CEC Autumn Newsletter

In this issue:

  • Canute style leadership
  • Southgate State Forest logging
  • The NSW Koala Strategy MKII – Comments and train-of-thought asides from Pat
  • Our Regional (undrinkable) Water Supply
  • Some interesting flash-backs relating to current problems
  • Another chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions squandered
  • COP26 declaration viewed as a window of opportunity to destroy forest
  • Mining companies have no Social Licence to operate in the Clarence Valley
  • ‘Convos in the Carpark’ event at Turner’s Beach, Yamba

Canute style leadership

Virtually everyone now acknowledges that climate change is happening, even our government, albeit with some members still reluctant to accept what scientific experts have been warning us for the past 50 years, that we humans are responsible.

So, knowing that the world is warming, and melting the huge Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets, why is sea-level rise not being taken seriously?

First, let’s revisit history: For decades the world’s scientific community warned us about global warming, finally resulting in a real evaluation of the threat at a scientific conference in Austria, in 1985. In 1988, some 300 scientists and policy-makers from 48 countries, met in Toronto and developed a “Call for Action” to reduce emissions, by 2005, to 20% below those in 1988. At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, 155 countries, including Australia, signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate, nominating 2000 as the year signatories would reduce emissions to 1990 levels.

In 1997, the Framework Convention settled on measures to reduce emissions, an outcome known as the Kyoto Protocol, with all countries signed up pending ratification. That took years, and was significantly watered down after Australia, and other ‘denialist’ nations, refused to sign up to the original measures.

The acknowledgement of sea-level rise should have triggered some action at a local level, but nothing has occurred beyond attempts at sand trapping, and tossing rocks into the ocean in an ultimately futile attempt to prevent coastal erosion.

The latest IPPC Climate Change report identifies that Coastal cities and settlements are facing some of the highest climate risks”, as confirmedby recent flooding, an unfolding tragedy of indescribable magnitude. However, even as the massive clean-up begins, our council is considering allowing a huge residential development at West Yamba to go ahead in an area already impacted by king tides, and flooding.

The Joint Regional Planning Panel will be told that 2-3m of fill material will protect homes from sea-level rise for 80 years, so will they approve this development? My guess is they will, in the same way they did previously when rezoning seriously flood-prone land on Harwood Island for an industrial estate.

Across the river at Iluka, local ‘ponding’ has been causing concerns, and here again we are given the overworked “who could have seen this coming” excuse. This line has been used by all levels of government to excuse the debacle, which was the response to the recent flooding event across the NSW Northern Rivers, and has quite rightly been widely ridiculed.

The failure of those governments to make meaningful attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been inexcusable. However, to fail to plan for those widely forecast catastrophes, verges on criminal neglect. Lives and property were lost in the floods, businesses were forced to close, and thousands are still homeless.

In relation to Iluka’s ponding problem, Council’s first act when reviewing the cause was to examine past rainfall data, which led to the hardly surprising conclusion that: “The significant rainfall has led to a saturated catchment and high water table, exacerbating the time taken for water to disperse”.

Council’s media statement continues with: “There has been no event or combination of events since records began that comes close to the rainfall totals recorded at Yamba in February and March”, going on to say: ““We need to be aware that the most efficiently designed drainage systems are not built to cope with rainfall totals equal to that recently experienced”. We need to ask, why not, given the clear warnings on the effects of climate change?

Alongside one of those ponding problem areas in Iluka, a 140-lot subdivision is underway, where roofs, concrete and bitumen, will replace 14ha of bushland, and channel all rainfall, at speed, through stormwater pipes directly into those ponding hotspots.

So, is Council really taking its “Climate Emergency declaration seriously? Clearly, the answer is no:  King Canute had nothing on our leaders!

Southgate State Forest logging – Devastated, and that’s even before it’s logged.

Forestry Corporation has listed Southgate State Forest for logging later in 2022, so as there are historic Koala records, the North East Forest Alliance asked us to undertake an assessment to determine the extent and whereabouts of koalas and koala habitat there. We had just experienced near record floods in the valley, so we had no high expectations of finding scats, but there is koala habitat there, so no reason why koalas wouldn’t be present, given that forest escaped the 2019-20 bushfires. However, we were appalled at the lack of management, historical and current, and the evidence of neglect that was everywhere.
Summary of findings

  1. Invasive weeds:

It was distressing in the extreme to stand at a point where foresters have marked the edge of a riparian buffer zone, and to view the monoculture of Lantana that is dominating the understorey of this supposedly protected area.

Invasion by Lantana camara is a listed Key Threatening Process, and we believe it is incumbent on Forestry Corporation to properly manage this public asset, and written to the minister and the EPA, questioning why this is not occurring.

  1. Land clearing:

On the northern boundary along Reservoir Rd, for a distance of well over 1km, a huge corridor, over 40m wide most of the way, has been bulldozed some 2 to 3 years ago, to construct a boundary fence through the forest. Half of that clearing was undertaken on state forest land, which is land owned by the NSW public.

Land clearing – who’s responsible for this one?

That clearing removed wetland forest, all of it koala habitat, with numerous old-growth trees, now stacked up in windrows. This disturbance has introduced a wide range of invasive grasses into the state forest, well beyond the clearing itself (Setaria. Parramatta Grass, and Rhodes Grass), woody weeds (Lantana), and a wide range of exotic annuals such as Ragweed.

This environmental vandalism raises a number of questions: Did the landowner have permission to clear public land? If so, who granted permission? Was any environmental assessment undertaken prior to clearing? Was compensation paid to the government, and who is responsible for controlling weeds that have taken over as a result? We also put those questions to the Minister, the Hon Dugald Saunders.

  1. Evidence of over-logging.

Having observed the timber resources across Southgate State Forest, we now understand why Forestry Corporation made a $20m loss from its native forest operations last year, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/20m-loss-native-forest-logging-last-year-cost-nsw-taxpayers-441-per-hectare-20220314-p5a4g1.html and losses in most previous years since 2000. There are few trees greater than 45cm diameter to be seen, and in some areas, there are no harvestable trees at all within sight (see right).

The evidence of over-logging includes the widespread occurrence of wind-felled trees as a result of trees left standing trees unsupported, as a result, in the wet soil conditions, they simply topple over (see above left). In other areas, the excessive logging and reduced canopy has seen an explosion of a pioneering Melaleuca species, so dense it is difficult to walk through, while inhibiting any hardwood regrowth (see right). Elsewhere we found places where more than a dozen stumps were counted within a 15m radius.

  1. Erosion:

The scale of erosion along all waterways is beyond belief, and the tracks are little better, with little or no effective drainage in place.
Again, we believe over logging in the upper drainage lines has directly contributed to this. In fact, we photographed numerous cut stumps within 2m of mapped gullies. This is a deliberate flaunting of IFOA regulations.

The further downstream you go, the worse the erosion becomes.
Basic things that every Australian forest must have if they are to support any reasonable level of biodiversity, such as hollow-bearing trees, are virtually non-existent, a legacy of past legal logging practices. We have expressed the hope that the largest remaining trees are retained as habitat trees if and when logging takes place. This was recommended by the Natural Resources Commission.

Scar trees are significant cultural features which we believe are being neglected by those that should be managing public forests, and there is evidence of neglect in so many other ways. We photographed and reported evidence of rubbish dumping, particularly car and truck tyres, hidden marijuana plots, and feral animals, none of which are being addressed.

When the loggers leave, Forestry Corporation won’t be seen there for 20 years or more, until they return to wreak havoc once again.

We have sent a full report, not only to the forestry minister, but also the Natural Resources Commission, the Environment Protection Authority, and Clarence Valley Council, with whom we are currently engaging over water quality issues. We received no responses, but days later there were public announcements stating that “closed forests” are off limits.


Comments and train-of-thought asides

By Pat

The CEC has to thank Cate Faerhmann and her Portfolio Committee No 7 for their 2019 Legislative Council Inquiry into NSW koala populations and habitat, which paved the way for this updated Strategy #2.

The main objective of this revised plan is to double the number of NSW koalas by 2050. Only this is a fairly simplistic goal, since we don’t really know how many koalas we have today. An after-bushfires estimate has ended up at somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000, so a starting point assumption for the plan is around 20,000 koalas. We have to wonder then, if by more sophisticated counting methods than we use today, an eventual recount in 2050 reveals 35,000 koalas, would that be lauded as success, or just a static population with possibly nothing gained?

The plan to shape the Strategy around Aboriginal culture we see as a good idea. The federal government’s Draft National Koala Recovery Plan (NRP) only touched on the first nation’s culture and habits from after 100 years of white settlement, when many changes such as metal tools and weapons had long been introduced. The CEC pointed out this knowledge-gap in our submission.

James Griffin MP’s Foreword pledges to ensure koalas survive through strong partnerships and contributions from a range of society, in collaboration with the NSW Government. While encouraging, we are concerned that Federal Government isn’t included as a partner, since ultimately by their NRP they will hopefully be the ones guiding koalas’ recovery.

Growing Koala Numbers (Habitat creation focus P11) – The concept sketch for this (above) shows a clear visual goal (as well as cute artistry). Whether intended or not, it also illustrates the simple point of allowing individual trees to grow larger and taller and provide more leaves, which in themselves support more koalas. Much taller trees will also give koalas much better odds for escaping ground bushfires, a simple point constantly overlooked, particularly by the NSW timber industry.

Another thing that is constantly overlooked is the likely evolved need for the food trees themselves to receive a regular pruning by koalas. Personal observations are that trimming assists the trees to a greater flush of leaves, buds and flowers for pollen distribution, which happens mainly by flying-foxes that easily access the highest flowers and carry large amounts of pollen great distances.

It seems increasingly apparent that most koala-preferred food trees not receiving this regular care become unhealthy, with sparse canopies and many thin dead branches (see photos below from Southgate SF).

No signs of koalas were found in Southgate State Forest during several days’ surveys (2022), and as in most State forests today (P Edwards pers ob) the only trees notably regenerating were Spotted Gum (Corymbia variegata). This species is not eaten by koalas, so thought not to have evolved over thousands of years with a partnership requirement for a trim.

By this worrying observation over a long period, we believe that any plans for koalas should also include the corresponding needs and regenerative capacity of the trees. If the trees aren’t healthy, koalas won’t eat them; if koalas don’t eat them, the trees won’t be healthy. Which means it could take a lot longer than the government supposes for the system to function again as it naturally evolved.

Populations for immediate investment (p12) – It is rewarding that our long diligently-lodged personal records on the NSW Wildlife Atlas, and recording all koalas through the WIRES branch (2006-2018), have finally paid off. Thanks to Biolinks’ (Steve Phillips’) work on the NSW ARKS, not only are we no longer a big white gap on a map between Lismore and Coffs Harbour, but our local koalas are identified as a hub for priority investment, for filling key knowledge gaps and local actions.

Clarence Valley Council’s Koala Working Group, of which CEC is a member, has already achieved a lot of work in this regard. We also see that populations can be moved between categories as knowledge increases, so that gives us a goal for even more attention and funding down the track.

One annoying confusion is that by this plan Clarence Valley is seen as separate from Northern Rivers, which starts at Lismore as a stronghold. There are no official boundaries of course, but a long standing acceptance is that Northern Rivers takes in the sugar-mill capitals, Harwood on the Clarence, Broadwater on the Richmond, and Condong on the Tweed, with their large catchments and tributary rivers in between. These proposed stronghold boundaries then, we feel, should be made clear.

Koala Conservation, Pillar 1 (p18): My discussion points

1) By DPI’s own research there are over 280,000ha of premium and secondary koala habitat in our NE NSW State forests alone, currently supporting 20,000ha of identified koala hubs. Yet these are still not protected from logging. Instead of annexing these areas for immediate protection, or basing koala conservation generally on legislative changes, departmental regulations and authorities ‘ responsibilities, this pillar for proposed conservation is again to rest firmly on the private sector. This means its success is on a landowner’s personal decision to l sell their home to the government (providing it’s good koala habitat in an identified stronghold zone, or they won’t want it), or l take up a binding conservation agreement (CA) attached to their land’s title.

Response:  (la) For land purchases $50.3m is earmarked to add 15,000ha of private land to national parks. Of this only 500ha (potentially a single property) is expected to be gleaned from the “Northern Rivers”, Lismore’s identified stronghold, so we miss out. (lb) $20.3m is ready to be spent on the in-perpetuity CAs, with a goal of conserving just 7,000ha. Seeing as these agreement properties are to be spread across NSW, from Eden to the Tweed and around the western ranges, we have to be sceptical that this investment will result in many useful koala corridors.

2) Although private land conservation rests on protecting good koala habitat, there seems to be no methods proposed for assessing the properties’ actual value to koalas. What concerns us is that all around any conservation property koala feed trees can be, and regularly are, indiscriminately felled by adjoining landowners for timber for a bit of ready cash; clearing for a fence, or as a hopeful insurance against fires – all supported by the NSW government. Meaning much of this conserved land could then be left without any connection value at all, from which koalas as well as other wildlife will soon disappear.

Aside: Regarding fencing, under the long-outdated NSW Fencing Act there are no regulations for the types of fencing that can be erected by a private landowner.

3) Conservation Agreements will again attract annual payments to landowners to help with the usual listed actions, weed work, planting, and fencing. Yet in our experience most properties that fit the criteria for CAs in the first place are extensive, already well forested and biodiverse, and not in need of any weed work. Most CA management plans also include instructions for no planting or interference in the conservation zone, so no tree planting programs. Also many of these landowners don’t need – or want – fences. In fact in areas where cattle aren’t a problem some get rid of their fences altogether, because they are unsightly, difficult to maintain in a bushland setting, and inclined to strew wire around the landscape that is hazardous to wildlife.

But with regular payments coming in, along with pressure for annual reports and financial records to account for every cent spent, the Environment Centre’s weed team is frequently called on to check for and clean up non-existent weeds on conservation lands, just to satisfy an out-dated clause and unnecessary amounts of funding that in many instances is really difficult to spend.

So, where would we prefer the funding to go? (Some pie-in-the-sky suggestions):

Instead of taxpayers’ funds going where we may not see lasting results, we would like some to go to: –

  • local councils, to finalise their comprehensive koala plans of management and actually implement actions to protect their own local koala populations;
  • private landowners who want to, or are already working hard to, replant and restore cleared land to the way it once used to be;
  • cattle graziers, to buy-back koala habitat floodplain and riparian along rivers, creeks and gullies, with the money to go on water tanks, rooftop collection shelters, stock troughs and piped reticulated systems to maintain their stock on their own lands;
  • farmers in general, as stewardship payments for forested areas on their farms for natural habitat restoration and corridor protection for all wildlife species, not just koalas
  • to professional weed teams, for a united major rescue of thousands of hectares of koala habitat degraded by weed infestations through logging, cattle grazing, over-burning and clearing

Our Regional (undrinkable) Water Supply

Twelve months on from the delivery of the CEC’s “Water Quality Crisis” report, another flood, and another announcement from council (5th March 2022), to the effect that: “Our drinking water storages at Shannon Creek Dam and Nymboida River have received a huge amount of dirty water over the past week. The dirty water will affect our water treatment processes and we unfortunately cannot be certain of the water quality”.

As our earlier report explained, supported by evidence, it is soil disturbance through human activity and bad management that contributes to excessive turbidity, not just heavy rainfall. We showed water samples taken from flooded creeks in undisturbed catchments that had little or no turbidity, while samples from other waterways resembled cream of chicken soup. There is no doubt that we can take measures to improve water quality, while also conserving precious topsoils, and significantly improving biodiversity in river systems as a whole.

Council needs to do more to reduce water pollution, particularly in both the Nymboida and Shannon Creek catchments which supply our regional drinking water supply.

Council made efforts to protect the Shannon Creek dam from the threat of bushfire ash in 2020, using rock barriers and floating booms, but greatly underestimated the massive amounts of water, and the power that water generates, resulting in all those efforts being swept away in a blink.

While matters affecting water quality in the Nymboida River catchment are mostly state government responsibilities, that does not excuse the lack of lobbying effort that has been undertaken to date. Council must become far more proactive in demanding improvements, which should include an end to native forest logging, something that’s not even commercially viable anyway. It should also include an end to grazing leases in state forests, a greater focus on feral cattle, pigs, deer and horse control, and the granting of assistance to landholders to fence waterways to exclude livestock, and insist those landholders take measures to minimise erosion.

However, when it comes to the Shannon Creek catchment, council is directly responsible as it owns much of that land, a significant amount of which has been leased out for cattle grazing ever since the dam was built more than 15 years ago. Unfortunately, two wildfires combined in 2017 to destroy many of the fences surrounding the Shannon Creek dam’s 500m buffer zone, and the 2019 fires completed the job, and have not yet been repaired. This has allowed those cattle to drink, trample, paddle and defecate in the region’s drinking water ever since.

Images of erosion on Council’s property in Shannon Creek, just upstream of the dam, were taken earlier this year, before this latest deluge, so is there any wonder that the dam has “received a huge amount of dirty water over the past week.

What has happened to the precipitous slopes bordering that particular gully, or other locations in the Shannon Creek catchment as a result of the last 2 months of flooding, has yet to be determined. However, the results have been clear, and right now, the Shannon Creek dam is a sea of muddy water which, in all likelihood, will render it unusable for a very long time (see below).

Large volumes are being released, presumably to prevent overflows via the spillway, causing damage to the $4m repair of the spillway’s calming structure, currently under way, as well as to rid the dam of silt.

This is not an issue that can be easily, or cheaply, resolved, and one that should have been considered when deciding to build an “off-stream storage” on a major stream, in a highly erodible landscape which was known to be prone to land slippage, but council needs to deal with what is now the reality.

That reality is the result of 150 years of bad land management, through land clearing, over logging, excessive burning, and cattle grazing, and has to be addressed if any sort of decent water quality is to be maintained, and there needs to be a plan to achieve that. Right now, I do not believe that Council, or the state government have such a plan.

The Clarence Environment Centre has been providing Council with regular updates relating to this issue for more than a year, which includes approaches made through meetings of Council’s Water Efficiency Advisory Committee, of which the Centre has been a long-time member. Unfortunately, we have received no feed-back, so cannot report on any actions that are being taken, which I’m sure, or at least hope, there are.

Some interesting flash-backs relating to current problems

The ‘slump’ is some 200m long & 20m high

For the controversial Coffs – Clarence regional water supply, particularly the erroneously described “off stream storage” at Shannon Creek, the first 12 years since its completion in 2010 have been something of a disaster. Within months of filling, a large slice of mountainside slumped into the water, a harbinger of problems to come it seems.

Writing up the event for the CEC’s website in May 2010 https://www.cec.org.au/local/Shannon.Creek.landslip/index.htm I stated: “The fragility of the sandstone derived soils at the Shannon Creek dam site south west of Grafton was something we identified as far back as 1999, so to see an estimated 100,000 cubic metres of hillside slide gently into the dam came as no real surprise”.

What did surprise us was North Coast Water’s explanation when questioned about the slip by Grafton’s Daily Examiner, which was reported as follows: “The photo shows a landslip that occurred in one of the areas from which earth fill was extracted for construction of the main embankment. The slip occurred along a downward sloping layer of weak material that had been identified in earlier geological studies. As the water level in the dam rose the weak material became saturated and subject to water uplift pressure. Further uplift pressure from the rising water induced downward sliding. The slippage continued over a number of months, but appears to have stabilised over the last ten months.

The slippage has very little effect on the dam. The exposed soil areas are likely to erode a little, but the eroded material soon settles out and has little or no effect on the water quality. Council will continue to monitor the slip but will not take any action unless a much larger slip occurs in the future. This is the only significant slip that has occurred around the dam.”

The questions we asked at the time were – “If the geological report did indeed identify the “sloping layer of weak material”, why did a multinational construction company of Leighton’s stature then excavate a large hole directly below that unstable hillside, essentially ensuring the hill’s eventual collapse?”

However, it was the second part of North Coast Water’s response that really got us wondering, as we remarked at the time: “If, as the report suggests, Council will take action if a much larger slip occurs in the future, and another slice of this unstable hillside decides to follow the current slip, exactly what sort of action does North Coast Water contemplate?” Frankly the mind boggles!

It should be remembered that the region sources its drinking water from the Nymboida River, and that the Shannon Creek dam is only a back-up water supply. It’s a massive 30,000 Ml dam, holding enough water to supply the entire region for 3 years even if no rain falls at all.

It just sits there, year after year, until a serious drought, or some obscure disaster occurs that suddenly makes the Nymboida River’s water undrinkable.

The 95th percentile, is the official gobbledegook used to calculate the level of river flow below which we can no longer take water from the Nymboida River; this is to allow an environmental flow of 220ML/day to proceed downstream. What it means is that, on average, your drinking water comes directly from the river for 95% of the year. Looked at from another viewpoint, the $200m dam, holding enough water to supply the region for three years, was only ever expected to provide you with water for, on average, 18 days each year!

From 2011, the Clarence Valley entered a period of relatively stable weather, during which time flows in the Nymboida River didn’t drop below the 95th percentile, meaning that all water for the region ran downhill to Grafton and Coffs Harbour from the river, with no need to use the very expensive to run pumps needed to extract any of the water sitting in the Shannon Creek dam. Actually, there were a few short periods, when maintenance or system breakdowns occurred, when water was pumped out of the dam, so it was not a total white elephant during that time.

Demonstrating the power of water in the most dramatic way

Then came the second extreme weather event, the 2019 drought which became the driest year on record, and finally saw the dam fulfill its role as the back-up water supply. It was probably as a result of seeing levels in the dam fall to around 80%, that nothing was done to immediately repair the slipway structure.

The dam also proved its worth in the third natural disaster, the horrific bushfires that burned non-stop across the valley for the six months from August 2019 to January 2020, when aerial water bombers scooped up copious quantities of water from the dam in a largely ineffective attempt to douse the unstoppable inferno.

With much of the region reduced to ashes, including the entire Shannon Creek catchment, the last thing needed was heavy rain, but that’s exactly what we got, with 2 flood events in February and March 2020.

Council had foreshadowed the potential for serious pollution of the water supply by bushfire ash, and took expensive, albeit futile, measures to counter any possible poisoning of the drinking water supply. This included rock barriers across Shannon Creek above the dam and floating booms, all of which were completely washed away downstream into the dam, along with the ash it was supposed to restrain.

The erosion caused by the heavy rains on the steep denuded slopes surrounding the Shannon Creek catchment, was horrific, and we believe began the instability that ultimately resulted in the latest extreme weather event, the persistent torrential rains and record flood events that dominated early 2022.

It was not until early 2022 that council finally decided to fix the water calming device at a predicted cost of more than $4m, something that shocked many in the community. It was also revealed that the structure’s collapse in the first instance, was the failure by Leighton Contractors to provide adequate foundations. Let’s hope they did a better job on the dam wall.

Another chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions squandered

Last month the latest review of the Protection of the Environment Operations Regulation, 2022 (POEOR), was placed on exhibition for comment. As the title suggests, the POEOR aims to regulate those polluting activities that are a necessary part of everyday living, such as air quality around coal mines and the use of PFAS firefighting foam. Before dealing with specifics covered by that document, let’s consider the greatest threat facing the environment today, human induced climate change.

It is universally agreed that the world is facing a climate emergency, and in a worst-case scenario the planet will suffer catastrophic consequences, leading to an extinction event the likes of which has not occurred for millions of years.

The original caption reads, “we only chip the residue”. Today they claim to only burn the residue

As a result, there’s an urgent need to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the amount of forest to store carbon, so, how does the draft POEOR address this?

Eight pages are devoted to air quality regulations in the Hunter Valley, the coal mining centre of NSW, as well as home to the state’s main coal-fired power stations, but there are no changes there. And then, there is Chapter 9, Part 3, covering “Burning of bio-material in electricity generating works”, i.e., vegetation, including trees. Some meaningful changes there perhaps.

However, following a promising section titled Must not use native forest bio-material to generate electricity”, is the section listing “Exceptions to prohibition on burning native forest bio-material to generate electricity”.

Unbelievably, that too remains unchanged, listing everything the timber industry describes as “waste”, and all can still be burned to generate electricity, includingnative pulp wood logs”, i.e., any trees unsuitable for timber. Who, in their right mind would continue to allow native forests to be logged and burned, producing further greenhouse gas emissions in the process? It’s contrary to everything needed to avoid catastrophic global heating, so why is it still allowed?

COP26 declaration viewed as a window of opportunity to destroy forest.

While reducing greenhouse gas emissions has always been the main focus, reafforestation has long been recognised as another critical component in the equation for reversing the impacts of climate change. 

Last year, the Glasgow COP26 climate change conference made the crucial “Declaration on Forests and Land Use, signed by 105 countries including Australia, promising “to work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”.

Despite this, land clearing has continued apace, with the world’s rainforests in particular suffering the most, bulldozed and burned to meet the world’s insatiable demand for palm oil, soy beans, and even beef.

Australian rainforests are now protected from land clearing and logging, but are still being lost through the insidious impacts of too frequent burning. Rainforest is fire resistant, but far from immune, and even a moderately hot blaze will kill rainforest trees and shrubs, a process which is slowly eating away at the verges of rainforests across the country.

However, while rainforests are receiving some degree of protection in Australia, the rampant destruction of other forest types for grazing and agricultural purposes is being spurred along by escalating prices now on offer for produce across all farming sectors.

Even the massive amounts of funding to protect threatened species in recent years has failed to slow land-clearing. In January, the Australian Government granted $50 million, over 4 years, to maintain and support the recovery and conservation of just one species, Koalas, this was on top of $18 million announced in 2020.

The bulk of that funding will go towards monitoring of Koala populations, and the improvement of Koala health and care in response to natural disasters such as bushfires, and diseases such as Chlamydia. However, while protection of Koala habitat is also listed as part of the funding package, nothing has been done, or even planned, to reduce land clearing rates or end the logging of Koala habitat.

It’s almost as though certain greed-driven vested interests view COP26’s announcement as a nine-year window of opportunity to maximise forest destruction before the 2030 deadline to “halt forest loss”!

Mining companies have no Social Licence to operate in the Clarence Valley

The Clarence Catchment Alliance, which includes the CEC, was formed in 2018 to specifically campaign against mining and minerals exploration in the Clarence River catchment. That campaign has successfully highlighted the fact that mining has no social licence in the Clarence Valley.

Beginning with an eleven thousand signature petition that was tabled in State Parliament in mid-2021, by the Labor Member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin, the campaign has gained widespread support.

Ms Catherine Cusack MLC accepts the petition

The petition, calling for the Valley to be declared off limits to mining by an amendment under Schedule 1 of the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007, was debated on 14th October 2021 https://youtu.be/FhZ0RqmCXXY

In the debate Ms Saffin was joined in speaking in support of the petition by the Member for Murray, Ms Helen Dalton, MP, then Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, and Greens member for Ballina, Ms Tamara Smith. This broad, cross-party support for the No Mines Clarence Valley cause, has been a feature of this campaign.

Following the tabling of the petition, Clarence Valley Council acknowledged the community’s opposition to mining when, at the November 24 meeting, councillors resolved to, “seek the support of both state and federal governments, to impose a moratorium on further mining exploration licences and to cancel existing licences” https://clarencevalleynews.com.au/cvc-backs-no-mines-call/

This call was subsequently formally supported by neighbouring Coffs Harbour City, Bellingen Shire, Kyogle, Glen Innes Severn, and Byron Shire Councils, and also a personal letter of support from the then Tweed Shire Council Mayor, Chris Cherry.

The publicly announced cross-party support includes: Mr Alexander Greenwich MP, Temporary speaker, independent member for Sydney; Ms Catherine Cusack MLC, Liberal; Mr Chris Minns, leader of the NSW opposition, and Ms Penny Sharpe, Opposition environment spokesperson.

The Alliance has so far also received support for a mining ban from all candidates for Page in the up-coming federal election that have been interviewed to date. They include Kevin Hogan, incumbent Member for Page (National Party); Patrick Deegan (Labor); Brett Duroux (Indigenous Australia Party); Hannabeth Luke (Independent); Kashmir Miller (The Greens); Thomas Searles (Liberal Democratic Party); Ian Williamson (United Australia Party), and Serge Killingbeck (TNL Party).

Meetings have also been sought with Donna Pike (One Nation), and Heather Smith (Australian Federation Party), but not yet taken place.

Within the local and broader community, the Clarence Catchment Alliance has gained enthusiastic support from: Surfers for Climate; Surfrider Australia; The Patagonia foundation; OzFish; Maclean Lions Environmental; Revive the Northern Rivers; The NSW Nature Conservation Council; The North Coast Environment Council; Valley Watch; The Clarence Environment Centre, and the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition.

The 4-year anti-mining Clarence Valley campaign has been intense, with petition sheets at numerous venues and Alliance members at local markets leading to a proliferation of NO MINES gate signs across the Valley and adjoining LGAs. All this together with radio and television interviews and local newspaper supports, which are all publicly available at <https://www.instagram.com/nominesclarencevalley/> <https://www.facebook.com/groups/clarencecatchmentalliance>. As a result, it would be difficult to believe that anybody could have failed to see the weight of local opposition to mining.

Given all the evidence indicating the public mood against mining in the Clarence catchment, it is quite clear that current exploration and mining licence-holders are deliberately attempting to ignore that fact. Therefore, we have posted this evidence to all active mining companies currently operating in the Clarence catchment, to reinforce the fact that none have a social licence to operate here.

‘Convos in the Carpark’ event at Turner’s Beach, Yamba

Gathering for a photo-shoot at Turners Beach

One of the few scheduled public events that the Clarence Catchment Alliance (CCA) has been able to participate in since the COVID pandemic began 18 months ago, was as a part of the “Convos in the Carpark event hosted by Surfers for Climate and Surfrider, as a part of raising awareness of the need for climate action.

Unfortunately, the ongoing persistent rain, that has drenched the region for over 10 weeks, forced the evening’s presentations and film showings to be moved under cover at the Woolaweyah Hall. However, the introduction of “fossil-free” climate-friendly surf boards at the Turners Beach carpark went well, with perfect waves and a friendly pod of dolphins, making for a fantastic surfing experience.

Text Box: Gathering for a photo-shoot at Turners BeachFor the CCA, it also allowed for the launch of our latest line of merchandise, including no-mines T-shirts (see at right of image), which come in 3 colours and all sizes, and can be purchased from our on-line shop through the brand-new CCA website.