its sole satisfaction on or before 30 June 2016, Corazon has the exclusive right to earn up to an 80% interest in the Project as follows:

Corazon can earn an initial 51% interest by:
* Issuing Providence 25 million Corazon Mining Limited shares
* Paying cash reimbursements of costs totalling $100,000
* Spending $200,000 on exploration within the first 12 months from the date of satisfaction of all conditions precedent (“Commencement Date).

Corazon can earn a further 29% interest (totalling 80%) by:
* Completing $2M  in exploration within 3 years of the Commencement Date
* Paying $150,000 in cash or shares upon the earlier of the commencement of the third year and Corazon spending a minimum of $500,000 on exploration
* Paying $250,000 in cash or shares upon earning 80% equity in the Project.

Corazon has the opportunity to extend this earn-in period by one year by paying $50,000 in cash or shares.

According to Corazon Mining;

The Project is located only 35km from the major centre of Grafton in north-eastern New South Wales. Project tenure includes one granted Exploration Licence (EL8379 – one year old), covering an area of approximately 25km by 15km……

On 22 August 2017 the Company issued 139,856,665 fully paid ordinary shares at an issue price of $0.014. The share issue was comprised of:
- an issue of 120,000,000 shares to Hanking Australia Investments Pty Ltd under a Subscription Agreement for a $1,680,000 investment in the Company;
- an issue of 7,356,665 to sophisticated investors to raise $102,993; and
- an issue of 12,500,000 shares to Providence Gold and Minerals Pty Ltd pursuant to the Company’s Earn-in Agreement with Providence in respect of the Mt Gilmore Project. Under this Agreement, Corazon has the exclusive right to earn up to an 80% interest in the Project. The shares have a total valuation of $175,000.

On the same date, the Company also issued 85,000,000 options to Hanking Australia Investments Pty Ltd following their investment in the Company. The options were issued with an exercise price of $0.03 and an expiry of 22 August 2019.

On 18 August 2017, Dr Mark Qiu of Hanking Australia Investments Pty Ltd was appointed to the Company’s Board of Directors.

China Hanking Holdings Limited, registered in the Cayman Islands and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, is the parent company of Hanking Australia Investments Pty Ltd.

The second largest shareholder in Corazon Mining Limited is Crescent Nominees Limited, a private equity firm registered in Northern Ireland since 2014 and owned by venture capitalist Crescent Capital NI Limited.

As part of NSW Minerals Week Corazon Mining Limited had a booth at the 14th Sydney Resources Round-Up in May 2017 where interested geologists could view their sulphide core from the 2016 Cobalt Ridge drilling program. 

Area in which the proposed cobalt mine would be situated

Satellite image of Mount Gilmore (height 372m) situated just above the Clarence River system at The Gorge

It doesn’t take a genius to look at this image and see the potential for heavy rain episodes over Mt. Gilmore leading to surface water runoff into Clarence River tributaries.

So the first question is; what happens if Corozon Mining was granted a mining licence by the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government and one or more of its heavy metal contaminated holding ponds were breached during such a rain period? The potential exists for any such breaches to result in long-term contamination of surrounding soils and water courses, as well as higher sediment levels in surface waters.

Heavy metal and metalloid concentrations within stream-estuary sediments already occur naturally in NSW north-eastern coastal rivers and current Clarence River levels are also the result of historic mining in the upper catchment below the Dorrigo Plateau region.

This leads to a second question. Can a river system, which supplies drinking water to est.126,008 residents (Census 2016) along with water to farmers, graziers and commercial fishers in the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City local government areas, safely tolerate higher heavy metal and metalloid concentrations in that water? Communities relying on the Clarence river system might not be happy with the thought of any increase in localised or overall toxicity.

Given that mining is a thirsty business and water used in its extractive processes has to come from nearby surface/groundwater sources, there is a third question which immediately springs to mind. In the face of increasing impacts from climate change can we afford to have the environmental water flow in the Clarence River system compromised further?

Then there is the question of required associated infrastructure, including transport of ore via trucks and rail – need I say more?

One has to wonder when Clarence Valley Council was going to mention this proposed mining activity to residents and ratepayers because it is highly likely that this mining company or someone acting on its behalf has approached either the Mayor or council administration.

Monday, 25 September 2017

World's most successful environmental agreement has been in place for thirty years this month


CSIROscope, 15 September 2017:  

This weekend marks the 30th birthday of the Montreal Protocol, often dubbed the world’s most successful environmental agreement. The treaty, signed on September 16, 1987, is slowly but surely reversing the damage caused to the ozone layer by industrial gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Each year, during the southern spring, a hole appears in the ozone layer above Antarctica. This is due to the extremely cold temperatures in the winter stratosphere (above 10km altitude) that allow byproducts of CFCs and related gases to be converted into forms that destroy ozone when the sunlight returns in spring.

As ozone-destroying gases are phased out, the annual ozone hole is generally getting smaller – a rare success story for international environmentalism.

Back in 2012, our Saving the Ozone series marked the Montreal Protocol’s silver jubilee and reflected on its success. But how has the ozone hole fared in the five years since?

The Antarctic ozone hole has continued to appear each spring, as it has since the late 1970s. This is expected, as levels of the ozone-destroying halocarbon gases controlled by the Montreal Protocol are still relatively high. The figure below shows that concentrations of these human-made substances over Antarctica have fallen by 14% since their peak in about 2000.

Past and predicted levels of controlled gases in the Antarctic atmosphere, quoted as equivalent effective stratospheric chlorine (EESC) levels, a measure of their contribution to stratospheric ozone depletion. Paul Krummel/CSIRO, Author provided

Read the full article here.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

An NJRPP Public Briefing Meeting in Iluka, NSW, 20 September 2017


Section of the southern boundary of the Hickey Street land proposed for development

On 21 September 2017 North Coast Voices received this email from an Iluka resident on the subject of a recent meeting in that little coastal town:

At 4.30pm on Wednesday 20th September 2017 the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (NJRPP) held a Public Briefing Meeting at Iluka Community Hall concerning the proposed coastal subdivision of 19 hectares of environmentally sensitive land adjacent to the Iluka World Heritage Area.

The meeting was chaired by Gary West (Chair NJRPP) who was accompanied by three other panel members - Ms. Pam Westing, Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons and Deputy-Mayor Jason Kingsley.

Four council staff members accompanied the panel members, including Carmel Landers who is responsible for progressing the development application through council planning processes.

Concerned residents and ratepayers filled between half and three-quarters of the hall’s seating capacity.

A number of people from the Yaegl community were present, as well as Cr. Greg Clancy who was there in a personal capacity.

The Panel secretariat had invited individuals and groups who had made formal submissions on the proposed development to register beforehand as speakers.

Around nine listed speakers presented their views and most called attention to significant problems with the development application – including street design, lot density, stormwater drainage and nutrient load, as well as loss of tree cover and habitat in the current version of this 140 lot urban development.

The Association of Iluka Residents (AIR Inc) were first off in the order of speakers. Its President introduced the issues, the Secretary expanded on key concerns, and one of AIR's members presented questions to the developer (in absentia) via the panel and Council staff, then the President wrapped up the AIR presentation.

John Edwards on behalf of the Clarence Environment Centre spoke with some authority on issues of concern regarding the proposed development.

Also rising to their feet were local residents Kay Jeffrey and Gabrielle Barto.

Ms. Jeffrey spoke very eloquently from the heart about Land Care on the World Heritage site which contains rare littoral rainforest, pointing out this development would be detrimental to flora and fauna within that site. Expressing her gratification that evidence now showed the koala was not functionally extinct in Iluka. She further pointed out that the type of development proposed was better suited to outer metropolitan urban areas such as Mt. Druitt.

While Ms. Barto spoke with a deal of on-the-ground knowledge on a range of environmental and planning concerns. She highlighted the fact that sightings of koala on and in the vicinity of the land in question demonstrated that this large lot was being used as part of a larger movement corridor.

A retired real estate agent originally from Bribie Island stated he didn't want Iluka to turn into a Bribie Island or Lennox Head, having had firsthand experience of what can happen if poorly planned developments are allowed in coastal towns. Additionally, he spoke of the problems associated with community title – in particular that by-laws and management plans on community title could be changed over time.

Another speaker suggested the development site would be suitable for acquisition by the NSW Government in order to protect the local koala population and koala habitat. Something it has apparently undertaken in the Tweed Heads region.

Grahame Lynn (who was approx.10 minutes late) was the last scheduled speaker as President of the Iluka Ratepayers Association (IRA). He proceeded to attack with some vigour the Clarence Environment Centre submission as well as those of many other individuals and groups that oppose this development. Indeed he spent most of the time in attack mode and very little time in talking up the proposed development.

Mr. Lynn as a local real estate agent has been advertising the proposed subdivision for at least the last eighteen months  – a potential conflict of interest he failed to mention to the panel. 

It was noted that up until that point, all panel members and Council staff were taking copious notes, but as soon as he started talking they stopped. I guess one loses credibility when attacking the “player and not the ball” so to speak.

By the end of the meeting I was of the opinion that Gary West as Chair had run the meeting well, making us all feel comfortable and all points of view were heard.

Anon
Iluka, NSW

Coastal Cypress Pine on the development site
Images supplied by Iluka resident

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

TURNBULL MUST PROTECT TARKINE HERITAGE


“The Australian Heritage Council found the Tarkine in north-west Tasmania of outstanding national heritage significance.”
[Australian Government, Dept. of Environment and Energy, Australian Heritage Council, National Heritage Assessment, The Tarkine]


Bob Brown Foundation, Media Release, 8 September 2017:

TURNBULL MUST PROTECT TARKINE HERITAGE - BROWN

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must reject the Hodgman government's request to open off-road vehicle (ORV) access to the Tarkine's heritage-rich west coast, Bob Brown said tonight. The Hodgman request to Turnbull comes after the Federal Court ruled the state must get federal permission to open tracks in the area.

"Premier Hodgman's Braddon spokesperson on the Tarkine, Joan Rylah, says it all when she told the media today that state government intentions would "reduce vandalism" in the sensitive area. "Ms Rylah is effectively agreeing that re-opening the Sandy Cape to Pieman Heads coast to ORVs will not stop vandalism and she is right," Brown said.

"Recent opinion polling shows that most Tasmanians think the Tarkine's fragile coastal environment and extraordinary Aboriginal heritage sites should be off-limits to the small fraction of ORV owners who want to invade the area. We will release that polling tomorrow."

"It is now up to the Turnbull government to protect this National Heritage Area from destruction," Brown said.

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.