Showing posts with label flora and fauna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flora and fauna. Show all posts

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Who will be to blame if Essential Energy cuts down koala trees in Lawrence, NSW?

Koala habitat within Lawrence, NSW

Essential Energy is a NSW state-owned corporation supplying ‘poles and wire’ infrastructure to communities on the North Coast.

One of those communities is the small village of Lawrence on the Lower Clarence River.

An attractive feature of living in this village is that it is one of the ever diminishing small regional/rural urban areas which still have resident koalas.

Koalas like this one sitting in a tree line marked by Essential Energy for felling.

Photograph of Lawrence koala supplied

Koala mid-canopy & circled in black
Photograph supplied

Apparently those surveying the short new route for a section of poles and wires in Lawrence neglected to look up into the trees – what else can explain the fact that known koala trees have been marked for destruction?

So who is it that employs such incredibly blind staff?

Well Essential Energy has a Board of Directors (very comfortably remunerated from $60,600 up to $764,200 pa) and all apparently living far from this particular group of koalas.

These board members are:
Patricia McKenzie – Chair, Non-Executive Director
Robyn Clubb – Non-Executive Director
Jennifer Douglas – Non-Executive Director
John Fletcher – Non-Executive Director
Peter Garling – Non-Executive Director
Patrick Strange – Non-Executive Director
Diane Elert – Non-Executive Director
John Cleland – CEO and Executive Director.

The shareholders are represented by the NSW Treasurer and Minister for Finance, Services and Property. Current Treasurer is MP for Epping Dominic Perrottet.

With the exception of the Treasurer all these people belong to what might be called the professional directors class and, between them are associated with a number of other businesses and a research facility:

APA Group, Health Direct Australia,
Australian Wool Exchange Ltd, Craig Moyston Group Ltd, Elders Ltd, NSW Primary Industries Ministerial Advisory Council, Rice Marketing Board of NSW,
Hansen Technologies LimitedOpticomm Pty LtdPeter MacCullum Cancer Foundation,
Charter Hall Funds Management Limited, Charter Hall Limited, Energy Group Limited, Downer EDI Limited, Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Limited, Tellus Holdings Limited,
Auckland International Airport Limited. Chorus Limited, Mercury Energy, NZX Limited.

Annotated image; photograph supplied
A fair number of people in Lawrence have told Essential Energy that they want these koala trees to be left standing and the corporation states it has taken its plan under review.

So if Essential Energy does decide these koala trees are to be cut down in the next few months, don’t blame the men with chainsaws, blame these eight professional directors and the successive NSW Coalition governments who appointed them - from the O'Farrell Government in 2013 through to the Berejiklian Government in 2018.

Because state government is clearly appointing directors who cannot even ensure that Essential Energy’s environmental policy (for which they are responsible) is comprehensive and actually mentions vulnerable and threatened flora and fauna.

It is a policy which (aside from a brief mention of greenhouse gas emission reduction) fails to give clear direction to staff, given there is only a single broadly worded line in its 12 point health, safety & environmental policy to cover all manner of environmental issues ie., "Comply with relevant legislation, regulations, standards, codes, licences and commitments"

These directors appear so divorced from real life that they apparently never thought that their regional/rural staff need to be trained to look up into tree canopies before they decide to mark a tree line for destruction.

The bottom line is that the Koala as a species is at risk of localised extinction across the areas in which populations still survive and, sadly is at risk of total extinction across the entire country by as early as 2050 if  those in positions of power continue to be deliberately blind to the fate of this Australian icon.

Morrison Government caught out attempting to retrospectively censor native bird export information

The Guardian, 4 April 2019:

The Australian government has attempted to retrospectively censor critical information related to exports of rare and exotic birds to a German organisation headed by a convicted kidnapper, fraudster and extortionist.

Guardian Australia revealed late last year that Australia had permitted the export of 232 birds, some worth tens of thousands of dollars, to the Brandenburg-based Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP) between 2015 and November 2018.

Conservation groups and federal politicians had repeatedly expressed concern about the group, which is headed by Martin Guth, a man with multiple criminal convictions.
The Guardian’s investigation relied on internal government documents secured through freedom of information laws, released in August.

Guardian Australia made subsequent freedom of information requests and received further documents in January. But the federal department of environment has now attempted to retrospectively redact parts of the documents, saying it accidentally released information it shouldn’t have.

Some of the inadvertently released information could “facilitate fraudulent export applications”, the department said. The department had also accidentally released “personal information, such as birth dates and name, and confidential business information”.

The department has asked Guardian Australia to destroy its copies of the documents, and not further disseminate the newly redacted details.

“While we understand that the FOI decisions have already been made, and that you are under no obligation to follow the department’s wishes, we kindly request that you either: destroy the documents that the department has previously released to you and instead, use the redacted documents attached to this letter; or otherwise ensure that the information in question … is not further disclosed or made publicly available,” the department said in a letter emailed to the Guardian on Wednesday, but dated last month.

The documents have not been published on the department’s online FOI disclosure log. The department’s stance suggests that other parties – journalists or conservation groups, for example – would be subject to the newly introduced redactions if they requested the same documents.

Freedom of information experts say the government’s actions have “no legal basis”……

The new redactions remove details that made it possible for Guardian Australia to establish that the operator of ACTP’s Netherlands facility was convicted in 2015 of involvement as a buyer in a trading ring that was illegally selling protected exotic birds.

The department has also removed identification numbers for the birds that were exported to Germany, arguing that its original decision to release that information could lead to “fraudulent” exports of Australian birds overseas.

It has also blacked out permit numbers from the export permits issued in Australia, the names of individuals who operate other ACTP facilities in Germany and in other countries, and removed information relating to ACTP’s exemption status from corporate tax.

The redactions remove images of ACTP’s main breeding facility and maps that illustrate its layout.

In recent months, Guardian Australia has been trying to establish whether the department undertook adequate due diligence to ensure that all of the birds sent to ACTP were legally captive bred.

But the department has refused to release names of suppliers in Australia that would show the chain of custody for each of the birds before they were exported to Germany. Those details were redacted from FoI documents released to the Guardian in January and from documents tabled after an order for the production of documents in parliament.

Attempts by government agencies to retrospectively recover or redact FOI documents have previously been found to have no lawful basis under NSW freedom of information law. Landcom, the NSW government’s land and property development organisation, attempted to retrieve documents it had accidentally released to a school committee group in 2005, and took its case to the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

The tribunal found it had no power whatsoever to retrieve previously released FOI documents.

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.’

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Valley Watch urgent message to Clarence Valley residents about saving Lawrence koala habitat

Koala habitat within Larwence village streets

Valley Watch Inc has sent this email out…….

Hi everyone brief history and response from Essential Energy below.  

Upgrade and change of route required due to safety (currently passing over someone's house).  Project planned then needed to change route as an underground water main was identified in their proposed route.  New route chosen and vegetation clearing increased from two trees and trimming to approx. 28 trees & shrubs being cleared in a known koala corridor.

Thanks to Community who raised concerns and attended special meeting where they presented new route that could be considered.  As per email below we need to ensure Essential Energy hear there is large community support for protecting koala habitat.

Please telephone and email Raelene Myers at Essential Energy.


----- Forwarded message -----
From: Linda redacted]
Sent: Friday, 5 April 2019, 05:06:11 pm AEDT
Subject: save Lawrence koala habitat

Hi everyone,

At the end of an information session today in Grafton, led by Essential Energy Community Liaison Officer Raelene Myers, the Essential Energy staff told the assembled concerned Lawrence and wider Clarence Valley residents, after much discussion, that they will now put the plan to relocate some poles and wires to an area that would involve koala habitat destruction on hold, while they examine an alternative route that would not. 

The alternative route was put forward by meeting attendees. The plan attached shows the existing route in green, the habitat-destroying route in orange, and the non-habitat-destroying route in red.

Raelene has undertaken to keep updated people who let her know they want to be. Our best chance of saving the koala habitat now is to get as many people as possible to contact her and let her know we are in favour of the non-habitat destroying route and want to be kept updated. Her contact details are below.

Please pass this information on to anyone you think might care.



T: 02 6589 8810 (extn 88810) M: 0407 518 170
PO Box 5730 Port Macquarie NSW 2444
General Enquiries: 13 23 91


The Daily Examiner, 10 April 2019, p.5:

Clarence Valley councillor Greg Clancy said the the proposal would result in the removal of a number of trees and put at risk the koala population in the area.

“We think they could reroute the power lines a different way to reduce the number of trees that would need to cut down,” he said. “I think it’s going to push the local population further towards extinction"

Mr Clancy said despite the relatively small number of trees marked for removal, the frequency with which koalas could be found in them meant they should be saved.

“I was out there the other day with a representative from Essential Energy and there was a koala in one of the marked trees,” he said.

“The point is the koalas are always in these trees and there is a lot of habitat they may not find as suitable. You need to rely on where the koalas are, not where they might be.”

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Big Bat & Wildlife Festival in Maclean rained out but not before locals enjoyed the talks, music and stalls

The flow on effects of a cyclone saw the inaugural Big Bat & Wildlife Festival in Maclean cancelled in February 2019.

Resheduled for Saturday 30 March the festival fun began at noon - then around 3pm the rain came pelting down.

The following is the observations of one of the festival organisers.

“We love the rain but why did it have to fall on the Saturday of the Big Bat and Wildlife Festival?!

During a dry patch I was coming down from the displays and presentations in the Jim Thompson pavilion to the activities on the oval and I stopped to have a look around. And I thought, 'Have a look at all those happy kids down there, and all their happy parents - and not having to get their wallets out'. Smiles under the umbrellas.

Anthony of Australian Wildlife Displays was a hit with the kids with the live animals. I heard one boy announce Anthony was his new hero.

We were down on quite a few stalls and activities due the wet weather but things were going on very well and we had a good attendance ducking in between light showers, until about three o'clock.

It just started to pour and was set in. In the movies the band keeps playing, but not when safety comes first. A shame all outdoor activities had to pack up and we had to call that part of the event closed.

The best part of the day was so many people asking about the NEXT Big Bat and Wildlife Festival...…. so thank you for all those people who came to enjoy the day in the rain, and thank you all of the festival participants for all your much appreciated efforts. Looks like we going to do it all again next year.”

Some pics from the day

Cr. Greg Clancy and Yaegl Elder Ron Herron
A lesson on snakes

Handmade homes for wildlife
Talking Boobook with an interested festival goer

Sunday, 31 March 2019

More evidence of Australia’s national extinction crisis

Twenty years ago my garden and the street in which I live rang with the sound of frogs calling after dark - at times it was deafening and drowned out the sound of the television news presenter.

Frogs of different species were in my letterbox, in the garden trees, catching moths on the window sills, hopping about on my patio and frequently in the house.

No more.

Anyone living in urban areas of the NSW Northern Rivers region would be aware that fewer frog species and fewer numbers within those frog species have been part of garden, park and nature reserve landscapes over the last twenty years.

Loss of habitat due to land clearing, drainage or development, depredation by introduced species, over use of herbicides/pesticides by councils and homeowners, decease in available food sources and disease are taking their toll on local frog populations.

When one sees the scale writ large it is terrible to behold.......

The Guardian, 29 March 2019:

A deadly disease that wiped out global populations of amphibians led to the decline of 500 species in the past 50 years, including 90 extinctions, scientists say.

A global research effort, led by the Australian National University, has for the first time quantified the worldwide impact of chytridiomycosis, or chytrid fungus, a fungal disease that eats away at the skin of amphibians.

The disease was first discovered in 1998 by researchers at James Cook University in Queensland investigating the cause of mysterious, mass amphibian deaths.

Chytridiomycosis is caused by two fungal species, both of which are likely to have originated in Asia, and their spread has been facilitated by humans through activities such as the legal and illegal pet trade.

Forty-two researchers worked on the new study, published in Science on Friday, which pinpoints the extent of the disease and how devastating it has been for frog, toad and salamander species.

They found evidence that at least 501 species had declined as a result of chytrid fungus and 90 of those were presumed or confirmed extinct.

“The results are pretty astounding” Benjamin Scheele, a research fellow at the ANU and the project’s lead researcher, said.

“We’ve known that chytrid is really bad for the better part of two decades but actually researching and quantifying those declines, that’s what this study does.”

The scientists identified declines in amphibian species in Europe, Africa, Central and South America and Australia because of the disease.

Scheele said there were no declines in Asia because species had evolved to be naturally resistant.

The impact of the disease has been hardest in Central and South America and in eastern Australia, where it flourishes in cool and moist conditions. It does not survive at temperatures above 28C.

In Australia, chytrid fungus is present in upland areas along the Great Dividing Range, down to the Otways in Victoria, and the edges of South Australia and Tasmania.

It is also found in some of the cooler mountain areas of Queensland.

Scheele said in Australia alone, there were 240 species of amphibian, 40 of which the researchers believed had suffered population declines as a result of chytrid fungus.

Seven of those 40 are believed to be extinct. One of those is the mountain mistfrog, which was last year added to a group of species the Australian government has been assessing to determine whether it should be moved to the national list of extinct wildlife.

Other species, including both the southern and northern corroboree frog, have suffered because of chytrid fungus, but large-scale captive breeding programs have worked to prevent their extinction..... [my yellow highlighting]

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO will release a new biocontrol agent in a bid to help save rainforests from an invasive South American weed

Wandering trad (Tradescantia fluminensis)

, news release, 22 March 2019:

Wandering trad (Tradescantia fluminensis) has become a significant environmental weed in parts of eastern Australia where it forms dense carpets on forest floors, smothering native vegetation and clogging waterways.

CSIRO senior research scientist Dr Louise Morin said weeds like wandering trad had a significant economic, environmental and social impact in Australia.

“Weeds are one of the biggest threats to Australia’s unique environment – in many areas across Australia they are damaging native vegetation, which threatens whole ecosystems including native wildlife,” Dr Morin said.

“Last year Australia spent almost $30 million protecting the natural environment from weeds. In the agriculture sector, weeds cost the industry more than $4.8 billion per year.”

“The fungus is spread through spores and needs the leaves of the wandering trad to survive – if there is no wandering trad to infect, the fungus dies,” Dr Morin said. 

“We know from decades of research in this field, that specialised fungi, like the leaf smut, have specific genes that enable them to successfully infect and cause disease only on single or a narrow range of plant species. “So we look at plants that are related to wandering trad including native plants to make sure the fungus will only infect the weed.” Wandering trad has infested native forests across eastern Australia, from eastern parts of NSW and south-east Queensland, to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria where the biocontrol agent will first be released.


Wandering Trad is not to be confused with a similar looking plant Commelina diffusa which is native to south-east Queensland and north-east NSW. The native plant has blue flowers (usually flowering in autumn) and a slender tapered leaf, unlike the weedy species Tradescantia albiflora (which has fleshier, rounded, glossier leaves). The native plant is not an environmental weed.

Commelina diffusa
Image: Qld Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Listen to a disappearing Australia

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.”.....

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Be A Voice For The Koalas Of The NSW Northern Rivers

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Loggers still breaching their environmental obligations in Northern NSW state forests

North East Forest Alliance, media release, 1 February 2019:


The North East Forest Alliance is claiming there is no justice for forests after the EPA on Wednesday confirmed numerous breaches of the Forestry Corporation's Threatened Species Licence in Gibberagee State Forest (east of Whiporie) but yet again issued useless cautions and warnings rather than fines and prosecutions for these serial offenders.

"Over the past decade NEFA have exposed the Forestry Corporation committing thousands of legal breaches of their environmental obligations, with the EPA confirming hundreds more breaches in the last few months from NEFA's audits of Gibberagee and Sugarloaf State Forest", said NEFA Spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"Yet the EPA have never taken the Forest Corporation to court, despite commitments to do so, and in January 2016 they made the political decision not to issue fines.
"With no consequences for their blatant breaches of environmental laws, is it surprising that the Forestry Corporation repeat them time and time again?

"If you or I went around illegally cutting down oldgrowth trees (hundreds of year old), clearing rainforest, and bulldozing roads through exclusions around threatened plants time and time again we would be put in jail, but the Forestry Corporation don't even get a fine.

"The EPA's regulation of the Forestry Corporation is farcical, though the biggest problem is that by their refusal to take meaningful regulatory action the EPA are fostering what Justice Pepper described in 2011 as "a reckless attitude towards compliance with its environmental obligations" Mr. Pugh said.

"On Wednesday, in response to a NEFA complaint made 2 years ago the EPA confirmed that the Forestry Corporation failed to adequately mark the boundaries of 50m logging exclusion zones around numerous individuals of Endangered heath Narrow-leaved Melichrus, and undertook logging operations and roading within their exclusion zones.

"The EPA also confirmed NEFA's complaints of reckless damage to hollow-bearing trees and recruitment trees, while also confirming that the Forestry Corporation was not following the requirements for selection of appropriate recruitment trees.

"Though we can't be sure the EPA found all the breaches we identified because the EPA won't tell us how many they found, and when the EPA invited us into Gibberagee to be show them in March 2017, the Forestry Corporation wouldn't let us show the EPA and ordered us out of the forest.

"When NEFA made its first complaint over Gibberagee in March 2017 we hoped the EPA would take action to stop the breaches, yet when NEFA did another assessment 7 months later we found the same sort of breaches were continuing unabated. We are still waiting for the EPA to respond to the last complaints.

"In October last year the EPA confirmed over 86 breaches of the logging rules identified by the North East Forest Alliance in Sugarloaf State Forest, south of Tabulam, at that time the EPA issued the Forestry Corporation with a Warning Letter for 72 and an Official Caution for 1 offence.

"The confirmed breaches included roading through a wildlife corridor, nine cases of roading in exclusion areas along streams, failure to retain the required numbers of habitat trees, and over 70 cases of serious damage to, and inappropriate selection of, marked habitat trees.

"While failure to retain the required number of habitat trees is called one offence, in practice the EPA found that they had retained 200 less hollow-bearing trees than were legally required.

"There were numerous other breaches that the Forestry got off scot free for, for example the EPA confirmed clearing within the marked boundary of the Endangered Ecological Community Lowland Rainforest but refused to take action on the grounds that because the "forest structure and species present at this location have either been totally removed or severely altered/damaged" it precluded identifying what it had been like before logging.

"The EPA chose to ignore that they and the Forestry Corporation had jointly mapped it as Lowland Rainforest some 6 months before it had been logged and cleared.

"These offences are a repeat of similar offences we reported a year earlier in the nearby Cherry Tree State Forest. Despite the EPA's assurances they were going to take legal action there for logging and roading 4.5ha of mapped Lowland Rainforest and recklessly damaging hundreds of habitat trees, they let the Forestry Corporation off scot-free.

"NEFA estimated in that operation around 1,000 habitat trees were likely to have been damaged or had excessive debris left around their bases, though the EPA justified their refusal to take any regulatory action on the grounds that while it was "likely" the damages "were as a result of harvesting operations", they were not able to prove "beyond reasonable doubt ... that the damage was [not] caused by some other means".

"There is no justice. The EPA's sham regulation is encouraging the Forestry Corporation to repeatedly break logging laws with impunity" Mr. Pugh said.