Inbox and Environment News: Issue 330

September 17 - 23, 2017: Issue 330

Environmental Award Finalists

September 12th, 2017
Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton has announced the finalists for the 18th Green Globe Awards, recognising sustainability and environmental leadership across NSW.

Green Globe Awards recognise environmental excellence, leadership and innovation
"The Green Globe Awards are about new ways of thinking and doing. This is about protecting the places we love and championing the people who are doing the hard work to build a more sustainable future for everyone," Ms Upton said.

Thirty-six outstanding finalists were selected from a field of over 130 and will go on to compete for top honours next month.

"This year we have finalists from micro-breweries to floating solar farms, habitat restoration corridors to green apartments and food waste initiatives to resource recovery solutions," Ms Upton said.

"Our finalists are doing more with less, leading the way so we can become as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible," Ms Upton said.

More than a third of the finalists are from regional NSW with six from the Northern Rivers, four from the Murray region and one each coming from Cowra, Goulburn, Albury and Coffs Harbour. The remaining finalists are based in Sydney and surrounding areas.

"It's great to see our regional areas so strongly represented this year. Working together these communities are leading the way and using innovative initiatives to improve their lives and the local environment," Ms Upton said.

There are 10 categories in the Awards including the natural and built environment, innovation, resource efficiency and the 'Best of the Best' Premier's Award for Environmental Excellence.

Visit Green Globe Awards and find about the 36 finalists from across NSW by visiting the Awards pages.

Heritage Protection For Our Early Colonial History

10 September 2017: Joint media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy and The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Federal Member for Cook
The Minister for the Environment and Energy and Federal Member for Cook today announced the inclusion of Kamay Botany Bay: Botanical collections sites in the National Heritage List. It will be the 112th place added to Australia’s National Heritage List.

Kamay Botany Bay: Botanical collection sites has outstanding heritage value to the nation as the place where botanist Sir Joseph Banks and naturalist Dr Daniel Solander collected plant specimens in 1770 as part of the first landing of the Endeavour in Australia.

The Endeavour arrived at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770. Banks and Solander stayed in Botany Bay for eight days and during this time they collected one of the greatest botanical collections of all time from Kurnell Peninsula, La Perouse Headland and Towra Point Nature Reserve.

James Cook named ‘Botany Bay’ in honour of “the great quantity of plants which Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander collected in this place.” The place is now known by the dual name Kamay Botany Bay, incorporating the Dharawal place name of ‘Kamay’ for Botany Bay.

Banks and Solander’s Botany Bay collections, classified under the Linnaean System, provided a profound impetus for the newly developing science of systematic biology and represent the earliest example of scientific investigations on the east coast of Australia.

The listing of Kamay Botany Bay: Botanical collections sites builds on the existing National Heritage listing of Kurnell Peninsula in 2004. Kurnell Peninsula was previously recognised for its outstanding heritage value to the nation as it is the site where Cook first landed in Australia 1770 and is the site of the first recorded contact between Indigenous people and the British in eastern Australia.

In recognition of the importance of our early colonial history, the Minister for the Environment and Energy has written to the Chair of the Australian Heritage Council, the Hon Dr David Kemp, to request the Council’s advice on the adequacy of existing legal protections for places and monuments that relate to the early interactions between European explorers and settlers and Australia’s Indigenous peoples.

The Australian Heritage Council’s advice will include how these protections operate, at a local, state and federal level, in the event there is damage or loss of cultural heritage values and any recommendations the Council may have to enhance the protection and management of significant monuments related to Australia’s historical cultural heritage.

The Council is also currently assessing Colonial Sydney for National Heritage listing, which includes Hyde Park and Captain Cook’s statue. The Minister has requested the Council prioritise this assessment and consider it as part of the broader review of ensuring the protection of Australia’s places and monuments that relate to our early colonial history.

Plan To Protect NSW From Pest Plants And Animals

13 September,2017: NSW DPI
Local communities, groups and individuals are invited to have their say in developing the NSW Invasive Species Plan 2017-2021 to reduce the impacts of pest animals and weeds on our land, sea and waterways.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) invasive species strategy manager, Quentin Hart, said invasive animals and weeds impact on the environment, agriculture, infrastructure and human health.

“We aim to develop a new plan with input from the community, which will help prevent new pest incursions and reduce existing pest threats,” Mr Hart said.

“Invasive pest animals, including wild dogs, deer and rabbits, feral cats and goats, foxes and carp, are estimated to cost the Australian economy more than $1 billion annually and the NSW economy at least $170 million annually.

“More than 1650 introduced plant species have established in NSW and at least 300 of these weeds have a significant impact on the environment and agriculture – the cost of weeds to NSW agriculture alone has been estimated to be near $1.8 billion per year.

Marine and freshwater environments too are under threat, with more than 250 introduced marine species detected in our coastal waters.

Aquatic pests can cause serious negative impacts on marine environments and animals, and they can outcompete native species, all posing significant risks to the profitability of Australia’s $2.4 billion-a-year fisheries and aquaculture industries.”

Mr Hart said the plan will need to account for the potential of invasive species to establish and spread with future changes to the climate.
“The new plan will help guide investment and resources to invasive species prevention and management programs, with the aim of building NSW’s ability and commitment to manage invasive speciesactivities on the ground,” he said.

Supporting the NSW Biosecurity Framework and complementing the NSW Biosecurity Strategy, Australian Pest Animal Strategy, Australian Weeds Strategy and National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions, the draft plan is now open for comment.

All stakeholders, government agencies, industry, landholders and members of the community, who play a valuable role managing invasive species, are invited to have their say on the draft plan by Friday 13 October 2017

$3 Million In Grants Now Available For Commuity Recycling Centres

Media release: EPA
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the NSW Environmental Trust (ET) are calling for local government, not-for-profit organisations and businesses from select Local Government areas to apply for grants to set up Community Recycling Centres (CRC) for the collection of household problem wastes.

The $3 million Community Recycling Centre grants program is now open as part of the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.  Community Recycling Centres make it easier for NSW residents to recycle or safely dispose items like oils, paints and batteries.

Applications are open until Wednesday 15 November 2017 with funding of up to $200,000 available to enhance existing facilities or build new facilities for the collection of problem waste. 
This is the fourth round of funding and it is designed to help keep problem waste out of the kerbside bin system by providing convenient and easy to use facilities for the community.

EPA Chair and CEO Barry Buffier said the aim of the program is to establish a network that will provide 90 per cent of NSW households with access to a free Community Recycling Centre for common household problem wastes.

“This funding focuses on our priority to establish Community Recycling Centres based on existing gaps in the network.

‘The funding to establish facilities in 22 priority Local Government Areas will mean residents will have a permanent facility available to people to drop-off low toxic wastes, such as gas bottles, household batteries, paint, oils and smoke detectors, Mr Buffier said.

‘To date, over 100 Community Recycling Centres have been funded in NSW and 62 are currently operational. Almost two million kilograms of household problem waste has been collected since the program started."
Priority LGAs for funding include: Blacktown, Canterbury Bankstown, The Hills, Ku-ring-gai, Northern Beaches, Sydney, Bayside, Camden, Goulburn Mulwaree, North Sydney, Parramatta, Ryde, Shellharbour, Wagga Wagga, Waverley, Wollondilly, Woollahra, Yass Valley, Central Coast, Cumberland, Lake Macquarie and Sutherland.
On behalf of the ET, Peter Dixon, Director Grants in the Office of Environment & Heritage states:

“This is one of our most successful community level grants programs. The take-up by local councils has been tremendous and the neighbourhoods with a new or upgraded Community Recycling Centre are enjoying the benefits of a free and convenient way of dropping off their problem wastes for environmentally friendly disposal and recycling”

Applications close 5pm, Wednesday 15 November 2017

For more information about the grants including how to apply and information sessions please visit:

For more information about Waste Less, Recycle More go to the EPA website:

Regulator To Examine NSW Generators To Ensure Consumers Get A Fair Deal

11 September 2017: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
The Turnbull Government has asked the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to examine the bidding practices of New South Wales (NSW) generators to ensure consumers aren’t getting ripped off.

The request comes on the back of reports that NSW power generators have been bidding and selling their electricity in a manner that is adding around $30 to $35 per megawatt hour to spot prices.

In light of these reports, it’s important to make sure electricity generators are playing by the rules.

Spot prices mainly effect big business but if inappropriate bidding practices are repeated over an extended period of time it can also have an effect on household bills.

The request to look into the practices of generators in NSW is an extension of the work already underway with the AER examining generator bidding behaviour across the National Electricity Market (NEM) following the closure of the Hazelwood power station in March this year.

As part of this most recent request by the Turnbull Government, the AER has also been asked to provide advice to the COAG Energy Council, as appropriate, on any factors impacting on the efficient functioning of the market by November this year.

Whether it’s getting a better deal for consumers with the retailers, securing domestic gas supplies, limiting the power of the companies that own the poles and wires or making sure generators are not abusing their market power, the Turnbull Government is doing all that it can to deliver an affordable and reliable energy system.

TOBACCO BUSH - Using Exotics As Restoration Nurse Crops.

Published on 15 Sep 2017 by PittwaterEcowarriors
Unlike invasive narrow leaf cotton bush, wild tobacco is an exotic weed helping regenerate native rain forest at beautiful Gap beach in the Smoky Range at Hat Head NP in NSW. Find out how and why with South West Rocks Dune Care.

NPWS Firefighters Home From Canada

September 13, 2017
Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton congratulated National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) fire-fighting experts who have been returning from Canada over the past few days after helping with the recent wildfire emergency in British Columbia.

“The NPWS team of 34 was part of the 139-strong NSW specialists and remote area fire crew who joined the international firefighting operation to contain the widespread fire activity experienced there,” Minister Upton said.

“These crews helped control some of the more the 1200 fires which had affected approximately 1.1 million hectares of British Columbia.

“I am glad for their safe return and am extremely proud of our world-renowned fire experts who were working side-by-side to support Canadian authorities to contain the emergency wildfire situation.

“The NPWS officers included aviation specialists and fire ground commanders as well remote area firefighters who were working on foot in the remote rugged regions of British Columbia.

“NPWS fire fighters are dedicated and talented fire experts and have been away from their loved-ones since early August.

“The NPWS firefighters were deployed under the NSW cooperative firefighting arrangements, with NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW and the Forestry Corporation of NSW.

“British Columbia’s arrangement with Australia in sharing firefighting resources has been in place for over 15 years.

“This agreement allows for the exchange of personnel, knowledge, skills, equipment, technology and mutual support in the event of an emergency,” Minister Upton said.

NSW RFS is coordinating the deployment of up to 100 firefighters to Canada on behalf of NSW and the ACT.

Abbotsford to Prince George transport for NPWS firefighters - photo courtesy NSW OEH

Tiny Fighters In Sediments Determine Success Of Invasive Marine Plants

September 14, 2017: University of New South Wales
Armies of microbes that are invisible to the naked eye battle it out to determine whether exotic marine plants successfully invade new territory and replace native species, UNSW Sydney-led research shows.

The genetic study, which compared microbial communities in sediments associated with an invasive alga and a native seagrass in Sydney, is the first to test the idea that marine microbes play a critical role in the establishment of invasive marine species.

"We found that microbes associated with native species provide resistance to invasion, and microbes associated with invaders break down this resistance and may poison native plants," says study first author and UNSW scientist Associate Professor Paul Gribben.

"A battle is being waged below ground that can affect the outcome in this competition between exotic and native species. This has never been shown before in marine ecosystems and will transform how we think about, and manage, marine invasive species."

The study, by researchers from UNSW, the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and UTS, Sydney, is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Microbial communities in marine sediments control ecological processes, affecting the availability of nutrients and the chemistry of the soil.

For the new study, the researchers compared microbial communities living in sediments in a Sydney estuary. They tested sediments associated with a native seagrass, Zostera capricorni, and an alga, Caulerpa taxifolia, which is one of the 100 most invasive species in the world.

The alga Caulerpa taxifolia (bright green) takes over a seagrass bed. Credit: Paul Gribben/UNSW

The microbial communities differed between the two samples, with the algal sediments having a higher proportion of microbes that produce sulphides, which can be extremely toxic to seagrasses, under low oxygen conditions.

The researchers also tested the effects of the different sediments on the growth of the algae. They found the sediments associated with the seagrass reduced algal growth, while the sediments associated with the algae had a positive effect on its growth.

"Our results shed light on why intact, dense beds of seagrass are resistant to colonisation by this alga," says Associate Professor Gribben.

"However, the balance of the microbes in the soil can be disturbed when seagrass beds start to decline due to other pressures, helping the alga invade new areas."

C. taxifolia is a fast-growing marine alga that is native to tropical Australia and the South Pacific, but which has colonised various areas outside its natural range.

It was first found in the state of NSW in 2000 and has spread to at last 14 NSW estuaries or lakes, from Lake Macquarie in the north to Wallagoot Lake in the south.

In the same way that gardeners add worms to soils to make them more productive, the researchers are exploring ways to restore the marine sediments and reduce the risk of invasion. This includes adding burrowing organisms to oxygenate sediments and restore healthy, functioning microbial communities.

Paul E. Gribben, Shaun Nielsen, Justin R. Seymour, Daniel J. Bradley, Matthew N. West, Torsten Thomas. Microbial communities in marine sediments modify success of an invasive macrophyte. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-10231-2

Old Fish Few And Far Between Under Fishing Pressure

September 14, 2017: University of Washington

This is the face of an adult halibut fish. This is an example of an older, larger fish. Credit: Andrea Pokrzywinski
Like old-growth trees in a forest, old fish in the ocean play important roles in the diversity and stability of marine ecosystems. Critically, the longer a fish is allowed to live, the more likely it is to successfully reproduce over the course of its lifetime, which is particularly important in variable environmental conditions.

A new study by University of Washington scientists has found that, for dozens of fish populations around the globe, old fish are greatly depleted -- mainly because of fishing pressure. The paper, published online Sept. 14 in Current Biology, is the first to report that old fish are missing in many populations around the world.

"From our perspective, having a broad age structure provides more chances at getting that right combination of when and where to reproduce," said lead author Lewis Barnett, a UW postdoctoral researcher at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean.

In forestry, a tree farm with only 20-year-old trees may be healthy and productive, but the loss of old-growth trees should not go unnoticed. The giant trees have unique traits that support a number of animal and plant species and make for a diverse, robust ecosystem. In a similar sense, the same is true for old fish.

"More age complexity among species can contribute to the overall stability of a community," Barnett said. "If you trim away that diversity, you're probably reducing the marine food web's ability to buffer against change."

The designation of an "old fish" varies from species to species, depending on life history. Some types of rockfish might live to 200 years, while few herring live past age 10.

After female fish release eggs, many factors must align for a healthy brood to hatch and grow to adult size. Because the marine environment is so variable, species might go a whole decade between successful broods. Older fish in a population have more years to produce eggs, increasing the chance for success over time.

"In the marine world, the success rate of producing new baby fish is extremely variable," said co-author Trevor Branch, a UW associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. "I think of old fish as an insurance policy -- they get you through those periods of bad reproduction by consistently producing eggs."

In addition to having more opportunities to reproduce, older fish also behave differently than younger fish. As they age, some fish change what they eat and where they live in the ocean. They also take on different roles in the marine food web, sometimes becoming a more dominant predator as they get older, and bigger.

When you take old fish out of the mix, the diversity and stability of an ecosystem can suffer, the authors explain.

"Big fish are in a lot of ways different from smaller fish," said co-author Tim Essington, a UW professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. "Having that diversity acts as a hedge against risk and helps stabilize the system a bit."

The researchers looked at model output gathered from commercial and recreational fisheries and scientific observations that describe the status of fish populations over the years. In their analysis of 63 populations living in five ocean regions worldwide, they found that the proportion of fish in the oldest age classes has declined significantly in 79 to 97 percent of populations, compared with historical fishing trends or unfished figures, respectively. The magnitude of decline was greater than 90 percent in 32 to 41 percent of the groups.

This is mainly due to fishing pressure, the researchers say. In general, the longer a fish lives, the more encounters it has with fishing gear, and the greater the likelihood it will be caught. However, some environmental factors like disease and pollution might also contribute to the loss of old fish.

These findings could inform fisheries management, which often sets limitations based on the total weight of fish caught over a season without considering factors such as the size or age of a fish. The authors suggest fishing methods to protect young and old fish by prohibiting the harvest of fish below and above a specific size range. Other solutions include closing certain areas to fishing permanently, or rotating areas where fishing can take place each year to let fish grow older and bigger -- similar to agricultural crop rotations that allow the soil to recover between planting cycles.

Lewis A.K. Barnett, Trevor A. Branch, R. Anthony Ranasinghe, Timothy E. Essington. Old-Growth Fishes Become Scarce under Fishing. Current Biology, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.07.069

Light At The End Of The Tunnel: Restored Forest Now Shelters Dozens Of Endangered Species

September 14, 2017: Pensoft Publishers

This is a red-bellied monkey with her baby in Drabo, Benin. Credit: Peter Neuenschwander CC-BY 4.0
During the last twenty years, scientists worked hard to protect and restore the scattered patches of a dilapidated forest and its surroundings of agricultural and fallow vegetation in southern Benin.

With the help of their locally recruited assistants, Peter Neuenschwander, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Benin, and Aristide Adomou, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin, successfully thinned out the alien timber growing there and introduced 253 species, whose seeds and plantlets they had managed to collect from the last remnants of the original forest. Their research article is published in the open access journal Nature Conservation.

Today, the rehabilitated forest in Drabo harbours about 600 species of plants and constitutes a sanctuary for many animals, including the critically endangered and endemic red-bellied monkey.

Over the course of the last two decades, pantropical weedy species declined, while West-African forest species increased in numbers. Of the former, fifty-two species, mostly trees, shrubs and lianas, are listed as threatened -- more than those in any other existing forest in Benin. Furthermore, some of the critically endangered species amongst them can be found exclusively in the last small, often sacred forests in Benin, which while covering merely 0.02% of the national territory, harbour 64% of all critically endangered plant species.

"The biodiversity richness of the rehabilitated forests of Drabo now rivals that of natural rainforest remnants of the region," note the authors.

The newly restored forest in Drabo is relatively easy to access due to its proximity to large towns. It is intended to become an educational and research centre maintained by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. In fact, it already serves as an exemplary forest in the region.

With their initiative, the scientists and their followers demonstrate that by involving local communities and taking their customs into consideration, the safety of exposed precious ecosystems, even if located in a densely populated area, can be effectively assured.

Peter Neuenschwander, Aristide C. Adomou. Reconstituting a rainforest patch in southern Benin for the protection of threatened plants.Nature Conservation, 2017; 21: 57 DOI: 10.3897/natureconservation.21.13906

Retirement Village Inquiry

Residents, members of the community and operators are invited to provide feedback on issues in the retirement village sector.

What's this about?
Politician and social advocate Kathryn Greiner AO will lead the Retirement Village inquiry that will review the fairness and transparency of business practices of retirement villages in NSW, including:
  • transparency and honesty of marketing activities
  • clarity of fees and contractual rights and obligations for prospective residents and their families
  • suitability and fairness of village maintenance and operational practices to maintain resident safety
  • availability and cost-effectiveness of dispute resolution mechanisms
  • fairness of arrangements to levy maintenance fees to maintain the village and address building defects.
To hear the views of residents and members of the community, forums will be held in Sydney, Hornsby, Ballina, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, Wollongong, and Wagga Wagga during October 2017. 

To register for a forum, visit the consultation website

Have your say
There are three other ways you can provide your feedback:

Mail: Retirement Villages Inquiry
Better Regulation Division
Department of Finance, Services and Innovation
McKell Building, 2-24 Rawson Place
Sydney NSW 2000 

Have your say by 31 October 2017.

More Information
Email: Secretariat
Phone: 02 9372 7738

6,000 Extra High Need Home Care Packages And $20 Million My Aged Care Revamp

14 September 2017: Joint Media Release
The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Minister for Sport
The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM, MP
Minister for Aged Care
Minister for Indigenous Health

The Turnbull Government has announced major initiatives in home care services and improved access to the My Aged Care system, as it releases the report of the Legislated Review of Aged Care 2017. 

An additional 6,000 home care packages will be made available to support more older Australians with higher care needs to remain living in the comfort of their own homes.

At the same time, support for aged care consumers will be streamlined through a $20 million investment in the My Aged Care information system, to improve public access, especially for rural, regional and remote clients.

Information from the new national home care priority queue is now also available to consumers, developed as part of February 2017 Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms. 

Under the reforms, home care packages are released to consumers who have the most urgent needs or have been waiting the longest, for Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 packages. 

For the first time, the queue system provides clarity for consumers, while also allowing the Government to track demand for home care and adjust supply where required, to ensure older Australians get the care they need.

It should be noted that the original ratios of Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 home care packages were set by the then Labor government, under the Living Longer Living Better initiative.

Now, thanks to the Turnbull Government reforms, a substantial number of people have been identified as waiting for the higher level 3 and 4 care, many of whom faced uncertainty under the old arrangements.

The Legislated Review of Aged Care 2017, led by David Tune AO, PSM, examined the effectiveness of the aged care reforms enacted by the previous Labor Government through the 2012 Living Longer Living Better package and his report includes 38 recommendations for future aged care provision.

The Turnbull Government welcomes the review which was required under legislation and will consider the recommendations. However, we do not support recommendations 13 and 15. 

The Government will not include the full value of the owner’s home in the means test for residential care, nor remove the annual and lifetime caps on means-tested fees.

As the recommendations are worked through, one of the primary considerations will also be to ensure improved aged care services to allow older Australians to continue living in regional, rural and remote areas.

The Government will consider the Tune Review’s findings and recommendations, in the context of work underway by a taskforce in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, examining ageing more broadly.

The Productivity Commission recently forecast Australia will need almost one million aged care staff by 2050, a skilled workforce is essential to support quality care and continuing reform.

A detailed aged care workforce strategy will be produced by a taskforce, to be chaired by Professor John Pollaers, supported by a $2 million 2017-18 Budget commitment.

The Government’s robust work on aged care reform will ensure that the people who built this nation have the aged care support and services they need, when and where they need it.

This is focussed on maintaining a high-quality, people-centred aged care system that provides older Australians with choice and control of their care and is affordable and sustainable for consumers, taxpayers and care providers.

The Turnbull Government has allocated a record $18.6 billion for aged care in 2017-18, the first part of a $100 billion investment in aged care support planned for the next five years.

This includes $5.5 billion to extend the Commonwealth Home Support Program until 2020, to provide services including Meals On Wheels, transport, personal assistance and home maintenance, and $2 million for an industry led taskforce to develop an aged care workforce strategy.

For further information about the Review go to the Department of Health website.

Dishing Up Extra Support For Older Australians At Home

15 September 2017: Media Release - The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health
Older Australians living at home will benefit from a Turnbull Government investment of an additional $8 million in funding for meals providers through the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).

Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM, said supporting people to live as independently as possible in the comfort of their own homes was a top priority.

“Home delivery services, including Meals On Wheels are legendary,” the Minister said. “When a volunteer visits the home of an older Australian, they do more than provide a healthy meal.

“The visit is also an opportunity to have a friendly chat and to check on that person’s wellbeing. We need to maintain and grow this type of service into the future. 

The Australian Government, through the CHSP, currently provides $65 million to more than 560 meals providers to support older people in their homes.

“I have listened to the aged care sector and we all agree it’s important that a reliable, quality meal service for older Australians will help ensure they stay strong and connected to their community,” Minister Wyatt said.

“I am making additional funds available and, importantly, allocating them in a more equitable way, to address historical differences in funding across the country. 

“Up to $8 million will be made available to increase funding for some 232 CHSP meals providers, with affected providers contacted directly by the Health Department over the next few weeks.

“This is a great outcome for older Australians and the meals providers who will be able to continue their important service in the years ahead.”

Further work to support CHSP meals providers will be considered in line with future reforms to aged care. 

Licence Changes For New Drivers

September 15, 2017: Media Release - NSW Government
Changes to the Graduated Licensing Scheme will ensure learner drivers are safe on NSW roads.
The scheme helps new drivers gain experience and become a safer driver over a four-year process.

From 20 November 2017:
  • Learner drivers will have to complete the Hazard Perception Test before they can take the driving test
  • P1 drivers will no longer have to complete the Hazard Perception Test to get their P2 licence
  • The Driver Qualification Test has been removed for P2 Drivers and in its place P2 drivers will have to stay on their licence for an extra six months if they receive a suspension for unsafe driving behaviour.
Since the scheme was introduced in 2000, there has been a 50 per cent reduction in the number of young drivers killed on NSW roads.

Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said young drivers continue to be over-represented in road crashes.

“It’s vital we continue to adapt and improve our approach to reduce this tragic loss of life and serious injuries involving our young drivers,” Mrs Pavey said.

Find out more about the changes to the Graduated Licensing Scheme

Forster Ranges, Barrow Creek Region, NT

Published on 17 Sep 2017 by pittwaterpathways
John Barry's lyrical 'Give Me a Smile' and the sweeping panoramas of the Northern Territory's Forster Ranges.

New Zoo For Western Sydney

September 14, 2017: NSW Government
Sydney Zoo has been approved to be built on a 16.5-hectare facility at Bungarribee Park in Western Sydney Parklands.

The new zoo will feature 30 exotic and native animal exhibits that will be assessable through safari-like enclosures and elevated boardwalks.

It will also feature an integrated Aboriginal and natural heritage program that will focus on the local Darug people of Western Sydney.

Educational resources available at the zoo will include an amphitheatre, a native fish aquarium, insectarium and nocturnal houses.

Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said Sydney Zoo is set to be Australia’s most technologically advanced and innovative zoo.

“Sydney Zoo will set a new standard in visitor experience and have people coming back time and time again,” Mr Ayres said.

Construction of Sydney Zoo will start later this year, creating 160 full-time jobs and a further 120 full-time jobs once it's operational.

The facility is set to open before the 2018 summer school holidays.

Western Sydney Parklands Zoo Flyover

Sub-Antarctic Orchid Shows True Colours Far From Home

14th September 2017: Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Antarctic Division
In a world first, a critically endangered orchid has flowered for the first time away from its native home of Macquarie Island.

The grooved helmet orchid (Corybas sulcatus) was collected from the sub-Antarctic island earlier this year and returned to Australia on the Aurora Australis. It was transplanted in its new home at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) in March.

Listed as being critically endangered, the small orchid that reaches just 1–2 cm in height has never flowered away from Macquarie Island.

Australian Antarctic Division Principal Research Scientist, Dr Dana Bergstrom, said helmet orchids have exceptionally large flowers compared to the rest of the plant.

“There are just over 100 species of helmet orchids worldwide, stretching from the Himalayas to Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific and sub-Antarctic islands,” Dr Bergstrom said.

“The grooved helmet orchid is only found on Macquarie Island, making it one of the rarest species on Earth.

“The population is very small, so it’s important to secure the species with seed collections in case of threatening events such as drought.”

Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens sub-Antarctic Collections Curator, Lorraine Perrins, said the grooved helmet orchid was the first collected by the gardens.

“The RTBG has never held a collection of this diminutive orchid until our botanist was able to collect some specimens on Macquarie Island last summer,” Ms Perrins said.

“To see the grooved helmet orchid flower would be a once-in-a-lifetime event for most scientists on Macquarie Island, so to have it on display in Hobart is incredibly exciting.”

The grooved helmet orchid will be used by the RTBG’s Native Orchid Conservation and Research Program to understand the conditions in which it can survive and flourish.

Botanist Natalie Tapson, who spent three months on Macquarie Island collecting seeds for the RTBG’s Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre, was also able to harvest 12 other plant species including the critically endangered Macquarie Island cushion plant (Azorella macquariensis).

“With the support of the Australian Antarctic Program, we are working towards ensuring that we can secure the plant diversity of the entire island’s flora,” Ms Perrins said.

More information

Corybas sulcatus (Grooved helmet-orchid) is one of two endemic orchids which occur on Macquarie Island (Photo: Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens)

Shorter Wait Times For Elective Surgery

September 12, 2017: NSW Health
Local Health Districts will receive $3 million to help reduce the wait times for common elective surgeries.

People needing common elective surgeries of hip and knee replacements and cataract extractions will benefit from the government funding boost.

A panel of NSW Health and Agency of Clinical Innovation staff will assess proposals from NSW Local Health Districts and allocate the funding accordingly.

Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the funding and hard work of public hospital staff has seen NSW patients get access to elective surgery quicker than anyone else.

“The sooner people have their operations, the sooner they can get on with their lives,” Mr Hazzard said.

Barry Mann Appointed UrbanGrowth CEO

September 143, 2017: Premier of NSW, The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian
Premier Gladys Berejiklian today announced Barry Mann’s appointment as the new Chief Executive Officer of the UrbanGrowth NSW Development Corporation.

Ms Berejiklian said Mr Mann’s 30 years of experience in the property industry made him well qualified to lead UrbanGrowth at this exciting time in the State’s development.

“With the NSW Government making record investment in infrastructure, Mr Mann’s experience in construction, project management and strategy on major revitalisation projects will be crucial,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Barry has vast experience having initiated the $2 billion Parramatta Square project when he worked for Parramatta City Council and more recently in roles across the UrbanGrowth NSW’s project portfolio including Bays Precinct, Parramatta North, Waterloo Estate and Green Square Town Centre and Oran Park Town.

Mr Mann started his career in the private sector, including 14 years with Lendlease in Sydney, Indonesia and Singapore. Mr Mann moved into private property development in 2002 before joining Stockland Corporation six years later, leading the residential development business in NSW. He led Parramatta City Council’s property activities from 2014 to 2016 before starting with UrbanGrowth NSW as Head of Projects last year.

Mr Mann will commence his role on 25 September.

Immune System Linked To Alcohol Drinking Behavior

September 15, 2017: University of Adelaide
Researchers from the University of Adelaide have found a new link between the brain's immune system and the desire to drink alcohol in the evening.

In laboratory studies using mice, researchers have been able to switch off the impulse to drink alcohol by giving mice a drug that blocks a specific response from the immune system in the brain.

Now published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, this research is one of the first of its kind to show a link between the brain's immunity and the motivation to drink alcohol at night.

"Alcohol is the world's most commonly consumed drug, and there is a greater need than ever to understand the biological mechanisms that drive our need to drink alcohol," says lead author Jon Jacobsen, PhD student in the University of Adelaide's Discipline of Pharmacology.

"Our body's circadian rhythms affect the 'reward' signals we receive in the brain from drug-related behavior, and the peak time for this reward typically occurs during the evening, or dark phase. We wanted to test what the role of the brain's immune system might have on that reward, and whether or not we could switch it off."

The researchers focused their attention on the immune receptor Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). They administered the drug (+)-Naltrexone (pronounced: PLUS-NAL-TREX-OWN), which is known to block TLR4, to mice.

"Our studies showed a significant reduction in alcohol drinking behavior by mice that had been given (+)-Naltrexone, specifically at night time when the reward for drug-related behavior is usually at its greatest," Mr Jacobsen says.

"We concluded that blocking a specific part of the brain's immune system did in fact substantially decrease the motivation of mice to drink alcohol in the evening."

Senior author Professor Mark Hutchinson, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics at the University of Adelaide and leader of the Neuroimmunopharmacology lab in which this work was conducted, says these findings point to the need for further research to understand the implications for drinking behavior in humans.

"Our study is part of an emerging field which highlights the importance of the brain's immune system in the desire to drink alcohol. Given the drinking culture that exists in many nations around the world, including Australia, with associated addiction to alcohol and related health and societal issues, we hope our findings will lead to further studies."

This research has been funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Jonathan Henry W. Jacobsen, Femke T.A. Buisman-Pijlman, Sanam Mustafa, Kenner C. Rice, Mark R. Hutchinson. The efficacy of ( )-Naltrexone on alcohol preference and seeking behaviour is dependent on light-cycle. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2017; DOI:10.1016/j.bbi.2017.08.021

Carbohydrates May Be The Key To A Better Malaria Vaccine

September 15, 2017: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
An international research team has shown for the first time that carbohydrates on the surface of malaria parasites play a critical role in malaria's ability to infect mosquito and human hosts.

The discovery also suggests steps that may improve the only malaria vaccine approved to protect people against Plasmodium falciparum malaria -- the most deadly form of the disease.

The research, published today in Nature Communications, was led by Dr Justin Boddey, Dr Ethan Goddard-Borger, Mr Sash Lopaticki and Ms Annie Yang at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, with support from Professor Norman Kneteman at the Univeristy of Alberta, Canada.

Dr Boddey said the team had shown that the malaria parasite 'tags' its proteins with carbohydrates in order to stabilise and transport them, and that this process was crucial to completing the parasite's lifecycle.

"Malaria parasites have a complex lifecycle that involves constant shapeshifting to evade detection and infect humans and subsequently mosquitoes," Dr Boddey said.

"We found that the parasite's ability to 'tag' key proteins with carbohydrates is important for two stages of the malaria lifecycle. It is critical for the the earliest stages of human infection, when the parasite migrates through the body and invades in the liver, and later when it is transmitted back to the mosquito from an infected human, enabling the parasite to be spread between people.

"Interfering with the parasite's ability to attach these carbohydrates to its proteins hinders liver infection and transmission to the mosquito, and weakens the parasite to the point that it cannot survive in the host."

Malaria infects more than 200 million people worldwide each year and kills around 650,000 people, predominantly pregnant women and children. Efforts to eradicate malaria require the development of new therapeutics, particularly an effective malaria vaccine.

The first malaria vaccine approved for human use -- RTS,S/AS01 -- was approved by European regulators in July 2015 but has not been as successful as hoped, with marginal efficacy that wanes over time.

Dr Goddard-Borger said the research had attracted a lot of interest because of the implications it has for improving malaria vaccine design. "The protein used in the RTS,S vaccine mimics one of the proteins we've been studying on the surface of the malaria parasite that is readily recognised by the immune system.

"It was hoped that the vaccine would generate a good antibody response that protected against the parasite, however it has unfortunately not been as effective at evoking protective immunity as hoped. With this study, we've shown that the parasite protein is tagged with carbohydrates, making it slightly different to the vaccine, so the antibodies produced may not be optimal for recognising target parasites," Dr Goddard-Borger said.

Dr Goddard-Borger said there were many documented cases where attaching carbohydrates to a protein improved its efficacy as a vaccine.

"It may be that a version of RTS,S with added carbohydrates will perform better than the current vaccine," he said. "Now that we know how important these carbohydrates are to the parasite, we can be confident that the malaria parasite cannot 'escape' vaccination pressure by doing away with its carbohydrates."

Dr Boddey said the Institute's insectary, opened in 2012, was critical to the discovery. "Carbohydrates have long been considered unimportant to malaria parasites. This discovery reveals that carbohydrates are very important, and in two completely different lifecycle stages. This is exciting because to ultimately eradicate malaria we need combined approaches that attack different stages of the parasite at once," Dr Boddey said.

"This discovery would not have been possible without generous contributions that enabled the construction of a world-class insectary and the recapitulation of the entire human-malaria lifecycle on site in Melbourne. It's a great pleasure to see this investment paying off with advances that may one day save lives."

The research was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, Human Frontiers Science Program, Ramaciotti Foundation, University of Melbourne, veski and Victorian State Government Operational Infrastructure Support Program.

This research was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, Human Frontiers Science Program, Ramaciotti Foundation, University of Melbourne, veski and Victorian State Government Operational Infrastructure Support Program.

Sash Lopaticki, Annie S. P. Yang, Alan John, Nichollas E. Scott, James P. Lingford, Matthew T. O’Neill, Sara M. Erickson, Nicole C. McKenzie, Charlie Jennison, Lachlan W. Whitehead, Donna N. Douglas, Norman M. Kneteman, Ethan D. Goddard-Borger, Justin A. Boddey. Protein O-fucosylation in Plasmodium falciparum ensures efficient infection of mosquito and vertebrate hosts. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00571-y

New Zoo For Western Sydney

September 14, 2017: NSW Government
Sydney Zoo has been approved to be built on a 16.5-hectare facility at Bungarribee Park in Western Sydney Parklands.

The new zoo will feature 30 exotic and native animal exhibits that will be assessable through safari-like enclosures and elevated boardwalks.

It will also feature an integrated Aboriginal and natural heritage program that will focus on the local Darug people of Western Sydney.

Educational resources available at the zoo will include an amphitheatre, a native fish aquarium, insectarium and nocturnal houses.

Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said Sydney Zoo is set to be Australia’s most technologically advanced and innovative zoo.

“Sydney Zoo will set a new standard in visitor experience and have people coming back time and time again,” Mr Ayres said.

Construction of Sydney Zoo will start later this year, creating 160 full-time jobs and a further 120 full-time jobs once it's operational.

The facility is set to open before the 2018 summer school holidays.

Ancient Wetlands Offer Window Into Climate Change

September 11, 2017: University of Adelaide

Researchers taking core samples from Fern Gully Lagoon, North Stradbroke Island, Australia. Credit: University of Adelaide
Environmental researchers have uncovered a wealth of information about a unique part of Australia that offers never-before-seen insights into climate change since the last ice age.

The work -- led by the University of Adelaide, and involving scientists from the Queensland Government, and members of the local community -- has uncovered what the researchers describe as a "treasure trove" of ancient wetlands on Queensland's North Stradbroke Island (known to Indigenous communities as Minjerribah), some dating as old as 200,000 years ago.

Now published in the Journal of Quaternary Science, the research details the development of wetlands on the island, at a time when water across Australia was scarce.

"There are more wetlands on North Stradbroke Island dating to the last ice age than anywhere else in Australia," says project leader Dr John Tibby, Acting Head of the Department of Geography, Environment and Population at the University of Adelaide.

"Australia was much drier during the last ice age than it is today, as most of the water was held in large ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere. Right across Australia there were few wetlands during this time, which raises the question: where and how did plants and animals survive that needed permanent water?

"The island, and possibly even the region itself, may have been a refuge from dry climates," Dr Tibby says.

Dr Jonathan Marshall, Principal Scientist with the Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, says their work has demonstrated that North Stradbroke Island "is an Australian exception."

"We cored and dated 16 wetlands on the island and found six dating to the ice age or earlier, with one being more than 200,000 years old," Dr Marshall says.

"Some of these wetlands on North Stradbroke were around before humans arrived in Australia. Analysis of the sediments laid down in the wetlands provides us with a better understanding of their natural variation to climate change. This allows us to make better recommendations about sustainable environmental management," he says.

Dr Tibby says a range of indicators in the wetlands offer researchers a window into past climate and environments.

"We're using the chemicals in leaves to determine past rainfall, and fossil algae to tell us how the water in the wetlands has changed," Dr Tibby says.

"Using this information, we can glean insights into whether climate changed at the same time Australian megafauna went extinct. This is important, since scientists are often forced to rely on records as far away as Antarctica to tell them about Australian climate change.

"The persistence of these wetlands suggests that for much of the past 40,000 years, and for perhaps much longer, the local environment has remained relatively moist. This may partly be due to links between these wetlands and the island's groundwater systems, which act as water reservoirs during periods of rainfall deficit.

"This unique and remarkably long and uninterrupted record of climatic conditions in south-east Queensland will greatly improve our understanding about the drivers of both local and regional climate variability," he says.

Darren Burns, Traditional Owner, and Land and Sea Manager, Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, says: "This evidence represents and confirms the resources that no doubt the Quandamooka People would have had to enable them to live continually on the Island. Coupled with the existence of the Pleistocene sites, this study demonstrates the long and extensive connection Quandamooka People have to our ancient land."

J. Tibby, C. Barr, J. C. Marshall, G. B. McGregor, P. T. Moss, L. J. Arnold, T. J. Page, D. Questiaux, J. Olley, J. Kemp, N. Spooner, L. Petherick, D. Penny, S. Mooney, E. Moss. Persistence of wetlands on North Stradbroke Island (south-east Queensland, Australia) during the last glacial cycle: implications for Quaternary science and biogeography. Journal of Quaternary Science, 2017; 32 (6): 770 DOI:10.1002/jqs.2981

More Housing For The Vulnerable

12th September, 2017: NSW Dept. of Family & Community Services
The second stage of the Social and Affordable Housing Fund will deliver 1200 new houses across NSW.

In March 2017, as part of stage one, five partners from the private and not-for-profit sectors were selected to deliver 2200 homes in metropolitan and regional NSW.

The second stage will provide more homes to those in need of social housing and ensure residents are connected to transport, jobs, education and tailored support services.

The NSW Government has committed to a target of 3400 new social and affordable dwellings through the $1.1 billion fund.

Minister for Social Housing Pru Goward said an innovative approach was needed to address the number of people experiencing crisis or housing stress.

“By embracing innovative and collaborative approaches by the non-government and private sectors to provide holistic housing services, we are helping people break the cycle of disadvantage and work towards greater independence,” Ms Goward said.

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.