Tuesday, 17 October 2017


The NSW Government is re-structuring the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).  This re-structure involves job losses, down-grading many officers to lower-paid  positions and changes to the regional structure of the organisation.  The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition is concerned about the effects this will have on management of the National Parks estate in our area as well as in other parts of the state.  We are also concerned about the effects of this restructure  - yet another re-structure under this government - to those who work for NPWS.

The CVCC has written to our local state member, Chris Gulaptis MP, and to the NSW Minister for the Environment,  Gabrielle Upton MP, about our concerns.

Below is the body of our letter to the Minister for the Environment.

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition (CVCC) is very concerned about the NSW Government’s restructure of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).  On this matter our concerns relate to the State as a whole as well as to our local area. 

The CVCC notes that the restructure currently does not affect ranger positions but we understand that the restructure of that part of the Service will follow later in the year.   

The planned changes we currently know about are of major concern.

In relation to the Grafton area, the CVCC is appalled at the scale of the losses and the downgrading of the local office.  

·         We understand that at least 9 full-time jobs will be lost from the local office as well as the loss of 3 senior field officers and one senior field supervisor. 
      Local fire-fighting capacity will be severely affected.  Seven crew leaders (including two who are in their thirties and four who are competent divisional commanders) will be lost.
      The number of pest management officers in the region will be cut from 3.2 full-time equivalents to one.  That position will be paid less than the current incumbents and does not need a degree qualification. Bearing in mind that the North Coast is a biodiversity hotspot with a great diversity of weeds, this bureaucratic “rationalisation” simply does not make sense.

Changes in the local area will obviously have serious repercussions in relation to management of the National Parks estate in our region – a region which relies on these important natural areas to attract tourists as well as for all the benefits they provide to the local human population and local indigenous flora and fauna.   Obviously with similar downgrading and what is quite obviously mindless cost-cutting all over the state, the serious repercussions are going to be felt state-wide.

When the state budget was brought down some months ago, there was a great deal of fanfare about how good the state economy was and what a wonderful surplus the government was producing.  Yet here we have a policy of draconian slashing of an important environmental service – a service which aids in protecting the natural world as well as enhancing earnings in the tourist industry.

We are very alarmed, Minister, at your Government’s policies towards the natural environment and its management.  This latest of a series of changes follows on from the weakening of land-clearing and biodiversity laws which have drastically eroded protections for the natural world.  As a result there is an increasing conviction that your Government is not interested in environmental protection and is completely indifferent to the need to stem the tide of alarming biodiversity loss.

While our concerns in relation to the natural world and our local economy have been highlighted in this letter, we also have concerns about the effect of these far-reaching changes on the NPWS officers who are being “re-structured”.  There will be job losses as well as salary slashing and what are in effect demotions. 

It is indeed ironic that these appalling changes have been announced in the fiftieth year of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.  Is it some bean-counter’s sick idea of a joke?

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition urges you, as the Minister responsible for the NPWS (in its fiftieth year), to ensure that the Government abandons this restructure.  What the NPWS needs is proper resourcing – something it has not had for years - not this travesty of a restructure that seems designed to ensure that Service fails.

Saturday, 14 October 2017


Deer are among the world’s most successful invasive species and can have substantial negative impacts on natural and agricultural ecosystems. They are considered one of Australia’s worst emerging pest animal problems. 

Six species have established wild populations in Australia: the fallow, chital, red, rusa, sambar and hog deer. Numbers of all six are increasing, with populations expanding into new areas.

Most wild deer are currently in south-east Australia, which is where accidental and deliberate releases have occurred in the past. A recent study based on bioclimatic analysis, however, has suggested that most of the species already present in Australia are well-suited to the tropical and subtropical climates of northern Australia. Thus, they could potentially occupy most of the continent, including parts of the arid interior.

In Australia, deer are classified differently, depending on which state they are found. In Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia they are classified as a pest species.

But the south-eastern states have not. NSW has listed the damage caused by deer as a key threatening process. Yet under current laws in this state, deer are also protected as a hunting resource. NSW is not alone. Tasmania lists them as partly protected wildlife, and in Victoria they are essentially treated as a protected game species for recreational hunters despite also being listed as a key threat under Victorian threatened species legislation. 

In March 2016, an independent review by the Natural Resources Commission recommended NSW make deer a pest species. Such a move was not supported by the NSW Government, who are obviously too worried about the political repercussions from denying deer hunters their sport. 

Making feral deer a pest species would give land managers and governments the power to tackle this growing environmental and agricultural threat head on, rather than being constrained by current laws that protect feral deer. We also need to prevent further deer farm escapes and the deliberate ‘seeding’ of new areas by hunters. 

Because, to address this pest we need concerted efforts to prevent new populations; to eradicate small, isolated populations; and to contain other wild populations.

            - Janet Cavanaugh

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 4, 2017.  

Friday, 6 October 2017


Some years ago, there was a vibrant koala colony around Iluka, but bushfires, disease, dogs and expansion of human activity drastically reduced their numbers.
With no reported sightings for several years it was thought the population had died out, and koalas were deemed to be functionally extinct from Iluka. But then records by WIRES Clarence Valley branch began to rekindle interest, and further ecological studies showed them to be returning, albeit in very small numbers.
Tragically one or two were road deaths, and some beyond help, so unable to be returned. However more lately koalas have been reported, mainly from around the golf course, the conservation reserve,  Sid Gill Park, Iluka Road, and in more unexpected places like Moriarty's break wall, from where it was relocated by WIRES, on a cafe verandah, and in a resident's garage.
Photographs taken by Iluka's keen koala spotters have shown these animals to be mainly in good health, so able to be left to do what koalas are designed to do.
Recently a cyclist spotted a koala cross the Iluka Road into bushland, where it climbed a small tree then sat a convenient 2m off the ground, so enabling a good close look. The resident then called Clarence Valley WIRES, and reported the koala to be an adult male, suffering from an injured or diseased left eye.
Unfortunately he disappeared before help could arrive. So residents are now urged to keep a look out for this koala, which could be in severe trouble if the eye problem is a chlamydia-related disease.
WIRES are also calling for Iluka residents as well as visitors to the area, to report all koala sightings, whether apparently healthy or not, for recording on the NSW Wildlife Atlas, or for capture and treatment where possible of sick or injured animals by experienced WIRES koala rescuers and carers, before hopefully their safe return to their usual surroundings.
Even a koala high in a tree will add to the knowledge of their range
For any sightings please notify the WIRES Threatened Species Reporting Officer (0456 689 134)

- Patricia Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 25, 2017. 

NOTE: Iluka is on the northern side of the mouth of the Clarence River.