March 25 - 31, 2018: Issue 353

Pittwater Residents Join Thousands Calling for NSW Government to Get cleaner at Time2Choose Rally 

Photo © Dean Sewell/Oculi/Reru 

Thousands call for clean water, land and energy at Time2Choose rally in Sydney

Sydney, Saturday March 24, 2018

Thousands of people from communities around the state rallied in Sydney’s CBD on Saturday, March 24th, calling on the NSW Government to prioritise clean water, air and land over coal and gas projects, and to repower NSW with renewable energy to tackle climate change.

The #Time2Choose march was led by First Nations people and followed by horseback riders, connected through Farmers For Climate Action, knitting nannas, quite a few people from our area, Doctors for the Environment Australia, as well as champions for our environment.

Lock the Gate Alliance’s Georgina Woods said: “Today marks one year until the state government election, and we are here to put members of NSW parliament on notice.”  

“NSW is at a crossroads. We can have a future of productive land, clean and secure water and air, reliable clean and affordable energy. But that bright future is at risk from coal and coal seam gas mining that damages farmland, communities and heritage. It’s time to choose.

“This is just the beginning. These united communities will push the case to protect land and water from mining and repower NSW with renewable energy, and to make that transition fair for everyone.”    

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “We have one of the most coal-dependent energy systems in the world, with 79% of our electricity coming from coal. Meanwhile, the Berejiklian government is squandering a clean-energy jobs and investment bonanza and failing to tackle climate change.

“The transition from coal and gas to solar, wind and storage will attract $25 billion of investment, the construction of about 2,500 wind turbines and installation of more 42 million solar panels across the state.

“It’s a big job, but making the NSW electricity system 100% renewable is 100% doable. The only thing missing is strong political leadership.” Campaigner Neha Madhok said: “The impacts of climate change are felt right here in NSW, with temperature records being broken monthly, and climate patterns becoming less predictable and more extreme. The bushfires, heat waves, droughts and floods that Australia has always known are getting worse, and will worsen with rising global temperatures, fuelled by by greenhouse gases.  

“The cost of our addiction to fossil fuels is skyrocketing – from the impacts of an erratic climate, to the lawsuits that are following in their wake, uninsurable properties, lost farmland, destroyed heritage and poisoned water. It’s more than we can afford. The system is broken and we need to fix it.”  

Naomi Hodgson, The Wilderness Society, said: “Santos’ proposal for the massive Narrabri coal seam gasfield in the Pilliga forest threatens the greatest inland woodland in eastern Australia. The Pilliga is a haven for endangered species and protects a critical recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin. There is no safe place for coal seam gas in NSW, it threatens communities, precious groundwater aquifers and farmland, and the climate, wherever it goes. CSG in the Pilliga threatens all these values as well as an irreplaceable wilderness area and cultural heritage of the Gamilaraay people.”  

Photo © Andrya Hart

Coonamble farmer and grandmother of 13 Anne Kennedy said: “I’m here because our precious groundwater is our lifeblood and our livelihood. We’re in the fight of our lives against Santos’s Narrabri CSG gasfield and the pipeline that comes with it, and we’ll take it all the way to the next election.”

Southern Tablelands farmer Charlie Prell said: “I’m hosting wind turbines on my land that will produce clean, cheap renewable energy while they add a new level of economic resilience to my farm and my community. We all need to choose this clean-energy future instead of the fossil fuels that our politicians are addicted to. We can’t wait any longer for them to act. We have to take the lead now!”

Gomeroi man Raymond Weatherall said: “Aboriginal people should not have to trade our land and cultural heritage for jobs and development. Our culture is our life and we need to protect it from coal and gas mining for our kids’ sake.”

Glen Morris, the Inverell farmer who rode his horse across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2016 to protest against new legislation to increase vegetation clearing came to town again, this time bringing his mates.

"We need vegetation on farms to protect healthy soils and rivers, and yet the State Government plans to allow important native vegetation to be cleared more easily," Mr Morris said in a statement in 2016.

The legalisation featured last week when it was found the Land and Environment Court today ruled the NSW Government’s land-clearing laws invalid because they were made unlawfully. The Nature Conservation Council, represented by public interest environmental lawyers EDO NSW, launched legal challenge against the government’s land-clearing codes last November.

NCC had argued through its barristers Jeremy Kirk SC and David Hume the codes were invalid because the Primary Industries Minister failed to obtain concurrence of the Environment Minister before making the codes, as is required by law.

The reintroduction of the land-clearing laws that the Land and Environment Court ruled invalid on Friday, the 9th of March were later that same day passed by the government again. The pushing of the legislation through a second time, within hours, was cited as a missed opportunity to redress what even farmers have stated they do not want and has already led to massive illegal clearing.

“By waving these laws through a second time without even pausing to consider the consequences, Premier Berejiklian has gone against the wishes of voters and the advice of leading scientists,” NCC CEO Kate Smolski said on March 10th. 

“Ms Berejiklian has also squandered an opportunity to give the state’s 1000 threatened species a fighting chance of survival.

“The government’s action is disappointing but sadly not surprising given its terrible record on the environment and seemingly callous indifference for nature.

“These laws are literally a matter of life and death for native animals and should have been redrafted to include significantly stronger environmental protections before they were introduced.  

“The government’s own experts have warned 99% of koala habit on private land is left exposed to clearing by these laws and that there would be a spike in tree loss of up to 45%.

“There is devastation because of climate change all across NSW,” Mr Morris said yesterday. “We can’t afford to destroy any more healthy land.”

It’s not just the permission to bulldoze what’s left of habitat for the state’s 1000 threatened species.

Organisers of the Time2Choose rally pointed to the proposed CSG mining in Narribri,  the Southern Highlands Hume Coal project, and Shenhua Mining’s attempts in the Liverpool plains as among the threats to the state’s environment and communities.

Add to those the latest super-pit in the Hunter Valley, United Wambo, currently being reviewed by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC), with a report on the Commission’s findings expected at the end of March. The mine will clear a large area of a nationally critically endangered forest that exists only in the Hunter. The IPC may also make a decision mid-year on Korean company KEPCO’s proposed open cut coal mining in the Bylong Valley, a beautiful and secluded part of the Hunter which has never before been mined.

The mine is set to damage historic Tarwyn Park, which has state significant heritage value and is the living laboratory where Peter Andrews developed his unique Natural Sequence Farming system of regenerative agriculture. The mine will also cause 10 metres drawdown in the productive Bylong alluvial aquifer, putting its viability at risk along with the farms it supports.

A Land and Environment court decision is pending in the case Wollar Progress Association brought against Peabody’s Wilpinjong mine extension in the upper reaches of the Hunter. The group argued that the NSW Planning Assessment Commission failed to consider greenhouse gas emissions when it approved the expansion in April 2107.

The list goes on and every other week the NSW Planning & 'Environment' Department adds another coal mine or coal mine extension that people may make a 'submission' on. Yesterday's rally seems to indicate that despite being ignored, their communities devastated and once pristine areas ruined for all time, no one is submitting to anything.

Given that so many of these projects have been variously and by the thousands objected to by members of the community and then approved anyway, sometimes after the same government had made promises to specifically not do that during an election, it seems unlikely the current state government will finally hear what's being said straight out to them and shift their 'environment narrative' to something more in line with those they are empowered to represent - the citizens. 

Can this party suddenly become as progressive in its approach as it has demonstrated in so much else and finally embrace the other requirement the 21st century brings; that of saving, not squandering, the environment and all the other animals in it - or will they continue to repeat a multi generational by now arrogance that can no longer be absolved as ignorance?

Photo © Andrya Hart

Photo © Dean Sewell/Oculi/Reru 

Photo © Dean Sewell/Oculi/Reru 

Rachel Ward with Glenn Morris and his Australian stockhorse, Hombre.