Recently the Minister for Transport released for comment the documents Future Transport 2056. The Minister’s message stated ‘By 2056, NSW will have 11.2 million residents and be the country’s first trillion dollar state economy. Sydney, one of the developed world’s fastest growing cities, will be a global city similar in size to London or New York today. This growth will mean our networks will handle 28 million trips a day and double the current metropolitan freight task’. The Minister claims For the first time, we are aligning how we plan the future of the transport network with how we plan places and land use by working closely with the Greater Sydney Commission, Infrastructure NSW and the Department of Planning and Environment.
Members will not be surprised to know that the suite of documents released for comment states that it will be necessary to continue to build roadways in the style of Westconnex to cater for the increased traffic that will result from the huge increase in population projected for Sydney and the state. Yes, there are proposals to increase public transport but the document pins its hopes on self-drive electric vehicles and road technology to address congestion as well as environmental and safety concerns. There is no vision to provide the comprehensive rail or metro style of transport systems that characterises cities like London and New York.
The underlying assumption in the Future Transport 2056 documents is the rapid growth of the population of Sydney. NSW will grow from 7.75 million people to 11.55 million people by 2056 and the population of Greater Sydney will grow from 4.70 million people to almost 8 million. Outside Greater Sydney it will grow from 3.05 million to 3.66 million in the same period. Even if there was no further increase in population – Sydney has grown by 20% in the last decade - more investment in rail and metro transport is already needed to address current congestion, environmental and safety concerns. Last year around 300 people died on the roads of NSW.
A massive investment has been required to implement the current government’s preferred mode of infrastructure, with time over-runs and cost blow-outs draining resources from much needed social and environmental expenditure. Where will the additional investment come from as a result of the projected population increase? What is there left to privatise to provide the funds?
It is hard to have any confidence that in 2056, with a population of 8 million in Sydney, congestion, and environmental and safety standards will be any better than today unless a more enlightened direction is finally adopted applying the strategies of more successful cities. Indeed the likelihood is that Sydney dwellers will be in the midst of an even greater nightmare of disruption and social dislocation with yet more houses, heritage, bushland and mature trees ripped away for more polluting roads and tollways through our city and surrounds, damaging the quality of life, amenity and character of our city.
Frank Breen, President
A report from the Invasive Species Council (ISC) alerts us to the spread of the disease Myrtle Rust (Puccinnia psidii). Its native home is South America but we were aware it had arrived here. As it spreads, we will have much to lose. Eucalypts are members of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) - our largest plant family - along with tea-trees, bottlebrushes, paperbarks, lilly pillys and others – some 2250 species altogether. Myrtle rust has been reported infecting more than 240 species, with some rainforest trees dying so quickly that scientists have voiced fears they may “become extinct in the wild within the next decade”.
In 2010 the rust slipped past Australia's quarantine. It spread dramatically after it was found in a nursery near Gosford, infecting hundreds of plants. How it reached Australia is not known but unfortunately the nursery trade helped it spread rapidly along the eastern seaboard, reaching Tasmania and the northern tip of Queensland by 2015. Its spores also blow on the wind and travel on honeybees.
Because the strain of myrtle rust that has reached Australia is not one that blights eucalypts, one view is that the risk to Australia has been overstated. The biosecurity manager of the Nursery and Garden Industry of Australia rejects this. It won’t kill mature eucalypts, but by killing many seedlings and slowing growth it is expected to have profound impacts on forests, harming koalas and other wildlife, as well as hitting the forestry sector hard. A recent article in Science warned that unless management improves, pests “threaten the long- term sustainability of forests and forestry worldwide”. All over the world, yields are dropping and costs rising as trees of many kinds succumb and sometimes die.
Brazil has the world’s largest plantations of Australian eucalypts – more than 6 million hectares tended by 4 million workers – and problems struck in the 1970s when seedlings began dying en masse. The survivors grew into trees too deformed to harvest. Losses of up to 40 per cent in wood production were reported. The industry survived the crisis by investing heavily in breeding eucalypt varieties that resist the disease, though some of these varieties are now at risk from a newly discovered strain of myrtle rust. However, the breeding programs that saved Brazil’s plantations will not be an option within our national parks.
There is no national policy to guide action on the disease, and no agency leading a response. There is an informal working group of concerned scientists, whose voluntary chair, botanist Bob Makinson, laments that while feral cat management attracts substantial funding guided by a national framework, “Myrtle rust has the potential to cause 50 or more extinctions – more than cats – and to have far greater economic impacts. A similar long-term investment is needed for myrtle rust, starting now.”
For more information from the Feral Herald and/or to assist the ISC with their vital work, go to https://invasives.org.au/donate/ and support their Protect Australia campaign today.
The Gardens of Stone to be sacrificed to mining:
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has given approval for the re-opening of a coal mine in a region of the Blue Mountains that it had previously deemed to be ‘‘incompatible with the significant conservation of the site’’. The PAC’s determination supporting extension of the Invincible Coal Mine came despite its conclusion that the state of rehabilitation on the site had been sub-optimal and a requirement to fill three residual voids was ‘‘unlikely to be achieved’’.
The independent agency had previously rejected a mine proposal made by then owner Coalpac Corp that had been granted by the Labor government in 2008. In its 2014 report, PAC said open-cut mining intruding into the nearby towering sandstone pagodas in the Gardens of Stone posed ‘‘unacceptable risks and impacts, and only limited short-term benefits’’. Castlereagh Coal, the project’s owner since 2015, won a reversal of the commission’s verdict by pledging to contain the mine’s additional disturbance to 38 hectares and to complete rehabilitation works. The endangered Purple Copper Butterfly and the Broad headed snake will be put further at risk as the moonscape extends across the land.
NSW is at a crossroads and we need to tell the Berejiklian government one year out from the state election that we want clean energy, action on climate change and a positive future for NSW! If you’re not coming to our event on Saturday 24 March you can join the rally against more damaging mining and biodiversity loss. It will start at Noon at Hyde Park North.
There is no good news to date concerning the major development proposal in West Pennant Hills to rezone important forested land and allow 600 dwellings on the 28 hectare IBM site now owned by Mirvac. The Hills Shire Council is challenging the Department of Planning for a review of the Gateway determination which set conditions, including giving remnant Blue Gum forest (BGHF) the highest protection via E2 Environmental Conservation zoning. The Council opposes this.
“In addition to conservation issues, the Society staffs a visitor centre on weekends at the Field of Mars Wildlife Refuge. All welcome.”