Wednesday 13 December 2017


What is it about Liberal–National parliamentarians and coal? Firstly, the federal treasurer gleefully fondles a lump of coal in the house, telling us it's harmless, despite the fact that inhaling smog from coal burning during the industrial revolution caused the premature deaths of millions of people across the globe. The Treasurer's 'stunt' was in support of the government's bullying of AGL to extend the life of the aging, and highly polluting, Liddell Power Station.
While the rest of the civilised world does away with coal-fired power in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our conservatives are embracing the idea of expanding coal mining and coal-fired electricity. This is despite overwhelming evidence that this is changing global climate, threatening our very existence.

More recently the NSW Planning Minister lugged a large lump of coal into question time, using it as a 'prop' to support the State Governments Bill aimed at ensuring coal supplies to the Mount Piper power plant near Lithgow. “This amazing piece of black rock keeps you cool in summer, warm in winter”, he explained.

In this instance the furore was about a successful Court of Appeal challenge, preventing the expansion of the Springvale coal mine which supplies fuel to the Mount Piper plant. The reason for that decision was that the mine expansion could threaten Sydney's drinking water. However, State Government is so wedded to coal, that it is prepared to put the drinking water for some five million people in jeopardy to ensure the mine expansion goes ahead.

All this stupidity is backed up by dubious arguments that reliance on wind and solar generators will result in power cuts this coming summer, as if that is somehow the end of the world. Power cuts may happen as a result of lightning strikes, falling trees, bushfires, and infrastructure breakdowns. A careless excavator operator, or even a traffic accident bringing down a power pole can see your power cut for hours. 

Power cuts are annoying inconvenient and potentially costly, but we deal with it. Governments need to quit investing in coal, and start investing in our future.

- John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on November 27, 2017. 

Saturday 9 December 2017


In recent years the NSW Government has made significant changes to native vegetation and biodiversity legislation.   Despite Government assertions that there will still be adequate protection for the natural environment, many scientists and conservationists fear these new laws will result in broadscale rural land clearing and large-scale biodiversity loss.
Indeed, land clearing rates in NSW started accelerating even before the changes were passed in August.  This has led to concerns that NSW will see the same type of devastation as has occurred in Queensland where hundreds of thousands of hectares of native vegetation have been destroyed annually (e.g. 395,000 ha in 2015-16).

In an attempt to stem this destruction the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) has launched a legal challenge to the Government’s land clearing codes in the Land and Environment Court. (The NCC is the peak NSW environment body with more than 160 community organisation members from across the state.)

The NCC is being represented by public interest environmental lawyers Environmental Defenders Office NSW (EDO). 

The challenge is based on two grounds.

The first is the failure by the Minister for Primary Industries to get agreement from the Minister for the Environment before the Code was made, with the implied failure of the Minister for the Environment to act as custodian and guardian of the environment.

The second relates to the failure of both Ministers to have regard for the internationally recognised principles of Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD), particularly the precautionary principle, the principle of intergenerational equity and the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity.

Clearing of native vegetation has been recognised by scientists as a serious problem. It was listed by the NSW Scientific Committee as a Key Threatening Process under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.  However, as EDO Chief Executive Officer David Morris points out, “The Code allows broadscale clearing across NSW in the absence of any assessment of its likely cumulative impact on biodiversity or land or water resources.”

The outcome of this legal action will be of interest to a wide range of community members as well as the NSW Government.

            - Leonie Blain
 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 4, 2017. 

Sunday 19 November 2017


For decades the Australia Government has been lobbied to allow electricity generation from burning biomass to attract clean energy credits. Lobbyists promoted this as a way of disposing of waste vegetable matter as a renewable energy source, a win-win situation they explain.

Electricity generation from biomass is already occurring. Millions of tax-payers dollars have gone to businesses, such as timber and sugar mills, to establish co-generation plants, utilising heat they were already using in their manufacturing processes, to also generate electricity.

Both industries create significant amounts of waste, and are ideally placed to benefit from co-generation, a win-win situation indeed. However, while it is undoubtedly renewable energy, it is far from clean. Reports from the USA, which has a long history of wood-fired power generation, show the resultant emissions are actually worse than those from burning coal.

Conservationists in Australia have long been concerned that any up-take in biomass burning here would ultimately lead to the burning of native forest timber, to the detriment of those forests. The fact that some of the most strident supporters of biomass use are from the timber industry adds to those concerns.

The co-generation at sugar mills, originally promoted as a way of disposing unwanted bagasse and cane tops during the short crushing season, has turned more to burning wood because it is more efficient.

Initially this was promoted as a way to dispose of pest species such as Camphor Laurel. However, as feared, some sugar mills have seized the opportunity to turn themselves into full-time wood-fired power stations, and are burning wood chips which they claim is waste.

One Clarence Valley timber mill is currently applying to Council to increase its wood-chip output from 1,000 to 50,000 cubic metres annually to feed the sugar mills' furnaces. Clearly this is not waste timber, but logs that have no commercial value, hence the state government's current move to allow clear-felling in state forests, a practice that has been happening illegally for a decade or more.

If we value our unique wildlife, and amazing biodiversity, this madness has to stop.

- John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 16th, 2017. 

Sunday 12 November 2017

EARTH MATTERS - The Indian or Common Myna – A Pest Species

In the final Earth Matters session of the year Laura and Kevin Noble from Clarence Valley Conservation in Action (CVCIA), will be talking about Indian or Common Mynas and why they are a threat to our native biodiversity.  Their presentation will include identification, control and a review of activity in the Clarence Valley and surrounding areas.

The session will be held in the Staffroom at Grafton Public School, Queen Street, Grafton from 5.30 – 7 p.m. on Monday November 20.

There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion.  Refreshments will follow.

For further information, contact Stan Mussared on 66449309.

Earth Matters is a session on the environment which is conducted every two months by the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition ( ).

Indian or Common Mynas

Saturday 4 November 2017


Park Watch is a new group comprised of former National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) officers, scientists, researchers and former government officials. It is concerned with the sound management of protected areas so that the diversity and beauty of our natural wild places and landscapes is maintained for all to enjoy - now and by future generations. 

Park Watch believes it is important to alert the NSW public to the consequences of the cut-backs to visitor services, control of weeds and introduced animals, loss of species, degraded walking tracks and vandalising of our natural areas.

Park Watch outlined some of its concerns in a media release on 1st November.

Park Watch spokesperson on National Park Operations, Mr Ross McKinney has stated that “Under the Berejiklian Government the 10 years of relentless NPWS ‘decimation-by-restructure’ has caused the highest rates of employee stress that has now reached a point where sources within the NPWS are concerned that some staff may be at serious risk of harm.
“I have recently seen a letter of desperation written by a staff member to an NPWS executive Director which paints a disturbing picture of what is happening to staff in this once, world renowned organisation. Unfortunately, based on the the present NPWS executive’s record, the letter may prove to be career ending for this courageous officer but it clearly demonstrates the anger and sheer desperation of the remaining staff in NPWS”, Mr McKinney said.
“Other sources from within the NPWS have also mentioned a groundswell of Branch based staff who want to send a formal no-confidence message to the government over the existing NPWS executive’s inability to consult, continual movement of the restructure goalposts, lack of leadership and direction, unmanageable work loads, bullying, the direct appointment of favourites to positions that clearly should have been advertised and the loss of positions held by those who have spoken out against the restructure, not to mention the massive funding cuts and decade-long restructure time frame,” he said.
Mr McKinney went on to say, “Based on the numerous pleas for help from NPWS staff and information they have provided to Park Watch, it is obvious the  Berejiklian Coalition Government is hell-bent on dismantling the NPWS by setting it up to fail completely, well before the 2019 March election. The NPWS failure as a conservation land management agency then allows the government to introduce a ‘common-tenure’ approach to the state’s remaining forested areas as proposed by Timber NSW, which essentially opens the State’s protected areas to destructive logging operations.