Sunday 30 April 2017


Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin is frequently in the news for the very good reason that it is a very controversial development.

The Federal and Queensland Governments are both in favour of it because they claim it will have enormous economic benefits. 

Despite this governmental enthusiasm, community opposition continues to grow for a variety of reasons. Firstly there is the environmental impact that this mine will have both in its immediate area as well as globally.  

With a proposed annual extraction of 60 million tonnes per year it will be the largest coal mine in the world. So the carbon emissions generated from the coal’s extraction and combustion will have a very significant impact on the world’s climate. Those concerned about the accelerating rate of climate change argue that this mine will have an unacceptable impact on the world’s climate. They believe new coal mines should not be opened and that existing mines need to be systematically closed down unless they are essential for specific industries such as steel production.

This mine will also have an impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR), which runs for 2,300 km along the Queensland coast and covers an area of approximately 344,400 sq. km, is under threat from climate change and a variety of other impacts including port development and coal spills. As well as being an incredible natural wonder, the Reef is a major tourist attraction.  So it is a very significant earner for the Queensland and Australian economies as  more than two million people visit it each year generating earnings of more than $2 billion. .  Moreover, it is a major employer with more than 60,000 people employed in Reef tourism.

Last year there was a major bleaching event on the Reef.  This year there has been another.  Two such major events in consecutive years was formerly unprecedented. These events have highlighted how vulnerable coral reefs are to the warming seas produced by climate change. So concern about the Reef is another very strong reason for opposition to this mine and to the other mega-mines that are on the drawing board for the Galilee Basin.

Although some supporters claim up to 10,000 jobs would be generated by the mine, Adani’s consultants put the figure at less than 1,500 full time jobs. 

While the Queensland and Federal Governments talk up the job prospects from the Carmichael mine, they ignore the importance of the many thousands of tourist jobs reliant on a healthy Great Barrier Reef, a Reef that is currently under threat from the impacts of climate change.

Other claimed economic benefits are also questionable.  Given the world-wide move away from coal to renewables there is a strong likelihood (actually a certainty according to many analysts) that this project, which theoretically would have a life of 60 years, will become a stranded asset. That is one of the reasons Adani is having difficulty in sourcing investment capital.

What is really astounding is, given the likelihood that this will become a stranded asset, the Federal Government is considering giving Adani a loan of almost $1 billion of taxpayers’ money to build a rail line from the Galilee Basin to the coal port at Abbot Point 25 km north of Bowen.  The loan would be obtained from the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) a fund which has recently been criticised in relation to governance issues. 

Wednesday 26 April 2017


John Edwards who wrote the April 17 post Fungi in the Clarence Valley   has provided additional photos of local fungi.  Some of these appear  below. 

Photo:  John Edwards

Photo:  John Edwards

Photo: John Edwards

Photo: John Edwards

Photo: John Edwards

Photo: John Edwards

Saturday 22 April 2017


                                          MEDIA  RELEASE FROM CLARENCE VALLEY COUNCIL
                                                                       17th April 2017
                                 LIVING  SUSTAINABLY AWARDS NOW OPEN
Are you a resident or belong to an organisation that is contributing to a more sustainable Clarence Valley?

Through the Living Sustainably Awards, the Clarence Valley Council is keen to recognise the achievements of individuals, businesses and schools that have made significant contributions to living sustainably and provided an inspiration to others.

Nominations are now open, with four award categories for individuals, businesses, education and community groups who enhance environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Mayor Jim Simmons said council was looking for nominees who excelled in any aspect of sustainability such as those who reduced energy and water consumption, acknowledged the significance of local culture, provided sustainable recreation, environmental conservation, sustainable economic development, showed leadership within the community and developed innovative ideas.

Nominations are due by 4pm Monday, June 5, 2017, and will be judged by council’s climate change advisory committee. The winners will be presented with their awards at a ceremony during Local Government Week, July 30-August 6, 2017.

Nomination forms are available at, or can be collected from council offices at 2 Prince Street, Grafton, and 50 River Street, Maclean.

For further information about the awards, contact Suzanne Lynch, on 6643 0200 or email

Monday 17 April 2017


For nature lovers, this past summer has been one of disappointment. Prolonged drought and heatwave conditions had resulted in stressed forests, dried up wetlands, and minimal growth of annual flowering plants.

However, with heavy rain followed by high humidity and warm temperatures, nature instantly bounces back through a proliferation of growth, not just the annuals and new leaves on shrubs and trees, but with a sparkling array of fungi.

They come in every form, size, colour and shape imaginable. They grow on trees, rocks, on the forest floor and on rotting logs, even on grasses.

Photo: J Edwards

The more common groups include mushrooms, those with simple gills on the under surface that distribute their spores, while others have pores. There are coral fungi, puffballs, earth stars, underground truffle-like fungi, slime moulds, shelf, jelly and birds nest fungi, and stinkhorns.

These latter, while beautifully intricate of form, live up to their names giving off an unpleasant odour to attract flies to help spread their spores.

Some fungi are barely visible, with heads only 2 – 3 mm across supported on long stalks no thicker than a thread of cotton, while others are immensely powerful, able to force their way through the rock hard surface of termite nests that even a wielded mattock would have difficulty breaking. The variety is endless.

So get out into our magnificent national parks right now and experience the finest of nature.

- John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on April 3, 2017.      

Photo: J Edwards


Saturday 8 April 2017


In December last year WIRES (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service) was called to help a small koala found at Waterview Heights   with a bad case of conjunctivitis.

Lizzie weighed 3kg, but while quite thin and underweight the size of her head and her sharp little teeth showed her to be still very young, probably not long having left her mother and already running into trouble.

Waterview (a rural residential area west of Grafton) is a known hotspot for koalas where residents look out for them and keep them safe. But koala food trees are limited in the urban setting and a young koala can have difficulty finding unoccupied habitat for itself. Also this was a time of protracted drought, when smatterings of rain were doing nothing to raise the moisture in the leaves koalas' depend on. As the summer temperatures rose, so did the number of koalas coming down from the trees, severely dehydrated, empty-gutted, and most unable to be saved.

Lizzie's vet examination showed her to be free of urogenital chlamydia, which usually means cysts and euthanasia for female koalas. An ultrasound check showed her kidneys to be normal, and blood tests and swab samples proved her only problem to be the ocular chlamydia and corneas severely altered by the infection.

Being young and viable Lizzie was accepted for the costly treatment and started on a 28 day course of injections and eye treatments. Quite early on it looked likely her sight might be saved, but still there was a long battle ahead to save her. A finicky eater from the start she never seemed hungry, her hydration levels were difficult to maintain and on hot days she would stop eating altogether. The majority of harvestable leaves were from trees that had suffered a disastrous fire a few months earlier, so were young epicormic growth, low in protein.

Lizzie ready for release

Lizzie was started on koala milk, which predictably she turned her nose up at, but with a small drop of eucalypt oil and a pinch of high protein powder added she took to guzzling it very nicely. Then for a day or two she would start to pick up, before another searing day knocked her down again. In time she started lapping water, which made things easier, but she would never look for it and would drink only if it was put under her nose. When the forecast predicted above 32 degs temperatures she was back in her hospital cage in the cool bathroom.

In more ways than one though this little girl was different to the rest. She became the first koala in our branch to be cared for locally through the full chlamydia treatment to its clearance, and her eventual release.

Previously, with no knowledgeable koala vet in Grafton and the wildlife hospitals an inaccessible distance away in Queensland, our branch practice was to rely heavily on the wonderful staff of the Lismore Friends of Koala group and their almost-specialist koala vet at the Keen Street clinic. When a koala was delivered there, it stayed there, with the vet on tap and a team of volunteers to gather trailer loads of leaves and administer treatments, and long experience to help the koalas safely through their ordeal

This time though, with our environmentalist-trained vet Ray Barnett ready to help, the arrival into the Valley of WIRES' State Koala Coordinator for morale support, and a sudden access to the Sydney University's new Koala Heath Hub for medications, specimen testing and free support to koala carers everywhere, things took on a different slant. With suitable care and pre-release facilities at Shannondale it was decided we could take her through ourselves.

It was never easy. Collecting armloads of beautiful fresh leaves every evening, only to see them thrown out untouched the next evening was upsetting and worrying. But still Lizzie managed to slowly eke back some of the weight she had lost, until final tests cleared her of chlamydia and she was ready for pre-release. Now, with a tree of her own to climb and eat from and a few supplementary leaves from different species to pick at, she stayed comfortably sheltered in the pen until the weather finally cooled and a first good rain shower brought that light at the end of the tunnel. After 3 months in care Lizzie had gained only 1kg in weight, but she was eating better, looked healthy, and it was decided nothing more could be done for her. She was taken out of her pen that evening and left silouetted against the evening sky in the arms of an old swamp mahogany tree.

Lizzie released

Whether she is a success or not we most likely will never know. But the very best we can ever do is give them a second chance at life. The rest is up to her. Good luck little Lizzie, you have had quite a journey.

- Pat Edwards, Clarence Valley WIRES Koala Coordinator

Monday 3 April 2017


The Nature Conservation Council of NSW and seven other peak environment groups [1] have issued a mid-term report card on the NSW Government’s performance for nature.  These groups believe that our state government has failed nature.

The environment groups consider the worst environmental failures since 2015 include:
·         Watering down strong land-clearing laws, which will drive species extinctions and climate change
·         Allowing expansion of coal and gas projects on farmland and in special natural areas, including in Sydney’s drinking-water catchment
·         Subsidising native forest logging, which is driving koalas towards extinction
·         Reducing national parks funding, slowing reserve acquisitions to a trickle and reducing conservation work and research
·         Undermining the Murray Darling Basin Plan, which will result in less water for rivers and wetlands

The issues raised include contentious land-clearing codes that will see farmers paid $240 million for conservation efforts on their land to counter destruction of vegetation elsewhere. Kate Smolski, the council's chief executive, said it was "laughable" that the funds will be largely drawn from the Climate Change Fund levied from consumers and earmarked for emissions cuts and climate adaptation.

"It speaks volumes that there's been four ministers of the environment in six years," said Ms Smolski, . "We do not think the coalition government takes the environment seriously."

The latest minister is Gabrielle Upton, appointed when Gladys Berejiklian became Premier in January this year after Mike Baird’s resignation.  Ms Upton is also Minister for Local Government and Minister for Heritage.  Having three ministerial portfolios obviously means she has a heavy workload.  This leads to concern about just how much attention the environment will get.

[1] National Parks Association of NSW, Total Environment Centre, Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Colong Foundation for Wilderness, North Coast Environment Council,  Central West Environment Council, South East Region Conservation Alliance.