Friday 15 December 2023


Professor Graeme Samuel’s 2021 report on the effectiveness of the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1991 (EPBC Act) found that it had largely failed to protect biodiversity.  The government is now working towards amending the act to make it more effective.

A recent article in The Conversation listed broad requirements for improving the effectiveness of the EPBC Act to prevent further species loss as well as working to hasten environmental recovery.  Three of these five listed requirements are discussed below.

The current Act ignores the issue of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity which means the federal environment minister is not required to consider developments such as new or expanded coal mines and gas fields and their climate impacts on biodiversity.  As climate change clearly threatens biodiversity, a climate trigger should be included in the amended Act.

A second requirement is the need to provide effective habitat protection.  This is urgently needed for threatened species such as swift parrots, koalas and greater gliders who are being driven towards extinction because their habitats are being destroyed or fragmented.  And in Australia’s north biodiversity is increasingly threatened by the development of industries such as cotton and fracking for gas which involve extensive land clearing as well as water extraction.

Also discussed was the importance of the new Act not devolving federal approval powers to state and territory governments - something the former federal government was planning to do.  Given the track record of some state and territory governments, this passing the buck could have disastrous consequences as well as leading to inconsistency across the country.

A third requirement was the importance of establishing an independent umpire which operates at arms length from government.  Hopefully the government’s commitment to creating a national Environmental Protection Agency will ensure that the independent umpire is impowered to prevent any political interference by governments leading to over-riding of the biodiversity protection laws.

It will be interesting to see the legislation when it is unveiled.

-        Leonie Blain


 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , November 29, 2023


Saturday 9 December 2023


During a long day recently spent scrambling across some pretty inaccessible terrain in a local State Conservation Area, I unexpectedly happened upon a deep chasm cut into the surrounding sandstone ridges.

I had been searching for populations of a rare plant and had already located a number of the shrubs growing along a gully in a eucalypt-dominated dry sclerophyll forest, when I found myself standing on top of what would normally have been a waterfall, on eye-level with the tops of rainforest trees growing from the depths below. 

Probably no more than fifty metres deep, and less than forty wide, chiselled out of the sandstone by flowing water over millions of years, this 300m long canyon was spectacular and awe-inspiring, with massive boulders littering the floor at the base of towering cliffs covered with ferns and epiphytes.

The sun barely reaches into the depths, which has allowed the rainforest to flourish, with ancient Water Gums, Brush Box, and Tree Ferns, and rocks adorned with orchids, Maidenhair, and Hare’s-foot Ferns, along with mosses and lichens.

As I clambered through the labyrinth of boulders I marvelled at the fact that this gem of nature was only a few hundred metres from human habitation and cleared paddocks full of grazing livestock, yet few people know of its existence, and even fewer have ever had the opportunity to experience its wonder.

So much of our national parks’ estate contains features of great beauty such as this, and while it’s comforting to know they are protected, it seems a shame that more nature-lovers couldn’t share this wondrous experience.

I’m aware of the risk of these icons being “loved to death”, but the therapeutic values they possess could provide relief to many in this stressed-out world.

Tourism and passive recreation are a major driver of the region’s economy, something that should encourage the powers that be to invest more heavily in support of that industry. More walking trails, with interpretive signage and lookout points, and more funding to remove weeds and feral animals, could all add to the experience.


-        John Edwards


Thursday 16 November 2023


 In March last year global concern about plastic pollution saw the formation of an international High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution by 2040. 

The High Ambition Coalition’s three strategic goals are to reduce plastic consumption and production to sustainable levels, to enable a circular economy for plastics that protects the environment and human health and to achieve environmentally sound management and recycling of plastic waste.

As a member of this group, Australia has committed to rapidly increase plastic recycling by 2025.  To meet this goal, as well as dealing with the former government’s ban on waste exports, Environment Minister Plibersek launched a $250 million Recycling Modernisation Fund.

So far $118 million of this fund has been spent on building new waste processing facilities or expanding existing ones across 160 projects.  These recycling facilities include 16 dealing with glass, 60 with plastics, four with paper and cardboard, 12 with tyres and 34 with multi-materials.

“From tyre recycling in Alice Springs to plastic recycling in Dandenong, we’re creating new jobs and keeping waste out of landfill,” Plibersek said.

“This is great for the environment, but its also great for the economy.  For every job in landfill, there are three jobs in recycling.  We’re in a recycling jobs boom.”

 In July Plibersek announced that $60 million from the fund would be dedicated to facilities for “hard to recycle” soft plastics including shopping bags, bread bags, cling wrap and chip packets.

Additional recycling funding has come from state and territory governments ($116 million) and from industry ($454 million).

 Along with the funding for recycling are agreements between state and federal ministers about plastic targets for 2025.  These include making packaging 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable; recycling or composting 75 per cent of plastic packaging; using 50 per cent recycled content in packaging and phasing out unnecessary single-use plastics.

 These are all ambitious targets but they are necessary given the plastic pollution overwhelming us and the natural environment.

 It should also mean plans for a grossly polluting waste to energy incinerator at Casino are abandoned.


-        Leonie Blain

Wednesday 2 August 2023



North East Forest Alliance

Media Release

31 July 2023 

Surveys undertaken for the North East Forest Alliance have identified numerous threatened species within an area now being logged in Newry State Forest, within the proposed Great Koala National Park, including confirming the ongoing occupation of a Koala Hub identified by the Government in 2017 as one of the most important areas to protect for Koalas.

It is grossly irresponsible for the Minister for the Environment, Penny Sharpe, to allow this irreplaceable Koala habitat, identified as both a Koala Hub and a Nationally Important Koala Area, within the proposed Great Koala National Park, to be logged, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said

“Penny Sharpe has taken her hands off the wheel as she drives Koalas to extinction.

“NEFA wrote to Minister Sharpe on 3 April pointing out that within the proposed Great Koala National Park over the next 12 month the Forestry Corporation was intending to log over 1,300 ha in 28 Koala Hubs1 identified by the Office of Environment and Heritage in 2017 for protection as known resident Koala populations of outstanding importance.

“We thought that given their limited extent and outstanding importance for Koalas that it would be easy for her to rule them out for logging

“We provided her with a map showing the location of the Koala Hub in Newry and advised her that it was under imminent threat. A recent assessment by Biolink for NEFA confirmed that Koalas are still resident in this Koala Hub and recommended its protection.

“We also provided her with maps of Koala Hubs in Moonpar, Orara East, and Boambee State Forests that she has since allowed to be logged.

“Koala strongholds are being destroyed while Penny Sharpe stands aside.

A survey just completed by for NEFA  by Bower Books Works in Newry identified five threatened plant species from 40 locations, a Greater Glider den tree, Koala scratches on numerous trees, and significant patches of high quality habitat for the nationally threatened Glossy Black Cockatoo, Koala and Greater Glider.

“Two of the threatened plant species and the Greater Glider den tree require protection under the CIFOA logging rules so we have  written to the Forestry Corporation and EPA for immediate action to protect them.

“The fact that these brief surveys have revealed additional threatened species and records highlights the inadequacy of Forestry Corporation’s surveys, and in particular the refusal of Penny Sharpe to require pre-logging surveys for nationally Endangered species such as Koalas and Southern Greater Gliders.

“Logging in Newry State Forest should be halted immediately, the Koala Hub protected, and independent surveys undertaken to identify the area occupied by Koalas and Greater Gliders, and all locations of threatened plants. 

“Penny Sharpe is now part of the problem, its time she came part of the solution to avoid the extinction of Koalas” Mr. Pugh said.

1.     Koala Hubs were identified in 2017, at the request of the Chief Scientist, the Office of Environment and Heritage analysed Koala records "to delineate highly significant local scale areas of koala occupancy currently known for protection", identifying “areas of currently known significant koala occupancy that indicate clusters of resident populations known as Koala Hubs”.