Inbox and Environment News: Issue 493

May 9 - 15, 2021: Issue 493

Osprey Nest At Palm Beach

Thursday May 6, 2021: per EagleCAM
I received as message about a pair of Sea-Eagles nesting on a crane at Palm Beach Sydney. What to do? I suspected they may have been Ospreys (though that still would have been a problem). They were inspected by a NPWS Ranger and indeed were Ospreys. Great news though. The Crane company will leave then there for the breeding period. Good news all around. Photo courtesy Eagle Cam

Another Local Tawny Frogmouth Road Death: Bird Strike Project

Tuesday May 4, 2021

A resident of Elanora tried to save a Tawny Frogmouth that had been hit by a car and left on the road earlier this week. The bird, with differing size in pupils, indicating head trauma with associated neurological issues, also had a badly broken wing and unfortunately had to be euthanised after the gentleman who found it, cycling, took it to a local vet.

The loss is a reminder that with increased housing targets, poor transport options and more people driving cars on these roads, our local wildlife is at risk if commuters continue to speed in these areas. If you want to keep seeing these other residents the message is - slow down in these poorly lit road channels, particularly along Powder Works road which seems to be claiming more wildlife than other thoroughfares at present.

Owls and nightjars frequent roads to hunt easily obtainable rodents that feed next to the road. Also busy roads fragmenting owl habitat can be also a mortality factor, especially for juveniles either searching for an easy prey, or dispersing from a nesting site. 

Nocturnal bird habitat is increasingly at risk from rapidly expanding urbanisation and development pressure. Deforestation and habitat fragmentation continues to escalate in both urban and rural areas in Australia, with only 16% of Australia now forested and the 2019/2020 bushfires have significantly impacted the distribution of many of our nocturnal birds. In urban areas, large hollow-bearing trees, which are used annually by most nocturnal birds to nest, are often removed for safety and to reduce risk to infrastructure. For many nocturnal birds these old, hollow-bearing trees take several hundred years to develop and are now critical habitat in urban environments - further, there is fierce competition from native and introduced animals for the remaining hollows. Whilst retaining hollow-bearing trees is essential for many owl species, understorey vegetation is important for many other night birds. Grass owls nest on the ground in open grassy areas under tussocks or sedges, whilst Nightjars often nest in scrapes on the ground amongst leaf litter.

The urban environment does impact nocturnal species differently. Some, such as the Powerful Owl seem to be more common in our cities now. These owls can do well in forested urban green spaces due to a ready source of prey (e.g. possums, birds and fruit bats), however increasing rates of development pressure are threatening key habitat features like tree hollows and roosts and collisions with cars and windows are significantly impacting the population of many nocturnal species. If we wish to keep owls and other nocturnal birds in our urban neighbourhoods, targeted management practices that work to retain or rebuild key habitat features and mitigate threats are essential. 

Owls can be killed by ingesting poisoned rodents. Insectivorous nocturnal birds, such as Frogmouths and Nightjars are also highly susceptible to secondary poisoning, particularly from termiticides. To avoid secondary poisoning pest control needs to use poisons that have no secondary transfer, and that are single dose rather than multi dose.

Bird Strike Project: BirdLife Australia

Up to one billion birds strike glass in North America each year, and millions more hit windows each year around the globe. This is an enormous and heart-breaking number - although we don't know much about bird strike in Australia, the loss of birds through car strikes and glass strikes is happening here on a daily basis. With your help, BirdLife Australia can learn more about where and why it's happening, and work together to prevent one of the highest causes of bird injury and mortality.

The Bird Strike Project aims to provide a single management point for our partners in data collection, solutions, and eventually go beyond simple solutions and work across industry to get bird-friendly technology into buildings and other infrastructure. Bird strike has also been assessed as a major threat to Australia’s urban bird communities by a panel of experts during stakeholder workshops for BirdLife Australia’s Urban Bird Conservation Action Plan (UBCAP).  

How can you get involved?

You can report any bird window/car strikes using our online survey at

What do we know about window strike?

  1. Migratory species are some of the most vulnerable to window collisions 
  2. Collisions are more frequent during autumn migrations and spring breeding seasons 
  3. Species who exhibit fast, agile and direct flying patterns are more susceptible to window collisions  
  4. Flocking species are less likely to collide with windows 
  5. Large areas of transparent or reflective glass increased the risk of window collisions 
  6. Windows that reflect sky or vegetation may appear as an available flight path or habitat and can cause a bird to collide with a window 
  7. Individual buildings can have their own unique set of characteristics that influence the risk of window collisions 
  8. Collisions are more of a risk in older neighbourhoods with complex vegetation 
  9. Landscaping features such as birdbaths, birdfeeders, resource-rich trees and water features bring birds closer to windows and increase the risk of a collision. 
  10. Low-rise buildings close to urban greenspaces are hotspots for window collisions 
  11. Suburban and rural areas have a higher collision risk  

How can you make your windows safe for birds?

Download our brochure below to undertake the strike risk checklist and read about ways to strike proof your home and office

Bird strike flyer 

What should you do if you find an injured bird?

Please see our FAQ on sick or injured birds, including contacts for wildlife rescue groups around the country or download a pdf: 

PDF - What should you do if you find a sick or injured bird?

 Tawny Frogmouth, NSW - photo by JJ Harrison

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association's (PNHA) Pittwater Nature #5 

now on our website:

What's inside: Trad (Wandering Jew) biocontrol smut is becoming established in Trad in Ingleside Chase Reserve, where it was released last October. Gary rears a Common Crow butterfly from an egg, Lynleigh Greig tells us what happens to native animals taken into care, young Powerful Owl in Katandra Reserve, the secret to Bill Nicholson's longevity, Plateau Park and the Cryptostylis orchid wasp,  and lots more. Let us know what you think about Pittwater Nature.

Common Crow Butterfly Euploea core. Photo: Gary Harris

Newport Community Garden Autumn Harvest

Still harvesting some produce as we prep the beds for winter. Newport Community Garden is Newport residents creating sustainable gardens in public spaces; strengthening community, improving health, reconnecting with nature.

We meet every Saturday from 10am till about midday at Woolcott Reserve, Newport.
If you would like to join us please email us at
Everyone is welcome!!

North Turimetta

photo by Joe Mills

Locally Extinct Fish Return To Macquarie River After 70 Years

May 4, 2021

More than 70 years after the species were last recorded in the catchment, 7,500 juvenile Macquarie Perch have been released back into the Macquarie River catchment at Winburndale Dam, Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall announced today.

Mr Marshall said the Macquarie Perch species had been named after the very river near Bathurst it had been released back into.

“After a 70-year hiatus from the local waterway, it is very special to see more than 7,500 of these Macquarie Perch return home,” Mr Marshall said.

“We are very excited to be reintroducing this species here after they were bred at the NSW Government’s flagship fish hatchery at Narrandera.

“It is our hope these fingerlings will grow up to establish a new population here and once again become abundant in the Macquarie River catchment from which they derive their name.

“We have seen some of the most challenging conditions for native fish over the last few years, with drought and then bushfire runoff causing considerable harm to local populations, so restocking initiatives like this are vital in supporting their recovery.”

Member for Bathurst Paul Toole hailed the release a significant moment for the local community.

“While it is always fantastic to see fish returned to our local waterways, this is an extra special release of more than 7,500 Macquarie Perch,” Mr Toole said.

“They were last recorded in this catchment more than 70 years ago, and I know our region’s passionate fishos will welcome their return.

“Conditions are now ideal for these fish to flourish in and it’s expected their populations will be able to thrive over the coming years.”

Mr Marshall said the project was funded under the Government’s $10 million 2019/20 NSW Native Fish Rescue Program.

“Our native fish species and our aquatic environment are precious resources that we must protect for future generations,” Mr Marshall said.

“That’s why the Government launched this large-scale effort to create a ‘Noah’s Ark’ program to conserve native fish after the devastating drought.

“This stocking is one of many across the state this season that has seen us deliver on our promise to do everything we can to keep these species healthy and sustainable well into the future.”

(L-R) Stewart Fielder, Dean Gilligan and Abagail Elizur releasing Macquarie Perch into the Macquarie River catchment. Image courtesy NSW DPI

Waste Levy Exemption Extended For Waste Facilities Transitioning To Organics

May 3, 2021

The waste levy exemption on mixed waste organic outputs has been extended for four Alternative Waste Treatment facilities that are transitioning to other sustainable resource recovery methods using organics waste.

Mixed waste organic outputs (also known as MWOO) are the end-product of a practice which aims to separate the organic waste in household red-lid bins from other waste for re-use, rather than sending it to landfill.

The levy exemption extension has been approved for a further 12 months for mixed waste organic outputs produced at the following four licensed waste facilities:

  • Suez Kemps Creek facility
  • Suez Port Stephens facility at Raymond Terrace
  • Veolia facility at Tarago, and
  • Eastern Creek Operations facility.

Environment Protection Authority (EPA) CEO Tracy Mackey said the extension will waive the waste levy on mixed waste organic outputs processed at the sites during their transition away from the material and moving to organics recycling, until 1 May 2022.

“A waste levy exemption for mixed waste organic outputs has been in place since October 2018 when the EPA revoked the resource recovery exemption for the application of this material to land, due to risks associated with chemical and physical contaminants, such as glass and plastics,” Ms Mackey said.

“This additional 12-month extension was based on these sites being able to demonstrate that they are transitioning to more sustainable resource recovery outcomes. It is great to see these four operators are adopting new practices.

“To help affected local councils and industry operators adopt more sustainable management measures for their organic waste, following the ban, the NSW Government announced a $24 million alternative waste treatment transition package in March 2020.”

The exemption for the Biomass Solutions facility in Coffs Harbour has not been extended meaning the waste levy will apply to mixed waste organic material processed at the facility.

“Unlike the other facilities that have been approved for the purposes of the MWOO levy exemption, Biomass has not demonstrated sufficient progress or intent to transition to more sustainable resource recovery outcomes, which are necessary to achieving a positive long-term environmental outcome,” Ms Mackey said.

More information about mixed waste organic outputs is available on the EPA website here

North Head National Park Uprgrade: Give Your Feedback

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is pleased to release the concept plans for the North Head Scenic Area upgrade.
These concept plans have been informed by detailed investigations and analysis. The aim of this project is to enhance visitor access and safety to the North Head Scenic Area.

Key design features include:
  • - reconfiguring the car parks to provide more accessible parking spaces and overflow parking.
  • ·  extended landscaped space for visitors to enjoy views across the harbour.
  • · installation of pedestrian crossings and a pedestrian path to improve safety, access and circulation.
  • · installation of a new bus stop to the east of the Bella Vista Café.
  • ·  improvements to the entry of the Fairfax Walking Track (currently closed).
New interpretation and signage will also form part of this project.

The concept plans for the North Head Scenic Area are available for download from the project webpage.

NPWS welcomes your feedback on these concepts prior to the finalisation of plans.
If you have any questions or comments on the concept plans, you can complete the online form on the project webpage or email the project team: by Monday, 17th May 2021.

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Next Forum + May Activities

Zoom Meeting- 7pm May 31st, 2021
Aboriginal Art and Occupation Sites of the Northern Beaches
Eric Keidge (Field Officer, NPWS) and Bob Conroy (formerly with NPWS) will be giving a presentation on their knowledge and experience in identifying, recording and protecting some of the Aboriginal art and occupation sites in the Northern Beaches area, including the Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment.

With due respect to those Aboriginal people past and present (and future) who identify with this area, the presentation will make reference to collaboration and special projects undertaken with the Aboriginal Heritage Office and the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council\, There will also be information given about site dating and significance.

Register to participate in this Zoom session and you might find your future walks in Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment more interesting than before because you can see evidence of the rich Aboriginal heritage located here. When you register, you will be emailed a link by which you can join the Zoom session at 7pm on May 31. Don’t miss it! Register now by emailing:
Find out more about FoNLC in: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment

May Activities
Paddle: Narrabeen Lagoon's Secret Creeks - Sunday May 9
From the Western Basin to the outlet to the sea, you'll see it all. On this leisurely paddle you can swim the lagoon from a clean, sandy beach or take a plunge in the ocean or nearby rock pool. Discover the unexpected creeks that flow into the lagoon, including astonishing Deep Creek, with its migratory birds from as far away as Russia. Visit an island, experience the exotic wildlife - pelicans, black swan, maybe a fish will jump in your boat! Hear about the Aboriginal history and what's being done to protect the remaining bushland.
Led by former president of Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Tony Carr. Kayak hire $108pp.
Full day. Easy, with lots of stops. Suit first timers, tuition given. Location Northern Beaches - good public transport connections. 45 mins from the CBD.
To register: Phone 0417 502 056 (Tony Carr)

Explorative Walk in Catchment: 10am Saturday May 15
Meet at 10am in Morgan Road and walk from there to the corner of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment.
Bookings essential: Contact Conny on 0432 643 295

Avalon Community Garden

Avalon Community Garden’s primary purpose is to foster, encourage and facilitate community gardening in Pittwater on a not-for-profit basis.

The garden was started in 2010 by a group of locals who worked in conjunction with the support of Barrenjoey High School to develop a space that could be used by the local community, to grow

vegetables, herbs, plants and flowers, and practice sustainable gardening techniques to benefit its members and the community overall.

The garden has been very successful and has grown and developed since its inception, in terms of its footprint, infrastructure, variety of produce and diversity of members. The garden welcomes new members all year round. Levels of contribution range from multiple times a week, to once a month. Your contribution is always welcome, and it is acknowledged people will have varying levels of commitment. 

We encourage you to join and start enjoying the following benefits associated with community gardening:

They provide benefits for individuals and for the community as a whole. Community gardens provide education on gardening, recycling and sustainable use of natural resources.

They develop community connections and provide a means of engaging youth, children, the elderly and the disabled and otherwise marginalised individuals in mutually enjoyable and rewarding activities, thus helping to develop more functional and resilient communities.

People involved in community gardens say they improve wellbeing by increasing physical activity and reducing stress, providing opportunities to interact meaningfully with new friends, give time for relaxation and reflection as well as an opportunity to improve their interconnectedness with nature.

To get involved take a look around the site, join the Facebook group and come along and visit on a Sunday morning between 10 and 12 at the garden within Barrenjoey High School on Tasman Road, North Avalon.

Bushfire Conference June 2021

Hosted by the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales
Join us for over three days, as we explore this year's theme "Cool, Warm, Hot: the burning questions" which will examine how different fire intensities can influence ecosystems and communities in a changing climate.

Hear from leading academics, practitioners, Traditional Owners, and decision-makers including Former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW Greg Mullins, Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean, Emeritus Professor and author Bill Gammage, Professor David Lindenmayer, Dr Mark Ooi and many more.

Presentations will investigate the effects of low, medium and high-intensity fires on the four sub-themes: climate change; fire ecology; ferals, weeds and restoration; and community resilience. The conference will examine how to incorporate and respond to cool, warm and hot fires in fire management as part of an optimal fire regime to achieve multiple objectives for biodiversity and cultural values, hazard reduction objectives and community resilience.

Building on themes from previous conferences, we will continue to showcase scientific research, current practices, on-ground projects and cultural burning to highlight lessons from across a range of ecosystems and communities. 

Field Day
Join us for a face-to-face conference field day to learn more about cool, warm and hot fire, at North Head on Friday 4th June. Come for a walk to see what has changed after recent fire events, hear about threatened species recovery and regeneration, and discuss lessons learnt and new approaches in fire, environmental and heritage management from experts and land managers. Hear from organisations including: Harbour Trust, NPWS, Northern Sydney Aboriginal Heritage Office, Northern Beaches Council, Fire and Rescue NSW, North Head Sanctuary Foundation and Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Transport to the location will be provided from Manly Wharf, along with morning tea and lunch, the day will go from 9am - 3pm. Tickets are limited so get in quick.

Location: online, with a face-to-face Field Day

Tuesday 4th, 9:30 - 11:30 am and 2 - 4pm
Wednesday 5th, 9:30 - 11:30 am and 2 - 4pm
Thursday 6th, 9:30 - 11:30 am and 2 - 4:30pm
Field Day 4th of June, 9am - 3pm

NSW Floodplain Harvesting

May 6, 2021
The NSW Government’s Floodplain Harvesting Policy is one step closer to completion. Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said three amendments made to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 today will allow for the licensing and measurement of floodplain harvesting, making the country’s most robust floodplain harvesting rules enforceable by law.

“Measuring and licensing floodplain harvesting has been talked about for 20 years now and we are getting on with the job of making the Floodplain Harvesting Policy a reality,” Minister Pavey said.

“I’ve said all along, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. The amendments made today are a significant step in bringing floodplain harvesting into a clear and enforceable regulatory framework, ensuring that floodplain harvesting remains within legal limits.

“The scale and complexity of this massive reform should not be underestimated, and I want to thank those communities, farmers and other stakeholders who have contributed to discussions held over the last few years.”

All three amendments were consulted on extensively in 2020 and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has considered all feedback in finalising the regulations.

The regulations:
  • Set out the process for determining license entitlements and provide consistency in this process across the state;
  • Specify how floodplain harvesting will be measured and monitored and sets out metering requirements for water users;
  • Provide an exemption for rainfall runoff into an irrigation tailwater drain in certain locations, during specified times.
“These regulations give 12,000 farmers and farmer-owned irrigation corporations certainty over what will be required to become compliant and they improve transparency by clearly outlining how the policy is being implemented,” Minister Pavey said.

“They also give us a clear framework to continue rolling out the policy in other areas of the state where floodplain harvesting occurs.

“Despite the uncertainty created by the disallowance of transitional arrangements by the Upper House last year, we are pushing through with implementing the necessary changes that will see NSW become the first Basin state to accurately measure and regulate floodplain harvesting.”

View information on the regulations and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment publication of “What We Heard” and Water Management (General) Amendment. (Floodplain Harvesting Access Licences). Regulation 2021

New Floodplain Harvesting Regulations Are A ‘Death Warrant’ For The Darling River

April 29, 2021
New floodplain harvesting regulations gazetted today by the NSW Government will mean the end of the Darling-Baaka river and must be disallowed by the NSW Upper House next week, says Cate Faehrmann, Greens MP and water spokesperson.

“These regulations legalise the historic take of millions of litres of water that should have been sent downstream for communities and the environment and now will never get there,” said Cate Faehrmann.

“The Water Minister has just wilfully signed the Darling-Baaka river’s death warrant, it will be the final nail in the coffin for the Darling-Baaka river if it is not disallowed. 

“Despite the ICAC finding that many government decisions over the past decade have been inconsistent with the Water Management Act and the priorities of water sharing plans, the Water Minister continues to act in the interests of her big irrigator mates.

“The massive volumes of water these regulations will permanently give to a handful of big irrigators in the northern basin while the Darling-Baaka faces ecological collapse is an absolute disgrace. 

“The regulations also allow irrigators to take an unlimited amount of rainfall runoff which will be devastating for the Darling-Baaka river which relies on these flows.

“After a record flood event, dams in the north are near overflowing, while the Menindee lakes remain less than one third full. These new laws will legitimise and make permanent this massive over extraction,” said Ms Faehrmann.

The Nature Conservation Council is urging members of parliament to disallow new regulations legalising the practice of floodplain harvesting that were released, saying that allowing irrigators to divert floodwaters under the regulations will starve rivers, wetlands, and downstream communities and ecologies of huge volumes of water. 

“Many of our rivers and wetlands are already in a perilous state and this new regulation that will deprive them on a huge volume of precious water will have drastic consequences,” said Chris Gambian, Chief Executive of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW. 

“The environment movement urges all parliamentarians to vote to disallow this dreadful regulation and protect our rivers, wetlands and downstream communities. 

“Floodplain harvesting diverts a huge volume of water away from our rivers into private dams, and handing out new licences without proper safeguards, sustainable limits and guaranteed downstream targets will be repeating the mistake of overallocation of water that has already damaged the Murray-Darling Basin.  

“Many of our wetlands, floodplain environments, and lakes, and all the animals and plants they support, rely on regular flood events.  To allow irrigators to take up to 500% of a licence allocation in a single year is a recipe for disaster and will see important floodwaters stolen from the environment and downstream communities.  

“We’ve seen how hard and expensive it is to undo the mistakes of over allocating water resources in the past. 
"The regulations introduced by the government do not have the safeguards, limits and downstream targets to ensure that any diversion of floodwaters is sustainable. It is a death sentence for our rivers and wetlands.” 

Five Projects Set To Accelerate Murray Darling Basin Plan

May 6, 2021
Implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan has shifted up a gear, following agreement between the Commonwealth and Basin states. Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey has announced details of the five accelerated key Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) projects agreed to at last week’s Murray Darling Ministerial Council meeting.

The projects being proposed for acceleration include the:
  • Sustainable Diversion Limit offsets in the Lower Murray: Locks 8 & 9 Project
  • Yanco Creek Modernisation Project (Modernising Supply Systems for Effluent Creeks Project)
  • Murrumbidgee & Murray National Park Project
  • Koondrook-Perricoota Flow Enabling Works (part of the Constraints Measures Program)
  • Mid-Murray Anabranches Constraints Demonstration Reach (part of the Constraints Measures Program)
Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the five projects will help NSW get on with the job of delivering the economic, social, environmental and cultural outcomes sought by the Basin Plan.

“These five projects, together with those projects already complete or on track for completion, will deliver approximately 75 per cent of the 605 GL water recovery target by 30 June 2024,” Mrs Pavey said.

“It is estimated these projects alone will deliver up to 45GL in NSW previously identified as being unrecoverable by the 2024 timeframe.

“The Locks 8 and 9 Project includes the installation of waterway structures allowing for flow regulation and fish passage within the Capitts and Bunberoo Creek system which will increase fish growth and promote bird breeding.

“The Yanco Creek Modernisation Project will keep the Yanco, Billabong, Colombo and Forest Creeks flowing and improve fish passage and habitats.

“These proposed projects will also help boost jobs in regional areas by creating an estimated 450 direct and 850 indirect regional jobs.

In addition to agreement being reached last week to accelerate a suite of projects to enable delivery by 2024, Ministers have recognised the unique sensitives around Menindee and Yanco and have agreed that NSW will spend the next two months re-working these projects.

"We have heard loud and clear from locals that they have felt they have been sidelined in previous attempts to get these projects off the ground.

“I have made it clear to both our NSW agencies and the Commonwealth that if these projects are to become a reality, communities will need to drive these projects with local knowledge the key to success.

“Community is at the heart of the success of these projects and locals have repeatedly said they have projects which can deliver good environmental, social and economic outcomes. Now is the time to make those ideas a reality.”

For details on the SDLAM Acceleration Program including full details of the five accelerated projects, please visit NSW Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects.

Western Slopes Gas Pipeline Demise Welcome; Spells Further Uncertainty For Santos

May 6, 2021
APA Group’s failure to submit an Environmental Impact Statement for its controversial Western Slopes Pipeline by the deadline this week raises doubt over the future of the fiercely opposed Santos Narrabri gasfield, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

An email (see below) sent to members of the Western Slopes Pipeline Community Consultative Committee yesterday (May 5) revealed the company had not submitted its EIS by the due date (May 4).

The Western Slopes pipeline would have sent gas from Santos’ Narrabri Project 460km south to connect with the Moomba Sydney gas pipeline near Condobolin.

North west NSW stock and station agent and beef producer David Chadwick, whose property would have been covered by three kilometres of APA’s pipeline, said he was cautiously optimistic following the news.

“Given the performance of the gas industry, and all the smoke and mirrors it puts up, perhaps APA has looked at the economics of and massive community opposition to Santos’ Narrabri project and determined it would become a stranded asset and a very bad business decision to base a pipeline on,” he said.

“The market is moving at breakneck speed towards renewables, and to think the Morrison Government is subsidising this filthy industry using taxpayer money and almost unanimous community opposition, really makes you wonder what’s going on between the government and gas industry.

“We didn’t want this pipeline due to the biosecurity threat and the contamination risks the Santos gasfield poses to the Great Artesian Basin.

“Gas is mother nature’s melanoma and to kill off our water in a pointless quest for a sunset industry is nothing short of disgraceful.”

Narrabri businessman and Western Slopes Pipeline Community Consultative Committee member Rohan Boehm said it was an “unmitigated bust for APA”.

“This is one of the country’s largest pipeline businesses that is now investing in renewable energy and hasn’t even turned up for the show for its proposed gas pipeline,” he said.

“If you want anything indicative of the decline of new gas projects - this is it.

“Even three years ago it was considered that by the 2020s we would be where we are now in terms of energy transformation. This indicates a massive decline in the viability of fossil fuels generally in Australia."

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the APA announcement meant Santos was looking “increasingly isolated”.

“The local community has been waiting and worrying about this pipeline, just like it is waiting and worrying about the zombie PELs,” she said.

“We’re sick and tired of the government dancing to the tune of the gas industry and making rural communities live in uncertainty for years.”

However, Lock the Gate Alliance remains concerned after APA Group announced it had done a deal with notorious frackers Origin Energy to “expand capacity” of existing infrastructure on the east coast to bring CSG and fracked gas south from Queensland.

Email to CCC members:

Subject: APA Western Slopes Pipeline Project
Date: Wednesday, May 05, 2021 13:12
Dear Committee Members,
It has been sometime since I last contacted you - November 2018 in fact. At that time APA advised that it intended to delay lodgement of the EIS for the pipeline project until the application for the Narrabri Gas Project had been determined.
The SEARs for the Westerrn Slopes Pipeline Project required the project application and EIS to be lodged with the DPIE by 4 May 2021. APA has advised today that it did not lodge the application and EIS yesterday (Tuesday). I understand APA is now considering its options in relation to the project.
I will keep you advised of any developments in respect of the pipeline project.

EDO To Give Evidence At Another Hearing Into EPBC Act Amendment Bills

May 4, 2021
By Head of Policy Reform Rachel Walmsley

Today, EDO is giving evidence at a parliamentary inquiry hearing into another EPBC amendment bill – this time it is the EPBC Amendment (Standards and Assurance) Bill 2021. 

This is our third parliamentary hearing on EPBC amendment bills in recent months, and we have two more coming up.  

The bills proposed by the government continue to focus on devolving environmental approval powers to the states and territories, while the government has still not made a formal response to the 38 recommendations of Prof Graeme Samuel’s Independent Review of the EPBC Act.  

This piecemeal legislative approach that cherry picks certain recommendations is at odds with the desperately needed comprehensive overhaul of our national environmental laws that the Independent Review identified. 

The Final Report of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) by Professor Graeme Samuel was released on 28 January 2021. 

It includes 38 recommendations and three tranches of law reform to overhaul the EPBC Act.  

The first tranche includes recommendations to establish a full suite of legally enforceable national environmental standards; an Environmental Assurance Commissioner; oversight committees; strong compliance and enforcement; bilateral agreement amendments; an Indigenous participation and engagement standard and process for reform, and a revised offset policy, amongst other recommendations. (See: ‘Trajectory Unsustainable’: 10 Key Findings of the EPBC Act Review Final Report).

The Australian Government has still not made a formal response to the 38 recommendations in the Final Report.  

Instead, there are now two government bills before parliament aimed at facilitating devolution of environmental approval powers to states and territories. (There are also three private member’s bills proposing to amend the EPBC Act that have been introduced and sent to committee inquiries). 

EDO was extensively involved in the independent review process along with other expert stakeholders, and does not support the current approach of piecemeal amendment bills, including the EPBC Amendment (Standards & Assurance) Bill. EDO does not support the interim standards proposed by the Federal Government that are simply a description of current failed settings. The proposed approach is inconsistent with the Final Report, which recommends an interrelated package of durable reforms.  

Facilitating devolution vs comprehensive reform 
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2020 (Streamlining Environmental Approvals Bill) was introduced in August 2020 to facilitate the devolution of Commonwealth environmental approval powers to states and territories. It was referred to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications, which reported in November 2020. EDO’s analysis of the Bill is available in our submission to the Senate Committee.1 This controversial Bill pre-empted the release of the Samuel Review Final Report, and has not yet passed the Senate. 

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Standards and Assurance) Bill 2021 (Standards and Assurance Bill) has now been introduced in order to garner support for the Streamlining Environmental Approvals Bill. The new bill is designed to address two key recommendations of the Samuel review: to establish a power to make legally enforceable national environmental standards and to establish an Environmental Assurance Commissioner (EAC).  

While it is a critical first step to establish a power to make legally enforceable national environmental standards, the proposed requirements for quality, application and enforcement of standards are weak; and the proposed Commissioner is a far cry from the ‘strong cop on the beat’ initially recommended by Graeme Samuel’s Interim Report. As drafted, the Bill does not reflect the fundamental Samuel recommendation that national standards must be clear and consistently applied and enforced. The focus of the Bill is to facilitate devolution – ie, to have the bare minimum of business-as-usual standards and a nominal Commissioner in place – in order to justify handing over approval powers under the current framework. This is inconsistent with the Final Report that confirmed current legal settings have failed to protect the environment and specifically warned against cherry-picking certain recommendations just for the purpose of devolving Commonwealth powers to states and territories.  

In summary, the amendments proposed in the Standards and Assurance Bill do not justify support for the Streamlining Environmental Approvals Bill as they do not address all the preconditions that Samuel has recommended for determining potential accreditation of states and states and territories to make decisions consistent with legally enforceable national environmental standards.  

These crucial reforms must be done properly. Plastering a further layer of ministerial discretion and a constrained commissioner over the failed existing settings, will not achieve the foundational and structural reform needed to address the extinction crisis as identified by Professor Samuel. 

Our overarching recommendation is that the bills should be withdrawn and replaced by a comprehensive legislative package that implements Tranche 1 of reforms identified in the Final Report. Australia’s environment needs comprehensive and durable reforms that reverse the extinction crisis and deliver ecologically sustainable outcomes for generations to come. 

Fox scents are so potent they can force a building evacuation. Understanding them may save our wildlife

Stuart McLeanUniversity of Tasmania

Foxes, like other animals, use scent to communicate and survive. They urinate to leave their mark, depositing a complex mix of chemicals to send messages to other foxes. Research by myself and colleagues has uncovered new information about these scents that could help control fox numbers.

Urine scent marking behaviour has long been known in foxes, but there has not been a recent study of the chemical composition of fox urine.

We found foxes produce a set of chemicals unknown in other animals. Some of these chemicals are also found in flowers or skunk sprays. One is so potent, a tiny leak was enough to force the evacuation of a building we were working in.

The results suggest a highly evolved language of chemical communication underlying foxes’ social structure and behaviour. Our research could help improve these methods and protect vulnerable native wildlife from one of Australia’s worst feral pests.

fox with dead animal
Foxes are one of Australia’s worst feral pests. Shutterstock

The Fox Problem

The European red fox was introduced into Australia in the 1870s for recreational hunting, and within 20 years had expanded to pest proportions. The animals are now found in all states and territories except Tasmania.

Foxes hunt and kill native wildlife and have helped drive several species of small mammals and birds to extinction. They also kill livestock, spread weeds and can threaten the health of humans and pets by transmitting disease.

Current fox control methods mainly depend on lethal baits, which can also kill other animals, and trapping and shooting which alone cannot reduce the large fox populations now present.

Knowledge of the chemistry of fox society could help develop new, better methods of population control.

Read more: When introduced species are cute and loveable, culling them is a tricky proposition

fox killing turtle on beach
Foxes are a big killer of native wildlife. Shutterstock

Making Sense Of Smell

Mammals, including humans and foxes, smell airborne substances when molecules enter the nose and bind to receptors in the lining of the nasal cavity. The receptors send a signal to the brain’s olfactory cortex, leading to the sensation of smell.

Foxes have an acute sense of smell. They rely on scents to communicate with each other, find food, avoid predators and locate breeding partners. This ability is beneficial for animals active at night when visibility is low, and enables them to avoid dangerous encounters.

Messages can also be deposited as scent marks to be “read” after the marker has departed. This is useful for claiming and defending territory.

Foxes have two glands from which they emit scents. These comprise:

  • a patch on the tail known as the “violet gland” because of its floral odour

  • a pair of sacs either side of the anus.

Fox scents are also present in the animal’s urine.

Read more: Invasive predators are eating the world's animals to extinction – and the worst is close to home

Sitting fox
Foxes have an acute sense of smell. Shutterstock

On The Scent

My colleagues and I have investigated fox scents in the violet gland. More recently, we also investigated the scent chemicals in fox urine, assisted by hunting groups in Victoria.

We analysed the urine of 15 free-ranging wild foxes living in farmlands and bush in Victoria. Foxes there are routinely culled as feral pests, and the urine was collected by bladder puncture soon after death.

Among our key findings were a group of 16 sulfur-containing chemicals which, taken together, are unique to foxes. Some are also found in skunk defensive sprays.

Fox scents are mostly very potent, and have been described as unpleasant and “musty”. They are also persistent – if you get fox scent on your skin it’s very hard to wash off.

One incident demonstrates the smelliness of these chemicals. We’d purchased two drops of a compound to compare against our own samples. Unfortunately, the container leaked and the resulting bad odour, while not dangerous, led to our university building being evacuated.

In contrast, another group of chemicals in fox scents are normally found in flowers. These were present in fox urine but more abundant in the tail gland. They are derivatives of carotenoids, the red and yellow pigments in fruits and flowers.

Foxes eat a lot of plants. The presence of plant-derived scents may signal good nutrition, and research suggests dietary carotenoids are particularly important for the general health of mammals.

Read more: Killing cats, rats and foxes is no silver bullet for saving wildlife

breeding fox pair
Foxes use scent markers to help find a mate. Shutterstock

Chemical Communicators

The chemistry of fox scents is rich and unique. This suggests foxes have evolved a complex language of chemical communication.

Just as modern drug therapies are based on knowledge of the human body’s internal chemical signalling, an understanding of chemical communication between foxes could lead to novel methods of fox management.

For example, scents signifying a dominant fox could be used to deter subordinate foxes. Conversely, scents that attract foxes could be used to overcome bait shyness.

This could be combined with the non-lethal baiting agent cabergoline, which inhibits the fertility of vixens. And mating could be disrupted if mate choice is found to be determined by chemical signals.

Such new methods may lead to longer-term and more effective control of fox numbers, bringing huge benefits to agriculture and biodiversity in Australia.

The author would like to acknowledge advice on this article from Dr Duncan Sutherland of Phillip Island Nature Parks, Victoria, and the generous assistance of Victorian fox hunting groups which helped collect urine samples.The Conversation

Stuart McLean, Professor Emeritus, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The 1.5℃ global warming limit is not impossible – but without political action it soon will be

Bill HarePotsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchCarl-Friedrich SchleussnerHumboldt University of BerlinJoeri RogeljImperial College London, and Piers ForsterUniversity of Leeds

Limiting global warming to 1.5℃ this century is a central goal of the Paris Agreement. In recent months, climate experts and others, including in Australia, have suggested the target is now impossible.

Whether Earth can stay within 1.5℃ warming involves two distinct questions. First, is it physically, technically and economically feasible, considering the physics of the Earth system and possible rates of societal change? Science indicates the answer is “yes” – although it will be very difficult and the best opportunities for success lie in the past.

The second question is whether governments will take sufficient action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This answer depends on the ambition of governments, and the effectiveness of campaigning by non-government organisations and others.

So scientifically speaking, humanity can still limit global warming to 1.5°C this century. But political action will determine whether it actually does. Conflating the two questions amounts to misplaced punditry, and is dangerous.

Women holds sign at climate march
Staying within 1.5℃ is scientifically possible, but requires government ambition. Erik Anderson/AAP

1.5℃ Wasn’t Plucked From Thin Air

The Paris Agreement was adopted by 195 countries in 2015. The inclusion of the 1.5℃ warming limit came after a long push by vulnerable, small-island and least developed countries for whom reaching that goal is their best chance for survival. The were backed by other climate-vulnerable nations and a coalition of high-ambition countries.

The 1.5℃ limit wasn’t plucked from thin air – it was informed by the best available science. Between 2013 and 2015, an extensive United Nations review process determined that limiting warming to 2℃ this century cannot avoid dangerous climate change.

Since Paris, the science on 1.5℃ has expanded rapidly. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2018 synthesised hundreds of studies and found rapidly escalating risks in global warming between 1.5℃ and 2℃.

The landmark report also changed the climate risk narrative away from a somewhat unimaginable hothouse world in 2100, to a very real threat within most of our lifetimes – one which climate action now could help avoid.

The message was not lost on a world experiencing ever more climate impacts firsthand. It galvanised an unprecedented global youth and activist movement demanding action compatible with the 1.5℃ limit.

The near-term benefits of stringent emissions reduction are becoming ever clearer. It can significantly reduce near-term warming rates and increase the prospects for climate resilient development.

Firefighter battles blaze
The urgency of climate action is not lost on those who’ve experienced its effects firsthand. Evan Collins/AAP

A Matter Of Probabilities

The IPCC looked extensively at emission reductions required to pursue the 1.5℃ limit. It found getting on a 1.5℃ track is feasible but would require halving global emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 and reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century.

It found no published emission reduction pathways giving the world a likely (more than 66%) chance of limiting peak warming this century to 1.5℃. But it identified a range of pathways with about a one-in-two chance of achieving this, with no or limited overshoot.

Having about a one-in-two chance of limiting warming to 1.5℃ is not ideal. But these pathways typically have a greater than 90% chance of limiting warming to well below 2℃, and so are fully compatible with the overall Paris goal.

Read more: Spot the difference: as world leaders rose to the occasion at the Biden climate summit, Morrison faltered

Scott Morrison holding a lump of coal in Parliament
Staying under 1.5℃ warming requires political will. Lukas Coch/AAP

Don’t Rely On Carbon Budgets

Carbon budgets show the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted for a given level of global warming. Some point to carbon budgets to argue the 1.5℃ goal is now impossible.

But carbon budget estimates are nuanced, and not a suitable way to conclude a temperature level is no longer possible.

The carbon budget for 1.5℃ depends on several factors, including:

  • the likelihood with which warming will be be halted at 1.5℃
  • the extent to which non-CO₂ greenhouse emissions such as methane are reduced
  • uncertainties in how the climate responds these emissions.

These uncertainties mean strong conclusions cannot be drawn based on single carbon budget estimate. And, at present, carbon budgets and other estimates do not support any argument that limiting warming to 1.5℃ is impossible.

Keeping temperature rises below 1.5℃ cannot be guaranteed, given the history of action to date, but the goal is certainly not impossible. As any doctor embarking on a critical surgery would say about a one-in-two survival chance is certainly no reason not to do their utmost.

Wind farm
Staying below 1.5°C is a difficult, but not impossible, task. Shutterstock

Closer Than We’ve Ever Been

It’s important to remember the special role the 1.5℃ goal plays in how governments respond to climate change. Five years on from Paris, and the gains of including that upper ambition in the agreement are showing.

Some 127 countries aim to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century at the latest – something considered unrealistic just a few years ago. If achieved globally and accompanied by stringent near-term reductions, the actions could be in line with 1.5℃.

If all these countries were to deliver on these targets in line with the best-available science on net zero, we may have a one-in-two chance of limiting warming this century to 2.1℃ (but a meagre one-in-ten that it is kept to 1.5°C). Much more work is needed and more countries need to step up. But for the first time, current ambition brings the 1.5℃ limit within striking distance.

The next ten years are crucial, and the focus now must be on governments’ 2030 targets for emissions reduction. If these are not set close enough to a 1.5℃-compatible emissions pathway, it will be increasingly difficult to reach net-zero by 2050.

The United Kingdom and European Union are getting close to this pathway. The United States’ new climate targets are a major step forward, and China is moving in the right direction. Australia is now under heavy scrutiny as it prepares to update its inadequate 2030 target.

The UN wants a 1.5℃ pathway to be the focus at this year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The stakes could not be higher.

Read more: More reasons for optimism on climate change than we've seen for decades: 2 climate experts explain The Conversation

Bill Hare, Director, Climate Analytics, Adjunct Professor, Murdoch University (Perth), Visiting scientist, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchCarl-Friedrich Schleussner, Research Group Leader, Humboldt University of BerlinJoeri Rogelj, Director of Research and Lecturer - Grantham Institute Climate Change & the Environment, Imperial College London, and Piers Forster, Professor of Physical Climate Change; Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Feral desert donkeys are digging wells, giving water to parched wildlife

Erick LundgrenUniversity of Technology SydneyArian WallachUniversity of Technology Sydney, and Daniel RampUniversity of Technology Sydney

In the heart of the world’s deserts – some of the most expansive wild places left on Earth – roam herds of feral donkeys and horses. These are the descendants of a once-essential but now-obsolete labour force.

These wild animals are generally considered a threat to the natural environment, and have been the target of mass eradication and lethal control programs in Australia. However, as we show in a new research paper in Science, these animals do something amazing that has long been overlooked: they dig wells — or “ass holes”.

In fact, we found that ass holes in North America — where feral donkeys and horses are widespread — dramatically increased water availability in desert streams, particularly during the height of summer when temperatures reached near 50℃. At some sites, the wells were the only sources of water.

Feral donkeys and horses dig wells to desert groundwater. Erick Lundgren

The wells didn’t just provide water for the donkeys and horses, but were also used by more than 57 other species, including numerous birds, other herbivores such as mule deer, and even mountain lions. (The lions are also predators of feral donkeys and horses.)

Incredibly, once the wells dried up some became nurseries for the germination and establishment of wetland trees.

Numerous species use equid wells. This includes mule deer (top left), scrub jays (middle left), javelina (bottom left), cottonwood trees (top right), and bobcats (bottom right). Erick Lundgren

Ass Holes In Australia

Our research didn’t evaluate the impact of donkey-dug wells in arid Australia. But Australia is home to most of the world’s feral donkeys, and it’s likely their wells support wildlife in similar ways.

Across the Kimberley in Western Australia, helicopter pilots regularly saw strings of wells in dry streambeds. However, these all but disappeared as mass shootings since the late 1970s have driven donkeys near local extinction. Only on Kachana Station, where the last of the Kimberley’s feral donkeys are protected, are these wells still to be found.

In Queensland, brumbies (feral horses) have been observed digging wells deeper than their own height to reach groundwater.
Some of the last feral donkeys of the Kimberley. Arian Wallach

Feral horses and donkeys are not alone in this ability to maintain water availability through well digging.

Other equids — including mountain zebras, Grevy’s zebras and the kulan — dig wells. African and Asian elephants dig wells, too. These wells provide resources for other animal species, including the near-threatened argali and the mysterious Gobi desert grizzly bear in Mongolia.

These animals, like most of the world’s remaining megafauna, are threatened by human hunting and habitat loss.

Other megafauna dig wells, too, including kulans in central Asia, and African elephants. Petra Kaczensky, Richard Ruggiero

Digging Wells Has Ancient Origins

These declines are the modern continuation of an ancient pattern visible since humans left Africa during the late Pleistocene, beginning around 100,000 years ago. As our ancestors stepped foot on new lands, the largest animals disappeared, most likely from human hunting, with contributions from climate change.

Read more: Giant marsupials once migrated across an Australian Ice Age landscape

If their modern relatives dig wells, we presume many of these extinct megafauna may have also dug wells. In Australia, for example, a pair of common wombats were recently documented digging a 4m-deep well, which was used by numerous species, such as wallabies, emus, goannas and various birds, during a severe drought. This means ancient giant wombats (Phascolonus gigas) may have dug wells across the arid interior, too.

Likewise, a diversity of equids and elephant-like proboscideans that once roamed other parts of world, may have dug wells like their surviving relatives.

Indeed, these animals have left riddles in the soils of the Earth, such as the preserved remnants of a 13,500-year-old, 2m-deep well in western North America, perhaps dug by a mammoth during an ancient drought, as a 2012 research paper proposes.

Read more: From feral camels to 'cocaine hippos', large animals are rewilding the world

Acting Like Long-Lost Megafauna

Feral equids are resurrecting this ancient way of life. While donkeys and horses were introduced to places like Australia, it’s clear they hold some curious resemblances to some of its great lost beasts.

Our previous research published in PNAS showed introduced megafauna actually make Australia overall more functionally similar to the ancient past, prior to widespread human-caused extinctions.

Donkeys share many similar traits with extinct giant wombats, who once may have dug wells in Australian drylands. Illustration by Oscar Sanisidro

For example, donkeys and feral horses have trait combinations (including diet, body mass, and digestive systems) that mirror those of the giant wombat. This suggests — in addition to potentially restoring well-digging capacities to arid Australia — they may also influence vegetation in similar ways.

Water is a limited resource, made even scarcer by farming, mining, climate change, and other human activities. With deserts predicted to spread, feral animals may provide unexpected gifts of life in drying lands.

Feral donkeys, horses (mapped in blue), and other existing megafauna (mapped in red) may restore digging capacities to many drylands. Non-dryland areas are mapped in grey, and the projected expansion of drylands from climate change in yellow. Erick Lundgren/ScienceAuthor provided

Despite these ecological benefits in desert environments, feral animals have long been denied the care, curiosity and respect native species deservedly receive. Instead, these animals are targeted by culling programs for conservation and the meat industry.

However, there are signs of change. New fields such as compassionate conservation and multispecies justice are expanding conservation’s moral world, and challenging the idea that only native species matter.The Conversation

Erick Lundgren, PhD Student, Centre for Compassionate Conservation, University of Technology SydneyArian Wallach, Lecturer, Centre for Compassionate Conservation, University of Technology Sydney, and Daniel Ramp, Associate Professor and Director, Centre for Compassionate Conservation, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

NSW Government To Strengthen Planning For Natural Hazards: Feedback Wanted

May 3, 2021

New guidelines to help communities and councils plan for natural hazards such as bushfires, drought and floods have been released today for public feedback - until June 8, 2021.

In releasing the draft Strategic Guide to Planning for Natural Hazards in NSW, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the recent flooding which devastated parts of the state emphasised the need to plan strategically for natural hazards.

“Our state is the best place to live in Australia but with its natural beauty comes challenges,” Mr Stokes said.

“In the last few years we’ve experienced some of the worst drought, bushfires and flooding on record so it’s important we continually learn and adapt how we plan for these hazards.

“This draft guide supports the findings of the Bushfire Royal Commission that we need to better address legacy risk in our communities by making sure that strategic land[1]use planning builds resilience to known hazards.”

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said NSW has been hit by a series of natural disasters in recent years and the NSW Government is working to reduce the impact and costs of extreme weather events on communities where possible.

“Between 2009 and 2019, NSW was affected by 198 declared natural disasters which resulted in significant losses and cost the State approximately $3.6 billion per year,” Mr Elliott said.

“That’s why we need to future proof our regions rather than reacting to disasters when they occur – prevention and mitigation are critical.”

The draft document comprises eight guiding principles:

  • Consider natural hazard risk early
  • Protect vulnerable people and assets
  • Adopt an all-hazards approach
  • Involve the community in conversations about risk
  • Plan for emergency response and evacuation
  • Be information driven· Plan to rebuild the future, not the present
  • Understand the relationship between natural processes and natural hazards

The NSW Government’s flood prone planning package will be finalised shortly.

For more information and to provide feedback on the draft natural hazard guide visit

Maules Creek Case Discontinued After Minister Finally Acknowledges The Need For Additional Offset Areas

May 5, 2021
The Federal Environment Minister has varied conditions for Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine, reflecting the company's recognition that it needs to purchase more critically endangered Grassy Whitebox Woodland to mitigate the impact of its controversial project.

The decision vindicates community concern that the company had not acquired enough Grassy Whitebox Woodland to meet its offset requirements for the coal mine, which was approved in 2013.

As a result, a court case brought by the Environmental Defenders Office on behalf of South East Forest Rescue, has been discontinued.

SEFR spokesperson Scott Daines said it was a “lukewarm” victory.

“Nothing is ever going to replace the critically endangered ecosystem cleared and lost forever as a result of Whitehaven’s monstrous Maules Creek coal mine,” he said.

“But at least now, – after many years of the community raising this issue and getting no traction -  the company is finally acknowledging that it needs to acquire more offset areas, and the government is requiring these to be independently verified.

“The way it was looking, Whitehaven would have secured less than half the 5,532ha offsets required, which is why we deemed it necessary to take the company to court in the first place.

“We will be keeping a close eye on Whitehaven to make sure it doesn’t shirk any new offset requirements.” 


In 2013, Whitehaven’s Maules Creek Coal Mine gained federal approval on the condition that the company secure 5,532 hectares of biodiversity offsets to compensate for clearing a critically endangered ecological community, known as box gum grassy woodland. The approval identified the proposed offset areas and required the company to have them independently verified.

Since before the approval was given, the community, informed by experts, has been raising concerns that Whitehaven’s proposed offset areas did not contain the necessary quantity and quality of box gum grassy woodland.

In its original form, the approval gave the company until early 2018 to secure its biodiversity offsets. The company was unable to do this and has obtained three variations to the approval that granted the company additional time to secure its offset areas. None of these variation decisions involved the Commonwealth or the approval holder acknowledging inadequacies of the proposed offset areas on the public record.

In April 2020, SEFR, represented by the EDO, filed proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that Whitehaven had failed to verify that its proposed offset areas would satisfy its offsetting requirements and that Whitehaven was proposing to contravene its offsetting conditions by continuing to rely on an inadequate suite of offset areas.

Whitehaven’s latest date for compliance with the offsetting conditions was 31 March 2021. Leading up to this deadline, still unable to comply and with the proceedings remaining on foot, the company sought a further variation to the approval and advised the Department that it intended to acquire additional offset areas. On 24 March 2021, the Commonwealth Minister (by a delegate) varied the approval.

The varied approval now provides for the inclusion of additional offset areas, for the first time responding to the community’s long-held concerns. The varied approval expressly requires that any such additional offset areas be the subject of independent review and verification.

The company must submit independent verification of any additional offset areas to the Minister by 30 June 2022 and submit applications to have these registered by 30 December 2022.

Whitehaven remains yet to identify on the public record a suite of proposed offset areas that it can confirm have been independently verified as satisfying the biodiversity offsetting requirements of the approval.

Life’s No Beach For Beach Energy But Limestone Coast Locals Welcome Gas Plant Mothballing

May 5, 2021
Limestone Coast locals have welcomed Beach Energy’s decision to mothball its Katnook gas plant operations, and say it’s further proof the Morrison Government’s gas-fueled recovery plan is a black hole for taxpayer money.

Beach’s Katnook facility received a $6 million taxpayer-funded grant from the Commonwealth Government’s Gas Acceleration Program, and the company also received more than $17 million from the previous State Government for a variety of projects around the state. Beach says it will suspend the facility due to field decline from existing connected wells.

The Morrison Government also recently signed a $1 billion energy deal with the SA Marshall Government, which sets a gas target of an additional 50 petajoules per year by the end of 2023 and a stretch target of 80 petajoules per year by 2030.

Questions also remain over the impacts of a contamination event at the facility last year, when petroleum hydrocarbons were detected in groundwater as a result of a leak in the wastewater pond’s polyethylene liner.

“This decision by Beach demonstrates the risk the Morrison Government’s so-called gas fired recovery poses to the nation. The government wants to throw billions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars into a gas-fired, polluting black hole,” said Limestone Coast Protection Alliance co-chair Angus Ralton, who lives near the Penola site.

“It is now clear for all to see that millions of public dollars were wasted trying to prop up this dirty, polluting plant.

“Yet rather than reading the writing on the wall, the Morrison and Marshall governments continue to throw taxpayer money at the outdated and polluting gas industry.

“While we are happy this plant will not operate for the foreseeable future, we remain concerned about the pollution event that occurred at the plant, as well as the threat of any future gas exploration in the region.”

The decision to suspend operations at the Katnook facility comes after Beach Energy revealed a decrease in production over the last quarter of five percent due to reduced reservoir performance and natural field decline, predominantly from the Cooper Basin Western Flank oil fields.

Australia's First Green Hydrogen/Gas Power Plant

May 4, 2021

New South Wales is set to become home to Australia's first dual fuel capable hydrogen/gas power plant following an $83 million funding agreement for the Tallawarra B project in the Illawarra.

Tallawarra B project in the Illawarra. Credit: DPIE

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the project is vital infrastructure needed to provide dispatchable electricity capacity to replace the Liddell Power Station and create the industries and jobs of the future.

"Delivering enough electricity to power around 150,000 homes at times of peak demand, the project is expected to deliver a $300 million boost to the economy and support about 250 jobs during construction," Mr Barilaro said.

"NSW has an enormous opportunity to lead the world in the production of green hydrogen. Fast-tracking new projects like these will ensure we continue to remain at the forefront of developing new technology while supporting our existing industries."

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said investing in this cutting-edge technology will help secure power generation and put our State in a prime position to capitalise on an export industry that is predicted to be worth $1.7 billion annually by 2030.

"As we recover from the pandemic, embracing emerging industries will help recharge our economy by creating new jobs and opening up new opportunities that will secure our economic prosperity well into the future," Mr Perrottet said.

"Hydrogen is quickly emerging as a major economic opportunity for our State and this investment will keep us ahead of the curve by positioning New South Wales as a world-leader in hydrogen production."

Minister for Energy Matt Kean said that the Tallawarra B project would help keep the lights on following the closure of the Liddell Power Station in 2023.

"NSW's Energy Security Target is the tightest reliability target in the country and this project will help make sure that we achieve that even after Liddell has closed," Mr Kean said.

"Tallawarra B will provide over 300 megawatts of dispatchable capacity for NSW customers in time for the summer after Liddell retires.

"This project sets a new benchmark for how gas generators can be consistent with NSW's plan to be net zero by 2050 by using green hydrogen and offsetting residual emissions."

Under the funding agreement, Energy Australia will offer to buy enough green hydrogen equivalent to over 5% of the plant's fuel use from 2025 (200,000kg of green hydrogen per year) and will offset direct carbon emissions from the project over its operational life.

EnergyAustralia will also invest in engineering studies on the potential to upgrade Tallawarra B so it can use more green hydrogen in its fuel mix in the future.

The Tallawarra B project is the latest in a series of steps the NSW Government has taken to ensure reliable electricity supply following the closure of Liddell, including:

  • jointly underwriting the Queensland-NSW transmission interconnector upgrade with the Australian Government
  • the $75 million Emerging Energy Program which provides capital grants for new dispatchable generation
  • seeking offers for new dispatchable plant to power the state's schools and hospitals as part of the NSW Government's electricity contract.

Managing Director, Catherine Tanna, said Tallawarra B will be Australia’s first net zero emissions hydrogen and gas capable power plant, with direct carbon emissions from the project offset over its operational life. EnergyAustralia will offer to buy 200,000kg of green hydrogen per year from 2025.

“We thank the New South Wales Government for its support for Tallawarra B. It means the station will be operating in time for the summer of 2023-24, following the closure of the Liddell power station, and it will help to kick start the green hydrogen industry,” said Ms Tanna.

“We are leading the sector by building the first net zero emissions hydrogen and gas capable power plant in New South Wales,” she said.

“What’s particularly exciting is that further engineering studies will see if the amount of green hydrogen can increase, which will further support the Port Kembla Hydrogen Hub.”

Ms Tanna said Tallawarra B will provide New South Wales with improved energy security, reliability and flexibility options.

“Our new open-cycle, hydrogen and gas capable turbine will provide firm capacity on a continuous basis and paves the way for additional cleaner energy sources to enter the system.

“EnergyAustralia has a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. Today we provide further evidence of another energy project that can help keep the lights on for customers with reliable, affordable, and cleaner energy.”

Green hydrogen is a cheap, reliable type of energy that is made using 100% renewable sources.

NSW Government Failing Citizens By Funding Gas

May 4, 2021: Climate Council
THE BEREJIKLIAN GOVERNMENT’S decision to spend taxpayers’ money backing a fossil fuel project is completely at odds with its commitment to net zero emissions and keeping the people of NSW safe from the impacts of climate change. 

Overnight the NSW Government announced it would provide $78 million to help expand EnergyAustralia’s 300MW Tallawarra B gas power station in the Illawarra. 

“The NSW government says it is providing a direct multi million dollar handout to one of Australia’s largest energy companies to burn more gas. To keep Australians safe, we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels, not support gas expansion,” said Climate Council spokesman and energy expert, Andrew Stock. 

“The NSW Government recently created the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap – a world-leading renewable energy and storage plan to roll out over the next decade. Its latest move to back gas makes no sense,” said Mr Stock. 

“Why would the Government back expensive, polluting gas power when renewables and batteries are cheaper, more efficient and quicker to build? There is already around 1000MW of new grid batteries in the pipeline in NSW, double that in pumped hydro, and the Government has said its own Central West-Orana renewable zone will add 3000MW of extra renewables,” he said.

Recently released data revealed that gas generation has declined for the past eight summers in NSW. Over the past summer, renewables provided 31 times more power than gas. 

“While EnergyAustralia’s Tallawarra B gas power station can run on low levels of green hydrogen, this is not sufficient. Any power station that burns more fossil fuels will make climate change worse,” said Mr Stock. 

“Australia doesn’t need new gas. Renewables and batteries provide affordable electricity, create jobs and reduce emissions,” he said.

*: The carbon footprint of Tallawarra B
The plant will run on 100% fossil gas for its first two years of operation. After 2025, it will be 95% fossil gas and 5% “green hydrogen” (the NSW government press release defines that as “cheap, reliable type of energy that is made using 100% renewable sources”). The turbine manufacturer, GE, provides a handy visualisation of what type of CO2 reductions a 5% blend entails, in a recent white paper.

GE’s white paper highlights something extremely important: you don’t get a 50% reduction in emissions by blending methane and hydrogen equally. GE explains, this is because methane and hydrogen have very different energy densities. That means you have to cram in a lot of hydrogen just to get a bit of an emissions reduction. So a 60% hydrogen / 40% methane blend only gets you around a 35% cut in emissions. To cut emissions by 50%, you’d need at least 75% hydrogen in the mix! So these proportions are extremely misleading.
While the controversial nature of carbon offsets has been known for years, yesterday a major new investigation from Greenpeace’s Unearthed revealed that schemes using ‘avoided deforestation’ to claim emissions reductions are largely fabricated.
*Hydrogen will be cover for a new life for fossil fuels - report by Ketan Joshi May 5th 2021, Renew Economy

Paying Australia’s coal-fired power stations to stay open longer is bad for consumers and the planet

Daniel J CassUniversity of SydneyJoel GilmoreGriffith University, and Tim NelsonGriffith University

Australian governments are busy designing the nation’s transition to a clean energy future. Unfortunately, in a misguided effort to ensure electricity supplies remain affordable and reliable, governments are considering a move that would effectively pay Australia’s old, polluting coal-fired power stations to stay open longer.

The measure is one of several options proposed by the Energy Security Board (ESB), the chief energy advisor to Australian governments on electricity market reform. The board on Friday released a vision to redesign the National Electricity Market as it transitions to clean energy.

The key challenges of the transition are ensuring it is smooth (without blackouts) and affordable, as coal and gas generators close and are replaced by renewable energy.

The redesign has been two years in the making. The ESB has done a very good job of identifying key issues, and most of its recommendations are sound. But its option to change the way electricity generators and retailers strike contracts for electricity, if adopted, would be highly counterproductive – bad both for consumers and for climate action.

Electricity lines at sunset
One proposed reform to Australia’s electricity market would be bad for consumers and climate action. Shutterstock

The Energy Market Dilemma

The National Electricity Market (NEM) covers every Australian jurisdiction except Western Australia and the Northern Territory. It comprises electricity generators, transmission and distribution networks, electricity retailers, customers and a financial market where electricity is traded.

Electricity generators in the NEM comprise older, polluting technology such as gas- and coal-fired power, and newer, clean forms of generation such as wind and solar. Renewable energy, which makes up about 23% of our electricity mix, is now cheaper than energy from coal and gas.

Wind and solar energy is “variable” – only produced when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Technology such as battery storage is needed to smooth out renewable energy supplies and make it “dispatchable”, meaning it can be delivered on demand.

Some say coal generators, which supply dispatchable electricity, are the best way to ensure reliable and affordable electricity. But Australia’s coal-fired power stations, some of which are more than 40 years old, are becoming more prone to breakdowns – and so less reliable and more expensive – as they age. This has led to some closing suddenly.

Without a clear national approach to emissions targets, there’s a risk these sudden closures will occur again.

Read more: Explainer: what is the electricity transmission system, and why does it need fixing?

Wind farm near coast
Wind and solar energy is variable. Shutterstock

So What’s Proposed?

To address reliability concerns, the ESB has proposed an option known as the “physical retailer reliability obligation”.

In a nutshell, the change would require electricity retailers to negotiate contracts for a certain amount of “dispatchable” electricity from specific generators for times of the year when reliability is a concern, such as the peak weeks of summer when lots of people use air conditioning.

Currently, the Australian Energy Market Operator has reserve electricity measures it can deploy when market supply falls short.

But under the new obligation, all retailers would also have to enter contracts for dispatchable supply. This would likely require buying electricity from the coal generators that dominate the market. This provides a revenue source enabling these coal plants to remain open even when cheaper renewable energy makes them unprofitable.

The ESB says without the change, the closure of coal generators will be unpredictable or “disorderly”, creating price shocks and reliability risks.

hand turns off light switch in bedroom
The ESWB says the recommendation would address concerns over electricity reliability. Shutterstock

A Big Risk

Even the ESB concedes the recommendation comes with considerable risks. In particular, the board says it may:

  • impose increased barriers to retail competition and product innovation
  • lead to possible overcompensation of existing coal and gas generators.

In short, the policy could potentially lock in increasingly unreliable, ageing coal assets, stall new investment in new renewable energy storage such as batteries and pumped hydro and increase market concentration.

It could also push up electricity prices. Electricity retailers are likely to pass on the cost of these new electricity contracts to consumers, no matter how much energy that household or business actually used.

The existing market already encourages generators to provide reliable supply – and applies strong penalties if they don’t. And in fact, the NEM experiences reliability issues for an average of just one minute per year. It would appear little could be added to the existing market design to make generators more reliable than they are.

Finally, the market is dominated by three large “gentailers” - AGL, Energy Australia and Origin – which own both generators and the retail companies that sell electricity. The proposed change would disadvantage smaller electricity retailers, which in many cases would be forced to buy electricity from generators owned by their competitors.

Australia’s gentailers are heavily invested in coal power stations. The proposed change would further concentrate their market power while propping up coal.

Read more: 'Failure is not an option': after a lost decade on climate action, the 2020s offer one last chance

warning sign on fence
The proposed change brings a raft of risks to the electricity market. Kelly Barnes/AAP

What Governments Should Do

If coal-fired power stations are protected from competition, it will deter investment in cleaner alternatives. The recommendation, if adopted, would delay decarbonisation and put Australia further at odds with our international peers on climate policy.

The federal and state governments must work together to develop a plan for electricity that facilitates clean energy investment while controlling costs for consumers.

The plan should be coordinated across the states. Without this, we risk creating a sharper shock later, when climate diplomacy requires the planned retirement of coal plants. Other nations have acknowledged the likely demise of coal, and it’s time Australia caught up.

Read more: Spot the difference: as world leaders rose to the occasion at the Biden climate summit, Morrison faltered The Conversation

Daniel J Cass, Research Affiliate, Sydney Business School, University of SydneyJoel Gilmore, Associate Professor, Griffith University, and Tim Nelson, Associate Professor of Economics, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cayman Islands Sea Turtles Back From The Brink

May 4, 2021

Sea turtles in the Cayman Islands are recovering from the brink of local extinction, new research shows. Monitoring from 1998-2019 shows loggerhead and green turtle nest numbers increased dramatically, though hawksbill turtle nest numbers remain low. In the first counts in 1998-99, just 39 sea turtle nests were found in total on the three islands. By 2019, the figure was 675.

Captive breeding of green turtles and inactivity of a traditional turtle fishery due to tightening of restrictions in 2008 contributed to this -- but populations remain far below historical levels and still face threats including illegal hunting.

The study was carried out by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and the University of Exeter.

A green turtle hatchling (credit Cayman Islands Department of Environment) 

"Our findings demonstrate a remarkable recovery for sea turtle populations that were once thought to be locally extinct," said Dr Janice Blumenthal, of the Cayman Islands Department of Environment.

"A combination of factors is thought to have led to this conservation success story.

"It is likely that a captive breeding operation by the Cayman Turtle Farm (now the Cayman Turtle Centre) drove the increase in Grand Cayman's green turtle population in the early years of monitoring.

"For loggerhead turtles, the most important factor was the restrictions placed on the legal turtle fishery in 2008."

Dr Jane Hardwick, also of the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, added: "For both species, the recovery was assisted by protection efforts by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment on nesting beaches, including patrols by conservation officers to reduce illegal hunting.

"However, our study finds that illegal take is an ongoing threat, with a minimum of 24 turtles taken from 2015-19, many of which were nesting females.

"Artificial lighting on nesting beaches, which can direct hatchlings away from the sea, increased over the period of our study.

"Additionally, as highly migratory endangered species, sea turtles are influenced by threats and conservation efforts outside of the Cayman Islands, showing a need for international co-operation in sea turtle management."

Historically, the Cayman Islands had among the world's largest sea turtle nesting populations, with turtles numbering in the millions. By the early 1800s, the populations had collapsed due to human overexploitation.

The new study shows that, despite reaching critically low levels, nesting populations of green and loggerhead turtles have recovered significantly.

Hawksbill turtle nest numbers have not increased in tandem with loggerhead and green turtles -- with a maximum of 13 hawksbill nests recorded in a single monitoring season.

Information on turtle nests is being used by the Cayman Islands authorities to target management efforts.

This includes "turtle-friendly lighting" initiatives, and a greater level of habitat protection for key areas has been proposed under the National Conservation Law of the Cayman Islands.

Professor Brendan Godley, of the University of Exeter, said: "I was fortunate to have been involved in establishing the turtle monitoring programme with the Department of Environment in the Cayman Islands back in 1998 and it is fantastic to see how protection and awareness has resulted in an increase in nesting turtles.

"The wonderful team and leadership of the Department of Environment have been instrumental in driving the monitoring and conservation."

Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said: "We are extremely grateful to the many volunteers, interns, property owners, businesses, organisations and members of the public who have assisted with sea turtle conservation efforts over the past two decades.

"Sea turtles are a national symbol of the Cayman Islands and our community has come together to demonstrate our commitment to their protection. This research gives us essential information for strategically targeted management efforts to secure future survival of these populations."

Janice M. Blumenthal, Jane L. Hardwick, Timothy J. Austin, Annette C. Broderick, Paul Chin, Lucy Collyer, Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Leah Grant, Lorri D. Lamb, Jeremy Olynik, Lucy C. M. Omeyer, Alejandro Prat-Varela, Brendan J. Godley. Cayman Islands Sea Turtle Nesting Population Increases Over 22 Years of Monitoring. Frontiers in Marine Science, 2021; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.663856

Defending The Unburnt: EDO Launches Landmark Legal Initiative

April 15, 2021: Environmental Defenders Office (EDO)
  • 14 million hectares burned. Nearly 3 billion native animals impacted. Entire communities all but destroyed.
  • We have a plan to defend what remains.
Our forests and native habitats are at breaking point, torn apart by a legacy of development & land-clearing, and devastated by the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfires.

But all is not lost. Today we are launching a new flagship partnership with WWF-Australia to build legal defences around some of Australia’s most vulnerable ecosystems.

The partnership comes off the back of the pivotal Defending the Unburnt report from the scientific team at WWF, which has identified six key wildlife habitats on the east coast for immediate protection.

These areas, decimated by the 2019-20 bushfires, are home to at least 83 threatened plant and animal species including koalas, platypuses, greater gliders, quolls and lyrebirds.

Almost 2.5 million hectares of this key habitat was lost to bushfires. We cannot afford to lose a hectare more.
Our team of environmental law experts will work with WWF, local communities, and decision-makers across the country to secure stronger legal protection for these areas to defend the Unburnt Six and the wildlife that calls them home.

Our forests have changed forever, so should our laws. 
The 2019-20 bushfires were unprecedented – their effect on our landscapes profound.

Our current laws do not reflect the realities of this disaster and must change to ensure our vulnerable ecosystems and iconic species are protected into the future. We will fight to make sure they do.

EDO has the strength and expertise to shape and enforce Australia’s environmental laws.  

The laws governing land-use and forestry are complex and specialised, requiring expert legal guidance to navigate.

Rather than focussing on litigation, this landmark initiative will push for greater legal protection for the Unburnt Six by advocating for stronger laws, policies and processes that properly take into account the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires.

And we will be pushing governments across the country to use the full power of their existing laws to protect these vulnerable habitats.

Find out more about how you can help Defend the Unburnt Six on WWF’s project page.

Local communities – Crucial defenders of the Unburnt Six
We stand with survivors and the communities that were most affected by the devastating 2019-20 bushfires, and are committed to empowering them to use the law to protect their local ecosystems and vulnerable species.

As part of this initiative we will be working on-the-ground and online with local communities to ensure they have the legal power they need to defend vital habitats in their areas.

We will work closely with community groups and landholders across multiple jurisdictions to help them understand and utilise existing legal mechanisms to protect the unburnt.

And we will develop digital legal resources and tools to empower communities everywhere in the protection of the areas and wildlife they love.

Stay up-to-date on the fight for the Unburnt Six

EDO is at the forefront of the legal fight to defend the Unburnt Six and other vulnerable ecosystems across the country.

Sign up now for critical updates on our legal mission to protect the places, wildlife, and communities we love.

Hanson Tweed Sand Plant Expansion: Feedback

Expansion of the Tweed Sand Quarry extraction areas (Phases 5 to 11) and intensification of operations.
To include:
  • a maximum of 950, 000 tonnes of sand extracted annually
  • operate 24hours/7 days a week
  • quarry life - 30 years

Local Government Areas: Tweed Shire
Exhibition Start: 22/04/2021
Exhibition End: 19/05/2021

Bushcare In Pittwater 

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

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

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

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

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

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

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

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

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

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

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

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

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

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

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

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

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Avalon Golf Course Bushcare Needs You

We're so short of helpers we've had to cancel for the time being. Meanwhile the weeds will go gangbusters. 
We used to meet on the second Wednesday afternoon of each month. Could you come if we worked on another day or time? say a morning, or on a weekend day? 
Contact Geoff Searl on 0439 292 566 if you'd like to help. He'd love to hear from you. 

We have fun using the Tree Popper, here with our supervisor from Dragonfly Environmental. We can lever out quite big Ochnas, aka Mickey Mouse plant from Africa.  We want to bring back the bush, not let the weeds win!

Ochna or Mickey Mouse plant has yellow flowers in spring, then lots of green berries that turn black when ripe. Seedlings come up in hundreds. Ochna has a very strong taproot but the steady pressure of the Tree Popper lifts the plant out of the ground easily. The alternative control is repeated scraping and painting with Roundup, very slow and time consuming. If you have an Ochna you cant remove, you can enjoy the flowers, then PLEASE prune it so that berries can't develop.

Pittwater Reserves

Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:
Photo: Bronwyn Gould

Mangroves And Seagrasses Absorb Microplastics

May 4, 2021

Mangroves and seagrasses grow in many places along the coasts of the world, and these 'blue forests' constitute an important environment for a large number of animals. Here, juvenile fish can hide until they are big enough to take care of themselves; crabs and mussels live on the bottom; and birds come to feed on the plants.

However, the plant-covered coastal zones do not only attract animals but also microplastics, a new study shows.

- The denser the vegetation, the more plastic is captured, says Professor and expert in coastal ecology, Marianne Holmer, from the University of Southern Denmark.

She is concerned about how the accumulated microplastics affect animal and plant life.

- We know from other studies that animals can ingest microplastics and that this may affect their organism.

Animals ingest microplastics with the food they seek in the blue forests. They may suffocate, die of starvation, or the small plastic particles can get stuck different places in the body and do damage.

Another problem with microplastics is that they may be covered with microorganisms, environmental toxins or other health hazardous/disease-promoting substances that are transferred to the animal or plant that absorbs the microplastics.

- When microplastics are concentrated in an ecosystem, the animals are exposed to very high concentrations, Marianne Holmer explains.

She points out that microplastics concentrated in, for example, a seagrass bed are impossible to remove again.

The study is based on examinations of three coastal areas in China, where mangroves, Japanese eelgrass (Z. japonica) and the paddle weed Halophila ovalis grow. All samples taken in blue forests had more microplastics than samples from control sites without vegetation.

The concentrations were up to 17.6 times higher, and they were highest in the mangrove forest. The concentrations were up to 4.1 times higher in the seagrass beds.

Mangrove trees probably capture more microplastics, as the capture of particles is greater in mangrove forests than in seagrass beds.

Researchers also believe that microplastics bind in these ecosystems in the same way as carbon; the particles are captured between leaves and roots, and the microplastics are buried in the seabed.

- Carbon capture binds carbon dioxide in the seabed, and the blue forests are really good at that, but it's worrying if the same thing happens to microplastics, says Marianne Holmer.

Although the study was conducted along Chinese coasts, it may be relevant to similar ecosystems in the rest of the world, including Denmark, where eelgrass beds are widespread.

- It's my expectation that we will also find higher concentrations of microplastics in Danish and global seagrasses, she says.

The study was conducted in collaboration with colleagues from the Zhejiang University in China, among others, and is published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The blue forests: Lots of plants grow in or below sea level; mangroves, seaweed, seagrass and marsh plants. Especially mangroves and seagrasses absorb and store carbon like plants on land and are thus extremely important for the planet's carbon footprint.

Yuzhou Huang, Xi Xiao, Kokoette Effiong, Caicai Xu, Zhinan Su, Jing Hu, Shaojun Jiao, Marianne Holmer. New Insights into the Microplastic Enrichment in the Blue Carbon Ecosystem: Evidence from Seagrass Meadows and Mangrove Forests in Coastal South China Sea. Environmental Science & Technology, 2021; 55 (8): 4804 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c07289

Open Letter To The Australian Prime Minister Advocating For Climate Action To Protect Australia's Health

Published April 30, 2021

Dear Prime Minister,

We write to you as a coalition of climate concerned health organisations in Australia that wish to see the threat to health from climate change addressed by the Australian Government.

Climate change is described by the World Health Organization as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” 

Yet, climate action could be the greatest public health opportunity to prevent premature deaths, address climate and health inequity, slow down or reverse a decrease in life expectancy, and unlock substantial health and economic co-benefits.

To ensure that the health of all Australians is protected from the threat of climate change, we call on the Australian Government to:

1. Prioritise health in the context of Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement

A stable climate is a fundamental determinant of health and the aim to limit warming to 1.5°C is a critically important public health goal. The current emissions reductions target set by Australia is not sufficient to keep warming to 2°C. This threatens the health of Australians, and people around the world. Significantly increasing ambition by Australia in its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement is needed to have a chance of avoiding the further disastrous health, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change. This would best be achieved by the creation of a body that will appropriately prioritise the setting of targets to meet those agreed to under the Paris Agreement.

2. Commit to the decarbonisation of the healthcare sector by 2040, and to the establishment of an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit

The health sector is responsible for 7% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving net-zero healthcare will significantly contribute to emissions reductions in Australia and will lead to economic and health co-benefits.

A target of net-zero emissions by 2040 for healthcare in Australia, with an interim emissions reduction target of 80% by 2030, is in line with similar commitments by the National Health Service in the United Kingdom - and is broadly consistent with the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Establishing an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit in the Australian Government Department of Health is necessary to ensure standardised and consistent measurement of health sector emissions, mapping evidence-based approaches to emissions reductions, and achieving nation-wide health sector outcomes.

3. Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia

A key recommendation from the 2020 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Policy Brief for Australia is the implementation of a national climate change and health strategy. A Framework for a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing has already been developed as guidance by the health sector and health experts, and is supported by more than 50 health organisations.

By implementing the systematic and ambitious actions on climate change and health described above, the Australian Government will demonstrate its commitment to the health and wellbeing of Australians, the economy, and the environment. This will deliver a decrease in climate change associated morbidity and mortality and the associated economic costs, and unlock substantial benefits from a healthier and more prosperous society.

Many Australian Frogs Don’t Tolerate Human Impacts On The Environment

May 4, 2021

A UNSW and Australian Museum study using data from a citizen science project finds 70 per cent are vulnerable to housing, agriculture, roads and recreation.

We urgently need to consider human impacts on the environment, say UNSW Sydney and Australian Museum scientists, whose study of 87 Australian frog species found almost three-quarters were intolerant of modified habitats.

The findings, published in the journal Global Change Biology, are particularly concerning as more than 40 of Australia’s 243 frog species are already threatened with extinction.

“Frogs need to be prioritised in urban planning and conservation decisions,” lead author and PhD candidate Gracie Liu from UNSW Science’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences says.

“By studying how species respond to human-driven habitat modification, and ranking them based on their tolerance, we can prioritise the most vulnerable species and take appropriate conservation measures to mitigate the risk to biodiversity.”

Frogs are the sign of a healthy environment, but they are one of the most threatened groups of animals on earth. Humans have played a large part in their decline by clearing and modifying native vegetation for housing, agriculture, roads, and recreation. In Australia, cities and agriculture already account for more than half of the country’s land use.

With this in mind, the researchers developed a tolerance index to measure these effects on frogs, accounting for the multiple stressors such as roads, built up areas, farms, mines, and light pollution.

The index was based on over 126,000 frog observations from the Australian Museum’s citizen science project FrogID, which was set up to monitor frog populations and help better understand and conserve Australia’s frog species.

“Thanks to thousands of people across Australia recording frogs on their mobile phones using the FrogID app, we had access to a huge number of frog observations,” study UNSW co-author and lead scientist of FrogID, Dr Jodi Rowley says.

Dr Rowley is also curator of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Biology at the Australian Museum.

“A dataset of this size grants us the ability to study broad trends in terms of what makes a frog tolerant or intolerant.”

Alarmingly, 70 per cent of frogs studied were intolerant of human modified habitats.

“Frogs that are so called ‘habitat specialists’ are particularly vulnerable to human impacts,” Ms Liu says.

“These frogs, including the Crawling Toadlet (Pseudophryne guentheri) and the Bleating Froglet (Crinia pseudinsignifera), have specific habitat requirements that backyards, gardens and other human modified habitats just can’t provide.

“Frogs that lay their eggs on land are also intolerant of habitat modification due to their strong dependence on forest resources, so there is a clear need to preserve natural habitat.”

But other species, the ‘tolerators’, regularly turn up in people’s backyards and may actually be perfectly content living there, the scientists say.  

“Generalists species like the Striped Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes peronii), White-lipped Tree Frog (Litoria infrafrenata) and Motorbike Frog (Litoria moorei) can make use of a variety of resources and environmental conditions and can thrive in human modified habitats,” Ms Liu says.

The findings were optimistic for some frog species, with species that call from vegetation often tolerant of modified habitats.

“This suggests that in addition to preserving native habitat, frog diversity can be supported by creating green spaces and ‘frog-friendly’ gardens in modified areas,” Dr Rowley says.

The scientists say many more species may be hard hit if stronger conservation measures are not taken.

Ms Liu’s next research will explore how habitat modification affects frog breeding seasons, movements and habitat use.

The public is being encouraged to continue the count of Australia's frogs using FrogID so UNSW and Australian Museum scientists can continue to better understand Australia’s frogs, the health of our ecosystems and biodiversity in general.

“We are also using FrogID to understand basic but vital things like how many frog species we have and even discover species currently unknown to science,” Dr Rowley says.

Examples of Australia’s least tolerant frog species

Of all the studied species, the Crawling Toadlet (Pseudophryne guentheri) was the least tolerant of human modified habitats. “This is a small ground-dwelling frog, no more than 4cm in body length, from southwest Western Australia,” Ms Liu says.

The second most intolerant species was the Bleating Froglet (Crinia pseudinsignifera), another small frog, reaching 3cm in body length, from southwest Western Australia. It lives in temporary swamps in granite areas.

The Ticking Frog (Geocrinia leai) from Western Australia’s jarrah forest was also amongst Australia’s least tolerant frogs.

“The males – the sex that makes advertisement calls – live up to their name, wooing females with a continuous ticking call. The females will then lay their eggs in a cluster on land under wet leaf litter, logs, or waterside vegetation,” Dr Rowley says.

There were species that did not have enough data for the scientists to study.

“Most of these were habitat specialists, secretive species, or species that live in very remote parts of Australia – those that are likely to be even more intolerant of habitat modification,” Ms Liu says.

Examples of Australia’s most tolerant frog species

Australia’s most modification tolerant frog was the Striped Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes peronii). Not only does this frog occupy human modified habitats, but the researchers say that it may even prefer them to natural habitats.

“This is a frog that is likely to be familiar to many of those living along Australia’s eastern coastline,” Ms Liu says. “It has a distinctive call that sounds a lot like a dripping tap, or a tennis ball being hit.”

Coming in second was the White-lipped Tree Frog (Litoria infrafrenata), a northern Queensland species and Australia’s largest frog, reaching 13.5cm in body length.

This frog inhabits rainforest and Melaleuca swamps, but it is not unusual for them to appear on farms and in suburban gardens.

Third place went to Western Australia’s Motorbike Frog (Litoria moorei). Its mating call, as the name suggests, resembles the rumble of a motorbike.

“If you had one of these frogs in your backyard, you’d be forgiven for thinking that someone was doing burnouts on a motorbike outside your house,” Ms Liu says.

Momentum Builds For Southern Ocean Protection

April 29, 2021

The creation of a network of protected areas in the Southern Ocean that properly represents and conserves its ecological diversity is a step closer.

Last night a Ministerial Declaration from a high-level meeting hosted by the European Union called for urgent international action “to conserve the Southern Ocean’s unique biodiversity and ecosystems for present and future generations.”

Wandering albatross Photo: Mike Double

15 nations and the European Union met in an online conference on 28 April to affirm their commitment to protecting the Southern Ocean from climate change and other human impacts.

Australia’s Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley was the first speaker in the meeting that included senior representatives from France, Germany, Norway, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and the Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States of America.

The 15 nations, and the European Union, are members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, known as CCAMLR.

Australia's Commissioner to CCAMLR, Gillian Slocum, said that the meeting built momentum to establish a representative system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean.

“The meeting, initiated by the EU, agreed to encourage all 26 members of CCAMLR to engage constructively on MPA proposals currently under consideration.”

“Australia will continue to play a lead role in establishing a representative system of MPAs in the Southern Ocean, including in East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea,” Ms Slocum said.

Antarctic network of marine protected areas

In 2009, CCAMLR established its first MPA, the South Orkney Islands Southern Shelf Marine Protected Area, a region covering 94,000 square kilometres in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

In 2016, CCAMLR members agreed to establish a new MPA in the Ross Sea region. Covering 1.55 million square kilometres, the Ross Sea region MPA is the world’s largest. Nearly three-quarters of the area is a 'no-take' zone that forbids all fishing.

Since 2012, Australia, together with the European Union, has advocated for the adoption of an East Antarctic MPA. Norway, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay are now co-proponents of the proposal.

“The East Antarctic MPA would protect distinctive deep-water reefs and feeding areas for marine mammals, penguins and other seabirds,” said Ms Slocum.

It would also provide scientific reference zones to assist with understanding the effects of fishing outside protected areas, and the consequences of climate change for Southern Ocean ecosystems.

Large-scale MPAs are also an important tool to build ocean and ecosystem resilience to impacts of climate change.

Australia is also a co-sponsor of the Weddell Sea MPA, and supports Argentina and Chile in the establishment of an MPA in the Antarctic Peninsula region.

Australian Antarctic science an enabler

Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Kim Ellis, said that CCAMLR is an excellent example of applying science to deliver evidence-based environmental protection.

“Our science has a direct impact on policy outcomes for a range of management issues in the Southern Ocean, from setting catch limits for krill fisheries to informing the design of Marine Protected Areas.”

“It’s important that CCAMLR’s proposals are based on the best available science, and that’s what the Australian Antarctic Program provides,” Mr Ellis said.

The AAD’s Deputy Chief Scientist, Dr Dirk Welsford, is currently the Chair of CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee.

Emperor penguins dive in search of prey Photo: Lincoln Mainsbridge

New Shorebirds WingThing  For Youngsters Available To Download

A Shorebirds WingThing educational brochure for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey. The 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available now. You can download a file copy here.

If you would like a free print copy of this brochure, please send a self-addressed envelope with A$1.10 postage (or larger if you would like it unfolded) affixed to: BirdLife Australia, Shorebird WingThing Request, 2-05Shorebird WingThing/60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053.

Shorebird Identification Booklet

The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities. 

The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format:

Paper copies can be ordered as well, see for details.

Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife

Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat.  The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.

Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.

What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia. 

This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds. 

In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats. 

In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely. 

The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population. 

Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations. 

BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.

To find out more visit:

Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points

Collecting bread tags enables us to provide wheelchairs that change the life of disabled people in need, as well as keeping the tags out of landfill to help to preserve the environment. 

Bread Tags for Wheelchairs was started in South Africa in 2006 by Mary Honeybun. It is a community program where individuals and organisations collect bread tags, which are sold to recyclers. The money raised pays for wheelchairs for the less fortunate which are purchased through a local pharmacy. Currently about 500kg of bread tags are collected a month in South Africa, funding 2-3 wheelchairs.

We have been collecting bread tags nationally in Australia since September 2018 and now have more than 100 collection points across the country. In February 2019 we started local recycling through Transmutation - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in Robe, SA, where our tags are recycled into products such as door knobs and bowls. Tags from some states are still sent to South Africa where a plastics company called Zibo recycles them into seedling trays.

These humble bits of polystyrene can make a real difference so get your friends, family, school, workplace and church involved. Ask school tuck shops and boarding school kitchens, child care centres, aged care facilities, hospitals, cafes and fast food outlets to collect for you - they get through a lot of bread!

All the information and signage for collecting or setting up a public collection point is on our website.

Local Collectors
Lesley Flood
Please email for address -
Jodie Streckeisen
Please email for the address -

Friday essay: 3 ways philosophy can help us understand love

Francois Gerard, Cupid and Psyche, 1798. Wikimedia Commons
Hugh BreakeyGriffith University

Love can seem a primal force, an intoxicating mix of desire, care, ecstasy and jealousy hard-wired into our hearts. The polar opposite of philosophy’s measured rationality and theoretical speculations.

Yet if you take any topic in the world, and keeping asking deep questions of it, you will ultimately wind up doing philosophy. Love is no different.

Indeed, many famous philosophers— Kant, Aristotle, De Bouvier — wrote about love and how it fitted into their larger theories of human reason, excellence and freedom.

Unsurprisingly, their historically-situated views tended to mirror the culturally valued types of love in their time. The Greeks eulogised the love of friendship. Scholars in the middle ages ruminated on the love of God. With the Renaissance, romantic love moved centre stage.

Today, philosophers continue to interrogate love and draw practical lessons about how we can approach it in our own lives.

Philosophers continue to interrogate the nature of love. Véronique Harter GeorgeCC BY-NC-SA

Read more: Friday essay: finding spaces for love

What Is Love?

Think of the ways in which we distinguish love from other similar qualities. We can easily imagine someone saying: “It’s not love — they’re just friends.” Or “It’s not love —it’s just infatuation.”

Ideally, an account of love would distinguish it from (on the one hand) liking, friendship, respect, admiration and care, and (on the other) lust, infatuation and obsession. Love seems deeper than and different from these.

Perhaps we also need to consider whether we use the word love in different ways. When we speak of loving books, or a band, or our pets, are we using the same concept as when we speak of love of people?

Józef Simmler’s portrait of Diotima of Mantinea. Her ideas and doctrine of Eros as reported by Socrates are the origin of the concept of Platonic love. Wikimedia Commons

Even focusing on love of people, we may want to distinguish between types of love — such as the passion shared by two honeymooners, compared to the committed companionship of an elderly married couple. Some might mark the distinction by saying the honeymooners are “in love”, while the elderly couple “love one another”.

Early philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle and St Augustine, developed intriguing concepts here, distinguishing eros (passionate desire) from philia (friendship) and agape (universal brotherly love).

Yet other philosophers, such as Susan Wolf, point out that, despite distinctions in their early stages, different types of love tend to grow more similar over time. Perhaps this suggests there is an underlying, shared essence of love.

The Essence Of Love

Imagine you asked yourself what love is really, ultimately about. What would your answer be?

Would you say love is an emotion? Love can seem a perfect example of an emotion. However, compared to emotions like anger or sadness, love’s mental states are strangely changeable. Love can make us daydream and swoon — but equally it can drive us to jealousy, loss, confusion, aspiration, ambition and more. Love is not one feeling, but the fount of many.

Read more: There are six styles of love. Which one best describes you?

Perhaps you might instead focus on love as desire — either to improve the beloved’s life, or (in the case of romantic love) to be with them emotionally and physically. (Of course, the desire to be with the beloved often overlaps with the desire to do what is best for them. But tragedy is not far away when these two desires pull in different directions.)

Or you might wonder if love is a profound type of recognition — the ability to really see into another person’s normally hidden depths, and to realise how profound and important they are.

These are all good answers. Different philosophers defend each of these approaches, finding insight in each. One of the nice things about philosophy is that there may be no single correct answer to these questions. Some people might even hold that love is inherently ineffable — incapable of rational definition.

A Puzzle

One important part of any account of love will include the way we value the beloved. But this presents an intriguing puzzle. We feel like we love another person on the basis of their lovable properties. We love them for their kindness, charm, beauty, intelligence, depth, sense of humour, or their eyes or smile. And we feel like we want to be loved by others on the basis of our own virtues.

Loving someone means we resist ‘trading up’. shutterstock

While this seems reasonable, a moment’s reflection shows it can’t be right. If we really loved someone purely on the basis of their desirable properties, then we should rationally “trade up” any time someone came along who was even more beautiful and intelligent. But that’s not how love works. We love the whole person, not just their particular qualities, which might come and go.

But equally, it can’t be that we love someone just “because”, on the basis of no reasons whatsoever. That seems unsatisfying, and doesn’t mesh with the fact there clearly are things about our beloved that we cherish and that anchor our attraction. Equally, if our beloved starts treating us badly, we can respond to that — perhaps ultimately by withdrawing our love. We aren’t simply condemned to go on loving the person even when we have no reasons to do so.

Love As A Verb, Love As A History

Another dimension of love is the fact that love is not a simple state of existence, but occurs over and through time. After all, love is not only a noun, it’s also a verb.

Loving is an intention and an action that has consequences, and like other actions, it’s one that we can be responsible for and accountable for. Even though we can fall in love, it remains something that we can make choices about — we can work to remain in love, and we can strive to free ourselves from it.

For this reason, some philosophers, such as Raja Halwani, have stressed that love is ultimately about commitment.

Love occurs over time. shutterstock

It is when we start to own our feelings for another person, and become responsible for them, that love occurs. When we are merely gripped by them, or overthrown by them, it is just obsession or infatuation. From there it is up to us to commit, and this is where genuine love — love as a verb — emerges.

There is another way love occurs over and through time. The love between two people arises from a historical process in their lives. As romance books remind us, love often presents as a story, with events occurring between two people that change and challenge them as they come together and (all going well) seek to create a new union — a “we”.

(Of course, for romantic love, chemistry matters too. There is no guarantee that two people will “fit” merely because they both have wonderful virtues and compatible values.)

In other words, to say that a person is in love is not purely a statement about emotion or value. It is also telling us something about their history. They have lived and grown through their experiences with the beloved, and this has led to their deep attachment. This is at once one of the glorious parts of love, empowering intimate shared experiences, even as it is a way that drives the process of love forward.

One of the reasons we love him rather than someone else, is because we have had special intimate experiences with him, grown with him, shared memories with him, created a life with him.

The Ethics Of Love

Is love ethically justifiable?

In many ways, love can seem like a moral danger. Love is often “blind” — it can beguile us into seeing the world wrongly. Love also stops us valuing others impartially — which can seem like the exact opposite of what ethics requires of us.

Edward Burne-Jones, Love Among the Ruins: Wikimedia Commons

Also, love has a complex relationship with autonomy: the capacity to direct and control our lives, and a central part of being a free and responsible human being.

Love can threaten autonomy. When we invest emotionally in another person, plan our lives around them, and start to feel their gains and losses as our own, we relinquish the amount of control we have over both big and small life decisions.

Still there is another side to love, which sees it as ethically critical. After all, love extends us beyond ourselves, giving us an attachment to others that pushes us out of self-interested and self-absorbed ways.

The way we value our beloved can even parallel moral respect. We value and desire the person in and for themselves, similar to the way morality requires us to respect others for their own sake.

Finally, as far back as Socrates and Plato was the idea that love uplifts us morally by letting us see value and beauty in the world. By giving us reasons to live and get out of bed in the morning, love makes us aware the world houses wonderful, inspiring things, worthy of our care and protection.


These philosophical ideas about love suggest some practical lessons.

First, love is complex and ambiguous — if thoughtful philosophers can’t agree on its qualities, different people may understand it in different ways.

This depth of disagreement matters. It means someone might truthfully say, “I love you”, but they might mean something completely different from what we imagine. They might be speaking of desire and passion, where we think of commitment and togetherness.

Secondly, love involves vulnerability — and therefore risk. All the features of love noted above — desire, value, commitment, care — create vulnerabilities. Love makes us open ourselves up for another person, showing intimate parts of ourselves, and hoping the support and care we feel for them will be reciprocated.

Ferdinand Bol, Portrait of Wigbold Slicher and Elisabeth Spiegel as Paris handing Venus the Apple, 1656. Wikimedia Commons

It is a difficult thing to pour so much concern, admiration and desire onto someone, investing our time and precious experiences into them, even defining ourselves in terms of them and feeling their pains as our own, if they do not meet us halfway.

Unfortunately, we often respond to being vulnerable by taking control. In some ways, this is healthy. It can prompt us to make sensible decisions about managing our lives. We can decide that a relationship is toxic or not good for us, and work to improve matters or to leave.

But there is a dark side to this desire for control. We may respond to our emotional vulnerability by trying to control parts of our beloved’s life. This can be harmful to them, and to the relationship. For this reason, care and respect are vital in relationships of love.

Thirdly, if we want to love, we must learn to love a changing person. As we saw above, there is a sense in which we love both the person themselves, and also their lovable qualities.

This gives rise to a practical challenge in maintaining love. We are challenged to continue finding lovable attributes in our partner, and creating new experiences with them, even as they change and grow.

And at the same time, we are challenged to keep nurturing our own lovable properties and virtues, to ensure our partner has continuing reason to remain in love with us.

Ultimately, love may be too wonderfully multifarious and dynamic to be pinned down by a definition or philosophical theory. But we can still benefit from thinking deeply about love’s nature and the challenges and promises it presents.

Hugh Breakey is the author of the romance novel The Beautiful Fall.The Conversation

Hugh Breakey, President, Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics. Senior Research Fellow, Moral philosophy, Institute for Ethics, Governance & Law, Law Futures Centre., Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What are waterspouts, and how do they form? An expert explains

Joseph Golden / NOAA
Dean NarramoreAustralian Bureau of Meteorology

Waterspouts are extraordinary, impressive weather events. Observers describe them as looking like “the start of an alien invasion” and post their snaps across social media.

But what are these enigmatic offshore twisters, and what causes them to form?

What Is A Waterspout?

A waterspout is a spinning column of air that sucks up water (usually from the ocean) to make a twisting funnel of water and cloud connecting the sea and the sky.

They are spectacular but short lived, usually lasting no more than five minutes (but occasionally up to ten minutes). Winds inside the waterspout can be faster than 100 kilometres per hour, and they can do great damage to boats at sea.

If they drift ashore, waterspouts can create even more havoc: the Lennox Head tornado in 2010 destroyed a dozen homes in northern NSW.

Waterspouts are in some ways like the tornadoes that form over land. But where tornadoes are associated with huge supercell thunderstorms, waterspouts can form during smaller storms or even just showers or the presence of the right kind of clouds.

Read more: Tornadoes in Australia? They're more common than you think

How Do Waterspouts Form?

Waterspouts can form when winds blowing in two different directions run into each other. Along the line where the two winds meet (called a “convergence line” or “shear line”), there is a lot of rotating air near the surface.

The collision of the two winds makes air move upwards because it has nowhere else to go. This rising air carries water vapour high into the sky where it creates rain showers, storms and cumulus clouds.

Waterspouts off the coast at Harrington in NSW. Sue McDonaldAuthor provided

As the air rises, it can tilt some of the horizontal spinning air near the surface into the vertical direction. When this vertical spin concentrates at a particular point it starts sucking up water — and you have yourself a waterspout.

Because waterspouts form on the line where two winds meet, you sometimes see a line of waterspouts in a row where the spinning low-level air is sucked upwards at a few different points.

When And Where Are Waterspouts Most Common?

In Australia, waterspouts are most common along the NSW and Queensland coast.

Most mornings, cooler nighttime air blowing off the land meets warmer air sitting out to sea. Usually this results in a line of clouds sitting offshore where the two air masses meet.

Under the right conditions — most often in autumn and winter, when the land gets colder but the sea stays relatively warm — the collision becomes more dramatic and waterspouts appear.

Can We Forecast Waterspouts?

Waterspouts look very big and impressive to the casual viewer, but to a meteorologist looking at the world’s weather patterns they are quite small. This makes them very hard to forecast with any level of confidence.

Read more: Curious Kids: how do people know what the weather will be?

We know the kind of weather conditions that can lead to waterspouts, so if we see those conditions forming we might know there is a chance we’ll see some. But the small scale and short life of waterspouts mean forecasting the location or timing is almost impossible.The Conversation

Dean Narramore, Senior meteorologist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Proposed new curriculum acknowledges First Nations' view of British 'invasion' and a multicultural Australia

Stewart RiddleUniversity of Southern Queensland

Proposed changes to the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum were released for public consultation yesterday.

While many of these changes are minor tweaks and refinements, much like a curriculum oil change and tune-up, there are some noteworthy changes in the mix.

They include a more accurate reflection of the historical record of First Nations people’s experience with colonisation, with a commitment to “truth telling”. This means in part recognising Australia’s First Nations peoples viewed Britain’s arrival as an “invasion”.

There is also much stronger emphasis on cultural diversity and inclusion in the Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum.

Here is a summary of some of the good and the bad detail in the proposed curriculum changes.

Why Is The Curriculum Being Reviewed?

The Australian Curriculum was originally introduced in 2012 to provide support and greater consistency for what students learn in Australian schools in eight key learning areas. These are: English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, The Arts, Technologies, Languages, and Health and Physical Education.

In 2014, conservative commentator, Kevin Donnelly, and business academic, Ken Wiltshire, conducted the first review of the curriculum.

Their report called for greater emphasis on Western literature and Judeo–Christian heritage, as well as an increased focus on literacy and numeracy in the early years of primary school.

The Donnelly–Wilshire review also recommended the Australian Curriculum be reviewed every five years.

Read more: Curriculum review set to reignite the 'literacy wars'

An updated Australian Curriculum was released in 2015. This has since been used by state and territory education authorities, and independent and Catholic schools to inform their curriculum planning.

The Australian Curriculum is not prescriptive, with each state and territory having jurisdiction over its own curriculum frameworks. For example, New South Wales has its own suite of syllabuses for each course. These include the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes expected in each course.

Similarly, the Victorian Curriculum incorporates the Australian Curriculum but reflects standards set out by Victoria.

In June 2020, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority announced the first five-year review of the Australian Curriculum. One of the aims was to refine and reduce the content across the eight learning areas.

The Good: Arrival Of The British Seen As ‘Invasion’

The new curriculum includes significant changes to the cross-curriculum priority (learning areas that aren’t distinct but found across all of the curriculum) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures. This is to more accurately reflect the historical record and contemporary context.

For example, the current curriculum states:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities maintain a special connection to and responsibility for Country/Place.

This has been changed to:

The occupation and colonisation of Australia by the British, under the now overturned doctrine of terra nullius, were experienced by First Nations Australians as an invasion that denied their occupation of, and connection to, Country/Place.

Satellite dish in Uluru with a painted Aboriginal flag saying
The new curriculum acknowledges the denial of First Nations’ peoples land and culture with the arrival of the British. Alessia Francischiello/Unsplash

Another statement in the current curriculum is very broad:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies have many Language Groups.

But the review has the statement changed to:

First Nations Australian societies are diverse and have distinct cultural expressions such as language, custom and beliefs. As First Nations Peoples of Australia they have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural expressions, while also maintaining the right to control, protect and develop culture as Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property.

Read more: Captain Cook 'discovered' Australia, and other myths from old school text books

The Good: A Multicultural Australia

The proposed Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum changes signal a much stronger emphasis on cultural diversity and inclusion. This sits at odds with the 2014 review’s focus on Western culture and Christianity.

For example, currently in Year 7 Civics and Citizenship, students learn:

How Australia is a secular nation and a multi-faith society with a Christian heritage.

The proposed change will recommend students learn:

How Australia is a culturally diverse, multi-faith, secular and pluralistic society with diverse communities, such as the distinct communities of First Nations Australians.

The backlash to these proposed changes in the conservative media has already begun with an editorial in The Australian claiming “no faith-based school worth its salt could tolerate such bias”.

The Bad: ‘Back To Basics’

Just like in 2014, there has been a reductive push in the first years of primary schooling to focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of other rich curriculum experiences, such as the arts.

For example, the Foundation to Year 2 English curriculum has been substantially revised, with an increased emphasis on phonics and decoding, while the use of computer word processing has been moved to the Technology curriculum.

To make room for the additional focus on literacy and numeracy in the early years, both the Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum have been significantly reduced.

And in what appears to be an odd curriculum change, learning times tables in Mathematics has been postponed from Year 3 to Year 4.


The proposed changes will likely continue to generate some harsh criticism, especially from conservative commentators who feel a stronger commitment to cultural diversity and social inclusion in the curriculum will come at a cost to students learning about the Western literary canon and Australian history since 1788.

But these changes are not a zero-sum game. They are a long-overdue recognition of the diverse communities and heritages that make up contemporary Australia and deserve to be studied and celebrated.

Girl reading book
The curriculum may a usual flare up of the ‘reading wars’. Shutterstock

There will also be the usual flare-up of the “reading wars”, in which advocates of teaching phonics (teaching children the sounds made by individual letters or letter groups) will claim there is still not enough of it in the curriculum.

Other educators will argue the increased emphasis on phonics removes the opportunity for children to understand the broader meaning of texts as part of their literacy learning in primary school.

Inequality Still Prevails

Tinkering with the curriculum fails to address the biggest issue in Australian schooling, which is social disadvantage and inequity.

While elite private schools receive generous government funding in addition to tuition fees charged to families, some of the most disadvantaged public schools continue to be inadequately resourced.

Read more: Australian schools are becoming more segregated. This threatens student outcomes

Australian schooling is one of the most inequitable in the world and disadvantaged Australian students are up to three years behind the most-advantaged students.

Without adequate resourcing and funding models in place, no amount of reform will ensure all students receive access to a rich curriculum.

The public consultation window for the proposed curriculum is ten weeks — from April 29 until July 8 2021.The Conversation

Stewart Riddle, Associate Professor, University of Southern Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Swim like a sea lion, splash like a seal: how evolution engineered nature’s underwater acrobats

David HockingMonash UniversityAlistair EvansMonash UniversityFelix Georg MarxTe Papa TongarewaHazel L. RichardsMonash University, and Shibo WangMonash University

Few fish can outswim a seal. Seals fly through the waves, predators in their natural element. But, unlike fish, seals are air-breathing mammals whose ancestors only returned to the water from a life on land some 30 million years ago.

On entering the water, seals had to adapt both their bodies and behaviour to become efficient underwater swimmers. Like penguins and sea turtles, they use streamlined limbs to propel themselves through the water.

Yet, there is a mystery here. Even though all seals and sea lions are descended from a common ancestor, they use two radically different modes of propulsion: true seals (phocids) swim with their feet; fur seals and sea lions (otariids) rely on their wing-like forelimbs.

How did these two related groups come up with such different swimming styles? Did they start from a common base, but then adapt to different circumstances? Or do we have it all wrong, and phocids and otariids have different ancestors after all?

Seals and sea lions share a common suite of behaviours that they use to propel themselves through the water.

To find out, we partnered with a team of engineers to combine cutting-edge computer simulations with anatomical and live animal observations. This multi-angled study, published today in Current Biology, allowed us to determine how, and how effectively, seals use their forelimbs during swimming.

Engineering A Seal

Evolutionary biology and engineering might seem like strange bedfellows. Yet, ever since Leonardo Da Vinci, humans have sought to understand and adapt nature’s “designs”, giving rise to a field of engineering known today as biomimetics.

Engineering allows biologists to look beyond the mere shape of an animal, and instead ask how that shape is adapted to function within the physical limits set by its environment.

Applying this approach our question, we initially created 3D computer models of forelimb flippers representing each of the main seal families: from the bear-like paws of phocids (such as grey seals) to the wing-like flippers of fur seals and sea lions.

How streamlined are seal flippers? Northern seals like grey seals have bear-like paws with large claws, while fur seals and sea lions have very streamlined flippers. Interestingly, Antarctic leopard seals have independently evolved streamlined flippers despite being members of the foot-propelled seal family. Photos by Ben Burville, David Hocking and Robert Harcourt.

Next, we used computer-simulated fluid dynamics to model how water flows around the different flipper shapes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found the wing-like flippers of fur seals and sea lions produce little drag and considerable lift. The opposite is true of the clawed paws of true seals, which consequently make fairly poor tools for swimming.

Computer fluid dynamics simulations showing how water flows around seal flippers. Note how the large claws on a grey seal interrupt the flow, while leopard and fur seals have very smooth water flow around their streamlined front flippers. David Hocking

Repeated Evolution Of Forelimb Flippers

So far, our results seem to confirm the fundamental difference between phocids and otariids. But there’s a twist to the story: streamlined fore-flippers are not unique to otariids.

Our results show that some rear-propelled Antarctic true seals independently evolved streamlined fore-flippers as well. This is taken to the extreme in leopard seals, whose flippers are almost indistinguishable from those of otariids. Out at sea, their massive forelimbs likely give them the speed and agility needed to pursue evasive prey such as penguins.

Antarctic leopard seals have broad wing-like flippers that help them to pursue highly evasive prey like penguins. Fiona Anderson

Read more: Scientists thought these seals evolved in the north. 3-million-year-old fossils from New Zealand suggest otherwise

The independent appearance of flippers within southern true seals provides a clue to how forelimb swimming may have evolved in the first place.

Early seals probably swam with their feet and, like their terrestrial ancestors and northern true seals today, used their clawed forepaws to catch and eat large prey.

Northern seals like grey seals can use their clawed paws for a range of tasks including grooming and holding prey. In contrast, species with wing-like flippers aren’t able to use their limbs in this way, with large prey instead needing to be shaken apart using flexible necks. David Hocking

Over time, otariids and southern true seals independently began to chase faster, more agile prey. This would have required their forelimbs to assume a more active role during swimming, which manifested itself in greater streamlining, reduced claws and — in otariids — a complete switch from foot to flipper-based propulsion.

Read more: Sharp claws helped ancient seals conquer the oceans

So there you have it: perhaps seals use different swimming styles not because of separate evolutionary origins, but because they adapted to different environments. And it seems they did so more than once!

This theory makes a lot of sense in light of how seals behave and look today. Its litmus test likely lies elsewhere, however: buried beneath rocks, rather than frolicking beneath the waves. Only fossils can tell us what early seals were really like and, if our idea is correct, we should ultimately find some that match it. Only time will tell.The Conversation

David Hocking, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology and Palaeontology, Monash UniversityAlistair Evans, Associate Professor, Monash UniversityFelix Georg Marx, Curator Vertebrates, Te Papa TongarewaHazel L. Richards, PhD candidate, Monash University, and Shibo Wang, Postdoctoral research fellow, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A giant piece of space junk is hurtling towards Earth. Here's how worried you should be

Steven FreelandWestern Sydney University

A large piece of space debris, possibly weighing several tonnes, is currently on an uncontrolled reentry phase (that’s space speak for “out of control”), and parts of it are expected to crash down to Earth over the next few weeks.

If that isn’t worrying enough, it is impossible to predict exactly where the pieces that don’t burn up in the atmosphere might land. Given the object’s orbit, the possible landing points are anywhere in a band of latitudes “a little farther north than New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand”.

Altitude chart
Changing altitude of the Long March 5B rocket now in uncontrolled descent back to Earth.

The debris is part of the Long March 5B rocket that recently successfully launched China’s first module for its proposed space station. The incident comes roughly a year after another similar Chinese rocket fell to Earth, landing in the Atlantic Ocean but not before it reportedly left a trail of debris in the African nation of Cote D'Ivoire.

At the time, experts noted this was one of the largest pieces of human-made debris ever to fall to Earth. We cannot say with certainty what fate awaits this latest piece of space junk.

Litter From Space

Australia already holds the record in the category of “who can be hit by the biggest piece of space junk”. In 1979, the 77-tonne US space station SkyLab disintegrated over Western Australia, peppering the area around the southern coastal town of Esperance with fragments.

At the time, the event was met with with excitement and a sense of lightheartedness, and many pieces were collected by space enthusiasts. Esperance shire council flippantly issued NASA with a fine for littering, and a US radio station later raised enough money to pay the debt.

Although there have been no recorded deaths or serious injuries from people being hit by space debris, that’s no reason to think it’s not dangerous. Just one year before SkyLab’s demise, a Soviet remote sensing (spy) satellite, Cosmos 954, plummeted into a barren region of Canada’s Northwest Territories, spreading radioactive debris over several hundred square kilometres.

With the Cold War at its height, the sensitivity of the nuclear technology on board Cosmos 954 led to an unfortunate delay in locating and cleaning up the wreckage, because of the distrust between the Soviet Union and the Canadian/US recovery effort.

The clean-up operation took months but located only a portion of the debris. Canada billed the Soviet Union more than C$6 million, having spent millions more, but was ultimately paid only C$3 million.

Read more: Trash or treasure? A lot of space debris is junk, but some is precious heritage

Since the late 1970s, pieces of space debris have fallen to Earth regularly and are viewed with increasing concern. Of course, more than 70% of Earth is covered by oceans, and only a minuscule fraction of the remaining 30% is covered by your house. But for anyone falling foul of the extremely long odds, the consequences would be truly disastrous.

It was just a quirk of fate that Cosmos 954 did not land on Toronto or Quebec City, where the radioactive fallout would have necessitated a large-scale evacuation. In 2007, pieces of debris from a Russian satellite narrowly missed a Chilean passenger plane flying between Santiago and Auckland. As we send more objects into space, the chances of a calamitous crash-landing will only increase.

Read more: Two satellites just avoided a head-on smash. How close did they come to disaster?

Who Pays To Clean Up The Mess, Anyway?

International law sets out a compensation regime that would apply in many circumstances of damage on Earth, as well as when satellites collide in space. The 1972 Liability Convention, a UN treaty, imposes liability on “launching states” for damage caused by their space objects, which includes an absolute liability regime when they crash to Earth as debris.

In the case of the Long March 5B, this would impose potential liability on China. The treaty has only been invoked once before (for the Cosmos 954 incident) and therefore may not be regarded as a powerful disincentive. However, it is likely to come into play in the future in a more crowded space environment, and with more uncontrolled reentries. Of course, this legal framework applies only after the damage occurs.

Read more: It's not how big your laser is, it's how you use it: space law is an important part of the fight against space debris

Other international guidelines regarding debris mitigation and long-term sustainability of space activities set out voluntary standards intended to limit the probability of collisions in space, and minimise the breakup of satellites either during or after their missions.

Some satellites can be moved into a graveyard orbit at the end of their operational life. While this works well for certain specific orbits at a relatively high altitude, it is impractical and hazardous to start moving the vast majority of satellites around between orbital planes. Most of the millions of pieces of space junk are destined either to orbit in an uncontrollable manner for many years or, if they are in low Earth orbit, to gradually descend towards the Earth, hopefully burning up in the atmosphere before contact with terra firma.

A globally coordinated space traffic management system will be vital to avoid collisions that would result in loss of control of satellites, leaving them to tumble helplessly in orbit or fall back to Earth.

Comprehensively tracking every satellite’s movement and functionality is even harder than it sounds, because it would inevitably require countries to be willing to share information they often currently regard as confidential matters of national security.

But, ultimately, global cooperation is essential if we are to avoid an unsustainable future for our space activities. In the meantime, don’t forget to gaze upwards every now and then — you might spot some of the most spectacular litter on the planet.The Conversation

Steven Freeland, Professorial Fellow, Bond University / Emeritus Professor of International Law, Western Sydney University, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

'That's not us'. Wake in Fright at 50, a portrait of an ugly Australia that became a cinema classic

Nicholas GodfreyFlinders University

In recent years, Wake in Fright (1971) has cemented its reputation as one of the most important Australian films. But for decades after its release it was almost impossible to find a version to watch.

In the early 1970s, the Australian film industry was still in its infancy. But Australian television was in full stride, and there were hints of an emerging national cinema.

Directed by Canadian Ted Kotcheff, and adapted from Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel of the same name, Wake in Fright, which premiered at Cannes in May 1971, emerged at a moment when Australian art and literature was consciously attempting to express a distinct cultural nationalism.

While the comic film Barry McKenzie, which came out the following year, projected outwards as broad farce, turning the vulgarity of the Australian character back at empire, Wake in Fright turned inwards, finding psychological horror inland.

European art films were cross-pollinating with Hollywood. A truly international art cinema seemed possible, and the Australian landscape provided a novel setting.

Fifty years on, Wake in Fright remains an uncomfortable and unvarnished portrait of Australia, with unforgettable images of mangled kangaroo corpses and discarded beer cans.

An Ugly Country

The film explores the ugliness at the heart of the Australian project, and the toll of extracting precious metals from the earth.

Teacher John Grant (Gary Bond) leaves his outback schoolhouse, heading back to Sydney for the holidays. He stops overnight in Bundanyabba (a thinly-veiled stand-in for production location Broken Hill), and loses his savings in a night of drunkenness and two-up, leaving him stranded.

Read more: Let's honour the Anzacs by making two-up illegal again

In episodic fashion, John is drawn into the lives of the eccentric locals, including the unhinged Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasence), the languid, repressed Janette (Sylvia Kay) and the roughabout Dick (Jack Thompson, in his film debut). The film culminates in a bloody kangaroo hunt — captured when the production accompanied a real-life hunting expedition.

Wake in Fright is filled with moments of wry humour and deadpan surrealism, as when a performatively sombre ANZAC observance momentarily halts the equally ritualised swill at the local RSL.

Production image: aerial shot of a game of two-up.
School teacher John Grant stops in a small country town — only to become stranded after a night of gambling. IMDB

Wake in Fright explores the contradictions of “the Yabba”, where grand colonial architecture abuts slag heaps under the oppressive, beating sun.

It remains a compelling portrait of class anxiety and the tensions between metropolitan and rural Australian life. The social economy of the Yabba trades on “aggressive hospitality”, suspicion of outsiders and inferiority complexes, embodied in the local cop (Chips Rafferty, in his final role).

Production image: a man holds a bleeding kangaroo.
Wake in Fright is an often ugly portrait of Australia. IMDB

The uptight, superior John takes on a civilising mission through his teaching, while dreaming of the cooling respite of coastal Sydney. Yet it only takes a single night in the Yabba to turn John to beer-soaked savagery.

Tydon, John’s sinister counterpart, makes a mockery of his medical qualifications, embracing his animalistic nature as a perverse badge of honour. Alcohol fuels John’s descent — and the film’s depravity — erupting in the monstrous kangaroo carnage.

At the film’s conclusion, John’s return to the schoolhouse mirrors the opening, implying all this will happen again.

The film’s release has acquired its own mythology: screenings were met with stunned silence, or cries of “that’s not us.”

Wake in Fright did receive some positive notices, and an extended run in France after its Cannes premiere. But in Australia, the film fell victim to an American distributor uncertain of how to effectively market it to Australian audiences.

After its initial release, it quickly fell into obscurity, unless one happened across its single television screening in 1988, which seeded fuzzy, half-remembered impressions of its horrors.

Lost And Found

For decades it was believed there was no extant film print of sufficient quality to permit restoration for home media release or theatrical re-release.

The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) was established in 1984, 13 years after Wake in Fright’s release, and began to acquire all films produced through government agencies, with producers encouraged to deposit prints. But before this films were regularly lost to obscurity.

There was little incentive for commercial distributors to contribute to the NFSA — particularly in cases where films failed to perform at the box office — and until the adoption of digital cinema projection it was standard practice for distributors to destroy release prints after theatrical runs.

It is thought 90% of Australia’s silent film history is lost, and Wake in Fright appeared to have suffered the same fate.

Fortunately, after a protracted search, the film’s editor Tony Buckley located a 35mm negative print in 2004 at a CBS storage facility in Pittsburgh, in a container marked “for destruction”.

It was repatriated to Australia, and restored at the NFSA.

The restored print screened again at Cannes in 2009, and was released theatrically worldwide, marketed as “a lost classic from the outback.”

It has since inspired a monograph, book chapters and articles, a production history, a theatrical adaptation and a contemporary television miniseries remake.

Read more: A radical new adaptation eviscerates the dominance of male voices in Wake in Fright

Wake in Fright’s shift from a fuzzy memory to a cornerstone of Australian cinema demonstrates how malleable film canons are. Fifty years on from the premiere, Wake in Fright’s reappraisal and reclamation demonstrate the roles marketing and distribution can play in shaping our understanding of film history.

It is also a testament to the importance of institutions like the NFSA in reviving and showcasing underseen works — including those that reveal aspects of ourselves we might find uncomfortable.The Conversation

Nicholas Godfrey, Lecturer, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

After 140 years, researchers have rediscovered an important Aboriginal ceremonial ground in East Gippsland

A Gunaikurnai Jeraeil re-enactment c.1883 with men, women, and children. Left to right: (standing) Big Joe, Billy the Bull, Wild Harry, Billy McDougall, Snowy River Charlie, unidentified man, Bobby Brown, Billy McLeod (Toolabar), Larry Johnson. Woman, second from right: Emma McDougall. State Library of Victoria
Jason M. GibsonDeakin University and Russell MullettIndigenous Knowledge

After 140 years, researchers have rediscovered an Aboriginal ceremonial ground in Victoria’s East Gippsland. The site was host to the last young men’s initiation ceremony of the Gunaikurnai back in 1884, witnessed by the anthropologist A.W. Howitt.

Howitt’s field notes, combined with contemporary Gunaikurnai knowledge of their country, has led to the rediscovery. The site is located on public land, on the edge of the small fishing village of Seacombe. Its precise location had been lost following decades of colonial suppression of Gunaikurnai ritual and religious practices.

Researchers from the Howitt and Fison Archive project and the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation began searching for the site in 2018. While it lacks archaeological traces, such as middens, rock art, stone arrangements or artefact scatters, the importance of such ceremonial grounds is under-recognised. They are a central feature of Australian Indigenous conceptions of landscape and have considerable historical and cultural importance.

The authors examine the ceremony ground. Author provided

The Jeraeil

In the first few weeks of 1884, the Gunaikurnai peoples of Gippsland were preparing for a historic gathering. After decades of discussion and negotiation with Howitt, who was also a local magistrate and power broker, they finally agreed to allow him to record their secretive young men’s initiation ceremony, known as the Jeraeil.

Last held in 1857, just a few years before Howitt arrived in Gippsland, the Jeraeil had ceased to be performed due to tighter governmental restrictions and stern dissuasion from Christian missionaries.

On January 30 1884, all the required Gunaikurnai people had assembled. Those coming from the Lake Tyers Mission came on the paddle steamer Tanjil. Those from Ramahyuck Mission, on the shores of Lake Wellington, arrived on the steamer Dargo.

Convinced that an Aboriginal initiation ceremony from this part of the colony would never be performed again, Howitt arranged and paid for his primary Kulin informants from the Melbourne area, William Barak and Dick Richards, to attend so they could contribute their commentary on Victorian ceremonies.

The event, which lasted four days, began with a series of preliminary ceremonies involving men and women singing together. The women kept time by beating on rugs folded in their laps and hitting digging sticks on the ground. Many of the performances that followed were restricted only to men, with six youths eventually initiated into manhood.

“It was remarkable,” Howitt commented, that although he had known many of these men “intimately,” and for a long time, they had kept these “special secrets […] carefully concealed” from him for many years.

Howitt’s published description of the Jeraeil, along with the equally significant work on similar ceremonies in New South Wales produced by Robert Hamilton Mathews, went on to influence the way religious life and ritual in south-eastern Australia was understood.

Finding The Site

Lacking from Howitt’s record, however, was a precise description of where the historic ceremony had been held. A recent project to work on Howitt’s field notes in collaboration with Gunaikurnai people has uncovered new details, including a sketch map of the ceremony ground, sparking community interest in finding the site.

Plan of the Jeraeil ground drawn by A. W. Howitt. A. W. Howitt Collection Museum Victoria.

Howitt’s drawing of the ceremony ground, along with his notes and newspaper articles, enabled the research team to positively locate the site, on the edge of Seacombe, near the McLellan’s strait, which links Lake Wellington with the Southern Ocean.

The site’s significance lies not in any immediately observable physical property, but in its historical and cultural associations. They span the story associated with this place, including the local creation stories associated with Bullum Baukan (a woman with two spirits inside her); the complicated relationship with Howitt; interactions with other colonial authorities and the status of the Jeraeil in anthropological literature.

Discovery of this site means it is now protected under the (Victorian) Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. All Aboriginal cultural heritage is protected in Victoria whether it has been formally registered or not and it is an offence to harm it.

The Jeraeil site is arguably one of the most significant of places in terms of the ritual and ceremonial life of Gunaikurnai people. However, the prospect of erecting signage at the Jeraeil site can produce mixed responses.

On the one hand, telling the world about these places might secure them. On the other, the Gunaikurnai live in a region dotted with monuments that remind people of the colonial violence enacted by men such as Scottish explorer Angus McMillian. One plaque brazenly describes McMillan as an explorer who achieved “territorial ascendancy over Gippsland Aborigines”.

Victorian Aboriginal cultural heritage continues to be damaged as happened with the recent partial destruction of the Kooyang Stone Arrangement in Lake Bolac. Some in the Gunaikurnai community fear too little is being done to protect such places but also worry about the public’s readiness to embrace Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Still, it is imperative places like the 1884 Jeraeil ground are better understood, recognised and protected. Not only does it tell a story of Aboriginal cultural practice but of shared Aboriginal and European interactions we should all know more about.The Conversation

Jason M. Gibson, Research Fellow, Deakin University and Russell Mullett, Traditional Custodian — Kurnai, Indigenous Knowledge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Indigenous Voice: Overwhelming Support For Constitutional Enshrinement

May 3, 2021
Vast majority of public submissions published to date in response to the Indigenous Voice Interim Report support a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Public submissions, published online and analysed by the UNSW Indigenous Law Centre, show an overwhelming level of support for the constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations Voice to Parliament. Photo: UNSW Indigenous Law Centre, Jimmy Widders Hunt.

The Australian public has emphasised the urgent need for the constitutional protection of a First Nations Voice to Parliament in submissions made to the Indigenous Voice Co-design process.

Analysis by the UNSW Indigenous Law Centre (ILC) finds 82 per cent of published public submissions expressly support the constitutional enshrinement of a Voice to Parliament. A further 5 per cent express in-principle support for constitutional enshrinement, combining to a total of 87 per cent of total submissions in support of constitutional change.

Submissions closed Friday, 30 April 2021.

“The Australian public has accepted the invitation of the Uluru Statement. The submissions show overwhelming support of everyday Australians wanting to move towards a referendum to enshrine a Voice to Parliament in the Australian Constitution,” Referendum Council co-chair and Uluru Statement leader Pat Anderson AO says.

“The Australian people have stated, explicitly, that the design of a First Nations Voice cannot be decoupled from constitutional reform. Public submissions show that most Australians want the question put to them in a referendum as a matter of priority.” 

Submissions have been received from Australians from all walks of life, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, including Aboriginal organisations, healthcare and social services organisations, corporations, small community organisations, school children, teachers, professors, and community members. 

This includes the Law Council of Australia, the Business Council of Australia, Qantas and many more. 

“The overwhelming amount of support for a constitutionally enshrined Voice, represented by such a large percentage of published submissions, means that the Commonwealth and the Indigenous Voice Co-design group cannot ignore them,” Deputy Director of the Indigenous Law Centre, Dr Dani Larkin says. 

“The Prime Minister says there is no consensus on constitutional recognition. These submissions show otherwise.”

Submissions ranged from legal perspectives and expressions of community sentiment to heartfelt personal calls for substantive change. 

“I make this submission as an Aboriginal woman and mother,” one public submission reads. “I fear for the future and safety of my 4 sons, my siblings, nephews, and nieces… Until substantial change occurs, I will remain in fear.”

“Without a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament we will not achieve the structural reform needed to fundamentally shift the way that this country engages with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people… Our Voice needs to take its rightful place in our Constitution.”

Many of the public submissions spoke of the call from the Uluru Statement to walk with First Nations people to a better Australia.

“I really value the Uluru Statement from the Heart as a way I, a non-indigenous Australian, can support First Nations people to have a Voice,” another submission reads. 

“I believe it is well overdue for all Australians and our institutions to place First Nations people at the centre of decision making and planning for a better future.” 

The total number of public submissions noted on the Indigenous Voice website was 2421 (as of 12pm, 30 April 2021), indicating that not all public submissions have been published online. 

The Indigenous Law Centre analysed all public submissions published on the National Indigenous Australians Agency’s ‘Indigenous Voice’ website as of  12pm 30 April 2021, representing 1435 public submissions. 

The UNSW Indigenous Law Centre leads educational campaigns on the Uluru Statement and the Uluru Dialogues process. Its mandate is the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The work of the ILC is informed by the many cultural authority involved in the work of the Referendum Council and the First Nations dialogues that led to the Uluru Statement. 

Northern Red Sea Corals Pass Heat Stress Test With Flying Colours

May 4, 2021
Even under the most optimistic scenarios, most of the coral reef ecosystems on our planet -- whether in Australia, the Maldives or the Caribbean -- will have disappeared or be in very bad shape by the end of this century. That's because global warming is pushing ocean temperatures above the limit that single-cell algae, which are corals' main allies, can withstand. These algae live inside coral tissue for protection and, in exchange, provide corals with essential nutrients produced through photosynthesis. Because the algae contain a variety of pigments and therefore give coral reefs their famous colours, if they are lost the corals turn white, which is known as coral bleaching. But in spite of the real threat caused by global warming, corals in the Red Sea look set to keep their vibrant colour.

©Maoz Fine

"We already knew that corals in the Gulf of Aqaba, at the northern tip of the Red Sea, were particularly resistant to higher temperatures. But we wanted to study the full molecular mechanism behind this resistance," says Romain Savary, a postdoc at EPFL's Laboratory for Biological Geochemistry (LGB) and lead author of the study, which appears today in PNAS. What the scientists found was telling: those corals, as well as the algae and bacteria they live in symbiosis with, can withstand average temperatures some 5°C higher than what they typically experience. And despite the severity with which climate change is taking place, it's unlikely that Red Sea temperatures will rise more than 5°C by the end of the century. "This gives us real hope that we can save at least one major coral reef ecosystem for future generations," says Anders Meibom, head of the LGB.

Taking it in stride
To conduct their study, the scientists subjected Gulf of Aqaba corals to a range of heat stresses including the higher temperatures likely to occur in the coming decades. The average maximum monthly temperature in these waters is currently around 27°C, so the scientists exposed coral samples to temperatures of 29.5°C, 32°C and 34.5°C, over both a short time period (three hours) and a longer one (one week). The scientists measured the corals' and symbiotic algae's gene expression both during and after the heat stress test, and determined the composition of the microbiome residing in the corals.

"The main thing we found is that these corals currently live in temperatures well below the maximum they can withstand with their molecular machinery, which means they're naturally shielded against the temperature increases that will probably occur over the next 100 or even 200 years," says Savary. "Our measurements showed that at temperatures of up to 32°C, the corals and their symbiotic organisms were able to molecularly recover and acclimate to both short-term and long-term heat stress without any major consequences." This offers genuine hope to scientists -- although warmer waters are not the only threat facing this exceptional natural heritage.

This is the first time scientists have conducted a genetic analysis of coral samples on such a broad scale, and their findings reveal how these heat-resistant corals respond at the most fundamental level -- gene expression. They can also be used as a basis for identifying 'super corals.' According to Meibom, "Romain's research gives us insight into the specific genetic factors that allow corals to survive. His study also indicates that an entire symphony of genetic expression is at work to give corals this extraordinary power." This sets a standard for what "super coral" gene expression looks like during a heat stress and a recovery. But could Red Sea corals be used to one day repopulate the Great Barrier Reef? "Corals are highly dependent on their surroundings," says Meibom. "They can adapt to new environments only after a long, natural colonization process. What's more, the Great Barrier Reef is the size of Italy -- it would be impossible to repopulate it artificially."

The aquarium system to make the tests. ©Maoz Fine

Sailing towards the future
The scientists' work was made possible thanks to two unique research instruments: the Red Sea Simulator (RSS), developed by the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, Israel; and the Coral Bleaching Automated Stress System (CBASS), developed by a team of researchers in the US. Their findings have laid the groundwork for a much more ambitious project that will be led by the Transnational Red Sea Center (TRSC,, which was set up at EPFL in 2019. This new project will kick off this summer and take place over four years. "We'll sail the entire Red Sea -- some 2,000 km long -- on the research vessel Fleur de Passion, owned by our partner the Fondation Pacifique," says Meibom. "The goal will be to map the heat tolerance levels and the diversity of all the different types of corals found in these waters. Water temperatures rise as you head further south on the Red Sea, with a 5-6°C differential between the northern and southern tips. That's what makes it a perfect real-world laboratory for studying these ecosystems. It's as if you're sailing towards the future as you head south."

And what does that glimpse into the future tell us? Some corals in the southern Red Sea are already starting to bleach. Savary believes there's just one solution: "We have to protect these corals and shield them from local stressors, which are mainly sources of pollution and physical destruction. That way we can keep a stock of 'natural super corals' for potentially recolonizing areas that have been hit particularly hard by climate-change-induced heat waves."

Romain Savary, Daniel J. Barshis, Christian R. Voolstra, Anny Cárdenas, Nicolas R. Evensen, Guilhem Banc-Prandi, Maoz Fine, Anders Meibom. Fast and pervasive transcriptomic resilience and acclimation of extremely heat-tolerant coral holobionts from the northern Red Sea. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (19): e2023298118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2023298118

Next Step For Central Coast Highway Upgrade

May 4, 2021
The 3.8-kilometre Central Coast Highway upgrade between Wamberal and Bateau Bay is another step closer today, with a contract awarded to develop the concept design.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said engaging WSP Australia Pty Ltd to develop the design to upgrade the road is a significant step towards driving better journeys on the Central Coast.

"The NSW Government's $387 million investment in widening the highway to two lanes in both directions between Wamberal and Bateau Bay will improve travel time and safety for the 26,500 motorists who use this stretch of road daily," Mr Toole said.

"The upgrade will also improve economic growth and productivity, particularly during busy holiday periods, and delivers on our commitment to build a safer, stronger regional New South Wales."

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch said the development of concept designs follows the community consultation process in late 2020 and geotechnical work in March 2021.

"Upgrading this 3.8-kilometre section of Central Coast Highway will be long and challenging, but it is incredibly important for local residents and we are not going to shy away from the hard work," Mr Crouch said.

The second stage of the concept design is expected to be open for community consultation next year, along with the environmental assessment, allowing local residents to provide further feedback as the project progresses.

A concept design and environmental assessment for the Tumbi Road intersection, which is being fast-tracked, is expected to be open for community consultation later this year.

For more information, go to the Central Coast Highway upgrade - Wamberal to Bateau Bay project page.

Australia's Longest Road Tunnel Proposed For Great Western Highway Upgrade

May 3, 2021
Investigations are now underway to make an 11-kilometre tunnel the central component of an upgraded Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow, forming the longest road tunnel in Australia.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the proposed tunnel would transform the state by better connecting the Central West to the East Coast.

“We have already committed to tunnels at Blackheath and Mount Victoria - this proposal would see those tunnels joined together, creating the longest road tunnel in the country,” Mr Barilaro said.

“This is an immensely complex and ambitious plan, but we’re working hard to make it happen because we know what a difference it will make to the lives of commuters, to regional businesses who need access to Sydney and vice versa, to freight companies, to families visiting relatives and to holiday makers.

“The NSW Government is committed to building a safer and stronger regional NSW and this corridor will enhance the state, significantly cutting travel times between the city and the bush.

“Completing the Katoomba to Lithgow section would deliver the final stage of a 130 kilometre upgrade, delivering dual carriageway on the Great Western Highway, a multi-decade program of works, making a safer, more resilient corridor.”

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the solution would link the two tunnels already determined for Blackheath and Mount Victoria to deliver a safer, more reliable connection through the Blue Mountains.

“The NSW Government knows how important this upgrade is to the people who use the Great Western Highway every day and in improving connections between Sydney and the Central West, which is why we committed $2.5 billion to deliver a once-in-a-generation upgrade to this key corridor,” Mr Toole said.

“As part of this upgrade, we’ve already committed to a 4.5-kilometre tunnel to bypass Blackheath and a 4-kilometre tunnel underneath Victoria Pass, one of the steepest roads in NSW.

“We’re now investigating connecting those two proposed tunnels into one longer tunnel. This would be a history-making project, delivering Australia’s longest road tunnel and
allow motorists to avoid all the current pinch points from Blackheath in the east to Little Hartley on the western side of Victoria Pass.

“It will also mean less disruption for local residents and businesses during construction and a smoother, safer journey for those travelling underneath Blackheath and Mount Victoria as well as those travelling above.”

Mr Toole said the eastern entry for the proposed tunnel will be on the outskirts of Blackheath to minimise impacts on local homes and be built in a section of National Park land to the south of Evans Lookout Road.

“At the Western end, the portal location in Little Hartley has been modified to improve safety and reduce property impacts in the valley.”

Transport for NSW is engaging with National Parks about the upgrade’s impacts on land adjacent to the proposed portals. Neither portal would impact the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Mr Toole said heavy traffic over the Easter weekend had reiterated the importance of the Great Western Highway Upgrade and safe, reliable connections over the mountains for locals and travellers alike. 

“This is an immensely challenging project but, once complete, it will deliver dual carriageway in both directions for over 100 kilometres,” Mr Toole said.

“Should our investigations into a long tunnel determine that it isn’t viable, the community can be assured that we would proceed with a tunnel at Blackheath and a tunnel at Mount Victoria.”

Construction on the Great Western Highway Upgrade is expected to start at Medlow Bath in 2022, with the full upgrade expected to be completed within 8 to 10 years.

Mr Toole said the community would continue to shape the design of the upgrade as it moves towards construction.

“Later this year, Transport for NSW will consult with the community on the entire upgrade, including the proposed Blackheath to Little Hartley Tunnel.

“Between now and then, residents will see plenty of investigation work going on to make sure we have all the information we need to reduce the environmental impacts of the project.”

New NSW Audit Program Cracking Down On Crooked Certifiers

May 3, 2021
The NSW Government has launched a data-led audit regime to target the state’s high risk building certifiers and triple the number of buildings to come under scrutiny by the building regulator.

Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said through the NSW Government’s building reforms, the regulator is now equipped with powerful digital tools that can analyse more than 170 million lines of data to determine the worst performing certifiers and the residential apartment buildings they are working on.

“This data-led approach, combined with our new legislated powers, allows us to zero in on the worst players in the industry and audit the projects they are working on,” Mr Anderson said.

“If an audit identifies potentially defective or non-compliant building work we will step in immediately to issue rectification or stop work orders to protect consumers before they move in.”

This new initiative will complement the occupation certificate audits and inspections already being undertaken on residential apartment buildings under construction and is expected to more than triple the number of buildings that receive an audit from the regulator.

“The pre-Occupational Certificate audit regime already in place is targeting around 50 site-based audits every six months,” Mr Anderson said.

“Through these new audits we expect to be able to audit an additional 100 to 150 buildings every six months, more than tripling the regulator’s compliance and enforcement efforts on residential apartment buildings.

“This new approach is a big step in our commitment to cleaning up the industry. My message to those who have been breaching the rules is that the days of hiding in the shadows, cutting corners and taking consumers for a ride are ending.

“We will find and investigate every building these high risk certifiers touch and put every decision they make under the microscope.”

The approach signals the next phase of the NSW Government’s landmark building reforms, shifting the focus from investigating problems in existing buildings to identifying and eliminating them before they go to market.

New Research Shows Long-Term Recovery Possible For Areas Impacted By Seagrass Die-Off

May 3, 2021
Nearly 10,000 acres of lush seagrass vanished from Florida Bay between 1987 and 1991, leading to massive ecological changes in the region near the Florida Keys. Abundance of the seagrass, Thalassia testudinum, more commonly known as turtlegrass, a foundation species of the Florida Bay ecosystem, decreased extensively during what is considered to be one of the largest declines in seagrass cover in recent history.

Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Researchers from the University of South Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the University of North Carolina Wilmington documented the response of seagrasses after the die-off. Their detailed data collection for over 20 years across the large area of impact has provided unique insight into seagrass resiliency or the ability of a coastal ecosystem to recover after the extensive loss. This study, published in Scientific Reports, is extremely timely as the work provides a framework for how future recovery of a new seagrass die-off, recorded in 2015 in the same location, may still be possible.

Seagrass plays an important role across much of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, providing critical habitat and feeding grounds for many species of fish, turtles and other wildlife. They're considered to be one of the most productive ecosystems in the world and in Florida Bay contribute to a sport fishing industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

USF Distinguished University Professor Susan Bell first learned of the 1987 large-scale seagrass die-off in Florida when she got a call from a long-time fisherman friend who noticed the seagrass disappearing and large amounts of dead seagrass. Bell notified colleagues at FWC, who began to detail what was happening across a roughly 15 square mile stretch of the bay.

For more than 10 years, researchers saw little to no change in seagrass, especially in the levels of turtlegrass. However, after another decade of monitoring, researchers reported a return to pre-die-off levels of turtlegrass in the region. The study shows that the entire sequence of die-off, algal blooms and recovery took 17-23 years. Both the long duration of the study and large area over which the data were systematically collected were unique to reports of seagrass recovery. Also, most studies of marine populations that recover from some kind of disturbance are linked to human intervention, such as removing a source of pollution, but in this case the recovery required no human activities.

"While the fact this system recovered after the 1980s die-off is fantastic, we really wanted to figure out the mechanisms that allowed recovery to happen," said Bell, a faculty member in the USF Department of Integrative Biology. "What we discuss are a number of features that underlie the seagrass recovery: the system was remote, remnants of seagrass leftover after the die-off served as a catalyst for repopulation and having multiple species of seagrass present increases the likelihood for recovery."

In the last case, two opportunistic seagrass species were first to increase in abundance after the die-off and likely facilitated the return of turtlegrass.

Bell believes this study can serve as a framework for other regions experiencing seagrass die-off, including once again in Florida Bay, which is still in the midst of the die-off that began in 2015. Their work warns that evaluation of ecosystem resiliency may take decades to detect, mandating long-term studies. Researchers are continuing to study the changes in Florida Bay, but are hopeful that with the right conditions, the region can once again return to normal.

"Today, this monitoring program provides some of our best information on the status of the system," said Brad Furman, a co-author of the study and research scientist at FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. "Studies like this one allow us to set expectations for recovery, something we did not have in the 1990s, which is extremely important as we watch the Bay respond to the most recent die-off event."

Margaret O. Hall, Susan S. Bell, Bradley T. Furman, Michael J. Durako. Natural recovery of a marine foundation species emerges decades after landscape-scale mortality. Scientific Reports, 2021; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-86160-y

CSIRO Innovation Partnership Bolsters NSW Science And Tech Strength

April 29, 2021
The NSW Government has signed a historic five-year Innovation Partnership agreement with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, to drive digital technology, manufacturing and health excellence across NSW-based innovation precincts.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said that the partnership would emphasise the state’s global reputation as a base for technological innovation, knowledge and expertise and drive new opportunities for businesses to invest, expand or locate in NSW. 

“The NSW Government has a long history of working with CSIRO and this agreement through Investment NSW takes our strategic partnership to an historic next level,” Mr Ayres said.

“The partnership will immediately accelerate innovation and commercialisation, create new jobs in growth industries like advanced manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital health, and increase economic growth as part of our strong recovery from the pandemic.

“Engaging CSIRO as an Innovation Partner also enables us to work together to explore future opportunities to align and collaborate on research and innovation, with the potential to open up a range of new industry development and investment attraction opportunities across the state,” he said.

Through the partnership, CSIRO will continue to consolidate its Sydney operations, focusing on advanced manufacturing, quantum technologies, aerospace, defence and agribusiness at the future Bradfield Aerotropolis, digital focus at Tech Central in Eveleigh, and health capabilities in the Westmead Health and Innovation District.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the agreement recognised the importance of connecting the NSW business and research community with Australia’s largest commercialisation network, as well as access to world-class expertise in emerging fields like genetics, materials, quantum, synthetic biology, and space.

“CSIRO’s partners in NSW will have access to the country’s best scientific and commercialisation expertise, as well as world-class research infrastructure, to harness the power of science to create jobs in NSW and make life better for all Australians,” Dr Marshall said.

“We are reinventing what it means to partner with Australia’s national science agency, including by investing in next-generation facilities that use digital automation, robotics and sensors, AI-powered intelligent agents, and best-practice safety features to harness innovation to be globally competitive.

“Sydney is where CSIRO invented fast WiFi and where we will invent the next innovations for our future prosperity and sustainability,” Dr Marshall said.

This historic Partnership directly builds upon and supports the direction and objectives set out in the NSW Government’s 2040 Economic Blueprint and Global NSW Strategy.

New 'Key-Hole Surgery' Technique To Extract Metals From The Earth

May 3, 2021
Researchers from The University of Western Australia, Australia's national science agency CSIRO, the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Exeter have developed a new mining technique that uses electric fields to extract metals from hard rock ore. The technique could replace the traditional method of digging which results in significant costs to the environment.

Digging methods are currently used in 99 per cent of mining activity, often resulting in significant environmental degradation and huge quantities of solid waste.

Global estimates of waste are of the order of 100 gigatonnes per year, significantly larger than any other form of waste generated by humans.

The new technique is published in Science Advances. It is now being further developed and refined with support from the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia.

Professor Henning Prommer from UWA’s School of Earth Sciences and CSIRO said the technique worked by installing electrodes within the ore body and applying electric currents that could induce the transport of electrically charged metals such as copper through rocks by a process called electromigration.

“The metals are extracted within the ore body, instead of the traditional means of having to dig them out and milling huge amounts of material, a technique which traditionally has placed huge pressure on the environment,” Professor Prommer said.

"Traditional methods of excavating ore material result in a large amount of solid waste brought to the Earth’s surface which needs to be disposed of, whereas this new method dramatically decreases wastage". Professor Henning Prommer

Professor Andy Fourie from UWA’s School of Engineering said the new technique held immense possibilities.

"It will not only improve mining outcomes, it will help us shift towards a more sustainable way of mining," Professor Fourie said.

The researchers have tested the technique in laboratory experiments and through computer modelling.

After successfully extracting copper from some very tight rock samples they are confident the idea will also work in the field, not only for copper but also for a wide range of other metals.

"This is really exciting because we can use intermittent power sources such as solar and wind to extract minerals,” Professor Prommer said.
The research team have provided a proof of concept for the application of an electric field to control the movement of an acid within a low permeability copper-bearing ore deposit to selectively dissolve and recover the metal in situ.

This is in contrast to the conventional approach for the mining of such deposits where the material must be physically excavated, which requires removal of both overburden and any impurities within the ore (known as gangue material).

The researchers believe the new technique has the potential to transform the mining industry, because it has the capability to dissolve metals from a wide range of ore deposits that were previously considered inaccessible.

Furthermore, due to the non-invasive nature of the extraction, the research team are hopeful that the study will help usher in a more sustainable future for the industry.

This is urgently required now in order to provide the plethora of metals required to deliver green technology, such as renewable energy infrastructure and electrified vehicles, whilst limiting any potential environmental damage associated with the mining of such vitally important metals.

Dr Rich Crane from the Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, and co-author of the study, said: "This new approach, analogous to "key-hole surgery," has the potential to provide a more sustainable future for the mining industry, by enabling the recovery of metals, such as copper, which are urgently needed for our global transition to a new Green Economy, whilst avoiding unwanted environmental disturbance and energy consumption."

The central principle behind most modern mining techniques has not fundamentally changed since their original conception, which marked the beginning of the Bronze Age: metals are recovered from the subsurface via physical excavation, i.e., the construction of tunnels to gain access to the deposits, or by creating "open cast" mines.

This technique demands large volumes of surface soil, overburden and gangue material to also be excavated, which can contain millions of tonnes of material -- and can also lead to habitat destruction.

In this new publication, experts from the University of Western Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Exeter, have demonstrated that a targeted electric field can be used to dissolve and then recover copper in situ from the ore -- avoiding any requirement to physically excavate the material.

This new technology comprises the construction (drilling) of electrodes directly into an ore body. An electric current is then applied which can result in the transport of electrically charged metal ions, such as copper, through the rock via a process called electromigration.

Illustration of metal extraction from a subsurface ore body via EK-IS. Image courtesy CSIRO

The research team have now provided a Proof of Concept for this new technology at laboratory scale, which has also been verified using computer modelling. They are confident that the idea will work beyond the laboratory-scale.

Evelien Martens, Henning Prommer, Riccardo Sprocati, Jing Sun, Xianwen Dai, Rich Crane, James Jamieson, Pablo Ortega Tong, Massimo Rolle, Andy Fourie. Toward a more sustainable mining future with electrokinetic in situ leaching. Science Advances, 2021; 7 (18): eabf9971 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf9971

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.