Monday 9 December 2013


WIRES Carer Patricia Edwards is raising a puggle, a baby echidna.  WIRES is the Wildlife  Information, Rescue and Education Service.

Baby echidnas are notoriously difficult to rear, so when I was handed Puggles on 25 October, I accepted him with reservations. I hadn’t even seen one this small, never mind raised one. But there it was, a circular 150g grey globule with some strange appendages that appeared on occasions. And it was alive. That was the oddest thing about it. It moved. It lived, on the planet, with us, in this day and age.
Puggles' mother was hit by a car on the Brooms Head Road, and while she had sped away seemingly uninjured, her tiny puggle had fallen from her temporary makeshift pouch and been left on the road, facing certain death within minutes on a hot day.

Baby Puggles

He had spent 36 hours with his rescuer before he came to me, and he hadn't eaten. Even that small a baby echidna can go for a couple of days without food, but now he would be ready to eat. I knew about the dripping milk on the palm feeding technique from our training courses, and how he would nuzzle and sup it up. It sounded easy. It wasn't. It was impossible to hold a strong, squirming blob in one hand, try to keep its nose facing forward, keep some milk on the palm of the other, and keep dripping milk - with what? It was messy, and entirely unsuccessful. The milk kept disappearing, but obviously not into the echidna. I ended up with wet pants every time, and four days later he still hadn't eaten, or if he had, I had no idea how - or how much.
I broke all the rules. I was told to put him away after each feeding attempt and not try again for another 24 hours. Refusing to let him fall into a coma I woke him three times a day to teach him to eat. On the fifth day he was looking lumpy, with a hint of a backbone and baggy skin. I phoned our small mammal coordinator and warned her I was going to lose him. Then in desperation I gave him an injection of rehydration fluid and tucked him back into his box, quite certain I had killed him. Two hours later I was astonished to find him awake and active, rustling around and nosing the air. I warmed his milk, poured some into a little dish, held him gently, let him roll around as he pleased until I could see which end was which, then dipped his nose in the dish. He blew bubbles and sneezed. Then an unexpected thing happened. He raised his head, stretched out his neck, and his little pink tongue suddenly protruded from the end of his beak. It was the first time I’d seen it. Gently I lowered it into the milk and he took a couple of laps.
From then on I knew I could raise him. It was a long time before he regained the weight he had lost, and for several days I fed him twice a day, letting him wake slowly, not allowing him to sleep his life away as he would have liked. In time he was taking 10 or so erratic mls and was down to one feed a day. A day or two later he was taking 16-18 mls, very slowly, and moved himself to two day feeds.
Right until now feeding has not been easy or natural for him, he slurps and nose-dives, blows bubbles and still sneezes into the milk and needs to be guided into the dish. But he eats. Now he can at times guzzle a walloping 30 mls, quite quickly and determinedly, and is heading towards 250 g. He is on stronger milk, he is bristly, and when he sleeps stretched out with his nose out of his pants he looks like an echidna.
Puggles at 265g.

I have to say, from the moment I first saw him I adored him. While accepting that they either eat or they don't, and are virtually impossible to raise if they don’t, it still would have broken my heart if he had died. You cannot get pleasure from something when you are scared for its life. He has been an incredible challenge, a definite labour of love, but only now am I truly enjoying him. I would not have missed the experience - but only because he made up his mind to live.

When Puggles is old enough, he will be released into the bush.

Monday 2 December 2013


NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard announced on 28 November that he would withdraw the NSW Planning Bills until February 2014.  This followed the significant amendments to the Bills which were made in the Legislative Council (the Upper House of the NSW Parliament).  The amendments were made by Labor, the Greens and the Shooters and Fishers parties.

Minister Hazzard attacked in parliament what he called the "unholy alliance" of the parties who had supported the amendments to the Bills.  He claimed this alliance had "jeopardised the housing supply our community needs".  He also claimed that an "unprecedented coalition" of business groups had supported the Bills.  These supporters included  the Civil Contractors Federation, the NSW and Sydney Business Chambers, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the NSW Minerals Council, the Property Council of Australia and the Tourism and Transport Forum. (See the  Sydney Morning Herald report of 28 November .)

It is no surprise that these organisations representing the development industry supported Hazzard's proposed planning system.  It gave them enormous advantages.   At the same time it disempowered local communities which is why there was such a determined grass roots campaign against these planning changes.

The Better Planning Network's Convener, Corinne Fisher, in a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald in response to the article about Hazzard, called on the Minister to take responsibility for the failure of his Bills rather than blaming everyone else.  She referred to the cost and the time spent on the comprehensive , independent review of the planning system (the Moore and Dyer report) and the fact that the Minister ignored its more than 374 recommendations.

She  pointed out:  "The Planning Bills utterly fail to effectively address the two key problems associated with our current planning system: complexity and community acceptance."

"The NSW Planning Bills are a missed opportunity for genuine reform and will not solve the problems that have plagued and continue to plague planning and development in NSW.  Let's go back to the Moore and Dyer report and do better," she concluded.   ( The Better Planning Network website.)

Obviously the Government and Minister Hazzard, as well as the development industry,  will be lobbying Legislative Councillors in the hope of changing their votes when the Bills next come before the Parliament. Also there is no doubt that those opposed to Hazzard's Bills will also be actively lobbying members in both houses over the next few months.

Wednesday 27 November 2013


The NSW Government's controversial Planning Bill ( last discussed on the CVCC blog on 6 November in New Planning Laws before NSW Parliament ) was amended substantially by the Legislative Council (the Upper House of the NSW Parliament) on 26 November.

The changes included:
  • Deletion of Code Assessment from the Bill. This means that those NSW citizens who were being disempowered by this provision will retain their right to have a say on development in their neighbourhoods.
  • Amendments relating to affordable housing for new developments.
  • Removal of the controversial provisions of the Mining SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) which the Government recently added to the SEPP. There were serious concerns that these recent amendments (which made economic factors the principle consideration in the approvals process) made new coal mines almost impossible to refuse. (The change to the Mining SEPP was the subject of the CVCC post Proposed Changes to NSW Mining  on 25 August)
Of course, the amended Bill will have to return to the Legislative Assembly (the Lower House) and be passed there before it becomes law.

However, even if this happens,  there are still very serious deficiencies in the legislation as Corinne Fisher from the Better Planning Network points out.

"There has been very little change to the Minister's wide discretion that the Independent Commission Against Corruption stated was a corruption risk.  The amendment to restore the rights of objectors to appeal also failed.  That amendment would have been a major corruption safeguard," Ms Fisher said.

"The system will still be top down planning where high order strategic plans will govern what happens at local level.

"We are still stuck with Strategic Compatibility Certificates (SCC) that essentially allow Local Plans to be ignored so that prohibited development can occur whenever a developer can convince the Government  that it is consistent with a higher order strategic plan.  There is  no merit assessment when an SCC is issued," she said.

Another major concern is the exclusion of ecologically sustainable development as a major principle in planning decisions.  This has been replaced in the new  legislation by "sustainable development" which according to the Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard, "balances" the needs of the environment with social and economic outcomes. This weakening of consideration for the environment has been a feature of Premier Barry O'Farrell's Coalition Government just as his Government's reframing of the state's planning laws has focused on the promotion of the interests of the development industry to the detriment of the interests of local communities.

Months ago the critics of the proposed new planning system called for it to be withdrawn and re-written.  The extensive community criticism led to some minor changes before the Government brought the Bill to Parliament.  Critics still believe that the Bill needs to be withdrawn and re-written  to ensure that NSW has an effective, fair and transparent planning system in the future.

Friday 22 November 2013


Those who value our NSW National Parks are relieved at the State Government’s rejection of a parliamentary inquiry's recommendation that more than one million hectares of the northern NSW National Parks estate be opened up to logging. 

Background to the Recommendation
 In 2012 General Purpose Standing Committee No 5,  a committee of the NSW Legislative Council (the state’s upper house), held an inquiry into the management of public lands in NSW. This Inquiry was at the instigation of the Shooters and Fishers Party (which has two members in the NSW Parliament) and Liberal/National Party members of the committee.  According to the Committee Chair, the Shooters and Fishers Party's Robert Brown, the inquiry was to "thoroughly review how public and private land is acquired and converted into conservation land, and the effectiveness of public land management practices dealing with fire hazards, weeds and pests, and issues such as public access and land use."
It was quite obvious that the inquiry was motivated by a desire to attack national parks and the reasons for their existence and  to question the decision-making process in the creation of national parks in the  previous decade or so.     
The Committee's Report  which is available on the Inquiry website  was published in May 2013 and the Government had until this month to respond to the report and its recommendations.
The Recommendation to Log National Parks

Recommendation 10 of the Report:

That the NSW Government immediately identify appropriate reserved areas for release to meet the levels of wood supply needed to sustain the timber industry, and that the NSW Government take priority action to release these areas, if necessary by a ‘tenure swap’ between national park estate and State forests. In particular, urgent action is required for the timber industry in the Pilliga region.
This recommendation was the result of the anti-environment and anti-National Parks stance of the  committee's conservative majority as well as the extensive lobbying by the NSW Forest Products Association (FPA).  The FPA used the Inquiry to publicise its concerns about the impending supply shortfall from the state’s public native forests in the north of the state.  This shortfall is the inevitable result of years of over-commitment of timber resources in our state forests by the state’s forest bureaucracy.

The NSW Government Response
In its official response on 19 November the NSW Government rejected the call for logging in National Parks.

The peak North Coast conservation body, the North Coast Environment Council (NCEC), welcomed the Government’s  decision.

 “There is little doubt that the Government has seen the support and love that National Parks enjoy from a wide spectrum of the community.  There has been overwhelming opposition to its decision to allow hunting in National Parks.  Logging was clearly a bridge too far,” said NCEC President Susie Russell.

While welcoming the decision, North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh has called on the Government to reduce logging quotas to a sustainable level so that the hardwood sawlog industry has a future in our area.

“The Government must come clean with the public by releasing last year’s timber review and acting urgently to stop the gross over-logging of publicly owned lands,” Mr Pugh said.

Sunday 10 November 2013

WE DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A GASFIELD - Clarence Valley Woman Writes to Prime Minister Abbott

Lynette Eggins, a Clarence Valley resident, emailed the letter below to Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister on 5 November.

Dear Prime Minister Abbott

I was pleased to hear that you have taken the time to meet with Debbie Orr from Tara in Queensland concerning the impact the gas mining invasion in Queensland has had on her family and community. It is with disgust and disbelief that we read and hear about the treatment of our fellow Australians.

As I'm sure you are aware, gas mining companies propose to invade the Northern Rivers of NSW, an area of scenic beauty and farm land, an area that we live in for the peace, tranquility and natural richness it has to offer to all Australians and overseas visitors.

It is unacceptable to us that we become like Ms Orr and the many other similarly affected residents of Queensland. The Northern Rivers is very densely populated, unlike much of the gasfield areas of our northern neighbour state. If the industry goes ahead, how does your government propose to deal with the health and environmental impacts of such an invasive industry on our close communities?

The introduction of the 2km exclusion zone is quite frankly ludicrous. How can it be that some residents of our country are being offered protection and yet others will become collateral damage? How can the Government openly discriminate against its own constituents?

I am sure government bureaucrats have no idea of the impacts such an industry would have on the Northern Rivers. For example:  we often have severe rain events. This alone is enough to create an environmental disaster. With the massive maze of creeks and river systems running off the mountains the majority of the country is underwater at these times. What will happen with the chemicals, waste water and drilling fluids when it flows away with the flood water? Will we at other times, have the waste water sprayed on our roads and crops and injected into our water supply and rivers as is happening in Queensland?

The largest industry we have is tourism - who wants to come and look at gasfields? Can you imagine the impact such a toxic industry will have on tourism and our many sustainable industries such as the fisheries and farming?

Metgasco, one of the gas mining companies with a PEL over our area, has breached safety and environmental regulations numerous times, and they are only in the exploration stage. How can they possibly manage a gas field safely ?

We do not want to live in an industrialised landscape; we do not need the gas and the government knows it (there is enough gas in Bass Strait to serve Australia for millennia - BHP have stated this)

We are an educated population; we have done our research; we know the majority of the gas is for export and we know the long term toxic affects of the gas industry. Please don't treat us as fools.

We have been surveying our residents door to door, neighbour to neighbour, and an overwhelming majority of people do not want to live in gasfields. It is time for the Government to listen to its people – mining companies have no social licence to operate in the Northern Rivers, or elsewhere in NSW for that matter.

The people of the Northern Rivers will not sit back quietly and watch our land, water, health and sustainable industries be impacted by this invasive toxic industry.

Mr Abbott, will you be remembered as the Prime Minister who listened to and stood up for his people? Or the Prime Minister who allowed mining companies and government bureaucracy to force a toxic invasive industry on his constituents? The power is in your hands Mr Abbott.

I would be pleased if you would supply answers to my questions at your earliest possible convenience.

Yours sincerely

Lynette Eggins, mother, grandmother, business woman and resident of Australia, the lucky country - or is it?