Inbox and Environment News: Issue 299

February 5 - 11, 2017: Issue 299

Young Avalon Musicians Win Environment Award

The first ecodownunder environment award for 2017 goes to the Cullen kids, for the care they have shown for the oceans and their generous support of Sea Shepherd.

After a day at Manly busking, they spent their money at the Sea Shepherd fund-raising stall at Manly Market because they wanted to help Sea Shepherd protect whales, dolphins and other sea life.

Beverley, co-owner of ecodownunder, presented the award to the siblings, Dhara, Balin and Locana outside the store at Avalon. 

The goodness didn’t end there…Bev was amazed when Dhara, aware of the hardship of months at sea, said they would like to donate the gift voucher to Sea Shepherd so crews could have cosy quilts and be sure to sleep well. 

“These children are an inspiration to us all” declared Beverley.

Clean Up Australia Day 2017

Register or join a site at:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

Calling Western Sydney’s Green Beans To ‘Start Something’ For The Environment

Media release: 30 January 2017 - NSW Dept. of Environment and Heritage
‘Start Something’ workshops kick off on 11 February at Oatlands House in Western Sydney and will provide essential skills and knowledge to budding NSW entrepreneurs and environmental groups.

Wildwon and the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) have teamed up to provide these workshops to accelerate the success of growing ideas and help people turn concepts into impactful, viable and successful projects.

Sally Hill, co-founder of Wildwon said having a great idea is a start but taking an idea from concept to reality is a process that needs to be carefully considered, mapped out and worked through.

“The workshops will teach participants how to shape their idea, find finance and share their story,” said Ms Hill.

OEH’s Deputy Chief Executive Ian Hunter said there is undeniable environmental talent and entrepreneurial tenacity in the people of regional NSW.

“When these strengths are combined and coupled with a desire to enhance communities and natural environments, great things can happen,” Mr Hunter said.

“We want to provide entrepreneurs and environmental groups with essential skills and knowledge to initiate projects in their community.

To find out more about the workshops and learn how to turn your idea into reality please visit:

Additional regional workshops will be held in:
• Bathurst on 4 March 2017
• Ewingsdale on 18 March 2017
• Albury on 25 March 2017

New Approach For Assessing The Social Impacts Of Mining

Ministerial Media Release  - The Hon. Rob Stokes MP, Minister for Planning
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 visit

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

2017 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release - Proposed Areas

Public Consultation Closes 7 Feb 2017

The annual Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release is a key part of the Australian Government's strategy to encourage petroleum exploration in Australia’s offshore waters.

The inclusion of an acreage release area means that companies can apply to explore in that area, it does not necessarily mean exploration will occur in that area in the future. Companies must apply for a release area and be assessed as a deserving applicant before decision-makers may award a petroleum exploration permit. Should a permit be awarded, it authorises the holder to apply to Australia's independent offshore petroleum regulator, NOPSEMA, for permission to undertake an activity.

The main steps in the acreage release cycle are:
  • nominations invited
  • shortlisting of nominated areas
  • consultation - undertaken in two phases:
  1. with agencies in Commonwealth and state/Northern Territory jurisdictions with direct responsibility for managing the marine environment
  2. a public consultation period on the proposed areas.
Following consultation, the final areas for the acreage release are announced by the responsible Commonwealth Minister and industry are invited to submit bids on the release areas.

Why We Are Consulting
This consultation process provides an opportunity for persons who have a specific interest in a proposed area to provide comments and/or information that may be useful to:
  • inform the acreage release
  • inform potential explorers of their particular interest.
A full set of maps for the proposed area below. These maps show the the proposed areas in relation to Commonwealth Marine Reserves, existing petroleum titles and infrastructure and bathymetry.

Give Us Your Views


NSW’s Solar Bonanza About To Become Reality

01 February 2017: Media Release - ARENA
Three big solar projects in NSW supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are set to begin construction within weeks after getting the financial green light.

The plants in Parkes, Griffith and Dubbo will consist of more than 400,000 panels and when completed will provide enough renewable energy to power 41,500 homes per year.

Developed by renewable energy company Neoen, the plants make up a quarter of the projects funded under ARENA’s ground breaking Large-Scale Solar Competitive Round, which has unlocked a billion dollars of renewable energy investment across the nation.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said ARENA was accelerating the shift to an affordable and secure renewable energy future for Australia by rapidly bringing down costs and leveraging private sector investment.

“This competitive round has driven costs down and investment up,” said Mr Frischknecht.

“The plants will cost around $2 per watt of capacity, one third cheaper than AGL’s plants in Nyngan and Broken Hill, which cost $2.8 per watt in 2014 and were competitive at the time.”

The Neoen projects are collectively receiving $16 million in funding through ARENA and $150 million in debt financing from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

Mr Frischknecht said that by supporting innovators and early-movers, ARENA was fast-tracking the development of new Australian industries like the large-scale solar sector.

“The Australian large-scale solar sector is now on the cusp of being fully commercial, largely due to support from ARENA and the CEFC,” he said.

He said Neoen’s solar plants were world-class, featuring cutting edge technology such as panels that follow the sun as it travels across the sky.

“By using solar panels that track the sun, the plants will maintain a higher energy output for more of the day.”

“The new Neoen plants will also boost regional NSW economies, creating an estimated 250 jobs during construction, mostly in the local regions.

“Five NSW based plants have won support through ARENA’s funding round and will together almost double the amount of big solar in the state.”

Neoen Australia Managing Director Franck Woitiez said the achievement of financial close for the three large-scale solar farms in NSW was another step towards Neoen’s goal of owning and operating 1 GW of assets in Australia.

“With long-term debt from the CEFC, and the support from ARENA, Neoen continues to invest in the future of the Australian energy mix, and delivers on its promises of building sustainable, competitive and renewable electricity,” Mr Woitiez said.

Neoen has signed commercial power purchase agreements (PPA) with energy retailer ENGIE to sell energy from Griffith and Parkes, with the Dubbo project progressing on a merchant basis. This is the first large-scale solar PPA signed by ENGIE in Australia, adding to its existing renewable energy offtake of the 46MW Canunda windfarm and representing another large energy player ramping up its involvement in Australia’s renewable energy sector.

Construction of the plants is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

AFMA Turns 25!!!!

2 February 2017
What do the band Hanson and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) have in common? Both were formed in 1992! That’s right, for a quarter of a century, AFMA has been regulating our Commonwealth fisheries, helping to ensure that current and future generations have a healthy supply of Australian seafood.

AFMA was established on 3 February 1992 as the statutory authority model for the management of Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries under the Fisheries Administration Act 1991.

AFMA will be celebrating its birthday all month long, reflecting on how things have changed in 25 years (eg – a tweet was just a noise a bird made in 1992!). Come join the celebration on AFMA’s Facebook page.

Clean Up Australia Event In Antarctica

Glenn Harradine - Expeditioner Glenn Harradine taking part in Clean Up Australia Day at Casey research station (Photo: Lorrienne Lyte)

30th January 2017: Department of the Environment and Energy, 
Australian Antarctic Division
The summer snow-melt at Casey research station has provided the perfect opportunity for expeditioners to undertake a Clean Up Australia event.

About 50 expeditioners spent three hours over the weekend collecting debris from around station to ensure that it did not enter the wider Antarctic environment.

Wastes are carefully managed, with most being returned to Australia for recycling, treatment and disposal, but the harsh Antarctic conditions and hurricane-strength winds inevitably result in some items becoming dispersed around station.

The team collected a variety of items including small bits of plastic, old nails, wood and metal that had been picked up by the wind during blizzards. 

Casey Station Leader, Paul Ross, said while Clean Up Australia events are usually held in March in Australia, at Casey the activity has had to coincide with the hottest month of the year.

“For 11 months of the year we have ice and snow around all the buildings and infrastructure at Casey, so we can’t really see what may have accumulated,” Mr Ross said,

“During January most of that snow melts, so we can see if any debris has been deposited beneath the ice.

“On station we regularly have blizzards of up to 100 kilometres per hour so sometimes small bits of refuse escape into the local environment.”

There has been a tradition of conducting weekend clean-ups known as ‘emu bobs’, but this is the first time an Australian Antarctic station has registered with Clean Up Australia as an official site.

Clean Up Australia started in 1989 and is the nation’s largest community-based environmental event.

Narrabri Gas Project Application In Early Planning Assessment Phase

01.02.2017: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment
The Department of Planning and Environment has received Santos’ Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Narrabri Gas Project.

This marks an early stage in the planning assessment process. The Department will soon be placing the EIS on public exhibition for 60 days to ensure the community has the opportunity to have a say.

Mike Young, Director of Resource Assessments, said the Department assesses all applications on their merits under planning legislation and clear NSW Government policies and guidelines.

“The Department will be consulting broadly on this application, including holding public information sessions in the local area during the exhibition period,” Mr Young said.

“These sessions will provide guidance on the planning assessment process and how to make a submission.

“Dates for the public exhibition and information sessions will be announced shortly.”

Next steps in the planning assessment process include:
  • Department publicly exhibits EIS and consults with the community
  • Department publishes all submissions online and asks the applicant to respond to the issues raised in submissions
  • Applicant prepares a formal Response to Submissions (RtS), which is published online
  • Department assesses the merits of the project, including the EIS, all submissions and community feedback, and the RtS.

Public Comment Extended – Pair Trawling Application

31 January 2017: AFMA
The deadline for commenting on an application to pair trawl in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) has been extended to Friday, 10 February 2017.

On 8 December 2016 AFMA received an application to pair trawl using a midwater trawl net in the SPF for an initial period of 12 months.

Unlike midwater trawling and purse seining, which are both approved under the SPF Management Plan, other fishing methods, such as pair trawling, jigging and handlining require AFMA to make a specific decision whether or not to allow them.

The independent AFMA Commission will make the final decision on whether or not to allow pair trawling in the Commonwealth SPF after it has considered relevant economic and scientific advice.

Update On The MDBA 2017 Evaluation Of The Basin Plan

01 February 2017: Media Release - MDBA Chief Executive Phillip Glyde
The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is responsible for preparing, implementing and reviewing the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, a plan that aims to ensure a healthy and productive basin for future generations.

The review role includes conducting formal legislated reviews, such as the recent Northern Basin Review in 2016 and a 10 year review of the Basin Plan due in 2026, along with yearly Basin Plan Annual Reports.

We undertake other assessments of Basin Plan operations and implementation when a need is identified.

Five years after the Basin Plan was legislated we’re conducting an evaluation of its social, economic and environmental outcomes to assess its effectiveness across the Basin and to see if anything else needs to be done to achieve the Basin Plan’s aims.

This evaluation, or report card, will use the Northern Basin Review findings along with new social and economic research we’ll undertake in 2017 into the experiences people in about 30 southern basin centres have had in relation to the plan. The community-level information will be combined with analysis of Basin, catchment and industry outcomes.

We'll be looking to answer questions like:
  • Is implementation of key Basin Plan components on track?
  • To what extent have the intended purposes, objectives, targets and outcomes been achieved?
  • How has the Basin Plan contributed to changes to environmental, social and economic conditions?
  • What, if any, unanticipated outcomes have resulted from the implementation of the Basin Plan?
  • How could we better achieve intended purposes and objectives through refining remaining Basin Plan implementation efforts?
The report card will look at the effectiveness of the on and off-farm infrastructure programs, as well as the impacts of water purchase and reduced water availability for production — along with the environmental outcomes.

The Water Act gives us sufficient scope to check that the Basin Plan is on track and that we're seeing the outcomes we expected to see — environmental, economic and social.

Information from the evaluation may be used to inform the future implementation of the Basin Plan, be used by communities and industries to help them adjust to the many causes of change they face, and inform governments about whether the effects of the Basin Plan differ from those expected when the Basin Plan was developed.

We will be holding information sessions in the southern basin from March this year to progress this work and we’re already talking with industry and community leaders about the evaluation.

The Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism process that is currently underway is about getting equivalent environmental outcomes with less water and less economic impact, by making environmental watering more efficient, improving river management practices, or overcoming some of the physical barriers to delivering water in the system.

This process will reduce the volume of water recovery that is still needed in the southern basin. The Sustainable Diversion Limit will need to be changed in the Basin Plan.

The MDBA is working with all Basin jurisdictions to progress these projects that are due for finalisation this year.

Invitation To Nominate Significant Places To The National Heritage List

Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
All Australians are invited to nominate places of exceptional natural, Indigenous, or historic significance to the nation for possible inclusion in the National Heritage List.

Nominations are now open for the 2017-18 assessment period and all Australians are welcome to recommend a place that contributes to our national story.

The National Heritage List celebrates and protects places of outstanding heritage value to all Australians. It reflects the story of our development as a nation, our spirit and ingenuity, and our unique, living landscapes.

There are 107 sites in the National Heritage List, from well-known places such as Uluru and the Sydney Opera House to lesser-known but equally important sites such as the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument in Queensland or the Bonegilla Migrant Camp in Victoria.

Listed places are protected under the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and approval must be obtained before taking any action to ensure there is no significant impact on the national heritage values of the place.

Nominations for the National Heritage List should set out the qualities or values of the place that make it outstanding to the nation by indicating how it meets one or more of the heritage criteria. It is also important to ensure that the nomination is supported by all owners and occupiers and Indigenous people with rights or interests.

After consideration of all the places nominated and advice from the Australian Heritage Council on them the Government will decide on a final list of places for the Council to assess.  

The Australian Heritage Council will invite public comment on the places under assessment and consult extensively with everyone interested in the place, particularly owners and occupiers and Indigenous people with rights or interests.

Everyone is encouraged to get involved in this process and nominate places of outstanding significance to our nation.

The nomination period for the National Heritage List opens today (13 December 2016) and closes on 17 February 2017. For more information visit

$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
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

Updated Cystic Fibrosis Diagnosis Guidelines Can Help In Diagnosis, Personalized Treatment

January 31, 2017: Johns Hopkins Medicine
An international research group of 32 experts from nine countries has updated the guidelines for diagnosing the genetic disease cystic fibrosis. The researchers expect that these guidelines will provide better direction for clinicians looking at patients with symptoms of the disease to make a correct diagnosis and recommend personalized treatment.

A report of the updated guidelines and two supplemental articles detailing their implications and the data used in their creation were published on Jan. 24 in The Journal of Pediatrics.

"We've more precisely defined what cystic fibrosis is. That precision was a result of the genetic research we did and from studying the many mutations associated with cystic fibrosis," says Patrick Sosnay, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an author on the papers.

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening disease that occurs when an individual has two inherited mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. People with the disease exhibit symptoms in a variety of organs, but chronic and debilitating lung infections are often most prominent. There are more than 2,000 known mutations that can occur in the CFTR gene, but not all of them result in cystic fibrosis.

In an effort to better define cystic fibrosis and categorize the mutations associated with it, Sosnay and international collaborators have assembled data from patients in North America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Asia and South America to quantify and describe these mutations.

Called CFTR2 (the Clinical and Functional TRanslation of CFTR), the project began in 2008 and has thus far described about 300 out of the 2,000 known mutations, making it the most comprehensive compilation and evaluation of disease liability for all genetic diseases. As a result of CFTR2, mutations are now categorized as either cystic fibrosis causing, mutations of varying clinical consequence, non-cystic fibrosis causing or unknown. Mutations are categorized depending on whether the mutation meets clinical criteria and the likelihood that someone with the mutation will have cystic fibrosis.

The updated cystic fibrosis diagnosis consensus guidelines now recommend using CFTR2 as an aid to determine whether a patient has the genetic evidence of cystic fibrosis, a substantial update from the 23-mutation panel by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that has been in use since 2004.

"The stakes in categorizing a mutation are particularly high. For example, claiming that a mutation 100 percent causes cystic fibrosis may affect people's reproductive decisions if they believe their child will have the mutation," says Sosnay.

However, Sosnay believes that providing patients with all of the available information on cystic fibrosis may lead to more informed health care decisions and a better understanding of the wide spectrum of CFTR-related disease.

"Therapies exist for individuals with certain mutations. The compilation and availability of all this data can lead to more personalized medicine if people know what mutation(s) they have and seek appropriate care," adds Sosnay.

The new guidelines also standardized diagnostic criteria for individuals diagnosed outside of newborn screening. Newborn screening, which started in the U.S. in the 1980s and became rapidly adopted in the 1990s and 2000s, is a standard blood test performed soon after birth that is responsible for the majority of cystic fibrosis diagnoses. However, it's not consistently performed everywhere in the world, and even in the U.S., there is a possibility of a false negative.

Given that over one-third of all U.S. cystic fibrosis diagnoses in 2014 did not occur during newborn screening, it will remain necessary to diagnose cystic fibrosis outside of newborn screening.

Screening outside of the neonatal period relies on symptoms and evidence of CFTR dysfunction, usually indicated by a test for the amount of chloride in a person's sweat. Cystic fibrosis is caused by defects in a protein, coded for by the CFTR gene that is found in places such as the airways and sweat glands. Elevated levels of chloride in sweat provides direct evidence that the CFTR protein is not working, and is used as a main diagnostic test for CF.

Based on data collected from CFTR2 and other research recognizing all cases of cystic fibrosis, the new guidelines lowered the threshold for "possible" cystic fibrosis from 40 millimoles per liter to 30 millimoles per liter for all ages. A normal range for chloride concentration in sweat is 10 to 20 millimoles per liter, and 60 millimoles per liter constitutes a cystic fibrosis diagnosis.

A result of this updated guideline is that those with a chloride level between 30 and 40 millimoles per liter who were previously considered unlikely to have cystic fibrosis will now be reconsidered as possibly having cystic fibrosis or a related disease.

Philip M. Farrell, Terry B. White, Clement L. Ren, Sarah E. Hempstead, Frank Accurso, Nico Derichs, Michelle Howenstine, Susanna A. McColley, Michael Rock, Margaret Rosenfeld, Isabelle Sermet-Gaudelus, Kevin W. Southern, Bruce C. Marshall, Patrick R. Sosnay. Diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis: Consensus Guidelines from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2017; 181: S4 DOI:10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.09.064

Public Consultations To Inform National Electricity Blueprint

Department of the Environment and Energy: Media release
The Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, is commencing a wide-ranging open public consultation process.

The Independent Panel’s preliminary report, released on 9 December 2016, included a number of observations and questions to guide these consultations. A blueprint informed by the public’s perspectives will be released in the first half of 2017.

“Electricity is the lifeblood of the nation and I encourage members of the public to share their point of view with the Review Panel,” Dr Finkel said.

The consultation sessions will be held on the following dates:

Adelaide, Crowne Plaza Adelaide: 30 January 2017: 5 pm – 7 pm
Brisbane, Sofitel Brisbane Central: 2 February 2017: 5 pm – 7 pm
Melbourne, Ibis Melbourne Hotel and Apartments: 8 February 2017: 5 pm – 7 pm
Hobart, Hotel Grand Chancellor: 13 February 2017: 5 pm – 7 pm
Sydney, Karstens Sydney Function Centre: 15 February 2017: 5 pm – 7 pm

Members of the public are invited to attend the session in their capital city.
The Panel will also hold targeted meetings in capital cities for businesses, researchers, policy specialists and consumer groups involved with the energy sector.

Details on registering for public sessions and the targeted meetings are available on the Department of the Environment and Energy’s website.

Government Announces Improvements To Australian General Practice Training As Part Of Health Workforce Reforms

30 January 2017: Media Release - The Hon Dr David Gillespie, MP
Assistant Minister for Health

The Coalition Government today announced another important component of its significant health workforce reform agenda, handing the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program selection to the two General Practice Colleges.

Federal Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie announced the Government will invest $220 million per annum on the AGPT and from 2017, for 2018 commencement, the selection of medical graduates for the program will be administered by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM).

Alongside the President of the RACGP, Dr Bastian Seidel, and the Immediate Past President of ACRRM, Dr Lucie Walters, at Regional Training Organisation, General Practice Training Tasmania, Minister Gillespie said that the transfer of the selection function to the Colleges was part of the Coalition Government’s commitment to strengthen the nation’s primary care capabilities now, and into the future.

“The AGPT program is a government-funded postgraduate vocational training program for medical graduates wishing to pursue a career in general practice in Australia,” Dr Gillespie said.

“The measure the government is announcing today will provide the GP Colleges with a greater role in the management and conduct of GP training. Our government has a great respect and confidence in both of the Colleges and this is yet another fine example of the crucial and vital health workforce reform that we will achieve in order to deliver better GPs to all Australians.”

Through the program, medical graduates undertake three to four years of full-time training in urban, regional and rural locations, with 50 per cent of registrar training occurring in rural and remote areas of Australia. Training is predominantly conducted in medical practices and hospitals and is delivered by accredited medical supervisors. 

The program is delivered by a network of nine Regional Training Organisations, across 11 training regions nationally, and in accordance with the standards of the RACGP and ACRRM. 

“The transfer of this function to the GP Colleges will bring them into line with other Australian specialist medical colleges and the way these colleges select trainees for specialist training pathways and programs,” Minister Gillespie said.
“The cost of each College’s selection process will be met through the introduction of an application fee that is set by each College. The charging of an application fee is consistent with the practice of some other specialist colleges.”

Applications will open in April 2017 and successful registrars will commence training in 2018.

Immediate Past President of ACRRM, Dr Lucie Walters, said “We thank Minister Gillespie and celebrate the introduction of college selection which will allow ACRRM to select junior doctors who are committed to a future as confident and competent rural and remote doctors.” 

RACGP President, Dr Bastian Seidel, said having the profession control selection, based on contemporary evidence based criteria, will ensure only the most skilled registrar applicants are granted entry to general practice training. 

“By directly managing the process the RACGP in conjunction with the Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) will be able to better align selection to the knowledge, skills and attitudes required of an RACGP Fellow,” he said. 

“Responsibility and oversight at the entry stage of the recruitment program for GPs further endorses our commitment to ensuring GPs are providing the best possible patient care in Australia."

Chair of the Regional Training Organisation Network and CEO of General Practice Training Tasmania, Allyson Warrington, said “This announcement enables all RTOs to work closely with the two Colleges to transition to the College led selection model for the upcoming application round, beginning April.

For more information about eligibility for the AGPT program visit AGPT website and for more information about the AGPT program’s selection process, please visit the ACRRM website or the RACGP website

Drug Candidate Stabilizes Essential Transport Mechanism In Nerve Cells

January 31, 2017: American Friends of Tel Aviv University
NAP blocks formation of 'tangles' that contribute to Alzheimer's disease
Tau is a key brain protein involved in Alzheimer's disease and other brain diseases. Aggregates of Tau known as "neurofibrillary tangles" have been associated with nerve cell death and cognitive decline.

An important new Tel Aviv University study published in Molecular Psychiatry pinpoints the mechanism harnessed by the drug candidate NAP to block the formation of these harmful neurofibrillary tangles. It facilitates the interaction of Tau with microtubules, the minitubes that serve as "train tracks" for essential movement of biological material in nerve cells.

"Abnormal Tau proteins form tangles that contribute to the progression of Alzheimer's disease," said Prof. Illana Gozes, who led the research for the study. "We showed here, for the first time, that the drug candidate NAP augmented microtubule movement in nerve cells. At the molecular level, NAP, a fragment of activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP), enhanced Tau-microtubule interactions that block the recruitment of Tau to the tangles observed in Alzheimer's disease and related disorders."

Prof. Gozes is the incumbent of the Lily and Avraham Gildor Chair for the Investigation of Growth Factors, Head of the Elton Laboratory for Molecular Neuroendocrinology at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and a member of TAU's Adams Super Center for Brain Studies and the Sagol School of Neuroscience.

Stabilizing a neurobiological process
Prof. Gozes is responsible for discovering ADNP, a gene that is dysregulated in Alzheimer's. Mutations in ADNP that occur in pregnancy are a major cause of autism with intellectual disability.

"ADNP and NAP operate through the stabilization of microtubules -- tubes within the cell that maintain cellular shape," Prof. Gozes said. "They transport biological material. These microtubules break down in in Alzheimer's disease and may be dysfunctional in autism. NAP works to protect the microtubules, thereby protecting the cell."

"We now discovered that ADNP dramatically enhances Tau binding to the microtubules, protecting them against destruction and against Tau pathology. We further discovered that this action of ADNP is through its NAP fragment, which is now intended for further clinical development."

"Knowing the precise mechanism of its action, it will be much easier to bring NAP to the clinic and to patients," said Prof. Gozes. "Furthermore, the precise mechanism defines a new drug target for autism spectrum disorders, Alzheimer's disease and many other neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases."

Y Ivashko-Pachima, C Laura Sayas, A Malishkevich, I Gozes. ADNP/NAP dramatically increase microtubule end-binding protein–Tau interaction: a novel avenue for protection against tauopathy.Molecular Psychiatry, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2016.255

Raise Your Glass Wins 2017 Tamworth Songwriters Association ‘Anzac Song’ Contest

Monday, 30 Jan 2017: by AWM
On Tuesday 24 January the Tamworth Songwriters Association (TSA) announced Paul Grierson and Chris Reiger as the co-winners of its “Anzac song” contest at the annual National Country Music Songwriting Awards in Tamworth.

Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, wrote a personal letter congratulating Mr Grierson and co-writer Mr Reiger for their song Raise your glass.

“The song is perfectly crafted, speaking directly to us and the debt we owe these men and women whose service and sacrifice has done so much to deepen our understanding of what it means to be Australian.”

Dr Nelson said in both the song and the powerful video, the co-writers of the song paid tribute to generations of men and women who wear and who have worn the uniform of our three services.

“You have also evoked the sense of love, support and loss in families who have given so much for us.”

The Memorial Director also said he would look for the opportunity for the men to perform the song at the Australian War Memorial in due course as “both you and the song are worthy of a wide national audience.”

President of the Tamworth Songwriters Association, Duncan Hill, said the ANZAC section was one of the most popular sections this year in the TSA’s contest. 

“There were a large number of excellent songs that made it particularly difficult for the judges,” Mr Hill said.

The other four finalists in the category included “1950” by Laura Byrnes and Chloe Styler, “The Lost Soldier” by Peter Campbell & Brendon Walmsley, “Missing In Action” by Graham Rodger and “With Respect” by Brad Marks & Allan Caswell.

In his letter Dr Nelson also said that in the most powerful way, the winning co-writers reminded us that country music is in the end about the human spirit and the triumph of support of one another over everything else.

“You have done us proud.”

City Living Under The Microscope

February 2nd, 2017: CSIRO
A new CSIRO research initiative launched today will lead the way for the transformation of liveable urban spaces and sustainable cities of the future.

In partnership with property developers Celestino, CSIRO has established its first operational Urban Living Lab at the Sydney Science Park in western Sydney - a place where researchers, industry, government and communities can get together and create, design and test innovative urban development concepts, moving beyond the lab into the real world.

Within the Urban Living Lab's test environment, researchers will examine the connections between issues such as urban greening, energy efficiency, demands for water, community well-being and health and the impacts of technological advancements, all within a real urban environment.

The research will be critical for developing and renewing our cities and urban spaces to be sustainable in the face of pressures such as population changes and climate change.

Examples of the research topics already under consideration include:
  • The impact of increased urban greening on local temperatures and ecology, changes in energy and water demand and consumption, and the influence on community well-being and health;
  • Smart water systems that can efficiently provide different classes of water for different uses on demand;
  • The influence of digital disruptions and information technology advances on urban structure, industry development and community connectivity.
Assistant Minister for Science Craig Laundy said the new initiative was set to deliver significant urban, environmental and innovative outcomes for the region and beyond.

"The Urban Living Lab initiative offers a new way for researchers, industry, community and government to co-innovate and provide a place to address a range of challenges facing the urban sector," Minister Laundy said.

"It's great to see CSIRO engaging in this public-private collaboration which will not only tackle important issues for our cities, but also provide a boost to the local economy with jobs and opportunities for STEM students."

CSIRO Land and Water Acting Director Paul Bertsch said collaborative science initiatives like the Urban Living Lab would enable our cities to move towards a more sustainable future.

"By working with government and industry, our research will enable Australia's cities to become more economically, environmentally and socially resilient," he said.

Celestino CEO John Vassallo Celestino said he wasthrilled to be partnering with CSIRO on the project.

"We could see people creating new ways to harness solar energy in the workplace and developing novel ideas to store heat and keep homes cool," Mr Celestino said.

"New sustainable transport solutions will also be encouraged as well as inventions that conserve water and energy and drive down utility bills. The possibilities are endless.

"Once developed, all of these technologies will be tested on the homes, businesses, shops, roads and parks of Sydney Science Park.

"Just like you test new medical technologies in a lab, you need to test new urban-living technologies in a real urban environment. Sydney Science Park is the perfect testing ground for these inventions of tomorrow."

Mr Vassallo said the Urban Living Lab would connect inventors to mentors, scientific expertise and importantly, venture capital.

"We don't just want inventions, we want new prototypes commercialized and rolled out to the market," he said.

Mayor of Penrith John Thain welcomed the new development.

"The creation of the CSIRO Urban Living Lab embodies the innovative and progressive direction Celestino have set for the Sydney Science Park - located within the Penrith LGA," Mr Thain said.

"The partnership is a very welcome announcement. The Urban Living Lab fits with Council's vision to not just build Penrith as a city of the future, but to reap benefits for communities well beyond our own boundaries."

Fast-Tracking NSW And Queensland Project Funding For Industry-Research Collaboration

Monday 30 January 2017:  Media Release - Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training

Making the mining sector more efficient and boosting the strength of railway tracks are among four new research projects in New South Wales and Queensland that the Turnbull Government today announced would be funded to kick off 2017.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the Turnbull Government’s $1.875 million commitment for three mining research programs at the University of Queensland and research into strengthening railway tracks at the University of Wollongong were the first projects to be funded under the new Linkage Projects scheme – a major change in the way research is funded in Australia and a key initiative of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Minister Birmingham said the Linkage Projects scheme was a direct response to the country’s “appalling” reputation internationally for collaboration between industry and higher education researchers where the OECD ranks Australia last out of all 33 participating countries for collaboration by large firms.

“When researchers and businesses come to the Government with strong proposals that will clearly deliver real benefits for industry and Australians, we want to be able to green light them as quickly as possible,” Minister Birmingham said.

“With the National Innovation and Science Agenda we sped up the processes for approving Linkage Projects that fund collaborations between researchers and businesses and we made changes so that grants could be made year-round so worthy projects don’t need to wait months and months until applications open.

“The Linkage Projects scheme supports our researchers to work with innovators outside the traditional research sector to find solutions to real-world problems and improve the translation of research into broader outcomes for businesses and the community.

“Under the previous annual selection process for the Linkage Projectsscheme, researchers and their collaborating partners—industry and other organisations who invest significant amounts of matching funding—submitted proposals once a year and then waited up to nine months for the announcement of funding outcomes. The grants we’re announcing today have been approved in less than half that time.

“The changes we’ve made to the way these research projects are assessed means outcomes are announced sooner and researchers and businesses can collaborate as the opportunities arise.

“It’s clear the projects the University of Queensland will work on with Santos, BHP, Newcrest and a range of others have enormous potential benefits for the mining industry in the Sunshine State and across the country and I’m pleased we’ve been able to inject funding for that research so quickly.

“The work the University of Wollongong has planned with their partners shows they are some of the leaders in infrastructure research and their project will potentially reduce the huge maintenance costs and extend the long-term use of rail networks around Australia.

“These new Linkage Projects involve significant collaboration between university researchers and partner organisations who have provided matching cash and in-kind contributions that demonstrate a commitment to Australia’s future.”

Research Clarifies Origin Of Microstructures In Rock Found Deep In The Earth’s Crust And Mantle 

January 31, 2017: ANTSO
ANSTO has collaborated on research with Macquarie University to clarify the origin of microstructures in metamorphic rock found deep in the Earth’s crust and mantle impacted by mineral-bearing fluids.

The study, led by Liene Spruzeniece and Sandra Piazolo of Macquarie University, has been published in Nature Communications. 

According to the paper authors, failing to correctly interpret the origin of such microstructures could result in errors in large-scale geological reconstructions. 

Neutron scattering on the Wombat high intensity powder diffractometer was used to investigate the changes in crystal structure and orientation when potassium bromide crystals (KBr) were exposed to a hydrous solution saturated with potassium chloride (KCl-H2O).

“Even though during this interaction with the fluid, the potassium bromide undergoes a significant chemical transformation that involves a complete destruction of the original crystal lattice and immediate substitution by a new potassium chloride structure, the overall crystal orientation remains unchanged,” explained co-author and instrument scientist Dr Helen Maynard-Casely. 
The team found a close alignment of the parent and product mineral reflection peaks in the neutron diffraction data. 

“The salt crystals are analogues of the actual minerals found in the crust and mantle and are used because the actual time scales involved in these processes in real time are over millennia.”

“Obviously these reactions happen a lot more quickly. We used time intervals of half an hour, four hours and eight hours in the experiment,” said Maynard-Casely.

The research was undertaken to determine if microstructures within metamorphic rock formed by dissolution-precipitation reactions could be confused with microstructures created by plastic deformation events and tectonic processes within the earth.

It is believed to be the first experimental study in which microstructural development during fluid-rock interaction was explored with high resolution characterisation techniques, including backscatter electron imaging, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, electron backscatter diffraction and neutron diffraction analysis. 

The authors suggest the unique insights are important not only for a fundamental understanding of rocks and their economic potential.

“The advantage of using neutrons is that they penetrate the crystal all the way through the lattice, while the X-ray data applies to a few nanometres at the surface of the material,” said Maynard-Casely, who is an expert in investigating planetary materials. 

Importantly, the research also revealed that new microstructures can be created during mineral interaction with a fluid that resemble typical characteristics of minerals deformed at high pressure and temperature conditions. The paper offers criteria to distinguish these fluid-reaction generated features from real deformation microstructures in minerals.

All experimental procedures and sample characterisation took place at Macquarie University. The neutron diffraction was undertaken at ANSTO’s Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering. 

While this research focused on geology of the Earth, Maynard-Casely sees potential applications in planetary science where similar processes occur. 

The lead author, Liene Spruzeniece, will be undertaking post doc research at ANSTO’s Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering this year. 

Large Marine Protected Areas Effectively Protect Reef Shark Populations

January 31, 2017: Stanford University

This image shows researchers Kosta Stamoulis of Palmyra Atoll Research Constorium and University of Hawaii and Tim White of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station measuring a grey reef shark. Credit: Courtesy Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium

Researchers at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station investigated the role of expanded marine protected areas (MPAs) on grey reef sharks and found that the aquatic no-fishing zones were an effective tool for protecting this near-threatened species.

Originating 423 million years ago, sharks are a group of predators that span 490 species and still play crucial roles within their ecosystems. We often characterize these top predators as nearly indestructible monsters but, of course, that's far from the reality: They mature slowly, they don't have high numbers of offspring, and they're under serious threat due to the value of their fins.

For their study, the team tracked both sharks and fishing vessels in the U.S. Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, a large MPA about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) south of Hawaii. Their findings, published in the Jan. 31 issue of Biological Conservation, provide valuable evidence that these areas are worth creating and maintaining.

"These techniques showed for the first time that large MPAs are effective tools for protecting declining shark populations and other mobile marine predators that are not adequately protected by smaller, coastal MPAs," said Fiorenza Micheli, professor of marine science at Hopkins Marine Station and co-author of the paper.

Not only did they find little evidence of fishing within the refuge, they saw that there was a surprisingly high density of ships just outside its boundaries, suggesting that even remote locations are primed for significant fishing if protection were to disappear.

Questioning the value of protection
Marine protected areas have been around for decades but they've mostly been near the coasts and rather small, with 1 square mile being a typical size. Recently, much larger MPAs have been established in waters far from large human populations. In 2016 alone, the title of "largest MPA" changed hands twice. In August, the U.S. Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii was the largest ever established but soon that title went to the Ross Sea Protected Area in Antarctica, collaboratively designated by 24 countries, including the United States, and the European Union.

"Some of these protected areas are twice the size of Texas and they've been very recently established, so they hold great conservation potential," said Tim White, a graduate student at Hopkins Marine Station and lead author of the study. "But we're not sure of the effects that these marine protected areas will have on a range of species."

A substantial question is whether working to protect ocean far from well-populated land is worth the effort or whether that work would be better used to create more traditional, smaller MPAs. Another concern is whether these areas do much to support mobile species, like sharks, which can come and go from the protected waters as they please.

Tagging sharks and watching ships
To monitor the movement of the sharks, the researchers used both conventional numbered tags and satellite-enabled tags. The first method is cheap and can cover large numbers of sharks -- they tagged 262 this way -- but relies on the return of tags to the researchers by fishers who catch the sharks, which is a rare occurrence. The second method allows the researchers to track the sharks' movement by satellite, but each tag is very expensive. They attached satellite tags to 11 sharks.

Devices called automatic identification system (AIS) transceivers helped the researchers identify the movement of distant fishing vessels. Boats are equipped with these devices in order to let each other know their identities and locations in order to avoid collisions. They can also transmit additional information, such as the size and type of boat. By collecting this publicly available data and applying an algorithm previously developed by Global Fishing Watch, a partnership between Oceana, SkyTruth and Google, the researchers figured out where and when each vessel was likely to be fishing.

The combination of these tools meant that the researchers could track shark and fishing activity throughout the large, remote reserve. What they found suggests that the expanded MPAs are working. There were more sharks in the MPA than outside and the majority stayed within its limits. Fishing vessels almost exclusively sat outside the boundaries but they were there in unexpected abundance, nearly 200 ships from 12 countries over the course of two years.

Another discovery was that one of the grey reef sharks, so-named because they are considered reef dwellers, swam more than 575 miles (925 km) from the atoll where it was tagged and spent 97 percent of its time in open water. Additional tags recovered at various islands further suggested that grey reef sharks may swim longer distances than previously thought.

For sharks, fishermen and tourists
Balancing all the different impacts of MPAs isn't easy but the researchers believe preserving sharks has benefits for both ocean-dwellers and people. Keeping shark numbers healthy supports ecosystem health and this, in turn, can bring in millions in tourism dollars because people prefer to visit healthy reefs.

As shown by this research, greater insight into what goes on in and around protected areas can also fill existing gaps in our knowledge of their occupants, like the maybe not-so-aptly-named grey reef shark.

"It is extremely difficult to understand what are the baselines of shark populations and what oceans looked like before the rise of industrial fishing," said Giulio De Leo, professor of biology at Hopkins Marine Station and co-author of the paper. "Large marine protected areas located in such remote places provide us with an opportunity to have a glimpse of the past, of how the oceans functioned before we started to systematically harvest them."

The researchers plan to continue to study this area of the Pacific. The levels of human influence on the waters around these islands vary widely and, therefore, offer a unique display of how our actions impact ocean ecosystems.

Materials provided by Stanford University. Original written by Taylor Kubota. 

Journal Reference:
Timothy D. White, Aaron B. Carlisle, David A. Kroodsma, Barbara A. Block, Renato Casagrandi, Giulio A. De Leo, Marino Gatto, Fiorenza Micheli, Douglas J. McCauley. Assessing the effectiveness of a large marine protected area for reef shark conservation. Biological Conservation, 2017; 207: 64 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.01.009

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.