BRUSH FARM PARK AND LAMBERT PARK MASTERPLAN
The City of Ryde Council is seeking input to create a Masterplan for Brush Farm Park and Lambert Park. They would like to hear what you currently like about these Parks, ideas and suggestions for how the Parks can be improved, managed, maintained and protected now and into the future.
Both parks are located in Eastwood. Natural features of these parks include established bushland, walking tracks and Archers Creek. Existing sport, recreation and community facilities include netball courts with lighting, neighbourhood playground, amenities building, community buildings, car park and a natural turf sportsground (see artificial turf article below - editor).
At https://www.ryde.nsw.gov.au/HaveyourSay/Have-Your-Say/Brush-Farm-Park-and-Lambert-Park-Masterplan-Stage-1 you may either respond by submission or complete the online survey.
NSW ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AUTHORITY (EPA) - NEW DIRECTIONS
On Tuesday 24 October 2023. the Total Environment Centre and Boomerang Alliance held a Webinar with EPA CEO Tony Chappel, who has a background of being active in environmental issues. He was one of the main organisers of the deposit return system for recyclables in NSW. Information presented in the webinar was positive and gives us hope for a more proactive EPA. You may view a recording of the full webinar at https://youtu.be/o-psL8opdBo
1. Forestry Corporation NSW is targeting forests with some of the highest known numbers of the endangered Southern Greater Glider.
Forestry Corporation undertakes surveys for nocturnal gliders during the day! This came to light after local citizen-scientists alerted the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to a possible breach. Forestry Corporation had found one glider den in a forest with the highest known glider population in NSW. Upon investigation, the EPA found 19 glider dens with 89 gliders.
Southern Greater Gliders are an endangered species so a 50-metre exclusion zone is legally required around all glider dens. The NCC team knew this wasn’t a single occurrence, and decided it was important to identify locations across NSW where gliders are at risk. Results indicate Forestry Corporation is logging areas known to have some of the remaining populations of gliders in NSW.
Interactive map is available here.
These forests are being destroyed – cut down and pulped for woodchips and cardboard – with no regard for the endangered wildlife that live within them.
NCC alerted the EPA to a raft of potential breaches by Forestry Corporation, as well as to planned operations in some of the richest glider forests in NSW. After citizen scientists raised the alarm about logging destroying glider homes, NCC lodged a series of breach reports showing that logging threatens forests with the largest known population of endangered southern greater gliders.
In great news, CEO of the Environment Protection Agency Tony Chappel responded by signalling a rule change for pre-logging surveys. The EPA finally realises that this loophole has allowed Forestry Corporation to flagrantly destroy habitat for endangered animals.
Forestry Corppration disregards the wildlife whose homes they demolish, which is why it is critical that there are strong safeguards in place to protect threatened and endangered species.
The NSW Government needs to recognise that native forest logging is a dying industry and plan for a transition.
The report, Public native forest logging: a large and growing taxpayer burden finds:
- Despite $246.9 million in taxpayer subsidies, the native forest logging division of Forestry Corporation ran at a $28 million loss
- Demand for timber from native forests is down
- Plantation timber can already provide the vast majority of substitute products
- Continuation of this industry exposes the taxpayer to an increasing level of financial risk.
Our government is wasting millions of dollars propping up this dying and destructive industry.
Native wildlife is under threat from all angles and we can’t afford to keep pouring money into the destruction of the Australian bush when there are other alternatives.
2. NSW Government will allow aerial shooting of feral horses in the Alpine National Park
For over a decade, this additional control option has been tied up in politics rather than science.
These introduced animals destroy the streams, wetlands and fields of the Australian Alps, compact soil, trample endangered animals, and overgraze the fields. The resulting damage to the alpine environment cannot be overstated. At least 25 threatened alpine flora and 14 threatened alpine fauna species, including the iconic corroboree frog, have been pushed to the brink of extinction.
This is a courageous move by the NSW government – in particular Environment Minister Penny Sharpe and Premier Chris Minns. It follows another recent success: the federal Senate inquiry established by independent ACT Senator David Pocock recommended immediate action on feral horses including aerial control. The decision throws a lifeline to the endangered species that call the Australian Alps home. Rangers can now get on with the task of removing feral horses from fragile alpine environments – before the mountains and rivers are trampled beyond repair.
No-one likes to see animals killed. Either we urgently reduce numbers of feral horses, or we accept destruction of sensitive alpine ecosystems and habitats and decline / extinction of native animals.
There is still work ahead. We must maintain the public support for effective control of feral horses that are destroying our alpine areas, and repeal the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018.
3. Habitat clearing - the elephant in the bush
50 million trees... An area four times the size of Newcastle… More emissions than Sydney… This is the devastating impact of habitat clearing across NSW every year…
Habitat clearing for agricultural development is now the biggest cause of environmental loss in NSW - and it's ongoing. Since changes introduced in 2016, habitat clearing rates have tripled, with 100,000 hectares lost each year. Now, those who stand to profit 'self-assess' the ecological value of their land, and then approve its destruction. And developers are allowed to destroy areas of critical ecological importance if they promise to ‘save’ another in the future. Australia is the only developed nation named as a 'global deforestation hotspot'. NSW is the worst-ranked state in the country.
One of the main barriers to reform is that most people, including members of parliament, simply don't realise that habitat clearing for agricultural development has become the biggest cause of environmental loss in NSW.
So NCC coordinated the Stand Up for Nature (SUFN) Alliance, a coalition of leading environmental organisations committed to a Nature Positive NSW.
Woodland cleared in northwest NSW - Image by Shirley Hall
In a 24-page document, this exciting vision presents a 10-point plan to shift from the destruction to the regeneration of nature across our state.
The SUFN Alliance will raise public awareness of the damage caused by habitat clearing, and how easily this can be stopped. They will brief Members of Parliament, talk to the media, and launch a dedicated online campaign.
SOLAR CITIZENS CAMPAIGN TO SUPPORT BATTERY POWER
A federal government decision to support the roll-out of household batteries is currently under consideration. The Australian Government is currently deciding whether to introduce a new subsidy or rebate to support household batteries. Solar Citizens will hand over a household storage petition to the Minister for Energy and Climate Change Chris Bowen.
Household battery storage supports rooftop solar by soaking up excess energy produced during the day for use at night. Increased battery storage is critical to building an energy system that can handle the AEMO’s target of doubling the amount of rooftop solar over the next ten years. If the Australian Government wants to achieve enough behind-the-meter battery storage to meet the AEMO’s rooftop solar targets, support is required in the short term to unlock household investment in this key energy infrastructure.
ENVIRONMENTAL RISKS OF SYNTHETIC TURF – ONGOING ISSUES
- précis of article by Anne Davies in The Guardian, 28 October 2023, on the latest concerns…
Federal legislation now effectively prohibits the export of plastic waste to overseas facilities. So when the Northern Beaches Council replaced old synthetic turf from an oval two years ago, rolls of old turf sat over a year until they were removed and are now in a container in a railway siding, awaiting completion of a plant capable of separating its components for recycling.
Photograph: Natural Turf Alliance
Challenges of what to do with worn-out artificial turf, combined with growing concern about microplastics and the likelihood of more extreme weather events, make for a complex debate about its use in Australia. The Alliance for Natural Turf – 16 community groups concerned about artificial turf – has asked the NSW government for a 5-year moratorium on rolling out the product.
They advise precautionary principles, as little is known about long-term impacts of microplastics and chemicals they shed,– including forever chemicals perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS).
The main concern is potential plastic pollution. Most synthetic sports fields in NSW feature long synthetic blades supported by infill; the most commonly used infill is styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) crumbs from recycled tyres. The chief scientist says there is insufficient information and a lack of standards about the materials and chemical composition of the synthetic turf itself.
“… a synthetic turf field without structures to reduce infill loss will wash tens to hundreds of kilograms of infill per year into stormwater systems or waterways,” according to the report.
A big driver of increasing installation of artificial turf is population density and increased demands on sporting grounds. “All councils in Sydney face increasing demand for more sports fields to meet the needs of [a] growing participation in sport,”says Sue Heins, Northern Beaches mayor.
Heat Island Effects
Unlike natural turf, artificial grass heats up quickly because it absorbs more solar radiation. “It’s a material that, like polished metal slides, can cause severe burn injuries,” says Sebastian Pfautsch, associate professor of urban management and planning at Western Sydney University.
His research has shown that synthetic turf in playgrounds can heat up to temperatures greater than 80oC, even when the ambient temperature is less than 30oC. Sometimes sprinklers are needed to cool the surface, which in part defeats the water savings associated with artificial turf.
Recycling synthetic turf
Australian artificial grass manufacturer Tuff Turf has partnered with Sustainability Victoria to build a recycling plant at Barnawartha, near the Victoria-NSW border. Re4orm is due to open early next year. According to its director, Trent Cummings, 2 million square metres of artificial turf from Sydney playing fields will be replaced in the next six to eight years.
The first stage is to separate the sand, crumb (usually rubber) and “gunk” from the plastic matting. The sand and rubber is then cleaned for reuse. The mat is then shaved of the grass blades so the plastic grass can be melted down into polyethylene pellets and stabiliser, which can be used in products such as boards for landscaping and seats.
The old artificial turf from the Northern Beaches will be one of the first artificial surfaces to be put through Re4orm’s process. But in the meantime, councils are likely to face increasing questions from their communities about the environmental safety of the product.
NEW RECYCLING TECHNOLOGY DECONSTRUCTS MIXED PLASTICS
- from an article by Ellen Phiddian, published by Cosmos, September 2023
A team of US chemists found a way to convert unrecyclable mixed plastics into useful chemicals.
Mixed materials usually end up in landfill because they are very difficult to recycle. A shirt made from 40% polyester and 60% cotton, for instance, has plastic and cotton fibres wound very tightly together. The fibres must be laboriously unwound, or taken through a number of energy-intensive chemical reactions before the plastic and cotton can be separated and used again.
But now the researchers have developed a catalyst that can efficiently disassemble the polymers, but leave other things in the mixture intact. It leaves behind a soup of carbon-based chemicals which can then be turned back into plastic, or into other materials.
The research is published in Materials Horizons.
NEWS FROM LOCK THE GATE – COAL MINES PROSECUTED
A Lock the Gate complaint triggered a successful prosecution of Whitehaven Coal for unlawful water take at its Maules Creek coal mine in 2021. Now, two more long-standing complaints of unlawful water taking by coal mines in NSW have resulted in major sanctions being imposed.
These are the Boggabri coal mine near Narrabri, and the Dendrobium coal mine in the Sydney drinking water catchment area. After three years of taking large volumes of water without proper licences, both mines have been forced to enter into “Enforceable Undertakings” with the regulator for these breaches, and the owner of the Dendrobium coal mine will have to pay the biggest contribution ever made under such an undertaking in NSW: $2.9 million.
The Boggabri coal mine, like the neighbouring Maules Creek mine, was taking this water during the height of the worst drought on record in the Namoi Valley. Farmers were destocking, the river ran dry, and the Boggabri mine diverted water straight into the mine site so it did not go to the river.
Dendrobium is an underground mine, but the longwalls below ground damage the overlying rock layers and cause subsidence all the way to the surface. Swamps collapse, creek beds crack, and water that should be feeding dams for Sydney and the Illawarra runs into the coal mine instead.
AUSTRALIA IS ONE OF THE FIRST COUNTRIES TO SIGN THE HIGH SEAS TREATY
- news from Save Our Marine Life
The high seas are the international waters lying beyond the boundaries of any country. They make up roughly two-thirds of our planet’s oceans, but only about one percent is currently protected.
Once 60 countries have ratified the treaty it will come into force, allowing for the creation of international marine parks on the world’s high seas. Signing the treaty is the first crucial step.
RENEWABLES SURVEY BY FARMERS FOR CLIMATE ACTION
Last month farmers and those working in the ag industry were asked to share their insights into renewables on farm - from generation to storage to transmission lines and the electrification of on farm operations - we went deep into the barriers and opportunities, challenges and solutions.
Over 300 farmers provided their insights through a 30-minute survey, the results of which Natalie Collard, Farmers for climate action CEO, is sharing in person with relevant federal politicians.
Key highlights in the findings are:
- 92% of farmers who responded support Australia’s acceleration to more renewable energy in our national grid
- More than 95% are open to generating or hosting renewable energy projects on their property, or want to do more if they’re already doing so
- 64% believe their communities are opposed to transmission projects in their region - with 44% thinking more extensive and genuine consultation would lead to better community support.
These insights have directly informed our submissions into a number of key government reviews and inquiries in the past month:
- Our response to the Australian Energy Market Commission’s draft rule change for transmission companies
- Our submission to the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner’s review into community engagement practices, and
- The Senate inquiry into residential electrification
They also provide with a raft of policy recommendations to continue to use in advocacy on behalf of farmers, detailed on the final two pages of the report.
The goal is to protect the future of farms and food security. So, they strongly support the deployment of renewable energy to achieve this decade’s emissions targets.
Clean energy rollout should respect farmers and regional communities, to limit climate change impacts.
MURRAY-DARLING BASIN AGREEMENT: A WIN FOR RIVER COMMUNITIES AND ENVIRONMENT.
With the Senate debating changes to Australia’s most important water laws, changes may rescue the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan to improve the health of our largest river system.
The Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 is a crucial step forward. It proposes to lift the Coalition-era cap on water buybacks, allowing the federal government to recover more water for the environment through the voluntary purchase of water entitlements from irrigators.
In an agreement between The Greens and the Albanese Government, the bill will see more water returned to rivers, greater transparency measures to stop water theft, and recognition and funding for First Nations communities. Specifically, the agreement provides:
- More water for the environment
* 450GL more water for the environment guaranteed in law, including rule changes to stop over-extraction in the Northern Basin
* Agreement that climate change will be considered in the Basin Plan review
- Stronger laws to stop water rorts, including an Independent Water Audit
- Recognition of First Nations communities in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, as well as $100 million for First Nations cultural flows
Drought and climate change continue to threaten ecosystems, but this agreement is a significant breakthough and a critical lifeline for the environment and communities.
“BIOLOGICAL ANNIHILATION” EXTINCTIONS CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY OF EVOLUTION
- article by Matthew Ward Agius, published by Cosmos in September 2023.
Scientists believe entire genera – the evolutionary classification that groups separate but genetically distinct species – are disappearing as other organisms buckle under pressure from human activity across the planet.
In research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ecologists Professor Gerardo Ceballos and Paul Ehrlich suggest vertebrates – backboned animals – are not merely disappearing at the species level, but also at higher taxonomical grouping of species.
It points to the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), baiji (Lipotes vexillifer, the Yangtze River dolphin) and passenger pigeon as recent examples of species that have been declared extinct, representing both the demise of the species and genera.
They calculated the background extinction rate – the pace with which a species could be expected to go extinct without human influence – at about 1 vertebrate genera every 250 years, based on there being 5,418 currently described groupings at this taxonomic level.
But they found the actual rate is much higher – in the past 500 years, 72 vertebrate genera have disappeared. In effect, a genus disappears every 7 years.
They describe this process as a “mutilation of the tree of life” – with individual branches essentially pruned by human pressure. While non-vertebrate species like insects, molluscs, fungi and plants are not included in their study, other research suggests similar rates of decline are being experienced by these groups.
“As scientists, we have to be careful not to be alarmist,” Ceballos says “[But] we would be unethical not to explain the magnitude of the problem, since we and other scientists are alarmed.”
Sixth mass extinction underway
Evolutionary scientists warn that the world is likely experiencing a new “mass extinction event.”
Such events – this is believed to be the sixth – see species disappear over massive timescales.
The risk for ecological systems is the collapse of important functions provided by key organisms and organism families.
In their study, Ceballos and Ehrlich warn of biosphere-wide transformations through taxonomic losses that could make it “impossible for … civilisation to persist.
“In the long term, we’re putting a big dent in the evolution of life on the planet,” Ceballos says.
“But also, in this century, what we’re doing to the Tree of Life will cause a lot of suffering for humanity.”
The loss of taxa leaving holes in what they describe as the tree of life’s ‘canopy’ will not be readily replaced, though similar vertebrates could temporarily occupy the void left by a missing group.
They point to the unusual gastric-brooding frogs (Rheobatrachus) of Queensland, which swallow their eggs (rather than releasing them into their environment) and develop tadpoles inside their stomachs – effectively converting them into uteruses – as a lost opportunity for human study.
Similarly, the demise of once-widespread passenger pigeons limits diets in northeastern North America for predators, and allows rodent species they competed with for food to flourish. The knock-on for humans is less food to eat and more disease borne by rodents.
Bradshaw describes the current ecological situation as a “perfect storm”, and warns the limited research on non-vertebrate extinctions is a cause for concern.
“Systems are already highly compromised through habitat conversion, pollution, invasive species and all the other things we’ve done, so you add climate change into the mix and you get this catastrophic drop in the Earth’s carrying capacity for every species,” Bradshaw says.
“And as you get natural systems collapsing around us, our demise will be guaranteed as a result.
“It’s quite a concern, we’ve taken out all of the elasticity left in the system and we’re continuing to push it… the ‘balloon’ is bursting.”
THE WORLD FACES SIX TIPPING POINTS
- précis of article by Imma Perfetto published by Cosmos in October 2023.
A new United Nations University report warns that the world is on course to cross 6 tipping points, beyond which our global systems will fundamentally change.
The Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023 by the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) has identified the 6 risk tipping points:
- Accelerating extinctions - rate of species extinction is 10 to 100 times Earth’s natural rate
- Groundwater depletion
- Mountain glaciers melting
- Space debris
- Unbearable heat
- Uninsurable future
“As we approach these tipping points, we will already begin to experience the impacts. Once crossed, it will be difficult to go back,” warns Dr Jack O’Connor, co-lead author and Senior Expert at UNU-EHS, in Germany. “Our report can help us see risks ahead of us, the causes and the urgent changes required to avoid them.”
What are risk tipping points?
The report defines a risk tipping point as: “the moment at which a given socioecological system is no longer able to buffer risks and provide its expected functions, after which the risk of catastrophic impacts to these systems increases substantially.” The risk tipping points share similar root causes and drivers that put pressure on our systems – for example ecosystems, water and transport – until they are pushed to the brink of collapse. Reaching these points means new risks will be introduced, and the ways that we currently manage a risk may no longer apply.
How do we avoid these tipping points?
Solutions: The report proposes two categories for solutions, AVOID and ADAPT.
Actions: The two kinds of actions that can be taken are DELAY (work within the existing system) and TRANSFORM (ideal: fundamentally change the system to be strong and more sustainable).
These changes include:
- a shift towards zero waste
- a closer connection to nature
- global cooperation and trust
- consideration for future generations, and
- shifting to an economic model that is less focused on growth and more on human well-being within planetary boundaries.