Friday 26 June 2020


The gas industry has been in the news lately for a number of reasons. 

Firstly there is the Federal Government’s support for expansion of the on-shore gas industry – support largely based on two dubious claims.  For years it has claimed gas is less polluting than other fossil fuels and is an excellent transitional fuel.  More recently it is touting expanding gas production as a major solution for the economic recovery from the COVID downturn.

But the NSW Government is equally determined to expand   gas extraction despite the concerns of community members and the Government’s failure to fully implement recommendations by the NSW Chief Scientist to mitigate the risks of the coal seam gas  (CSG) industry.

Earlier this year a parliamentary inquiry found that only two of the 16 recommendations made by Professor O’Kane  in 2014  had been implemented by the NSW Government  - despite the Government's  promise to implement all of her recommendations.

Against this backdrop is the massive Santos gasfield project in the Pilliga Forest and farmland near Narrabri in the state’s north west.  Although Santos has been extracting gas in the area for some time as a pilot project – and a very large pilot indeed – it is waiting on the final approval from the NSW Government.

While both governments might be very keen to see this and other gasfields go ahead, there is considerable community concern about the impact of the industry in general and Santos' project in particular. Concerns include volume of water used in the extraction process, pollution of groundwater,  damage to the Great Artesian Basin, safe disposal of produced water,  increased carbon emissions and general health concerns for communities living in or near a gasfield.  What has happened elsewhere in the world as well as in Queensland has illustrated just how relevant these and other concerns are.

The NSW Government’s indifference to community concerns was demonstrated clearly on June 4 when it failed to support the CSG Moratorium Bill that stipulated reasonable conditions that should be met for lifting any moratorium on CSG developments.This Bill was passed in the Legislative Council where the opposition and cross benches all supported it but was narrowly defeated in the Legislative Assembly.

The NSW Government appears to have learnt nothing from what happened several years ago in the NSW Northern Rivers over  Metgasco's  proposed gasfield .  Eventually the very strong community opposition forced the NSW Government, which had been a strong supporter of the development, to back down and buy out Metgasco's licence.

Once again this same government is ignoring widespread community concerns about this invasive and polluting industry and is showing its contempt for the community and cosiness with the big end of town.


Monday 15 June 2020


On Our Half Acre Garden living sustainability begins in our kitchen.  We have a 6 tub recycling system which includes bins for the worm farms, compost, soft plastics, recycling (for council pickup), cash back returns and an ‘anything that can’t be recycled’ bin.

Most of our vege and fruit waste goes into our two worm farms which produce delightful ‘worm wee’ and ‘castings’ which are added to the soil in the food garden. Any non-worm farm compatible waste and garden trimmings are added to our 4 bay composting system.

We also add to the compost system lawn clippings, chook poo, horse poo and any other garden cuttings and tree prunings which are put through our heavy duty mulcher. The mulcher has been an extremely worthwhile investment allowing us to utilise all garden waste. Very little leaves our half acre!

We have a small shade house where we raise our vege seedlings and also seedlings propagated from our rainforest trees and plants. This season we needed to construct a critter proof vege seedling ‘house’ as the bugs were particularly voracious eating our first lot of seedlings before we could plant them out!

Our garden has a large bed (6m x 3m) that we use for sweet potatoes and pumpkins which is bordered by the asparagus bed. We have 5 beds (4m x 1m) that we use for rotational planting and a bed (6m x 3m) which has a fruit fly proof netting enclosure for susceptible crops such as brassicas and capsicum.

All our food is organically grown with no toxic sprays used.

We have utilised 2 sets of old concrete tubs for vege growing. They are ideal for small crops and at present we have them filled with a lettuce mix (we pick the leaves as we need them), tomatoes and shallots.

At present we have the following growing in our enclosed bed: broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, wombok, heirloom spinach, curly kale and baby spinach. In our long beds are: beetroot, eggplants, choggia, carrots, giant spinach, bokchoy, cucumbers, zucchini, chillies, tomatoes, garlic, onions and leeks. In the large bed we have: sweet potatoes, snow peas, peas, cos lettuce, lemongrass, strawberries and pepinos.

Three of our beds are dedicated to growing strawberries, blueberries and pineapples.

Throughout the beds we also have planted various culinary herbs such as rosemary, basil, parsley, coriander, thyme, oregano, sage.

We have had a hive of native bees (Tetragonula carbonaria) for 12 years and have split the hive once. We have added some flowering plants and bulbs to attract the honey bees so they can assist the native bees with pollination.

 As well as our vege beds we have quite a range of fruiting food trees: lemon, tangelo, Bowen mango, mandarin, orange, pawpaw, avocado, loquat, manzanilla Olive, macadamia, fig, lichee, mulberry, dragon fruit, coffee, tropical apple, Tahitian lime, kafir lime and the next door neighbours’ rampant choko vine

 Add to that are a few native food trees - tamarind, Davidson’s plum, finger lime midyim and the useful lemon Myrtle which grow in our rainforest pockets along with a wide variety of plant species and a good patch of edible ginger.

All our gardens are watered from our tank system - 4 tanks, which collect the water from our house and our 2 outbuildings. They provide us with 32,500 litres when full. We did run out of water during the drought - you can never have a big enough tank!

All structures in the food garden are constructed using pre-loved materials continuing with our ongoing aim of living sustainability.

We have lived in Our Half Acre Garden for about 12 years. We started with a blank canvas and it has been a real pleasure to create such an oasis, a combination of food garden and habitat garden where we now have a huge number of birds nesting and wild critters finding a safe haven in suburbia.

During the current Covid-19 pandemic it certainly has been our saviour as we spend our time planting, weeding, playing in the dirt and enjoying our bounty.

It’s so easy to create what we have in our half acre. You don’t need a lot of land, you just need a little patience, some spare time and a lot of love. Why don’t you give it a go too!

You can catch up with us on Instagram - ourhalfacregarden

- Lynette Eggins & Brent Wilson

Monday 8 June 2020


The public was recently invited to comment on a draft code of practice (CoP), the 'rule book', for private native forestry (PNF). The CoP has been in place for about 15 years, with the current draft resulting from the mandatory 5 yearly review.
With the stated aim of ensuring Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management, one would expect any review to focus on that aim, but unfortunately that has not been the case.

Ecologists and conservationists have two major concerns, the first being that, while there are provisions to protect threatened flora and fauna that are known to inhabit the proposed logging areas, there is no requirement to actually look for them. In fact, unless there is an official record of a threatened species on the property, it is assumed they don't occur there.

The second concern is a lack of compliance monitoring and enforcement -  for which there is certainly a wealth of evidence. Although it's difficult to pin-point a reason, possibly it relates to a lack of political will to take action against the industry at large. Perhaps it is a case of under resourcing, poorly drafted legislation open to interpretation, or all of the above, but the fact remains that flouting of the Code's regulations is widespread.

Two years ago, the Clarence Environment Centre reported one local case where a PNF operator broke virtually every rule in the book - literally hundreds of breaches. Logging on creek banks, in swamps, on rocky outcrops and on cliff edges. Snigging tracks were constructed on excessive slopes, and across gullies, erosion control measures were inadequate, threatened species had been trampled by machinery, and rubbish like oil drums and tyres were left littering the landscape.

The investigators spent days on site, confirming the reported breaches, and finding additional ones yet, almost two years later, no action has been taken against the culprits, and with the two year statute of limitations looming, the case will likely be dropped.

Unless operators are held to account, how can we have any faith in the supposed aim of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management?
 - John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on May 25 ,  2020.