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2014 state election environment forums: in the hot seat on climate and environment

15 September, 2014
The 2014 State election will set the agenda for environment and climate policy for years to come. So it’s time to put the major parties to the test on climate and environment. Who are the people that want this power and how do they intend to use it? Come and hear the major parties put forward their case for why they deserve your vote. We’ve invited each major party to explain their philosophies and outline their policies for the climate and our environment. With Michael Williams, Director of the Wheeler Centre.   ALP in the hot seat Who: Lily D’Ambrosio, Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources and Lisa Neville, Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change When: Tues 23 September 2014, 6-7:30pm Where: RMIT Building 80, Level 4, Room 11, 445 Swanston St RSVP:   Greens in the hot seat Who: Greg Barber, Victorian Leader When: Tues 30 September 2014, 6-7:30pm Where: RMIT Building 12, Level 5, Room 002, 394 Swanston St RSVP:   Coalition in the hot seat So far the Coalition has declined to attend, but the invitation remains open.

Bulldozing our Natural Heritage

12 September, 2014
Will this be Premier Baird’s defining moment?
Australia has an awesome natural environment, the envy of the world.  It is an essential part of our great outdoors way of life – our  beaches, our bush, our rivers, our clean air and water. 
You just have to look at our multi-billion-dollar tourism industry to see just how many people are attracted to our special places, like Byron Bay beach and the Blue Mountains.
Nature and the great outdoors are part of what defines us as Australians.
However, nature is not only our backyard- it is home to some of the most unique animal species in the world.  
Sadly, the NSW Government, under Premier Mike Baird, is failing to protect our forests, oceans and  our wildlife. 
Next week, Premier Baird could make a decision which would set the NSW Government on a dangerous course and leave their environmental credibility in tatters. 
In July this year, Glendon Turner, an Officer from the Office of Environment and Heritage died a tragic death in the line of duty attempting to enforce the Native Vegetation Act to stop illegal deforestation.  
As we speak some politicians and interested parties are poised to use Glendon’s tragic killing for their own political gain, by using the circumstances as a pretext for passing the Shooters and Fishers Party (S&FP) Native Vegetation Amendment Bill 2014 and repealing key provisions of the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (NVA). An Act that has saved an estimated 265,000 native mammals in just five years.
Support for the S&FP Bill, or any other measure to fast-track the existing review of the state’s biodiversity laws, would send a message to the community that violence is a legitimate tool to change laws or achieve other political objectives. 
This is simply unacceptable.
Australia’s wildlife crisis As Australian’s we are privileged to live in a society where we have the ability and the wealth to protect our species on our home soil, yet we don’t.
What many people don’t know is that Australia has the worst rate of mammal extinction on Earth. Almost one-third of the mammals that have become extinct globally in the past 200 years were Australian.
This terrible track record is made worse by the fact that most Australian mammals aren’t found anywhere else in the world. When we lose an Australian species, it is likely that the planet loses that species forever.
The single, biggest threat to wildlife is habitat loss, mainly driven by human activity. Our unique and iconic animal species are losing their homes at an unsustainable rate– from deforestation for timber primarily ending up as woodchips, to urban clearing for development, to large scale clearing for mining and gas projects.
Our landscape here in New South Wales has already been heavily cleared, with little remaining remnant forest.  We do not have much left to lose.
In NSW alone over 40% of our luscious forests have been lost forever and over 1000 plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction. 
An independent panel is currently reviewing our Biodiversity laws to develop a plan for a sustainable future. This review includes both the Native Vegetation Act and the Threatened Species Act. Changing the Native Vegetation Act now would be a serious undermining of this process.
Can you spare 10 minutes today? Nature needs your help.
We need the Premier to know that these laws are essential. Contact Mike Baird’s office today and let him know you are very concerned by the potential passing of the Shooters and Fishers Bill because it will:
• Set NSW back 10 years by returning to the dark days of broad-scale deforestation across NSW, having a devastating impact on biodiversity.
• Seriously weaken powers and penalties against illegal deforestation.
• Create major loopholes in consent and compliance.
• Illustrate that the Baird Government is happy to compromise what is in the public’s best interests for dirty backroom political deals.
• Undermine the transparent and community driven process that has already been established by the NSW Government (the Biodiversity Review).
We know the most powerful thing you can do is pick up the phone.
Please call the NSW Premier today on (02) 9976 2773
(If you’re more comfortable leaving a message, simply call after 5pm or this weekend)
Prefer to send a letter or email?
Address: 2 Wentworth Street Manly NSW 2095

Let's get environmental justice for the Leard State Forest!

11 September, 2014
Recently Whitehaven Coal announced the commencement of open-cut mining at Maules Creek. Winter clearing was contrary to the original Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) - given that many fauna in this region undergo torpor, a type of hibernation which makes them less able to escape bulldozers. The winter clearing was allowed by the Office of Environment and Heritage without proper consultation. The Maules Creek Community Council have now taken Whitehaven Coal to court.   The court case resulted in Whitehaven Coal backing down to halt their clearing during winter until a revised BMP was put forward and approved by our Planning Minister Pru Goward. The newly revised plan was provided by Whitehaven Coal to the Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE) on 27 August after legal proceedings had commenced. Whitehaven Coal have been seeking a decision from Minister Goward to accept their new BMP to avoid a return to court expected on 12 September. The revised plan, if approved, would nullify the legal challenge and allow clearing of Leard Forest in spring when young native animals are likely to be slaughtered in their nests. The NSW Government has indicated it has not yet made a decision on whether to approve or reject the revised BMP. We are now calling on the NSW Government to go a step further and provide a guarantee that they will not approve a revised plan until the full legal challenge has been heard and a judgement handed down. Because of people like you who’re putting pressure on Minister Goward and investigations into the mine approval process by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)  --  the decision to mine the Leard Forest has been delayed. Ministers are less likely to approve a dodgy decision while a corruption scandal involving Whitehaven Coal is underway. This is a win. However there is a caveat - legal representatives have agreed that in order to get this adjournment, the DoPE will have to approve the new plan and allow Whitehaven Coal to restore proceedings to the Land and Environment Court in 24 hours. This means the Maules Creek Community Council will come before a duty judge in the next days. The matter will be dropped if the approved BMP has already cured the ills by agreeing that:1. The consultation on the plan was inadequate, and because of this inadequate consultation there will be real harm to the environment.2. The new BMP had better consultation and this is reflected in better clearing processes. Let's keep the pressure on Pru, and ask her to be True. Take Action Now! The NSW Government should not be changing the rules which allow mining companies to harm threatened species. The matter is set down for further mention on the 10 October 2014. Keep following this campaign on social media using #leardblockade and lets hope we can title the next update "Wise Minister denies revised Biodiversity Plan, Clearing halted until late summer"! Find out more: 1. ICAC Investigations   2. Go to the Leard  

Call Pru and ask her to be a hero for the Leard State Forest!

4 September, 2014
Thank you for taking the first step to contact our NSW Minister for Planning Pru Goward by visiting this site! Minister Goward, and her new departmental Secretary Carolyn McNally are being asked to cut Australia’s most controversial coal miner a special deal at the expense of threatened bird and bat species in the Leard State Forest  – this is your chance to say no, and help make Whitehaven Coal follow the rules at their Maules Creek mine site. In the next eight days, Whitehaven Coal will say to the NSW Planning and Environment secretary that even though their plan is to mine the forest for the next 30 years, waiting just three months before re-commencing forest clearing is too much for the community to ask. We disagree. As ICAC’s Operation Spicer continues to gather evidence of special favours, illegal donations and political treachery, we think it’s time that the NSW Planning and Environment department starts demonstrating to the community that rules are rules. The Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) under which Whitehaven had commenced clearing in May has been challenged by the Maules Creek Community Council. As a result of this, Whitehaven was forced to stop clearing until a full hearing on the case, which was scheduled for 2 September.  If successful, the challenge would stop any further clearing until the 1st February in accordance with the original BMP of June 2013. However, instead of leaving it to the court to decide the matter, Whitehaven has submitted a new BMP to the Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE), which if approved will negate the legal challenge and allow clearing to start on 1st November. The matter will go back to court on the 12 September to get advice from DoPE as to what their intentions are with regard to the new BMP.  This means that the Secretary of the DoPE has eight days to make a decision on whether to let Whitehaven change the rules and clear Leard Forest in spring and early summer when young native animals are likely to be killed in their nests. It’s not too late. This plan has not yet been approved. Please Call Pru Goward, Minister for Planning, 02 4861 3623 Talking Points State your name and where you live! I am calling to ask you to reject Whitehaven Coal's new Biodiversity Management Plan for its Maules Creek mine in the Leard State Forest. Please resist pressure to grant yet another favour to Big Coal at the expense of a  forest which the Government itself has described as “irreplaceable … with ecologically unique values”. Whitehaven’s forest-destroying plan lacks scientific evidence to prove that all the threatened species affected by this mine will be compensated in the offsets Habitat for key species won’t be enhanced, which means affected threatened species and a critically endangered ecological community of some of the rarest woodlands in Australia will decline. Remember to thank them for their time! P.S. People power at the #leardblockade is protecting the forest like our planning laws should! There have now been over 244 arrests in opposition to the mine and they will continue this month with Shenanigans! See the Facebook event page for more detail

The tide will turn

28 August, 2014
A few words from Wilderness Society national director, Lyndon Schneiders As a lifelong campaigner for protection of wilderness and the natural world, I have learnt that perseverance is the key to ultimate success. The last few weeks have again reminded me that we must be able to roll with the setbacks and come back stronger, smarter and wiser for the experience. A few weeks ago, the Queensland Government abolished the Wild Rivers Act 2005. This was Australia’s first ever program to protect wild rivers across the state. Over the next month or so, the Tasmanian Parliament will probably pass into law legislation which guts the historic Tasmanian Forest Agreement, particularly as it relates to the protection of priceless forests. Yet despite these setbacks, the reality remains that wild rivers in Queensland have not been dammed or destroyed and never will as long as a movement of people for nature and wilderness remains vigilant. Likewise, some of the most important old growth forests in Tasmania are now part of the World Heritage area and the timber industry has been reduced to half its former size. Like in nature, as in politics – the tide comes in and tide goes out. Right now our job is to resist and counter the high tide of anti-environment policies in the expectation of better days ahead. In that spirit, please get involved in the campaigns and activities to help us turn the tide. 

Divisive politics will fail forests and community

25 August, 2014
This Tuesday, 26 August and Wednesday, 27 August the Tasmanian upper house will debate the Liberal Government’s farcically-named Rebuilding the Forestry Industry Bill. If successful, the bill – a landmark in cynical and self-defeating anti-environment politics – will replace the historic Tasmanian Forest Agreement (TFA) Act, ripping up protection of 400,000 hectares of spectacular forest in places like the Blue Tier, the Tarkine, Bruny Island and Weilangta. The Tasmanian Forest Agreement Act – passed just last year – was the result of four years of negotiation, 30 years of campaigning, and a strong desire by the Tasmanian community to end the forest conflict. The TFA laws protected forests, supported top-flight forest certification for consumers, and encouraged collaboration between government, environment, industry and community groups to keep the hard-won peace in the forests. Polls have shown the majority of the Tasmanian community want a new future for the island state that doesn’t involve conflict over forests. Instead, the Tasmanian Government’s proposal will rip up agreed forest protection, open a million hectares of existing forest reserves for logging, and threaten the Forest Stewardship Council certification that is the No. 1 requirement for the forestry industry. The Liberals spent years in opposition criticising those seeking a fair outcome for the forests, the industry and for workers. Now in government, they are unable to admit that the future of the industry it claims to support depends on protecting forests. With questions and opposition from the independent upper house and key stakeholders – including environment groups – flying thick and fast, and the novice Government amending its own legislation on the fly, the bill may yet fail or be heavily changed in the coming days. What is clear, however, is that if the bill passes, the Tasmanian Government is lining itself up for years of pain. The Tasmanian community will hold the Government responsible for damaging the environment, hurting Tasmania’s reputation, and taking an axe to a forestry industry slowly recovering as a result of unprecedented collaboration between former adversaries. The Government will be judged on the consequences of re-injecting cheap, conflict-driven politics, when Tasmania’s community is crying out for an end to the forest ‘wars’. The Tasmanian Forest Agreement has already delivered a securely-protected World Heritage area, kept the chainsaws away from half a million hectares of forest, and shown that a strong commitment to working with past adversaries can deliver for nature. Regardless of the outcomes of the impending vote, the Wilderness Society is committed to working with the community to see Tasmania's old growth forests and wild places protected – forever.

Newman: Don't trash the Gilbert River

25 August, 2014
The Great Barrier Reef, iconic beaches, lush rainforests, healthy free flowing rivers, outback savanna woodlands and vast intact wetlands – Queensland’s natural environment is the envy of the world. But right now it is under threat like never before. Backed by Tony Abbott’s deluded dream to convert northern Australia into a ‘food bowl’ for Asia, Premier Campbell Newman has taken the axe to tree clearing laws, repealed wild river protections and is about to gut water laws. This opens the floodgates for mega-dams and tree clearing which will destroy our rivers, savannah outback wilderness, wetlands and fishing estuaries forever. First cab off the rank is the Gilbert River system in Queensland’s Gulf Country. Two schemes will destroy almost 200,000 hectares of savannah woodland, build two huge dams to store over four Sydney Harbour’s worth of water and suck on average another Sydney Harbour’s worth of water out of the system each year. Tell Newman to learn from his mistakes. These schemes will trash the Gilbert River system and release vast amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. Downstream is a vast two million hectare wetland, listed on the National Directory of Important Wetlands, and recognised as the most important site for shorebirds in Queensland, including migratory species like the Sarus Crane. The wetlands also provide habitat for marine fauna - including five species of marine turtle, dugong and estuarine crocodiles – as well as being a nursery area for the $230 million Gulf fishing industry. The river also supports the freshwater sawfish and the freshwater whipray, both of which are threatened species. On land, endangered species that could be impacted by the clearing from these developments include Australia’s rarest bird of prey, the red goshawk, and the spectacular rainbow finch. Because of its remote location, Campbell Newman thinks you won’t care - it’s a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’. But if we don’t draw a line in the sand, which river system will be next? Tell Campbell Newman you won’t put up with Queensland’s natural environment being trashed for far-fetched, short-sighted schemes like this. Take action today. Please write a letter to Campbell Newman using the text below or you can print off the PDF version of the letter. Better still write your own using the text as a guide. Campbell NewmanPremier of QldPO Box 15185CITY EAST QLD 4002 Email: Dear Premier, Please don’t destroy the Gilbert river system I am writing to urge you to prevent the destruction of the Gilbert River catchment in Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria. As you know, two schemes threaten to destroy the river system forever: 1.     100,000 hectares of tree clearing at Strathmore Station for cattle fodder; 2.     The Etheridge Integrated Agriculture Project (EIAP) proposes to clear and inundate almost 100,000 hectares for sugar and guar production, and includes two huge dams to store over 4 Sydney Harbour’s worth of water and suck on average another Sydney Harbour in water out of the system each year. These projects are only possible because you: 1.     Weakened tree clearing controls under the Vegetation Management Act; and 2.     Are overhauling Water Resource Plans and the Water Act. On top of this, you have removed wild river protections, opening up Queensland’s best river systems to dams, over-extraction, tree clearing and mining. These ill-considered schemes will trash the Gilbert River system and release vast amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. Gilbert riverbed sands are a unique environment with a high diversity of aquatic fauna. Downstream is a vast two million hectare wetland listed on the National Directory of Important wetlands, home to important migratory species such as the Sarus crane and critical to the $230 million Gulf fishing industry. As you are aware, the CSIRO concluded that the Gilbert system can support a scheme using only half the land and a third of the water proposed by the EIAP project alone. We all want more jobs and development for Queensland, but mega-dams and broad scale tree clearing is not the way to go. Northern Australia is a graveyard for ludicrous dam and irrigated agriculture schemes like these. These schemes promise the world but end up leaving a legacy of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars, environmental destruction, broken rural communities and crop failures. And just because it’s happening in outback Queensland, doesn’t mean we don’t care. I urge you to remove the Queensland Government’s support for these schemes, including by immediately revoking EIAP’s coordinated project status. Your government needs to look for more innovative solutions to develop the region in a way that utilises rather than destroys our spectacular natural environment, pays attention to the science taxpayers have paid for, and delivers hope and sustainable long term employment to local communities, including traditional owners. Yours sincerely, <Your name><Your address>    

A tragedy for nature, a renewed challenge to protect pristine rivers

8 August, 2014
Queensland Campaign Manager for the Wilderness Society, Dr Tim Seelig, reflects on an unfolding tragedy for some of the world’s last free flowing rivers, and how we reverse the tide to protect the irreplaceable.
Earlier this week, the Newman Government in Queensland repealed the state’s Wild Rivers Act, which has served to preserve pristine, free flowing rivers in Queensland – some of the last remaining intact river systems left on the planet. 
The end of the Wild Rivers Act is a sad event for nature protection, and for the campaigning work of many of us in the Wilderness Society. It represents the most recent and the most outrageous act within an agenda by conservative governments across Australia to wind back environmental protections in favour of more destructive development in sensitive places. Our response should and will be new campaigns to protect pristine rivers and connected landscapes.
Wenlock River catchment in Queensland's Cape York. Photo: Kerry Trapnell
The Queensland Wild Rivers Act operated to prevent industrial and destructive development and damaging activities – mining, dams, intensive irrigation, and in-stream aquaculture – in the main watercourses and riparian areas of pristine, free flowing rivers. The laws used an approach to protecting rivers as whole systems, where land tenure was unaffected, Native Title rights were respected, and cultural, recreational, and lower intensity commercial activities were allowed. It helped stop numerous dam plans, killed off a bauxite mine close to the Wenlock River, and seriously constrained the expansion of unconventional gas in Western Queensland.
We worked hard over the years to try to get governments to improve their Indigenous consultation and negotiation processes, as well as the scope of the Act. We recognised that without strong protection, Queensland’s pristine rivers would be damaged for good, and we worked cooperatively to seek solutions to keep the state’s wild rivers protected. The recent Federal Court decision on three of the Wild River Declarations on Cape York highlighted that some of the government decision-making connected to Wild Rivers was not as good as it should have been. But the Court did not find any fundamental problems with the concept or the effects of the Wild Rivers Act. 
Wenlock River, Cape York Peninsula. Photo by Glenn Walker.
Queensland’s rivers need the highest level of protection, and the Newman Government has now shamefully taken this away. In its place, the government will run with a dog’s breakfast of weaker policies, regulation and ever-changing maps which will operate without any parliamentary oversight and will lead to arbitrary decision-making. This is no substitute for proper and effective river protection, and the Queensland public won’t be fooled. The real agenda here is about removing environmental protections, to allow mining and intensive irrigated agriculture in the most sensitive areas of river catchments. This will be to the detriment of people and the environment. 
I am really confident that conservationists and Traditional Owners will now recognise the challenges and the opportunities before us, to take wild river protections forward with new legislation, new and better processes, and even stronger outcomes for nature and people.  
As Queensland Campaigns Manager, I am also proud of the work that the Wilderness Society has put in to protect Queensland’s wild rivers, and have been privileged to help lead the campaign over recent years. Looking beyond the disappointment of what has happened now, there is a vitally important job for us help meet the aspirations of Traditional Owners and environmentalists to see rivers fully protected.