Inbox and Environment News: Issue 302

February 26 - March 4, 2017: Issue 302

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:

The Final Push For The Pilliga

Published on 21 Feb 2017 by The Wilderness Society
Now is a critical moment in the campaign to protect the Pilliga forest. We need you to lodge a submission against Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project to help end CSG in NSW once and for all. 

Santos has filed its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with the NSW Government and we now have just 60 days to voice our opposition. This is the last remaining CSG proposal in NSW, and it’s essential we make our powerful opposition clear. 

The local community of the Pilliga has spearheaded the campaign against this project for years—now is the time for all Australians to stand with them in the final push for the Pilliga. 

Anyone can make a submission and every submission will be counted. 
We have until 24 April 2017 to lodge as many submissions as possible

Department Seeks Community Views On Narrabri Gas Project Proposal

20.02.2017: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment
The Department of Planning and Environment will today place on public exhibition Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project Environmental Impact Statement and is inviting the community to share its views.

Given the high level of public interest in the proposal, the Department has extended the normal exhibition period to more than 60 days. It closes on April 24.

Mike Young, Director of Resource Assessments, said the Department will be consulting broadly on the proposal and is keen to hear from all individuals and groups interested in the proposal.

“We are making every effort to make sure people have an opportunity to hear about the project and give us feedback during this assessment,” Mr Young said.

“There will be a number of opportunities to provide feedback including community information sessions and meetings with local landowners and interest groups.

“We want to hear people’s views - farmers, landholders, locals, Aboriginal groups, industry groups, councils. Everyone is welcome to make a submission and all will be read and considered in our assessment.”

Mr Young said as part of the assessment the Department will be establishing a panel of eminent scientific experts to provide independent advice on the proposal.

“These experts will be an integral part of the assessment process. Much of the information is of a scientific and technical nature and we are keen to get the best independent advice possible in assessing this project,” he said.

“In addition, we will be working with other key NSW Government agencies and seeking advice from the Commonwealth’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee.

“Any issues raised in submissions will be looked at and taken into account.”

Given the high level of public interest in the proposal, the Department has extended the normal exhibition period to more than 60 days. It closes on April 24.

Following the exhibition period, the Department will comprehensively assess the submissions and the EIS.

The Narrabri Gas Project proposal involves a coal seam gas field with up to 850 gas wells to be developed progressively over 20 years, and a gas processing and water treatment facilities.

Santos’ Environmental Impact Statement is available on the Department’s website, and at all major centres in the region including Narrabri, Wee Waa, Gunnedah, Coonabarabran and Coonamble

Related information: 
  • Environmental Impact Statement for the Narrabri Gas Project
  • NSW Chief Scientist 2014 Coal Seam Gas Review
  • NSW Gas Plan
Narrabri Gasfield

Exhibition Start 21/02/2017
Exhibition End  24/04/2017

To attend one of the public information sessions, people should 
register their interest on 1800 616 493.

Location: Crossing Theatre, 117 Tibbereena St, Narrabri, NSW
Dates: Tuesday 7 March and Wednesday 8 March 2017

If media plan to attend they must register

If Victoria Can Ban CSG, NSW Can Too!

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

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

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

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

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

Gas Power Company Admits Gas Is Not Economic For Future Energy

February 21, 2017: Media Release by Lock the Gate
Lock the Gate Alliance says evidence provided by multi-national power company Engie at yesterday’s public hearing of the Senate inquiry into the resilience of the electricity sector has exposed the unreliability of gas for future energy needs and the futility of putting land and water resources at risk.

Engie head of Corporate Affairs reportedly told the inquiry that its Pelican Point gas power plant in South Australia was commercially unviable to operate, stating that, “Unfortunately, we’re in the hands of the market.”

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “We’re in this absurd situation where the Federal Government is pushing a political agenda claiming that gas is reliable and cheap, while the energy companies themselves are saying that they don’t want to build or run gas power stations”.

Domestic gas prices in Australia have almost doubled due to the development of three large export LNG plants in Queensland, which have linked us to the Asian market for the first time. Domestic gas supply has also been re-routed to feed the export LNG plants, leading to artificial shortages here.

“Gas power stations are not commercially viable in Australia because the LNG export plants have driven up domestic prices and distorted our market.

“The only cheap and reliable source of energy now is renewable projects like the Port Augusta Concentrated Solar Thermal plant which has strong community support.

“We’ve got the Federal Government trying to overturn state policies to protect land and water resources from unconventional gas mining on the pretence of needing gas for power stations that the owners do not want to operate.

“Unconventional gas is not a neutral or friendly fuel. It requires huge amounts of water to extract, it pollutes air and water and causes chronic health problems. It releases large volumes of greenhouse gas emissions and it is, frankly, politically, socially and economically untenable.

“The Federal Government’s political agenda on fossil fuels  is not just damaging our landscapes and putting water resources at risk, it is preventing us from sensibly adjusting to changes in energy technologies and delivering reliable power that is environmentally and economically sustainable” she said.

Volunteers Invited To Compete In Local Tree Planting Project To Save Koalas

Media release: 20 February 2017 - NPWS
The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) is inviting volunteers to team up and challenge each other to plant and raise the best koala food trees inBongil Bongil National Park to help save the iconic species.

The Tree Parents project was launched in 2014 and over 100 enthusiastic and competitive local volunteers planted 600 trees in a degraded eucalypt plantation in the national park near East Boambee.

NPWS Acting Area Manager Andrew Lugg said planning and site preparation is well underway for phase two of the project with another 600 trees ready for more 'Tree Parents' to plant and nurture them in May.

"The bushland around Coffs Harbour supports one of the most important wild koala populations in the state, but some forest areas have been changed and lack the primary koala food tree species of Tallowwood, Grey Gum, Forest Oak and Swamp Mahogany," Mr Lugg said.

"This project helps create vital koala habitat quite rapidly and provides an opportunity for people to assist local wildlife for centuries into the future, as most eucalypts live in excess of 300 years.

"The teams from 2014 are already seeing koalas and their joeys occupy trees adjacent to their plots, curiously eyeing off the young trees they are nurturing," Mr Lugg said.

Teams of six to 12 individuals are invited to sign-up, plant and carry out Tree Parent responsibilities for 60 young trees within a prepared national park plot for the first two to three years of their life.

"The first phase only resulted in the loss of approximately 30 of the 600 trees and any that perished have been replaced and are looking great, resulting in 100 per cent survival," Mr Lugg said.

"Before the Tree Parents concept was developed, a good community-based tree planting project was generally one that resulted in at least 70 per cent of the planted trees still alive after 12 months", Mr Lugg said.

One of the original Tree Parent team captains, Rose Coote said it was a fantastic and rewarding opportunity to take part in.

"We made good friends and enjoyed being part of generating an environment for the koalas of this region and creating a forest that will last hundreds of years," Mrs Coote said.

Local ranger and project manager Martin Smith said a training and orientation day for all prospective volunteers will be scheduled for late March with the tree planting competition kicking off in May.

"As well as training, NPWS will provide all equipment and on-site support so the local community can do something both fun and practical to protect and conserve our local koalas," Mr Smith said.

The koala is one of six iconic species with important social, cultural and economic significance listed under the NSW Government's Saving our Species program.

To find out more or to sign up to be a Tree Parent, contact Martin Smith at the local NPWS Coffs Jetty office on (02) 6652 0907.
Koala Photo credit: Ali Fizelle. OE&H.

How Cathedral Termites Got To Australia To Build Their 'Sky-Scrapers'

February 21, 2017: University of Sydney

These are mounds of the cathedral termite Nasutitermes triodiae at Litchfield National Park. Credit: Jan Sobotnik
They build among the tallest non-human structures (proportionately speaking) in the world and now it's been discovered the termites that live in Australia's remote Top End originated from overseas -- rafting vast distances and migrating from tree-tops to the ground, as humans later did.

Referred to as "cathedral" termites, the Nasutitermes triodiae build huge mounds up to eight metres high in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland -- representing some of the tallest non-human animal structures in the world.

DNA sequencing found the forebearers, called nasute termites, colonised Australia three times in the past 20 million years or so and evolved from wood to grass-feeding as they adapted to significant environmental changes, including increasingly arid conditions and the conversion of woodlands to grassland habitats in subtropical savannahs and central Australia.

Now a prominent feature of the arid landscape "Down Under," the mounds house millions of termites; this study is the first comprehensive investigation of the evolution of the nesting and feeding of the extended family of termites, through the Australian refugee descendants.

The findings of the international research are published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Co-lead author of the paper from the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Nathan Lo, said although much was known about the functions of termite mounds -- which include protection from predators -- little had been known about their evolutionary origins.

"We found that the ancestors of Australia's fortress-building termites were coastal tree-dwellers, which arrived in Australia by rafting long distances over the oceans from either Asia or South America," Associate Professor Lo said.

"Once in Australia, they continued to build their nests in trees, but later descended and began building mounds on the ground instead, paralleling the evolution of the other great architects of the world -- human beings, whose ancestors lived in the tree tops some millions of years ago."

Associate Professor Lo, from the University of Sydney's School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said the mounds are an engineering feat when considered in comparison to the tallest structure on Earth -- Dubai's skyscraper the Burj Khalifas.

"Given that a worker termite stands about 3mm in height, these mounds are in human terms the equivalent of four Burj Khalifas stacked on top of each other," he said.

The paper, "Parallel evolution of mound-building and grass-feeding in Australian nasute termites," said ancestral wood feeders would likely have lost the ability to feed on wood as they transitioned to feeding on litter and grass.

"This group is one of the most ecologically successful groups of termites in Australia," the paper reads.

"We have shown that its capacity to disperse over oceans -- and to repeatedly evolve the ability to build mounds and feed on novel substrates in the face of significant environmental change -- appears to have been important in promoting this success."

Daej A. Arab, Anna Namyatova, Theodore A. Evans, Stephen L. Cameron, David K. Yeates, Simon Y. W. Ho, Nathan Lo. Parallel evolution of mound-building and grass-feeding in Australian nasute termites.Biology Letters, 2017; 13 (2): 20160665 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0665

NSW Water Resource Plan Consultation 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copies of the Status and Issues Papers, together with other supporting information will be available at

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

Comment Invited On Draft Lower Namoi Valley Floodplain Management Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning Reforms To Boost Housing Supply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cape Byron Visitor Master Plan Open For Consultation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feedback can be submitted via an online form, or Cape Byron Trust - Cape Byron Masterplan: PO BOX 127, Byron Bay NSW 2481.

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

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

Climate And Water Outlook, March–May 2017

Published on 22 Feb 2017 by Bureau of Meteorology
The monthly Climate and Water Outlook video covers rainfall, streamflow and temperature for the next three months. For more detail, go to 
The next video will be available Thursday 30 March 2017. 
Our ENSO Outlook is updated every two weeks at 
For an email each month about the next video, subscribe to Climate Outlooks at
You can also follow the Bureau of Meteorology on Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Twitter at @BOM_au. We also have a BOM Weather app.

Environmental Planning And Assessment Amendment (EPlanning) Regulation 2017

February 15, 2017: NSW Depratment of Planning and Environment
Have your say on online development applications for homes and businesses

We welcome your feedback on changes that will allow people to lodge development applications for homes or businesses online. 

This will help to make it faster and easier to get the approvals you need, and also make it easier to find planning information.

Proposed changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (the Regulation) will support online lodgement of development applications by introducing consistent documents and technical requirements across NSW.

Currently, there are many variations in document requirements for development applications, which can cause delays in preparing and determining applications. The Regulation seeks to address this by introducing standards for online submission and lodgement.

Online lodgement through the Planning Portal will dramatically reduce the time and resources spent on producing and reviewing hard copy documents, making it faster and easier for NSW residents to lodge and track applications. It will also make planning information more accessible.

Proposed changes include:
  • standardising the documents required to lodge applications for development
  • replacing written consent with legally enforced declarations by applicants that they have permission from land owners to submit a development application
  • introducing new requirements for making and exhibiting Development Control Plans and Contribution Plans (financial contributions from developers towards infrastructure costs).
To ensure consistency, the Secretary’s Requirements for the Lodgement of Applications for Development (PDF: 2.85MB - 182 pages) provides a clear list of documents and technical requirements for different application types. This will replace requirements contained in Schedule 1 of the Regulation.

Details of the proposals can be found in the resources section below. 

Your feedback can play a vital role in further developing these updates to the Regulation. To make a submission, find out how to get involved.

How to get involved
You can make a submission until 15 March 2017 using the online form below, or by mail to:
Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (ePlanning) Regulation 2017
NSW Department of Planning and Environment 
GPO Box 39
Sydney NSW 2001

Documents and attachments available HERE:
Attachments and Resources

Bird Walks And Talks 2017: PNHA

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

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

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

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

Av. Green Team Back At Work

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

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

Broken Hill North Mine Recommencement Project

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

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

Project is currently on public exhibition and opportunity for public submissions is availableVisit HERE

Have Your Say On A Modification To Hunter Valley Operations South

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

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

Release Of Santos EIS For Narrabri Gas Project Galvanises Farming Communities

February 21, 2017: Media Release by Lock the Gate
Nearly three years overdue, the EIS for the highly controversial Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga forest in North West NSW has finally been released to the public for comment, galvanising opposition among surrounding farming communities that has been building for years. A public forum in Narrabri will hear from Santos and APA Group about the project and the associated pipeline plans at 1pm today. Concerned community will gather at the event.

The Narrabri project has been dogged by unrelenting protests, serious pollution incidents and financial losses. It is the final CSG proposal remaining in NSW after community opposition turned back other unconventional gas plans across the state. Santos are proceeding with the EIS release despite downgrading their assets to “contingent” last year, meaning there are no immediate plans to develop.

The EIS was lodged with the Department of Planning a fortnight ago but today is the first opportunity the community has had to view the detailed plans for the 850 well coal seam gas field near Narrabri.

Anne Kennedy is a farmer and grandmother from Coonamble on the western edge of the Pilliga forest. She said, “This project will drill 850 wells through the recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin, extracting water and gas from below. In its EIS, Santos fobbs off the inherent risk this brings but 22% of Australia utterly relies on this water source, thousands of livelihoods depend on free flowing artesian bores. We cannot afford to take any risks with this most precious resource.

“I’m a grandmother and a farmer and I find it shocking at my age that I’m fighting my own government to protect the natural assets we all rely on.”

Megan Kuhn, mother and grazier from Bundella on the Liverpool Plains is also at Narrabri council today, “We know that CSG in the Pilliga is a trojan horse to access vast areas of agricultural country in North West NSW. Santos has announced plans for seven major gasfields across our productive farming region. They want to replicate the QLD disaster on us but clearly lack a social licence which is necessary for them to begin.”

“Generations of rural communities have caringly protected each other through natural disasters like flood, drought and fire. The results of our neighbour-to-neighbour Gasfield Free surveys resulting in an average of 96% across 3.2 million hectares prove we are prepared to unite again to respond to this looming man made disaster called coal seam gas.”

Scott McCalman, a farmer from near Boggabri said, “Coal seam gas brings broad scale industrialisation of the landscape as companies force pipelines and infrastructure on unwilling hosts. It brings liability to landowners as our properties become literally uninsurable to its contamination risks.

"After a short term boom that benefits the few the CSG industry leaves farmers stranded, with leaking gas wells and unsaleable properties. The boom is over in Queensland and communities have been devastated as whole sectors are forced to leave due to unaffordable living costs. We don’t want that happening to our strong communities across North West NSW.”

Jeff Carolan is a cotton grower from near Wee Waa, 40 km west of Narrabri. “We’ve seen the damage of coal seam gas in our region during exploration alone. Already there has been over 20 spills or leaks of CSG water in the Pilliga. We’ve seen dry wells, sick kids, and rivers on fire in Queensland and we won’t have that here.

“We’re determined to oppose this project with everything we have left. We’ve been putting other aspects of our life on hold for years with the threat of CSG constantly hanging over our heads and we don’t intend to lose now.

“This is much bigger than us of course, and we hope that people around the country will submit their opposition to this gasfield, outlining their concerns about drilling through the Great Artesian Basin.”

The project is the only new CSG proposal in the state but the company’s intention to pursue the project is unclear, given its value was written down to zero last year and Santos announced recently that it has been spun off to a subsidiary company for poor performing assets – speculation is high that pursuit of the current EIS assessment process and the recently announced gas pipeline is simply to enable the project’s sale.

$1 Million In Grants To Support Environmental Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Western Woodlands – The Largest Intact Temperate Woodland On Earth

Published on 21 Feb 2017 by The Wilderness Society
This video, set to a poem by Dr Keren Raiter, showcases the Great Western Woodlands in Western Australia.

The Great Western Woodlands is the largest intact temperate woodland left on Earth. It extends from the WA wheatbelt across to the Nullarbor Plain and at 16 million hectares is twice the size of Tasmania. 

The Great Western Woodlands is home to over 3,000 flowering plant species making it one of the most bio-diverse environments in Australia. Currently most of Woodlands has no conservation status or management which clearly does not reflect its global significance. 

Join with the Wilderness Society in calling for better protection of the Great Western Woodlands:

Myna Action Group 

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)
Indian Mynas - what a pest - like flying rats. 
Contact us on for more information and have a look at

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

New Approach For Assessing The Social Impacts Of Mining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To view the draft guidelines or to make a submission, please visit

Have Your Say On Horse Riding Opportunties In Weddin Mountain National Park

Media release: 21 February 2017 - NPWS
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is inviting people to have their say on a proposal to allow horse riding in Weddin Mountains National Park, west of Grenfell.

NPWS Director Robert Smith said that following strong local community interest, the Service has looked into ways to provide low-key horse riding opportunities in the southern part of the park.

"We have amended the plan of management for the park to allow limited horse riding on an existing 20 kilometre loop trail," Mr Smith said.

"The number of horse riders allowed on the tracks at any one time will be limited to 16 to protect the natural and cultural values of the park, and for visitor safety and enjoyment," said Mr Smith.

The amended plan of management currently on exhibition also outlines proposed conditions, including a local consent system that will manage the impact of horse riding in the park.

"There is a very active local horse riding community who are keen to explore the park on these trails that traverse the escarpment and neighbouring State Forest.

"Horse riding in national parks provide an opportunity for riders to experience and appreciate the natural heritage and conservation values of these spaces.

"NPWS wants to improve horse riding opportunities across the reserve system but only where there are suitable management arrangements in place that protect the conservation assets and social values of our parks," Mr Smith said.

Submissions must be received by Monday 3 April 2017

To read the proposed amendment to the Plan of Management and find out more about the proposal to allow horse rising in Weddin Mountains National Park, go to:

NPWS Bathurst Office (Level 2, 203-209 Russell Street, Bathurst)
NPWS Forbes Office (Camp Street, Forbes)
Grenfell and District Public Library (88 Main Street, Grenfell)
Office of Environment and Heritage (Level 14, 59-61 Goulburn St, Sydney)

If you would like to make a submission:
Mail: The Planner, Weddin Mountains NP PoM Draft Amendment, NPWS, P.O. Box 552, KATOOMBA NSW 2780

Petition: Ban Balloons Release

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

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

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

* Marine Plastic Pollution is increased with balloon releases.

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

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

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

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

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

Draft NSW Marine Estate Threat And Risk Assessment Report Released

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information

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

Marine Bacteria Produce An Environmentally Important Molecule With Links To Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk Of Ross River Virus Global Epidemic

February 22, 2017: University of Adelaide
Australia's Ross River Virus (RRV) could be the next mosquito-borne global epidemic according to a new research study led by the University of Adelaide and The Australian National University.

The virus has been thought to be restricted largely to Australia and Papua New Guinea where it is harboured by marsupial animals, specifically kangaroos and wallabies, and spread by mosquitoes.

Published online ahead of print in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the research shows that the virus may have been circulating silently in the South Pacific ever since a large epidemic of more than 500,000 cases in 1979-80, thought to have been started by an infected Australian tourist who travelled to Fiji.

"Ross River Virus is found naturally in Australia, where it was circulating in kangaroos and wallabies long before the arrival of the first Australians over 40,000 years ago," says one of the project leaders Professor Phil Weinstein, Professorial Research Fellow with the University of Adelaide's School of Biological Sciences.

"When humans arrived, first Aboriginal Australians and then Europeans, they were bitten by the same mosquitoes and became infected: they had all of the sore joints, fever, rash, and fatigue that we associate with the disease today. Although RRV has never killed anyone, it can be extremely debilitating for several months, and up to years in a few unlucky individuals."

The 1979 epidemic in the Pacific Islands Countries and Territories was the first time that RRV had 'escaped' from its marsupial reservoir. But without marsupials, the epidemic burned itself out the following year -- or so it was thought.

"The first clues about local transmission in the Pacific Islands came when more recent tourists from New Zealand and Canada who had been to the South Pacific, but not Australia, were diagnosed with RRV when they returned home," Professor Weinstein says.

In partnership with French collaborators in Tahiti and France, the researchers tested blood samples of American Samoans.

"We were surprised to find that of those who were born after the 1979-1980 epidemic and had lived in American Samoa their whole lives, a massive 63% had antibodies to RRV, strongly suggesting local transmission of the virus after 1980," says Dr Colleen Lau, NHMRC Research Fellow in ANU's College of Medicine, Biology and Environment.

"There are no marsupials in American Samoa, so the only reasonable conclusion is that the virus was able to circulate in local mammals rather than marsupials. If RRV can circulate in non-marsupials in the South Pacific, then it can find a home anywhere in the world.

"Isolation of the virus from non-marsupials will provide us with definitive evidence that RRV can become endemic globally."

Professor Weinstein says: "With the large number of Australians now travelling, it would not be unreasonable to expect one or more tourists to carry RRV overseas to seed a new epidemic. With the right conditions, this could take off globally in exactly the same way that Zika did."

Colleen Lau, Maite Aubry, Didier Musso, Anita Teissier, Sylvie Paulous, Philippe Desprès, Xavier de-Lamballerie, Boris Pastorino, Van-Mai Cao-Lormeau, Philip Weinstein. New evidence for endemic circulation of Ross River Virus in the Pacific Islands and the potential for emergence. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2017; DOI:10.1016/j.ijid.2017.01.041

Tumor Protein Could Hold Key To Pancreatic Cancer Survival

February 23, 2017: University of Melbourne
Research led by the University of Melbourne reported in the International Journal of Cancer, could eventually improve treatments with the identification of a protein that appears to help tumour cells become more aggressive.

In Australia this year, some 3,200 new cases of Pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed, and 2,900 patients will die of the disease.

University of Melbourne pancreatic surgeon Mehrdad Nikfarjam, and research associates, have identified a protein called p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1), in specific tumour cells called stellate cells.

Researchers were able to slow down growth and spread of tumors by targeting this protein in stellate cells in animal models, in combination with current chemotherapies.

Stellate cells are responsible for the fibrosis or scarring that surrounds pancreatic tumour cells, reducing the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

The study investigated the role of PAK1 in these stellate cells and how they communicate with the tumour cells.

PAK1 was found to be involved in the fibrotic production, proliferation and death of these cells, and could assist tumour cells to become more aggressive.

Targeting PAK1 resulted in decreased scar tissue formation, reduced tumour growth, increased tumour sensitivity to chemotherapy and increased survival of mice.

Associate Professor Mehrdad Nikfarjam said that although further testing is needed, an inhibitor could potentially increase survival of patients with pancreatic cancer.

"Targeting PAK1 could reduce the fibrosis surrounding pancreatic tumours and allow conventional chemotherapies to have a greater effect on the tumours.

"PAK1's role as an important signalling protein in both the tumour and tumour environment is an important finding in unravelling the puzzle that is pancreatic cancer," Associate Professor Nikfarjam said.

Dannel Yeo, Phoebe Phillips, Graham S. Baldwin, Hong He, Mehrdad Nikfarjam. Inhibition of group 1 p21-activated kinases suppresses pancreatic stellate cell activation and increases survival of mice with pancreatic cancer. International Journal of Cancer, 2017; DOI:10.1002/ijc.30615

Is Back Pain Killing Us?

February 23, 2017: University of Sydney
The 600,000 older Australians who suffer from back pain have a 13 per cent increased risk of dying from any cause, University of Sydney research has found.

Published in the European Journal of Pain, the study of 4390 Danish twins aged more than 70 years investigated whether spinal pain increased the rate of all-cause and disease-specific cardiovascular mortality.

Low back pain is a major problem, ranked as the highest contributor to disability in the world. Nearly four million people in Australia suffer from low back pain and the total cost of treatment exceeds $1 billion a year.

"Our study found that compared to those without spinal pain (back and neck), a person with spinal pain has a 13 per cent higher chance of dying every year. This is a significant finding as many people think that back pain is not life-threatening," said senior author Associate Professor Paulo Ferreira, physiotherapy researcher from the University's Faculty of Health Sciences.

"As this study was done in twins, the influence of shared genetic factors is unlikely because it was controlled for in our analysis.

"These findings warrant further investigation because while there is a clear link between back pain and mortality we don't know yet why this is so. Spinal pain may be part of a pattern of poor health and poor functional ability, which increases mortality risk in the older population," he said.

Lead author Dr Matthew Fernandez from the Faculty of Health Sciences, said: "With a rapidly growing aging population, spinal health is critical in maintaining older age independence, highlighting the importance of spinal pain in primary health care as a presenting symptom."

"Back pain should be recognised as an important co-morbidity that is likely to impact people's longevity and quality of life."

Associate Professor Ferreira added: "Policy makers should be aware that back pain is a serious issue -- it is an indicator of people's poor health and should be screened for, particularly in the elderly."

Recent research has also found that commonly prescribed medications for back pain such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs are ineffective in treating pain and have side effects.

"Medications are mostly ineffective, surgery usually does not offer a good outcome -- the best treatment for low back is a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity. People need to get moving," Associate Professor Ferreira said.

Few studies have examined the potential reduced life expectancy associated with spinal pain in an aging population, particularly after controlling for familial factors, including genetics.

This study follows previous research which found that people with depression are 60 per cent more likely to develop low back pain in their lifetime.

Fast facts:
  • Back pain effects approximately 700 million people worldwide
  • Back pain is the leading cause of disability globally
  • Back pain affects 4 million people in Australia
  • Total cost of treatment of back pain exceeds $1 billion a year in Australia
  • The lifetime prevalence of back pain is around 84 per cent.
M. Fernandez, E. Boyle, J. Hartvigsen, M.L. Ferreira, K.M. Refshauge, C.G. Maher, K. Christensen, J.L. Hopper, P.H. Ferreira. Is this back pain killing me? All-cause and cardiovascular-specific mortality in older Danish twins with spinal pain. European Journal of Pain, 2017; DOI:10.1002/ejp.996


February 22nd, 2017
The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has built a custom-made device in order to digitise and publish a rare ‘Kinora’ reel featuring 1901 footage of legendary cricketers K.S. Ranjitsinhji and C.B.Fry. It is now available on YouTube (

NFSA experts then photographed all 465 frames in the reel to create a 19-second film, showing the famous cricketers (who played for Sussex and England in the early 1900s) in action for the first time in more than 100 years. The footage was taken in Hove, England, and the reel was recently donated to the NFSA by cricket historian Glenn Gibson.

The Kinora was the world’s first home movie entertainment system. It followed the same principle as a flip book: a reel with a series of photographic images was placed in a player, and by turning the crank handle the images were displayed one after another, creating the illusion of movement. As the image was not projected, viewing was limited to one person or a small group.

The NFSA does not have any Kinora players, which are very rare. Due to the circular construction of the reel it was not possible for it to be laid flat on a scanner to digitise the photographic images, so the NFSA experts had to build a device that could replicate the mechanism of a Kinora player, in order to photograph each frame individually.

NFSA Curator Jeff Wray explained: ‘In the absence of a Kinora player, and with such a significant donation, we had to find a way to capture the moving image. Our Conservation team suggested adapting a film winder to replicate the original Kinora mechanism, and a metal ruler to hold the images so they could flick through the reel without damaging them. Our custom-made machine allowed the reel to be viewed, and held the images in place to be photographed, one by one.’

The resulting 465 high definition photo frames were animated and stabilised using advanced compositing software, to produce a moving image close to the original. The resulting film shows Ranji and C.B. Fry in batting action.

The custom-made device will be used to digitise the six remaining Kinora reels in the NFSA collection, which deal with various subjects such as a woman dancing, the launching of a life boat, and a man reacting to reading a letter.
The Kinora was the first home movie entertainment system and was invented by Lumière in France in 1897. The rights were later purchased by the British Mutoscope & Biograph Company.

The Kinora followed the same principle as a flip book. Instead of being bound in a book, the photographic images were attached to a reel which could then be rotated by a crank handle, bringing the images into motion. Kinora reels ran for approximately 30 seconds and could be purchased or rented for home use. Topics that could be viewed ranged from the everyday (man reading a letter) and topical (launching of a lifeboat) to historical events and moving images of sportspeople and entertainers of the day. Reels of family members could also be made at photographic studios, and from 1908 a camera was available for people to purchase and make their own Kinora home movies. As the popularity of cinema increased, interest in Kinoras waned. Following a factory fire in 1914, Kinora ceased production.

Rare 1901 Cricket Footage Brought Back To Life By NFSA

Published on 21 Feb 2017
The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has built a custom-made device in order to digitise and publish this rare ‘Kinora’ reel featuring 1901 footage of legendary cricketers K.S. Ranjitsinhji and C.B.Fry.

NFSA experts then photographed all 465 frames in the reel to create a 19-second film, showing the famous cricketers (who played for Sussex and England in the early 1900s) in action for the first time in more than 100 years. The footage was taken in Hove, England, and the reel was recently donated to the NFSA by cricket historian Glenn Gibson.

NASA & TRAPPIST-1: A Treasure Trove Of Planets Found

Published on 22 Feb 2017 by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
Seven Earth-sized planets have been observed by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope around a tiny, nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Three of these planets are firmly in the habitable zone.

Over 21 days, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope measured the drop in light as each planet passed in front of the star. Spitzer was able to identify a total of seven rocky worlds, including three in the habitable zone, where liquid water might be found.

The video features interviews with Sean Carey, manager of the Spitzer Science Center, Caltech/IPAC; Nikole Lewis, James Webb Space Telescope project scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute; and Michaël Gillon, principal investigator, TRAPPIST, University of Liege, Belgium.

The system has been revealed through observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the ground-based TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) telescope, as well as other ground-based observatories. The system was named for the TRAPPIST telescope.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. For more information about Spitzer, visit and

NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch Of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star

This artist's concept shows what each of the TRAPPIST-1 planets may look like, based on available data about their sizes, masses and orbital distances. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch Of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star

This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have discovered that there are seven Earth-size planets in the system.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

February 23, 2017: by NASA
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.

Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated – scientists believe it could be an icy, "snowball-like" world, but further observations are needed.

"The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star," said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. "It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds."

The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist's concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature on Feb. 23, 2017. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star – classified as an ultra-cool dwarf – is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky.

The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.

Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing – transits – of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer’s ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer’s “warm mission,” which began after the spacecraft’s coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations. 

"This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations," said Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. "Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”

Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.

In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets, and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are rocky in nature.

"The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets," said Nikole Lewis, co-leader of the Hubble study and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also is studying the TRAPPIST-1 system, making measurements of the star's minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets. Operating as the K2 mission, the spacecraft's observations will allow astronomers to refine the properties of the known planets, as well as search for additional planets in the system. The K2 observations conclude in early March and will be made available on the public archive.

Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures – key factors in assessing their habitability.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, at Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

This poster imagines what a trip to TRAPPIST-1e might be like. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Action To Deliver Faster Supply Of Medicinal Cannabis Products

22 February 2017: Media release - The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, Minister for Sport
The Turnbull Government will facilitate faster access by qualified doctors to medicinal cannabis for patients with the necessary approvals.

We will authorise controlled importation by approved providers from approved international sources for interim supply in Australia, until domestic production meets local needs.

At present, doctors approved to supply medicinal cannabis products must import the product as local production is only starting to be developed following the passage of legislation to allow domestic production late last year.

We have listened to the concerns of patients and their families that are having difficulty accessing the product on prescription whilst domestic production becomes available.

We are now making it easier to access medicinal cannabis products more rapidly, while still maintaining strict safeguards for individual and community safety.

The Office of Drug Control, within the Department of Health, will implement this policy – effective immediately.

As part of these changes, importers will be able to source medicinal cannabis products from a reputable supplier overseas and store these in a safe, secure warehouse in Australia.

This will be an effective interim supply to be provided through approved commercial importers.

Patients who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis by an authorised doctor will be able to source the medication from a company in Australia – rather than on an individual case by case basis from overseas which involves delays in importation.

This will shorten timeframes to the supply of medicinal cannabis for patients.

The Department of Health has already written to a number of companies that are interested, or potentially interested, in supplying the Australian market with product to advise them of this interim arrangement.

It is expected that within 8 weeks, possibly sooner, Australia will have a store of imported medicinal cannabis products so that approved patients can have greater confidence in the supply arrangements for their doctors.

These imports will improve the timeliness of supply while work continues on establishing the domestic cultivation and manufacture scheme.

Supply of medicinal cannabis products will remain a controlled process and there are a number of strict conditions that will be placed on importers and suppliers around handling, secure storage and accounting for cannabis products.

More information is available on the Office of Drug Control website.

Funding Delivered To Open Gut Research Centre

22 February 2017: Joint Media Release - The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Minister for Sport

David Coleman MP
Federal Member for Banks
The Turnbull Government has delivered on its election commitment to provide $4 million funding to make Australia’s first dedicated micro gut health research centre a reality.

The Microbiome Research Centre at Sydney’s St George and Sutherland Hospital campus will investigate microbiota in the gut, looking at how disturbance occurs and then how it causes disease, a critical step in preventing it happening in the first place. 

It is estimated that half the Australian population will complain of a digestive problem over the next twelve months with some imbalances in microbiota connected to diseases including stroke, asthma, obesity, diabetes, mental health, and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. 

Having a healthy gut is essential to living a healthy life and all Australians will benefit from the findings of the Microbiome Research Centre. 

St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation have been supporting important research for ten years and Professor Emad El-Omar and his team will lead the world with their findings around microbiota gut health. 

Boosting our nation’s world leading medical research capability is a priority of the Turnbull Government. 

During the election campaign we committed to fund and open this research centre and today it is a reality. 

This new Centre will also improve research capacity by attracting more expert researchers to the region. 

Research training will also be provided to people including medical and nursing students, junior doctors and nurses, mainstream scientists and senior faculty. 

This Centre’s ground-breaking work will create new strategic links with national and international centres of research excellence.

It will provide an embedded research hub at the heart of a major health care campus in southern Sydney. 

St George and Sutherland Hospitals serves a large proportion of the Sydney population and has a high clinical workload, making them ideal centres for research projects.

New CEO For Food Standards Australia And New Zealand (FSANZ)

22 February: Media Release - The Hon Dr David Gillespie, MP
Assistant Minister for Health
Assistant Minister for Health, Dr David Gillespie, today announced that the Board of Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has appointed Mr Mark Booth as the new CEO of the internationally esteemed food standards agency.

Mr Booth has extensive experience and knowledge of Australian and New Zealand health systems, a strong policy background and detailed experience in health at the government level. 

For the last six years, he has been a First Assistant Secretary at the Australian Government Department of Health, and will leave this role to take up his new position.

“Mark Booth brings a wealth of experience and technical expertise to the important work of FSANZ,” Dr Gillespie said. 

“His appointment will give fresh perspective and strength to this role at a time when food standards and food safety require greater scrutiny, rigour and bi-national cooperation than ever.

“I know that Mark will build on the legacy of outgoing CEO, Mr Steve McCutcheon, who leaves the role as a distinguished authority on best practice food regulation.”

Mr McCutcheon held the position of FSANZ CEO for ten years up to 31 January 2017. 

Minister Gillespie also expressed his appreciation for the contribution of Mr Peter May, who has acted as CEO while Mr Booth’s appointment was being finalised.

FSANZ develops and administers the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, which lists requirements for foods such as additives, food safety and labelling.

“FSANZ has established a role as a world-leading provider of evidence-based advice about food composition and food safety,” Dr Gillespie said. 

“This has underpinned Australia’s and New Zealand’s reputations as producers of safe, high quality foods.

The CEO is responsible for the day-to-day administration of FSANZ and the control of its operations. 

Online Daters Ignore Wish List When Choosing A Match

February 21, 2017: Queensland University of Technology
Despite having a very clear 'wish list' stating their preference for potential ideal matches, most online daters contact people bearing no resemblance to the characteristics they say they want in a mate, according to QUT research.

The finding was revealed in the 'Preference vs Choice in Online Dating' study conducted by QUT behavioural economists Stephen Whyte and Professor Benno Torgler.

They analysed the online dating preferences and contact behaviour of more than 41,000 Australians aged between 18-80 using data from the online dating website RSVP, with the findings now published by leading international journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.

"We looked at whether or not people actually contact people who match what they say is their ideal partner in their profile, and our findings show they don't. Stating a preference for what you are looking for appears to have little to no bearing on the characteristics of people you actually contact," Mr Whyte said.

"How people go about finding a partner is changing dramatically thanks to the internet. Where once we were limited to settings such as school, work, social gatherings or local night spots, there is a much wider choice at hand online.

"The psychology employed by humans choosing a mate can definitely be environmentally sensitive and the nature of online dating is triggering changes in underlying preferences and decision behavior of those involved.

"Disclosure of 'ideal' partner preferences is a widely offered and commonly-used option for people creating a profile on online dating websites, but whether it's effective or useful in helping people find that special someone is unclear.

"This study provides quite unique findings in that people may state a preference for an ideal partner but they are more than happy to initiate contact with potential love interests that bear no resemblance whatsoever to that 'Mr or Mrs Perfect' they initially think they prefer over all others.

"I think it's really encouraging findings for people searching for that special someone online.

"In our fast-paced world, and with the myriad of options the internet now offers, time spent searching and exploring all available potential partners can be costly."

Mr Whyte said instead of searching until they find the exact match to their stated criteria, people may actually prefer to settle on an acceptable threshold of qualities or characteristics in a potential mate, rather than hold out.

"As Internet and cyber dating continues to grow at a rapid rate further research is required into the decision-making process and the links between stated preferences and actual choice," he said.

The research is the largest ever behavioural economic analysis of Australian online dating behaviour, with this body of work reviewing 219,013 participant contacts by 41,936 members of RSVP during a four-month period in 2016.

"Our study reviewed the interactions of people whose ages ranged from millennials to octogenarians, which in itself demonstrates how widespread online dating is and how it is changing traditional ways in which people find potential love interests," Mr Whyte said.

QUT is part of a national collaborative group of five major Australian universities that form the ATN (Australian Technology Network of Universities).

Stephen Whyte, Benno Torgler. Preference Versus Choice in Online Dating. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2017; DOI:10.1089/cyber.2016.0528

Popular Heartburn Drugs Linked To Gradual Yet 'Silent' Kidney Damage

February 22, 2017: Washington University in St. Louis
Taking popular heartburn drugs for prolonged periods has been linked to serious kidney problems, including kidney failure. The sudden onset of kidney problems often serves as a red flag for doctors to discontinue their patients' use of so-called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are sold under the brand names Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium and Protonix, among others.

But a new study evaluating the use of PPIs in 125,000 patients indicates that more than half of patients who develop chronic kidney damage while taking the drugs don't experience acute kidney problems beforehand, meaning patients may not be aware of a decline in kidney function, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System. Therefore, people who take PPIs, and their doctors, should be more vigilant in monitoring use of these medications.

The study is published Feb. 22 in Kidney International.

The onset of acute kidney problems is not a reliable warning sign for clinicians to detect a decline in kidney function among patients taking proton pump inhibitors, said Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine. "Our results indicate kidney problems can develop silently and gradually over time, eroding kidney function and leading to long-term kidney damage or even renal failure. Patients should be cautioned to tell their doctors if they're taking PPIs and only use the drugs when necessary."

More than 15 million Americans suffering from heartburn, ulcers and acid reflux have prescriptions for PPIs, which bring relief by reducing gastric acid. Many millions more purchase the drugs over-the-counter and take them without being under a doctor's care.

The researchers -- including first author Yan Xie, a biostatistician at the St. Louis VA -- analyzed data from the Department of Veterans Affairs databases on 125,596 new users of PPIs and 18,436 new users of other heartburn drugs referred to as H2 blockers. The latter are much less likely to cause kidney problems but often aren't as effective.

Over five years of follow up, the researchers found that more than 80 percent of PPI users did not develop acute kidney problems, which often are reversible and are characterized by too little urine leaving the body, fatigue and swelling in the legs and ankles.

However, more than half of the cases of chronic kidney damage and end-stage renal disease associated with PPI use occurred in people without acute kidney problems.

In contrast, among new users of H2 blockers, 7.67 percent developed chronic kidney disease in the absence of acute kidney problems, and 1.27 percent developed end-stage renal disease.

End-stage renal disease occurs when the kidneys can no longer effectively remove waste from the body. In such cases, dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed to keep patients alive.

"Doctors must pay careful attention to kidney function in their patients who use PPIs, even when there are no signs of problems," cautioned Al-Aly, who also is the VA's associate chief of staff for research and education and co-director of the VA's Clinical Epidemiology Center. "In general, we always advise clinicians to evaluate whether PPI use is medically necessary in the first place because the drugs carry significant risks, including a deterioration of kidney function."

Yan Xie, Benjamin Bowe, Tingting Li, Hong Xian, Yan Yan, Ziyad Al-Aly.Long-term kidney outcomes among users of proton pump inhibitors without intervening acute kidney injury. Kidney International, February 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.kint.2016.12.021

ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2018

23 February 2017
Prime Minister
Premier of New South Wales
We are delighted to announce that Sydney will be the host city for the upcoming ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

The event, expected to be held in March 2018, will mark the first time Australia has hosted a summit with ASEAN.

The summit is an historic and unprecedented opportunity to strengthen Australia’s strategic partnership with ASEAN and deliver tangible economic and security benefits to Australia.

As a group, ASEAN is Australia’s third largest trading partner. This summit provides an important forum to discuss how we can continue to make our region safer and more prosperous.

The centrepiece of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit will be the Leaders’ Summit and Retreat. There will also be two major side-events: A Business Summit which will bring together leaders of industry and Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) to unlock new opportunities for job-creation, investment and enterprise; and a Counter-Terrorism Conference that will underscore our global leadership and collective regional action to combat terrorism.

The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit will create an enormous economic opportunity for Sydney, increasing visitor numbers to the city for the critical global forum. 

Australian Desks Join The Internet Of Things

February 23, 2017
The internet of things promises to revolutionise the way we live, connecting the objects in our homes to one another and to the vast array of information available online. The possibilities are enormous, and one benefit may be improving our health.

Texas A&M School of Public Health researchers have already shown that stand-capable workstations -- those in which the worker could raise or lower the desk to stand or sit as they wished throughout the day -- boost productivity in office workers, help students' cognitive functioning and improve kids' BMI.

However, one challenge with stand-capable desks is that people forget to change positions when they become involved in a task. Therefore, Mark Benden, PhD, CPE, associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, director of the Texas A&M Ergonomics Center and member of the Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems, and one of his doctoral students have tested the use of a computer prompt to remind people to stand at various times throughout the day.

"We are testing to see if we can break up those long periods of sedentary time during the day," Benden said. "We think technology might be good at encouraging behavior we want."

Now, the researchers are taking it one step further. Using software connected to the desks themselves, Benden and another graduate student, Parag Sharma, are studying what factors and behavioral prompts affect the behavior of about 1000 people in three offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, Australia.

"We're trying to increase and sustain the usage of stand-capable workstations by making it as easy as possible," Sharma said. "A notification will pop up on the screen when it's time to change the desk position, and with just a click of the mouse, the desk will raise or lower itself." Yes, lower -- sometimes people become so used to standing that they forget to take sitting breaks, and that's not healthy for long periods either.

The researchers are monitoring the usage of the desks to determine the number of movement changes during the day. The software can determine whether the people are actually at their desks as well as very nuanced metrics of their computer usage, from number of words typed per minute and mouse clicks to where their eyes go on the screen. At the end of the study, the team will have over 100 metrics to analyze for each person over the course of many months.

"We know that being inactive for long periods of time is bad for you," Benden said, "and this is an example of technology actually affecting the very furniture to prompt behavioral change and make good choices that over many years add up to good outcomes."

Materials provided by Texas A&M University. Original written by Christina Sumners. 

Nash Welcomes ACCC Involvement On The Speed Of Broadband Plans

22 February 2017: Media Release
Minister for Regional Communications Fiona Nash has welcomed news the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced further work to help consumers get the information they need to compare NBN Co broadband plans.

The ACCC’s consultation on fixed broadband speeds found 80 per cent of customers are confused about the speed their plan is meant to provide. Those customers wanted broadband plan speed presented in a simple, standard way so they could compare plans easily.

Some regional customers have recently complained about the speeds being delivered by their plans.

“The NBN is a wholesaler and so doesn’t sell to households – it sells to retail companies, which sell plans on to households and businesses,” Minister Nash said.

“It seems some companies are buying less access – slower speeds – and then selling those plans without clearly stating the speed, or just labelling the plans ‘NBN’ plans without clearly stating the speed.

“This results in disappointed customers. This is not the fault of NBN Co.

“Using the term ‘NBN’ to suggest a very fast speed when that’s not what you’re actually selling is unacceptable. I’d also be deeply disappointed if retail companies were trying to deflect brand damage onto NBN if they’ve not passed on the full benefits of NBN to customers. Plans selling NBN cover a range of speeds and pricing and customers need to be able to easily tell which speed they’re paying for.

“If some retail companies are not being clear about the speeds they’re selling to customers then I’m glad the ACCC is involved.

“The ACCC will issue new guidelines and working with retailers to make sure customers are clearly informed about the speed of the plan they are purchasing.”

Minister Nash said she would be keeping a close eye on this important issue. Customers can check the speed appropriate to them at

Our Focus – Bullied Project Launches

22nd February 2017: ABC
The ABC has launched Our Focus – Bullied, a pan-ABC project coordinated by the Content Collaborations team.

This encompasses online resources on the Our Focus website, a collection of iview programs, an ABC2 program hosted by Tara Moss calledCyberhate, and an ABC TV series hosted by Ian Thorpe called Bullied.

Cyberhate explores the darkest corners of the web to uncover the cyber violence that impacts so many people today, while Bullied gives a compelling insight into the issue of bullying that brings victims and their classmates together in an effort to help understand the impacts of bullying and create strategies for change.

Go to the Our Focus website for resources on how to deal with bullying forprimary students and young peopleparents of primary school andhigh school studentsschool staff and adults.

Ten Year Roadmap Released For Energy Resources Sector

22 February 2017: Media Release - Senator the Hon Matt Canavan
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan has welcomed the release of a ten year roadmap for the Australian energy resources sector, to ensure it stays competitive.

Minister Canavan said National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) has developed a 10-year plan for Australia’s oil, gas, coal and uranium energy resources industries designed to help ensure a strong future.

NERA’s Energy Resources Sector Competitiveness Plan will be launched today at the Australasian Oil and Gas Expo in Perth.

Minister Canavan said the report identifies steps for continued prosperity for the sector – despite numerous challenges.

“The resources sector continues to underpin the national economy, creating jobs and investment in regional Australia.

“However the global energy and resources sector is facing challenges from volatile commodity prices in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

“NERA’s plan has identified how the sector can work together to enhance operational models and technology capabilities; improve capacity, skills and culture; and address the regulatory environment in which it operates.

“The Australian Government has established six growth centres to encourage collaboration in areas of competitive strength.

“I welcome this plan to provide a long-term road map for the sector, to ensure it continues to create jobs and opportunities in regional Australia.”

NERA is one of six growth centres established under the Australian Government’s Industry Growth Centres Initiative. With base funding from the Australian Government, NERA is industry-led and works with energy resources companies, their supply chains, research and innovation partners and with governments under a shared vision to drive the sector forward.

NERA’s Energy Resources Sector Competitiveness Plan is available here:

Israeli PM's Visit Cements A Warm, Old Friendship 

22 February 2017
Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull
Our friendship is as old as the state of Israel itself.

Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution adopted by the General Assembly, which led to the establishment of Israel in 1948. Following the vote, Israeli representative Abba Eban acknowledged Australia’s contribution: “The manner in which you steered to a vote this second historic resolution … the warmth and eloquence with which you welcomed Israel into the family of nations, have earned for you the undying gratitude of our people.”

The key role Australia played in ensuring the security and prosperity of the Jewish people should be a source of pride for us all.

This week our friendship will take a historic step forward. For the first time, a serving Israeli prime minister will visit Australia. The government is honoured to host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Our peoples are bound together first and foremost by the values we share — a mutual commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

And as a majority Christian nation, we share the rich cultural inheritance of the Bible, its stories and values a foundation and a context for our history, our literature, our imagination.

And we could not imagine modern Australia, the most successful multicultural society in the world, without the brilliance and the enterprise of our almost 120,000-strong Jewish-Australian community.

To paraphrase the great Shimon Peres, Australia and Israel understand the value of creativity and innovation. Together our scientists and businesspeople are partners in every field of technology. Australia is vast, Israel is tiny. But both are short of water and we lead the world in making every drop count so that deserts can bloom.

I’m particularly keen to discuss with Prime Minister Netanyahu the progress of our “landing pad” in Tel Aviv — the second of five innovation hubs to be established globally — which is helping Australian entrepreneurs make the connections they need to link into Israel’s world-class start-up and innovation ecosystem.

While in Australia, Prime Minister Netanyahu and I will oversee the signing of an air services agreement to enhance air links; explore opportunities for greater collaboration in cyberspace; commit to negotiations on an agreement on science and technology co-operation; and announce a declaration of intent to create a fully operational and commercial farm around Wagga Wagga. The new facilities will provide Australian farmers with an opportunity to benefit from world-leading Israeli dairy and agricultural technology.

Israel is a miraculous nation. It has flourished despite invasion, conflict and an almost complete lack of natural resources, other than the determination and genius of its people.

And yet in a region racked by war, it succeeds as the sole liberal democracy, a world leader in every field of science and technology, its culture of innovation the envy of the world.

Despite these achievements and the breadth of our relationship, many view Israel exclusively through the lens of its conflict with the Palestinians. They demand that the government take the side of those in the international community who seek to chastise Israel — and it alone — for the continuing failure of the peace process. In a speech to the UN General Assembly in 2015, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out that in the preceding 12 months, the General Assembly had adopted 20 resolutions critical of Israel, compared to just one in response to the war in Syria, which has resulted in more than 250,000 killed and millions driven from their homes.

My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state.

At the same time, we recognise that Israel and the Palestinians need to come to a settlement and we support a directly negotiated two-state solution so that Palestinians will have their own state and the people of Israel can be secure within agreed borders.

We believe that with so many other larger, more destructive and intractable disputes in the Middle East, this is a time when Israeli and Palestinian leaders, supported by the global community, should return to the negotiating table and work towards a solution that upholds the rights of both peoples to live side by side in peace and security.

Agriculture In 2050: Recalibrating Targets For Sustainable Intensification

Published on 12 Jan 2017 by Mitch Hunter
Presented by Mitchell Hunter on November 7, 2016 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in Phoenix, AZ. 

The speaker is a PhD Candidate in Agronomy at Penn State University. More information on Mitch's research is available

Widely Accepted Vision For Agriculture May Be Inaccurate, Misleading

February 22, 2017: Penn State

Agricultural scientists, like Penn State researchers, have been experimenting with cover crop mixtures (like the one shown growing at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center) to determine which ones best limit the runoff of nutrients and provide the most ecosystem services.
Credit: Mitch Hunter
"Food production must double by 2050 to feed the world's growing population." This truism has been repeated so often in recent years that it has become widely accepted among academics, policymakers and farmers, but now researchers are challenging this assertion and suggesting a new vision for the future of agriculture.

Research published in Bioscience suggests that production likely will need to increase between 25 percent and 70 percent to meet 2050 food demand. The assertion that we need to double global crop and animal production by 2050 is not supported by the data, argues Mitch Hunter, doctoral student in agronomy, in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. He says the analysis shows that production needs to keep increasing, but not as fast as many have claimed.

However, clarifying future food demand is only part of the story.

"In the coming decades, agriculture will be called upon to both feed people and ensure a healthy environment," said Hunter. "Right now, the narrative in agriculture is really out of balance, with compelling goals for food production but no clear sense of the progress we need to make on the environment. To get the agriculture we want in 2050, we need quantitative targets for both food production and environmental impacts."

Specifying quantitative targets, the researchers contend, will clarify the scope of the challenges that agriculture must face in the coming decades, focusing research and policy on achieving specific outcomes.

"Food production and environmental protection must be treated as equal parts of agriculture's grand challenge," says study co-author David Mortensen, professor of weed and applied plant ecology, Penn State.

These new findings have important implications for farmers. Lower demand projections may suggest that prices will not rise as much as expected in coming decades. However, the authors note that economic forecasting models already are based on up-to-date quantitative projections, so price forecasts may not be affected greatly by this new analysis.

At the same time, farmers will need to ramp up efforts to hold nutrients on their fields, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil health.

This analysis builds on the two most commonly cited food-demand projections, one from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and one led by David Tilman, a prominent ecologist at the University of Minnesota. Hunter and his colleagues did not dispute these underlying projections; they simply updated them to help reframe the narrative.

"Both of these projections are credible and important, but the baseline years they used are over a decade past now, and global production has ramped up considerably in that time," Hunter explained.

So, while Tilman's study showed that the world will demand 100 percent more calories in 2050 than in 2005, that is the equivalent of only a 68 percent increase over production levels in 2014, the most recent year with available data. To meet the FAO projection, which used different assumptions and projected lower demand, production would have to increase only 26 percent from 2014 levels.

"Given how much production has increased recently, it is pretty misleading to continue to argue that we need to double our crop output by 2050," Hunter said.

Aiming to double food production makes it much harder to move the needle on our environmental challenges.

"To double food production, we would have to increase global agricultural output faster than we ever have before, and we are at a point in the developed world where we already are pushing our farming systems to the max. We don't know how to double yields in these systems, especially without multiplying our environmental impacts," Hunter said.

Despite increased discussion of sustainability in agriculture, the common narrative that we need to drastically increase food production is seldom challenged in agricultural circles, according to the researchers. This is partly because definitions of sustainability vary widely, ranging from "not increasing agriculture's environmental footprint" to achieving "major reductions in environmental impact."

The researchers present hard data and quantitative goals to help clear up this confusion. For global greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, the data show that agriculture's environmental performance is going in the wrong direction, with aggregate impacts steadily increasing. Science-based goals indicate that these impacts must fall sharply over the coming decades to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and reduce the size of the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.

The authors argue for research and policy efforts to help identify production methods that can meet growing global food demand while also hitting sustainability targets.

"Even with lower demand projections, growing enough food while protecting the environment will be a daunting challenge," Hunter said. "We call on researchers, policymakers and farmers to embrace this recalibrated vision of the future of agriculture and start working toward these goals."

Mitchell C. Hunter; Richard G. Smith; Meagan E. Schipanski; Lesley W. Atwood; David A. Mortensen. Agriculture in 2050: Recalibrating Targets for Sustainable Intensification. Bioscience, February 2017

Golden Whistler - Chiltern Track Biodiversity

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.