Inbox and environment News: Issue 360

May 20 - 26, 2018: Issue 360

UN Strategic Plan For Forests 2030

Published on 1 May 2018 by United Nations
Throughout history, people have depended on forests and trees for the vital resources they provide, to sustain economies, societies and human well-being. Billions of people rely on forests to generate energy, for materials to build their homes, as well as for livelihood, health, and food.

UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 and its Global Forest Goals and targets provide a global framework for sustainably managing all types of forests and trees, halting and reversing deforestation and forest degradation, and increasing forest area by 2030.

Another 18,000 Hectares Added For Conservation

May 14, 2018: Media release - The Hon. Gabrielle Upton, NSW Minister for Environment & Heritage
More than 18,000 hectares of land will be added to the NSW conservation network, providing a significant boost to the State’s biodiversity, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announced today.
The addition of this extra land will increase the size of the NSW Parks Estate to more than 7.1 million hectares – larger than the size of Tasmania.

“The new national park additions, totalling 5,383 hectares, are a combination of strategic acquisitions and areas of state forest to be transferred to the national parks system,” Ms Upton said.

“A further 13,000 hectares of state forest will be transferred to the care of the National Parks and Wildlife Service as eight new Flora Reserves to improve conservation while maintaining the community’s ability to access these areas for recreation.

“Today’s announcement is in addition to the Government’s announcement on the 6 May to secure more than 24,000 hectares for koala protection so a total increase of more than 42,000 hectares in under a week.”

The Minister said all the additions would contribute practical environmental benefits to the State of NSW.

“These land additions will contribute to fantastic environmental outcomes including protecting threatened species such as the brush tailed rock wallaby, powerful owl, gang gang cockatoo and the spotted tailed quoll,” Ms Upton said.

“Amongst the many additions being announced is the small but important 9.7 hectare addition to the Goulburn River State Conservation Area, securing public access to visitor facilities at The Drip, near Mudgee and an expansion of the Gardens of Stone National Park.”

“Another is the establishment of a new 1873 hectare flora reserve north-west of Gosford adjoining Yengo National Park which will also protect significant Aboriginal cultural heritage.”

The Minister said that management of the new Flora Reserves and park additions will be transferred in stages, with the first transfers commencing on 1 July this year.

The Office of Environment and Heritage will work with Forestry Corporation of NSW as well as other land owners and key stakeholders to develop plans to ensure the land being transferred is managed to deliver maximum environmental gains and where appropriate to  maintain existing recreational uses including camping, mountain biking and horse riding.

Have Your Say On The Management Of Forests

May 15, 2018: Media Release
The NSW Government has begun consultation on the new Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA), which sets out how native forestry operations are managed and regulated on public land in NSW.

Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole and Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton said the Coastal IFOA remake was a vital step forward in the NSW Government’s forestry reform agenda.

“The NSW Government is committed to the long term and sustainable management of NSW’s forestry estate, for the benefit of the community, environment and our $2.4 billion forestry and product manufacturing industry,” Mr Toole said.

“The NSW Government is determined to get the right balance between the environment and industry – environmental standards can be strengthened at the same time as providing long term security of wood supply and certainty to investors and the industry.

“For the proposed new Coastal IFOA, this means ensuring that we do not erode environmental values or impact the critical wood supplies that our regional economies or industry rely on. 

“Over the past six months, we have undertaken consultation on the Regional Forest Agreements, and this is the next important step.”

Ms Upton said the new Coastal IFOA includes once-in-a-generation changes that will ensure the environment is protected.

“For the first time ever, minimum thresholds are being set for the permanent protection of threatened species and habitat across the landscape, and the rules will be more transparent and enforceable,” Ms Upton said.

New legislation will be introduced that will increase penalty notices for not complying with the Coastal IFOA from $1,100 to $15,000. All other private native forestry businesses and regulated industries in NSW already face fines of at least $15,000.

“These changes are making it fairer for all industries to do business in NSW, while offering further protections to our State's forests,” Ms Upton said.

Other changes to the Coastal IFOA include:
  • The merger of four current Coastal IFOAs into a single approval for the entire coast of NSW;
  • New rules that place limits on harvesting impacts over time and across the landscape;
  • Map-based protections with simplified rules for operating near boundaries;
  • Increased mapping of threatened ecological species, koala habitats, streams and trees, and;
  • Permanent protections for giant trees and hollow-bearing trees.
  • To complement the new Coastal IFOA, the NSW Government will soon commence a mapping exercise, applying modern technologies to gain a better understanding of key state forest sites on the north coast.

This work will be overseen by the Natural Resources Commission with independent environmental assessments to be designed and carried out by the Office of Environment and Heritage. The public will have a chance to have their say on the proposed framework and mapping approach in 2019.

For more information, and to have your say on the Coastal IFOA, visit:


From 'Proposed multi-scale landscape approach – download the Multi Scale Approach Factsheet here' Doc.;
 Includes all public coastal forests in NSW and consists of over 5.2 million hectares.
• Across this area of public forests is a patchwork of State Forests and forest protected in National Parks and State Flora Reserves.
• State Forests make up around 30% of the public forests in the Coastal IFOA area. Native timber production forests cover around 16% of this area.
Environmental protections include:
• An established network of protected public land conserving important habitat and ecosystems across coastal NSW.
• The broad landscape-based habitat protection network includes National parks, Flora Reserves and special management zones.
• Annual timber volume caps are also set to ensure a long term ecologically sustainable supply of timber.
• Reporting requirements apply and monitoring to evaluate and ensure environmental outcomes are being achieved.

• A defined geographic region with an average size of 50,000 hectares.
• Multiple timber production forests occur within each management area.
• These areas will be fixed and mapped at the commencement of the proposed IFOA.
• On average 50% of the management zone of state forests is protected.
Environmental protections include:
• Annual limits on the amount of harvesting in each management area to distribute harvesting across the landscape.
• A maximum of 10% of a management area can be harvested per year.
• If the management area is zoned for intensive harvestingthen a maximum of only 5% of that management area can be intensively harvested per year

• A defined area of timber production forests no larger than 1500 hectares.
• On average there are four local landscape areas in each State Forest.
• These areas will be mapped out progressively over time.
• An average of 38% is protected before the new wildlife habitat clump requirements are considered. This will increase to an average of 41%.
Environmental protections include:
• A minimum of 5% of the harvest area to be permanently protected as a wildlife habitat clump to maintain habitat diversity and connectivity.
• Rainforest, high conservation value old growth, habitat corridors and owl habitat will continue to be protected.
• Threatened ecological communities have been mapped and will be excluded from harvesting.
• Streams are more accurately mapped and exclusion zones apply to provide landscape connectivity and protect waterways.
• Distributeintensive harvesting across the landscape and over a minimum 21 year period.
• Improved koala mapping to retain koala browse trees to support movement between areas and food resources.

• A site is the area where harvesting is taking place. Sites vary in size from about 45 to 250 hectares.
• There are many sites, called coupes or compartments, within each local landscape area.
• An average of 41% of State Forests at a site scale will be protected, increasing to 45% with added tree retention clumps.

Environmental protections include:
• Areas will be permanently protected to provide short term refuge, maintain forest structure, and protect important habitat features.
• Additional areas no less than 5 – 8% of the harvest area will be permanently set aside as new tree retention clumps.
• Hollow-bearing trees, nest and roost trees and giant trees will be permanently protected to provide ongoing shelter and food resources.
• Some target surveys will be retained for unique species of plants and animals that require protection.
• Sites will now be measured, mapped and monitored with mobile and desktop devices.

Visit: Proposed changes to timber harvesting in NSW's coastal forests - NSW Government; 'Once approved, the new Coastal IFOA will set the rules for how we use and harvest these forests so it’s important that you have your say.'

Old Growth Forest Under Attack As NSW Government Winds Back Environmental Protections

May 15, 2018: Media release - NSW Conservation Council
The Berejiklian government’s plan to “remap” old growth forest poses serious new threat to some of the best mature forests left in NSW.

The government announced it would remap these high-value public native forests as part of a package of changes to forest protection laws (Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals) unveiled today.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “Logging is not permitted in old-growth forests because these areas have exceptional value for conservation.

“Removing old-growth classification through the remapping project could make thousands of hectares of previously protected high-quality wildlife habitat available to the timber industry.

“This is a major attack on our native forests and the conservation movement will vigorously oppose these changes at every opportunity.”

National Parks Association CEO Alix Goodwin said: “The government plans to weaken forest environmental protections come just weeks after it declared it would protect 24,000 hectares of koala habitat by reclassifying state forests for wildlife conservation.

“We have been told that new protections for koala habitat will result in an annual shortfall of 10,000 cubic metres of sawlogs promised to the timber industry.

“We are very concerned the remapping project will result in high-quality forest losing high levels of protection and being made available to the timber industry to make up for the timber lost through koala protection.

“The government appears to be forcing the community to choose between protecting koalas or old-growth forest when we should in fact protect both.

Under the proposed arrangement, coastal forests between Grafton and Taree will be subject to a massive increase in harvesting intensity with patches of forest of 45ha open to clear felling.

“This is a new level of logging intensity not seen before outside of the Eden region on the south coast, where forests have been decimated to feed the woodchip mill.”

Dailan Pugh, from the North East Forest Alliance said: "It is outrageous that the intent is to undertake a discredited review process to open up large areas of currently protected old-growth forest for logging on the north coast in order to meet a sawlog shortfall of 10,000 cubic metres per annum. Our wildlife cannot afford to lose any more of these precious remnants."

Streamlined Approach To Sustainable Forestry

16 May 2018: Media release - EPA, Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton
Streamlined legislation for native forestry that delivers increased regulatory certainty and greater enforceability has been introduced into Parliament today.

Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton said the Bill proposes additional measures to secure the long-term ecological sustainability of our critical forest estate.

“This legislation balances economic benefits and environmental outcomes with community expectations, providing regulatory certainty for industry to operate efficiently, enhanced transparency for the public, and greater enforceability,” Ms Upton said.

The Bill amended the Forestry Act 2012 to enact the proposed new Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA), which is currently out for community consultation, and establishes provisions that enable the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to enforce all its conditions.

“The Bill modernises the penalties for breaching the IFOA including increasing on-the-spot fines from $1,100 to $15,000.

“This brings penalty amounts into line with what already applies to corporations involved in forestry operations on private land, and other regulated industries in NSW.

“EPA will maintain its important regulatory and compliance oversight of private native forestry.”

Minister for Forestry Paul Toole said the legislation delivers a much-needed streamlined approach to the regulation of native forestry by consolidating five separate legislative frameworks into two.

Mr Toole said the Bill amended the Local Lands Services Act 2013 to formalise the transfer of responsibility for private native forestry advice and approvals to Local Land Services.

“This means we now have a single Act for overseeing land management activities on private land, and installs the Local Lands Services as a one-stop-shop for landholders seeking management advice and services,” Mr Toole said.

“The Bill will broaden the suite of allowable activities permitted in private native forestry areas, providing a more seamless approach to on farm management activities.”

The Bill also:
  • Modernises the administrative requirements for landholders seeking approval from Local Land Services to undertake private native forestry
  • Transitions existing private native forestry approvals automatically to the new legislative framework
  • Continues other IFOAs across NSW, and
  • Provides additional regulatory tools to the EPA beyond only punitive measures.
  • The Forestry Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 joins a broader suite of reforms including the NSW Government review and extension of the NSW Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) and the draft Coastal IFOA.

Previously: February-March 2018

Shaping Sustainable Forest Management For Decades To Come

February 21st, 2018: Media Release - NSW Dept. of Primary Industries
Climate change, industry certainty, and regulatory compliance are just a handful of the many topics discussed during the NSW Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) in-person consultation sessions over the past fortnight.
The 20-year agreements between the NSW and Australian Governments are currently undergoing a review and renewal process, which includes an opportunity to update and improve the content to capture emerging issues.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Group Director, Forestry, Nick Milham, said stakeholder feedback is imperative at this stage and views will help shape the renewed agreements.

“The consultation is a genuine chance to influence what form the NSW RFAs take for the sustainable management of our native forests for decades to come,” he said.

Mr Milham said the two governments have conducted in-person stakeholder meetings and public drop in sessions in Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Bulahdelah, Eden, Batemans Bay, Tumut and Sydney throughout February.

“In the sessions, we have heard from many environmental groups, industry members, local governments, the community and recreational forest users – providing a great insight into the key priorities and opinions of each group,” he said.

“Feedback, questions, criticisms and endorsements have been welcomed throughout the sessions and it has been great to hear the community’s views first-hand.

“The NSW Government has the difficult role of balancing the economic, social and environmental demands on forests, but there is sound logic, underpinned by peer-reviewed, internationally published science, to renew RFAs.

The only decisions that have been made so far are that the RFAs will be renewed and that their objectives and geographical regions will remain unchanged – the rest is on the table.”

RFAs are an overarching framework for the long-term sustainable management of the NSW Forest Estate, and for the needs of industry and users. They reflect international and national commitments for the sustainable management of forests.

“RFAs seek to achieve a balance between ecological, social and economic forest values and require a series of more detailed frameworks to be put in place to achieve this balance,” Mr Milham said.

“These include a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve system, a detailed regulatory framework covering the entire public and private forest estate, and industry certainty for timber supply and regulatory requirements.

“Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals, Forestry Codes of Practice and regulations and timber supply arrangements all sit underneath the overarching RFA framework and are the subject of separate review processes.”

Feedback captured at consultation sessions has been documented, and alongside the online submissions, will help shape the renewed agreements over the coming months.

“It’s not too late for stakeholders to have their say online, and we encourage those stakeholders yet to make a submission to strongly consider doing so,” Mr Milham said.

Submissions towards the renewal of the NSW Regional Forest Agreements can be made online at, via email and via mail before 5pm on 12 March 2018.

Regional Forest Agreements (RFA)

Have Your Say: NSW Government
The NSW and Commonwealth Governments are seeking feedback on five-yearly implementation reviews of RFAs and how to extend them for an additional 20-year term.

Consultation will enable a full appraisal of the current RFAs covering the Eden, North East and Southern regions of NSW. It will also drive optimal implementation of new agreements, including what we can learn from our experience over the past 20 years.

The government is committed to working closely with all parties in getting the balance right in the long-term management of their forest resources.

A number of community meetings are planned across the state. Details will be available shortly.

Have your say
Have your say on the extension of RFAs by 12 March 2018.

More Information
Email: Project Leader
Phone: 02 9934 0728

20-Year NSW Forest Peace Deal Teeters As Conservation Groups Walk Away

February 16, 2018: NSW Nature Conservation Council
The Berejiklian government is putting threatened forest wildlife and an historic 20-year peace deal at risk by pushing ahead with a sham consultation process designed to lock in unsustainable logging indefinitely.

The NSW Nature Conservation Council and NSW National Parks Association today walked away from stakeholder consultations on the extension of the state’s three Regional Forest Agreements.

Regional Forest Agreements were struck in the late 1990s and early 2000s and delivered a fragile peace in the Forests Wars that had raged for decades through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “We will not be party to a process that perpetuates the reckless mismanagement our precious forests.

“Koala populations in NSW forests have plummeted over the past 20 years during which these agreements have been in place.

“We insist the government conduct independent scientific reviews that will give us a clear understanding of what harm forestry has done to our threatened wildlife over the past two decades before we decide how our forests will be managed for another generation.”

National Parks Association CEO Alix Goodwin said: “Far from achieving ecologically sustainable forest management, the RFAs have permitted the extensive destruction of public forests because logging under the Agreements is not subject to scrutiny by Commonwealth law.

“As a result, many of our forests are in a worse condition now than when the agreements were struck two decades ago. Carbon stores are decreasing, and populations of forest species are in freefall.

“We have decided to not participate in the current round of stakeholder consultations because the NSW Government has not agreed to a fair, scientifically credible assessment and negotiation process.”

Specifically, the government has refused to:
  • Consider whether the RFAs are a suitable model for forest management.
  • Complete the RFA 10- and 15-year reviews before beginning negotiations on the RFA renewal.
  • Complete a socioeconomic assessment of all land-use options that considers, among other things, climate change impacts and the potential use of forests for carbon capture and storage.
  • Establish a fair process for RFA renewal negotiations, with balanced representation and moderation by a credible, independent third party.
  • Guarantee there would be no pre-emptive decisions (i.e., no new Wood Supply Contracts) before the end of the process.

Report Exposes Deep Divisions In Government Over Environmental Policy

February 23rd, 2018: Media release - Nature Conservation Council (NSW)
Reports in today’s The Australian confirm deep internal divisions in NSW Government over environmental policy, including land-clearing laws that are the subject of legal action by the Nature Conservation Council. (Full text of the article is attached.)

“The explosive article in The Australian shows the National Party is dictating environment policy to the whole of NSW and that there are deep divisions within the Berejiklian government on these issues,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

“The article suggests Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton was not given time to properly assess the environment impact of new land clearing laws before she signed off them.

“The report also shows Ms Upton being bullied by senior Nationals Ministers, including Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair and Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

“Premier Berejiklian should step in to defend the Environment Minister and pull these rogue Nationals into line to prevent the plundering of our forests, woodlands and water supplies.

“The Nationals have shown they can’t be trusted to manage land clearing and water resources, and they are continuing to push to open our beloved national parks to logging.

“The environment of NSW belongs to us all – it is not the plaything of the National Party to do with what they will.”

The Nature Conservation Council is taking legal action to overturn the government’s land-clearing codes, because the codes were made before the Environment Minister had given her concurrence (as required by law) and because the government did not properly consider the principles of ecological sustainability when it made the codes.

The court case is scheduled to be heard in April.

The Nature Conservation Council is calling on the government to revise the codes to make many important changes, including making the following places off limits to tree clearing:
  • potential koala habitat
  • threatened ecological communities (could say ‘threatened habitat’ which is more punter friendly’)
  • travelling stock reserves 
ANDREW CLENNELL. NSW Political Editor. NSW cabinet ministers clash over environmentFebruary 23, 2018. The Australian

Related - Visit: NSW Government divided on reclassifying River Red Gum national parks as state forest - The Daily Advertiser, November 2017 (Murray by-election)

700-year-old River Red gum in the Wonga Wetlands, NSW - photo courtesy fir002

Stop The Senseless Destruction Of Our Wildlife: Nature Conservation Council (NSW) Taking State Government To Court

By Nature Conservation Council (NSW)
Thousands of possums, quolls, koalas and gliders will be killed each year now that the Coalition government has gutted our tree-clearing laws. Nationals MPs, big agri-business and developers are being given powers to trash our precious woodlands under the new Biodiveristy Conservation Act. This new act will:
  • add extinction pressures to our state's 1000 threatened species;
  • threaten our clean, reliable water supplies;
  • turn our fertile land into wasteland through erosion and salinity; 
  • put landmark trees and bushland at risk; and
  • add further to Australia's carbon pollution.

Biodiversity offsets law will drive extinctions
The use of biodiversity offsetting schemes in NSW is adding extinction pressure to the very species those schemes are supposed to protect, a new report has found.

Biodiversity offsetting lets a developer clear bushland if they buy, protect and improve bushland elsewhere.

In theory, offsetting is supposed to ensure there is no loss in biodiversity values. In practice, offsetting is pushing species to the brink. Read our analysis of offsetting schemes in NSW over the past 10 years.

We are taking the Berejiklian government to court to scrap its destructive land-clearing laws, to defend nature and the rule of law.

More information on the case

Our case seeks to overturn the worst elements of the land-clearing laws on two grounds:
  1. Failure to adequately consider the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development
The Primary Industries Minister and the Environment Minister had a legal duty to consider the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development when making the land-clearing codes. That includes proper consideration of internationally recognised legal principles such as intergenerational equity, the precautionary principle, and conservation of biodiversity. Documents obtained under freedom of information laws suggests the Ministers failed to do so.

      2. Failure of the Primary Industries Minister to obtain concurrence of the Environment Minister

The Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair had a legal duty to obtain the “concurrence” (more simply the agreement) of the Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton before “making” the codes. Documents obtained under freedom of information laws suggest that Ms Upton approved the codes on August 25, one day after Mr Blair had made them on August 24.

If our legal challenge is successful, the government should scrap these bad laws, go back to the drawing board and make new codes that actually protect our threatened species.

We are being represented by public interest environmental lawyers EDO NSW. The case was referred to the Land and Environment Court on Friday, November 24, and we are awaiting a hearing date. Check back to this page for updates as they occur.

Berejiklian Government Allows Open Slather On Wildlife

By Sue Arnold

March 14, 2018

Originally Published in Independent Australia

Conservation groups and an increasingly aware public are aghast at the latest efforts by the Berejiklian Government to allow open slather on the environment and wildlife.

On 9 March, the Land and Environment Court ruled the NSW Government's land-clearing laws invalid because they had been made unlawfully. The judgement was in response to a legal challenge by the Nature Conservation Council last November, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office NSW.

The basis of the legal argument focused on the failure of the Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair to obtain the concurrence of the Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, before making the codes, as is required by law.

The codes are a disaster for the environment, with the Government’s own assessment that they will lead to a 45% increase in clearing including 99% of identified koala habitat on private land.

According to the Nature Conservation Council CEO, Kate Smolski,

The laws were made against the advice of the scientific community and against the wishes of the vast majority of many thousands of people who made submissions.

At 3.40pm on 9 March, legislation was passed effectively overturning the Land and Environment Court decision, by ensuring concurrence with the Environment Minister and thus legalising these appalling codes. The speed of action by the Berejiklian Government seems to point to the electoral power of vested interests. Is this Government hell-bent on destroying the environmental heritage of the State?

To put the ramifications of this reversal a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report by Eco Logical Australia on the NSW Government’s proposed 'Equity Code Clearing Analysis' found that:

Over 2.2 million hectares of woody vegetation which has been identified as either being known or likely koala habitat could potentially be cleared under the equity code of the new land management framework. This equates to about 13% of the mapped woody vegetation across the State.

Berejeklian – who came to office via the resignation of former Premier Michael Baird – is a Premier without a vote. Her record on environmental issues is the stuff of nightmares. The reality is that under this unelected person, who promised "open and transparent government", the State now has no legislation capable of protecting native forests, wildlife or their habitats. Legal challenges are now virtually impossible to mount as provisions for legal action have been removed and/or repealed.

Let's start with native forests. According to the North East Forest Alliance, in February 2018, the NSW Government moved to change the rules to allow logging in "koala high use areas".

Regional Forest Agreements are currently up for public comment. Both the Turnbull Government and the Berejiklian lot are under increasing pressure to scrap Regional Forest Agreements from the Greens and environmental groups which say the current review process is a sham.

North Coast Environment Council coordinator Susie Russell said both governments were asking people to "drop-in" and comment on whether the RFAs should be extended for another 20 years.

Ms Russell said:

Our answer is a resounding "No". Both Governments have failed to complete the reviews that were required to occur every five years. They have belatedly cobbled together a "review", also out on public exhibition, but they aren’t waiting for the results, which is typical.'

The main function of the RFA is to exempt logging from Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation law. This has been a disaster around the country. Logging is like a law unto itself, with minimal state government oversight and community groups banned from taking legal actions when breaches of the law are identified.

We know both governments [NSW and Federal] are promoting intensification of logging, the introduction of clear-felling across most of the Mid North Coast, and weakening environmental protections for threatened species and headwater streams. They are also touting wood-fired power stations as "renewable" energy. Locations identified for such smokestacks are Bulahdelah, Kempsey and Grafton.

In 2015, under (then) Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, the Federal Government introduced an intergovernmental memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a Common Assessment Method (CAM) and a species assessment plan. Under the Common Assessment Method (CAM), a species will be assessed by only one jurisdiction. NSW happily signed on to the MOU as did other States. No public comment was advertised or allowed; no mainstream media covered the issue. The MOU was yet another dirty deal done in secret with profound ramifications for wildlife species.

Last week, Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack proudly announced that the rapidly disappearing Port Stephens koala population would only be allowed to be listed once as "threatened" – no reason given – and that she believes that the new “single list” system will ensure that Port Stephens Koalas have the strongest possible legislative protections.

This is absolute crap. A scientific submission supporting the upgrading of the Port Stephens koala population from threatened to endangered, prepared by koala expert ecologist, David Paull was provided to the NSW Scientific Committee in March 2015.  

The submission detailed the catastrophic loss of koala The data suggests an approximate 30% decline on the koala population since the early 2000s when it was estimated to be 300-500 mature animals (Lunney et al, 2007).

In October 2017, the NSW Scientific Committee made a preliminary determination to upgrade the Port Stephens koala population to "endangered" status.

In December 2017, the Committee advised David Paull and the Port Stephens Koala Society that: 

Under Clause 4.1(5) of the 'Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017', a population of a species is not eligible to be listed as threatened if the species is separately listed as a threatened species under the 'Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016'. As the koala is listed as a threatened species under the Biodiversity Conservation Act and the 'Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act l999', the population of the koala in the Port Stephens area is ineligible to be listed under the 'Biodiversity Conservation Act'.

In other words, a single national listing of koalas prohibits States from declaring specific populations as endangered. So, goodbye Port Stephens koalas as there is now no protection of habitat, no legal options to protect the species — just bullsh*t from Coalition politicians.

Then, the "SEPP 44" (State Environmental Planning Policy for Koala Habitat Protection) – a joke, as there’s no habitat protection – is to be amended and is now in draft form:

The proposed amendment of SEPP 44 will update the definitions of koala habitat. The definitions of core koala habitat and potential koala habitat will be replaced with definitions that identify the characteristics of plant communities which make up koala habitat and if there is evidence that koalas are present.

The proposed amendment and updated guidelines will support councils to prepare comprehensive plans of management. The proposed amendment will also replace the requirement for the preparation of individual plans of management with standardised requirements set out in updated guidelines.

Once again, another smoke and mirrors effort. No legal challenges are available under SEPP 44 and now we have plant communities as the priority when habitat mapping of koalas is readily available and relevant Councils are fully aware of koala habitat areas. 

Perhaps it would be more honest if Berejiklian and her coterie of Ministers who support her closed and non-transparent Government were honest with the public.

Let’s hear the Premier’s policies of extinction loud and clear, straight from the horse’s mouth. Then we, the voting public who she’s supposed to represent, can make up our own minds who we will vote for. No bets, please.

You can follow Sue Arnold on Twitter @koalacrisis and Koala Crisis on Facebook here.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

Revelations Of Political Intervention On Environmental Groups During Regional Forest Agreement Consultation Highlights A Sham Process

March 23, 2018 BY NPA NSW 
Revelations that Federal Senator Anne Ruston wrote to the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) questioning our integrity during the recent Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) consultation process should concern anyone who takes seriously the importance of community input to policy.

Instead of considering feedback from environment groups and their supporters to improve the environmental performance of logging, Senator Ruston instead dismissed concerns and recommitted to new RFAs.

The Senator’s actions highlight that the current RFA process is not community consultation, it’s box-ticking for a pre-determined outcome.

Senator Ruston’s extraordinary intervention saw NPA accused of deliberately misleading the Australian public on the performance of the RFAs.

It’s an accusation that NPA rejects completely. In fact it is Senator Ruston who failed to provide evidence to back up the assertions in her letter, instead repeating industry assertions that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

NPA CEO, Alix Goodwin, said: “As a non-government environment charity, whose financial support comes from members and donors, honesty, integrity and trust are our core values.

“In order to foster trust, we pride ourselves on evidence-based advocacy. And that trust is why we’re proudly celebrating our 60th year of protecting the biodiversity of NSW.

“The submission that so annoyed Senator Ruston was based on a review of RFAs that we presented to Senator Ruston’s office in April 2016. We received no feedback that day that any of the content was misleading or dishonest, nor have we since then.

“We can only assume that the Senator’s letter was triggered by our efforts to drive submissions from the wider community on a matter of public importance; the RFAs cover 2 million hectares of public land in NSW.

“We wrote a detailed, fully referenced, response to Senator Ruston and asked her to withdraw her accusations based on the evidence we presented. We received no response.

“In order to protect our reputation, we were left with little choice but to release the letter to the media to give us a platform upon which to publicly reject the Senator’s assertions.

“We again call on Senator Ruston to withdraw her statements, and we call on the Prime Minister to reconsider the Government’s commitment to RFAs based on the overwhelming weight of evidence that they are a failed model for forest management.”

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

Artificial Heart Technology Gets Federal Funding

May 17, 2018: Joint Media Release
The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Jobs and Innovation
Senator for Western Australia

The Turnbull Government is helping to fund a revolutionary artificial heart technology that has the potential to save the lives of millions of people worldwide who cannot access heart transplants. 

Through the Government’s Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), venture capital firm OneVentures will invest in BiVACOR, an Australian company that is developing a rotary Total Artificial Heart (TAH) device that could provide a life-saving solution for individuals requiring a new heart. 

Through the BTF the Government and private investors will provide over $2.6 million to OneVentures for investment in development of the external TAH controller in Australia.

The technology has the potential to change the need for heart transplantation, transforming the outlook for people with heart disease worldwide.

The BTF consists of at least equal parts Commonwealth and industry funding. It is managed by private sector fund managers who direct investment to commercialise promising Australian biomedical research.

In addition to the funding for BiVACOR, a number of other investments have recently been made through the BTF:
  • $1.5 million invested by BioScience Managers in Avita Medical Ltd for improved skin regeneration through a unique process using the patient’s own skin;
  • $3.2 million invested by Brandon Capital Partners in Aravax Pty Ltd for a novel form of peptide immunotherapy to treat peanut allergy; and
  • $1 million invested by Brandon Capital Partners in GI Therapies Pty Ltd to develop a device to treat a range of gastrointestinal motility disorders.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the investments benefited Australian companies and had the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the country and around the world.

“These companies are modern day pioneers bringing hope to people everywhere suffering with diseases, disorders, allergies, and injuries.” Minister Hunt said.

Minister for Jobs and Innovation Michaelia Cash said the BTF assists businesses at their most critical point—where they have a great idea but lack the funds to develop and get that idea to market.

“This tremendous work highlights the impact of innovation - from the generation of new products to making an economic impact, the creation of new jobs and on to helping create a stronger and healthier country,” Minister Cash said.

More information is available on the BTF website.

Surprise Cell Death Discovery Provides Birth Defect Clues

May 17, 2018: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Australian researchers have made a surprise discovery that could rewrite our understanding of the role programmed cell death plays in embryonic development and congenital birth defects.

The team showed that, while programmed cell death -- or apoptosis -- is essential for healthy development overall, many organs and tissues do not require apoptosis to develop normally.

The study, published today in the high-ranking journal Cell, also suggested that abnormalities in cell death processes are likely to contribute to some common birth defects in humans, such as spina bifida, heart vessel defects and cleft palate.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers Dr Francine Ke, Dr Hannah Vanyai, Dr Angus Cowan, Associate Professor Peter Czabotar, Associate Professor Anne Voss and Professor Andreas Strasser led the research.

Cell death link to birth defects
Programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis, is a normal process that rids the body of sick, damaged or unwanted cells in a controlled way, limiting side effects and damage to the body.

Apoptosis was first described as having a role in embryonic development in the 1940s. Over the past 70 years, numerous studies have implicated apoptosis as playing a crucial role in most stages and tissues during development.

However, in this new study, it became clear that apoptosis was not as critical during development as previously thought, Dr Ke said.

"Rather, apoptosis was essential at specific places and times during development, but unnecessary in others. We identified the tissues and organs that critically require apoptosis to develop normally, and made the surprise discovery that many do not require it at all," Dr Ke said.

The finding provides clear clues about a link between abnormalities in programmed cell death and some common congenital birth defects, including spina bifida, heart vessel defects and cleft palate.

"Our research showed that when cell death is not functioning properly, it commonly leads to defects in neural tube development, for example spina bifida, heart vessel defects and facial abnormalities, such as cleft palate," Dr Ke said.

Surprise discovery
Associate Professor Voss said she thought the biggest surprise came from the discovery of the tissues that did not require apoptosis at all for normal development.

"For some time, it has been a widely-held belief that programmed cell death is necessary for the shaping of certain tissues and structures during development. But, to our surprise, many tissues in which programmed cell death was -- for very good reasons -- considered absolutely essential, it is not required at all.

"For example, apoptosis was thought to play a particularly important role in 'hollowing out' of body cavities and ducts in internal organs during development. However we have shown that -- in the absence of apoptosis -- most tissues and organs develop normally. I think it may surprise researchers to learn just how precise and limited the effects of apoptosis are in embryonic development," Associate Professor Voss said.

Pro-death function confirmed
To determine the role of apoptosis in development, the team eliminated pro-death proteins BAK and BAX, and a similar protein BOK, whose function was unclear until now.

Dr Cowan said the study confirmed that BOK acted as a pro-death protein.

"In this paper we have solved the structure of BOK using the Australian Synchrotron, and once and for all confirmed that BOK is a pro-death protein that plays an important role in apoptosis," Dr Cowan said.

Researchers have made a surprise discovery that could rewrite our understanding of the role programmed cell death plays in embryonic development and congenital birth defects. The study, led by Dr Francine Ke (left), Dr Angus Cowan (centre) and Associate Professor Anne Voss from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia, was published in the journal Cell. The findings suggest that abnormalities in cell death processes could contribute to some common birth defects in humans, such as spina bifida, heart vessel defects and cleft palate. Credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Francine F.S. Ke, Hannah K. Vanyai, Angus D. Cowan, Alex R.D. Delbridge, Lachlan Whitehead, Stephanie Grabow, Peter E. Czabotar, Anne K. Voss, Andreas Strasser. Embryogenesis and Adult Life in the Absence of Intrinsic Apoptosis Effectors BAX, BAK, and BOK. Cell, 2018; 173 (5): 1217 DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.036

Victoria Cross Recipient Honoured In Lasting Tribute

Monday 14 May 2018: NSW Roads & Maritime Service
Lieutenant Albert Borella, a Victoria Cross recipient during the First World War, has been commemorated with a recently opened Hume Highway rest area named in his honour at Murlo in NSW.

Lieutenant Borella served in both World Wars. He was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery in 1917 and was mentioned in despatches for his devotion to duty.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack said Lieutenant Borella was awarded Australia’s highest award for acts of bravery in wartime, the Victoria Cross, for his bravery in 1918, leading a platoon in an attack to straighten the frontline beyond Villers-Bretonneux.

“While ahead of his troops, Lieutenant Borella single-handedly captured a machine gun. After clearing a trench and dug outs, he then inspired his men to hold out during heavy enemy counter-attacks. Borella is an example of why we hold our service personnel in such high regard. This action, along with earlier actions, shows a profound commitment to defending our nation,” Mr McCormack said.

NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads, Maritime and Transport Kevin Anderson said an official dedication was held today as part of the NSW Centenary of Anzac Commemoration at the rest area, located about 40 kilometres north of Albury.

“The Murlo Heavy Vehicle Rest Area will now be known as the Albert Borella Victoria Cross Rest Area, which is a wonderful tribute to a true local and national hero, and part of the State’s broader recognition of our servicemen and women,” Mr Anderson said.

Federal Member for Farrer Susan Ley said that as part of today’s ceremony a plaque was unveiled by the Borella family, featuring Lieutenant Borella’s citation and biography.

“Albert Borella settled in Albury after World War II with his wife Elsie. He died in 1968, aged 87, and was buried with full military honours in the Presbyterian Cemetery in North Albury,” Ms Ley said.

NSW Member for Albury Greg Aplin said trees were also planted by the Borella family in Lieutenant Borella’s memory.

“After being approached by Cr Graham Docksey, then President of the Albury RSL sub-branch, to rename and dedicate the rest area in honour of Albert Borella, we are pleased to make this a reality,” Mr Aplin said.

The Murlo rest area was opened to traffic in July 2017 and was a $6.2 million project jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program.

Digital Licences For All NSW Drivers

May 14, 2018: NSW Government
People in NSW may be able to show their driver licences on mobile devices from as early as 2019. 

Following a successful trial of digital drivers licences in Dubbo, the NSW Government will introduce legislation into Parliament in May 2018 to enable a state-wide rollout of digital drivers licences. 

If the legislation is passed, a driver could show his/her digital licence as proof of identity during a roadside Police check, as well as proof of age to gain entry into pubs and clubs.

Drivers who opt in will still be provided with a physical card, but not required to carry it with them. 

The digital drivers licence would be available through the Service NSW app, and will provide increased protection against identity fraud compared to the physical driver licence.

Under the proposed legislation, the Road Transport Act 2013, thePhoto Card Act 2005, the Gaming and Liquor Administration Act 2007 and the Liquor Act 2007 will be amended. 

The rollout of the technology will be subject to an implementation plan. 

Minister for Finance, Services and Property Victor Dominello said the Dubbo trial was a big success and drivers gave it the thumbs up.

“The legislation will enable expansion of the trial so that other NSW drivers can opt in to access a digital licence,” Mr Dominello said.

“Smartphones have become de facto wallets and we’re using cutting edge technology so that drivers can use a digital licence in everyday scenarios."

New Information Tool Holds Key To Solving Homelessness Crisis

May 15, 2018: UNSW Media
A powerful new tool developed with UNSW is designed to reveal the true extent of homelessness and influence government action to solve the problem.

The first national longitudinal study of homelessness in Australia has revealed a 20% increase in the number of people who are sleeping rough in the past five years, with more older Australians experiencing homelessness than ever. 

The Australian Homelessness Monitor 2018, launched in Melbourne today, tracks key data on rates and types of homelessness in Australia and sets a benchmark for action on Australia’s housing crisis.

Launch Housing commissioned the Monitor in conjunction with UNSW Sydney and the University of Queensland. The first of its kind in Australia, the Monitor will be compiled every two years and will inform state and federal policies to address homelessness.

“Australia’s housing market is at breaking point,” Tony Keenan, CEO of Launch Housing, said. “More people are experiencing homelessness than ever before. People face rising costs of living, high rental costs and harsher income support penalties.

A graphic presented at the launch of the Australian Homelessness Monitor.

“There has been a 14% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the past five years – that is a national disgrace,” Mr Keenan said.

“That’s why we’ve commissioned this research: because homelessness is not unavoidable. This research demonstrates how policies and programs can – and do – make a difference.”

Professor Hal Pawson from the City Futures Research Centre in UNSW Built Environment led the team of researchers that included Dr Edgar Liu from the City Futures Research Centre and Professor Peter Saunders and Dr Trish Hill from UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre.

“By combining census analysis with data on homelessness service users and local council rough-sleeper counts,” Professor Pawson said, “our report presents a powerful story on the scale and pattern of rising homelessness across our major cities.”

While national property prices have increased by 80% in the last 10 years, median household incomes have risen by just 40%. These increased housing costs have meant 613,000 people, almost 229,000 of whom are children, have fallen below the poverty line.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 10 times more likely to experience homelessness. And there has been a 22% increase in demand for homelessness services nationwide between 2011 and 2016.

“The Australian Homelessness Monitor is a national first,” Mr Keenan said. “It provides a unique look at how policy action and inaction have impacted rising levels of homelessness.

“We must see a shared effort from the Australian government, the states and territories to address housing affordability.

“The Australian Homelessness Monitor should inform the development of a national housing plan. We need more social and affordable rental homes.”

Deep Field Ice Core Provides Snapshot Of Antarctic Climate History

May 15, 2018: Department of the Environment and Energy - Australian Antarctic Division
Scientists will today begin cutting a 300 metre long Antarctic ice core collected from a remote site in East Antarctica to gain new insights into the climate of the region.

The core was drilled at Mount Brown South, about 330 kilometres inland of Australia’s Davis research station, last summer.

It will provide a snapshot of climate in East Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and how this impacts weather in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere.

Chief Investigator on the project, Dr Tessa Vance, from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) in Hobart, said the information captured in the ice core extends back more than 1000 years.

“Ice cores contain snow, trapped air and traces of impurities that give us a window into the past weather conditions of the area,” Dr Vance said.

“By tracking these changes over centuries and comparing with other ice cores, we can build a detailed picture of how Antarctic and regional climate fluctuates naturally, and expect to derive indicators for Australian rainfall variability.”

To collect the core a team of seven scientists and support personnel from ACE CRC, the Australian Antarctic Division, University of Copenhagen, Australian National University and University of Alberta, spent 70 days at the deep field camp.

 “The site was exactly what we had hoped for, because it had a high snow accumulation rate, but that also made the conditions extremely difficult with almost continual blizzards for the entire expedition,” Dr Vance said.

“The team had to dig their way into their tents at the beginning of the night, and then dig their way out in the morning, because there was such a huge amount of snow blowing into the camp.”

Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist, Dr Mark Curran, said the Mount Brown South core will add to the knowledge gained from other East Antarctic ice cores.

“Existing cores give us some understanding of past changes, but provide an incomplete picture of how the change varies across Antarctica and the Southern Hemisphere,” Dr Curran said.

“The Mount Brown South core will provide data from a completely new region. It will also allow us to explore changing patterns of climate and what the implications are for weather and climate in Australia into the future.”

Some of the core samples will be sent overseas for further study of dust, trace impurities and gases, and it’s expected full analysis of the cores will take several years.

The Mount Brown South ice core project is a collaboration between Australia, Denmark, Canada and France.

Mount Brown South ice core drill camp showing weather haven tent over the drill site, and international flags of the participating countries (Photo: Peter Campbell/Australian Antarctic Division)

Autonomous Glider Can Fly Like An Albatross, Cruise Like A Sailboat

May 18, 2018: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT engineers have designed a robotic glider that can skim along the water's surface, riding the wind like an albatross while also surfing the waves like a sailboat.

In regions of high wind, the robot is designed to stay aloft, much like its avian counterpart. Where there are calmer winds, the robot can dip a keel into the water to ride like a highly efficient sailboat instead.

The robotic system, which borrows from both nautical and biological designs, can cover a given distance using one-third as much wind as an albatross and traveling 10 times faster than a typical sailboat. The glider is also relatively lightweight, weighing about 6 pounds. The researchers hope that in the near future, such compact, speedy robotic water-skimmers may be deployed in teams to survey large swaths of the ocean.

"The oceans remain vastly undermonitored," says Gabriel Bousquet, a former postdoc in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who led the design of the robot as part of his graduate thesis. "In particular, it's very important to understand the Southern Ocean and how it is interacting with climate change. But it's very hard to get there. We can now use the energy from the environment in an efficient way to do this long-distance travel, with a system that remains small-scale."

Bousquet will present details of the robotic system this week atIEEE's International Conference on Robotics and Automation, in Brisbane, Australia (May 21-26). His collaborators on the project are Jean-Jacques Slotine, professor of mechanical engineering and information sciences and of brain sciences; and Michael Triantafyllou, the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Professor in Ocean Science and Engineering.

The physics of speed
Last year, Bousquet, Slotine, and Triantafyllou published a study on the dynamics of albatross flight, in which they identified the mechanics that enable the tireless traveler to cover vast distances while expending minimal energy. The key to the bird's marathon voyages is its ability to ride in and out of high- and low-speed layers of air.

Specifically, the researchers found the bird is able to perform a mechanical process called a "transfer of momentum," in which it takes momentum from higher, faster layers of air, and by diving down transfers that momentum to lower, slower layers, propelling itself without having to continuously flap its wings.

Interestingly, Bousquet observed that the physics of albatross flight is very similar to that of sailboat travel. Both the albatross and the sailboat transfer momentum in order to keep moving. But in the case of the sailboat, that transfer occurs not between layers of air, but between the air and water.

"Sailboats take momentum from the wind with their sail, and inject it into the water by pushing back with their keel," Bousquet explains. "That's how energy is extracted for sailboats."

Bousquet also realized that the speed at which both an albatross and a sailboat can travel depends upon the same general equation, related to the transfer of momentum. Essentially, both the bird and the boat can travel faster if they can either stay aloft easily or interact with two layers, or mediums, of very different speeds.

The albatross does well with the former, as its wings provide natural lift, though it flies between air layers with a relatively small difference in windspeeds. Meanwhile, the sailboat excels at the latter, traveling between two mediums of very different speeds -- air versus water -- though its hull creates a lot of friction and prevents it from getting much speed. Bousquet wondered: What if a vehicle could be designed to perform well in both metrics, marrying the high-speed qualities of both the albatross and the sailboat?

"We thought, how could we take the best from both worlds?" Bousquet says.

Out on the water
The team drafted a design for such a hybrid vehicle, which ultimately resembled an autonomous glider with a 3-meter wingspan, similar to that of a typical albatross. They added a tall, triangular sail, as well as a slender, wing-like keel. They then performed some mathematical modeling to predict how such a design would travel.

According to their calculations, the wind-powered vehicle would only need relatively calm winds of about 5 knots to zip across waters at a velocity of about 20 knots, or 23 miles per hour.

"We found that in light winds you can travel about three to 10 times faster than a traditional sailboat, and you need about half as much wind as an albatross, to reach 20 knots," Bousquet says. "It's very efficient, and you can travel very fast, even if there is not too much wind."

The team built a prototype of their design, using a glider airframe designed by Mark Drela, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. To the bottom of the glider they added a keel, along with various instruments, such as GPS, inertial measurement sensors, auto-pilot instrumentation, and ultrasound, to track the height of the glider above the water.

"The goal here was to show we can control very precisely how high we are above the water, and that we can have the robot fly above the water, then down to where the keel can go under the water to generate a force, and the plane can still fly," Bousquet says.

The researchers decided to test this "critical maneuver" -- the act of transitioning between flying in the air and dipping the keel down to sail in the water. Accomplishing this move doesn't necessarily require a sail, so Bousquet and his colleagues decided not to include one in order to simplify preliminary experiments.

In the fall of 2016, the team put its design to the test, launching the robot from the MIT Sailing Pavilion out onto the Charles River. As the robot lacked a sail and any mechanism to get it started, the team hung it from a fishing rod attached to a whaler boat. With this setup, the boat towed the robot along the river until it reached about 20 miles per hour, at which point the robot autonomously "took off," riding the wind on its own.

Once it was flying autonomously, Bousquet used a remote control to give the robot a "down" command, prompting it to dip low enough to submerge its keel in the river. Next, he adjusted the direction of the keel, and observed that the robot was able to steer away from the boat as expected. He then gave a command for the robot to fly back up, lifting the keel out of the water.

"We were flying very close to the surface, and there was very little margin for error -- everything had to be in place," Bousquet says. "So it was very high stress, but very exciting."

The experiments, he says, prove that the team's conceptual device can travel successfully, powered by the wind and the water. Eventually, he envisions fleets of such vehicles autonomously and efficiently monitoring large expanses of the ocean.

"Imagine you could fly like an albatross when it's really windy, and then when there's not enough wind, the keel allows you to sail like a sailboat," Bousquet says. "This dramatically expands the kinds of regions where you can go."

An albatross glider, designed by MIT engineers, skims the Charles River. Credit: Gabriel Bousquet;

Safety Improvements On The Way Along The Illawarra Highway

May 14, 2018: NSW Roads & Maritime Service
Locals, tourists and freight operators are about to experience safer journeys on the Illawarra Highway at Robertson and Burrawang.

Member for Goulburn, Pru Goward today announced the NSW Government has provided $610,000 for a package of work to reduce the incidence and severity of crashes at these locations.

“A large chunk of the funding will be spent widening the road shoulders and installing guard rail near Wilsons Road at Burrawang,” Ms Gowad said.

“In the five years to July 2015 there were 11 crashes at this location, which resulted in six people being injured, with the majority a result of vehicles veering off the road.

“The widened shoulders and guard rail will help to protect vehicles from hazards such as trees and help to keep them on the highway.”

Ms Goward added $130,000 of the funding will be spent improving the Illawarra Highway near Tourist Road at Robertson, one of the main links between the Southern Highlands and southern suburbs of the Illawarra.

“In the five years to July 2015 there were four crashes at this location, in which five people were injured.

“Two vehicle activated signs will be installed at this location, the road shoulders will be widened and a widened painted median installed.

The signs will help to reduce the risk of head on crashes and vehicles veering off the road by warning motorists to slow down.

This work is planned for later this month and the community will be kept informed when work dates are confirmed.”

Introduction To Water Engineering Annual Field Trip

May 15, 2018: UNSW Water Research Lab
On Friday WRL opened its doors to 400 students, giving them the opportunity to see first hand the theory they are being taught turned into practice, with respect to physical modelling and scaling.

This annual field trip, which is part of the 2nd year Introduction to Water Engineering course (CVEN 2501), is vital in the education and learning experience of these students at UNSW. The students get to see what is involved in a career in water engineering, as they are taken on a tour of both the Water Research Laboratory and the Manly Hydraulics Laboratory.

Organised by Dr Stefan Felder, Dr Kristen Splinter, and Dr Ademir Prata; the students were introduced to a variety of physical models currently in use, and undergoing construction. 

During the tour students learned about how engineers scale down real objects (such as cars) to be able to undertake testing in controlled environments (such as flumes). One of the highlights included a model car simulation, which looks at the velocity forces and water depths needed to cause instability in a car trapped in floodwater.

Find out more in The value of getting your hands (and feet) wetby Dr Kristen Splinter, Lecturer at WRL

Dr Kristen Splinter explaining how objects can be scaled down to test in controlled environments. Image Credit UNSW WRL

EPA Fines AGL After Data Collection Comes Up Short: Camden Gas Project

May 16, 2018: EPA Media release
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued two fines of $5,000 each to AGL Upstream Investments Pty Ltd after the company allegedly failed to collect key data at its Camden Gas Project.

EPA Acting Director Gas Regulation Andrew Cowan said the EPA routinely seeks construction and assessment data to conduct technical checks for compliance with regulatory requirements.

“During a routine check, the EPA determined that some data for two gas wells drilled as part of the Camden Gas Project had not been collected as required by AGL’s Petroleum Production Lease, issued by the Department of Planning and Environment, Division of Resources and Geoscience,” Mr Cowan said.

“The EPA views any alleged breach of legislation as a serious matter. As a result, the EPA issued a fine for each failure to collect data.

“These data are required as part of the regulatory regime to safeguard the environment and the community in the long term.

“The EPA will continue to ensure that all gas wells are constructed, operated and decommissioned according to government requirements. Provision of information to government is part of these requirements.”

The EPA is the lead regulator for gas activities in NSW. This includes compliance with and enforcement of other government agencies legislated requirements.

Sydney Water To Pay $15,000 For Discharge At Castle Hill

May 16, 2018: EPA Media release
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Sydney Water $15,000 after 4.8 million litres of treated effluent was allegedly discharged with a low pH from Castle Hill Sewage Treatment Plant to Cattai Creek, in June 2017.

The EPA’s Acting Regional Director Metropolitan James Goodwin said Sydney Water’s licence permits the release of effluent, however there are strict requirements.

“A discharge of effluent with a pH of less than 6.5 constitutes water pollution for the purposes of the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009,” Mr Goodwin said.

“The acidic discharge occurred because appropriate operational procedures were not followed,” Mr Goodwin said.

“This incident occurred over a period of about 15 hours. The lowest recorded pH discharged during this time was a pH of 5.02.

“While no environmental harm was able to be shown, Sydney Water is required to meet the conditions of its environment protection licence, issued by the EPA, for operation of the Castle Hill Sewage Treatment Plant. In this case, this didn’t occur.”

Mr Goodwin said that Sydney Water altered operations until the root cause of the failure was identified and corrective action had been taken to eliminate the risk of recurrence.

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, legally binding pollution reduction programs, enforceable undertakings and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy

Explaining The History Of Australia's Vegetation

May 18, 2018: University of Adelaide
University of Adelaide-led research has uncovered the history of when and why the native vegetation that today dominates much of Australia first expanded across the continent.

The new understanding will help researchers better predict the likely impact of climate change and rising CO2 levels on these critically important plants. Called 'C4 plants' after their alternative photosynthetic pathway, these plants include a wide variety of native tropical, subtropical and arid grasses as well as saltbushes. C4 crops include sugarcane and corn.

"C4 plants evolved to be able to photosynthesise under warm, dry, and low CO2 conditions, with a special ability to take advantage of summer rainfall," says lead author Jake Andrae, PhD candidate in the University's School of Physical Sciences and Sprigg Geobiology Centre. "As a result, they dominate the vegetation of Australian tropical, subtropical, and arid regions today.

"But despite being the most C4 dominated continent today, little is known about the initial C4 expansion in Australia."

The researchers analysed fossilised leaf waxes and pollen preserved in marine sediments. They measured the chemical signatures from these remnants, to reconstruct how and when C4-dominated ecosystems first rose to prominence in Australia.

"In many regions around the globe, C4 plants became prevalent between six and eight million years ago, which is thought by some to be the result of falling global atmospheric CO2 concentrations during this time," says project leader Dr Francesca McInerney, Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Adelaide.

"Surprisingly, in north-west Australia C4 plants did not expand at this time in spite of regionally arid conditions and falling atmospheric CO2, both of which should have promoted C4 vegetation. Instead, C4 vegetation expanded across the landscape only 3.5 million years ago, several million years later."

The authors say that the rise of C4 plants in Australia was likely the result of a strong summer monsoon that developed around that time.

"The difference in the timing of the expansion of C4 plants in Australia from other parts of the globe demonstrates that regional climate changes are important in driving vegetation change," Dr McInerney says.

"In the future, the interaction between global atmospheric CO2 and regional changes in seasonality of rainfall is likely to play an important role in the distribution of C4-dominated ecosystems. Rising CO2 will place C4 plants at a disadvantage, while rising temperatures, and changes in the season and amount of rainfall, could favour them.

"In Australia, C4 plants are critical to grazing, soil carbon storage and biodiversity. We need to understand the factors that are likely to influence their survival in the future, to provide a basis for future conservation of these important plants."

J. W. Andrae, F. A. McInerney, P. J. Polissar, J. M. K. Sniderman, S. Howard, P. A. Hall, S. R. Phelps. Initial Expansion of C4 Vegetation in Australia During the Late Pliocene. Geophysical Research Letters, 2018; DOI: 10.1029/2018GL077833

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.

Festival Of Dangerous Ideas 2018

May 16, 2018: Media release - FODI
Festival of Dangerous Ideas, 3-4 November 2018, Cockatoo Island

Entering its ninth year, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI) returns this November, choosing a commanding new location to call home; Cockatoo Island, a place ‘off-limits’ to the public for over 100- years.

“Cockatoo Island is a significant location for so many cultural and creative moments. It’s a perfect match for FODI; an evocative place to discuss our most dangerous ideas,” said Danielle Harvey, Festival Director, FODI.

“FODI is the original disruptive festival, known for taking people on unexpected and confronting journeys, and in heading to Cockatoo Island, audiences can think, engage and explore deeply - it’s the festival so dangerous it’s left the mainland!” said Harvey.

Taking place over two days, the Festival - a collaboration between The Ethics Centre (TEC) and UNSW Centre for Ideas - will explore themes of trust and truth, pushing our public and personal boundaries, encouraging intellectual debate and taking ideas to the limit.

“Knowing who to trust and what to believe has never been so complicated. FODI has a legacy of exploring polarising ideas and making bold curatorial choices. These dangerous conversations are even more critical when truth and clarity are hard to find,” continued Harvey.

The festival is being brought to life by longstanding FODI curators Simon Longstaff AO (Executive Director, TEC), Ann Mossop (Director, Centre of Ideas, UNSW) and Danielle Harvey (Festival Director, FODI).

“This is a new arena for UNSW, but both organisations have a strong commitment to freedom of inquiry, freedom of speech and knowledge exchange for the public good. By presenting the festival together, we can bring these values to life,” said Mossop.

“We need to foster critical thinking and the ability to disagree. These are the tools that the next generation needs in order to engage with the most difficult issues of our time and avoid a dystopian future,” continued Mossop.

“Surrounded as we are, by dangerous ideas, FODI has never been to everyone’s taste. That’s why FODI demands a measure of courage - if only to immerse yourself in something strange and disagreeable,” said Longstaff.

“The Harbour Trust is delighted to host The Festival of Dangerous Ideas on Cockatoo Island. Cockatoo Island is now firmly established as Sydney’s place to explore creative and cultural boundaries and a sanctuary to realise ambitious ideas,” said Harbour Trust CEO Mary Darwell.

Since inception FODI has presented 239 individual sessions, sold over 157,000 tickets and reached even more via its satellite event program and digital content.

Previous thought leaders include; Christopher Hitchens, Julian Assange, Mona Eltahawy, Alicia Garza, Sir Salman Rushdie, Germaine Greer, Pussy Riot, Tariq Ali, Paul Krugman, Sam Harris, Vandana Shiva, Naomi Klein and Stan Grant.

Tickets are expected to be released August 2018. Be the first to see the festival program by signing up here

Festival Of Dangerous Ideas – Teaser

Uploaded on 13 May 2018 by FODI
The Festival of Dangerous Ideas returns in 2018! Take a sneak peek and get first access to the most dangerous sessions.

Building Antarctica's First Paved Runway

May 18, 2018
In a boost to Australia’s Antarctic Program, the Australian Government has announced its intention to construct a paved runway near Davis research station.

The new runway will complement Australia’s existing summer-only ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome, and will provide more reliable access to Antarctica throughout the year, improving our ability to conduct year-round, world-class scientific research and respond to emergencies.

Leading the way by building Antarctica's first paved runway
Joint media release
The Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for Energy and the Environment
18 May 2018
In a boost to Australia’s Antarctic Program, the Turnbull Government has announced its intention to construct a paved runway near Davis research station.

Access to Antarctica in winter is difficult and rare, with temperatures dropping to minus 40°C at Davis station. The new runway will complement Australia’s existing summer-only ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome, and will provide more reliable access to Antarctica throughout the year, improving our ability to conduct year-round, world-class scientific research and respond to emergencies.

The paved runway will provide greater access to Davis research station and surrounding regions. (Photo: David Barringhaus)

The establishment of the permanent link between Hobart and Antarctica will enhance Hobart’s role as a gateway to East Antarctica, making it a more attractive destination for Antarctic nations to base their operations in Tasmania.

As a leader in Antarctica, Australia is committed to best practice environmental stewardship and the project will be subject to extensive environmental and other government approval processes. These assessments will be transparent, consultative and rigorous, including to meet the requirements of the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Today’s announcement, together with the $1.9 billion icebreaker RSV Nuyina and the new Antarctic science funding model announced in this year’s Budget, is part of the Turnbull Government’s commitment to a new era of Antarctic endeavour and underpins our long term interests in the region.

Investigations into year-round aviation access started in 2016 as a key component of the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan. The Government provided $10 million to scope options and undertake preliminary site investigations, with the cost of the new runway to now be determined through a detailed business case.

Antarctica is a unique place and has a special significance for Australians. We have a proud legacy of Australian Antarctic leadership and science – from the heroic era of Sir Douglas Mawson through to our modern expeditioners.

Australia is a strong supporter of the Antarctic Treaty System and the runway will support our international partnerships.

A map showing the location of the paved runway.

The site of the new runway near Australia's Davis research station. (Photo: Andrew Garner)

Zebra Finches – Capertee Valley

Published May 19, 2018 by BIBYTV
These Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata) were filmed in May 2018 in the Capertee Valley, NSW. A group of over 20 Zebra Finches (many being juveniles) was regularly seen across a couple of days in an area with native grasses and woody shrubs (e.g. the callistemon pictured). This area is part of a property which has had significant habitat restoration over 24 years. Go to for an overview. While the grassland, open woodland and agricultural dams in the valley are ideal for Zebra Finches, they can also thrive in arid areas if there is some sort of water available. Indeed, sometimes 1000s of these sociable birds congregate at a suitable site. When conditions are good (e.g. rainy period in an otherwise arid or semi-arid zone) they engage in a breeding frenzy, raising several broods in quick succession. Moreover, juvenile Zebra Finches have one of the shortest maturation periods in the bird world and hence can quickly add to the population boom. For more information on these charismatic little birds visit

Tiny Doors: An A-Door-Able Public Art Project For Young People

Northern Beaches Council is calling on creative, enterprising young people aged 12-to-24 to take part in an exciting public art project called Tiny Doors.

Tiny Doors will be a series of unique miniature public art installations, taking over the Northern Beaches one tiny door at a time.

Mayor Michael Regan said aspiring young artists will work in pairs or small groups to create and build the 25 tiny doors, mere centimetres tall, which will be popping up at key sites across the peninsula.

“Sometimes tiny doors open up to big opportunities. The Tiny Doors project is an exciting opportunity for budding young artists and web gurus to develop their skills.

“Young people will learn team building, art, project management, time management, digital design, and leadership skills through participation in Tiny Doors as well as gain experience working with design briefs, budgets, deadlines and approval processes.

“All those selected will be guided, mentored and supported by a range of experienced industry professionals,” Mayor Regan said.

The miniature doors will be related to a door or portal from literature and are expected to be in place by December 2018. The doors will be maintained by Council for one year.

For more information or to be involved, or call 9976 1731. Applications close Friday 15 June.

Tiny Doors is a grant funded community art project and an initiative of the Northern Beaches Council Library Service.

The Journey To Pluto, The Farthest World Ever Explored

Published May 17, 2018 by TED-Ed.
As of 1989, mankind had successfully sent craft to every known planet in the solar system except one: Pluto. Located in an mysterious region called the Kuiper Belt, Pluto is a scientific goldmine, and could hold clues to the formation of our solar system. Alan Stern explains how NASA's New Horizons mission is going to allow us to see Pluto for the first time.

Lesson by Alan Stern, animation by Eoin Duffy.

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.