Thursday, 21 November 2019

"The unnoticed apocalypse": insect declines and why they matter

"In early 2019, Australian entomologist Francisco Sanchez-Bayo published a scientific review of all existing evidence for insect declines [Sanchez-Bayo & Wyckhuys 2019]. He located 73 studies, mainly from Europe and North America, which collectively suggest that the rate of local extinction of insect species is eight times faster than that of vertebrates. He also estimated that, on average, insects are declining by 2.5% each year, with 41% of insect species threatened with extinction. The paper concludes: “we are witnessing the largest extinction event on Earth since the late Permian” (a geological epoch 250 million years ago)."  [Professor Dave Goulson, FRES, "Insect declines and why they matter", 2019]

This report originates in Britain but it is relevant to insect decline world-wide, including the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.

The Wildlife Trusts (Somerset)Insect declinesand why they matter:

In the last fifty years, we have reduced the abundance of wildlife on Earth dramatically. Many species that were once common are now scarce. Much attention focusses on declines of large, charismatic animals, but recent evidence suggests that abundance of insects may have fallen by 50% or more since 1970. This is troubling, because insects are vitally important, as food, pollinators and recyclers amongst other things. Perhaps more frightening, most of us have not noticed that anything has changed. Even those of us who can remember the 1970s, and who are interested in nature, can’t accurately remember how many butterflies or bumblebees there were when we were children. 

The bulk of all animal life, whether measured by biomass, numerical abundance or numbers of species, is comprised of invertebrates such as insects, spiders, worms and so on. These innumerable little creatures are far more important for the functioning of ecosystems than the large animals that tend to attract most of our attention. Insects are food for numerous larger animals including birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and they perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, pest control and nutrient recycling. 

There have been several recent scientific reports describing the rapid decline of insects at a global scale, and these should be a cause of the gravest concern (summarised in Sanchez-Bayo & Wyckhuys 2019). These studies suggest that, in some places, insects may be in a state of catastrophic population collapse. We do not know for sure whether similar reductions in overall insect abundance have happened in the UK. The best UK data are for butterflies and moths which are broadly in decline, particularly in farmland and in the south. UK bees and hoverflies have also shown marked range contractions. The causes of insect declines are much debated, but almost certainly include habitat loss, chronic exposure to mixtures of pesticides, and climate change. The consequences are clear; if insect declines are not halted, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will collapse, with profound consequences for human wellbeing. 

The good news is that it is not too late; few insects have gone extinct so far, and populations can rapidly recover. 

We urgently need to stop all routine and unnecessary use of pesticides and start to build a nature recovery network by creating more and better connected, insect friendly habitat in our gardens, towns, cities and countryside. 

Only by working together can we address the causes of insect decline, halt and reverse them, and secure a sustainable future for insect life and for ourselves. 

This report summarises some of the best available evidence of insect declines and proposes a comprehensive series of actions that can be taken at all levels of society to recover their diversity and abundance.

Read the full report here.

With months to go before the end of NSW bushfire season, there are ways locals can help

The Northern Star, 19 November 2019:

As bushfires continue to ravage communities across NSW, many people are wanting to know how they can assist those impacted by this ongoing disaster. 

While many community groups including sporting and service clubs have stepped up, there are still opportunities for individuals to help in various ways. 

1. Donate money 
There are several charities accepting donations including the Australian Red Cross, the Salvation Army Disaster Appeal (or donate at any Woolworths checkout) or to Vinnies. Make sure you’re giving to a reputable organisation so all the funds go where they’re needed. 

2. Give blood 
The region’s blood banks need more blood and plasma donations. If you can’t afford to give money, then donating blood is a great option. While there are some conditions such as age, this is a great option. Book an appointment by phoning 131495. 

3. Helping wildlife 
The NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service is accepting donations to help its efforts in supporting displaced and injured wildlife affected by the fires. 

4. First responder 
You can join a local emergency services group as a volunteer. Consider joining your local Rural Fire Service brigade or State Emergency Service unit, while organisations such as the Country Women’s Association and Red Cross have many different opportunities to help communities facing tough times. 

5. Community 
Be a good neighbour. Check on people not only living nearby, but also in your social, sporting and community groups. Take the time to be kind. Make time to boil the kettle and listen. Many people are feeling the effects of the bushfires even if they are not in an area which has been burned. A great example is the Ewingar Rising concert from November 22-24, which has been organised by a wide cross-section of residents to support their burned-out community.

The Daily Examiner, 19 November 2019:

The Lower Clarence Community Choir will present its annual Spring Concert with performances in the Maclean Civic Hall at 2pm on Saturday, November 23 and St James Church, Yamba at 2pm on Sunday, November 24.
The choir and Maclean Music Ensemble have prepared music by Handel, Schubert, Offenbach, Tchaikovsky and Smetana, plus folk songs, popular songs and music from stage shows.
Sister Anne Gallagher will as usual be wielding the baton and the accompanist is again Gwen Berman. The choir and ensemble are fortunate to be led by two such esteemed musicians.
Both the choir and the ensemble have grown in size since last year, largely because the members enjoy making music together.
Proceeds from the performances will go to the Westpac Helicopter Rescue Service, Maclean Hospital Auxiliary and Rural Fire Service; three institutions that serve the local community so generously.
Tickets will cost $15, $12 (concession) and school children are free. Afternoon tea will be available for $4.
For further information, contact the president, Connie de Dassel, on 0409476425.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

ATO grants two month deferral for bushfire victims in New South Wales and Queensland

Australian Taxation Office, media release, 18 November 2019:

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) today announced that it will grant a two month lodgment and payment deferral to taxpayers impacted by the recent catastrophic bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Andrew Watson said that people affected by the fires should focus on getting their other affairs in order and not worry about their tax obligations at this time.
“We have applied automatic lodgment and payment deferrals to postcodes impacted by the fires, meaning if you’ve been impacted by the fires you don’t need to contact the ATO or your tax professional – we’ve already done it for you,” Mr Watson said.
The quarterly Business Activity Statement (BAS) that would normally have been due on 11 November or 28 November for businesses using a tax professional will now be due on 28 January 2020.
Monthly BAS lodgers also have an extra two months to lodge and pay, with the ATO automatically extending the due date until 21 January 2020 for the form which would normally have been due on 21 November.
Aside from businesses, individuals in impacted areas who have lodged their 2018–19 income tax returns and have received a bill that would normally be due on 21 November 2019 now have until 21 January 2020 to pay.
Mr Watson added that if taxpayers are concerned about their tax obligations, they should feel free to contact the ATO on 1800 806 218 to discuss how the office can support them.
“You can also discuss your options with your registered tax professional, if you have one”.
The ATO will continue to monitor the ongoing situation and make further decisions to include additional areas and/or provide further deferrals as needed.
Automatic deferrals have been put in place for the following 16 local government areas impacted by the bushfires:

New South Wales

  • Bellingen
  • Clarence Valley
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Glen Innes
  • Severn
  • Kempsey
  • Inverell
  • Mid Coast
  • Nambucca
  • Port Macquarie-Hastings
  • Richmond Valley
  • Tenterfield
  • Uralla
  • Walcha


  • Noosa
  • Livingstone
Employers are reminded that they still need to meet their ongoing super guarantee obligations for their employees.
Automatic deferrals do not apply to large pay as you go withholders.
The ATO is also reminding business owners at this time that it is critical to keep their Australian business number (ABN) information up to date, as it is:
  • used by Emergency Services and other government agencies during times of natural disaster
  • used by the Government to identify where financial disaster relief is needed to help businesses recover in disaster affected areas, and
  • likely to be checked if they are applying for a grant or loan for their business.
Business owners can access, change or cancel their ABN details online at changes made to their ABN online will take effect immediately.
The ATO has more information about help and support options on its website:

Nimbin CWA receives gift of fridges and freezers to assist with feeding local & out of town firefighting crews

NSW state MP for Lismore Janelle Saffin, Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Woolworths gave practical support to the firefighting effort in the Nimbin region last week....

The bushfire burning in Nightcap National Park area, east of Nimbin, is now more than 6,200 hectares in size.

According to NSW Rural Fire Service on 19 November 2019 this fire which has been burning for over nine days is still "expected to burn for several weeks or until there is significant rainfall. During this time, the fire may burn close to properties".

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

More than 6,000km of fire edge to deal with in Northern New South Wales as of 19 November 2019

CLIMATE CHANGE: what can the NSW North Coast expect from 2020 onwards?

The NSW Baird Coalition Government's Dept. of Planning Industry and Environment published Climate Projections For NSW in November 2014.

It remains on the departmental website as current data.

Below are some of the mapping and observations within these Adapt NSW documents as they pertain to the NSW North Coast.

Given that: 

a) Australia has already warmed by just over 1°C since 1910 with most of that warming occurring in the last 60 years; 
b) in recent decades there has been the most sustained large-scale change in rainfall in the southern half of the continent since records began in 1900 and stream flows have been decreasing since the 1970s; 
c) the number of high value Forest Fire Danger Index days have been increasing in recent decades; and
d) the number of bushfire days the North Coast has experienced since the August 2019 start of the fire season has resulted in well over 1 million hectares of forest and farmland being burned out;

add to this the fact that significant land loss in places like the Lower Clarence Valley is likely to begin at only a 0.5m rise above mean sea level and, possibly the Adapt NSW regionally specific projections need to be reworked to include Bureau of Meteorology/CSIRO data from 2014 onwards. 

Perhaps then some uncomfortable questions can be resolved.

Is it possible that climate change is beginning to speed up across eastern Australia? 

Is 2019 likely to be an anomaly which has no effect on the published climate change projections or is it the new norm and some of the 2020-2039 mapping is now just digital junk?


NSW North Coast 2020-2039 Change In Annual Average Number of Days With Temperatures 
Greater Than 35 Degrees Celsius 

By 2030 maximum temperatures are projected to rise by 0.7 ºC and continue to rise by 1.9 ºC by 2070.....By 2030 the North Coast is projected to experience an average of 3 more days above 35 ºC per year and continue to rise to 9 days per year by 2070.......Summer will see the greatest changes in maximum temperatures, increasing by 2.1°C in the far future.

NSW North Coast 2020-2039 Change In Average Rainfall



In 2020-2039 rainfall is projected to decrease in winter [-6.1%] and to increase in autumn [+8.5%] and spring [+3.3%]. A raifall decrease of -2.8% is also predicted for summer rainfall.

NSW North Coast 2020-2039 Change In Forest Fire Danger Index 


The North Coast is expected to experience an increase in severe and average FFDI values in the near future and the far future.  The increases are projected in summer and spring. Although these changes in severe fire weather are relatively small in magnitude (up to one additional day every two years) they are projected to occur in prescribed burning periods (spring) and the peak fire risk season (summer).  


Clarence Valley kids raise $7,000 in a day for the 'firies' and Angourie village residents raised $15,950 to give to their local bushfire brigade

The Daily Examiner, 16 November 2019, p.6:

For some of the 3000 students at 15 local public schools, the best way they could help local Rural Fire Service units was to mix up their socks. 

Or even paint their hair pink. While it’s not your usual method, the students banded together yesterday in a little bit of crazy dress to raise more than $7000. 

Students were encouraged to dress up, and give a gold coin donation to go towards local units who have been busy defending our communities from recent bushfires. 

Grafton High School SRC organisers Carmen Dundon and Natasha Clausen said they wanted to do something to give the crews some respite. 

“Quite often the RFS has to go back out after fighting fires and fundraise just to support themselves, so we thought we’d help them out,” Ms Clausen said. 

Initially organised between Grafton High and Grafton Public, word soon spread of the idea, and 15 schools participated with more than 3000 students taking part. 

“It grew way more than what we thought it would,” Ms Dundon said. “But everyone knows someone who has been affected, and it’s great to see the community come together.” 

Grafton High School principal Peter South said that it was an amazing effort from the students. 

“You can see the kids very much care and feel for other kids and understand how important the RFS is in keeping people safe,” he said.

“There was no hesitation, all the schools just jumped to be part of it.” 

Mr South said many local schools had already been feeding and clothing children affected by the fires, with school communities at Baryulgil and Nymboida in classrooms at Grafton Public while their schools were closed.

“Everyone has been doing their bit to chip in,” he said.

The Daily Examiner, 16 November 2019, p.7:

Angourie residents have raised almost $16,000 for the Wooloweyah bushfire brigade to say thank you for recent efforts. 

Rapturous applause was given to the Wooloweyah Fire Brigade and NSW Rural Fires Services at Angourie as the community rallied to raise $15,950 in response to their tireless efforts during the Shark Creek bushfire. 

The recent bushfire came perilously close to the village of Angourie and Angourie Residents and Ratepayers Association Inc president Grant Jennings thanked the fireys on behalf of everyone in the seaside town.

Expressing the sentiment of the community, one resident said they were grateful to the Wooloweyah RFS and other locals who “did such a gallant job protecting our houses in Angourie”. 

Mark Evans, from Wooloweyah Fire Brigade, said the money would go towards essential firefighting equipment.

The Daily Examiner, 16 November 2019, p.7: 

The biggest cheer to come from the Nymboida residents’ meeting came after local RFS captain Paul Johnston addressed the gathering. 

But Mr Johnston said the whole community deserved the praise. “It was the way everyone worked together that got us through this,” he said. 

“People like the ‘scratch brigade’ who worked so hard over the weekend, after the fire went through, going around making things safe, took so much pressure off us.” 

Mr Johnston said half a dozen or more residents had attached tanks and pumps to the back of utes and trucks and ridden around the village, dousing pockets of fire. 

“They were our unofficial support brigade and allowed us to concentrate on the fire front,” he said. 

He said the size and speed of the fire as it hit Nymboida made it impossible to halt. 

“We could not have stopped that fire with 100 trucks,” he told the meeting. 

He was not sure how many units were working on Friday night, but he estimated at least 20.....

Readers, you too can show your appreciation of the NSW Rural Fire Service by donating directly to your local fire brigade or by going to:

You can also make a bank deposit to NSW RFS:

Account Name: NSW Rural Fire Service
Bank: Westpac BSB: 032-001 Account No: 171051

Queenslanders wishing to support their own rural fire services can donate at: