Showing posts with label agriculture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label agriculture. Show all posts

Friday, 29 September 2017

"As our land subsides and cracks open and our permanent creek is sucked dry, I can feel our patience towards the miners doing the same"

The Land, 24 September 2017:

Environmental hypocrisy
FOR the past 20 years, my husband and I have experienced first-hand the mining industry’s attitude to impacted farmers and to rehabilitation. 
Now, their recent attacks on environmental charities makes my blood boil. As the unsuspecting neighbours of the Wambo underground coal mine near Singleton, our beef cattle business’ productivity has been cut almost in half.
As our land subsides and cracks open and our permanent creek is sucked dry, I can feel our patience towards the miners doing the same. 
Despite decades of word-fests, reports and promises, we have seen no real action at all from the mining company to rehabilitate our land, or our creek water.        
It turns out our experience is not isolated; only nine per cent of all mining land across Australia has been successfully rehabilitated. Across Australia there are massive voids filling with toxic water, poisoned or destroyed creeks and land subsiding. And the mining industry’s solution to their gaping mess: get environmental charities to clean it up!
Currently there are reforms being proposed to the Tax Deductibility Status of all sectors of charities by Federal Treasury.  
The miners see this as their chance to not only duck their own responsibilities, but to also pass the buck to environmental charities. The changes promoted by the mining sector, single out environmental charities only, for them to spend half their time on physical works to clean up the toxic messes created by the mining industry.
The hypocrisy is astounding. When I saw that one organisation close to my heart, the Lock The Gate Alliance, was under attack by these reforms, I was sickened. Without them, our fight to rehabilitate our farm would have been a lot harder.  
Their help with connecting us with politicians and government officials, getting our story into the media and sharing experiences of other mine-impacted people has been priceless. 
Most importantly they help to keep us sane, giving us hope that one day we will break the impasse of inaction by the miners.
We earn our money, we pay taxes and we can choose to support charities that we believe are helping to create a better world. 
They should be left alone to do their work without these extra burdens, designed to feather the nest of multinational mining companies.
Wambo mine, and hundreds like it across Australia, must factor the cost of properly rehabilitating land and water into their cost of doing business.  
Otherwise it is a sham business model that the community is subsidising.
The proposed changes could mean Lock the Gate would have less time to help advocate for the rights of farmers to produce clean food for Australia. 
Instead, they’d be forced out into our paddocks with shovels, filling in the sink holes made by the mines.
We need groups like Lock the Gate holding the mining companies to account. 
I appreciate the help in getting my voice heard as a food grower. We need this to be a public debate in our cities.
If these changes go through, our support of Lock the Gate would be wasted on endless clean up jobs, while the miners continue to make profits and mighty mess, skirting any legal responsibilities for rehabilitation. And I for one find that an abomination.
Miners, clean up your own mess and leave farmers and Lock the Gate alone.
Janet Fenwick,

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

What Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan did not tell the Grafton Chamber of Commerce's February breakfast meeting when he was asked about foreign ownership of land and overseas workers

This was the incumbent Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan as reported in The Daily Examiner on 22 February 2016:

A member of the chamber executive, Mark Butler, asked Mr Hogan what the government was doing to combat countries like China buying up large tracts of Australian land and the prospect of those owners employing Australian workers……

Mr Hogan said the government, led by the Nationals, was fighting foreign ownership.

This included setting a minimum property sale of $15 million before the sale was brought to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Mr Hogan said the limit in 2013 had been $250 million.

"Even then I think that's ($15 million) too high, but at least it's cumulative so, if they buy an $8 million and a $7 million property, they appear on the board's radar," he said.

What he didn’t tell this collection of potential voters in the forthcoming federal election is that investors from free trade agreement countries such as Chilean, Chinese (once the trade agreement comes into effect), Japanese, New Zealand, South Korean and United States investors are not automatically held to that $15 million threshold.

Yes, the $15 million threshold for purchase of agricultural land is cumulative for investors from China, Japan, Korea, but the agribusiness threshold for China, Japan, and Korea is $55 million, based on the value of the consideration for the acquisition and the total value of other interests held by the foreign person [with associates] in the entity. While the agribusiness threshold for Chile, New Zealand and United States is $1,094 million.

Other foreign investors can purchase agribusinesses up to a $55 million threshold, based on the value of the consideration for the acquisition and the total value of other interests held by the foreign person [with associates] in the entity.

For investors from non-free trade agreement countries Singapore and Thailand, where agricultural land is to be used wholly and exclusively for a primary production business the threshold is $50 million (otherwise the land is not agricultural land).

In addition, Foreign persons (including foreign government investors) are able to apply for an exemption certificate to cover a program of acquisitions of interests in agricultural land.
Exemption certificates for agricultural land would generally be considered where:
* the total proposed value of acquisitions over a three year period does not exceed $100 million (or if acquiring for use for an activity other than agriculture, $30 million). This includes acquisitions made individually or under an exemption certificate;
* the regions or localities where the agricultural land in which interests are to be acquired are defined clearly.
[Australian Government, Foreign Investment Review Board, Monetary thresholds, 2016]

Potentially this means a private investor from China or a Chinese corporation can buy farm lands valued at up to a cumulative $100 million over three years before appearing on the Turnbull Government's own political radar. 

All of the aforementioned provisions leaving plenty of wriggle room for investment in agricultural land and businesses and definitely not what Kevin Hogan was spinning the good folk of Grafton last month.


Kevin Hogan continues to demonstrate that he either doesn’t understand his government’s own rules concerning foreign ownership or he is deliberately misleading his electorate.

ABC News, 9 March 2016:

A National Party MP is hoping local jobs will not be lost as a result of a Chinese buy-out of north coast NSW macadamia farms.

Four properties covering 380 hectares at Dunoon near Lismore, and formerly run by US-based Hancock Farms, have been bought by a Chinese group known as "Discovery".

The member for Page Kevin Hogan said he was aware of rumours of a sale.
Mr Hogan said a Free Trade Agreement with China did not mean the door was now open to foreign workers.

"It's a well-known fact within the free trade agreements that we do with any country, not just China, because let's not just make this a China thing, that any company and there's been companies that have owned Australian assets for 200 years and with every free trade agreement the work has to be offered to Australians first," Mr Hogan said.

Kevin Hogan said any foreign investment greater than $15 million had to be approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board, and he was waiting on information on whether the macadamia sale was vetted.

"We made an election commitment to lower it from the ridiculous amount of $ 250 million when it used to be triggered to look at a purchase if it was in the national interest, we have lowered that from 250 to 15 [million dollars] so if this entity has triggered over $15 million it would have absolutely gone before the Foreign Investment Review Board," Mr Hogan said.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

This is what Metgasco and other coal seam gas miners want to turn the Northern Rivers into....

If you don’t’ want this to happen – at the next round of elections vote out those local government councillors and state or federal MPs who support (or fail to genuinely oppose) the coal seam gas industry.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

NSW Farmers ask Abbott Government & Minister Macfarlane: "Why should CSG extraction take precedence over protection of land and water and basic needs like food and fibre?"

Media Release
18 September 2013

Setting the record straight on CSG concerns in NSW

NSW Farmers today expressed concern that newly appointed Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane was already dismissing opposition to the coal seam gas industry in NSW.

Association president Fiona Simson said the minister’s comments were very concerning especially when he had not yet spoken to all relevant stakeholders on the CSG issue.

“Farmers and communities in NSW have deep and genuine concerns about the effect this industry is already having and projected to have on agricultural land and water and we do not think it is fair for those concerns to be labelled politically nor emotionally driven,” she said.

“We are however encouraged by the Coalition’s Policy for Resources and Energy in particular the CSG co-existence conditions which state that access to prime agricultural land should only be allowed with the farmer’s agreement and that there should be no damage to the underground water supply.

“NSW Farmers does not deny that the Queensland CSG industry has progressed much quicker than in NSW. But the geography of Queensland is different and what works there will not necessarily work here and I can assure him that not everyone over the border is ecstatic about how the CSG industry has developed there.

“The NSW legislative framework in relation to CSG is severely lacking – this is something we have been saying for years.

“We are not against the industry but we are seeking balanced outcomes. Why should CSG extraction take precedence over protection of land and water and basic needs like food and fibre?

“NSW Farmers wants adequate protections for agricultural land and water and we want our questions, legitimate questions, answered.

Ms Simson said the federal Coalition’s agriculture policy about building better stakeholder relations was encouraging and she was keen to take them up on that.

“However, comments like these are a concern so early on in a new government’s first term,” she concluded.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Coal Seam Gas: an object lesson for Northern Rivers communities is coming out of Colorado USA

These photographs and videos set out below are coming out of Colorado in the United States and, show just part of the gas and oil fields flooded in September 2013.

Is this the level of risk Prime Minister Tony Abbott, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, Metgasco Limited, and its main backer ERM Power, are willing to expose the flood-prone Northern Rivers region to?

Colorado frack-site flooding - September 2013 from Mateo Albaricoque on Vimeo.

The Daily Examiner 19 September 2013:

So Metgasco is heartened by what the Liberal/Nationals governments are saying at state and federal level and plans to "ride a rising tide" to corporate prosperity on the backs of local communities.
Perhaps its board members should give some thought to both past and recent North Coast flood event history.
Then look at those news photographs of literally one thousand plus flooded gas wells, miles of broken pipelines, drifting condensate tanks and floating chemical barrels contaminating Colorado countryside right now.
Of which one Weld County, Colorado resident stated in the media:
“We probably shouldn’t have had the oil and gas development in a flood plain to begin with. That would have been the prudent thing. But, it’s done now. Now we have deal with the result of having made that decision.”
I can assure Metgasco that Northern Rivers residents are noting the lessons those photographs teach.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Hi! I'm Terry from ERM Power and I'm here to supply your business with electricity - but don't ask me where it comes from

This is Terry McCauley from ERM Business Energy, a commercial unit of ERM Power Limited. 

The ever helpful Terry would like to sign up your own manufacturing/retail business, your child’s school, the medical clinic you attend, the local council and government agencies in your area, and sundry other businesses as ERM customers if you live in New South Wales.

Terry is very keen to help ‘his’ company expand its core business in this state from the 26 per cent of the NSW electricity supply market it held in January 2013.

He has The Energy You Need!

Or does he?

What Terry is careful not to say is the word Metgasco.

Because ERM Power is well aware that communities right across the NSW Northern Rivers are not happy with that mining company’s plan to turn parts of our unique environment and valued agricultural land into gasfields, which will reduce the region’s groundwater resources and possibly irreversibly contaminate aquifers and water bores near or within those same gasfields and/or pollute surface water courses.

ERM is not just aware because its directors and staff read the newspaper or watch the nightly news, no ERM is aware because it is now the largest shareholder in Metgasco Limited, as ERM Power Limited, Energy Resource Managers Pty Ltd and Trevor St. Baker.

By virtue of its share acquisitions over a number of years ERM Power and Messrs. Tony Bellas (Chairman, Non Exec. Director), Philip St Baker (Managing Director, CEO), Martin Greenberg (Non Exec. Director), Brett Heading (Non Exec. Director), Antonio (Tony) Mario Iannello (Non Exec. Director), Trevor St Baker (Non Exec. Director) and Peter Jans (General Counsel) would have considerable influence on any future decisions Megasco may make with regard to coal seam gas exploration and commercial production on the NSW North Coast.

It is probably no coincidence that in the days that ERM finally became Metgasco's largest shareholder, Metgasco announced that it was not capping and abandoning all its wells on the NSW North Coast and was keeping open the possibility of starting coal seam gas production approximately 10 kms west north west of Casino.

In July 2012 ERM Power told the Australian Stock Exchange that its strategy is to gain a foothold in the east coast gas market, consider conventional/coal seam gas production as well as generation opportunities and achieve the same success it achieved in West Australia. (1)

These are photographs of ERM Power-Empire Oil & Gas-Wharf Resources joint venture gasfield sites in the coastal Perth Basin, West Australia:

 So if an ERM Business Energy representative makes contact with you – please take time to consider what you value about your regional lifestyle and whether ERM, through its interest in Metgasco, may be intent on ruining that lifestyle for you, your family, your friends and neighbours, purely for its own commercial gain.

Say NO to ERM.

(1) ERM Power also has an interest in Red Sky Energy Ltd and Clarence Moreton Resources, two other coal seam gas exploration companies operating on the NSW North Coast.
It also holds equity interests in eight petroleum exploration tenements covering in excess of 10,000 km² in the Western Australian Perth Basin, which include conventional gas, condensate, oil and shale gas prospects. 
One of ERM's business units ERM Power Retail Pty Ltd is an authorized gas retailer.

* ERM gas field photographs from Google Images

Thursday, 15 March 2012

One in the eye for Monsanto & Co

The Australian 12 March 2010:

A SALT-RESISTANT wheat variety developed by an Australian team through old-fashioned cross-breeding rather than genetic modification is increasing crop yields by up to 25 per cent in salinity-prone areas, and could help counter food security concerns.

Researchers from Adelaide University's Waite Institute, the CSIRO and the NSW government first isolated the gene in an ancient relative of durum wheat -- used to make couscous and pasta flour -- 15 years ago.

The breakthrough was published in the international journal Nature Biotechnology overnight…..researchers had spent more than a decade using traditional cross-breeding techniques to blend the 10,000-year-old durum with its modern cousin to increase its salt resistance without genetic modification…..

Rana Munns, Richard A James &  Bo Xu, Asmini Athman, Simon J Conn, Charlotte Jordans, Caitlin S Byrt,  Ray A Hare, Stephen D Tyerman, Mark Tester, Darren Plett and Matthew Gilliham are to be congratulated for the research behind Wheat grain yield on saline soils is improved by an ancestral Na+ transporter gene in the March issue of  Nature Biotechnology (R.M., R.A.J., R.A.H., M.T., D.P. and M.G. conceived the project and planned experiments. R.M. and M.G. supervised the research. B.X. performed all Xenopus, yeast and protoplast experiments and R.A.J. performed field research. C.S.B. performed wheat genotyping. S.D.T. assisted with electrophysiology experiments. S.J.C., A.A. and C.J. performed in situ PCR and qPCR. M.G., D.P., R.A.J. and R.M. wrote the manuscript. All authors commented on the manuscript).

Dr. Rana Munns is Chief Research Scientist at the C.S.I.R.O. and began her investigations many years ago - her profile is here.
The C.S.I.R.O. is reported to have conducted field trials of durum wheat varieties containing new salt tolerant genes in northern NSW in 2009-10.

This is science which seeks  to improve cereal crops but does not risk contaminating wild grass populations with novel genetically modified organisms which never existed before in nature. It potentially does not have the same exploitative limitations imposed on farmers by biotech industry giants like Monsanto & Co.

As there are 12 types of groundwater flow systems contributing to dryland salinity across Australia, research into salt resistant food crops is also very relevant to national food security.

So it is more than a pity that the C.S.I.R.O. is looking at an additional use for this ancient gene - adding it into the GMO research it already conducts on wheat and other food crops. [ABC AM 12 March 2012]

It appears that once an Australian scientific agency gets into bed with Monsanto it is for life.

* This post is part of North Coast Voices' effort to keep Monsanto's blog monitor (affectionately known as Mr. Monsanto) in long-term employment.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Biosecurity: a lesson begging to be learned

With free trade agreements placing so much pressure on Australia’s biosecurity regimes, it is well to remember that failure to stop the introduction and spread of agricultural pests and diseases is often the norm elsewhere.

FRESNO, Calif. - Dozens of foreign insects and plant diseases slipped undetected into the United States in the years after 9/11, when authorities were so focused on preventing another attack that they overlooked a pest explosion that threatened the quality of the nation's food supply.
At the time, hundreds of agricultural scientists responsible for stopping invasive species at the border were reassigned to anti-terrorism duties in the newly formed Homeland Security Department — a move that scientists say cost billions of dollars in crop damage and eradication efforts from California vineyards to Florida citrus groves.
The consequences come home to consumers in the form of higher grocery prices, substandard produce and the risk of environmental damage from chemicals needed to combat the pests.
An Associated Press analysis of inspection records found that border-protection officials were so engrossed in stopping terrorists that they all but ignored the country's exposure to destructive new insects and infections — a quietly growing menace that has been attacking fruits and vegetables and even prized forests ever since.
"Whether they know it or not, every person in the country is affected by this, whether by the quality or cost of their food, the pesticide residue on food or not being able to enjoy the outdoors because beetles are killing off the trees," said Mark Hoddle, an entomologist specializing in invasive species at the University of California, Riverside.
Homeland Security officials acknowledge making mistakes and say they are now working to step up agricultural inspections at border checkpoints, airports and seaports.