Friday 28 December 2018


On 26 February 2011 Professor Peter Timms of the Qld University of Technology delivered an address on progress towards developing a vaccine for chlamydia disease in koalas
Two types of chlamydia bacteria are known in koalas - Chlamydia pneumoniae, which is also found in all humans worldwide and of lesser importance in koalas - and Chlamydia pecorum, the most common and deadly strain.
In its active form the bacteria infect a koala's urogenital tract rendering them infertile, and will ultimately cause the death of the koala. So with up to 50% of koalas called in to wildlife rescue groups showing clinical signs of the disease, a vaccine to eliminate the problem could also ultimately save the koala from extinction.
At the time of his address Timm’s research was nearing the end of its first phase, with 18 female koalas from the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary about to complete their vaccinations. The next phase was to immunise koalas that had undergone treatment for ocular and urogenital chlamydia, and the third stage would then identify variations between cell wall molecular make-up across Queensland, NSW and Victoria. After that trials would start on male koalas.
At that point, delivery of the antigens by a simple nose-drop form would also be tested, and a further plan was to develop a boutique drug of possibly up to 10 antigens in a single dose, including an antigen for retrovirus, a lethal immune deficiency in koalas akin to AIDS.
It is exciting to learn that the final stage of research is now completed, with a 30-day 'burst relief' capsule lodged under the skin of wild koalas administering a single dose of antigens, safely avoiding a buildup of tolerance for the chlamydia bacteria, and without any adverse effects.  

Although it has been a long and winding road for this team, they deserve a medal for their efforts in helping to save a globally-adored iconic animal.

However the causes of the stress-related disease in koalas will still be present, so it rests on us now to ensure these are properly addressed.

- Patricia Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 10,  2018. 


Friday 14 December 2018


Last month an application for the renewal of an approval to construct the Hunter gas pipeline was placed on exhibition for comment.

Reading what the consultants, RLMS, amazingly refer to as an “Environmental Assessment”, I was appalled at the arrogant approach. It was not an assessment, but a series of bland statements on how environmental issues would be approached.

Of the seven documents, only one actually mentions flora or fauna, and then only a single page focusing on the action of “Suitably qualified fauna handlers”, who “will conduct inspections along areas of open trench to rescue and recover fauna within the trench”. As a bonus: “Details of all animals found in the trench (dead or alive presumably) will be recorded and made available to the regulator”. Any threatened flora they encountered would simply be relocated.

The question is, why is the public being asked to comment on this rubbish? This pipeline is being built, in part, to facilitate Santos' Pilliga (Narrabri) gas field, producing more fossil fuel, which when burnt places the planet at increased risk of climate change.

Let's not forget the latest IPCC report, released in October, identifying that global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, with global temperatures on track to increase 1.5 degrees within 15 years, and a catastrophic 5 degrees by century's end, threatening all life on earth. Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, they claim, would require, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

In September, Austalia's national greenhouse gas emissions accounts were released, showing emissions increased by a massive 1.3% in the year to March.

The Science and Policy Institute's Climate Analytics report found that between 2015 and 2020 the emissions growth from gas production in Australia will effectively wipe out the carbon pollution avoided through our 23% renewable energy target.

Then there is the Australian Conservation Foundation's report, The Dirty Truth, just released, showing that air pollution from mining and burning fossil fuels is responsible for some 3,000 premature deaths in Australia every year.

So why on earth are even contemplating building more fossil fuel infrastructure?

- John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 3, 2018. 

Wednesday 5 December 2018


Waterview  Heights resident Stan Mussared recently received the prestigious Alan and Beryl Strom Volunteer Occasional Award from the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA).  Only made occasionally, this award recognises outstanding conservation efforts and outcomes that have benefited both the NPA and the wider community.
While the award was announced at the NPA’s annual dinner in Sydney early in November, the formal presentation was made to Stan by Peter Morgan, on behalf of State President Ann Dickson, at the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition’s lunch last week.

In making the presentation Peter Morgan detailed Stan’s achievements as a conservationist and environmental educator over more than forty years. Stan was a founding member of the Clarence Valley Branch of the NPA and was active in the successful campaign to save the Washpool rainforest which led to its establishment as a national park.  In 1988 when Daishowa International proposed a chemical pulp mill in the Clarence Valley, Stan played an important role in the community campaign which was led by the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition (CVCC).  He is currently President of the CVCC, a position he has held for some years.

An important contribution during his teaching career at Grafton High was his involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.  Other contributions over many years include membership of a National Parks Advisory Committee and various local government committees including Clarence Council’s Climate Change Community Advisory Committee. 

As an environmental educator Stan has promoted the important Earth Charter which provides guidance on ethics and sustainability; he has written for the CVCC’s “Voices for the Earth” column in The Daily Examiner, and has been a keen promoter of the annual “Earth Hour” in the Clarence.

Stan knows the power of the positive story and the importance of recognising those who work to enhance the natural environment.  In 2006 he established the annual Re-Weavers of the Tapestry Awards which celebrate the work of conservationists who have re-woven “green threads of sustainability” back into the living fabric of the Earth Community. 

In praising Stan’s enormous contribution to the National Parks Association and the local environment, Peter paid tribute to the support from Magda, his wife of 55 years. Her support has made it possible for him to achieve so much.

Another facet of their partnership has been their work in re-vegetating their property. When the Mussareds moved there, the only significant tree was a large Forest Redgum.  Now they have an expanding forest which provides attractive habitat for a variety of native species.  They are particularly delighted by the regular visits of koalas to their block.

The Alan and Beryl Strom Award, the most prestigious award granted by the National Parks Association, is a truly fitting recognition of the remarkable work for the environment by Stan Mussared.

Peter Morgan, Stan Mussared, Magda Mussared

Tuesday 27 November 2018


Pied Currawongs arriving in the Clarence Valley each autumn and winter is a natural event, but recently their numbers have been increasing. They are also hanging around longer, with dire consequences for our smaller native birds.

Currawongs look like crows, but with white undertail and wing feathers in flight. Mainly they inhabit the Ranges, living on fruit, insects and lizards in the forested gullies But in the colder months when food becomes scarce, they flock and head to the coast, where exotic park and garden trees, garbage bins, and growing numbers of fruit farms keep them supplied until spring when they return home to breed.

Currawongs' beaks are ferocious weapons, once known for piercing foil lids on the early morning milk delivery, but now turned on late winter-nesting birds' eggs and chicks, and even the birds themselves. Small migratory birds like the Silvereye, which travels greater distances than any bird of its size, now competes with big Currawongs for fruit, but frequently becomes the lunch.

Currawongs can pick off red bull-ants, and even one or two toxic spit-fire grubs without ill effect, so defenceless little birds and their offspring become tender morsels, with more taken as the predators increase.

Where currawongs stay longer they can also breed, and have been found feeding their own chicks on flesh torn from threatened adult Gould's Petrel.

A study of regurgitation pellets by the Australian National University showed that while all leavings contained fruits and seeds, almost half contained remains of birds. In another study by the Australian Museum, fake Willy Wagtail eggs that retained beak and teeth imprints showed 64% of nests were attacked, with 63% of those by birds with large bills. In 134 situations currawongs were actually seen attacking the eggs.

It is also found that currawongs target the fruit of invasive privet, which massive effort and large sums of taxpayer funds finds virtually impossible to eradicate. 

It could in the end be up to individual landowners to discourage these birds, to force them to stay comfortably in the ranges where they naturally belong.

            - Patricia Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on November 26, 2018.  


Monday 19 November 2018


In a Media Release on November 14, North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) stated that logging of native forests was unacceptable and  had no social licence.  Part of the release is printed below:

The evidence is clear from a recent industry survey of over 12,000 Australians that the logging of public native forests has no social license and rather than logging of public native forests being entrenched for a further 20 years it must be phased out as soon as possible according to the North East Forest Alliance.
The Forestry and Wood Products report "Community perceptions of Australia’s forest, wood and paper industries: implications for social license to operate" surveyed  over 12,000 people from throughout Australia and found 70% of urban, and 65% of rural Australians find logging of native forests unacceptable, compared to just 10% of urban, and 17% of rural Australians finding it acceptable.
This reaffirms polling by Reachtel in northern NSW (Ballina and Lismore) late last year that showed that over 48% of people believe the most important value of State forests are the protection of wildlife, nature and trees, with another 23% considering it is the protection of water supplies, 10% carbon storage and 9% recreation. Only around 10% considered the best use was for logging, woodchiping or burning for electricity.
Continued logging of public native forests clearly does not have a social license and must be phased out as soon as possible, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
"Logging of native forests is a dinosaur industry, and with 87% of our sawn timber now coming from plantations there is no excuse to go on logging public native forests,
"Native forests are far more important for tourism jobs, recreation, water yields, mitigating climate change and saving our declining wildlife, such as Koalas.
"The NSW and Commonwealth Governments need to start listening to the community rather than the National Party, and refrain from the imminent intent to entrench logging of public native forests for a further 20 years in new Regional Forest Agreements while further increasing logging intensity and slashing environmental protections.
"Instead of increasing logging the Governments need to implement a strategy to rapidly phase it out, and begin repairing the damage they have inflicted on our irreplaceable public forests", Mr. Pugh said.