Inbox and Environment News: Issue 363

June 10 - 16, 2018: Issue 363

Tomorrow's Man

Thank you to Tom Harkin, Gus Worland, Gotcha 4 Life, OneEighty and all those involved in presenting Tomorrow Man at the Surf Club on Monday night. There was a wonderful response from the local community. Men and boys came together to share their personal stories and issues in an honest, open and safe forum. We are proud to support the response to local youth and emotional health issues and hope that it makes a difference.

Avalon Beach SLSC.
June 2018

Mahboba Rawi, Founder Of Mahboba's Promise, Visits Pittwater High School

Last week, Mahboba Rawi OAM attended Sydney's Pittwater High School's Multicultural Day assembly where several students and staff dressed in traditional Afghan clothing to display the country's beautiful culture. 

Pittwater High School celebrates diversity as a community with over 60 cultural backgrounds at the school. It is certainly a time to not only celebrate the richness of this diversity, but to recognise that, whatever our backgrounds, we share core fundamental values that unite us. 

Mahboba Rawi is founder of Mahboba’s Promise. As always, she captured the audience with her story and the work she does to support
schooling in Afghanistan, especially for girls, orphaned children and widows, in learning skills for work. Education, gender equality and the means to climb out of poverty are critical for lasting peace in this nation. 

On the day, students raised $1,300 in mufti donations and as a result of a pledge, this has doubled to $2,600 to support Pittwater High Schools' sister school in the Panshir Valley. 

Please go to to make any further donations.

Pittwater High has been a longtime supporter of MP through the School's Promise Program, which helps build bridges between Australian and Afghan communities. 

Mahboba said "Thank you Pittwater High for always helping MP to raise funds for the women and children in Afghanistan!" after the visit.

New Analysis Shows Government’s Koala Reserve System Offers The Species Virtually No New Protection

June 3, 2018: by Nature Conservation Council
The Berejiklian government’s planned koala reserve contains only 2% of high quality koala habitat and offers no significant new protection for the species whose numbers are rapidly declining, new analysis has shown.

The North East Forest Alliance obtained and analysed maps of 24,000 hectares of mostly state forests that the government plans to use for a koala reserve system, which is a major plank in the government’s long-delayed Koala Strategy, unveiled on May 6.

  • 82% of the “new reserves” offer no new protection to koalas. That is because 82% of the “new reserves” were already protected in forest reserves.
  • Only 2% (554ha) of the new reserves are high-quality koala habitat. This assessment is based on the government’s latest koala habitat modelling.
  • Hunting will be permitted in 8 of the 12 areas because they will be designated Flora Reserves.
  • All the reserves are in the hinterland, away from the coastal forests where the best koala habitat exists.
  • Less than 2.5% of the “new” reserves match the proposedGreat Koala National Park
(See the table here for a detailed analysis of the new reserves.)

North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh: “It is fraudulent for the NSW Government to pretend that these are new Koala Reserves. There are many state forests known to be far more important for Koalas that the Government has ignored.

“The selection of these areas has been a cynical political exercise with no attempt to identify and protect the most important Koala habitat on State Forests, with the only apparent criteria being to have no impacts on timber.”

National Parks Association Senior Ecologist Oisin Sweeney said: “It is clear the government has made a choice – it is timber over koalas.

“The government’s own mapping shows the importance of the Great Koala National Park proposal, yet the government plans to implement an intensive harvesting zone that will see koala habitat destroyed over large areas and reduced forests to monocultures of blackbutt between Grafton and Taree.”

Quotes from the Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski: “Koala populations on the North Coast have collapsed by 50% in the past 20 years and the NSW Government’s strategy will do little to redress that decline.

“If the Berejiklian government was serious about saving our koalas from extinction it would ending native forest logging, strengthen land clearing laws and create the Great Koala National Park.

“The government’s koala strategy fails to do any of these things and as a result it will fail koalas.”

Sydney Metro Northwest: Proposed SEPP Amendment

June 8, 2018: NSW Department of Planning
You are invited to have your say on a proposed amendment to the State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011 for the development of government-owned land adjoining the Sydney Metro Northwest corridor. 

The proposed amendment to the State and Regional Development SEPP aims to ensure a state-led, consistent and transparent planning pathway for the development of government land within the eight station precincts along Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure project; the $8.3 billion Sydney Metro Northwest. 

Outlined in the consultation paper, the proposed amendment nominates the Minister for Planning as the consent authority for future development on identified government-owned land, if the development meets the criteria of State Significant Development. 

State Significant Development must meet one or more of the following criteria: 
- a principal subdivision establishing major lots or public domain areas 
- the creation of new roadways and associated works 
- has a capital investment value of more than $30 million.
Exhibition Commences 08/06/2018
Exhibition Concludes         06/07/2018

Feral Horse Protection Bill Is A Triumph Of Ignorance Over Science, Politics Over Good Policy 

June 7, 2018: by Nature Conservation Council
Conservation groups have condemned the Berejiklian government’s feral horse protection bill that passed parliament today for putting politics before science and endangering native species and clean water supplies.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski: “Premier Berejilklian has pushed through its harmful and damaging feral species protection bill against the advice of leading ecologists, national parks administrators, local and international conservation groups, and the state’s leading animal welfare body, the RSPCA. 

“Passage of this bill marks a triumph of ignorance over science, and of politics over good policy. This has regrettably become a hallmark of the Coalition’s approach to environmental policy and law in NSW.”

National Parks Association CEO Alix Goodwin: ““The decision is an international embarrassment and is yet another sign that our national parks are at risk under the current Coalition Government.

“Governments have an obligation to manage our national parks to protect their natural values. By adopting this legislation, the Coalition has failed to uphold that fundamental duty.

“We cannot and will not let this decision stand. We will not rest until this bad law is repealed and the management of our national parks are once again guided by the best available science.”

Colong Foundation Director Keith Muir said: “The Berejiklian government’s bill values horses above our priceless Kosciuszko National Park.  

“This decision shows the government has lost its way. It is bereft of Coalition party discipline that traditionally let Liberal environment ministers do their job of managing national parks, while Nationals minister focused regional affairs. But now the horse from old Regret has got away.” 

Conservation groups have thanked both Labor and the Greens for taking a strong, principled stand in opposing the bill and proposing amendments to protect the National Parks and Wildlife Act and Kosciuszko National Park. All amendments were opposed by the Government.

Eco Schools Grants

The Eco Schools Program is now open to applications and will close on 3pm Monday 18 June 2018.

To fund environmental management projects that assist schools with environmental learning opportunities for students, teachers and the school community.  Eco Schools’ projects provide hands-on curriculum-based environmental education focussing on strong student participation.

Funding available
Eighty individual grants of $3500, with a total of $280,000 available to schools.

Who can apply?
All registered schools in NSW are eligible to apply. Projects working primarily with students with special needs are encouraged.

The program will fund environmental management projects aimed at achieving the following objectives.

Objective 1
Environmental benefits

Enabling schools to promote more efficient resource use and improve the quality of the local environment.

Objective 2
Student participation

To promote the development of knowledge, values and behaviour in students that supports environmental sustainability.

Objective 3
Teacher engagement

To assist teachers to access targeted professional learning, and to assist with integrating environmental management into curriculum delivery.

Objective 4
Managing for sustainability in school and the community

To encourage schools and the community to explore opportunities for working together for sustainability outcomes.

Best practice examples, tips and resources
A collection of examples, tips and resources based on previous Eco Schools grant successes are available to help you develop your project idea. Links to relevant pages can be found on the Eco Schools Resources page.

Indicative costs are also available to provide an idea of how much your project may cost.

Supermarkets Step Up To Meet Global Plastic Challenge On World Environment Day

5 June 2018: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
Australians used 5.66 billion single-use plastic bags last financial year. Some of which contributed to the 13 million tonnes of plastic which makes its way into our oceans each year, entangling or being eaten by marine life such as turtles, sea birds and whales.

That’s why this World Environment Day, I’m delighted our country’s largest supermarkets are taking robust action to phase out single-use plastic bags.

Coles has committed to phasing out single-use plastic bags as well as reducing plastic wrapping on fruit and vegies and to replacing meat and poultry product packaging with recycled and renewable materials.

Meanwhile, Woolworths has announced it will no longer provide single-use plastics bags for customers across their supermarkets while also planning to introduce a ban on plastic straws by the end of this year. This is on top of its commitment to remove plastic wrap from some of its fruit and vegies as well.

This means billions of these single-use plastic bags and other plastics will no longer take up space in landfill or harm our environment.

The Turnbull Government is playing is also playing its part. We’re taking the lead with our state and territory colleagues to reduce Australia’s waste and increase demand for recyclable products.

We have already worked successfully with industry to phase out microbeads in rinse-off products and now 94 per cent of cosmetic and personal care products are microbead-free. The result is that billions of these tiny plastics no longer enter our oceans.

The Turnbull Government is also working to cut down on the amount of waste produced by ensuring that 100 per cent of Australian packaging will be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 or earlier.

While this World Environment Day is focused on plastic pollution, the Turnbull Government is also working to protect our natural environment in many other ways.

This includes ensuring our native flora and fauna are protected through our Threatened Species Strategy and National Landcare Program as well as making a record new commitment of $500 million for the protection and preservation of our Great Barrier Reef.

Australia Post's Environmental Plan To Save $10 Million

June 5th, 2018: Media release - Australia Post
Today, on World Environment Day, Australia Post has launched their very first Environmental Action Plan as part a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, and save $10 million every year through environmentally sustainable programs.

Running the country's largest delivery network that spans 11.7 million addresses and more than 16,000 vehicles, Australia Post created the Environmental Action Plan to shape ongoing reporting and future activities that will lead to long-term sustainability. 

Chief Financial Officer Janelle Hopkins said that by driving sustainability, they can release resources to better explore new areas and improve customer experiences.

"That saving of $10 million every year enables Australia Post to invest more in improving and creating services our customers want to use," said Ms Hopkins.

"Since 2000 we have reduced our carbon emissions by 20 per cent, which is significant given domestic parcel volumes are continuing to grow, and more than two million parcels were delivered in a single day during Christmas last year.

"In the last eight years we have been working to aggressively reduce our carbon footprint, even going beyond our own sites to account for our third-party supply chain.

"Our first ever Environmental Action Plan is a step towards continuing to reduce carbon emissions and achieve our target of a 25 per cent reduction by 2020." 

Australia Post installed the country's largest single-roof solar panel system late last year at the Sydney Parcels Facility, which Ms Hopkins said alone saves $800,000 every year within their extensive 48-site solar energy program.

"We are seeing immediate returns as we unlock renewable energy at some of our busiest sites, which helps to insulate the business against rising energy prices," Ms Hopkins said.

"But we're also looking at how we can leverage our existing network to support communities. Our partnerships with groups like TerraCycle, Planet Ark and Mobile Muster has seen us remove 26,000 tonnes of material from landfill. We also helped develop the world-first Nespresso recycling satchel to send used coffee pods to a purpose-built recycling centre, and our own satchel packaging is now completely recyclable.

"We're excited to see Australia Post make an even greater commitment towards delivering better commercial and environmental outcomes for the Australian community," said Ms Hopkins.

Fast facts:
  • Australia Post has committed to five United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals: 7 (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible consumption and production), and 13 (climate action)
  • 48+ sites are now equipped with solar panels
  • 26,000 tonnes of material has been saved from landfill in 3 years
  • Australia Post's branded satchels are 100 per cent recyclable

2018 Whale Census

Join ORCCA on Sunday 24th June 2018 for our Annual Whale Census
Everyone is welcome to take part, no matter where you live.
Contact us today for more details.

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.

Hunter Bioregional Assessment: Water Drawdown From Mining Could Affect 25% Of Region

June 7, 2018: by Lock the Gate
The Commonwealth government has released its bioregional assessment of the Hunter subregion, revealing that 25% of the Hunter could already have been affected by groundwater drawdown caused by mining, and another 5% of the region is likely to be affected if proposed new mines proceed.

The report also indicates that there has been impacts on river systems, particularly in the Goulburn River catchment, and reveal the extensive impact that the Bylong coal mine would have on groundwater if it was approved.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “This report shows that a massive area of the Hunter Valley is experiencing negative impacts from coal mining with almost 25% of the region potentially already affected by groundwater drawdown from mining.

“This represents a risk to agriculture in the region, and is even more concerning during a drought like the one we are experiencing at present when farmers are under pressure already and reliant on groundwater.

“The report shows that the 17 proposed new mines and expansions in the region will only make things worse for our groundwater, with water losses expected in the Singleton, Muswellbrook and Jerry’s water sources.”

The Bioregional Assessment reveals that the groundwater drawdown from the Bylong coal mine will effect an area close to 500 square kilometres, more than a quarter of which is in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area.

“The Assessment reveals more extensive impacts from the proposed Bylong coal mine on water resources, with predicted impacts on the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

“However, the impact of this mine on the World Heritage Area has not been considered as part of its assessment so far, which raises major alarm bells about yet more unexpected impacts.

“After recent freedom of information documents revealed that the mine is likely to cause the Bylong River to dry up, now we find that it may also affect groundwater in the World Heritage Area.

“It’s obvious that coal mining should never be allowed in the Bylong Valley and we’re calling on the NSW Government to acknowledge this new information and reject the mine.”

Highlights from the report

Modelling undertaken for the bioregional assessment in the Hunter subregion includes 68 mining operations comprising 41 baseline mines and 17 additional coal resource developments. Several new or expanded mine proposals like United Wambo were not included. Results indicate:
  • There is considerable hydrological impact from extensive mining in the region. The extent of groundwater drawdown of over 0.2m from existing mining could extend to 4,307km2 – or 25% of the study area. This would increase to 5,129km or 30% as a result of the expanded mining.
  • Drawdown of greater than 0.2m is very likely (greater than 95% chance) to occur at distances of 5km from mine sites.
  • Water losses are expected in the Singleton, Muswellbrook and Jerry’s water sources. In the Singleton source, there’s a 50% chance of 4.5GL loss of flow, which is 24% of the annual flow of that water source. (see Table 37 “Impact and risk analysis”).
  • Groundwater drawdown predictions indicate that an area of 494km2 will be affected by drawdown as a result of the proposed Bylong mine, 137km2 of which is in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (see section 3.5.4). Up to 12% of the affected area of the Bylong coal mine could see groundwater drawdown of greater than 5m.

A Vibrant New Town For The Illawarra

June 8, 2018: Ministerial Media Release, The Hon. Anthony Roberts Minister for Planning Minister for Housing Special Minister of State
Residents of the Illawarra will soon have greater housing choice, employment opportunities, environmental protection and more open space for the region after an amendment to the Wollongong Local Environmental Plan (LEP).
This will establish a vibrant new community named Yallah Marshall Mount, about 3.5km south of Dapto.
“This will be a significant boost to the local community, creating a great place to live and work,” Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts, said.
“The Department of Planning and Environment has rezoned 1,000 hectares of land from rural to a mix of residential, business, environmental, open space and industrial zones to create this exciting new community.
“It is important that, with any new community, sufficient infrastructure is in place, so as part of this rezoning, new and upgraded roads will ensure good connection to the regional and state roadways.”
Mr Roberts said education requirements were currently being considered as part of the planning for the broader West Dapto Release Area and for the adjoining Calderwood Release Area.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast, Gareth Ward, said the rezoning would facilitate exciting new business and employment opportunities for the region.
“The new town centre in Yallah Marshall Mount will be a significant boost for the Illawarra region, generating new jobs and homes once established,” Mr Ward said.
“The location for the new town was strategically identified by council as an urban release area suitable for residential and commercial development and to provide more open space and parks for the local community.”
Wollongong City Council publicly exhibited the planning proposal between March and May 2014, and received 17 submissions from the local community.
The feedback, including traffic impacts and environmental protection provisions, was considered by the Department. The concerns were addressed through ongoing consultation with various local and state government agencies including council, Roads and Maritime Services and Office of Environment and Heritage.
The establishment of this new town centre is supported by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Plan which was launched in November 2015. The regional plan aims to provide a vision and direction for land use in the area, including planning priorities and decisions which address future needs for housing, jobs, infrastructure and a healthy environment.
Council will prepare a Development Control Plan for the site before any development can occur and this will include access arrangements and the provision of open space.

Launch Of Antarctic Science Foundation

5 June 2018: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
Australians now have the unique opportunity to contribute to our nation’s scientific endeavours on the icy continent and surrounding ocean with the Coalition Government’s launch of the Antarctic Science Foundation.

Driving new public-private partnerships, the Foundation is set to further advance our Antarctic research and protection efforts.

“Antarctica has always been a place where nations, scientists and a wide range of organisations work together in the shared spirit of peace and science,” Minister Frydenberg said.

“Building on this tradition of collaboration, the launch of the Antarctic Science Foundation offers an opportunity for all sectors of the community to take part in Australia’s new era of Antarctic engagement and contribute to new and important research, conservation and education.”

“Antarctic research helps us understand and plan for the impacts of climate change, support industries such as fisheries and understand and protect the unique Antarctic environment.”

“Self-funded from donations and under the direction of former Federal Environment Minister, the Honourable Robert Hill, the Foundation will bring together government, philanthropic and private partners to better understand and protect Antarctica, with benefits for both Australia and the world.”

The establishment of an Antarctic foundation was identified as a priority of the Coalition Government in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan.

Its launch is a continuation of the Coalition Government’s commitment to a new era of Antarctic endeavour with a $1.9 billion investment in a new state-of-the-art icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, $50 million for the replacement station on Macquarie Island and $45 million for an overland traverse capability to help with the search for a million year ice core.

In addition, Budget 2017-18 included more than $13 million per year over 10 years for Antarctic science. The Government also recently announced its intention to build a paved runway at Davis research station, subject to environmental approvals, which will provide further opportunities for Antarctic science to better understand and protect the icy continent.

The involvement of the Antarctic Science Foundation and the broader community in supporting Antarctic research has the potential to be a significant multiplier of these government funds.

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 theMulti 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 harvesting,then 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.'

Pittwater Reserves

Permaculture Northern Beaches 2018 Events

Manly • Warringah • Pittwater | Sydney
Permaculture Northern Beaches (PNB) is an active local group based on Sydney's Northern Beaches.  Our parent body is  Permaculture Sydney North.

PNB hold monthly permaculture related events on the 4th Thursday of each month at 7:15pm at the  Nelson Heather Community Centre,  Banksia Room, 5 Jacksons Rd, Warriewood

Green Team Beach Cleans 2018!

Hosted by The Green Team
The Green Team is back for 2018! 
It has been estimated that we will have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050...These beach cleans are aimed at reducing the vast amounts of plastic from entering our oceans before they harm marine life. 

Anyone and everyone is welcome! If you would like to come along, please bring a bucket, gloves and hat. Kids of all ages are also welcome! 

The Green Team is a Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative from Avalon, Sydney. Keeping our area green and clean.

Making Buildings Greener With NABERS On World Environment Day

June 5th, 2018: Media release - The Hon. Gabrielle Upton, NSW Environment Minister
Three ambitious new projects that could dramatically reduce energy and water consumption in office and apartment blocks across Australia have been launched by NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton.
“It’s significant that I can mark World Environment Day by launching three NABERS projects that aim to reduce energy, water and waste consumption in buildings across the country.

“In addition, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of NABERS, a world leading building rating program developed and administered by the NSW Government,” Ms Upton said.

In her opening address to the sustainable building industry at the NABERS + CBD Conference held in Sydney today, Minister Upton launched three new products: NABERS for Apartment Buildings, NABERS Co-assess and NABERS Waste.

“The success of the NABERS program nationally over the past 20 years has been astounding and marked it as an undeniable world leader in sustainability especially in urban environments,” Ms Upton said.

“NABERS rated buildings have saved more than $350 million in energy bills since 2010 and save more than 1.6 billion litres of water a year.

“The three new products will extend our community’s ability to further reduce consumption and waste,” Ms Upton said.

“NABERS for Apartment Buildings is Australia’s first energy and water certification scheme for high-density residential buildings.

“NABERS Co-assess is an engagement program that allows the NABERS program to reach thousands of small and medium sized businesses.

“NABERS Waste will be one of the Government’s most ambitious sustainability projects providing a new technologically-advanced certification scheme.

“Buildings of all sizes are major consumers of resources and generators of waste. Tackling these issues is important to all of us.

“NABERS has addressed these big issues on a grand scale and in twenty years it has become a model internationally on how to reduce a building’s energy and water consumption and decrease waste sent to landfill.

“Importantly, this grew as a NSW initiative and has now been adopted nationally. I think we all have something to be proud of today knowing that it has achieved so much for our environment and provided a model that we fully expect will be adopted internationally,” Ms Upton said.

The Projects at a glance
NABERS for Apartment Buildings is the first sustainability certification scheme for high density apartment buildings in Australia. It measures and scores the energy used in the building’s common property areas – like carparks, gyms and lobbies – which can account for 60% of its total energy use. It also rates the water efficiency of these common areas.

The NABERS Co-Assess Application makes it easier and cheaper for office tenants to rate their workspaces with NABERS Energy by tapping into information already collected for the building’s central services, like lifts, lobby lighting, and heating and cooling systems. Tenants can use up to 50% of a building’s energy so it is a major market for further energy efficiency gains in NSW and nationally.
The new NABERS Waste Platform is an online system that helps commercial building managers to monitor and manage their waste data in real-time. Building managers can also use the platform to get a NABERS Waste Rating, making it easier to get a Rating than ever before.

NABERS is a national program encompassing all states and territories as well as the Commonwealth and administered by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage which aims to reduce energy, water and waste consumption in buildings across the country.

Over the past two decades this program has been so far reaching that today 81% of all office space in Australia has a NABERS Energy rating that provides a true measure of energy consumption, providing a target for constant improvement.

Earth Could Have Supported Continental Crust And Life Earlier Than Thought

June 5th, 2018
The early Earth might have been habitable much earlier than thought, according to new research from a group led by University of Chicago scientists.

Counting strontium atoms in rocks from northern Canada, they found evidence that the Earth's continental crust could have formed hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought. Continental crust is richer in essential minerals than younger volcanic rock, which would have made it significantly friendlier to supporting life.

Scientists studied 3.9-billion-year-old rocks from Nuvvuagittuq, Canada, and found evidence for an earlier formation of the crust.
Credit: Elizabeth Bell

"Our evidence, which squares with emerging evidence including rocks in western Australia, suggests that the early Earth was capable of forming continental crust within 350 million years of the formation of the solar system," said Patrick Boehnke, the T.C. Chamberlin Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geophysical Sciences and the first author on the paper. "This alters the classic view, that the crust was hot, dry and hellish for more than half a billion years after it formed."

One of the open questions in geology is how and when some of the crust -- originally all younger volcanic rock -- changed into the continental crust we know and love, which is lighter and richer in silica. This task is made harder because the evidence keeps getting melted and reformed over millions of years. One of the few places on Earth where you can find bits of crust from the very earliest epochs of Earth is in tiny flecks of apatite imbedded in younger rocks.

Luckily for scientists, some of these "younger" minerals (still about 3.9 billion years old) are zircons -- very hard, weather-resistant minerals somewhat similar to diamonds. "Zircons are a geologist's favorite because these are the only record of the first three to four hundred million years of Earth. Diamonds aren't forever -- zircons are," Boehnke said.

Plus, the zircons themselves can be dated. "They're like labeled time capsules," said Prof. Andrew Davis, chair of the Department of Geophysical Sciences and a coauthor on the study.

Scientists usually look at the different variants of elements, called isotopes, to tell a story about these rocks. They wanted to use strontium, which offers clues to how much silica was around at the time it formed. The only problem is that these flecks are absolutely tiny -- about five microns across, the diameter of a strand of spider silk -- and you have to count the strontium atoms one by one.

This was a task for a unique instrument that came online last year: the CHicago Instrument for Laser Ionization, or CHILI. This detector uses lasers that can be tuned to selectively pick out and ionize strontium. When they used CHILI to count strontium isotopes in rocks from Nuvvuagittuq, Canada, they found the isotope ratio suggested plenty of silica was present when it formed.

This is important because the makeup of the crust directly affects the atmosphere, the composition of seawater, and nutrients available to any budding life hoping to thrive on planet Earth. It also may imply there were fewer meteorites than thought pummeling the Earth at this time, which would have made it hard for continental crust to form.

"Having continental crust that early changes the picture of early Earth in a number of ways," said Davis, who is also a professor with the Enrico Fermi Institute. "Now we need a way for the geologic processes that make the continents to happen much faster; you probably need water and magma that's about 600 degrees Fahrenheit less hot."

The study is also confluent with a recent paper by Davis and Boehnke's colleague Nicolas Dauphas, which found evidence for rain falling on continents 2.5 billion years ago, earlier than previously thought.

Patrick Boehnke, Elizabeth A. Bell, Thomas Stephan, Reto Trappitsch, C. Brenhin Keller, Olivia S. Pardo, Andrew M. Davis, T. Mark Harrison, Michael J. Pellin. Potassic, high-silica Hadean crust. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201720880 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1720880115

Study In Fiji Finds That Removing Sea Cucumbers Spells Trouble For Shallow Coastal Waters

June 5th, 2018
The lowly sea cucumber strikes observers as a simple sausage-like creature, one that is far less interesting than brightly colored reef fish or color-changing octopi that share its coastal habitat.

The sea cucumber's unimpressive appearance belies the outsized role these creatures play in converting decomposing organic matter into recyclable nutrients and keeping coastal ecosystems healthy and clean, and overfishing them can have negative impacts on coastal marine environments, according to a new study focusing on a species of sea cucumber called a sandfish in the journal PeerJ.

The authors of the study titled "Effects of sandfish (Holothuria scabra) removal on shallow-water sediments" are: Steven Lee of the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research and the University of Bremen; Amanda K. Ford of the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research and the University of Bremen; Sangeeta Mangubhai of WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society); Christian Wild of the University of Bremen; and Sebastian C.A. Ferse of Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research and the University of Bremen.

In a sense, sea cucumbers are the vacuum cleaners of coastal marine environments. Since these invertebrates are also the target of a growing demand from Asian markets -- dried sea cucumbers are known as "bêche-de-mer" -- the authors of the study sought to examine the ecological implications of removing them from tropical coastal areas.

"Our study was designed to determine exactly how the removal of these organisms is impacting coastal ecosystems, which in this case was a coral reef flat in Fiji," said lead author Steven Lee.

The experiment focused on a specific species of sea cucumber known as the sandfish (Holothuria scabra), and was conducted along a wide reef flat along the coast of Vanua Levu, Fiji for several months between September 2015 and February 2016. After conducting a standard survey of the site in order to determine the density of sandfish on the sea bottom, the researchers created 16 square plots with four "treatments" containing different densities of sea cucumbers, all of which were designed to ascertain the implications of harvesting, and overharvesting, sea cucumbers from the reef.

The research team found that, in plots with high densities of sea cucumbers, oxygen conditions within the sediment stayed relatively stable, even under elevated sea surface temperatures experienced during the 2015/2016 El Niño event. In plots where all sea cucumbers had been removed, the penetration of oxygen into surface sediments decreased substantially, by 63 percent.

Overall, the researchers found that a reef's ability to handle increases in organic matter inputs from rainfall and flooding inland was diminished by the removal of sea cucumbers.

"Our findings suggest that overharvesting of sandfish and other sea cucumber species could have lasting effects on the marine ecosystems of small Pacific islands such as those in Fiji, resulting in changes that could limit the productivity of shallow water ecosystems," said Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai, Director of WCS's Fiji Program. "Hopefully these results will help inform management decisions that will conserve moderate to high densities of sea cucumbers and protect these ecosystems in the interest of safeguarding coastal livelihoods and food security."

"Sea cucumbers are an important source of livelihood for many tropical coastal communities and are heavily fished throughout the tropical belt, but so far we didn't have a good understanding of the wider ecological implications of harvesting them" said Dr. Sebastian Ferse of the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen, who collaborated with WCS in conducting this study as part of a project that looks into the social and ecological resilience of coral reefs in the South Pacific. "The results of this study fill an important knowledge gap and are timely for the management of an important resource for coastal communities."

This work was supported by: the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT); WCS; University of Bremen; the University of the South Pacific; and the residents of Natuvu village who permitted the study within their traditional fishing ground.

2018 has been designated by the International Coral Reef Initiative as the third International Year of the Reef. This is a great opportunity to come together to strengthen awareness on the plight of coral reefs, to step up and initiate conservation efforts.

Steven Lee, Amanda K. Ford, Sangeeta Mangubhai, Christian Wild, Sebastian C.A. Ferse. Effects of sandfish (Holothuria scabra) removal on shallow-water sediments in Fiji. PeerJ, 2018; 6: e4773 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.4773

A species of sea cucumber known as the sandfish in the coastal waters of Fiji. Credit: Sangeeta Mangubhai/WCS.

Invasive Species Of Coral Boasts Amazing Capacity For Regeneration

June 5th, 2018
Detected for the first time in Brazil on the coast of the Southeast region in the late 1980s, when oil and gas prospecting began in the Campos Basin offshore of Rio de Janeiro, sun corals of the genus Tubastraea are now spreading very swiftly throughout the rocky shores and cliffs of Brazilian islands and are considered to be biological invaders.

Once biodiverse and multicolored, the reefs in Búzios Island -- part of the municipality of Ilhabela, Sao Paulo State, also located at the Southeast -- are now covered with orange stripes. In some places, no bare rock or other species of coral can be seen.

"The reefs around Búzios Island are in an irreparable condition," said Marcelo Kitahara, a professor in the Marine Science Department of the Federal University of São Paulo (DCMAR-UNIFESP) in Santos, Brazil. Kitahara heads a project supported by the Sao Paulo Research Foundation -- FAPESP to study the phylogenomics of two species and the links between their evolution and climate change.

The genus Tubastraea comprises seven species, all native to the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and Pacific. Only two, T. coccinea andT. tagusensis, are also found in the southwest Atlantic. Both are invasive species.

The first Brazilian sightings were recorded in the Campos Basin in the 1980s, followed by the discovery of colonies on reefs off the southern coast of Rio de Janeiro State in the 1990s. Since then, sun coral has been found across over 3,000 km of the Brazilian coastline, from Santa Catarina in the South to Ceará in the Northeast.

"Management action is still possible in some places, but this requires the complete manual removal of all colonies," Kitahara said. "If nothing is done to stop its advance, sun coral could potentially colonize the entire Brazilian coast."

A study showing the surprising capacity of sun coral to regenerate had its results published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and EcologyThe lead author is PhD student Bruna Louise Pereira Luz, a biologist affiliated with the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) and currently in Australia studying sun coral at James Cook University, Townsville, near the Great Barrier Reef, under supervision of Kitahara.

"Sun coral colonies multiply at a great speed in areas such as these. We set out to understand how and why," said Kitahara. On one of the findings -- only made possible through a lab-conducted experiment -- they also revealed that sun coral regeneration process gets faster as water temperature increases.

Possible influence of Oil & Gas industry
The appearance of these invasive species just when oil and gas production began was not unique to Rio de Janeiro. The Gulf of Mexico also has vast offshore oilfields, and sun coral has been found on the Mexican coast since the early 2000s. There are even records of sun coral attached to the hulls of ships.

"We can't be totally sure that offshore oil drilling in the Campos Basin resulted in the invasion of our coast by sun coral, but all the evidence points to this conclusion," said the FAPESP project coordinator.

A coral reef is a limestone skeleton built by colonies of thousands of tiny animals called coral polyps. Most reef-building corals contain photosynthetic algae that live in their tissues. The corals and algae have a symbiotic relationship: the polyps provide the compounds required by the algae for photosynthesis, and the algae provide the polyps with nutrients. Other types, including sun coral, can grow and proliferate without algae.

"Because it has no algae, sun coral isn't confined to places with sunlight for photosynthesis. It typically occurs at depths of up to 20 meters, but sightings have been recorded at 110 meters. On rocky shores and underwater cliffs, polyps build huge numbers of colonies and cover 100% of the substrate," Kitahara explained.

During this process, they drive out the native coral, devastating ecological relations with the marine fauna that depend on or inhabit it.

Reorganization of stem cells
To investigate the mechanisms that enable sun coral to adapt so successfully and proliferate rapidly in various marine environments, the researchers collected a colony of T. coccinea and another of T. tagusensis from Búzios Island.

In the laboratory, the researchers removed from each colony 120 fragments composed of skeleton with living tissue but lacking mesenteries, mouths and tentacles. The samples of each species were then separated into two groups of 60, one with very small fragments (3.5-11 mm²) and another with slightly larger fragments (11-53 mm²). All 240 fragments were placed separately in containers with filtered seawater.

For each combination of species and fragment size, individuals were further separated into three groups of 20 fragments and maintained at a constant temperature of 24 °C (historically the average surface water temperature in the region), 27 °C (the average sea surface temperature in summer) or 30 °C (observed during heat waves).

Finally, the effects of the presence of food were tested by adding equal amounts (10 ml) of live zooplankton every other day to half of the containers.

The fragments were photographed on the first day of the experiment and when the mouth and complete polyp were first observed. Only 41 of the 240 fragments, or 17.1%, underwent tissue necrosis and death. The other 199 fragments (86.9%) regenerated. Of these, 21 (9% of the entire sample) displayed an alternative regeneration pattern, with the formation of two polyps instead of one.

Regardless of the species, coral fragment survival was affected only by temperature. The survival rate was highest at 24 °C. There was no difference between the fragments kept at 27 °C and those kept at 30 °C. Food supply and fragment size did not affect survival.

Regeneration was found to include the following stages. After initial tissue retraction, mouth rudiments became noticeable, sometimes two for a single fragment. Subsequent development consisted either of tissue reorganization around the mouth rudiments, leading to the formation of two small, distinct polyps, or the reabsorption of one of the rudiments, in which case significant tissue differentiation around the remaining mouth rudiment resulted in a larger polyp.

"We observed a very interesting phenomenon," Kitahara said. "From a cellular viewpoint, there was a reorganization of stem cells. The polyp in formation consumed tissue as a source of energy to prioritize the production of other body parts."

The results of the experiment generally indicated faster regeneration rates at higher temperatures. The fastest mouth regeneration for fragments without contact with food was 23 days at 24 °C or 18 days at 30 °C. However, fragments kept at 27 °C in contact with living zooplankton displayed 30% faster mouth development. This suggests optimal mouth development at the intermediate temperature (27 °C), provided there is contact with food.

Fragments of both species developed into complete polyps in approximately 25 days at 27 °C and 30 °C. Unfed individuals of the species T. coccinea took approximately 41 days to achieve polyp formation.

As Kitahara explained, the fact that sun coral regenerates faster at higher temperatures is highly germane to its invasive success. Most native corals on the Brazilian coast suffer bleaching when surface water temperatures rise.

"They lose color," said the FAPESP-funded researcher. "Warmer water interferes with the metabolism of their symbiont algae. Bleached coral survives only for a few days. If the temperature remains high, it dies. The bleaching or death of native coral opens up an opportunity for substrate invasion by sun coral."

The next steps in this line of research, according to Kitahara, will be to sequence sun coral's genome, on the molecular side, and, on the ecological side, to investigate the biological aspects of its invasion and how it affects native marine fauna.

The future does not appear promising for native corals on the Brazilian coast, in Kitahara's opinion. For sun coral, on the contrary, it appears to be bright. On one hand, global climate change and rising seawater temperatures help the invader, which regenerates faster in warmer water, while native corals risk dying. Not to mention the prospect of expanding oil production in Brazilian waters.

Tubestrea sp. Sun Coral photo by Franklin Samir Dattein.

B.L.P. Luz, K.C.C. Capel, C. Zilberberg, A.A.V. Flores, A.E. Migotto, M.V. Kitahara. A polyp from nothing: The extreme regeneration capacity of the Atlantic invasive sun corals Tubastraea coccinea and T. tagusensis (Anthozoa, Scleractinia). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2018; 503: 60 DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2018.02.002

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

Tour Of The Moon In 4K

Published by NASA Goddard in April 2018
Take a virtual tour of the Moon in all-new 4K resolution, thanks to data provided by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. As the visualization moves around the near side, far side, north and south poles, we highlight interesting features, sites, and information gathered on the lunar terrain.

Music Provided By Killer Tracks: "Never Looking Back" - Frederick Wiedmann. "Flying over Turmoil" - Benjamin Krause & Scott Goodman.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/David Ladd & Ernie Wright

Ernie Wright (USRA): Lead Visualizer – Scientific Visualization Studio
David Ladd (USRA): Lead Producer, Editor, Narrator
Noah Petro (NASA/GSFC): Lead Scientist

If you liked this video, subscribe to the NASA Goddard YouTube channel:

DNA Study To Reveal Age Old Secrets Of Whale Sharks 

June 8th, 2018: from CSIRO
This World Oceans Day, CSIRO scientists will be conducting a world first by collecting DNA samples from the whale shark population at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, to determine their age, while also unlocking the secrets of where they travel to and how deep they go.

"Taking genetic samples from whale sharks will provide a critical piece of data on their age to help us estimate the population on the western coast of Australia and the eastern Indian Ocean," CSIRO Senior Scientist Dr Richard Pillans said.

"We will also be using satellite tags to track where the whale sharks go to gain insight into their behaviour.
"Previous tagging has revealed whale sharks travelling south to Perth and others have been located as far as the Gulf of Carpentaria, 3500 km away.

"We have also discovered a whale shark travelling as deep as 1.8 kms," he said.

Although the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark is very elusive with much of its behaviour still unknown.

Whale sharks are attracted to Ningaloo Reef to feed, and form part of the reef's diverse marine ecosystem.

CSIRO is conducting extensive research of this heritage-listed area as part of Ningaloo Outlook, a five-year, $5.4 million research partnership with BHP that includes turtle tagging, coral reef surveys in deep and shallow water and marine debris assessment.

CSIRO's partnership with BHP highlights the importance of industry-research collaborations to develop scientific knowledge on complex marine sanctuaries and is an effective way to engage the community.

"Our oceans are vast, and there is still a lot that we don't know, however BHP's partnership with CSIRO provides insight into Ningaloo Reef and how to manage it sustainably.

"We engage heavily with the broader community to promote this complex ecosystem including the local school and the Australian public who can track marine life online," BHP Petroleum Australia General Manager Graham Salmond said.

Along with deep and shallow reef studies and monitoring turtle and shark populations, CSIRO researchers have been quantifying marine debris found at the reef.

Ningaloo Reef has low levels of marine debris levels, both in the water and on shore — Port Melbourne, for example, has 500 times the amount of rubbish as beaches at northern Ningaloo.

However, marine life, including the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, won't be immune to future ocean threats.

"There's still a lot to learn about whale sharks and the potential impacts of a changing marine environment but with more research we hope to find out more, including where whale sharks mate and where they go to give birth to their live young," Dr Pillans said.

World Oceans Day is a global initiative and highlights the importance of our oceans and marine resources.

Images: Whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef. Credit: Dr Richard Pillans CSIRO

Broccoli Lattes Could Be A Thing

June 6, 2018: from CSIRO
Green, nutrient-rich coffees may be on the horizon after researchers have developed a powder made from imperfect-looking broccoli that would have previously been wasted.

The product, developed by Hort Innovation and CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, packs a healthy punch with approximately one serve of broccoli in every two tablespoons of powder.

A Melbourne café became the first to experiment brewing a broccoli latte recently, with mixed reviews.

While broccoli lattes might not suit everyone, Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the powder could be used for smoothies, soups, baking and as a way of hiding broccoli from fussy kids in meals.

"With a rising trend in healthy eating across the board, Australian growers are always looking at ways to diversify their products and cut waste while meeting consumer demand," Mr Lloyd said.

He also said despite the increasing popularity of 'superfoods' and health and wellness, Australian diets are still poor.

"Research shows the average Australian is still not eating the recommended daily intake of vegetables a day, and options such as broccoli powder will help address this," he said.

The 100 per cent broccoli powder is made from whole broccoli, and produced using a combination of selected pre-treatment and drying processes to retain the natural colour, flavour and nutrient composition of fresh broccoli.

Lead researcher, CSIRO's Mary Ann Augustin, said the broccoli was high in protein and fibre, and health-promoting bioactive phytochemicals, making it an ideal candidate for powder development.

"The powders are an option for farmers who want to produce value-added vegetable ingredients for the lucrative functional food markets," Dr Augustin said.

"The broccoli powder has already been used for the production of extruded snacks with high vegetable content.

"Prototype extruded snacks with 20-100 per cent vegetable content were displayed during National Science Week at the Queen Victoria Market last year and were well-received by parents and even by kids."

The broccoli powder, and associated extruded snacks, are being developed as part of a larger research and development project which aims to reduce vegetable waste by creating healthy food products from ‘ugly’ produce.

The next steps, Dr Augustin said, are to take the powder into further product development and consumer sensory evaluation trials.

"The CSIRO team and Hort Innovation are discussing potential commercial applications with produce growers and grower groups across Australia who are interested in getting the powder on the market," she said.

John Said, managing director of Fresh Select, a leading broccoli producer, is excited by the commercial opportunities available through the development of the value-added broccoli ingredients and products.

"I see this project as the emerging new food trend," Mr Said said.

"Australians don't eat enough vegetables and farmers across Australia will have access to an alternative market whilst improving farm yields and sustainability.

"They will also be contributing to healthier lifestyles!"

A broccoli latte brewed by Common Folk cafe.

Curious Kids: Why Do Our Ears Pop?

June 6, 2018
This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children. The Conversation is asking kids to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome – serious, weird or wacky!

Hi Curious Kids, My name is James and I live in Melbourne and I’m 10 years old. Why do our ears pop when we reach a certain altitude? - James, age 10, Melbourne.

Hi James. What a great question.

There are three key sections of our ear – the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Your question relates to the middle ear and the area around the ear drum.

The middle ear space is pretty airtight, although air can pass into and out of this space by the opening and closing of the Eustachian tube (the tube that links the middle ear to the back of the throat). Most of us can do this by yawning or opening our jaws, which often results in our ears “popping”.

Can you ‘pop’ your ears by yawning? It’s all about the Eustachian tube. 

Your ears pop because of the pressure difference between the air outside and the air inside your middle ear space. I’ll explain how that works.

You have a small amount of air sealed in the middle ear space. And then there’s all the rest of the air outside, in the atmosphere.

Normally the air pressure inside the middle ear and in the atmosphere are very similar, or at least not different enough to cause you any trouble. As you increase in altitude (either in a car going up a hill, going up in a lift, or taking off in an aeroplane) the air pressure in the atmosphere decreases, making the air “thinner”, while the air pressure in the middle ear remains relatively unchanged.

This puts pressure on your eardrum as the air pressure in the middle ear expands relative to the air around it. This expansion causes not only the discomfort you feel before your ears “pop”, but also makes it harder to hear things, because the pressure on your eardrums makes the sound harder to transmit.

There is no specific altitude at which your ears pop, and during quick ascents, like during an aeroplane take-off, you may have to equalise or “pop” your ears a few times to keep up with the pressure changes.

Other times, like on a slow walk up a hill, your ears may equalise themselves without you even noticing.

The reverse can happen when you are descending in an aeroplane or going down a hill. The air in the atmosphere increases in density through the descent, while the air pressure in the middle ear space remains low like it was at the higher altitude.

This forces pressure on the eardrum and causes it to retract inwards (instead of bulging outwards on ascent) until your ears pop to make the pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere more equal.

You can have some trouble if you are doing a significant ascent or descent and have a cold or an ear infection.

The mucus from a cold or ear infection can block the Eustachian tube, making it hard to equalise your ears properly. This can make your ears ache from even small changes in altitude and the eardrum is pushed inwards (on descent) or outwards (on ascent).

Babies and young children often have blocked Eustachian tubes – this may be one reason they don’t like flying.

Question answered by Chris Brennan-Jones
NHMRC Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to us. They can:
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Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Extract: Safety Advisory - Potential Risk Of Harm To The Liver

5 June 2018: TGA
Consumers and health professionals are advised that rare cases of harm to the liver have been associated with products that contain Camellia sinensis (green tea) extracts.

Camellia sinensis (C. sinensis) is a herbal ingredient permitted for use in low-risk medicines in Australia. Approximately 267 listed medicines in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) contain C. sinensis; the majority of which contain the ingredient as a concentrated extract. These products are often used to assist with weight management and as source of antioxidants.

Medicines containing C. sinensis extracts have been associated with a number of cases of liver toxicity world-wide, although the incidence appears to be rare and unpredictable. The majority of C. sinensis use (including green tea in beverage form) is unlikely to cause harm, therefore the TGA considers that a recall of C. sinensis products is not warranted.

Canada’s therapeutic goods regulator, Health Canada, and the European Food Safety Authority have also published information on the risk of harm to the liver by C.sinensis extracts.

The TGA is continuing to monitor the safety of C.sinensis and encourages consumers and health professionals to report any suspected problems associated with a product containing C.sinensis, especially any cases relating to the liver, to the TGA.

Information for consumers

If you or someone you provide care for has been taking a product containing C.sinensis (green tea) please be aware of this issue. Products that contain C.sinensis that are included in the ARTG will include the ingredient Camellia sinensis on the label.

If you develop any of the following problems, stop taking a product containing C.sinensis and contact your doctor as soon as possible:
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • pale stools
  • dark urine
  • itching all-over
  • the whites of the eyes have turned yellow or the skin is yellow (jaundice).
If you have any questions or concerns about this issue, contact your health professional.

If you suspect you have had a side effect to a product containing C.sinensis, please report it to the TGA

Forensic Mental Health Reforms Offer Greater Support For Victims

June 6, 2018
An overhaul of the forensic mental health system will provide stronger support for victims of offences committed by people with cognitive and mental health impairments.

Attorney General Mark Speakman and Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies today announced the reforms, which focus on improving outcomes for victims while maintaining the fair treatment of people with cognitive and mental health impairments.

“Victims will be given a greater voice in these types of proceedings and the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government will provide $1.6 million to establish a specialist victims support service to provide counselling, crisis support, case management and advocacy services to victims, from early in the justice process,” Mr Speakman said.

Victims will now have the opportunity to make a victim impact statement, to be considered by the court and by the Mental Health Review Tribunal when forensic patients are being considered for leave or release.

Mr Speakman noted victims have also expressed distress at hearing the verdict ‘not guilty by reason of mental illness’, feeling that this minimises the impact of the act.

“The wording of the verdict will be changed to acknowledge the defendant carried out the act, but because of the serious effect of their cognitive or mental health impairment, they are not criminally responsible,” Mr Speakman said.

The reforms also clarify the diversionary options available to magistrates who are dealing with people who have a cognitive or mental health impairment and have been accused of low level offending. A new framework will enable magistrates to monitor compliance with a diversion plan.

“As a government, we have a duty to help people with cognitive and mental health impairments seek treatment and support, to avoid situations where low level offending  escalates into something more serious,” Mrs Davies said.

The changes implement many of the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission’s reports on people with cognitive and mental health impairment in the criminal justice system. They are also informed by former Supreme Court Justice the Hon Anthony Whealy QC’s review of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in respect of forensic patients.

$22 Million For A Breakthrough Kidney Disease Treatment

5 June 2018: Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Jobs and Innovation Joint release with the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP.

An Australian medical breakthrough that could revolutionise the way kidney disease is treated, supporting millions of patients, will receive $22 million.

Through the Federal Government’s Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), fund managers Brandon Capital Partners will invest funding in Certa Therapeutics.

The funding will help commercialise Certa’s cutting edge kidney disease treatment, providing Australian patients with direct access to this medicine through clinical trials, while giving taxpayers an opportunity to maximise their investment.

By taking the drug, the patient is less likely to suffer from kidney failure and have a shorter life on dialysis.

The BTF consists of equal parts Commonwealth and industry funding, and is managed by private sector fund managers, who make investments in Australian biomedical ideas with great potential.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the $22 million investment in Certa was the largest single investment to date, and a terrific example of how BTF was supporting late-stage clinical development of promising new therapies in Australia.

“We expect the investment in Certa to bring hope of a longer and better quality life to Australians suffering with kidney disease,” Minister Hunt said.

“Kidney disease is common, harmful, and causes significant costs to individual sufferers and the Australian economy at large.

“This significant investment will not only benefit the individual recipients, but also improve the health and wellbeing of the nation.”

Minister for Jobs and Innovation Michaelia Cash said the BTF enabled the Australian Government and industry to jointly fund promising biomedical discoveries.

“The Biomedical Translation Fund was created to assist businesses at their most critical point— where they have an idea, but lack the funds to develop and get that idea to market,” Minister Cash said.

“We are putting more of our cutting-edge therapies on the fast track to market, where they are needed by people around the world. This means more opportunities for businesses to grow, export, and create Australian jobs, and builds a globally competitive, thriving health industry.”

For more information on the BTF, visit

Taskforce Integrity Targets Welfare Cheats In Mount Druitt

5 June 2018: Media release -  The Hon Michael Keenan MP
Minister for Human Services
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation
A joint Department of Human Services and Australian Federal Police taskforce will descend on the Western Sydney suburbs of Mount Druitt and St Mary’s this week to sniff out welfare cheats.

The compliance operation, known as Taskforce Integrity, targets areas around Australia where rates of non-compliance are known to be high, and sees snap audits conducted on large numbers of benefit recipients to ensure they are not claiming more than they should be.

Letters have been sent out to thousands of people in the lead up to the operation urging them to update the Department of Human Services about any changes to their personal circumstances which could affect the amount they are receiving.

Already, $100,000 in debts have been identified in the region before the Taskforce has commenced ground operations.

Most people who receive benefits are honest and only claim what the law allows. The message to those that don’t is that we will catch you, you will be made to repay the money and you may end up in prison.

Australia has a generous welfare safety net, but it is vital that we maintain its integrity to ensure it remains viable for those who rely on it for support.

I also strongly urge local residents to make contact with the Taskforce’s staff who will be based at the Mount Druitt Service Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday to dob-in anyone they know is doing the wrong thing or believe could be rorting the system.

Taskforce Integrity has been operating since 2015, and has helped raise almost $40 million in debts to the Department—more than $10 million from 3,000 individuals in New South Wales alone during 6 separate operations.

In one NSW case, a couple who failed to declare they were in a relationship for approximately 6 years were found to owe a combined debt of $200,000, after claiming Parenting Payment and Carers Payment at a single rate.

In another case, a NSW couple who were in a relationship for over 5 years claimed Parenting Payment, Disability Support Pension and Newstart at the single rate. They were found guilty of fraud and have to repay $150,000 to the Department.

People can report suspected welfare fraud on the department’s website at or by telephoning the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 131 524 for the cost of a local call.

Red Tide Fossils Point To Jurassic Sea Flood

June 5th, 2018: University of Adelaide
Dinosaur-age fossilised remains of tiny organisms normally found in the sea have been discovered in inland, arid Australia -- suggesting the area was, for a short time at least, inundated by sea water 40 million years before Australia's large inland sea existed.

The fossils are the egg-like cysts of microorganisms known as dinoflagellates, best known for producing red tides or algal blooms that can turn the sea water blood red. The cysts rest on the sea floor before hatching new dinoflagellates.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide, in collaboration with geological consultancy MGPalaeo, discovered these microfossils in Jurassic rocks of south-western Queensland, near the town of Roma.

One of the dinoflagellate cysts, normally the cause of red tides in the sea, has been found in arid Australia. Credit: Carmine Wainman, University of Adelaide

Described in the journal Palynology, the fossils have been dated to the late Jurassic period, 148 million years ago. This is a time when Australia was joined to Antarctica, and where dinosaurs roamed across ancient rivers, floodplains and swamps.

"We have plenty of evidence from the 110 million-year-old vast inland Eromanga Sea, which covered a large swathe of central, eastern Australia during the Cretaceous period (following on from the Jurassic)," says Dr Carmine Wainman, Postdoctoral Fellow in the University of Adelaide's Australian School of Petroleum.

"We've seen the opalised fossils sold in Adelaide's Rundle Mall, and the spectacular ancient marine reptiles on display in the South Australian Museum -- all from the later Cretaceous period.

"However, this new microfossil evidence from the same region suggests there was a short-lived precursor to this sea 40 million years earlier."

Dr Wainman believes these microfossils must have been brought inland by an incursion of sea water and then evolved quickly to adapt to the freshwater or brackish conditions as the sea waters slowly receded.

"There is no other feasible explanation for how they managed to reach the interior of the Australian continent when the ancient coastline was thousands of kilometres away," Dr Wainman says.

"It was probably a result of rising sea levels during a time of greenhouse conditions before the establishment of the Eromanga Sea. With further investigations, we may find more of these microorganisms or even fossilised marine reptiles that uncover untold secrets about how this part of the world looked in the Jurassic."

Carmine C. Wainman, Daniel J. Mantle, Carey Hannaford, Peter J. McCabe. Possible freshwater dinoflagellate cysts and colonial algae from the Upper Jurassic strata of the Surat Basin, Australia. Palynology, 2018; 1 DOI:10.1080/01916122.2018.1451785

Public Submissions Open For The Independent Review Of The Australian Public Service

June 4th, 2018: The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services
The Panel for the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service has today called for public submissions.

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, the Hon Kelly O'Dwyer, said public consultations were an opportunity for people to have their say about the future of the Australian Public Service.

"It is important that our public sector is fit-for-purpose in the years ahead," Minister O'Dwyer said.

"Public consultations are an excellent opportunity for people to share their vision for the future of the APS. It is a chance to let the Panel know what works well, and what needs to change."

The Panel is seeking views on all areas raised in the Terms of Reference, as it begins its examination of the capability, culture and operating model of the Australian Public Service.

"Anyone can make a submission. Whether a public servant, business owner or member of the public, this is a chance to have your say on how our public service can best serve all Australians into the future," Minister O'Dwyer said.

The closing date for submissions is 11.59pm AEST Friday 13 July 2018.

Make a submission and read the Terms of Reference at theIndependent Reviews' website.

Short-Term Holiday Letting Plan A Win-Win

June 5, 2018: NSW Government
The Government’s short-term holiday letting plan will support the sharing economy and give consumers more choice while cracking down on bad behaviour, Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said.

Mr Kean said the reforms recognise the estimated $31 billion annual contribution of online booking platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway (formerly Stayz) to the Australian economy, while stamping out party houses through a mandatory Code of Conduct.

The plan also includes changes to the Strata Schemes Management Act, which will allow owners corporations to adopt a by-law, with a 75 per cent majority, preventing short-term letting in their block if the host does not live in the unit they are letting out.

“We have consulted widely with industry and the community to make sure our nation-leading regulatory framework is the very best approach to short-term holiday letting,” Mr Kean said.

Mr Kean said the mandatory Code of Conduct for online accommodation platforms, letting agents, hosts and guests would address impacts like noise levels, disruptive guests and effects on shared neighbourhood amenities.

The Code will also include a new dispute resolution process to resolve complaints, and NSW Fair Trading will have powers to police online platforms and letting agents.

“Under our ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy, hosts or guests who commit two serious breaches of the Code within two years will be banned for five, and be listed on an exclusion register,” Mr Kean said.

“These are the toughest laws in the country and will make sure residents are protected while ensuring that hosts who do the right thing are not penalised.”

Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts said new state-wide planning rules would also come into force, including:

  • Allowing short-term holiday letting as exempt development 365 days per year when the host is present;
  • When the host is not present, a limit for hosts to rent out properties via short-term holiday letting of 180 days in Greater Sydney, with 365 days allowed in all other areas of New South Wales;
  • Councils outside Greater Sydney having the power to decrease the 365 day threshold to no lower than 180 days per year; and,
  • Certain planning rules will apply to properties on bushfire prone land.
“The 180 days a year limit approximately equates to weekends, school holidays and public holidays so we felt this was a fair and balanced approach,” Mr Roberts said.

“Councils outside Greater Sydney can decide if permitting short-term holiday letting for the entire year is acceptable for their local communities. This recognises the importance of tourism in some regional communities.”

New Heavy Vehicle Brake Standards Will Save Lives

June 5, 2018: The Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities
Heavy vehicle operators and other road users will soon be safer on the roads following new Australian Design Rules (ADRs) aimed at reducing heavy vehicle rollovers and similar loss-of-control crashes.

The ADRs will mandate Electronic Stability Control (ESC) for new heavy vehicle trailers from July 2019 and for selected new heavy trucks and buses from November 2020.

This will bring the same life-saving technology to Australia as is currently required in Europe, the US and other markets.

More than 200 people are killed on Australian roads each year as a result of fatal crashes involving heavy trucks or buses.

Approximately 20 per cent of those tragic deaths can be linked to rollovers or loss of control, so by having advanced braking systems fitted we can save an estimated 126 lives and reduce the number of serious injuries by more than 1,000 over the period of regulation.

These changes will greatly improve safety for all motorists and reduce the impact of road trauma on Australian communities by an estimated $216 million.

Heavy vehicles typically have large masses, long length and relatively long stopping distances when compared to light vehicles, thereby increasing both the risk and severity of crashes involving heavy vehicles.

Many heavy truck and bus rollovers involve only one vehicle and fitting ESC will, in many cases, prevent these kinds of crashes occurring.

Feedback from industry and road agencies to a Regulation Impact Statement released earlier this year indicated broad support for the introduction of new ADRs for ESC and related Roll Stability Control (RSC) systems.

Industry and governments have been active in encouraging, or requiring the use of advanced braking systems such as ESC, Antilock Brake Systems (ABS), Electronic Braking Systems (EBS) and RSC in heavy vehicles.

Peak industry bodies have also worked in partnership with the Commonwealth to minimise the regulatory costs, including by harmonising the ADR as much as possible with other major markets around the world.

Consideration of ESC was an agreed action under action item 16(c) of the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 and action item 8 of the National Road Safety Action Plan 2015-2017.

Heavy vehicles represent three per cent of registered Australian vehicles and account for just over eight per cent of total vehicle kilometres travelled on public roads, but on average, they are involved in close to 17 per cent of fatal crashes.

The new ADRs can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation at (ADR 35/06) (ADR 38/05), including the final Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) (

An overview of the new requirements and changes to the ADRs can be found in Appendix 11 of the RIS.

AUSTRAC And CBA Agree $700m Penalty

June 4th, 2018: AUSTRAC
An agreement has been reached today between AUSTRAC and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) for a $700 million penalty to resolve Federal Court proceedings relating to serious breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) laws.

The parties will jointly approach the Federal Court seeking orders to this effect. It is anticipated that a hearing on penalty will be scheduled in the coming months.

If agreed by the Federal Court this will represent the largest ever civil penalty in Australian corporate history.

AUSTRAC’s enforcement action against CBA followed exhaustive investigations into CBA’s AML/CTF compliance and risk management practices, particularly in relation to its Intelligent Deposit Machines (IDMs). 

These investigations, undertaken in partnership with the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force and Western Australia Police, identified that CBA’s IDMs were being used to launder the illicit proceeds of crime. 

In reaching today’s agreement, CBA has admitted it contravened the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act) on 53,750 occasions. 

In summary, CBA accepted that:
  • it failed to carry out an appropriate assessment of the money laundering and terrorism financing (ML/TF) risks of its IDMs prior to October 2017
  • it failed to complete the introduction of appropriate controls to mitigate and manage the ML/TF risks of IDMs prior to April 2018
  • it failed to provide 53,506 threshold transaction reports to AUSTRAC on time for cash transactions of $10,000 or more through IDMs from November 2012 to September 2015, having a total value of about $625 million
  • for a period of three years, it did not comply with the requirements of its AML/CTF program relating to monitoring transactions on 778,370 accounts
  • it failed to report suspicious matters on time, or at all, involving transactions in the tens of millions of dollars
  • even after it became aware of suspected money laundering or structuring on CBA accounts, it did not monitor its customers to mitigate and manage ML/TF risk, including the ongoing ML/TF risks of doing business with those customers.
AUSTRAC’s CEO, Nicole Rose PSM said this outcome sends a strong message to industry that serious non-compliance with the AML/CTF Act will not be tolerated.

“As we have seen in this case, criminals will exploit poor business practices to launder the proceeds of their crimes,” Ms Rose said. 

“This has real impacts on the everyday lives of Australians and puts the community at risk by increasing opportunities for terrorists to support attacks here and overseas, and enabling organised crime groups to peddle drugs to our families and friends.

“We know that businesses are the first line of defence in protecting the community and our financial system from criminal abuse, and it is critical for AML/CTF compliance and risk management to be embedded in business strategy and practices.

“I hope this result alerts the financial sector to the consequences of poor compliance, and reinforces that businesses need to take their obligations seriously.”

Ms Rose added that AUSTRAC’s focus is to work collaboratively with and support industry to deter criminal activity and welcomed CBA’s decision to commence work on a Program of Action to address their AML/CTF compliance failings.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with CBA as it progresses this work and I am encouraged by the manner in which CBA has handled these negotiations.

“We want compliance to be voluntary, and even taken on with enthusiasm, however we will not shy away from using our enforcement powers where necessary. In the end our role is about protecting the community and we take this role seriously.”

Listening To Gut Noises Could Improve Diagnosis Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

June 5th, 2018
Utilising newly adapted artificial intelligence, researchers have developed an acoustic belt that offers a new way to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by listening to the noises in a patient's gut, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2018.

Study implications
"IBS is an extremely common disorder that is notoriously difficult to diagnose. We wanted to find a way to listen to the rumblings and grumblings of the gut to identify patterns that characterize chronic gut conditions, like IBS," said Barry Marshall, AC, FRACP, FAA, FRS, MBBS, Nobel Laureate, director of the Marshall Centre at the University of Western Australia and a lead researcher on the study. "We used acoustic sensing technology that was originally created to track the munching sounds of termites to see if we could detect problems in the human gut."

Marshall received the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with collaborator J. Robin Warren for the unexpected discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.

IBS is a common and often painful condition that causes bloating, diarrhea and constipation. It is estimated to affect more than 10 percent of the world's population. However, IBS can be difficult to diagnose and often requires patients to undergo a colonoscopy. Many patients with IBS go undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.

Study design
In this preliminary study, researchers developed a basic prototype belt that uses machine learning techniques to identify complex features and patterns of the sounds collected from within the abdomen. They recruited study participants with an existing clinical diagnosis of IBS or with healthy digestive systems. Participants wore the belt and their bowel sounds were recorded for two hours post-fasting, and then for 40 minutes after a standardized meal.

Study results
The preliminary results showed that the acoustic index output of the belt predicts IBS with high accuracy, allowing researchers to effectively differentiate between the two groups. Recordings from the first 31 IBS and 37 healthy participants were used to build the IBS acoustic index model. A statistical method called "leave one out cross-validation" was used with this data set and yielded 90 percent sensitivity and 92 percent specificity for IBS diagnosis. Independent testing using the next 15 IBS and 15 healthy subjects revealed 87 percent sensitivity and 87 percent specificity for IBS diagnosis.

"This study allowed us to achieve proof of concept. Once we further develop the belt and test it on more patients, this tool will be intended for use in primary care settings for the diagnosis of IBS," said Josephine Muir, PhD, associate director of the Marshall Centre at the University of Western Australia, another researcher on the study. "The hope is that this new technology can offer a less- invasive way to diagnose this painful, and sometimes debilitating, condition."

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.