Monday 25 July 2016


Eric and Margaret Wheeler are keen bird watchers and travel extensively in Australia looking for new bird species.  A trip to Tasmania earlier in the year gave them the opportunity to see and photograph some of the local species as well as some birds which can be seen in other parts of Australia.

 Birds Photographed during the Tasmanian Trip - A Selection

Yellow-throated Honeyeater

Tasmanian Native Hen

Scarlet Robin

Orange-bellied Parrot
Blue-winged Parrot
Striated Field-wren
Freckled Duck, Chestnut Teal, Gould's Lag

White-chinned Petrel, Shy Albatross

Wednesday 20 July 2016


The average person is generally unaware of the importance of Mangrove ecosystems which, according to researcher Professor Norm Duke of Queensland's James Cook University, “take in 50 times more carbon than tropical forests by area and act like nature's kidney”.
There are many species of mangroves, and Australia is home to 7% of the world's population, but our mangroves are under serious threat, not only from sea-level rise resulting from climate change, but seemingly from warming oceans as well.

James Cook University researchers have noted that huge areas of mangroves are dying along hundreds of kilometres of shoreline in Queensland and the Northern Territory, where entire populations have turned “a ghostly white”, leading to speculation that it could be the result of a period of hot water in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.

Professor Duke compared the event to current coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, which is also the result of warmer ocean temperatures. He pointed out that the mangrove deaths coincided with the same period when water temperatures were higher than normal. However, he was careful to say that more evidence was needed before any conclusions could be drawn.

Anecdotal evidence from fishermen at the small Gulf town of Karumba, a town that relies heavily on the fishing industry, suggests the mangrove die-back is also impacting negatively on fish stocks, a correlation Professor Duke agrees is what we would expect, as mangroves provide critically important breeding habitat for many fish species.

The Clarence River estuary is also home to a variety of mangrove species, with five species known to occur on the NSW north coast. They too are under threat, not from warming oceans, but from coastal development. The push by Council to rezone parts of the lower river as “working waterfront” to encourage the development of marine industries, could be just the thin end of a very much larger wedge, with the massive Yamba Port and Rail proposal raising its ugly head once again. Should that monstrous proposal ever receive the green light, mangroves could become virtually extinct in the lower Clarence.

- John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on July 11, 2016.

Monday 4 July 2016


In 2015 the Federal Coalition and Labor parties agreed to a 2020 renewable energy target of 33,000 gigawatt-hours for Australia. This would contribute around 23% of the nation’s energy requirements.

In order to reach the target  the Clean Energy Council, the industry body for clean energy, estimates that a further 6000 megawatts of renewable energy generation will be needed – which would require the investment of about $10 billion.

While investment in large-scale projects should provide the major part of the increase, there is the potential for community energy to assist in reaching the target.

What is community energy? 

According to Nicky Ison and Ed Langham (University of Technology, Sydney): “Community energy projects are those in which a community comes together to develop, deliver and benefit from sustainable energy. They can involve energy supply projects such as renewable energy installations and storage, and energy reduction projects such as energy efficiency and demand management. Community energy can even include community-based approaches to selling or distributing energy."

Community energy is an important contributor to the national energy requirements in Germany, Denmark and Britain.  All of these countries are way ahead of Australia in the generation of renewable energy and community energy projects.

In 2015 Germany reached 32% renewable energy. It has a target of 40% to 45% by 2025.  It has around 850 energy cooperatives and almost half of its installed capacity is owned by households, communities and farmers.

Community energy projects are being developed in Australia.

Hepburn Wind is an example of a project that has been in existence for some years.  Established in 2007, it is the nation’s first community wind farm.  Located at Leonards Hill about 100 km north west of Melbourne it is a 4.1 megawatt operation with two turbines which produce enough energy for over 2000 homes.

Another example is Repower Shoalhaven in the Nowra district of NSW. Its first project was a 99 kilowatt community solar system installed on the roof of the Shoalhaven Heads Bowling and Recreation Club. This project was 20% funded by the bowling club and 80% by community shareholders.
In addition to communities becoming involved in renewable energy generation, the first community renewable energy retailer - Enova Energy - is setting up in the NSW Northern Rivers area and should be commencing its retail operation in the next month or so.

In recent years there has been increasing interest in community energy in Australia. The Coalition for Community Energy has further information on its development.