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

Thursday, 28 June 2018

IT'S TIME TO #standup4forests AND TELL THE NSW GOVERNMENT TO LEAVE OUR FORESTS ALONE, Community Meeting, 5pm Saturday 30 June 2018, Grafton District Service Club



Conservationists Alarmed at NSW Government Plans for our Forests


Conservationists are alarmed about the NSW Government’s proposals to increase logging intensity in our public forests.

And while the Government is proposing drastic changes weakening logging rules, it is avoiding holding meaningful public consultations about their plans. North Coast conservationists had wanted to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to visit local forests to see first hand the damage that has already resulted from the current logging practices. The EPA refused to participate.

This is probably not surprising given that the EPA, which is charged with monitoring and ensuring compliance of logging operations in the State Forests, has failed in ensuring that the current regulations have been adhered to.  And on those occasions when it has determined that there have been breaches, the penalties it imposed have been of the “slap on the wrist” nature. So it is no wonder that the current rules have frequently been ignored.

The North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) and the North East Forests Alliance (NEFA) are countering the Government’s current consultation failure by holding their own meetings to explain to the community exactly what the Government has in mind for the future of our public forests. Several meetings have already been held on the North Coast with more planned, including one for Grafton at the Grafton District Services Club (upstairs) on Saturday June 30.

In a recent statement NCEC Vice-President Susie Russell outlined the consequences of the Government’s proposed changes.

“If the proposed rules are implemented, every population centre on the north coast will see its water yields drop as intensive land clearfell logging dries out the catchments. There will be increased erosion and sedimentation of streams from decreased stream buffers.
“The extinction cliff for many of our native animals and plants will be reached faster as there will no longer be a requirement to look for them prior to logging.

“The carbon storage capacity of our forest estate will be greatly diminished as logging intensity increases and the dense, young regrowth is more flammable than the mature forests it replaces.

“All this at a time when climate change is accelerating and the planet's temperature is rising. We need now to be protecting our future by maximising the shade, natural water and carbon storage, while connecting habitats to enable animals to move to more suitable areas,” she said.

The NCEC is concerned that areas that have been off-limits to logging for 20 years - old growth forest, stream protection buffers, and high quality koala habitat – will be sacrificed to meet wood contracts.

Our state Government needs to be reminded that State Forests belong to the people of this state – not to the timber industry or to a Government that seems hell-bent on damaging as much of the natural environment as it can while it is in office.

            - Leonie Blain

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The political endorsements of extinction by Turnbull, Berejiklian and Palaszczuk governments continue




Wild fish stocks in Australian waters shrank by about a third in the decade to 2015, declining in all regions except strictly protected marine zones, according to data collected by scientists and public divers.

The research, based on underwater reef monitoring at 533 sites around the nation and published in the Aquatic Conservation journal, claims to be the first large-scale independent survey of fisheries. It found declining numbers tracked the drop in total reported catch for 213 Australian fisheries for the 1992-2014 period.

The biomass of larger fish fell 36 per cent on fished reefs during 2005-15 and dropped 18 per cent in marine park zones allowing limited fishing, the researchers said. There was a small increase in targeted fish species in zones that barred fishing altogether.
"Most of the numbers are pretty shocking," said David Booth, a marine ecologist at the University of Technology Sydney. “This paper really nails down the fact that fishing or the removal of large fish is one of the causes” of their decline.

Over-fished stocks include the eastern jackass morwong, eastern gemfish, greenlip abalone, school shark, warehou and the grey nurse shark. The morwong catch, once as common as flathead in the trawl fishery, dived about 95 per cent from the 1960s to 109 tonnes in the 2015-16 year to become basically a bycatch species……

…Peter Whish-Wilson, the Greens ocean spokesman, said the new research was largely based on actual underwater identification – including the Reef Life Survey using citizen scientists. It suggests fishing stocks "are not as rosy as the industry or government would like us all to think".

"This study also shows that marine parks can be successful fisheries management tools but we simply don’t have enough of them or enough protection within them to deliver widespread benefits," he said.

"The new Commonwealth Marine Reserves are woefully inadequate and won’t do anything to stop the continuing decline in the health of our oceans."


Humane Society International Australia (HSI), represented by EDO NSW, is seeking independent review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) decision to approve a lethal shark control program in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

HSI has lodged an appeal in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) which will require a full reconsideration of the approval of the shark control program. The 10 year lethal control program targets 26 shark species in the Marine Park, including threatened and protected species. The appeal is based on the public interest in protecting the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.....

As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of the Great Barrier Reef. HSI is concerned about the ongoing impacts caused by the use of lethal drumlines which are known to impact not only on shark species but also dolphins, turtles and rays. HSI is calling for non-lethal alternatives for bather protection.


Forest covering an area more than 50 times the size of the combined central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne is set to be bulldozed near the Great Barrier Reef, official data shows, triggering claims the Turnbull government is thwarting its $500 million reef survival package.

Figures provided to Fairfax Media by Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy show that 36,600 hectares of land in Great Barrier Reef water catchments has been approved for tree clearing and is awaiting destruction.

The office of Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg did not say if his government was comfortable with the extent of land clearing approved in Queensland, or if it would use its powers to cancel permits.

The approvals were granted by the Queensland government over the past five years. About 9000 hectares under those approvals has already been cleared.

Despite the dire consequences of land clearing for the Great Barrier Reef – and billions of dollars of public money spent over the years to tackle the problem – neither Labor nor the government would commit to intervening to stop the mass deforestation.


Freedom of information laws are an important mechanism for making government decisions transparent and accountable. But the existence of such laws doesn’t mean access to information is easy.

It took a three-year legal process for the Humane Society International (HSI), represented by EDO NSW, to access documents about how the Australian Government came to accredit a NSW biodiversity offsets policy for major projects

The NSW policy in question allowed significant biodiversity trade-offs (that is, permitting developers to clear habitat in return for compensatory actions elsewhere) seemingly inconsistent with national biodiversity offset standards. HSI wanted to know how the national government could accredit a policy that didn’t meet its own standards.

Despite Australia being a signatory to important international environmental agreements and accepting international obligations to protect biodiversity, in recent years it has been proposed that the national government should delegate its environmental assessment and approval powers to the states, creating a ‘one stop shop’ for developers.

The original FOI request in this case was submitted in early 2015, during a time when Federal and State and Territory Governments were actively in consultation on handing over federal approval powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This was to be done in the name of efficiency, with the assurance that national standards would be upheld by the states.
Over 60 documents finally accessed by HSI show this was a false promise. The documents reveal that federal bureaucrats in the environment department identified key areas of the NSW policy that differed from federal standards.

Despite this, the policy was accredited.

Accreditation meant that the NSW policy could be used when approving developments with impacts on nationally threatened species found in NSW, instead of applying the more rigorous national offsets policy.

In the time it took to argue for access to the documents, NSW developed a new biodiversity offsets policy as part of broader legislative reforms for biodiversity and land clearing. Unfortunately, the new NSW biodiversity offsets policy continues to entrench many of the weaker standards. For example, mine site rehabilitation decades in the future can count as an offset now; offset requirements may be discounted if other socio-economic factors are considered; and supplementary measures - such as research or paying cash - are an alternative to finding a direct offset (that is, protecting the actual plant or animal that has been impacted by a development).

While there have been some tweaks to the new policy for nationally listed threatened species, there is still a clear divergence in standards. The new policy, and the new NSW biodiversity laws, are now awaiting accreditation by the Australian Government.

How our unique and irreplaceable biodiversity is managed (and traded off) is clearly a matter of public interest. And on the eve of a hearing at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the federal environment department agreed and released over 60 documents. While it was a heartening win for transparency and the value of FOI laws, it was a depressing read when these documents revealed the political endorsement of extinction.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

The people of the Liverpool Plains versus Santos and its irresponsible domestic and international shareholders


Oil and gas mining corporation Santos Limited is currently seeking approval to drill up to 850 natural gas wells on est. 425 sites over 95,000 hectares in the Pilliga Forest region of north-west New South Wales. 

Pilliga Forest is consdered a rare example of intact temperate forest and covers an est. 300,000 hectares sitting atop a recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin.

Santos presents itself as an Australian company, yet two affilated Chinese companys hold over 624 million voting shares in the companyand its top institutional shareholders contain the usual mix of international banks, finance and investment companies2.

In its 2017 annual report Santos admits; A range of environmental risks exist within oil and gas exploration and production activities3

This is the response of the people living on the Liverpool Plains. 


The backyard of New South Wales is facing its biggest threat yet – invasive gasfields. Betrayal by governments has meant protectors are fighting to save the things they love. The Pilliga, Great Artesian Basin, Liverpool Plains – all are at risk. This is a David and Goliath battle to save our land, air and water from destruction. It’s also a fight for the soul and future of Australia. In this film we meet the experts and people living in the sacrifice zone and uncover the truth behind the real gas crisis confronting ordinary Australians.

https://youtu.be/h3h1FxwI1CE

Footnotes
1. As of 27 June 2017 Hony Partners Group, L.P and ENN Ecological Holdings Co Ltd acting in concert
2. At Page 130 https://www.santos.com/media/4319/2017-annual-report.pdf.
3. 15 February 2017 Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection fined Santos  $12,190 for non-compliance with a Soils Management Plan.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Killing coastal trees is an occupation for individuals with puny minds and shrivelled souls


Clarence Valley Council, media release, May 21, 2018:

Tree vandals hit Yamba again

MULTIPLE trees on the headland between Yamba’s Convent and Pippi beaches are dying in what Clarence Valley Council staff believe is a deliberate and brazen attempt to improve views for nearby residents.

Council’s works and civil director, Troy Anderson, said coastal trees had an important role in protecting headlands and landowners needed to remember they belonged to the community.

“The environment is not theirs to destroy,” he said.
“It belongs to everyone.”

Mr Anderson said about 20 trees had been poisoned in the area over the past six months. They included coastal casuarinas, coastal banksias, pandanus and tuckeroos – all native and endemic to the area.

“In the past two years we have lost between 50 and 100 trees along our coastline.
“We’ve had it happen in Wooli, Diggers Camp, Angourie and twice in Yamba last year – including the site of this latest poisoning.”

He said staff would prepare a report to council recommending a range of actions to mitigate tree vandalism that could include:

managing views for public benefit only at approved locations;

planting species that will enable views to be substantially retained in locations where those views may be enjoyed by the public;

public awareness and education initiatives;

installation of signage at the vandalised area;

installation of view screens or containers at the vandalised area, and
rehabilitation of the vandalised area.

“If people have any evidence of who might be responsible they should report it to council and we will follow it up,” he said.

The sites of where some of the trees have been destroyed.



Trees between Yamba’s Convent and Pippi beaches destroyed by vandals.....





Sunday, 6 May 2018

"We don't have old buildings, we have old trees": the fight to save a 200 year-old Lennox Head fig tree continues


Echo NetDaily, 30 April 2018:


Ballina Council has offered a temporary reprieve for the 200 year old Moreton Bay fig tree in Castle Drive Lennox Head. Photo Jenny Grinlington.

Ballina’s Deputy Mayor, Keith Williams, has thanked locals campaigning to save a 200-year-old Fig Tree at Lennox Head.

He said community pressure had contributed to a rethink from the mayor that resulted in a last minute rescission motion to temporarily save the tree while further investigation is undertaken.

The motion signed by Mayor David Wright, Cr Williams and Cr Meehan calls an Extraordinary Meeting to consider further technical reports on the causes of cracking in an adjoining house.

‘A number of highly qualified arborists have written to Council urging further investigation of the tree roots and claiming that soil moisture issues under the house are a more likely source of the damage than the tree. This warrants further investigation, said Cr Williams.

‘This tree predates the arrival of European settlers in the area. Apart from items such as centuries old fish traps, these ancient trees are some of the most significant heritage items in the shire. They should be protected on that basis.’

‘I think all councillors are mindful of the fact that our insurer has accepted a claim for damage and denied future liability unless this tree is removed. But if that assessment is wrong, we should challenge it on behalf of our community’, said Cr Williams.

He told Echonetdaily it was ‘a difficult issue – we’ve been placed in a difficult position with our insurer. They don’t value heritage. This in my view this is a significant item of heritage – we don’t have old buildings, we have old trees.

While the date of the extraordinary meeting is still to be determined by the general manager, Cr Williams said he expects it to be ‘within next couple of weeks’.....


Sunday, 11 March 2018

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


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

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

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

The Coffs Coast Advocate, 9 March 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nature Conservation Council (NCC)

Media Release, 9 March 2017:


Court finds NSW Government land-clearing laws invalid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Media Release, 2 March 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key warnings in the document include:

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

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

Download the FOI document here


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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




UPDATE

The respite ended before it really began………

The Guardian, 11 March 2018:

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

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


The Guardian, 5 March 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a letter to the then-chairman of the pro-land clearing group Property Rights Australia, Hunt said: “In response to concerns raised by you, Senator O’Sullivan, Senator Canavan and the Hon Warren Entsch MP, the department of environment has written to affected landholders clarifying their obligations and the intent of the first letter.”......
https://www.scribd.com/document/372386311/Department-of-Environment-letter-to-HVA-Permit-Holders-2

  Letter from Greg Hunt to Dale Stiller by The Guardian on Scribd https://www.scribd.com/document/372762129/Letter-from-Greg-Hunt-to-Dale-Stiller

Monday, 19 February 2018

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



Echo NetDaily, 15 Februaty 2018:

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

Empty paddock

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

Sunday, 26 November 2017

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


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

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

The Guardian, 24 November 2017:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 14 August 2017

More bad news for NSW coastal forests


The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 2017:

A draft bill to revamp regulations for native forestry in NSW was slammed as "overly complex" and inequitable, and it failed to address "an inherent conflict of interest" in the oversight of state-owned Forestry Corp.

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media show the NSW Environment Protection Authority found the government's draft native forestry bill unfairly favoured Forestry Corp by remove licensing requirements for the corporation while maintaining them for landholders or industry seeking private native forestry.

It would also leave the corporation with powers unmatched for a state agency, including its protection from third-party challenges such as from environmental groups. 

"The inherent conflict of interest for a corporation in having a concurrency role for negotiating, revoking or changing the terms of their licence ... and the removal of third party legal rights, exists nowhere else in NSW legislation or regulation," the EPA's leaked assessment made last December shows.

Fairfax Media understands the EPA also sought legal advice on how to restrict "very intense" harvesting that the Forestry Corp had conducted for years in areas such as the blackbutt-dominant forests of the NSW mid-north coast.

The Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs) that permitted the logging were, however, found to be poorly worded, curbing the watchdog's ability to take legal action.

Even if it could act, though, the penalties available remain tiny. While other breaches, such as by coal mines, could attract fines of as much as $1 million, most forestry penalties were in the hundreds of dollars.

Many of the sanctions were decades old and although the cabinet had discussed a review of the penalties in 2014 – and agreed on million-dollar fines for forestry impacts on threatened species in late 2015 – it is yet to update them......