Tuesday 28 January 2020


Recently I wrote about the possibility of politicians being given a wake–up call as a result of the climate change induced drought and megafires.

There have been some tiny signs that this may have happened with the federal government. 
The most dramatic of these came from the federal Science Minister, Karen Andrews, who said that time should not be wasted discussing if climate change is real.  She, unlike some of her more conservative coalition colleagues, obviously accepts the reality of climate change.   She claims that unnecessary debate could distract from the urgent need to develop new bushfire adaption and mitigation techniques.

This sounds very promising and is part of what for months former bushfire chiefs such as Greg Mullins have been calling for.

However, while dealing with the bushfire threat in the long term certainly requires much more effective action from both the federal and state governments, such action does not address the crucial issue of Australia’s totally inadequate carbon emissions reduction policy.

The Prime Minister has also shown he has had a small wake-up call.  He supported Minister Andrews’ announcements which was an improvement on his earlier positioning – including the ridiculous “now is not the time to talk about climate change”.

However on the broader matter of climate policy, Scott Morrison confirmed that the Government would be sticking with the emissions reduction target it took to the election.  But in what he presumably thought would give some comfort to the increasing numbers of the community who are calling for a much more effective emissions reduction policy,  he said that the Government’s climate policy would continue to “evolve”.

So what does that mean?  Very little.  It is nothing more than typical Morrison spin.  It means that the government will go on as before pretending that all that is needed are a few cosmetic changes to convince the electorate that it is doing as much as can be done.

Australia does not have enough time left for Morrison’s policy to "evolve".  Communities here and around the world urgently need stronger climate action from their governments.

            Leonie Blain

This article is an edited version of the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column published in The Daily Examiner on 20 January 2020.

Sunday 19 January 2020


I have no doubt that the NSW Government, despite occasional bouts of insincere 'hand wringing', and non-specific funding announcements, doesn't give a damn about koalas. The failure over many decades to even acknowledge climate change, much less take action to mitigate the impacts, has now led to the incineration of hundreds if not thousands of these iconic marsupials.

The current government also abolished the Native Vegetation Act, opening the flood gates to land clearing on private property.  It also changed the Integrated Forests Operations approval, removing some previous koala protections, and allowing the clear-felling of large areas of state forests, some of it core koala habitat.

Recently we learned that Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management (CKPOM), that councils are required to formulate, are “frozen for years in a sea of red tape”. Plans designed to protect koalas and their habitat across NSW are taking years to be approved by the State Government.

Claims these delays are the result of developers’ lobbying may well be true but, given local experience, one wonders just how effective those CKPOMs are. Just two months ago, developers were granted approval to bulldoze 14 hectares of forest at Iluka, containing core koala habitat and providing a vital fauna movement corridor.

In that case a CKPOM was already approved, and states: “The primary aims of this Plan are to ensure that the current extent of koala habitat is maintained and improved, and not reduced; and to mitigate processes which are limiting koala occupancy rates and/or population sizes”. 

We are also assured in the Plan objectives that Council would: “minimise the potential for adverse impacts and disturbances to current and future areas of koala habitat; protect koala habitat in order to, as a minimum, maintain koala populations across their current range”, and “create, manage and/or restore koala habitat linkages and corridors.

All of these were ignored by Clarence Valley Council's Planners, the majority of Councillors, the Federal Minister for the Environment, and finally the Joint Regional Planning Panel, all of whom gave the development their tick of approval.

This is government-approved extinction in action.

            John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 30, 2019. 

Sunday 12 January 2020


North East Forest Alliance Media Release
January 13, 2020 

The North East Forest Alliance totally rejects industry claims that logging is good for koalas, while calling for an immediate logging and clearing moratorium on all 'highly suitable koala habitat' as identified by the Government.

Logging has removed many of the large trees preferred by Koalas for feeding as well as vital fire refuges out of the reach of ground fires, in the process reducing Koala populations and making forests drier and more flammable, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"Logging has had a profound impact on Koalas and their chances of surviving our apocalyptic future.

"North-east NSW Koala populations have declined over 50% in the past 20 years, and last year 30% of 'highly suitable koala habitat' was burnt, including many known core populations. Thousands of Koalas were killed.

"The Banyabba population is one of the worst affected with 84% of 'highly suitable koala habitat' burnt in the Busbys Flat and Myall Creek fires. This covers lowland forests from the Richmond Range through to Iluka on the coast, and from Lawrence on the Clarence River north to Mongogarie, south of Casino.

"NEFA's monitoring of Koalas on State Forests south of Casino has found 90% of Koalas have been lost from the fireground, so over three-quarters of the Banyabba Koala population is likely to have been lost. This population was already in decline before the fires.

"Koalas face a precarious future, particularly if we continue to log their feed and fire refuge trees. The Koalas need the same trees the loggers want.

"If we want to give Koalas a chance to recover from the devastating impacts of the bushfires, the Government must act urgently to stop logging and clearing of all 'highly suitable koala habitat'.

"Given the immense loss of wildlife in the bushfires it is time to stop degrading their habitat and start restoring it. Business as usual is no longer an option if we want to save our wildlife" Mr. Pugh said.

Wednesday 8 January 2020


2019 has not been a good year for the natural environment either in Australia or elsewhere.  Here climate change has delivered a worsening drought and an escalating megafire disaster - both of which have caused devastating damage to the natural world as well as to the human world. 

Will 2020 be any better for the natural world?  It’s not looking at all promising at the moment.

Although I find it difficult to be optimistic about any improvement, I believe that our governments – and the politicians who serve in them – have been given a strong wake-up call that could lead to some positive action.

Below are some of the changes I hope to see in the coming year.

We need a commitment by all political parties to radically reduce carbon emissions as well as a bipartisan plan to phase out fossil fuel use.  Obviously we also need to plan a just transition for those communities which currently rely on fossil fuel industries.

Furthermore, as global citizens, we need to accept that coal should be left in the ground and acknowledge that opening new coal mines and expanding existing mines is not in either our interest or the global interest.  

The tax breaks given to fossil fuel companies should be abolished and fossil fuel company donations to political parties should be banned.  The Australian community needs its politicians to focus on the national interest, not the interests of polluting fossil fuel companies and their shareholders.

We need a serious effort to halt the biodiversity crisis that Australia is currently facing.  Much attention has recently been given to koalas, an iconic species, but they are a symbol for the hundreds of other species of flora and fauna that are also under threat of extinction. 

The NSW Government needs to take seriously this threat and give the natural environment a priority it has so far failed abysmally to do.  Laws relating to land-clearing and forestry operations need to be drastically changed. 
Will any of this happen?  It could if enough concerned community members force politicians to re-think their priorities.

            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 6,   2020.