An Expedition to Spitzbergen in the Arctic

magdalena-fijordGary Schoer, OFF member and extensive Polar traveller joined us once again in November to share his photos and assessment of the beauties of and threats to the Arctic. Gary took us with him on a Aurora Expedition small group expedition to the Svalbard Archipaelego which includes its biggest Island, Spitzbergen, in between Northern Norway and Greenland. 

 
puffinsWhile Gary was fortunate to see and capture some great images of seabirds such as puffins, Northern Fulmars, Ivory Gulls and Guillemonts to name a few, he gave additional insights into their conservation status and particular threats which are causing many populations to plummet in the last 20 years or so.
 
calving-arcticThe smoking gun seems to be especially the rapid increase in average air temperatures, reduction in amount of sea ice especially thicker multi-year ice. In some areas average temperatures have increased by as much as 10 degrees celsius, causing the frozen soil of the tundra to melt and even creating additional pine forests where once there were no trees over many parts of the Arctic. 
 
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Gary had to travel to 81 degrees North to see 6 of 7 polar bears sighted on the journey on sea ice, which was virtually absent further south…a big change over as little as 15 years since OFFS members Julian and Annette Sheen were there. One other bear was sighted on a small glacial moraine island where it may have had to swim quite a distance to get access to Arctic tern eggs…a pressure on a bird that has flown 15 000 km from Antarctica to breed there.    
 
flowersSo, as Gary emphasised, everything is connected. The changesd size of populations and average body length of the important bird-food fish  may be contributing to sea bird losses.
 
While we in Australia and more temperate worlds argue about how to effect behavioural and fuel use changes to keep average world temperatures below 2 degrees above recent historical levels, the animals, plants and indigenous people who live there are well past that target, and we can only hope that sensible and strong political efforts will stope what we are seeing in the Arctic creating a tipping point that will affect ecosystems well beyond the poles.
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What Next for Oatley Bowling Club Site?

p1000594It is disappointing that the Georges River Council is pursuing action to alienate public land.

A development application to consolidate the lots at the former Oatley Bowling Club (OBC) site was approved (9/9/16) by the Independent Hearing Assessment Panel (IHAP). Whilst this DA does not include any construction and operational works, community members addressing the panel stated that it is integral to the rezoning planning proposal submitted in conjunction with this DA. 

p1000351Despite the consolidation, the OBC site is STILL in Myles Dunphy Reserve, given the following statements in the IHAP report…. ” The lots will remain in one ownership and still form part of the public reserve and community land. ” See Friends of Oatley Website for more on the campaign to keep public land public

In September 2010 the former Hurstville Council decided to rezone the former Oatley Bowling Club site in Myles Dunphy Reserve from Open Space to Residential. Georges River Council is now proposing to rezone the site to SP2 Infrastructure (Seniors housing) as per 2014 council resolutions.  There are no height limits in SP2 zones whereas residential zones are limited to three (3) storeys. Documents from two closed door meetings in 2014 have been finally made public (3/8/16). It appears council resolved to build more than 80 seniors residences including tower potentially up to 9 storeys  for it to be financially viable. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO

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p1000362A Planning Proposal Should be in the next few months – This should include traffic and access, contamination, train noise and vibration, hydraulic services, as well as bushfire, ecological and planning studies.

As part of this stage there will be opportunities for the community to provide their feedback to Council via community information sessions.

 

The community can to keep up to date on this issue

pop-up-picinic-group-21-aug-2016by following Friends of Oatley website ; and Facebook sites  Myles Dunphy Reserve ;

Myles Dunphy Reserve Backyard ;

Oatley and Surrounds

Georges River Councilmail@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au
State Member Mark CoureOatley@parliament.nsw.gov.au
Federal Member David Coleman  - david.coleman.mp@aph.gov.au
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird on the Brink – Regent Honeyeater

P1000348Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society (OFF) volunteers have been helping ANU PhD candidate Ross Crates with his research into the ecology of the Regent Honeyeater, one of the most endangered birds in the country.Capertee NP Regent HE  12-18_10_2015 174There may be as few as 600 individuals remaining in the wild. 

25 Flora and Fauna Society members and friends helped to make 80 Regent Honeyeater and Friar Bird nests over a two week period in August. Ross will use these artificial nests (with false eggs) in Capertee National Park to ascertain which birds and mammals predate on the Regent Honeyeater eggs and young. The nests are now in place with cameras to track predators.

P1000286Ross’s research is aiming to identify the major threats to the survival of the Regent Honeyeater in its woodland habitats. Reducing threats such as nest predation and loss of woodland habitat can contribute to the Regent Honeyeater’s long term survival in the wild.

 This work follows on from his fieldwork into their habitat when he used motion sensor cameras, including one donated by Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society. Ross will present his findings at one of OFF’s regular monthly talks in 2017.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

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Lime Kiln Bay Awareness Project Report

Lime Kiln Bay (LKB) wetland was constructed in 2000 to improve aesthetics of the area and quality of water draining into Lime Kiln Bay reed beds, mangroves and the bay itself and then into the Georges River. The wetland and surrounding bushland represent a significant community asset. There are increasingly significant environmental impacts on the wetland from urban development that are causing a deterioration in the natural qualities of the area.

A5. Lime Kiln Bay wetlandsProject Objectives

  • Raise awareness in the catchment community of the wetland’s presence, value and significance

  • Increase community understanding and appreciation of wetlands

  • Increase community involvement in wetland monitoring and adjacent bush regeneration programs

  • Reduce pollutants deriving from the catchment (litter, sediment, etc)

Summary of Project Outcomes

Mark Coure 25 Nov (2)Your guide to Lime Kiln Bay Wetland

Ten thousand copies of brochure were printed and at project end date 7,600 had been distributed throughout the community; 4500 via letterboxes of all residences in the catchment and the remainder via schools, public and government offices, libraries etc and via community contact events.

Drain message stencilling:

DRAINS ARE JUST FOR RAIN, KEEP IT CLEAN, DUMP NO WASTE, DRAINS TO LIME KILN BAY WETLAND, DRAINS TO RIVER, and A STYLISED FISH LOGO, were used to spray paint 322 messages onto 129 drains/ sites at high visibility zones throughout the wetland catchment

IMG_1683Guided walks around the wetland:

Four 2-hour guided walks were conducted over a period of four months. These attracted a total of 73 participants.

Website and Facebook pages:

A page on the OFF website was set up for the project and postings were also made to OFF’s Facebook site.

IMG_1021 Community events and other contacts:

A total of 8 public contact events (face-to-face) were held (eg Oatley Lions Festival, Australia Day function etc) where the project was promoted directly to an estimated 470 people. In particular the use of the Australian Museum’s catchment model at the 2015 Oatley Lions festival attracted a lot of attention particularly families with young children.

Project implementation and management:

All the proposed project elements/activities were successfully completed over a 12 month project life. The total project cost of $4,618.17 was just $68.17 over the budget (grant amount) of $4550. OFF will not be seeking any additional funds. Over 600 OFF volunteer hours were contributed to the project.

Conclusion:

Given the small sample sizes of before and after project surveys, there was no conclusive statistically significant, discernible difference between pre and post situations. However, from the number of interactions OFF members had during the course of the project and anecdotal evidence, we believe that the range of strategies employed for awareness raising of the wetland and associated stormwater issues has been effective.  OFF will continue to distribute the brochures, conduct walks and promote the wetland/stormwater message at community events in the normal course of its future activities.”

CLICK HERE FOR FULL REPORT

2016 Federal Election – Candidates for Banks

Arms_of_AustraliaA questionnaire was sent by Oatley Flora & Fauna Conservation Society to 3 candidates for the seat of Banks to  gain insight into candidates’ position and/or opinion on a variety of environmental issues before the coming election. The questions and candidates’ answers are published below as they become available. Answers are in order of receipt.

Philippa Clark – Greens

Chris Gambian – Labor

David Coleman – Liberal

 

Section 1: Candidates’ personal positions on environmental issues

Personal Question 1 Do you believe current Climate Change is real and represents a major threat to our world?

Clark – Yes

Gambian – Yes

Personal Question 2 Do you believe Climate Change is predominantly caused by human activity as concluded by the majority of scientists, eg, by the IPCC and CSIRO?

Clark – Yes

Gambian – Yes

Personal Question 3 What demonstrable actions have you taken to minimise your personal and your household’s environmental footprint?

Clark – Our household has water tanks, solar hot water and solar panels. We grow our own fresh vegies and herbs and avoid using heating or air conditioning by using plants and blockout shades to effectively control the temperature inside the house. While I drive quite a bit these days out of necessity, I much prefer to take the train or my trusty scooter to my destination!

Gambian - I try to communicate by email and work electronically as much as possible. I have a young daughter, and my wife and I are conscious about how our actions will impact on her future. Our household recycles and we have a compost bin. We also try to do things like take our own water bottles with us when our family us out and about rather than buy plastic bottles, and take our own shopping bags to do the grocery shopping (when we are organised enough to!)

Personal Question 4 Over the last decade what are the significant and demonstrable actions you have taken to protect and enhance the environment.

Clark - I studied horticulture when I was younger however I don’t have many chances to use the hands-on environmental skills – I have a desk job – which is a shame. However, I contribute to the cause in non-hands-on ways where I can, by writing letters and emails, signing petitions, donating and volunteering for various environmental organisations, including the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. Keeping councils accountable for their dodgy environmental governance is a particular hobby of mine.

Gambian - As an active member of the Labor party, and candidate for Banks, I am proud of our policies relating to the environment and climate action. I believe that strong public policy is the way to secure the most significant of changes needed, including those to protect the environment.

Personal Question 5 What are the significant environmental problems you believe are relevant to the Banks electorate and the country and what actions have you taken to protect, restore, or advocate for the environment?

Clark -  I am very concerned about the health of the Georges River and surrounding bushland – particularly since Sydney Water’s ageing and overflowing sewerage systems continue to pose a threat to the water. One of my major campaigns this election is to clean up Yeramba Lagoon in the Georges River National Park. This once-beautiful spot has been allowed to stagnate and is sadly infested by noxious weeds. The Greens want to see tidal flow returned to the lagoon, the weeds removed and the lagoon dredged so that this problem doesn’t reoccur.

Gambian – The bushland and waterways of this area are to be treasured. In May this year, I was proud to announce $300,000 funding to the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service for the restoration and regeneration of Yeramba Lagoon. This will restore the natural tidal flow, improve water quality and reduce aquatic weeds.

Section 2: Environmental Issues

Question 1 Will you support legislation to enact a ban on both mining and gas extraction from all designated water catchment areas, for example the Georges and Woronora Rivers in Sydney?

Clark – Yes  In relation to CSG, the Greens support a full ban on CSG extraction activities across NSW, not just in water catchment areas.

Gambian – Labor recognises the community concerns about the extraction of gas from coal seams, shales and tight formations. When we were in Government, Labor added a Water Trigger to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act to cover CSG and large coal mining developments. This ensures that if these projects impact water resources, then they are rigorously assessed under the EPBC Act.

Question 2 Do you support the enactment of “No-Go zone” legislation to exclude mining and gas extraction from prime agricultural land and environmentally significant areas?

Clark – Yes. See also answer to Question 1.

Gambian - Labor’s policy will extend the protection provided by the Water Trigger to ensure that any shale or tight formation gas developments that impact water resources will also be subject to a full assessment under the EPBC Act and approval from the Minister for Environment, including an assessment by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.

Labor will ensure full assessment and management of environmental and other impacts, including on water reserves and co-existence with other agricultural activities.

It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to protect Australia’s most precious environmental assets, including prime agricultural land.

Question 3 Further to Question 2 above, do you support additional supplementary funding for and to address: the growing threats posed by climate change, bush fires, feral animal population growth, and noxious weeds? What measures do you propose?

Clark – Yes  We have announced our support for more money to our firefighters as we realise they are on the front line of climate change. We want to see more government investment in renewable energy and electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions. In relation to feral animals, I support humane culling but only as a last resort.

Gambian – As part of a Labor Government, I would, of course, consult with relevant Ministers to secure funding for environmental projects in the Banks electorate.

Question 4 What level of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) do you support as Australia’s actions in response to climate change?

Clark – 100% renewable energy is possible, essential and affordable. This election, we are campaigning for 90% renewable by 2030.

Gambian – Labor is committed to ensuring a 50% of Australia’s energy is from renewable sources by 2030. For more detail, please see Labor’s climate change policy at: http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/ , under “Acting on climate change, protecting the environment.”

Question 5 Do you support a fair Australia wide mandatory residential solar feed-in tariff which encourages increased use of renewable energy? Would you discourage the increase of fixed costs for consumers with solar systems connected to the electrical grid?

Clark – Yes

Gambian – I personally would support a sensible initiative that encourages the use of solar energy. The details of how such a scheme would work would need extensive consultation to ensure a system that was effective, practical and fair. A Shorten Labor Government will initiate an Electricity Modernisation Review including a review of the National Electricity Market (NEM). The Review would consider the role of feed-in tariffs. You can read about Labor’s plan for cleaner energy here: http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/cleaner_power_generation

Question 6 Do you support the establishment of more Marine Parks, to assist in conserving Australia’s marine environment? Where do you envisage these parks would be?

Clark – Yes  We want to restore the coastal network of marine sanctuaries that was abolished by the Abbott government in 2013. In particular this election the Greens are supporting a Sydney Marine Park and a marine sanctuary on the Northern Beaches (including Long Reef and Cabbage Tree Bay).

Gambian – In November 2012, 40 new Commonwealth Marine Reserves were proclaimed by the Labor Government. A Shorten Labor Government will re-commit to both our expanded network of Marine Parks and a Fisheries Adjustment Package to ensure any impacted fishers will be assisted with any impacts from expanded Marine Parks. The Labor position can be found here: http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/marine_parks

Question 7. What measures do you support to preserve and restore the Great Barrier Reef?

Clark – Our initiatives include:

  • $500 million in grant funding to improve water quality

  • $1.2 billion Reef Repair Loan facility to help farmers transition to low-polluting methods and reduce fertiliser runoff

  • Reverse funding cuts to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

  • No Adani coal mine!

Gambian – Our Great Barrier Reef Plan has three pillars:

  • Science and Research: Improve science and research and monitoring of reef issues to ensure the protection and sustainability of the Reef is based on the latest, specialised science. This includes an additional investment in climate and reef science at the CSIRO of $50 million.

  • Direct Environmental Investment: Integrated direct investment to improve water quality, land management, agricultural and transport sustainability and environmental impacts.

  • Reef Management: Improve Reef management architecture and incentives to fix the fragmented and uncoordinated approach that has for too long characterised Reef management and conservation.

You can read more about Labor’s Great Barrier Reef plan here: http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/great_barrier_reef_plan

Question 8. Do you support the establishment of a federal equivalent of the NSW ICAC and the limitation of donations to political parties to ensure that there is no undue influence from companies particularly developers, mining companies, etc. whose activities can be detrimental to the environment?

Clark – Yes

Gambian – I’m not sure how such a body would work, however I would be happy to discuss any specific concerns you have in relation to improper political influence by companies.

Question 9. Will you encourage investors, including superannuation funds, banks, financial advisers etc. to divest from coal related companies to encourage the transition to a clean electricity future required to assist in the mitigation of climate change?

Clark – Yes

Gambian – Transitioning electricity generation to renewable energy is critical to reducing carbon pollution. We want to see Australia return to being a front-runner in renewable energy investment. Labor’s policy settings will see lower power prices, carbon pollution reductions and thousands of jobs across Australia. With 20,000 Australians currently employed in the renewable energy sector, Labor has identified this as a growth industry.

Question 10. Will you push for the federal establishment of an over-arching and uniform Australia wide container deposit legislation, similar to those in South Australia and the Northern Territory and promised by the NSW government, to help in the fight against litter?

Clark – Yes

Gambian - A Labor Government would actively support the states in developing their own container deposit schemes, but if this hasn’t happened by 2020, Labor would revisit the issue with an eye to federal legislation.

New proposed legislation threat to Biodiversity

The NSW Government has drafted legislation that will weaken protection for biodiversity in our state. The titles of the legislation – Biodiversity Conservation Bill and Local Land Services Amendment Bill are misleading and obscure their true purpose.

The bills will actually allow increased damage to the natural environment through less-regulated land-clearing. The bills will remove a legal requirement that  land clearing should “maintain or improve” biodiversity and will facilitate widespread destruction of native vegetation in both country and urban areas. Nature will pay the bill for this ill-conceived legislation.

In 2014 the 10/50 Clearing Code of Practice was introduced to allow residents to remove vegetation to protect their homes from bushfires. It was so widely abused by landholders clearing vegetation for other purposes that the code had to be modified only two months later. Government data shows the state’s farmers have lopped paddock trees at an accelerating rate in the past 18 months even before a new land-clearing law eases controls further.

One of the key changes in the draft bills is the expansion of the use of self-assesable codes – these will allow land-holders to clear trees more freely, with less supervision. Often these paddock trees will include old trees with hollows that provide shelter and nest sites essential to birds such as owls and parrots, and many other animals. They are nature’s boarding houses. “The Offset” plantings proposed in the bills won’t provide hollows for many, many years.

Our Society does not want to see another vegetation-clearing fiasco in our leafy neighbourhood, or in the rest of the state. We have taken a symbolic slice of wood (salvaged from a tree removed under the 10/50 Code) to Oatley MP Mark Coure’s office to express our concern. Written on the wood (pictured) was the message. “We ask that you urgently withdraw the draft  NSW Biodiversity legislation & act to ensure strong laws to protect our wildlife, amenity, soils & climate. Gymea Biodiversity Review Community”

Concerned residents throughout Sydney have been have been contacting their local Members of Parliament. OFF members also attended attended a protest on 24 June outside Premier Mike Baird’s office in Manly.

For more information, sign petition or help to make submission see Stand Up For Nature Website Submissions are due 28 June 2016.

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Longwall Coal Mining is Jeopardising Water Supply

cordeaux 239 people participated on our Picnic at Cordeaux dam on 1/5/16 to protest about environmentally damaging longwall coal mining projects in the Metropolitan Drinking Water catchments.  Most of those were members of Oatley Flora and Fauna who sponsored the day, but there were also  some present from The Georges River Environmental Alliance and National Parks Assn, Macarthur.

Cordeaux3

Our particular focus was to oppose the proposal to extend the Dendrobium mining operations in the Cordeaux and Avon Dam catchments, as that was our location for the day. This project has done the most harm yet seen in terms of both draining  precious water yielding swamps and tributary streams, and yet the state government is on the verge of a further approval.

Attached is a report that some participants urged me to compile. It summarizes the current dam threatening proposals; The Metropolitan Mine in the Woronora, The Russell Vale Project in the Cataract as well as the aforementioned Dendrobium project. Included is some scathing evidence against the continuation of damaging longwall coal mining beneath our precious drinking water assets, from the governments’ own agencies and instrumentalities including the NSW Dam Safety Committee, the PAC Commission of Inquiry and Water NSW. It is therefore not surprising, that some of the comments included from participants on the fieldtrip, reveal a level of incredulity, appalling surprise,  that our state government not only permits, but even encourages coal mining that threatens drinking water supplies, and that it applies a third world standard of environmental regulation, in what is  supposedly our first world country. Apart from objecting to the appalling damage that is occurring, a discussion of the financial fragility of some of the proponents, and their poor record in terms of ethical governance added extra concerns.

Report by Picnic organiser Sharyn Cullis (1May 2016)

Please take the time to read paper by Sharyn Cullis which details why coal projects in drinking water catchments is wrong. 

Coal projects in the drinking water catchments 

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Coal Mining & Water Pollution

River bed crackingAt the October meeting of Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society, Dr Ian Wright from the University of Western Sydney (UWS) presented startling evidence of environmental damage caused by coal mining in the Sydney Region. Dr Wright worked as a scientific officer with Sydney Water investigating the impact of human activities on creeks and rivers in the Sydney basin before taking up a research fellowship at UWS in freshwater ecology and water pollution.

Ian is now a full-time lecturer teaching students in water quality and management, environmental planning and environmental regulation areas. Conducting his research on a limited budget and often faced with a hostile reception from mining interests in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands, Dr Wright and his students have persevered, comparing water samples taken upstream of mining activity with those down stream. They have found significant deterioration in water quality attributable to waste water discharge from mining operations. Toxic levels of salt, bicarbonate, zinc, nickel and other minerals have impacted on aquatic life and degraded the waters flowing through prized wilderness areas and World Heritage sites. yshattered_river_bed

Long-wall mining, in particular, is responsible for subsidence in the bedrock of some creeks and streams feeding into Sydney’s water catchments. Dr Wright showed photographic evidence of streams simply disappearing into cracks, only to re-emerge further ‘downstream’ polluted by mining waste. Dr Wright was critical of the Environmental Protection Agency, responsible for regulating the discharge of wastewater from mines. Pollution licence conditions need to be tightened requiring mining companies to meet higher standards, although he conceded the regulator had lifted its game recently but only under pressure from the community and, in turn, government.

Asked how Oatley Flora & Fauna Conservation Society members could help to stop mining companies from causing environmental damage, Dr Wright suggested the best way would be to keep the pressure on our politicians to introduce more stringent rules on mining activities. Dr Wright gave an undertaking to keep the Society informed of future developments in the regulation of the coal industry.

Ian Wright-OFF-presentation-Short-8-nov-2015

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Impact of a coal mine waste discharge on water quality and aquatic ecosystems in the Blue Mountains World Heritage area.

FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE DR WRIGHT’S PUBLICATIONS CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT UPLAND SWAMPS

15 NOVEMBER 2015 – LEADER ARTICLE “Coal Mining Risk revealed at Conservation Society meeting”

Sita Advanced Waste Treatment Facility

IMG_6917IMG_691510 people boarded the OFF bus at Oatley station at 09.30 on a beautiful sunny Autumn morning. We travelled out to the SITA Resource Recovery Park at Kemps Creek where the 11th person joined us. The Education Officer, Kristal Dilucchio gave a very interesting presentation, and fielded MANY question from us, before kitting us out in high –vis vests, hard hats, and safety goggles. We then boarded the bus for the trip to the other side of the resource park, where, after fitting bright pink ear plugs, we entered the SAWT Facility.

The rubbish is processed in 2 different lines, one for green organics and kitchen waste ( green bin) from Penrith council, and one for general waste along with kitchen waste ( red bin ) from Liverpool Council.

IMG_6927Most of the processing occurs under cover in a huge hangar like building. The red bin waste has several stages of processing and sorting, by large magnet, a process to take out the aluminium, and manually, at this stage. The green bin waste doesn’t need these steps. There are 14 tunnels that the rubbish is stored in, for the first 3-4 weeks ( where it can have air and water put in) where the decomposition is initially started. The material is then sifted and processed again before being put outside in long lines, in various stages of decomposition, mostly covered with tarps ( especially in the cold weather, to speed up the decomposition).

 

IMG_6922IMG_6930IMG_6943IMG_6916The whole process takes from 14-16 weeks. Both end products are very rich in organic nutrients, but the red bin waste is contaminated with some metal and glass fragments, and is only used for mine reclamation, while the green bin waste produces a very high grade compost for all general purpose landscaping uses. It was evident that plastic bags are a significant problem for the managers of our waste, as are old VHS tapes.

We resolved to lobby our respective councils to include kitchen waste for recycling (either the red bin system or the green bin system) as it cuts down the amount of waste going to landfill by about 60%.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS

After leaving SITA, we visited a nearby coffee shop, for delicious liquid refreshment, before the return journey.

Report by excursion leader Alison Gilroy

Wipes a sewer menace

Interesting follow up information on our visit to Liverpool Water Recycling Plant in regard to the so-called flushable wet wipes has blocked pumpbeen provided by our tour organiser Kim Wagstaff.

wipes