Showing posts with label #standup4forests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #standup4forests. Show all posts

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The Berejiklian Government appears willing to stand by and watch wild koalas rapidly go extinct in New South Wales within the next 30 years


Under cover of the public heath emergency created by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Berejiklian Government is still not genuinely moving to save koala populations in New South Wales from extinction.


The Liberal Party leadership is still paralysed by the blackmail threats of National Party leader and MLA for Monaro John Barilaro - and so Liberal MLA for Hornsby Matt Kean in his conflicted role of Minister for Energy and Environment is doing little except mouthing soothing platitudes and making empty promises.


Because logging remaining native forests on Crown and private land - for woodchip, logs, sawn & dressed timber and biomass for power station/s - is what Liberal and Nationals shadowy political donors, greedy logging companies and developers hungry for cheap land are insisting needs to happen.


People in the Northern Rivers region are noticing.




The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 January 2021: 


Koala advocates say the NSW government is not doing enough to save the animal from extinction after it backed without qualification a quarter of the recommendations of an upper house inquiry into the marsupial's populations and habitat. 


In its formal response into the koala inquiry, the government supported 11 of the 42 recommendations, while offering "support in principle" to 17 others. 


It "noted" the remaining 14. Among the recommendations supported was the suggestion the government rule out opening old-growth forests within the state reserve for logging, and that it create Georges River National Park to secure habitat on Sydney's southern fringe. 


However, it only "noted" the call to investigate setting up a Great Koala National Park in northern NSW. 


“Recommendations such as the government urgently investigates the ‘utilisation of core koala habitat on private land and in state forests to replenish koala habitat lost in the bushfires’ appear to be rejected out of hand," Cate Faehrmann, the Greens MP and chair of the upper house committee, said. 


“Many of the key recommendations, the vast majority of which were supported by all committee members because they are what needs to be done to save koalas from extinction, seem to have been rejected outright." 


The inquiry's report, released last June, found koalas were on track for extinction in the wild in NSW before 2050 with habitat loss the main driver of their demise. Environment Minister Matt Kean said in the following month that he would set a goal to double the numbers of the animals - believed to be as few as 15,000 to 20,000 - by 2050.....


Sunday, 3 January 2021

One of the looming threats to NSW forests in 2021


Hunter Energy Limited, formerly Hunter Energy Pty Ltd, was registered on 6 March 2018.


Its current spokespersons appear to believe that cutting down native forest to supply a power plant with biomass is a “closed loop” with no cilmate or environmental consequences.


However, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration; “although the CO2 released from biofuel or bioenergy combustion is assumed to be fully accounted for by the uptake of carbon during the growth of the feedstock used to produce the biofuels or bioenergy…..analysts have debated whether the increased use of biomass energy may result in a loss of terrestrial carbon stocks and foregone future sequestration by natural vegetation. The initial loss of carbon stocks in natural vegetation cleared to grow biomass feedstocks and the foregone future removal of CO2 are not captured in energy sector emissions.”


Dependent on species, it would probably take 25 years for a single tree to store est. 400 to 544 kilograms of carbon dioxide. Eucalypts reaching 8 meters in height might store up to 1 tonne of carbon


So when one is cut down after 25 years and burnt that’s basically how much initial greenhouse gas emissions are released back into the atmosphere from the tree itself – where emissions will remain until 25 years later when hopefully another tree has survived long enough to store a similar amount of carbon.


Multiple that first tree by the up to 1.8 to 3 billion 25 year-old trees estimated to be annually required to feed Hunter Energy’s proposed Redbank Power Station fuelled by biomass and, one begins to see that biomass-generated power is not a closed system at all – it is simply one predicated on at best naked hope and at worst a complete denial of climate change realities regarding Australian native forest tree growth.


Nevertheless, the Berejiklian Coalition Government under blackmail threat by Deputy-Premier and Nationals MLA for Monaro John Barilaro, will push ahead with legislation which allows biomass logging in north east New South Wales.


Logging which would lead inevitably to the destruction of our remaining closed-cover mature native forests.


In this Barilaro will be aided and abetted by NSW Nationals MLA Chris Gulaptis and Nationals Federal MP for Page Kevin Hogan.


BACKGROUND


According to Wikipedia:


On 5 October 2013, Redbank Energy’s wholly owned subsidiary Redbank Project Pty Ltd (Redbank Project) was notified by its secured lenders of the appointment of receivers to Redbank Project, Redbank Construction Pty Ltd and the shares in Redbank Project held by Redbank Project Holdco Pty Ltd,[5] with debts of $192 million.[6]

In Oct 2014, receivers KordaMentha announced immediate closure of the Plant with its remaining assets including the turbine, generator and plant and equipment to be sold.[7]

On 17 September 2015 Redbank Energy (REL) announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Biogreen Energy Pty Limited (Biogreen), had purchased the land, plant and equipment and water rights owned by Redbank Project for $5 million, but that it intended "to commence the work to raise the funds necessary to recommence the operation of the Redbank Power Station".[8][9]

On 25 August 2016 Redbank Energy issued the following statement to shareholders via the ASX. "In response to shareholder enquiries, Redbank Energy Limited (ASX: AEJ) (REL) wishes to provide the following market update. Unfortunately, REL will be removed from the ASX official list on 29 August 2016. The immediate catalyst for delisting will be the non-payment of the 2016/17 ASX annual listing fee, which falls due on 27 August 2016. The reason for REL not paying the 2016/17 ASX listing fee is because REL will automatically be suspended on 9 October 2016 due to continual suspension." Redbank was subsequently delisted from the close of trading on Monday, 29 August 2016 pursuant to Listing rule 17.15.[10]

On 10 April 2018, Fairfax Media announced that the power plant could be restarted in Q1 2019 to provide cheap off-the-grid power for blockchain mining applications.[11]


Financial Review, 26 May 2020:


The Redbank Power Station in NSW, formerly owned by ASX-listed Redbank Energy and its predecessors Alinta Energy and Babcock & Brown Power, is set for a comeback to the ASX-boards.


This time Redbank will be housed in a new company called Hunter Energy, which was set up by a bunch of former Australian Power & Gas execs, and acquired Redbank in 2018. (It is run by Richard Poole, a former investment banker and Cascade Coal director).


Hunter Energy has turned the dormant Redbank into a "green energy power plant", according to marketing materials in front of potential investors, able to produce enough energy to power 200,000 to 250,000 homes using waste biomass for fuel.


Hunter Energy wants to switch the plant on by the end of this year to provide what it says would be around the clock and reliable baseload power with zero net emissions….


Financial Review, 26 May 2020:


The Redbank Power Station in NSW, formerly owned by ASX-listed Redbank Energy and its predecessors Alinta Energy and Babcock & Brown Power, is set for a comeback to the ASX-boards.


This time Redbank will be housed in a new company called Hunter Energy, which was set up by a bunch of former Australian Power & Gas execs, and acquired Redbank in 2018. (It is run by Richard Poole, a former investment banker and Cascade Coal director).


Hunter Energy has turned the dormant Redbank into a "green energy power plant", according to marketing materials in front of potential investors, able to produce enough energy to power 200,000 to 250,000 homes using waste biomass for fuel.


Hunter Energy wants to switch the plant on by the end of this year to provide what it says would be around the clock and reliable baseload power with zero net emissions….


Echo NetDaily, 26 November 2020:


As glaciers, ice sheets, and the poles continue to melt due to the human impacts on the environment it is bordering on criminal for the Australian and NSW governments to be supporting the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, let alone clearing and burning trees for biomass energy production.


According to studies being done on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet reported in phys.org it is becoming clear ‘that increasingly warming climate, as expected for the near future, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet could be less stable than previously thought’.


The future melting of polar ice sheets and the associated rise in global sea level as a consequence of climate change will have a substantial impact on low-elevation coastal areas.’


Yet the Federal government is promoting a gas led COVID-19 recovery, the NSW government has facilitated the approval of the Narrabri Gas Project, and the biomass Redbank Power Station near Singleton appears to be planning a reboot.


The imminent rebooting of the mothballed Redbank Power Station (near Singleton) with north-east NSW’s forests will make it Australia’s most polluting power station and an existential threat to the future of our children and wildlife,’ according to the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).


According to NEFA Hunter Energy is currently seeking expressions of interest for timber from across north-east NSW to fuel their Redbank Power Station, with plans to restart the facility in mid-2021 fed by native forests to make it one of world’s ten biggest biomass power plants.


The claims are that it will power 200,000 homes, which was identified in 2017 North Coast Residues Report as requiring one million tonnes of biomass to be taken from north-east NSW’s forests and plantations each year, with 60 per cent of this coming from private forests,’ said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.


This is sheer madness as burning this volume will release some 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year to fuel climate heating, increased droughts, heatwaves, and more intense bushfires, while increasing forest degradation and hastening species extinctions.


The community needs to urgently speak up to stop the NSW and Commonwealth Governments from allowing this environmental disaster,’ Mr Pugh said.


NEFA have said that biomass is even more polluting than coal and releases up to 50 per cent more CO2 to generate the equivalent amounts of energy.


Then there’s all the CO2 released by machines during logging and in hauling the wood from across north-east NSW to Singleton,’ said Susie Russel from NEFA.


It will be a nightmare for rural communities with thousands of extra trucks plying narrow rural roads, crossing small deteriorating bridges, passing through peaceful villages and then roaring down the Pacific Highway to Redbank.


This will be subsidized by taxpayers under the pretense that burning trees is renewable energy as the trees will regrow and decades or centuries later take up the carbon released by burning them.


We are in a climate emergency and cannot afford to spew millions of tonnes of additional carbon into the atmosphere at a time when we need to be urgently reducing atmospheric carbon, and we need to leave our trees alive to do it as they are the only viable means of carbon capture and storage,’ Ms Russell said.


Mr Pugh continued, ‘Our suffering forest wildlife will be impacted most severely as forest degradation skyrockets with all those previously uneconomic trees taken……


NEFA have said that biomass is even more polluting than coal and releases up to 50 per cent more CO2 to generate the equivalent amounts of energy. [my yellow highlighting]


Hunter Energy, retrieved 28 December 2020:


Upon re-start, Redbank will be one of the largest green baseload renewable energy providers in NSW and the ONLY existing facility capable of providing urgently required green 24/7 baseload power, adding to grid stability.


 

Monday, 16 November 2020

Meet the wannabe Koala killers of the Clarence Valley


Clarence Valley's very own wannabe koala killers. From left to right: Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons, Federal Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan, General Manager of Operations for Big River Group in Grafton Jason Blanch, Big River Group CEO Jim Bindon and  NSW Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis. IMAGE: Clarence Valley Independent, 11.11.20











Clarence Valley Independent, 11 November 2020:


A major restructure of Big River Group’s operations will see 20 new jobs created in the Grafton area while up to 50 will disappear from the Riverina region.


One of the Clarence Valley’s largest timber companies, Big River Group currently has two main operating facilities located in Junction Hill and Wagga Wagga.


Unfortunately, following the Black Summer bushfires, the long term supply of logs for their operations in southern NSW was severely impacted and it became apparent there was insufficient log resources in the Tumut region to sustain the Wagga Wagga facility, leading to a decision to consolidate operations at Junction Hill, where a sustainable supply of hardwood and softwood logs exist to supply productions.


Big River Group has recently been successful in securing a $10 million grant, provided through the Bushfire Industry Recovery Package, co-funded by the NSW and Federal Governments and matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by the business, to assist in consolidating its operations and enhance the Junction Hill site.


Big River Group CEO Jim Bindon and General Manager of Operations for Big River Group in Grafton Jason Blanch were joined by Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons for the official announcement on November 4.....


Mr Hogan said the announcement was “a wonderful day for the Clarence Valley and our timber industry.”


We know the industry was devastated by the bushfires last year and this is all about creating jobs in our local region and it ensures the viability of the industry,” he said.


Along with the capacity to create 20 new jobs, Mr Hogan also said the $20 million project secures the jobs of the current 60 full time employees.


This is terrific,” added Mr Gulaptis.


It means more jobs in the Clarence Valley and Big River Group can continue on with the great work that they do.


Grafton is a timber town, Big River Group have been here for decades, they’re an integral part of our community and we want to see them here well into the future.”…..


The Wagga Wagga facility will cease operations in 2021.


Big River Group Pty Ltd (formerly known as Big River Timbers Pty Ltd) was registered as a company on 28 July 1920.  It original company profile indicates it was possibly a local family-owned business. 


It is now a subsidiary of Big River Industries Ltd, registered as a company on 18 December 2015 in Victoria. It became a public company in January 2017.


Among the current Big River Industries and Big River Group officeholders there is only one who resides in the Clarence Valley.


What the Big River Industries tells its shareholders


"Big River operates Plywood and value adding factories at both Wagga Wagga and Grafton in NSW, areas amongst the most severely impacted regions of the devasting [sic] bushfires experienced over the 2019/20 summer period. Both areas saw significant losses of forest estates as part of these fire events. This has fundamentally changed the resource supply availability to the business, requiring a change to the Company’s manufacturing asset configuration. 


Whilst the Northern NSW log resource at Grafton, that the Company accesses under supply agreements with Forest Corporation of NSW (FCNSW), will recover or can be compensated from other forest compartments within the region." 


In ASX releases Big River Industries Limited admits to revenue of $249 million (up 14%) in 2019-20 and an after tax profit of $4,444,257. It also states an expectation in its last annual report that it will expand in the future.


In the aforementioned quote Big River Industries - which in this state sources some or most of its timber from the state-owned  Forestry Corporation of Australia - is admitting that forests in the Clarence Valley were "severely impacted" by the 2019-2020 bushfire season.


In fact at least half the forest canopy overall was partially or fully affected in New South Wales fire grounds according a NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment report.


Further Big River Industries hints it expects to take advantage of the additional biodiverse forests areas that were opened up by the Berejiklian Coalition Government for the benefit of its Forestry Corporation.


You know, those native tree stands, which coincide with forested land already identified as habitat suitable for or currently containing North Coast koala populations.


Big River Industries may only have two plywood production sites however one of these is at Grafton.


The principal plywood it makes includes timber from native hardwood trees and, the Clarence Valley contains the bulk of native hardwood timber trees remaining in North East New South Wales. These trees are frequently found in predictive koala habitat on Crown and private land.


According to its 2020 annual report Big River Industries has active business interests in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, West Australia and New Zealand.


Although its assets are widespread, the apparent greed of its board of directors and shareholders means that it will not even allow the Clarence Valley two years grace before it starts buying up timber freshly felled in sensitive, biodiverse habitats likely sited outside of state forests. 


Want to tell Big River how unimpressed you are with their actions? 


Here are some contact details: 

Jim Bindon (CEO and Managing Director) Ph: (02) 6644 0903 

e: jbindon@bigrivergroup.com.au 


Or directors Malcolm Jackman (Member of Anacasia Capital Business Advisory Council), Martin Kaplan (investment director of international private equity firm Anacasia Capital), Vicky Papachristos (professional company director) and Brendan York (Chief Financial Officer & Secretary, Enro Group Ltd a international company) c/- 61 Trenayr Road, Junction Hill NSW 2460 Phone: (02) 6644 0900 Fax: (02) 6643 3328 Postal: PO Box 281 Grafton 2460


Then of course there are the wannbe kola killers hiding within international and domestic financial corporations and banks as well as self-managed superannuation funds which brought Big River . 


 

Top 20 Shareholders as of 30 June 2019


The question some valley residents have been voicing recently is why NSW Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis is enthusiastically supporting the Big River Group and, why on behalf of the timber industry he appears to be knowingly seeking the extinction of the koala in 

the Clarence Valley.


It seems to be a social and political relationship with another timber business which impels this politician.


The head of the Notaris family strongly disliked the idea that koala habitat 

should be protected from loggers and his family's sawmill. He even went so far as to publicly oppose a Labor candidate in the Clarence electorate and support the Nationals incumbent Chris Gulaptis during the 2015 

state election campaign because Labor had pledged to create the Great 

Koala National Park.


Chris Gulaptis read his friendship with Spiro Notaris into the NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard on 18 February 2016.


J. Notraris & Sons Pty Ltd is still operating a timber business specialising in hardwood in South Grafton today and, like most 

National Party politicians Gulaptis is more about helping out mates than acting in the public interest.





Sunday, 15 November 2020

NSW Forests War: State of Play November 2020


NSW Greens and a NSW Independent in the state parliament upper house placing the concerns of many ordinary people in regional New South Wales on the record.


Legislative Council Notice Paper No. 67—Thursday 12 November 2020, excerpt:


163. Remapping of old-growth and high-conservation-value public forests: resumption of the adjourned debate (8 August 2019) of the question on the motion of Mr Field:


(1) That this House notes that:


(a) the Government is planning to allow logging in thousands of hectares of old-growth and high-conservation-value public forests on the North Coast that have been off limits for decades,


(b) these forests are rare and important ecosystems which provide irreplaceable habitat for many threatened species, such as koalas, gliders, quolls, frogs and owls,


(c) they have been protected as part of the nationally agreed reserve system for decades and have been granted state significant heritage protection for their historical significance, including to Aboriginal people, aesthetic significance, research potential, rarity and valuable habitat,


(d) this process is being driven by a desire to access more timber, based on a Forestry Corporation calculation that new rules under the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (CIFOA) to protect koala habitat and threatened ecological communities could result in a small timber supply shortfall of up to 8,600 cubic metres per year,


(e) despite advice from the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) that this wood supply shortfall “represent[s] the worst case scenario and may never be realised”, the Premier requested the NRC consider remapping old growth forests and rainforests to meet this shortfall,


(f) a pilot study of 13 areas of state forest found that remapping could open up 78 per cent of protected old growth forest to logging, despite all sites having vitally important habitat,


(g) the Government has committed over $2 million to this remapping process, despite this cost far outweighing the $1.5 million value of buying back the contracts for the maximum claimed timber shortfall,


(h) the funding is being provided by the Government despite the NRC recommending that any remapping and rezoning should be paid for by Forestry Corporation as the beneficiary, and


(i) remapping on private land has already opened up over 29,000 hectares of previously protected old growth forests to logging in recent years.


(2) That this House agrees that remapping old growth forests:


(a) breaks the Government’s commitment to no erosion of environmental values under the new CIFOA,


(b) is based on timber supply impacts that are not verified and probably do not exist, and


(c) is a subsidy to logging which exceeds the value of the extra wood supply.


(3) That this House call on the Government to:


(a) end the remapping and rezoning of old-growth and rainforest on public and private land,


(b) ensure no areas of forest currently protected will be opened up to logging, and


(c) conserve native forests to protect biodiversity, store carbon and provide new tourism and recreational opportunities—Mrs Maclaren-Jones. (15 minutes)


Debate: 1 hour and 45 minutes remaining.


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


749. Ms Faehrmann to move—


(1) That this House notes that:


(a) the National Party has threatened to blow up the government in the midst of bushfire recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis over the new Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) that aims to strengthen protections for koala habitat,


(b) the new Koala SEPP will have little impact on the majority of farmers across the state as it is only triggered at the point of development consent, and


(c) since the 2011 state election the NSW National Party has had ministerial responsibility for water, agriculture and regional New South Wales which has resulted in:


(i) a dramatic increase in the clearing of native vegetation and threatened species habitat with the winding back of native vegetation laws,


(ii) increased logging of koala habitat after the 2019-2020 bushfire season which saw 24 per cent of koala habitat on public land severely impacted and up to 81 per cent of koala habitat burnt in some parts of the state,


(iii) the gross mismanagement of the Murray Darling Basin including selling out downstream communities on the Lower Darling by over-allocating water to their corporate irrigator donors turning a blind eye to ongoing water theft in the Northern Basin including and pushing the Barwon-Darling River system into hydrological drought three years early,


(iv) incompetent management of regional town water supplies that saw multiple regional centres coming close to day zero, in some cases having to rely on bottled water, over the summer of 2019-2020.


(2) That this House acknowledges that the NSW National Party cannot be trusted to manage our land, water and environment and calls on the Government to strip them of their portfolio responsibilities and end their coalition agreement.


(Notice given 15 September 2020—expires Notice Paper No. 73)


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


BACKGROUND


The O’Farrell Coalition Government corporatized state-owned Forests NSW on 1 January 2013 and renamed the organisation Forestry Corporation of NSW. The company is headquartered at West Pennant Hills in metropolitan Sydney, New South Wales.


It is one of the largest forestry companies in Australia today and produces around 14 per cent of the timber harvested in Australia.


This corporation manages est. 2 million hectares of state forests, along with around 200,000 hectares of softwood plantations and 35,000 hectares of eucalypt plantations.


Est. 30,00 hectares of state forest are harvested for timber each year by more than 100 contractors who undertake harvesting and haulage and other aspects of its operations on behalf of the Forestry Corporation.


The combined take from state forests and plantations is around 50 million tonnes of timber annually.


Nominally all individuals and groups in the state are considered potential stakeholders in the Forestry Corporation of NSW. Except that all regional residents get for being stakeholders is an ongoing loss of both wildlife habitat and forest trees in the districts in which the Corporation operates.


The Corporation’s native timber harvesting is focussed on north east NSW and it is looking to forestry plans on private land and logging in currently protected forest areas to supply it with native timber into the future.


In October 2020 the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) commenced five prosecutions against Forestry Corporation of NSW in the Land and Environment Court for allegedly felling trees in protected areas in northern NSW, including trees in core koala habitat in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest.


This is not the first time the Forestry Corporation has been caught allegedly breaching the terms of its licence and I suspect it will not be the last.


Commercial logging is not the only issue of concern. So is land clearing generally.


According to the NSW Valuer-General’s Office, on 1 July 2019 there were 2,603,793 individual property lots in New South Wales.


Of these 238,842 are private properties zoned rural and classified as either non-urban, primary production, rural landscape or rural small holdings.


The NSW North Coast contains 56,095 or 23.4% of all these private rural property lots, the North-West contains 14,143 lots, Northern Tablelands 11,864, Murray 10,353, Hunter 15,950, Hunter Coast 6,357, Central West 20,688, Central Tablelands 18,972, Riverina 17,924, South Coast 18,974, South East Regional 20,164, Sydney Central 3, Sydney Coast South 11, and Sydney Coast North 1,208. 


Currently owners of those private rural properties which are situated near bushland in 10/50 Entitlement Clearing Areas have an almost unfettered right to clear trees within 10 metres of their house and farm sheds, as well as underlying vegetation under trees for a further 50 metres, as a bushfire protection measure.


However, in addition to this proven effective bushfire measure, now the Berejiklian Government is also progressing another amendment introduced to the Legislative Assembly on 10 November 2020 - this time an amendment to the Rural Fires Act 1979 titled Bushfires Legislation Amendment Bill 2020.


This amendment if passed will allow the owners of all 238,842 of these private rural properties in New South Wales to clear trees and vegetation within 25 metres of a property’s boundary with adjoining land and, lays down processes so that these landowners can ensure their immediate neighbours do the same - thus making the land clearance in effect 50 metres wide.


A specific measure that does not appear to be included in recommendations found in the Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry dated 31 July 2020.


A potential 50 metre open space on all four sides of up to 56,095 private rural properties on the NSW North Coast from the Mid-Coast to the Queensland border represents a significant tree cover and habitat loss.


Of course after 232 years of land clearing this degree of native vegetation clearing is no longer required on a great many properties because barely a tree stand survives in some districts.


This is an aerial view of a section of the Moree Plains showing its typical landscape in 2020:




According to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, by mid 2018 bulldozing of bushland nearly tripled around Moree and Collarenebri after safeguards which existed in Native Vegetation Act 2003 were repealed by the NSW Baird Coalition Government, with 5,246 ha of Koala habitat destroyed at a rate of 14 ha per day in 2017-18.


Moree has a history of opposition to any checks on the ability to clear land. In 2014 this sadly led to the killing of an Office of Environment and Heritage compliance officer and the later conviction of a prominent landowner for murder with a sentence of 35 years imprisonment.


The Guardian, 27 March 2020:


Land-clearing approvals in New South Wales have increased nearly 13-fold since the Coalition government relaxed laws in 2016, according to a secret report to the state cabinet by its Natural Resources Commission.


The report, marked “Cabinet in Confidence”, was commissioned by the government in January 2019 under an agreement between the Liberals and Nationals to review land clearing if applications exceeded 20,000ha a year. The commission handed it to the government in July, but released it only after the Independent MP Justin Field threatened legal action…..


The commission found more than 37,000ha were approved to be cleared last financial year, almost 13 times greater than the annual average rate across the decade to 2016-17. Approvals jumped more than 70% after the rules covering land clearing changed at the start of 2019, rising from 25,247ha in the final quarter of 2018 to 43,553ha in the first three months of the new year. 


The commission found the extent of the land clearing and what is described as “thinning for pasture expansion” was putting the state’s biodiversity at risk. The government had promised to protect between two and four times as much land as it cleared, but had failed to do that in the majority of the state. 


It also highlighted the lack of an effective monitoring and compliance regime to ensure laws were enforced. In a six-month stretch between August 2017 and January 2018 there was 7,100ha of unexplained land clearing. It was 60% of the clearing in that time.... 


The Nature Conservation Council of NSW said the report showed the National party was incompetent. Its chief executive, Chris Gambian, said it was a damning assessment of how the government had handled what was supposed to be a signature reform. 


“This report is alarming because land clearing is a key threat pushing most of the state’s threatened species towards extinction,” he said. 


“Koalas and other vulnerable species are being smashed from every direction, by bushfires, drought, logging and land clearing. Land clearing is one of the few threats we can tackle directly, but the National party is preventing this government from doing what is needed.” 


Gambian called on the government to release regulatory maps that were still not available two years after promised.....


Friday, 13 November 2020

NSW Nationals Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous Bill 2020 pulled in NSW Legislative Council after what appears to have been a Liberal revolt

 


Local government and community reaction to this bill has seen it removed from the list of Current Government Bills before the Legislative Council on Thursday, 12 November 2020.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party lodged amendments yesterday morning which did nothing except confirm the worst features of this bill.

The war to protect both koalas and forests continues.......


Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Concerns Raised By The Intent And Wording Of Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020


Draft copy of a letter sent as an email by two Clarence Valley residents to 24 members of the Legislative Assembly, so that none of these honourable members can plead ignorance in the future if they pass this piece of environmental vandalism into law.

The letter was not sent to Liberal and Nationals members of the Upper House given it concerns a government bill originally presented to NSW Legislative Assembly by their confederates there and, therefore were thought not inclined to lend an ear to residents from affected regional areas. 



Members of the Legislative Council

Parliament of New South Wales

Macquarie Street

Sydney NSW 2000



8 November 2020



ATTENTION

Mark Banasiak MLC, Robert Borsak MLC, Abigail Boyd MLC,

Mark Buttigieg MLC, Anthony D’Adam MLC Greg Donnelly MLC,

Cate Faehrmann MLC, Justin Field MLC, John Graham MLC,

Courtney Houssos MLC, Emma Hurst MLC, Rose Jackson MLC,

Mark Latham MLC, Daniel Mookhey MLC, Tara Moriarty MLC,

Fred Nile MLC, Mark Pearson MLC, Peter Primrose MLC,

Rod Roberts MLC, Adam Searle MLC, Walt Secord MLC,

Penny Sharpe MLC, David Shoebridge MLC, Mick Veitch MLC.




Dear Members,


Re: Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020


SUMMARY: Passing bad law does not produce good outcomes. It is not in the public interest to extinguish state protection of the Koala from the bulk of public and private land in New South Wales. Neither is it advisable to extinguish on those same lands the protections afforded to persons and native wildlife by other existing state legislation.


On or about 10 September 2020 the media reported that the NSW Parliamentary National Party was strongly opposed to that version of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 in force on 3 September 2020.


However, within a matter of weeks an agreement had been reached with the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party that this state environmental planning policy would be amended to ensure that the policy did not impinge on the rights of farmers “to farm without encumbrance from new koala planning laws”.


This was how changes to NSW koala habitat protection policy was consistently put to the state electorate by government spokespersons at the time.


Indeed, State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 was amended on 16 October 2020.


The amended State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP):

  • Retains its new commencement date of 1 March 2020;

  • Doesn’t apply to - (b) land dedicated under the Forestry Act 2012 as State forest or a flora reserve. An exemption also contained in the previous 3 September 2020 version of this SEPP;

  • Only applies to 83 named local government areas out of a total of 128 local government areas and to - (a) in the koala management area specified in Schedule 1 opposite the local government area, or (b) if more than 1 koala management area is specified, in each of those koala management areas. Clauses also included in the previous version of this SEPP;

  • Only applies to land classified as core koala habitat which is over 1 hectare in size. This applied to land in the previous version of the SEPP as well;

  • Doesn’t apply to any land on which a development application has already been lodged, as was the case under the previous version of this SEPP;

  • Tightens the definition of core koala habitat so that a higher level of proof is required at this clause - “(a) an area of land which has been assessed by a suitably qualified and experienced person in accordance with the Guideline as being highly suitable koala habitat and where koalas are recorded as being present at the time of assessment of the land as highly suitable koala habitat”;

  • Made more land exempt from its provisions - “(c) land on which biodiversity certification has been conferred, and is in force, under Part 8 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016”;

  • Allows larger buildings or buildings on a different part of a post-bushfire residential lot by repealing - “(b) the replacement dwelling house is within the existing building footprint”.


The NSW Government decided to introduce a separate Bill which sought to go further than the amended SEPP and which the government members of state parliament misrepresented at the time as only removing that SEPP from farmland


This bill, Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, seeks:


(I) to remove all local government areas from the protection of State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 with the exception of core koala habita in just 5 of the original 28 local government areas covered by the current version of the SEPP. These are Ballina, Coffs Harbour City, Kempsey, Lismore and Port Stephens;


(ii) to extinguish State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 on all public and private land in the state, with the exception of land within the NSW National Parks estate, declared wilderness areas, dedicated flora reserves, declared heritage land, land declared to have outstanding biodiversity, declared World Heritage properties and, certain dedicated or reserved lots of Crown Land;


(iii) to establish as law clauses in the bill which allow the commercial logging of native trees to continue unimpeded on private land and which extend the life of private forestry agreements to 30 years duration, thereby effectively circumventing a planned government review of the private forestry system;


(iv) such logging on private land to be constrained only by a private forestry plan whose conditions may be altered over time. The NSW Government has decided not to renew the NSW Forest Agreements for the Upper North East, Lower North East and Eden regions lapsed on 4 March 2019.;


(v) to define as “allowable activity land” suitable for native timber clearing as landholding which:

(a) is in an area of the State to which Part 5A applies, and

(b) is or was wholly or partly in a rural land use zone and the whole or part of which has been

rezoned as Zone E2, Zone E3 or Zone E4, and

(c) is used for primary production”.


(vi) to permit clearing of native vegetation for allowable activities specified in Schedule 5A even if there is no approval or other authority for the clearing required by or under another Act or if it is in contravention of a provision of another Act, including the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016;


(vii) to allow rural land zoned E2 (Environmental Conservation), E3 (Environmental Management) or E4 (Environmental Living) under an environmental planning instrument to be cleared of native timber, even if all or any sections of such land was previously protected under provisions in Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 or the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, provided the land owner/lessee asserts the land will be used for primary purposes; and


(viii) to allow clearing of native vegetation on land to which State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 would normally apply if under this bill such landholding is now classified as “allowable activity land”.


Concerns Raised By The The Intent And Wording Of Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020


The major concerns can be found in the NSW Parliament’s Legislation Review Committee report of 20 October 2020, which in itself appears to imperfectly understand the impact of logging of native timber on private land:


The Bill seeks to remove several requirements for land owners to obtain development consent under Parts 4 and 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the EPA Act).

In doing so, the Committee notes that the Bill would remove local councils' ability to assess development applications, engage with relevant neighbour and community stakeholders, and make recommendations regarding the proposed development changes. It may thereby impact on the rights of these stakeholders to participate in such processes and be consulted about issues that may affect them.

[My yellow highlighting]


However, the Committee acknowledges that these changes are to streamline the approval process of private and native forestry clearing for landholders, who are also required to obtain separate approval from Local Land Services. In the second reading speech, the Minister also noted that private native forestry is a low-impact activity occurring rarely on agricultural land and is not a permanent land use change. Under these circumstances, the Committee makes no further comment.”


It is a significant concern that the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 will deprive local councils, ratepayers and residents of the ability to sustainably manage land development in rural and regional New South Wales.


It is noted that the Legislative Review Committee is reporting on the clearing of native timber aspect of the bill without commenting on the extinguishing of State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 on agricultural land and other land on which private forestry agreements exist or are sought.


It is also noted that although the Legislative Review Committee report states that approval for land clearing is required from Local Land Services it is not clear that the Review Committee took into consideration the number of exemptions from its provisions are provided to landholders under the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020.


This raises another very significant concern because clearing of such land when it exists within 100 -150 kilometres inland from the NSW coastline will in all probability represent a permanent change in land use.


Land in this area contains the entire estimated range of koala habitat land.


It also contains the bulk of land identified by Forestry NSW as suitable for logging under future private forestry agreements and all the exisiting timber mills in the state.


The land indentified as good logging land on the North Coast stretches for est. 286 kms from Coffs Harbour to the NSW-Qld border and up to 100-135 kms inland.


Extent of harvestable timber on private land and operating timber mills prior to June 2019


It is of some concern in a region where sudden torrential rainfall can occur to note that this map indicates that much of the harvestable timber is on higher sloping land. Given this timber is also spread across thousands of individual holdings this concern is amplified by the ability of Land Services or the Environmental Protection Agency to adequately police the level of land clearing and/or logging the Bill before the Legislative Council appears to allow.


Prior to the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020, the NSW North Coast had a diverse array of forest types and most of the tree cover was estimated to be between >20 to <30 metres and >30 to <40 metres in height across an est. 20,706 square kilometres, according to the NSW Dept. of Primary Industries (DPI).


Extent of forest cover in north-east New South Wales prior to 2019-2020 bushfires



Of the estimated 6.30 million hectares of North Coast forest which was thought to be standing in 2018-19 this is how much was impacted by fire:


Basemap from ArcGIS Online GEEBAM v3.0 (03/02/2020) © State Government of NSW and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment 2020


At least half the forest canopy overall was partially or fully affected in these fire grounds according a NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment report.


Mapping of bushfire affected forests and properties prior to these bushfires which had a ‘High’ to ‘Very High’ suitability for timber production are located within the same est. 286 kms long by 100-135kms wide area of north east New South Wales.


It is of great concern that both the depleted forest landscape and what might remains of harvestable timber both occupy the same land area clearly identified as koala habitat.


Joint EPA-Dept. of Industry Forest Science Unit predictive mapping of remaining NSW koala habitat based on sighting records, vegetation, soils and climate.


Koala Habitat


Koala habitat exists across much of North East New South Wales. It is of varying quality and quantity.


Core koala habitat is not consolidated. Pockets of core koala habitat are frequently scattered amongst non-core habitat.


Koalas travel between these core areas – often using non-core habitat as travel routes which supply shelter and feeding opportunities.


In North East New South Wales non-core habitat is also used by koala on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.


Local communities in the Clarence Valley, which is being removed form the protection afforded by the current Koala Habitat Protection SEPP by the proposed Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, is a case in point.


Take Iluka on the banks of the Clarence River. It is fringed by and includes within the village area undeveloped open forest in a mix of Crown and private land.


Here are some of koala sighted there in the last 10 years:


Photograph supplied by Iluka resident Gabrielle Barto

Photograph of a koala in search of a tree at Iluka supplied


Another Lower Clarence area where koalas are easily found is the village of Lawrence and here are koalas snapped in 2019:


Photograph of Lawrence koala supplied


Photograph of koala mid-canopy & circled in black supplied


Elsewhere in the Lower Clarence in 2017:



We respectfully ask the twenty-four members of the Legislative Council listed at the top of this letter to consider the provisions of Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 in light of:


  • the shrinking boundaries of the forested landscape in North East New South Wales from Coffs Harbour to the NSW-Qld border;

  • the potential loss of local government control of significant aspects of development of forested land and the rolling impacts that may have on koala habitat and koalas numbers; and

  • the potential for local extinction of koala in the Clarence Valley because land in this local government area was deliberately removed from the protection afforded by the current Koala Habitat Protection SEPP under provisions in Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020.


In anticipation and appreciation of your assistance with this matter.


Yours sincerely,


[two signatures redacted]