Sunday 17 February 2013


NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), an agency of the NSW Government, is upgrading the Pacific Highway in the north of the state.  The proposal for the upgrade of the 155 km section from Woolgoolga, north of Coffs Harbour, to Ballina recently went on public exhibition. 

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition has grave concerns about the environmental impact of the proposed route of this upgrade through the Clarence Valley.   Below is part of the CVCC’s submission on the proposal.


1. The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition opposes the proposed highway route through the Clarence Valley because of the severe impact it will have on the biodiversity of the area.

2. The 48 km of the route from Glenugie to the Clarence River will have a devastating effect on flora and fauna. 
  • Around 948 hectares of vegetation will be cleared in an area important for its biodiversity. Threatened  flora species to be destroyed include Square-fruited Ironbark and Weeping Paperbark.
  • Vegetation to be cleared includes 337 hectares of Endangered Ecological Communities (EECs).  Amongst these EECs are sections of Nationally Listed  Lowland Rainforest.
  • The Endangered Coastal Emu (with an existing population of only about 100 birds in the Clarence Valley) will have its range bisected by the highway. This almost certainly will have a disastrous effect on this remnant population.
  • More than 80 other threatened species will be impacted by the chosen route.   Some species relying on this area for habitat include the Rufous Bettong, Powerful Owl, Yellow-bellied Glider, Grey-crowned Babbler, Diamond Firetail, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Brown Treecreeper and Squirrel Glider.

3.  At a time when scientists and members of the community are becoming increasingly concerned about extinctions and the threat of extinctions as well as general biodiversity loss, we need to be taking a much more precautionary approach to developments which are certain to have severe impacts on the natural world.

4. The CVCC is concerned that the RMS has chosen from its original list of possible routes the one which will cause the most severe environmental damage.

5. While social and economic factors need to be considered in route selection, it is important to remember that both the economy and society are subsets of the environment.  Neither will continue in a healthy state if the environment continues to be damaged.  It is not just this one development – damaging as it will be – but the cumulative impact of many developments which place unreasonable stress on the natural world.

6. The CVCC believes that the least damaging route environmentally would have been the orange route in the original list – the route which follows the existing highway.  Construction of the highway upgrade in the Kempsey area clearly indicates that such a route, with the highway raised to limit problems with flooding, is possible.  While this may be dismissed as being too expensive, there is the question of valuing the environment and biodiversity loss along the route already chosen by the RMS.  The true cost of the chosen route has not been assessed because the cost of the environmental damage that is inevitable has not been factored in.


1. The Endangered Coastal Emu

The CVCC is very concerned about the mitigation measures proposed for the endangered coastal emu.
  • There is no certainty that the underpasses described in the documentation will be an effective measure in allowing the emus access to their range.  As well as the issue of whether the species will use an underpass, there is the issue of the location of these structures to suit the birds’ movement pattern.
  • ·        The RMS (former RTA) has known about the coastal emu issue in the Clarence Valley for years and the fact that its highway upgrade will impact on this species. However, it has not undertaken or, as far as we know, moved to have undertaken any scientific studies of this species until very recently.  Moreover this recent satellite-tracking study of young birds raised in captivity has been a failure. It did not run its intended course, largely, as we understand it, because of the mortality of a number of the subject emus. The RMS’ lack of commitment to any research on this matter is extremely disappointing and does not augur well for its mitigation proposals.

2. Off-sets
  • ·          The CVCC acknowledges that offsets are supported by government instrumentalities and developers as a way to expedite developments in areas with important natural values which will be destroyed or severely damaged by developments.
  • ·        However, it cannot be logically argued that providing another area as compensation will result in no net biodiversity loss.  Quite obviously biodiversity lost in one area cannot be relaced by biodiversity already existing in another area.
  • ·        And net biodiversity loss is a major issue. Scientists and members of the community are concerned about this and about the cumulative impact of biodiversity loss across the nation.
  • ·        Governments and their instrumentalities continue to pay lipservice to the concept of ecologically sustainable development and its principles but, in reality, little has changed.  Putting in place measures such as off-sets merely gives the appearance that something positive is being done.
  • ·        Even if off-sets were a valid compensation for loss of ecosystems, there is always the problem of finding the equivalent or even near-equivalent ecosystems to use as off-sets.  Where, for example, will the RMS or its agents find suitable offsets for the Clarence Lowland Rainforest EECs ?


In conclusion the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition strongly opposes the chosen route for the Pacific Highway through the Clarence Valley because of the devastating environmental impact this development with have on an area with significant remnant native vegetation which provides habitat for a broad range of fauna, including many which are threatened.

Wednesday 13 February 2013


O'Farrell Government Plans to Log National Parks

Last year the O'Farrell Government caved in to the Shooters and Fishers Party and announced it would allow recreational hunters into some of the state's National Parks.  Now it is planning to open up national parks in the north east of the state to logging. 

In a Media Release issued on 11th February North East Forests Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh said, "The Forest Products Association are asking for over a million hectares of north-east NSW's National Parks, Nature Reserves and State Conservation Areas to be made available for logging. So far they have identified over 100,000 hectares of 43 specific reserves they want revoked.

"In the Northern Rivers the loggers have so far singled out 12 reserves they want to be wholly or partially revoked for logging: Wollumbin, Mebbin, Nightcap, Goonengerry, Guy Fawkes River, Chaelundi, and Nymboi-Binderay National Parks, and Wollumbin, Whian Whian , Bungawalbin, Butterleaf, and Chaelundi State Conservation Areas.

"The O'Farrell Government is currently assessing the timber resources in these reserves with a view to opening them up for logging."

In mid-December NEFA wrote to the Northern Rivers State Members (MPs) of Parliament (all members of the National Party which is in coalition with the Liberals as the State Government) asking if they supported "logging within, or revocation for logging of, any National Parks, Nature Reserves or State Conservation Areas on the far North Coast of NSW". 

Two MPs, Chris Gulaptis and Geoff Provest, did not respond and the other two, Thomas George and Don Page, gave equivocal replies.

"We need local members who are prepared to stand up for the north coast and not stand aside while our national parks are given to the shooters and loggers. The electors of the Northern Rivers must assume that the Government members for Lismore, Clarence, Tweed and Ballina have no intention to stand up for the local national parks that this community had to struggle for decades to protect," said Mr Pugh.

Many community members campaigned for years to have these special areas protected within the National Parks Estate.  The O'Farrell Government's continued attack on areas which protect the state's biodiversity is a further slap in the face for these people.  And it once again shows the lack of  O'Farrell's understanding of the purpose of national parks.

And what a sorry lot are our Northern Rivers MPs! They've already proved totally inadequate in supporting their local communities in relation to the coal seam gas mining threat.  And they obviously have no concerns about opening up national parks to the blood sports lobby.

Perhaps they feel it's not necessary to represent their communities' views at this time because they don't have to face their electorates until March 2015.  Presumably they also believe that voters have very short memories.

There is more information on this issue on a new website: SAVE PARKS
Electronic letters to politicians are also available on this website.

Saturday 2 February 2013


Is the NSW Game Council a fit and proper body to issue licences for recreational hunters to hunt in National Parks?

Last year the NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell, made a deal with the two Shooters and Fishers Party representatives in the Legislative Council in order to gain their support for his government's  power privatisation bill.  Payment for the deal was opening up 79 of the state's national parks/nature reserves to recreational hunters.  The spin put on this sleazy deal  (in which O'Farrell blatantly broke an election promise) was that these shooters would be doing the community and the environment a service as they would be helping eradicate feral animals in the national parks estate.  See the CVCC post of 30th May 2012

The Game Council of NSW, which is partly funded from the public purse and is the tool of the state's hunting lobby will be responsible for licensing those who hunt in the 79 national parks/reserves when O'Farrell's deal comes into operation in March this year.

On 23rd January the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that the Acting Chief Executive of the Game Council, Greg McFarland, had been suspended a few days earlier following a complaint about illegal hunting and trespass and inhumane killing of a feral goat in the central west of the state.  Herald article of 23rd January

The alleged incident which occurred on 28th December was being investigated by police.

In a report a few days later (28th January) the Herald gave an update saying that the Game Council had also referred the incident to police.  Herald report of 28th January 2013   Presumably they decided it was politic to do so because they knew it had already been referred to the police by the landholder where the trespass occurred. 

Comments by the Game Council about the matter suggest it is both arrogant (scarcely surprising given the kow-towing of the government to its minions) and has an overweening sense of entitlement.  According to the Herald, the Council's Chairman, John Mumford,"has called the matter an 'unfounded smear campaign' by Fairfax Media."  Not content with that dubious statement, the Council "said the allegations were leaked to discredit the council after it had been thrust into the spotlight over its impending role in licensing hunters when 79 of the state's national parks are opened to shooting on March 1."

Is it too much to hope that the NSW Premier and his government are wondering if they are on the right track in, firstly, opening up national parks to recreational hunters and, secondly, having the Game Council licensing the hunters ? 

O'Farrell and his government need to reflect on the wisdom of letting the fox look after the hen house.