Friday, 16 April 2021


The Federal Government’s National Gas Infrastructure Plan (NGIP) aims to expand the use of gas in Australia as part of the Gas Fired Recovery Plan developed last year with extensive input from gas industry heavyweights.  More sustainable ideas for a COVID economic recovery were ignored while the Federal Government shifted its fossil fuel obsession from coal to gas.

At a time when the science and common sense indicate rapid phasing out of fossil fuels is needed, our government acts as if urgency is unnecessary in dealing with the situation which has seen our nation suffer devastating bushfires, increasingly lengthy droughts and frequent extreme weather events like the recent flooding rains. 

The NGIP will lock in for decades the use of a fossil fuel that ensures emissions continue to rise rapidly in this country, adding to all the problems that we currently have from the impacts of climate change.  

The claim that gas is a less carbon-polluting transitional fuel in the move towards a carbon free world is nonsense.  Gas is a fossil fuel that produces emissions - in its production and use as a fuel - that are as polluting as those from coal.

Another claim that increased gas production is needed because we will soon face a domestic gas shortage is another furphy.  A new forecast from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) states there will be no gas shortfall in the coming years.

What makes this plan even worse is that public funds will be used to prop up an industry which is under economic threat because its time is up.  This is wasting taxpayer funds on what will inevitably become stranded assets - scarcely sound Government economic management.

 If the Government was serious about both economic recovery after COVID and driving down our carbon emissions, it would be ramping up clean energy solutions in the renewable sector.

The NGIP is a gigantic con.  It should be scrapped immediately.  The Australian people and future generations of Australians deserve a much better policy from their Federal Government.

            - Leonie Blain

Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , April 7, 2021. 

Thursday, 8 April 2021


A talented group of young people from Byron Youth Theatre  presented “How on Earth” in Grafton and Maclean at the end of March as part of this year’s Clarence Valley Plunge Festival. 

At a time when young people are becoming increasingly concerned about their future and the future of the planet, the “How on Earth” cast took audiences on an intriguing journey, exploring two different realities in the near future, asking what could be possible and how on earth we could create it.

This unusual event came to the Clarence through a partnership between the Byron Youth Theatre and the Maclean based community group Friends of Foresthaven’s Joyality Project.   Joyality’s Director Dr Eshana Bragg said they were happy to be part of this year’s Plunge Festival and were grateful for a NSW Government “Increasing Resilience to Climate Change” community grant as well as support from Clarence Valley Council and local community organisations.

As part of their research and development for the play, the Byron Youth Theatre cast members conducted interviews with other young people locally and nationally about their concerns about the environment, climate change and COVID 19.

Director Lisa Apostolides then wove their responses into a production that offers hope in a time of uncertainty and change.

“Young people have deep concerns about their future and rightly so,” Ms Apolstolides said.  “We may not have all the answers but we can choose how we respond to our changing world.”

The theatre presentations on  were followed  by an interactive and uplifting workshop to explore the meaning taken away from the performance , as well as discovering inspiration for positive action and building  resilience.

As well as the public performances in Grafton (March 28) and Maclean (March 30), there were performances and workshops in several local high schools.

Earlier presentations of “How on Earth” have been praised as inspirational and an authentic voice of youth dealing with an issue of obvious importance to them. 

Scene from  the theatre performance





Wednesday, 31 March 2021


 The North East Forest Alliance  (NEFA) is calling for an immediate 10% reduction in wood supply commitments to north-coast sawmillers from public forests because of the widespread death of trees due to the Black Summer bushfires, and a freeze on any new commitments until sufficient plots are sampled to accurately quantify remaining timber volumes.

The Forestry Corporation report 2019-20 Wildfires - NSW coastal hardwood forests sustainable yield review undertakes a preliminary desktop review of the likely impacts of the Black Summer wildfires on timber resources.

The Forestry Corporation estimate is that there has been a significant loss of trees across at least a third of the north coast’s State Forests (north from Gosford), with a loss of 10-50% of large sawlog sized trees over 30 cm diameter at breast height, and 50-100% of smaller trees, according to NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

“The worst affected stands were those logged in the previous 4 years where over 90% of trees were killed.

“Overall, across the north coast State Forests, the Forestry Corporation estimate there has been a loss of around 10% of sawlogs and 25% of smaller trees. North from Coffs Harbour these losses increase to 15% of sawlogs and 35% of smaller trees.

“It is bewildering how the Forestry Corporation can conclude from this data that there will only be a 4% reduction in high quality sawlogs from the north coast over the next decade.

“It appears the NSW Government intends to rely upon this simplistic review to sign new Wood Supply Agreements to replace the current 20 year agreements due to expire in 2023.

“What is most perplexing is that the Forestry Corporation did not remeasure any of their 659 field plots within the heavily burnt forests to obtain real data on impacts so that they can more accurately quantify impacts and future yields.

“The last two times the NSW Government gave sawmill owners guarantees for specific timber volumes in 1998 and 2003 they were found to be gross over-estimates and it cost NSW taxpayers over $12 million to buy back non-existent timber we gave to sawmillers for free. 

“At the very least the Government owes taxpayers a full and proper assessment of the bushfire impacts before they consider repeating past mistakes.

“Though with bushfires and droughts increasing as climate heating accelerates, it is time we stopped logging public forests to increase their resilience and maximise their carbon storage” Mr. Pugh said.

 -  North East Forest Alliance MEDIA RELEASE, March 31 2021.