Showing posts with label trees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trees. Show all posts

Sunday, 11 March 2018

A brief respite in the NSW Berejiklian Government's war on the natural world

"Clearing under the Code may threaten the viability of certain threatened species at property and local landscape scale. The risk highest in overcleared landscapes where most clearing is likely to occur under the Code." [NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, "Concurrene on Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code", August 2017, p. 3]

Sometime in 2017 a document was prepared for the NSW Minister for Environment & Heritage and Liberal MP for Vaucluse Gabrielle Upton to sign in order for increased clearing of native vegetation across New South Wales to occur.

This new land clearing policy came into effect in August of that year but faced a legal challenge.

The Coffs Coast Advocate, 9 March 2018:

THE Land and Environment Court has delivered a massive blow to the NSW Government by ruling its land clearing laws invalid because they were made unlawfully.

The Nature Conservation Council (NCC) launched a legal challenge to the codes last November arguing Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair failed to obtain concurrence from Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton before making the codes, as is required by law.

This morning the government conceded this was the case and NCC chief executive Kate Smolski was was quick to pounce.

"Today's ruling is an embarrassing admission of failure by the government and a great victory for the rule of law and the thousands of people who have supported us in taking this action,” she said.

"It is deeply troubling that the government disregarded the important oversight role of the Environment Minister when making environmental laws but we are even more concerned about the harmful content of the laws themselves.

"By the government's own assessment they will lead to a spike in clearing of up to 45 per cent and expose threatened wildlife habitat to destruction including 99 per cent of identified koala habitat on private land.

"Premier Berejiklian must act now to prevent further plundering of our forests, woodlands and water supplies by scrapping these laws and making new ones that actually protect the environment.”…..

The NSW Government is yet to issue a statement on the decision.


Nature Conservation Council (NCC)

Media Release, 9 March 2017:

Court finds NSW Government land-clearing laws invalid

The Land and Environment Court today ruled the NSW Government’s land-clearing laws invalid because they were made unlawfully.

“The government has bungled the introduction of one of its signature pieces of legislation, and in the process demonstrates its careless disregard for nature in NSW,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

“Today’s ruling is an embarrassing admission of failure by the Berejiklian government and a great victory for the rule of law and the thousands of people who have supported us in taking this action.”

The Nature Conservation Council, represented by public interest environmental lawyers EDO NSW, launched legal challenge against the government’s land-clearing codes last November.

NCC had argued through its barristers Jeremy Kirk SC and David Hume the codes were invalid because the Primary Industries Minister failed to obtain concurrence of the Environment Minister before making the codes, as is required by law. The government today has conceded this was indeed the case.

“It is deeply troubling that the government disregarded the important oversight role of the Environment Minister when making environmental laws, but we are even more concerned about the harmful content of the laws themselves,” Ms Smolski said.
“By the government’s own assessment, they will lead to a spike in clearing of up to 45% and expose threaten wildlife habitat to destruction, including 99% of identified koala habitat on private land.

“These laws were made against the advice of the scientific community and against the wishes of the vast majority of the many thousands of people who made submissions.

“It would be completely cynical for the government to immediately remake these laws without first correcting their many flaws and including environmental protections the community wants and the science says we need.

“Premier Berejiklian must act now to prevent further plundering of our forests, woodlands and water supplies by scrapping these laws and making new ones that actually protect the environment.”

Ms Smolski pledged to continue the campaign to overturn weak land-clearing laws.
“As the state’s peak environment organization, we will do everything we can to expose the damage of land clearing and will not stop until we have laws that protect nature,” she said.

“These laws are a matter of life or death for wildlife. More than 1000 plant and animal species are at risk of extinction in this state, including the koala and 60 per cent of all our native mammals.

“Land clearing is the main threat to many of these animals, and the laws this government introduced unlawfully are pushing them closer to the brink.

“It is regrettable that we had to take the government to court to make it abide by its own laws, but it demonstrates the critical role organisations like ours play in our democracy.”

Media Release, 2 March 2018:

Environment Minister knew 99% of koala habitat would be exposed to land clearing by contentious new laws, FIO document shows

A document obtained under freedom of information laws shows the Berejiklian government knew its new land clearing laws would cause extensive harm to wildlife habitat but pressed ahead with the changes anyway.

“This is damning evidence that the Environment Minister approved these new laws knowing they would expose 99% of identified koala habitat on private land to clearing,” NCC CEO Kate Smolski said.

“The document also shows the Minister was warned the laws could cause a 45% spike in land clearing and that they would mostly benefit very large agribusinesses that could clear land on a massive scale, not smaller enterprises and farming communities across the state.

“It shows what we have suspected all along – environment policy in NSW is being dictated by the National Party and the powerful agribusiness interests the party represents.

“Minister Upton knew these laws were very bad for threatened species and bushland, yet she approved them anyway. This is a disgrace.”

The document, obtained by EDO NSW for the Nature Conservation Council, was prepared by the Office of Environment and Heritage for the Environment Minister and outlined the consequences of Ms Upton agreeing to land-clearing codes proposed by Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair.

Key warnings in the document include:

* “The regulatory changes will further increase agricultural clearing by between 8% and 45% annually.” (Page 3)
* Clearing under the code risks: “Removing key habitat for threatened species, including koala habitat (less than 1% of identified koala habitat in NSW is protected from clearing under the Code)” and “Increasing vulnerability of threatened ecological communities”. (Page 6)
* If unchecked “such clearing could destroy habitats, cause soil and water quality impacts”. (Page 5)
* “The main benefits are likely to be private benefits for large farming operations which broadscale clear under the Code.” (Page 6)

“These are terrible laws that put our wildlife at risk,” Ms Smolski said. “Premier Berejiklian should act immediately to protect the thousands of hectares of koala habitat at risk by exempting sensitive areas from code-based clearing. “In the longer term, she should go back to the drawing board and draft new laws that protect our precious wildlife and bushland.”

Download the FOI document here


Snapshots from NSW Office of Environment & Heritage"Concurrence on Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code", August 2017:


The respite ended before it really began………

The Guardian, 11 March 2018:

But the government made no delay remaking the laws, announcing on Saturday it had been completed.
“The remade code is identical to the previous one and is an integral part of the new land management framework which gives landowners the tools and certainty they need,” said David Witherdin, the CEO of Local Land Services, which oversees clearing under the codes.
The move was condemned by the NCC.

Sometimes it’s hard not to despair when faced with evidence of the wilful, destructive ignorance of Liberal and Nationals politicians

The Guardian, 5 March 2018:

Attempts by the federal government to stop potentially unlawful clearing in Queensland were reversed after political intervention, with a highly unusual apology letter sent to every landholder suspected of planning unlawful clearing at the direct request of the minister, documents obtained by the Guardian under FOI laws reveal.

In December 2015 and January 2016, the federal department of environment took the exceptional step of asking 51 landholders with approval from the Queensland government to clear their land, to explain why the clearing wasn’t unlawful under federal environmental law.

But within two months, the department issued the unusual apology letter to every recipient of the initial letter, Guardian Australia can reveal.

In the letter Shane Gaddes, then assistant secretary for the environment standards division, said the department “deeply” regretted any distress caused, backflipped on demands for information, and indicated the letter wasn’t part of any compliance action, but rather an attempt to help the landholders avoid legal action by activists.

Internal correspondence obtained by Guardian Australia shows the apology letter was motivated by lobbying from National and Liberal MPs from Queensland electorates, as well as the pro-land clearing lobby group Property Rights Australia.

More land is cleared of trees in Queensland than the rest of the country combined – with the latest figures showing 395,000 hectares were cleared in a single year – amounting to about a football stadium of clearing every three minutes.

Clearing skyrocketed in Queensland after the former Liberal National party government under the premier Campbell Newman broke an election promise and scrapped clearing controls, introducing several ways for farmers to more easily clear trees.

But regardless of state approvals, if a development is likely to impact a “matter of national environmental significance”, then it must also be approved by the federal government under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Matters of national environmental significance include important populations of threatened species, the Great Barrier Reef and some migratory species.

In the initial letter the federal department of environment said it had examined the proposal and concluded that it “may be necessary” for the 51 landholders to seek formal approval under federal laws. The distribution of the letter sparked outrage among landholders.

The Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan said at the time that “activist public servants” were “looking for ways to circumvent the intentions” of Queensland and federal governments…..

The then minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, publicly defended the action, saying: “The department must implement the law.”

But correspondence obtained by Guardian Australia under FoI laws reveals the cause of Hunt’s change of heart, leading to the apology letter.

In a letter to the then-chairman of the pro-land clearing group Property Rights Australia, Hunt said: “In response to concerns raised by you, Senator O’Sullivan, Senator Canavan and the Hon Warren Entsch MP, the department of environment has written to affected landholders clarifying their obligations and the intent of the first letter.”......

  Letter from Greg Hunt to Dale Stiller by The Guardian on Scribd

Monday, 19 February 2018

Surprise, Surprise. Nationals appear to be telling pork pies to voters on the NSW North Coast yet again

Echo NetDaily, 15 Februaty 2018:

An animal activist has accused two National Party MPs of 'misleading the public' over claims the RMS has revegetated more than a hundred hectares of land along the Pacific Highway Ballina upgrade route with tens of thousands of koala feed trees.
In recent weeks both roads minister Melinda Pavey and north coast MLC Ben Franklin have made public statements regarding the re-vegetation of koala habitat at Meerschaum Vale to compensate for the damage caused by the highway upgrade construction.
On February 3, Minister Pavey said in a press release that 'the government had re-vegetated 130 hectares of land with 95,000 koala feed trees.'
Then on February 9, Mr Franklin said that 'about 110 hectares, equating to 80,000 koala food trees had so far been planted and there were plans to plant another 20 hectares as part of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Upgrade.'

Empty paddock

But co-ordinator of Australians For Animals, Sue Arnold, told Echonetdaily she took a field trip to the re-vegetation site earlier this week, which 'revealed an empty paddock with no koala feed trees planted in spite of a sign indicating that the planting was part of a "130 hectares of Koala Food Trees planted".'
Ms Arnold said she was unable to find any other planting sites in the vicinity.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

400,000 hectares stripped of vegetation in Queensland in 2015-16

The world’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef, is both a nursery and feeding ground for colourful tropical marine species and edible fish species – it is part of Australia’s national food bowl.

Yet there still appears to be people who fail to understand the importance of vegetated land catchments to sustaining the health of this 2,300 kilometres long reef system.

The Guardian, 24 November 2017:

Queensland farmers are suspected of having defied rare federal government intervention and cleared a large swath of land without commonwealth approval, according to conservationists.

The native vegetation was in a reef catchment, meaning the clearing could worsen pollution on the Great Barrier Reef. Government-commissioned studies show it provided habitat to several threatened species.

Queensland is experiencing a boom in tree clearing – rates jumped 33% in 2016, in a region that is already considered the only “global deforestation hotspot” in the developed world. About 400,000 hectares were cleared in 2015-16, meaning Queensland now has two-thirds the annual rate of deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon.

In 2015 the landowners at Wombinoo, about 70km south-west of Cairns, gained approval under lenient Queensland state laws to clear more than 3,000 hectares of mostly untouched remnant native vegetation.

Between 2015 and 2016, the farmers began undertaking that clearing, with 560 hectares of trees felled and burned before environment groups noticed and alerted the federal government.

The government took the very rare step of forcibly referring the planned clearing for assessment under the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Under that law, activities that potentially affect “matters of national environmental significance” must be assessed by the federal government.

An assessment found the clearing would need federal approval. It also found the previous clearing required investigation because it might have destroyed the habitat of a number of threatened species, including the greater glider and koalas.

No approval has been granted for further clearing, and the investigation of the previous clearing is apparently still incomplete, but footage has emerged purportedly showing a further 60 hectares was cleared between March and April this year. The clearing allegedly includes one large plot, as well as a strip about 60 metres wide, according to the Wilderness Society, which gathered the evidence. But land owners who spoke to the Guardian said all relevant approvals had been secured before any clearing took place.

The Wilderness Society alleges that half of that new clearing is in a creek bed that drains on to the Great Barrier Reef, raising concerns about the impacts on water quality there. According to the Wilderness Society, some of the new clearing appears to have occurred outside the area that received approval from the state government.

Lawyers at the Environmental Defenders Office of New South Wales have written to both the federal and state governments on behalf of the Wilderness Society, informing them of the clearing and asking what action would be taken.

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, 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

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

In North-East NSW 'a "reduced survey effort" and the dropping of a longstanding rule applying 20 metre buffers to "high-use" areas' is being proposed. How much more can a koala bear?

PHOTO: Australia Zoo in The Age

The Forestry Corporation of NSW (originally the Forestry Commission formed by an act of the NSW Parliament) is the largest manager of commercial native and plantation forests in New South Wales.

Not content with revenue of $339 million and underlying profit after tax of $36 million in 2015-16 (latest annual report) it wants to increase its harvesting range and is coming after quality koala habitat on the NSW North Coast.

ABC News, 3 June 2017:

Many of Australia's most iconic marsupials will lose protection from logging bulldozers, under a radical overhaul proposed in secret Forestry Corporation documents.

The documents, obtained by the ABC, propose the elimination of long-standing threatened species protections, such as site-survey rules, in many NSW state forests.

Intense clearing in northern regions, and increased access to protected stream-banks across the state are other major changes.

Environmentalists say if current rules are trashed, protected marsupials including koalas, wombats, quolls, and gliders will be stealthily eliminated.

"If you don't look, you don't find and if you don't find you don't protect," said conservationist Dailan Pugh, from the North-East Forest Alliance.

The conditions are part of new forestry agreements — known as Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IOFA) — and cover four major operational areas across the state. Final details are expected to be announced later this year.

Wombats, quolls, koalas face loss of exclusion zones

Many iconic marsupials face additional changes in the draft proposals.

The highly endangered spotted-tail quoll faces a 70 per cent reduction of no-logging zones around breeding dens — reduced from 12 hectares to 3.5 hectares.

Wombats, another protected species, are geographically protected by a line north of the Oxley Highway, requiring a 20 metre logging exclusion zone around burrows.

But Forestry Corporation negotiators want to redraw that protective line further north to Waterfall Way — eliminating the 20 metre exclusion in a vast logging zone between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.

Mr Pugh said that would lead to "more wombats being buried alive, as their burrows are collapsed by machinery and falling trees".

He said environmental regulators, such as the EPA, should address declining wombat numbers by expanding current protections state-wide.

For koalas in north-east NSW, Forestry Corporation proposes a "reduced survey effort" and the dropping of a longstanding rule applying 20 metre buffers to "high-use" areas.

It says future protections are "to be developed" utilising new models to retain habitat.

Cost savings if animal surveys dropped

Currently, prior to harvest, logging companies must survey for 87 vulnerable animals, many already facing threat of extinction.

Where an animal habitat is found, operators then implement site protections such as exclusion zones before logging is approved……

The author cites "significant cost saving" as a benefit of making the change.

But former Forestry scientist Robert Kooyman worried relaxing the rules around surveys would harm up to 49 animal species.

"Forest management requires that you know what it is you are managing," he said.

"While historic records provide an indication of habitat use, they are inevitably incomplete, do not reflect the dynamics of forests, and many animal species are highly mobile within their range and habitats, and follow resources."……

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Australia has the highest rate of land clearing in the developed world, according to the Dept. of Intergenerational Theft

Australia has a land mass of 149,50,000 km2 or est. 14.94 billion hectares.


In 2015 only 16.2  per cent of Australia’s land mass was forest and another 32.7 per cent had another form of tree cover.

There are now only 5 million hectares of primary forest remaining in this country and we are losing an est. 201,600 hectares of this type of forest each year, principally due to commercial logging.

Mangroves now cover only 913,000 hectares of coastal land.

Introduced species tree cover, presumably for commercial forestry and orchards, totalled 1.02 million hectares in 2015.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The unhappiness over plans to remove Maclean's most prominent trees continues

McLachlan Park, Maclean, November 2014

Letter to the editor in The Daily Examiner 12 November 2014:

Keep the camphors

I HAVE followed the comments about the removal of the camphor laurel trees within the Clarence Valley Council area with great interest.

I am neither a "greenie" nor a "tree hugger," but I think that going to the extreme and wanting to remove all the trees mentioned is a bit radical.

If the people or persons concerned within the Council, and the general public would only step back and view the situation before engaging the chainsaws, they would see that the "old" camphor laurel trees have been around longer than most of them.

If these people were observant enough, they would see that most of the dairy farms had some of these trees as shade for the cattle, horse and farm hands.

Observation number 1: There are very few, if any, seedlings of this particular variety of camphor laurel growing in close proximity. Check the area adjacent to the Boulevard and see for yourself.

Observation number 2: The variety in the Bangalow area is of a different growth habit, namely tall, multi-trunked with larger dark green foliage and tends to produce very readily from seed. Some of these have found their way to the Lower Clarence area, and some have been removed.

So, I say to Council, before you remove any large camphor laurel trees from within the council area, check the variety first, and also send your relevant personnel to a plant identification course.

To think that Port Jackson figs, for one, have been suggested as replacement trees for the Boulevard is absolutely horrendous, to say the least.

Ficus trees in general have very invasive root systems, and would undermine the levy wall as well as up lifting the bitumen street. So once again, Council and councillors, think long and hard about this situation.

It seems that the Council made a mistake in filling the park in the first place and now want to beautify the park at ratepayers' expense.

If the reason for the expensive facelift of the park is for additional parking, then why doesn't the Council purchase the empty block across the street and utilise that as a car park.

Probably wouldn't cost as much as a makeover.

Ken Woods