Tuesday 23 July 2019


 Letter to the editor The Port Macquarie News

Many readers of the Port News would have seen recently on television the latest propaganda from the Forest and Wood Products Australia group.

In this short video advertisement the actor with a safety helmet explains to the viewer that wood sourced sustainably is the Ultimate Renewable as the carbon in the timber in your house is stored for life and the trees are replaced from the thousands of seedlings pictured in the industry's nursery soaking up more carbon.

Sounds good but this description of the industry is deceptive.

There is obviously up to 100 years age gap before the seedlings replace the old trees that actually are more efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide than the growing saplings.

Furthermore the script completely and intentionally omits to mention biomass burning for energy.

The NSW DPI (Department of Primary Industry) claims that, "The benefits of using forestry residues for bio-energy include the opportunity to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displacing the use of fossil fuels."

The Forest Corporation intends to use Industrial Logging to harvest 142,000 hectares of our state forests from Taree to Grafton with "residues" feeding the proposed biomass plants at Bulahdelah, Herons Creek, Kempsey and Grafton.

The Herons Creek plant even has the support of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency ARENA) to trial making bitumen and diesel from forest material.

Single Tree selection has now become "Every Single Tree" with leaves, sticks, trees not millable and sawdust going to biomass and chips and pellet to export.

The USA and the EU, especially England have been running this rort for some time claiming that burning timber is more efficient and sustainable however the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarized the emissions of bio-energy use as follows: "The combustion of biomass generates gross Green House Gas emissions roughly equivalent to the combustion of fossil fuels." When wood is burned to produce electricity, it releases an estimated 80% more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity than coal.

To make this devastation of our biodiversity easier the NSW LNP Government has removed the prescription to search for koalas before logging and is moving to make old growth trees "new" again. 

It is no wonder people are talking about the extinction of arboreal wildlife in NSW
            - John Jeayes

Published in The Port Macquarie News on July 23, 2019.

Saturday 13 July 2019


Governments in Australia and elsewhere are moving away from a linear to a circular economy.  The first country to move along this path was Finland in 2016.

Australian states, starting with South Australia, are also moving towards a circular economy. 

So what are these two different economies?  The linear economy is based on the “take, make and dispose” model.  This results in wasteful use of natural resources with increasing amounts of material ending up in landfill.

A circular economy “aims to keep resources circulating in our economy to maximise value, generate local jobs and minimise waste. It can open up new markets and business models and lead to innovative resource and waste management solutions.“ (Too Good to Waste, NSW EPA discussion paper Oct. 2018)

According to this discussion paper NSW could obtain material cost savings of up to $9 billion per year.

The environmental benefits would also be significant. In a world where it is becoming increasingly obvious that natural resources are finite, it makes good environmental as well as economic sense to replace raw materials with recovered and recycled products.  Such re-use also minimises potential environmental impacts from the extraction and processing of these materials.

NSW, which started moving towards a circular economy at the end of last year, published its “Circular Economy Policy Statement” in February.  The policy states:  “This transition will generate jobs, increase the robustness of the economy, increase the accessibility of goods, maximise the value of resources, and reduce waste.”

The policy lists eight focus areas as the priority for government action.

One of these is government and business procurement practices which will drive demand for recovered materials and reusable products.

Another relates to avoiding wasting organic resources by encouraging recovery and re-use.   An example given is that donating unused food is preferable to composting, energy recovery or disposal.  And another deals with responsible packaging. The aim is to reduce packaging as well as increasing its recycled content and recyclability which will drive local demand for recycled materials.

Successful transition to a circular economy will have enormous economic as well as environmental benefits. 

            - Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on July 1, 2019

Thursday 4 July 2019


The Daily Examiner's headline (on June 10 this year) “Regulator begins new water works”, with the responsible regional director, admitting his team has a big job ahead, certainly attracted attention.

Compliance monitoring of the local intensive horticulture industry has been virtually non-existent to date, so closer scrutiny, particularly of its water usage, is welcomed. However, why wasn't action taken sooner, and why were earlier reported problems ignored?

The Clarence Environment Centre (CEC) first raised concerns about the industry's activities in 2011, in response to reports of illegal land clearing near Halfway Creek. That offender was reportedly fined $150,000, a penalty we later learned is often regarded by the industry as “a cost of doing business” (Inter-agency Blueberry Working Group minutes, February 15, 2017).

In ensuing years, the CEC fought several irrigation proposals, including one to pump water from State Significant wetlands.

In 2015, an industry push to be allowed to dam larger streams and harvest more water, saw the government undertake a review into water regulation and invite public input.  The CEC put in a submission to this review.

In March 2016, Clarence Valley Council announced the development of Australia's largest blueberry farm alongside the Orara River (a tributary of the Clarence River). A subsequent application to pump 60 megalitres (ML) a year, from the Orara was opposed by CEC, who argued that it, and their 90 ML harvestable rights, was only sufficient water for 70 ha of blueberries. Given the Lower Orara has only 800 ML available for irrigation under licence', the question was, where would the remaining 2,000 ML come from.

That matter went before a Tribunal hearing in early 2017 where, incredibly, Water NSW used a tax-payer funded lawyer, to successfully argue that the CEC's evidence not be heard.

The licence approval was subsequently granted and approximately 400 ha prepared for planting, complete with buried drip irrigation pipe and plastic covering. Then, in late 2018, all work stopped and the entire operation was advertised for sale.

With rumours that the operation cannot proceed because there's insufficient water, it will be interesting to see what the promised compliance blitz uncovers.

            - John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on June 24, 2019