Thursday 9 May 2024

OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER MINNS ON KOALAS & LOGGING

The situation of koalas in NSW has been of major concern for years with fears the species could be extinct in the state by 2050.  This fear is not surprising as the state koala population is declining rapidly. It fell by a third between 1990 and 2010.

The main threats to koala survival have been habitat loss and disease. The devastating fires of 2019-20 made things worse.

The election in March 2023 brought the expectation that koalas would at last be given a better chance of avoiding extinction – at least in the area between Kempsey and Grafton - because of the new Government’s promise to establish the Great Koala National Park (GKNP). 

The GKNP proposal seeks the addition of 175,000 ha of publicly-owned forests to existing protected areas to form a 315,000 ha reserve over five local government areas – Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Nambucca Valley and Kempsey.

Progress towards fulfilling the election promise in the year since the election has been minimal.  In fact, koalas and their habitat have suffered because the NSW Government is allowing Forest Corp to continue logging in the areas which contain prime koala habitat.  Just how much of this important habitat will remain is a matter of great concern. And this is a major reason for the rise in activity by forest campaigners who are appalled at what is happening.

Concern about koalas and the accelerating biodiversity crisis has been growing in the general community as well as with scientists and conservationists.  The Australia Institute recently published an open letter to the Minns Government calling for the end of logging in public native forests and koala habitat.  It was signed by more than 100 political leaders, academics, environment and climate experts. 

It called for action on creating the GKNP, ending logging in public native forests, and abandoning support for and plans to develop carbon credits associated with NSW forests. Attached was a petition asking supporters to add their names to the open letter.

It concluded with “No delay. No excuses. No carbon offsets.”

-        Leonie Blain

 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , April 24, 2024.

Saturday 20 April 2024

BURNING BIODIVERSITY

 The Redbank Power Station currently lies idle near Singleton in the Hunter Valley. When operating, the 151-megawatt coal fired plant, deemed to be among the dirtiest in Australia, was retired in 2014 after operating for only 14 years.

In 2012, as part of the federal government's Clean Energy Future package, National Power, the former owners of Redbank, received $8,766,418 from the Energy Security Fund to close the plant.

In late 2023, Verdant Earth Technologies Limited (VETL) proposed the reopening of the power station after converting it from coal to wood-fired generation.

The idea had first been muted as far back as mid-2021, the original intent being to obtain what was described as ultra-low-quality logs, sawmill residues and the sourcing of wood waste from both forests and other wood processing facilities”. Unsurprisingly, the idea of burning native forests to generate electricity was widely condemned.

This latest proposal now suggests the wood fuel will mostly come from private property and plantations. However, the claim that 56,000 ha of biomass crops will be planted over a four-year period to provide 70% of the feedstock is not credible and is unlikely to eventuate, and any move towards such plantation development will only clash with current plans to expand the plantation estate to rescue the ailing timber industry.

The ongoing ‘spin’ that attempts to claim that, because wood is renewable, burning it for electricity generation is clean, has to be rejected. The millions of tonnes of CO² that will be released into the atmosphere by this proposal will only add to the already escalating climate crisis.

That atmospheric pollution will be compounded by emissions from the 40,000 truck movements, often several hundred kilometres, to supply the 850,000 tonnes of timber required annually. Other costs associated with heavy transport include road maintenance and construction, road crashes involving trucks, pollution, and urban road congestion.

 The reality is, not only does wood-fired electricity generation produce even greater greenhouse gas levels than coal-fired power plants, but it poses a direct threat to biodiversity and to human health and should never be approved!

 

-        John Edwards

 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , April 17, 2024.

Thursday 4 April 2024

ANOTHER CLARENCE VALLEY HIDDEN GEM

Following on from my “Hidden Gems” article last year, my wife and I spent time at the weekend exploring one of the better-known Nature Reserves - Sherwood. The reserve is close to 6,000ha, and a drive of 25km will get you from one end to the other.

With a wide range of habitats, Sherwood supports a wide range of flora and fauna and offers some stunning scenery for the intrepid four-wheel driver or hiker.

Many of you would have undertaken the relatively easy walk to Sherwood Creek Falls, a popular tourist attraction, a short distance west of Woolgoolga. The track winds through stunning rainforest, with buttressed Blue Quandongs and Yellow Carrabeens festooned with epiphytes and vines, towering above Bangalow Palms and a wide range of other rainforest trees, shrubs, and ferns.

However, the greater part of Sherwood Nature Reserve lies across an elevated plateau of Kangaroo Creek sandstone, with very different vegetation, dominated by a variety of hardwoods.

Access to those higher levels isn’t easy and requires a serious four-wheel drive vehicle and, in wet conditions, an experienced driver. Somewhat surprisingly, this activity is condoned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, although there are barriers and signs to discourage vehicular access to certain areas.

On this trip, we ventured on foot from one such barrier to access a sizable swamp, something that’s uncommon on sandstone, this one measuring some 12 ha in extent, and over 500m from end to end. There we were treated to a feast of unusual “wallum” plant species, many of them enjoying an out-of-season flowering courtesy of last spring’s drought, and subsequent rains.

 
The swamp                                                           Photo: J Edwards

 Conditions were perfect for exploring on foot and we marveled at the unique plant species that inhabit that ecosystem, Swamp Boronias, Wallum Bottlebrush, Sprengellia, Club Mosses and Quillworts, growing among reeds along with Coral and Water Ferns.

 

Boronia parviflora                                                 Photo: J Edwards

Unfortunately, there was ample evidence that the “no vehicle access” signs are being ignored by irresponsible thrill-seekers, with deep water-filled ruts all around the edge of the wetland, killing vegetation and causing erosion. This is something that needs addressing. 

 

-        John Edwards

 

 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , March 27, 2024.