Sunday 21 June 2015


Clarence Valley Council's  Wooli Beach Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan  (CZMP) was on exhibition  from 13th May to 4th June.  A decision on the Draft Plan will be made at Council's June meeting.

Wooli is a coastal village south east of Grafton. The old part of the village  is on a long, narrow sandy spit between the Wooli Wooli River and the sea.  It is under threat from severe storms and sea level rise as a result of climate change.

The Draft CZMP proposes beach nourishment sourcing sand from within  Yuraygir National Park.

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition (CVCC) believes this Management Plan cannot be approved in its current form as it recommends an option that is prohibited under the Coastal Policy.

There are other options that are not explored or fully costed in the Draft CZMP.  These include  sand-pumping. 

Another major concern is that beach nourishment is only a stop-gap measure.  With sea level rise and shoreline recession  serious planning should commence for long-term solutions such as re-location of critical public infrastructure and planned retreat from the Wooli Spit. 

The CVCC's submission to Clarence Valley Council is printed below:

Submission on Wooli Beach Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition Inc (CVCC) urges Clarence Valley Council to reject the draft Wooli Beach Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) in its current form.  It should not be adopted without amendment for the following reasons:

1.       The Plan is inconsistent with the Coastal Policy
The guidelines for preparing a CZMP state:
“1. Consider the objectives of the Coastal Protection Act 1979 and the goals, objectives and principles of the NSW Coastal Policy 1997.”

Obviously a prerequisite for this plan is consistency with the legislative and policy framework established by the Act and the Coastal Policy.  This consistency does not exist.  In fact, its key recommendation (a beach nourishment scheme with sand sourced from within Yuraygir National Park) is a clear contravention of action 5.2.9 of the Coastal Policy which prohibits sand extraction from coastal national parks.  On this point alone, this draft CZMP in its current form should be rejected. 

The CVCC is astounded that a plan that flouts the current legal and policy framework governing coastal management could be placed on exhibition.

2.       The Plan does not offer a long-term solution to the coastal erosion hazard at Wooli.
While the plan acknowledges the long history of coastal recession on Wooli Beach and that the village’s population and infrastructure are at significant ongoing risk, it does not offer a long term solution.  Instead it seems to be suggesting waiting a further decade before serious planning work is taken to address the risk.  This ostrich-like attitude may comfort current residents and protect current councillors from their lobbying but it disregards one of the key objects of the Coastal Protection Act.  This object is “to encourage and promote plans and strategies for adaptation in response to coastal climate change impacts, including projected sea level rise”.

The plan implies that in the long term some serious planned retreat will be required by 2050 as 50% of the houses and the critical public infrastructure of the water tower, public school and marine rescue building will be at risk.  This process should start sooner rather than later and be more thoroughly canvassed in this draft document.

3.       The costs are under-estimated and benefits are primarily of a private nature
The costing for the proposed beach nourishment scheme given in Table 1 of the plan is based on the least expensive and non-permissible option of extracting sand from Yuraygir National Park.  The least expensive permissible option should have been fully costed if the beach nourishment scheme is to be recommended by the plan for the consideration of the Council and the Minister.

The CVCC notes that (based on the information in Table 1) 94% of the assets to be protected by the works are private assets.  While the plan states that funding for the BNS will be apportioned in consideration of the benefits it provides to both public and private lands, it would be extremely fanciful to believe that private landowners will be willing to contribute 94% of the $2.1 million required for each nourishment campaign.  It is far more likely that taxpayers will be footing the majority of the costs.  The Clarence Valley community will gain only marginal benefit from the works.  Is this a suitable use of public funds – whether or not these funds come from Council or the State Government or a combination of the two?

The CVCC further points out that the issue of coastal erosion/recession will increase along our coastline with sea level rise and the other effects of climate change including the predicted more frequent strong storms.  Obviously all levels of government will find it increasingly difficult to meet the expectations of those living in at-risk coastal communities.  Council needs to bear this in mind when considering this Draft CZMP.

4.       The potential environmental impacts of the sand extraction works are dismissed
The plan dismisses concerns regarding the potential environmental impacts of the works it proposes.  Based on information from a report completed in 1989, it claims the area in Yuraygir National Park identified for sand extraction was mined and is degraded.  The area marked on Fig. H3 appears to lie very close to a popular picnic area and walking track at Wilsons Headland and is well outside the area covered by the mining lease in the 1970s.  The area is vegetated and is certainly not degraded. It can be assumed therefore that the environmental impacts of this option are much greater than the plan acknowledges. 

Much more detail should have been provided on the other options for sourcing the sand for beach nourishment – for example: from south of the training wall, Wooli River and marine sources.

5.        Lessons from other beach nourishment schemes
If Council is committed to beach nourishment, even though it is only likely to be a short-term stop-gap measure to placate current community members, then it should heed the evidence of similar
schemes in Australia.  The only ones that work involve sand pumping bypasses around the barriers to the northerly progression of sand.  This has been proven to work in the southern Gold Coast and is proving effective at Coffs Harbour to reduce the coastal erosion hazard at Park Beach.

In the case of Wooli, this would involve sand pumping from the vicinity of Jones Beach around the training walls at the mouth of the Wooli Wooli River.  It should be noted that there are specific provisions in the Marine Estate Management Act 2014 which allow for sand extraction from marine parks for conservation and risk management purposes, and no prohibition is contained within the Coastal Policy.  So, unlike the preferred option given in the draft CZMP, no legislative or policy barriers exist for this alternative.


The CVCC regrets that Council has progressed no further in the management of this section of the coast than it had in 2010.  The current draft plan is a short-term document which does not deal with the reality of the situation facing Wooli and provides false hope to its community.

Wednesday 17 June 2015


The Standing Committee on the Environment in the Australian House of Representatives (which is dominated by Coalition MPs) recently established an inquiry into the tax deductible status of environmental organisations.

This is being widely seen as an attempt by the Federal Coalition Government to limit the ability of conservation groups ( particularly the larger ones such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW) to campaign against developments which threaten the health of the natural environment.

The inquiry was set up in response to lobbying from the mining industry and various mining lobby groups such as the Minerals Council.  These groups  are concerned about the effective campaigns environment groups are running against unsustainable developments such as the Galilee Basin coal proposals, the Abbot Point development adjacent to the Barrier Reef and coal seam gas mining in NSW and elsewhere. These mining interests and various Coalition MPs claim that environment groups should only have tax deductible status if they are engaging in on-the-ground environmental activities such as tree planting and bush regeneration. 

There are almost 600 environmental organisations on the Register of Environmental Organisations under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

Apparently the inquiry has been deluged with submissions supporting the retention of the tax deductible status of environmental organisations.

 The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition's submission to this inquiry is copied below.

Submission to the
Inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations
Under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition Inc  (CVCC) believes that the environment groups who are deductible gift recipients (DGRs) should continue to have this status because of the valuable work they perform in protecting the natural environment whether it be through land-care type activities or lobbying  (political or otherwise) or education or a combination of these.

1. Introduction
The CVCC is a community group based in Grafton in the Clarence Valley in the NSW Northern Rivers.  It was formed in 1988 and has been involved with environmental issues – both locally and further afield – since that time.  Like many other small environment groups it does not have tax-deductible status and obtains funding for its activities through membership subscriptions and donations.  Much of its work is done by members volunteering their time and expertise.

2. Environment Groups with DGR Status
However, many environment groups, particularly the larger ones, do have tax-deductibility which assists them to fund their operations in education and lobbying activities as well as hands-on landcare-style activities.  These funds are obviously used for a variety of purposes such as employing staff or commissioning reports, purchasing equipment and stationery and reimbursing travel expenses.

3. Importance of Environmental Protection
These DGR  environmental groups perform a very valuable community service – a service of protecting  the natural environment.  Maintaining a healthy natural environment is vital to humanity as well as to all other species.  

As Kevin Evans, National Parks Association of NSW Executive Officer, pointed out in March this year:  “Healthy ecosystems provide billions of dollars of goods and services essential for the wellbeing of local communities and businesses.  A safe, healthy and sustainable future can only be achieved if we conserve the natural places and ecosystems that provide us with clean air and water and other benefits.”

There are many threats to the maintenance of healthy ecosystems.  These include rising carbon pollution, extensive land clearing, illegal and unsustainable logging, overfishing, water pollution, inappropriate and environmentally damaging development and issues associated with the expansion of coal seam gas and coal mining.  Many of these threats to the natural environment also directly threaten human health or have negative impacts on local communities.

4. Governments and Environmental Protection
If our community could rely on governments and their agencies and legislation to protect them and the natural ecosystems from environmental threats, there would be no need for environment groups such as the CVCC and those who have DGR status to engage in political activities including lobbying of politicians, issuing media releases, writing letters to the media and so on.

Political activity is necessary to raise awareness and to ensure that the needs of the natural environment (which obviously does not have a voice) are placed in the public domain.  It is quite unreasonable to expect that those concerned with environmental protection should button their lips and just meekly do tree-planting and other on-ground activities and ignore threats which will ultimately abrogate their tree-planting efforts.

5. Environment Groups Aid Transparency
Another important function of environment groups is their role in bringing a level of transparency into the public domain about the impacts of major developments that are promoted by industry and often supported by governments which do not always acknowledge (or even recognise) the deleterious impacts these proposed developments may have on the environment or on local communities. The larger environment groups - those with DGR status - obviously have a greater capacity for doing this. Sadly, governments do not always welcome transparency – but, in a democracy, transparency is vital to ensure that government is working in the community interest.

6. The Right to Engage in Political Activity
Any change to the tax deductibility status of DGR environment groups because of their engagement in political activity would go against the High Court decision Aid/Watch incorporate v Commissioner of Taxation 2010.  This case confirmed the right of DGR listed groups to engage in political debate and advocacy.

The  CVCC hopes that this Inquiry will recognise that environment groups perform an invaluable service for the community – and future generations – and acknowledge that those groups which have DGR status should continue to have that status.

Wednesday 10 June 2015


According to a recent report on forests by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) there are eleven deforestation hotspots in the world including the Amazon, Borneo, Sumatra, the Congo Basin and East Africa. At current rates of deforestation 80% of global forests could be lost by 2030.

Eastern Australia is one of these hotspots.  About 70% of the forests of eastern Australia have already been cleared or disturbed and only 18% of forests are under some form of protection.  Forest loss in Australia is primarily the result of clearing for agriculture/grazing and mining as well as unsustainable logging.

According to the report between three million and six million hectares of rainforest and temperate forest could be lost mainly across NSW and Queensland between 2010 and 2030.

In relation to Queensland, WWF pointed out that the watering down of environmental protections by the former LNP (Liberal-National Party) government led to a sharp rise in land clearing, with 275,000 hectares cleared in the past financial year - a tripling of vegetation loss since 2010.

The NSW government plans to amend land clearing protections – a promise made several days before the March 28 election.  This means a watering down of protection which does not appear to be consistent with a $100 million pledge to protect the state’s threatened plants and animals.
Dermot O’Gorman, chief executive of WWF Australia, says WWF is deeply concerned about NSW. He says the existing laws have been shown to have been effective in saving hundreds of thousands of animals and that effective protection of biodiversity needs to be continued.
“Maintaining forest protections is vital at a state level.  We’ve lost the large majority of the eastern Australia forest, which means the remaining forests are even more important to maintain,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“If business as usual continues, we will see more Australian species disappear, as well as the continuing decline of our water, topsoil and local and regional climate.”

The NSW Government needs to think very carefully before it waters down laws which are helping to protect the health of the natural world which provides important services to humanity.
-          Leonie Blain

This post was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on May 11, 2015.

Tuesday 2 June 2015


Clarence environment groups will be celebrating World Environment Day on 5th June by holding the eighth Re-Weavers’ Awards Dinner in Grafton.

The Re-Weavers’ Awards recognise individual Australians who have made a significant environmental contribution.  These Re-Weavers have “greatly enhanced the tapestry of our Earth Community by re-weaving green threads of sustainability back into its living fabric”.

Those honoured this year are Roslyn Woodward of Wooloweyah and Nan and Hugh Nicholson of The Channon.

Roslyn Woodward is the President of Valley Watch, the environment group based in the Lower Clarence.  She has been active in various important local campaigns including those against the West Yamba development and clearing at Gulmarrad.  She has also been a strong advocate for effective action on climate change.

Nan and Hugh Nicholson were very active in the battle to save Terania Creek Rainforest in the late 1970s and early 1980s – a battle which became an important catalyst for other forest issues.   Following their establishment of a nursery specialising in rainforest plants, the Nicholsons published six books on Australian rainforest plants.  In recent years they have become involved in campaigning against moves to establish gasfields in the Northern Rivers.

The Re-Weavers’ evening, which is being held at the Masonic Centre, is being hosted by the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition, Clarence Environment Centre and the Clarence Branch of the National Parks Association of NSW.