Inbox and Environment News: Issue 312

May 14 - 20, 2017: Issue 312

Have Your Say On NSW Government's Biodiversity Reforms 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017: Media Release - The Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, Minister for Trade and Industry and The Hon. Gabrielle Upton, Minister for the Environment 
The NSW Government will undertake one more round of public consultation before its improved and simpler land management reforms take effect.

NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said the new system would provide strong environmental safeguards, while ensuring routine farm work was exempt from regulation.

“These landmark reforms will allow our farmers to produce the food and fibre that we need and increase their productivity, while also producing better outcomes for our environment,” Mr Blair said.

“I am proud we will very soon deliver on an election commitment we made to farmers to repeal the unfair and ineffective Native Vegetation Act.”

This package is the final stage of the NSW Government’s land management and biodiversity conservation reforms.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the reforms were backed by an unprecedented investment of $100 million in the Saving Our Species program, as well as $240 million over five years, and $70 million each year after that, for private land conservation.

“These reforms also put in place strong protections for native plants and animals including threatened species,” Ms Upton said.

The regulations, codes and guidelines and other documents released for public comment are:
Facts sheets and guides that provide detailed information on key topic areas are also available to assist you in making a submission.
Consultation closes on 21 June and the reforms will commence on 25 August 2017. how to Make a submission here
For more information, visit

Amendments To Pittwater Local Environmental Plan

Proposed amendments are summarised as follows.
Amendment 1 – Clarifies a height control in Warriewood Valley that only applies to certain streets.
Amendment 2 – Specifies height limits for detached dual occupancies, rural workers dwellings and granny flats.
Amendment 3 – Amends the height limit on one property (individual letter to be sent)
Amendment 4 – Deletes a clause relating to Warriewood Sewerage Treatment Plant. This clause was deleted from the 1993 LEP but was put into the 2014 LEP as an error by the Department
Amendment 5 – Amends mapping relating to one property (individual letter to be sent)
Amendment 6 – This amendment is proposed to be removed from the planning proposal due to commentary already received from Roads and Maritime Services (Mona Vale Road Upgrades). It applied to one property.
Amendment 7 – Inserts higher detailed maps for Elanora and Newport commercial centres to better specify height limits. No actual changes to height limits.
Amendment 8 - Amends one clause relating to building on the foreshores
Amendment 9 – Allows an additional permitted use for ‘access structures ancillary to a dwelling’ to be constructed over land zoned for road widening. Portions relating to Mona Vale Road will be removed from the planning proposal due to commentary already received from Roads and Maritime Services (Mona Vale Road Upgrades). (individual letters to be sent)
Amendment 10 - Amends land zoning of Council land in Warriewood from R3 Medium Density Residential to RE1 Public Recreation (land has come into Council ownership – creekline corridor).
Amendment 11 – Removes a property from the land acquisition map. (Land has come into council ownership)
Amendment 12 – Changes the minimum lot sizes for three properties in Warriewood. (individual letters to be sent)

The current Pittwater Local Environmental Plan 2014 (PLEP 2014) was a translation of the previous Pittwater Local Environmental Plan 1993. However during the translation and implementation of the new plan, a number of minor errors were identified. A number of other ‘house-keeping’ matters to improve the plan have also been identified and are included within the proposal. This planning proposal intends to rectify those errors and improve the operation of the plan.

Read details of the changes:

Make a submission
• online  
• mail marked 'Minor Amendments Pittwater LEP' to Northern Beaches Council, PO Box 882, Mona Vale NSW 1660.

For any enquiries contact the Strategic Planning Team (Mona Vale) on 9970 1111.

Submissions close 22 May 2017

Applications Open For Threatened Species Recovery Fund

Media release: 5 May 2017 - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy
The Turnbull Government invites community organisations across Australia to apply for funding under the Government’s Threatened Species Recovery Fund to help fight extinction.

Through the Threatened Species Strategy, the Government is committed to turning around the fortunes of nationally-threatened species like the bilby, numbat, mountain pygmy possum, eastern bettong, cassowary, swift parrot and Australia’s endangered eucalyptus trees.

The $5 million Threatened Species Recovery Fund, through the National Landcare Programme, makes funds available for projects that can help meet the targets and objectives in the Threatened Species Strategy through strengthened community involvement in the recovery efforts.

The Fund will provide seed money and community grants—worth between $20,000 and $250,000 (GST exclusive)—for local projects that strongly align with the targets and objectives of the Strategy. The grants will be awarded to eligible groups through a competitive process.

This Fund further highlights the Turnbull Government’s commitment to protecting our native species.

Since the appointment of the Threatened Species Commissioner in June 2014, the Government has mobilised more than $211 million for projects that support and protect our threatened species.

We have delivered Australia’s first Threatened Species Strategy which sets out clear and measurable targets to secure the future of 20 priority birds, 20 priority mammals and 30 priority plants by 2020. It also commits to eradicating feral cats from five islands and establishing 10 mainland wildlife enclosures free of feral cats.

In February this year, I launched Australia’s first Threatened Species Prospectus, which invites business, industry and the philanthropic sector to partner with government to invest in over 50 science-based projects that fight extinction.

Community project proposals for support from the Fund that leverage private sector investment and align with projects in the Prospectus are encouraged.

More information on the Threatened Species Recovery Fund, including details on how to apply, can be found on the National Landcare Programme website: 
Applications close on 15 June 2017.

Harbour Trust Launches Amended Middle Head Management Plan 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017: by Sydney Harbour Trust
Public access and heritage preservation are priorities of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust’s amended Management Plan for Middle Head, adopted by Harbour Trust Board 11 April 2017.  The Plan, developed following extensive public consultation, will guide the management of the site into the future, ensuring the site’s heritage and environmental values are protected and the headland is managed as a unified precinct.

“This site is so important to the community, and we were pleased with the positive response to the consultation program held over the course of 2016. The community’s contribution has been vital in helping us achieve a Plan that provides the right balance for the site,” said Harbour Trust Executive Director, Mary Darwell.

“People told us they want to preserve and protect the natural environment, optimise open space and views, maximise public access and conserve and interpret heritage.  The Plan will guide the Harbour Trust in achieving these outcomes.

“Key outcomes include the creation of an accessible circuit path around the Middle Head precinct, which will link up with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) walking tracks. To complement the Plan the Harbour Trust work with the community and key stakeholders to develop an Interpretation Plan to tell the stories of the area’s Aboriginal, Defence and Australian School of Pacific Administration history,” she said.  

The Draft Plan was developed following an extensive public consultation program that included a public open day attended by more than 300 people, Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meetings, stakeholder meetings and more than 800 survey responses. The resulting Draft Middle Head Management Plan was exhibited for public comment for an extended period of six weeks in November and December 2016.

The consultation process was run jointly with the NPWS’s preparation of a draft management plan for its adjoining land in order to create a unified Headland Park and network of open space.

View the Consultation Summary and history of the consultation process.

New Dolphin Mitigation Strategies For The SPF And SESSF

10 May 2017: AFMA
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has implemented new dolphin mitigation strategies in the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) and the Gillnet Hook and Trap sector (GHAT) of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF). The strategies came into force on 10 May 2017.

The strategies have been developed following extensive consultation with fisheries stakeholders, marine mammal experts, and after a one month public comment period.

The SPF Dolphin Mitigation Strategy sets out the rules and consequences for interactions with dolphins in the SPF. It will apply to all trawling operations (including pair trawling) in the SPF. The SPF Dolphin Mitigation Strategy replaces the Small Pelagic Fishery (Closures) Direction No.1 2015.

Stage one of the Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy was implemented in 2014 and applied to the waters off the Coorong, South Australia. The new strategy (stage two) expands the revised Strategy across the whole gillnet sector.

Mid-Water Pair Trawling In Commonwealth SPF

10 May 2017: AFMA
The independent AFMA Commission approved the determination of mid-water pair trawling as an approved fishing method in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) until October 2018, subject to conditions and review.

Like all fishing operations in Commonwealth managed fisheries, any mid-water pair trawling operation will be subject to strict rules and conditions.

This decision was made after considering the best available science and data and taking into account advice sought from:
  • the South East Management Advisory Committee (SEMAC)
  • SPF Scientific Panel
  • SPF Stakeholder Forum
  • marine mammal and seabird experts
  • other interested stakeholders, as part of a public comment period.
Further detail on the Commission’s decision regarding mid-water pair trawling and summary of comments received during public consultation can be found on

AFMA must, by law, make science-based decisions and is required to pursue the objectives in the Fisheries Management Act 1991. These include ensuring that fishing is consistent with ecologically sustainable development, maximising the net economic returns to the Australian community and optimal utilisation of the living resources of the Australian Fishing Zone.

More information about the SPF can be found on the SPF FAQ page.

Paris 1.5°C Target May Be Smashed By 2026

May 8, 2017: University of New South Wales

The projected paths of global temperatures with a positive and negative Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. Credit: Study authors

Global temperatures could break through the 1.5°C barrier negotiated at the Paris conference as early as 2026 if a slow-moving, natural climate driver known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) has, as suspected, moved into a positive phase.

New research published in Geophysical Research Letters by University of Melbourne scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science shows that a positive IPO would likely produce a sharp acceleration in global warming over the next decade.

Since 1999, the IPO has been in a negative phase but consecutive record-breaking warm years in 2014, 2015 and 2016 have led climate researchers to suggest this may have changed. In the past, these positive phases have coincided with accelerated global warming.

"Even if the IPO remains in a negative phase, our research shows we will still likely see global temperatures break through the 1.5°C guardrail by 2031," said lead author Dr Ben Henley.

"If the world is to have any hope of meeting the Paris target, governments will need to pursue policies that not only reduce emissions but remove carbon from the atmosphere."

"Should we overshoot the 1.5°C limit, we must still aim to bring global temperatures back down and stabilise them at that level or lower."

The IPO has a profound impact on our climate because it is a powerful natural climate lever with a lot of momentum that changes very slowly over periods of 10-30 years.

During its positive phase the ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific are unusually warm and those outside this region to the north and south are often unusually cool. When the IPO enters a negative phase, this situation is reversed.

In the past, we have seen positive IPOs from 1925-1946 and again from 1977-1998. These were both periods that saw rapid increases in global average temperatures. The world experienced the reverse -- a prolonged negative phase -- from 1947-1976, when global temperatures stalled.

A striking characteristic of the most recent 21st Century negative phase of the IPO is that on this occasion global average surface temperatures continued to rise, just at a slower rate.

"Although the Earth has continued to warm during the temporary slowdown since around 2000, the reduced rate of warming in that period may have lulled us into a false sense of security. The positive phase of the IPO will likely correct this slowdown. If so, we can expect an acceleration in global warming in the coming decades," Dr Henley said.

"Policy makers should be aware of just how quickly we are approaching 1.5°C. The task of reducing emissions is very urgent indeed."

Benjamin J. Henley, Andrew D. King. Trajectories toward the 1.5°C Paris target: Modulation by the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. Geophysical Research Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/2017GL073480

2017 Eco Schools Grants Program Open For Applications

Media release: 26 April 2017
Educators and school communities are once again encouraged to apply for an Eco Schools Grant to ignite and nurture their students’ passion to learn about the environment. 

Eighty grants of $3,500 each are now available under the NSW Environmental Trust Eco Schools Grants program, which has supported a variety of environmental projects in schools from waste management to worm farms for nearly 20 years.  

Office of Environment and Heritage Executive Director Ian Hunter said the grants help provide curriculum-based environmental education for children and the program proudly funded its 1000th project last year.

“Eco Schools Grants recognise the important work of educators in environmental conservation projects and I encourage schools to apply for one of the eighty grants,” Mr Hunter said.

“Research shows that when young people develop an appreciation of the environment early on it influences their behaviours later in life.

“Schools are uniquely placed to teach students about sustainability, why it’s important to take care of our environment and what good environmental citizenship looks like,” Mr Hunter said. 

Teachers from Bonnyrigg High School in Sydney’s west used their Eco Schools Grant to bring history and science to life through environmental education with a medieval food garden.

“Students learned about garden functionality, soil health and sustainable living. Science students also used the plants to study photosynthesis and helped their school create a resource to facilitate hands-on learning for years to come,” Mr Hunter said.

“Grants this year will be offered to student-focused environmental management projects, including water and energy conservation, recycling, bush regeneration, habitat improvement and food gardens.

“Schools are also encouraged to develop projects for students with special needs,” Mr Hunter said.  
Interested schools in NSW are encouraged to register on theSustainable Schools NSW website  and grant applications can be submitted until Monday 19 June, 2017.

All registered schools in NSW can apply for funding for new projects or a separate additional stage of a previous project. Schools currently delivering an existing Eco Schools Grant funded project are not eligible.

Photo - Bonnyrigg Highschool Eco Schools Grants Garden
Educators and school communities are once again encouraged to apply for an Eco Schools Grant to ignite and nurture their students’ passion to learn about the environment. Photo Courtesy OEH

Correcting Adani’s Response To Evidence Of Abbot Point Pollution

May 4, 2017: Media Release - Australian Conservation Foundation
Adani has today contradicted its advice to the Queensland government, says the CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation Ms Kelly O’Shanassy.

Yesterday, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) issued a media release declaring that:

“Adani Abbot Point Bulkcoal provided a report to EHP on 24 April advising it had a water discharge on 30 March from a licensed point on the northern side of the terminal, containing 806mg/L of sediment.[1]

This release of polluted water, containing suspended solids at 800% the permitted concentration, was from a location where discharged wastewater flows out of the site, towards a beach to the north of the coal terminal, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

However, today, Adani has released a statement declaring that it:

“refutes assertions that its Abbot Point coal handling facility discharged contaminated water in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.”[2]

Ms O’Shanassy, who has a Science Honours degree and previously worked at the Victorian Environment Protection Authority said, “That Adani is now contradicting its own report of compliance with this licence is highly concerning. It raises fresh questions about Adani’s ability to self-monitor its environmental impact at the Abbot Point site and of the suitability of the Environment Department to rely on the company’s evidence.”

“Adani’s licence to pollute during Cyclone Debbie did not place any limit on the volume of contaminated water that it could discharge. It just limited the concentration of pollutants in the water to over 300% the normally permitted levels.

“Adani failed to meet even these relaxed pollution controls.

“An accurate assessment of whether Adani complied with its licence is entirely dependant on quality monitoring when the discharge of contaminated water was actually occurring. The adequacy of these arrangements have not been publicly disclosed.

“Determining compliance by sampling after the fact is highly challenging. This is because the presence of pollutants, such as coal, in the environment after the discharge has occurred is not sufficient to prove a breach - alarming as this is.

“The pollution license issued by the Department did not prohibit the release of pollutants, including coal, it merely restricted their concentration in the discharged water. Once the discharge has ceased, this concentration is, in most cases, next to impossible to determine.

“It is therefore highly concerning that the Department did not commence its investigation of the incident until over a week after Cyclone Debbie struck and did not collect samples until approximately two weeks after it occurred. This will severely hamper its ability to identify any breach of the licence.

“Last week a site inspection by the MacKay Conservation Group and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, accompanied by scientists, identified what looks like coal sediment in the Caley Valley Wetlands. This visible evidence flies in the face of Adani’s claims of no discharge from their coal port.” Ms O’Shanassy said.


Previously: Aquatics: The Caley Wetlands - Going, Going...GONE


Abbot Point Investigation Update

3 May 2017Media Release - QLD. Government's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) will consider compliance action against Adani Abbot Point Bulkcoal in respect of water released under a temporary emissions licence.

Director General Jim Reeves said Adani Abbot Point Bulkcoal was authorised to release water under a temporary emissions licence (TEL), for the period 27 to 30 March, which was granted to assist with site water management during and after TC Debbie.

"The TEL authorised total suspended solids releases of up to 100 milligrams per litre. However, Adani Abbot Point Bulkcoal provided a report to EHP on 24 April advising it had a water discharge on 30 March from a licensed point on the northern side of the terminal, containing 806mg/L of sediment.

"Under its environmental authority, terminal management is required to monitor all water releases and report any non-compliance to EHP.

"In this case, Adani Abbot Point Bulkcoal advised EHP that the non-compliant release from the licensed point on the northern side of the terminal did not enter the Caley Valley wetland, with further investigations by port management indicating that no coal-laden water entered any marine environment.

"Nonetheless, EHP took sand samples on the beach below the release point on 20 April to determine if there was coal present as a result of the water release, with results expected to be available by the week beginning 8 May 2017.

"DEHP will consider appropriate action in response to this non-compliance in accordance with its enforcement guidelines."

Mr Reeves said EHP was continuing to investigate water discharges and possible environmental contamination from the Abbot Point coal handling facility. This follows aerial imagery provided to EHP by the State Disaster Coordination Centre on 06 April that suggested there was sediment-laden water flowing from the port into the wetland.

"I want to assure all Queenslanders that as the environmental regulator EHP takes these matters very seriously.

"EHP will prepare a full report on its investigations which will provide the basis for decisions on what, if any, compliance action will occur.

"There are serious penalties for corporations whose non-compliance with their environmental authorities or temporary emissions licences causes environmental harm, including fines of up to $3.8 million if the non-compliance was wilful, or $2.7 million if the non-compliance was unintentional," Mr Reeves said.

Test Results From Coal Found On Beach In Mackay

11 May 2017: Media Release - QLD. Government's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) has received laboratory results from samples of coal and fine black material collectedon East Point Beach at Mackay early in 2017.

EHP began an investigation after receiving a report from a member of the public advising that lumps of coal were found on the beach in late 2016.

Two samples were analysed by an independent laboratory to determine the type of material and their origin.

The analysis of the coal could not determine where it came from.

The report said "While it is not entirely possible to pinpoint the exact region this coal is from, it is possible to rule out that this coal originated from the Bowen Basin and Galilee Basin."

Analysis of the fine black material showed it did not contain coal but contained magnetite, an oxide of iron.

The origin of the magnetite could not be determined by the laboratory analysis.

As part of the investigation, EHP inspected the Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay coal terminals.

Initial investigations found both coal terminals are operating in accordance with their environmental authorities.

Both terminals have committed to continuous improvement of on-site containment systems and ongoing monitoring and analysis at East Point Beach.

In February 2017, Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay coal terminals conducted their own sampling at East Point Beach.

Advice provided to EHP by the ports, found their samples may have been from the "Clermont/Blair Athol" seam, the "Gregory/Kestrel" seam or identified as "high rank Bowen Basin coking coals".

Abbot Coal Spill

Published on 10 May 2017 by AustConservationTV
Adani has admitted that they have breached their licence to pollute by 800%! We will not stand by and let them sacrifice our reef for a quick buck. 
Take ACTION here

Solar Powered Great Barrier Reef Research At AIMS

11th May 2017: AIMS
Research into the workings and wellbeing of Australia’s tropical marine environments has received a boost with the announcement of funding for the installation of renewable energy infrastructure at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) near Townsville.

With $1.8 million in funding delivered through the Australian Government’s Public Service Modernisation Fund, and announced as part of the Federal Budget 2017-2018, AIMS will commence planning and construction of an 800kW solar panel array at its Cape Ferguson headquarters during financial year 2017-18.

Speaking from Cape Ferguson today, AIMS CEO John Gunn said that installation of the $2.25 million system would result in more money being available for AIMS’ science activities. “We will save around $300,000 annually on electricity bills – savings that can be used to support the important work being done by our researchers”, said Mr Gunn.

A significant proportion of AIMS’ research focuses on the impact of climate global change on tropical marine ecosystems. “Increasing atmospheric CO2 levels are known to be driving climate change – this initiative will reduce the Institute’s carbon footprint by more than 800 tonnes annually”, noted Mr Gunn.

The Institute’s National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) is proving to be an invaluable tool in the fight to unravel the complex interplay of pressures on reef communities. “SeaSim is allowing us to undertake complex research that was not previously possible – including work on assessing the impact of increasing CO2 – this investment will help to reduce the recurrent cost of running this important research asset.”

“The Government’s commitment to supporting world class research infrastructure, as part of its National Innovation and Science Agenda, is helping to keep Australia at the forefront of tropical marine research internationally,” said Mr Gunn.

The National Sea Simulator is situated at AIMS' Cape Ferguson facility near Townsville, Queensland.

Budget 2017: Government Funds Pollution Over People And Nature

May 9, 2017: Media Release - Australian Conservation Foundation
  • 14% cut in environment budget since the Coalition formed government in 2013, projected to be a 27 per cent cut by 2020
  • $1.2 billion for environment budget 
  • $7.6 billion for polluting subsidies, more than 6 times the environment budget
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says Malcolm Turnbull’s budget puts big polluters ahead of the community and the air, water, forest and land that sustain us.

“The Turnbull government continues to allow big polluters to pollute and this budget will ensure that everyday Australians pay the price,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.

“Public spending to address climate pollution and safeguard the air we breathe, the water we drink and the places and wildlife we love will continue to endure brutal cuts. Meanwhile, billions in public funds are being handed to big polluters like coal companies.

“Malcolm Turnbull wants to give Adani a cheap billion dollar loan from his coal slush fund. This one loan is almost the same amount of money that our Prime Minister is willing to provide our nation’s rivers, reefs and forests this year. He’s lost his moral compass.  

“The government’s prioritisation of gas in this budget further demonstrates their failure to recognise the need for a long-term transition plan for Australia’s energy system. Budget measures which foreshadow investment in gas infrastructure and new gas exploration mean Australia will remain shackled to fossil fuels instead of accelerating the transition to renewables.”

“The Turnbull government seems determined to continued Tony Abbott’s environmental negligence.

“This is not a budget that gives our communities any confidence that our elected representatives are taking their responsibility to Australia’s reefs, rivers, people, forests and wildlife seriously.

“By choosing to prop up big polluting companies with loans and subsidies, our government is choosing not to invest in clean energy, education and creating a better future for our children and grandchildren.

“The government’s own State of the Environment report called for more spending on our reefs, rivers, forests and lands, not less.

“The Great Barrier Reef is dying right before our eyes because of pollution subsidised by the Australian Government. The Coalition’s budget choices are unworthy of a 21st century government.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies
  • No reform of the Fuel Tax Credit subsidy, which will cost Australians $6.3 billion next year and $27.1 billion to 2020.
  • No change to aviation fuel excise concessions which subsidise the fuel of the aviation sector; will cost Australians $1.3 billion next year, $5.8 billion over the next four years.
“Motorists will continue to pay over 40 cents in tax per litre every time they fill up, while some of the world’s biggest companies such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore Xstrata, pay no tax at all on the fuel they use.

“Our government is essentially mining the public purse to pay big polluting companies to wreck our climate and harm our communities for short-term gain.

“The unwillingness to tackle these subsidies stifles innovation and shackles Australia to old fashioned outdated fuel sources, while taking public money away from health, education, clean energy and protecting our environment.”

Energy and Climate Change
  • Government has announced an energy package which focuses on gas and the Snowy Hydro Scheme.  
  • Government affirms its election commitment to provide a $110m loan for a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta
  • No further funding for the Emission Reduction Fund.
Despite the Finkel Review, the Government’s Climate Policy Review, the Vehicle Emissions Review and the completed National Energy Productivity Plan, there is no funding to address Australia’s growing climate pollution.

Instead, the Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, is planning for failure, saying it is uncertain Australia can achieve net zero climate pollution by 2050.

“This budget is a missed opportunity to commit meaningful funding towards transforming Australia to a future powered by clean energy – one that will see our country get off coal, get into renewables, help workers with the transition and make our energy systems much more efficient.

“The expansion of Snowy Hydro will provide energy storage but it needs to be powered by renewables to be considered clean”  

Climate science
  • No further research funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. It has been given $600,000 next year to work with CSIRO to maintain an online database of specific parts of its research. It has no funding after that.
“The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility has no further research money, it is a research facility without funding for research. The Budget shows that the Turnbull government is not serious when it comes to climate science,

  • Government has committed to funding Landcare till 2022-23, total funding of $1 billion over the 7 years. However there is no new funding over the forward estimates above what has already been foreshadowed.
“ACF welcomes the government commitment to the future of Landcare and looks forward to further government prioritisation of Landcare through the Federal Budget”

Indigenous Rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas
  • Nothing new in the budget on Indigenous Ranger programs
  • 15m for new Indigenous Protected Areas from existing Environment funding 
“ACF welcomes the funding for new Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) in the budget, we will continue to support the long-term funding of IPAs and the expansion and long term funding of Indigenous ranger program. These provide positive community and environmental outcomes that the government should fund permanently like other ranger and protected area programs."

Future Of $1 Billion National Landcare Program Secure

Media release: 9 May 2017 - Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce and Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg​

​The Coalition Government has underlined the importance of Landcare by investing more than $1 billion in the National Landcare Program (NLP).
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said the NLP was a key demonstration of the Coalition’s commitment to supporting strong natural resource management and the environment.

Minister Joyce said the program continues to focus on practical, on-the-ground ways to improve issues like soil health, erosion management and water quality, making the program relevant to all land managers—but especially farmers.

“Our farmers manage about 53 per cent of our landmass and with global demand for food and fibre set to double by 2050 it’s important that we keep Landcare front and centre to assist them to manage our natural resources,” Minister Joyce said.

“Every farming family I know wants to pass on their land in better shape than when they got it and our investment through this Budget will help them achieve those goals.

“The NLP will focus on applying well researched and innovative land and water management techniques and tools on the ground, including an Agriculture small grants program and ongoing investment in regional delivery.

“My intention is to use a component of the NLP funding to eradicate Red Imported Fire Ants from south-east Queensland, because this work offers a strong return on investment for all Australians.

“Sixteen years’ worth of shared eradication and containment efforts can be brought to a close through this investment that will increase the intensity of treatment and surveillance for these ants, considered one of the world’s worst invasive species due to their devastating economic, environmental and social impacts.

“This is worth doing because modelling shows that without the combined efforts of the states and territories that allowed us to contain this pest the ants would have spread further south than Sydney and north of Rockhampton by now.”

Minister Frydenberg said for more than 25 years, the Landcare movement has been protecting, restoring and sustaining soils, water and the diversity of Australia’s unique plants and animals and its threatened species.  

“The $1 billion in funding we have delivered today is further evidence of this government’s commitment to continue this important work of looking after our environment,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“We will continue to support on-ground community projects that harness local know-how and deliver practical and tangible results.

“This funding will put the NLP in an even stronger position to continue to deliver for our nation’s environment, including the Great Barrier Reef.

“Resources for Indigenous Protected Areas will also be boosted to help provide employment, education and training opportunities for Indigenous people in remote areas while protecting our cultural heritage into the future.”

​Fast facts:
In Australia, there are around 5400 Landcare groups and 100,000 active volunteers in those groups.
Over 80 per cent of Australian farmers are involved in Landcare. 
The annual economic cost of managing pest animals in Australia is estimated at about $1 billion. The cost of managing weeds in Australia is four times that, at $4 billion.
More than 80 per cent of our mammals and 90 per cent of our trees, ferns and shrubs occur nowhere else on earth.
The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site encompassing 3000 coral reefs. It is worth approximately $5.2 billion to the tourism economy alone. 

Budget Invests In A Reliable Energy Future

Media release: 9 May 2017 - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
A $265 million energy package in the 2017 Federal Budget will ensure Australia maintains a secure, reliable and competitive energy system into the future.

The nation's energy system is undergoing its greatest transition since electricity became widely available in Australia. The measures in this package will set Australia up for a modern and dynamic energy system, allowing us to keep pace with changing energy technologies, as we transition to a lower emissions future.

We are supporting a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme with a study grant through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to examine the best locations to increase the Snowy's capacity to produce reliable, affordable renewable energy and provide pumped hydro storage.

The Commonwealth has indicated to the New South Wales and Victorian State Governments that, in order to accelerate the expansion of the Scheme, it is open to acquiring a larger share or outright ownership of Snowy Hydro, subject to some sensible conditions. These conditions include that the Scheme would have to remain in public hands and that Snowy Hydro's obligations under its water licence would be reaffirmed.

The Government is also looking at further hydro-electricity and pumped storage opportunities in Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland.

We are laying the groundwork for infrastructure development that will deliver more secure and reliable power into the medium term, including through a $5.2 million national interest and cost-benefit analysis study into the construction of gas pipelines from the Northern Territory and Western Australia to the east coast, through Moomba in South Australia.

Improving the transparency, competitiveness and long term security of Australia's east coast gas market is a priority for the Government as gas is a crucial energy source as we transition to a low carbon economy.

To expand gas supply as part of a package of about $90 million, the Government will extend funding by $30.4 million for the world leading Bioregional Assessments program to assess any potential impacts on waterways and aquifers from unconventional gas projects. Over the next three years the expanded program will examine new gas reserves and provide independent scientific advice to governments, landowners and the community, business and investors on future secure and reliable gas supply.

This package also includes $28.7 million over four years from 2017-18 to encourage and accelerate the responsible development of onshore gas for the domestic market.

To bring down the cost of gas for Australian families and businesses, the Government has already committed to the most substantial gas market reforms in two decades. To deliver these reforms sooner, the Government will provide $19.6 million over four years to the Gas Market Reform Group to better facilitate gas trading, encourage greater competition to place downwards pressure on prices and ensure gas markets are more transparent and accountable.

The Government has also committed $2.0 million to the Australian Energy Market Operator to improve publication of real time assessment of gas flows and market analysis, to make it easier for the market operator, businesses and investors to make informed decisions about gas market operations.

It is imperative the states continue to work with the Australian Government to overcome regulatory barriers and inconsistent policies, to support streamlined and accelerated development of new gas markets. This Budget provides $500,000 for this work.

By learning more from consumers, exploring innovative options to expand existing renewable energy sources and unlocking new energy supplies, the Government is building the future energy market.

The Government is committing $13.4 million to support an Energy Use Data Model - world class data linking, analysis and modelling being undertaken by the CSIRO - to improve energy market forecasting that will facilitate better energy management and infrastructure planning.

Commercial and residential consumers have already benefitted from smarter, lower emissions technologies developed and commercialised through ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

As part of this work the Turnbull Government will also make available up to $110 million to build a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta in South Australia and separately provide up to $36.6 million over two years from 2017-18 to target investment in energy infrastructure in South Australia under a bilateral Asset Recycling agreement.

The Australian Energy Regulator will receive an additional $7.95 million to scrutinise energy providers to ensure they are serving consumers' needs.

The Turnbull Government will provide $6.6 million over three years from 2017-18 to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to establish a monitoring regime for the gas market by using its inquiry powers to compel the gas industry to provide greater transparency of transactions in the gas market, including factors affecting supply and pricing.

The Government will also provide $7.9 million in 2017-18 to the ACCC to review retail electricity prices. The ACCC will produce a paper within six months on its preliminary insights into the strategies and pricing behaviours of key electricity retailers. The energy package will deliver practical actions to help Australians through the critical time over the next few summers while laying the foundations for long term reforms to ensure the energy market is better equipped to handle future challenges.

Longer-term changes to our energy system are being considered in the context of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market being conducted by Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, and the 2017 review of climate policies.

New Funding Announced For Digital Earth Australia

10 May 2017
Geoscience Australia welcomes the release of Budget 2017-18 by the Treasurer, which includes $15.3 million in new funding to establish the Digital Earth Australia over the next two years.

This investment by the Australian Government through the Department of Finance's Public Service Modernisation Fund will enable Geoscience Australia to transform the international award winning pilot project, the Australian Geoscience Data Cube, into Digital Earth Australia.

Geoscience Australia's CEO Dr James Johnson said Digital Earth Australia will make it quicker and easier to access Earth observation satellite data, translating almost 30 years of data into readily accessible information and insights about Australia's changing landscape and coastline.

Digital Earth Australia will make it quicker and easier to access Earth observation satellite data

"As a publicly available, free platform, Digital Earth Australia will open up new opportunities for a range of industries across the country, including agriculture, environment, mining and scientific research," Dr Johnson explained.

"Satellites have continually taken images of the Australian continent for decades, recording information about our land and water resources. This is currently warehoused in difficult to access government stores.

"Digital Earth Australia will provide reliable, standardised access to this data to build new commercial applications. This will support Australia's developing digital economy, and help to generate new jobs and business opportunities, particularly for small to medium enterprises."

Using the funding announced in Budget 2017-18, Geoscience Australia will take the complex work of applying science and technology to understanding the Earth and translate it into real-world benefits for all Australians.

Geoscience Australia is Australia's pre-eminent public sector geoscience organisation. We are the nation's trusted advisor on the geology and geography of Australia. We apply science and technology to describe and understand the Earth for the benefit of Australia.

Geoscience Australia's history dates back almost to Federation in 1901 when it was decided to set aside land for the national capital. This decision led to the establishment of the Australian Survey Office in 1910, when surveying began for the Australian Capital Territory.

Geoscience Australia came into being in 2001 when the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (AUSLIG) merged with the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO).

AGSO's predecessor organisation the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics (BMR) was established in 1946; with the name changing to AGSO in 1992. BMR's main objective was the systematic geological and geophysical mapping of the continent as the basis for informed mineral exploration.

AUSLIG's main function was to provide national geographic information. It was formed in 1987, when the Australian Survey Office joined with the Division of National Mapping, which was formed in 1947. Another important component of AUSLIG was the provision of satellite imagery to industry and government, started by the Australian Landsat Station in 1979, renamed the Australian Centre for Remote Sensing (ACRES) in 1986.

Since that time Geoscience Australia's activities have expanded and today it has responsibility for meeting the Australian Government's geoscience requirements. This role takes the Agency well beyond its historic focus on resource development to topics as diverse as natural hazards such as tsunami and earthquakes, environmental issues, including the impacts of climate change, groundwater research, marine and coastal research, carbon capture and storage and vegetation monitoring as well as Earth observations from space. Geoscience Australia's remit also extends beyond the Australian landmass to Australia's vast marine jurisdiction.

Noise Pollution From Gas Compressors Changes Abundance Of Insects, Spiders

May 9, 2017: Florida Museum of Natural History

Many arthropod families, including wolf spiders, dropped in numbers in response to compressor noise. The decrease in wolf spiders could be due to their reliance on subtle vibrations to detect prey. Credit: Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Lary Reeves

The relentless roar of natural gas compressors influences the numbers of insects and spiders nearby, triggering decreases in many types of arthropods sensitive to sounds and vibrations, a collaborative Florida Museum of Natural History study shows.

Populations of grasshoppers, froghoppers, velvet ants, wolf spiders and cave, camel and spider crickets dropped significantly in areas near gas compressors, while leafhopper numbers rose.

These shifts in arthropod communities could set off a cascade of larger-scale ecological consequences, as insects and spiders play fundamental roles in food webs, pollination, decomposition and overall ecological health, said study co-author Akito Kawahara, assistant professor and curator at the museum's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the University of Florida.

"Noise pollution affects all kinds of animals, and insects are no exception," Kawahara said. "They might be small, but they're the dominant animals on the planet in terms of numbers. What happens to them affects whole ecosystems."

The study joins a growing body of research on how artificial noise alters animal behavior and disrupts ecosystems and is the first to examine noise pollution's effects on arthropod distribution and community diversity.

Gas compressors, which can range from minivan- to warehouse-sized, extract and move natural gas along a pipeline, emitting intense, low-frequency noise. Previous studies have shown noise pollution from compressors changes the activity levels and distribution of bats and birds, key predators of insects and spiders.

Kawahara joined a multi-institutional research group, led by the study's first author Jessie Bunckley and principal investigator Jesse Barber of Boise State University, to test how the landscape-scale noise produced by gas compressors affects arthropod communities, many of which rely on sound and vibrations to find food, meet a mate, communicate and detect predators.

The research team used pitfall traps to take a census of spider and non-flying insect populations at San Juan Basin, New Mexico, the second largest natural gas field in the U.S. The team tested five sites with compressors and five ecologically-similar sites without compressors and compared the relative abundance of specimens.

Compressor sites had 95 percent fewer cave, camel and spider crickets, 52 percent fewer froghoppers and 24 percent fewer grasshoppers than sites without compressors. For every 10-decibel increase in noise, velvet ant populations dropped 56 percent and wolf spiders decreased by 44 percent. Unexpectedly, leafhopper numbers surged in response to noise, increasing 44 percent for each additional 10 decibels of sound.

Some arthropods, such as jumping spiders, ground spiders, ants and leaf beetles, showed no significant differences in their numbers between sites.

All arthropod groups that responded to louder background sound levels or compressor noise make or sense sounds or vibrations, suggesting compressor noise could directly interfere with or mask important information they receive or exchange.

Compressor noise could negatively affect wolf spiders, for example, because they are hunters that depend on vibrations to detect prey. Conversely, noise could act as a "predator shield" for leafhoppers, hiding their sounds and movements from their natural enemies.

But parsing out why a particular group of arthropods increased or decreased in response to compressor noise is difficult, Kawahara said. While the number of crickets in the Rhaphidophoridae family plunged in response to compressor noise, crickets in the Gryllidae family did not seem to be affected.

"The range of changes in arthropod abundance sheds light on the fact that we're dealing with a very complicated network of animal interactions," Kawahara said.

He pointed to the value of museum collections as archives of past biodiversity that can record changes to the environment over time.

"We are rapidly changing our environment in terms of sound, light, air and climate," he said. "Unless we have historical documentation of what was in an area at a particular time, it's hard to detect these changes at a fine scale. Museum specimens document biodiversity over hundreds of years, offering those snapshots of time."

Jessie P. Bunkley, Christopher J. W. McClure, Akito Y. Kawahara, Clinton D. Francis, Jesse R. Barber. Anthropogenic noise changes arthropod abundances. Ecology and Evolution, 2017; 7 (9): 2977 DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2698

Get Ready Australia… ABC’s War On Waste Starts In May

April 20, 2017: ABC
Australia generates a staggering amount of waste every year and alarmingly our waste is growing at double the rate of our population. Presenter and provocateur Craig Reucassel (The Chaser) tackles this growing issue in the thought-provoking, three-part series War on Waste, premiering Tuesday 16th May at 8.30pm on ABC and iview.

No stranger to confrontation, Craig takes on the supermarkets, challenges Australians to go waste free, discovers what really happens to our recycling and how Australia’s obsession with fast fashion is causing an even faster waste problem.

He tackles the immense problem of food waste, with millions of tonnes of food from our homes, supermarkets, farms and businesses ending up in landfill every year, uncovering why we are throwing out so much food and what we can do about it.  Plastic bags are causing a huge problem for the environment and with over 4-5 billion plastic bags thrown out every year, Craig explores how we can do things differently.

The daily morning coffee fix creates nearly a billion disposable coffee cups which end up in landfill each year, so Craig starts a campaign to reduce this unnecessary waste stream. #ByoCoffeeCup

To gauge our nation’s current attitudes and habits toward waste and recycling and how they may change after watching War on Waste, a public survey has been launched. The survey will help to understand where Australians are at and where we need to go to create change. You can access the survey at:

It’s time for all Australians to wake and declare a War on Waste.  With some simple ideas and small changes, we can all do our bit to care for the world we live in now and into the future.

Endangered Ecosystems Face The Chop Under Proposed New Tree-Clearing Regulations

May 10, 2017: Nature Conservation Council NSW
The Berejiklian government is embarking on the dangerous course of letting landholders decide for themselves whether they can clear many types of endangered ecosystems under new tree-clearing rules.

The draft land-clearing codes and regulations released today for public comment [1] would allow self-assessable, code-based clearing of high conservation value areas, including koala habitat, Crown lands, and threatened ecological communities.

Key environment groups are calling for changes to prevent an upsurge of land clearing across the state to protect economic, environmental and social services in rural and urban areas. They have also vowed to expose unacceptable land clearing.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “It is unreasonable to expect landholders without scientific qualifications to assess the ecological value of bushland and whether it can be cleared. Putting that responsibility onto landholders is unfair and unnecessarily risky. The codes must be strengthened to ensure permission to clear is only granted after proper assessment by suitably qualified professionals. 

“This is an opportunity for Premier Gladys Berejiklian put her stamp on the environment portfolio by strengthening the codes and making the Biodiversity Conservation Act less of a disaster.

“The codes will suit big agribusinesses that can pay ecologists to navigate the maze of complexity, but for the average family farmer these laws are going to be a headache. It’s likely that mistakes will be made and high conservation value bushland that our precious native wildlife depend on will be lost.”

WWF-Australia Australian Forest and Woodland Conservation Policy Manager Dr Francesca Andreoni said: “These reforms mean important endangered ecosystems and wildlife habitat can be cleared and puts iconic species such as the koala at risk.

“We will continue to work with local farmers, scientists, wildlife carers and others on ground to monitor tree clearing in areas that should be protected. 

“WWF has used high resolution mapping and satellite data to identify the areas of important native vegetation in northern NSW and will be reporting on this on an ongoing basis. 

“To leave our country healthy and in good shape for future generations, excessive tree clearing needs to be controlled to protect wildlife, farmland and waterways.”

National Parks Association CEO Kevin Evans said: “It beggars belief that only critically endangered ecological communities are to be spared from code-based clearing.

“The exclusions must be beefed up to make sure that vulnerable and endangered ecological communities are also protected, otherwise we’re just pushing them closer to the brink of extinction. How can this possibly be deemed okay under biodiversity legislation?

“The regulations state that core koala habitat is off limits to code-based clearing. But this only applies to core habitat identified under an approved plan of management. The stark reality is that only four local government areas in NSW have identified core koala habitat in approved plans.

“This is a loophole so big that it could hang an elephant. We need real protection for koalas, not paper protection. No ifs, no buts, no loopholes.”

Humane Society International Australia Senior Program Manager Evan Quartermain said: “The new Biodiversity Conservation Act and Local Land Services Act significantly weaken environmental protections for vulnerable native species and ecosystems.

“It is critical that before these new laws are switched on later this year, the codes and regulations must be strengthened to exclude many sensitive areas from code-based self-assessment.”

Total Environment Centre Director Jeff Angel said: “The government should seek to avoid escalating political costs as the new laws are rolled out.

“The destruction of each important ecosystem, lost soil and degraded water quality will land at their feet.

“We are leaving the door open for more improvements in this package, but we are also not prepared to endorse a package that puts native wildlife, clean water and sustainable soils at more risk.” 

Mine Rehabilitation Bonds Leave Taxpayers Paying To Clean Up The Industry’s Messes

May 11, 2017: Nature Conservation Council NSW
A new Auditor-General’s report has found environmental bonds have failed to keep pace with the environmental risks associated with the mining industry, which in NSW has risen by more than 400% in the past decade. [1]

“The NSW Auditor-General’s report confirms what we have been saying for years,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said. “Taxpayers are facing massive financial and environmental risks because the government does not make companies stump up enough money to cover the full costs of mine rehabilitation.

“It is a damning indictment of the successive state governments who have mismanagement this issue by putting mining company profits ahead of the environment, communities and taxpayers.”

The report found:
  • Environmental bonds have ballooned more than 400% between 2005 and 2016, from $500M to $2.2B, yet are unlikely “to cover the full costs of each mine’s rehabilitation in the event of a default”.
  • Formulas for calculating bonds are least four years out of date.
  • The bonds don’t cover long-term rehabilitation activities such as groundwater and mine void water management, rectification of rehabilitation failures, rectification of major vegetation/ ecosystem failures, and management of tailings dams.
“This report puts a big question mark over the Warkworth Sands and Wilpinjong mine extensions which were both approved on the basis of big rehabilitation promises,” Ms Smolski said.

“In light of the Auditor-General’s report, there should be a full independent review of these projects to see whether the numbers put forward by the mining companies stack up.”

Ms Smolski said the system of environmental bonds needed a complete overhaul.

“Not only do they fail to cover all the immediate environmental risks, they also fail to address the biggest hazard of all time – global climate change,” she said.

“If coal companies had to pay to repair the environmental damage their industry causes, these projects would never get off the ground.

"Instead, taxpayers and future generations are being forced to pay to clean up the mess because successive governments have given these companies a free ride.

“The government should require coal companies to take out insurance at market rates before they can turn the first sod.

"Let the market decide how much it will cost to rehabilitate these toxic sites, not government’s that have cozy relationships with these big companies.”

Conservation Groups Cry Foul On World Migratory Bird Day

May 10, 2017 - Nature Conservation Council, NSW
The NSW Government is subverting Australia’s obligation under international environmental treaties to protect migratory bird habitat, according to the Nature Conservation Council and Inland Rivers Network. 

“World Migratory Bird Day is a day of shame for the NSW Government because it is actively undermining national efforts to sustain healthy wetlands that are critical for the long-term survival of migratory water birds,” Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Kate Smolksi said.

“NSW constitutes the largest part of the Murray-Darling Basin, and uses the most water out of the river systems. Irrigators are using their political influence over the Berejiklian government to subvert a Howard-era national agreement designed to return our rivers and wetlands to ecological health.

“We calling out the Berejiklian government today, World Migratory Bird Day, and asking everybody who loves our inland rivers and wetlands and the birds they support to sign our petition to call on the state government to support a fair share of water for nature.”

Inland Rivers Network President Bev Smiles said: “The Macquarie Marshes and Gwydir wetlands are looking healthy right now after a pretty good wet season, but we know it is only a matter of time before there is another big drought.

“The NSW Government is not prepared to protect environmental flows from extraction for irrigation. This is disastrous for our beautiful wetlands and the birds that depend on them for survival. The NSW Government must honour its agreement to restore environmental flows as originally outlined in the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

“It is also critical that the Minister for the Environment maintains a concurrence role for water sharing plans in NSW to ensure that internationally significant wetlands like the Macquarie Marshes, Gwydir Wetlands and other key waterbird areas get a fair share of water to support key environments.”


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. 

North Coast Net Trial To End In June

Tuesday, 9 May 2017: Media Release - The Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, Minister for Trade and Industry
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair today announced June 13 as the end date for the six-month North Coast shark net trial.

Mr Blair said by mid-June the five trial nets at Lighthouse Beach (Ballina), Sharpes Beach (Ballina), Shelly Beach (Ballina), Seven Mile Beach (Lennox Head) and Evans Head Beach  will have been in the water for six months.

“The data from the trial will now be analysed by DPI shark scientists to assess the effectiveness of the nets,” Mr Blair said.

“We will also continue to consult with the local community to gauge their views on the outcomes of the trial.

“When the nets are removed, we will increase the number of SMART drumlines to 35 (currently 25) – this will also be the most effective measure as the whale migration period begins on the North Coast.”

Helicopter surveillance will continue to operate on the North Coast every weekend and daily flights will commence during the July school holidays.
Mr Blair said drones will also take to the skies again during the July school holidays to provide further surveillance at popular beaches.

Monthly data shows that more target sharks were caught using SMART drumlines:
North Coast Net Trial – Five month cumulative figures
 Six target sharks caught (two White, one Bull, three Tiger sharks); three deceased, three alive.
 A total of 244 non-target animals were caught in the nets; 117 were released alive (48%) and 127 (52%) were found deceased in the nets.

SMART Drumline - Five month cumulative figures
 29 target sharks (24 White, 3 Tiger and 2 Bull sharks); one White shark deceased (entangled), all others alive.
 Two non-target animals (both Greynurse sharks) were caught and both were released alive.

The NSW Government will now work with shark scientists, the Commonwealth and the community to determine the future of the nets with a decision expected by early spring.

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)

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. 

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

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.
For more information please visit the Major Projects website

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 

Online Support To Close Eating Disorder Gap

08 May 2017: Media Release - NSW Minister for Mental Health, The Hon. Tanya Davies
Minister for Mental Health, Tanya Davies, has today launched two vital online resources, one for people living with or at risk of developing an eating disorder, and a second for their families, friends and carers.

Navigating Your Way to Health and Navigating Their Way to Health both include tips on how to access help throughout the eating disorder treatment process, navigate treatment options, and assist carers and friends with information on how to best support their loved one and understand the recovery journey.

“These new evidence-based resources emphasise the importance of seeking help early, and will enable people experiencing an eating disorder, and their loved ones, to make some sense of what they are going through.

“The key is for this information to work alongside an individual’s treatment plan and navigate a way back to health,” Mrs Davies said.

Around four per cent of Australians are affected by an eating disorder at any one time, with almost 300,000 of those people living in NSW.

Navigating Your Way to Health and Navigating Their Way to Healthhave been developed by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health in collaboration with the Centre for Eating and Dieting Disorders at the Boden Institute, University of Sydney, the Butterfly Foundation and people with lived experience. The initiative has been funded by the NSW Government.

Ms Jaelea Skehan, Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health said having access to up-to-date information and support can be critical to recovering from an eating disorder.

“People can and do recover from eating disorders and our hope is that these resources make navigating the experience a little easier.

“We also need to ensure families, carers and friends look after themselves too, a factor that is often overlooked,” Ms Skehan said.

The resources complement the NSW Government’s Service Plan for People with Eating Disorders 2013 – 2018, which is being implemented in local health districts across the state to improve and redesign treatment services for people with eating disorders.

These resources are for any gender, age, culture, or stage of an eating disorder, and are available at Hunter institute for mental health and Centre for eating & dieting disorders.

For support: 
The Butterfly Foundation 1800 334 673 
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
Lifeline: 13 11 14 
beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 
eheadspace: eheadspace

Cannabis Trial For Chemotherapy Expanded

11 May 2017: Media release - NSW Minister for Health, The Hon. Brad Hazzard
The NSW Government is expanding the medicinal cannabis trial for chemotherapy patients to seven more hospitals across NSW.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced today that patients at Campbelltown, Concord, Royal North Shore, Calvary Mater Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie Base and Wollongong hospitals will be able to take part in the world-first trial for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting using new generation anti-nausea products alongside cannabis products.
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Camperdown is leading the chemotherapy trial, which looks at how a cannabis product can assist with nausea where standard treatments have failed. The trial has also been operating at Orange Health Service since December last year.
“NSW is leading the country in developing much-needed evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis by investing $21 million in ground-breaking clinical trials, research and reforms,” Mr Hazzard said.
“We have also committed $1 million of this towards cultivation research which will ensure any future domestic industry is of a high quality and suited to local conditions.
“Meanwhile, we are working closely with the Commonwealth to continue to support doctors wanting to prescribe appropriate medicinal cannabis products. A number of cannabis products have recently been imported from overseas in the hope of helping some of our sickest patients, removing a major barrier to accessing medicinal cannabis.”
Professor John Simes, Director of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Clinical Trials Centre, said: “Due to the very limited evidence worldwide, it is not known whether cannabis products may be able to help these patients where other medications have not – this study aims to provide a definitive answer to that question.”
The findings and recommendations of the Review of the Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme conducted by NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane AC, were also released today. Professor O’Kane recommended the scheme continue to be available to terminally ill people and noted that there is now a safer, legal prescribing pathway for non-terminal patients.

Commonwealth Ombudsman Acknowledges Reparation Payment Announcement

10 May 2017
The Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the announcement in the Federal Budget that the Defence Force Ombudsman’s (DFO) expanded function of receiving and responding to reports of serious abuse in Defence will now include a reparation payment.

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman looks forward to working constructively with government over the coming weeks to implement this decision.

Further details on eligibility for the payment will be announced in due course. Those who have already reported serious abuse to the DFO since 1 December 2016 will be assessed against those eligibility criteria, once they are finalised.

The Ombudsman will make no further comment at this time.

GPs To Refer Patients To Domestic Violence Support

May 8, 2017 NSW Government
GPs can now refer patients who are victims of domestic and family violence to specialist support services as part of the Safer Pathway program.

The Safer Pathway program has created a streamlined referral pathway for victims who are “at threat” or “at serious threat” by bringing together local representatives, including police, Family and Community Services and local specialist non-government domestic and family violence services.

If a patient’s life or safety is at serious threat of harm, based on the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool (DVSAT), a GP can make a referral without patient consent.

Through the program, GPs refer their patients experiencing domestic violence to their nearest Local Coordination Point.

Victims will then receive a phone call with an offer of coordinated support from a range of services including:
  • counselling
  • housing
  • financial assistance
  • legal assistance
  • court advocacy
  • security and safety upgrades
  • safety planning.
Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Pru Goward said that by being able to refer patients to Safer Pathway, GPs can provide victims with support when they need it the most.

“Many domestic violence victims do not report the violence they are experiencing to police or other specialist services, but they do seek medical attention and help from their GPs,” Ms Goward said.

Police Minister Troy Grant said we all have a role to play in breaking the cycle of domestic violence in our communities.

“Police, GPs and specialist services can now collaborate and work effectively to put victims first, acknowledging that the individual impacts of domestic violence can vary significantly case-by-case.”

Find out more about the Safer Pathway program

A Fairer Welfare System That Supports More People Into Work

9 May 2017- Joint Media Release with:
Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Employment
The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Human Services
The Turnbull Government is embarking on a comprehensive reform of Australia’s working-age welfare payments, guaranteeing the essential services that Australians rely on.

The reforms involve multiple, substantive and co-ordinated changes across the Social Services, Employment and Human Services portfolios.

These measures will deliver:
  • A simpler system for people receiving working age payments;
  • More encouragement in the system for people transitioning to work and greater support for people along the path to employment; and
  • Stricter compliance to ensure people are following the rules.
A simpler system
The Government will introduce a new, single JobSeeker Payment, which will replace or consolidate seven existing payments and simplify an often confusing and complex welfare system. From 20 March 2020 the JobSeeker Payment will progressively replace the Newstart Allowance; Sickness Allowance; Wife Pension; Partner Allowance; Bereavement Allowance; Widow B Pension; and Widow Allowance.

Provisions will be made within the new payment structure for people who have a temporary incapacity to work such as ill-health or bereavement.

Over 99 per cent of people will have no change to their payment rates. 

More encouragement and greater support
The Government is creating a clearer, more coherent set of mutual obligation requirements for working age payment recipients whilst increasing support available to help them find employment.

A new system of participation and mutual obligation rules will provide greater assurances that recipients have a responsibility to the taxpayer, themselves and their families to become increasingly financially independent through employment. 

New Mutual Obligation Rules
Consistent participation and mutual obligations will be properly monitored and enforced. This will ensure more people prepare for, search for and accept suitable employment. It is a fairer system.

From 20 September 2018:
  • Job seekers aged 30-49 years (approximately 270,000), will have activity requirements of 50 hours per fortnight, up from the current 30 hours.
  • Job seekers 55 to 59 years (approximately 40,000) will no longer be able to meet 30 hours of activity requirements through volunteering alone— flexibility will exist for some recipients in areas of high unemployment.
  • Job seekers 60 to Age Pension age (approximately 45,000) who currently have no activity requirements will be required to have 10 hours per fortnight of activity requirements which can all be met through volunteering.
To support working-age people in the welfare system achieve self-reliance, significant additional funding will also be directed to services to help them remain on a path towards employment.
  • $263 million to help parents prepare for work through a national expansion of the ParentsNext program in jobactive regions across Australia from 1 July 2018; and
  • $20.4 million to help increase the skills and experience of mature age job seekers. This includes the Career Transition Assistance Program, which from 1 July 2018, will provide more opportunities for mature age job seekers to retrain and reskill; an expansion of the National Work Experience Programme to provide more work experience opportunities and Pathway to Work Pilots to create additional job opportunities for job seekers, including mature age and people with disability.
Social Impact Investing Trials
The Government will invest $30 million to develop the social impact investment market and facilitate investment trials with State and Territory governments. Impact investing will harness private capital to support innovative approaches to solve complex social problems affecting the most vulnerable.  This will include a focus on projects addressing youth homelessness and welfare dependence.

Support for people affected by drug and alcohol abuse
Further support is being provided for people who have drug and alcohol abuse issues with recognition that undertaking recovery or rehabilitation programs for substance abuse is a legitimate step towards employment and should therefore form part of a Job Plan.

These measures will be combined with a two-year trial of random drug testing new welfare recipients across three locations. Participants who fail a first test will be placed on welfare quarantining and job seekers who test positive to more than one test would be referred to a contracted medical professional for an assessment of their substance abuse issues and any appropriate treatment options.

Support for at-risk individuals and vulnerable communities
A commitment to reduce social harm in areas with high levels of welfare dependency will continue through the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card to two new locations and an extension of the Income Management program for a further two years to June 2019.

Self-reliance before welfare
To ensure job seekers remain self-reliant and focused on securing work before entering the welfare system, from 20 September 2018 the maximum Liquid Assets Waiting Period will increase from 13 to 26 weeks when a claimant’s liquid assets are equal to or exceed $18,000 for singles without dependants or $36,000 for couples and singles with dependants.

Stronger and fairer compliance
The Government will introduce a new approach to compliance for job seekers, which both provides more support for vulnerable people and ensures that wilfully non-compliant job seekers who are currently gaming the system will face appropriate penalties.  

Two-thirds of job seekers do the right thing and rarely miss an appointment or other obligation. The Government, however, has identified approximately 100,000 people who continually fail in their obligations. Of these, around 40,000 people appear to be wilfully and systemically gaming the welfare system with no intention of working, but at present avoid any financial penalties. Last year, fewer than 10 per cent of those who committed a serious failure suffered any financial penalty at all.

Under a new approach, a demerits points Personal Responsibility Phase will be followed by a "three strikes" Intensive Compliance Phase to engage with welfare recipients early and prevent them from incurring financial penalties for not meeting their obligations.

In the first phase, job seekers will accrue demerit points for any mutual obligation failure. Once four demerit points are incurred over a six month period, they will be assessed to determine whether extra support is required or whether the person enters the Intensive Compliance Phase.  

Once in the Intensive Compliance Phase there are escalating financial penalties for each additional failure;
  • First strike:Loss of 50 per cent of a fortnightly payment.
  • Second strike: Loss of 100 per cent of a fortnightly payment.
  • Third strike:Cancellation of payment with a four week exclusion from re-applying.
Taxpayers rightly expect that Australia’s strong welfare system is provided to those who need it most and is not able to be manipulated by those who have little desire to work. The Turnbull Government will ensure that community expectations are met.

Stronger relationship verification
From 1 January 2018 a stronger relationship verification process for existing single parents will ensure people are not getting higher income support payments by claiming to be single when they are not. As of 20 September 2018 new claimants seeking Parenting Payment (Single) or single parents claiming Newstart Allowance will be required to have a third party sign a new form verifying that they are in fact single. Penalties of up to 12 months in prison may be applied to referees who provide a false declaration.

Tax File Numbers
From 1 January 2018, Tax File Numbers will be collected before income support payments are approved in order to streamline administration, provide legislative consistency and increase personal responsibility. Under the new arrangements claims will not be processed until a Tax File Number is provided.

Few countries provide the strong safety-net that we, in Australia, enjoy.

It is the responsibility of government to ensure our welfare system is sustainable into the future, and fair, so that it can continue to provide support to those most in need.

Taxpayers rightly expect that those that can work should work. The design of the welfare system and the very substantial spending on welfare must result in significant, long-term improvements in the outcomes for people most in need.

This year’s Budget represents a positive turning point for Australia’s welfare system to ensure it is focused on this key objective.

Consecutive governments have spoken about reforming Australia’s welfare system to ensure it is simpler and sustainable for taxpayers who are paying our welfare bill today, and for future generations who will also have to meet the cost of the system in the decades to come.

Under the Turnbull Government, this Budget turns words into action.

Large-Scale Urban Art Features On New Stamps

10th May 2017
Australia Post is releasing a stamp issue on street art, featuring four vibrant large-scale works painted in the streets of Melbourne and Adelaide by internationally respected artists.

Australia Post Philatelic Manager Michael Zsolt said: "Australia is known as one of the world's great locations for high-quality street art. Melbourne, in particular, is renowned for the many and varied works featured in its small laneways, as well as more prominent locations, often as part of official commissions. Many people appreciate these works of art as making an important contribution to a vibrant urban culture."

The four domestic base-rate ($1) stamps were designed by John White of the Australia Post Design Studio:

Mural by Adnate
Adnate's large-scale works can be seen all over the world. Commissioned by the City of Melbourne, his expressive 23-metre mural of an Indigenous boy was painted in Hosier Lane, Melbourne, in 2014. Adnate's portrait subjects are often members of Indigenous communities, and the artist has done a significant amount of fundraising work in this area.

$1 Street Art, Hosier Lane Melbourne, 2017 stamp. 

Portrait by Vans the Omega
Influential Adelaide-based artist Vans the Omega painted this vivid female portrait in Railway Terrace, Adelaide, in 2015. Producing works nationally and internationally for more than two decades, his stated influences are many and varied including ancient scripts and architecture.

$1 Street Art, Railway Terrace

Forever curious by Rone and Phibs
Two well-known Australian artists Rone and Phibs collaborated on Forever curious, the expressive portrait of a woman in Rutledge Lane, Melbourne, in June 2013. It was commissioned as part of a campaign to encourage exploration of Melbourne's laneways. As is the transient nature of much street art, it was painted over with blue paint by another artist only two months later. Both of these highly-respected artists have substantial profiles overseas.

$1 Street Art, Rutledge Lane

Shinka by Fin DAC
Irish-born artist Fin DAC employed a stencil and spray paint technique to create the vibrant mural Shinka, as part of the Little Rundle Street Art Project in Adelaide, in early 2016. Fin DAC specialises in large-scale portraits, often featuring women wearing masks and a mix of traditional cultural dress and western fashion.

$1 Street Art, Little Rundle St

The products associated with this stamp issue are a minisheet, first day cover, stamp pack, a set of four maxicards and a booklet of 10 x $1 self-adhesive stamps.

The Street art stamp issue is available from participating Post Offices, via mail order on 1800 331 794 and online at from 16 May 2017 while stocks last.

Visit the Australia Post Collectables website and stay up-to-date with new Australian stamp issues. The Australia Post Collectables website is a central resource for stamp collectors and philatelic enthusiasts across the globe.

Vale Mark Colvin 1952-2017

11th May 2017: ABC

The ABC is grieving the death of Mark Colvin, a giant of Australian journalism, at the age of 65.

A prominent part of the ABC for four decades as a reporter, correspondent and presenter, Mark was admired and respected by colleagues and audiences alike for his formidable intellect, sharp wit and absolute integrity.

His loss will be deeply felt in Australia and around the world, and especially by his mother, two sons and other family members.

ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie said: “For many Australians, Mark’s steady and measured voice as host of PM brought them the essential news of the day and kept them informed about events of national and international importance.

“We will miss him enormously, and extend our thoughts to his family and friends.”

Director, News Gaven Morris said: “Mark was one of Australia’s finest journalists. He leaves an unfillable void as a journalist, a colleague and a friend.

“He was an important part of the ABC community as a mentor and teacher to young reporters and as a voice of wisdom and experience to many older ones. Our reporters and producers felt strengthened by his presence in the newsroom and emboldened by the sound of his voice on our airwaves.”

All at the ABC extend our deepest condolences to Mark’s family.

Statement from the family of Mark Colvin
Today we lost our beloved Mark.

The family would like to thank the doctors and nurses at the Prince of Wales hospital, as well as the community, the ABC, his friends and colleagues, who have stood by him and supported his career and life.

At this moment of grief, we request the family be left to mourn in private.

Mark has asked that donations to the Prince of Wales Hospital Trust be made, in place of flowers.

Mark Colvin
Mark Colvin first joined the ABC as a cadet in February 1974, after graduating from Oxford University.

He went to work on the newly-founded 2JJ (the precursor to triple j) and spent three years presenting news, interviewing and producing current affairs and documentary specials. A year as a TV news producer in Canberra followed, then a year as one of the first reporters (along with Jenny Brockie, Paul Murphy and Andrew Olle) on Nationwide.

In 1980, at the age of 28, Mark was appointed the ABC’s London correspondent, travelling to cover such major stories as the American hostage crisis in Tehran and the rise of Solidarity in Poland. He returned to Australia in 1983 and was the founding presenter of The World Today on ABC Radio.

The following year, Mark went to Brussels as the ABC’s Europe Correspondent, covering the events right across the continent as the Cold War began to thaw and Mikhail Gorbachev began the process that would lead to the lifting of the Iron Curtain. That meant, among other things, broadcasting live from the history-making Reagan-Gorbachev summits in Geneva and Reykjavik.

From 1988 to 1992, Mark was a reporter for Four Corners, making films on the French massacre of Kanaks in New Caledonia, the extinction of Australia’s fauna, and the Cambodian peace process, among many others. His film on the Ethiopian famine won a Gold Medal at the New York Film Festival and was runner-up for an International Emmy Award.

In 1992 Mark was posted to London as the ABC’s TV Current Affairs Correspondent, mainly reporting for Foreign Correspondent, The 7.30 Report and Lateline. His language skills and long European experience paid off in stories such as the rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France, the Balkans war, and the revelations of how corruption and organised crime had infiltrated Italy’s post-war governments.

In 1994, after a visit to Rwanda and Zaire, Mark was taken ill with a rare autoimmune system disease, which nearly took his life. Many months in hospital followed.

Mark spent a further 18 months back in Europe before returning to Sydney in 1997 to take up the position of Presenter for ABC Radio’s PM, interviewing many of Australia’s political leaders and leading coverage of major international events such as the Arab Spring.

In 2016 he authored the book Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son – the incredible personal story of a father waging a secret war against communism during the Cold War, while his son comes of age as a journalist during the tumultuous Whitlam and Fraser years.

Coming Of Age Classics Digitally Restored By NFSA For Sydney Film Festival

10 MAY 2017: NFSA
Coming of age classic The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and ground-breaking documentaries Rocking the Foundations (1985) and My Survival as an Aboriginal (1978) will soon return to the big screen, digitally restored by the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), and premiering at the 2017 Sydney Film Festival.

The films have received the NFSA Restores treatment. NFSA Restores is an exciting digital restoration program, to revive icons from Australian cinema. The NFSA uses the best available original picture and sound material to digitise, restore and preserve, at the highest archival standards, cult, classic and hidden gems of the Australian film industry, so they can be enjoyed in today’s cinemas, preserved for future generations.

Previous NFSA Restores feature films include Proof (1991) and Storm Boy (1976). Rocking the Foundations and My Survival as an Aboriginal are the first feature documentaries to undergo the digital restoration process.

John Duigan, writer/director of The Year My Voice Broke , said: ‘Thanks to the care and meticulous attention to detail of the NFSA, a definitive and very beautiful digital version of the film will now be preserved, and I am delighted that it will be premiered as part of the 2017 Sydney Film Festival. The work of film preservation is of incalculable value to our culture. Without it whole swathes of our film heritage, including classics from the relatively recent past, may, sooner than we think, be lost forever.’

Associate Professor Kurt Iveson, from the University of Sydney, said about Rocking the Foundations : ‘The gripping insider account of the rise and fall of the green bans will inspire anyone who cares about urban environments, and how we can make them more just and sustainable. It’s decades old, but with our current public housing sell-offs, freeway projects, and developer-friendly governments, it could not be more timely.’

My Survival as an Aboriginal is presented in partnership with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). CEO (a/g) Craig Ritchie said: ‘AIATSIS is honoured to be the custodians of the original film components on behalf of producer Martha Ansara and the Muruwarri people. They have been stored and preserved for over two decades as part of the AIATSIS Collection, the world’s most extensive collection of materials related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Preparation and provision of the original components to the NFSA was possible thanks to the wonderful work of our Moving Image team, and the project is another great example of collaboration by our two organisations.’
Tickets are available from the Sydney Film Festival website:
Three NFSA Restores films will premiere at this year’s Sydney Film Festival:
Sat 10 June, 5.40pm, Event Cinemas George St cinema 8
Producers:  Doug Mitchell, George Miller, Terry Hayes
Director/Writer: John Duigan
Cast: Noah Taylor, Loene Carmen, Ben Mendelsohn, Harold Hopkins
This comedy-drama is both a nostalgic memoir of growing up in the countryside and a shocking denunciation of its values.  Danny (Noah Taylor) is a gawky 15-year-old, in love with his best friend, the beautiful and free-spirited Freya (Loene Carmen). They’re misfits in a country town in NSW in 1962. When Freya falls for Trevor (Ben Mendelsohn), football star and apprentice delinquent, Danny’s sexual longing turns to jealous confusion. As he tries to win her back, Danny uncovers a dark secret in the town’s past.
Detailed notes by Paul Byrnes: 

Sat 17 June, 3.30pm, Event Cinemas George St cinema 9
Producer/Director: Pat Fiske
Writers: Graham Pitts, Pat Fiske
Rocking the Foundations covers the New South Wales Builders’ Labourers Federation (BLF) from 1940 until its demise in 1975. Set against the massive social and political upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s – the Vietnam War, Aboriginal land rights, women’s liberation and the environmental movement – the documentary depicts how the NSW BLF membership, by using their collective power, succeeded in preventing the massive destruction of many of Sydney’s historic areas, residential neighbourhoods, public parks and harbour shore.

Sun 18 June, 2:55pm, Event Cinemas George St cinema 8
A documentary about Indigenous woman Essie Coffey and her life in the township of Brewarrina, or Dodge City, as it is also known. It was the first documentary directed by an Indigenous woman, and it offered a solution by way of continuing cultural practice.
Producers:  Martha Ansara, Alec Morgan, Kimble Rendall, Rosalie Higson, Kit Guyatt, Annmarie Chandler, Essie Coffey
Director: Essie Coffey

Oldest Evidence Of Life On Land Found In 3.48 Billion-Year-Old Australian Rocks

May 10, 2017
Fossils discovered by UNSW scientists in 3.48 billion year old hot spring deposits in the Pilbara region of Western Australia have pushed back by 580 million years the earliest known existence of microbial life on land.

Previously, the world's oldest evidence for microbial life on land came from 2.7- 2.9 billion-year-old deposits in South Africa containing organic matter-rich ancient soils.

Spherical bubbles preserved in 3.48 billion-year-old rocks in the Dresser Formation in the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia provide evidence for early life having lived in ancient hot springs on land. Credit: UNSW

"Our exciting findings don't just extend back the record of life living in hot springs by 3 billion years, they indicate that life was inhabiting the land much earlier than previously thought, by up to about 580 million years," says study first author, UNSW PhD candidate, Tara Djokic.

"This may have implications for an origin of life in freshwater hot springs on land, rather than the more widely discussed idea that life developed in the ocean and adapted to land later."

Scientists are considering two hypotheses regarding the origin of life. Either that it began in deep sea hydrothermal vents, or alternatively that it began on land in a version of Charles Darwin's "warm little pond."

"The discovery of potential biological signatures in these ancient hot springs in Western Australia provides a geological perspective that may lend weight to a land-based origin of life," says Ms Djokic.

"Our research also has major implications for the search for life on Mars, because the red planet has ancient hot spring deposits of a similar age to the Dresser Formation in the Pilbara.

"Of the top three potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover, Columbia Hills is indicated as a hot spring environment. If life can be preserved in hot springs so far back in Earth's history, then there is a good chance it could be preserved in Martian hot springs too."

The study, by Ms Djokic and Professors Martin Van Kranendonk, Malcolm Walter and Colin Ward of UNSW Sydney, and Professor Kathleen Campbell of the University of Auckland, is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers studied exceptionally well-preserved deposits which are approximately 3.5 billion years old in the ancient Dresser Formation in the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia.

They interpreted the deposits were formed on land, not in the ocean, by identifying the presence of geyserite – a mineral deposit formed from near boiling-temperature, silica-rich, fluids that is only found in a terrestrial hot spring environment. Previously, the oldest known geyserite had been identified from rocks about 400 million years old.

Within the Pilbara hotspring deposits, the researchers also discovered stromatolites – layered rock structures created by communities of ancient microbes. And there were other signs of early life in the deposits as well, including fossilised micro-stromatolites, microbial palisade texture and well preserved bubbles that are inferred to have been trapped in a sticky substance (microbial) to preserve the bubble shape.

“This shows a diverse variety of life existed in fresh water, on land, very early in Earth’s history,” says Professor Van Kranendonk, Director of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology and head of the UNSW school of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“The Pilbara deposits are the same age as much of the crust of Mars, which makes hot spring deposits on the red planet an exciting target for our quest to find fossilised life there.”

Motivations Of Extreme Sports

May 9, 2017: Queensland University of Technology
Researchers have debunked the myth that extreme sportsmen and women are adrenalin junkies with a death wish, according to a new study.

The research has been published in the latest edition of Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research and Practice by QUT Adjunct Professor Eric Brymer, who is currently based at Leeds Beckett University in the UK, and QUT Professor Robert Schweitzer.

Professors Brymer and Schweitzer said extreme sports were leisure activities in which a mismanaged mistake or accident could result in death, such as BASE jumping, big wave surfing and solo rope free climbing.

"Extreme sports have developed into a worldwide phenomenon and we are witnessing an unprecedented interest in and engagement with these activities," Professor Brymer said.

"While participant numbers in many traditional team and individual sports such as golf, basketball and racket sports seem to have declined over the past decade, participant numbers in extreme sports have surged, making it a multi-million dollar industry."

Professor Brymer said until now there had been a gross misunderstanding of what motivates people to take part in extreme sports, with many writing it off as an activity for adrenalin junkies.

"Our research has shown people who engage in extreme sports are anything but irresponsible risk-takers with a death wish. They are highly trained individuals with a deep knowledge of themselves, the activity and the environment who do it to have an experience that is life enhancing and life changing," he said.

"The experience is very hard to describe in the same way that love is hard to describe. It makes the participant feel very alive where all senses seem to be working better than in everyday life, as if the participant is transcending everyday ways of being and glimpsing their own potential.

"For example, BASE jumpers talk about being able to see all the colours and nooks and crannies of the rock as they zoom past at 300km/h, or extreme climbers feel like they are floating and dancing with the rock. People talk about time slowing down and merging with nature."

Professor Schweitzer said understanding motivations for extreme sports were important to understanding humans.

"Far from the traditional risk-focused assumptions, extreme sports participation facilitates more positive psychological experiences and express human values such as humility, harmony, creativity, spirituality and a vital sense of self that enriches everyday life," Professor Schweitzer said.

He said because extreme sports participants found it hard to put their experiences into words, the research project had taken a new approach to understanding the data.

"So rather than a theory based approach which may make judgements that don't reflect the lived experience of extreme sports participants, we took a phenomenological approach to ensure we went in with an open mind," he said.

"This allowed us to focus on the lived-experience of extreme sport with the goal of explaining themes that are consistent with participants' experience.

"By doing this we were able to, for the first time, conceptualise such experiences as potentially representing endeavours at the extreme end of human agency, that is making choices to engage in activity which may in certain circumstances lead to death.

"However, such experiences have been shown to be affirmative of life and the potential for transformation.

"Extreme sport has the potential to induce non-ordinary states of consciousness that are at once powerful and meaningful.

"These experiences enrich the lives of participants and provide a further glimpse into what it means to be human."

Eric Brymer, Robert D. Schweitzer. Evoking the ineffable: The phenomenology of extreme sports.. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2017; 4 (1): 63 DOI: 10.1037/cns0000111

PNG History Makers Tell Their Stories

10 May 2017: University of QLD.
A new website hosting interviews with prominent Papua New Guineans on the period leading up to and following that nation’s independence from Australia in 1975 has been launched today.

PNG Speaks’ has been developed by the National Museum and Art Gallery of Papua New Guinea, The University of Queensland (UQ), Deakin University and the Australian Government to preserve Papua New Guinea’s oral history.  

Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery acting Director Mr Senea Greh said the PNG Speaks project provided important insights into how Papua New Guineans experienced the transition to an independent nation in 1975. 

“This project comes at a time when we are looking back at PNG’s path to independence over the years since the end of World War II,” he said.

“This is the subject of a major exhibition at the National Museum and Art Gallery, scheduled for later in 2017.”

UQ’s School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry Adjunct Professor and former Australian High Commissioner to PNG Mr Ian Kemish said the figures interviewed represented only a sample of the many people who had important views and recollections to share on the period.

“We recognise that, given the many thousands of Papua New Guineans who participated in the independence period, this website will remain a work in progress for many years,” Mr Kemish said.

Deakin University’s Dr Jonathan Ritchie said Dr Anne Dickson-Waiko from the University of Papua New Guinea and Professor Musawe Sinebare from the University of Goroka had played significant roles in the planning and conduct of interviews.

“This project is an important element in a broader body of oral history research which sheds light on key moments in PNG’s rich history,” Dr Ritchie said.

Those interviewed so far have included Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, former PNGDF Commander Ted Diro, prominent journalist Biga Lebasi, former senior public servants Charles Lepani and Jean Kekedo, Papuan separatist leader Dame Josephine Abaijah and political scientist and former premier Stephen Pokawin.

The website also contains resources, including a digitised version of A Papua New Guinea Political Chronicle by UQ’s Emeritus Professor Clive Moore and Dr Mary Kooyman, which provides detailed contemporary accounts of PNG political developments from 1967-1991.

Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Mr Bruce Davis said the High Commission was pleased to have partnered with organisations in Papua New Guinea and Australia to support the project.

“To better understand one’s history is to understand the opportunities of the future, which is why projects like this are so important,” Mr Davis said.

UQ Adjunct Professor and former High Commissioner to PNG Ian Kemish AM (centre) at a Kokoda ceremony with the late Ben Moide (right), a WW2 veteran

Environmental Approval Boosts Economic Development And Jobs In Northern Australia

Joint media release
11 May 2017: The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy
Senator the Hon. Matthew Canavan
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia
The Coalition Government has approved under national environment law a prawn aquaculture facility in the Northern Territory that will have significant benefits for the local and regional economies.

The development, known as Project Sea Dragon, is the initiative of Australian agri-food company Seafarms Group Ltd.

Stage 1 of Project Sea Dragon will result in a nearly threefold increase in Australia's farmed prawn production, and a 55 per cent increase in Australia's total production.

Once fully implemented, it is anticipated Project Sea Dragon will produce over 100,000 tonnes of prawns each year and generate an export revenue of $1.6 billion each year.

The first phase of the project, near the border of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, will include a facility at Legune Station where the prawns will grow to size, a breeding centre at Bynoe Harbour and export facilities at Wyndham and/or Darwin.

At full scale the project will create up to 1500 direct jobs in Northern Australia. Construction of the first phase alone will engage over 400 construction workers.

The environmental approval requires Seafarms to follow strict conditions to protect matters of national environmental significance including migratory birds, sawfish and the flatback turtle.

The company will carefully manage matters such as wastewater and impacts from light and noise. An independent scientific advisory group will be established to help monitor protection measures and make sure they are working.

This builds on their proven track record operating aquaculture facilities in North Queensland, using best practice environmental management and state of the art farming practices and facilities.

This is a massive boost for Northern Australia and an example of how the government is working with companies to support economic development in the North, in a way that is sustainable and protects Australia's unique environment.

TEDxSydney 2017

Our flagship TEDxSydney event is a unique and vital day of talks, films, music and debate, and is one of the largest TEDx events in the world.

TEDxSydney 2017 will take place on Friday 16 June at our new home at ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour, allowing us to welcome a record number of attendees into our TEDxSydney community.

It is clear that 2017 is a time of great flux and disruption. Many of our beliefs are being challenged, or even turned completely upside down, for better or for worse. In times such as these, it feels as though we need guidance, inspiration and hope more than ever before.

TEDxSydney has always believed in ideas that can change the world. Our speakers, curated from a wide cross-section of disciplines and backgrounds, don’t just argue for change; instead, they show us how to make change real.

As an attendee, you’ll get the chance to witness, first-hand, the unique TED-style combination of transformative talks delivered in a vibrant and passionate community atmosphere. You’ll also watch a stellar live program featuring some of our country’s finest musicians, along with a hand-picked selection of new Australian short films, created especially for TEDxSydney.

The day would not be complete without a special TEDxSydney food program (morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are all included in the registration price), the one-of-a-kind TEDxSydney Tote Bag (filled with books, gifts and special treats) and the chance to meet other members of the TEDxSydney community and exchange ideas, foster friendships and kickstart collaborations.

We are thrilled to announce our initial line-up of Australian speakers who will be sharing their bold ideas on 16 June at ICC Sydney.  They are:
  • Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder and co-CEO of the software company Atlassian
  • Uncle Jack Charles, award-winning actor, Aboriginal elder and musician
  • Jordan Raskopoulos, comedian, actor, singer and co-creator of The Axis of Awesome
  • Sarah Houbolt, Paralympic swimmer and circus performer
  • David Hunt, award winning Australian historian, satirist and author
  • Tom Griffiths, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Berkeley University
  • Bronwyn King, Australian radiation oncologist
  • Scott Griffiths, researcher of male body dissatisfaction and eating disorders
  • Judy Atkinson, community worker and academic in the fields of violence, trauma and healing
  • David Power, helping to end the threat of illegal fishing and overfishing to Pacific Island communities
  • Sarah Blasko, acclaimed singer, songwriter, musician and producer
  • Gawurra, award-winning Yolngu singer-songwriter
  • Ngaiire, one of Australia’s most unique and fearless musicians
More speakers and performers, as well as details of our Film program and Fast Ideas pitch competition, will be announced in the weeks leading up to the event.

TEDxSydney is designed as a full-day event. Price for attendance in 2017 is held at 2016 prices – standard attendance is $350, and a limited number of concession places are available at $175. Registration includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, as well a TEDxSydney tote bag with exclusive attendee-only merchandise.

Attendance to TEDxSydney 2017 is open to all TEDxSydney Members on a first come, first served basis.

TO REGISTER, click below to log in to your Member Profile. Once logged in, you’ll find an option to  Register Attendance for 2017.  Please ensure that your Member Profile is up-to-date before registering.


SYDNEY (Friday, May 12, 2017): from Surfing NSW
Junior surfers from all over the globe will once again venture to the northern NSW coastline in July to contest the 2017 Skullcandy Oz Grom Open pres. by Vissla at Lennox Head.
The premier six-day event will kick off from July 7 – July 12th 2017 and crown champions across 12, 14 and 16 age divisions.
David Chegwyn from Skullcandy stated: “Skullcandy is very pleased to sponsor the Skullcandy Oz Grom Open for the sixth year. We are extremely thankful and impressed that we have been able to work with Le-Ba Boardriders and the local community to promote and elevate junior surfing in the local area. The local areas and its local surfers are world class and the Skullcandy Oz Grom Open is an event we are really proud of.”
John Mossop from Vissla echoed similar sentiments: “2016 was the maiden year Vissla was involved with the Skullcandy Oz Grom Open and we felt privileged to be part of the prestigious event. The competition has long been regarded as one of the best junior events on the planet and it is a solid window of who tomorrow’s champions will be.”
In a similar vein to preceding years - where the event has attracted surfers from ten different countries - a full international field is again expected in 2017 with surfers coming from as far away as Europe, USA and Japan to make up a field of more than 170 surfers. 
All event divisions will be broadcast live on
Entries into the event will open at 5 pm, Thursday 15th May on
For more information on the event, please contact or call (02) 9349 7055.
The Skullcandy Oz Grom Open presented by Vissla is proudly supported by Skullcandy, Vissla, Ballina Shire Council, Le-Ba Boardriders and Surfing NSW. 

Photo by Ethan Smith / Surfing NSW

Acclaimed Youth Program Helps Combat Cyberbullying

Media release: May 11 2017
Films featured in the Rewrite Your Story youth program have taken home Gold at the World Media Festival in Hamburg. This comes just weeks after the program won a Bronze World Medal at New York Festivals TV and Film Awards last month.

The award-winning program, developed by the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, features real-life experiences of young people facing various forms of cyberbullying.

Brave Australia Creative Director Chris Benz was also recently awarded Best Director in an Online Drama Project at the Australian Directors Guild Awards for his work on Rewrite Your Story.

“We’re incredibly proud of the recognition Rewrite Your Story has received. These accolades help to solidify the quality of this program, both as an educational tool and as a short film series,” says Julie Inman Grant, Children’s eSafety Commissioner.

One of the award-winning films, Zach, was released today for the first time publicly to coincide with the latest achievement.

“Zach’s story resonates with many teens, especially those who are targeted because they don’t quite fit the mould at school. We want to get young people talking about these issues, reinforcing a positive message about not letting others define you,” says Inman Grant.

Rewrite Your Story is centred around eight short films depicting instances of cyberbullying that are designed to be conversation starters—leading young people to discuss the serious implications and possible solutions to cyberbullying.

The program includes a fresh youth-focussed website featuring youth-written blogs, professional advice and an interactive quiz. Other complementary resources include lesson plans for each short film, information for parents, and a series of visually engaging posters.

“We want young people to know they are not alone if they experience cyberbullying. Help is available, including reporting cyberbullying to us, to get the content removed,” says Inman Grant.

The next three films in the Rewrite Your Story series will be released in the following months.

For more information, go to:

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.