Showing posts with label coastal development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coastal development. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Awabakel land dealings saga continues

Newcastle Herald, 7 April 2017:

Disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias has failed in a bid to scuttle a corruption inquiry into his land dealings with the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council.

In March, Mr Petroulias applied for the ICAC inquiry to be abandoned, arguing it was based on "trivial" matters. He claimed he had been treated with "bias" and "denied procedural fairness" during public hearings, including "by reason of [his] mental health impairment".

Mr Petroulias also tendered interviews he had recorded with witnesses - including former Awabakal board members Richard Green and Debbie Dates - to support his case.

ICAC Commissioner Peter Hall QC threw out the application on Wednesday, finding Mr Petroulias had not substantiated his allegations.

"Mr Petroulias asserts that the real purpose behind the inquiry is to improperly cause damage to his reputation," Commissioner Hall noted. "There is no evidentiary basis for what is an entirely unsupported assertion."

The last fortnight of public hearings will begin on May 6.

The ICAC inquiry began over 12 months ago, and is probing four deals to sell off Awabakal land, in which Mr Petroulias is alleged to have played a "central role".



Nick Petroulias mentions on North Coast Voices.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

When local people power has a win

The rejection of a $25 million development at Byron Bay’s Ewingsdale Rd for a 282-lot subdivision was met with thunderous applause.
Villa World’s plan for a controversial development was unanimously rejected by members of the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel at a meeting on Monday.
It was the second DA for the West Byron site to be refused by the panel, as a $40 million development put forward by West Byron Landowners Group was rejected earlier this year.
Numerous speakers pleaded with the NRPP on many grounds, including that they “did not want a Gold Coast” in Byron Bay.
The proposal was refused on 10 grounds including: adverse impacts to surrounding properties; a significant visual impact and undesirable impact on the street scape inconsistent with the northern entrance to Byron Bay; the development was likely to have had adverse impacts on threatened species and ecosystems; no adequate discharge of storm water and was not considered in the public’s interest.
Echo NetDaily, 9 April 2019:

No social or environmental license

Newly reelected MP Tamara Smith said this another great win for our community and people power. ‘The thousands of community submissions and actions highlighting the fundamental flaws in developing this land have successfully culminated in the NRPP rejecting both subdivision plans – against the odds,’ she said.

‘With the rejection of both the West Byron subdivision applications by the NRPP the developers should immediately approach the State government and request that they buy the land and restore it to the Cumbebin Swamp Reserve.

Ms Smith said there is no social or environmental license for a subdivision of the swamp land known as West Byron. ‘So why waste more money on legal battles when the community is utterly opposed.

‘Restitution is on offer for the landowners and they should jump at the chance to be made whole and walk away. They need only look to Condon Hill at Lennox to see decades of iconic land ownership that has never passed muster to see development on it. Get out now is my advice.

‘I strongly advise Byron Shire Council to shelve any idea of a reduced sub-division and instead respectfully ask them to help me actually deliver what the community wants – No West Byron Mega-development.”

Justifiable opposition

Former Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham also spoke to the panel. She said she wanted to acknowledge the amazing efforts of the community in their justifiable opposition to the inappropriate proposals for the West Byron lands.

‘This development fails on every point,’ she said. ‘From the destruction of biodiversity and the threat to the local koala population and wallum froglet, the filling of a flood prone area, likely negative impact on the Belongil Creek and the Cape Byron Marine Park and further traffic chaos on Ewingsdale Road, that will not be alleviated by the bypass.

‘I’m confident these points have been raised in sufficient detail in the submissions to inform a refusal.’

Ms Barham summed up the general feeling on the day. ‘The refusal of Villa World by the Planning Panel alongside the previous West Byron refusal, justifies years of commitment by our community to protect and preserve our special place, with evidence, passion and genuine concern for the future,’ she said after the decision was announced.

‘It makes me feel so proud to be a member of an activist community who knows the value of standing up for what we believe in and thankfully, this time, the independence of the process delivered the right outcome.

‘Well done to everyone who took the time to be involved, no doubt there will be more challenges to come but the refusals vindicates us and our role as protectors.’

Thursday, 4 April 2019

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is being dissolved. More truthful version – the regions are being scr$wed over to allow Berejiklian Government’s mates a freer hand to develop coastal NSW to death

A government spokeswoman said the restructuring would enable the administration "to better serve the people of NSW".

"For the first time, we have a combined Energy and Environment portfolio and this new structure will ensure the government can take a holistic approach to this issue," she told the Herald. "The functions currently performed by OEH will continue.”

Among staff, though, the worry was that the oversight separately developed and funded for years would now be subsumed in the expanded Planning cluster, with job losses one consequence.

Rob Stokes, a former environment minister, returns as Planning Minister as part of the government's post-election reshuffle. Matt Kean will be the new Energy and Environment minister….

One senior staffer told the Herald OEH had often provided a dissenting view to Planning, such as when new housing projects in the Sydney Basin threatened the dwindling natural reserves. Remaining koala corridors, for instance, were among the habitats at risk.

Work that had previously been conducted by inhouse OEH experts was already being diverted to external consultants - a process staff worry will accelerate with the bureaucratic overhaul now under way.

"There has already been a strong shift away from the environment having its own voice already," the staffer said.

Penny Sharpe, acting Labor leader and environment spokeswoman, said NSW had now become the only state in Australia without an environment department.
"One of the first acts of the Premer - after talking a lot about the environment during the election - is to abolish the Office of Environment," Ms Sharpe said.

"This is a terrible outcome for the environment of NSW and it's a betrayal for [voters]," she said.  "We know it was a very important, top-order issue for many, many people."

The environmental problems facing the state include more than 1000 plant and animal species threatened with extinction, an 800 per cent increase in land-clearing during the past three years, and waterways "that are in crisis", Ms Sharpe said.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

In which Clarence Valley Council fails to take due consideration of biodiversity & only pays lip service to potential cultural landscape when voting on an inadequately researched council master plan

Wooded area above the dirt road seen in the bottom right-hand corner of this snapshot was that section of land covered by the Clarence Valley Regional Airport Master Plan which figured prominately in councillors' debate.

When the regular monthly meeting of predominately white, middle-aged male, elected councillors in a NSW local government area again deliberately choose to have the meeting opened with a prayer
* by yet another 'ordained' representative of one of the Protestant religious institutions named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, it can only go downhill from there - and it did.

Predictably Cr. Williamson sought to close down debate at the earliest opportunity with regard to any alternative approach to planning issues surrounding adoption of a master plan on council-owned operational land.

Just as predictably Cr. Baker displayed a level of ignorance concerning everything from how far a 10 km radius surrounding airport land actually stretched (seems he believed it went as far as est. 25kms southeast to Wooli beach) through to the professional conduct of accredited ecologists and motives behind their reports ( a subject on which he sounded more than a little paranoid).

However, the incident that would have had regular council watchers sitting up in their seats occurred when the council general manager rather aggressively inserted himself into the debate uninvited and without permission, by directing a question to an elected councillor. 

Which immediately raised the question - has he caught a bad case of the dreaded Greensill-itis and if so can it be cured?

The Daily Examiner, 28 May 2019, p.1:

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons has apologised for a procedural error which led to a councillor walking out of the chamber during a heated debate.

At Tuesday’s Clarence Valley Council meeting Cr Greg Clancy accused the council of gagging debate on a proposed Master Plan for the Grafton Regional Airport, before departing from the chamber without seeking leave.

Cr Clancy had moved a motion calling for environmental reports and information about Aboriginal heritage in the area to be included in the plan, which sparked a fierce argument among the councillors.

After about an hour of questions and debate Cr Richie Williamson, moved the motion be put, but this sparked an outbreak of interjections.

“What, are we being gagged right down the line?” interjected Cr Peter Ellem.

Mayor Jim Simmons adjourned the meeting for 10 minutes to seek advice on the matter.

“When the meeting resumed Cr Clancy came in to gather some things and I did apologise to him at the time, but he didn’t stay.”

Cr Simmons said he didn’t think council would act on some strong language Cr Clancy used at the time.

“Greg is a very strong advocate for the environment and I can understand he was disappointed how things were going,” he said.

“I’m very disappointed how things panned out and other than some language about gagging debate, I can’t really recall what was said.”

Cr Simmons blamed himself for the mistaken ruling, which inflamed the situation.
“What I said didn’t help the situation and I take full responsibility for that,” he said.

He said the council code of meeting practice required councillors to seek permission to leave the chamber early, which Cr Clancy did not do, but he did not think councillors would seek to take this further.

“In my view it would have been better for Greg to stay in the chamber,” he said.

“Councillors voted against his motion, 5-3 I think from memory, so it was a close thing.”

Cr Simmons said the meeting did approve the plan on a motion from Cr Ellem, which called for involvement of the Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council in any development planning for the site.

Clarence Valley Council posted the 26 March 2019 podcast of this meeting on its website where it will remain for twelve months and, at approx. 2hrs 4 mins into the podcast the debate of Item 15.031/19 can be heard - but don't expect to hear the entire debate.

Because it appears that at a vital moment in his response to being improperly gagged by the mayor Cr. Clancy did not have his microphone turned on.

I have been given to understand that one of his observations was words to the effect that democracy is dead in the Clarence Valley.

An observation that in my opinion is frequently applicable to both local and state governments.

* It should be noted that Cr. Clancy did not agree with a 2017 change to Clarence Valley Council's Code of Meeting Practice which formally established an opening prayer as well as a rota of ordained Protestant ministers praying over the elected councillors and members of the vistors' gallery at the start of each ordinary monthly meeting.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Rate of land clearing in the Orara Valley causes community concern

Orara Valley NSW: Image from Trip Advisor

The Daily Examiner, 13 March 2019, p.4:

Communities across the Orara Valley have expressed outrage at the loss of mature trees in their neighbourhood.

Fed up with tongoing clearing, a community meeting has been organised for 3.30pm this Sunday at Nana Glen Community Hall.

Posts on a number of Facebook pages including the Glenreagh Community page reflect the growing anger at the seemingly unregulated clearing taking place to make way for intensive agriculture.

Tania and Gerry O’Connor live nearby a stand of blackbutts recently taken down north of Nana Glen and are concerned at how rapidly and irreversibly the landscape of the valley is changing.

“The local council does not seem to be keeping up with the fast-paced changes. It is sad to see 100-year-old trees bulldozed. When the first trees were cut across the road we contacted council who informed us there was nothing they could do,” they said.

They contacted the Environmental Protection Agency which stated that due to the zoning, the clearing was legal.

“We are not against farming, we know we live in a rural community but the system of checks and balances seems to be outdated or non-existent.”.....

Friday, 15 February 2019

Clarence Valley 2019: keeping the Clarence River Estuary healthy for future generations

“like other heavy fabricating sectors shipbuilding involves the use of materials and manufacturing practices that can impact on the environment, can contribute to climate change” [OECD Council Working Party on Shipbuilding (WP6), November 2010]

“Shipyards are dangerous construction zones with many worker hazards. Shipbuilding, repair, cleaning, and coating use toxic chemicals and hazardous or flammable materials. These activities also can pollute water directly or through runoff. Repairs may require emptying dirty water from a ship’s ballast and bilge tanks into the surrounding waters….. Shipbuilding and ship repair use toxic chemicals that include chromium, copper, lead, and nickel. Ship cleaning activities use chemicals that include copper, hazardous or flammable materials, heavy metals, and solvents. They release lead, particulate mattervolatile organic compounds, zinc, and other air pollutants.” [NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine, Boats & Ships, retrieved 18 February 2019]

If it wasn’t bad enough that barely two years ago Lower Clarence communities still had a flimflam man and then a set of dodgy companies (mentioned in a NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation in 2018) trying to push for large scale industrialisation of Clarence River estuary – now Clarence Valley Council apparently attracted by the lure of vacant crown land up for grabs appears to be joining the push to industrialise-and-be-damned if these little gems in its “Clarence Valley Regional Economic Development Strategy 2018 -2022” are any indication.

These are excerpts from that document:

Clarence Valley’s key endowments lie in its coastal, riverine and hinterland amenity; arable soils and favourable climate; access to Sydney and Brisbane via the Pacific Highway; and the ability to bring new industrial land to market cost effectively…..

Industrial Land -The Clarence Valley has seven industrial estates open for business and far more potential development sites compared with neighbouring councils…..

Sustaining a ready supply of zoned and serviced industrial land is a strategic priority for supporting growth in these specialisations, with marine precinct proposals……

•Meet emerging industrial land use opportunities in a timely way •Develop a marine precinct proposal •Develop a project portfolio of enabling infrastructure for industrial sites, including the marine precinct proposal…..•Develop a Port of Yamba Strategy…….

Develop a marine precinct proposal

•Develop a project portfolio of enabling infrastructure for industrial sites, including the marine precinct proposal

•Build on the Transport Precinct Feasibility Final Report to develop road investment priorities

•Review and complete land use planning through collaboration with neighbouring councils

•Partner with local industries and training providers to align training courses to industry’s needs

•Advocate for a marine manufacturing SkillsPoint

•Identify and cost options for better Pacific Highway connections

•Advocate for progress on strategic priorities for the Port of Yamba and Summerland Way

•Develop a Port of Yamba Strategy

•Develop Yamba Road & Harwood Road business cases…..

The Clarence River estuary covers an 800 sq. kilometres floodplain and key environmental indicators for this estuary’s health include water quality, riverbank vegetation, the number and distribution of fish species, as well as the presence of macroinvertebrates and plankton.

The estuary is already beginning to struggle under the weight of human activity, including marine activity. A fact it would seem that Clarence Valley Council ignores in its development strategy.

It is a fact that estuary communities cannot afford to ignore if they wish to preserve the aesthetic, cultural, social and environmental amenity which supports both community life and the local economy.

In 2016-2017 a study of six NSW ports was undertaken and published in PLoS One and online in December 2017 as “Water quality assessment of Australian ports using water quality evaluation indices”.

With regard to the Port of Yamba in the lower Clarence estuary the study recommended regular monitoring and management of port activities accounting for both biological and chemical toxicological profiles of the discharging activities.

It did so for the following reasons:

* The Port of Yamba has standard levels of Dissolved Oxygen according to ANZECC guidelines. However. the amount of fecal coliforms was significantly higher in the water of the port area than the corresponding background samples, which clearly indicates the impact of the fishing fleet and recreational boating on the port environment.

* Very high concentrations of iron were found in the port water, the maximum concentration of lead in the water exceeded the ANZECC (0.0022) guidelines with all the background samples had much lower concentration of lead compared to the port area and, the maximum concentration of copper in the water was much higher than ANZECC guidelines and exceeded other international guidelines at (0.04 mg/l) in Port of Yamba.

* The mean concentration of copper also exceeded the ANZECC guidelines. When it came to zinc levels were low except in the port area which contained very high concentrations of zinc, which exceeded the guidelines. Concentration of cadmium and cobalt were within the ANZECC guidelines.

* Overall the Port of Yamba portrayed high contamination for all standard guidelines when it came to water quality – the port area has water quality of medium contamination and one site has high contamination.

Clarence Valley Council itself admits that the entire estuary is already under stress in its Report Card 2013:

“Water quality was poor in the estuary throughout the study, with the region around the tidal limit with consistently the worst water quality of the Clarence River 
reflecting the freshwater and tidal inputs at these sites. Estuary tributaries, particularly Swan and Sportsmans Creeks and the Coldstream River were in very
poor overall condition receiving a grade of F. These systems had consistently poor water quality that contributed nutrient rich, low oxygen and acid water
to the Clarence River following flooding.

Concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus consistently exceeded the guideline values throughout the study at all sites. Very high nitrogen concentrations were
recorded in estuarine reaches following flooding. There were no algal blooms recorded during the study. However, algal concentrations were consistently
above the guideline value in estuarine reaches.

The Broadwater and Wooloweyah coastal lagoons both had very poor water quality, with high algal and nutrient concentrations and turbidity, and low dissolved oxygen values consistently exceeding a number of water quality guidelines. The Broadwater had better riparian condition relative to Wooloweyah that improved its overall grade.

Riparian condition was generally low from a poor diversity of native vegetation, reduced vegetation structure and small isolated pockets that were poorly connected to other native vegetation. Reaches showed evidence of eroding river banks and sediment deposited in the channel. Estuarine reaches were often dominated by riverbanks with little or no vegetation present, leading to very poor condition grades.”

The tidal water exchange will not protect the lower estuary from a spreading loss of water quality and increased levels of pollution once industry begins to expand along its foreshores and clusters of marine businesses such as shipbuilding and repair are further developed. 

There will be a tipping point that once reached will be hard, perhaps even impossible, to reverse.

This is something that Lower Clarence communities need to consider before council goes too far down this path which leads away from a healthy estuary for future generations.

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Morrison Government has given permission for oil and gas exploration in NSW coastal waters by a company set up as a tax minimisation ploy

Those Liberal-Nationals MPs and senators preparing to return to Canberra late next month appear determined to annoy NSW voters - especially those who live in coastal communities.

Having wrecked the Murray-Darling freshwater river system that runs through four states, they have now turned their eyes towards the coastal commercial and recreational fishing grounds of New South Wales.

This is how it is playing out........

Asset Energy Pty Ltd holds an 85 per cent interest in Petroleum Exploration Permit PEP11an offshore petroleum exploration lease covering 4,649 square kilometres in Commonwealth waters off the coast of New South Wales.

Asset Energy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Melbourne-based (formerly Perth-based) mining company MEC Resources Ltd’s investee company Advent Energy Ltd.

Bounty Oil and Gas NL is the junior joint venture partner in PEP11 holding a 15 per cent interest

Newcastle Herald, 9 January 2019

In March 2018 the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (“NOPSEMA”) gave approval for a survey which acquired high resolution 2D seismic data over the Baleen prospect, approximately 30km southeast of Newcastle, which evaluated (amongst other things) shallow geohazard indications including shallow gas accumulations that can affect future potential gas drilling operations.

NOPSEMA falls within the portfolio of Australian Minister for Resources and Northern Australia & Nationals Senator for Queensland, Matt Canavan.

That particular survey has been completed and on New Year's Eve 2018 MEC Resources informed the Australian Stock Exchange that it now intends to do 3D seismic mapping in the vicinity of the potential test drill site at the earliest opportunity.

Underwater seismic testing involves continuous seismic airgun blasts approximately every 2-3 seconds for 24 hours continuously, for days or weeks at a time. That is, such testing creates compressed air streams or focused sonic waves - in simple language, loud booms - towards the ocean floor in order to gauge the depth, location and structure of the oil or gas resources. The sounds of which can travel many thousands of square kilometres and which are known to have a negative effect on marine ecosystems.

Previous to this, on 15 May 2018 the NSW Parliament had called on the federal government to suspend Asset Energy’s permit to conduct seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle, with the NSW Minister for Resources and Energy & Liberal Party Member of the Legislative Council Don Harwin expressing a lack of confidence in Australia’s current offshore mining regulations.

The Morrison Coalition Government in Canberra appears to be ignoring NSW Government  and community concerns. Being more concerned itself with offering tax free investment opportunities to the market.1

It is worth noting that any significant Advent Energy/Asset Energy drilling rig (left) mishap has the potential for an uncontrolled release of untreated oil into coastal waters.

It is reportedly intended that one or more exploration drilling rigs should be in place sometime in 2020.

MEC Resources (formerly MEC Strategic Ltd) is a registered corporation which only been in existence for the last thirteen years and for the last three years there has been a bitter rift between the board and certain shareholders involving repeated calls for removal of the entire board, with the last call for a spill occurring in November 2018. The company was also involved in a dispute with a former managing director, as well litigation involving a $295,000 loan.

One of the shareholder bones of contention appears to be the cost of exploration in PEP11. On 31 October 2018 MEC Resources informed the stock exchange that a cost reduction plan remains in place to ensure all costs are reduced wherever possible.

Questions raised about the rigour of offshore mining regulations covering PEP11 and an oil & gas exploration company determined to cut costs. What could possibly go wrong? 

Concerned readers can sign Stop Seismic Testing Newcastle's petition to Minister Canavan and NOPSEMA here.


1., Tax Advanatges, retrieved 10 January 2018:

MEC is a registered Pooled Development Fund (PDF). PDF shareholders pay no capital gains tax on the sale of their PDF shares. Investors who receive dividends will also be exempt from income tax on dividends.

This can be particularly attractive to both traders and investors, since any profits derived from trades or investments are tax-free or low tax. The Pooled Development Fund Programme was established by the Federal Government to develop the market for patient venture capital for growing small and medium enterprises and to provide a concessional tax regime to encourage such investments. Any capital losses on the sale of PDF’s are not deductable.

To encourage investors, the government offers tax benefits to both the PDF and its shareholders as follows:
capital gains made by PDF shareholders are not taxable,
shareholders can elect to treat dividends paid by a PDF as tax free,......

PDF’s tend to invest in a portfolio of growing companies, thereby potentially reducing investors’ risk through diversification. Investee companies have the potential to become listed companies in their own right, which has the possibility of providing investors with attractive returns.

This is not a complete list of the taxation issues surrounding Pooled Development Funds. For further information please contact AusIndustry.

See  Pooled Development FundsAct 1992 as amended up to September 2018.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

While North Coast Voices was on its annual break….

On Christmas Eve the Morrison Government released the following:

By the time a reader clicks on this link,,
there will only be 8-9 days left to submit comments.


In what they are now trying to pass off as an attempt at humour the Liberal National Party of Australia posted this petty, divisive Christmas meme on their Facebook page.

Tone deaf and abysmally stupid was the general consensus.


The Guardian, 26 December 2018:

A man has been shot by police in New South Wales after he allegedly lunged at officers with a knife, and has been taken to hospital in a critical condition.
Police were called to a home in Waterview Heights, west of Grafton, in the early hours of Wednesday morning following concern for the 36-year-old’s welfare.
Police said he lunged at officers with the knife upon their arrival.
The man was flown to Gold Coast University hospital in a critical condition.
A critical incident team will investigate the circumstances of the incident.


Stock market volatility continued over the Christmas break as President Donald Trump tweets further personal attacks on the US Federal Reserve and its personnel. Mr Trump's latest attack heightened fears about the economy being destabilised by a man who wants control over the Fed.


Another young child died whilst being held in custody of US Customs and Border Protection. Eight year-old Felix Alonzo-Gomez died on December 25th after a medical diagnosis of “common cold” proved inaccurate. The boy's death follows that of  7 year old Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, also of Guatemala, who died in Border patrol custody earlier this month. 

SBS News, 26 December 2018:

The Coalition could be at risk of losing 24 seats at the next federal election, including those of six frontbenchers, according to a Newspoll quarterly analysis. The analysis, published in The Australian, reveals the government has failed to claw back electoral ground from Labor in both regional and metropolitan seats. While Prime Minister Scott Morrison remains ahead of Bill Shorten as preferred leader, his satisfaction ratings have dropped into the negatives.

According to this Newspoll survey analysis covering 25 October to 9 December 2018, 45% of voters over 50 years of age dissatisfied with Australian Prime Minster Scott Morrison’s performance.

On a two-party preferred basis, polling stands at Labor 53 and Lib-Nats Coalition 47.
Rumours of an early March election, to be called just after Australia Day, persist according to The Guardian.


@Quad_Finn, 27 December 2018:

Japan has announced its first commercial whale hunt since leaving the IWC. The hunt will take place in July 2019 and will target Endangered Sei whales along with Minke whales & Bryde’s whales. It is not known how many whales of each species Japan intends to kill each season. 


On Thursday 27 December 2018 Marble Bar in the Pilbarra, Western Australia experienced it's hottest day on record reaching 49.3C at 3.40pm.

The Daily Examiner, 28 December 2018, p.1:

The $300,000 fine issued to Clarence Valley Council by the NSW Land and Environment Court last week for the destruction of a rare Aboriginal object in Grafton will be reinvested into the area, rather than go back into State Government revenue coffers.

The court’s ruling handed down on December 21 included a series of detailed orders as part of the penalty that includes several Clarence-based directives that were reached after consultation with the Local Aboriginal Lands Councils and community members.

It is believed this case is the first of its kind to be ordered with this directive.
The council was prosecuted for the unlawful maiming and removal of a red/black bean scar tree that occurred in 2013 and 2016. The tree, which stood on the corner of Breimba and Dovedale streets in Grafton and was a surviving original specimen from the flood plain before white settlement, was a registered culturally modified object under the Aboriginal Site Register.

The council will pay the fine amount of $300,000 to the Grafton Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council which will be applied to remediation actions.

These include a feasibility study to establish a Keeping Place in the Grafton area for Aboriginal cultural heritage items including long-term storage for the scar tree remnants.

It will also provide research funding into local Aboriginal cultural heritage for educational purposes including training of council field staff and senior management.
The money will also be used to establish a permanent exhibition and fund a series of one-day Clarence Valley Healing Festivals to be held in various Clarence Valley Aboriginal communities throughout 2019 and 2020.

The council was also ordered to, at its own expense, publish a notice in several newspapers including The Sydney Morning Herald, Koori Mail and The Daily Examiner and on the council’s website and Facebook pages.

Additional costs include a $48,000 legal bill which will bring the total costs to the council to more than $350,000.

The council was convicted of the offence against s 86(1) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 of harming an object that it knew was an Aboriginal object.

The original fine was $400,000 but an early plea of guilty made council eligible for a 25 per cent discount on the penalty. The council potentially faced a penalty of up to $1.1million for its actions.

Council general manager Ashley Lindsay said the council agreed it had done the wrong thing by removing the scar tree and accepted the court’s decision.

“As the mayor and I have said previously, we acknowledge the importance of the scar tree to our Aboriginal community and are deeply sorry for the hurt and sense of loss the removal of the tree has caused,” Mr Lindsay said.

“The tree’s destruction does not represent who we are or who we strive to be as an organisation.

“This council values its connections with the Aboriginal community and I genuinely believe we generally work well together.

“But on this occasion we did the wrong thing and for that we apologise.”


A scar tree is harmed

1. Until May 2016, a culturally modified tree stood in Grafton, on the corner of Breimba and Dovedale Streets. The tree was either a Red Bean or Black Bean tree. It had a bifurcated trunk with scarring on two parts of it. The larger scar faced a south westerly direction and was approximately 1.4m tall and 40cm wide. The smaller scar faced a westerly direction and was higher up the trunk.

2. Various reasons for the scarring have been passed down by the knowledge holders to local Aboriginal people. Aboriginal elders have said that the scar tree is culturally significant to the local Gumbaynggirr people and that the scarring was made using a stone axe either as a directional marker directing visitors to nearby Fisher Park, or for ceremonial purposes in connection with other sites in the area, or by someone wanting to make a shield.

3. In 1995, the scar tree was registered as a culturally modified tree on the Aboriginal Site Register. In 2005, the information about the scar tree was transferred from the Aboriginal Site Register to the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System (“AHIMS”) maintained by the Office of Environment and Heritage (“OEH”). The scar tree was thereby identified as an Aboriginal object for the purposes of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (“NPW Act”). Under s 86(1) of the NPW Act, it is an offence for a person to harm or desecrate an object that the person knows is an Aboriginal object.
4. The local government authority for Grafton and the Clarence Valley,  Clarence Valley Council  (“the Council”), lopped the crown of the scar tree in July 2013. The Council was issued with and paid a penalty notice for harming an Aboriginal object, in breach of s 86(2) of the NPW Act.

5. The lopping of the scar tree exacerbated the decline in the health of the tree. In 2015, the Council included the scar tree on the Council’s annual stump grinding list for removal of the tree. On 19 May 2016, the Council completely removed the scar tree. The scar tree was cut into four pieces, including a cut through the lower scar. Remnants of the scar tree were taken to the Council’s nursery in Grafton. On 20 May 2016, the Council realised what it had done and self-reported to the OEH that, in completely removing the scar tree, it had harmed an Aboriginal object in breach of s 86(1) of NPW Act.

6. On 27 May 2016, the OEH after an investigation of the offence, seized the remnants of the scar tree pursuant to s 156B(4) of the NPW Act. On 9 June 2016, the remnants of the scar tree were relocated to the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s premises at South Grafton, where they remain today.

Full judgment is here.


Perth Now, 30 December 2018:

Four months after losing the leadership spill he instigated, Peter Dutton has broken his silence in an extraordinary spray at Malcolm Turnbull.

Calling the deposed prime minister spiteful and indecisive, the Home Affairs Minister told Brisbane's The Sunday Mail that Mr Turnbull had brought about his own downfall through his lack of political nous.

"Malcolm had a plan to become Prime Minister but no plan to be Prime Minister," was Mr Dutton's damning evaluation.

He also criticised the former leader for actions he saw as undermining the Morrison government.

"I am the first to defend the legacy of the Turnbull government. Malcolm was strong on economic management, borders and national security, but Malcolm will trash his own legacy if he believes his position is strengthened by seeing us lose under Scott (Morrison),'' Mr Dutton said.

He excoriated Mr Turnbull for not supporting the Liberal Party's candidate in his old seat of Wentworth.

"Walking away from (his seat of) Wentworth and not working to have (Liberal Wentworth candidate) Dave Sharma elected was worse than any behaviour we saw even under (former Labor prime minister Kevin) Rudd."

Stating emphatically that he wasn't a stalking horse for former leader Tony Abbott or a right wing "Bible basher", Mr Dutton said Mr Turnbull's poor management had lost the Libs 15 seats in the 2016 election, leaving the government "with a one-seat majority which just made the parliament unmanageable. We were paralysed.".....


Unanswered questions at the start of 2019. 

The last federal general election was on 2 July 2016. A year later and the Federal Liberal Party was still $3,711,956 in debt. 

Has the party managed to pay down this debt and how much money have they received as political donations since 1 July 2017?

One might safely assume that sacked prime minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull will not be personally donating $1,750,000 to the Liberal Party this time around and one wonders if the banks were as generous with their donations once the Royal Commission began requesting their presence at public hearings.

This is the last available donor list. Will the corporations on this list still back the Liberal Party so strongly?