Wednesday 28 December 2016


The NSW Government recently announced $10 million to voluntarily acquire properties with core Koala habitat across the north coast of the state, as part of the Save our Species program to save Koalas.

$10 million in this day and age does not go far, particularly when managed by bureaucrats who will spend a large portion of that on touring the state running workshops and think-tanks. Air travel, hire cars, accommodation, venue hire, and catering, not to mention the employment of project coordinators, and experts in the field.

While grateful for any action to save koalas, those currently on the 'front line' of this struggle to save the species from almost certain extinction in this region, question the effectiveness of buying, at most, 10 - 15 properties across an area of perhaps 20,000 square kilometres.

Recently, various stakeholders received a letter from the office of Environment and Heritage, signed by Steve Hartley, Director Public Land and Aquatic Ecosystems Policy Branch, proudly announcing the Government's Koala initiative, and inviting suggestions.

It should be noted that Mr Hartley previously worked with the Forestry Policy and Regulation Unit of the Environment Protection Agency, watching on as Forests NSW rode rough-shod through our native forests, flouting regulations in regard to threatened flora and fauna, and destroying Koala habitat with impunity in state forests such as Boambee, Orara East, Clouds Creek, Double Duke and Royal Camp in the Northern Rivers.

So here is a logical solution. If the government is really serious about saving Koalas, how about putting an immediate halt to logging in any state forest where Koalas are known to occur? That would achieve much better results, and cost taxpayers nothing. In fact, $10 million is little more than native forest logging has cost taxpayers each year for the past decade and a half, so we'd actually be saving money!

And just think of all the hundreds of other threatened species that would benefit along the way, while the money saved each year could be added to the $10 million and start making a real difference through their strategic acquisitions program.

- John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 12, 2016   

Wednesday 14 December 2016


In a recent media release the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) called on the state government to restore the rights of the public to take the Forestry Corporation to court in order to enforce environmental laws.

“If the Baird Government refuses to enforce the logging rules, then let us do it,” said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

“For years we have been finding the same sorts of logging offences, time after time.  The Forestry Corporation are being allowed to flout environmental laws with impunity.  The Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPAs) lax regulation is clearly not working. “

Mr Pugh referred to breaches NEFA had identified in the forests of the North Coast and the slowness of the EPA in responding to its breach  reports.

He said NEFA ‘s audits showed that environmental laws were being broken constantly and pointed out that, as 20,000 hectares of NSW’s public forests are logged every year, both the scale of the breaches and the damage from them is immense.

In 1998 the public’s right to take the Forestry authority to court was removed with the promise that the EPA would take over regulating and policing the Forestry authority. According to Mr Pugh the EPA has been a dismal failure.

The failure of the EPA to enforce the environmental regulations is leading to destruction of old growth trees, damage to waterways, and failure to protect the habitat of koalas and other threatened species.

A major concern is the failure to protect tree hollows.  NEFA particularly has fears for the future of 70 species (28%) of vertebrates that depend on tree hollows in northern NSW as well as numerous species, such as koalas, which prefer to feed on older trees.

It points out that a eucalypt takes 120-180 years to develop hollows and more than 220 years to develop the large hollows needed for large animals.  This means that large old growth trees are priceless treasures.

Is it lack of will or lack of resources which has made the EPA a “dismal failure” in enforcing environmental regulations in our forests?  There’s an urgent need for a change. 

            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 5, 2016    

Monday 5 December 2016


Australia could be underestimating its annual greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to the output of the nation's entire transport sector”. This was the startling finding released last month by the Melbourne Energy Institute.

According to the report, Australia's carbon accounting problem stems from a failure to include the fugitive emissions released during the production phase of unconventional gas, i.e. gas extracted from coal seams, shale and sandstone. Currently the level of fugitive emissions is set at only 0.1% of production; in other words the authorities are conveniently ignoring them. The authors point out that this level, is in stark contrast to measurements made at US unconventional gas fields, where measured leakage rates have been found to be as high as 17% of production, 170 times higher than Australia's assumed figure.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a process used to blast apart underground rock seams to release the methane, which is lighter than air and a highly potent greenhouse gas. Therefore it stands to reason that when those rock seams are shattered, not all the gas will conveniently flow into the pipes for capture, but will seep upwards through the fractured rocks to the ground's surface and into the atmosphere.

In south-east Queensland, residents living inside gas fields are reporting a range of health problems which are consistent with the inhalation of methane. The occurrence of fugitive methane in the air was supported when, some three years ago, methane was found bubbling freely up through the Condamine River, and further confirmed by Southern Cross University Researchers who recorded methane levels within the gas fields many times higher than elsewhere.

Any claim that the industry didn't know this would occur should be summarily dismissed. Any engineer would have known the risks, they simply ignored them as an expedient measure to support their grab for riches, and it's still being ignored.

This poses a serious problem for the government which has committed to the Paris agreement calling for emissions reduction because, with every new well drilled, the problem worsens, and those leaks continue for ever, even after extraction ceases and the wells are capped.

- John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on November 14, 2016