Inbox and Environment News: Issue 308

April 9 - 22, 2017: Issue 308

Swamp Mahogany Now In Flower In Pittwater

The Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA) tell us Swamp Mahoganies are starting to bloom - a time of plenty for birds, Flying Foxes and insects. Their photo is of trees in Jacksons Rd Warriewood beside North Narrabeen Public School. 

See this tree in fresh water wetlands - Warriewood Wetlands, Dee Why Lagoon and Toongari Reserve Avalon. 

It also grows well on much drier land - Eucalyptus robusta.

HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE FUTURE OF  Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, Lion Island Nature Reserve, Spectacle Island Nature Reserve And Long Island Nature Reserve

April 7, 2017: NPWS
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is one of the most popular national parks in NSW, with over 2 million visits each year. The existing plan of management for the park was written in 2002. Since that time much has changed. There has been a steady increase in visitors coming to the park, new recreational uses have become popular, information about the values of the park has improved, and new approaches to managing fire and pests and weeds have been developed. 

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Lion Island Nature Reserve, Spectacle Island Nature Reserve and Long Island Nature Reserve under one plan of management, which can be accessed here. The plan of management is a legal document that sets out future directions for a park (or group of parks), management actions to be undertaken, and the types of uses that are allowed.  

We are now starting the process of preparing a new plan of management for these parks, and we want to hear the community’s views and ideas.  

To find out about the plan of management and to register your interest in receiving updates during the preparation process, please go to

There will be opportunities to provide input to the plan of management, including exhibition of a draft plan for public comment.

If you have any queries or would like more information please email 

“Unfathomable”: NSW Department Of Planning Recommends Approval Of Bylong Coal Mine

April 06, 2017: Media Release - Lock the Gate
The NSW Department of Planning has today released its assessment report recommending approval of a controversial new open cut coal mine in the Hunter catchment’s historic Bylong Valley in a move Lock the Gate Alliance has described as "unfathomable."

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said:

“The Department’s support for the mine comes despite acknowledging serious impacts on a productive alluvial aquifer, the loss of numerous heritage sites, and risks to the social cohesion of the stunning agricultural valley.

 “To recommend approval of this open cut coal mine in a productive and picturesque valley that has never before been subject to mining is frankly unfathomable.

“It will involve digging up graves and churches, cutting open strategic agricultural land, undermining culturally cherished Aboriginal ochre quarries, drawing down an alluvial aquifer and emptying a scenic and productive agricultural valley of inhabitants.

“The NSW Department of Planning just seems to have one answer when it comes to coal mines. No matter how much damage they will do, the Department says the mine should proceed.

“They said it with the Shenhua mine on the Liverpool Plains, they said it with the Drayton South mine, and here they are, with the Bylong project, pushing again for coal mining at any cost.”

Bylong landholder Graeme Tanner said, “This coal project has already devastated my community. They’ve bought up almost the whole Valley and torn the social fabric apart.

“How will those of us that are left behind keep our farms going when they’re sucking the aquifer dry and destroying the landscape?”

The mine project will be reviewed by the Planning and Assessment Commission, which disagreed with the Department of Planning’s recommended approval of the Drayton South project.

Former Planning Minister Rob Stokes directed the Commission review to hold a public hearing, thereby removing the right of any member of the community to challenge the merits of a future approval of the mine in court.

Mr Tanner said, “We’ve told the government we won’t participate in their public hearing. We know a stitch up when we see one. But we’ll be telling the Commission that this place, like Drayton South, is worth more intact than it is as a dirty great hole in the ground.”

The Department of Planning Assessment Report is available here.

Queensland Government Recklessly Grants 60-Year, Unlimited Water Licence For Adani

April 05, 2017: Media Release - Lock the Gate
The Queensland Government’s decision to grant an unlimited water licence to Adani for its proposed Carmichael coal mine for 60 years is risky and senseless, says Lock the Gate Alliance.

“This is a licence to damage the agricultural businesses that rely on Central Queensland’s groundwater resources,” Carmel Flint from Lock the Gate said.

“Adani is getting free reign to suck up as much groundwater as it wantsuntil 2077, with no independent review during those 60 long years.

“This is a coal mine that is estimated to extract as much as 9,500 million litres of groundwater each year.

“The Queensland Government has failed to set a limit on the impacts to important aquifers, the Dunda Beds and Clematis Sandstone.

“Instead the government is letting Adani decide on acceptable limits in a report it’s meant to supply some time down the track.

“The licence was approved in secret without any opportunity for local farmers or communities to comment on it.

“The legal rights of local farmers to appeal against it were mostly stripped away by the Queensland Government last year.

“Make no mistake - this is another special deal for Adani that hangs Queensland farmers out to dry,” Ms Flint said.

See: 'Barbaric': Adani's giant coal mine granted unlimited water licence for 60 years. by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, April 5, 2017. Water Licence was granted on March 29, 2017:

"The proposed Adani coal mine, which will be Australia's biggest, has been granted unlimited access to groundwater by the Queensland government in a move farmers fear will drain huge amounts of water from the Great Artesian Basin.

According to a copy of Adani's water licence signed last Wednesday and obtained by Fairfax Media, the $16 billion Carmichael mine merely needs to monitor and report the amount of water it extracts under a permit that runs until 2077."

The Queensland Government then issued a Media release, which runs below:

Battle For Berrima A New 'Coal Free' Declaration Is Coming

Published on 4 Apr 2017 by Battle For Berrima Inc.
Exeter joins Berrima, Medway and Burrawang as 'a Coal Free Community'. 
Visit our website for more information about our battle

Carmichael Licences Safeguard Water

Media Statements
Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines- The Honourable Anthony Lynham
Thursday, April 06, 2017
Multi-million dollar financial and regulatory safeguards, and a stringent monitoring regime, are now in place to manage water supply in and around the $21.7 billion Carmichael coal project.

Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said Adani had to provide the government $20.15 million before drawing any surface water from a special reserve set aside for significant projects.

“The water licences provide the mine with a volume of water about 1 per cent of what farmers are able to use in the Burdekin catchment now,” he said.

“Adani has to pay the government more than $20 million before they can use the surface water, and pay for it at a rate about three times what farmers currently pay in the lower Burdekin irrigation area.

“They have to have make good agreements in place with landholders whose existing ground water entitlements might be affected.

“There are now almost 270 conditions on this project to protect the natural environment and the interests of landholders and traditional owners.

“More than 100 of these conditions relate to groundwater.

“Most importantly, the government has the ability to require a mine to stop operations if any of these licences are breached.”

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines has granted Adani two licences– one for surface water, and one for groundwater.

“The surface water licence grants the project 10,800 megalitres of surface water a year at $1866 per megalitre. Farmers currently have access to 1,229,000 megalitres.  Water for agricultural purpose is currently trading in the lower Burdekin catchment at approximately $570/ megalitre.   

 Almost another 140,000 megalitres remain untapped in reserve in the Burdekin.

The licences also allow Adani to remove enough water from the mine to allow it to operate safely, Dr Lynham said.

 “My Department of Natural Resources and Mines advises that the modelling it assessed shows that up to 4550 megalitres of groundwater could be taken a year,” he said.

 “This is roughly equivalent to the amount used each year by a 450 hectare cane  farm in the Lower Burdekin.

 “Every operational mine in Queensland is authorised to remove groundwater that flows into the mine to make the mine safe, and reuse it if they wish.

 “This project has been through extensive scrutiny by State and Federal Governments, and the community, during public consultation and in the courts.

“This project will generate thousands of jobs, as well as business opportunities in northern and central Queensland as well as royalties that will benefit the state as a whole. 

“These safeguards will ensure that water resources are protected, and that this critical project progresses sustainably.”

Renewable Energy Needed To Drive Uptake Of Electric Vehicles

April 4, 2017: University of Queensland
Plugging into renewable energy sources outweighs the cost and short driving ranges for consumers intending to buy electric vehicles, according to a new study.

Queensland University of Technology Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Kenan Degirmenci, from QUT Business School, said environmental performance -- or being green -- was more important than price or range confidence for electric vehicle consumers.

"High purchase costs and short driving ranges have been considered to be the main factors which impede people's decision to buy electric vehicles," he said.

"Since electricity needs to be produced from renewable energy sources for electric vehicles to be a true green alternative, the environmental performance has also been presumed to be a factor."

In a newly published study titled Consumer purchase intentions for electric vehicles: Is green more important than price and range? Dr Degirmenci found environmental performance was in fact an even stronger predictor of purchase intention over price and range confidence.

The study involved interviews with 40 consumers and a survey with 167 people who participated in test drives with plug-in battery electric vehicles in Germany.

"We found the majority of participants placed great emphasis on the need for electricity for electric vehicles to be produced from renewable energy sources in order for them to be a true alternative," he said.

Dr Degirmenci said when considering greenhouse gas emissions it was important to acknowledge the difference between on-road emissions only taking into account the fuel used, and well-to-wheel emissions including all emissions related to fuel production, processing, distribution and use.

"For example, a petrol-driven vehicle produces 119g CO2-e/km, of which most are on-road emissions. In comparison, an electric vehicle produces zero on-road emissions," he said.

"However, if electricity is generated from coal to charge an electric vehicle it produces 139g CO2-e/km well-to-wheel emissions, compared with only 9g CO2-e/km well-to-wheel emissions with electricity from renewable energy sources."

Dr Degirmenci said the results of the study were relevant to Australia because the transport sector accounted for 16 per cent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions and 85 per cent of these were generated by road transport.

"In this regard, a transition from conventional combustion vehicles to electric vehicles has the potential to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions substantially, if that electricity is produced from renewable energy sources," Dr Degirmenci said.

Kenan Degirmenci, Michael H. Breitner. Consumer purchase intentions for electric vehicles: Is green more important than price and range?Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 2017; 51: 250 DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2017.01.001

The End Festival 2017: A Celebration Of Arts, Culture And Heritage

Media release: 24 March 2017: NPWS
Hill End’s festival of arts, culture and heritage is back by popular demand for a second year this April.

The End’ festival will be held from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 April in the historic gold-mining village of Hill End.

Presented by NSW National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) with support from program partner Bathurst Regional Council, the unique festival will feature cabaret and music shows, live music, art exhibits and installations, and the best of the region’s wine, craft beer and food.

The market, of artisan wares and regional produce, will also feature exhibitions of rare trades including leather and woodwork.

NPWS Central West Area Manager Sarah Carr said ‘The End’ is a one-of-a-kind eclectic event in an extraordinary location with something for everyone.

“This festival is a chance for locals and visitors alike to explore the charming Hill End Historic Site and enjoy the wide variety of things on offer,” said Ms Carr.

“Festival-goers can book a ticketed show in the Royal Hall, or wander freely around the village, sampling produce from the Bathurst, Mudgee and Orange regions in the Golden Age garden while taking in great live folk, country and bluegrass acts and the free art installations and exhibitions that will really bring the town to life.”

A great program of free music will take place on the Golden Age Stage on Saturday and Sunday. Indie-folk singer-songwriters ‘All Our Exes Live in Texas’ will headline the outdoor stage on Saturday, supported by seven piece bluegrass band ‘The Morrisons’.

On Friday night, the festivities kick off with ‘The Beginning of The End’, a variety spectacular in The Royal Hall featuring a diverse array of musical and cabaret talent. This ticketed show includes ‘Man of Constant Sorrow: A tribute to the music from the film O Brother Where Art Thou’ and ‘Cabaret Sasquatch’. The shows will feature again on the Saturday night. Tickets can be booked via Moshtix.

“Tours of the historic village are also on offer during the festival period, including evening ghost tours,” said Ms Carr.

“We’re inviting people from near and far to join in this unique festival weekend. Local accommodation is available at the Village Campground and the Glendora Campground, and a tent-town with set-up camping is also available to book.”

For more details about ‘The End’ festival, including the full program of events, accommodation options, and to purchase tickets for the Royal Hall shows, go to

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 May 22nd.

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  22/05/2017

Powers Of Attraction Could Decimate Deadly Starfish

April 5, 2017: University of Queensland

These are adult COTS predating on coral. White coral skeleton (foreground), unconsumed coral (background). Credit: Australian Institute of Marine Science

An American who fell in love with both the Great Barrier Reef and his wife via The University of Queensland has led a breakthrough discovery that could protect one of the Seven Natural Wonders. Husband-and-wife Professor Bernard Degnan and Associate Professor Sandie Degnan, believe they, along with research colleagues, can use the powers of attraction to decimate one of the reef's fiercest enemies.

In the journal Nature, the international research team has revealed crown-of-thorns starfish gather en masse due to a release of pheromones -- a scent they've decoded so the prickly pests can be lured to their capture.

"For an already struggling Great Barrier Reef, and indeed any reefs across the Indo-Pacific region, these starfish pose an enormous threat due to the ability of a single female to produce up to 120 million offspring in one spawning season," Professor Bernard Degnan said.

"They feast on the coral and leave it bleached white and vulnerable to destruction in heavy storms.

"Millions of dollars have been spent over many years on a variety of ways to capture crown-of-thorns starfish, whether it be via diver collection, injections or robotics.

"Now we've found the genes the starfish use to communicate, we can begin fabricating environmentally safe baits that trick them into gathering in one place, making it easier to remove reproductively-primed animals."

The Degnans worked alongside a team of UQ researchers, and long-standing colleagues at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) and University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). The painstaking process of sequencing the of crown-of-thorns genome and its pheromones was completed 30 years after Professor Degnan moved from his hometown of New York to Brisbane to study as one of UQ's first international exchange students.

A graduate in Marine Biology and Molecular Biology, Professor Degnan developed an early fascination with the biodiversity of Queensland's Great Barrier Reef in his formative years, and while at UQ's Heron Island Research Station he met his future wife.

"I guess there is a nice story there about the reef bringing us together and now we're working hard to develop novel ways to understand and preserve it," Professor Bernard Degnan said.

"But beyond us, there's personal history with some of the other researchers, like Mike Hall at AIMS who is one of our oldest colleagues and who came up with the original genome concept.

"Nori Satoh at OIST could be considered the grandfather of marine genomics and has been a very supportive friend, as has Scott Cummins of USC, who was a former research fellow in my lab."

"What I like most is that we're finding a solution to a problem, not merely documenting it."

Beyond the role their genomics breakthrough brings to controlling the crown-of-thorns, the Degnans believe it could have other environmental and economical benefits.

They say a similar approach could be used to combat invasions of sea snails and other marine pests throughout the world.

For fishermen and coastal communities, that's a win on several fronts.

"I expect for local economies there could be some positive cash flow from the fishermen that collect and remove the crown-of-thorns.," Professor Bernard Degnan said.

"Furthermore, as the reef becomes healthier, the benefits to a raft of industries from tourism to fisheries quickly follow."

Michael R. Hall, Kevin M. Kocot, Kenneth W. Baughman, Selene L. Fernandez-Valverde, Marie E. A. Gauthier, William L. Hatleberg, Arunkumar Krishnan, Carmel McDougall, Cherie A. Motti, Eiichi Shoguchi, Tianfang Wang, Xueyan Xiang, Min Zhao, Utpal Bose, Chuya Shinzato, Kanako Hisata, Manabu Fujie, Miyuki Kanda, Scott F. Cummins, Noriyuki Satoh, Sandie M. Degnan, Bernard M. Degnan. The crown-of-thorns starfish genome as a guide for biocontrol of this coral reef pest.Nature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature22033

Sydneysiders Urged To Listen Out For 'Powerful Owls'

April 7th, 2017
Beth Mott, Birdlife Australia is asking Sydney residents to report the presence of Powerful owls in their area.

Please report any sightings to 

If you are interested in becoming a Powerful Owl Project volunteer or would like to submit a sighting of a Powerful Owl, please

You can help us learn more about the Powerful Owls by letting us know if you see or hear one in your area (particularly around Sydney, Blue Mountains, Newcastle, Central Coast,  Illawarra). Send an email (to the email addresses above) with your location (street address or GPS location), an attached photo or call recording (if you have it), details of when you saw or heard the bird, and anything interesting you noticed about where it was or what it was doing (e.g. holding prey, perched on a tree branch).

Caution:  rarely, some birds can get very aggressive while nesting and it can be very dangerous for people to be too close to the nest tree at night. If you come across a Powerful Owl nest hollow, use caution and please do not approach it (especially at night). Do not use flash photography at the nest as this may disturb the birds and cause them to abandon the nest.

Powerful owl Ninox strenua- picture by Paul Wheeler, 2014 - at Clareville. 

Bouddi Graffiti Attack Dismays Authorities

Media release: 7 April 2017 - NPWS
Authorities have expressed dismay following a graffiti attack at Mount Bouddi, in Bouddi National Park, south of Terrigal, last weekend (2-3 April).

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Area Manager Angela Lonergan said the graffiti was sprayed over the Dingeldei Memorial Shelter in the day use area.

“It is disappointing to see the lack of respect shown to these public facilities,” Ms Lonergan said.

“These senseless attacks are unnecessary and cost taxpayer funds to repair.

“It is estimated it will cost approximately $1,800 to remove the graffiti. Money that could be better spent on maintaining the Park.

“Anyone who thinks they may have information about this incident is asked to contact the NPWS or Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000,” Ms Lonergan said.

The Dingeldei Memorial Shelter was built in 1962 by local volunteers in honour of a former trustee of Bouddi National Park.

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.

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.

New Appointments To Sydney Harbour Federation Trust

5 April 2017: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
I am pleased today to announce a series of important appointments to the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. I welcome the appointment of Ms Mary Darwell as the new Executive Director of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, and the appointment of two new members of the Trust’s board.

Ms Darwell served as the Chief Executive of Arts NSW for eight years, and has worked with Infrastructure NSW to lead the development of NSW’s first Cultural Infrastructure Strategy. Ms Darwell brings a wealth of experience and deep commitment to Sydney and its infrastructure to managing some of Australia’s most iconic places.

Ms Jean Hay AM will be appointed to the Board of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust as Deputy Chair, along with Mr Garth Callender as a general member.

The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust was established to protect and improve public access to former defence sites around Sydney Harbour. Under the Act the Trust is governed by a Board of eight trustees.

Ms Hay is the former Mayor of Manly Council and is the Chair of the Northern Beaches Implementation Advisory Group. She has previously served on the Board as Deputy Chair and her appointment will provide continuity in the ongoing operation of the Trust.

Mr Callender is a former soldier with a distinguished military career. Mr Callender is currently working with the NSW Government on planning and delivering the Veterans Employment Program across the NSW public sector, and is also an Ambassador for Bravery Trust. His appointment to the Trust will ensure a greater connection to the military history of the Trust lands.

I thank the former, founding Executive Director of the Trust, Geoff Bailey, for his vision and stewardship of the Trust over almost two decades.

The Turnbull Government remains committed to managing these important heritage sites for Sydney and the nation, and for the enjoyment of all Australians and visitors to our shores.

Department Seeks Public Feedback On Wambo Coal Mine Extension Application

30.03.2017: Departmental Media Release- Department of Planning and Environment
The community is being encouraged to give feedback on a proposal by a Hunter Valley mine that will extend the life of its operations by seven years.

Peabody Energy has applied to the Department of Planning and Environment for a modification to extend Wambo Coal Mine’s underground operations which will involve extracting an extra 18 million tonnes of coal from nine additional underground longwalls.

The extension application would mean extending the life of the Wambo Coal Underground Mine, located near Warkworth, by seven years until 2039.

A spokesperson from the department said community consultation is an important part of the planning process and anyone can provide feedback before the exhibition close date of Tuesday 2 May.

"We encourage people to give feedback on the application. All submissions from members of the public, community interest groups, and relevant government agencies will be considered during our assessment," a spokesperson said.

"Anyone can read the modification application, which has now been published on the Department’s website, and there are also several locations providing a printed copy for public view."

To read the modification application and Environmental Assessment online and make a submission, visit the Major Projects website 

Alternatively, the documents are available at:

- Department of Planning and Environment, Information Centre, Level 22, 320 Pitt Street, Sydney
- Singleton Council, Administration Centre, Cnr Queen Street & Civic Avenue, Singleton
- Nature Conservation Council, 14/388 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW 2000

Department Seeks Community Input On Hume Coal Project Proposal

30.03.2017: Departmental Media Release -Department of Planning and Environment
The local community in the Southern Highlands is encouraged to give feedback on an application for an underground coal mine that will go on public exhibition today.

The Department of Planning and Environment is exhibiting the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) application for the Hume Coal Project for an extended period of 90 days, beginning today until 30 June.

Clay Preshaw, Director of Resource Assessments, said members of the community are encouraged to give feedback as part of the community consultation process.

“Every submission is read and considered as part of the Department’s assessment of the EIS,” Mr Preshaw said.

“We are seeking feedback from the public and a wide range of stakeholders. We encourage any landowner, individual or group to share their views on the Hume Coal Project and Berrima Rail Project with us.

“There is a high level of public interest in these applications and we understand the EIS is a lengthy document - that’s why we are going above and beyond in seeking community input.”

Mr Preshaw said the Department had arranged public information sessions, giving the local Southern Highlands community a chance to meet with Department representatives in person.

“Information on the assessment process will be provided and department officers will be able to answer any questions the public may have about the planning process,” he said.
“We will also meet with special interest groups during the exhibition period.
“The Department assesses all applications on their merits, in accordance with the planning legislation and all relevant NSW Government policies and guidelines.”
Mr Preshaw added that the Department will apply a rigorous, scientific approach to the assessment of the proposal and seek the best advice available from independent experts.
“At this stage, the Department will seek advice from experts in the fields of groundwater, mining, subsidence, and economics. We will also be seeking expert advice from specialist government agencies.”
The Hume Coal Project proposals involves a new underground coal mine extracting up to 3.5 million tonnes of coal a year over 19 years. The associated Berrima Rail Project involves the extension of the Berrima railway line to connect the proposed mine to the Main Southern Railway.
To attend one of the public information sessions, people should register their interest at 1800 854 405
Location: Exeter Hall, Exeter Road, Exeter 
Dates: Wednesday 26 April and Thursday 27 April from 6:30-8:30pm
If media plan to attend they must register via
For more information please visit the Major Projects website

Climate Change Review Discussion Paper Released

The Federal Government has released a discussion paper for public consultation as part of the 2017 review of climate change policies.

The discussion paper follows the Government’s commitment to review its climate change policies when it set Australia’s target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Government invites submissions on the discussion paper by 5 May 2017.

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

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

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

Dunmore Quarry Extension

To enable to long term viability of the quarry, Boral must access additional hard rock resources by extending the existing Croome Farm Pit further to the west as rock reserves in the existing section of the quarry become depleted. Assuming an average extraction rate of 2 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), the proposed modification will allow Dunmore Quarry to continue extracting hard rock from the quarry up to 2034.

To enable continued operation of the quarry, it is proposed to extend the existing Croome Farm Pit by approximately 13.74 hectares (ha) to enable extraction within the ‘Croome West Pit’. All other aspects of the approved operations will remain the same (ie operating hours, employee numbers, production rates and traffic generation).
This application is Modification 9 and is referred to in this document as ‘the proposed modification’. An application for Modification 8 was approved by the Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) on 17 November 2016. It sought approval for the removal of overburden within the Croome Farm Pit and its use to create a visual and acoustic bund around the proposed Croome West Pit (subject of this application).

Project is currently on public exhibition and opportunity for public submissions is available:
Exhibition Start       20/03/2017
Exhibition End  10/04/2017

Call To Local Councils As Floodplain Management Grants Open For Applications

Media release: 16 March 2017
Grant funding to assist councils in carrying out floodplain management projects to help manage flood risk open for applications today, announced the NSW Government.

The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Executive Director Ian Hunter said grant funding is available to assist local government with flood studies, flood risk management studies and plans and major projects such as flood levees, gates, warning systems and house raising and purchase in high risk areas, under the 2017-18 Floodplain Management Program.

“This grant program funds important projects that assess risk and help reduce flood impacts across NSW,” Mr Hunter said.

“I encourage local councils to apply for this funding round. Applications close on 27 April 2017.

“The last funding round supported forty-four projects which shared $6.72 million.

“This grant program supports the implementation of the NSW Flood Prone Land Policy which aims to reduce the impacts of flooding and flood liability on communities,” Mr Hunter said.

Local councils, county councils and other government bodies with floodplain risk management responsibilities (refer to program guidelines) equivalent to those of local councils are eligible to apply.

Further information and application forms are available here: 

Public Comment Open: Dolphin Mitigation Strategies For The SPF And SESSF

15 March 2017: AFMA
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is seeking comments on two draft strategies with the objective of minimising interactions between commercial fishing and dolphins.

AFMA is required to minimise interactions with protected species, while the Commonwealth commercial fishing industry is required to take all reasonable steps to avoid interactions with protected species. The SPF and Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategies are aimed at pursuing these objectives.

The new strategies have a broad scope and incorporate all SPF trawl methods and the entire Gillnet Fishery. They also apply a consistent set of principles for managing dolphin interactions that are consistent with bycatch principles approved by the AFMA Commission in pursuit of AFMA’s objectives.

Public comment on both draft strategies will close on 12 April 2017.

Call For Public Comment On Draft Seabird Threat Abatement Plan

15th March 2017
Public comment is now being sought on the draft Threat abatement plan for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations (Threat abatement plan for incidental catch of seabirds). The public consultation period is open until 30 June 2017.

The draft Threat abatement plan for incidental catch of seabirds provides a national strategy to guide the activities of government, industry and research organisations in abating the impact of oceanic longline fishing operations on seabirds in Commonwealth fisheries.

The consultation paper and related documents are available on theDepartment of the Environment and Energy website. Your comments on this consultation paper are welcome.

Further information about the existing Threat abatement plan 2014 for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations is available at the Threat Abatement Plan – seabirds page

A black-browed albatross with chick, on Macquarie Island. (Photo: Kim Kliska)

Draft Threat Abatement Plan For The Impacts Of Marine Debris On Vertebrate Marine Species (2017)

Marine debris, particularly plastic, is harmful to marine wildlife, with impacts caused through entanglement, ingestion and contamination. This complex problem is increasing globally.

Marine debris impacts have been documented for seabirds, marine turtles, cetaceans, sharks and other Australian marine wildlife, including many species listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The draft Threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine species provides a national strategy to abate the threat posed by marine debris and guide investment and effort by the Australian Government, jurisdictions, research organisations and non-government organisations in addressing the impacts of marine debris on native species.

Public consultation
The Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy has released the draft Threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine species (2017) for public comment. The public comment period closes on 13 April 2017.

The consultation paper and related documents are available on the Department of the Environment and Energy website

As part of our 60th Anniversary celebrations, NPA is running a photo competition! This competition will be running over most of the year. Winners will have their photos printed and displayed in an exhibition and a voucher for private photography lessons with Smart digital.

Enter the Photo Competition
If you are a keen nature photographer or have a great photo in one of the categories below please share it with us. This competition is open to everyone.

Categories can include:
  • National Parks or other naturally significant areas
  • Underwater and Marine Photography (NSW only)
  • Bushwalking or outdoor activities (NSW only)
  • Animals and Wildlife (Australian wildlife only)
  • Historic photos related to NPA, nature conservation or wildlife in NSW
Photo Competition Rules HERE

Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club's Tackers School Holiday Program: Having Great Fun While Learning Seamanship

Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club's Tackers School Holiday Program

The Alfred's will once again be running our fantastic Holiday program this Easter School Holidays. The program provides a fun, safe and affordable introduction to sailing and the marine environment. Programs are tailored to age groups and conducted in the safety of Pittwater, under the supervision of fully qualified instructors. Our courses cater for both primary and secondary school ages!

Week 1: Monday 10th - Thursday 13th April.  Course Full
Week 2: Tuesday 18th - Friday 21st April.
Time: 9am – 3.30pm.

Where: The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.
How much: $480 Non-members - $380 Members.

Under 12: Tackers 1 – Having Fun
The Tackers program recognises that children learn differently to adults and teaches essential skills in a fun, games based environment. Young Tackers will spend time sailing, paddling, playing games, and learning to love the waterways - all under the watchful eye of our nationally accredited instructors. Safety is at the heart of the Tackers program, young participants will learn seamanship skills and a healthy respect for safety on the water. Kids can also do Tackers on Sundays during term time

Under 12: Tackers 2 – Tricks and Techniques
Tackers 2 is for those who have graduated Tackers 1, and is run in the second week of most school holidays. Kids in this course get the opportunity to sail on their own for the first time, and take some responsibility for the boat they are given. This course connects perfectly to our regular weekend sailing for those keen little ones.

Under 12: Tackers 3 – Sailing Fast!
Tackers 3 is the next step for those who have graduated from Tackers 1 and 2.  Kids sail on their own in one of the Club's fleet of poly optimists and learn the finer points of sailing fast such as sail trim and basic racing skills whilst playing games and having fun. 

What is involved in the School Holiday Program?
The School Holiday Program is designed to build kids confidence and knowledge of the sport of sailing in a safe and fun environment.  The days are split into two sessions (morning and afternoon) with lunch in the middle.  The group is also divided into two, with the younger kids (under 12) doing a Tackers course and the older kids doing our Hobie Adventure Program.  

The last day of the Program, all sailors join in as a big group and sail up to a “secret location”, one of the many beaches along Pittwater for a day of fun and mucking around. On the last day of the program, parents and guardians are invited to the a BBQ / Presentation at the Club from 3 – 3.30pm. 

What prerequisites are necessary before my child can participate?
Tackers 1 Course - no prior sailing experience is necessary.
Tackers 2 Course - your child must have graduates Tackers 1 (it is possible to do both courses over 1 school holiday)
Hobie Adventure Program - no prior sailing experience is necessary. 

The only other necessary prerequisite is that each child must be able to swim a minimum of 25 metres. This not only helps for the safety of the children but it usually proves the water confidence of the children.  
What type of boats are used?
Tackers runs in  the RPAYC owned Tackers boats, specially designed for young beginners. They are simple, robust, colourful, and most importantly inspire confidence.

The Hobie Adventure Program utilises Hobie Waves. These are plastic multihull boats that sailors can enjoy with their friends, whilst also being simple and confidence inspiring.

What is the duration of the course?
The Course runs over four days during the School Holiday Period.  Each day runs from 9am to 3.30pm. 

My Child can only make 3 days, can I get a discount?
Unfortunately, discounts are not provided.

My Child will miss one day, does this matter?
Ideally, it is best if the children attend every day of the camp.  However, unforeseen events and unavoidable commitments make this impossible, therefore missing a day is usually not a big deal as long as the Head Coach or the Sail Training Administrator are aware.  However, the first day of the Program is crucial to kids who have not had any previous sailing experience.  This is due to the instructors covering the basics of sailing and safety. Children who miss day 1 may become overwhelmed and underconfident as the other kids have a head start.
What is the Cancellation Policy?
Refunds will only be provided to cancellations made 2 weeks prior to the first day of the course. Cancellations made within 2 weeks of the course will result in loss of 50% of the course fees. Cancellations made within 24 hours of the course start or after the course has started will results in the loss of course fees. 
Do I need to be a member of The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club?
No, you do not need to be a member; however, we do offer a discounted rate to members of the RPAYC and RMYC. 

My child is a little nervous about sailing
We specialize with children who are not confident. We know how scary it can be for children and try to spend extra time with the children who are not confident or perhaps not as quick at picking up the skills as the others. Our instructors are keen to assist and help these students along.  Feel free to let the instructors or Sailing Office know about these fears, and we can help cater towards this. 

What safety precautions are there for the participants?
We take safety very seriously. We have on and off water policies that our fully qualified instructors follow and use to base their decisions upon.

When on the water all participants must wear life vests (Australian Standards Approved) which RPAYC supply and ensure fit snugly. There are constant reminders about sunburn and weather protection. Safety lessons are included into the course syllabus and cover a very broad range of water associated safety.

The Club and our instructors have met some very strict standards set by our governing bodies, the YAchting Australia, NSW Sport & Recreation and Work Cover NSW and the Child Protection Act. 

What qualifications do the instructors have?
The Instructors at RPAYC have a Dinghy Instructor Certificate from Yachting Australia, as well as Powerboat Handling Certificate and First Aid.  They also have a background in dinghy sailing with lots of knowledge and skills to pass down. 

How do I book into a course?
Bookings can be made online on the website here.  If you have any issues with enrollment, please don’t hesitate to contact the Sailing Office. Email: Phone: 9998 3761

What will my child need?
Each participant will need to bring:
  • A change of clothes
  • Sunscreen and Hat
  • Old shoes or rubber boots for sailing to stop cut or bruised feet
  • Water Bottle
  • Lunch
  • Towel
  • Wetsuit (if possible) or a warm jacket and spray jacket
  • Board shorts or swimmers
  • A plan ‘b’ in case you are late in picking them up at the end of the day
It is always best to over pack rather than under pack.  Bags will be left in the RPAYC Training Centre during the day. 

I don’t have a life Jacket / Can I bring my own Life Jacket?
RPAYC Provides Life Jackets to all participants.  These are Type 2 and Australian Standard Approved.  RPAYC has a large range of sizes in order to ensure that the child fits.  However, if you have your own lifejacket that fits, we recommend bringing this along.  An Instructor will check if it is suitable before heading out on the water. 

What is the next step after the School Holiday Program?
Participants are invited to return to the School Holiday Programs as many times as they like.  Another option is to join the weekend Tackers Program (7-12 Years).  This Program runs on Sundays and has 3 different levels.  Once a Participant has completed each level of Tackers (1,2,3 respectively), they will be ready to join the RPAYC Green Fleet.  At the Green Fleet level, participants have built their confidence and skills to be able to sail in the boat by themselves and will make the step to purchasing their first boat.  RPAYC will assist with this next step just as they have supported their sailors all through the Tackers Program.

2017 Emergency Services Awards Winners: Cadet Of The Year And Young Volunteer Of The Year

April 5th, 2017: NSW Government
Young volunteers across NSW have received awards for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and NSW State Emergency Service (SES) Cadet of the Year and Young Volunteer of the Year.

Sasha Cox, SES Cadet of the Year 2017, with Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant and NSW SES Commissioner Mark Smethurst
The winners of this year’s awards are:
  • RFS Cadet of the Year – Javen Ricevuto, Balranald Central School, Region South.
  • SES Cadet of the Year – Sasha Cox, Broken Hill High School, Far West Region.
  • RFS Young Volunteer of the Year (12-15 years) – Alexander Slade, Williamtown/Salt Ash Rural Fire Brigade, Region East.
  • RFS Young Volunteer of the Year (16-25 years) – Elizabeth Butt, Bendick Murrell Rural Fire Brigade, Region West.
  • SES Young Volunteer of the Year (16-25 years) –Yvette Amos, NSW SES Snowy River Unit, Southern Highlands Region.
Congratulating the winners, Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant said recent natural disasters in NSW highlight the invaluable contribution of volunteers and the need to recruit, train and retain young volunteers to ensure the strength of our emergency service agencies into the future.

“We cannot thank our emergency services volunteers enough. These impressive youngsters are already making a great contribution and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours,” Mr Grant said.

An increasing number of young people are volunteering for emergency service organisations, and NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said it was great to see their engagement and commitment.

“The effort and enthusiasm of young members in the RFS is significant and these awards acknowledge their hard work, camaraderie and community participation,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

NSW SES Commissioner Mark Smethurst said the NSW SES provides professional training and diverse experience so young people could take their enthusiasm for providing assistance and turn it into a professional career.

Flanders Memorial Garden Dedicated At Australian War Memorial

April 4, 2017: By Australian War Memorial
One hundred years after the bloody fighting of the First World War took thousands of lives in the battlefields of Flanders, a memorial garden has been created at the Australian War Memorial to ensure those Australians who never came home will be forever remembered. 

The region of Flanders, in the northern province of Belgium, is where the men of the Australian Imperial Force fought their most costly battles of the First World War. Of the more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the conflict, some 13,000 are either buried or commemorated in Flanders.

The Australians first arrived in Flanders in September 1916, having been relieved by the Canadians after the bitter fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm in France. They entered the relatively quiet St Eloi sector to rest and take on fresh reinforcements before returning to the Somme in November 1916.

Returning to Flanders in 1917, the Australians captured key German positions along the Messines Ridge in June before participating in the four-month-long campaign later termed the Third Battle of Ypres. Fighting at Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, and Passchendaele throughout September and October, the five Australian divisions made some advance but at an immense cost.

Of the 76,000 Australian casualties recorded in 1917, more than 38,000 occurred in just eight weeks during the Third Battle of Ypres. That October saw the AIF suffer more casualties than in any single month of the war, with more than 6,800 dead. The last major participation by the Australians was represented in the fighting for the Passchendaele, where waterlogged conditions helped make the village’s name synonymous with slaughter.

Nearly half of the 13,000 Australians who died during the bloody fighting in Flanders have no known grave. Instead, they are commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, which bears the names of the missing.

As a reminder of the sacrifices made and the partnership forged between Australia and Belgium as a result of these tragic events, a new memorial garden was dedicated today in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The Flanders Memorial Garden contains soil taken from the battlefields and war cemeteries across Flanders. This was mixed with soil collected by the Returned and Services League from significant military heritage sites in each Australian state and territory.

The garden sits within a formal grass court in the Memorial’s Western Precinct. It is constructed from Portland Stone – the same stone used on the arch and in the commemorative panels of the Menin Gate in Belgium.

Inscribed on the low stone walls is the text from John McCrae’s poem In Flanders fields:

In Flanders fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 Between the crosses, row on row,
 That mark our place: and in the sky
 The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
 We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 Loved and were loved, and now we lie
 In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
 To you from failing hands we throw
 The torch; be yours to hold it high.
 If ye break faith with us who die
 We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
 In Flanders fields.

Before the ceremony Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson reflected on the enduring partnership between Australia and Belgium, and how the garden serves to commemorate those who lost their lives 100 years ago.

“In the Great War, these men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice for Australia, the ideals of mankind, and the hope of a better world. A centenary gift from the people of Flanders, the garden is a reminder of the eternal truths by which we live, and the lives lost for them,” said Dr Nelson.

“As the Unknown Australian Soldier represents the physical remains of all Australians who have died in wars, the returning of this soil to Australia symbolises their spiritual homecoming.”

The evening before the dedication ceremony, members of Australia’s Federation Guard transported five hand-crafted boxes containing the Flanders soil from the Memorial forecourt into the Commemorative Area.

Made from Tasmanian Blackwood, the same timber used to make the coffin of the Unknown Australian Soldier, the boxes were brought past the names listed on the First World War Roll of Honour and placed them in the Hall of Memory. Resting adjacent to the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, they remained in symbolic vigil overnight.

The following morning the boxes were collected by Australia’s Federation Guard and taken to the official dedication ceremony, where they were placed in the garden. The ceremony was attended by the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Julie Bishop MP, and the Secretary General of the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Koen Verlaeckt.

The Governor-General spoke evocatively of the conditions faced by those who fought, citing “Australian men interred in dug-outs, trapped under duckboards, crushed by shell-fire; soldiers, cursing the mud with every fibre of their being.” Flanders, he said, was “always a sombre and sacred place … of carnage and courage, of desperate sacrifice and stoic endurance – (is) now a beautiful place.”

Mr Verlaeckt offered his government’s “everlasting gratitude” to Australia for the sacrifice of so many of its soldiers in 1917.

“Many of them rest forever in Flemish soil, far away from their loved ones. Inclusion of soil from Flanders in this garden brings them back symbolically, uniting them with the country of their birth.”

He added that, in the age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, “it is of the utmost importance that we create physical anchors of stability that invite our citizens to make time for reflection and remembrance”. 

The strains of “Oh Passchendaele”, performed by the Royal Military College, Duntroon, sounded through the cold Canberra air, and a traditional smoking ceremony was held by Ngunnawal elders to cleanse the site and bless the soil, the symbolic home of thousands.

Next to the Flanders Memorial Garden an interpretive panel features a quote from British Field Marshal Lord Plumer when he dedicated the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Ypres, in 1927:

"It can be said of each one in whose honour we are assembled here today: He is not missing; he is here.”

Soil Sites
Tyne Cot Cemetery
Menin Gate Ramparts
Polygon Wood
Toronto Avenue Cemetery
Hill 60

Anzac Memorial
Garden Island
Victoria Barracks (NSW)

Woden Valley (Yamba Homestead)
Jerrabomberra Wetlands (Duntroon Trench Warfare& Bombing School)

Torrens Training Depot
Outer Harbour
Keswick Barracks

Fremantle Port
Blackboy Hill

Hobart - Soldiers Memorial Avenue
King Island 'Northallerton'

Port of Darwin (East Port)

The Shrine of Remembrance
Maygar Barrack
Ballarat Avenue of Honour


Live stream of the opening and dedication of the Flanders Memorial Garden on YouTube and Facebook

Number Of New Flu Viruses Emerging Globally Heightens Pandemic Threat

April 6, 2017- Article by Gabrielle Dunlevy: UNSW
Researchers at the UNSW-led Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response warn of the increased risk of a human flu pandemic.
A worrying increase in the number of new influenza viruses infecting humans means the risk of pandemic is higher than ever, a new study by UNSW researchers shows.

Published in Archives of Public Health, the research by PhD student Dr Chau Bui shows that in the past five years alone, four novel subtypes and three novel variant strains of influenza have emerged in humans.

With recent unprecedented changes in avian influenza as well, there is an increased risk that a bird flu strain will emerge that can cause a human pandemic, says Dr Bui, a veterinarian who works within the UNSW-led NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence, Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response (ISER), which focuses on controlling epidemics.

“This urgency needs to be acknowledged by national and international pandemic planning organisations,” she says.

The increase in new flu viruses in the past 10 years is unprecedented. There is a concern that new avian influenza viruses will obtain the ability to transmit easily from human to human and cause a major global pandemic.

It took almost 40 years after the 1918 Spanish flu for the next novel influenza virus to emerge, and then more than 10 years for the next one. In contrast, in the five years between 2011 and 2015 alone, seven new strains have emerged in humans and they have appeared all over the world − China, Egypt, the US and Europe.

The reasons behind this escalation are unknown, but could be due to changes in climate, urbanisation and agricultural practices as well as better diagnostics. However, these factors have not changed as quickly as the escalation of new viruses.

Dr Bui says pandemic preparedness measures need to focus on preventing disease in birds, particularly poultry.

This includes better control efforts to reduce introductions of new viruses into poultry populations, and reducing the risk of virus transmission where humans interact with animals.

Co-author and director of ISER Professor Raina MacIntyre says it’s not possible to predict which virus will cause the next pandemic, as witnessed in 2009.

“Efforts in pandemic planning globally had focused on avian flu H5N1, but the pandemic which emerged (in 2009) was a completely different virus, unrelated to H5N1,” she says.

The research was presented on 3 April at the World Congress of Public Health in Melbourne, which conducted an activity to highlight the complex, cross-sectoral challenge of pandemic.

A One-Two Punch For Pancreatic Cancer: ‘Softening’ Tumours Before Chemo

April 6, 2017 - Article by Meredith Ross: UNSW
A two-step approach has had promising results in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, which has a dismal five-year survival rate of just 7%.

Australian scientists have uncovered a promising new approach to treating pancreatic cancer, by targeting the tissue around the tumour to make it ‘softer’ and more responsive to chemotherapy.

The findings are published today in Science Translational Medicine.

In the study, which was carried out in mice and in patient-derived samples, researchers primed pancreatic tumours with a three-day course of Fasudil – a drug that ‘slackens the ropes’ of surrounding tissue to make tumours softer, and also makes the blood vessels around tumours "leaky".

They then treated with standard-of-care chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.

Remarkably, this sequential two-step approach doubled survival time and also impaired the spread of cancer to other tissues.

Pancreatic cancer has a dismal five-year survival rate of just 7%, a figure that has scarcely changed in the last 40 years.

Combination chemotherapy, the standard-of-care for inoperable pancreatic cancer, is only moderately effective in extending survival.

“Our team, with pancreatic researchers around the world, is inspired by an international goal to double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020i – so it’s particularly exciting that we have been able to achieve this in preclinical models,” says Dr Paul Timpson (Garvan Institute of Medical Research), who co-led the study.

Dr Marina Pajic (Garvan) co-led the study with Dr Timpson, and both are UNSW conjoint senior lecturers.

Dr Pajic emphasises the clinical relevance of the study.

“We have tested the efficacy of priming before chemotherapy in multiple models, including patient-derived models of pancreatic cancer – so we believe our findings bring us closer to clinical translation.”

Pancreatic tumours, like all solid tumours, exist within a complex ‘nest’ of surrounding cells, blood vessels and other structures, known as the stroma. Interactions between cancer cells and the surrounding stromal architecture are important for tumour survival and progression.

By priming tumours with Fasudil, the researchers took aim at the stroma rather than at the tumour itself. Fasudil is an inhibitor of the protein ROCK, which typically acts on cells surrounding tumours to make them more stiff and to drive the progression of cancer.

Dr Timpson says, “There has been a heated and longstanding controversy in cancer research about whether targeting the stroma can make pancreatic tumours more susceptible to therapy.

“I think we have resolved that debate. We’ve been able to show for the first time that it’s crucial to treat the stroma first and the tumour second, and to fine-tune the treatment timing to maximise outcome, while minimising side-effects.

To fine-tune their sequential approach, the researchers used cutting-edge intravital microscopy techniques to peer directly into pancreatic tumours inside a living animal, and to watch, in real time and in three dimensions, how priming with Fasudil altered the tumour and its surrounding stroma.

They also watched how blood vessels surrounding the tumour were affected.

Dr Pajic says, “We saw the stroma weaken over time, and could also see that cancer cells did not spread so readily to secondary sites such as the liver.

“We also looked over time at the blood vessels supplying the tumour, using fluorescent quantum dots in the bloodstream. It was remarkable to watch the quantum dots radiate out from blood vessels adjacent to the tumours after Fasudil treatment – which is an indicator that the vessels have become leaky.”

The researchers conclude that priming with Fasudil makes tumours more susceptible to chemotherapy in two ways: by softening the stroma and by aiding the delivery of chemotherapies to the tumour by way of leakier blood vessels.

Importantly, the research team also showed that some pancreatic tumours respond more favourably than others to the sequential ‘priming therapy’. Using patient tumour samples from the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative, the team developed an automated analysis of tumour tissue to predict an individual tumour’s response to the sequential treatment.

Dr Timpson says, “What we’re seeing is that the therapy works best for tumours with large amounts of surrounding stroma, and tumours with a high density of surrounding blood vessels.”

For Drs Timpson and Pajic, the most exciting aspect of the research is its clinical potential.

“Fasudil is already in clinical use as a treatment for stroke in Japan and is off-patent – so there is strong potential to repurpose it for the treatment of pancreatic cancer,” Dr Pajic points out.

“Moreover, in the clinic, Fasudil is administered over a short three-day period, just as we have done in our study, and there is extensive safety data to validate this approach.

“We’d like to see Fasudil or other therapies translate into precision medicine approaches for pancreatic cancer in the future – so that individuals receive the therapies that are most appropriately matched based on the biology of their individual tumour.”

By working closely with expert clinician-scientists within The Kinghorn Cancer Centre (Sydney), a joint facility of Garvan and St Vincent’s Hospital and an established Phase I trials unit, the research team now aims to translate these findings into an early-stage clinical study to examine the safety of this new "priming" approach.

Drs Pajic and Timpson are also excited about the potential to translate the new approach to other solid tumours, which like pancreatic cancer are surrounded by stroma and have poor drug delivery and might be sensitised to treatment through priming.

Garvan is fortunate to receive outstanding support for its pancreatic cancer research program from organisations like the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation and individuals who understand the crucial role of medical research in making a difference in the clinic.

In 2015, Dr Timpson was awarded the Len Ainsworth Fellowship in Pancreatic Cancer Research, which provides significant financial support for his research. Dr Pajic holds the Philip Hemstritch Fellowship in Pancreatic Cancer Research, which was established in 2011 to assist Dr Pajic’s work to improve outcomes for those affected by pancreatic cancer.

The research was also supported by NHMRC, Cancer Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Cancer Institute NSW and Tour de Cure.

2017 Rural Women’s Award

April 5th, 2017: NSW Government
Emerging women leaders from across rural NSW and the ACT have been acknowledged at the 2017 NSW-ACT Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Award. 

RIRDC Rural Women's Award finalist Emma Doyle and winner Sandra Ireson with finalists Rebecca Barnes and Hayley Purbrick

The Rural Women’s Award(external link) identifies and supports women who have a desire, commitment, and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and rural communities.

This year’s winner of the Rural Women’s Award is Sandra Ireson, who received a bursary of $10,000.

Mrs Ireson started the Hay Inc. Rural Education Program, which provides hands-on training, mentoring and networking for young people starting out in primary industries.

“The program has already delivered substantial benefits to Hay, including raising the profile of the local agricultural industry, enhancing tourism and a greater recognition and understanding of the importance of food and fibre production,” said Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair.

The three finalists Rebecca Barnes, Emma Doyle and Hayley Purbrick received $1000 NSW DPI Leadership Bursary for skills and leadership development.

Mrs Ireson will now go on to compete for the National RIRDC Rural Women’s Award later this year at Parliament House, Canberra.

Find out more about the Rural Women’s Award

Ideal For Kangaroos: Out Of The Pouch, But Still Living At Home

April 5, 2017

Kangaroos feed in fission-fusion groups but mothers who isolate themselves with their young improve offspring survival.
Credit: Wendy J. King, Biology Department of the University de Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada

Young kangaroos are more likely to survive in the wild if they spend more time alone with their mothers than among others of their own species. They are also larger and heavier than other young kangaroos of comparable age when they spend more time with their mother, according to the findings of Wendy King of the University of Queensland in Australia, published inSpringer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) are gregarious animals. They live in so-called fission-fusion societies and usually forage in groups of three to four animals, possibly because this provides protection against predators. Rather than forming strong bonds with other female adults, kangaroo mothers prefer keeping close to their offspring. Females can produce a single offspring annually. After ten months, the young kangaroos permanently leave the safety of their mothers' pouches, but are only weaned by the age of 18 to 23 months. Some of these young kangaroos, referred to as young-at-foot, stay close to their mothers to suckle, even though she might already be caring for another kangaroo baby in her pouch.

To study aspects of parental care, King's research team observed 129 marked offspring, aged 10 to 21 months, and their mothers over six years in Wilsons Promontory National Park in Australia. The animals were tagged, and measured and weighed once a year.

Young kangaroos between the ages of 18 and 21 months who spent more time with their mothers were found to have six per cent longer limbs and weigh 19 per cent more by the age of two years than others. Those who spent more time alone with their mother between the ages of 10 to 13 months were most likely to survive until they were weaned. Prolonged nursing up to the age of 23 months provided more nutritional value to sons in terms of growth and development. The social bond between mothers and their daughters remained closer for longer than was the case with sons. Daughters kept close to their mothers even after being weaned.

King's team further established that the proportion of time that a young kangaroo spent alone with its mother closely correlated with suckling: both sons and daughters between 18 and 21 months of age whose mother had a new pouch young (and therefore must have been weaned) were less likely to be found alone with their mother than those whose mother did not have a new pouch young.

King notes that these sociability indices indicate different facets of the mother-offspring relationship in kangaroos.

"Because suckling juveniles follow their mothers, being in the same foraging group as the mother reflects their decision to stay with her as she moves among groups in this fission-fusion society," explains King. "In contrast, being alone with the mother is a reflection of the mother's decision to leave or join groups, with the offspring following."

According to King, the possible fitness consequences of mother-offspring behavioural associations could affect population dynamics. "These aspects are relevant to conservation when mothers may be harvested or killed by vehicles, as is the case for many large herbivores," she notes.

Wendy J. King, Marco Festa-Bianchet, Graeme Coulson, Anne W. Goldizen. Long-term consequences of mother-offspring associations in eastern grey kangaroos. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2017; 71 (5) DOI: 10.1007/s00265-017-2297-1

Prehistoric Art And Ornaments From Indonesian 'Ice Age'

April 3, 2017: Giffith University, South Australia

Dated to between 26,000 to 22,000 years ago, this humanly modified artefact consists of a drilled and perforated finger bone from an endemic bear cuscus. The hole at one end formerly bore a string, while wear marks on the ornament show that it repeatedly rubbed against human skin or clothing during the period of its use. These facts suggest the perforated bone was suspended for use as a 'pendant' or similar jewelry object.
Credit: Griffith University

The Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE) team, based in Griffith's Environmental Futures Research Institute, together with Indonesian colleagues, have shed new light on 'Ice Age' human culture and symbolism in a paper published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The study was co-led by Associate Professor Adam Brumm, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow, and Dr Michelle Langley, who also holds a fellowship from the ARC, analysed the recovered artefacts, and is the country's leading expert in the study of ancient ornaments and bone technology.

"Scientists have long been curious about the cultural lives of the first Homo sapiens to inhabit the lands to the immediate north of Australia sometime prior to 50,000 years ago -- part of the great movement of our species out of Africa," Associate Professor Brumm says.

"Some have argued that Pleistocene human culture declined in sophistication as Homo sapiens ventured beyond India into the Southeast Asian tropics and the island chains east of continental Eurasia, known as 'Wallacea'.

"However, the onset of new research programs in Wallacea is steadily dismantling this view."

Adding to the 2014 breakthrough discovery of 40,000-year-old cave art on the Wallacean island of Sulawesi, which is said to be some of the world's oldest, is a unique assemblage of previously unknown symbolic objects excavated from a Sulawesi cave site called Leang Bulu Bettue.

The recovered artefacts, dated to between 30,000 to 22,000 years ago, consist of disc-shaped beads made from a babirusa ('pig-deer') tooth and a pendant fashioned from the bone of a bear cuscus (a large and primitive possum-like marsupial found only on Sulawesi), as well as 'portable' art objects: stones incised with geometric patterns, the meaning of which is unknown.

Dr Langley's analysis also revealed extensive evidence for rock art production at the site, including discarded ochre pieces, ochre stains on tools, and a bone tube that may have been a 'blow-pipe' for creating hand stencil motifs, the earliest of which date to at least 40,000 years ago on Sulawesi.

"Previously, assemblages of multiple and diverse types of Pleistocene 'symbolic' artifacts were entirely undocumented from Wallacea," she said.

"It was also unknown if or how Sulawesi cave artists adorned their bodies or whether their artistic repertoire even extended beyond rock paintings. Our understanding of the symbolic lives of these people is now much richer."

The team says these early examples of art and 'jewellery' imply that the spiritual beliefs of modern humans may have transformed as they encountered new forms of animal life on the journey from Asia to Australia.

"Sulawesi, in particular, is renowned among biogeographers for its extremely high rate of species endemism -- essentially all of the island's land mammals, except for bats, occur nowhere else on earth," Associate Professor Brumm says.

"The discovery of ornaments manufactured from the bones and teeth of two of Sulawesi's flagship endemics -- babirusas and bear cuscuses -- and a previously recorded painting of a babirusa dated to at least 35,400 years ago, shows that humans were drawn to these dramatically new faunal species. This may indicate that the conceptual world of these people changed to incorporate exotic animals."

The researchers think that this 'symbolic negotiation' with novel species might have been fundamental to the later settlement of Australia, which harboured unprecedentedly rich communities of endemic faunas and floras.

They speculate that the human journey through the biogeographically unique zone of Wallacea might have prompted new ways of thinking about the natural world, suggesting elements of the complex human-animal spiritual relationships that define Aboriginal cultures may actually pre-date the initial colonization of Australia.

Rainer Grün et al. Early human symbolic behavior in the Late Pleistocene of Wallacea. PNAS, April 2017 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1619013114

Even 'Healthy' Weight Gain Raises Pregnancy Diabetes Risk

April 4, 2017: University of Queensland
University of Queensland School of Public Health researcher Akilew Adane said women who gained more than 2.5 per cent of their body weight each year had almost triple the risk of gestational diabetes compared to women who maintained a stable weight.

"Women with only a small weight gain each year (1.5 to 2.5 per cent of body weight) doubled their risk of gestational diabetes," Mr Adane said.

"Surprisingly, even women who were underweight or in the normal BMI range had an increased risk of gestational diabetes when they gained weight -- even if they remained within the healthy weight category.

"Women with small weight gains within the healthy BMI range doubled their risk of gestational diabetes compared to women whose weight remained stable."

Obesity is a known risk factor for gestational diabetes, which can lead to large babies, birth complications and long-term health risks for mothers and children.

Mr Adane said researchers set out to see what impact weight change had in the years leading up to pregnancy.

They tracked more than 3000 participants from the Women's Health Australia study (also known as the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health).

The women, aged between 18 and 23 when they joined the study in 1996, have answered regular surveys on their weight, physical activity, lifestyle, health issues, and pregnancies ever since.

"It's important for women and their clinicians to be aware that, even in the healthy BMI range, gaining a kilogram or two a year can be a health risk," Mr Adane said.

"For instance, a 60-kilogram, 166-centimetre woman is in a healthy BMI range, but if she gains 1.14kg each year for seven years (about two per cent of her body weight) her risk of gestational diabetes would double compared to a woman whose weight remained stable.

"It's likely that women who continue to gain weight through early adulthood may experience a modest, progressive insulin resistance, which is further exacerbated by pregnancy, even though their weight is still within the normal range."

The research is published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice and will be presented at the 15th World Congress of Public Health this week.

Akilew Awoke Adane, Leigh R. Tooth, Gita D. Mishra. Pre-pregnancy weight change and incidence of gestational diabetes mellitus: A finding from a prospective cohort study. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 2017; 124: 72 DOI: 10.1016/j.diabres.2016.12.014

Clinical Trial Shows Benefit Of Yoga For Side Effects Of Prostate Cancer Treatment

April 6, 2017: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Men who attended a structured yoga class twice a week during prostate cancer radiation treatment reported less fatigue and better sexual and urinary function than those who didn't, according to a clinical trial led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. It is the first randomized trial to look at the effect of twice-weekly yoga on the side-effects and quality of life issues caused by prostate cancer treatment. The results published this week in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics.

All of the patients in the trial underwent between six and nine weeks of external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer. The patients were randomized into two groups: one arm participated in a yoga class that met twice a week and the other arm served as a control group. Patients who already practiced yoga on their own were not eligible for the study, nor were patients with a history of prior radiation therapy or those with metastatic disease.

Only two instructors led classes for this study, with the lead instructor teaching 75 percent of the classes. Each session lasted 75 minutes, beginning with five minutes of breathing and centering techniques and ending with five minutes of Savasana, a common yoga position. Typical sessions incorporated sitting, standing, and reclining positions that were modified using props to adapt to each patient's needs and restrictions.

Patients were primarily evaluated on their level of fatigue. Each man filled out a nine-item questionnaire assessing fatigue severity and impact on daily life. The first questionnaire was given between two and three weeks before the start of radiotherapy, then twice a week while receiving radiotherapy, with a final survey filled out within a week of their last yoga class or last radiation treatment, depending on the assigned study arm.

"At their baseline, before patients started treatment, patients in both groups were on the lower end of the scale, meaning they reported lower amounts of fatigue," said the trial's principal investigator Neha Vapiwala, MD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology. "But as treatment went on, we observed a difference in the two groups." Patients in the yoga group reported lower fatigue scores over time, as they attended more yoga sessions, relative to where they started. Patients who did not participate in yoga trended in the opposite direction, reporting greater fatigue as treatment progressed.

"Levels of patient-reported fatigue are expected to increase by around the fourth or fifth week of a typical treatment course, but that did not happen in the yoga group," Vapiwala said. "Both the severity of the fatigue as well as the patients' ability to go about their normal lives appeared to be positively impacted in the yoga group."

Researchers also evaluated both groups in terms of their sexual health. Sexual dysfunction -- including but not limited to erectile dysfunction (ED) -- is reported by up to 85 percent of radiation therapy patients during treatment, often due to the concurrent use of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). The study utilized the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) questionnaire, in which scores range from 0-25. Scores greater than 21 are considered normal and scores below 12 indicate moderate to severe ED. Both groups started out with scores of around 11, and were balanced in terms of ADT exposure; but while the yoga group's score ended up largely unchanged from baseline, the non-yoga group saw a decline over the course of treatment.

"Yoga is known to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which is one of several postulated theories that may explain why this group did not demonstrate declining scores, as seen in the control group," Vapiwala said. "That may also explain the yoga patients' improved urinary function scores, another finding of this trial." Vapiwala pointed out that the findings on improved or stable urinary function are consistent with other research on the effects of physical therapy on pelvic floor muscles.

The trial also found that while the emotional well-being of both groups increased as patients progressed through treatment, the evaluation scores in the yoga group rose more rapidly than in the control group. An evaluation of physical well-being showed a similar pattern.

Avital Mazar Ben-Josef, Jerry Chen, Paul Wileyto, Abigail Doucette, Justin Bekelman, John Christodouleas, Curtiland Deville, Neha Vapiwala. Impact of Eischens Yoga During Radiation Therapy on Prostate Cancer Patient Symptoms and Quality of Life: A Randomized Phase II Trial.International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, 2017; DOI:10.1016/j.ijrobp.2017.03.043

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.