Tuesday 28 August 2012


The NSW Government instrumentality Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), formerly known as the Roads and Traffic Authority  (RTA), is planning to re-route a section of the Pacific Highway in the Clarence Valley.  If the RMS proposal goes ahead there will be a severe impact on biodiversity.  The upgrade, from Glenugie to the Iluka turnoff, will leave the old highway south of Grafton, pass through the Tucabia area and re-join the current highway route near Tucabia.  This new route passes through significant areas of native vegetation which provides habitat for a variety of species, many of which are threatened.

Of particular concern is the Coastal Emu, a population which is listed as endangered in NSW.  The proposed route dissects the last significant habitat of this species.  According to local ecologist  Dr Greg Clancy there is another population at Main Camp between Grafton and Casino  (north west of the highway upgrade route) but the species is now apparently close to extinction in Bundjalung National Park, a coastal park north of the Clarence River, and is extinct in Broadwater National Park further to the north.

                                        Male Emu with Chick                    Photo: K Cranney

Dr Clancy is very pessimistic about the survival chances of the remaining Clarence Valley emus.  He said, "The biology and ecology of the Coastal Emu is poorly known but it appears to undergo annual movements from coastal sites to areas to the west.  The existing Pacific Highway constitutes the western boundary of the population centred on Yuragir National Park.  The highway proposal is likely to prevent this movement as it will create a barrier to Emu movement.  It is most unlikely that the usual underpasses constructed by the RTA (now the RMS) will be suitable for Emus.  Emus do not handle fences very well and do not easily find exits from large paddocks and are therefore unlikely  to find the underpasses they are supposed to use.  It is most likely that the Emus will enter culverts to access areas to the west of the highway and therefore further isolation of an already declining population will occur."

Dr Clancy pointed out that changes to the route from Tyndale to the Harwood Bridge (across the Clarence River) would also affect the Emus. The proposed upgrade  "originally ran at the western edge of the Emu's habitat but following representations by the Cane Growers of the area it has now been moved further east which will cause the northern birds to be isolated from habitat to the west of the new highway between Tyndale and Maclean if the highway is constructed there."

A large number of other threatened fauna as well as some flora species will be adversely affected if the proposed route goes ahead.

NSW-listed threatened fauna which will be adversely affected are:
 Rufous Bettong, Powerful Owl, Yellow-bellied Glider, Grey-crowned Babbler, Diamond Firetail, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Brown Treecreeper and Squirrel Glider.

Federally-listed flora and fauna likely to be adversely affected are:
Square-fruited Ironbark, Quassia sp. ‘Moonee Creek’, Lindsaea incisa, Grevillea quadricauda, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Koala, New Holland Mouse, Australasian Bittern, Bush Stone-curlew, Green and Golden Bell Frog, Grey-headed Flying-fox, Eastern Osprey, Regent Honeyeater, Glossy Ibis, Swift Parrot, Australian Painted Snipe, Latham’s Snipe, Marsh Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Magpie Goose, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Cattle Egret, Eastern Great Egret, White-throated Needletail, Fork-tailed Swift, Rainbow Bee-eater, Rufous Fantail, Black-faced Monarch, Spectacled Monarch, Three-toed Snake-toothed Skink.

Conservationists believe that the only route that will reduce the impact on the ecosystems of the area is the orange route which approximates the existing highway with a small by-pass at Clarenza and another at Ulmarra. It was rejected by the RMS on social and economic grounds.

Sunday 19 August 2012


Whiporie is about 50 km north of Grafton on the Summerland Way.

Red Sky has successfully applied to move to the second stage of its Talma coal seam gas project to operate a pilot production well at Whiporie for a period of no more than 18 months.  This has happened despite the State Government claiming no new production licences would be granted until investigations into coal seam gas are complete.  But this is only a pilot production well – some more hair-splitting!

That approval did not happen without some major changes to Red Sky's original Review of Environmental Factors (REF).  However, not surprisingly the REF still claims the single well will have minimal impact.

There are inferences throughout the document that the drilling at the Talma site is aimed at determining the gas levels in Kangaroo Creek sandstone, and not for the purpose of developing a gas field there.  These include statements like:
"Due to the limited duration of the activities, no cumulative environmental impact is anticipated",
"The site is expected to be restored to its prior condition within a short time of abandonment."

Likewise under the  heading "Rehabilitation Works", we are assured that the program will last a maximum 18 months and that  "At the conclusion of the program, complete environmental restoration of the site will be undertaken."

However, the penultimate sentence of the REF states " A future gas project may, if commercial, have some favourable long-term impacts on the economy of the local community (no mention of future  environmental impacts) and (then the big lie) provide energy alternatives that reduce greenhouse impacts from those currently available. "

As a result of that statement, I believe the proponent has a serious credibility problem.

Of course we believe the entire process is seriously flawed.  It is widely acknowledged that once an exploration licence is granted, the mining company has an expectation, if not an outright legal right, that it will be allowed to mine any viable fields it finds.  With coal seam gas, this means a fully blown gas field.

While the Talma site is on a small area of cleared land, it is surrounded by a large tract of native forest.  So a gas field around the site would see massive destruction and fragmentation of wildlife habitat.

Therefore, if the discovery of a viable resource leads to a licence to mine that resource, we believe the full impacts of that entire extraction process should be assessed up front.

Adapted from a report by J Edwards in the Clarence Environment Centre's Winter 2012 Newsletter.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Blood "Sport" in National Parks

Our National Parks,
Vital sanctuaries
For our precious fellow-creatures,
And reflective of our deep concern
For their present and future well-being.

With Nature's values paramount
In their personal philosophy
People in the past have fought
For Park declarations.
Ridicule and indifference have not deterred them.

But now, a government,
With deplorable lack of ethics
Has  decreed that "blood" sport
Is quite acceptable, even desirable,
In these havens of safety.

Recreational shooters will be
With the primary aim of pleasure,
A goal far different from that professed
Of feral eradication.

And if a native creature
Even an endangered species
Is killed
A shooter's voice may say
"Oh, dear! I made a mistake."

And what of the professional people,
The Rangers, the guardians of the National Parks,
Their crucial work of caring
Will be undermined
By recreational  blood "sport".

Is this a starting point ?
A launching pad
For further intrusions –
Logging, grazing, mining …
In our priceless National Parks.

The message is crystal clear.
This "deal" is very wrong.
It must be obliterated
And our National Parks as true sanctuaries

      -Stan Mussared