Inbox and Environment News issue 205 

 March 8 - 14, 2015: Issue 205


2 MARCH 2015 - CSIRO

The new Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator has returned to Hobart after successfully completing its cold water trials, which took the vessel to 65°S 146°E, which is about 2500 km south of Hobart.

The Executive Director of the project to build and test the vessel, Toni Moate said the voyage to the ice-edge tested out key capabilities of the ship, to ensure the vessel can operate in low water temperatures.

The ship has been designed to operate in water temperatures of -2ºC to +32ºC, from the Antarctic ice edge to the tropics.

"On this cold water commissioning voyage we tested everything from the winches to the dynamic positioning system, to make sure they were operational in very cold conditions," Ms Moate said.

The voyage left Hobart in late January and returned this week. Work that occurred on board included:

•  Commissioning equipment in the Atmospheric and Air Chemistry Laboratories.Investigator is the first Australian research vessel to have laboratories dedicated to collecting aerosol data.

•  Testing and opportunistic seafloor and sub-seafloor sonar mapping in areas not previously surveyed.

•  Testing and opportunistic gravity meter readings, which will improve understanding of the crustal structure of the region.

•  Operating on-deck scientific equipment handling systems such as winches, A-Frame, coring boom and CTD boom.

•  Operating communications systems and video conferencing live from the ice-edge.

•  Testing cold water survival and ship manoeuvring systems.

One of the Marine National Facility's Operations Officers, Max McGuire, was on board for the voyage.

"It's the most southerly voyage any Marine National Facility vessel has ever travelled, so everyone was really excited to reach the 65 degree south line, which is around 90 nautical miles from the Antarctic continent," Mr McGuire said.

On board were scientists from the Queensland University of Technology, Melbourne University, CSIRO and the University of Wollongong, who were testing atmospheric research capabilities and equipment.

Under direction of an independent Steering Committee, the Marine National Facility is owned and operated by CSIRO on behalf of the nation.

Investigator's first research voyage is scheduled to leave Hobart on 22 March to deploy deep sea oceanographic moorings in the Southern Ocean.

The voyage is a collaboration between the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, the Integrated Marine Observing System, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and will be led by CSIRO's Professor Tom Trull.

Collecting samples with nets on RV Investigator

The Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator is able to collect a wide variety of ocean biological samples using all different kinds of nets, from microscopic plankton, to large fish species like Patagonian Toothfish. This animation explains how this equipment is used on board Investigator, Australia’s new Marine National Facility research vessel.

 The Australian Government has responded to the inquiry of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014

Joint media release:Senator the Honourable George Brandis QC, Attorney-General - The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP,Minister for Communications

3 March 2015

The Government will support all of the Committee's recommendations made in its unanimous bipartisan report. Debate will commence in the House of Representatives this week and the Government calls on the Parliament to give effect to the Committee's principal recommendation that the Bill be passed.

This urgent legislation contains a package of reforms to prevent the further degradation of the investigative capabilities of Australia's law enforcement and national security agencies.

Access to metadata plays a central role in almost every counterterrorism, counterespionage, cybersecurity and organised crime investigation. It is also used in almost all serious criminal investigations, including investigations into murder, serious sexual assaults, drug trafficking and kidnapping.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has advised that between July and September of 2014 telecommunications data was used in 92 per cent of counterterrorism investigations, 100 per cent of cybercrime investigations, 87 per cent of child protection investigations and 79 per cent of serious organised crime investigations.

However, as the business models of service providers are changing with technology they are keeping fewer records. No responsible government can sit by while those who protect our community lose access to the tools they need to do their job. In the current threat environment we cannot let this essential capability deteriorate further.

On behalf of the Government we thank the Committee for its valuable work and in particular the Chair, Mr Dan Tehan MP, and Deputy Chair, The Hon Anthony Byrne MP. The Report provided a thorough consideration of the Bill and the issues raised in evidence by a wide range of stakeholders. We thank all those who participated in its inquiry and contributed to the report.

We again acknowledge the continued bipartisanship of the Opposition on national security issues. The Government response to the Committee's recommendations is below.; HERE.

 MR spectroscopy shows precancerous breast changes in women with BRCA gene

March 3, 2015 – A magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) technique that monitors biochemical changes in tissue could improve the management of women at risk of breast cancer, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

Many women face a higher risk of breast cancer due to the presence of BRCA gene mutations. A BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carrier has approximately a 50 percent risk of developing breast cancer before the age of 50, and the cancer can develop within months of a negative screening by mammography. The risk is so significant that many women with BRCA mutations undergo prophylactic, or preventive mastectomies to avoid getting invasive cancer later in life.

For the new study, researchers assessed 2-D localized correlated spectroscopy (L-COSY) as a noninvasive means to identify biochemical changes associated with a very early stage of cancer development known as the pre-invasive state.

The researchers performed L-COSY on nine women carrying the BRCA1 and 14 women with BRCA2 gene mutations and compared the results with those from 10 healthy controls who had no family history of breast cancer. All the patients underwent contrast enhanced 3-T MRI and ultrasound.

While no abnormality was recorded by MRI or ultrasound, L-COSY MRS identified statistically significant biochemical changes in women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations compared to controls. The researchers found multiple distinct cellular changes measurable through L-COSY indicative of premalignant changes in women carrying BRCA gene mutations.

"These changes appear to represent a series of early warning signs that may allow women to make informed decisions as to when and if they have prophylactic mastectomy," said Carolyn Mountford, M.Sc., D.Phil., from the University of Newcastle in Callaghan, Australia, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the Translational Research Institute in Brisbane.

Study co-author David Clark, M.B.B.S., B.Sc., F.R.A.C.S., from the Breast and Endocrine Centre in Gateshead, New South Wales, Australia, believes the protocol may help guide treatment decisions in women with BRCA mutations. Dr. Clark noted that approximately half the women who have BRCA mutations may not develop breast cancer at all and certainly not before they turn 50 years old, so the spectroscopy technique could be extremely useful.

"We think there are three stages of pre-cancer progression in the breast tissue," he said. "Women at Stage 1 could monitor their breasts with follow-up spectroscopy every six months."

The research team also found evidence that lipid pathways are affected differently in the two different gene mutations, which may help explain why BRCA2 mutation carriers survive longer than BRCA1 carriers.

The study represents the culmination of more than 25 years of work, according to Dr. Mountford. Research on biopsy samples in the 1980s proved the existence of pre-invasive states, but technological improvements were needed before the technique could be applied to clinical MRI scanners.

"It took a multidisciplinary team, including an MR physicist, chemists, radiographers and radiologists to be sure that what we were seeing was not apparent from conventional contrast-enhanced imaging," Dr. Mountford said.

The researchers hope to confirm the findings in larger populations and continue to monitor the women in the study group with the 2-D L-COSY protocol to learn more about the biochemical changes and what they represent.

Carolyn Mountford, MSc, DPhil et al. Lipid and Metabolite Deregulation in the Breast Tissue of Women Carrying BRCA1 and BRCA2 Genetic Mutations. Radiology, March 2015 

 Government continues Medicare consultation

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for Health, Minister for Sport

3 March 2015 -  Media release

The Abbott Government is committed to protecting Medicare for the long-term.  This includes maintaining high-quality care and treatment for all Australians, as well as ensuring bulk billing remains for concessional patients and the vulnerable. 

We also want to deliver policies that value general practice and other health professions and the important role they play in preventative health and primary care in this country. 

To achieve this, we must ensure we have a robust, efficient and sustainable Medicare system. 

However, we are also a government that listens and we recognise we cannot introduce reforms to build a strong and sustainable Medicare without support from the public and Parliament. 

That’s why I promised to hit the pause button on the Government’s proposed Medicare measures in order to consult further with health professionals, patients and members of Parliament.

Over the past six weeks I’ve been travelling the country meeting with hundreds of local doctors on the ground, as well as representatives from key medical, consumer and community groups. 

I have taken on board a wide range of constructive views, ideas and concerns about the Government’s proposed measures and Medicare reform more broadly.

A clear message is that Labor’s policy of doing nothing is not an option.

I am therefore determined to continue consulting on short, medium and long-term options to ensure we can keep on supporting high quality care and treatment as efficiently as possible. 

This is necessary, with Government expenditure on Medicare more than doubling from about $8 billion to about $20 billion over the past decade, despite the proportion of Medicare spending covered by the Medicare Levy falling backwards from about 67% to 54% over the same period.

To ensure we protect Medicare for the long-term, the Government will be proceeding with its pause on indexation of Medicare rebates for GP and non-GP items while we work with stakeholders to develop future policies. 

However, it is clear the proposal for an optional $5 co-payment does not have broad support.

The measure, including the proposed $5 reduction to the Medicare rebate, will therefore no longer proceed and has been taken off the table. I will have more to say about the Government’s policy positions as my national consultations continue.

Source: giphy

 Study: Men Tend to Be More Narcissistic Than Women

March 4, 2015 - With three decades of data from more than 475,000 participants, a new study on narcissism from the University at Buffalo School of Management reveals that men, on average, are more narcissistic than women. Forthcoming in the journal Psychological Bulletin, the study compiled 31 years of narcissism research and found that men consistently scored higher in narcissism across multiple generations and regardless of age.

"Narcissism is associated with various interpersonal dysfunctions, including an inability to maintain healthy long-term relationships, unethical behavior and aggression," says lead author Emily Grijalva, PhD, assistant professor of organization and human resources in the UB School of Management.

"At the same time, narcissism is shown to boost self-esteem, emotional stability and the tendency to emerge as a leader," she says. "By examining gender differences in narcissism, we may be able to explain gender disparities in these important outcomes." The researchers examined more than 355 journal articles, dissertations, manuscripts and technical manuals, and studied gender differences in the three aspects of narcissism: leadership/authority, grandiose/exhibitionism and entitlement.

They found the widest gap in entitlement, suggesting that men are more likely than women to exploit others and feel entitled to certain privileges.

The second largest difference was in leadership/authority. "Compared with women, men exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power," Grijalva says. "But there was no difference in the exhibitionism aspect, meaning both genders are equally likely to display vanity or self-absorption."

In addition, the study looked at data from college students between 1990 and 2013, and found no evidence that either gender has become more narcissistic over time.

Research has shown that personality differences, like narcissism, can arise from gender stereotypes and expectations that have been ingrained over time. The authors speculate that the persistent lack of women in senior leadership roles may partially stem from the disparity between stereotypes of femininity and leadership.

"Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society's expectations," Grijalva says. "In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for women, more so than for men, to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior."

Future research could further investigate the social, cultural or biological factors that contribute to these gender differences.

Emily Grijalva, Daniel A. Newman, Louis Tay, M. Brent Donnellan, P. D. Harms, Richard W. Robins, Taiyi Yan. Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review.. Psychological Bulletin, 2015; 141 (2): 261 DOI:10.1037/a0038231 

 Aboriginal legends an untapped record of natural history written in the stars

03 March 2015

Aboriginal legends could offer a vast untapped record of natural history, including meteorite strikes, stretching back thousands of years, according to new UNSW research. Dr Duane Hamacher from the UNSW Indigenous Astronomy Group has uncovered evidence linking Aboriginal stories about meteor events with impact craters dating back some 4,700 years.

Dr Hamacher, an astrophysicist studying Indigenous astronomy, examined meteorite accounts from Aboriginal communities across Australia to determine if they were linked to known meteoritic events. His study, published in the latest edition of peer-reviewed journal Archaeoastronomy, found “definitive links” between known meteorite craters and local Aboriginal traditions.

One of the meteorite strikes, at a place called Henbury in the Northern Territory, occurred around 4,700 years ago.

Dr Hamacher said the level of detail contained in the local oral traditions suggested the Henbury event had been witnessed and its legend passed down through generations over thousands of years – a remarkable record.

“Aboriginal men refused to go near the cluster of craters, claiming it was where the fire-devil ran down from the sun, hit the ground, and killed everyone. The fire-devil burned the people for breaking sacred law,” said Dr Hamacher.

“There are similar stories in Aboriginal traditions across Australia of fiery stars falling from the sky, producing a deafening sound, blowing debris across the land and setting the ground on fire.”

In some instances Dr Hamacher said stories by Aboriginal people led to the discovery of meteorites by local settlers.

For example, in 1855 a farmer found a 32kg octahedrite near Stockinbingal in the NSW Riverina after local Aboriginal tales of a yeo-yeo or devil led him there.  

“Aboriginal oral traditions contain detailed knowledge about the natural world. These include stories about rare events like tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, meteorite impacts and solar eclipses,” Dr Hamacher said.

“By merging scientific data with descriptions in oral tradition we can show that many of the stories are accounts of real-life events. So Aboriginal stories could lead us to places where natural disasters occurred.”

Dr Hamacher said his findings challenged the view that oral traditions only last a few generations.

“The story of Henbury is an example of an oral tradition that was passed down more than 200 generations. This is important evidence for social scientists studying oral traditions.”

Words: Amy Coopes- Read more in The Conversation

Government delivers exploration development incentive and other key taxation improvements 

4 March 2015: Joint media release with Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, and Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for Industry and Science, The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP 

The Government has secured passage through the Senate of reforms that provide incentives for mineral exploration and remove punitive tax rates on excess superannuation contributions.

The Exploration Development Incentive supports junior and mid-sized mining companies by encouraging greenfields mineral exploration.

It is a catalyst for new exploration, new investment and new opportunities in the resources sector.

The Exploration Development Incentive delivers on our election commitment and helps encourage investment for new minerals exploration in the junior exploration sector.

The Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2014 Measures No. 7) Bill 2014 also includes a number of other important reforms including:

• improvements to capital gains tax rules;

• improvements to rules on involuntary superannuation rollovers;

• shifting tax complaints investigation to the Inspector-General of Taxation; and

• enabling stronger data sharing between enforcement agencies.

The Government has also made the taxation of excess after-tax superannuation contributions fairer. For some individuals the old tax regime had devastating consequences.

This honours our election commitment to make sure inadvertent breaches of the non-concessional contributions cap do not incur a disproportionate penalty.

The new approach strikes a right balance between fairness to those who make mistakes and discouragement of those who embark on aggressive tax planning strategies.

Passage of this Bill represents another important step towards as a stronger, more sustainable economy and a fairer tax system.

 Bridge for the animals to cross the highway safely. North Brabant province, Netherlands

 Nationals run and hide on Greens’ Federal Senate call for ban on coal and CSG for Liverpool Plains

Media Release: 03 Mar 2015  

The Nationals, along with the Liberals and Labor, have today failed to support the Australian Greens’ Senate motion calling for the Liverpool Plains to be off limits to CSG and coal, including the Shenhua Watermark mine.

“The Nationals Senators all fled the chamber for the vote, while the Liberal and Labor Senators voted against our call for the protection of the Liverpool Plains,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens mining spokesperson, said

“The Nationals didn’t even have the guts to go on record and tell their constituents whether they think the Liverpool Plains should be permanently off-limits for coal and coal seam gas mining.

“The Nationals are playing both sides, saying one thing in regional communities and then doing another in the Parliament while taking donations from the mining and gas industry.

“The Liverpool Plains, with rich black soil, excellent water resources and ideal climatic conditions, is one of Australia’s most important farming regions.

“It’s blatantly hypocritical of the Nationals to purport to care about agriculture and then to stand by while this valuable farmland is trashed.

“The vote today indicates that federal Coalition has extended the Shenhua approval date so that it’s after the election, not because of concern about water impacts.

“It’s farcical for Environment Minister Hunt to boast about federal environmental checks, given he is trying to hand federal environment powers to state governments.

“If Minister Hunt had successfully handed over these powers, the decision would be left to the NSW government, which has already approved the Shenhua mine. 

“The Greens are proud to have secured the numbers in the Senate to block the Abbott Government’s plan to hand federal environment powers to state governments, which would wind back 30 years of protection,” Senator Waters said.

New South Wales Greens Tamworth candidate Pat Schultz, who has campaigned for the protection of the Liverpool Plains against mining for the past three years, said:

“Our fertile plains are essential to our community and they must be protected for generations of locals to come.

“The Greens always have and always will stand up against the big mining companies to protect our land, water and climate.

Text of motion:

1. The Senate notes that:

a. The Liverpool Plains is one of the most important agricultural regions in Australia with rare and highly productive black soils, excellent water resources and a favourable local climate;

b. Farming has occurred on the Liverpool Plains for generations and the agricultural productivity of the area is up to 40 per cent above the national average for all farming regions of Australia;

c. Highly productive agricultural land, like that of the Liverpool Plains, is a finite resource. 

d. The NSW Planning Assessment Commission has recently approved the development of Chinese state-owned company Shenhua’s Watermark open-cut coal mine on the Liverpool Plains which will extract 268 million tonnes of coal over 30 years three kilometres from the town of Breeza. 

e. Farmers in the region are angry and extremely concerned that if this coal mine goes ahead their soils and the highly interconnected groundwater aquifers they rely on will be irreversibly damaged.

f. The Northern Daily Leader reported on 4 July 2014 that the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce MP has said, “I think the idea of a coalmine on the Breeza Plains is an absurdity” and “I think it’s most likely that it’s going to have a deleterious effect on the aquifers.”

g. The ABC has reported on 9 September 2014 that the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce MP has said of the Liverpool Plains, “I've always said from the start that I don't believe that it is the appropriate place for a coal mine.”

2. The Senate believes that the Liverpool Plains should be permanently off limits to coal mining and coal seam gas extraction.  

Ballina’s Koalas Petition -  International Fund for Animal Welfare - IFAW 

Please help us save the Ballina 200. The Ballina 200 is a critical source population of 200 koalas at Ballina, NSW. It just happens to be right where the State government wants to re-route the Pacific Highway. This route would make this population extinct by 2030. Please download our petition, print it, have as many people sign it as possible and send it back to us here at IFAW at the address on the petition. We need your petitions back by 31 March.

Petitions at HERE

A koala settled in for a little nap. Photo: Friends of the Koala

 New models yield clearer picture of emissions' true costs

March 4, 2015 - When its environmental and human health toll is factored in, a gallon of gasoline costs us about $3.80 more than the pump price, a new Duke University study finds. The social cost of a gallon of diesel is about $4.80 more than the pump price; the price of natural gas more than doubles; and coal-fired electricity more than quadruples. Solar and wind power, on the other hand, become cheaper than they initially seem.

"We think we know what the prices of fossil fuels are, but their impacts on climate and human health are much larger than previously realized," said Drew T. Shindell, professor of climate sciences at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. "We're making decisions based on misleading costs."

Shindell said his study, published on Feb. 26 in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change, provides policymakers with a more accurate framework for estimating the costs of a broad range of health, climate and environmental damages linked to emissions from fossil fuels, industry, biomass burning and agriculture.

Current markets don't place a price on most atmospheric emissions, so polluters typically pay none of these costs, he noted. Instead, society picks up the tab through increased risks of premature death or illness caused by air pollution, higher healthcare costs, lower crop yields, missed work and school days, increased insurance damages from floods and other extreme weather events linked to climate change, and other social costs.

"Putting values on many of these social costs can be challenging because there are so many factors in play," Shindell said.

The comparative framework devised by Shindell to calculate these costs is built upon a widely used methodology introduced in 2010 to help the U.S. government determine the social costs of carbon.

Shindell's models extend the scope of those calculations to cover a much wider array of pollutants and impacts, including damages from potent but short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as methane and aerosols, as well as longer-lived greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxides. The new models incorporate the most current data available to give policymakers accurate estimates of monetized damages.

"Looking at electricity, for example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates generation costs per kilowatt hour of power to be about 10 cents for coal, 7 cents for natural gas, 13 cents for solar and 8 for wind," Shindell said.

"Not surprisingly, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of natural gas, the apparent cheapest option. However, when you add in environmental and health damages, costs rise to 17 cents per kilowatt hour for natural gas and a whopping 42 cents for coal."

The true cost of gasoline is another example. If social costs of around $3.80 a gallon are added in, damages from a typical mid-range gasoline-powered vehicle total nearly $2,000 a year. In comparison, annual damages associated with an electric vehicle are around $1,000 if the power comes exclusively from coal, about $300 if the power is generated using natural gas, and minimal if the electricity is from renewable sources.

Because of the inherent complexity of establishing universal values for health and environment damages, Shindell doesn't view his newly published estimates as the last word in determining emissions' social costs.

"There is room for ongoing discussion about what the value of atmospheric emissions should be," he said. "But one thing there should be no debate over is that the current assigned price of zero is not the right value."

Drew T. Shindell. The social cost of atmospheric release. Climatic Change, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1343-0


The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP Minister for Primary Industries - MEDIA RELEASE Wednesday 4 March 2015

The latest NSW aquaculture industry production figures have confirmed continued growth in 2013-14, with a 6.4% increase in total value on the previous year, Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson has announced today. The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Aquaculture Production Report 2013-14 has found that with a revised value of $53.3 million, the aquaculture industry continues to provide sustainable seafood to support the food security needs of the State. Minister Hodgkinson said the industry is also supporting employment and economic growth in regional communities. 

“Despite the impact of drought on the land-based freshwater fish farms sector, production figures have jumped 29% to $14.5 million,” said Ms Hodgkinson. “All major species, such as farmed Black Tiger Prawns, Rainbow Trout, Silver Perch, Mulloway, Barramundi and Yabbies have experienced significant growth in production, with increases ranging from 17% to 72%. 

“However the stand out was Murray Cod, which increased production by 67 tonnes, predominantly due to a new Murray Cod aquaculture facility near Goulburn launching into full production. “Our most valuable industry, the Sydney Rock Oyster, has increased by 6.5% to $31.8 million,” said Ms Hodgkinson. 

Wallis Lake, Port Stephens and the Clyde River remain NSW’s top producing estuaries, however many estuaries have escalated in production and value in the last year, including Wagonga Inlet, Camden Haven and Hastings River. Ms Hodgkinson said the NSW Government is committed to ensuring a healthy and sustainable aquaculture industry, with the goal of further increasing production from new species, new investment and innovative culture technology.

 “With some 85% of seafood purchased in NSW imported there is a tremendous market opportunity for aquaculture production in NSW,” said Ms Hodgkinson. “I encourage seafood lovers to buy local for some of the freshest and best quality seafood in the world and support our fish farmers and fishermen. 

“Sydney Rock Oyster growers increased production by over 111,000 dozen worth $2 million, with a rise in the average farm gate price of 2.4% over all grades of oysters. 

“This is an outstanding result and reflects the hard work and initiatives of oyster growers in recent years to adopt new technology, develop environmental management systems, fight for water quality protection and work collectively to promote what is a unique product on the world’s oyster stage,” said Ms Hodgkinson. 

Minister Hodgkinson said the continued growth of the aquaculture sector delivers on Goal 2 of the NSW Agriculture Industry Action Plan launched last year – to build a profitable and productive industry in NSW. This strategic roadmap was developed between industry and the NSW Government and ensures the continued growth of the State’s $12 billion primary industries sector. 

“We are expecting even greater future growth within the aquaculture industry, with the recent approval of 50 hectares of aquaculture leases on the State’s South Coast to assist NSW meet the increasing demand for quality seafood,” said Ms Hodgkinson. There is a public tender open to all interested parties who meet the requirements and conditions of the tender, which can be found here   To see the full Aquaculture Production Report

 More seafood on Aussie tables

Last updated 4 March 2015

MEDIA RELEASE – Senator Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture  on 26 February 2015.

Senator Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, welcomed the decision to increase the sustainable catch limit for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) with the latest science showing fish stocks are on the rise.

The AFMA Commission approved the sustainable catch limit increase of 2000 tonnes at its meeting in Port Lincoln this week. This is the fourth season in a row where the aggregate catch limits have sustainably increased in this major fishery.

Senator Colbeck attended the meeting and said the increased science-based catch limit was good news for fish lovers across Australia.

“Commonwealth fisheries are internationally recognised as some of the most sustainable and best managed in the world,” Senator Colbeck said.

“The news today that the total amount of allowed commercial catch in the SESSF will be eight per cent higher than the previous season just goes to show that the strong management led by Australian Fisheries Management Authority is paying dividends.”

“Much of the increase was for the popular blue grenadier (or hoki), reflecting the ongoing healthy status of the stock.”

“Importantly, consumers can have confidence when eating one of the many species commercial fished in the SESSF like blue grenadier, flathead, gummy shark or whiting that it is from a sustainable, well managed fishery.”

“The health of Australian fisheries is further supported with the latest ABARES Fishery status report, which shows that for the first time in many years, no solely managed Commonwealth fishery is subject to overfishing.”

The Chair of the AFMA Commission, the Hon Norman Moore, said AFMA’s use of the best available science and strict management regulations means Australians can have confidence that Commonwealth fisheries will remain sustainable both now and well into the future.

“Our catch limits for commercially caught species are set conservatively, using up-to-date independent research. This ensures that current and generations will have a healthy supply of Australian seafood,” Mr Moore said.

“When setting our catch limits for each season, the AFMA Commission carefully considers the views of leading fisheries scientists as well as the fishing industry, conservation groups and recreational fishers.”

This week’s meeting was the first of the AFMA Commission for the year. The Commission meets in major ports for Commonwealth fisheries to ensure good stakeholder engagement and hear firsthand issues from the Australian industry.

 Sea Shepherd Establishes Legal Practice

3rd of March, 2015.

Sea Shepherd Legal, a new international non-profit environmental law firm, has been established with the aim of saving marine wildlife and habitats by enforcing, strengthening, and developing protective laws, treaties, policies and practices worldwide.

Sea Shepherd Legal selected World Wildlife Day 2015 as its official public launch date to respond to and strongly endorse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s World Wildlife Day message that "It is time to get serious about wildlife crime."  

Overharvested and under-protected, our oceans are dying, says Sea Shepherd in a statement. “Scores of marine wildlife species are at risk of extinction and marine ecosystems are in grave danger of total collapse. As it stands, there exists only a patchwork of international environmental conventions that provide any measure of protection for marine wildlife, and domestic laws are rife with loopholes and lack of enforcement that undermine their potential strength. Immediate action is needed to build a comprehensive legal framework to address this burgeoning disaster.

“With a strong team of attorneys, scientific advisors and partners, Sea Shepherd Legal plans to employ tactics ranging from litigating to ensure proper governmental agency action, and petitioning for the listing of marine species, to developing innovative legal policy and diplomatic approaches to encourage better enforcement against poaching and the senseless slaughter of marine wildlife.”

Sea Shepherd Legal will supplement its direct legal and policymaking actions with significant outreach activities designed to educate the general public, government representatives and officials, other non-governmental organizations, and stakeholders whose activities involve or impact the marine environment and wildlife. “In general, people are either wholly unaware of the crisis facing our oceans, or do not realize the magnitude of the problem. Without outreach exposure to the beauty of marine environments or the impacts upon biodiversity of shark finning and overfishing, this lack of awareness will not change,” said the organization.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: "Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories. Law enforcement efforts must be supported by the wider community."  

By working to engage governments, law enforcement officials and the public, Sea Shepherd Legal directly responds to this call to action, says the organization.

 Amazon deforestation 'threshold' causes species loss to accelerate

March 4, 2015 – One of the first studies to map the impact of deforestation on biodiversity across entire regions of the Amazon has found a clear 'threshold' for forest cover below which species loss becomes more rapid and widespread. By measuring the loss of a core tranche of dominant species of large and medium-sized mammals and birds, and using the results as a bellwether, the researchers found that for every 10% of forest loss, one to two major species are wiped out.

This is until the threshold of 43% of forest cover is reached, beyond which the rate of biodiversity loss jumps from between two to up to eight major species gone per 10% of disappeared forest.

While current Brazilian law requires individual landowners in the Amazon to retain 80% forest cover, this is rarely achieved or enforced. Researchers say that the focus should be shifted to maintaining 50% cover -- just half the forest -- but over entire landscapes rather than individual farms, in a bid to stop whole regions losing untold biodiversity by slipping below the 43% threshold at which species loss accelerates.

Unless urgent action is taken to stem deforestation in key areas that are heading towards or have just dipped below the forest cover 'threshold' -- which, according to the research team's models, amounts to a third of the Amazon -- these areas will suffer the loss of between 31-44% of species by just 2030.

"These results support the need for a major shift in the scale at which environmental legislation is applied in Brazil and the tropics," said Dr Jose Manuel Ochoa-Quintero, from Cambridge University's Department of Zoology, who led the study, published recently in the journal Conservation Biology.

"We need to move from thinking in terms of compliance at a farm scale to compliance at a landscape scale if we are to save as many species as we can from extinction," he said.

The researchers worked across an area of the North West Amazon over three million hectares in size. They then divided the region into 1,223 squares of 10,000km, and selected 31 squares representative of the spectrum of forest cover across the region (12-90% cover). 27 squares consisted of private land; only four were protected areas (PAs). PAs were only areas in region with almost complete forest cover.

Within the 31 squares, researchers analysed the presence of 35 key species of mammals and birds for which these regions are natural habitats, such as pumas, giant anteaters and red howler monkeys. This was done through a combination of direct observation and recording evidence such as footprints and feces, as well as in-depth interviews with landowners and residents, who were quizzed about species presence through photographs, animal noises and local knowledge.

They found a cut-off, conservatively given as 43% forest cover, below which the squares held "markedly fewer species," with up to eight key species lost for every 10% of further deforestation beyond this threshold.

"This is not just a result of overall loss of habitat, but also reduced connectivity between remaining forest fragments, causing species to hunt and mate in ever-decreasing circles," said Ochoa-Quintero. "This fragmentation may be the key element of the 'threshold' tipping point for biodiversity."

Encroaching agriculture -- from beef to soya production -- to feed a growing and more affluent human population means that, at the current rates, the number of 10,000km2 landscapes in the Amazon that fall below the species loss threshold of 43% forest cover will almost double by just 2030. At current rates, by 2030 only a mere 22% of landscapes in the region will be able to sustain three quarters of the key species surveyed for the study.

The expansion of agriculture in recent decades means that around 41% of the original forest in the study region -- some two million hectares -- has been lost over just the last 40 years.

Researchers say that while PAs can counter agricultural expansion -- and many have increasingly called for PAs to expand across the planet amid dire evidence of rapid species decline -- the limits on land that can be set aside for PAs means that biodiversity conservation success depends on protecting native vegetation on private lands.

The highest priority landscapes, some 33% of land in the region, are those that either just dipped below the 43% threshold in 2010, or are expected to in the next 20 years.

"Avoiding deforestation and focusing reforestation in the areas that teeter on the species loss threshold will be the most direct and cost-effective way to prevent further species loss in the Amazon region," added Ochoa-Quintero. 

Image shows a local farmer with a Scarlet Macaw. Credit: JM Ochoa-Quintero

Jose Manuel Ochoa-Quintero, Toby A. Gardner, Isabel Rosa, Silvio Frosini de Barros Ferraz, William J. Sutherland. Thresholds of species loss in Amazonian deforestation frontier landscapes. Conservation Biology, 2015; DOI:10.1111/cobi.12446 

 Pancreatic researcher named NSW Woman of the Year

04 March 2015

UNSW pancreatic researcher Professor Minote Apte OAM has been named the 2015 NSW Woman of the Year for her contributions to medical research, tertiary education and the Indian community.

Professor Apte, from the South Western Sydney Clinical School, received the award from NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Women Pru Goward during a reception at NSW Parliament House today.

Professor Apte, who is based at the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, is director of the Pancreatic Research Group, an acknowledged world-leader in the field of research into alcohol-induced pancreatic injury and pancreatic cancer.

Upon receiving the award Professor Apte called for better support for women seeking to balance family and career.

“Inequality and disadvantage for women returning to work remains a big problem in Australia and more work needs to be done in this area,” Professor Apte said.

“UNSW is leading the way when it comes to family-friendly workplacearrangements and supporting women who want to balance family with pursuing a career in science, academia or medical research.”

Professor Apte also called on state and federal governments to make increased funding in medical research a higher priority.

Premier Mike Baird says Professor Minoti is a highly respected researcher and member of the community, and her achievements inspire other women to follow in her footsteps.

“Alongside her impressive career successes, Professor Minoti is an active member of the Marathi Association of Sydney, an organisation that serves Sydney’s significant Indian population.”

Professor Apte investigates pancreatic cancer at a cellular level to find out how and why the cancer is so aggressive and spreads so quickly. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers with a five-year survival rate of just 6%.

Professor Apte was the first in the world to develop a method to isolate pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs), a technique which provided a much needed research tool for studying the path that pancreatic fibrosis (scarring of the pancreas) takes.

She is currently leading pre-clinical studies that are primed to suggest new treatments for pancreatic cancer – the fifth leading cause of all cancer deaths in Australia.

“In winning the award I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful support of members of the Pancreatic Research Group, my current PhD students Zhihong Xu and Sri Pothula and their mentors Professor Jeremy Wilson and Professor Ron Pirola,” Professor Apte said.

Photo: Professor Minote Apte OAM, courtesy UNSW


Mar 15: 6:00 PM, BROOKVALE Hoyts, Warringah Mall

Buy tickets at: 

Frackman The Movie coming to cinemas in MARCH

"If you care about our country, see it!” ~ Alan Jones

"No Australian voter should miss this film" ~ Bob Brown

Frackman is like no other Australian film. It aims to spark a broad national conversation about the risks of our headlong rush into massive coal seam gas development. Five years in the making, it not only entertains and engages, it also gives audiences the tools to get involved in what is becoming the largest social movement our nation has seen in decades. It’s a deeply political film, but not the old style that is so badly failing us. This the New Politics, bringing together old and young, city and country, conservative and progressive in a shared effort to prevent an environmental catastrophe. Can we imagine any other issue that would bring together the likes of Alan Jones and Bob Brown? 

See it and find out why. Take a stand with us


Restoring Coastal Headland Ecosystems Grant events

As part of the NSW Environmental Trust ‘Restoring Coastal Headland Ecosystems’ grant, a number of community events are being planned. 

Pittwater Council would like to welcome and encourage any residents who have not attended these events before and all those who have in the past. 

Come along, get to know your neighbours and enjoy the satisfaction of helping your local area!

Free Native Plant Giveaway – Warriewood Beach – Saturday 18 April from 8am to 12pm. To be held opposite the Warriewood Beach cafés and shops on Narrabeen Park Parade. The free plants will be for local residents at Warriewood and Turimetta. Come along and select some local native plants designed to your coastal conditions. 

Community Planting Event – Turimetta Beach – Sunday 26 April from 9am to 12pm. Meet at the main beach track and grass area above Turimetta Beach (opposite 58 Narrabeen Park Parade). Tools, equipment, morning tea and training provided by Council. Come along, wear comfortable clothing, closed shoes and give us a hand!

Warriewood Beach Bushcare Group - please call the Bushcare Officer for dates to be scheduled. 

NEW Mona Vale Basin Bushcare Group - first meeting scheduled for Saturday 7 March from 8am to 11am. Meet in the reserve on the corner of Surfview and Bassett St East. 

Mona Vale Dunes Bushcare Group meets regularly on the 2nd Saturday and 3rd Thursday of each month from 8:30 to 11:30am. Meet at the end of Golf Avenue, Mona Vale. 

For further details regarding the Bushcare groups or events please contact the Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367 or for information regarding the grant project please call the Bushland Management Officers on 9970 1363 or 9970 1390.

 World Wildlife Day: Time lapse captures endangered reptile near Queanbeyan

Media release: 3 March 2015

On World Wildlife Day the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) shares information about a new technique for gathering information about one of the country’s most endangered reptiles which inhabits the native grasslands of the ACT and the Monaro south of Queanbeyan.

Scientists with OEH, based at Queanbeyan, have been studying the species closely on the Monaro tablelands for a number of years by installing artificial spider tubes that replicate habitat the dragon normally uses, abandoned spider holes.

However OEH reptile expert, Rod Pietsch, said today the process of checking the spider tubes was time consuming and labour intensive with limitations on the type and amount of information this technique could offer.

“Checking spider tubes manually was very time consuming so I have been trialling the use of time lapse photography and it’s proven to be a far better approach because it seems to be quite effective in recording dragons and far less labour intensive,” he said

Mr Pietsch said that the arrival of specialised photographic devices has really revolutionised surveying for wildlife. Remote infra-red, movement sensitive cameras , which can be left in the field for long periods of time, hold very large numbers of photographic images on memory cards that can be accessed virtually instantly once collected and this improved the amount and quality of information we can gather from the field surveys we conduct for all sorts of threatened species.

“However these motion sensitive cameras only work after detecting the body heat of an animal and because reptiles are cold blooded we could not use the camera in the way we would normally. So instead we installed 32 cameras in the field pointing directly down onto an artificial spider tube and set them to take a photo every 60 seconds for about eight daylight hours for two weeks and the results have been very rewarding.

“In our first trial near Queanbeyan we recorded a total of just over 360,000 images of which 5,555 contained images with a dragon present. Compared to previous survey techniques the use of time lapse cameras found more dragons in more locations.

“Because it’s far less labour intensive we can now survey more areas over a wider region than before but with the same amount of resources. This is quite a breakthrough because we can learn more, faster and get a better handle on the issues facing the species over time and how to manage them,” Mr Pietsch said.

 Volunteers needed to help with Powerful Owl Surveys

The Powerful Owl Project was established in 2011 and is managed by BirdLife Australia’s Threatened Bird Network (TBN) and Birds in Backyards Program (BIBY). With the aid of citizen scientists, the Powerful Owl Project aims to investigate the distribution and breeding ecology of Powerful Owls in Sydney’s urban landscape and enhance the management of this species. Throughout the duration of the project, over 300 volunteer owl observers have been trained in survey techniques and allocated to a survey site where they monitor breeding activity, in order to map and monitor the breeding success of the Powerful Owl. 

They are looking for new volunteers to help out with the monitoring of known breeding sites around Greater Sydney. Monitoring involves searching for the nest tree (by looking for whitewash or listening for calls) and observing what the owls are doing (courting, in the hollow with chicks, feeding chicks, etc). Sites need to be monitored at least once per month during the Powerful Owl breeding season (March to September) and some sites might involve a walk to the nest site, sometimes over uneven terrain.

No experience is necessary for volunteering, and an all-day training workshop will be provided for new volunteers at North Narrabeen on Saturday 28 March. 

If you are interested in volunteering, please get in touch with BirdLife Australia and they can work out the best site location for you. 

When: Throughout the 2015 Powerful Owl breeding season (March to September)

Location: Various locations throughout the Greater Sydney, more information to come. 

Contact: Caroline Wilson, BirdLife Australia, please contact before 15 March so they can get an idea of numbers for the workshop.

 Release of the 2013-14 National Greenhouse and Energy reporting data

The Clean Energy Regulator has released the 2013-14 National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) data publication.

Under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme, Australian corporations that meet certain thresholds are required to report their emissions and energy information to the Clean Energy Regulator. Data reported under this scheme captures around 60 per cent of Australia’s overall emissions and is a key input into Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

This is a point-in-time publication that shows greenhouse gas emissions and net energy consumption for 420 corporations in Australia who met the publication thresholds. For 2013-14 these corporations in total had:

312 million tonnes of scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide equivalent)

88 million tonnes of scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide equivalent), and

net energy consumption of approximately 5,150 petajoules.

In addition, the data publication includes scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions and electricity production data for over 300 designated generation facilities.

Factsheets are available to provide further information on the 2013-14 NGER data publication including:

the top 20 producers of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia

the top 20 designated generation facilities that produce the most greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and their electricity production

the emissions profiles for Australian states and territories, and

Australia’s sources of reported scope 1 emissions by industry.

The Clean Energy Regulator has also published the National Greenhouse and Energy Register for 2013-14. This includes details of each corporation that was registered under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 for the 2013-14 reporting year.

Please note: emissions numbers reported by entities liable under the previous carbon pricing mechanism are available on the Liable Entities Public Information Database.


Are you prepared for coastal storms?

Michael Hall from The Climate Institute will be presenting his photographic work at the Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) in the lead up to Earth Hour with a focus on coastal storm impacts. ‘The Story of Our Planet Unfolds’ is a pictorial display on how climate change is already impacting our planet. 

The severity of no action on climate change was highlighted in the Climate Council’s report released last year called Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding, which found more than $226 billion worth of asset exposure along the Australian coastline for the 2100 climate change projections. An additonal report called The Impact of Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change on Surf Life Saving Services (2011) highlighted the specific vulnerability of SLSCs to climate change with the majority of Australia’s club houses located on sandy beaches which are particularly exposed to extreme weather events and sea level rise. 

Find out from the SES how you can prepare for the impacts of climate change on our coasts from increasing storm events. 

When: Tuesday 17 March, 7:30 – 9:30pm

Where: Avalon Beach SLSC – Club Room

RSVP by Friday 13 March to

 Stop the Chop Code 10/50 NSW

Published on 26 Feb 2015


STOP THE CHOP is a community alliance formed to bring the 10/50 Code to a grinding halt. We want immediate withdrawal of the Code and repeal of the enabling legislation as soon as Parliament returns. We are supported by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the peak NSW environment group, and at many other wildlife, birding and environmental groups in NSW

Code 10/50 severely sets back urban tree protection and conservation measures fought for by the community over many decades and usurps an effective system of Council assessment and control already in place with cooperation and technical support being provided by the RFS.


Kevin Humphries MP Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water Minister for Western NSW 

MEDIA RELEASE Friday 20 February 2015

Minister for Natural Resources, Lands & Water Kevin Humphries is encouraging managers of local parks and reserves, state parks, showgrounds and caravan parks to start preparing applications for funding under the next round of the Public Reserves Management Fund Program. 

Mr Humphries said the 2015/16 round of the PRMFP will open in early March 2015, delivering at least $15 million to improve public reserves across the State. 

“Public reserve managers from across the State will soon be invited to apply for grants and loans to assist them to develop, maintain and improve public reserves,” Mr Humphries said. 

“Public reserves are wonderful assets that are highly valued by local communities. In many cases their ongoing success is vital to local sport and social activities, as well as business and tourism in regional towns.

“The 2015/16 funding program differs from past years as it will be a single round, so it is very important for reserve managers to take note of the application dates when they are announced. 

“Crown reserve caravan parks, local parks and reserves, state parks and showgrounds on Crown land will be eligible for funding, along with freehold showgrounds and schools of arts. “It will be open to a wide range of activities including repairs and maintenance, pest and weed control, recreational infrastructure, environmental initiatives and other capital projects to improve the condition of Crown reserves. 

“Applicants seeking larger amounts, including grants or loans over $500,000, are also encouraged to apply.” 

Mr Humphries said the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has allocated more than $80 million to the PRMFP over the past four years. 

“The program’s success relies on the good work undertaken at a grassroots level by managers, reserve trusts and local communities, and the NSW Government will continue to ensure that our public reserves continue to be managed by and for the public,” Mr Humphries said. 

“The program is just one example of the NSW Government’s commitment to the cultural, sporting, economic and recreational life of communities across NSW.” 

Information on how to apply this year will be on the Crown Lands website at

 Parks Week 2015 – Watery Events in Pittwater and Surrounds: Connect With Nature

Visit a national park and connect with nature during Parks Week 2015. Held from Monday 9 March to Sunday 15 March 2015, this annual celebration highlights the important role that our parks play in local communities and the natural environment.

Over 35 great tours and events will be held in NSW national parks, on the theme ‘connect with nature’. Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve, the oldest nature reserve in Australia, will celebrate its 150th anniversary with apublic festival showcasing the local environment. There will be entertainment, exclusive cave tours, and overnight camping packages are available so you can stay the weekend.

Activities across NSW include Aboriginal Discovery programs, ranger talks, wilderness walks, native tree plantings and WilderQuest tours for kids. You can take a surfing lesson or a guided kayak tour in pristine waters, explore lush rainforest on a mountain biking or 4WD adventure, or spot native wildlife on a sunset hike.

Enjoy one of the many tours that will be offered at a discounted rate, or choose from a range of free activities specially planned for the whole family. You can also visit new areas of national parks that are usually restricted to the public for conservation purposes.

Parks Week 2015 has been assisted by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust and the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative, and is supported by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Parks Eco Pass operators.

Pittwater kayak tours

Where: Ku-ring-gai Chase Nat. Park

When: Saturday 14 March 2015, 6am to 8am, 9am to 12pm and 1pm to 4pm

Join Pittwater Kayak Tours on a kayaking adventure, paddling past the majestic sandstone cliffs of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney. Medium. Suitable for children aged 5-12 years, and they must be accompanied by an adult. Adults up to 60 years and over, with a medium level of fitness.

Price: $40 per person. Not wheelchair accessible.

Bookings: Bookings required. Phone 0412 057 176 or emailPittwater Kayak Tours.  

Basin campground stand up paddle board safari

Where: The Basin campground in Ku-ring-gai Chase Nat. ParkSaturday 14 March 2015, 11am to 12.30pm and Sunday 15 March 2015, 11am to 12.30pm

Discover the natural treasures of The Basin in Sydney's Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on this unique stand up paddle boarding experience during Parks Week

Parks Week promotional offer: Book for 3 people and the 4th person comes free. Adult $50 per person. Child $45 per person. 90 minute experience. Bookings required. 

Phone 0415 121 648 and mention 'Parks Week' to receive this special offer.  

Contact: EcoTreasures, 0415 121 648

Ku-ring-gai Gibberagong Creek kayak tour

Where: Ku-ring-gai Chase Nat. Park 

When: Monday 9 March, Saturday 14 March and Sunday 15 March 2015. Tours operate 10am-12.30pm and 2pm-4.30pm on each day.

Get back to nature in Sydney's Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park with this discounted kayak tour offer for Parks Week. Bookings required.Email Southern Cross Kayaking  or contact 0439 936 480. Quote 'Parks Week' to receive the discount.  

Marramarra Creek bushcare camp

Join NPWS on a special Parks Week volunteering weekend, and help restore the habitat of native Australian plants along the Hawkesbury River

During Parks Week, NSW National Parks is hosting an overnight bushcare camp at Marramarra National Park. On day 1, we’ll make our way in an NPWS car convoy to the start of the Marramarra Ridge trail, and take a guided Discovery walk to Marramarra Creek. Enjoy a rest and bite to eat before heading a little downstream to our weeding site, where we’ll target scattered lantana and wild tobacco. After setting up camp at Marramarra Creek campground, volunteers will have plenty of leisure time to explore the creek and a enjoy a spotlight walk. On day 2, we’ll get busy with a little more bush regeneration before walking back to Fiddletown.

The Marramarra Creek bushcare camp takes place over 2 days. Volunteers meet at Fiddletown, to transfer overnight equipment to an NPWS convoy car before a guided walk to Marramarra Creek. Bush generation tools, on-site training and catering are all provided.

When: Saturday 14 March 2015 at 9am to Sunday 15 March 2015 at 4pm

Where: Marramarra National Park. See getting there information.

Presented by: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

Grading: Medium. Suitable for adults.

Price: Free. Not wheelchair-accessible.

Bookings: Bookings required. Please phone 0419 753 798 or emailTegan Burton to reserve your spot.  

See more events for Parks Week 2015 at HERE 

 Public consultation on national parks establishment

Comment is sought on the proposed directions, socio-economic considerations and community involvement in creating new national parks and reserves in NSW.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) acquires land for the establishment of new national parks through various means such as the transfer of other public land, the voluntary sale or transfer of private land, bequests and donations, or through biodiversity offsets, in order to achieve the objectives of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

NPWS is considering whether opportunities exist to improve the national parks establishment process.

Two documents, a directions statement and a socio-economic report on land acquisition, have been prepared to form the basis of a consultation with the community.

This consultation is occurring in response to a Parliamentary Inquiry into Management of Public Land Management in NSW(External link). As a consequence of the inquiry, the NSW Government has committed to publicly consult on:

updating the NSW National Parks Establishment Plan

the social and economic implications of new park proposals

how to improve community involvement in the reserve establishment process.

Directions Statement for National Park Establishment

In response to Recommendation 3 of the Management of Public Land in NSW Inquiry, the NSW Government made a commitment to:

“Review and update the NSW National Parks Establishment Plan to take account of recent information and current and future conservation priorities.

This will reinforce the scientific basis for building the national parks system, consistent with international best practice and nationally agreed frameworks.”

A Directions Statement for National Park Establishment(External link) has been prepared to reframe the NSW National Parks Establishment Plan(External link) that has guided land acquisition since 2008. The purpose of the directions statement is to:

convey the types of conservation priorities that are important to the expansion and enhancement of the National Park Estate

present the NSW Government’s focus for effort and investment in reserve establishment over the next five years (2015-2020)

Consultation period 19 January 2015 to 12 April 2015

See relevant documents and Have Your Say

 Reforming Australia Post 

Joint Release with the Hon Mathias Cormann Minister for Finance: Reforming Australia Post

3 March 2015

The Australian Government has today ensured that Australia Post can maintain a sustainable mail service for all Australians.

Australia Post is facing significant structural decline as people choose to communicate over the Internet. Australians are now sending one billion fewer letters a year than they were in 2008, with letters losses rising to more than $300 million a year.

While Australia Post has been able to offset these losses by growing its parcels business, losses in letters are now so large that they are overwhelming all profitable areas of the business. Without reform total projected company losses could reach $6.6 billion over the next 10 years, with letters losses of $12.1 billion.

Australia Post does not receive funding from taxpayers and Australians must not be forced to subsidise business and government mail, which accounts for 95 per cent of total letters volume.

The Government has approved Australia Post's request to introduce a two-speed letters service – a Priority and Regular service that will be introduced for consumers no earlier than September 2015. The Regular service will be delivered two days slower than the current timetable.

The price of Regular letters will be overseen by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), consistent with the current practice. Australia Post has advised the Government it will apply to the ACCC to raise the regular stamp price from $0.70 to $1.00. This is necessary to support a more sustainable letters service with an aim of breaking even over time. The Priority service will be a commercial product.

Australia Post will continue to deliver mail five days a week to 98 per cent of addresses, and the delivery speed will vary depending on the service. The Priority service will be delivered to a faster timetable than the Regular service.

Concession card holders will continue to be offered a concession rate stamp, which will be frozen at $0.60, and all Australians will continue to have access to a $0.65 Christmas rate stamp.

These measures will also help Australia Post maintain its extensive post office network, particularly Licensed Post Offices (LPOs) in regional and remote communities.


4 MARCH 2015

It is less than 10mm long, but the aptly named 'enigma' moth recently discovered on Kangaroo Island in South Australia is causing quite a stir.

Aenigmatinea glatzella - which has iridescent gold and purple wings - is a 'living dinosaur' that represents an entirely new family of primitive moths. This is the first time since the 1970s that a new family of primitive moths has been identified anywhere in the world.

The moth was unveiled today as part of a launch of a foundation to support research into Australian moths and butterflies, and the moths and butterflies in CSIRO's Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra.

The enigma moth lives on Southern Cypress-pine trees (Callitris gracilis), a very ancient element of our flora going back to the supercontinent Gondwana.

With wings outstretched the adult moths are about the size of a five-cent piece. They are covered in scales that appear gold and purple, and the edges of their wings have feathery fringes.

The adult moths are short-lived. In just one day they emerge from their cocoons, mate, females lay their eggs, and then die.

Australia is thought to be home to about 22,000 species of moths and butterflies, of which about half have been named.

CSIRO researchers played a key role in identifying the moth and helped to unlock dramatic insights into the evolution of moths and their butterfly cousins.

An international team of professional researchers and enthusiasts collected and described the moth, which has so far only been found on Kangaroo Island.

According to CSIRO's Dr Ted Edwards, who was jointly responsible for describing the new family, by studying the moth's appearance and analysing its DNA the team has revealed that the evolution of moths and butterflies is even more complex than previously thought.

"While the discovery of this new moth strengthens the evolutionary relationships between other primitive moth families, it also suggests that tongues evolved in moths and butterflies more than once," Dr Edwards, an Honorary Fellow with CSIRO's Australian National Insect Collection, said.

"Our fauna is so exciting we can still find new primitive species. Australia is so rich in moths that vast numbers still remain to be discovered."

CSIRO's Australian National Insect Collection is the world's largest collection of Australian insects and related groups. It is a nationally and internationally significant research resource that contributes to our understanding of biodiversity, and supports research in evolutionary biology, ecology, biosecurity and natural resource management.

The paper describing the new family of primitive moths from Australia is published in the latest edition of Systematic Entomology.

Photo: Female Enigma Moth - picture by George Gibbs

 Diversity & Inclusion – Love Has No Labels

Published on 3 Mar 2015 - Ad Council

While the vast majority of Americans consider themselves unprejudiced, many of us unintentionally make snap judgments about people based on what we see—whether it’s race, age, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. This may be a significant reason many people in the U.S. report they feel discriminated against. Subconscious prejudice—called “implicit bias”—has profound implications for how we view and interact with others who are different from us. It can hinder a person’s ability to find a job, secure a loan, rent an apartment, or get a fair trial, perpetuating disparities in American society. The Love Has No Labels campaign challenges us to open our eyes to our bias and prejudice and work to stop it in ourselves, our friends, our families, and our colleagues. Rethink your bias at

 From tsunami to transformation

4 March 2015

A decade after its devastation by tsunami, much of the Indonesian province of Aceh is at least as good as it was – and in some cases conditions are even better, say researchers who have assessed the area’s progress in the aftermath of disaster.

Nearly a quarter of a million people died and many more suffered during the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. Aceh sustained the heaviest damage and had the most casualties: more than 220,000 people perished, another 500,000 were left homeless, and more than 116,000 houses were destroyed.

Its transformation since owes much to an unprecedented international response that raised billions of dollars for relief and reconstruction.

“Travelling through the areas that 10 years ago were scenes of total devastation, it is now increasingly hard to find signs that the tsunami ever occurred – except that most of the facilities and services are better than they were before,” said Monash University geographer Dr Craig Thorburn.

Dr Thorburn, who was initially an adviser to a major Australian tsunami recovery project, has continued to research the area’s rehabilitation and was invited to join the Aftermath of Aid Project, a collaboration by the Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University and Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh. With fellow researcher Dr Bryan Rochelle, he recently published a report,The Acehnese Gampong ten years on: A post-post tsunami assessment. 

Dr Thorburn said the substantial financial investment was not the only factor at work. In August 2005, a peace treaty ended the long-running armed conflict between Acehnese separatists and the Indonesian military.

“The highly visible and largely successful rehabilitation and reconstruction of the province’s physical infrastructure and facilities has been accompanied by social and political changes hardly imaginable a decade ago,” he said.

There have been some exceptions to the success story. In particular, some people in villages that had to relocate were still struggling to resume productive lives, with many households lacking a reliable income source.

But most people in the study, even those who had lost assets or livelihoods, readily acknowledged that conditions were better than they had been before the tsunami.

“There were the obvious material improvements such as roads and electricity, and the relief of peacetime after years of conflict,” Dr Thorburn said.

“But people also felt more empowered because they had gained skills from their involvement in the recovery programs, and because they had increased confidence that their leaders were able to tackle problems as they arose.”

The Aftermath of Aid project is continuing, and will inform policy recommendations for both Australia and Indonesia, as well as international disaster relief organisations.

The Disaster Response Unit of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta (DFAT) commissioned the report.

 Diet key to lifespan and fertility

2 March 2015

It may be possible to live longer and increase fertility by manipulating diet, according to world-first research in mice from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and ANZAC Research Institute.

Researchers showed for the first time in mammals that there is an ideal balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) for reproduction and another, different ideal balance for increasing lifespan.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), calls into question the long-standing theory that animals are forced to trade-off between reproduction and longevity when resources are limited. According to the researchers, it is possible to manage diet at different life stages to both optimise fertility and extend lifespan, rather than sacrificing either.

"This study takes a very big step in explaining why trade-offs between reproduction and longevity are not inevitable in mammals," said Dr Samantha Solon-Biet from the Charles Perkins Centre, who co-led the research with Dr Kirsty Walters from the ANZAC Research Institute.

"Rather than a trade-off, we now know that each evolutionary function has different nutrient requirements. That means that as our nutrient requirements change with our life stage, we can change our diet to suit our current requirements, for example by increasing our protein to carbohydrate ratio when in our reproductive prime and lifting our carbohydrate to protein ratio in later life.

"Animals don't have to choose between high fertility and a long life. By managing diet throughout our life cycle, we can have both."

The findings open the door for the development of dietary treatments for infertility in humans.

"As the findings based on insects are now shown to be true in mammals, we are hopeful that they will be equally true in humans," said Dr Solon-Biet.

"As women increasingly delay child-bearing, the demand for assisted reproductive technologies increases. With further studies, it's possible that instead of women with subfertility resorting immediately to invasive IVF techniques, an alternative strategy may be developed to change the ratio of dietary macronutrients to improve female fertility. This would avoid the need for medical intervention, except in the most severe cases."

The study is the most comprehensive nutritional trial ever conducted in mammals exploring the relationship between macronutrients, reproduction and lifespan.

Researchers placed 858 mice on one of 25 ad-libitum diets with varying levels of protein, carbohydrate, fat and energy content. At 15 months, they measured the male and female mice for reproductive function. In both male and female mice, they found that lifespan was enhanced on a high carbohydrate, low protein diet, and reproduction was enhanced on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.


History's most important document?

The History Council of NSW is delighted to announce our involvement in the celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. This symposium has been organised in conjunction with the Magna Carta Committee, the Rule of Law Society and the State Library of NSW.

The signing of Magna Carta in 1215 marked an important step in the movement away from arbitrary, monarchical rule towards responsible, constitutional government. By the end of the eighteenth century Englishmen had come to believe strongly in the principles of trial by jury and no taxation without representation-even if the latter took the form of virtual representation. These principles were carried to the colony of NSW and were at the heart of the movements to establish trial by jury and representative (or at least consultative) institutions, which commenced within two decades of the founding of the colony.

The 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 2015 provides the appropriate opportunity to re-examine this document and its role in British and Australian history. In this day long symposium, five speakers, including Prof Nick Cowdery, Prof David Clark, Prof John Hirst, Dr Rosemary Laing and Dr Andrew Tink, will explore the historical and contemporary significance of this groundbreaking document.

This event will take place on Thursday May 7 2015. This event is free but bookings are essential!

See more at HERE

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