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

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Australian National Audit Office found the federal environment department has been ineffective in managing risks to the environment, that its management of assessments and approvals is not effective, and that it is not managing conflicts of interest in the work it undertakes


The Guardian, June 2020:

The government has failed in its duty to protect the environment in its delivery of Australia’s national conservation laws, a scathing review by the national auditor general has found.

The Australian National Audit Office found the federal environment department has been ineffective in managing risks to the environment, that its management of assessments and approvals is not effective, and that it is not managing conflicts of interest in the work it undertakes.

The report also finds a correlation between funding and staffing cuts to the department and a blow-out in the time it is taking to make decisions, as highlighted by Guardian Australia.

The review, which comes in advance of the interim report on Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, has prompted renewed calls for the establishment of an independent national environmental regulator.

It is the sixth audit of the department’s administration of the EPBC Act.

The report examined how effective the department had been in administering referrals, assessments and approvals under the Act, which is the main decision-making work for developments likely to have a significant impact on nationally significant species and ecosystems.

Despite being subject to multiple reviews, audits and parliamentary inquiries since the commencement of the Act, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s administration of referrals, assessments and approvals of controlled actions under the EPBC Act is not effective,” the report concludes.

Among its findings, the auditor found the department could not demonstrate that the environmental conditions it set for developments were enough to prevent unacceptable risk to Australia’s natural environment.

Of the approvals examined, 79% contained conditions that were noncompliant with procedures or contained clerical or administrative errors, reducing the department’s ability to monitor the condition or achieve the intended environmental outcome.

The report also found that a document the department is required to produce to show how the proposed environmental conditions would produce the desired environmental protections was in most cases not being written.

From a random sample of 29 approvals from 2015 to 2018, the auditor found this document had not been produced in 26 cases.

In further findings, the audit concluded:
  • environmental assessments were not being undertaken in full compliance with procedures and decisions were being overturned in court;
  • the department is failing to keep key documents related to its decisions;
  • the department has been failing to meet statutory timeframes for decisions. This has been markedly the case since 2014-15 when the number of decisions made within legal timeframes dropped from 60% to 5% in 2018-19. This correlated with cuts to staff in the department who could assess development proposals
  • the department is not properly monitoring if developers are meeting their environmental conditions;
  • briefing packages written by the department when assessing environmental management plans for developments did not contain any consideration of other statutory documents under the Act that are supposed to protect threatened species, including recovery plans;
  • the department has not established any guidance or quality control measures for assessing the effectiveness of environmental offsets. It also has not mapped where all of its approved environmental offsets are, meaning they cannot be properly tracked;
  • agricultural clearing is rarely being referred to the department for assessment under national law;
  • potential conflicts of interest are not being managed, despite the existence of sound oversight structures;
  • the average overrun of statutory timeframes for approval decisions in 2018-19 was 116 days.
This report is a scathing indictment of the federal government’s administration of our national environment law and highlights why we need a stronger law and a new independent regulator,” said James Trezise, a policy analyst at the Australian Conservation Foundation....

In advance of the interim report, due next week, the government has expressed a desire to streamline approvals and cut so-called “green tape”.

But environment groups said the audit confirmed Australia’s laws were “fundamentally broken”.

The Wilderness Society’s Suzanne Milthorpe said the findings showed a “catastrophic failure” to administer the law and protect the environment.

This report shows that the natural and cultural heritage that is core to Australia’s identity is being put at severe risk by the government’s unwillingness to fix problems they’ve been warned about for years,” she said.

It shows that even when the department is aware of high risks of environmental wrongdoing, like with deforestation from agricultural expansion, they are unwilling to act.

The Morrison government announced last week that they want to load this failed system up even further by slashing approval times in the name of slashing ‘green tape’. But this audit shows that the current system is not capable of making good decisions, let alone quick ones.”....

Note

Referrals, Assessments and Approvals of Controlled Actions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 [the ANAO audit] can be found at 
https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/referrals-assessments-and-approvals-controlled-actions-under-the-epbc-act.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis: a portrait of political ignorance


Extract from an email sent by NSW Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis (former surveyor, property developer, local government councillor) on 20 May 2020:

Timber harvesting operations take place in around one per cent of State forests each year, which is around 0.1 per cent of forested land in NSW.

Well managed, sustainable timber harvesting operations provide the essential renewable building products our communities need to rebuild following the recent fire season, from power poles, to timber bridge and house frames.

By ensuring an ongoing wood supply, we will help maintain local jobs when they are most needed and meet the critical timber supply needed to rebuild our local communities.

Our forests have been harvested and regrown many times over the past 100 years. Importantly, they have also successfully recovered from bushfires before.

A small number of selective harvesting operations that commenced prior to the fires have continued under the strict regulations governing native forestry in NSW.

These rules require Forestry Corporation to set aside large areas of habitat in every operation they carry out. These rules have been developed by expert panels of scientists to ensure wildlife populations continue to thrive alongside sustainable timber harvesting.

However, the primary focus is on salvaging what timber can be recovered from those badly burnt parts of the forest. These are areas so severely affected by fires they are largely devoid of any habitat. Forestry Corporation is also preparing to embark on a massive re-planting program to recover this estate.

Well, how does one reply to a pottage of misleading statements about a timber industry rife with rule breaking and environmental vandalism?

Firstly the Forestry Corporation of NSW controls more than two million hectares of native and planted state forest in New South Wales and, annually it takes an est. 2.5 million m3 of sawlogs and around 2 million tonnes of pulpwood from these forests, which means it supplies an est 14% of Australia's timber product. This year to date the Forestry Corporation has harvested est. 1.21 million m3 of timber product.

Secondly, on a regular basis the timber industry racks up warnings and fines. As little as four weeks ago the NSW Environment Protection Authority announced that the Forestry Corporation had been fined $31,100 for failure to abide by conditions immposed concerning avoidance of environmentally sensitive areas and retention of habitat trees.

Thirdly, perhaps a few images will clearly show that even after severe bushfires, in the absence of chainsaws and logging trucks, trees will begin to recreate "habitat".

All photographs found at Google Images
And then there is this aspect.....

ABC News, 29 January 2020:

Research has also shown forests that are logged post-fire and then regenerated have an increased risk of burning in high-severity crown-scorching fires. 

This extra fire risk lasts for about 40 years after logging. That is, a burnt forest which is logged tomorrow will still carry an elevated fire risk in 2060. 

A global review published in 2009 showed that links between logging and elevated fire risk is a problem seen in wet types of forests worldwide. 

In 2016, an Australian study published by the Ecological Society of America found tree fern populations crashed by 94 per cent after post-fire logging..... 

Many burnt trees that look dead now will re-sprout in the next few weeks or months. This is already occurring in the burnt coastal forests of NSW. 

These recovering trees must not be logged. They are essential for the survival of animals like gliding possums — research shows that these animals are unlikely to return to forests that are logged immediately after burning for 180 years (if they can return at all). 

Heavy logging machinery will kill many of the plants that germinate in the nutrient-rich bed of ashes on the forest floor. 

Animals that have miraculously survived in burnt areas can also be killed in logging operations. 

Pioneering research from southern Australia has shown that fungi and nutrients in soils can take up to a century or even longer to recover from salvage logging. 

Mass movement of soils in areas logged post-burn can choke rivers and streams and trigger fish kills as well as kill many other kinds of animals....

The Guardian, 6 May 2020:

A group of senior Australian scientists have warned in an international journal that logging native forests makes fire more severe and is likely to have exacerbated the country’s catastrophic summer bushfires. 

In a comment piece published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the scientists call for a clearer discussion about how land management and forestry practices contribute to fire risk. 

The article by the scientists David Lindenmayer, Robert Kooyman, Chris Taylor, Michelle Ward and James Watson comes amid intense debate about the resumption of logging in Victoria and New South Wales in bushfire hit regions..... 

In the comment piece, the scientists say much of the conversation in the aftermath of the spring and summer bushfires had rightly focused on climate change, but the impact of land management and forestry on fire risk was often neglected in these discussions. 

They highlight this as a concern because land management policy was “well within the control of Australians” and the fires had been used by some sectors of the industry to call for increased logging in some areas. 

The paper says industry data showed that some 161m cubic metres of native forest was logged in the period from 1996 to 2018. 

“Beyond the direct and immediate impacts on biodiversity of disturbance and proximity to disturbed forest, there is compelling evidence that Australia’s historical and contemporary logging regimes have made many Australian forests more fire prone and contributed to increased fire severity and flammability,” the scientists write. 

This occurs because logging leaves debris at ground level that increases the fuel load in logged forests. It also changes forest composition and leaves these areas of forest both hotter and drier, they say. 

The article says during the bushfire season fire had spread from logged areas adjacent to old growth eucalypts and rainforests in the Gondwana world heritage reserves..... 

The Daily Examiner, 25 May 2020: 

The public was recently invited to comment on a draft code of practice – the “rule book” – for private native forestry. 

The CoP has been in place for about 15 years, with the current draft resulting from the mandatory five-yearly review. 

With the stated aim of ensuring ecologically sustainable forest management, one would expect any review to focus on that aim but unfortunately that has not been the case. 

Ecologists and conservationists have two major concerns, the first being that, while there are provisions to protect threatened flora and fauna that are known to inhabit the proposed logging areas, there is no requirement to actually look for them. 

In fact, unless there is an ­official record of a threatened species on the property, it is assumed they don’t occur there. 

The second concern is a lack of compliance monitoring and enforcement, for which there is certainly a wealth of evidence. 

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint a reason, possibly it relates to a lack of political will to take action against the industry at large. 

Perhaps it is a case of under-resourcing, poorly drafted legislation open to interpretation or all of the above but the fact remains that flouting of the code’s regulations is widespread. 

Two years ago, the Clarence Environment Centre reported one local case where a PNF ­operator broke virtually every rule in the book – literally hundreds of breaches. 

Logging on creek banks, in swamps, on rocky outcrops and on cliff edges. 

Snigging tracks were constructed on excessive slopes and across gullies, erosion control measures were inadequate, threatened species had been trampled by machinery and rubbish such as oil drums and tyres were left littering the landscape. 

The investigators spent days on site confirming the ­reported breaches and finding additional ones, yet almost two years later no action has been taken against the culprits and with the two-year statute of limitations looming, the case will likely be dropped. 

Unless operators are held to account, how can we have any faith in the supposed aim of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management? 

John Edwards, Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Evidence koalas still living in Iluka area in 2020


A koala in Iluka, December 2017

The Daily Examiner, 18 May 2020:

The words excited and elated aren’t often associated with the discovery of poo, but last week in Iluka they certainly were. 


The devastating impact of bushfires on the koalas across the North Coast has been well documented and teams continue to scour bushland to try to assess the impact on local populations. 

NSW National Parks has been at the forefront of the effort, undertaking bushfire recovery surveys with the help of local Landcare groups and volunteers. 

So when Iluka Landcare volunteer Jeff Thomas found a number of koala scats at the base of red gums in the area between Iluka Bluff Rd and Iluka, he was understandably excited. 

“I couldn’t wait to ring Kay Jeffery, president of the Iluka Landcare group, and tell her and the Landcare team the good news.” 

The find was significant as the area had been regenerated through years of hard work by the group to clear lantana and wattle which had been planted after sand mining ceased on the peninsula. 

“I was so excited when we found the scats, particularly in an area that has been ­restored,” Mr Thomas said. 

“It’s good to see all their hard work paid off.” The discovery was aided by Max, one of NSW National Parks’ canine recruits who has been specially trained to sniff out and find koala scats. 

Ms Jeffery was overjoyed to hear the news, as the Landcare veteran said it was the culmination of a vision. 

“I was absolutely elated to hear that all the hard work and careful planning 24 years ago had resulted in koalas ­inhabiting the site,” she said....

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Bundjalung elder Michael Ryan wins in NSW Land & Environment Court over North Lismore Plateau development application


Map showing AHIMs registered sites of Aboriginal cultural heritage value located at the southern end of the North Lismore Plateau land release site. Source: Converge Community and Heritage 2012 ‘North Lismore Plateau NSW Cultural Heritage Assessment 12043C/2012’ Figure 46 page 77
Lismore City Council, "North Lismore Plateau Urban Release Area", 2015


ABC News, 15 May 2020:

A major residential development underway on the New South Wales north coast is now in jeopardy after successful court action by a local Indigenous elder.

The Land and Environment Court has now ruled that approval of the development application was invalid, because no species impact statement was done.

Mr Ryan said he wept with joy when he heard the news.

"I didn't think we had any chance to win it, it was like a David and Goliath fairytale come true and we knocked them for six," he said.

"My old people told me a long time ago to protect this mountain with everything I had.

"This whole mountain is sacred, it's a story from the Dreaming … you can see in the landscape from the air the sleeping lizard."

Mr Ryan was assisted by veteran local activist Al Oshlack, from the Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network.

He said the case hinged on whether a species impact statement (SIS) should have been done for a site which is home to the threatened white-eared monarch and eastern long-eared bat.

"When they put in a development application, and it's going to have a significant impact on endangered species, it was up to the developer to attach the SIS with the development application," Mr Oshlack said.

"But then it became the [Lismore City] council's fault, because the council should have said that 'we can't accept lodging of this DA because it's not in the proper form'."

'They just rubber-stamped it'

The development application was approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel in October 2018.

Mr Oshlack said he tried to raise his concerns at the time.

"They just rubber-stamped it," he said.

"During the hearing I yelled at them that we would be taking it to court and then [they] threw me out."…..

Work has already started on a housing development on the North Lismore Plateau, but the Land and Environment Court has ruled the approval invalid.(ABC North Coast: Bruce MacKenzie)

The development manager for the Winton Property Group, Jim Punch, said the court's decision came as a surprise to the developers……

Mr Ryan has said he will fight any future plans to develop the site, and will seek to have the land's heritage value formally recognised.

The matter will return to the Land and Environment Court later this month, when final orders will be issued.

NOTE

* A Native Title Claim by Widjabul Wia-bal people was registered with the Federal Court of Australia on 28 August 2013, applicable to the land which is the subject of this Development Control Plan.

* Originally Lismore City Council accepted with regard to the North Lismore Plateau (NLP) "Measures to conserve the habitat and movement corridors of Echidnas, in acknowledgment of the cultural heritage significance of this species. The NLP land was historically used as an “increase site” for Echidnas by the local Aboriginals." See Lismore City Council, "North Lismore Plateau Urban Release Area", 2015.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Just a reminder that although the Australian Parliament is not regularly sitting during the COVID-19 pandemic, the drive to dismantle environmental protections continues apace


The Morrison Coalition Government, aided and abetted by the NSW Coalition Government and industry is pressing ahead with dismantling New South Wales environmental protections by omission & commission.

Here are just five examples.....

The Oops, my bad! Defence

The Age, 10 May 2020:

One of NSW's major thermal coal miners has admitted it submitted inaccurate figures on the carbon emissions impact of its fuel in an environmental declaration to the state government.

Centennial Coal stated in its submission for an extension of its Angus Place coal mine near Lithgow that burning its coal would produce 80 kilograms of carbon dioxide per tonne. Similar mines – including two of its own – actually cause 30 times more emissions, or 2.4 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of coal.

"Absolutely, we stuffed up," Katie Brassil, the company's spokeswoman said. "Our consultants got it wrong and so we got it wrong."

The assessment of emissions resulting from burning fossil fuels has become a sensitive one in NSW after approvals for two projects were rejected because of the impact of so-called Scope 3 or downstream emissions resulting from burning the product……

Don’t Look Here, Look Over There!

Channel 9 News, 9 May 2020:

A controversial plan for a US company to mine coal beneath a Sydney drinking water dam has been approved by the New South Wales state government while focus was on COVID-19.

Woronora reservoir, an hour's drive south of the CBD, is part of a system which supplies water to more than 3.4 million people in Greater Sydney.

The approval will allow Peabody Energy to send long wall mining machines 450 metres below the earth's surface to crawl along coal seams directly below the dam.

Dr Kerryn Phelps says the fact the decision was made "under the cover of coronavirus" is "unfathomable".

NSW has spent 12 of the last 20 years in drought, with record low rainfall plunging much of the state into severe water shortage last year.

"We know about the potential for catastrophe," Dr Phelps told 9News.com.au.

"We just cannot let this [decision] go unchallenged."…..

Washing Their Hands Of The Problems They Caused


Experts warn the Morrison government is not using its legal powers to protect wildlife from devastating bushfires, which killed billions of animals in the summer.

Under international law the Commonwealth is responsible for maintaining the biodiversity of World Heritage Areas. Under federal law, it’s also responsible for protecting threatened species listed under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act. But experts say the Commonwealth is yet to fulfil its responsibilities.


A wombat in the charred remains of a Kangaroo Valley bushfire.CREDIT:WOLTER PEETERS

Environment minister Sussan Ley has argued states and territories have "primary" responsibility for wildlife. But environmental law expert, University of Tasmania professor Jan McDonald, said the environment minister is legally obliged to work with states to prevent bushfire damage to threatened species and World Heritage Areas.
A spokesman for Ms Ley said "other than Commonwealth-managed National Parks [such as Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta], natural disaster preparedness and response planning is led by states and territories as part of their role as the primary regulators of Australia’s plants and animals."….

Rigging The Books

The Guardian, 8 May 2020:

The federal government has stopped listing major threats to species under national environment laws, and plans to address listed threats are often years out of date or have not been done at all.

Environment department documents released under freedom of information laws show the government has stopped assessing what are known as “key threatening processes”, which are major threats to the survival of native wildlife.

Conservationists say it highlights the dysfunctional nature of Australia’s environmental framework, which makes aspects of wildlife protection optional for government.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act is being reviewed, a once-a-decade requirement under the legislation, and there are calls for greater accountability rules to be built into Australia’s environmental laws.

It follows longstanding criticism that the act is failing to curb extinction.

An unacceptable excuse’

In a series of reports since 2018, Guardian Australia has uncovered multiple failures including delays in listing threatened species and habitats, threatened species funding being used for projects that do not benefit species, critical habitat not being protected, and recovery actions for species not being adopted or implemented.

The act lists threats such as feral cats, land clearing and climate change as key threatening processes that push native plants and animals towards extinction.

Once a threat is listed, the environment minister decides whether a plan – known as a threat abatement plan – should be adopted to try to reduce the impact of the threat on native species.

But a 2019 briefing document shows the department has stopped recommending the government’s threatened species scientific committee assess new key threatening processes for potential listing.

Addressing threats to nature ... should not be treated as a luxury
Evan Quartermain”

Among its reasons given is that the department has limited resources to support the work.

The document says key threatening processes have “limited regulatory influence” – that they have little effect – and the department has limited capacity to support assessments of them. Because of this, the department did not recommend any of the key threatening processes put forward “as priorities for assessment”….

Quick, Before They Notice!

The Guardian, 23 April 2020:

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, has flagged the government may change Australia’s national environment laws before a review is finished later this year.

Ley said she would introduce “early pieces of legislation” to parliament if she could to “really get moving with reforming and revitalising one of our signature pieces of environmental legislation”.

It follows business groups and the government emphasising the need to cut red tape as part of the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, and comes as the businessman Graeme Samuel chairs an independent statutory review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. An interim report is due in June, followed by a final report in October.

When the review was announced, the government said it would be used to “tackle green tape” and speed up project approvals.

Environmental organisations have stressed the need for tougher environmental protections to stem Australia’s high rate of extinction. Australia has lost more than 50 animal and 60 plant species in the past 200 years and recorded the highest rate of mammalian extinction in the world over that period.

Ley said, with the interim report due by the middle of the year, she expected Samuel would “in the course of the review, identify a range of measures that we can take to prevent unnecessary delays and improve environmental standards”.

Where there are opportunities to make sensible changes ahead of the final EPBC review report, I will be prepared to do so,” she said.

On Thursday, Ley and the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said work was already under way to speed up environmental assessments of projects and that the number of on time “key decisions” in the EPBC process had improved from 19% in the December quarter to 87% in the March quarter…..

An environment department spokesman said key decisions covered three items in the assessment process: the decision on whether a project requires assessment under the act, the decision on what assessment method will be used, and the final decision on whether or not to approve the project.....

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

NCEC Fire Forum - 'Let's Talk About Fire', Saturday 28 March 2020, Whiporie General Store, Whiporie, NSW 2469 at 10:00 am – 4:00 pm AEDT




NCEC Fire Forum - 'Let's Talk About Fire'
Are you concerned about what the Australian Fires, the government inquiries and the Royal Commission will mean for our forests and native wildlife?
As well as the devastating impacts to life and property, the recent, unprecedented wildfires have resulted in extensive losses of our precious biodiversity from the mountains to the sea. Given the increasing impacts of global heating, such extreme climatic events are likely to become more frequent in the future. This North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) event is specifically targeting conservation groups and individuals who care about nature to come together to discuss the way forward to assist the restoration of habitats, recovery of our flora and fauna and planning to better protect our biodiversity from future catastrophic events. The NCEC have enlisted a number of expert presenters who will provide information on key aspects of bushfire planning for biodiversity outcomes. Learn about the extent of our biodiversity losses and discuss ways to mitigate the impact that similar future events will have on our precious flora, fauna and cultural values.
When: Saturday March 28, 2020
Time: 10am - 4pm
Where: Whiporie Hall, 5351 Summerland Way, Whiporie, NSW 2469
Between Grafton and Casino on the Summerland Way
Fee: $15 include morning/afternoon tea and lunch, concession $10
Speakers
  • Dailan Pugh OAM - What we’ve lost, flora, fauna and EEC’s
  • Dr. Rob Kooyman - Fire in Gondwana Rainforest
  • Ian Dixon - Community response from the Mt. Nardi fire
  • Oliver Costello - Firesticks Alliance - Cultural Burning
  • Maria Mathis - Koalas, planning for fire
  • Dr. Wayne Somerville - The 2019/20 Bushfire Trauma:
  • Recovery and resilience for people and forests
  • Dr. Graeme Douglas - Threats to conservation as a result of wildfires reviews /enquiries
Q&A Session
Booking is essential by 26th March 2020
Please email through any special dietary requirements to Jim Morrison: pactec@harboursat.com.au
Contact: Jim Morrison
Ph: (02) 6664 5233

Organiser of NCEC Fire Forum - 'Let's Talk About Fire' is North Coast Environment Council IncFormed in 1976, it is the peak umbrella environment group in northern NSW, covering the area from the Hunter to the Tweed and west to the New England Highway.