Saturday 28 May 2011

Report on Coal Seam Gas Seminar in Grafton 19th May

The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), Lismore, held a seminar in Grafton on coal seam gas mining on 19th May.  Around 80 people attended the seminar which was part of the Earth Matters series conducted by the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition and the Clarence Environment Centre. Presenters were EDO  Education Officer, Mark Byrne and Senior Solicitor, Sue Higginson.

Seminar Audience          Photo: Lynette Eggins
In the Northern Rivers area, which is part of the Clarence Moreton Basin, three companies – Metgasco, Arrow and Red Sky – are currently involved in exploration for coal seam gas.

Some of the environmental concerns outlined by Mark Byrne in his presentation included:
  • Potential contamination of groundwater
  • Disposal of water produced during drilling (This water could contain salt, naturally occurring heavy metals, plus chemicals used in the drilling and fracking process – if fracking is used.)
  • Effects of floods on evaporation ponds used to store produced water
  • Release of methane (a very potent greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere

Other matters discussed in the seminar included petroleum law basics for both exploration and production, landholder rights and what could be done with regard to increasing safeguards to protect the community.

The slides used in the presentation can be downloaded from the EDO Northern Rivers website.

Thursday 12 May 2011

Senate Inquiry into the Status of Koalas

When the federal government failed to decide whether or not to list koala as a nationally threatened species, Senator Bob Brown’s promised Senate Inquiry into the Status, Health and Sustainability of Koalas got underway on Tuesday, 3 May

By information tabled at the Inquiry it is suspected there can hardly be any more information left to dredge up for further scientific review. For over 25 years scientists have studied koala habits, habitat, health and requirements, and issues that affect them, while for the last 7 years the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has worked at reaching an accurate estimate of numbers remaining in Australia. By this research AKF has concluded a most positive estimate of 85,000 koalas remaining, with numbers likely to be closer to a lowest estimate of 45,000 animals. 

                                                                  Photo: P Edwards

The only industry represented at the Inquiry was the Urban Development Institute, renowned for its statement that to list koala federally will threaten future development in Australia. While it is understood that industries operate by their own regulatory legislation, which does not include protecting koalas, AKF has called for the coal mining, forestry, coal seam gas, energy and road industries to be represented at the next hearing, to be held in Canberra, May 19th, so all points can be properly assessed and that clichéed “level playing-field” so frequently aired by industry groups can be finally attained.

A level playing-field is precisely the aim of conservation lobbyists, to replace the industry-weighted decisions that have weighed against koala and other wildlife species for far too long.

At the Inquiry the AKF laid its wishes on the line - no more research until the simple act of listing the koala and protecting food tree species occurs. Stop destroying koala food trees, and all negative issues will be resolved, then the process of unravelling the science can continue at leisure.  

As Senator Brown said on the day - “It is not the job (of volunteers) to protect the koala, it is the job of the Australian government.”

Amen to that.

              P. Edwards

Friday 6 May 2011

Coal Seam Gas Seminar in Grafton 19th May

Three companies are currently exploring for coal seam and conventional gas in the Clarence Moreton Basin, which covers much of the Northern Rivers. Metgasco Limited already has approval for a gas-fired power station near Casino and is currently seeking planning approval for a gas pipeline from Casino over the Border Ranges to Ipswich.

In response to a range of community concerns including potential groundwater contamination associated with hydraulic fracturing and the need to dispose of waste or “produced” water, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Northern Rivers is holding a public seminar to:
·        provide information about what is happening in the region
·        discuss the potential environmental impacts
·        explain the approval processes
·        inform the community about their legal rights.

The seminar will be presented by Mark Byrne, EDO Northern Rivers Education Officer.

This seminar is presented as one of the Earth Matters series of bi-monthly events sponsored by the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition and the Clarence Environment Centre. 

Where: South Grafton Ex-Servicemens Club,  2 Wharf St,  South Grafton
When: 6-8 pm Thursday 19 May.
No need to book. 

Monday 2 May 2011

Increased Risk to Critically Endangered Shark

The new NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, recently announced that she would revoke the protection afforded the critically endangered Grey Nurse Shark around Fish Rock and Green Island on the Mid North Coast, a very important habitat area for these sharks.

According to the Minister, the Government wanted to put the closures introduced in January by the former government back out to public consultation for a further three months “to ensure the best outcome is achieved for both the grey nurse shark population and the local community.”[1]

It is highly unlikely that this decision will produce the “best outcome” for the shark even if the Government decides to reintroduce the January protection measures after three months. The former government had restricted recreational fishing around Fish Rock and Green Island because of the threat that embedded hooks from recreational fishers posed to the survival of these sharks.

Why has the Government taken this retrograde step?  It is the result of an election promise made because of extensive lobbying of National Party candidates by fishers upset because they have been prevented from accessing this area for recreational fishing.

During the election campaign the new Government had pledged to undertake a statewide scientific review of marine conservation and here we have the Minister acting in a way which pre-empts  the findings of that review.  It is to be hoped that this is not an indication of the way in which the new state government plans to treat the environment.

For more information on the Grey Nurse Shark see the Fact Sheet “Australian Threatened Species: Grey Nurse Shark” at