Inbox and Environment News: Issue 301

February 19 - 25, 2017: Issue 301

Container Deposit Scheme Deadline Extension 

Thursday, 16 February 2017: Media release - Hon. Gabrielle Upton, NSW Minister for the Environment 

The implementation date for the NSW 10 cent container deposit scheme has been extended by five months following requests from environment groups and industry bodies.

The container deposit scheme will now be rolled out from 1 December, 2017, in order to ensure maximum possible state-wide coverage from day one.

“Clean Up Australia and the Boomerang Alliance, along with industry stakeholders, have asked for an extension of time to make sure the container deposit scheme is a world leading program, from day
one,” NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said.

“This will be the biggest initiative to tackle litter in the state’s history – stakeholder feedback is vital to get the scheme right.”

The 2015-2016 National Litter Index found that 49 per cent of litter by volume was made up of beverage containers – and 43 per cent of the total volume was containers that will be caught by the NSW container deposit scheme.

Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel said the Alliance fought hard for the container deposit scheme and wanted to ensure it would work efficiently for the community and business to maximise the environmental benefits.

“The Alliance understood that getting the container deposit scheme up and running was a very complicated process. It’s better to delay the implementation by a few months, so the scheme is ready from day one,” Mr Angel said.

Under the scheme, people in NSW will be able to return most empty beverage containers between 150 ml and three litres to collection points for a 10-cent refund. The container deposit scheme will give people a financial incentive to do the right thing and recycle drink containers to significantly reduce the estimated 160 million drink containers littered every year.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council Director of Economics and Sustainability Tanya Barden said the beverage industry supported an efficient and effective container deposit scheme in NSW.

“We’re pleased that the NSW Government has listened to industry’s and environmental groups’ views about the complexity of introducing such as scheme. This extension allows the time to put the fundamentals in place so that the scheme can operate smoothly for both consumers and industry,” Ms Barden said

Traditional Owners Condemn Brandis’ ‘Adani Amendment’ To Native Title Act As A Con On The Public

13 February 2017: MEDIA RELEASE - Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council
Members of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council today condemned the Turnbull government for pandering to the interests of Indian miner Adani and the wealthy mining industry at the expense of the rights of Traditional Owners, by proposing rushed and ill-considered amendments to the Native Title Act. The W&J Council has called on Federal Labor not to roll over and support this unjust and premature manoeuvre by the Government.

Spokesperson for W&J Traditional Owner Council, Mr. Adrian Burragubba, says, “As always, the Liberal and National Parties will look for any means to override our rights and pander to their mates in the resources sector. 

Today they announced fast-tracked, knee-jerk amendments to the Native Title Act in an attempt to grease the wheels for the controversial Carmichael mine proposal, over our persistent objections and our rights.
“It’s clear Turnbull is willing to ride roughshod over Indigenous land rights for the sake of Adani and this dirty project. This move is a con on the public and part of a manufactured crisis. There is no commercial uncertainty. There is no wholesale threat to Indigenous Land Use Agreements and business interests in the country. 

“We know this is all about Adani and that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in the pocket of Indian billionaire Adani and the mining lobby. Turnbull is blind to Indigenous communities’ right to say ‘no’ to projects which will destroy our lands, waters and culture. These amendments, designed to head off our legal actions because Adani was losing, won’t stop us.

“The registration of Adani’s sham land use agreement is not being held up because of the decision in Western Australia this month. It’s being challenged by us because it was engineered through rent-a-crowds, deceit and dishonest tactics. We will continue our action in the Federal Court to have it struck out, regardless of what dodgy deals are tried on in Canberra to prevent justice.

“The Labor Opposition should make a stand for proper consideration of Native Title reform and not be railroaded by the mining lobby and the coal-obsessed Liberal and National Parties.

“We call on Labor to see this ‘Adani amendment’ for what it is – a response to a political panic created by the head of the Queensland Resources Council, Ian MacFarlane, in the wake of a court decision, because plans for Adani’s proposed mine are unravelling. Labor should do the decent thing and block this move before it gets going.

“The Native Title system needs an overhaul for failing to give due consideration to the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Any reform should involve full consultation, not occur in a piecemeal and chaotic way because of a panic generated by the mining industry,” Mr Burragubba said.

Back To The Future With “Clean Coal”

15 February, 2017
By Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton
“Clean coal” was once a marketing term introduced by the coal industry to refer to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. But with CCS still expensive and with questionable viability, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Government Ministers this month expanded the definition to include new coal plants with a slightly lower emissions profile than the ones built decades ago.

All the government is missing are Marty McFly and a DeLorean as they try to go back in time to change the future.

Even these much-hyped ultra-supercritical coal plants produce about twice the emissions of the electricity generated by gas. They are more expensive than new renewable energy such as wind and solar, and they don’t make a lot of sense in an energy market that is still clogged with legacy coal plants long past their expected retirement date.

Consequently Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull didn't get much support for his coal proposal from the energy sector, investors, or even his own Chief Scientist. 

The PM’s speech at the National Press Club last week outlined clear battlelines for energy in the year ahead. Unfortunately, it was light on substance that will address the looming absence of long-term post-2020 energy policy or the modernisation of Australia’s energy system. And although he reinforced the importance of energy storage – which is helpful – Australia’s lack of bipartisanship on energy policy means we are now looking at second- and third-best options to meet our Paris climate commitments. 

Thankfully, the energy policy circus can't get in the way of the continued cost reductions and massive project pipeline that is charging ahead around the country. In 2017 this will translate into more than 20 wind and solar projects under construction across the country, $5.1 billion of investment and almost 3000 jobs.

And many of these are in regional areas, turning places like Townsville into renewable energy hubs offering jobs for locals and work for contractors in the area.

The many success stories we will see in 2017 make a compelling argument for why renewable energy is important and the case for sensible long-term policy. It’s a golden opportunity for the national economy and for the many people in regional Australia in need of new economic activity. 

Industrial Chemicals 10 Km Below Sea Surface 'Disturbing'

February 14, 2017 - Article By Deborah Smith: UNSW
The discovery of extremely high levels of pollution at the bottom of two of the Earth’s deepest oceanic trenches is a disturbing development that highlights the far-reaching impact of human activities, according to UNSW marine ecologist Dr Katherine Dafforn.

A study by an international team of researchers published today in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution found that tiny marine crustaceans collected from up to 10 kilometres below the ocean surface contained levels of persistent organic pollutants similar to those in in highly industrialised areas.

In a commentary on the study published in the journal, Dr Dafforn noted that “We still know more about the surface of the moon than that of the ocean floor”.

She says the researchers had for the first time “provided clear evidence that the deep ocean, rather than being remote, is highly connected to surface waters and has been exposed to significant concentrations of human-made pollutants”.

She adds: “Their results are disturbing. Concentrations of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in these tiny crustaceans were 50 times greater than in crabs from a highly polluted river system in China.

“This is significant since the trenches are many miles away from any industrial source and suggests that the delivery of these pollutants occurs over long distances, despite regulations since the 1970s."

The researchers, led by Dr Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, used deep-sea landers to collect the scavenging amphipod crustaceans from the depths of the Mariana Trench in the North Pacific Ocean and the Kermadec Trench in the South Pacific Ocean.

They suggest the pollutants most likely found their way to the trenches through contaminated plastic debris and carrion sinking to the bottom of the ocean, where they were then consumed by the amphipods.

PCBs and PBDEs are commonly used as dielectric fluids and flame retardants, respectively. These chemicals accumulate in fatty tissue and are highly detrimental to the health of organisms, due to their endocrine-disrupting properties and impact on the immune system.

“The toxic effects of these pollutants and their potential to biomagnify up the food chain still need to be tested," Dr Dafforn writes. "These knowledge gaps can be addressed through ecotoxicological testing to investigate lethal and sublethal effects.” 

Foxes In Trees: A Threat For Australian Arboreal Fauna?

Published online: 13 February 2017 in Australian Mammalogy
We document the first evidence of tree climbing by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in Australia. Camera traps recorded foxes in trees on the Liverpool Plains, New South Wales. This finding prompts a reassessment of the impact that this invasive predator has on Australian fauna: from purely terrestrial to also potentially arboreal.

Foxes in trees: a threat for Australian arboreal fauna?
Valentina S. A. Mella A, Clare McArthur A , Robert Frend and Mathew S. Crowther. 
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.  Australian Mammalogy -http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AM16049
Submitted: 16 September 2016  Accepted: 29 January 2017   Published online: 13 February 2017

Federal Senate Inquiry: The Rehabilitation Of Mining And Resources Projects As It Relates To Commonwealth Responsibilities


On 8 February 2017, the Senate referred the following matters to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry andreport by 23 August 2017:

The rehabilitation of mining and resources projects as it relates to Commonwealth responsibilities, for example under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), with regard to:
  • the cost of outstanding rehabilitation obligations of currently operating projects;
  • the adequacy of existing regulatory, policy and institutional arrangements to ensure adequate and timely rehabilitation;
  • the adequacy and transparency of financial mechanisms, including assurances, bonds and funds, to ensure that mining and resources projects are rehabilitated without placing a burden on public finances;
  • the effectiveness of current Australian rehabilitation practices in safeguarding human health and repairing and avoiding environmental damage;
  • the effectiveness of existing abandoned mines programs, with regard to repairing environmental damage and safeguarding human health;
  • whether any mining or resources companies have engaged in conduct designed to avoid fulfilling their rehabilitation obligations;
  • the potential social, economic and environmental impacts, including on matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act, of inadequate rehabilitation;
  • the potential social, economic and environmental benefits of adequate rehabilitation, including job opportunities in communities affected by job losses in the mining and resources sectors;
  • international examples of effective rehabilitation policy and practice;
  • proposals for reform of rehabilitation of mining and resources projects; and any other related matters.
The closing date for submissions is 10 April 2017.

Better Planting Saves Threatened Pollinators In NSW

Media release: 17 February 2017
New guidelines to help restore feeding habitats for threatened birds and mammals, including Regent Honeyeaters, Swift Parrots, Little Lorikeets and tree-dwelling marsupials have been developed.

The new guidelines, from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), will inform a large number of habitat restoration, enhancement and regeneration projects currently being planned, or those in the early stages across NSW.

The guidelines, titled Planting to conserve threatened nomadic pollinators in NSW, were funded under the Saving our Species (SoS) program.

Respected ecologist Dr Peggy Eby who drafted the guidelines said planting native food trees is essential for conserving threatened species and ensuring healthy ecosystems.

"Building new habitats will help us protect threatened pollinators and in turn help ensure pollination of our native forests continues as it is a critical process for a healthy environment.

"Without these long-distance pollinator species, we would witness significant declines in the health of our native forests across the east coast of Australia.

"The guidelines provide practical information about which trees can be planted to provide abundant native food for many of our threatened species at key times of the year, helping to manage food shortages for native species," Dr Eby said.

Saving our Species is a state-wide five year $100 million conservation program addressing the growing number of native animals and plants that are facing extinction. Restoring feeding habitat for threatened bird and mammal pollinators can help ensure their survival.

You can see the guidelines here 

Learn more about Saving our Species here 
Top: Regent honeyeater 
Photo credit: M_Sheperd / Office of Environment and Heritage 

New Legislation To Protect Polar Regions

16 February 2017: Media Release - The Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester today introduced amendments to maritime legislation that will further protect the planet’s polar regions from the impact of ship pollution.

“Through the International Maritime Organization, Australia has been working closely with other countries, the shipping industry and environmental groups to develop the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters, called the ‘polar code’,”Mr Chester said.

“The Government is amending the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983, to align our domestic law with our international obligations.  This will allow Australia to play its part in protecting the world’s most delicate geographical locations.

“The amendments will outline a set of requirements to reduce marine pollution by ensuring further discharge restrictions for oil, noxious liquid substances, sewage, and garbage for certain ships operating in polar waters.

“Specifically, the amendments will apply to the Antarctic Area and Arctic waters.

“Australia has a strong national interest in Antarctica, with responsibilities for a large portion of the Southern Ocean, including in the safety of shipping and the environmental protection of Antarctic waters.

“Polar regions are known for their unique pristine environment, remoteness and harsh weather conditions

“The amendments I have introduced will go a long way towards improving shipping practices, reducing marine pollution, and ensuring we meet our international obligations.

“Protecting Antarctic and Arctic waters delivers on Australia’s responsibility under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)and benefits the greater good in preserving this unique part of the planet,” Mr Chester said.

CEFC Finance Helps Convert Queensland Gold Mine To Solar With Pumped Hydro Storage On The Horizon

14 February 2017: Media Release - Australian Government's Clean Energy Finance Corp (CEFC)
The CEFC has confirmed another major new investment in North Queensland, with $54 million in finance for an innovative large-scale solar development that also has the potential to spearhead a new pumped hydro storage project.

Genex Power Ltd has secured $54 million in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for the development of the Phase One 50MW large-scale solar farm at its Kidston Renewable Energy Hub, 270km north west of Townsville. The solar farm is expected to lead to the Phase Two development of a pumped hydro storage project on the same site.

The innovative project is based around the former Kidston gold mine. The project will be the first of its kind in Australia to co-locate a large-scale solar farm with a large-scale pumped hydro storage project, creating a combined generation and storage model that can be used elsewhere. By using clean energy to extend the life of the disused gold mine site, the Kidston project also creates a potential model for other disused mine sites around Australia.

"The CEFC is delighted to be part of the Kidston Solar Project Phase One, with our tailored finance helping accelerate the construction and delivery of the 50MW large-scale solar farm on this unique site," CEFC Large-Scale Solar lead Gloria Chan said.

"This substantial solar farm is ideally located in an area of high solar penetration, and will be able to produce enough energy to meet the needs of almost 26,500 homes once it starts generating power later this year."

In a statement to the ASX today, Genex said that with full project construction underway for Phase One of the Kidston project, it will now turn to securing financial arrangements for the 250MW Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project.

Genex Managing Director Michael Addison said: "Genex was pleased to work closely with the CEFC on the financing of Phase One of the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub.  As an ASX-listed company focused on renewable energy generation and storage, we are pleased to partner with the CEFC to develop this project.  The development of the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub is an important step in the transition of the Australian economy to a clean, low carbon economy."

The Kidston project is the latest to have received finance under the CEFC's large-scale solar program, following its recent $150 million commitment to three NSW projects. Further CEFC-financed large-scale solar projects are nearing financial close, with the program on track to exceed its initial $250 million target.

Following the success of the large-scale solar program, the CEFC is now looking to finance the accelerated development of flexible capacity and large-scale storage projects.

Ms Chan added: "Energy storage solutions such as pumped hydro are the next step in our clean energy transition. With the cost of solar generation continuing to decline, we are committed to working with developers to finance opportunities that can complement Australia's growing renewable energy capacity by adding energy storage and grid stability services."

Genex estimates that on completion, the 250MW pumped hydro storage project will support 1,500MWh of continuous power in a single 6-hour generation cycle. While large-scale pumped hydro storage has a proven track record overseas, there are only three projects operating in Australia at Tumut and the Shoalhaven in NSW and at Wivenhoe in Queensland.

ABOUT CEFC
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation invests, applying commercial rigour, to increase the flow of finance into the clean energy sector. Our mission is to accelerate Australia's transformation towards a more competitive economy in a carbon constrained world, by acting as a catalyst to increase investment in emissions reduction. We do this through an investment strategy focused on cleaner power solutions, including large and small-scale solar, wind and bioenergy; and a better built environment, with investments to drive more energy efficient property, vehicles, infrastructure and industry. The CEFC also invests with co-financiers to develop new sources of capital for the clean energy sector, including climate bonds, equity funds, aggregation facilities and other financial solutions. The CEFC operates under the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012.

ABOUT GENEX POWER
Genex Power is a power generation development company listed on the ASX. The company is focused on innovative clean energy generation and electricity storage solutions which deliver attractive commercial returns for shareholders. Genex is currently pursuing a number of unique energy development opportunities across Australia. With the financial closure of it's 50MW Kidston Solar Project, the company's focus will now diverge to the development of its 250MW Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project and the Kidston Solar Project Phase Two 270MW located at the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub, in Northern Queensland. 

NSW Water Resource Plan Consultation 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017: Media Release - NSW Dept. of DPI
Minister for Regional Water, Niall Blair said the NSW Government is delivering on a key Basin Plan commitment with the release of eight Water Resource Plan Status and Issues papers to take place on Friday.

“These papers set out issues related to water availability, reliability of access and longterm sustainable use, particularly through times of drought,” Mr Blair said.

“I urge all members of the community, particularly water users, to comment on the relevant Status and Issues paper in their region, and submit any additional issues that should be considered in developing a Water Resource Plan.

“It is an opportunity to look at existing planning mechanisms and water sharing rules, to identify and resolve any shortcomings, and find ways to be more efficient and productive in the NSW Murray Darling Basin.

“The plans need to work for regional communities and economies, so it is important to balance cultural and environmental needs without constraining the productive use of water that underpins the world-class irrigated agriculture sector in NSW.”

Status and Issues papers will be released on Friday for consultation in the Barwon- Darling (surface water), Murray-Lower Darling (surface water), Murrumbidgee (surface water), Namoi (surface water), Border Rivers (groundwater), Gwydir (groundwater), Lachlan (groundwater) and Macquarie-Castlereagh (groundwater).

Stakeholder Advisory Panels have been established for each surface water plan area – a vital aspect for widespread and meaningful stakeholder and community engagement.

Copies of the Status and Issues Papers, together with other supporting information will be available at www.water.nsw.gov.au

The exhibition period will be open from this Friday until Friday 31 March 2017. All written submissions, from brief emails to full technical papers, are welcome. 

Origin's NT Frack Sites A No Go Says Neighbour

February 16, 2017: Medisa Release - Lock the Gate
The owner of the cattle station neighbouring Origin's latest Northern Territory frack site has called out the company for contamination and failure to indemnify the risks, calling for fracking licences to be removed altogether due to the risks.

Origin is today reporting more than a billion dollar loss in the first half of this financial year, and is facing serious allegations of major management cover-ups of environmental incidents, including contamination, leaks of oil and gas, and failure to maintain wells at its Queensland coal seam gas operations.

Rod Dunbar owns Nutwood Downs Cattle station in the Roper River region and has been pressured for years by Origin oil and gas to access his property for fracking.

"My family-owned cattle station is in the firing line by Origin, a company that is crowing about their gas find while being accused of serious contamination and cover ups in the state next door,” said Rod Dunbar. 

A report, commissioned by Origin itself, found that fracking on my Nutwood Downs Station location will contaminate our ground water, yet Origin in their negotiations with us have never disclosed this evidence.  

"My neighbours have already been fracked and Origin is licking their lips wanting to access my property and spread fracking gasfields across the Roper River region while covering up the facts on contamination risks. 

“I have been demanding both Origin and the NT Government provide Indemnity Insurance to safeguard my family business from loss and damages resulting from the activities of Origin Energy, which include environmental damage to groundwater, surface water and property infrastructure.

“Origin refuses to contractually guarantee and indemnify us, therefore I am calling on the NT Government to remove the fracking licences over my property immediately.

“I won't be bullied into living in a gasfield. We must protect water and agriculture,” he said.

Comment Invited On Draft Lower Namoi Valley Floodplain Management Plan

13 Feb 2017: NSW Dept. of DPI
An areal view of a floodplain
Floodplain landholders and the general community are being invited to comment on the draft Lower Namoi Valley Floodplain Management Plan, Senior Water Planner, Stacey Winckel, announced today.

“The draft Lower Namoi Valley plan is the fourth of six floodplain management plans being prepared across the northern valleys in NSW's Murray-Darling Basin,” said Ms Winckel.

“The purpose of the draft Lower Namoi Valley plan is to coordinate the future development of flood works on the floodplain.

“The plan is designed to manage the risk to life and property from the effects of flooding and protect and maintain flood connectivity to flood-dependent ecological and cultural features of the floodplain.”

Ms Winckel said the draft plan proposes minimal change for landholders, building on current practices through improved technical knowledge and understanding to achieve a simplified approvals process for new and amended flood works.

“The draft plan outlines the types of flood works that may be considered for approval, standards for the construction of flood works, and where flood work approvals will and will not require advertising.

“To ensure a balanced approach, development of the draft Lower Namoi Valley plan has been overseen by an Interagency Regional Panel incorporating representatives from DPI, Office of Environment and Heritage and Local Land Services.”

Ms Winckel continued, saying that in addition to the Lower Namoi plan DPI Water is also currently undertaking a process to licence floodplain harvesting through the NSW Healthy Floodplains Project.

“I would urge all interested people to review the draft Lower Namoi Valley plan and make comment to ensure that the final plan deals with local issues in a practical way,” Ms Winckel said.

More information
Details of where people can view the draft plan, together with additional information, can be found at Plans on exhibition.

Public comment on the draft Lower Valley Floodplain Management Plan closes on Thursday 13 April 2017.

Funding for the NSW Healthy Floodplains project is provided by the Australian Government’s Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program as part of the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in NSW.

Senate Inquiry Into Mining Rehabilitation First Step To New Regional Jobs

February 09, 2017: Media release - Lock the Gate
Lock the Gate has welcomed the Senate Inquiry into mining rehabilitation, established by the federal Senate today, and says ensuring mining companies fulfil their responsibilities to clean-up their damage will generate new regional jobs.

The Senate Inquiry, initiated by the Greens and supported by the ALP, will look into whether regulations for mining rehabilitation are adequate, whether mining companies are avoiding their rehabilitation obligations, and potential job opportunities in communities affected by mining job losses.

“As mines go bust, big companies are sacking their workers and disappearing without fulfilling their responsibilities to clean up the damage done to land and water, often in important agricultural areas,” Lock the Gate President Drew Hutton said.

“Instead of just up and leaving when mines close, mining companies should be made to employ locals to rehabilitate the site, generating new jobs when they’re needed most and reducing damage to surrounding agricultural land.

“Big mining companies that have been flouting their responsibilities will no doubt have some tough questions to answer in this Inquiry.

“The Inquiry is an opportunity for the many affected regional Australians to tell politicians why big mining companies shouldn’t have been allowed to leave their communities to deal with the health, environmental and agricultural impacts of abandoned mines.

Currently there are some 50,000 abandoned mines across the country and, as the world moves towards renewable energy, more and more fossil fuel mines are shutting down.

“Instead of leaving regional Australians to deal with this mounting problem, we need to get on the front foot and force mining companies to fulfil their obligations to clean up their own mess,” Mr Hutton said.

Smartflower - The World's First Intelligent All-In-One Solar System

Not available in Australia yet, but an interesting development. Winner in 2016 of a Red Dot Design Award
More information: www.smartflower.com

About
smartflower - the intelligent all-in-one solar system is automatic and extremely efficient thanks to its remarkable design and perfectly matched components. Innovative smart features achieve maximum yield and more efficient use of the power generated.

Thanks to smart tracking, the smartflower POP folds out automatically every morning and tracks the sun during the day with its 2-axis controller. This raises yield by up to 40% compared to a roof mounted system which only points at the right angle to the sun for only a few hours a year. 

Smart cleaning and smart cooling also prevent the usual losses caused by heat and contamination accumulation by up to 15%. The system then yields 3,400–6,200 kWh/a depending on the region – and this covers the complete average electricity requirements of a household in Central Europe.

Products
  • smartflower POP - the world's first intelligent all-in-one solar system
  • smartflower POP+ - the intelligent all-in-one solar system with power storage
  • smartflower POP-e - the intelligent all-in-one solar system combined with a charging station for electric vehicles

Smartflower Installation Video 

Cape Byron Visitor Master Plan Open For Consultation

Media release: 13 February 2017
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Cape Byron Trust are encouraging people to have their say to improve visitor experiences at Cape Byron State Conservation Area and ensure the treasured location is preserved.

Chair of the Cape Byron Trust, Delta Kay said culture and nature conservation is at the forefront of the Cape Byron Preliminary Visitor Master Plan and people are invited to submit their feedback.

"The area is home to the heritage listed Cape Byron Lighthouse, one of the most highly visited locations in regional NSW with 1.5 million visitors annually and more than 2800 visitors walking to it daily," Ms Kay said.

"This iconic location is an important recreation area for the local community and visitors, and is a place of spiritual and cultural significance to the Bundjalung of Byron Bay (Arakwal) people," she said.

NPWS jointly manages the area with the Arakwal people as members of the Cape Byron Trust and the master plan is required to provide a clear vision to address future challenges and opportunities that tourism presents the Byron community.

"From the heritage Lighthouse to the endangered ecological communities, this master plan will ensure our unique location is preserved and maintains its close connection with the community," Ms Kay said.

"Due to limited parking availability, solar powered electric shuttle buses are being proposed to alleviate the congestion from the 2700 or so unnecessary car trips made daily to and from the lighthouse.

"To remove conflicts between walkers and cars, plans also include the completion of the Wategos Beach footpath and the extension of the walking track beyond the boardwalk on Lighthouse Road and the Tallow Ridge walking track link to Tallow Beach Road.

"Improved walking tracks and lookouts at Little Wategos and the Most Easterly Point of Mainland Australia are important to protect the endangered ecological grassland communities, and to provide for joggers and people enjoying the views and wildlife.

"Continuing community engagement is essential in order to maintain a haven that allows visitors to experience the unique culture and heritage of Cape Byron through education, outstanding natural spaces and engaging experiences," Ms Kay said.

The Cape Byron Preliminary Visitor Masterplan will be on public exhibition from 13 February 2017 and the deadline for submissions is 27 March 2017.

Feedback can be submitted via an online form,capebyron.masterplan@environment.nsw.gov.au or Cape Byron Trust - Cape Byron Masterplan: PO BOX 127, Byron Bay NSW 2481.

Hard copies of the NPWS Cape Byron Preliminary Visitor Master Plan can be viewed at:

NPWS Byron Bay Office, Tallow Beach Road, Byron Bay NSW 2481
Byron Shire Council, 70-90 Station Street, Mullumbimby NSW 2482
Byron Bay Library, Corner of Lawson and Middleton Streets, Byron Bay NSW 2481
Office of Environment and Heritage, Level 14, 59-61 Goulburn Street, Sydney NSW 2000
For more information contact capebyron.masterplan@environment.nsw.gov.au

online form at: 

Marine Bacteria Produce An Environmentally Important Molecule With Links To Climate

February 13, 2017: University of East Anglia
Scientists from the University of East Anglia and Ocean University China have discovered that tiny marine bacteria can synthesise one of Earth's most abundant sulfur molecules, which affects atmospheric chemistry and potentially climate.

This molecule, dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) is an important nutrient for marine microorganisms and is the major precursor for the climate-cooling gas, dimethyl sulfide (DMS).

DMS, produced when microorganisms break down DMSP, is thought to have a role in regulating the climate by increasing cloud droplets that in turn reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the ocean's surface. These same clouds are vital in the movement of large amounts of sulfur from oceans to land, making the production of DMSP and DMS a critical step in the global sulfur cycle.

It was previously widely thought that only eukaryotes -- 'higher' organisms with complex cells, such as seaweeds and phytoplankton -- produced DMSP. However, researchers have discovered that many marine bacteria also produce this sulfur compound, and have identified the key gene in the process.

"Our finding that DMSP is produced by many marine bacteria could mean that scientists have been significantly underestimating both the production of this molecule and the effects it is having in the environment" said Dr Jonathan Todd from UEA's School of Biological Sciences. "Since these bacteria do not require sunlight for growth, the production of DMSP need not be confined to the surface ocean waters which receive the most light energy, as was thought to be the case."

Dr Andrew Curson from UEA's School of Biological Sciences said: "The identification of the key gene for DMSP synthesis in these bacteria will allow scientists to predict which bacteria are producing DMSP and assess their contribution to global production of this environmentally important molecule."

Ana Bermejo Martinez, a UEA PhD student involved in this research, said: "Using DMSP-producing marine bacteria as model organisms will also help us to understand how and why the synthesis of this key molecule is regulated in different environments."

Dr Zhang from OUC's College of Marine Life Sciences said: "These bacteria, isolated during a research cruise in the East China Sea, have led to a ground-breaking discovery in the field. This work shows that marine bacteria are likely very important contributors to global DMSP and DMS production."

This work was carried out as part of a collaboration between the University of East Anglia, and Ocean University China and work at UEA was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

The paper 'Dimethylsulfoniopropionate biosynthesis in marine bacteria and identification of the key gene in this process' is published in the scientific journal Nature Microbiology.

Andrew R. J. Curson, Ji Liu, Ana Bermejo Martínez, Robert T. Green, Yohan Chan, Ornella Carrión, Beth T. Williams, Sheng-Hui Zhang, Gui-Peng Yang, Philip C. Bulman Page, Xiao-Hua Zhang, Jonathan D. Todd.Dimethylsulfoniopropionate biosynthesis in marine bacteria and identification of the key gene in this process. Nature Microbiology, 2017; 2: 17009 DOI: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2017.9

Bird Walks And Talks 2017: PNHA

Come and see and hear some of our fantastic native birds, many of which you'll never see in your garden. Join in a Sunday guided bird walk with Pittwater Natural Heritage Association. All walks  start at 8am and end about 10am.

March 26, Irrawong reserve. Meet at corner Irrawong Rd and  Epworth Rd.
May 28, Warriewood Wetlands, meet at End of Katoa Close, north Narrabeen.
August 27 Chiltern Track. Meet at gate, off northern of Chiltern Rd Ingleside.
September 17 Irrawong reserve. Meet at corner Irrawong Rd and Epworth Rd.
November 26 Warriewood Wetlands. Meet end of Katoa Close, north Narrabeen. 

Bring binoculars if possible. Drink, hat and comfortable shoes.
More information contact pnhabirdwatching@gmail.com or 
Ph Kerry on 0402605 721.

You don't need to book but if we know you're coming we'll watch out for you. Call if in doubt about weather as we won't go out if it's raining.


Av. Green Team Back At Work

Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative from Avalon in Sydney. Trying to keep our area green and clean!

Keep up to date with and join in their next cleansvia their facebook page

Government Introduces Legislation To Address McGlade Decision

16/02/2017: Media Release - National Native Title Tribunal
The Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 was introduced into Parliament yesterday, 15 February 2017. Copies of the Bill and Explanatory memorandum are available on the APH website.

According to the memorandum, the Bill amends the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), to resolve the uncertainty created by the Full Federal Court decision in McGlade v Native Title Registrar & Ors [2017] FCAFC 10 regarding area Indigenous Land Use Agreements (area ILUAs).

Until the outcome of the Bill is known, the Acting Native Title Registrar will maintain the moratorium on the registration of all area ILUAs currently in the registration/notification stage that may be affected by the McGlade decision.

Impact Of Climate Change On Mammals And Birds 'Greatly Underestimated'

February 13, 2017: University of Queensland
An international study published today involving University of Queensland research has found large numbers of threatened species have already been impacted by climate change.

Associate Professor James Watson of UQ's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Wildlife Conservation Society said alarmingly, the team of international researchers found evidence of observed responses to recent climate changes in almost 700 birds and mammal species.

"There has been a massive under-reporting of these impacts," he said.

"Only seven per cent of mammals and four per cent of birds that showed a negative response to climate change are currently considered 'threatened by climate change and severe weather' by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species."

Associate Professor Watson said the study reviewed the observed impacts of climate change on birds and mammals using a total of 130 studies, making it the most comprehensive assessment to date on how climate change has affected our most well studied species.

"The results suggested it is likely that around half the threatened mammals (out of 873 species) and 23 per cent of threatened birds (out of 1272 species) have already responded negatively to climate change," he said.

Lead author Michela Pacifici of the Global Mammal Assessment Program at Sapienza University of Rome said this implied that, in the presence of adverse environmental conditions, populations of these species had a high probability of also being negatively impacted by future climatic changes.

Associate Professor Watson said the study clearly showed that the impact of climate change on mammals and birds to date has been greatly under estimated and reported on.

"This under-reporting is also very likely in less studied species groups. We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on all species right now," he said.

"We need to communicate the impacts of climate change to the wider public and we need to ensure key decision makers know significant change needs to happen now to stop species going extinct.

"Climate change is not a future threat anymore."

Michela Pacifici, Piero Visconti, Stuart H. M. Butchart, James E. M. Watson, Francesca M. Cassola & Carlo Rondinini. Species’ traits influenced their response to recent climate change. Nature Climate Change, February 2017 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3223

Broken Hill North Mine Recommencement Project

Recommencement of underground mining operations at the Broken Hill North Mine (see attached Environmental Impact Statement). 

Exhibition Start   05/02/2017
Exhibition End 06/03/2017

Project is currently on public exhibition and opportunity for public submissions is available. Visit HERE

Have Your Say On A Modification To Hunter Valley Operations South

09.02.2017: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment
A proposal by HV Operations Pty Ltd for a modification to its coal mine 24 kilometres north-west of Singleton will be on exhibition from today for community consultation.

The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the proposal, which involves:
  • extending the depth of the Riverview and Cheshunt Pits and South Lemington Pit 2 to allow the extraction of deeper coal seams
  • increasing the maximum annual production from 16 to 20 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal
  • increasing the height of selected overburden emplacement areas
  • amending the Statement of Commitments
Submissions can be made from Thursday 9 February until Friday 10 March 2017.
 

$1 Million In Grants To Support Environmental Research

Media release: 6 February 2017- NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
Grant funding of $1 million is now available as the NSW Environmental Trust Environmental Research program opens for expressions of interest.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Chief Executive and Trust Secretary Michael Wright said the funding will go towards helping solve current and future environmental issues with innovative and sustainable research solutions.

"The funding supports academics and scientific institutions, working in close collaboration with relevant stakeholders, as they use applied research to investigate new knowledge and advanced techniques to answer complex environmental issues," Mr Wright said.

"For the 2017 grant program, new research priorities have been set and proposals must focus on contaminants and pollution; biodiversity; climate adaption and/or mechanisms for social engagement.

"Past funding has played a critical role in a variety of projects, from investigating the ecological benefits of blackwater through to examining identification of hazardous organics at fire scenes.

"The funding will go towards preventing environmental harm and forging successful, real-world solutions to solve environmental problems in NSW.

"Individual grants of up to $150,000 are available and I encourage interested researchers to apply.

"A total of 187 expressions of interest were received in the last funding round; I anticipate high interest in this round too," Mr Wright said.

The 2017 Environmental Research program, run by the NSW Environmental Trust, opens for expressions of interest on Monday 6 February and closes on Monday 13 March.

To find out more about the application process visit the Environmental Trust’s website: Environmental research grants.

Myna Action Group 

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)
Indian Mynas - what a pest - like flying rats. 
Can you help distribute our new flyers about our Northern Beaches Indian Myna Action Group? 

They are for people in cafes and coffee shops, explaining why not to feed these birds and how to get involved in their control. Just take a few and hand out where ever you can. Cafe staff are usually glad of the help. Contact us on pnhainfo@gmail.com for more information and have a look athttps://www.facebook.com/MynaProblems/

Indian Mynas are displacing our native birds. 
They often nest in and around shops where their food source is. I took this one down this morning in Avalon (no chicks or eggs but I disturbed the female). There were literally hundreds of tiny bits of plastic in the nest which makes you think that all this plastic would be swilling down the stormwater drains into the sea.

Clean Up Australia Day 2017
SUNDAY 5 MARCH

SCHOOLS CLEAN UP DAY 3 MARCH
BUSINESS CLEAN UP DAY 28 FEB
Register or join a site at: www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au

2108
Coasters Retreat
Meeting Point: The fire brigade shed
Date: March 5th 2017
Start time: 9:00 AM
End time: 11:00 AM
Contact Wilma Taylor - Email: warwiskataylor@yahoo.com

2107
Avalon Beach
Meeting Point: Avalon Beach SLSC.
Date: March 5th 2017
Start time: 9:00 AM
End time: 10:00 AM
Site Coordinator Details
Guy Williment - Email: gwilliment@live.com.au

Avalon Dunes Careel Creek
Meeting Point: near Avalon Skate Park
Date: March 5th 2017
Start time: 8:00 AM
End time: 11:00 AM
Site Coordinator Details
Marita Macrae - Email: marita.macrae@gmail.com

2104
Bayview Shore Front
Come For Half An Hour Or As Long As You Can Manage. Plastic Is The Number One Material Caught In The Mangroves, Buried In Mud And Sand And Mixed In With Shore Debris.
Meeting Point: Bayview Baths - in the park to the right of Gibsons Marina
Date: March 5th 2017
Start time: 08:00 AM
End time: 11:00 AM
Site Coordinator Details
Louise Smith - Email: le_gbsmith@optusnet.com.au

2103
Coastal Environment Centre
Representing: Upper Northern Beaches Rotary Club
Meeting Point: Volunteers will meet at the Coastal Environment Centre and work north towards Warriewood SLSC
This Clean Up is a recurring one which takes place yearly.
Next Clean Up: March 5th 2017
Date: March 5th 2017
Start time: 9:30 AM
End time: 11:00 AM
Site Coordinator Details
Michael Baxter - Email: mdbax@hotmail.com

2102
Mona Vale Beach
Representing: Blackmores Ltd
Meeting Point: Car park next to Bronze Cafe
Date: March 2nd 2017
Start time: 7:00 AM
End time: 2:00 PM
Site Coordinator Details
Jackie Smiles - Email: jsmiles@blackmores.com.au

2101
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Representing: Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment
Meeting Point: Berry Reserve
Date: March 5th 2017
Start time: 8:00 AM
End time: 11:00 AM
Site Coordinator Details
Judith Bennett - Email: email@narrabeenlagoon.org.au


If Victoria Can Ban CSG, NSW Can Too!

By The Wilderness Society
Coal seam gas (CSG) threatens our water, our health and our climate. Many jurisdictions around the world are permanently banning this dangerous industry, most recently Victoria. We do not need or want risky coal seam gas in NSW. 
 
It’s clear that the industry has no social licence in our state, yet vast and critical areas—as well as human health—are still under threat from CSG across the state.

Call on the new Premier Berejiklian and the new Planning Minister Roberts to follow Victoria's lead and ban this harmful and risky industry in NSW. 



New Approach For Assessing The Social Impacts Of Mining

By NSW Dept. of Planning & Environment
The assessment of the social impacts of mining projects will be strengthened following the exhibition of draft social impact assessment guidelines.

The guidelines have been developed to improve the quality and utility of social impact assessments, which in turn will drive better project design and provide greater certainty to local communities and proponents.

Examples of positive social impacts may include increased employment opportunities and support for local businesses and organisations, whilst examples of negative social impacts may include community dislocation and amenity loss.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the new guidelines reflect the important principle that people are at the heart of planning decisions.

“It’s critical that impacts on communities are thoroughly considered and addressed in the assessment of mining projects,” Mr Stokes said.

“These guidelines will support consistency and fairness in decision making, while driving greater accountability and transparency with respect to the social impacts.”

The draft guidelines have been informed by:
  • meetings with local groups in eight locations across rural, regional and remote NSW;
  • advice on current leading practice from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, a respected leader in the field of social impact assessment; and
  • consultation with peak community, environment, industry, local government and Aboriginal groups via the Department of Planning and Environment’s Resources Advisory Forum.
The draft guidelines have been released for an extended public exhibition and submission period of 12 weeks from 8 December 2016 until 3 March 2017. The Department will also conduct community workshops and stakeholder briefing sessions.

To view the draft guidelines or to make a submission, please visithttp://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Policy-and-Legislation/Social-Impact-Assessment.

Petition: Ban Balloons Release

Goal - Australia-wide ban on the release of balloons and the use of helium to inflate balloons.

Problem: Released balloons always come back to Earth as litter. 
* When mistaken as food, balloons can slowly kill wildlife through digestive blockage, strangulation and choking. Affected wildlife includes marine animals such as shearwaters and turtles, as well as freshwater such as platypus. Farm animals can also be affected. 

* Many marine wildlife research scientists support a ban on the release of balloons, as do organisations involved with litter and marine protection, such as Boomerang Alliance, Tangaroa Blue, Lord Howe Island Museum, Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre and the Australian Platypus Conservancy.

* Marine Plastic Pollution is increased with balloon releases.

* Balloons are no longer made from natural latex but a synthetic. While the industry claims balloons biodegrade in the same time as “an oak leaf”, this can take many months or years, all the while posing a threat to wildlife. Non-biodegradable attached streamers and disks add to the litter and threat. 

* Mylar balloons do not biodegrade; they can cause power outages and spark fires.

* Agencies already spend a great deal of time and effort attempting to educate people about the environmental impacts of released balloons. Despite this and a variety of anti-litter and anti-balloon release laws across Australia, releases still occur.
* The use of helium enables the accidental release of balloons. With easy access to helium and helium balloons now ubiquitous at events and festivals, this is all too common. 
Just one released balloon will result in litter and pose a threat to wildlife.
* Alternatives to balloon releases include reusable banners, flags, ribbon dancers, or pinwheels. For memorials and fundraisers: plant trees or gardens, actions that promote life.

There is a global movement against the release of balloons due to their environmental impact (see BalloonsBlow. org). Australia could lead the way and be the first to nationally ban helium balloons.

Solution: The Federal Government unites the States and Territories of Australia for a national ban on the release of balloons and the use of helium to inflate balloons for non-scientific uses.


Draft NSW Marine Estate Threat And Risk Assessment Report Released

January 2017: Media Release - NSW DPI
The Marine Estate Management Authority has released the draft statewide Threat and Risk Assessment (TARA) Report for the NSW marine estate.
Authority Chair Dr Wendy Craik said the draft report summarises the first statewide evidence-based assessment of the threats to the social and economic benefits of the marine estate and the environmental assets that support them.

“The draft TARA report has been developed based on the best available scientific evidence and advice from experts, stakeholders and the community,” she said.

Dr Craik said the NSW community had helped identify the social and economic benefits our estuaries and coastline provide, and the importance of the environmental assets that underpin them, during a statewide survey in 2014.

“These benefits include recreational pursuits such as swimming or surfing at the beach, boating, fishing, and commercial and tourism opportunities such as shipping, commercial and charter fishing, SCUBA diving and others,” she said.

“Community members and stakeholders now have an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft report, which highlights potential threats to these benefits and the marine estate’s environmental assets.”

Dr Craik said short videos and an interactive tool are being provided to facilitate community feedback and discussion by presenting the report results in a user-friendly way.

“We are committed to managing our marine estate for the benefit of the community, and this report and the process is designed to support and encourage participation,” she said.

The final report will inform the ongoing management of the NSW marine estate through the drafting of a new 10-year Marine Estate Management Strategy.

It will also be considered in the creation of new management plans, starting with the Solitary Islands and Batemans Marine Parks.

The draft TARA report includes revised findings for the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion, now called the ‘Central Region’.

The draft report delivers on a key commitment of the NSW Government, to provide evidence-based management of the NSW marine estate, and is a requirement of the Marine Estate Management Act 2014.

More information

The public comment period closes on Friday, 31 March 2017. Key marine estate stakeholders will be invited to participate in a series of workshops to be held along the coast in February and March

Planning Reforms To Boost Housing Supply

09.01.2017: Ministerial Media Release - The Hon. Rob Stokes MP, Minister for Planning
Making it simpler to build a home and enhancing community participation in key decisions will be now easier through a package of red tape-busting reforms released for consultation by the NSW Government today.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said proposed amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 target delays in Development Application (DA) processing by councils, while also enhancing community confidence in the planning system.

The proposed changes include standardising the format of council’s development control plans to make them easier to understand and navigate, giving developers incentives to resolve objections before lodging DAs, and focusing councillor attention on strategic planning with greater numbers of DA assessments being processed by staff or local planning panels.

Local communities will have greater opportunity to participate in strategic planning for their neighbourhoods as early as practicable, with each planning authority required to prepare community participation plans. 

Other proposed changes include leveling the playing field for the assessment of major projects by ending transitional arrangements under Labor’s controversial Part 3A development assessment which will prevent the misuse of modifications. 

Mr Stokes said the state was experiencing the longest housing construction boom in NSW history with the latest figures for the 12 months to October showing 74,577 approvals, the second highest on record.

“However, there is still more work to do and these planning reforms build on our impressive results over the past five years by making it easier to build new homes,” Mr Stokes said.

“The NSW Government is determined to do everything it can, including making the planning system more efficient, to ensure housing supply gets to homebuyers fast.”

Mr Stokes said NSW Treasury estimated there is pent up demand for up to 100,000 new homes due to the former Labor Government failing to provide adequate supply.  

Proposed updates to the EP&A Act include:
• Investigating incentives for developers to consult with neighbours and the surrounding community to ensure disputes are resolved prior to a Development  Application proceeding to council;
• New powers for the Planning Minister to direct a council to establish a local planning panels of experts and community representatives;
• A standardised format for development control plans, produced in consultation with councils, to promote consistency across the confusing array of up to 400 formats currently used in NSW;
• Authority for the Department of Planning and Environment Secretary to ensure the efficient processing of developments that require separate approvals and advice under different NSW legislation;
• Measures to ensure that local environmental plans are kept up to date;
• Extending and improving the complying development assessment process that currently covers most new one or two storey dwellings, to include greenfield developments and terrace housing.
• Simplifying and consolidating building provisions to remove confusion for developers;
• Widening the availability of internal review options for proponents aggrieved by council decisions as a faster, low cost alternative to court action; and
• Introducing fair and consistent planning agreements between developers and councils to ensure there is more transparency on deals to fund public amenities, affordable housing, transport and other infrastructure.

Mr Stokes said the planning reforms would assist the NSW Government deliver the 725,000 new homes forecast to be required by 2036 to house an extra 1.7 million residents.

The community is encouraged to have its say on the proposed amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. These updates are on public exhibition from 9 January – 10 March 2017, and can be viewed at www.planning.nsw.gov.au/legislative-updates. 

The consultation package comprises four documents:
2. Bill guide  
3. Draft Bill - Environmental Planning and Assessment
Amendment Bill 2017

Have your say on the draft updates to the EP&A Act 
Consultation is now underway on the draft amendments to the EP&A Act, details of which are at the ‘Key documents’ tab above.

The public consultation period for the Bill is from 10 January 2017 to 10 March 2017.

We encourage our stakeholders, interested community groups and individuals to review the reforms and respond:
• by mail to: 
Planning legislation updates 2017
NSW Department of Planning and Environment 
GPO Box 39
Sydney NSW 2001

Sea Kayakers Rescue Turtle In Distress

March 2016
Video captured off the coast of Gran Canaria shows kayakers rescuing a sea turtle which had become trapped in fish net.

Threat Abatement Plan For The Impacts Of Marine Debris On Vertebrate Marine Life

February 9, 2017: Threatened Species Commissioner 
This video (Below)is a must watch on the impacts of littering and marine debris. The number one threat to our marine turtles.
The Australian Government is currently updating our plan to reduce the impacts of marine debris. 

About the plan
In August 2003, 'Injury and fatality to vertebrate marine life caused by ingestion of, or entanglement in, harmful marine debris' was listed as a key threatening process under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life aims to provide a coordinated national approach to the implementation of measures to prevent and mitigate the impacts of harmful marine debris on vertebrate marine life.

Detailed information supporting this TAP is provided in the Background Paper, which describes in more detail the key threatening process and its management via prevention, removal and mitigation.

Review status
After considering the review of the Threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life, the Minister for the Environment agreed with the Threatened Species Scientific Committee’s recommendation  that a variation of the threat abatement plan should be drafted.

The Australian Government is working to revise the national marine debris plan to limit the damage that plastic and other waste products cause to Australia’s marine life. The new threat abatement plan will set directions for marine debris research and management activities.

The Threat Abatement Plan for the Impacts of Marine Debris on Vertebrate Marine Species is being revised. The Department has released the draft Threat Abatement Plan for the Impacts of Marine Debris on Vertebrate Marine Species (2017) for public comment. Comments are invited until 13 April 2017.


Where to send your submissions
Comments can be sent via email or post to the addresses below. If you are unable to provide comments in writing please phone 02 6274 1359.


Post:
Director
Environmental Biosecurity Section
Department of the Environment and Energy
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601

$10 Million To Protect Koala Habitat 

Media Release: Hon. Mark Speakman, Minister for the Environment 
The NSW Government will invest $10 million over five years to acquire vital koala habitat and will embark on a whole-of-government koala strategy to secure NSW koala populations, Environment Minister Mark Speakman announced today.

The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane AC’s Report of the Independent Review into the Decline of Koala Populations in Key Areas of NSW, released today, recommended developing an overarching strategy and investing in key areas of koala habitat.

Mr Speakman said the NSW Government commissioned the independent review in March.
“The independent review proposes 11 recommendations to help develop a strategy that can secure and eventually increase NSW koala numbers,” Mr Speakman said.

“The strategy will also complement the koala conservation work already being done under the NSW Government’s flagship $100 million Saving our Species program. This work will include projects, which improve koala habitat and trialling artificial water sources for koalas to mitigate heat stress.

“The $10 million investment follows the creation in March of flora reserves totalling 120 square km on the South Coast, run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to protect the last known local koala population.”

A three-month consultation program will include regional community information sessions, stakeholder meetings, webinars and information/feedback via a web portal.

“We want communities to look at the independent review and provide input to help direct the NSW Government’s strategy so we can preserve this iconic species for all generations to come,” Mr Speakman said.

To comment on the strategy’s direction visitwww.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/nswkoala-strategy.htm
and to find out more about the NSW Government’s koala conservation
efforts through the Saving our Species program


Public exhibition for the Saving our Species Iconic Koala Project is from 4 December 2016 to 11:59pm 3 March 2017. You are invited tocomment on the Saving our Species Iconic Koala Project by sending a written submission during this time. Visit: HERE

Volunteer Protection Declared Across NSW

13th February, 2017: Media release - NSW Premier's Office
Premier Gladys Berejiklian today thanked the NSW Rural Fire Service, emergency services personnel and volunteers right across the State for their tireless efforts fighting more than 200 bush fires over the weekend.

Ms Berejiklian has announced the activation of employment provisions ensuring emergency volunteers are protected from employer victimisation.

“Our volunteers worked selflessly to protect lives and property in some of the worst conditions NSW has ever seen, and they continue to do so,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We thank our volunteers for their courage and commitment – without their efforts, we would be looking at a very different outcome today.

“Overwhelmingly, employers recognise the vital role that our volunteers play and release them to participate in emergency operations, and we encourage them to continue to allow workers to contribute to the crucial effort in containing these fires.”

Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant said the order covers volunteer emergency workers from agencies such as the NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW State Emergency Service, the Volunteer Rescue Association and Marine Rescue NSW.

“Our emergency service volunteers work non-stop to keep our communities safe during times of emergency,” Mr Grant said.

“Volunteers deserve the entire State’s gratitude. This order allows them to continue assisting our emergency services with their essential work in the weeks ahead.”

The employment protection provisions were activated under the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989.

The order means that employers found to have taken negative action against a volunteer can be fined and the court can direct employers to reinstate workers who have been dismissed.

Opening Of Hammondcare, Wahroonga

10 February 2017
The Minister for Aged Care, The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at the opening of Hammondcare, Wahroonga on 10 February 2017

Before I begin I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to Elders past, present and future. I also extend this respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.

I thank the Chairman of HammondCare, John Kightley, and Dr Stephen Judd [CEO, HammondCare] for inviting me today. I also acknowledge my Federal Government colleague, the Hon. Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Urban Infrastructure, and the Member for Bradfield, and thank him for his presence today. It’s also good to be here with NSW Local Member for Ku-ring-gai, Alister Henskens SC, MP; and Danny Houseas [Manager, Community Development] from the Ku-ring-gai Council.

Last December I had the pleasure of touring another two HammondCare residential care facilities at the Pines and Southwood with Stephen and Angela [Ragus, General Manager, Residential Care, HammondCare]. I had the opportunity to view HammondCare’s dementia-specific model of residential aged care.

I’m always so pleased to be shown around places like HammondCare because I never fail to be impressed by the facilities, the services, and the level of innovative care residents receive. HammondCare really is leading the way in terms of aged care and particularly with regards to people with dementia. 

How a community cares for vulnerable people is the measure of a just society. The people who built this nation deserve nothing less.

Today, with the official opening of HammondCare’s new dementia-specific, residential aged care home, we are clearly demonstrating that we are a society that cares. We are also saying that Australia, through organisations like HammondCare, is leading the way to provide the best of care in modern facilities that take into account the latest in thinking and services for people with dementia and their families.

Days like today make me very proud to be the Minister for Aged Care to see such best practice and innovation in the sector. As the Australian population ages, it’s essential that we have services that meet our evolving health and aged care needs. 

The great news is that Australians, on the whole, are living longer and healthier lives. And aged care is adapting to a very significant demographic shift. According to the 2015 Intergenerational Report, by 2054–55 there will be nearly 2 million people aged 85 years and over. That’s up from around 500,000 people today.

We know that our older people, diagnosed with dementia, are in need of specialised care and HammondCare is rising to the challenge with this state-of-the-art facility.

Caring for people with dementia
In 2015–16, more than 1.3 million older people received some form of aged care. The vast majority received home-based care and support. Around 235,000 people with higher care needs received permanent residential aged care. Also in 2015-16, Australian Government expenditure for aged care totalled some $16.2 billion, more than two-thirds of which—$11.4 billion—was for residential aged care.

Residential aged care is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Regardless of our background, we all want to feel empowered to choose the life we want, the conditions of our life, and the care that we access. We know that people who have dementia, and the highly skilled personnel who care for people with dementia, require a different model of care.

I’m pleased that the Australian Government has been able to provide support to HammondCare for a range of projects under our Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund. HammondCare—as a provider of Severe Behavioural Response Teams and as part of a consortium delivering the new national Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service—is delivering two key components of the Government’s comprehensive dementia support system.

Additionally, through Government-funded trials of ‘Dementia Dogs’ and ‘Arts on Prescription’, HammondCare is looking at new and innovative ways to improve the lives of people with dementia.

Keeping connected to the community in a variety of ways will always be an important part of ageing—no matter what a person’s personal or family circumstance might be. Living in the community where you grew up, worked or raised a family is equally important for that feeling of belonging and the simple continuity of living your life.

The challenge for the Government is to continue to press ahead and implement our ambitious aged care reform agenda for the benefit of all Australians. Streamlining and integrating aged care to make sure it is sustainable and responsive.

And I’d like to make just one more point. No government owns or controls Australia’s aged care system. We are partners. We are in partnership with you, and with the wider Australian community, to deliver the right conditions for a strong, flexible, innovative aged care sector.

We have to look after our old people and those with chronic conditions. We have to give them respect, afterall, they have played their part in building our nation and helping provide the conditions that we enjoy and take for granted today. And together, we will build better communities and a better, kinder and more cohesive society will be the result.

It now gives me great pleasure to officially open HammondCare Wahroonga and I look forward to touring the facility with you. 

$107 Million Delivers Record Number Of Interns For ‘Burbs And The Bush In NSW

08 February 2017: NSW Dept. of Health
The NSW Government is ensuring that every citizen across NSW has the best access to healthcare through a $107 million hospital internship program preparing the health workforce of the future,  Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said today.
 
“Today’s new medical interns will be working enthusiastically and ensuring our community gets the health services it needs,” Mr Hazzard said.
 
“The NSW Liberals and Nationals Government has rebuilt NSW’s economy and we’re able to use that strong economic performance to support the world-class health system that we have here in NSW.”
 
Mr Hazzard welcomed some of the 992 medical graduates undertaking internships in NSW Health this year during his visit to the North Coast today.
 
Under the NSW Rural Preferential Recruitment pathway, 131 medical graduates will spend the majority of their first two years working in a rural setting. The 2017 intern intake includes 12 Aboriginal medical graduates.
 
NSW guarantees intern positions to all domestic medical graduates of NSW universities. As well, NSW provides internships to many graduates from interstate universities and, where possible, international full-fee paying medical graduates.
 
Interns complete compulsory terms in the specialties of medicine, surgery and emergency through a network of metropolitan, regional or rural hospitals, as well as GP practices.
 
Interns at regional and rural hospitals:
Albury (5), Armidale (3), Bathurst (5), Belmont (12), Broken Hill (2), Bulli (4), Calvary Mater (22), Coffs Harbour (19), Dubbo (12), Griffith (2), Gosford (36), Hunter New England Mental Health (5), John Hunter and the Royal Newcastle Centre (55), Lismore (14), Maitland (6), Manning (6), Orange (16), Port Kembla (1), Port Macquarie (16), Shellharbour (3), Shoalhaven (8), Tamworth (16), Tweed Heads (18), Wagga Wagga (22), Wollongong (49) and Wyong (29). Bega (2) and Goulburn (4) are filled via the ACT intern training network.
 
Interns at Sydney hospitals:
Auburn (10 positions), Balmain (3), Bankstown-Lidcombe (27), Calvary Health Care Sydney (2),  Camden  &  Campbelltown  (19),  Blacktown-Mount  Druitt  (47),  Blue  Mountains  (2), Concord (33), Canterbury (10), Hawkesbury (3), Liverpool (41), Fairfield (10), Hornsby (17),  Manly (8),Mona Vale (10), Nepean (54), Prince of Wales (37), Royal North Shore (44), Royal Prince Alfred (46), Ryde (11), St George (43), St Vincent’s (29), Sutherland (24) and Westmead (70).

Low Birth Weight Babies At Higher Risk For Mental Health Problems Later In Life

February 13, 2017
Babies born with extremely low birth weight are not only at risk for physical problems but are also more likely to experience mental health problems later in life, according to an analysis of research conducted over nearly 30 years.

"Our findings provide evidence that individuals born at extremely low birth weight are at higher overall risk for psychological difficulties than their normal birth weight peers. These difficulties most frequently involve attention, anxiety-related and social problems," said lead author Karen Mathewson, PhD, McMaster University. The study appears in the journalPsychological Bulletin, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Preterm births have increased dramatically over the last two decades and now make up about 8 percent of infants born in the United States and Canada. Because of improvements in recent decades in neonatal intensive care, babies who are born at extremely low birth weight (less than 1,000 grams or just over 2 pounds) have a greater chance of surviving than ever before.

Mathewson and her colleagues conducted meta-analyses using 41 studies that followed 2,712 individuals who were extremely low birth weight babies and 11,127 who were normal birth weight babies. The studies took place over a 26-year period (1990-2016) in 12 different countries, including the United States and Canada.

Extremely low birth weight babies were found to be at increased risk for particular mental health problems, beginning in childhood and extending at least into their 30s. As children, they were significantly more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in almost every study included in the review. Adolescents were also at greater risk for ADHD and social problems. Adults born with extremely low birth weight reported significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression and shyness, as well as significantly lower levels of social functioning.

These risks did not seem to vary according to where or when extremely low birth weight survivors were born, or whether they had significant neurosensory impairments, such as cerebral palsy or blindness. All of the studies were from developed countries from North America, Europe or Australia.

Mathewson believes these findings may stem from biological responses of the infant to difficult prenatal conditions and postnatal stresses following early birth.

"The consistency of the findings across geographical regions suggests that these attentional, behavioral and social outcomes may be contributed to by developmentally programmed, biological factors," she said.

Even though the risk for mental health problems in extremely low birth weight survivors is increased compared to normal birth weight individuals, many will not develop mental disorders at all, Mathewson noted. But the effect sizes for ADHD, social problems and internalizing disorders were moderate-to-large in extremely low birth weight children, and remained moderate in extremely low birth weight adolescents. (A moderate effect is generally apparent to an unaided, careful observer). Moderate effects of birth weight status suggest that group differences in the risk for these mental health problems can be significant.

The findings point to the need to continue to provide services to these individuals throughout their lives, according to Mathewson. "It is important that families and health care providers be aware of the potential for early-emerging mental health problems in extremely low birth weight survivors, and that some of these individuals may not grow out of these problems as they get older," she said. "As a result, it is essential that appropriate treatment be made available to those who require it as early in life as possible."

Karen J. Mathewson, Cheryl H. T. Chow, Kathleen G. Dobson, Eliza I. Pope, Louis A. Schmidt, Ryan J. Van Lieshout. Mental Health of Extremely Low Birth Weight Survivors: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000091

‘No Stone Unturned’ In Research For Type 1 Diabetes Cure

Wednesday 15 February 2017
Joint Media Release
Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham
Minister for Education and Training
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Minister for Sport
Australia’s 120,000 type 1 diabetes sufferers are set to benefit from a $4.5 million Turnbull Government funding boost for three new promising research projects.

The three Innovation Award grants from the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network support projects that include at least one researcher from outside the field of type 1 diabetes and are meant to promote collaboration between different areas of research specialisation.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the research funding would go to “some of Australia’s brightest minds” to search for a cure for type 1 diabetes.

“This funding is about ensuring no stone is left unturned in the search for a cure for type 1 diabetes,” Minister Birmingham said.

“The Innovation Award grants encourage creativity and new ways of thinking and nurture and support those smart ideas to help create a better future for Australians, including those with type 1 diabetes and their families.”

Minister Hunt said the funding support for the Innovation Award grants built on more than $35 million the Coalition Government was delivering for research into Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes research, a $54 million commitment for the National Diabetes Services Scheme and $1.5 million for additional insulin pumps for children.

“Researchers from all walks of life are working hard to help people with type 1 diabetes and their families and that sort of cross-discipline collaboration also has the potential to help patients suffering from other diseases,” Minister Hunt said.

“With the leadership of JDRF Australia and their Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network, these grants will help strengthen and expand the fantastic skill set, knowledge base and capacity of diabetes researchers.”

The three Award recipients are:
  • Associate Professor Charmaine Simeonovic - Australian National University, Canberra
  • Associate Professor Stuart Mannering - St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Shane Grey - Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney
The Innovation Award grants are awarded by the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network (T1DCRN) which is run by JDRF Australia and funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiatives scheme.

For more information, please visit www.t1dcrn.org.au or www.jdrf.org.au  

35% Reduction In Bycatch Trial

12 February 2017: Media Release – Senator The Hon. Anne Ruston - Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources 
A new bycatch device has delivered impressive results that will improve the sustainability of fishing operations of wild catch prawns in Australia’s Northern Prawn Fishery. 

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, today met with the developer, Mr Kon Triantopoulos, and representatives of the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) Industry to hear how this device works. 

“The trial results indicated a statistically significant reduction in bycatch of approximately 35%,” Minister Ruston said.

“This has been confirmed by CSIRO and is a fantastic outcome for this industry-led initiative.

“The NPF has been a leader in addressing bycatch issues over many years. Their current bycatch strategy commits to an additional 30 per cent bycatch reduction over three years, and the positive results from the industry trial of this new device, called Kons Covered Fisheye, is a demonstration of industry leading by example. 

“Australia has some of the best managed fisheries resources in the world, but we always strive to do more, so it was pleasing to hear that this new device is delivering such significant and noticeable results.

“I congratulate the NPF for this fantastic result.  It is yet another example of what can be achieved with industry leading from the front.

“This is a great example of the benefits of a collaborative approach to fisheries management through industry, scientists and the AFMA working together to continually improve the sustainability of our fisheries,” Minister Ruston said. 

The Kons Covered Fisheye device is a modification of a bycatch reduction device already approved by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), called a 'fish-eye'. 

AFMA, with technical support from CSIRO, was involved in the industry trial to measure the catch variation between nets, with and without the device. AFMA staff spent more than 1200 hours at sea, weighing and sorting prawns and bycatch and recording the results. Underwater camera equipment was also deployed to analyse how different species were interacting with the device. 

For more information on the NPF visit afma.gov.au.

Performance Review Of The Australian Innovation, Science And Research System

Innovation and Science Australia has released the Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System 2016. The Review examines the system's strengths and weaknesses and establishes a Performance Scorecard for tracking progress into the future.


ISA review findings: gap between knowledge creation and application
Bill Ferris AC, Chair of ISA, says Australia must match its strong performance in knowledge creation with similar results in knowledge transfer and application in order to break into the top tier of innovation nations

A new innovation framework
The ISR System Review uses a novel performance framework to identify the actors and enablers that comprise the innovation system and introduces a scorecard to establish a baseline assessment of Australia's innovation performance.

Next steps: towards 2030
The ISR System Review will inform ISA's development of a strategic plan for the Australian innovation, science and research system out to 2030. Further details about the strategic plan will be provided in future NISA Updates.

2030 Strategic Plan for the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System
Performance Review of the Australian innovation, science and research system
Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) will produce a performance review of the Australian innovation, science and research system. This work establishes a baseline for ISA’s development and delivery of a 2030 Strategic Plan for the Australian innovation, science and research system. The performance review is expected to be delivered to government by the end of 2016

2030 Strategic Plan
The Australian Government has tasked ISA with developing a strategic plan to 2030 for Australia’s innovation, science and research system to ensure that Australia reaches its innovation potential and contributes to the wellbeing and prosperity of all Australians into the future. The 2030 Strategic Plan will identify investment and infrastructure priorities and areas for consideration by government. It will also outline how progress can be substantially evaluated. The 2030 Strategic Plan will be delivered to government in the last quarter of 2017.

Fossil Discovery Rewrites Understanding Of Reproductive Evolution

February 14, 2017: University of Queensland

This is an artist's impression of what Dinocephalosaurus might have looked like. Credit: Drawn by Dinghua Yang
A remarkable 250 million-year-old "terrible-headed lizard" fossil found in China shows an embryo inside the mother -- clear evidence for live birth.

Head of The University of Queensland's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and co-author Professor Jonathan Aitchison said the fossil unexpectedly provided the first evidence for live birth in an animal group previously thought to exclusively lay eggs.

"Live birth is well known in mammals, where the mother has a placenta to nourish the developing embryo," Professor Aitchison said.

"Live birth is also very common among lizards and snakes, where the babies sometimes 'hatch' inside their mother and emerge without a shelled egg."

Until recently it was thought the third major group of living land vertebrates, the crocodiles and birds (part of the wider group Archosauromorpha) only laid eggs.

"Indeed, egg-laying is the primitive state, seen at the base of reptiles, and in their ancestors such as amphibians and fishes," Professor Aitchison said.

He said the new fossil was an unusual, long-necked marine animal called an archosauromorph that flourished in shallow seas of South China in the Middle Triassic Period.

The creature was a fish-eater, snaking its long neck from side to side to snatch its prey.

Its fossil was one of many astonishingly well-preserved specimens from new "Luoping biota" locations in south-western China. There were no known fossils like this (marine vertebrates of this age) from Australia.

Lead author Professor Jun Liu from Hefei University of Technology China, said the researchers were "excited" when they first saw this embryonic specimen.

"We were not sure if the embryonic specimen was the mother's last lunch or its unborn baby," Professor Liu said.

"Upon further preparation and closer inspection, we discovered something unusual."

He said the embryo was inside the mother's rib cage, and it faced forward; swallowed animals generally face backward because the predator swallows its prey head-first to help it go down its throat.

Furthermore, the small reptile inside the mother was an example of the same species.

"Further evolutionary analysis revealed the first case of live birth in such a wide group containing birds, crocodilians, dinosaurs and pterosaurs among others, and pushes back evidence of reproductive biology in the group by 50 million years," Professor Liu said.

"Information on reproductive biology of archosauromorphs before the Jurassic Period was not available until our discovery, despite a 260 million-year history of the group."

Professor Chris Organ from Montana State University said evolutionary analysis showed that this instance of live birth was also associated with genetic sex determination.

"Some reptiles today, such as crocodiles, determine the sex of their offspring by the temperature inside the nest," he said.

"We identified that Dinocephalosaurus, a distant ancestor of crocodiles, determined the sex of its babies genetically, like mammals and birds.

"This new specimen from China rewrites our understanding of the evolution of reproductive systems."

Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol said analysis of the evolutionary position of the new specimens showed no fundamental reason why archosauromorphs could not have evolved live birth.

"This combination of live birth and genotypic sex determination seems to have been necessary for animals such as Dinocephalosaurus to become aquatic," he said.

"It's great to see such an important step forward in our understanding of the evolution of a major group coming from a chance fossil find in a Chinese field."

The work is part of ongoing wider collaborations between palaeontologists in China, the United States, the UK and Australia.

Jun Liu, Chris L. Organ, Michael J. Benton, Matthew C. Brandley, Jonathan C. Aitchison. Live birth in an archosauromorph reptile. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14445 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14445

Commissioner Appointed And Terms Of Reference Finalised For ALRC Inquiry Into Incarceration Rate Of Indigenous Australians

10 February 2017: Joint Media Release - Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs  and Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC

Today we announce the appointment of Judge Matthew Myers AM of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia as Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into the incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians.

We announced this important review in October 2016 to examine the factors leading to the over representation of Indigenous Australians in our prison system and to consider reforms to the law to ameliorate this.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 27 per cent of Australia’s prison population, despite only being three per cent of Australia’s national population.

Judge Myers has a wealth of knowledge and experience, including in Indigenous legal issues. He was appointed to the Federal Circuit Court in 2012 as Australia’s first Indigenous Commonwealth judicial officer. He is a Judge in the Newcastle Registry of the Federal Circuit Court.

We thank Judge Myers for his willingness to serve the people of Australia through this important work. The Turnbull Government acknowledges that this appointment creates a temporary vacancy in the Newcastle Registry of the Federal Circuit Court. This will be resolved in consultation with Chief Judge John Pascoe AC CVO.

In December 2016, the Government released a consultation draft Terms of Reference for the inquiry. After wide consultation, including with state and territory governments and Indigenous communities and organisations, the Terms of Reference have now been finalised. We thank those who provided their views.

The ALRC will examine the laws, frameworks and institutions and broader contextual factors that lead to the disturbing over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our prison system.

The ALRC will report to the Government by 22 December 2017.

The Government is committed to working with Indigenous Australians, state and territory governments, the legal profession and the wider community to develop solutions for this complex issue.

The Terms of Reference are available.

Cutting-Edge Battery Tech Coming Of Age With ARENA’s Help

14 February 2017: Media Release - Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
A home-grown battery storage technology has secured new funding support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and is set to move into international markets after signing a global manufacturing deal.

ARENA has committed $4.1 million in new recoupable funding for Sydney-based company Ecoult to enhance and fully commercialise its UltraBattery technology, which was originally developed by CSIRO with ARENA’s support.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said providing support for battery storage technologies like the UltraBattery was at the core of ensuring a smooth transition to a renewable energy future.

“ARENA is working hard to accelerate the energy storage revolution as part of its efforts to bring down costs and increase the reliability and security of renewable energy,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Storage is critical for increasing the reliability of our on-grid and off-grid power systems. It can give customers more control over their energy by storing solar through the day to use during the evening peak.

“This latest funding supports a $10.6 million effort by Ecoult to improve its technology and pursue large-scale commercialisation. It will enhance the battery’s performance and improve its ability to support both grid and offgrid applications.”

In 2013, ARENA provided Ecoult $583,780 for the early development of its technology, including optimising it for off-grid applications. This led to the creation of the small, kilowatt-scale battery storage device known as the ‘UltraFlex’.

“Our support for Ecoult demonstrates how ARENA works across the innovation chain to support research and development and build a vital bridge between commercial adoption and uptake,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“ARENA’s early funding has helped Ecoult progress to the point where it has secured private sector investment and an international manufacturing partnership.

“Ecoult has signed a deal with Exide Industries, India’s largest battery manufacturer, which will see the UltraBattery manufactured and distributed in India and South Asia.

“ARENA’s further $4.1 million support will help Ecoult deliver on both its local and global objectives, which is a major step towards fully commercialising the UltraBattery and securing export dollars for Australian intellectual property.”

“This is just one example of the way ARENA’s work is helping accelerate the shift to renewable energy in Australia and at the same time reaching around the globe,” Mr Frischknecht said.

Ecoult CEO John Wood said ARENA’s new funding would support the expansion of the company’s engineering team in Sydney to improve its technology to help shift dependency on fossil fuel consumption to renewables.

“Over the past 10 years, since our inception at CSIRO, and with the assistance of the critical funding from ARENA, our team has developed energy storage systems to enhance renewable adoption in Australia at the same time contributing to the global evolution in the way people and companies think about application of energy storage alongside renewable energy,” Mr Wood said.

About ARENA
ARENA was established by the Australian Government to make renewable energy technologies more affordable and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia. Through the provision of funding coupled with deep commercial and technical expertise, ARENA provides the support needed to accelerate the development of promising new solutions towards commercialisation. ARENA invests in renewable energy projects across the innovation chain and is committed to sharing knowledge and lessons learned from its portfolio of projects and information about renewable energy. ARENA always looks for at least matched funding from the projects it supports and to date has committed $1.1 billion in funding to more than 270 projects. For more information, visit www.arena.gov.au.

About Ecoult
Australian invention poised to revolutionise renewable energy market: Ecoult delivers complete energy storage solutions and modules powered by the breakthrough UltraBattery technology – a hybrid lead-acid energy storage device with both an ultracapacitor and a battery in a common electrolyte. Invented by CSIRO in 2007 and today manufactured in the US by East Penn Manufacturing, UltraBattery opens up a new dimension in lead-acid technology—enabling new applications and possibilities.

Ecoult’s storage solutions manage intermittencies, smooth power and shift energy in a safe, reliable and environmentally sound way – the energy storage of choice for grid ancillary services, wind and solar farms, remote microgrids, dual purpose and diesel microgrid efficiency applications. Ecoult is a subsidiary of U.S.-based battery manufacturer East Penn Manufacturing, Inc. For more information visit www.ecoult.com

RMIT And ABC News Relaunch Fact Check

14th February 2017
RMIT University and ABC News have partnered to relaunch award-winning news service Fact Check, to be based in Melbourne at the University’s new state-of-the-art Media Precinct.

From March, RMIT ABC Fact Check will once again test and adjudicate on the accuracy of claims made by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in public debate.

Dean of the School of Media and Communication, Professor Martyn Hook, said the nonpartisan, non-profit collaboration aimed to reduce the levels of deception and confusion around public policy issues and debates.

“This partnership with the ABC builds on RMIT’s reputation for producing journalism graduates with integrity, credibility and commitment to the highest standard and principles of media practice,” Hook said.

“In a time of ‘post-truth’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’, it is ever more critical to hold public figures to account and ensure that public discourse – the basis of democracy – is based in fact.

“RMIT is thrilled to join with the ABC to relaunch Fact Check and support this crucial public service.”

ABC Director of News Gaven Morris said the innovative partnership would bring great value to audiences.

“ABC News is delighted to be able to work with the academic community, as well as other groups and institutions, in this way,” he said. “Sharing resources, and collaborating on analysis and original research, helps us better serve the broadest possible audience.

“Fact-check journalism is a great way of providing more of the essential context people need to help them fully understand the major stories and important issues of the day.”

RMIT ABC Fact Check will research and publish Fact Checks, Fact Files and restart the Promise Tracker. Content will be published through the ABC’s Digital platforms and a dedicated RMIT portal.

It will be headed by Director Russell Skelton, a Walkley Award-winning journalist who founded and ran the original ABC Fact Check from 2013 until mid-2016.

RMIT will also appoint a Senior Editor and Fact Check Researchers, along with interns drawn from RMIT journalism students and alumni. Journalism academic staff will also work with the Fact Check team to research the emergence and value of Fact Check journalism in today’s media landscape.

The assembled RMIT ABC Fact Check team will be an anchor tenant in the new RMIT Media Precinct, an industry-leading studio, teaching and production facility opening in March.

The ABC will retain final editorial control of, and responsibility for, all Fact Check content published by the ABC. Content will be subject to all the ABC’s Editorial Policies and its normal complaints handling procedures.

Fractal Edges Shown To Be Key To Imagery Seen In Rorschach Inkblots

February 14, 2017: University of Oregon

Rorschach's Blot Seven is shown at the top (a). Note the tell-tale fractal signatures of irregular curves or shapes at the edges of the symmetrical image. Some people see a woman's head with a ponytail. Below (b) the inkblot has been altered with the fractal borders removed. The ability to see hidden patterns is reduced. Credit: Courtesy of Richard Taylor

Researchers have unlocked the mystery of why people have seen so many different images in Rorschach inkblots.

The image associations -- a bat, woman with a ponytail, many different animals, people, a jack-o-lantern and more -- are induced by fractal characteristics at the edges of the blots and depend on the scaling parameters of the patterns, according to a nine-member team led by University of Oregon physicist Richard P. Taylor in a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Fractals are objects with irregular curves or shapes and are recognizable building blocks of nature. Trees, clouds, rivers, galaxies, lungs and neurons are fractals.

The new discovery isn't about improving inkblots for psychological assessments - their use became controversial and mostly set aside in the last 20 years. It does, however, have implications for Taylor's efforts to design a fractal based retinal implant and for potentially improving materials used for camouflage.

"These optical illusions seen in inkblots and sometimes in art are important for understanding the human visual system," said Taylor, who is director of the UO Materials Science Institute. "You learn important things from when our eyes get fooled. Fractal patterns in the inkblots are confusing the visual system. Why do you detect a bat or a butterfly when they were never there?"

Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss Freudian psychiatrist, published 10 inkblot patterns on separate cards, five done in black and white and five in color, in 1921. To make them, he poured different amounts and kinds of ink onto cards, folded them and pressed them tightly before opening them to display symmetrical patterns of varying complexities.

Rorschach died in 1922 and never knew about the subsequent widespread use of the inkblots to help assess a person's personality and mental health. Up to 300 differently perceived images have been recorded for each of the 10 inkblots. Whether such perceptions speak to mental health, reflect a person's level of creativity or simply draw from a person's past experiences has been debatable.

It is the complexity of the inkblots that Taylor's team, which included collaborators from five institutions, has dissected.

The group analyzed the boundaries of the inkblots. The work involved scanning them and then extracting the boundaries between regions of ink absorption and unstained portions of the cards using an edge-detection computer analysis. That analysis quantified the visual complexity of the blot boundaries using a parameter called fractal dimension D.

Combining these pattern analysis results with original psychology studies conducted on the blots in the 1930s and 1950s, the researchers uncorked "a very clear trend" between the dimensional values of the cards and their ability to induce images, Taylor said.

"As you increase the D value, which makes for more visual complexity, the number of visual perceptions fall off," he said. "People see a lot more patterns in the simple ones." Inkblots with D values of 1.1 generate the highest numbers of perceived images, the team found.

The team then put their findings to a human test, generating computerized fractal patterns with varying D values. When seen for 10 seconds by psychology undergraduate psychology students at the University of New South Wales in Australia, the same trend between D values and imagery surfaced.

Fractal patterns are also found in the artwork of Jackson Pollock, whose abstract expressionist paintings captured Taylor's lifelong interest in childhood. Pollock's paintings from 1943 to 1952, Taylor has found, are composed of fractals with D values that increased from 1.1 to 1.7. That change was deliberate, Taylor said, as Pollock sought ways to reduce imagery figures seen in his earlier work.

The study is among many that Taylor and his colleagues have pursued to better understand the connection between vision and nature. In 2015, Taylor and the UO along with Simon Brown and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand obtained a U.S. patent for using artificial fractal-based implants to restore sight to the blind. The patent covers all fractal designed electronic implants that link signaling activity with nerves for any purpose in animal and human biology.

In January 2016, Taylor received a $900,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to pursue his work on fractal-based implants.

"All of our studies are highlighting an effect called fractal fluency," Taylor said. "The eye has evolved to efficiently process the fractal patterns found in nature's scenery. This reduces the observer's stress by up to 60 percent. If you don't build fractal fluency into a bionic eye, not only have you lost the ability to navigate, you've also lost that symbiotic relationship with nature's fractal patterns."
R. P. Taylor, T. P. Martin, R. D. Montgomery, J. H. Smith, A. P. Micolich, C. Boydston, B. C. Scannell, M. S. Fairbanks, B. Spehar. Seeing shapes in seemingly random spatial patterns: Fractal analysis of Rorschach inkblots. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (2): e0171289 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0171289

2017 Underwater Photographer Of The Year

February 14, 2017
Organisers of the annual Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest have just announced their winning photos for 2017. The winner Gabriel Barathieu beat entrants from 67 different countries with his portrait of an octopus in the lagoon of the island of Mayotte. Prizes and commendations were also handed out in a number of categories, including Macro, Wide Angle, Wrecks, Behavior, Up & Coming, and, in British waters, Wide Angle, Compact, and Macro shots. 

Underwater Photographer of the Year, 2017
'Dancing Octopus' by Gabriel Barathieu (France) © Gabriel Barathieu / UPY 2017



Alex Mustard:  Both balletic and malevolent, this image shows that the octopus means business as it hunts in a shallow lagoon. The way it moves is so different from any predator on land, this truly could be an alien from another world. A truly memorable creature, beautifully photographed. 

Peter Rowlands:  Vibrant contrasting colours, detailed delicate textures and a perfect pose. Add the right choice of lens for the situation and they all combine to produce a Champion. 

Martin Edge:  I cannot praise this photograph enough. As soon as I first set eyes on it as we worked our way through the Wide Angle Cat, I knew it was destined for a huge success. One amazing Image! 

Underwater Photographer of the Year, 2017,  Gabriel Barathieu says of 'Dancing Octopus';
In the lagoon of Mayotte, during spring low tides, there is very little water on the flats. Only 30 cm in fact. That's when I took this picture. I had to get as close as possible to the dome to create this effect. The 14 mm is an ultra wide angle lens with very good close focus which gives this effect of great size. The octopus appears larger, and the height of water also. Photographed off Mayotte Island on May 7, 2016. 

About the Underwater Photographer of the Year
Why UPY? Historically the UK has been home to some of the world’s most prestigious underwater photography competitions. Bernard Eaton kicked it off when he organised the first Brighton Underwater Film Festival in 1965 (and it was a competition th