Inbox and Environment News: Issue 355

April 8 - 14, 2018: Issue 355


Pittwater YHA opens its doors to green-hearted and green-thumbed guests who'll save the gorgeous Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park from imminent asparagus fern invasion. Yes, seriously.


Bush Regeneration sees eco-conscious, kind hearted humans restore and rehabilitate the gorgeous, sprawling Aussie bush from its weed-infested, degraded state into a healthy, thriving plant community, which will prosper and delight forevermore. Far from just weed removal; Regenerators focus on habitat, drainage, weed sources and establishing native communities. These are big words which probably don’t make much sense – but we have an interactive learning opportunity for you!


Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney’s protected north coast, is home to rock engravings, red ochre rock paintings, the fuzziest wildlife you ever did see and the most breathtaking views a Sydneysider or visitor could comprehend; and is currently under threat from invasive asparagus fern; which needs removing. Who knew your Auntie’s fave veggie could be so aggressive?


The blissed-out, babbling-brooked, spectacular-viewed, fresh-aired oasis that is our Pittwater YHA, alongside the Northern Beaches Council, are offering you fine green-thumbed and hearted folk the opportunity to volunteer alongside professional Regenerators for a weekend of Pittwater Restoration from May 11 – 13, 2018. Spend two mornings of tending to the gorgeous surrounds and you’ll be rewarded with two nights’ accommodation, two days of meals (morning teas, BBQ lunches and evening dinners) and kayak use throughout your stay. Plus, you’ll be chuffed with yourself for doing your bit for the planet and our futures.  

Along with your towels, two sheets, a pillowcase and, sturdy shoes, sunscreen and your breakfasts; you’ll need a $20 contribution for the weekend. For all the T&Cs; head to Pittwater YHA, shoot them an email or give them a ring on (02 9999-5748) – the only thing those guys love more than a regenerated bushland is chatting to ladies and gentleman who are keen on the idea!  

Broken Bay Pearls: World’s Finest Pearls Thriving In NSW

April 4th, 2018: NSW DPI
A Central Coast operation is achieving international success in producing some of the best Akoya cultured pearls in the world.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Deputy Director General, Fisheries, Dr Geoff Allan, said Broken Bay Pearls is demonstrating the innovation of NSW aquaculture.

“This operation in the sheltered waters surrounding Broken Bay produces some of the best Akoya cultured pearls in the world, which are sold to retail outlets across the state, with the Akoya pearl in high demand globally,” Dr Allan said.

“Broken Bay Pearls is leading the world in terms of quality Akoya production and is leading Australia in terms of a relatively new industry.
“Pearl farms like this one are incredibly valuable to our $70 million aquaculture industry here in NSW.

“The company has developed a range of new techniques to adapt cultured pearl production to the NSW conditions and it is environmentally friendly.”

The NSW Government has played a role in supporting the operation through the DPI, which has hatchery bred (spawned and raised to 2mm) every oyster the operation has used over the last 15 years.

James Brown, a third generation pearl farmer from Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm north of Broome, Western Australia recently bought into the operation and is now the major shareholder of Broken Bay Pearls.

James is the Managing Director of Cygnet Bay Pearls, a company that has been driving innovation in Australian pearling since founded by his grandfather in 1946. James Brown said the company is excited about the future in NSW.

“It is great to have a presence in NSW, at Cygnet Bay we are Australia's oldest entirely Australian owned and operated pearl farm but Akoya in Broken Bay is a fresh new industry to this country and we are keen to apply our pioneering spirit, innovation and expertise to help realise its potential here in NSW,” Mr Brown said.

“One of the driving forces to invest in NSW was the great support the aquaculture industry gets from the DPI.

“If it hadn't been such a great government-industry partnership I don't think the industry would be where it is today and that collaborative approach gives us great confidence in growing from here.”

James Brown, Managing Director of Cygnet Bay Pearls and staff at Broken Bay Pearls, Central Coast.

Scientific Paper Written About Broken Bay Cultured Pearls

A scientific paper about cultured pearls grown in Woy Woy has appeared in the international journal, Gems and Gemology. Researchers from Macquarie University and Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany have written about their findings a paper entitled “Akoya Cultured Pearl Farming in Eastern Australia”.

The researchers visited and documented the pearl-seeding and -harvesting procedures in Woy Woy and sampled pearls of various colours, shapes and sizes. They said the Akoya cultured pearls from Woy Woy are special because they occur in a wide variety of natural colours that range from classic white and silver over more unconventional colours like yellow, orange, pink and blue. The Akoya cultured pearls industry goes back to the early 1900s when Kokichi Mikimoto produced the first fully round Akoya cultured pearls in Japan.

The pearl-oysters needed to produce these pearls are also native to the local shoreline and have produced fine quality pearls since around 1999. “It is a unique opportunity, for us to be able to observe this richness in colour range,” said Macquarie University PhD student Ms Laura Otter. “The pearls from Broken Bay are marketed without the use of any bleaches or dyes as is common practice elsewhere,” she said. The pearls are allowed to grow for 18 months before they are harvested, which is above average for most Akoya farms.

A growing number of Australian retailers have embraced the Brisbane Water pearls and use them to create locally manufactured jewellery. The aim of the study was to characterise this new source of Akoya pearls with their unusual colour palette to see and understand how these pearls differ from other pearls. In the future, these findings will help to discriminate between different origins of Akoya pearl production and the discrimination from other types of cultured pearls. This information is essential for example for gem-testing laboratories, which need to determine the authenticity, origin, and possible application of treatments for their customers.

Results of the study point towards successful discrimination of colourful Australian Akoya pearls from other pearl types while naturally white pearls remain difficult to identify. The research is expected to take at least another year to complete. 
SOURCE: Media release, 6 Feb 2018 Emma Casey, Macquarie University

Otter, L. M., Agbaje, O. B. A., Huong, L. T. T., Häger, T., & Jacob, D. E. (2017). Akoya cultured pearl farming in eastern Australia. Gems and Gemology, 53(4), 423-437. DOI: 10.5741/GEMS.53.4.423

Maps and photos of Australian akoya cultured pearl farm
Figure 2. The map of Australia (A) indicates the location of the Broken Bay Pearls farm near Woy Woy in New South Wales, on the southeastern shoreline (B). The akoya pearl farming operation near Woy Woy (C) and some of the long-line systems for juvenile Pinctada imbricata fucata that are held nearby (D). For scale, the wooden jetty shown in C and D is 1.5 meters wide. Photos by Laura Otter.

Figure 5. The steps involved in the process of harvesting Australian akoya pearls. 
A: Bivalves are removed from their cages. B: The separator cleans the pearls from the tissues. C: Separated pearls are collected by opening a valve at the bottom of the machine. D: Wooden revolving drums are used to wash the pearls in a saltwater solution. E: A selection of the day’s harvest with the range of colors displayed at the front. Photos by Laura Otter.

Powerful Owl Release

March 18, 2018: Avalon Preservation Association
PNHA's Jacqui Marlow has advised that a Powerful Owl chick has been released in Plateau Park following its recuperation in Taronga Park. 

If you see it there being harassed, or even if you see it at all, can you please phone her on 0458 194 127.

Powerful owl family - photo courtesy PNHA

Australian Vine Can Boost Soybean Yield

April 3, 2018
Growing in its native Australia, the unobtrusive perennial vine Glycine tomentella could easily be overlooked. But the distant relative of soybean contains genetic resources that can substantially increase soybean yield, according to a new study from the University of Illinois.

"We saw yield increases of 3.5 to 7 bushels per acre in soybean lines derived from crossing with Glycine tomentella," says Randall Nelson, study author and adjunct professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.

The discovery happened by accident. Researchers from U of I and the USDA Agricultural Research Service had been working for years to introduce disease-resistance genes from Glycine tomentella into soybean. After developing thousands of experimental lines, they finally managed to move genes from the Australian vine into a new soybean line that was resistant to soybean rust. But the researchers noticed something else.

"Some of these lines looked pretty good, so we decided to do some yield testing. This turned into a project for Ph.D. student Abraham Akpertey from Ghana. He found several lines that yielded significantly more than the soybean parent," Nelson says. "We were very surprised. To look at it, Glycine tomentella has no agronomic characteristics -- the seeds are less than a tenth the size of soybean seeds. We never expected to get high-yielding lines out of this cross."

The process of getting Glycine tomentella genes into soybean is highly complex. The two plants are so distantly related that any mating would ordinarily result in aborted seeds. But Nelson's collaborator and study co-author, Ram Singh, developed a growth hormone solution he sprays on the young pods to keep seeds from aborting.

"He rescues that little, immature seed, cultures it, and grows it into a plant. Then those are back-crossed repeatedly with the soybean variety 'Dwight,' until all of the Glycine tomentella chromosomes are lost and we recover a soybean plant," Nelson explains.

The researchers don't know what has been transferred from Glycine tomentella into the soybean genome. Aside from yield, some of the plants look and perform almost exactly the same as 'Dwight.'

The group plans to map the genome of the promising plants, with the ultimate goal of identifying the genes responsible. Breeding efforts are already underway to develop higher-yielding lines since 'Dwight' is a 20-year-old cultivar.

"Last year, we released a material transfer agreement that would allow any soybean breeder to cross with these lines. I was surprised we didn't get many requests, because these are such unique resources. With this yield information, I hope we can get more people interested," Nelson says.

A. Akpertey, R. J. Singh, B. W. Diers, G. L. Graef, M. A. R. Mian, J. G. Shannon, A. M. Scaboo, M. E. Hudson, C. S. Thurber, P. J. Brown, R. L. Nelson. Genetic Introgression from to Soybean to Increase Seed Yield. Crop Science, 2018; 0 (0): 0 DOI:10.2135/cropsci2017.07.0445

Banking On Sunshine: World Added Far More Solar Than Fossil Fuel Power Generating Capacity In 2017

Apirl 5th, 2018: UN Environment
Solar energy dominated global investment in new power generation like never before in 2017.

The world installed a record 98 gigawatts of new solar capacity, far more than the net additions of any other technology -- renewable, fossil fuel or nuclear.

Solar power also attracted far more investment, at $160.8 billion, up 18 per cent, than any other technology. It made up 57 per cent of last year's total for all renewables (excluding large hydro) of $279.8 billion, and it towered above new investment in coal and gas generation capacity, estimated at $103 billion.

A driving power behind last year's surge in solar was China, where an unprecedented boom saw some 53 gigawatts added -- more than half the global total -- and $86.5 billion invested, up 58 per cent.

The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report, released today by UN Environment, Frankfurt School -- UNEP Collaborating Centre, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, finds that falling costs for solar electricity, and to some extent wind power, is continuing to drive deployment. Last year was the eighth in a row in which global investment in renewables exceeded $200 billion -- and since 2004, the world has invested $2.9 trillion in these green energy sources.

"The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift," said UN Environment head Erik Solheim. "Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development."

Overall, China was by far the world's largest investing country in renewables, at a record $126.6 billion, up 31 per cent on 2016.

There were also sharp increases in investment in Australia (up 147 per cent to $8.5 billion), Mexico (up 810 per cent to $6 billion), and in Sweden (up 127 per cent to $3.7 billion).

A record 157 gigawatts of renewable power were commissioned last year, up from 143 gigawatts in 2016 and far out-stripping the net 70 gigawatts of fossil-fuel generating capacity added (after adjusting for the closure of some existing plants) over the same period.

"The world added more solar capacity than coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined," said Nils Stieglitz, President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. "This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go."

Some big markets, however, saw declines in investment in renewables. In the United States, investment dropped 6 per cent, coming in at $40.5 billion. In Europe there was a fall of 36 per cent, to $40.9 billion, with big drops in the United Kingdom (down 65 per cent to $7.6 billion) and Germany (down 35 per cent to $10.4 billion). Investment in Japan slipped 28 per cent to $13.4 billion.

Angus McCrone, Chief Editor of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and lead author of the report, said: "In countries that saw lower investment, it generally reflected a mixture of changes in policy support, the timing of large project financings, such as in offshore wind, and lower capital costs per megawatt."

Global investments in renewable energy of $2.7 trillion from 2007 to 2017 (11 years inclusive) have increased the proportion of world electricity generated by wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, marine and small hydro from 5.2 per cent to 12.1 per cent.

The current level of electricity generated by renewables corresponds to about 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided -- roughly equivalent to those produced by the entire U.S. transport system.

The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report was funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

All renewable energy investment totals exclude large hydro, which falls outside the scope of the report.

Cassia (Senna pendula). Also known as Senna and Arsenic Bush. Originating in South American, Cassia is a perennial sprawling multi-stemmed shrub or tree up to 5m tall. 

This weed replaces native vegetation and establishes in a wide range of native plant communities, including coastal heath and scrubland, hind dunes and riparian corridors. The large seed pods are eaten by birds and other animals which spreads the weed further. 

Currently flowering - please pull out and get rid of if you have in your garden or join a local Bushcare Group to help Pittwater rid itself of this weed.

Councils Encouraged To Apply For Funds As New NSW Coastal Legislation Commences

April 3, 2018: NSW Office of Environment & Heritage
NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and Planning Minister Anthony Roberts have welcomed the commencement of the NSWCoastal Management Act.

The NSW Government worked with councils to deliver the new legislative and regulatory framework to support the coordinated planning and management of the State's coastal areas.

Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton said councils are being encouraged to take full advantage of the significant $83.6 million funding package available to support councils to implement the reforms.

"The introduction of the Act is another step towards a modern and integrated way of managing our exceptional coastal areas, to benefit our coastal communities and the whole of NSW," Ms Upton said.

"The new Coastal Management Manual is a key part of the reforms. It provides a step-by-step guidance to coastal councils for preparing coastal management programs with their communities."

Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts said the reform package sets out clear outcomes for our coastal areas that councils would apply to make better decisions for the benefit of our coastal communities, environments and economy.

"The new Act and state environmental planning policy are now more integrated and long-term focused and will improve the quality of on-ground actions and development in coastal areas," Mr Roberts said.

"Councils will be equipped to approach the coastal issues most important to their local communities using the best available science and strategic planning tools.

"Our new state environmental planning policy gives detailed guidance on planning considerations for our most valued and sensitive coastal assets. We also have detailed, interactive mapping that is far more user-friendly and supports better planning decisions."

Ms Upton said that the Act includes transitional provisions that allow councils to move towards the new arrangements over time.

"Many councils have already undertaken a significant amount of work to prepare coastal zone management plans under the current laws, and they will not be expected to start over," Ms Upton said.

"Councils that already have certified plans in place, or that have submitted plans for certification, will have until 2021 to update to a coastal management program.

The Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Planning will continue to support councils through this process with grant funding, operational guidance and expert technical advice.

Wind Farm Approved For The Upper Hunter

April 4, 2018: NSW Government
The NSW Government has approved a wind farm that will deliver 800 new jobs to the Upper Hunter region.

The $642 million Liverpool Range Wind Farm will generate enough to power nearly 500,000 homes.

Situated east of Coolah and northwest of Cassilis, the development will feature 272 turbines and four substations.

It will take three years to build the wind farm that will span 36km from north to south and 20km east to west. Once complete, it will be one of the largest wind farms in Australia.

Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts said the State Significant Development would pour large amounts of money back into the Upper Hunter community.

“It will also offer community funding contributions of up to $800,000 a year through a voluntary planning agreement with Warrumbungle and Upper Hunter Shire Councils,” Mr Roberts said.

Bilbies Bouncing Back To NSW National Parks

April 1, 2018: NSW Office of Environment & Heritage
The NSW Government is working with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) to reintroduce Bilbies into the magnificent Pilliga forests of northern NSW.

"This is a historic step for Bilby conservation – they became extinct in NSW over 100 years ago and for the first time they will be back in the wild," Ms Upton said.

"The NSW Government is investing over $40 million through the Saving our Species program to reintroduce native species to NSW. The rewilding project with AWC is part of that significant investment."

As part of the project, AWC is building a specially designed 32 kilometre feral cat and fox-proof fence to establish a secure 5800 hectare feral predator-free area into which wild Bilbies will be reintroduced.

"This new fence is crucial to protecting the Bilbies and the first posts have just gone in," Ms Upton said.

Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries welcomed the exciting project milestone.

"Over the next two months over 6500 fence pickets, 300 kilometres of plain wire and 96 kilometres of netting will be installed," Mr Humphries said.

"Then work starts to remove all the feral cats and foxes from across the 5800 hectares of forest – it's a massive project."

AWC Chief Executive Atticus Fleming said the scale of the project meant the potential to eventually protect almost 10% of the total Australian Greater Bilby population.

"AWC has been engaged to manage a 35,750 hectare area of the Pilliga State Conservation Area and National Park. Establishing the large feral-free area is the best way of securing the return of the Bilby to this area, and to others," Mr Fleming said.

At least 5 other regionally extinct mammals will be introduced to the Pilliga in coming years – the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, the Brush-tailed Bettong, the Western Barred Bandicoot, the Plains Mouse and the Western Quoll.

Connecting Fish, Rivers And People: World Fish Migration Day 2018

With the World Fish Migration Day 2018 we want to raise global attention for endangered migratory fish, like salmon, sturgeon, giant catfish, dourado and eel. Migratory fish are particularly threatened by barriers such as weirs, dams and sluices, built for water management, hydropower and land drainage. These fish need free migration routes in order to survive. Water managers, fishery organizations and NGO's are restoring fish migration routes in rivers and between rivers and seas. Dams removed, sluices are managed fish friendly and fishway are built to help fish on their journey. 

During this third World Fish Migration Day the participating organisations will open their doors for the public and will show fish and fishways and host activities for children and parents.

The event will take place on the 21st of April 2018 and is supported by WWF, The Nature Conservancy and Freshwater Fish Specialist Group. We are aiming for more than 500 participating local, regional and national organisations.

World-First E-Waste Microfactory Launched At UNSW

April 4, 2018: UNSW
As Australia's waste crisis escalates, Professor Veena Sahajwalla today launched the world's first e-waste microfactory which has the potential to reduce the vast amount of electronic waste heading into landfill.
Gabrielle Upton, NSW Minister for the Environment and Professor Veena Sahajwalla at the launch of the world’s first e-waste microfactory. Photo: Quentin Jones.

The world’s first microfactory that can transform the components from electronic waste (e-waste) items such as discarded smart phones and laptops into valuable materials for re-use has been launched at UNSW, Sydney.

Using technology developed following extensive scientific research at UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT Centre), the e-waste microfactory has the potential to reduce the rapidly growing problem of vast amounts of electronic waste causing environmental harm and going into landfill.

In launching the microfactory at the SMaRT Centre laboratories today, NSW Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton said it was exciting to see technological innovations that could transform waste management and recycling.
I am very pleased to launch the UNSW e-waste microfactory today, a NSW home-grown solution to the waste challenges facing communities all over the world,” Ms Upton said.

“It is exciting to see innovations such as this prototype microfactory and the potential they have to reduce waste and provide a boost to both the waste management and manufacturing industries in NSW.”

How it works
UNSW’s modular microfactories can operate on a site as small as 50 square metres and can be located wherever waste may be stockpiled. A microfactory is one or a series of small machines and devices that uses patented technology to perform one or more functions in the reforming of waste products into new and usable resources.

The e-waste microfactory that reforms discarded computers, mobile phones and printers has a number of small modules for this process and fits into a small site. The discarded devices are first placed into a module to break them down. The next module may involve a special robot for the identification of useful parts. Another module then involves using a small furnace which transforms these parts into valuable materials by using a precisely controlled temperature process developed via extensive research.

These transformed materials include metal alloys and a range of micromaterials. The micromaterials can be used in industrial-grade ceramics while the specific quality plastics from computers, printers and other discarded sources can be put through another module that produces filaments suitable for 3D-printing applications, while the metal alloys can be used as metal components for new or existing manufacturing processes.

Gabrielle Upton, NSW Minister for the Environment and Professor Veena Sahajwalla at the launch of the world’s first e-waste microfactory. Photo: Quentin Jones.

Community Slams Wollongong Coal Attempt To Dodge Compliance NSW EPA Opposes Mining Company’s Plans To Remove Requirement To Reduce Bellambi Creek Pollution

April 06, 2018: by Lock the Gate
Lock the Gate Alliance and concerned locals have slammed troubled coal mining company Wollongong Coal (WCL) for seeking approval from the Department of Planning to remove a key condition of its mining consent. The company has also ignored an order from the Department from more than a year ago to comply with the clean up condition.

Wollongong Coal’s "preliminary works approval" for its the Russell Vale mine was approved in 2011. The approval requires the company to fix existing poor engineering in Bellambi Creek to stop overflow of stormwater sending coal fines and other mine pollution into the creek. This work has not been done.

The Department of Planning issued the company with a compliance order to adhere to the condition in October 2016, but Wollongong Coal is applying to modify the consent conditions so the work does not have to be done.

In a submission opposing Wollongong Coal’s request, the NSW EPA has criticised the company for poor environmental compliance and highlighted thirteen compliance actions taken against it in the last six years.

The EPA’s submission says, "in recent years WCL has demonstrated they cannot consistently manage and maintain pollution control equipment and plant on site" and that the proposed modification "presents an elevated risk to the downstream community and environment" compared to the existing commitment.

Gavin Workman from Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining said, “Wollongong Coal has an atrocious history of non-compliance, pollution and accidents. It’s unusual for the EPA to oppose a coal mine project and we’re glad they’ve taken a stand in this case.

“It’s unthinkable that the NSW Department of Planning would let Wollongong Coal get away with not fixing up Bellambi Creek. The pollution they have caused is already unacceptable and the company is only trying to get this change made because it can’t afford to comply.”

Wollongong Coal is currently being prosecuted by two government agencies and is under investigation as to whether it is "fit and proper" to operate in NSW.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “This is a straightforward case of negligence and non-compliance resulting in recurring pollution of Bellambi Creek by Wollongong Coal.

“Given the tenuous financial position of Wollongong Coal, we have real concerns about the company’s ability to manage and rehabilitate the site. The Government agencies must prioritise cleaning up and securing this site, and ensuring Wollongong Coal and its parent company foot the bill.”

More than 25 objections have been lodged against the modification, which means a final decision will be made by the Independent Planning Commission, once the proposal is assessed by the Department of Planning.

Documents associated with the modification proposal are available here:

The EPA’s objecting submission is here

Bushcare in Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                 3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                            8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                        9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                       8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                    8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday+3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                          9 - 12noon

Draft Plans Of Management For NSW Reserves, State And National Parks: Have Your Say

The Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management is now available for review and comment.
Public exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in the future management of Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserve.

The draft plan of management is on public exhibition until 18 June 2018 and anyone can review the plan and provide comments.

The Queens Lake Nature Reserve and Queens Lake State Conservation Area Draft Plan of Management is available for public review and comment. The exhibition of the draft plan provides an opportunity for members of the community to have a say in future management directions for the park. 
Submissions must be received by 9 April 2018.

The Yanga National Park, Yanga State Conservation Area and Yanga Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management is available for public review and comment. The exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in future management directions for the park. 
Submissions must be received by 23 April 2018.

The Toorale National Park and Toorale State Conservation Area Draft Plan of Management is available for public review and comment. The exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in future management directions for the parks. 
Submissions must be received by 7 May 2018.

The Bobbiwaa Parks Draft Plan of Management covers Bobbiwaa State Conservation Area, Couradda National Park, Killarney State Conservation Area and Moema National Parkand is now available for public review and comment. The exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in future management directions for these parks. 
Submissions must be received by 21 May 2018.

New Inquiry Into Environmental Water

March 1, 2018: House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy has commenced an inquiry into the management and use of Commonwealth environmental water.

The inquiry will examine the role of Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder in determining how environmental water should be used, and also consider how the impact of environmental watering is monitored and evaluated.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is an independent statutory position established to manage Commonwealth environmental water for the purpose of protecting or restoring environmental assets.
Since its establishment, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has become the largest single holder of water entitlements in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The Chair of the Committee, Mr Andrew Broad MP, said the inquiry is an opportunity to understand how environmental water has been managed to date and to identify opportunities to improve the use of environmental water into the future.

“Rivers, floodplains, and wetlands are cornerstones of the Australian environment and support economic activity in regional communities across the country. Environmental water has an important role in ensuring that Australia’s river systems are sustained in the long term,” Mr Broad said.

“In launching this inquiry, the Committee is keen to understand how the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder makes decisions about when and where to use environmental water, and to examine how the water holder taps into local knowledge and uses the latest science in order
to achieve genuine long-term environmental outcomes,” Mr Broad said.

“The Committee is not inquiring into the broader Murray–Darling Basin Plan, and we are not looking to duplicate the work already underway in this area. Our focus is on Commonwealth environmental water,” Mr Broad said.

The Deputy Chair of the Committee, Mr Pat Conroy MP, explained the Committee would also seek to ensure that environmental water is used efficiently.

“Commonwealth environmental water holdings represent a significant investment by the Australian public in our natural environment. As part of this inquiry, the Committee will examine the integrity of the management of environmental water and seek to ensure that environmental water is used
efficiently and for the purpose for which it was acquired,” Mr Conroy said.

The Committee will accept written submissions, addressing one or more of the terms of reference, until Thursday, 12 April 2018.

Further information about the inquiry, including the terms of reference, is available on the inquiry webpage. Information about how to make a submission to an inquiry can be obtained from the Parliament of Australia webpage.

Management And Use Of Commonwealth Environmental Water

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy has resolved to inquire into the 2016-17 annual report of the Department of the Environment and Energy. In doing so, the Committee will inquire into and report on the management and use of Commonwealth environmental water.

The Committee will be conducting public hearings and site inspections to gather evidence from stakeholders.

Submissions are invited until Thursday 12 April 2018.

Inquiry Into The Effectiveness Of The Implementation Of The Basin Plan

7 March 2018: Media Release - The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, Joint media release with The Hon David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources

The Coalition Government has announced a Productivity Commission inquiry into the effectiveness and implementation of the Basin Plan and water resource plans.

The Basin Plan supports the integrated management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin to optimise social, economic and environmental outcomes.

This inquiry will fulfil the statutory requirement for the first of the Commission’s five-yearly assessments of the effectiveness of the Basin Plan and water resources plans as required by the Water Act 2007.

The Commission is due to report to Government by 31 December 2018.

Public consultation will be undertaken as part of the inquiryand the Government encourages all interested parties to participate. Further information and the terms of reference are available on the Commission's website.

Zest For Life Festival

Hosted by Avalon Community Garden
Sunday, April 8 at 10 AM - 2 PM
In the Grounds of Barrenjoey High School, via Tasman Road gates, North Avalon.
Add some zest to your life at Avalon Community Garden. Hear amazing legends speak about their passion for the planet, for soil, for plastic free living, caring for the Oceans and much more. 

Indulge in the Garden’s Natural Food Café, open all day for lunch, organic produce, tea, coffee and cakes. Relax listening to some cool beats from a bevy of Avalon’s talented performers.

For the kids there is craft & painting, music al entertainment, gardening and their own café!

Take a tour through the Garden grounds whilst visiting our eco partners’ stalls. Plus a day of eco workshops, films, talks and fun activities: 

10:10  Smoke ceremony and welcome to country 
Neil Evers - Aboriginal elder of the Guringai people.

11:00  The Importance of Soil talk
Peter Rutherford - Eco House and Garden, Kimbriki.

11:30  Making Compost From Food Scraps workshop.
Tim Seaton - Coastal Environment Centre / ACG.

12:00  No Plastic Please talk.
Robbie Luscombe-Newman – Living Ocean. 

12:30  Plastic Free Lifestyle film - Living Ocean.

12:30  Aspara Gus entertains the kids
Luke Escombe - The Veggie Plot.

1:00  No more gladwrap on your sangers – make your own beeswax wrap workshop.
Tim Seaton – The Coastal Environment Centre / ACG.

1:30  Make your own essential oil sunscreen workshop.
Phyllis Agius – ACG.

1:30  Make and retain good soil on steep sites using Hugelkulture method. Sam Gibbons – ACG.

Tool Shines A Light On Solar Potential Of Buildings

April 6, 2018: UNSW
A new online tool developed at UNSW will allow property owners to assess the solar power potential of their rooftops.

UNSW Associate Professor and Chair of the Australian Photovoltaics Institute, Renate Egan, Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher and UNSW’s Dean of Engineering Professor, Mark Hoffman. Photo: Robert Largent

A new online platform that will inform decisions about how home owners and urban planners can make the most of opportunities to use solar power has been launched at UNSW.  

The SunSPoT online tool can be used to calculate the solar power potential of any rooftop, to help residents, councils and businesses make better decisions about investment in solar power.

It has been developed by the Australian Photovoltaics Institute (APVI) and UNSW with technology partners Solar Analytics and Enosi Pty Ltd, as part of the Energy Data for Smart Decision Making project, funded by the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program.

The tool was launched by Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher, who said: “The Energy Data for Smart Decision Making project will combine mapping with data on solar exposure, energy generation and consumption from precincts across Australia into an open modelling platform.

“Being developed under the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, the platform will benefit end users by allowing them to calculate their solar power potential and make informed decisions on investment in solar power generation.”

“This project is an example of how the program encourages collaboration between local governments, research organisations and the private sector to deliver a solution that can be applied locally and shared around the country.”

SunSPoT uses geographical information systems data to estimate the technical potential of rooftop solar, accounting for the tilt of roof surfaces and shading at the site.

UNSW Associate Professor and Chair of the Australian Photovoltaics Institute, Renate Egan, described how the tool will allow residents to assess the solar potential of their own home or business.

She explained, “SunSPoT uses geographical information systems data to estimate the technical potential of rooftop solar, accounting for the tilt of roof surfaces and shading at the site.  As solar PV continues to be deployed at record rates on Australian rooftops, such analysis can help councils and the electricity industry plan for the solar future.”

It can already be used online to assess solar potential on specific rooftops in early-adopter local government areas that are already project partners, including Ku-ring-gai, Willoughby, Randwick, Northern Beaches and Lane Cove. More cities and towns will be added as the program expands.

It can also be used to assess the potential across geographical areas. Analyses of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney have already discovered enormous untapped potential for solar power installations across a range of buildings.

The SunSPoT tool is available here: 

FOI Reveals Shenhua Seeking To Suspend Government’s Power To Cancel Mining Licence Lock The Gate Renews Calls For Liverpool Plains Coal Licence To Be Cancelled

April 02, 2018: by Lock the Gate 
A document released to Lock the Gate Alliance as part of a protracted freedom of information struggle with the NSW Government has revealed that coal mining company Shenhua applied to suspend a key condition which allows the government to cancel Shenhua’s mining licence.

The condition gives the Government the power to cancel the exploration licence altogether and prevent the company’s Watermark coal mine proceeding.

For more than a year, local farming and community groups and Lock the Gate Alliance have been calling for the government to use the condition to cancel the licence.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “The NSW Government has been playing a double game, claiming it wants to protect the Liverpool Plains from mining while conducting secret negotiations with mining company Shenhua Australia.

"The licence condition Shenhua has applied to suspend for five years is the condition that gives the Government the power to cancel the licence that threatens the Liverpool Plains and end this sorry saga once and for all," she said.

It is not clear whether the Government has agreed to Shenhua’s request to suspend the government’s power to cancel the licence or whether it is under serious consideration.

The document has been released to Lock the Gate Alliance during the course of proceedings in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal following a freedom of information request that was largely rejected by the government.

The Alliance is attempting to bring to light secret negotiations between the Government and Shenhua over the renewal of its coal exploration licence on the Liverpool Plains and decision last year to give the company $262 million.

"The community still doesn’t know what the Government may have promised Shenhua behind closed doors or what deals have been done.

"It was unnecessary and perverse for the Government to give this coal mining company a quarter of a billion dollars of public money when they had the power to cancel Shenhua’s licence all along. They could have halved the size of the licence for free as the Mining Act says should happen on renewal.

"If the Government is serious about protecting the Liverpool Plains from mining and securing the future of its agricultural production, it will cancel Shenhua’s licence and make our state’s productive farmland off-limits to mining altogether."

Fox Baiting Here - Notice To Pet Owners

Northern Beaches Council is advising dog and cat owners to keep their pets away from several major reserves while fox baiting is being carried out.

Poison baits will be laid between 12 March and 1 April 2017 in the following reserves:
• Manly Dam, Manly Vale
• Red Hill, Beacon Hill
• Dee Why Lagoon Wildlife Refuge
• Oxford Falls, Morgan Road

These reserves will be closed to dogs and cats until 29 April 2018. Warning signs will also be displayed in the areas to notify the public about the program.

The fox baiting program is being conducted in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and involves the use of “Foxoff® Econobait” poison baits, which are designed specifically for fox control. The poison baits contain 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate).

Update On Baleen 2D HR Seismic Survey 

(The survey comprises 46 2D lines of total length 208km.) - 
NOPSEMA 'Not reasonably satisfied – opportunity to modify EP'
Decision date: 03/08/2017 
Titleholder action Resubmission due date 3: 02/09/2017
Extension of timeframe: 17/08/2017 Titleholder action: 15/10/2017
Extension of timeframe: 05/10/2017 Titleholder action: 31/10/2017
Resubmission of EP: 31/10/2017 NOPSEMA decision: 30/11/2017
Request for further information: 30/11/2017 Titleholder action: 21/12/2017
Acceptance of EP: 10/01/2018 Titleholder action: 20/01/2018Decision notification (PDF 707 KB)
Submission of EP summary 19/01/2018 NOPSEMA decision 29/01/2018
Publication of EP summary 16/02/2018 -(not published/available at this date or yet - 25/2/2018)
Activity started 09/04/2018


From Decision notification:
Basis of decision 
NOPSEMA has assessed the environment plan in accordance with its assessment policies and procedures. 

On completion of assessment, NOPSEMA has decided that it is not reasonably satisfied that the environment plan meets the criteria below as set out in regulation 10A of the Environment Regulations: 
(a) is appropriate for the nature and scale of the activity 
(b) demonstrates that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable 
(c) demonstrates that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be of an acceptable level 
(d) provides for appropriate environmental performance outcomes, environmental performance standards and measurement criteria 
(e) includes an appropriate implementation strategy and monitoring, recording and reporting arrangements 
(g) demonstrates that: 
(i) the titleholder has carried out the consultations required by Division 2.2A 
(ii) the measures (if any) that the titleholder has adopted, or proposes to adopt, because of the consultations are appropriate 

Titleholder requirements 
For OMR decision In accordance with regulation 10, the titleholder is required to modify and resubmit the environment plan. Upon resubmission of the plan, NOPSEMA will continue to assess the submission in 
accordance with its assessment policies and make a decision under regulation 10. After a titleholder has been provided with reasonable opportunity to modify and resubmit an environment plan, NOPSEMA will 
make a final decision on whether to accept or refuse to accept the environment plan. 

National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) regulates all offshore areas in Commonwealth waters, which comprise those areas beyond the first three nautical miles of the territorial sea. This includes the Ashmore and Cartier offshore territories and offshore areas adjacent to all states and the Northern Territory. 

NOPSEMA also regulates all offshore areas in coastal waters where a state or territory has conferred regulatory powers and functions. In jurisdictions where powers to regulate are not conferred, regulatory responsibilities remain with the relevant state or territory. 

Please Help: Contribute To Significant Trees Register For Our Area

Significant trees listings wanted
Avalon Preservation Association
The next step in the Avalon Preservation Association's Avalon Cultural Audit is to identify and list significant trees in the area.

Roger Sayers has nominated the Spotted Gums in the reserve opposite Careel Bay Wharf.

Please help us by contributing your pick of significant trees in the area so we can map them and enter into our database.

You can either post a picture/s on the APA Facebook page and identify location of tree/s and species type if known or email us with same at

Our new Avalon Preservation Association Noticeboard is finally installed on corner of Belle Property Building near Herforts Chemist Old Barrenjoey Rd Avalon Beach. Many thanks to Mark Griffin Belle Property for use of wall and Robert Adema for installation.

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Bush Regeneration - Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment  
This is a wonderful way to become connected to nature and contribute to the health of the environment.  Over the weeks and months you can see positive changes as you give native species a better chance to thrive.  Wildlife appreciate the improvement in their habitat.

Belrose area - Thursday mornings 
Belrose area - Weekend mornings by arrangement
Contact: Phone or text Conny Harris on 0432 643 295

Wheeler Creek - Wednesday mornings 9-11am
Contact: Phone or text Judith Bennett on 0402 974 105
Or email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment :

Upper Deep Creek Catchment walk 
Sat 28/4/18 
Start 10am at Terrey Hills and allow 3 hours and bring a screwdriver for some voluntary weeding near the end of the track. 
See and identify spectacular Sydney sandstone flora in “autumn” blossom. Carpool required. Bookings essential: Conny Harris 0432 643 295 

Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment transverse 
Sat 19/5/18 
Start 9am - finish 1.30pm.
This walk is a hidden gem. Also lovely scenic views and sometimes rare fauna. Plant ID as we go and a brief lunch break BYO. Carpool back.
Bookings essential: Conny Harris 0432 643 295

Cromer to Oxford Falls 
Sun 10/6/18 
Start 10am from Cromer Rd, allow 4 hrs and bring lunch to see great carvings near Red Hill, fantastic views over Narrabeen Lagoon and as typical for this catchment very different vegetation communities. Plant ID as we go. We will walk down to Oxford Falls and carpool back. Bookings needed: Conny Harris 0432 643 295 

Increased Payments Lock In Record Commonwealth Funding For Hospitals

April 6, 2018: The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health
The Australian Government will make an increased payment of $547 million to the states and territories for public hospital activity in 2015-16, following the final reports by independent hospital pricing and funding agencies.

Commonwealth payments will now total $17.4 billion in 2015-16 and reflect the actual public hospital services delivered, after errors were found in the pricing and calculation of some services in this period. 

These payments are based on final reports by the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) and the Administrator of the National Health Funding Pool (the Administrator), both independent agencies reporting jointly to all State, Territory and Commonwealth Governments. 

We welcome the reports from these independent agencies and payments will now be made by the Commonwealth. 

Between 2014-15 and 2015-16 Commonwealth funding for public hospitals will increase by $1.9 billion from $15.5 billion to $17.4 billion – the single largest ever increase in Commonwealth funding for public hospitals. 

The final determination continues the Turnbull Government’s record funding support for public hospitals and increases Commonwealth funding for: 
  • Queensland hospitals by $309.2 million to $3.71 billion in 2015-16
  • Western Australia hospitals by $97.8 million to $1.95 billion in 2015-16
  • Victorian hospitals by $89.8 million to $4.24 billion in 2015-16
  • South Australian hospitals by $36.4 million to $1.24 billion in 2015-16
  • Northern Territory hospitals by $15.2 million to $204 million in 2015-16
  • Australian Capital Territory hospitals by $13.6 million to $341 million in 2015-16
  • Tasmanian hospitals by $4.5 million to $366 million in 2015-16.
This final determination reduces funding for New South Wales public hospitals by $19.2 million to $5.3 billion in 2015-16 to reflect actual activity delivered, following the final submission of activity data by the New South Wales Government.

The final report follows extensive analysis conducted by the Administrator and the IHPA into the drivers of the unexpected growth in a number of non-admitted services, in particular home delivered ventilation, dialysis and obstetric services. 

The independent agencies identified $122.7 million in errors in the pricing and calculation of funding in 2015-16. Further information is available on the IHPA’s website and the Administrator’s website.

Based on this independent advice, the Treasurer has made a final determination of National Health Reform funding entitlement for the 2015-16 financial year. 

The examination of National Health Reform funding for 2015-16 has ensured transparency of funding arrangements, and that payments more accurately reflect actual hospital services delivered.

The Turnbull Government is committed to increasing funding to Australia’s public hospitals through a new National Health Agreement. 

The Government looks forward to working with states and territories to finalise the next agreement which will build on record funding and delivers an additional $30 billion in new funding to states and territories over the period 2020-21 to 2024-25.

Scientists Discover Hybrid Swarm In Global Mega-Pest

April 3, 2018: CSIRO
CSIRO scientists have confirmed the hybridisation of two of the world’s major pest species, into a new and improved mega-pest.
One of the pests, the cotton bollworm, is widespread in Africa, Asia and Europe and causes damage to over 100 crops, including corn, cotton, tomato and soybean.

The damage and controlling the pest costs billions of dollars a year.

It is extremely mobile and has developed resistance to all pesticides used against it.

The other pest, the corn earworm, is a native of the Americas and has comparatively limited resistance and host range.

However, the combination of the two, in a novel hybrid with unlimited geographical boundaries is cause for major concern.

The CSIRO researchers in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA provides clear evidence of the hybridisation of the two moths in Brazil.

 “A hybrid such as this could go completely undetected should it invade another country. It is critical that we look beyond our own backyard to help fortify Australia’s defense and response to biosecurity threats,” Research Director leading CSIRO’s Biosecurity Risk Evaluation and Preparedness Program Dr Paul De Barro said.

“As Australia’s national science agency, we are constantly looking for new ways to protect the nation and technology like genome sequencing, is helping to tip the scales in our favour.”

While a combination of insecticides currently controls these pests well in Australia, it is important to study the pests themselves for sustainable long-term management world-wide.

The scientists confirmed that among the group of caterpillars studied, every individual was a hybrid.

“No two hybrids were the same suggesting a ‘hybrid swarm’ where multiple versions of different hybrids can be present within one population,” fellow CSIRO Scientist Dr Tom Walsh said.

The bollworm, commonly found in Australia, attacks more crops and develops much more resistance to pesticides than the earworm.

A concerning finding among the Brazilian hybrids was that one was 51 per cent earworm but included a known resistance gene from the bollworm.

Lead author of the paper Dr Craig Anderson, a former CSIRO scientist now based at The University of Edinburgh, believes the hybrid study has wide-ranging implications for the agricultural community across the Americas.

“On top of the impact already felt in South America, recent estimates that 65 per cent of the USA’s agricultural output is at risk of being affected by the bollworm demonstrates that this work has the potential to instigate changes to research priorities that will have direct ramifications for the people of America, through the food on their tables and the clothes on their backs,” Dr Anderson said.

CSIRO scientist Tom Walsh working with cotton and its major pest Helicoverpa armigera or cotton bollworm.

Millions Of Aussies Benefit From Medicine Price Drop

April 1, 2018: The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health
The Australian Government will reduce the cost of more than 300 medicine brands by as much as 40 per cent, benefiting millions of Australian patients.
Australians with conditions including high blood pressure, depression, digestive disorders and certain types of cancer will now pay less for their medicines, every time they visit the pharmacy.

Millions of scripts will now be up to five dollars cheaper, with more than $60 million worth of savings passed on to patients over the next four years.

The lower prices are a result of the Government’s price disclosure policy which requires price transparency from pharmaceutical companies resulting in lower costs to taxpayers and patients. 

More than 620,000 patients taking esomeprazole for digestive disorders will benefit, saving as much as $50 each year. 

Nearly 80,000 patients taking olmesartan for high blood pressure can save as much as $54 each year. 

Patients with multiple conditions will receive higher savings.

We understand every single dollar matters and that is precisely why we are reducing the cost of hundreds of important medicines. 

These cheaper medicines also deliver a further $250 million saving to the taxpayer, which will be completely reinvested into new medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

These price reductions benefit patients when the total cost of the script drops below the maximum PBS payment of $39.50 with concessional patients – including pensioners– paying just $6.40. 

The Turnbull Government is also committed to listing more lifesaving and life improving medicines on the PBS. 

Today new and expanded medicine listings to treat diabetes, cancer, arthritis, asthma and eye disease will also be available for a maximum of $39.50 or just $6.40 for concessional patients.

Since coming into Government, the Coalition has helped improve the health of Australians by subsidising more than $8.2 billion worth of new medicines.

Unlike Labor, we are subsidising all drugs recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. 

Labor delayed the listing of seven vital drugs – leaving important medicines out of reach for many Australian patients.

Our commitment to the PBS is rock solid. Together with Medicare, it is a foundation of our world-class health care system. 

Price reductions and new and expanded medicine listings come into effect on 1 April 2018. For more information visit

Inner Ear Provides Clues To Human Dispersal

April 3, 2018: University of Zurich
The early migration of humans out of Africa and across the world can be proven using genetic and morphological analyses. However, morphological data from the skull and skeleton often only allow limited conclusions to be drawn about the geographical dispersal pattern, especially because of the many ways in which the human skeleton adapts to local environmental conditions. Now, an international team of researchers led by paleoanthropologists from the University of Zurich has shown that the morphology of the inner ear is a good indicator for population history and human dispersal.

Differences within a population greater than between populations
The hearing and balance system in humans, as in all vertebrates, is housed in a cavity system in the base of the skull -- the bony labyrinth of the inner ear. The researchers analyzed the labyrinth structures in human populations from southern and northern Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and America, including as far south as Patagonia, using computed tomography to obtain high-resolution 3-D data of the bony labyrinth.

The data showed that the shape of the labyrinth varied greatly, with the variation within a population being considerably greater that the variation between populations. "This typically human variation pattern is also known from comparative genetic data. It shows that all humans are very closely related and have their roots in Africa," explains UZH anthropologist Marcia Ponce de León.

Morphology of the labyrinth correlates with dispersal distance from Africa
The team further discovered that the 3-D shape of the labyrinth contained important information about the global dispersal of humans from the African continent. The further away a population is geographically from South Africa, the more the shape of the labyrinth differs from that of the South African population. Moreover, the labyrinth data confirm the findings from DNA analyses which show that the genetic distance increases in correlation with the geographical distance from Africa.

Conclusions about inner-continental dispersal history can be drawn
The labyrinth data also indicate population movements within the continents. For example, the labyrinth shapes of prehistoric populations on the Sunda Islands (Indonesia) are similar to those of the indigenous people of Papua and Australia, while today's population mainly migrated from the Malay archipelago. On the other hand, the labyrinth data also reveals that today's Europeans and Japanese mainly have their roots in the respective local populations of the Neolithic Period.

Incidental genetic changes do not have functional effect
The new results are surprising because it was previously assumed that the shape of the labyrinth was mainly determined by its function. It has now been shown that despite the very high functional requirements for balance and hearing, nature tolerates an astonishingly wide variation in the labyrinth structure. "This is probably due to random changes in the genetic material. Such changes may have few or no functional consequences, but the associated structural changes provide a record of human dispersal and evolution history," summarizes the paper's last author Christoph Zollikofer, professor of anthropology at UZH.

Computed tomography data should be acquired before DNA extraction
The compact bone that surrounds the labyrinth is also interesting for paleogenetics as it contains a large amount of DNA. This gives rise to an acute conflict of interests: While computed tomographic investigations are non-invasive, the process of DNA collection damages the labyrinth. "Paleogenetics is a rapidly growing research field and hundreds of labyrinths from archaeological skeleton collections have already been milled to dust without first being documented," says Christoph Zollikofer. The research team therefore wants to ensure that computed tomographic data is routinely obtained before bones are released for DNA extraction. "These data form an invaluable archive of the history of fossil hominid and modern human populations," concludes Marcia Ponce de León.

Marcia S. Ponce de León, Toetik Koesbardiati, John David Weissmann, Marco Milella, Carlos S. Reyna-Blanco, Gen Suwa, Osamu Kondo, Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas, Tim D. White, Christoph P. E. Zollikofer. Human bony labyrinth is an indicator of population history and dispersal from Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201717873 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1717873115

Slight differences can be found in the inner ear of different populations of modern humans. Credit: © Marcia Ponce de León, Christoph Zollikofer

Up To $26 Million For Advocacy Groups: NDIS

April 6, 2018: NSW Premier, the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Disability Services Ray Williams today announced up to $26 million will be available for advocacy services until 2020.

The funding will support people with disability to access these services during the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and in the early stages of full Scheme.

Ms Berejiklian said the NSW Government is committed to successfully transitioning supports and services to the NDIS for people with disability.

“During a time of major change for people with disability, the NSW Government is committed to making the transition to the NDIS as smooth as possible,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We understand the transition has created concerns for people with disability and I want to assure the community we have been listening to those concerns.

“That is why we have set aside this funding. It will make sure people with disability can continue to access services and information, particularly in regional and rural communities.”

A key focus of the NSW funding will be on activities that support inclusion of people with disability in their communities.

Mr Williams said NSW is leading the way in transitioning to the NDIS. 

“This is the largest social reform since Medicare and it’s important we get it right for people with disability,” Mr Williams said.

“We will continue to work with the Commonwealth Government to ensure the NDIS is successful and sustainable in NSW.”    

More than 84,000 people with disability in NSW are currently accessing the NDIS in NSW.

Extinct Monitor Lizard Had Four Eyes

April 2, 2018
Researchers reporting in Current Biology on April 2 have evidence that an extinct species of monitor lizard had four eyes, a first among known jawed vertebrates. Today, only the jawless lampreys have four eyes.

The third and fourth eyes refer to pineal and parapineal organs, eye-like photosensory structures on the top of the head that play key roles in orientation and in circadian and annual cycles. The new findings help to elucidate the evolutionary history of these structures among vertebrates.

The photosensitive pineal organ is found in a number of lower vertebrates such as fishes and frogs, the researchers explain. It's often referred to as the "third eye" and was widespread in primitive vertebrates.

"On the one hand, there was this idea that the third eye was simply reduced independently in many different vertebrate groups such as mammals and birds and is retained only in lizards among fully land-dwelling vertebrates," says Krister Smith at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany. "On the other hand, there was this idea that the lizard third eye developed from a different organ, called the parapineal, which is well developed in lampreys. These two ideas didn't really cohere.

"By discovering a four-eyed lizard -- in which both pineal and parapineal organs formed an eye on the top of the head -- we could confirm that the lizard third eye really is different from the third eye of other jawed vertebrates," Smith continues.

Smith and his colleagues got the idea that the fossilized lizards might have a fourth eye after other experts came to contradictory conclusions about where the lizard's third eye was located.

Smith said that the first question to explore the "wacky" idea of a lizard with four eyes was, does this unusual feature occur in more than one individual of the same age? They turned to museum specimens collected nearly 150 years ago at Grizzly Buttes as part of the Yale College Expedition to the Bridger Basin, Wyoming. And, it turned out that the answer to their question was yes. CT scans showed that two different individuals had spaces where a fourth eye would have been, which, Smith says, "I certainly did not expect!"

Their evidence confirms that the pineal and parapineal glands weren't a pair of organs in the way that vertebrate eyes are. They also suggest that the third eye of lizards evolved independently of the third eye in other vertebrate groups.

Smith says that while there's "nothing mystical" about the pineal and parapineal organs, they do enable extraordinary abilities. For instance, they allow some lower vertebrates to sense the polarization of light and use that information to orient themselves geographically.

Scientists still have a lot to learn about the evolution of these organs and their functions in living animals, the researchers say. The new findings are a reminder of the hidden value within fossils left lying around in museums for more than a century.

"The fossils that we studied were collected in 1871, and they are quite scrappy -- really banged up," Smith says. "One would be forgiven for looking at them and thinking that they must be useless. Our work shows that even small, fragmentary fossils can be enormously useful."

Krister T. Smith, Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar, Gunther Köhler, Jörg Habersetzer. The Only Known Jawed Vertebrate with Four Eyes and the Bauplan of the Pineal Complex. Current Biology, 2018; 28 (7): 1101 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.02.021

This image depicts a reconstruction of what the extinct monitor lizard might have looked like. The parietal and pineal foramina are visible on the overlaid skull. Credit: Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung / Andreas Lachmann /

Thanks NSW - That's A Wrap 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018
The gates have closed on the last day of the 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show (The Show) and we’ve got the low-down on how many animals came through the gates, Showbags were sold, scones were eaten, fairy floss was consumed and thrill seekers enjoyed the rides.
RAS General Manager Agriculture and Sydney Royal Easter Show, Murray Wilton, said this year has been a fantastic success.
“The Show is the biggest celebration of the country coming to the city in Australia, and with huge crowds in a year where Easter and school holidays didn’t line up, we couldn’t be happier,” said Mr Wilton.
“Showgoers this year told us they really enjoyed the focus on agriculture mixed with the circus theme,” he said.
“We all love creating memories at the RAS, but we especially want to thank the people of Sydney for supporting Australian agriculture and Australian farmers,” Mr Wilton said.
Last year the CWA Tea Room might have broken its all time scones record with 53,872, but this year with a slightly shorter Show (12 days as opposed to 14), their daily tally was higher. With the official rating, scones per capita (SPC) higher this year, Wall Street is waiting!
Even against a backdrop of unpredictable weather, a stellar line up of agricultural attractions, educational activities, breath taking entertainment and loads of new things to eat, see and do, plus all the classic Show favourites ensured the crowds were out in force! By the end of the Show around 780,000 people, including 30,000 international tourists, will have enjoyed everything our Show has to offer.
Thousands of people give up their time to bring the country to the city each and every year and make the Show such a roaring success. This year our much-loved and many times consulted ‘lime green army’ of 320 volunteers donated 25,600 hours of their time at information booths, pavilions and around the Showground precinct to make the stay of our Showgoers as stress free as possible. 600 St John’s Ambulance staff volunteered 96,000 hours to be on standby to fix up scrapes and scratches, heat exhaustion and sometimes worse.
Across cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, domestic animals, arts and crafts, woodchop and whipcracking, there were 30,000 competition entries from 7,000 exhibitors.  
12,000 Livestock
7,000 Exhibitors
20,000 Awards
1,000 Trophies and Prizes
265 Perpetual Trophies awarded
There was something for everyone and every budget, so with 368 Showbags to choose from it shouldn’t be too big a surprise that a whopping 1.5 million Showbags were sold.  
Animals abound:  
Over 12 days around 15,000 animals called the Show home, and that doesn’t include 30,000 bees that were housed in the bee-zeebo!
700 furry and feathered friends in the Farmyard Nursery
2337 poultry birds
822 sheep
1559 horses
500 cattle
108 pigs
4000 dogs across 170 breeds
385 goats
15,000 litres of milk milked in the Dairy Farmers Working Dairy
Food, glorious food:
Showgoers happily munched their way through plenty of new Show foods and all the classics.
35,000 meatballs were rolled by BALLS in The Stables
18 tonnes of potatoes were made into chips on sticks
1,008 Flurritos and 706 fairy floss flowers
7,000 units of lasagne on a stick
3 tonnes of cheese and 1 tonne of butter went into making thousands of cheese toasties
27 kegs of Showstopper Beer - brewed specially for The Show in NSW from NSW grown ingredients
History and heritage:
The Heritage Pavilion celebrated the 1950s at the Show, with daily tours for history buffs. Hundreds of people had their photo taken in the Heritage photo booth and marvelled at the pyramid of 1143 apples.
Rides and entertainment:
From the Ferris Wheels and Double Decker Carousel to the Slingshot and The Beast, there were rides for the brave and not so brave, with Showgoers enjoying around 1.6 million unique ride experiences. With roughly a quarter of a million trips down the Giant Slide, including one by the Prime Minister and his grandson, it proved to once again be a crowd favourite. 
Tens of thousands of people filled the stands in the main arena each night to watch the Greatest Easter Show Spectacular, which used five tonnes of fireworks over 12 nights in its breathtaking fireworks finale.
Among the hundreds of thousands who have entered the gates at the Show, there was one who wasn’t meant to. A tiny ‘stowaway’ kitten was discovered tucked up in amongst hay bales on a cattle trailer that had travelled all the way from northern Victoria. The four week old kitten was quickly looked over by Show vets and is now happily in the care of a member of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW team. Welcome ‘Resi’. 
The 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show ran from 23 March to 3 April.

River's Evolution Unfolds With Fresh Mix Of Dating Techniques

April 3, 2018: Griffith University, South Australia
Griffith University has participated in the first international dating study of the fluvial terraces of the Lower Moulouya river in northeast Morocco.

An unprecedented combination of dating methods has helped to construct a chronological framework to decipher environmental changes over the past 1.5 million years at a local and regional level.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Mathieu Duval, from Griffith University's Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE), was part of an international dating study led by Dr Melanie Bartz from the University of Cologne (Germany) and Dr Gilles Rixhon from the University of Strasbourg (France) that investigated river deposits of the Lower Moulouya in northeast Morocco. The results have been recently published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

The Lower Moulouya river is the largest drainage network in Morocco. It is located in the tectonically active convergence zone between Africa and Europe. Until now, the previous geomorphological studies of the area were mostly limited by the absence of numerical dating results.

The successful combination of independent dating methods such as Electron Spin Resonance, Luminescence and palaeomagnetism has helped to fill this previous gap in knowledge.

"This is one of the first large-scale attempts in which we can directly compare different dating approaches on the exact same stratigraphic section," Dr Duval said. "The different dating methods have yielded very consistent results, giving us confidence in their robustness."

Although additional dating analyses have to be carried out in the area to confirm these initial promising results, the study nevertheless strongly suggests the absence of fluvial deposits younger than 1 million years in the area. These results provide new insight into the evolution of the Moulouya River, which does not appear to be mainly climatically driven, unlike many European rivers.

Instead the results highlight the key role of tectonic activity in the landscape evolution of northeast Morocco and suggest and an acyclic and discontinuous sedimentation pattern since 1.5 million years ago, which seemingly rules out climate as a main driver in fluvial deposition.

At a regional scale, several indicators point to transient fluvial response resulting from major tectonic activity in this area, especially rock uplift in the Beni Snassen massif.

The latter strongly influenced drainage organisation, and therefore landscape evolution, in northeast Morocco.

The most striking feature of this drainage changes is the formation of a spectacular 30km-long gorge, which deeply cut the carbonate formations of the Beni Snassen massif, as a probable result of river piracy event(s), which made the Moulouya flow in its current direction towards the Mediterranean Sea.

Melanie Bartz, Gilles Rixhon, Mathieu Duval, Georgina E. King, Claudia Álvarez Posada, Josep M. Parés, Helmut Brückner.Successful combination of electron spin resonance, luminescence and palaeomagnetic dating methods allows reconstruction of the Pleistocene evolution of the lower Moulouya river (NE Morocco). Quaternary Science Reviews, 2018; 185: 153 DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.11.008

The Lower Moulouya river is the largest drainage network in Morocco. Credit: Melanie Bartz

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.