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

Thursday, 16 May 2019

First global assessment of the ecological health of the world's "wild" rivers has found only about one third of the longest rivers are still free-flowing

As the Queensland flood waters finally make it down the Dimantina and Georgina rivers and Cooper's Creek and spread out over the Eyre Basin and into Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, it is well to remember three things.

The first is that; The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the largest and most pristine desert river systems on the planet, supporting 60,000 people and a wealth of wildlife.

The second is the fact that the Morrison Government has a stated policy to dam and divert more water from Australia's river systems if it is re-elected. 

The third is that water sustainability into the future is dependent on wild rivers running free.

ABC Radio,“RN”, 9 May 2019:

The first global assessment of the ecological health of the world's "wild" rivers has found only about one third of the longest rivers are still free-flowing.

The report warns the disruption is harming ecosystems, with 3,700 new large dams either under construction, or planned.

Nature, 8 May 2019:

Gill,Gunter et al, (2019) Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers


Free-flowing rivers (FFRs) support diverse, complex and dynamic ecosystems globally, providing important societal and economic services. Infrastructure development threatens the ecosystem processes, biodiversity and services that these rivers support. Here we assess the connectivity status of 12 million kilometres of rivers globally and identify those that remain free-flowing in their entire length. Only 37 per cent of rivers longer than 1,000 kilometres remain free-flowing over their entire length and 23 per cent flow uninterrupted to the ocean. Very long FFRs are largely restricted to remote regions of the Arctic and of the Amazon and Congo basins. In densely populated areas only few very long rivers remain free-flowing, such as the Irrawaddy and Salween. Dams and reservoirs and their up- and downstream propagation of fragmentation and flow regulation are the leading contributors to the loss of river connectivity. By applying a new method to quantify riverine connectivity and map FFRs, we provide a foundation for concerted global and national strategies to maintain or restore them.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Australia cannot afford a third term Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government

The continuous prevarication and callous disregard for any policy which might provide a sustainable future for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren makes the Liberal and National political parties a danger to us all.........

The Guardian, 9 May 2019:

Scott Morrison’s office has declined to say what legislation he was referring to when he said he had “been taking action” on a landmark UN report about the extinction of a million different species.

On Monday, the UN released a comprehensive, multi-year report that revealed human society was under threat from the unprecedented extinction of the Earth’s animals and plants. The agriculture minister, David Littleproud, said the report “scared him”, during a debate on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Morrison responded to the report saying: “We already introduced and passed legislation through the Senate actually dealing with that very issue in the last week of the parliament. We’ve been taking action on that.”

However, no legislation regarding animal conservation or the environment passed in the last week of parliament.

When asked what the legislation was, the prime minister’s office did not reply. The office of the environment minister, Melissa Price, also did not respond when asked what legislation Morrison was referring to.

The only legislation regarding animals that passed within the last few months is the Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017, which set new regulations on testing cosmetics on animals.

However, it was passed by both houses on 18 February – not in the last week of parliament, which was in April.

Neither the prime minister nor the environment minister responded to clarify if this was the bill Morrison was referring to, or whether he made an error.

Tim Beshara, the federal policy director of the Wilderness Society, said Morrison appeared to have “alluded to a bill that doesn’t exist”.

 “The last bill to pass the Senate from the environment portfolio was about changing the board structure of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2018,” he said.
“It looks like the prime minister of Australia is so desperate to move the debate off the environment as an issue that he has alluded to a bill that doesn’t exist so that journalists would stop asking questions about it.”…..

On Wednesday, Morrison also railed against the expansion of environmental regulations, calling them “green tape”.

“[Labor] want to hypercharge an environment protection authority which will basically interfere and seek to slow down and prevent projects all around the country,” he said.

Beshara said the timing of this with the mass extinction report showed “excellent comedic timing”.

“What he is calling ‘green tape’, most Australians would call basic environmental protections,” he said. “I don’t expect the prime minister to know their numbats from their bandicoots, but I do expect them to know what bills their government has passed, and to respond to a globally significant UN report like this with the seriousness it deserves.”

The Guardian, 9 May 2019:

Most clearing of Australian habitat relied on by threatened species is concentrated in just 12 federal electorates, nine of which are held by the Coalition, an analysis has found.

University of Queensland scientists found more than 90% of the threatened species habitat lost since the turn of the century has been in six electorates in Queensland, two each in NSW and Western Australia and one in Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Most of the land-clearing in Queensland has been to create pasture.

The study, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation, was released following a United Nations global assessment that found biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate, with one million species at risk of extinction. The report warns the decline in native life could have implications for human populations across the globe.

Threatened species habitat loss, by federal electorates
Showing the percentage of habitat loss used by threatened species

Source: ACF

The research found the greatest loss of threatened species habitat had been in the agriculture minister David Littleproud’s electorate of Maranoa, in southern Queensland. Nearly two million hectares, or 43%, has been cleared since 2000, when the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was introduced. Among the 85 threatened species affected are the koala, the greater bilby, the black-throated finch and the long-nosed potoroo.

Maranoa is followed on the list by Kennedy, home to the maverick independent Bob Katter, the Liberal Rick Wilson’s Western Australian seat of O’Connor and Capricornia, a marginal electorate held by the LNP’s Michelle Landry.

The environment minister Melissa Price’s vast electorate of Durack, which covers nearly two-thirds of Western Australia, is seventh, with more than 300,000 hectares lost.

Other seats on the list are Flynn, Parkes, Leichhardt, Lingiari, Farrer, Dawson and Lyons.

James Watson, the director of the university’s centre for biodiversity and conservation science, said Australia was sleep-walking through a worsening extinction crisis.

“These results show the laws we have to protect our wonderful natural heritage are not working and that is a significant failure of government,” he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature policy analyst, James Trezise, said the next Australian government must invest in the recovery of threatened species and introduce strong environment laws overseen by an independent national regulator if it was serious about reversing the decline in native wildlife…..

Australia has the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world over the past 200 years. It is considered one of 17 “megadiverse” countries, which share just 10% of global land but 70% of biological diversity. A green group study found funding to the national environment budget has been reduced by a third since the Coalition was elected.

Habitat loss on the NSW North Coast

Richmond electorate held by Labor MP Justine Elliot - 710 ha loss
Page electorate held by Nats MP Kevin Hogan - 16,725 ha loss
Cowper electorate held by Nats MP Luke Hartsuyker until April 2019 - 5,159 ha loss
Lyne electorate held by Nats MP David Gillespie - 6,181 ha loss

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Morrison Government signed off on a controversial uranium mine one day before calling the federal election

ABC News, 26 April 2019:

The Morrison Government signed off on a controversial uranium mine one day before calling the federal election, and did not publicly announce the move until the environment department uploaded the approval document the day before Anzac Day.

The Yeelirrie Uranium mine, located 500 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, requires both federal and state approval.

The state approval of the proposed mine is still being fought in the state's Supreme Court by members of the Tjiwarl traditional owners.

In 2016, the West Australian Environment Protection Agency advised the mine not be approved, concluding it posed too great a risk of extinction to some native animals.

The former Liberal Barnett government controversially approved the mine in 2017, just weeks before it lost the West Australian election.

Canadian company Cameco, the world's largest uranium producer, is seeking to develop the uranium mine, which would cover an area 9km long and 1.5km wide.

It would involve the clearing of up to 2,422 hectares of native vegetation.

It is also approved to cause groundwater levels to drop by 50cm, and they would not completely recover for 200 years, according to Cameco's environmental reports.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Melissa Price said the approval was subject to 32 strict conditions to avoid and mitigate potential environmental impacts.

Traditional owner of the area, Tjiwarl woman Vicky Abdullah, said she was surprised by the announcement, and was hoping for the project to be rejected.

"It's a very precious place for all of us. For me and my two aunties, who have been walking on country," she said.

Mine approval a controversial move ahead of caretaker mode
Simon Williamson, General Manager of Cameco Australia, told the ABC he was pleased Ms Price had approved the mine before calling the election.

"Yeah, that's likely to raise questions about rushed decision and all that stuff, but the state [government] made their decision in January 2017," he said.

"The timing was such that all of [the assessment] was completed to allow her to sign off before the election. I think it's quite appropriate and I think the minster would want to sign off on projects on her plate before she goes to an election……

Dave Sweeney, an anti-nuclear campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation said the timing suggested the decision was political.

"We need decisions that are based on evidence and the national interest, not a company's interest or not a particular senator's or a particular government's interest," he said.

"This reeks of political interference rather than a legal consideration or due process."

The approval is one of several controversial moves the Government made before entering caretaker mode, where such decisions would be impossible, including approving Adani's two groundwater management plans for it's proposed Carmichael coal mine.....

The Guardian, 27 April 2019:

A multinational uranium miner persuaded the federal government to drop a requirement forcing it to show that a mine in outback Western Australia would not make any species extinct before it could go ahead.

Canadian-based Cameco argued in November 2017 the condition proposed by the government for the Yeelirrie uranium mine, in goldfields north of Kalgoorlie, would be too difficult to meet.

The mine was approved on 10 April, the day before the federal election was called, with a different set of conditions relating to protecting species.

Environmental groups say the approval was politically timed and at odds with a 2016 recommendation by the WA Environmental Protection Authoritythat the mine be blocked due to the risk to about 140 subterranean stygofauna and troglofauna species – tiny animals that live in groundwater and air pockets above the water table.

A Cameco presentation to the department, released to the Greens through Senate estimates, shows the government proposed approving the mine with a condition the company must first demonstrate that no species would be made extinct during the works.

Cameco Australia said this did not recognise “inherent difficulties associated with sampling for and describing species”, including the inadequacy of techniques to sample microscopic species that live underground and challenges in determining whether animals were of the same species. It said the condition was “not realistic and unlikely to be achieved – ever”.

The condition did not appear in the final approval signed by the environment minister, Melissa Price, which was made public after being posted on the environment department’s website on 24 April…..

Friday, 12 April 2019

Is NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian intending "to make it a priority to finish off effective protection of the natural environment – something started years ago under the Coalition State Government"?

On Thursday 4 April 2019 the local Knitting Nannas held a protest knit-in outside the electoral office of NSW Nationals MP for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis.

Below is the text of their letter to Mr. Gulaptis dated the same day.


 Knitting Nannas Against Gas
Grafton Loop

c/- PO Box 763
Grafton 2460

4th April 2019
                                                                        C O P Y

Mr C Gulaptis MP
Member for Clarence
11 Prince Street

Dear Mr Gulaptis

Dissolving of Office of Environment and Heritage

The Grafton Nannas are very concerned about your Government’s recently announced intention of doing away with the Office of Environment and Heritage as an independent entity.

We have long been worried about the Government’s lack of concern about protecting the natural environment for current and future generations of humans as well as for other life forms.

Government policies over recent years have been seen by many in our community and elsewhere as being a de facto war on the natural environment.

For example:
  • Changes to vegetation laws which have led to a large increase in clearing of habitat which is important to the survival of native flora and fauna.  This weakening of the former laws is also likely to lead to increased topsoil loss and general land degradation.
  • Changes to logging regulations which threaten the sustainability of native forests which belong to the people of NSW – and not to logging interests. These changes include limiting pre-logging fauna surveys, an inevitable increase in clear-felling, and reduction in the width of buffer zones along streams.  
  • Failure to protect the health of rivers, particularly those in the Murray-Darling Basin.  For years the NSW Government, as well as the Federal Government, has been pandering to the irrigation industry while ignoring the need to protect river health by ensuring that flows are adequate for river health.  The drought is not an excuse for this folly.
  • Other examples include the cutting of funding to the National Parks & Wildlife Service and penny-pinching changes to its structure as well as the failure to ensure that the existing weak environment laws are enforced and appropriate penalties imposed on those who breach them.
We are aware that the Premier recently stated that her Government would make the environment a priority. 

Since hearing that OEH was to lose any of the limited independence it currently has and is to be pushed into a mega-Planning Department, we are left wondering about what the premier actually meant about “priority”.  Did she mean that she intended to make it a priority to finish off effective protection of the natural environment – something started years ago under the Coalition State Government?  It looks very much like that to the Nannas.

Yours sincerely

Leonie Blain
On behalf of the Grafton Nannas


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.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Knitting Nannas from across NSW took their protest to Sydney on International Women's Day

United to Protect Our Water

101 Knitting Nannas from around NSW converged on Parliament House in Sydney on International Women’s Day (March 8) to protest about water mismanagement and the lack of effective government action to protect river and groundwater health. The theme of the protest was “No Water no Life”.

The Nannas came from Loops (local Nanna groups) in the Northern Rivers, Grafton, Coonabarabran, Dubbo, Midcoast, New England-North West, Central Coast, Gloucester, Hunter Valley, Illawarra, and Sydney.

The Nannas have long been very concerned about unwanted water impacts around NSW – issues which have been raised with elected representatives over a number of years.

· These include impacts on urban water catchments from coal mines - the Wallarah 2 mine on the Central Coast and the Hume mine in the Southern Highlands as well as the long-wall mining in the Illawarra which leads to massive water loss into mines.

· The North West of the state is also impacted by coal mines which use vast amounts of water – Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine and the proposed Vickery mine.

· Then there’s the threat to groundwater from Santos’ gasfield in the Pilliga State Forest. This project is slated to extract 35 billion litres of groundwater – most of it in the first five years.

· But the most dramatic impact is the most recent – the Darling fish kills - the result of years of mismanagement and favouring of irrigators over the health of the river system.

The Nannas assembled in Martin Place where they donned their specially made t-shirts bearing a picture of a Nanna declaring “The Water Needs You” (in the spirit of the Lord Kitchener First World War recruiting poster) and their yellow, red and black suffragette-style sashes emblazoned with “No Water No Life”. 

After a group photo under the big banner (“United to Protect Our Water”), the Nannas walked to Parliament House and ranged themselves along the fenceline.  There they used their sashes to tie on to the iron railing of the fence in the manner of the suffragettes.

The brightly-dressed Nannas with their banners and their singing and chanting attracted a great deal of attention from pedestrians and those driving along busy Macquarie Street. A highlight of the street performance was the powerful rendition by Nanna Purl Stockinstitch of her poem about the death of farmer George Bender who was hounded by a CSG company in Queensland.  The Nannas hoped that the pollies in our parliament heard and took note of the effect the unconventional gas industry has had - and continues to have - on the lives of communities in gasfields.

Various politicians met with the Nannas on the footpath and were presented with their “knagging list” - the Nannas’ demands for action.

While the theme of the protest focused on the major problems with rivers and water, the Nannas demands were much broader. They included a call for immediate climate action, transition to 100% renewables, a state-wide ban on gas extraction (including in the Pilliga), proper protection of Aboriginal sacred sites and revocation of the draconian anti-protest laws brought in by the current NSW Government. 

The Knitting Nannas Against Gas and Greed are hopeful that all of the state political parties will accept their calls for effective action on these important matters. It should be noted that the Nannas, who are very concerned about the protection of the land and water for future generations, are non-party political and have a policy of annoying all politicians equally – something we aim to continue doing!

            - Leonie Blain
               Grafton Loop of the Knitting Nannas Against Gas & Greed