Inbox and Environment News: Issue 316

June 11 - 17, 2017: Issue 316

Sydney’s Biggest Backyard To Receive Facelift

June 7, 2017: NSW Government
Western Sydney Parklands will improve recreational areas and conservation projects with funding from the upcoming NSW Budget.
The NSW Government will provide $32.1 million in funding to the Parklands, including $21 million towards capital works projects.

Bungarribee Park will receive $4 million for ongoing development and more than $960,000 will be invested towards ongoing conservation work.

New multipurpose walking and cycling paths will be built to link the popular recreational and playground areas, Lizard Log, and Plough and Harrow in Abbotsbury.

The northern Parklands will receive additional tracks, extra seating and shade, improved signage, additional planting, and track maintenance.

Other capital works projects include:
  • opportunities to strengthen stormwater management, restore riparian corridors and improve water quality in Eastern Creek
  • new roads and facilities for the Parkland’s business hubs
  • better access to Horsley Park Urban Farms including improved tracks, signage, and fencing.
Stretching 27 kilometres from Blacktown to Liverpool, the 5280-hectare Parklands provides an important green corridor to Western Sydney.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the government’s strong investment in the Parklands made a significant contribution to Sydney’s open spaces and bushland.

“Western Sydney is booming, and we’re not just investing in jobs and infrastructure – we are also creating parklands and open green spaces for families and communities to enjoy,” Mr Perrottet said.

Sydney Harbor Emissions Equivalent To 200 Cars On The Roads

June 2, 2017: University of Sydney
The Sydney Harbour is renowned as a beautiful landmark straddling our thriving city but a new study has shown it is also a source of significant carbon emissions, which requires careful management as the city is poised to double its population by the end of the century.

That is the message of new research that has quantified CO2 emissions from the Harbour for the first time -- found to be 1000 tonnes annually -- equivalent to the pollution from about 200 cars.

The research, by the University of Sydney's Marine Studies Institute and the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry at Southern Cross University, is the first long term study of such a large and important Southern Hemisphere system referred to as a drowned river valley, which in Sydney spans estuaries from Middle Harbour to Lane Cove and Parramatta.

The emissions from Sydney Harbour -- including from urban runoff, leaf litter, soil decomposition and sewage overflow -- were found to be very low compared to the highly polluted estuaries of Europe and Asia, which can emit up to 76,500 car CO2 equivalents each year.

Sydney's emissions were found to be significantly less than China's major dammed river, the Yangtze, which is adjacent to megacities including Shanghai. Sydney's emissions measured at a similar, albeit lower level, to other natural drowned river valleys in the United States such as the Hudson River, which flows through New York.

Sydney is also predicted to become a megacity -- with a population of 10 million -- by 2100.

The research is published in the 5 June edition of the international journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science.

Lead author and PhD candidate Edwina Tanner in the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences, said although the Sydney Harbour was a net carbon emitter, during periods of high rainfall it became a carbon sink, as coastal waters filtered runoff from the highly urbanised catchment.

"The 1000 tonnes of CO2 we found are emitted from Sydney Harbour each year is significant -- but it's a small amount for an estuary of that size," said Ms Tanner, who will receive her PhD this year and is the Sydney Institute of Marine Science project manager of the World Harbour Project.

The distinctive funnel shape of the Sydney Harbour Estuary drowned river valley system includes narrow upper estuary channels, where particulate matter is filtered, which link up to a wide lower estuary that is flushed with coastal waters.

Ms Tanner said monitoring of estuarine CO2 was important for planning and remediation efforts: "As each estuary is different, the potential impacts of climate change and urban development will be different in every ecosystem."

Co-author and supervisor Professor Bradley Eyre from Southern Cross University, who has been studying estuaries for more than 20 years, said the research should play an important role in quantifying the significant carbon footprint of estuaries in built-up areas worldwide.

"Comparing results with other global estuaries, the discharge per unit area of the Sydney Harbour provides a predictor of emissions for estuaries from a similar geomorphic class," he said.

"A detailed analysis of emissions from urban harbours around the world could provide an understanding of adaptation strategies needed to manage and protect estuaries globally from future development and climate change."

E.L. Tanner, P.J. Mulhearn, B.D. Eyre. CO 2 emissions from a temperate drowned river valley estuary adjacent to an emerging megacity (Sydney Harbour). Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 2017; 192: 42 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecss.2017.05.004

Huge Hope For Jenolan Caves Rock-Wallabies

Thursday, 8 June 2017: Media Release - Gabrielle Upton, Minister for the Environment
There is hope for the recovery of Jenolan Caves endangered brush-tailed rock-wallaby colony after a recent survey found there were at least 100 living in the wild, the highest number recorded for the colony since counting began, NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said today.

Brush-tailed rock-wallaby numbers at Jenolan crashed to about 12 wallabies in 1999 before a monitoring program to help save the species was implemented and fox control measures were introduced. The monitoring and fox control program are now part of the NSW Government’s $100 million Saving our Species program.

“This is a major Saving our Species success story – this is the highest number of wallabies recorded at the site since surveys started at Jenolan Caves mid-last century,” Ms Upton said.

“There has been an 80 per cent increase in the Jenolan Caves colony over the past two decades.”

The Jenolan Caves’ brush-tailed rock-wallabies are surveyed twice a year, where the animals are caught, weighed and tagged.

Office of Environment and Heritage Senior Threatened Species Officer Deb Ashworth said in the early 1900s rock-wallabies were commonly sighted at the caves in areas like the Grand Arch and Devil’s Coach House but since mid-last century they disappeared from the area.

“Animals were initially placed into a predator-free enclosure and allowed to breed until they reached a level where the enclosure could be opened up,” she said.

“The colony has become a great success story where their numbers are now at record levels and their range has expanded since opening the enclosure with ongoing fox control. We now see them back on the Grand Arch.”

The latest survey results found 12 wallabies not previously recorded. The surveys also recorded four quolls, another threatened species, which shows the efforts to recover the brush-tailed rock-wallabies are also assisting other species.

First Long-Term Study Of Murray-Darling Basin Wetlands Reveals Severe Impact Of Dams

June 5, 2017: University of New South Wales
A landmark 30-year-long UNSW Sydney study of wetlands in eastern Australia has found that construction of dams and diversion of water from the Murray-Darling Basin have led to a more than 70 per cent decline in waterbird numbers.

The finding of severe degradation in the basin due to reduced water flow has significant implications for managing the development of other rivers in Australia and around the world.

The Coorong and Lower Lakes at the mouth of the Murray-Darling Basin are key sites for waterbirds, including Cape Barren geese. Credit: UNSW

"Our study is the first long-term and large-scale assessment of the impacts of dams and diverting water from the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin," says study lead author UNSW Professor Richard Kingsford.

"For more than 30 years we have carried out an annual aerial survey of waterbirds in an area covering almost a third of the continent. Our analysis of this unique dataset shows there has been severe degradation of the rivers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin during this period.

"By comparison, we found no signs of degradation in the rivers and wetlands in the undeveloped Lake Eyre Basin," he says.

The study is published in the journal Global Change Biology.

The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia's most developed river basin, with 240 dams that store almost 30,000 gigalitres of water. By comparison, the Lake Eyre Basin further inland, which is a similar size, is one of the country's least developed, with only one dam holding 14 gigalitres of water.

The researchers compared trends in the numbers of waterbirds, including Australian pelicans, black swans, different duck species and shorebirds, across both basins, as well as separately in their main river systems and key wetlands.

They identified a 72 per cent decline in waterbird numbers during the 32 years between 1983 and 2014 in the Murray-Darling Basin, with declines in more than half of the species of waterbirds surveyed. By contrast, waterbird numbers in the Lake Eyre Basin did not change significantly.

The team found that river flows and waterbird numbers were closely linked, indicating reduced water flow due to dam construction and water diversion for irrigation was the primary reason for the long-term declines in waterbirds in the Murray-Darling Basin.

"By grouping waterbirds, such as plant-eating birds and fish-eating birds, we showed that the degradation affected a wide range of different plants and animals in the wetlands; declines in these waterbirds means their food levels are also falling," says Professor Kingsford, who is Director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science.

The research team identified some impacts of duck hunting in southern Australia but these were not as strong as the effects of diverting water from the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin.

"The key aspect of our study which gives us considerable confidence in our findings is that we were able to show that river flows and waterbird numbers were closely related, despite a range of other factors we examined, including the effect of duck hunting," says study co-author and UNSW research fellow Dr Gilad Bino.

The study also examines the impact of increased environmental flows provided under the Murray-Darling Basin plan. Although more water could lead to about an 18 per cent recovery in waterbird numbers, the team found this could be reduced to only a 1 per cent increase as a result of long-term climate change, which is not adequately considered in the plan for the Basin.

Last year, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority recommended a reduction in environmental flows of 70 gigalitres per year from the Darling River catchments, including a reduction of environmental flows to the internationally important Macquarie Marshes, which the study shows have also suffered a long-term decline in waterbird numbers across most species.

"This reduction in environmental flows would exacerbate the long-term impacts of water resource development," says Professor Kingsford. "The importance of environmental flows for the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin cannot be underestimated; they are critical for such wetlands as the Macquarie Marshes where we have international responsibilities."

As one of the few studies in the world to examine the effects of river and wetland degradation over a long time period and wide area, the results allow the team to warn of the long-term impacts of new dams on rivers in other areas and countries.

"It is not just the waterbirds that are affected, but also the quality of the rivers and the services they provide to downstream communities, such as fish populations and river red gums, " says Professor Kingsford.

"This study rings alarm bells for the Australian and Queensland governments currently pushing to establish irrigation in Northern Australia. Clearly the building of dams and diversion of water will devastate our tropical wetlands, which are so important for the many ecosystem services they provide, including to future tourism and aboriginal communities."

Watch a short video on the research here:

Richard T. Kingsford, Gilad Bino, John L. Porter. Continental impacts of water development on waterbirds, contrasting two Australian river basins: Global implications for sustainable water use. Global Change Biology, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13743

Marine Reserves Help Mitigate Against Climate Change, Say Scientists

June 5, 2017: University of York
Highly protected marine reserves can help mitigate against the impacts of climate change, a study by a team of international scientists has concluded.

Scientists say reserves can help marine ecosystems and people adapt to five key impacts of climate change: ocean acidification; sea-level rise; increased intensity of storms; shifts in species distribution, and decreased productivity and oxygen availability.

Reserves also can promote uptake and long-term storage of carbon from greenhouse gas emissions, especially in coastal wetlands, which helps reduce the rate of climate change, the study revealed.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evaluated existing peer reviewed studies on the impact of marine reserves around the world.

Currently, only 3.5 per cent of the ocean has been set aside for protection with just 1.6 per cent fully protected from exploitation.

International groups are working to raise the total to 10 per cent by 2020, while delegates to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's 2016 World Conservation Congress agreed that at least 30 per cent should be protected by 2030.

Scientists say Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs):

Protect coasts from sea-level rise, storms and other extreme weather events
Help offset climate-change induced declines in ocean and fisheries productivity
Provide refuges for species as they adjust their ranges to changing conditions
Can help combat acidification
Lead author, Professor Callum Roberts from the University of York's Environment Department, said: "Many studies show that well-managed marine reserves can protect wildlife and support productive fisheries, but we wanted to explore this body of research through the lens of climate change to see whether these benefits could help ameliorate or slow its impacts.

"It was soon quite clear that they can offer the ocean ecosystem and people critical resilience benefits to rapid climate change."

Previously published research revealed that marine reserves can promote rapid recovery of exploited species and degraded habitats while safeguarding intact ecosystems.

These benefits are greater in large, long-established, well-managed reserves that have full protection from activities such as fishing, oil and mineral extraction. Relative isolation from damaging human activities adds further conservation benefits.

The ability of protected areas to offer strong climate change resilience benefits is likely to be contingent on these characteristics.

The research shows that protecting more of the ocean will also improve the outlook for environmental recovery after greenhouse gas emissions have been brought under control. This strengthens the case that the United Nations ocean protection target be raised from 10 per cent to 30 per cent coverage of MPAs, which will require many more large-scale MPAs and protected areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Beth O'Leary, a co-author and Research Fellow at the University of York, added: "We were keenly aware that marine reserves can increase species' abundance and help alleviate food scarcity, but our evaluation showed reserves are a viable low-tech, cost-effective adaptation strategy that would yield multiple co-benefits from local to global scales, improving the outlook for the environment and people into the future."

Matt Rand, Director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, which supported part of the research, added: "This study should be proof positive to decision makers that creating effectively managed marine reserves can deliver a multitude of benefits. Marine reserves are climate reserves."

Callum M. Roberts, Bethan C. O’Leary, Douglas J. McCauley, Philippe Maurice Cury, Carlos M. Duarte, Jane Lubchenco, Daniel Pauly, Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo, Ussif Rashid Sumaila, Rod W. Wilson, Boris Worm, and Juan Carlos Castilla. Marine reserves can mitigate and promote adaptation to climate change. PNAS, June 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1701262114

Toxic Chemical Discharge Costs Company Director $270,000

Media release: 5 June 2017
The Land and Environment Court has convicted the Director of Sydney Drum Machinery Pty Ltd (trading as Better Drums), Mr Imad Osman-Kerim and penalised him a total of $151,000 after he failed to comply with two notices issued by the NSW Environment Protection Authority to clean-up toxic chemicals after fires at his St Mary’s drum re-conditioning business.

Mr Osman-Kerim was also convicted of breaching a condition of the company’s Environment Protection Licence when they received drums onto the premises while the licence was suspended. 

In addition to the fine, the court ordered Mr Osman-Kerim to publish details of the offence in several publications, pay the EPA’s investigation costs of $120,795 and pay the EPA’s legal costs.

EPA Director Waste Compliance Greg Sheehy said the EPA prosecuted Mr Osman-Kerim in his capacity as the sole director of Sydney Drum Machinery, for two offences of failing to comply with a clean-up notice and one offence of contravening a condition of an environment protection licence in breach of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

“Sydney Drum Machinery provided a cleaning and repair business for drums used as chemical containers and had a responsibility to ensure that waste water from the site was contained at all times so as not to impact on the surrounding environment,” Mr Sheehy said.

The EPA suspended the company’s licence in October 2011, after an EPA Officer inspected the premises and found that drum containers were being stored at the site above the capacity permitted by its licence and these were stored in an unsatisfactory way, putting the environment at risk.

“A condition of the suspension prevented the company from receiving chemical drums at the premises, however, the company continued to receive chemical drums at the premises unlawfully.”

In January 2012, two separate fires damaged the premises causing toxic chemicals entrained in firewater to discharge from the premises into a creek that runs through Dunheved Golf Course.

Sydney Drum Machinery failed to comply with clean-up notices issued by the EPA after each fire requiring the company to take measures to ensure the firewater, which was contaminated with toxic chemicals from the sites operations, was contained onsite and removed to a licenced waste disposal facility.

“The lack of immediate actions by the company to contain the waste water resulted in discharges from the premises causing serious actual harm to the creek environment, including fish, frogs and invertebrates.

“The EPA had to step in and stop the discharges to the environment on both occasions to prevent further harm to the environment,” Mr Sheehy said.

The company has de-registered and is no longer operating.

Blueprint For Marine Turtle Recovery

8 June 2017: Media Release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
The Coalition Government has further strengthened its commitment to protect marine turtles in our waters with the release of the revised marine turtle recovery plan.

The new recovery plan, which will remain in place until 2027, provides direction for the ongoing conservation and management of marine turtles in Australia. It will build on the successful outcomes delivered by the previous plan and step up efforts to tackle emerging and existing threats to the species.

The Coalition Government, together with the New South Wales and Queensland governments, jointly made the new recovery plan under national environment law.

In developing the recovery plan, the Coalition Government worked closely with the relevant government agencies, scientists, Indigenous community and ranger groups and interested stakeholders from around Australia. The level of collaboration invested in putting this plan together highlights the need for us to continue to work together and tackle the threats facing these species nationally and internationally.

Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle are found nesting or foraging in Australia’s waters and all are listed under national environment law. Most of these species, however, migrate across the globe and face a range of serious threats to their survival wherever they go.

The plan identifies 13 threats to the ongoing survival of marine turtles. These threats include climate change, marine pollution, illegal wildlife trade, fisheries bycatch and the destruction of turtle eggs and hatchlings by predators such as feral pigs, dogs and goannas. The plan includes strategies to address the threats to marine turtles on a national level as well as activities for the Coalition Government to pursue on the international stage.

The Coalition Government will continue to advocate for and work towards solutions to the challenges that face marine turtles globally by working directly with our neighbours and engaging with other countries at international forums.

In Australia, the destruction of turtle nests by predators such as feral pigs is one of the biggest threats to the future of the species. In response, the Coalition and Queensland governments jointly invested $7 million in the Nest to Ocean Turtle Protection Program which is continuing to deliver benefits to our turtle populations. Since the program started in mid-2014, 93 per cent of nests monitored by the ranger groups working under the program were protected and produced hatchlings.

Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia
Department of the Environment and Energy, the NSW Government and the Queensland Government, 2017
About this document
The Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia is a national plan which aims to aid in the recovery of six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles. These species are the: loggerhead (Caretta caretta), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), green (Chelonia mydas), flatback (Natator depressus) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles.

The plan considers the conservation requirements of the species across their range and identifies the actions to be taken to ensure the species long-term viability in nature, and the mechanisms to undertake those actions. Due to the cross jurisdictional and international range of most marine turtles (with the exception of flatback turtles, which are endemic to the Australian continental shelf), management of marine turtles requires collaborative arrangements with multiple parties’ participation.

The first Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia was adopted in July 2003. The Australian Government reviewed the 2003 plan in 2013, and recommended that it be remade. This new Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia (the plan) has been developed in conjunction with state and territory governments, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders, and attempts to provide context on the scale and severity of the threats facing marine turtles today.

The plan recognises the cultural, social and spiritual ties that coastal Aboriginal people across northern Australia and Torres Strait Islander communities have with marine turtles, and that managing land and sea country with marine turtle conservation and ongoing customary use is a high priority.

Long-term Recovery Objective
The plan sets out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline, and support the recovery of marine turtles in Australia. The overarching objective of the plan is to minimise anthropogenic threats to allow for the conservation status of marine turtles to improve so that they can be removed from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 threatened species list.

Interim Recovery Objectives
Recognising that the long-term recovery objective is unlikely to be achieved during the ten-year life of this plan, the following interim objectives and targets have been set for the life of this plan. The effectiveness of this plan will be measured, and progress towards long-term objectives assessed, on the basis of how well the following targets for interim recovery objectives are met:
  1. Current levels of legal and management protection for marine turtles are maintained or improved both domestically and throughout the migratory range of Australia’s marine turtles.
  2. The management of marine turtles is supported.
  3. Anthropogenic threats are demonstrably minimised.
  4. Trends at index beaches, and population demographics at important foraging grounds are described.

Federal Government Delivers $29 Million Boost To Protect Our Environment

5 June 2017: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
As part of activities on World Environment Day, the Turnbull Government is delivering a $29 million boost to protect Australia's environment.

The Coalition Government through the 20 Million Trees Program is investing $27 million for more tree-planting projects across Australia that will help to support our threatened species and ecological communities. Of this investment, $6 million will be available for community-scale projects, and $21 million for larger projects delivered through service providers.

This funding takes us a step closer to achieving our goal of planting 20 million native trees and plants by 2020 that will help to improve our local environment, connect our threatened bushland, and create habitats for native wildlife.

We are investing close to $2 million for targeted threatened species projects to help in the fight against extinction. This investment will deliver projects such as feral cat control to protect warru (black-footed rock-wallabies) in central Australia, insurance populations for threatened plants in WA and making habitat safe for golden-shouldered parrots in Queensland.

The Turnbull Government is committed to securing a future for our threatened species. This new wave of action will support key projects and help achieve the targets set under our Threatened Species Strategy.

Since the appointment of the Threatened Species Commissioner in 2014, the Coalition Government has mobilised more than $228 million for more than 1000 projects that are supporting the recovery of our threatened species.

As its World Environment Day it is also is fitting that today marks the start of work on the expansion of the feral-free fenced area at Mulligans Flat in Canberra.

This expansion, which the Turnbull Government has support with $600,000 in funding, nearly triples the size of the cat-free area to help protect threatened species such as the eastern bettong and the eastern quoll.

Avalon Boomerang Bags: An Idea That's Spreading To Stop Plastic Bag Use

Avalon Boomerang Bags - now at North Avalon shops - A J Guesdon photo, 25.5.2017

Avalon Boomerang Bags

11am-5pm @ sewcraft cook 
Unit 20/14 Polo Ave Mona Vale

Boomerang Bags is a bag-share initiative involving the installation of a number of ‘Boomerang Bag’ boxes throughout any given business district, shopping centre, street or market. Each box is stocked with re-useable bags for customers to borrow if they have forgotten to bring their own.

Unlike the traditional purchase-and-keep approach, Boomerang Bags are free, and local community members are responsible for returning the bags once they’re no longer required. The availability of free re-useable bags reduces the reliance of local businesses to supply bags to all customers, and encourages a mentality of re-use among local communities, thereby reducing the amount of plastic bag material entering our landfills and waterways.

So who makes the Boomerang Bags? Well, you do! Boomerang Bags are made by local communities for local communities, and are sewn from recycled and donated materials.

Get in touch if you'd like to donate materials, join us making bags, or implement Boomerang Bags in your own local area!

Record Number Of Public Submissions Against Narrabri Gasfield Must Be Respected

June 07, 2017:Media Release - Lock the Gate
The release today of submissions to the Narrabri coal seam gasfield in North West NSW reveals overwhelming numbers of people opposed to it, prompting calls for the NSW Government to reject the project.

The Department of Planning has revealed that it received 23,000 submissions on the project, the most ever received on a major resource project, with only 300 in support. The vast majority of the submissions are opposed to the project, which is also opposed by the NSW State Opposition.

Sarah Ciesiolka, whose farm is near the proposed gasfield said, “We are overwhelmed by how many people from around the state and far afield have supported our efforts to prevent the Pilliga forest being turned over to an industrial gasfield. This is a mandate that the NSW Government cannot ignore: they must reject this unacceptable gasfield.”

Anne Kennedy, a farmer from Coonamble said, “We are not surprised that so many people have made their objection to this project clear. Experts have reviewed Santos’ Environmental Impact Statement and found that this project presents profound risk to the recharge of the Great Artesian Basin.

“The Pilliga Sandstone is effectively the headwater of the aquifer we rely on for our existence and Santos want to drill straight through it and depressure the aquifers below it. It’s not on.”

Megan Kuhn from Lock the Gate Alliance said, “This unprecedented response must surely be ringing the Government’s alarm bells. Over 100 communities in the area and around the region have declared themselves gasfield free and people far and wide have now also swarmed to support us and what’s at stake by this proposal.The NSW Government will ignore this movement at its peril.”

The Department of Planning media release outlining the scale of opposition to the Narrabri gasfield is available online here.

Community Views On Narrabri Gas Project To Be Addressed

07.06.2017: Departmental Media Response  - Department of Planning and Environment
Communities around Australia and overseas have made many thousands of submissions during the Department of Planning and Environment’s extended 90-day public exhibition of Santos’ Environmental Impact Statement for the Narrabri Gas Project.

Mike Young, Director of Resource Assessments, said the Department sought to consult broadly and encourage feedback from a wide range of people and groups during the exhibition.

“Almost 23,000 submissions, including around 500 submissions from the local area and around 18,000 form submissions, have been received by the Department during the exhibition period, Mr Young said.

“This is the most submissions the Department has ever received on a development application, and it reflects the high-level of public interest in coal seam gas in general, and in this project.

“All submissions and any additional issues will be considered more thoroughly as we continue with the assessment.

“We will also be meeting with key stakeholders in the coming weeks to discuss issues raised in more detail, including Narrabri Shire Council.”

Mr Young added the 18,000 form objections came from a range of places within NSW, and there were around 5,000 submissions from interstate and almost 200 from overseas.

“Most of the public submissions objected to the project. However, we did receive around 300 submissions in support and most of these were from the Narrabri area,” Mr Young said.

“There are 10 submissions from NSW government agencies and four from local councils in the region including the Environment Protection Authority, Department of Primary Industries, Office of Environment and Heritage, Division of Resources and Geoscience and Narrabri, Gunnedah, Warrumbungle and Gilgandra Shire Councils.

“None of the agencies or local councils objected to the proposal, but they highlighted a range of issues that should be given further consideration before any decision is made.

“There were also around 100 submissions from a range of environmental, community, farming, Aboriginal and business groups.

Submissions were received from groups including the Nature Conservation Council, Lock the Gate, People for the Plains, Knitting Nannas Against Gas, North West Alliance, Namoi Water, Artesian Bore Water Users Association, Cotton Australia, Narrabri Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Narrabri and District Chamber of Commerce.

“At this stage, we can see the main issues raised by the community include impacts on groundwater and agriculture, health risks related to air emissions and water pollution, the conservation values of the Pilliga Forest, management of waste products such as salt, and lighting impacts on the Siding Springs Observatory.

“Objections highlighted opposition to coal seam gas and fossil fuels more generally, including concerns about climate change and the need for society to rely more on renewable sources of energy.”

Santos is now required to respond to submissions, called a Response to Submissions (RtS). Once the RtS is received by the Department it will be published on the Major Projects website.

The Department will then undertake a thorough assessment of the merits of the project in consultation with key government agencies and independent experts, including the Environmental Impact Statement, all submissions and community feedback, and the RtS.

The final decision on the merits of the project will be made by the independent Planning Assessment Commission.

Submissions will be published on the Major Projects website

Local Teens Pitch’n Environmental Solutions In New Short Film Competition

Media release: 6 June 2017
Young people across the Hunter and Central Coast are being asked to showcase their ideas about the future of clean energy and protecting threatened species, as part of a new environmentally-themed short film competition called Pitch’n.

The competition launched today (6 June) by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is open to young people aged 12–18 across the region.

Six films will be selected as finalists and will win a share of $8,000 in cash and prizes. The winning films in each category will also be shown at the Real Film Festival in Newcastle later this year.

OEH Director of Hunter Central Coast Sharon Molloy said entrants are required to explore solutions to environmental issues in one of two categories: ‘Future Energy’ or ‘Threatened Species’ featuring the work of local community groups.

“Pitch’n brings together two exciting things: film and the environment, to help remind young people about the importance of acting locally while thinking globally,” Ms Molloy said.

“This competition is helping us understand what the next generation of environmentalists are thinking and how local community groups are working towards safeguarding our environment.

“The winning short films will be screened at the Newcastle Real Film Festival during October which is a great opportunity for any budding, young film directors to gain state-wide exposure for their work.

"There are some great prizes to be won but we're hoping young people will go beyond that and help their community become environmental advocates.

“Perhaps some will even become inspired to join a local environmental group,” Ms Molloy said.

All entrants must live in the Hunter-Central Coast Region which includes Cessnock, Dungog, Gloucester, Gosford, Great Lakes, Greater Taree, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Singleton, Upper Hunter and Wyong.

Pitch’n also provides promising Hunter–Central Coast marketers aged 13–18 with an opportunity to win a prize for advertising and promotion of the competition via their Instagram accounts.

Launching today (6 June) submissions for Pitch’n will be accepted until 1 September 2017.

For more information on how to enter please

Landholder And His Company Fined $157,500 For Illegal Clearing

Media release: 7 June 2017 - OE&H
A Moree landholder and his company have been fined a total of $157,500 plus costs in the Land and Environment Court, last month, for illegally clearing native vegetation on a property known as "Beefwood" at Moree between 2011 and 2012.

Gerardus (Gerrit) Kurstjens and his company Topview Brisbane Pty Ltd were fined $118,125 and $39,375 respectively.

The Court also ordered the defendants to pay the prosecutor's costs of $185,000.

Mr Kurstjens and his company pleaded guilty and were found to have undertaken the clearing without a development consent or a property vegetation plan as required by the Native Vegetation Act (NV Act).

The clearing was carried out by employees and contractors of the company at the direction of Mr Kurstjens, who knew that a property vegetation plan or development consent was required.

"Using satellite imagery Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) investigators determined at least 1000 trees had been unlawfully cleared," OEH Executive Director, Ian Hunter said.

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

Half A Century In Red Tape Cuts

7 June 2017: Media Release - Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston

The Australian Government, together with the Commonwealth Fisheries Association (CFA), has welcomed news that more than 50 initiatives to cut red tape for Commonwealth fishers have been or are being implemented. ​

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, said this was a great result for local providers of fresh, quality, sustainable seafood.

"In line with the ambitious red tape reduction targets set by the government, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has been working closely with industry, scientists and state and territory regulators to streamline processes and remove unnecessary fisheries regulation," Minister Ruston said.

"The latest round of red tape reduction initiatives include simplifying reporting requirements for commercial fishers, removing duplication in state and Commonwealth management and improved sharing of data with industry to facilitate co-management.

"These changes will amount to a sustainable fishing sector that all Australians can be proud of. I thank industry for their commitment to work with AFMA to improve processes for their members."

CFA Chair, Anthony Ciconte, said that the initiatives were already making a difference to fishers.

"Cutting red tape means our industry can get on with the task of providing fresh Australian seafood to the consumer, without the additional and sometimes unnecessary costs created by years of regulatory review," Mr Ciconte said.

"AFMA have been working with the CFA to target duplication within management arrangements, and in turn reducing the cost for us of doing business with a much more simplified framework.

"The CFA congratulates AFMA and the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources on more than 50 initiatives to date."

For more information on the improvements being made for a competitive and sustainable fishing industry, including the 50 red tape reductions,

Environmental Data Recognised At NSW State IAwards

7 June 2017: Media Release - OE&H
A trifecta of awards was scooped by the NSW Government's innovative environmental data portal at the NSW State iAwards on Thursday 1 June.

Wetland, Centennial Park Sydney, benefited from an Restoration and Rehabilitation Grant – Heritage Stream - in 2014
Three coveted iAwards were taken home by SEED (Sharing and Enabling Environmental Data) Portal, an online portal which enables a variety of environmental data in NSW to be accessed by local communities, industry including planners and decision makers to help build a deeper understanding of their local environment.

The three awards won by SEED include the Infrastructure and Platform Innovation of the Year Cross-Technology Category, Public Sector and Government Markets, and a new NSW Government iAward for Public Sector and Government Innovation.

Office of Environment and Heritage Science Director Kate Wilson said SEED's triple win at the iAwards is testimony to the platforms user-friendly interface and its ability to provide open and transparent information for any user.

"I'm proud of the recognition that SEED has received in not just one, but three different categories of innovation at the iAwards. I'm excited about the potential of SEED to enable greater transparency and improved decision making on environmental matters," Dr Wilson said.

"What makes SEED so unique is that it was built through cross-government collaboration and co-designed with community and industry.

"Our partner, Informed Solutions, really pushed the bar in terms of technical development to ensure the platform delivers simple solutions to our users with flexibility to meet their different needs," said Dr Wilson.

The iAwards, Australia's prestigious technology awards, are hosted by the AIIA (Australian Information Industry Association). The awards recognise achievements and the positive impacts of ICT innovation across all facets of the Australian economy and the wider community.

SEED will now progress to the National iAwards, the winners of which will be announced in August.

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

New Mining Release Framework: No Protection For Northern Rivers Or Sydney’s Drinking Water Catchments

June 06, 2017: Media Release - Lock the Gate
Lock the Gate Alliance says the NSW Government’s ‘Strategic release framework’ for coal and gas exploration, announced today, leaves the state’s groundwater and farmland unprotected.

Under the framework, parts of the state will be made available for coal and gas exploration and it has been announced that the new framework will immediately be applied to two areas in the state’s far west where explorers have sought access to unconventional gas. 

The new framework also allows holders of “expunged petroleum titles” to reapply for areas where licences have been bought back or cancelled, including in the Northern Rivers and Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

"There’s nothing in this framework that will prevent the Minister and the Cabinet opening up the Northern Rivers or Sydney’s drinking water catchment to new gas exploration” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods.

"The public is still waiting for long-overdue promises to protect farmland, water and communities from coal and unconventional gas mining to be delivered.

"Without those protections in place, this Strategic Release Framework is a major threat to our land and water resources.

"With a state election coming up in a year and a half, this failure is likely to lead to an electoral backlash from affected communities if it is not quickly addressed," she said.

The Framework is partly a response to ICAC made nearly four years ago and warning that the process for releasing coal exploration licences was "conducive to corruption” but Lock the Gate says there are important elements of these recommendations unfulfilled.

The final Strategic Release Framework is available here

Strategic Convential Gas Exploration Sites Identified In Western NSW 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017: Media Release - The Hon. Don Harwin
Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council
Minister for Resources
Minister for Energy and Utilities
Minister for the Arts
The NSW Government is taking responsible steps to increase conventional gas exploration in the state by implementing the Strategic Release Framework in the NSW Gas Plan.

Minister for Resources Don Harwin announced that the Government will take the first steps in releasing new areas for gas exploration – in areas that do not raise a conflict between gas exploration and the local community.

Areas for potential release will focus on conventional gas opportunities only, which will be subject to a rigorous regime that puts community and the environment first.

“When we released the NSW Gas Plan last year we said we would pause, reset and then recommence gas exploration on our terms,” Mr Harwin said. “With all 17 actions of the Gas Plan completed, Government is able to consider on a case-by-case basis the responsible development of the gas industry in NSW.

“This Government ended Labor’s attempt to establish coal seam gas throughout NSW. Communities can rest assured that our Government will not be reopening those wounds.”

Geologists have identified the Bancannia Trough north of Broken Hill and Pondie Range Trough north of Wilcannia for initial assessment by the Advisory Body for Strategic Release, an independently chaired expert group.

These two areas in the Far West of NSW show good potential for conventional gas resources and are located away from prime agricultural land and residential areas.

The Advisory Body will conduct a further assessment of the areas to consider the social, environmental and economic impacts of exploration and will undertake consultation with local communities to determine the areas suitability for exploration.

No areas will be released for exploration unless the Government is convinced that exploration can be done safely and appropriately. These areas will be put to a competitive auction process, where only fit and proper companies will be considered.

“We have responded to valid community concerns around the social and
environmental impacts of gas exploration,” Mr Harwin said.

“This is in stark contrast to Labor who threw around gas licenses like confetti at a wedding without consulting local communities, and without adequate environmental protections.

“This resulted in vast areas of NSW covered in exploration titles, many granted to $2 shelf companies without experience of working with landholders and communities.

“Labor’s method for releasing gas and coal titles led to malpractice and corrupt conduct that was spectacularly uncovered by ICAC, in the case of coal titles.”

In 2013 the Government commissioned an independent report by NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O’Kane, which recommended a world’s best practice regulatory regime.

The Government then developed the NSW Gas Plan, in which the Government paused the sector and bought back exploration licences, reset protections to safeguard environmental and social values in line with community expectations to allow NSW to restart a responsible industry.

Professor O'Kane will oversee the start of the evaluation process, while Government seeks a chair for the Advisory Body through an expression of interest process.

As part of the NSW Gas Plan the Narrabri Gas proposal is under consideration with the Department of Planning and Environment as a strategic project.

The North Coast Plan rules out coal seam gas extraction and the Government has already bought back licenses there and in the Central Coast, Lower Hunter, Sydney Basin and the Illawarra-Shoalhaven. 

If Victoria Can Ban CSG, NSW Can Too!

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

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

Interim Heritage Order Needed To Protect Tarwyn Park From KEPCO Coal Threat

June 07, 2017: Media Release- Lock the Gate
Lock the Gate Alliance is calling for the State Heritage Council to recommend an Interim Heritage Order for Tarwyn Park in the Bylong Valley at its meeting today, due to the threat posed by the KEPCO Bylong coal mine proposal.

A recent independent report commissioned by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission at the request of the State Heritage Council indicates that Tarwyn Park satisfies four state significant heritage criteria which make it eligible for listing on the State Heritage Register.

The report also indicates that the property is under threat from the Bylong Coal project.

Nic Clyde from Lock the Gate Alliance said “This historic horse-breeding stud, with its Federation homestead and role as the cradle of the unique land restoration system of Natural Sequence Farming, needs to be protected as a state heritage icon, not destroyed by coal mining.

“We have written to the State Heritage Council and the Environment Minister calling for an urgent Interim Heritage Order to be placed over the property.

“The recent expert heritage report had identified 19 threats to Tarwyn Park heritage including that the Bylong Coal Project will “adversely impact physical evidence associated with Tarwyn Park’s historic association with the Melbourne Cup” and that it will have a “material impact on Natural Sequence Farming infrastructure”.

Tarwyn Park was the home of early thoroughbred and Melbourne Cup champions and the cradle of the revolutionary Natural Sequence Farming (NSF) method. Two famous horses ‘Rain Lover’ (two time Melbourne Cup winner) and ‘Eleazar’ are buried there.

 “We’re calling on State Heritage Council to properly recognise the unique heritage values of this amazing property, and to recommend an urgent Interim Heritage Order given it is clear those heritage values are under immediate threat.

 “This is definitely another case of the wrong mine in the wrong place. The NSW Government should not be sacrificing our living heritage for quick and dirty coal profits.”

Independent heritage report provided to the Planning and Assessment Commission is available here

Draft Vegetation SEPP

NSW Department of Planning & Environment
The NSW Government proposes to introduce a new land management State Environmental Planning Policy.
The new State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation) (SEPP) will safe-guard native vegetation in urban areas and land zoned for environmental protection by providing a consistent approach to clearing in NSW. 
Land to which the Vegetation SEPP will apply
Land within the following Sydney metropolitan local government areas: Northern Beaches
This proposed SEPP will ensure the biodiversity offset scheme ­– established under the Land Management and Biodiversity reforms – will apply to all clearing of native vegetation that exceeds the offset thresholds in urban areas and environmental conservation zones that does not require development consent.

The Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE) provides an explanation of what the proposed Vegetation SEPP will do, the intended outcomes and the reasons for the proposed policy approach. The Department of Planning and Environment is now seeking submissions on the proposed policy approach explained in the EIE.

Have your say until 21 June 2017
Or write to:
Land Management and Biodiversity Conservation Reforms Office
PO Box A290, Sydney South NSW 1232

We will publish your submission unless you tell us not to. Published submissions will usually include your name and the name of any organisation on whose behalf you may be writing. We will remove contact details such as email addresses, postal addresses and telephone numbers. At our discretion we may not publish certain submissions (or part of submissions) due to our assessment of length, content, appropriateness or confidentiality. 
We look forward to your feedback.

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

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.

Energy Locals For 100% Carbon Neutral Plans

From Surf Life Saving NSW  
Interested in 100% carbon neutral plans, huge solar feed in tariffs and Australian owned and operated in your energy provider? Look no further than SLSNSW's newest partner Energy Locals to see how they will revolutionise your energy plan:

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. 

NSW Health Places Its Motto Where Its Mouth Is

08 June 2017
NSW will be the first state in Australia to remove sugary drinks from health facilities when it launches a healthy food and drink policy aimed directly at its own ranks.

Sugary drinks with no nutritional value are set to go as NSW Health leads by example with its new Healthy Choices in Health Facilities policy framework. The drinks will be phased out by December 2017.

The policy is designed to support its Make Healthy Normal campaign and support NSW Health staff and visitors by increasing the availability and choice of healthy foods and drinks in NSW Health facilities. Healthy choices will make up at least 75 per cent of the offering.

NSW Health Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said vending machines, cafes and catering services were all earmarked to offer more healthy options for staff and visitors.

“We are working toward a 5 per cent reduction in overweight and obesity rates in adults by 2020, and there’s no better way to start than right here on our own doorstep,” Dr Chant said.

“It is important NSW Health provides healthy food and drink choices for all our staff and visitors. By establishing this model we hope it shows how a workable strategy can be successfully implemented across any organisation to assist healthier choices in any staffing environment.”

Some local health districts have already set the pace. Murrumbidgee Local Health District removed sugary drinks last December and Western Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains LHDs have also started the process.

Local health districts will implement the policy and oversee it with annual monitoring across all NSW Health facilities.

Professor of Medicine and Senior Staff Specialist in the Department of Endocrinology at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dr Katherine Samaras, congratulated NSW Health for its leadership in making healthy choices easier.

“This ground-breaking approach to providing healthier options for staff and visitors in health facilities supports the important healthy eating advice clinical staff are giving to patients and the community,” Dr Samaras  said

"Healthier choices are fundamental to good health and healthy food is some of the best medicine we can have.”

More information on the policy (Healthy Food and Drink in NSW Health Facilities for Staff and Visitors Framework), tools and resources to support implementation can be found at NSW Health - Healthy Eating Active Livingpage.

Tips to Make Healthy Normal can be found at Make Healthy Normalwebsite.

A Better MBS For All Australians

7 June 2017: Fed. Dept. of Health
The clinician-led Taskforce that is reviewing more than 5,700 items covered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) to see if they are up-to-date, today released its third round of recommendations for public consultation.

Professor Bruce Robinson, chair of the MBS Review Taskforce commissioned by the Federal Government, said the MBS review is aimed at ensuring that subsidised procedures covered by the MBS are up-to-date, clinically effective, provide value for the healthcare system and support the best quality care for patients.

“Consultation with clinicians, consumer representatives, and the Australian public on committee recommendations is a critical step prior to the Taskforce delivering final recommendations to the Government,” Professor Robinson said. 

The latest round of public consultation includes over 40 recommendations effecting over 170 items, from the Spinal Surgery, Renal Medicine, Dermatology, Allergy & Immunology, Diagnostic Imaging – Knee Imaging, and Diagnostic Imaging – PE/DVT Imaging clinical committees.

The consultation also includes a preliminary MBS Review Taskforce report on Urgent After-Hours Primary Care Services funded through the MBS.

The draft recommendations include restructuring the spinal surgery items with a new schedule of items that better describe current spinal surgery best practice. Streamlining the description of these services will ensure the MBS benefits provided to patients are appropriate and consistent.

A new item is proposed to provide funding for the delivery of dialysis by appropriately trained nurses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners and Aboriginal Health Workers in very remote areas of Australia. 

“This will have significant health, social and economic impacts, for the patient and their families,” Professor Robinson said.

Changes are also proposed to make sure people access high quality and clinically appropriate after-hours GP home visits. 

“The Australian medical community recognises the need to remove MBS funding from unnecessary, outdated, ineffective and potentially unsafe services.

“It was the strong view of the Urgent After-hours Working Group and the Taskforce that the current use of urgent after-hours services does not reflect clinical need in Australia.

“The growth in use of urgent after-hours GP services does not seem to reflect patients’ clinical needs.”

“After-hours services are important, but we must ensure that patients get the right test or treatment first time, every time and not be subjected to unnecessary and inappropriate care,” Professor Robinson said.

The Taskforce’s work is continuing and further draft recommendations will be released for public consultation throughout the year.

For information go to the MBS Review website

Global Warming May Cause Spike In Asthma, Allergy Symptoms

June 6, 2017: American Physiological Society (APS)
A new study finds that exposure to a widespread outdoor fungus can increase cell damage (oxidative stress) in the airways. This spike weakens the airways' barrier defense system that, when functioning normally, removes infection- and allergy-causing organisms (mucociliary clearance). The study, published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology -- Cell Physiology, was chosen as an APSselect article for June.

Alternaria alternata is a fungus that produces spores in the dry, warm weather of late summer and early fall. Previous studies have found that Alternaria produces up to three times more spores when atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are high. Airway exposure to the fungal spores may induce allergy symptoms and asthma in some people.

A research team from the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic took cells from the lining (epithelium) of human airways and exposed them to Alternaria. The researchers analyzed the exposed cells to determine the effects of fungal exposure on permeability properties and barrier function of the epithelium. When permeability is compromised, proteins and nutrients can leak out of the lining and into the airways. In addition, reduced barrier function can let bacteria and other allergens enter the airways, increasing the risk of inflammation and infection.

The research team also measured oxidative stress, or cell damage, in the treated cells. Exposure to Alternaria produced more cell damage in the cells of the airway's lining. Fungus-treated cells had higher concentrations of calcium, which prompted the epithelial cells to secrete more salt and fluid than usual. Salt and fluid secretion is normally associated with improved mucociliary clearance -- keeping the airways free of allergens. "However, prolonged exposure [to Alternaria] leads to disruption of epithelial barrier function that would ultimately reduce mucociliary clearance," the researchers wrote. Reduced mucociliary clearance typically makes allergy symptoms worse.

Current climate-warming trends may intensify the problem, the research team noted. "These results suggest that continuing increases in atmospheric CO2 associated with global climate change will increase both the level of Alternaria exposure and antigenicity [the ability to produce an immune response] of spores that come in contact with the airways."

Nathan A. Zaidman, Kelly E. O'Grady, Nandadevi Patil, Francesca Milavetz, Peter J Maniak, Hirohito Kita, Scott M. O'Grady. Airway epithelial anion secretion and barrier function following exposure to fungal aeroallergens: Role of oxidative stress. American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology, 2017; ajpcell.00043.2017 DOI:10.1152/ajpcell.00043.2017

$73 Million To Support The Mental Health Of Australian Children

Joint Media Release
The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Minister for Sport

The Hon. Michael Sukkar MP
Assistant Minister to the Treasurer
Federal Member for Deakin

8 June 2017
The Turnbull Government will invest $73 million in two new mental health programs to ensure Australian children and young people receive the support they need during their school years. 

Under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program, training and resources on mental health issues will be provided to people who regularly interact with pre-schoolers, primary and high school aged children. 

This includes teachers, school communities, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Federal Member for Deakin, Michael Sukkar, announced the funding today during a visit to Vermont Secondary College in Melbourne with beyondblue Chair Jeff Kennett AC and headspace CEO Jason Trethowan.

beyondblue will partner with headspace and Early Childhood Australia to run a $52.6 million program which will provide tools for teachers to support kids with mental health concerns, and provide resources for students to help them to deal with any challenges they may be going through. 

headspace will also provide rapid response services with the delivery of direct intervention in instances where self-harm is occurring amongst students. 

Should a suicide occur within the school or the local community, the program will also provide the opportunity for teachers to conduct specialist counselling services supported by beyondblue and headspace. 

“People of all ages can be affected by mental health – either directly themselves or because someone close to them might be suffering. It can impact even our youngest Australians,” Minister Hunt said.

“It's important schools have the resources and training to deal with mental health issues, so they can support the individuals impacted and also the broader community.”

“This might include training teachers on how to support a student going through a difficult time, or what to say to a student who has lost a parent.”

These positive initiatives will help support the well-being and mental health of our kids and critically, provide a rapid response where schools and communities are facing challenges. 

“Looking after the mental health of our young people is an absolute priority for the Turnbull Government,” Mr Sukkar said.

In addition to support for teachers and school communities, Emerging Minds will deliver a $20.5 million program to support clinical and non-clinical professionals who work with children to identify, support and refer children at risk of mental health difficulties and promote resilience building. 

This program will be developed and implemented in partnership with the Parenting Research Centre, the Australian National University, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Fake Online Profiles Easier To Fish Out With New Software Tool

June 7, 2017: University of Edinburgh
People who use fake profiles online could be more easily identified, thanks to a new tool developed by computer scientists.

Researchers have trained computer models to spot social media users who make up information about themselves -- known as catfishes.

The system is designed to identify users who are dishonest about their age or gender. Scientists believe it could have potential benefits for helping to ensure the safety of social networks.

Computer scientists from the University of Edinburgh built computer models designed to detect fake profiles on an adult content website. Sites of this type are believed to be heavily targeted by catfishes to befriend other users and gain more profile views.

Researchers built their models based on information gleaned from about 5,000 verified public profiles on the site. These profiles were used to train the model to estimate the gender and age of a user with high accuracy, using their style of writing in comments and network activity.

This enabled the models to accurately estimate the age and gender of users with unverified accounts, and spot misinformation. All details were anonymised to protect users' privacy.

The study found that almost 40 per cent of the site's users lie about their age and one-quarter lie about their gender, with women more likely to deceive than men. The outcome, which underscores the extent of catfishing in adult networks, demonstrates the effectiveness of the technology in weeding out dishonest users.

The study, to be presented at the International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining in Australia, was carried out in collaboration with Lancaster University, Queen Mary University of London, and King's College London.

Dr Walid Magdy, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics, said: "Adult websites are populated by users who claim to be other than who they are, so these are a perfect testing ground for techniques that identify catfishes. We hope that our development will lead to useful tools to flag dishonest users and keep social networks of all kinds safe."

$20 Million To Support Native Title Rights Over Sea And Freshwater Country

6 June 2017: Media release - Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion is the
Minister for Indigenous Affairs
The Coalition Government has today reaffirmed its commitment to working closely with First Australians across the country to ensure they are able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by native title, including rights over sea and freshwater country. 

Speaking at the National Native Title Conference in Townsville today, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, announced the Coalition Government was investing $20 million to support economic opportunities provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through Indigenous rights over sea and fresh water country.

“For too long, traditional owners have not had their rights over sea and fresh water supported in the same way that rights over land has been supported,” Minister Scullion said.

“That is why the Government is providing this investment that will support the priorities of traditional owners, including fishing businesses. 

“The 25th anniversary of the historic Mabo decision is a timely reminder of the challenges and opportunities native title brought to First Australians dedicated to their land, waters and communities.

”As Eddie Koiki Mabo said: ‘What is on the land and in the sea belongs to me and my people’.

“Since the 1992 Mabo decision, almost 400 native title determinations have been made by the Federal Court and about 170 Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBC) established to represent the rights and interests of native title holders.

“To assist PBCs with the work they undertake, the Government will provide the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) with $158,500 to redevelop and improve the Native Title Corporations website.

“The new website, due for completion in late 2017, will help to build greater awareness of PBCs and their achievements. It will also help to facilitate knowledge sharing between native title holders to ensure their aspirations for economic development, by leveraging their native title rights, are realised.

“The redevelopment of the website will see it become a comprehensive, high-quality and convenient source for PBCs as well as for people wanting to know more about the role PBCs play.”

AIATSIS CEO, Craig Ritchie said: “Access to information and knowledge anchored in experience is critical. The new website will directly contribute to the development and success of PBCs by providing native title information, training modules and information products to assist relationship building and growth through PBC promotion and networking.”

$2.83M “Bionic Ear” Upgrade For Public Patients

04 June 2017: Media Release - NSW Health Minister, The Hon. Brad Hazzard
Up to 370 adults with severe hearing loss will have their “bionic ears” upgraded, thanks to a $2.83 million funding boost from the NSW Government.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the upgrade to all outdated Cochlear implants worn by NSW adult public patients will significantly enhance their everyday lives.
“Every single hearing-impaired adult patient in the NSW public health system will now be able to continue to enjoy the quality of life that this amazing Australian invention provides,” Mr Hazzard said.
“For many, the upgrading will mean a huge improvement in everyday pleasures that most people take for granted, like making a phone call or listening to music.”
The $2.83 million will allow the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIBDC) to purchase and coordinate the replacement of up to 370 Cochlear sound processors for NSW public patients before they become obsolete at the end of 2019.
The replacement of the sound processor will be done free of charge at a patient’s routine audiology appointment and does not require extra surgery.
RIBDC’s Chief Executive Chris Rehn said the upgrades will be life-changing for recipients – it will greatly improve their social life and, for some, enable them to stay in the workforce.
“This significant funding boost means that hundreds of NSW Cochlear implant recipients will be able to remain connected and continue to enjoy a world of better hearing,” Mr Rehn said.
A Cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear (cochlea). Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, they do the work of the damaged cochlea to provide sound signals to the brain.
The sound processors are the external devices that transmit digitally-coded sound through a coil on the outside of the head, to the implant.

Cold Brown Dwarf Discovered Close To Our Solar System By Tasmanian

June 2, 2017

This gif shows the 'flipbook' from which citizen scientists identified the new brown dwarf, marked with the red circle. Credit: NASA
A new citizen-science tool released earlier this year to help astronomers pinpoint new worlds lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system has already led to a discovery: a brown dwarf a little more than 100 light years away from the Sun. Just six days after the launch of the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 website in February, four different users alerted the science team to the curious object, whose presence has since been confirmed via an infrared telescope. Details were recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"I was so proud of our volunteers as I saw the data on this new cold world coming in," said Jackie Faherty, a senior scientist in the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Astrophysics and one of Backyard World's researchers. "It was a feel-good moment for science."

The Backyard Worlds project lets anyone with a computer and an internet connection flip through images taken by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. If an object is close enough to Earth, it will appear to "jump" when multiple images taken of the same spot in the sky a few years apart are compared. The goal for Backyard Worlds volunteers -- of which there are more than 37,000 -- is to flag the moving objects they see in these digital flipbooks for further investigation by the science team. So far, volunteers have classified more than 4 million flipbooks.

Days after the Backyard Worlds website debuted on February 15, Bob Fletcher, a science teacher in Tasmania, identified a very faint object moving across the WISE images. It was soon also flagged by three other citizen scientists from Russia, Serbia, and the United States. After some initial investigation by the research team, which originally called the object "Bob's dwarf," Faherty was awarded time on NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii, where she confirmed that it was a previously unknown brown dwarf just a few hundred degrees warmer than Jupiter. The authors say that sky surveys had missed this object because it's too faint. All four volunteers are co-authors on the scientific paper announcing the discovery.

Brown dwarfs, sometimes called "failed stars," are spread throughout the Milky Way. They lack enough mass to sustain nuclear fusion but they are hot enough to glow in the infrared range of the light spectrum.

"Brown dwarfs are strikingly similar to Jupiter so we study their atmospheres in order to look at what weather on other worlds might look like," said Jonathan Gagné, a Backyard Worlds team member from the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Although the Backyard Worlds research team hopes to find the infamous Planet 9 hiding in our own solar system, these brown dwarfs are also exciting discoveries.

"It's possible that there is a cold world closer than what we believe to be the closest star to the Sun," Faherty said. "Given enough time, I think our volunteers are going help to complete the map of our solar neighborhood."

Marc J. Kuchner, Jacqueline K. Faherty, Adam C. Schneider, Aaron M. Meisner, Joseph C. Filippazzo, Jonathan Gagné, Laura Trouille, Steven M. Silverberg, Rosa Castro, Bob Fletcher, Khasan Mokaev, Tamara Stajic.The First Brown Dwarf Discovered by the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 Citizen Science Project. The Astrophysical Journal, 2017; 841 (2): L19 DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aa7200

Industry Briefings On Proposals To Grow Australia's Shipbuilding Industry

8 June 2017: The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Minister for Defence Industry
Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, welcomed the industry briefing on the Naval Shipbuilding College Request for Proposal, held in Canberra today.

Minister Pyne said the Naval Shipbuilding College – the first phase of which would be worth up to $25 million - would be critical in preparing for the considerable workforce opportunities provided by the Government’s continuous naval shipbuilding program.

“The critical thing is to establish a long-term sustainable industry with an Australian workforce. To do that we need to grow the pool of available workers in key trades like metal-fabrication, welding and boiler-making. The interest in the briefing is particularly heartening, with more than 70 attendees from across the country”

“Officials from the Department of Defence, as well as the Department of Education and Training met with a range of companies and potential providers interested in providing for the Naval Shipbuilding College,” Minister Pyne said.

Minister Pyne said while the Naval Shipbuilding College will be headquartered at Adelaide, it would provide opportunities for education and training providers across Australia, under a hub and spoke model.

“Today’s briefing was broadcast live across Australia to registered participants.

“The Naval Shipbuilding College will be truly national in scope. It will be complementary to, rather than competitive with existing institutions.

The Naval Shipbuilding College will commence operations on 1 January 2018.

Further details regarding the Naval Shipbuilding College Request for Proposal can be obtained from the AusTender website

Better Ballast Biosecurity Will Help Protect Great Barrier Reef

7 June 2017: Media Release - Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, The Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP
  • Australia to ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediment.
  • Convention strengthens Australia's marine biosecurity including better protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The Convention is an important global initiative, involving over fifty countries aimed at protecting marine industries and environments.
  • It introduces internationally consistent rules for the use of ships' ballast water which apply to voyages between domestic ports—a further investment in our biosecurity system.
The protection of Australia's marine environment, Great Barrier Reef and $2.8 billion fisheries and aquaculture industries from foreign pests will be enhanced with the Coalition Government's ratification of the International Convention for the Control of Ship's Ballast Water and Sediment tonight in London.

Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the International Convention phases out risky ballast water exchange, fosters new and more effective ballast water treatment technologies and will help protect the Great Barrier Reef.

"The ratification of the International Convention means that, for most ships, ballast water cannot be exchanged within 200 nautical miles (approximately 370kms) of the Great Barrier Reef, as opposed to 12 nautical miles (approximately 22 km) at the moment, which will continue to protect this unique ecosystem from the potential biosecurity threats," Minister Joyce said.

"The shipping industry will also be required to adopt new, more effective discharge standards in the form of ballast water treatment systems on their vessels within the first few years of the Convention being in force.

"The Coalition Government has worked with the states and territories and the shipping and maritime industry on this important initiative, including Shipping Australia Limited and Maritime Industries Australia Limited, which were integral players in the development of the Convention."

There are severe penalties for those who fail to comply. A ship operator may be fined up to $360,000 for failing to comply with the ballast water requirements.

"Although Australia has regulated the use of ballast water on international vessels arriving in our waters since 2001, there is no nationally consistent system for domestic voyages," Minister Joyce said.

"Implementation of the Convention in Australia will put these requirements in place to ensure marine pests already established in some parts of Australia are not able to spread to other Australian ports.

"Ballast water is water taken on by ships before departure to maintain stability and generally discharged at the next port of call," Minister Joyce said.

"Each year, around 200 million tonnes of ship's ballast water is discharged into Australian ports.

"Ballast water is a serious threat to Australia's biosecurity because plants and animals that live in the ocean are also picked up from the point of departure, and could devastate our marine environments, fisheries and aquaculture industries when they are released into Australian waters."

Australia played a lead role in the drafting of the Convention, which involves over 50 countries and was signed by former Prime Minister John Howard on 27 May 2005.

The Convention will come into force for Australia on 8 September 2017, the same day that the Convention comes into force internationally.

Fast facts
  • The value of Australian fisheries and aquaculture production was $2.8 billion in 2014–15.
  • Each year, around 200 million tonnes of ships' ballast water is discharged into Australian ports by 16,000 ship visits from some 600 overseas ports.
  • The risks associated with ballast water were first raised by Canada and Australia and embraced by the International Maritime Organisation back in 1991.
  • Ratification by 8 June 2017 will mean that the Convention will come into force for Australia on 8 September 2017, the same day that the Convention comes into force internationally.
  • New domestic ballast water arrangements will come into effect from the same day.​

Australian And Indonesian Maritime Archaeologists Survey WWII Wreck Of HMAS Perth (I) 

June 6, 2017
Maritime archaeologists from the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and the National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia/Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS) have conducted a joint dive on the wreck of the Australian World War II vessel HMAS Perth (I), supported by officials from TNI-AL (Indonesian Navy), Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture (Jakarta), and the Directorate of Heritage and Museum- Regional Office Serang (BPCB).

Perth was sunk with the loss of 357 lives following a fierce sea battle against the Imperial Japanese Navy on the night of 28 February 1942 off the coast of Banten Bay on the northwest tip of Java in Indonesia, where the shipwreck remains today.

“It is with profound regret we advise that our joint maritime archaeologist diving team has discovered sections of the Perth missing. Interim reports indicate only approximately 40% of the vessel remaining. The research team has found evidence of large-scale salvage on the site, including what appears to be recent removal of material from the wreck,” said Australian National Maritime Museum director Kevin Sumption.  

Limited salvage is known to have taken place on Perth since the late 1970s, and in 2013 recreational divers reported damage to the site by unidentified salvors.

“This dive, following on from multi-beam sonar work commissioned in late 2016 by ANMM and ARKENAS, confirms that the site has since been significantly disturbed. While some damage is a result of the Japanese torpedo strikes that sank the vessel in 1942, and the expected degradation of the site over the last 75 years, there are signs the removal of this material is a result of salvage with some salvage equipment visible around the site.

“This isn’t what we were hoping to find. The museum appreciates the support of the Indonesian Government to-date to conduct the research dive and we remain committed to continuing to work in close partnership with our Indonesian colleagues at ARKENAS and with Indonesian authorities to secure formal protection of the site and protect what remains of the shipwreck. As the site lies in Indonesian territorial waters, it is important that we continue to work in close partnership with our Indonesian colleagues,” said Mr Sumption.

Director of ARKENAS I Made Geria said “The National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia (Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional) will always support the primary purpose of this project, which is to secure formal protection for the site of HMAS Perth, and to develop knowledge for the management of underwater cultural heritage in Indonesia.” 

Earlier this year Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Indonesian President Joko Widodo issued a joint statement during the President’s visit to Australia where they noted this year’s 75th anniversary of the loss of Perth and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to strengthen cooperation in the area of maritime cultural heritage in accordance with respective national policy, laws, and regulations.

The research dive was conducted on 14-17 May 2017. It is the first detailed survey of the wreck since 2015 and follows up on a remote sensing survey of the site carried out by the museum and ARKENAS in December last year. 

The expedition team will now formalise its report on the state of the shipwreck including the site’s stability. This information will be used to prepare, in consultation with ARKENAS, a detailed site assessment and a case for declaration under the appropriate legislation of the Republic of Indonesia. 

Marten Bequest Scholarships Send Australian Artists Around The Globe 

06 June 2017: Media Release - Australia Council for the Arts
Twelve Australian artists have been announced as recipients of the 2017 Marten Bequest scholarships, worth a total of $600,000.

For more than 40 years the legacy of John Chisholm Marten has supported Australian artists to travel across the country and around the globe. Leveraging the Australia Council’s artistic and grant making experience, Perpetual is delighted to see all categories of the scholarship awarded in the one year. The 2017 scholarships will support a larger cohort of artists, with 12 recipients across 9 categories – each receiving $50,000 to develop their artistic practice and establish valuable networks.

Perpetual’s National Manager of Philanthropy, Caitriona Fay, said: “Philanthropy plays a vital role in ensuring Australia - and Australians - continue to contribute on a global scale in fields such as the arts, science and innovation. The vision of John Marten more than 40 years ago is evidence of this, with his generosity providing countless Australian artists with a learning opportunity they might not have otherwise experienced.”

“We are delighted to support these impressive artists and look forward to seeing how this opportunity helps them develop professionally, and raises the profile of Australian arts internationally. Perpetual is pleased to be working with the Australia Council to deliver this investment in the arts, and we join them in congratulating the successful recipients.”

Mish Grigor (NSW): acting
Mish will embark on a series of one-on-one intensives with internationally renowned directors overseas; attend Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Belgium; and spend a month in residence at PACT in Sydney. 

Nikhila Madabhushi (VIC): architecture
Nikhila will explore architecture as a rehabilitation tool in local and global community development responses; this includes post graduate study at RMIT University and field trips to Asia and South America. 

Harrison Lee (NSW): ballet

Harrison’s scholarship will support ongoing study at the Royal Ballet School in London, UK, including tuition and boarding house fees. 

Ross McHenry (SA) and Kathryn McKay (WA): instrumental
Ross will undertake a two-year program of professional development activities in Jazz performance and composition, including collaborations and residencies in North America, Canada and Berlin.

Kathryn will undertake the Professional Studies Certificate Program at the Manhattan School of Music in the studio of American String Quartet violist, Daniel Avshalomov.

Sam Holt (NSW): painting
Sam will establish a studio practice in Berlin; reconnect with his Berlin-based tutor Valerie Favre; and undertake research trips to Japan and India. 

Caitlin Maling (WA): poetry
Caitlin will explore and further her eco-critical practice through residencies and research in various Australian regions as well as Taleggio Valley in Italy.

Rebecca Slater (NSW) and Scott McCulloch (VIC): prose
Rebecca will travel to and research locations in the creation of two major works of fiction: a collection of short fiction exploring Australia’s complex relationship with the sea and a work of long-form fiction.

Scott’s project is a novel set within the post-Soviet space, particularly in Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia. The scholarship would allow him to travel to Kyiv and Tbilisi to continue his research. 

Marian Tubbs (NSW): sculpture
Marian will complete a residency at Mudhouse, Crete and will travel to documenta 14 in Athens and to New York to commence a mentorship. Marian will develop digital sculpture skills in ecologically considered 3D printing to create hybrid objects between the hand-sculpted and the technological.

Elizabeth Lewis (QLD) and Alasdair Kent (WA): singing
Elizabeth will complete lessons and coaching with operatic experts in New York and Chicago. Coaches include Julia Faulkner, Eric Weimer, Carradina Caporello and Maestro Steven Crawford.

Alasdair will undertake study and professional development in the USA and Europe. This includes advanced study tailored specifically to coaching and role preparation with mentors such as Maestro Richard Bonynge and Audrey Saint-Gil. 

About the Australia Council
The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’s principal arts funding and advisory body. The Council has a commitment to co-investment which builds on successful collaborations and external partnerships to support diversity and excellence in the arts.

The Marten Bequest scholarships have been managed by the Australia Council for the first time in 2017 as part of a recently announced partnership with Perpetual. This partnership draws upon the Australia Council’s 50 years of experience delivering arts funding, and will complement Perpetual’s Philanthropic Services business, one of Australia’s largest managers and distributors of philanthropic funds. 

About Perpetual Philanthropic Services
Perpetual is one of Australia’s largest managers and distributors of philanthropic funds with $2.4 billion in funds under advice (as at 30 June 2016). Perpetual is trustee for more than 1,000 charitable trusts and endowments and provides individuals and families with advice on establishing charitable foundations and structured giving programs. Perpetual also assists charities and not-for-profit organisations with investment advice and management.

Australia Signs New Multilateral Convention To Prevent Tax Avoidance

Joint Media Release
Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Acting Minister for Revenue and Financial Services
Senator for Western Australia

The Hon. Steven Ciobo MP
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

8 June 2017
Australia has signed the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (the Convention). 

The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, signed the Convention for Australia at a ceremony hosted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris on 7 June 2017.  67 other jurisdictions also signed the Convention, including 35 of Australia’s bilateral tax treaty partners.

The Convention is a key outcome of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, which aims to ensure that multinationals pay tax in the jurisdiction where economic value is created or added.

The Convention complements the Government’s Multinational Anti-avoidance Law, the Diverted Profits Tax and the Tax Avoidance Taskforce, and reinforces our efforts to level the playing field for Australian businesses.

Once in force, the Convention will modify most of Australia’s bilateral tax treaties to implement new integrity rules that will help prevent exploitation for tax avoidance purposes and improve tax treaty-based dispute resolution mechanisms.

In the absence of the Convention, Australia would have to introduce the new rules treaty by treaty, a process that could take decades.

Based on countries’  known adoption positions, the Convention will modify 30 of Australia’s bilateral tax treaties, those with Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway,  Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. 

The extent to which the Convention will modify these treaties will depend on the final adoption positions taken by each country. Australia notified its adoption positions on a provisional basis, to be confirmed upon ratification of the Convention.  

The Convention will enter into force after signatories have completed their domestic requirements and deposited their instruments of ratification with the OECD. Legislation will be introduced into the Australian Parliament as soon as practicable to give the Convention the force of law in Australia. 

A copy of the text of the Convention and information on jurisdictions’ adoption of it is available on the OECD website. Information on the main features of the Convention and Australia’s provisional adoption provisions is available on the Treasury website

New Ultrathin Material For Splitting Water Could Make Hydrogen Production Cheaper

07 June, 2017 by Sue Min Liu and Deborah Smith - UNSW
UNSW chemists have invented a new, cheap catalyst for splitting water with an electrical current to efficiently produce clean hydrogen fuel.

The technology is based on the creation of ultrathin slices of porous metal-organic complex materials coated onto a foam electrode, which the researchers have unexpectedly shown is highly conductive of electricity and active for splitting water.

“Splitting water usually requires two different catalysts, but our catalyst can drive both of the reactions required to separate water into its two constituents, oxygen and hydrogen,” says study leader Associate Professor Chuan Zhao.

“Our fabrication method is simple and universal, so we can adapt it to produce ultrathin nanosheet arrays of a variety of these materials, called metal-organic frameworks.

“Compared to other water-splitting electro-catalysts reported to date, our catalyst is also among the most efficient,” he says.

The research by Zhao, Dr Sheng Chen and Dr Jingjing Duan is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The water splitting technologies developed by Associate Professor Zhao and his team are one of the foundation projects for the UNSW-China Torch Initiative and the Torch Innovation Precinct at UNSW, unveiled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Prime Minister Kequiang Li in April 2016. This week, Zhao was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship, with a grant of $960,000 to develop ionic liquid-based nanoporous composite catalysts for the efficient electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide into value-added chemicals and fuels.

Hydrogen is a very good carrier for renewable energy because it is abundant, generates zero emissions, and is much easier to store than other energy sources, like solar or wind energy.

But the cost of producing it by using electricity to split water is high, because the most efficient catalysts developed so far are often made with precious metals, like platinum, ruthenium and iridium.
The catalysts developed at UNSW are made of abundant, non-precious metals like nickel, iron and copper. They belong to a family of versatile porous materials called metal organic frameworks, which have a wide variety of other potential applications.

Until now, metal-organic frameworks were considered poor conductors and not very useful for electrochemical reactions. Conventionally, they are made in the form of bulk powders, with their catalytic sites deeply embedded inside the pores of the material, where it is difficult for the water to reach.

By creating nanometre-thick arrays of metal-organic frameworks, Zhao’s team was able to expose the pores and increase the surface area for electrical contact with the water.

“With nanoengineering, we made a unique metal-organic framework structure that solves the big problems of conductivity, and access to active sites,” says Zhao.

“It is ground-breaking. We were able to demonstrate that metal-organic frameworks can be highly conductive, challenging the common concept of these materials as inert electro-catalysts.”

Metal-organic frameworks have the potential for a large range of applications, including fuel storage, drug delivery, and carbon capture. The UNSW team’s demonstration that they can also be highly conductive introduces a host of new applications for this class of material beyond electro-catalysis.

Associate Professor Chuan Zhao

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