Inbox and Environment News: Issue 313

May 21 - 27, 2017: Issue 313

Review Of Complying Development In Greenfield Areas

The NSW Government is seeking your feedback on the Background Paper - A Review of Complying Development in Greenfield Areas and Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE) for a proposed new Greenfield Housing Code. 

We’re committed to speeding up the delivery of new homes in new land release (greenfield) areas to meet the needs of NSW’s growing population and improve housing affordability. 

Complying development is a streamlined planning and building approval which allows the construction of one and two storey homes and associated development, such as swimming pools and balconies, provided they comply with the pre-determined development standards in State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP). 

In 2014/2015, complying development certificates were issued on average in 20 days. Promoting the fast-tracked complying development approval pathway saves homeowners time and money. 

• recommendations to overcome barriers to using complying development in greenfield areas (for example delays with obtaining other approvals and the inability to carry out complying development on unregistered lots); 
• guidance on well-designed subdivisions for greenfield areas; 
• simplified and tailored development standards for complying development under a new Greenfield Housing Code. 

The proposed Greenfield Housing Code, is detailed in the EIE and will form part of the State policy for exempt and complying development. The simplified standards have been tailored to suit the requirements in greenfield areas, accommodating narrower lot widths, simplifying setbacks for ground and upper levels and allowing double garages on 10m wide lots. 

A simplified and tailored Greenfield Housing Code will make it easier and cheaper for people to find or build homes to suit their lifestyles, and help grow the economy by providing a boost to the housing industry and the wider NSW economy. 

The Code also ensures greenfield areas are leafier and more environmentally friendly by including landscaping requirements for complying developments. 

The Department also proposes developing a set of master planning and subdivision guidelines for greenfield areas to be used by councils to inform their own Development Control Plans and by applicants to provide details on developing well-designed subdivisions and masterplans. 

We welcome your feedback on the proposed Greenfield Housing Code, and in which new release areas it should apply.
Submissions can be made until 16 June 2017: 
• by email to: 
• by mail to: Director, Codes and Approval Pathways, NSW Department of Planning and Environment, GPO Box 39, Sydney, NSW 2001 

Key dates and other information
Exhibition Commences          16/05/2017
Exhibition Concludes          16/06/2017

Bird Walks And Talks 2017: PNHA

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

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

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

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

Fears 179 Koalas Lost To Bulldozers

18 May 2017: WWF Australia
As part of a major campaign to save koalas, WWF-Australia today released an analysis to show tree-clearing likely killed 179 koalas in southeast Queensland in just two years, further pushing them towards localised extinctions.
Releasing his findings on Endangered Species Day (May 19), WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said after bulldozers destroyed their forest homes the koalas would have perished.
The koalas were from the Moreton Bay region and had orthopaedic repairs on their broken limbs and was luckily able to be released. Dr Taylor said Qld Government landclearing reports showed that over 44 sq km of koala bushland – equal to about 4,400 rugby league fields – were bulldozed in SEQ from mid-2013 to mid-2015, following the weakening of tree protection by the former state government.
Using koala density maps* from the SEQ Koala Population Modelling Study, Dr Taylor calculated that the destroyed forest would have supported 179 koalas.
“Bulldoze their trees and you kiss the koalas goodbye – they’re forced to look for new homes and are then killed by cars or dogs. The only solution is state government action to rein in excessive tree-clearing,” said Dr Taylor.
Research shows more than 2,000 koalas suffering fractures were taken to wildlife hospitals in SEQ over a 13-year period.
Vehicle collisions and dog attacks caused 93% of the fractures and only 2% of the injured koalas survived.

Koala drinking beside a central Queensland road, March 2017 © Sue Gedda / WWF-Aus
RSPCA Qld also holds grave fears for the long-term survival of koalas in southeast Queensland.
“From March 31st 2016 to April 1st 2017, a staggering 323 koalas came into our Wildlife hospital at Wacol,” said RSPCA Qld’s Michael Beatty.
“A large percentage of these were victims of traffic accidents and dog attacks and of course these incidents are linked to habitat destruction. There are also increasing concerns about where koalas can be safely re-released,” Mr Beatty said.
On the Koala Coast, koalas have declined by about 80% from 1996-2014 and in Pine Rivers koalas have declined by about 55% from 1996-2014.
It’s estimated the rate of the Koala Coast and Pine Rivers declines will result in local extinctions for some populations within a small number of generations.
A new report prepared for WWF-Australia by Dr Christine Adams-Hosking shows that koalas are declining throughout Queensland – not just SEQ – with the destruction of trees forcing koalas into increasingly fragmented pockets of habitat.

53% decline in koalas across Qld
A panel of experts estimated that in Queensland overall, koalas have declined by 53% over the past three koala generations and the next three koala generations **
In southern inland Queensland, there has been an 80% decline in koala numbers, from an estimated 59,000 in 1995 to 11,600 in 2009.

In Central Queensland, 62 koala road deaths were recorded in a three-year period as traffic volume steadily increased as the mining industry expanded.

Researchers calculated that in some locations, koalas have on average less than 40 seconds to cross the road, and a much shorter window during peak periods.
WWF-Australia’s koala campaign aims to save the iconic species and other wildlife by protecting forests.
WWF-Australia is encouraging people to create and send a digital origami koala, called a KIMBY (Koala in my back yard), to key Queensland politicians to encourage them to take action to stop excessive tree-clearing.
*The University of Queensland study modelled koala density in forests in eight Local Government Areas: Moreton Bay Regional Council, Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Noosa Shire Council, Ipswich City Council, Brisbane City Council, Redland City Council, Logan City Council and Gold Coast City Council.
** A koala generation is 6 to 8 years – the time from birth to peak reproduction. 

Current status of the koala in Queensland & New South Wales - A report by Dr Christine Adams-Hosking, Honorary Research Fellow  for WWF-Australia, May 2017
  • Most koala populations in QLD and NSW have declined
  • There are many areas where koalas are rapidly declining
  • Koalas are currently persisting in increasingly fragmented pockets of habitat 
  • In QLD, koalas have declined by 53% over the past and future three koala generations 
  • In NSW, koalas have declined by 26% over the past and future three koala generations 
  • On the Koala Coast, koalas have declined by 80.25% from 1996-2014 
  • On the Koala Coast, koalas declined by 51% from 2006-2008 
  • In Pine Rivers, koalas declined by 54.28% from 1996-2014 
  • In southwest QLD, koalas declined by 80% between 1995-2009 
  • In the Pilliga Forests of western NSW, koalas have declined by 80%
  • In Coffs Harbour, koala populations are stable to gradually declining
  • In the Campbelltown LGA, koala populations are stable or increasing
  • In the Eden region, koala probability of occurrence has declined at an average rate of 70% every 10 years 
  • The Port Macquarie-Hastings LGA has an estimated 2,000 koalas, with 200 – 250 koalas admitted annually to its hospital 
  • On the Tweed Coast, occupancy by koalas has halved in recent years 
  • In Lismore, there has been an average range contraction of about 30% over the last three koala generations 
  • In the Byron region, existing coastal populations may be unsustainable in the absence of improved connectivity and decreasing habitat cover 
  • In Ballina, the koala population has high mortality and low breeding success which will inevitably lead to its extinction 
  • New threats such as climate change and mining continue, while the longstanding threats to koalas remain 
  • In arid and semi-arid regions of QLD and NSW, habitats that may have once provided refugia during times of drought are now highly disturbed and are unlikely to provide the required level of protection for the koala

Brandis Intervenes In W&J Court Action Against Adani

May 18, 2017 by Wangan Jagalingou
Traditional Owners fighting Adani appalled at improper political interference
The Attorney General, George Brandis, has intervened in a Federal Court hearing in which the Traditional Owners fighting Adani’s proposed coal mine are seeking to strike out a fake agreement Adani claims to have for the mine to proceed.

Senator Brandis’ intervention follows his second failure to rush through changes to the Native Title Act. The Attorney General has asked the Court to not make a ruling, but wait for the political process around the Native Title Bill to conclude. The Bill has not passed the Senate because of a lack of consultation with Traditional Owners around the country, and concern about key provisions.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, said, “The Attorney General has made an extraordinary and political intervention in matters before the court. Intervening in our case shows Brandis is working in billionaire Adani’s interests, not ensuring the proper administration of justice. Again, Brandis is making Native Title all about Adani’s mine instead of good law reform.

“Brandis should apply himself to good law reform, and let the court do its work. Instead he’s trying to influence the decisions of a judge in favour of a mining company.

“The Wangan and Jagalingou Council are seeking Federal Court orders to strike out the purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement [ILUA] filed by Adani Mining with the National Native Title Tribunal. The ILUA would authorise ‘extinguishment’ of our native title and allow the mine to proceed against our strong objections and our right to say ‘No’.

“The Federal Government has been attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to overturn the ruling in McGlade and protect Adani’s interests. Along with other Traditional Owners, we  continue to demand proper consultations and the necessary time to achieve consent for Native Title amendments”, he said.

Youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, said, “Adani didn’t negotiate and achieve the free prior informed consent of the W&J people. The meeting, which Adani and its barrackers claim achieved consent, with a 294 to 1 vote, is as fake as its ILUA. It is not a true expression of the W&J Traditional Owners.

“Over 220 of the attendees at Adani’s meeting are people who have never been involved in the W&J claim or decision making, and who are identified with other nations and claims, or didn’t identify an apical descent line.

“Many people were bussed in and paid for at Adani’s considerable expense. The majority of the claim group, which have three times rejected an ILUA with Adani, refused to participate in this stitch up of a meeting. They stayed away.” she said.

Lawyer for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Mr Colin Hardie, said, “My clients have four strong grounds against Adani’s purported ILUA. Since the law was confirmed in the recent Federal Court decision in McGlade, Adani do not even have a document that could be considered for registration.

“This is no mere technical hitch, but a fundamental failure of Adani to gain the consent of many of the families and primary Traditional Owners for their proposed mine. The absence of signatures on the document is because applicants were exercising their consciences and following the mandate to reject the deal, given to them by their families and the claim group on three occasions”.

The Upper House next sits on June 13.

The ILUA litigation
  • W&J are seeking Federal Court orders to strike out the purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement [ILUA] filed by Adani Mining with the National Native Title Tribunal. The ILUA would authorise ‘extinguishment’ of native title and allow the mine to proceed. This is one of four legal actions W&J have underway.
  • The ILUA litigation includes four grounds; one of which is that Adani does not have a valid ILUA capable of registration, since the law was confirmed in the recent Federal Court decision in McGlade. The Federal Government has been attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to overturn the ruling in McGlade and protect Adani’s interests.
  • The Attorney-General intervened under s 84A(1) of the Native Title Act 1993 saying “the Court should not determine the issue raised by the Applicants’ primary argument until the fate of the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 is known”.
  • W&J claim group have three times rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani – in December 2012, October 2014 and March 2016. Adani does not have the consent of the Traditional Owners for its mine.
  • The W&J Council vow to do everything in their power to stop Adani’s proposed mega-coal mine proceeding, and will fight all the way to the High Court if necessary.
  • Adani’s planned Carmichael mine – the biggest in Australian history – would destroy a vast tract of W&J’s ancestral lands and waters in the Galilee Basin.

Queensland Government Breaks Election Promise To Protect The Reef - Further Fast Tracking Of Adani's Reef Wrecking Coal Mine

Thursday 18 May 2017: Australian Marine Conservation Society
Today the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) responds to a story on ABC online that the Queensland Government is offering a royalty holiday to Adani that could cost the state $320 million in lost revenue.

Imogen Zethoven, Fight For Our Reef Campaign Director said: 

“The Queensland government made an election commitment that Adani must ensure its project is viable in an open, competitive marketplace. They also promised Labor would not do any secret deals.”

“It’s a tragic irony that as our Reef is in grave danger from climate change and coral bleaching our government is courting one of the world’s biggest coal mines, playing russian roulette with our Reef’s future.

“As Queenslanders still recover from the devastating effects of Cyclone Debbie, it’s sickening that our government is considering giving a billionaire a royalty holiday, as reported by the ABC. This is a project that will make extreme weather events like Cyclone Debbie more destructive and coral bleaching events more severe and frequent.”

“Adani can not be trusted with our Reef. We’ve already witnessed this at Abbot Point, where during Cyclone Debbie they broke their permit to pollute by 800%, at a discharge point right next to our Great Barrier Reef. They can’t cope with their existing infrastructure - expanding their facilities three fold is a recipe for disaster.

“The Carmichael project is a catastrophe in waiting - for our climate, tourism jobs, our economy and our Reef. Two thirds of our Reef has already suffered severe coral bleaching in the last two years. AMCS and our supporters are asking the Premier to keep her election promises - and to not give special treatment to this Reef wrecking development.”

Adani’s Legacy Revealed – Rehabilitation Fails Even Mining Industry Standards

May 15, 2017: Media Release - Lock the Gate
The Adani Carmichael mine would leave more than 3,300 hectares – an area 30 times the size of the Brisbane CBD – in a completely un-rehabilitated state, analysis by the Lock the Gate Alliance reveals today.

“Overall the Carmichael Mine would bequeath an enormous, dangerous legacy for Queensland,” said Rick Humphries from the Lock the Gate Alliance.

“Adani plans to leave a series of very large pit voids and a huge area of waste rock dumps that will severely degrade any future land use. In fact Adani is not even prepared to give assurances that any of these areas will be suitable for grazing after mining.

“The pit voids alone would cover more than 3,300 hectares, including high walls hundreds of metres deep. These large holes would remain in perpetuity and would permanently drain millions of litres of precious groundwater from surrounding aquifers.” 

“The waste rock dumps would cover a massive 8300 hectares and contain acid-producing mine waste. Adani has chosen the lowest cost option to cover this waste meaning these dumps would fail over the long term. 

“The mine would divert 88km of streams which would not be reinstated, the groundwater issues would not be addressed and the voids and dumps would leave a fundamentally altered and degraded landscape with a diminished economic and ecological value.

“Our analysis shows that rehabilitation plans for the Carmichael coal mine do not even come close to meeting mining industry standards and commitments, here or internationally.

“This is in stark contrast to the Mineral Council of Australia’s public commitment – ‘to ensure that this land is available for subsequent economic activities, conservation or community use’,” he said.1

Qld Fires On Ahead With Gas Development

Media Release: Monday, May 15, 2017 - Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines
The Honourable Dr Anthony Lynham

The Palaszczuk Government will soon release another 395 square kilometres of land for gas development to supply to the hungry east coast Australian market.

Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham told today’s Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association annual convention in Perth that two new parcel of lands totalling 395 square kilometres would be released in the Surat Basin in the next two months. 

Any gas produced will only be able to be sold in Australia. This comes on top of the 58 square kilometres the government released in February.

“This initiative shows again that Queensland is ahead of the pack on gas supply policy action,” Dr Lynham said.

“We had a positive response from industry to the first pilot release of land in February and it’s clear there’s an appetite in the market to develop Queensland’s gas reserves.

“Releasing more land will drive employment and investment in regional Queensland and eventually add to the gas currently available for domestic use.

The Palaszczuk Government has already:

put 58 square kilometres of land to tender, to be awarded by July
has a Gas Action Plan underway
commenced work with small to medium gas explorers on opportunities to progress to production.
Dr Lynham told APPEA members he would continue to seek funds from the Turnbull Government for a gas pipeline to open up the Galilee and Bowen Basins.

“New pipelines will help open up new potential gas producing areas like the Galilee and Bowen Basins and connect with major east coast energy users in centres like Townsville,” he said.

The new tenders should be awarded before the end of the year.

Successful tenders will  be required to complete environmental and other requirements before any land tenure can be granted,  including negotiating land access agreements with landowners and native title parties.

210 New Jobs As Sun Metals Solar Powers North Queensland Clean Energy Boom

Premier and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk
Minister for Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports and Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply
The Honourable Mark Bailey

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Construction has begun on Queensland’s largest industrial solar project which will see 1.3 million solar panels installed at the Sun Metals zinc refinery in North Queensland.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Energy Minister Mark Bailey, Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland Coralee O’Rourke and Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper were in Townsville today to tour the refinery and project site which, when completed, will deliver a new 125 megawatt renewable energy power station.

The Premier said this style of expansion was a prime example of the role renewable energy will play in the State’s future industrial landscape.

“Upon completion Sun Metals will be the largest single site user of renewable energy,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“This is a unique project and is a great example of an innovative company investing in its future and North Queensland.”

“This investment will help Sun Metals to secure its output by stabilising production costs, and will provide even more job security to the refinery’s 291 employees.”

Mr Bailey said this impressive solar project would also see the creation of 210 solar powered jobs during construction.

“Through government-owned Powerlink, the Palaszczuk Government will facilitate connection of Sun Metal’s new power station to the grid,” Mr Bailey said.

“This solar farm will see renewable energy added into Korea Zinc’s mix of base-load power required to run its zinc production line – with the solar farm supplying about a third of the refinery’s current baseload power needs.

“Use of renewable energy in this way not only demonstrates it as a reliable energy source for large-scale industry, but that Korea Zinc is committed to the people of North Queensland, to minimising carbon emissions and protecting the Great Barrier Reef.”

Mrs O’Rourke said this was another example of the clean energy boom which is occurring in Queensland under the Palaszczuk Government.

“Since January 2016, Queensland has seen an unprecedented level of renewable energy investment activity in North Queensland with over 780 MW of large-scale projects either commencing construction or securing financial support,” she said.

“These projects will deliver $1.6 billion of infrastructure spending to the north, while creating over 1,400 construction jobs.”

Sun Metals Chief Executive Officer Yun Choi said since its 1996 opening the refinery has played a significant economic role in Townsville and Queensland.  

“Current refinery operations see Sun Metals produce 225,000 tons of Zinc per annum using over 900,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year,” Mr Choi said.

“The development of the Sun Metals Corporation solar farm will see an additional 125 megawatt capacity of generation available to the National Electricity Market, underpinning the Queensland Government’s solar energy development policy, and a marked reduction in the carbon footprint of the refinery’s operations.

“The SMC Solar Farm investment of $199 million is the first step in Korea Zinc ensuring the long term viability of the existing refinery and also underpinning the potential for its expansion using world class new technology, with an investment decision due in late 2017.  

“An expanded refinery would see an additional $267 million invested and is expected to support up to 827 construction jobs during peak construction and an additional 100 permanent refinery workers once operational, all within North Queensland.  

“The refinery expansion will also see an increase in broader economic activity for Townsville with significant increase in Townsville Port activities, uplift for local suppliers and contractors and also, via use of new refining technology, reduced water usage and environmental outputs.

“We welcome the support of the Queensland Government and we look forward to partnering to facilitate the expansion of the refinery creating new investment, new jobs and a long term uplift for Port of Townsville operations and the wider Townsville community,” Mr Choi said.

The Sun Metals solar project is expected to be completed in early 2018 and fully commissioned and providing renewable energy into the refinery’s energy mix by April 2018.

A Short-Lived Gas Shortfall

May 18, 2017: Authors: Tim Forcey, Dylan McConnell - Australian-German Cliate and Energy College, University of Melbourne
Abstract: With the publication of the 9th March 2017 Gas Statement of Opportunities (GSOO), the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) cautioned that within 18 months, “shortfalls” of gas supply could lead to shortfalls in the supply of electricity generated by burning gas. AEMO suggested solutions to potential shortfalls that included the construction of new pipelines or Coal Seam Gas (CSG) fields.

Right: Front Page of report

Our report investigates AEMO’s gas-and-electricity-system modelling results as well as the communications that followed. We explore reasonable alternate conclusions that can be drawn by analysing AEMO’s published modelling inputs, assumptions, and results, and by contemplating future real-world events.

We find that although a “gas-price crisis” exists in eastern-Australia, a gas-supply shortfall is very unlikely to occur. Our review finds that the size of AEMO’s forecast shortfall is very small, amounting to no more than around 0.2% of annual supply. 

In addition, only eleven days after announcing its supply-gap concerns, AEMO essentially closed the gap when it published, on its website, updated (lower) electricity-demand forecasts that therefore lead to less demand for electricity generated by burning gas. 

In this report we also consider alternative solutions to gas shortfalls, and find that there is no need to expand gas-supply infrastructure.

New Report: No Gas Shortage In Australia, Renewables Cheaper Than Gas

May 18, 2017: Media release - Lock the Gate
A report by Melbourne University’s Climate and Energy College released today, debunks the myth of a gas shortage and shows the federal government’s push for more fracking across Australia is senseless, says Lock the Gate Alliance.

“This report confirms that there is no current or predicted gas supply shortage in Australia and so no basis for the push by the Federal Government and the gas industry to expand unconventional gasfields against the wishes of local communities,” Lock the Gate’s Phil Laird said.

“Escalating domestic gas prices have been caused not by a shortage in supply, but by gas exporters distorting our market and gouging domestic consumers,” Mr Laird said.

The report, titled ‘A Short-lived Gas Shortfall’, which was commissioned by Lock the Gate and The Wilderness Society, finds that:
  • The 2018 shortfall predicted in gas supply by the Australian Energy Market Operator on 9th March 2017 to much fanfare effectively ‘vanished’ just 11 days later due to an updated forecast.
  • Increased gas prices are not a result of a shortage but due to gas companies exporting much of their gas.
  • Wind and solar PV are cheaper forms of bulk energy than combined cycle gas turbines, and in some cases, the cost even of new-build renewable energy and storage is cheaper than generating electricity at existing gas power stations.
  • Storage technologies are competitive with open cycle gas turbines in providing flexible capacity.
“The report finds the falling costs of renewable energy and storage technologies, and the increasing gas costs, means that gas will not be a transition fuel in Australia. It’s now a bridge to nowhere.

“This report strengthens the resolve of farmers, Traditional Owners and communities across Australia to protect their water supplies and existing industries from unconventional gas.

“The NSW Government should take note and drop its ill-considered support for the Narrabri Gas Project which is not needed and will only deliver even more expensive gas,” Mr Laird said.

Energy And Mining Sectors Emit 80 Per Cent Of The State’s Carbon Pollution, And Their Emissions Are Still Climbing

May 18, 2017: Media Release - Nature Conservation Council 
Sector-by-sector pollution data released today by the federal Clean Energy Regulator reveals mining and coal-and-gas power stations emit more than 80 per cent of NSW’s carbon pollution. [1] 

“The figures also show emissions from these dirty sectors are increasing,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

“It’s time to take climate pollution seriously. Nobody wants more heatwaves, floods, bleached corals and shrinking snow seasons.”

“This demonstrates the hopeless failure of state and federal governments to address this problem, and underlines the urgent need for the state government to develop plans for rapidly ramping up renewables investment and for the orderly closure of the state’s coal-fired power stations.

“Our outdated electricity system is damaging the climate far more than any other sector in NSW.”

Pollution from the electricity and utilities sector during the reporting period (2014-15 to 2015-16) rose 6% to 53 million tonnes, accounting for about 60 per cent of reported emissions.

92% of this came from the big five coal-fired power stations: Liddell, Bayswater, Eraring and Vales Point in the Hunter and Central Coast regions; and Mount Piper near Lithgow.

Climate pollution from mining comes in second, with an additional 21.4% of reported emissions. Mining emissions remained steady during the two reporting periods (2014-15 to 2015-16) at 19 million tonnes. 

“Together, these two sectors account for 80 per cent of the problem,” Ms Smolski said.

“It’s clear a transition from coal and gas to clean energy must be a top priority for NSW.

“With only 7% of electricity in NSW coming from wind and solar, we lag well behind other states.

“People are looking to the Berejiklian government to turbo-charge the switch from a dirty polluting coal to a safe, secure and sustainable electricity system.”

Ms Smolski said the government must slash carbon pollution, increase the reliability of our power supply, and promote jobs by:

Setting enforceable targets to source 50% of NSW’s electricity from renewables by 2025 and 100% by 2030.
Planning for the quick, orderly closure of antiquated coal-fired power stations, ensuring the transition is fair for power-station workers and communities.
Creating incentives for storage technologies like batteries and pumped hydro to make our electricity grid more stable and reliable.
ANZSIC Division


Sowing New Seeds Of Knowledge About The Drivers Of Plant Diversity

May 17, 2017: University of Queensland
A new study of Australian wildflower communities is improving understanding of how climatic stress controls plant diversity, based on the strategies different species use to survive, grow and reproduce.

"Plant diversity tends to be lower in more stressful environments," says University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences' lecturer, and CSIRO researcher, Dr John Dwyer.

"However, we have a surprisingly poor understanding of the processes behind this observed pattern."

The study by Dr Dwyer and co-author Professor Daniel Laughlin from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, aims to advance ecological knowledge to better manage Australia's unique ecosystems and landscapes.

"We viewed each plant species as a combination of different characteristics, or 'traits', that determines how they tolerate stress, obtain resources, grow and reproduce," he said.

"Using this approach, we studied combinations of traits within natural wildflower communities along gradients of temperature and rainfall in the Western Australian wheatbelt."

The researchers predicted that many species with different combinations of traits should be able grow together in cool, wet areas where conditions are relatively benign.

"As we moved into more arid communities, we predicted that correlations between traits would strengthen, indicating that species need to combine traits in specific, coordinated ways to tolerate the harsher conditions; and indeed that is what we found," he said.

"Specifically, in semi-arid communities the height of species was positively correlated with seed mass.

"This makes sense, because growing tall is risky in drier regions, but having larger seeds reduces this risk because they are packed with more resources from the mother plant."

Dr Dwyer says the study is not only relevant to Western Australian wildflower communities.

"The next step is to investigate trait coordination in other systems, such as rainforests.

This is part of the Western Australian study area. Credit: Xingwen Loy

"We also think our approach can be used to identify native plant species that are likely to struggle under climate change, and to select hardy species for restoration projects."

John M. Dwyer, Daniel C. Laughlin. Constraints on trait combinations explain climatic drivers of biodiversity: the importance of trait covariance in community assembly. Ecology Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12781

Dingo Fence Study Shows Dingo Extermination Leads To Poorer Soil

May 9, 2017: University of New South Wales
A comparison of conditions in the outback on either side of Australia's dingo fence has revealed that extermination of these apex predators not only affects the abundance of other animals and plants, but also reduces the quality of the soil.

The UNSW study indicates greater control of kangaroo numbers is needed across a third of the Australian continent where dingoes are rare, to reduce damage on ecosystems.

"We have shown for the first time that the presence of dingoes is linked to healthier soils, because they suppress the numbers of kangaroos that graze on the vegetation," says study senior author UNSW Associate Professor Mike Letnic.

The research by Associate Professor Letnic and his honours research student Timothy Morris is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The dingo fence was erected more than a century ago to keep dingoes out of eastern Australia, and extends approximately 5600 kilometres across the states of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

Dingoes are common on the western side of the fence, but rare on the other side, due to intensive control measures including poisoning, trapping and shooting over many decades. This latter area includes most of NSW and Victoria, and southern Queensland and southern South Australia.

"The fence provides a unique opportunity to test the effects of the removal of an apex predator on herbivore abundance, vegetation and nutrients in the soil," says Mr Morris.

The researchers studied four sites -- a national park site and a pastoral site on each side of the fence in the Strzelecki Desert. They drove along outback dirt tracks at night over a period of four years to count dingoes and kangaroos. They also collected dingo scats to determine what they ate, and measured levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon in the soil.

This is a dingo in the Australian outback. Credit: Anna Normyle

Kangaroo numbers were high at the two study sites on the "inside" of the fence where dingoes were rare, with just one dingo and 3245 kangaroos spotted, compared with 85 dingoes and only eight kangaroos at the two study sites "outside" the fence.

The researchers also found that where dingoes were rare, overgrazing by large numbers of kangaroos reduced the vegetation cover and led to lower levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon in the soil, compared with areas where dingoes were common.

"Our novel finding goes against the conventional wisdom that apex predators like dingoes have little impact on soil," says Associate Professor Letnic.

"We show that removal of dingoes leads to a trophic cascade that extends right down to the depletion of soil nutrients. Allowing dingo populations to increase could enhance the productivity of ecosystems across vast areas of the country by reducing herbivore numbers.

"We need to rethink the idea that kangaroos have benign impacts on ecosystems. Kangaroo numbers are very high across the approximately one third of the continent where dingoes are rare, and are having damaging impacts on soils and vegetation.

"Some of our national parks are at risk of becoming kangaroo 'farms'. We need to be pragmatic about reducing kangaroo numbers so as to reduce their impact on ecosystems," he says.

Herbivores can influence soil quality by reducing vegetation cover, which reduces leaf litter and accumulation of soil nutrients, as well as allowing water and wind to wash and blow away more topsoil. In turn, poor soil leads to reduced vegetation growth.

Travel Distances Of Juvenile Fish Key To Better Conservation

May 16, 2017
Marine reserves -- sections of the ocean where fishing is prohibited -- promote coral reef sustainability by preventing overfishing and increasing fish abundance and diversity. But to be effective, they need to be sized right, and in a way that accounts for how far juvenile fish travel away from their parents after spawning.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), along with researchers from Australia, France, and Saudi Arabia, have successfully measured the dispersal distances of two coral reef fish species across a 3,000 square mile section of the ocean -- an area the size of Yellowstone National Park. The study, published in the May 8, 2017, issue of the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, marks the largest, most comprehensive study of larval dispersal ever conducted and has important implications for the sizing and spacing of marine reserves.

"How far fish will disperse in their lifetimes is critical when you start thinking about how marine reserves should be designed," said Simon Thorrold, co-author of the study and a senior scientist at WHOI. "This is the first time we've been able to measure dispersal distances on spatial scales that are relevant to marine reserves, which means we can now provide data that informs management on optimal spacing and sizing."

As part of the largest, most comprehensive study of larval dispersal ever conducted, scientists were able to determine that most of the juvenile clownfish stayed relatively close to home, settling at mean distances of 10-15 kilometers from their natal reefs. Credit: Simon Thorrold, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Size matters

Marine reserves come in many shapes and sizes. But if a reserve is too small, it can't accommodate enough larvae to sustain populations. And if it's too big, larvae will simply stay within the confines of the reserve without contributing to surrounding fisheries -- a critical secondary role marine reserves need to play to improve fisheries management.

To get a read on fish dispersal in the past, scientists relied on population genetics approaches that lacked the power to measure dispersal over space and time scales relevant to protected areas of the ocean. More recently, ecologists have turned to computer-generated models of water currents to track particles through virtual oceans. According to Thorrold, this approach also has limitations since there was no way to verify the accuracy of the models. "The software can generate a lot of cool-looking graphs, but it was impossible to test the skill of those models in any real way."

A biodiversity hotspot, Restoff Island in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, is home to hundreds of coral reef fish species, and is one of eight sites sampled by the research team. (Photo by Simon Thorrold, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

An empirical approach

To overcome these limitations, Thorrold and his colleagues took direct measurements of dispersal distances in the field. They collected DNA samples from thousands of adult and juvenile clownfish and butterflyfish throughout Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, in 2009 and 2011. The entire sampling process occurred underwater, with the 30-person science team spending thousands of man-hours on SCUBA over several weeks in the field each year.

When the scientists returned to the lab, they used DNA parentage analysis, a sequencing technique that allowed them to match the juveniles up with their parents based on the DNA samples and spawning and settlement location data. From that, they were able to determine that most of the juvenile clownfish stayed relatively close to home, settling at mean distances of 10-15 kilometers from their natal reefs. The butterflyfish dispersed further, averaging distances of 43-64 kilometers before settling into their new habitats.

"Since we knew the respective locations of the adults and babies, we were able to come up with the exact linear distances that the larvae had dispersed. We're no longer talking about estimates," said Thorrold.

Benefits beyond design

In addition to helping inform the design of protected areas, the measurements can help to test the ability of reserves to perform key conservation functions. For example, one way a marine reserve network may improve fish population sustainability is through the so-called "rescue effect." In theory, if fish in a reserve suffer catastrophic mortality, the reserve can be repopulated by larvae from other reserves within the network. Thorrold and colleagues were able to track larvae from one reserve to another in the study area, confirming that rescue effect is likely to occur in real-world reserve networks.

The dispersal measurements could also allow fisheries managers to monitor the effectiveness of existing reserves, helping answer the question of whether or not a particular reserve is contributing to fish populations beyond its boundaries. This, according to Thorrold, has been a big unknown.

"If you can trace larvae from one reserve to a place that's fished, you can come up with a direct measure of how many fish the reserve is contributing to exploited populations beyond the reserve," he said. "This helps when trying to convince fishermen that networks of marine reserves are a good management tool."

Future work

According to Thorrold, as coral reef seascapes continue to face pressure from human-made stressors, marine reserves will continue to serve as an important conservation management tool. As such, it will become increasingly important to be able to provide direct measurements of larval dispersal, and find ways to apply the information to other regions of the ocean.

"The next thing we are working on is developing a coupled bio-physical model of the area that will allow us to take the results from this study and generalize them to other coral reef seascapes around the world," he said. "Limited resources for ocean management, particularly in the developing world, means that we need to maximize the chances of successful conservation outcomes from these efforts. These types of scientific insights will be critical for ongoing efforts to promote resilience of coral reef ecosystems in the face of human exploitation and climate change."

How far fish will disperse in their lifetimes is critical when you start thinking about how marine reserves should be designed, according to WHOI biologist Simon Thorrold, co-author of the new study. The research team found that butterflyfish dispersed further than clownfish, averaging distances of 43-64 kilometers before settling into their new habitats. (Photo by Simon Thorrold, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Glenn R. Almany et al. Larval fish dispersal in a coral-reef seascape. Nature Ecology and Evolution, May 2017 DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0148

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit

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

Meeting Of Aboriginal Custodians Caring For NSW's National Parks

Media release: 16 May 2017 - NPWS
More than 50 Aboriginal Joint Management Custodians from across NSW will meet today on Worimi Conservation Lands (Djukal Buna or big beach) near Newcastle to share their culture and experiences co-managing the state's national parks.

Petrice Manton, Chairperson of the Worimi Conservation Lands Board of Management said the Board is delighted to welcome the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Custodians who have travelled from as far away as Byron Bay, Broken Hill and Narooma.

"This year celebrates 10 years since the NSW Government handed back 4000 hectares of land at Stockton Bight to the Worimi Traditional Owners, to be jointly-managed as the Worimi Conservation Lands," Ms Manton said.

"This meeting is an important networking opportunity for Custodians to collaborate on issues and challenges as well as celebrate the successes.

"Aboriginal people have been conservationists of their own lands for thousands of years.

"Joint management demonstrates that we are still here and we are still doing it and this arrangement continues to support Aboriginal people to have a real say in how our lands are managed.

"We are happy to be working in partnership with NPWS who are celebrating their 50th year," Ms Manton said.

Michael Wright, NPWS Executive Director said this is the 14th meeting of Custodians representing 30 Aboriginal Joint Management Boards and Committees.

"It's important to reflect and acknowledge the contribution of Aboriginal people to the management of national parks on their traditional lands," said Mr Wright.

"This meeting is an opportunity to do that and to share ideas on how joint management can continue to support Aboriginal peoples' continuous connection to their lands and culture.

"Joint management acknowledges that Aboriginal people are past, present and future custodians of these parks and the ongoing management of these protected areas benefits from Aboriginal knowledge and practices.

"I am very pleased to be here, to listen and share stories on how our state's parks are managed in partnership for conservation outcomes as well as social and economic benefits," Mr Wright said.

Today's meeting includes a trip to the Worimi Conservation Lands where the Custodians will learn about Worimi culture and Country. It follows the 2016 meeting of Custodians in Broken Hill hosted by the Mutawintji National Park Board of Management.

There are more than 100 jointly managed parks covering more than 25 per cent of NPWS reserves. For more information

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.

Heat On For Australia's Great Barrier Reef When Global Temperatures Hit 1.5C

May 15, 2017: University of New South Wales
If global temperatures hit 1.5°C above pre-industrial conditions -- the target negotiated at the 2015 Paris Agreement -- it will be twice as likely that we will see a repeat of the extreme ocean heat that severely damaged the Great Barrier Reef in 2016.

If the world pushes temperatures up to 2°C more than the pre-industrial world, then it almost triples the odds of the heat associated with a mass bleaching event.

These findings from University of Melbourne Scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, reported in Nature Climate Change, are the result of research looking at how Australian extremes in heat, drought, precipitation and ocean warming will change in a world 1.5°C and 2°C warmer than pre-industrial conditions.

How specific extreme events will change under 1.5°C and 2°C.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of New South Wales

"Most of the action occurred in changes to extreme heat, with big increases in events similar to the Angry Summer of 2012/13. Events like this occurred in most years once global temperatures reached 1.5°C and 2°C warmer than pre-industrial times," said lead author Dr Andrew King.

"But the heat of 2016 in the Coral Sea was unprecedented in our modelling of the pre-industrial period. There was no event where the Coral Sea was as warm as we saw in 2016 but as the globe warms these events will grow in number."

The researchers also looked at other extreme events, like the southeast Australian drought of 2006 and the rain events that led to widespread flooding in Queensland in 2010, to see whether they would occur more often as global temperatures increased.

Rainfall did not show any clear change because the impacts of natural variability, like the El Niño Southern Oscillation, monsoons, Indian Ocean temperatures and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, had more influence on precipitation than rises in global temperatures.

There were some increases in drought intensity as a result of increased heat but the weak reduction in rainfall meant only a slight increase in the frequency of droughts was detected.

The results came after modelling thousands of years under four different scenarios -- pre-industrial conditions, current conditions, the world at 1.5°C and at 2°C -- on supercomputers at National Computational Infrastructure.

The researchers then looked at four key extreme Australian events -- the Angry Summer 2012/13; the Coral Sea marine heatwave of 2016; the severe rain event in Queensland in 2010; and the 2006 drought in southeast Australia -- to model how often similar events could occur under each scenario.

"It quickly became clear that keeping global temperatures under 1.5°C had a clear benefit for Australia in terms of reducing extreme events and the costs that come with them," Dr King said.

"It also gave us a grim warning about what would happen to the Great Barrier Reef if we fail to act on the Paris agreement. Sea temperatures of the scale and frequency we have seen do not bode well for the future of one of our greatest natural wonders."

Andrew D. King, David J. Karoly, Benjamin J. Henley. Australian climate extremes at 1.5 °C and 2 °C of global warming. Nature Climate Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3296

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

Aftermath Of Supereruption Shows Toba Magma System's Great Size

May 16, 2017
The rare but spectacular eruptions of supervolcanoes can cause massive destruction and affect climate patterns on a global scale for decades -- and a new study has found that these sites also may experience ongoing, albeit smaller eruptions for tens of thousands of years after.

In fact, Oregon State University researchers were able to link recent eruptions at Mt. Sinabung in northern Sumatra to the last eruption on Earth of a supervolcano 74,000 years ago at the Toba Caldera some 25 miles away.

The findings are being reported this week in the journal Nature Communications.

Southward view of the northern third of the Lake Toba depression produced by the supereruption 74,000 years ago. Credit: Photo by Shan de Silva; Image courtesy of Oregon State University

"The recovery from a supervolcanic eruption is a long process, as the volcano and the magmatic system try to re-establish equilibrium -- like a body of water that has been disrupted by a rock being dropped into it," said Adonara Mucek, an Oregon State doctoral candidate and lead author on the study.

"At Toba, it appears that the eruptions continued for at least 15,000 to 20,000 years after the supereruption and the structural adjustment continued at least until a few centuries ago -- and probably is continuing today. It is the magmatic equivalent to aftershocks following an earthquake."

This is the first time that scientists have been able to pinpoint what happens following the eruption of a supervolcano. To qualify as a supervolcano, the eruption must reach at least magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index, which means the measured deposits for that eruption are greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers, or 240 cubic miles.

When Toba erupted, it emitted a volume of magma 28,000 times greater than that of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. It was so massive, it is thought to have created a volcanic winter on Earth lasting years, and possibly triggering a bottleneck in human evolution.

Other well-known supervolcano sites include Yellowstone Park in the United States, Taupo Caldera in New Zealand, and Campi Flegrei in Italy.

"Supervolcanoes have lifetimes of millions of years during which there can be several supereruptions," said Shanaka "Shan" de Silva, an Oregon State University volcanologist and co-author on the study. "Between those eruptions, they don't die. Scientists have long suspected that eruptions continue after the initial eruption, but this is the first time we've been able to put accurate ages with those eruptions."

Previous argon dating studies had provided rough ages of eruptions at Toba, but those eruption dates had too much range of error, the researchers say. In their study, the OSU researchers and their colleagues from Australia, Germany, the United States and Indonesia were able to decipher the most recent volcanic history of Toba by measuring the amount of helium remaining in zircon crystals in erupted pumice and lava.

The helium remaining in the crystals is a remnant of the decaying process of uranium, which has a well-understood radioactive decay path and half-life.

"Toba is at least 1.3 million years old, its supereruption took place about 74,000 years ago, and it had at least six definitive eruptions after that -- and probably several more," Mucek said. "The last eruption we have detected occurred about 56,000 years ago, but there are other eruptions that remain to be studied."

The researchers also managed to estimate the history of structural adjustment at Toba using carbon-14 dating of lake sediment that has been uplifted up to 600 meters above the lake in which they formed. These data show that structural adjustment continued from at least 30,000 years ago until 2,000 years ago -- and may be continuing today.

The study also found that the magma in Toba's system has an identical chemical fingerprint and zircon crystallization history to Mt. Sinabung, which is currently erupting and is distinct from other volcanoes in Sumatra. This suggests that the Toba system may be larger and more widespread than previously thought, de Silva noted.

"Our data suggest that the recent and ongoing eruptions of Mt. Sinabung are part of the Toba system's recovery process from the supereruption," he said.

The discovery of the connection does not suggest that the Toba Caldera is in danger of erupting on a catastrophic scale any time soon, the researchers emphasized. "This is probably 'business as usual' for a recovering supervolcano," de Silva said. It does emphasize the importance of having more sophisticated and frequent monitoring of the site to measure the uplift of the ground and image the magma system, the researchers note.

"The hazards from a supervolcano don't stop after the initial eruption," de Silva said. "They change to more local and regional hazards from eruptions, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis that may continue regularly for several tens of thousands of years.

"Toba remains alive and active today."

As large as the Toba eruption was, the reservoir of magma below the caldera is much, much greater, the researchers say. Studies at other calderas around Earth, such as Yellowstone, have estimated that there is between 10 and 50 times as much magma than is erupted during a supereruption.

Adonara E. Mucek, Martin Danišík, Shanaka L. de Silva, Axel K. Schmitt, Indyo Pratomo, Matthew A. Coble. Post-supereruption recovery at Toba Caldera. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 15248 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15248

Barangaroo Public Consultation

The Barangaroo precinct is divided into three sections:
Barangaroo South – a mixed-use neighbourhood which accommodates commercial office buildings, residential apartments, shops, cafes, restaurants, a resort hotel, and cultural facilities.
Central Barangaroo  – sitting between the Barangaroo Reserve andBarangaroo South, Central Barangaroo (5.2 hectares) includes a cultural and civic focal point for recreation, relaxation, events, festivals, entertainment and leisure activities. 
Barangaroo Reserve – six hectares of open space with lookouts over Sydney Harbour, extensive walking and cycling trails, idyllic coves, picnic spots and places for quiet contemplation.

The Department is asking for feedback on proposed developments to the following areas of Barangaroo:
Watermans Cove at Sydney Harbour - including an  array of public seating and a boardwalk featuring steps down to the water
Watermans Quay - increasing the width of the current temporary street and including generous tree-lined footpaths and pedestrian crossings   
Hickson Park - one-hectare of public parkland with free Wi-Fi, eating and meeting spaces, park furniture, and bike parking
Wulugul Walk – an extension of the existing boardwalk which hugs Sydney Harbour along the length of Barangaroo 
Barangaroo Avenue – an extension of the existing street to create a slow speed pedestrian friendly street.

The development proposal is on public exhibition from 18 May until 19 June 2017 and feedback is invited. Submissions must be received by 19 June 2017 to be considered.

You can make a submission by:
post to: Director Key Sites Assessments, Planning Services, Department of Planning and Environment, GPO Box 39, Sydney, NSW 2001.

All submissions will be made public in line with the Department’s objective to promote an open and transparent planning system. If you do not want your name published, please state this clearly at the top of your submission. Before making a submission, please read our privacy statement.

Barangaroo Public Domain: Hickson Park, Watermans Quay, Barangaroo Avenue, Wulugul Walk, Watermans Cove and the Public Pier

The Planning Application seeks approval for public domain works for all of Hickson Park (located within both Barangaroo South and Central Precincts), Watermans Quay, the remaining section of Barangaroo Avenue in Barangaroo South, Wulugul Walk (including the expanded boardwalk required by condition of Concept Plan MOD 8), Watermans Cove and the Public Pier.

Exhibition Start 18/05/2017
Exhibition End 19/06/2017

Adaptation Partnership Building On Success Of CoastAdapt

Media release: 17 May 2017 - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy
The Turnbull Government welcomes the final release of CoastAdapt, a popular online tool developed by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) to help local governments and other organisations understand and manage coastal risks.

The Government provided $9 million to NCCARF to develop and deliver practical information, guidance and tools like CoastAdapt to help decision makers balance a wide range of risks and make decisions that are locally relevant, and consistent with community values and planning requirements.

Around half of Australia’s population lives within seven kilometres of the coast, and a significant proportion of industry and infrastructure is located in the coastal zone.

Coastal communities around Australia face the challenge of managing the effects of changes in the sea-level, such as flooding, erosion and shoreline recession. These and other hazards directly impact the buildings and infrastructure of coastal communities and the natural environment.

Following the success of CoastAdapt, the Government has committed $550,000 to support the new Adaptation Partnership between the Department of Environment and Energy, NCCARF, and the CSIRO to bring together expertise on climate resilience and adaptation.

The Partnership will build on our existing investment in tools and guidance that support improved climate risk management, including CoastAdapt. The Partnership will make data and information on climate and adaptation accessible and useable.

NCCARF and the Government together officially welcomed the final release of CoastAdapt at an event today in Melbourne.

CoastAdapt is available via

$4.7 Million Boost To Help Improve Reef Water Quality

Media release: 15 May 2017 - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
The Coalition Government is driving improvements in the Great Barrier Reef's water quality by investing a further $4.7 million to reduce nitrogen runoff flowing from the Reef's catchments.

Delivered as part of the Government's $210 million Reef Trust, this investment will support sugarcane farmers in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin regions to improve the efficiency of farming operations.

Runoff from agricultural land is one of the key threats to the health of the Reef and is linked to outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish. This project will help farmers reduce runoff by better matching fertiliser application to crop requirements.

Successful farmers are already being contracted and collectively will deliver an estimated reduction of more than 140 tonnes of nitrogen entering the Reef over a five-year period.

This is the first round of funding delivered under the Government's Reef Trust Phase IV Repeated Tenders Project in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin which offers a total of $11.8 million to help sugarcane farmers in these regions to improve their efficiency while improving the quality of water entering the Reef. A further funding round as part of this Project is expected later this year.

Successful applicants must be accredited under industry standards which will lead to sustained financial benefits to farmers and environmental benefits for the Great Barrier Reef.

We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with sugarcane farmers in the region to design future projects to improve both farm efficiency and environmental outcomes.

The Australian and Queensland governments are investing more than $2 billion over the coming decade to improve the health of the Reef through the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan.

More information on the Reef Trust Repeated Tenders - Wet Tropics and Burdekin can be accessed via 

NOPSEMA Takes Interim Step In Bass Strait Oil Sheen Investigation 

9 May 2017: NOPSEMA
NOPSEMA continues to investigate the environmental incident reported on 1 February 2017 in which Esso Australia Resources Pty Ltd (Esso) identified an oil sheen in close proximity to its West Tuna platform, located 45km off the Gippsland coast in Victoria.

Prior to and during the incident, the platform and oil export pipeline were shut down. By the following morning (2 February 2017) the oil sheen had dissipated. This was confirmed by aerial and onshore observations which detected no oil on the surface of the water or along the Victorian coastline. 

No affected wildlife has been detected by Esso or reported to NOPSEMA.
The incident has been the subject of an investigation headed by NOPSEMA’s dedicated team of internationally sourced oil spill response and pipeline integrity experts. While the investigation remains active, the authority has already taken enforcement action as an interim step.

On 19 April 2017, NOPSEMA’s issued Esso an Environmental Improvement Notice for failing to follow the procedures for obtaining a representative sample of spilt oil in accordance with their accepted environment plan.

In relation to this matter, NOPSEMA has also published an Environment Alert to share with all of industry the lessons learned and promote compliance with the commitments made in accepted environment plans and Commonwealth environmental law. 

The notice requires Esso to undertake within 60 days a review of their training for oil spill response sampling, ensure sampling equipment is appropriately located and maintained, and ensure personnel are appropriately trained and qualified to be deployed as soon as possible in the event of an oil spill.

NOPSEMA is currently considering if additional enforcement action will be taken and this be determined at the conclusion of the investigation. NOPSEMA cannot comment on any specific aspect of the investigation while it is ongoing. 
NOPSEMA Register of published notices

OHS Improvement Notice
Failure to isolate the release of a significant volume of hydrocarbon gas resulting from an instrument line failure associated with a wellhead gas lift configuration.
13/04/2017 and 27/04/2017: Esso Australia Pty Ltd
Various facilities

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. 

Battle For Berrima | Write A Submission Today & Let Your Voice Be Heard

Published on 9 Apr 2017 by Battle for Berrima
The clock is ticking and the time to decide is HERE! Your chance to have a say on Hume Coal's proposed coal mine will run out soon. Whatever your position, stand up and let your voice be heard. Write a submission TODAY because after June 30, 2017 it's too late. 

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

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)

Australian Researchers Pioneer Life-Extending Treatment For Advanced Melanoma Patients With Brain Tumours

Australian researchers are the first to demonstrate that patients with advanced melanoma which has spread to the brain can have increased life expectancy and possibly even beat the disease.

The promising results from a clinical trial developed and run by investigators at Melanoma Institute Australia are being presented in Chicago at the world’s largest oncology conference, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, attended by more than 30,000 delegates from around the world. 

The ground-breaking Anti-PD1 Brain Collaboration (ABC) clinical trial involved advanced melanoma patients being given a combination of two different immunotherapy drugs: nivolumab (Opdivo®) and ipilimumab (Yervoy®).

Results from an early analysis of this trial show 79% of advanced melanoma patients with brain metastases treated with the combination immunotherapy were still alive at six months. 66% of those who got nivolumab alone were also alive after six months.

Typically, patients with active brain metastases survive only four to five months and never even used to be admitted to clinical trials because their prognosis was so dire.

“This is an absolute game-changer for how we treat patients with advanced melanoma which has spread to the brain. It provides new hope to the 1,800 Australians expected to die from melanoma this year,” said Professor Georgina Long, the study’s chief investigator, Conjoint Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia and Chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research at The University of Sydney.

“Quite simply, having brain metastases is no longer a death sentence,” she said. “We can now offer additional years of life and also the hope of ultimately beating this disease to a significant number of people.”

In February 2016, Australia approved the use of nivolumab for advanced melanoma patients as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with ipilimumab.

However, patients with brain metastases were excluded from previous clinical trials, including the ones that led to the drugs’ approval. This was what prompted Melanoma Institute Australia to develop and run the world-first ABC trial.

“I have melanoma patients with brain metastases who would not be alive today if they had not participated in this trial,” Professor Long said.

The study also examined patients who had no previous drug therapy prior to joining the trial, and those who received previous targeted drug therapy which is effective in patients with BRAF mutations in their melanoma.

It found that the combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab was more active in patients who had not received prior targeted BRAF-directed drug therapy.

Under the current Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in Australia, doctors are restricted in the order in which they can prescribe the targeted BRAF-directed drug therapies and immunotherapy as treatments for melanoma. The restrictions make it very difficult to give immunotherapy first to patients who have the BRAF mutation in their melanoma (approximately 40% of all melanoma patients).

However, this new research strongly suggests that immunotherapy should be the first-line treatment in suitable patients, in particular, those with brain metastases.

Young dad, Leigh Miller (pictured here), is just one of the patients on the ABC Trial who has had a remarkable turnaround.

Respiratory Infections Can Trigger A Heart Attack

May 16, 2017: Sydney University
Warning for flu season
New research from University of Sydney finds the risk of a heart attack is increased 17-fold in the week following a respiratory infection such as influenza or pneumonia.  

The risk of having a heart attack is 17 times higher in the seven days following a respiratory infection, University of Sydney research has found.

Published today in Internal Medicine Journal, this is the first study to report an association between respiratory infections such as pneumonia, influenza and bronchitis and increased risk of heart attack in patients confirmed by coronary angiography (a special X-Ray to detect heart artery blockages).

“Our findings confirm what has been suggested in prior studies that a respiratory infection can act as a trigger for a heart attack," said senior author Professor Geoffrey Tofler, cardiologist from University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital and Heart Research Australia.

“The data showed that the increased risk of a heart attack isn't necessarily just at the beginning of respiratory symptoms, it peaks in the first 7 days and gradually reduces but remains elevated for one month.”

The study was an investigation of 578 consecutive patients with heart attack due to a coronary artery blockage, who provided information on recent and usual occurrence of symptoms of respiratory infection.

Seventeen per cent of patients reported symptoms of respiratory infection within 7 days of the heart attack, and 21 per cent within 31 days.

Patients were interviewed about their activities before the onset of their heart attack, including if they experienced a recent “flu-like illness with fever and sore throat”. They were considered affected if they reported sore throat, cough, fever, sinus pain, flu-like symptoms, or if they reported a diagnosis of pneumonia or bronchitis. 

A second analysis was among those with symptoms restricted to the upper respiratory tract, which included the common cold, pharyngitis, rhinitis and sinusitis.

Lead author Dr Lorcan Ruane, who conducted the work at University of Sydney said: “For those participants who reported milder upper respiratory tract infection symptoms the risk increase was less, but was still elevated by 13 fold.”

“Although upper respiratory infections are less severe, they are far more common than lower respiratory tract symptoms. Therefore it is important to understand their relationship to the risk of heart attacks, particularly as we are coming into winter in Australia,” he said.

Associate Professor Thomas Buckley, study investigator from Sydney Nursing School said: “The incidence of heart attacks is highest during winter in Australia.”

“This winter peak in seen not only in Australia but also in other countries around the world is likely due in part to the increased incidence of respiratory infections.

“People should take measures to reduce exposure to infection, including flu and pneumonia vaccines where appropriate.”

Professor Tofler added: “Possible reasons for why respiratory infection may trigger a heart attack include an increased tendency towards blood clotting, inflammation and toxins damaging blood vessels, and changes in blood flow.”

“Our message to people is while the absolute risk that any one episode will trigger a heart attack is low, they need to be aware that a respiratory infection could lead to a coronary event. So consider preventative strategies where possible, and don’t ignore symptoms that could indicate a heart attack.

“The next step is to identify treatment strategies to decrease this risk of heart attack, particularly in individuals who may have increased susceptibility.”

The study was conducted at Royal North Shore Hospital.
Lorcan Ruane, Thomas Buckley, Soon Y. S. Hoo, Peter S. Hansen, Catherine McCormack, Elizabeth Shaw, Judith Fethney, Geoffrey H. Tofler.Triggering of acute myocardial infarction by respiratory infection.Internal Medicine Journal, 2017; 47 (5): 522 DOI: 10.1111/imj.13377

Fast facts:
  • Each year around 56,000 Australians suffer a heart attack.
  • This equates to around 153 heart attacks a day, or one heart attack every 9 minutes.
  • Each year, almost 9,300 Australians die of a heart attack.
  • One in four people who die from a heart attack die within the first hour of their first symptom.

$4 Million For Schizophrenia Research

18 May 2017: Media Release
People with schizophrenia will benefit from $4 million in State Government funding awarded to Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) for the prevention, improved treatments and research on a cure for the psychiatric disorder.
Mental Health Minister Tanya Davies and Health Minister Brad Hazzard today announced the funding as part of Schizophrenia Awareness Week. The funding is over four years to support the work of the Chair in Schizophrenia Research at NeuRA, a leading brain and nervous system research institute at Randwick.
“We greatly value the support the non-government sector provides to people and families living with mental illness,” Mrs Davies said.
Mr Hazzard said work by research bodies such as NeuRA is instrumental in positioning NSW at the forefront of medical research in Australia.
 “The NSW Government has invested $1 billion over the past four years in increasing the capacity for high-quality health and medical research. We want to ensure that work translates into clinical practice that changes patients’ lives,” Mr Hazzard said.
Whilst prevalence is low, schizophrenia and psychosis-type mental illnesses are among the top 10 causes of disability worldwide and account for about 80 percent of mental health spending in Australia.
“This $4 million in funding will help identify alternative treatment options for people diagnosed with schizophrenia and help prevent future episodes and the development of a chronic disorder,” Mrs Davies said.
“It will support work by Professor Cynthia Shannon Weickert, an internationally acclaimed leader in neuroscience, who is leading research into psychosis with the hope of finding ways to prevent and even cure schizophrenia.”
Professor Shannon Weickert said one in 100 people have or will develop schizophrenia during their lifetime.
“Most will first be affected by this condition in their late teens and early twenties. It is life-long, and associated with reduced life expectancy of 15 to 20 years,” Professor Shannon Weickert said.
NeuRA has also been allocated $7.98 million in research funding for 2016-2018 under the NSW Government’s Medical Research Support Program.

Advanced Form Of Cancer Treatment Under Consideration In Australia

May 17, 2017: ANTSO
An international collaboration between human health researchers at ANSTO, the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics at the University of Wollongong and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS), Japan, has undertaken research relating to carbon ion therapy, an advanced form of cancer treatment being proposed for introduction in Australia.

The study investigated the use of a beam of positron-emitting radionuclides for the precise delivery of non-invasive and highly conformal radiotherapy.

The radioactive beam matched the therapeutic performance of current non-radioactive heavy ion beams, but offers a greatly improved ability to verify the delivered dose distribution during treatment, through the use of in-beam PET imaging.

“The mechanism provides a potential way to experimentally verify that the actual delivered dose is the same as the treatment plan in real time” said co-author Dr Mitra Safavi-Naeini, Imaging Quantification Research Lead, Human Health at ANSTO. 

The research has been submitted and is under review for publication in Physics in Medicine and Biology.

Cancer treatment with heavy ions 

Particle therapy using heavy ions such as carbon delivers a highly targeted peak dose of therapeutic radiation at a specific depth that coincides with the treatment region. 

Most of the energy is deposited within a very narrow depth range, minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

Carbon ion therapy diagram
“Because of the intensity of the dose, treatment approaches tend to be very conservative,” said Safavi-Naeini . 

“The research was exploring enhanced quality control measures for treatment delivery verification.”

“Because a large proportion of positron fragments produced in collisions with the nuclei of target cells stop very close to where the maximum dose is delivered, you have a means of verifying the site of deposit using PET,” said Safavi-Naeini.|

The study compared the use of stable ions and radioactive ions to produce positrons for PET imaging and found the radioactive beam greatly outperformed the stable beam.

A comparison was undertaken using ions at different energy levels in several phantoms (simulated human tissues and organs).

The radioactive ion beam was found to have a relative biological effectiveness (RBE) within 4% of the stable beam, showing that it was therapeutically equivalent.

“If you can deliver a radioactive beam with the correct fluence, the appropriate number of particles at the right energy to the target, then you should be able to use it therapeutically,” said Safavi-Naeini.

Enhanced PET imaging 

Using a beam of positron-emitting radionuclides has advantages over a stable ion beam, as it enhances the signal and provides better visualisation of the deposited dose distribution. 

While most of the heavy ions in the beam stop and deposit their kinetic energy close to the planned target depth (at the site of the tumour) without undergoing a nuclear interaction, a fraction will collide with nuclei in the target, producing a range of nuclear fragments. 

Some of these fragments are unstable, and decay via positron emission over the next few seconds to minutes. These positrons annihilate with electrons in the target and produce pairs of gamma rays, which can be imaged during and immediately after treatment. 

The use of a beam of ions which are, by themselves, short-lived positron-emitting radionuclides greatly increases the number of positrons emitted in the target region, leading to a better-quality image.

PET images carbon ion therapy research
Spatial distribution of positron creation in a lung phantom, for each beam type
The study included generation of experimental and simulated 3D and 4D PET images of positron yields for multiple ion types and energies, and an estimate of the corresponding relative biological effectiveness for each. 

The investigators used simulations to calculate the dose deposited as a function of depth, utilising advanced microdosimetric modelling techniques to evaluate the relative biological effectiveness of each beam and predict the yield of positrons in targets.

Experimental validation of the simulation model for depth-dose profiles was performed using the Heavy Ion Medical Accelerator in Chiba (HIMAC), Japan.

The simulation reported only a 0.8 mm difference in the location of maximum dose compared with experimental data.

“The approach could reduce the time needed for post-treatment PET imaging while improving the accuracy of the result, both leading to better patient outcomes” said Safavi-Naeini.

ANSTO is supporting the introduction of a National Particle Therapy and Research Centre in Australia in association with leading hospitals, research centres, universities and industry. 

There are more than 70 particle therapy facilities worldwide, and another 41 under construction. A proton therapy centre will be built in Adelaide with Federal and State funding.

NFSA Online Exhibition Of Graham Kennedy

Celebrating the life and work of Graham Kennedy, 'The King' of Australian television.

The boy from Balaclava conquered the small screen, and for four decades was Australia's greatest television star.

As well as clips from his all-conquering TV career, this collection features highlights from his parallel professions as a radio broadcaster and film actor.

Also included are the crown and throne that symbolised his TV status, personal letters and photos and his Gold Logie Hall of Fame award. Extracts from oral history interviews with Graham's friends and colleagues reveal something of his private life and what it was like to be part of the inner circle of The King.

This collection complements our online exhibition, Graham Kennedy: The King.

Proteins On The Loose In A Rare Childhood Disease

May 10, 2017: Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Australian scientists have shown, for the first time, that a family of untethered proteins builds up in the cells of children with a rare and serious genetic condition, known as mevalonate kinase deficiency (MKD).

The findings, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,pinpoint a key feature of MKD that could be used to fast-track the diagnosis of the disease -- a process that is often difficult and protracted.

MKD is one of more than 8000 known rare and genetic conditions -- which, although individually uncommon, collectively affect up to 10% of the population. Individuals with MKD experience repeated and very frequent 'attacks' of high fever (inflammatory 'flares') that last for days and are accompanied by a wide range of other symptoms. These attacks usually begin in infancy and continue throughout an individual's life, although they occur most frequently in children.

The research team, led by scientists at Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research, investigated blood cells from people with MKD. They showed that, within the cells, several proteins from the same family (known as Rab proteins) had no isoprenoid 'tail' -- a molecule that is usually added to these proteins in the final stages of preparing them for their work in the cell.

Much like a child holding the string of a balloon, an isoprenoid tail is thought to act as a molecular 'tether' for the protein it is attached to. The isoprenoid tails on Rab proteins keep them in a particular area of the cell (close to the cell membrane).

Without their tethers, the Rab proteins, and other related proteins, are 'on the loose' in the cells of children with MKD, and are free to move into other parts of the cell. It is thought that this could set off the disease process in MKD, triggering inflammation.

Professor Mike Rogers, who heads the Bone Therapeutics Lab in Garvan's Bone Biology Division, led the research, which involved the development of a new technique to measure the presence of untethered Rab proteins in blood samples.

Professor Rogers says, "It has been thought for some time that individuals with MKD might have untethered Rab proteins, because we know that a gene called MVK -- which is altered in MKD -- is important in making the isoprenoid tails that are fitted onto these proteins.

"Until now, though, no one has been able to show that these untethered proteins do in fact build up in the cells of kids with MKD.

"To see these proteins directly, and to show that they are lacking their 'tails', is an important advance in our understanding of this devastating disease."

Importantly, the researchers showed that untethered Rab proteins are found only in people in MKD. They are not present in the cells of people with other rare diseases that have similar clinical symptoms (the periodic fever syndromes) or in the parents of children with MKD.

"We're still at the proof-of-principle stage, but we're encouraged that a test for untethered proteins might be used clinically to help distinguish between MKD and other related disorders," Prof Rogers says.

"This could be very important for patients and their families, because it can take many years to reach a definitive diagnosis for rare and genetic conditions -- and this could help shorten that long and difficult 'diagnostic odyssey' for families affected by MKD."

Marcia A. Munoz, Julie Jurczyluk, Sam Mehr, Ryan C. Chai, Rob J.W. Arts, Angela Sheu, Chelsea McMahon, Jacqueline R. Center, Davinder Singh-Grewal, Jeffrey Chaitow, Dianne E. Campbell, Julian M.W. Quinn, Kirill Alexandrov, Zakir Tnimov, Stuart G. Tangye, Anna Simon, Tri Giang Phan, Michael J. Rogers. Defective protein prenylation is a diagnostic biomarker of mevalonate kinase deficiency. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2017.02.033

Changing The Perceptions Of Men’s Mental Health

15 May 2017: Sydney University
Why we need to reframe psychological help as a pathway

In the lead-up to Men’s Health Week, Sydney University will host a special Banksia Project forum focusing on men’s health in sport. Joining the panel is PhD candidate Zac Seidler, whose research focuses on men’s mental health.

Master of Clinical Psychology and PhD candidate Zac Seidler. Photo: Jayne Ion

For decades, it has been perceived common knowledge that men do not want to seek help or express their emotions, especially about psychological concerns like anxiety or depression. But third year Master of Clinical Psychology and PhD candidate Zac Seidler, whose research project, Man Island, explores what men like, dislike, and think needs changing about psychological treatment, believes otherwise.

“What we have recently learned in our research though is that men do want to seek help, and will engage in treatment, if they are given the type of help tailored to their needs.”

Zac believes that the way forward is to reframe psychological help as a pathway towards empowerment rather than something shameful.

“Masculinity is not ‘one-size fits all’, it comes in all shapes and sizes. Psychologists and psychiatrists need to understand the importance of this breadth, focusing on the strengths men have, whether it be their independence, fathering, or mateship, will improve their mental health moving forward and the lives of those who love them,”  Zac said.

"Men do want to seek help, and will engage in treatment, if they are given the type of help tailored to their needs."

Zac is a guest speaker at an upcoming free forum on Men’s Mental Health in Sport. The forum is presented by the Banksia Project, a men’s mental wellness initiative combining awareness building with constructive action.

“The audience will hear stories of triumph, failure, resilience, and dealing with the depths of mental illness in professional sport,” Zac said. “We will be talking about the importance of staying on top of your mental health, especially when things seem to be going well, and how social connectedness and empowerment are the key to preventing mental illness in men.”

Also appearing at the forum will be athlete Matt Shirvington, cricketer Ed Cowan and Professor of Mental Health Nursing at Sydney Nursing School, Niels Buus, amongst others.

Zac’s passion for this important topic stems from his personal experience.

“Having lost my Dad to suicide almost four years ago, and now working clinically with men of all backgrounds, from those with HIV to refugees, I’ve personally experienced the challenges mental health clinicians have engaging and treating men.”

Zac saw the staggering male suicide rate continue to rise despite vast sums of money being contributed to treating the problem.  

“I realised someone needed to focus on what was happening behind the closed therapy doors. If it takes such effort to get a man to seek help, it makes sense we expend as much time ensuring they get something they want. Too many men are slipping through the cracks, and I want to do my best to improve our treatment options so we have a reliable safety net to catch them,” Zac said.

Long term, Zac hopes to use both his clinical and research training to open Australia’s first mental health clinic focused on the treatment of men that continues to strive to better understand the ways we can improve men’s wellbeing.

“The University of Sydney is one of the only universities in Australia which offers this combined research and clinical program. It’s allowed me to see firsthand what the clinical psychology landscape looks like, and directed me towards the gaps that my research can fill.”

The opportunities to connect with other researchers across the medical, social work, and nursing disciplines has allowed Zac to better understand the whole picture of men’s mental health. “Undertaking my project and working with researchers from across other disciplines has really challenged and motivated me to continue to seek answers.”

Register to attend the free Mental Health in Sport forum, presented by theBanksia Project, on May 30. Free Event - All Welcome

Men's Health Week runs from June 12 -18.

Australian Stay-At-Home Dads Not All ‘Mr Mums’

Media Release — 16 May 2017 - Australian Institute of Family Studies
Australian Institute of Family Studies Director, Anne Hollonds said there were now 75,000 stay-at-home-dad families, accounting for about 4 per cent of two-parent families around the country.

“Men opting for full time fatherhood while their wives and partners bring in the family income are not common and their numbers have changed little over the last five years,” Ms Hollonds said.

“Stay-at-home dads come from diverse backgrounds and their roles and responsibilities are quite different from those mothers carry out in the 31 per cent of stay-at-home-mum families.

“For many, becoming a stay-at-home dad is an economic decision, driven by unemployment, under-employment or disability and not a lifestyle choice to spend more time parenting.

“The fathers tend to be older, with older children and they don’t tend to pick up the full domestic work-load to the same extent that stay-at-home mothers traditionally have.

“For example, mothers in stay-at-home-dad families do a significant proportion of the unpaid housework and slightly more of the actual hands-on childcare.”

AIFS’ Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said the research released as part of National Families’ Week, revealed stay-at-home-dad families had little in common with stay-at-home-mum families.

“In line with other countries, for this research stay-at-home dads were defined as those who were not working; who had children under 15 and a spouse or partner who was working,” Dr Baxter said.

“These stay-at-home dads were either unemployed or were not looking for work for a variety of reasons, while others were on leave. In these families, mothers worked part-time or full-time hours.

“Our analysis showed that stay-at-home-dad families were not simply the reverse ‘mirror’ image of stay-at-home-mum families, just with the gender roles reversed.

“In stay-at-home-dad families, for example, dads spent an average of 19 hours a week on childcare, while mothers spent 21 hours.

“Stay-at-home dads spent 28 hours a week on housework, while mothers spent 23 hours which they managed to combine with an average 35-hour working week paid job.

“In stay-at-home-dad families, parents still often share in child care activities, such as putting children to bed and playing with them. These activities are more often shared rather than being primarily mum’s role, compared to other families. In some stay-at-home-dad families, child care becomes primarily dads’ role, especially caring for sick children and ferrying them to and from places.

“The analysis shows that while stay-at-home dads do take on more responsibility for child care than fathers in other family types, the average stay-at-home dad is still far from being ‘Mr Mum’.

“Despite dividing their time differently, parents in these families were the most likely to agree that children do just as well if the mother earns the money and the father takes care of the home and children.”

The ‘Stay-at-home dads’  facts sheet drew on ABS Census and Labour Force data, as well as data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study.

Endeavour Lease Wraps Up Poles And Wires Transactions

May 11, 2017: NSW Government
The NSW Government has secured funding for its $20 billion Rebuilding NSW infrastructure program, having achieved another outstanding result in the final Endeavour Energy transaction.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced on Thursday that the Government’s poles and wires asset recycling program has concluded with the successful lease of 50.4 per cent of Endeavour Energy to an Australian-led consortium, Advance Energy, consisting of:
  • Australia’s Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets (30.16%);
  • AMP Capital on behalf of REST Industry Super (25%), also from Australia;
  • Canada’s British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (25%); and
  • The Qatar Investment Authority (19.84%).
Advance Energy has received all necessary regulatory clearances from the ACCC and the ATO and has been approved by the Federal Treasurer following advice from FIRB. The transaction has delivered $7.624 billion to NSW in gross proceeds.

“This is another outstanding outcome for NSW,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We now have $20 billion secured to go towards the new schools, hospitals, roads, rail and cultural institutions across NSW – forever changing the face of the State.”

Mr Perrottet said the asset-recycling program had been instrumental in turning around the State’s economic performance.

“We have seen how successful our asset-recycling strategy has been in driving the State’s economic performance and in funding the infrastructure projects NSW has been crying out for,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Through initiatives like asset recycling and our strong financial management, we have catapulted NSW from the bottom of the national economic ladder right to the very top.”

The NSW Government will retain a 49.6 per cent interest in Endeavour Energy and will have ongoing influence over operations as lessor, licensor and as safety and reliability regulator.

Endeavour Energy will continue to be regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator.

Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme Expands

May 15, 2017: NSW Government
The NSW Government has added 30 organisations to the scheme that provides emergency vouchers for gas or electricity bills.
Vulnerable energy customers who need help paying their bills can access $50 vouchers from one of 342 community welfare organisations, under the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance scheme (EAPA). Energy retailers are required to accept vouchers as credit towards a customer’s bill.

The vouchers can help older people afford extra heating and air con, reconnect people’s disconnected gas and electricity or help people out of a downward debt spiral.

Energy and Utilities Minister Don Harwin said the new organisations will boost assistance for people that need it most.

“EAPA helps people experiencing short term financial crisis or a disaster pay their electricity or natural gas bill, ensuring they stay connected during periods of financial difficulty,” Mr Harwin said.

The government helped 55,000 customers pay their energy bills through the EAPA scheme last year.

Ex-HMAS Sydney Retires To Western Australia

17 May 2017: Media Release - Dept. of Defence
Minister for Defence Personnel Dan Tehan said Ex-HMAS Sydney would leave Sydney Harbour today to be towed to Western Australia for recycling by Australian company Birdon Pty Ltd.

“Ex-HMAS Sydney had an illustrious career during her 32 years in service with the Royal Australian Navy,” Mr Tehan said.

“The Adelaide Class Frigate was involved in operations spanning the Middle East, East Timor, Fiji and the Solomon Islands and earned a Meritorius Unit Citation during the First Gulf War in 1991.

“She was built at the Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Washington, USA, and commissioned there on 29 January 1983.

“The former Sydney was decommissioned from the Royal Australian Navy on 7 November 2015 to make way for the Hobart class guided missile destroyers, which will provide Australia with an improved war fighting capability.”

Ex-HMAS Sydney’s journey from Sydney to the Common User Facility at Henderson, Western Australia, will take up to 22 days.

Sydney had been offered to States and Territories for use as a dive wreck, however, there was no interest in the ship, so the Government decided to recycle her by scrapping.

Shedding Light On Earth's First Animals

May 17, 2017
More than 550 million years ago, the oceans were teeming with flat, soft-bodied creatures that fed on microbes and algae and could grow as big as bathmats. Today, researchers at the University of California, Riverside are studying their fossils to unlock the secrets of early life.

In their latest study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, Scott Evans, a graduate student in the Department of Earth Sciences, and Mary Droser, a professor of paleontology, both in UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, show that the Ediacaran-era fossil animal Dickinsonia developed in a complex, highly regulated way using a similar genetic toolkit to today's animals. The study helps place Dickinsonia in the early evolution of animal life, and showcases how the large, mobile sea creature grew and developed.

Dickinsonia was a flat, oval-shaped creature that ranged in size from less than an inch to several feet, and is characterized by a series of raised bands -- known as modules -- on its surface. These animals are of interest to paleontologists because they are the first to become large and complex, to move around, and form communities, yet little is known about them. For years, scientists have been debating the taxonomic status of Dickinsonia -- placing it with fungi, marine worms and jellyfish, to name a few. It is now generally accepted that Dickinsonia was an animal, now extinct.

"Part of this study was trying to put Dickinsonia in context in the development of early life. We wanted to know if these creatures were part of a group of animals that survived or a failed evolutionary experiment. This research adds to our knowledge about these animals and our understanding of life on Earth as an artifact of half a billion years of evolution," Droser said.

To study Dickinsonia, the researchers travelled to South Australia's desert outback, which was once underwater and is now home to an abundance of Ediacaran fossils.

Researchers at UC Riverside are studying the world's oldest fossil animal, Dickinsonia, to learn more about the evolutionary history of animals.
Credit: University of California, Riverside

They measured the size, shape and structure of almost 1,000 specimens of Dickinsonia costata, paying attention to the number and size of the modules. The work was done in collaboration with James Gehling of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Australia, who is a coauthor on the paper.

The study showed that Dickinsonia's development, and particularly that of the modules, was complex and systematic to maintain the oval shape of the animal. The accumulation of new modules, by a process called terminal addition, suggests that Dickinsonia developed in a related way to bilaterians, a complex group that display bilateral symmetry, including animals ranging from flies and worms to humans. However, the researchers do not believe Dickinsonia was ancestrally related to bilaterians, since it lacked other features that most bilaterians share, most notably a mouth, gut and anus.

"Although we saw some of the hallmark characteristics of bilateral growth and development, we don't believe Dickinsonia was a precursor to today's bilaterians, rather that these are two distinct groups that shared a common set of ancestral genes that are present throughout the animal lineage," Evans said. "Dickinsonia most likely represents a separate group of animals that is now extinct, but can tell us a lot about the evolutionary history of animals."

Scott D. Evans, Mary L. Droser, James G. Gehling. Highly regulated growth and development of the Ediacara macrofossil Dickinsonia costata. Plos One, 2017 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0176874

Fair Farms Initiative To Ensure A Fair Go For Workers And Growers

17 May 2017: Media Release - Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator, The Hon. Anne Ruston
A new initiative aimed at giving growers in the horticulture sector the tools they need to ensure workers are treated fairly was launched today to restore consumer and public confidence in the sector as an ethical employer.

​Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston said development of the Fair Farms Initiative was led by Growcom, with support from the Queensland Horticulture Council, and funded by the Australian Government through the Fair Work Ombudsman's Community Engagement Grants Program.

"It is always great to see industries show leadership and a proactive approach to tackling challenges in their sector—so I congratulate all those involved in this important new initiative," Minister Ruston said.

"I deal first-hand with many growers across the nation, and I know that the vast majority of growers work hard to do the right thing, treating their workers fairly and complying with workplace laws.

"It is extremely unfortunate that the reputation of this fantastic industry that has been built by hardworking Aussies has been negatively affected by the actions of a few.

"The Fair Farms Initiative will help ensure growers have the tools and knowledge to treat their workers fairly and ethically, including through education, benchmarking and certification.

"It will also help to restore the reputation of the horticulture sector, so that consumers and the wider public can be confident that the sector takes an ethical approach to workplace relations."

Minister Ruston said the initiative would comprise five main components:
  • A series of information articles on key workplace relations issues for publication in an array of industry magazines including Fruit and Vegetable News, Vegetables Australia and other regional and industry publications.
  • The roll out of the Hort360 Workplace Relations best management practice (BMP) module nationally, over the next four years, to enable growers to do a confidential risk assessment of their current practice and identify areas for improvement.
  • Targeted regional seminars throughout Australia focusing on key areas of non-compliance.
  • The development, through Freshcare, of a voluntary third-party Audited Certification for growers to enable them to demonstrate compliance.
  • Development of a pathway to qualifications in Human Resources for interested growers.
For more information, please visit the Growcom website:
New government initiative to provide family violence support services in family law registries throughout Australia

May 17, 2017: Media Release - Federal Circuit Court of Australia
The Commonwealth Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, together with Legal Aid NSW, will today officially launch a new initiative at the Parramatta Registry of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

The Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS) program will be delivered by the various state-based legal aid commissions in family law registries across Australia and will be providing parents with a coordinated range of front-line integrated legal duty and social support services to help families affected by family violence.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Diana Bryant AO, is pleased to see that $18.5 million of federal government funding has been allocated to the legal aid commissions to deliver this program.

“I congratulate the Government on this initiative and for providing the necessary funding to enable Legal Aid and other agencies to deliver a front-line service that will help families who have experienced family violence to navigate the federal and state court systems and obtain the support services needed.

I have often spoken about the need for early intervention and close management of family law cases, particularly when issues of family violence are prevalent. There are significant benefits to be gained in having timely access to quality information, not only for the courts, but for everyone involved. With qualified staff available to conduct screening and risk assessments, draft urgent applications and gather information and evidence around the family violence issues, this service will no doubt become of great assistance,” Chief Justice Bryant said.

Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, John Pascoe AC CVO, also supports the roll-out of this service.

“The Federal Circuit Court has worked closely with the various state legal aid commissions to establish this service within the Court’s family law registries.  The Courts are committed to improving the way in which they deal with issues relating to family violence and I welcome the establishment of this service which will see a number of agencies working cooperatively to ensure better support and assistance is provided to those who need it most,” Chief Judge Pascoe said.

$9.2 Million To Help Turn Dung Into Dollars

15 May 2017: Media Release - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce and Member for Page, Kevin Hogan
Meat & Livestock Australia will receive $9.2 million under Round 3 of the Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit Programme for a project looking at ways to use dung beetles to increase farm productivity and profitability.

The project will help farmers harness the potential of dung beetles as 'ecosystem engineers', which can improve soil health, reduce the spread of flies, pests and diseases, increase pasture health and reduce nutrient run off into waterways.

The Rural R&D for Profit Programme delivers on the Coalition's election commitment to increase funding for R&D projects that are practical and accessible for farmers.

Using dung beetles to increase farm productivity and profitability will be the focus of a new project to be led by Meat and Livestock Australia, supported with $9.2 million in Coalition Government funding.

​Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, joined the Member for Page, Kevin Hogan MP, in Casino today to announce funding being delivered under the Rural R&D for Profit Programme, which supports R&D projects that translate into genuine benefits at the farmgate.

"The humble dung beetle can deliver big benefits on-farm. They can improve soil health; reduce the spread of flies, pests and diseases; increase pasture health; and reduce nutrient run off into waterways. No wonder the ancient Egyptians gave them a sacred status!" Minister Joyce said.

"This project will help farmers unlock the potential of these powerful 'ecosystem engineers' to increase productivity and reduce the costs of production, effectively turning dung into dollars.

"MLA will collaborate with 12 project partners with the shared goal of realising the value of the 80 million tonnes of dung produced by Australian livestock every year.

"Rural R&D for Profit Programme funds projects that deliver practical and accessible results for farmers, including managing pests, better pasture management and production techniques and improving access to premium markets."

Mr Hogan said the project had the potential to deliver exciting benefits for Australia's $23 billion livestock industry.

"This project will involve the roll-out of national and region-specific dung beetle services to a network of over 1000 producers and producers groups.

"These groups will have access to information such as a dung beetle database, infield training and online education packages to help select the more beneficial dung beetle species for their farm."

Minister Joyce said the government's Rural Research and Development for Profit Programme delivered on the government's election commitment to increase R&D funding for practical projects to give farmers new tools to help them increase returns at the farmgate and capture opportunities in global markets.

"We know it's important that R&D isn't just pie-in-the-sky ideas, but can be translated into real results at the farmgate," Minister Joyce said.

"Our funding for the $180.5 million Rural R&D for Profit programme is on top of around $700 million that the government already invests in rural R&D each year."

Fast facts
  • ABARES has found that for every dollar the government invests in agricultural R&D, farmers generate a $12 return within 10 years.
  • The Rural R&D for Profit Programme funds projects that address the government's rural RD&E priorities: advanced technology, biosecurity, managing natural resources, as well as promoting industry and on-farm adoption of R&D.
  • The first two rounds of the Rural R&D for Profit Programme delivered grant funding of almost $79 million for 29 projects, matched by more than $109 million in cash and in-kind contributions from successful grantees and their partners.
  • The CSIRO's 1965-1985 Dung Beetle Project successfully introduced 23 species of South African and European dung beetles to Australia, improving the quality and fertility of Australian cattle pastures, and reducing numbers of pestilent bush flies by around 90%.
  • The American Institute of Biological Sciences estimates that dung beetles save the US cattle industry an estimated US$380 million annually.​

Young Women's Gradual Weight Gain Lifts Pregnancy Blood Pressure Danger

May 17, 2017: University of Queensland
University of Queensland research has shown that gradual weight gain during a woman's reproductive years can more than double her risk of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.

School of Public Health researcher Akilew Adane said this and other maternal health research added to the evidence that parents and clinicians should think of pre-pregnancy health across the entire reproductive stage of women's lives, "not just the year before starting a family."

Mr Adane said the increased risk due to weight change and occurred regardless of whether the woman's body mass index (BMI) was initially categorised as healthy or overweight.

He said hypertensive disorders such as high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia were common complications for pregnant women and led to an increased risk of chronic high blood pressure in later life.

"High blood pressure in pregnancy can progress to pre-eclampsia, a potentially fatal complication and one of the leading causes of pre-term birth and low birth weight due to intra-uterine growth restriction," Mr Adane said.

"The leading avoidable risk factor for hypertensive disorders is having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 when you become pregnant."

Very little was known about the relationship between hypertensive disorders and weight changes in the years leading up to pregnancy, so researchers set out to investigate the links.

For 13 years they tracked the weight and pregnancy health of 2914 Australian women born between 1973 and 1978 as part of the Women's Health Australia study (also known as the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health).

"We found that women who were obese just prior to pregnancy tripled their risk of developing hypertensive disorders compared to women in the healthy BMI category," Mr Adane said.

"In the years leading up to pregnancy, women with moderate to high annual weight gains of more than 2.5 per cent of their body weight had a 2.3 times greater risk of developing HDP than those whose weight remained stable.

"Small annual weight gains of 1.5 to 2.5 per cent still resulted in a 1.7 times higher risk of developing HDP.

Mr Adane said women who lost more than 1.5 per cent of body weight between the average ages of 20 to 24 years were 46 per cent less likely to develop hypertensive disorders.

For a 70kg woman, a small weight gain of 1.5 to 2.5 per cent of their body weight is in the range of 1.05 to 1.75 kg per year.

"It's easy to overlook a kilogram or two per year of gradual weight change but it does have long-term consequences," Mr Adane said.

"Weight loss, if necessary, and weight stabilisation in a healthy BMI range is important at any time."

Akilew A. Adane, Gita D. Mishra, Leigh R. Tooth. Adult Pre-pregnancy Weight Change and Risk of Developing Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 2017; 31 (3): 167 DOI: 10.1111/ppe.12353

Family Initiatives To Stop The Obesity Cycle

15 May 2017: NSW Dept. of Health
An innovative video teaching families how to make healthy choices at the supermarket, and a healthy weight calculator for children, are just two of the practical tools offered by a new website, Healthy Kids for Professionals, launched today in the battle against childhood obesity.

The back-to-basics approach follows the release of new data indicating that parents have limited awareness of overweight and obesity in their children.

Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said more than one in five school-aged children is above a healthy weight and obesity remains unacceptably high.
“We have to find new and clear ways of reaching the families of these children to improve their understanding of healthy weight ranges and healthy habits.”
The new supermarket tour video, developed in collaboration with the Australian Medical Association (NSW), takes viewers on a guided tour of a supermarket with a dietician, to help show how to make healthy food choices.
AMA (NSW) Vice-President Dr Kean-Seng Lim said the video has been designed for health professionals to help patients make diet and lifestyle changes.
“The choices made when buying food have the potential to impact on the whole household,” Dr Lim said. “It’s especially important in the case of young people, as the habits a child learns will continue into adulthood.”
The video features on the new NSW Health website, Healthy Kids for Professionals, along with a healthy weight calculator for children, so parents can easily find out whether their child is a healthy weight .
“It’s not always easy to tell if your child is a healthy weight for their age and this was identified as an important issue in the latest NSW School Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) report,” Dr Chant said.
“The survey found almost three quarters of parents of primary school children who were in the overweight category, and one third of parents of obese children perceived their child to be ‘about the right weight’. This is critical as more than 80 per cent of obese children go on to become obese adults.”
The new website goes live from 10am: Healthy Kids for Professionals

Tiny Wild Boar In Tiny Mud Puddle

The wild boar (Sus scrofa), also known as the wild swine or Eurasian wild pig, is a suid native to much of Eurasia, North Africa, and the Greater Sunda Islands. Human intervention has spread its range further, making the species one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world, as well as the most widely spread suiform. Its wide range, high numbers, and adaptability mean that it is classed as least concern by the IUCN and it has become an invasive species in part of its introduced range. The animal probably originated in Southeast Asia during the Early Pleistocene, and outcompeted other suid species as it spread throughout the Old World.

As of 1990, up to 16 subspecies are recognised, which are divided into four regional groupings based on skull height and lacrimal bone length. The species lives in matriarchal societies consisting of interrelated females and their young (both male and female). Fully grown males are usually solitary outside the breeding season. The grey wolf is the wild boar's main predator throughout most of its range except in the Far East and the Lesser Sunda Islands, where it is replaced by the tiger and Komodo dragon respectively. It has a long history of association with humans, having been the ancestor of most domestic pig breeds and a big-game animal for millennia.

Industrial Finds Unearth Palaeontological Past From 112 Million Years Ago

A new exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology welcomes Albertans (Canada)to discover spectacular fossil finds from across the province.

As one of the best places in the world for fossil preservation and discovery, Alberta is an exciting window into prehistoric life. The museum’s new exhibit,Grounds for Discovery, showcases some of the most significant fossils that have been discovered through industrial work.

Thousands of cubic metres of soil, gravel, and bedrock are excavated in Alberta every year through road construction, urban development, mining and other industrial activity. When fossils are exposed during these activities, Royal Tyrrell Museum scientists and industrial workers cooperate to safely excavate and protect Alberta’s fossils for scientific study and display.

Each discovery that has been reported and excavated contributes to global research.

“The new Grounds for Discovery exhibit shows visitors first-hand the positive outcomes of reporting fossil discoveries and working with industry. Through personal stories and exceptional specimens, the Royal Tyrrell Museum shows us once again why it is a premier palaeontological research centre and a world-class tourist attraction in this province.” – Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism

The centrepiece of the exhibit is a new species of dinosaur discovered at the Suncor Millennium Mine near Fort McMurray in 2011. A Suncor employee spotted something unusual while excavating in the mine. Little did he know that this would turn out to be one of the most significant dinosaur discoveries in the world.

This new species of nodosaur (armoured dinosaur) is the oldest dinosaur known from Alberta – approximately 112 million years old – and is the best preserved armoured dinosaur ever found.

nodosaur (armoured dinosaur) - copyright Royal Tyrrell Museum

Since its discovery, the public have been able to share in the nodosaur’s journey by watching its painstaking preparation by technicians through the lab gallery window. For the first time, all the pieces have been put together so it can finally share its story.

Shawn Funk, a heavy-equipment operator, noticed the fossil because the texture and color looked different than the surrounding rock, according toNational Geographic.

"It was a very slow reveal, but it was a very exciting one nonetheless," said Caleb Brown, a postdoctoral fellow at the museum, and a co-author of a study describing the new species, which he expects to be published in a peer-reviewed journal this summer (northern hemisphere).

When the dinosaur died, Alberta was warm and sat on the coast of a shallow inland seaway that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. It's unclear if the dinosaur drowned in the seaway or died on land and then got swept out to sea. Either way, the carcass would have undergone a phenomenon called "bloat and float" as the body decomposed and filled with gases.

After severe bloating, the carcass would have exploded and sunk to the bottom of the seaway. "It must have been a very quiet, a very muddy, fine-grained and low-oxygenated environment where it settled, because there is no scavenging on the animal," Brown said.

"It must have fallen pretty rapidly, because we actually have a little impact crater from where it hit the bottom," Brown said. "It hit the bottom pretty hard."

Because the specimen was covered in marine sediment, museum researchers didn't know the specimen was a dinosaur. At first, they thought that the fossils belonged to a prehistoric marine creature, such as an ichthyosaur or a plesiosaur, because "we were getting marine reptiles from another mine about 20 kilometers [12 miles] away," said Donald Henderson, the curator of dinosaurs at the museum and co-author of the forthcoming study.

But after getting a good look at part of the specimen, museum technician Darren Tanke made the right call: The beast was a dinosaur, no doubt about it, Henderson said.

Mr. Henderson spent 17 days at the Millennium Mine in 2011, taking safety classes with Tanke so they could go into the mine to help excavate the specimen. The dinosaur was encased in a block of extremely hard rock known as a concretion, but the fossil inside was as soft as talcum powder, Henderson said.

The crew learned that the hard way, when they tried to remove the entire 35,000-lb. (15,800 kilograms) concretion at once. The insides were so soft, the block broke in two as they tried to remove it from the mine. After that, the paleontologists opted to remove the fossils in several thousand-pound chunks, which were then covered in burlap and plaster for protection. 

After a 12-hour truck ride, the fossils arrived at the museum, still shrouded in stone. Museum technician Mark Mitchell has spent almost six years revealing the spectacular specimen, and because it was so fragile, "he's put a drop of glue or more on every square millimeter that you see," Mr. Henderson said.

The 3,000-lb. (1,360 kg) nodosaur is so complete, it looks like a statue.

"It was very low to the ground, very squat on very short legs," Brown told Live Science. "The entire back, sides, neck and tail were covered in large osteoderms — bony plates that are embedded in the skin."

Normally, osteoderms fall off and become displaced when a dinosaur dies. "In this case, those osteoderms are still preserved in the skin," Brown said. "Not only that, the osteoderms are capped with layers of keratin, the same stuff your fingernails are made of. Normally, it doesn't fossilize."

This herbivore probably ate conifers, cycads (woody plants with seeds) and ferns. "They had very wimpy teeth," Mr. Henderson explains. "They had a beak like a turtle, and they would just gather the food. [There was] very little chewing, a system of stomachs would have processed the fibrous food," he said.

The researchers found a soccer-ball-size mass of fossilized food in the stomach of the specimen that he hopes to analyze soon.

The earliest nodosaurs are known from the Jurassic (a period lasting from 199.6 million to 145.5 million years ago), but most, including the newfound beast, lived during the Cretaceous period (145.5 million to 65.5 million years ago), Brown said. 

Nodosaurs have been found on every continent except Antarctica. 

Though the nodosaur specimen is in superb condition, it's not the most well-preserved dinosaur on record. That honor likely goes to one of the bird-like dinosaurs with fossilized feathers that farmers and researchers have discovered in China's Liaoning province. 

Research on this extraordinary nodosaur was supported through the National Geographic Society and is being featured in their June 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine, available online today and on print news-stands on May 30. The magazine feature includes an interactive featuring a 3D model of the nodosaur, both how it looked and lived in its day, and how it came to be fossilized for millions of years before its discovery.

Newly Unveiled Dinosaur Fossil Is Best Preserved Of Its Kind

Published on 15 May 2017 by National Geographic
See the remains of a nodosaur, the best preserved fossil of its kind ever found. Discovered by miners in Alberta, Canada, it's a 110 million-year-old type of plant-eating armored dinosaur. The animal has two 20-inch-long spikes on its shoulders, and, in life, it was 18 feet long and nearly 3,000 pounds.

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Click here to read more about the amazing discovery.

Ex-HMAS Sydney Retires To Western Australia

17 May 2017:Media Release - Dept. of Defence
Minister for Defence Personnel Dan Tehan said Ex-HMAS Sydney would leave Sydney Harbour today to be towed to Western Australia for recycling by Australian company Birdon Pty Ltd.

“Ex-HMAS Sydney had an illustrious career during her 32 years in service with the Royal Australian Navy,” Mr Tehan said.

“The Adelaide Class Frigate was involved in operations spanning the Middle East, East Timor, Fiji and the Solomon Islands and earned a Meritorius Unit Citation during the First Gulf War in 1991.

“She was built at the Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Washington, USA, and commissioned there on 29 January 1983.

“The former Sydney was decommissioned from the Royal Australian Navy on 7 November 2015 to make way for the Hobart class guided missile destroyers, which will provide Australia with an improved war fighting capability.”

Ex-HMAS Sydney’s journey from Sydney to the Common User Facility at Henderson, Western Australia, will take up to 22 days.

Sydney had been offered to States and Territories for use as a dive wreck, however, there was no interest in the ship, so the Government decided to recycle her by scrapping.

HMAS Sydney (FFG 03)

HMAS Sydney (FFG 03) was an Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The frigate was one of six modified Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates ordered from 1977 onwards, and the third of four to be constructed in the United States of America. Laid down and launched in 1980, Sydney was named for the capital city of New South Wales, and commissioned into the RAN in 1983.

During her operational history, Sydney has been involved in Australian responses to the 1987 Fijian coups d'état and the Bougainville uprising. The frigate was deployed to the Persian Gulf on five occasions in support of United States operations during the Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and has completed two round-the-world voyages.

Sydney was originally expected to remain in service until 2013, but was retained in service until 2015; ceasing active deployments on 27 February and serving as a moored training ship until her decommissioning on 7 November. The frigate will be replaced in service by a Hobart-class destroyer.

Following the cancellation of the Australian light destroyer project in 1973, the British Type 42 destroyer and the American Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate were identified as alternatives to replace the cancelled light destroyers and the Daring-class destroyers. Although the Oliver Hazard Perry class was still at the design stage, the difficulty of fitting the Type 42 with the SM-1 missile, and the success of the Perth-class acquisition (a derivative of the American Charles F. Adams-class destroyer) compared to equivalent British designs led the Australian government to approve the purchase of two US-built Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates in 1976. A third (Sydney) was ordered in 1977, followed by a fourth, with all four ships integrated into the USN's shipbuilding program. A further two ships were ordered in 1980, and were constructed in Australia.

As designed, the ship had a full load displacement of 3,605 tons, a length overall of 135.6 metres (445 ft), a beam of 13.7 metres (45 ft), and a draught of 24.5 metres (80 ft). Starting in February 1989, Sydney was modified from the Oliver Hazard Perry FLIGHT II design to FLIGHT III, requiring a lengthening of the helicopter deck for the RAST helicopter recovery system, which increased displacement to 4,100 tons and pushing the overall length to 138.1 metres (453 ft). Propulsion machinery consisted of two General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, which provided a combined 41,000 horsepower (31,000 kW) to the single propeller shaft. Top speed was 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph), with a range of 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km; 5,200 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). Two 650-horsepower (480 kW) electric auxiliary propulsors were used for close manoeuvring, with a top speed of 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph). Standard ship's company was 184, including 15 officers, but excluding the flight crew for the embarked helicopters. Sydney was the first ship of her class to carry female sailors and officers, requiring the installation of partitioning to some mess decks.

Original armament for the ship consisted of a Mark 13 missile launcher configured to fire RIM-66 Standard and RGM-84 Harpoon missiles, supplemented by an OTO Melara 76-millimetre (3.0 in) gun and a Vulcan Phalanx point-defence system. As part of the mid-2000s FFG Upgrade Project, an eight-cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System was fitted, with a payload of RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles. For anti-submarine warfare, two Mark 32 torpedo tube sets were fitted; originally firing the Mark 44 torpedo, the Adelaides later carried the Mark 46, then the MU90 Impact following the FFG Upgrade. Up to six 12.7-millimetre (0.50 in) machine guns could be carried for close-in defence, and since 2005, two M2HB .50 calibre machine guns in Mini Typhoon mounts were installed when needed for Persian Gulf deployments. The sensor suite included an AN/SPS-49 air search radar, AN/SPS-55 surface search and navigation radar, SPG-60 fire control radar connected to a Mark 92 fire control system, and an AN/SQS-56 hull-mounted sonar.Two helicopters could be embarked: either two S-70B Seahawk or one Seahawk and one AS350B Squirrel.

The last ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry Flight II design, Sydney was laid down at Todd Pacific Shipyards on 16 January 1980. She was launched on 26 September 1980, and commissioned into the RAN on 29 January 1983. During construction, the ship was identified by the United States Navy hull number FFG-35.

Operational history
From commissioning until mid-1984, Sydney was attached to the United States Navy's Pacific Fleet as a unit of Destroyer Squadron 9. During this time, the frigate conducted working-up and training exercises.

In May 1987, Sydney visited Fiji, and was alongside in Suva when the first of the 1987 Fijian coups d'état occurred on 14 May. Sydney and sister ship Adelaide, alongside in Lautoka, were instructed to remain off Fiji to aid in any necessary evacuation of Australian citizens; the first component of what became Operation Morris Dance. Sydney remained on station until at least 29 May, when a phased withdrawal began.

Following the acquisition of the Vulcan Phalanx close-in weapon system and the Seahawk helicopter, Sydney underwent a modification refit to be capable of using these weapons. This refit occurred over 1987 and 1988, and also saw the installation of fin stabilisation systems.

Commemorative badge of the 1990 world voyage, on display in the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney.
In January 1990, Sydney, Tobruk, and Jervis Bay were placed on standby to evacuate civilians from Bougainville Island following the Bougainville uprising. Sydney and Tobruk stood down in February, and the two ships departed with the submarine Oxley on a deployment to Turkey to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the landing at Anzac Cove. Following Anzac Day, Sydney continued on a round-the-world voyage, which included numerous diplomatic visits to European and American ports, the first visit of a RAN vessel to Sweden, and participation in a United States counter-narcotics operation in the Caribbean. The frigate arrived home in September.

On 3 December 1990, Sydney and the Perth-class destroyer Brisbane arrived in the Persian Gulf to relieve HMA Ships Adelaide and Darwin as part of Operation Damask; the Australian military contribution to the Gulf War. Sydney was assigned to the escort screen around Battle Force Zulu (Task Force 154), a naval force built around four United States Navy aircraft carriers, and also participated in surveillance and boarding operations.The two Australian warships remained in the area until 26 March 1991. Sydney was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation on 4 November 1991 for this deployment, and later received the battle honour "Kuwait 1991"

Sydney was deployed back to the Persian Gulf for Operation Damask from September 1991 to February 1992, and again from June 1993 to December 1993.

On 14 March 1994, Sydney rescued the crew of a yacht which had been participating in the Trans-Tasman Yacht Race before encountering difficulties.In early October, the frigate was called on to search for survivors of a light aircraft that ditched into the Tasman Sea.

In May 1995, Sydney became the first RAN warship to visit the Russian port of Vladivostok, as support for a diplomatic and trade mission.

In 1997, Sydney was one of several RAN vessels placed on standby following the outbreak of political disturbances in Papua New Guinea as part of the Sandline affair. No action was required by the Australian warships.

Sydney was deployed to East Timor as part of the Australian-led INTERFET peacekeeping taskforce from 3 November to 19 December 1999. She received the battle honour "East Timor 1999" for this deployment.

On 1 October 2000, Sydney took over from sister ship Newcastle as the RAN vessel assigned to support the peace negotiation process in the Solomon Islands that resulted in the signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement.

In October 2001, Sydney returned to the Persian Gulf to operate in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as part of the War in Afghanistan. The frigate was joined by sister ship Adelaide and the amphibious warfare vessel Kanimbla in early December, and returned to Australia in March 2002. Sydney was sent back to the Gulf in support of 2003 invasion of Iraq, operating from May to August 1993 as part of Operations Falconer and Catalyst. The battle honours "Persian Gulf 2001–03" and "Iraq 2003" recognise these deployments.

Sydney was the first of four frigates selected to go under the A$1 billion FFG Upgrade, with HMA Ships Darwin, Melbourne and Newcastle following. The upgrade features an 8-cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for 32 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM), upgrades to fire control and air warning radars, and replacement of the hull-mounted sonar and diesel generators. This refit commenced in 2002, but problems with integrating the frigates' anti-missile and anti-torpedo detection and defence systems meant that when Sydney was finished in 2007, she was initially not accepted back into service. By November 2008, the problems with the upgrade had been solved.

Sydney (rear) maneuvers with Ballarat in 2009 - U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chad R. Erdmann

On the morning of 13 March 2009, Sydney was one of seventeen warships involved in a ceremonial fleet entry and fleet review in Sydney Harbour, the largest collection of RAN ships since the Australian Bicentenary in 1988. The frigate led the line of thirteen ships involved in the ceremonial entry through Sydney Heads, and anchored in the harbour for the review.

On 20 April 2009, Sydney and the Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat departed from Sydney as part of Operation Northern Trident, a six-month round-the-world voyage by the two vessels, with numerous diplomatic visits and joint exercises with foreign navies. On 17 May, Sydney and Ballarat provided aid to two merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, driving off two separate groups of Somali pirates attacking the ships. Sydney remained in the area to report the incidents to Combined Task Force 151, while Ballarat escorted an impromptu convoy of eight ships, including the two that were attacked, to safety. The two warships visited ports in Western Europe, North America, the Pacific and northern Asia, with Sydney arriving back in her namesake city on 19 September.

In May 2013, Sydney began a three-month deployment with the United States Seventh Fleet, attached to Carrier Strike Group Five as an escort for the carrier USS George Washington.
In October 2013, Sydney participated in the International Fleet Review 2013 in Sydney.

Sydney visited Hobart in February 2015 for the Royal Hobart Regatta. During the weekend of 7–8 February,[date missing] the frigate was anchored in the River Derwent to free up wharf space for a civilian vessel. On attempting to return to Macquarie Wharf, the anchor chain broke, leaving the anchor 25 metres (82 ft) below. The anchor was later recovered by divers. The loss of the anchor prevented Sydney from fulfilling duties as the regatta flagship, as the ship would be unable to maintain a stationary position during the event. 

Sydney sailed into her namesake city for the final time on 27 February 2015. Despite flying a decommissioning pennant, the ship was not paid off until 7 November 2015; two years later than originally expected. In the interim, she was moored at Fleet Base East as an alongside training ship.

On 6 November, the day prior to paying off, a parade of 350 current and former personnel from the ship marched in Sydney. At the time of decommissioning, Sydney had travelled 959,627 nautical miles (1,777,229 km; 1,104,319 mi). She will be replaced by one of the three Hobart-class destroyers.

Five ships of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) have been named HMAS Sydney, after Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales.
HMAS Sydney (1912), a Town-class light cruiser launched in 1912, decommissioned in 1928, and broken up for scrap
HMAS Sydney (D48), a Leander-class light cruiser launched in 1934, and sunk following a battle with the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran on 19 November 1941
HMAS Sydney (R17), a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier launched in 1944, decommissioned in 1973, and broken up for scrap
HMAS Sydney (FFG 03), an Adelaide-class guided missile frigate launched in 1980, and decommissioned in 2015
HMAS Sydney (DDGH 42), a Hobart-class air warfare destroyer slated to enter service in 2020

HMAS Sydney (FFG 03). (2017, January 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
HMAS Sydney (FFG 03) during the International Fleet Review 2013 - photo courtesy H Peterswald

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