Saturday 30 June 2012


Around 150 people attended a rally in Lismore on 27th June against the State Government's decision to allow recreational shooters to hunt feral animals in national parks (NPs), a decision legislated in the Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Act 2012 which was passed by both houses of the NSW Parliament on 21st June.

Commenting on the Act, Dailan Pugh, one of the rally organisers, said, "The Act makes 107 of the 112 national parks, nature reserves and state conservation areas in the northern rivers electorates of Tweed, Ballina, Lismore and Clarence available for amateur hunting.  This includes 190,000 hectares within 27 reserves that was identified by State and Federal Governments as qualifying for World Heritage Listing.

"These parks are used by over 4.1 million visitors a year, are important for local recreation and are essential mainstays of the tourism industry."

Some of the protesters outside Thomas George's office.         Photo: J Edwards

The rally was held in very wet conditions outside Thomas George's office in Lismore .The National Party's Thomas George is the MP for Lismore in the NSW Legislative Assembly.  George and his National and Liberal Party colleagues - including local members the National Party's Geoff Provest (Tweed), Don Page (Ballina) and Chris Gulaptis (Clarence) voted for the deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party to allow recreational hunters into NSW National Parks.

Organisers Dailan Pugh and Ruth Rosenhek addressed the crowd.  Other speakers included Lismore Councillor Dave Yarnell, ecologist David Milledge, Public Service Association Industrial Officer Geo Papas (representing National Parks rangers and park workers), Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, and representatives from the Northern Rivers Bushwalkers Club and local beekeepers.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann addressing the rally.     Photo: J Edwards

George and other local MPs were invited to address the rally but declined. None of the local MPs were present.  Mr George's response to Mr Pugh's request was read out but provided no new information about implementation of the government's plans.

Comments made by the speakers included reference to:
  • The significance of the Northern Rivers as a biodiversity hotspot and the threat recreational shooters will pose to native fauna both because of disturbance to these species and the fact that many shooters have great difficulty in distinguishing between feral animals and native species. 
  • The failure of shooting as an effective mechanism for eradicating pest species.
  • The danger that will be posed by these hunters to NP workers, to bushwalkers, to other park visitors and to those living adjacent to NPs.
  • The impact on tourism as the NPs of the area attract a significant number of visitors from outside the area.

The Invasive Species Council  provides a critique on the effectiveness of recreational hunters in eradicating pest species at

Sunday 24 June 2012


Last week protesters prevented further work on a coal seam gas (CSG) pond being constructed by Metgasco west of Casino in the NSW Northern Rivers area.

                      Protesters near the Metgasco "holding pond"                              Photo:  J Edwards

CSG miners construct ponds to hold water produced as part of the gas extraction process. Disposal of this water, which contains an array of chemicals, many of them toxic, has become an issue where CSG is being mined. This contaminated water poses a threat to aquifers, streams and urban water catchments if it is not properly contained. In the 2011 Queensland floods some of this “produced” water escaped from its holding ponds leading to contamination of extensive areas.  In the Pilliga woodland in central NSW on 25 June 2011 10,000 litres of CSG water leaked into the environment causing tree and animal deaths.  Eastern Star Gas (taken over by Santos on 17 November 2011) failed to notify the state government of the leak as it was required to do. Santos, after previously denying that such a leak had occurred, finally confirmed it had happened in January 2012.

Last year in July the NSW Government banned construction of CSG evaporation ponds in response to community concerns about the danger of overflows and leakage of toxic chemicals from these structures.

In response to the Casino protest, NSW Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, stated on 21 June  that the government had not approved any evaporation ponds since its July 2011 ban, and that the Metgasco pond was a "holding pond" approved by Richmond Valley Council.

Photo: J Edwards

Boudicca Cerese, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Northern Rivers, said, "The Minister tried to split hairs about the difference between an evaporation pond and a holding pond, but no-one is buying it - a toxic pond is a toxic pond and we don't want them.

"Management of coal seam gas wastewater in the region is a ticking time bomb that represents a real risk to our floodplains, waterways and farmland.

"It is clear from the Ministers' statement … that the NSW Government intends to allow widespread use of wastewater 'holding ponds' across NSW and the Northern Rivers." 

 The protesters have announced that they intend to continue their action against Metgasco's "holding pond".

The Metgasco "holding pond" under construction       Photo: J Edwards

Wednesday 13 June 2012


In a Media Release issued on 13th June, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has accused the Game Council, a publicly funded NSW statutory authority, of spreading misinformation about hunting in National Parks.
This Media Release is quoted in full below.

The North East Forest Alliance has expressed outrage that the NSW Game Council is undertaking a misinformation campaign targeting local governments, such as Coffs Harbour and Lismore Councils, that are considering their positions in relation to amateur hunting in national parks.  NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh has accused the Game Council of acting as if it is a branch of the Shooters Party.

"The Game Council is a publicly funded NSW statutory authority, subject to the control and direction of the Minister for Primary Industries.  It is outrageous for the Game Council to provide selective and erroneous information to local government and their Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, must pull them into line.

"In 2010 the Game Council was described by its ex-CEO, David Dixon as 'a deeply flawed, quasi-public gift to the Shooters Party, compromised by hunting factions, jobs for hunters, dominant personalities and profound and unsolvable conflicts of interests'." (Sydney Morning Herald 19.6.10)

"The Game Council is telling local government that hunting occurs in National Parks in Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania.  This is wrong as both Tasmania and South Australia prohibit recreational hunting in national parks.  Some other conservation tenures, such as game reserves, allow game hunting, though even then feral animal control is undertaken by the land managers.

"In Victoria, seasonal deer hunting for Sambar deer is allowed in parts of only four national parks, and game hunting for duck, quail and deer in a few other types of reserves.   Hunting for feral animals is limited to the small and remote Lake Albacutya Park in the Wimmera, where it is not considered very successful.

"Other Australian states do not allow feral animal control by amateur shooters in national parks because it is not an efficient or effective method of control, and puts other users at risk. Premier O'Farrell needs to reconsider his rash decision to allow amateur hunting in NSW's national parks.

"The Game Council also claims hunting safely occurs in New Zealand parks, though in 2010 a woman brushing her teeth in a popular bush camping ground was mistaken by a hunter for a deer or possum and shot dead. There have been 25 hunting related deaths in Australia in the past decade.

"The Game Council has an annual budget of $3.8 million.  While a third of this is funded by the licenses, $2.5 million comes directly from NSW taxpayers.

"The Game Council licenses amateur hunters to use firearms, dogs, and bows to hunt in 400 State forests and Crown land areas.  In the12 months to 30 April 2012 the Council estimated licensed hunters took 15,663 animals, mostly rabbits, from public land.

"This represents a public expenditure of $159 per feral animal killed on public lands.

"Despite the Game Council being established in 2002 there has not been any assessment of the effectiveness of recreational hunting in controlling feral animals in a single State Forest.

"Taking a few animals out of a population will have no significant impact, and can even be counterproductive to other control methods if it disperses pests or makes them more wary. Hunters have also been implicated in the spread of deer and feral pigs so that they can hunt closer to home.

"There are already prioritised and systematic feral animal control programmes in place for our national parks.  Diverting the limited resources available for feral animal control into running safaris for amateur shooters will make control far less effective and efficient.

"We welcome Lismore Council's decision to oppose shooting in national parks, despite the efforts of the Game Council"  Mr Pugh said.

Monday 11 June 2012


Some studies have already demonstrated the role flying-foxes play in pollinating native forests, but a recent study in Ghana by biologist Dr Dan Taylor BCI has determined more firmly the species' value in timber production. This study focussed on the Iroko tree, the source of 17% of Ghana’s timber revenue, and found that only bats scatter undamaged seeds from Iroko fruit in vast quantities - often up to 300 million seeds each night - across many kilometres of forest floor.

Australian flying-foxes live mainly on nectar, and our eucalypt trees have adapted to nocturnal pollination by producing pale flowers at the ends of their branches, and their greatest nectar levels around midnight. This ensures pollen is carried often up to 50km radius on flying-foxes’ fur. In spring and summer when roosts become maternity and creche sites the females in particular must find their food in closer forests. At this time the animals form defined streams at fly-out time heading towards the most prolific flowering forests, mostly ignoring semi-ripe domestic fruit in orchards and gardens

During migration in March and April their diet shifts to ripened forest fruits, to maintain higher energy levels and keep their bellies full for longer distances. Australia's most juicy fruiting trees and shrubs (figs, lilly-pilly, koda etc) occur mostly in rainforests, but these have been so decimated by human activities that with domestic fruits fully ripe by this time, it is quite unrealistic to expect hungry animals not to use them.

Similarly in the breeding season, if the trees fail to blossom or produce abundant nectar, then ripening domestic fruits become their target. During drought times 25% of flying-foxes shot or wounded under licence are lactating or pregnant females. It is also well-known by wildlife care groups that if flying-foxes attack banana or coffee plantations, they are starving.

We can all learn from the actions of one small African nation. In Ghana flying-foxes are now fully protected, and the government is busy establishing educational and viewing facilities to aid their eco-tourist trade and forestry industry.

Perhaps instead of negative reactions of aggression and abuse, of animals that are working at growing our most useful timber trees, people who live in sight of a flying-fox colony might open their doors to tourists at a cost of $20 a head, with coffee and a bun included in a chance to study and photograph these amazing, unique animals.

- P Edwards