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.


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 


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


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


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. But first you need to be aware of illegal dumping consequences.

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.


Rain Water Harvesting in Oatley

Jim Vickery , OFF member and retired Environmental Engineer, spoke on this topic at the 27th Oct meeting. Jim is determined to capture as much life- giving rain falling on his roof as possible by storing it in water tanks around his home. This reduces his reliance on town water supply and the erosive impact of excess storm water on our local streams. He provided guidelines and graphs showing the relationship between tank size and roof area based on rainfall records. In drier times, the Reliable Draw[water drawn every day without emptying tank ] is between Average Summer and Dry Winter levels shown in this chart. It is a useful guide relating storage volume and roof catchment area. A 2000L tank provides 50 100 L/day [if catchment is 100 sqm or more], sufficient to supply a
toilet in a small household and some water for the garden. A 6000L tank needs at least 200 sqm of catchment to supply water to a washing machine, toilet, and garden. Techniques for the collection, storage and delivery of rainwater were reviewed along
with uses for the water that overflows the tank. Jim runs his excess water into a swale in his backyard providing a bog that can recharge the water table. Running excess into a pond is another excellent method of harvesting rain water.
Rainwater tank installation guidelines:
  • Determine your daily need for rainwater.
  • Determine the size of your available roof catchment area.
  • A 2000 L tank will provide 50 to 100 L/day from a 100 sq m or larger roof.
  • A 6000 L tank or larger is necessary for supplying a washing machine or something similar. If the roof catchment area is greater than 200 sq m then the tank is less likely to empty out during dry periods .



Fractured Country: An Unconventional Invasion

This morning, mining affected communities and their supporters from the Sydney area walked into the headquarters of the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to submit a log of claims outlining the outrageous abuses of process and public trust in which the Department has engaged in its intimate support for the mining industry.

Our June OFF meeting was attended by more than 80 members and guests and featured a presentation by Nell Schofield from Lock the Gate Alliance,known for her lead role in the Aussie Cult classic Puberty Blues and later as a TV presenter.

Nell spoke about problems communities are facing under siege from coal and gas companies, The coalition’s primary goal is to ensure policy reform to protect land and water resources.

Fractured country videoPlease take the time to see their excellent documentary on this issue. Fractured Country: An Unconventional Invasion click video photo to watch video.




Environmental Dilemmas

Slide19John Davoren (OFF member and Editor of OFF news) on 23 September 2013 made a presentation to the society on our environment and the dilemmas facing an effective program for protecting it .

The areas listed as threatened and/or threatening included population growth, and degradation of energy resources, land, flora and fauna, air, water and food. The extent of human activity influencing the environment is hotly debated. Protection measures are severely criticised, as those not convinced of any human contribution see such expenditure as unproductive, and an unnecessary waste in fiscally trying times. The economic argument slows the implementation of protective processes, and the picture is further muddied when it is not agreed on what protection can and should be provided. Environmental conservation is important, and if we waste our natural resources,they will eventually be exhausted. What we need is sustainability, where we can live within our planet’s means socially, environmentally and economically.

SustainClick here to view slides of talk.Environmental Dilemmas

Note  file is 13.2Mb and take a few minutes to load.


Backyards for Wildlife

2012 OBackyards for Wildlife – A guide to creating habitat for native animals. Take the time to read this very  informative booklet produced by Bathhurst Regional Council, although the examples are of the Bathurst region there is much we can learn from this example.

Contents include -
♣ Why wildlife is important
♣ What is a Backyard for Wildlife?
♣ Tips for  creating habitat for your backyard for wildlife
♣ Fauna friendly fences
♣ Pets and wildlife
♣ Vegie gardens, organics, and backyard wildlife
♣ Urban yards & The rural yard
♣ Wildlife of the Bathurst region
♣ seful references for further information

Since Europeans first settled on the Bathurst plains in 1815, there have been drastic changes to our local environment. The grasslands and grassy woodlands were favoured for agriculture, and hence, the wildlife that existed there was the first to be displaced. …..

Despite these changes, Koalas, Platypuses, turtles, dragons, quolls, owls, falcons,treecreepers, pardalotes, pobblebonks, orb weavers and hundreds more local wildlife species still exist in the Bathurst Region:Through the enhancement of the human environment – our homes – we can greatly improve the environment for local fauna. By creating Backyards for Wildlife, each resident can take simple steps to reduce the pressures on Bathurst Region wildlife, and ensure that those animals that share our lives are assured a future.

Click here to download Pdf (3Mb) – Backyards For Wildlife