March 17-23, 2024: Issue 618


Tom Borg McGee 

Tom is a Physiotherapist, Fitness Trainer, local creek cleaner (Careel Creek) and WIRES wildlife rescuer and carer. He is one of millions of young Australians who are calling for a shift in local, state and federal politics to put our environment first and save what remains of local wildlife, habitat and forests, especially in Tasmania, across New South Wales, and in Pittwater.

For the third year in a row Tom has taken part in the takayna/Tarkine Trail marathon – the sixth annual running of this event - which sets out from Waratah, Tasmania. Tom has again raised thousands of dollars for the Bob Brown Foundation which will be used to raise awareness of plans to log thousands of hectares of a place which has been recommended for a World Heritage listing for decades.

Tasmanians are heading to the polls this coming Saturday, March 23, and have the two-party usual choice, both of which have stated during campaigning they intend to ensure the destruction of Tasmanian forests on an even larger scale continues. 

Next Sunday, March 24, 2024, the Bob Brown Foundation is hosting the March for the Forests - Sydney event. People can RSVP here:

Details are to gather at 11am at Sydney Town Hall:

Tom also supports groups and individuals in NSW fighting for the lives and habitat of Koalas and Greater Glider such as the North East Forest Alliance, Mark Graham (Senior Ecologist), Dr Tim Cadman (Doctorate in Forest Governance), Friends of Kalang Headwaters, Forest Ecology Alliance and Bellingen Activist Network.

Tom also supports the North East Forest Alliance, a volunteer organisation working since 1989 to protect rainforest, old-growth forest, wilderness and threatened species in north-east NSW. NEFA is currently spreading awareness that the NSW Government has released a discussion paper Reviewing the NSW Koala Strategy and is seeking community input until 26 April 2024 on current koala conservation actions. The discussion paper is being released in the lead up to the Koala Summit at Taronga Zoo on 22 March 2024, which will bring together key stakeholders to review how actions, targets and delivery approaches are and are not working to save koalas around the state.

Locally Tom is the one who makes you aware another old tree has gone from our area, for development of a house or because it was in the way of 'the view'. If a tree is felled in Clareville, you will hear Tom bellow in anger, pain and frustration from Palm Beach. And then he resolves to do something about it - through his voice or physically being there to record the loss and or use the discarded logs (if not turned to woodchips) for lesser but potential 'habitat' for wildlife in his care or in public reserves.

This week a few insights from and into a gentleman many consider a 'local legend'.

You grew up in Avalon Beach?

Yes, I moved in with my grandparents at Bilgola Plateau with my sister Erin and my mum Lauren McGee when I was 10 after living in Singapore. I was actually born at Whyalla and we moved around a lot because dad worked for BHP – so we lived all over Australia and overseas as well. We then moved briefly to Balgowlah with my father Mark as well, before my parents split and my mum, sister and I moved to Careel Head Road (Avalon).

My other family members have been here in Pittwater since the 1980’s, first my cousins, the Costanzos; Kim, Frank, Juliet and Clare and not long after my grandparents Marion Russel who is still with us, and grandfather Frank Russel, a great man who is no longer with us, lived here as well. We joined them in 2005. My grandparents had a lot to do with my upbringing (and all the grandkids) as well as with Maria Regina school and the Church.

I went to Maria Regina in 2005 for a year making many friends to this day, then to St. Augustine’s College between Year 6 and 9, and then to Barrenjoey High School for Years 10, 11 and 12. So I have had a great love of this area for a long time and been around!

You are Barrenjoey High School alumnus? 

Yes – I’m a Barrenjoey-St. Augustine’s mix. I just did the opposite of the usual in that I didn’t go to the private school to complete my education, I reversed the trend and went to a public school. From my point of view Barrenjoey had a higher quality of teaching as it was less about rugby, uniform, religion and status, and instead more about teaching the students who wanted to learn all they could on any subject – it was about equipping us with education and personal engagement which we could take, or lose out on if we wouldn’t. I started when Ian Bowsher first commenced there as Headmaster and I am told a lot changed! He was a good man who did great things for this school.

Barrenjoey was great.

Did you go to class or did you go surfing? – there seems to be a legend, born when the school first opened, of getting an ocean education outside the classroom….

It might be me being born at Whyalla and living in Singapore and other parts of Victoria; I’m not an ocean person, I’m a land creature, a man of the forests. I do respect the oceans but I have a healthy fear of them as well. I did try surfing with mates but it almost always ended up with me almost drowning and or being unable to safely handle the board. I was always a rugby person; so St. Augustine’s for sure, Newport Rugby and Avalon Bulldogs – I always loved my footy. I don’t play anymore, too many shoulder injuries – and that is sort of how I got into Physio. Today I engage in a blend of trail running, weight training, kayaking and Wing Chun Kung Fu (Under rare master and Avalon local, John Brixey).

You then went on to study at university?

I did study Journalism for a day post the HSC, but it didn’t end up sounding like my cup of tea despite how much I like to talk and raise my voice about things and network with people.

I did a Bachelor of Science and Human Movement at Macquarie University, which was 3 years but I took 4 as I did some trips thorough Europe, Asia and Australia. I then completed the Doctorate of Physiotherapy, which is a 3 years Masters, again at Macquarie. I had great teachers, I learnt so much. Getting 2 years of physiotherapy delivered over Covid wasn’t particularly fair and there’s an enormous financial burden currently of $145,000. But at least I now have my Physio registration and that’s definitely a professional role I suit by nature and passion. I love helping other people to be able to move better, live better and be in less pain. I want people to have better health education and physical skills, so they can live a better quality of life and not have the need for on-going therapy, unless they have a new issue or goal they’d like my help with.

Where are you practising?

My primary job for several years I continue to do is as a specialised disability worker assisting a specific client daily with a spinal cord injury and other health conditions. It involves a lot of the skills required in physiotherapy, but also some nursing skills and other specific to technical and injury prone manual handling. I have been seeing some physiotherapy patients privately since finishing the DPT 18 months ago, but I don’t really like asking for money and I am a better charity and business.

I ended up doing more WIRES volunteering than anything since finishing uni, the end of last year I had 17 individuals at one point as well as going out for rescues that of course come at random and at all hours, so between this and my personality I didn’t ever begin putting together my own business.

I have recently started working at the well known, local Avalon Physiotherapy Clinic (owned by Warrick Sargeant). I’m really enjoying it though it was a shock to be back in a fast paced clinic environment, seeing several to a dozen clients mostly back to back and time management isn't my strong suit. When I was seeing people at home or at theirs the sessions would take an hour at least – which is not the standard appointment conditions! I am on the giving side so I tend to include A LOT of education and coaching in longer sessions for people to take away for a longer time period. Versus a clinical environment where I often need to blend history taking, assessment, manual therapy, education and coaching in a half an hour session, but will see the client in the next week or two max.

Wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and care and release – how did you get into that?

I’ve always been into physical exercise and thankfully we still have some beautiful reserves around here, thank you to the people who saved them, or they wouldn’t be here. I found a number of injured wildlife in Bangalley and Angophora reserves, all of which had been attacked by dogs or cats, and took them to the vets at Avalon or Bilgola.

One particular time we had a little ringtail possum out the back of my mums’ that had been attacked by an uncontained cat, you could see the puncture wounds.

In finding this consistent number and variety of injured wildlife and seeing all the wildlife run over here… I started wishing I knew what else I could do to help rather than just getting them to a vet, all of whom are quite busy.

I was taking a rainbow lorikeet that couldn’t fly to Newport vet and they had a WIRES Introductory Course flyer there and I thought ‘I should do that’. So I signed up around 5 ½ years ago.

Once you have the ‘Xmatters app’ on your phone for the NB and see the volume and variety of wildlife in suffering or dead… every day, of every week, of every year. It is seeing the true, heartbreaking reality. The contexts and rescues are very varied, most often wildlife are hit by people in cars, attacked by dogs attacked, afflicted in some way by human garbage, their home has been destroyed, or someone just doesn’t like their existence and attempts to stay alive. Examples of the latter are the tree is dropping leaves, its in the way of our view, I am worried it could fall over, they’re pooing on our driveway or deck, they’re digging hols in our yard, they’re making too much noise, they're ruining our ‘garden’ among other very selfish and petty expressions of dislike and perceived inconvenience.

When you see that volume and variety of cases that come up, as well as how people respond, and most importantly the time, finances and energy that mostly Ladies between 50 and 80 put in around here to help wildlife… many of whom have given decades of their life time.. You realize you must get involved to help them and especially do something about the causes behind it all.

Day in day out a lot of the rescues that you have to physically attend can be tricky, time consuming and even hazardous. But I am physically as well as time wise working unusual hours, in a good position to get out there and support the long standing WIRES and Sydney Wildlife warriors for wildlife. The fact is, if myself or any of the rest of us aren’t putting in some time to help, it just falls onto those who already give it all.

There is a core group of WIRES and Sydney Wildlife volunteers locally; and I’ve had mentoring and help from both. Unfortunately the number of total volunteers, and especially active wildlife volunteers (Vs. just those signed up) is very low compared to the 300,000+ population of the NB. The people I have had the most to do with locally include grandparents of all NB wildlife Dave and Lyn Millet, Linda Cameron, Robin Boler, Britt Any, Erin Mander and Andrew Gregory (WIRES), as well as Helen Pearce, Lynleigh Grieg and Maragaret Woods from Sydney Wildlife Rescue. It is pretty much almost all women who are the backbone of wildlife rescue and care, and to a lesser extent conservation on the whole. There's a real lack of men and young people particularly, it is one reason why I am involved. There are also many other volunteers from both WIRES and Sydney Wildlife who we all should be so grateful to for their enormous efforts, time and resources spent on helping wildlife and us all. They do not get the support and recognition from the government nor public which they should. Many of the warriors for wildlife and as I’ve said, mainly ladies are not as loud and maybe noticeable as my eccentric, 30-year-old male self and I get far more kudos than is warranted. When you look at how much these women are doing day and year in and year out, as they have done for decades, they deserve far more thanks and return than they get.

How many hours a week, on average, are you doing as a volunteer for WIRES?

I’ve been away a bit this year, so there have been breaks. Last year would be an average example, Spring and Summer. Most people are like ‘great, Spring, Summer, it’s warm we’re all heading to the beach, but it’s death and carnage for wildlife and a lot of time and heartbreak for us volunteers. It is when the human population is more active whether they’re in cars, building and home projects or they get a new dog or cat for Christmas – it all adds up to carnage for wildlife. There is so much death on the roads, so many human-related accidents during those times, and then you have young ones being born in Spring and Summer.

Last year, just on Trappers Way alone, there were 3 ringtail baby possums, all of them had puncture wounds to the spine, possibly from the same person’s cat. So I would have to leave my client for that morning, head over to Trappers Way, and pick up a baby ringtail possum with spinal injuries – they all died – and that is just Trappers Way.

And of course, with WIRES and Sydney Wildlife, you only know what is reported. If you think about all the wildlife that isn’t noticed, or isn’t reported because it’s been pancaked to a road, the total volume of what is being lost is devastating.

I also think about the total energy and costs required for wildlife needed human assistance (usually caused by humans) – when you realize how much time and effort a parent animal has invested to feed its offspring, the loss of habitat accentuates why we are now seeing large volumes of struggling animals coming into care. You realise this when you look at the amount of time, care and coordination a wildlife carer goes through to try and meet the same for just one animal, the time consumption goes off the scale. Sourcing whatever each species needs, and the volumes required, is why you may see a callout to local residents for flowering natives, for example.

So sometimes I may do 3 hours in a week and other times it will be 30 hours in a week. This can be between rescues that take 10 minutes or many hours. Or the collecting of native food for possums, preparing food (live or not) for birds and reptiles, administering medicines for warding off infections from cat and dog bites, or having to go to the supermarket to buy fruit, salad or meat yourself. I am very fortunate to have my girlfriend Maya Burton of 4-5 years who puts up with my wildlife, and not wildlife associated chaos and helps out with wildlife rescues and care (and does a lot for me, and people too!).

Mother ducks and their ducklings for example are particularly time consuming, usually in rescue and if it goes pear shape, raising the ducklings in care. Most of their habitat is gone, especially where they would usually nest safely and then bring their little ducklings to water. Now there are roads and drains and every single house has fences through their historical range and there are cats everywhere and dogs being taken into their places, their homes.

So during duckling season trying to get 8 little ducklings and mum, who can fly, out of a pool and contained can be a challenge – in one instance last year my partner Maya Burton and I were at elanora heights for several hours. We got the ducklings, but mum was real smart and whether it was the drop net, luring her into the pool house or otherwise we could not catch her and she eventually left. Sue, another awesome volunteer who lives in Dee Why then came with me the next day for 3 hours trying to track down mum, in the end she took the new born 8 ducklings (and 3 others I had) whilst I kept my older 5. So that was almost 12 hours over 2 days, and I did several similar rescues (of less time) just last season.

The more seasoned volunteers will see the call out and go ‘ducklings and mums, bloody hell I’ve got 70 baby possums I need to feed at 4 hourly intervals at present – I’ll ask Tom’.

70 Possums?!!

Lyn and Dave had 70 animals over the last Spring-Summer season – 70! So they might have ringtails, babies, brushtails and then they’re also great with birds too; tawny frogmouths, lorikeets, kookaburras, all of which had different feed and care routines. Lyn and Dave are getting close to being in their 80’s and are at the core of WIRES in this area – I don’t know what’s going to happen when they can’t do it anymore. Nothing can replace that time and experience and how well they do what they do, and having given over their house to keep all those care aviaries – but, we definitely need more people to help out. 

You spoke about Kookaburras in the April 2023 Ringtail Posse – are they your favourites?

I definitely have a soft spot for kookaburras, not only because they’re an iconic Australian animal, but because they’re a family unit – they’re quite cute and can be aggressive when it’s needed. If I did have to come back as something I’d choose to be a kookaburra because they do befriend humans – possibly see us as cute and fluffy in some instances. As a kookaburra you are cute, intelligent, aggressive when it’s needed, flight-capable and a hunter for your family. 

As some people would have seen I had a kookaburra, ‘Kook’, I got to know over 4 years. He would visit us when we were at Nandina Terrace. He was such an incredibly intelligent, gentle and friendly spirit, unlike any other kookaburra or animal I’ve ever come across. We had a close relationship – he would bring his babies to me every year, he would talk to me, and show me with actions his mood; when the babies had hatched. I knew they had hatched because he would do this excited little dance, make this little shortened song and jump in little circles. He also loved a pat, would loll his head back and close his little blue eyes, and none of the others were like that. His wife, ‘Brunhilde’ was a big kookaburra and quite harsh, but she would come with him when he brought the babies each year.

Someone speeding along Central Road at 6am, apparently in a ute the person who witnessed his death told me, hit him, and kept going. I was out releasing a little kookaburra who was ready to go into adjacent territory and when I was returning, I saw his corpse. The young person who witnessed him being hit moved him to the side of the road under a tree – I came along 5 or 10 minutes later. He was probably catching insects for his babies, as many local birds do at dawn and dusk during Spring and Summer. 

So I’ve definitely got a soft spot for kookaburras, as well as the tawny frogmouths. About the only thing I don’t like are the bull ants because I’ve had enough of being stung by those.

I also like Bearded Dragons, I've a couple of these. I had a girlfriend from the US when I was 21 (Jordan Carlson), she was a very strong (physically and intellectually!) social and environmental activist. She also had a pet Bearded Dragons (native to Australia, but unfortunately the worlds most abundant and neglected reptile pet) and I couldn't understand why she was obsessed and always worried about them. However when I did meet them, I thought they were bloody funny, cool and I got it. I didn’t used to be environmentally minded at all, and although I loved Pokemon and liked Wildlife Photography (eg Steve Parish) as a kid, I certainly was no conservationist. But between some of the holes and seeds I believe Jordan brought up in my mind and values, as well as getting Bearded Dragons myself. I eventually had an epiphany and joined WIRES. I realised even though this was a pet circumstance, they were entirely reliant on me for their existence. I could also see they both had totally distinct personalities and that made me realise they are just like every other wildlife individual in this world – each creature has its own personality and what happens to them whether in a home setting or the wild totally depends on what people do and don’t do to their home, their specific habitats.

Tom and Kook

That brings up the takayna Trail through the Tarkine in Tasmania – you have just completed your third year in a row of being part of this, which is limited to 200 participants to lessen any impact on this area via the event. Why did you get involved in that?

This was the 6th annual takayna run – and my third improved completion of the 22km (I like to go hard, and am not up to 37km or 62km yet!). The name stems from the indigenous name for that area which is a diminutive of the name "Tarkiner", which is the anglicized pronunciation of one of the Aboriginal tribes who inhabited the western Tasmanian coastline from the Arthur River to the Pieman River before European colonization.

Both the state and federal government have refused to advance a World Heritage listing for the Tarkine, despite this having 7/9 of the single contexts for World Heritage Protection which has been urged for decades. There have been changes to both the Tasmanian and Federal laws to make it more difficult to give World Heritage recommended, but abused areas like Takayna, protection.

Added to this, the Tasmanian government recently wrote new laws so you can be gaoled for protesting against destroying these pristine areas in that state. As well, an election has been called in Tasmania and both sides of politics are campaigning on increasing logging in that state, including one side campaigning on turning over 40 thousand hectares of the Tarkine to woodchips and pulp (however most flora species will just be crushed, burnt and left behind), even though their state and taxpayer funded logging company has issued a statement opposing the same and this had been preceded by one federal government allocating millions of dollars to keep loggers out of the area.

Tasmania has the best people in Australia, and also some of the worst.

After getting into WIRES and rescuing wildlife, my wildlife and environmental passion continued to increase.I was also fortunate to then meet Jayden Walsh, a young and very talented (academically and in the field) local ecologist who showed and educated me about much of our remaining biodiversity. His insights into ecology, geology and biodiversity and getting out into Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park led me to finding out more about old-growth forests and places with ancient geology.

Social media algorithms of what I’m interested in brought up the Bob Brown Foundation and the Tarkine and how this is one of the world’s largest and oldest temperate rainforests, meaning it has multiple seasons, not just the few we know. The only ones that were or are larger is the Siberian tundra, which has been burnt to a crisp, and the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, the world's largest remaining intact coastal temperate rain forest. Tongass has almost 17 million acres, houses some of the oldest trees - many over 800 years old - and provides essential habitat for the largest population of Bald Eagles in the world. The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest at 180 million years, 10 million years older than the Amazon.

One mid-year uni break in my bachelor I ordered the Tarkine Trails book off the Bob Brown website, which had been put together as a guide book for people who wanted to visit the Tarkine. So I went down the Tarkine on a solo trip one Winter; I hired a car which got bogged a number of times, I got lost, and was scared a few times too. But this allowed me to see the Tarkine for myself – I saw logging on one side of the road, which had just turned that place of old growth forest into a graveyard. On the other side of the road was the gnarliest Jurassic old-growth forest I’d ever seen. These were right next to each other. At other places one side was dead with craters of water filled with toxic chemicals from mines, the other this Heritage old growth forest.

I met a lady called Marie Jenkins, who use to own and run the Tarkine Wilderness Lodge. Marie had been a Bob Brown campaigner and been involved in protesting, and had all the news clippings and memorabilia and everything to do with Tasmanian forest defence. I then found out about the running event but didn’t sign up at that stage as I felt I didn’t have the fitness level to run it. I’d have to do a fundraiser and be in good form to be able to do it, so I didn’t want to let anyone down by doing a half-attempt.

During my first year of the DPT, I started Wing Chun Kung Fu with local Master John Brixey, which was critical in resolving long standing lumbar nerve root impingement issues which influenced me to train as a physiotherapist. In 2021 I began running locally throughout the reserves and in Kuring Gai National park to get the running capacity (and joint resilience) I needed to participate in Takayna Trail 2022.

I flew down on the Friday in 2022 after an exhausting 5 week clinical placement, ran the 22k on the Saturday and flew back monday to begin another clinical placement (was lucky to get the Monday off!). I have never been so broken physically in my life, it took me 2 hours and 34 minutes for 22km. The fastest guy that year did it in 1:45, the fastest woman 1:50. It was all worth it for the hug and high five from the ‘’Green Gandalf” himself and OG warrior for wildlife, Bob Brown at the end!

This is what is described as a sports-eco activism event, which is right up my alley, and you have hundreds of people there who are all fighting for wildlife and the environment, our living planet and future generations, as well as the preservation of all species. It’s just a really cool event.

I’m blessed to live around here and have so many people who were able to contribute and managed to raise over 3 thousand that first year, as well as in 2023 with my friends Joe and Tiarne who participated.

I'm planning to do the Takayn Trail for the rest of my life as it’s such an incredible, unique event and is for all the right reasons to get out of my comfort zone and ask others to invest their time, money and awareness. The money can go to no better organisation than the Bob Brown Foundation as this is not one of those where most of the money disappears in administration, as can happen with a lot of registered charities – it disappears into a black hole and not alot can be said on what outcomes it achieved.

The BBF get the work done, bodies on the line, eco systems defended and social, political and legal campaigning all across Australia.

I’ve seen first-hand where the money goes. I’ve visited the Tarkine 6 times now and been to their camps where they’re trying to protect one part of the Tarkine or another.

They’ve been working to protect the Tarkine from a particularly evil toxic tailings dam, a second to the one that already exists and leaks continually with nothing done about it.

This second toxic waste dump, pushed by the Morrison Government and Tas Liberals for a Chinese-Government owned mining company known as MMG, plans to pump 25 million cubic meters square of toxic mining waste into more than 140 hectares of irreplaceable old growth forest near Tullah, Tasmania (when there are other options!).

The company, MMG, has an alternative on their mine site outside takayna for their mine waste, but they want to kill the forest and posion the land and river further instead - it's cheaper for them. If it proceeds, this waste dump would have a footprint of 285 hectares of world-heritage value rainforest and forests, and irreparably damage habitat for endangered species.

They already have a toxic tailings dam leaking into the river systems there. 

Instead of doing world’s best practice, as happens in Queensland where it goes back into the mining shaft and they seal it with concrete, this has been allowed even though everyone knows tailing dams leak. They don’t want to do it because it costs more, even though they have been required to do it elsewhere.

So every bit of money raised goes to good use down there, not just because they make every dollar stretch as far as it can, but because there is so much at stake and so much that could be lost.

Another of their volunteers, Ali, is currently in gaol on a hunger strike through trying to save old-growth forests at The Styx. He was arrested under their anti-protest laws, brought in last year to try and stop such actions and voices. Now all of those who stick up for the environment and wildlife get thrown in gaol.

Bob Brown and Tom - 2023 run

Bob Brown and Tom - 2024 run

So you will go back next year?

Yes, I’m hoping to get a team together for next year. We live in such a fortunate area, so to get a team together of different people with different connections, means we could fundraise even more money in this area if we ran it over months instead of a week or two, as I’ve been doing. There are a few people that might be up for it, so I’m hoping for a local Run For Wildlife Team – let’s see what happens.

The Tarkine has been referred to as one of the ‘lungs of the world’ – why would you risk that? You can’t get it back once you have destroyed it.

There’s more to it than may be apparent – one of the species that grows there, the myrtle tree, grows in pairings with other trees, eucalypts. It’s almost like a marriage. You usually see a really big eucalypt like a stringybark or the legendary Tasmanian Mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) growing with the myrtle. Living things thrive when they can exist as a community – that community creates and maintains its own microclimate to foster what else lives there. At one site Sustainable Timbers Tasmania came in and logged five hectares of incredible old-growth forest before the BBF got wind of it. Now that five hectares is just another graveyard of highly flammable sticks and weeds carried in coming up because of that wound cut into the forest. The trees around that perimeter are now susceptible to disease and may fall. When you log and open up a tree community to disease, to more intense winds and weed infestations, it drives everything out. At least one of those trees in that community that shared canopy and root systems with its neighbours have fallen because, essentially, they have lost their partners.

Tom with the takayna elders

There is more you have done in our local community as well as rescuing and caring for wildlife – you are a Canopy Keepers member, were part of the group that helped Lionel Kools clean Careel Creek and also assisted with the mural that went up on Avalon Beach RSL. Why is it important to you to do so much for your local community?

Part of it stems from me being really high energy, and I get that from my grandmother as well as my mother. Part of it comes from getting involved in WIRES, the Bob Brown Foundation and other groups, such as the North East Forest Alliance trying to save forests up the NSW coast. It makes you realise these people are investing the only lifetime they have into the wellbeing of others and our communities. I’m young, I’m fit, I’m well-educated and have never really had to want for anything in my life – I’ve been so fortunate and I know what’s going on, I understand what’s going on, and have motivation to say or do something. As Bob Brown says; ‘if it’s not going to be you then who is it going to be?’

In having motivation to care for wildlife I’ve also been compelled to speak up for wildlife – they have no voice so their fight must be ours. I’m trying to motivate others to do something through doing things myself. In doing things locally I’m trying to make people more aware of the health of our local environment and that they too can do something, even if it’s a small thing, even if it’s only one little thing. We live in one of the most beautiful places, we’re among the 1% of lucky people on the planet, almost all Australians are the luckiest people in the world to live here.We have no reason to not treat our area and country much much better than we are.

So, don’t get angry, get active – if it’s not going to be you standing up for and speaking up for our wildlife and wild places and future generations, then who is it going to be? - Thanks Bob!

I too have little nieces and nephews who need to be spoken up for and cared for. We need to clean up the creeks, look after the reserves, stop clearing trees and destroying the soils that are homes for not only wildlife, but the lifeblood for us all. The mural created by Daniel Hend is amazing, we were able to take Daniel through some local reserves to look at the plants and trees and also speak about wildlife that used to be here in Avalon. We suggested he add them in as ghosts as it gives people not only an insight into what the next generation does not get to experience but also underlines the abysmal failings of not lowering speed limits on roads, not keeping cats indoors at night and taking dogs into the only places local wildlife can live. Did that wildlife really need to become locally extinct so people can do what is, frankly, illegal in terms of law and morals? Do those who continue doing this really think that is an acceptable way to conduct yourself? Surely they must sound themselves out at times and hear the false note.

What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?

Number 1 would be Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. We’re so lucky to have that expanse of bushland which is largely intact and how it has been for thousands of years. I have a soft spot for Stapleton Reserve because it’s where I’ve lived for the past several years and has some incredible biodiversity still in there despite only being a small spot. There were two powerful owls in there 2 nights ago calling to each other – during the time I’ve been here that’s the first time I’ve heard that. We’ve seen and heard sugar gliders there, one of the biggest blue-tongue lizards I’ve ever seen. But really, all the reserves that are around us that the people who came before us have saved, and now look after as bushcare volunteers, are my favourite places in Pittwater. The only problem there is the corridors of connectivity, to maintain those communities, is almost gone.

What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?

I’d go back to Bob’s – if it’s not going to be you to speak up, to stand up for wildlife and living places, then who is it going to be?

Also; You only live once – live now and live well. 

And from my grandparents and my mum, it’s definitely a case of ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ – let’s be kind to each other, care for and about each other - and the wildlife!

The Careel Creek Cleaners, January 2022 - a hot humid summer day

L to r: organiser Jasmine Hopcraft, Mural Artist Daniel Hend, Tom Borg Mc Gee, WIRES wildlife rescuer and carer, Cristo Tracy, General Manager at Avalon Beach RSL, and Jayden Walsh, Ecologist, February 2023

Notes - References

Wing Chun (Cantonese) or Yongchun (Mandarin) (Chinese: 詠春 or 咏春, lit. "singing spring") is a concept-based martial art, a form of Southern Chinese kung fu, and a close-quarters system of self-defense. It is a martial arts style characterised by its focus on close-quarters hand-to-hand combat, rapid-fire punches, and straightforward efficiency. It has a philosophy that emphasises capturing and sticking to an opponent's centerline. This is accomplished using simultaneous attack and defence, tactile sensitivity, and using an opponent's force against them.

The origins of Wing Chun are uncertain, but it is generally attributed to the development of Southern Chinese martial arts. There are at least eight distinct lineages, of which the Ip Man and Yuen Kay-shan lineages are the most prolific.

The martial art was brought to Hong Kong and then the rest of the world by Ip Man, with Bruce Lee being his most famous student. The Ving Tsun Athletic Association, founded in 1967 by Ip Man and his students, helped spread Wing Chun globally. Traditionally taught within a family system, modern Wing Chun lessons have taken on a more academic character.

The takayna Trail event

The trail run includes a solo 22km and 62km event and a 62km relay, allowing a two person team to cover the trail that treads deep through takayna. Trail runners from all over Australia came to takayna Trail 2024 because it provide an opportunity for passionate individuals to link their love for sport with protecting the very places they exist in. 

“We are here to help protect these public lands which are ancient and found nowhere else on Earth. takayna / Tarkine is a national treasure and the trail running community is stepping up to show its support,” said Race Lead Majell Backhausen.

Cultural Note: The trail runs through the Western Tasmanian Aboriginal Cultural Landscape, a cherished region with a rich Aboriginal heritage.

This is Australia’s largest wilderness dominated by rainforest. Such largely undisturbed extensive tracts of cool temperate rainforest are extremely rare worldwide and is a living example of one of the most primitive vegetation formations on Earth. Providing a unique window into our planet’s ancient past, the cool temperate rainforests in takayna were once widespread across the ancient supercontinent Gondwana.

Some of the best-preserved plant fossil sites in the world, dating back 65 million years. Magnesite karst systems of caves and pinnacles considered internationally rare.

takyana/ Tarkine is under threat from acid mine drainage, deforestation and contamination of waterways by proposed new mines. Ancient rainforests are being flattened by logging and wildlife-rich ancient eucalyptus forests clear-felled for woodchips. Irreversible damage is being caused to the Aboriginal heritage landscape that has existed for more than 40,000 years. This cultural landscape is priceless to Tasmania’s Aboriginal community, especially because of the relatively low level of post-invasion disturbance.

Tom Borg McGee
Almost raised $5000, thank you everyone who has donated
Tom Borg McGee's Team in 2024 -$5,472 raised

  • 2024 - $4972 for Tom alone
  • 2023- $3939 raised
  • 2022- $3000 raised
''I am running and fundraising on behalf of the Bob Brown Foundation (warriors for wildlife and our planet!) to support the fight to protect and promote the wellbeing of our living earth, remaining wildlife and future generations of all species, which will only have the life quality which we protect and promote today.''

‘takayna / Tarkine remains today a rare gem of natural intactness in a world where the destruction of wild nature is rampant and accelerating. It should also be one of the easiest in the world to protect.

Comprising just seven percent of Tasmania, the Tarkine contains the nation’s largest temperate rainforest, a galaxy of its rare and endangered wildlife and some of the richest Aboriginal heritage in the hemisphere.

The latter has been inscribed on the list of National Heritage. The cleanest air in the world, as measured by the nearby UN monitoring station, blows across the Tarkine’s shores.’ - Bob Brown

The Tarkine, officially takayna / Tarkine, is an area containing the Savage River National Park in the north west Tasmania, Australia, which contains significant areas of wilderness. The Tarkine is noted for its beauty and natural values, containing the largest area of Gondwanan cool-temperate rainforest in Australia, as well as for its prominence in Tasmania's early mining history. The area's high concentration of Aboriginal sites has led to it being described by the Australian Heritage Council as "one of the world's great archaeological regions"

The Tarkine is gazetted by the Tasmanian government as unbounded locality in north-west Tasmania The generally accepted definition is the area between the Arthur River in the North, the Pieman River in the south, the ocean to the west and the Murchison Highway in the east. It was first officially recognised in May, 2013, following a recommendation by the Nomenclature Board of Tasmania which was accepted by Bryan Green. He declared that the name applied to the whole north-west region of Tasmania, but this interpretation was rejected by the Cradle Coast Authority, which had requested the official naming. The name does not appear in maps, but in recent decades has featured prominently in the Australian media as a subject of contention between conservationists and mining/logging interests. 

The Tarkine can be entered from several points, with the most common being via Sumac Road from the north, Corinna in the south, Waratah in the west and Wynyard from the north-east. Wynyard has an interstate airport and sealed road access into the Tarkine.

The name "Tarkine" was coined by the conservation movement and was in use by 1991. It is a diminutive of the name "Tarkiner",  which is the anglicised pronunciation of one of the Aboriginal tribes who inhabited the western Tasmanian coastline from the Arthur River to the Pieman River before European colonisation.

The Tarkine contains extensive high-quality wilderness as well as extensive, largely undisturbed tracts of cool temperate rainforest which are extremely rare. It also represents Australia's largest remaining single tract of temperate rainforest. It contains approximately 1,800 km² of rainforest, around 400 km² of eucalypt forest and a mosaic of other vegetation communities, including dry sclerophyll forest, woodland, buttongrass moorland, sandy littoral communities, wetlands, grassland and Sphagnum communities. Significantly, it has a high diversity of non-vascular plants (mosses, liverworts and lichens) including at least 151 species of liverworts and 92 species of mosses. Its range of vertebrate fauna include 28 terrestrial mammals, 111 land and freshwater birds, 11 reptiles, 8 frogs and 13 freshwater fish. The Tarkine provides habitat for over 60 rare, threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna. 

The area comprises a number of rivers, exposed mountains, globally unique magnesite and dolomite cave systems and the largest basalt plateau in Tasmania to have retained its original vegetation. 

There are also large sand dune areas extending several kilometres inland. Some of these contain ancient Aboriginal middens.

The Tarkine played a central role in the development of Tasmania's early mining industry, and remains of early mining activity can still be seen in many rivers and creeks in the area that were mined for gold, tin and osmiridium. Nowadays the remains of approximately 600 sites of historic mining activity in the area are still evident. The majority of these mining operations were alluvial workings or small hard-rock mines, consisting often of single adits. Larger scale mining has been carried out mainly at Luina, Savage River and Mt Bischoff. Part of the area is contained in the Arthur – Pieman Conservation Area managed by the Tasmania parks and wildlife service.

The campaign to protect the Tarkine began in the 1960s. A formal conservation proposal was put forward by the then Circular Head Mayor Horace Arnold 'Jim' Lane for the establishment of a 'Norfolk Range National Park'. Lane's proposal was ahead of its time, and his proposal wasn't seen to fruition.

From the late 1990s, the area came under increasing national and international scrutiny in a similar vein to the environmental protests surrounding Tasmania's Franklin River and Queensland's Daintree Rainforest. The case for protecting the Tarkine was significantly advanced with the Federal Government's Forestry Package in 2005 adding 70,000 hectares (170,000 acres) to reserves in the Tarkine.

Only 10% of the takayna/Tarkine area is protected as National Park, with the 180km2 Savage River National Park. which protects the largest contiguous area of cool temperate rainforest surviving in Australia.

In December 2009, the Tarkine was listed as a National Heritage Area following an Emergency National Heritage Listing. The Emergency Listing was in response to a proposed Tarkine Road, which would have coursed through old growth forest and detrimentally affected the natural values of undisturbed areas. In December 2010, the incoming Environment Minister Tony Burke allowed the emergency listing to lapse in the face of numerous mining proposals in the Tarkine. This was despite recommendations from the Australian Heritage Council to permanently list the Tarkine. Minister Burke had further extended the period for reassessment of the Tarkine, with the Australian Heritage Council due to re-report on the suitability of the Tarkine as a National Heritage location by the end of December 2013. Conservation groups declared this an unacceptable delay, and had voiced concerns that this left the Tarkine unprotected from mining while the reassessment took place.

On 8 February 2013 Minister Tony Burke announced that he would reject advice from the Australian Heritage Council that 433,000 hectares should be heritage listed and instead apply a National Heritage Listing to only the 21,000 hectares contained in a 2 km wide section along the coastline.

The environmentalist organisation Tarkine National Coalition, headed by Scott Jordan, proposed the Tarkine be officially declared a national park. However, the process of securing such a declaration was complicated by the processes of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement. This legislation was signed on 7 August 2011 by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings. The agreement established a $276 million package to transition Tasmania out of native forest logging, while conserving large areas of high conservation value vegetation. Julia Gillard stated that the Agreement would better protect the Tarkine, describing the wilderness area as "very important".

Subsequent related state legislation (the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill 2013) passed through the Tasmanian House of Assembly on 23 November 2012 and then passed to the Tasmanian Legislative Council where it was debated and referred on to a Select Committee. It was ultimately passed on 30 April 2013. The Hobart Mercury noted that "Despite a raft of controversial amendments from the Upper House, all but one of the Tasmanian Greens MPs supported the Bill in the Lower House"

Following enactment of the TFA Act 2013 an initial tranche of land was placed in the Tasmanian Reserve System (approx 100,000ha of the 572,000ha sought by the ENGOs) with the remainder sitting as "future reserve land" that could be added to the state's reserve system once key conditions of the TFA Act were met. These conditions included meeting guaranteed wood supply, a lack of substantive protest and Forestry Tasmania (now Sustainable Timbers Tasmania) achieving Forest Stewardship Council certification. The Tasmanian EDO provided information on the reserve making process under the TFA and clearly stated "there is no guarantee under the TFA Act that any reserves will be created, or what category any reserves may be in."

Following a change in Tasmanian state government in 2014, the TFA Act was repealed and the TFA future reserve lands were reclassified as Future Potential Production Forest(FPPF) land under the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014. The initial tranche of TFA reserves including those in the 2013 Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area extension was not repealed under this legislation and remain in place today. Similarly, 198 former forest reserves (approx 200,000ha) whose tenure was changed to Regional Reserve and Conservation Area under Labor's Forest Management (Consequential Amendments) Act 2013 remain in place.

Following the repeal of the TFA Act, Tasmanian Labor acknowledged that the TFA had not provided a workable outcome for the special timbers sector and subsequently provided bi-partisan support for specialty timber harvesting in land tenures where such an activity is permitted. This position is similar but more restrictive than Labor's position contained within the TFA Act 2013 where special timber harvesting could occur on any land tenure including inside the TWWHA.

Timber 'harvesting' has been made available in Future Potential Production Forest (FPPF) land since October 2017 following the finalisation of the Special Species Timber Management Plan.

The Tasmanian Liberals announced on February 29 2024 they would make 40,000 hectares of forest from what they described as a "wood bank" – Future Potential Production Forest (FPPF) – available for logging at short notice. The Tasmanian Government vowed to boost timber supply by greenlighting another 40,000 hectares of native forests for logging that had been protected under the 2012 forestry peace deal, which threatens to reignite the state’s “forest wars”.

Premier Jeremy Rockliff made the announcement with Liberal forestry spokesperson Felix Ellis in the Liberal conservative north-west stronghold of Braddon, but without representation from the forestry sector.

The Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA) subsequently issued a statement which reads:

'Forestry industry disappointed in Liberal plan, offers better alternative

The Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA) is disappointed our industry has been used as a political football by the Liberal Party today, according to TFPA Chief Executive Officer, Nick Steel.

“The Liberals have been government for a decade and could have solved our wood supply issue at any time. But instead, they have decided to make it an election issue,” Mr Steel said.

Mr Steel said the TFPA and others in the industry have been working with the government on developing a policy for the management of the state’s Future Potential Production Forest (FPPF) land.

“The TFPA has been talking to the government for a long time about active management of FPPF land, and what has been released today is nothing like our plan,” Mr Steel said.

“The TFPA believes in total land use management. Not all the FPPF land is suitable for production forestry.

“The TFPA is calling for a full examination of the land, with input from a range of groups – including forestry, aboriginal bodies and environmental agencies.

“We look forward to working with the next elected government on how we can grow forestry and actively manage this land,” Mr Steel said.

On March 4 2024 TFPA issued another statement which reads:

'TFPA welcomes second tranche of Liberals’ forestry policy

The Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA) has welcomed the second day of forestry policy announcements by the Tasmanian Liberals ahead of the 2024 state election.

Speaking this morning in response to the promises made by Jeremy Rockliff and Felix Ellis, TFPA Chief Executive Officer Nick Steel said these policies would benefit the sustainable forestry industry,Tasmanian jobs, and the economy.

“It’s pleasing to see the Liberals have recognised the importance of the first priority in the TFPA Election Wish List – Supporting Tasmanian Businesses,” Mr Steel said.

“Continuing its commitment to the State’s On-Island Processing Grants program will make a real difference to Tasmanian forestry businesses and their ability to adapt to future demands.

“And we welcome the Liberals commitment to updating Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s (STT) Ministerial Charter to focus on backing the industry and Tasmanian jobs. 

“We stand ready to continue to work with the Tasmanian Liberals to ensure the updating of STT’s Ministerial Charter will achieve the best benefit for all Tasmanians,” Mr Steel said.

However, Mr Steel said there was still more work to be done.

“We look forward to working with the Liberals in developing its plantation forestry policy and are seeking a commitment to the retooling and reskilling of our processing businesses to make best use of that plantation resource as it becomes available,” Mr Steel said.

“Today’s announcement is a great start in protecting jobs, boosting the Tasmanian economy and allowing the forestry industry to continue to sequester carbon to meet Tasmania’s tough climate change ambitions.

“Whilst there’s still more work to be done on the Liberal’s plan, the TFPA welcomes the chance to work with them to provide certainty for the industry, improve the lives of Tasmanian families and the economy in the years ahead,” Mr Steel said.

The TFPA Election Wishlist can be downloaded here:

Sustainable Timber Tasmania, like NSW's Forestry Corporation, is a multi-million dollar tax-payer subsidised poor financial performer. John Lawrence, an economist, public policy researcher and retired accountant based in Tasmania and guest writer for numerous newspapers, in a 2018 analysis for The Guardian, 'Tasmanian regional forest agreement delivers $1.3bn losses in ‘giant fraud’ on taxpayers', calculated that since 1998 – the first full year of the RFA – Forestry Tasmania’s operations have produced cash and non-cash losses of $1,306m.

Forestry Tasmania had a 2016-rebrand to 'Sustainable Timber Tasmania'.

In November 2023 an analysis by the Blueprint Institute, 'Seeing the forest for the trees: Exploring alternate land use options for the native forests of Tasmania' recommended the state government stop subsidising its forestry arm, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, and announce logging will end in mid-2025. Ending native forest logging in Tasmania and valuing the state’s centuries-old trees as carbon storage would save the state at least $72m, according to a report by a pro-market thinktank.

Their overview reads:

'Using a cost-benefit analysis based on cash flows, we evaluate the economic potential of native forest conservation by modelling the value of carbon sequestration against continued logging. Our forecast shows that if STT ceased their native logging operations in FY2025 instead of FY2049, the use of this land for carbon sequestration would provide a net-benefit valued at $72 million in present day dollars. We find that a move to alternate land uses will result in a positive net present value, even when factoring in the estimated cost of providing a transitional package to the broader forestry industry to facilitate its move toward a more sustainable plantation-based future.

Our cost-benefit analysis incorporates a range of assumptions that were deliberately designed to overstate the costs and minimise the benefits of halting STT’s native timber logging. Were we to remove these assumptions from our cost-benefit analysis, we find a net benefit of $936 million in ceasing logging immediately. By including these favourable assumptions, we, methodologically speaking, have given the logging industry the benefit of the doubt—demonstrating that even when every conceivable dollar is counted in favour of STT’s native timber operations, it nevertheless shows itself economically uncompetitive against alternate land uses. 

The native forests of Tasmania have significant capacity to generate major alternate revenue streams that can replace that which is generated from logging—on the proviso that a robust carbon methodology is put in place, to enable the generation of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) from a cessation of timber harvesting. In particular, we find that managing Tasmania’s native forests in a manner consistent with conservation principles would abate an average of one million tonnes of carbon annually. This equates to a net present value of $345 million at current ACCU spot prices. 

Lastly, we must comment upon the unusual and declining transparency in STT’s annual reports. Other state-run forestry corporations that we have studied were noticeably less opaque, particularly with respect to pricing information. The lack of publicly available pricing information likely acts as an impediment to private investment by increasing uncertainty, thus deterring private plantation-based competitors from entering the market.'

Similarly, a November report from Frontier Economics, 'Public native forest logging: a large and growing taxpayer burden', found the the taxpayer-owned logging business Forestry Corporation NSW received $246.9 million worth of grants since 2019/20 financial year, while the hardwood division (which is responsible for native forest logging) made a loss of $28.2 million over the same period. 

The Tasmanian Labor party stated on March 6 a Labor Tasmanian Government will:

'act immediately to provide security for the thousands of forest industry employees by ensuring open, transparent and secure access to resource by Tasmanian businesses with investments in Tasmania.

Labor will ensure Tasmanian contractors get a fair go at Tasmanian contracts and that the special species sector can get better access to logs.'

Labor Leader Rebecca White stated in a release:

'Labor has listened to the timber industry and worked very closely with them over the past few years and this policy reflects our dedication to work together to secure a sustainable future for the industry.

Also, importantly, our policy will not create division and reignite the forest wars which will in fact drive away major customers and put Tasmanian timber jobs and businesses at risk.

The timber industry is a vital part of the Tasmanian economy and crucial to regional Tasmania.

A Labor Government that I lead will put Tasmanian timber workers and companies first, not mainland companies.'

Shadow Resources Minister Shane Broad stated:

'For the last 10 years the Liberals have taken the Tasmanian timber industry for granted by using them as a political football while failing to address their growing concerns about resource security and transparency.

Under the Liberals’ watch contracted volumes have not been delivered, iconic special species logs have dwindled to almost nothing and local logging contractors have been overlooked for cashed up mainland operators.

Labor will ensure that contracts are extended out to 2040 and include plantation sawlogs, special species are managed independently and that a 25 per cent local benefits test applies to logging and haulage contracts.

Labor agrees that an independent pricing mechanism is needed to ensure contract terms are fair and can be independently audited.'

The Labor party's details state a Rebecca White Labor Government will: 

  • STOP the current plantation sawlog Expression of Interest process being conducted by Sustainable Timbers Tasmania (STT), a process which could see mills starved of logs, workers thrown on the scrapheap and more logs exported out of Tasmania. 
  • REVIEW the available resources – both native forest and plantation – in an open and transparent process with independent oversight.
  • PROTECT existing Tasmanian businesses and their workers to ensure they have the highest priority to obtain long term secure contracts for wood supply. No sawlog or peelers will be exported in whole log form if they can be processed in Tasmania. 
  • DEVELOP a framework for prioritising access to STT’s wood supply capacity that is in the best interests of the State with a particular reference to regional Tasmania.
  • PROVIDE confidence to existing STT customers by giving them the opportunity to negotiate enforceable contracts on commercial terms for their existing volumes, as a minimum until 2040.
  • ENFORCE the local benefits weighting of 25 per cent so that Tasmanian contractors get a fair go.
  • ENSURE the future of the special species sector by the creation of a standalone Special Timbers Authority tasked with managing all aspects of non-blackwood special species timber supply and management.
  • ESTABLISH an independent Forest Products Price Oversight Body to ensure Tasmanians obtain a fair price for their resources.
  • ALLOCATE $5 million towards developing new ways to process logs on-island.
  • PROVIDE $350,000 for a heli-harvesting trial of dead Huon pine.
  • COMMIT to funding the Tasmanian Timber Promotion Board in future Budgets.
  • COMMIT to including private forest estate owners in the TasGRN rollout.
  • REWRITE the STT Ministerial Charter to reflect our Tasmania First Timber Policy

On the obverse, the Tasmanian Labor's Environment policies announcements for the Saturday election day, wherein they don't mention they, like the Liberals, have confirmed support for continued farming of salmon in Macquarie Harbour and the Storm Bay Growth, a practice that has lost its social licence to the point where even Tasmanians won't eat that fish, is threatening the endangered Maugean skate, when not killing fur seals, allowed under the government that called the election - according to government data, 23 seal deaths occurred on Tasmanian salmon farms in just over a year (from the start of 2021 until the end of March 2022) where one company alone used 8,057 underwater explosives against seals in that period - and are in the following release:

Tassie’s environment deserves a better future

15 March 2024

A Rebecca White Labor Government will deliver a better future for our environment – because it’s part of what makes Tasmania so special.

Sadly, we have lived through 10 years of a Liberal Government that’s had no interest in protecting our environment. They’ve kept making commitments but failed again and again to act.

The Liberal Government have failed to produce a State of the Environment report since being in Government, despite the State Policies and Projects Act 1993 requiring the Tasmanian Government to do so every five years.

Labor will produce the first State of the Environment report since 2009.

A Labor Government will get on with the work needed to protect our environment and parks, to ensure our children can enjoy the same Tasmania we know and love.

By the end of this year, Labor will deliver a container refund scheme and a ban on single use plastics to reduce pollution and litter – both of which are broken Liberal promises.

Labor will also invest in a $500,000 workforce package for our National Parks, creating new regional jobs, training opportunities and ending the use of fixed term contracts.

We will commit to Tasmania’s Climate Change Action and Implementation Plan, as well as commit to targets to reduce emissions. Important parts of this plan, such as the electrification of the vehicle fleet, will be underpinned by our plan to double Tasmania’s renewable energy.

Labor has ambitious and achievable plans to tackle climate change and manage our natural environment.

It’s time for a better future for Tasmania’s environment.

Key Policy Facts:

  • Provide more funding for Landcare
  • Increase funding for Natural Resource Management
  • Ban single use plastics
  • Deliver the Container Refund Scheme
  • Produce a State of the Environment report
  • Work to reduce the impact of fallow deer
  • Commit to jobs in Parks and Wildlife
  • Commit to Climate Action:
    • At least net zero emissions from 2030
    • A 50% reduction in food waste and a 50% reduction in organic waste sent to landfill by 2030
    • 100% electric vehicles in the government fleet by 2030
    • Double Tasmania’s renewable energy production
    • No loss of fire-sensitive vegetation or other high conservation values in the Wilderness World Heritage Area
    • Make homes more energy efficient

Last, and on those Tasmanian salmon farms, the following came in at the beginning of the month:

Major Parties' Salmon Policies Slammed by Experts, Community

March 4, 2024

Scientific and legal experts, community groups and the Australia Institute have slammed the major parties continued support for the industry, announced yesterday and today.

A public forum to discuss the future of salmon farming in Tasmania is being held in Ulverstone tomorrow, Saturday 2 March. Panellists' responses are quoted below.

Key points:

  • The continued support for the salmon industry ignores the 3 in 4 (74%) who Tasmanians who support the Parliamentary Inquiry recommendation to move fish farms out of sheltered, inshore waters.
  • Claims the salmon industry 'employs around 5,000 Tasmanians' are incorrect. Australian Bureau of Statistics data finds salmon farming in Tasmania provides between 1,100 to 1,700 jobs, less than 1% of the state's employment. Over 80% of these jobs are in Hobart and the Southeast, with just 11% of salmon industry jobs in the Macquarie Harbour area.
  • Claims that stopping aquaculture on the West Coast would 'force around 400 Tasmanians out of a job' are also misleading. Census data for employment on Tasmania's west coast shows that employment in the salmon industry is between 54-76 full time equivalent jobs. This equates to 2.5-3.6% of total employment in the area.
  • The industry does not pay tax - in fact taxpayers continue to subsidise the industry despite commitments to fully cost recover.
  • The major parties do not mention the endangered Maguean skate, teetering on the brink of extinctionnor the overwhelming scientific evidence of the environmental impacts of the industry.
  • A federal government review of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour is currently underway, based on new scientific evidence.

Eloise Carr, director, Australia Institute Tasmania:

"Salmon farming is a heavily subsidised industry, a tiny employer, does not pay tax, and causes massive damage to coastal waters. There is so little benefit in salmon farming for Tasmanians.

"Tasmanians want fish farms out of sheltered inshore waters. Nowhere is this more urgent than Macquarie Harbour. Whether for relocation, retraining, income insurance, or perhaps start-up funds for another industry in the area, support should be provided as it when businesses are forced to close for economic reasons.

"Taxpayers' money should be used according to verifiable data, not industry spin. The salmon industry appears to be using discredited methods to exaggerate its economic importance but hasn't made the analysis behind its distorted jobs claims public.

Louise Cherrie, independent environmental consultant and former member of the EPA Board and Marine Farming Review Panel:

"Regional jobs have been weaponised but they are not an excuse to pollute. Sustainable long-term jobs can be had onshore.

Peter George, President of Neighbours of Fish Farms:

"Argentina and Washington State have banned open-cage fish farms and Canada is in the process of doing the same. Our major political parties' responses are disgusting. They are hoodwinking Tasmanians about what's going on under the surface."

Jess Holgersson, Senior Associate, Equity Generation Lawyers:

"The federal government's review of salmon farming in Mac Harbour should focus on new scientific evidence and is not required to take account of socio-economic impacts."

The campaign for the Tarkine, The Styx and several other places in Tassie continues.

The 2024 Tasmanian state election will be held on 23 March 2024 to elect all 35 members to the House of Assembly. After months of speculation about an early election and a battle to keep minority government alive, Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff – Australia’s last remaining Liberal Premier –  called an election for March 23, three years into a four-year term.  In mid-May 2023, two government back benchers quit the party to sit on the cross bench, citing a range of grievances.

Lara Alexander and John Tucker’s agreement with Rockliff to guarantee supply and confidence in the House lasted until early February 2024 when the premier issued a second ultimatum effectively demanding the rebel MPs support all government legislation.

Given neither of the independents were willing to cede their independence an early election became inevitable. Due to Tasmania’s 25-seat Lower House (which has been restored to 35 members for this election), these events have stretched Mr. Rockliff’s talent pool and contributed to a feeling among voters that the government is approaching its used by date, although the opposite side, Labor, are sounding out the same policies.

Giant old trees are still being logged in Tasmanian forests. We must find ways of better protecting them

Bob Brown FoundationCC BY-ND
Jamie KirkpatrickUniversity of Tasmania

The photo said it all. On the back of a logging truck, a tree so large it could barely fit. It was cut down in Tasmania’s Florentine Valley, not far from Mount Field, where it had started life as a seedling over a century ago.

The photo triggered outrage from conservationists and the public. Greens founder Bob Brown called the felling “a national disgrace” and urged a halt to the felling of old growth giants.

Giant trees are supposed to be protected as a matter of normal process. Trees over 85 metres high or with a trunk volume of 280 cubic metres should be retained with a 100 metres radius of uncleared bush around them. The loggers say this one was cut down for “safety reasons”. We don’t know if this one met those criteria.

Whether or not that’s true, the felling has sparked a new battle in Tasmania’s long-running forest wars. Unlike in Victoria, old growth logging in Tasmania doesn’t look like ending any time soon. But we must find ways to better protect these giants of nature, the tallest flowering trees in the world. They store huge amounts of carbon in their trunks and in the soil, provide habitat for many forest creatures and produce awe in humans who see them.

florentine valley logged tree`
The fallen giant. Bob Brown FoundationCC BY-ND

Why Was This Giant Logged?

The truck transporting the trunk of the tree was seen exiting Tasmania’s Florentine Valley. This valley has been the site of many protests over the years. Part of it is in the World Heritage Area, but logging is still allowed in other parts of it.

Why was a tree this size cut down? Safety.

“On occasion, it may be necessary for Sustainable Timber Tasmania to remove a large tree where it presents an access or safety risk,” a spokeswoman told

That is possible. Giant old trees can hollow out as they age and become a safety risk if people are allowed near them. But the trunk in the published photo shows no sign of hollowing out. If it was a giant, the mandatory 100 metre protection zone would eliminate almost all risk.

At the very least, the felling suggests not all of Tasmania’s ancient trees are adequately protected. What it shows is the need for independent assessment of areas slated for logging likely to be home to giants – and to ensure trees felled for “safety” reasons" genuinely need to be removed.

And what about trees that are not quite big enough to be protected? As ecologist and tall-tree expert Dr Jennifer Sanger has observed, the 85-metre figure is arbitrary. We need to plan for the giant trees of the future by keeping the almost giant trees of now.

Ancient Giants Matter

Mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) is the world’s largest flowering plant. The trees can live up to 700 years and reach over 100 metres in height.

Do they matter more than other trees? Yes. That’s because big old trees begin to decay in interesting ways, creating hollows for possums and birds to nest in, and even hollowing out inside the trunk, which makes habitat for bats. They play an outsized role in ecosystems in providing shelter, hollows and food.

Ironically, these processes of decay can make these giants all but useless for timber. If you’re logging a giant to turn it into large structural beams, you might find it’s hollow inside and all but useless.

The sheer size of these trees also means they have more habitat to offer for other forms of life. Native animals, birds and invertebrates rely on these trees. Plus, they store massive amounts of carbon, both above ground and in the soil. Cutting down the old growth forests of which these trees are a part and turning them into production forests results in a substantial ongoing leakage of soil carbon for many generations.

The trees induce awe and wonder in most who see them. People are passionate about keeping them on the planet – one of the reasons for the forest wars in the first place. These huge trees attract tourists to walk beneath them or up in their canopies.

Haven’t Tasmania’s Forest Wars Stopped?

Sadly, no. The decades-long battle between loggers and conservationists in Tasmania has certainly become less intense after many old growth forests such as the Weld, Styx, Florentine and Great Western Tiers gained World Heritage protection in 2013.

But native forest logging in Tasmania shows no sign of stopping entirely. Old-growth logging continues around the state, including in the Florentine Valley where this giant tree was felled. Rainforest trees in some reserves are available for logging.

In May, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced his state would this year end native forest logging, which has long been a loss-making industry. Instead, plantation logging will be expanded.

Why can’t Tasmania do this? It mostly comes down to politics. Tasmania is the poorest state in Australia, and the few jobs logging native forests are politically important.

Also, the wood from larger trees are better for ends such as veneer, exposed beams and furniture than most plantation-sourced wood. Their felling can be rewarding financially for the companies that do it, as no-one has to pay to grow them and they can contain large volumes of high quality wood.

But overall, cutting down old growth forests may not stack up economically, with the quasi-government enterprises managing production forests often making losses. It didn’t make much financial sense in Victoria, and may not in Tasmania.

Will the felling of this giant bring change? Don’t bet on it. Probably the best we can hope for is to preserve as many giants – and near-giants – as we can. And to do that, we’ll need independent assessments of old growth forest slated for logging to double-check measurements of these precious trees. The Conversation

Jamie Kirkpatrick, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania

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

Large old trees are vital for Australian birds. Their long branches and hollows can’t be replaced by saplings

Alex HollandThe University of MelbourneJason ThompsonThe University of MelbournePhilip GibbonsAustralian National University, and Stanislav RoudavskiThe University of Melbourne

When we make roads, houses or farmland, we often find large old trees in the way. Our response is often to lop off offending branches or even cut the tree down.

This is a bad idea. The more we learn about large old trees, the more we realise their fundamental importance to birds, mammals, insects, plants and other inhabitants. More than 300 species of Australian birds and mammals need large old trees to live.

Why focus on mature trees? It’s because they have many features that younger trees simply don’t have: cracks, hollows, dead branches, peeling bark and large quantities of nectar and seeds. The limbs and leaves that fall on the ground make excellent homes for many small creatures.

Our new research sheds light on the importance of such grand old trees for birds. We used lidar (scanning using lasers) to map small, medium and large tree crowns in unprecedented detail. On average, we found large old trees had 383 metres of the horizontal or dead branches preferred by birds, while medium trees had very little and young trees none. Some old trees had almost 2 kilometres of branches.

Why Are Branches So Important?

If we think of long, overhanging branches, chances are we may think “threat”. Some large trees can drop limbs without warning, although some arborists have pointed out the threat is overstated. To reduce the risk, councils and land managers may remove the limbs of large old trees.

But if you cut down a 300-year-old river red gum, you can’t simply replace it with a sapling of the same species. It will take centuries for the sapling to take up the same ecological role as its predecessor.

In our research, we mapped more than 100,000 branches from many millions of laser samples and recorded how birds use branches through years of field observations.

When we spot a bird using a branch, we can safely infer the bird has chosen it for a reason, whether resting, socialising, feeding, hunting or nesting.

What our data shows is that not all branches are equal. Birds find it easier to perch on horizontal or slightly inclined branches. Branches with few or no leaves offer clear vantage points for birds to land, hunt or see predators. You may have noticed crows and currawongs choosing dead branches for these reasons.

As trees mature, their branches begin to grow horizontally. Some branches may die due to lightning strikes, fire, wind damage, or attacks by insects or fungi, while the rest of the tree continues living. These long-term patterns of growth, decay and random events are necessary to produce the horizontal and dead branches prized by birds. For a large eucalypt, that process can take up to 200 years.

Mapping The Canopy With Lasers

Until recently, it’s been hard to map the tree canopy. Traditional methods rely on researchers visually assessing this vital habitat. But we know eye observations don’t do well at capturing parts of trees such as branches.

That’s where lidar comes in. Lidar sends out laser pulses, which bounce back when they hit objects. By recording the time taken for the light to return, we can build very detailed three-dimensional models. It’s a little like echolocation, but using light rather than sound.

This laser-scanning technology has been used in the jungles of Central America to find the ruins of lost Mayan cities. But it can do much more.

In forests, lidar is now increasingly used to estimate how dense the tree cover is, and how variable. This useful data feeds into how we assess a forest’s ability to store carbon, how much timber is present, and the current fire risk. We can even use it to spot animal pathways.

To get the canopy detail we wanted, we used lidar on the ground rather than from the air, and processed the data with algorithms that can recognise and describe about 90% of branches in even the largest trees.

We mapped trees in an area near Canberra. We chose this area because it represents the plight of temperate eucalypt woodlands, which have shrunk by up to 99% since European colonisation.

What Should We Do?

The very things that make branches good real estate for birds can make them seem dangerous or aesthetically displeasing to us. We tend to cut dead or long, horizontal branches and leave the living or more upright ones. But for birds, this is a disaster as many cannot live without such branches.

Young trees are no substitutes for their older counterparts. Planting saplings or installing nest boxes cannot replicate the ecological value of large, mature trees.

We can live alongside large old trees. To reduce the chance of injury or worse from falling limbs, we could use exclusion zones, add artificial supports for branches, and install devices to catch or redirect falling limbs. We can also look at emergency solutions such as prosthetic hollows on younger trees or even artificial replicas of old trees.

We should preserve these trees wherever we can and aim to keep them intact with their complex crowns and dead branches. We should also make sure there is a pipeline of young and medium trees to make sure there will be old trees in the future. The Conversation

Alex Holland, Researcher at Deep Design Lab and PhD Candidate at Melbourne School of Design, The University of MelbourneJason Thompson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine and Melbourne School of Design, The University of MelbournePhilip Gibbons, Professor, Australian National University, and Stanislav Roudavski, Founder of Deep Design Lab and Senior Lecturer in Digital Architectural Design, The University of Melbourne

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