Saturday, 9 December 2017

COURT CHALLENGE OF NSW GOVERNMENT'S LANDCLEARING LEGISLATION



In recent years the NSW Government has made significant changes to native vegetation and biodiversity legislation.   Despite Government assertions that there will still be adequate protection for the natural environment, many scientists and conservationists fear these new laws will result in broadscale rural land clearing and large-scale biodiversity loss.
 
Indeed, land clearing rates in NSW started accelerating even before the changes were passed in August.  This has led to concerns that NSW will see the same type of devastation as has occurred in Queensland where hundreds of thousands of hectares of native vegetation have been destroyed annually (e.g. 395,000 ha in 2015-16).

In an attempt to stem this destruction the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) has launched a legal challenge to the Government’s land clearing codes in the Land and Environment Court. (The NCC is the peak NSW environment body with more than 160 community organisation members from across the state.)

The NCC is being represented by public interest environmental lawyers Environmental Defenders Office NSW (EDO). 

The challenge is based on two grounds.

The first is the failure by the Minister for Primary Industries to get agreement from the Minister for the Environment before the Code was made, with the implied failure of the Minister for the Environment to act as custodian and guardian of the environment.

The second relates to the failure of both Ministers to have regard for the internationally recognised principles of Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD), particularly the precautionary principle, the principle of intergenerational equity and the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity.

Clearing of native vegetation has been recognised by scientists as a serious problem. It was listed by the NSW Scientific Committee as a Key Threatening Process under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.  However, as EDO Chief Executive Officer David Morris points out, “The Code allows broadscale clearing across NSW in the absence of any assessment of its likely cumulative impact on biodiversity or land or water resources.”

The outcome of this legal action will be of interest to a wide range of community members as well as the NSW Government.

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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

ELECTRICITY GENERATION FROM BIOMASS



For decades the Australia Government has been lobbied to allow electricity generation from burning biomass to attract clean energy credits. Lobbyists promoted this as a way of disposing of waste vegetable matter as a renewable energy source, a win-win situation they explain.

Electricity generation from biomass is already occurring. Millions of tax-payers dollars have gone to businesses, such as timber and sugar mills, to establish co-generation plants, utilising heat they were already using in their manufacturing processes, to also generate electricity.

Both industries create significant amounts of waste, and are ideally placed to benefit from co-generation, a win-win situation indeed. However, while it is undoubtedly renewable energy, it is far from clean. Reports from the USA, which has a long history of wood-fired power generation, show the resultant emissions are actually worse than those from burning coal.

Conservationists in Australia have long been concerned that any up-take in biomass burning here would ultimately lead to the burning of native forest timber, to the detriment of those forests. The fact that some of the most strident supporters of biomass use are from the timber industry adds to those concerns.

The co-generation at sugar mills, originally promoted as a way of disposing unwanted bagasse and cane tops during the short crushing season, has turned more to burning wood because it is more efficient.

Initially this was promoted as a way to dispose of pest species such as Camphor Laurel. However, as feared, some sugar mills have seized the opportunity to turn themselves into full-time wood-fired power stations, and are burning wood chips which they claim is waste.

One Clarence Valley timber mill is currently applying to Council to increase its wood-chip output from 1,000 to 50,000 cubic metres annually to feed the sugar mills' furnaces. Clearly this is not waste timber, but logs that have no commercial value, hence the state government's current move to allow clear-felling in state forests, a practice that has been happening illegally for a decade or more.

If we value our unique wildlife, and amazing biodiversity, this madness has to stop.

- John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 16th, 2017. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

EARTH MATTERS - The Indian or Common Myna – A Pest Species



In the final Earth Matters session of the year Laura and Kevin Noble from Clarence Valley Conservation in Action (CVCIA), will be talking about Indian or Common Mynas and why they are a threat to our native biodiversity.  Their presentation will include identification, control and a review of activity in the Clarence Valley and surrounding areas.

The session will be held in the Staffroom at Grafton Public School, Queen Street, Grafton from 5.30 – 7 p.m. on Monday November 20.

There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion.  Refreshments will follow.

For further information, contact Stan Mussared on 66449309.

Earth Matters is a session on the environment which is conducted every two months by the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition ( clarencevcc@gmail.com ).

Indian or Common Mynas