Sunday, 5 April 2020


With over a third of north-east NSW's rainforests burnt last year the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is calling for the immediate protection of 50m buffers around rainforest and an urgent weed control program in and adjacent to burnt stands.

"The NSW Government's mapping of fire extent and canopy scorch shows that some 160,000 hectares (35%) of north-east NSW's 462,000 ha of rainforests were burnt last fire season", said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"It is tragic that over a third of these priceless relicts burnt in one year. Across the fire-grounds most leaf litter, logs and understorey plants were burnt, along with their inhabitants. Many tree bases were damaged.

"Most worrying is the significant loss of large canopy trees, hundreds of years old, across 125,000 ha of rainforests, with 34,000 ha of these losing most canopy trees.

"Some stands are unlikely to ever recover. 

"These rainforests are relicts from over 70 million years ago when Australia was clothed in rainforest as part of the supercontinent of Gondwana. 

"The relatively small remnants left are packed with survivors from the ancient forests. Rainforests now cover only about 0.25 per cent of Australia, yet they contain about half of our plant species and a third of our mammals and birds.

"The exceptional importance of NSW's rainforests is recognised by parts being created as the Gondwana Rainforests Of Australia World Heritage Area.

"With climate heating increasing droughts, temperatures, heatwaves and extreme fire weather, many of our relictual rainforests are under a looming threat to their continued existence. 

"If we want them to survive they need to be treated with some care and respect.

"Rainforest buffers are essential to maintain moist rainforest microclimates and reduce fire threat.

"If our rainforests are to survive this climate emergency the NSW Government needs to protect their buffers. 

"As a minimum, 50m buffers (one tree height) should be applied around all mapped rainforest stands from which logging and clearing are excluded. Weeds and debris from past logging need to be removed from these buffers.

"The intensity of the fires has killed lantana over large areas, creating an opportunity to control it before it takes over again. This opportunity must be capitalised on if we want to increase the resilience of rainforests" said Mr. Pugh.

Sunday, 29 March 2020


The “climate wars” are far from over in Australia.  The Labor Party’s commitment to a zero net emissions target for 2050 has predicably drawn fire from the Federal Government which claims that the cost of this is too great. 

Again, predictably, the Federal Government forgets that the 2050 target is regarded as necessary by the IPCC scientists to keep temperature increases below three degrees Celsius. Also it does not appear to understand – again predictably – that there is a cost, which is likely to be very great, of doing nothing. 

 Furthermore it does not appear to recognise that all Australian State Governments have already committed to the 2050 target and will be doing the heavy lifting while it continues on its mindless do-nothing path.

Leading businesses are already committing to a 2050 zero net emissions target.  A recent example is global resources giant Rio Tinto. It plans to spend US$1 billion over the next 5 years to reduce its carbon emissions and is committed to a 15% reduction of current emissions by 2030.

Rio’s CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques gave the example of what was planned for one of its Pilbara operations. An investment of around US$100 million would provide a 34 MW solar photovoltaic plant and a battery system of 12 MW per hour storage system.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaking at an Informa conference of energy executives,  strongly criticised the Canberra political debate about net zero emissions saying it was false and misleading because the target was not something that was optional.

He said, “The fires of this last summer will seem like a very, very mild experience compared to what a three degrees Celsius (warmer) world will look like.”

He believes we have the engineering and economics to move to a zero emissions energy sector which will deliver cheaper and cleaner and reliable energy.

Moving to zero net emissions obviously relies on other sectors of the economy such as transport and agriculture as well as energy. 

The pressure on the Federal Government to take effective action in the national interest will continue to increase in coming months.

            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on March 2,  2020.    

Tuesday, 10 March 2020


In predictable fashion, following the twin disasters of drought and fire, the usual vested interests pop up and start agitating to be allowed into our national parks. Of course, these timber and grazing interest proposals offer to do us all a favour, claiming logging and grazing will reduce fuel, and thus make us safe from fires.

Other business enterprises must be envious. It's like the local hardware store asking to be allowed to expand into the local town hall during an economic downturn, or a second hand car dealership taking over a convenient sports field to save money on rent. After all, these are public facilities, just like national parks, the only difference being that parks bring billions of tourism and leisure dollars to the economy each year.

Completely ignored in this campaign to access national parks, is the fact that they are set up for conservation purposes, a place where flora and fauna which are threatened with extinction will have an opportunity to survive. They're not there to be cut down and smashed by huge industrial machines, or trampled and browsed by uncontrolled herds of cattle.

Overlooked is the fact that few national parks are fenced and there would be no way to control stock once let loose, or are the long-suffering taxpayers expected to cover that cost as well? Instead stock will be free to destroy threatened plants, trample up and down creek banks causing massive erosion in the process, and free do stir up mud and defecate in the pristine creeks and streams, often the source of urban drinking water.

Both these industries cause massive environmental damage in the general community. At this crucial time, when we should be doing all in our power to increase vegetation to store carbon, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, one is clear-felling forests, while the other is belching out massive amounts of methane.

Let's show common sense, keep these greedy hands off national parks, and start properly resourcing the parks service so that these priceless assets can be properly managed for the public interest, and for future generations to enjoy.

            - John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on February 24,  2020.   

Saturday, 29 February 2020


The North East Forest Alliance's Response to the NSW Government's decision not to go ahead with the sale of its pine plantations:

The North East Forest Alliance has welcomed the NSW Government's decision not to proceed with a fire sale of public pine plantations, and sees the need to replant thousands of hectares of burnt plantations as an opportunity to complete the transition out of public native forests.

With such extensive areas of pine plantations burnt last year, a fire sale of pine plantations was no longer an economic option, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"In north-east NSW, north of the Hunter River, the Forestry Corporation had 37,000 hectares of Pine Plantations, last year 16,000 hectares (43%) of them were burnt. Due to the flammability of pines most of these burnt intensively, rendering them useless for future production. 

"They are now being salvaged logged and sold to China, likely at a loss.

"Pine plantations were where the Forestry Corporation made most of their profits and were used to subsidize their largely unprofitable native forestry operations. 

"Massive replanting is required, which provides an alternative employment opportunity to continued logging of native forests. Though in this heating world maybe they should consider re-establishing them as more resilient eucalypt plantations.

Thursday, 20 February 2020


Zali Steggall, the independent federal Member for Warringah, plans to bring a private member’s bill on climate action before the House of Representatives on March 23. Steggall hopes that the major parties can be persuaded to allow their members a conscience vote on her Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020.
Very few private members’ bills are passed by parliament.  However, the non-partisanship of this bill and the overwhelming nature of recent disasters give some hope that politicians across the spectrum might come together and act in the long-term national interest for a change and end the ridiculous and futile warfare on climate policy that we as a nation have been stuck with for so long.

Steggall is working to obtain community support through her #ClimateActNow appeal in the hope that constituents will encourage their local members to support the bill.

The bill outlines ways to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050. It deals with climate risks as well as with adaptation and mitigation measures to secure a more resilient Australia.  It also proposes establishing an independent climate change commission to advise parliament.

According to Kate Crowley, associate professor at the University of Tasmania, “Steggall’s bill changes the policy conversation entirely.  It calls for a detailed risk assessment of the challenges of warming across all sectors, and national plans for adapting to those challenges, while reducing emissions in a transparent and accountable way.”

Professor Ross Garnaut , author of the significant 2008 climate change review, supports the target set in Steggall’s bill. “Being introduced by a member of parliament from outside the partisan divide,” he said, “it can pass without any of the parties of government backing down from explicit electoral commitments.”

CEO of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, also commented favourably on the bill which, as Crowley pointed out is a signal to the Prime Minister that business wants “a more ambitious and targeted climate policy”.

For those of us who want to see effective climate action the message is clear.  Let our local MPs know our views.
            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on February 17,  2020.