Saturday 21 November 2020


North East Forest Alliance 


November 19, 2020 

The decision by the NSW Upper House today to refer the National Party's Koala killing bill to the Koala inquiry for review has been welcomed by the North East Forest Alliance as a chance to expose its disastrous consequences for the survival of Koalas, along with some of the dirty background dealings.

Catherine Cusack today moved an amendment that referred the National Party's 's Local Land Services (Amendment) Bill to Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment for review. This was narrowly passed by 19 to 18 votes.

North East Forest Alliance sincerely thanks Liberal Catherine Cusack for coming to the rescue of Koalas today by passionately refusing to support the National Party's Koala killing bill when it was presented to the NSW Upper House today, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"The bill has been referred to the committee that undertook the inquiry 'Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales,' that exposed the grossly inadequate protection for Koalas on private land and their likely extinction by 2050 unless we take real and meaningful action to save them.

"We trust that this will give an opportunity to expose the far reaching and disastrous consequences of the National's Local Land Services (Amendment) Bill for Koalas, and show the pretence that it was benign for Koalas up as a lie.

"It may also shed some light on the Machiavellian machinations of the National Party in misrepresenting the currency of the maps which had already been dropped, threatening to resign from the coalition unless the Liberals agreed to all their demands, making legislative changes that the Liberals now say hadn't been agreed and they inadvertently voted for, and apparent backroom deals to stop Councils including core Koala habitat in environment zones.

"While Premier Gladys Berejiklian claimed to stand strong, she effectively capitulated to the National's demands by narrowing the definition of core Koala habitat in the Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to make it harder to identify core Koala habitat, and then gave the Nationals free reign to make dramatic changes to the Local Land Services Act.

"Not only did the Nationals seek to remove the prohibitions on logging and broadscale clearing of core Koala habitat, their bill also tried to stop Councils from being able to include core Koala habitat in environment protection zones, and tried to prohibit Councils from being able to regulate logging and clearing in environmental zones.

"Catherine Cusack has shown that she has enough integrity to stand up against National Party bullying for the survival of Koalas by moving to refer this bill back to the Koala committee. She is the saviour for the 67% of Koalas that live on private lands" Mr. Pugh said.


Thursday 5 November 2020



Media Release

22 October 2020

The Coalition government’s Local Land Services Amendment Bill endangers koalas and scuppers any hope the government will achieve its goal of doubling koala populations by 2050.

The bill passed the NSW lower house yesterday and is scheduled to be debated in the Legislative Council in November. 

“If this bill passes, developers and big agribusiness will be free to destroy koala habitat in nine out of 10 council areas across NSW where koalas are likely to occur,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“The bill not only limits koala protection laws to a tiny portion of the state, it rules out ever extending those protections into new areas where they are desperately needed.

“If passed by members of the upper house, this law will allow property developers to bulldoze koala trees and subdivide some of the best koala forests left in NSW to create hobby farms and suburbs.

“Just weeks ago Liberal MPs and the Premier stared down Deputy Premier Barilaro over koala protections. 

“To now vote for a massive weakening of the laws is a disappointing back down.

“Currently, the koala SEPP  (State Environmental Planning Policy) only applies in six of the 88 council areas where koalas are likely to occur.

“The changes mean genuine efforts to protect koalas on private land will be limited to those areas.

“The government needs to urgently tell the people of NSW how it will ensure koala feed trees and habitat will not be lost because of a careless lack of regulation of land clearing.

“We call on members of the Legislative Council reject this bill so our koalas have a fighting chance of living beyond 2050.”


Wednesday 21 October 2020


It's no secret that the world faces a water crisis, recently described as a “challenge for humanity”, and "the result of uncertain supply and growing demand".


Since about 2000, Clarence Valley Council has implemented water efficiency measures, which have dramatically reduced consumption in an ongoing effort to balance that supply and demand equation.


Last year, Council contracted consultants to undertake a review of its Water Efficiency Strategic Plan, and Implementation Strategy, placing them on public exhibition for comment earlier this year. Those documents thoroughly explored a plethora of measures to further reduce consumption but, oddly, there's no mention of controlling development or population growth, which continue to increase demand for water, despite all the efficiency measures.


This year saw the new jail opened, effectively adding a satellite town the size of Maclean to the consumption network, along with approval of several large residential developments.


Therefore, if efficiency measures were needed to ensure consumption doesn't exceed supply, what is the supply situation, and is it secure? Those questions were asked in submissions to the new plans which, strangely, made no mention of any threats to that supply.


Currently, the entire region from Iluka to Coffs Harbour are wholly dependent on the Nymboida River to provide drinking water.


Threats to the quality of that supply include climate change, through increased evaporation and possible longer droughts and mining accidents spilling toxic waste into the system, potentially making it undrinkable.  Other major threats are clear-felling of pine plantations and increased logging intensity causing erosion and increased turbidity as well as the current expansion of intensive horticulture where dam building is already reducing river flows.


Ash from wildfires also threatened to poison our water, but not one of these threats are mentioned in Council's plans. Why? It's a state government problem they say, not ours.


Now however, with a mining exploration licence application being lodged, to drill in an area between the Nymboida and Little Nymboida Rivers, which together supply all the region's water, that problem may be something Council can no longer afford to ignore.


            -John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 12 ,  2020.

Saturday 17 October 2020




October 10 2020

“North Coast local governments need to be proactive and precautionary in identifying high conservation lands and water supply catchments that should be off-limits to mining,” said North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) President, Jim Morrison. 

“Mining exploration on the Dorrigo Plateau and in the Coffs-Clarence water catchments could have serious impacts on regional water supplies. That means everyone downstream of the mines from towns, villages and farms to local industries, particularly those that depend on clean water like agriculture, horticulture, grazing and fisheries,” he said

“There are exploration projects going on right now, to determine whether open cut mines for a range of minerals are viable. These include cobalt, copper and gold.

“Hundreds of square kilometres of land in these catchments now has mining leases over it. Councils need to get active and determine which areas are critical to maintaining clear and constant water supply to north coast communities. 

“They also need to be working with aboriginal communities to assist them in identifying sites of important cultural heritage. And they need to work with local communities and government agencies to identify areas of high conservation value for biodiversity.

“We shouldn't be waiting until companies have spent millions of dollars on exploration and have an expectation that their mines will go ahead, before saying 'NOT HERE'. 

“The reality is we can't rely on the State Government to protect our natural environment. There are too many examples from across NSW where they have allowed mining projects to go ahead in critical water catchments, like the coal mines that have cracked river beds in the Sydney water catchment, and in ecologically sensitive areas like the Leard forest which is being cleared for a mine.

“Local government and community will need to work together to defend the environment we all depend on, or it will be degraded and destroyed. 

“We're calling on the Clarence Valley and Coffs Council to start informing their ratepayers about exploration happening in those catchments,” Mr Morrison said.

Tuesday 6 October 2020


 More than a decade since local environment groups first began voicing concerns about the ballooning intensive horticulture industry in the Coffs – Clarence area, the Natural Resource Access Regulator decides to clamp down on non-compliance. So why has it taken so long?


About five years ago, in response to a deluge of complaints about the industry, an inter-agency advisory committee was finally formed, which seemingly included virtually every government agency and Council on the north coast.


By 2017 the committee had reported widespread illegal land-clearing, including repeat offenders, and the conclusion that “growers are prepared to pay fines as a business cost”. Complaints about water use, pesticide use and spray drift, poor worker accommodation and site safety, along with observations that erosion control was virtually non-existent, were also reported in committee minutes.


That committee was only able to support planning and promote best practice, with no regulatory power to enforce it. That was apparently against government policy at the time. In fact the then Minister wrote to one environment group in the Clarence Valley saying he was opposed to regulation because it “might encourage non-compliance”.


In 2017, Water NSW, the then regulatory authority, was so determined that problems relating to water use by blueberry growers not be aired, that they employed a lawyer at tax-payers' expense to prevent one local environment group from giving evidence to a tribunal hearing over a water licence application.


Despite no real compliance monitoring or enforcement throughout the past decade, this latest “crack down” has been widely reported in the media, seemingly used as some sort of a public relations coup!


Last week The Sydney Morning Herald reported Coffs Harbour's former deputy Mayor making the point that many of the current problems have arisen as a result of intensive horticulture not being required to present a development application (DA). However, all that would be needed is to add that activity to the existing list of developments that already require a DA on rural zoned land. All it takes is political will, but there is little evidence of that at this time.


            - John Edwards


This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 28 ,  2020. 

Wednesday 23 September 2020


Months ago the Australian Government revealed it was looking at a gas led recovery from the economic slump the nation is in as a result of the COVID crisis. Last week we heard more about this plan.

This latest energy ‘policy’ is another disappointment.  Since it came to power in 2013 the Federal Government has introduced and then abandoned a series of energy policies, largely because of the intransigence of the climate deniers in in its ranks who are determined to continue business as usual with fossil fuels.

This latest is just another version of business as usual.  Instead of coal, we have gas – methane  – another fossil fuel.  The Government’s claim that gas is not as emissions intensive as coal ignores the problem of fugitive emissions during gas mining and transport.  And methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas which, although it remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time than CO2 , is about 86 times more potent per unit of mass over 20 years according to recent studies

The folly of replacing one fossil fuel with another is just one of the problems with the Government’s latest energy plan.  Another is the economic situation of the gas industry globally.

According to Bruce Robertson, a gas analyst with the Institute of Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis, the gas industry around the world is in dire straits for a variety of reasons.  There is a global gas glut with gas companies around the world declaring bankruptcy and major projects being shelved.

And yet we have the Federal Government supporting the expansion of gas mining and pipeline infrastructure and construction of a gas-fired peaking plant in the Hunter Valley.  And if the private sector won’t build this plant, the government says it will build it.  Robertson says, “If investors won’t back it, why should taxpayers?”

If the federal government gets its way, we will be locked in to using gas for around 30 years, endangering our Paris climate commitment as well as exposing taxpayers to the likelihood of a stranded asset. 

Looks as if the long term national interest is once again a politician-inflicted casualty.

            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 21 ,  2020.


Saturday 12 September 2020



In light of the increasing evidence of the devastating impacts if the bushfires on Koalas, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is renewing its calls for a thorough independent survey to identify the full extent of Koala refugia in Myrtle State Forest after finding a significant Koala fire refuge on 3 September..

In a brief audit of 7 hectares of burnt forest in Myrtle State Forest  NEFA identified 1,118 Koala scats under 18 trees, with 516 scats under one tree, in an area where the Forestry Corporation have never identified Koalas.

Despite the Government's refusal to look before they log, NEFA have proven that Koala fire refugia exists in Myrtle State Forest, and are likely to be more widespread, making it clear that a full survey needs to be undertaken if the Government has any intent of honouring their promise to save Koalas, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"Rather than continuing to intentionally and blindly log surviving koala refugia the Government must undertake surveys to identify and protect them from further degradation", Mr. Pugh said.

"The recent report by Steve Phillips for WWF found an average 71% reduction in Koalas in burnt forests.

"The scats we found in Myrtle State Forest are all post-fire, indicating the colony was once a lot larger.

"This surviving Koala colony is of exceptional importance for recovery of the decimated Banyabba population, it is grossly irresponsible for the Government to now log it.

"The new logging rules require the Forestry Corporation to protect 10% of the potential logging area in perpetuity as Wildlife Habitat Clumps and Habitat Tree Clumps, and the rules for burnt forest require an additional 7% to be temporarily protected.

"There are a variety of criteria for selecting these exclusions, including that they maximise inclusion of the most important Koala habitat, such as the area we have identified.

"The problem is that there is no requirement to undertake surveys to identify the most important wildlife areas to be protected in perpetuity, rather it is up to the whim of a forester. So while 17% of the potentially loggable area of this forest is required to be protected, there is no requirement to first identify Koala refugia for inclusion.

"NEFA's Preliminary Audit of Myrtle State Forest found that the Forestry Corporation were selecting the most heavily burnt and degraded forests for permanent exclusions. As a result of our complaint logging was postponed on the 24 August when the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) intervened to oversee the Forestry Corporation's selection of exclusions.

"NEFA's request to the EPA that a scat detection dog be used to undertake a thorough search for Koalas with a view to identifying remaining core Koala habitat for protection was dismissed.

"The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) 2020 have recently undertaken surveys of 15 areas of national parks in north east NSW using a combination of scat-detection dogs and modelling to comprehensively identify the remaining Koala refugia, noting 'Identifying fire refugia areas and understanding their spatial configuration within the surrounding burnt matrix is crucial to post fire species recovery and management'.

"This highlights that the Government's refusal to survey for Koalas on State Forests is ideological because contrary to their pretence they don't want Koala fire refugia to be identified or excluded from logging" Mr. Pugh said.


NEFA's report 'The identification of Koala refugia in Myrtle State Forest' is at