Yellow Box Dispatch March 2017 — Trees, waste, plastics, climate change
The Bush Capital is a great place to be and to live so that’s why we have so many people involved in caring and campaigning to look after its environmental values.
We had a very good Environment Exchange to start the 2017 series looking at how to protect mature native trees and at what we need to do to replicate them if we are trying to restore a natural environment.
Canberra’s municipal waste continues to build and the ACT Government has embarked on a ‘market sounding’ to identify ideas to deal with some of it. We’re concerned that the Government’s approach isn’t looking at first things first – avoiding and reducing waste – but instead are suggesting some sort of energy from waste with associated greenhouse emissions.
Not related to waste but looking like it might be is the plastics to fuel proposal to establish an industry at Hume to ‘refine’ imported recyclable plastics into greenhouse emitting fuels. An Environmental Impact Statement Inquiry Panel of two pople has been established by Minister Gentleman and the Panel has had substantial feedback from the community as they prepare a report for the Minister to consider.
The Conservation Council along with many other community, business and union organisations and many skilled, knowledgable and expert people attended the 27 February roundtable on a ‘Blueprint for a Zero Emissions Territory – ACT’s climate strategy to 2050’. We look forward to future consultation.
If you want to support our work, and you have a loan with a financial institution and you don’t want to be part of supporting fossil fuels, consider shifting to Bank Australia who will make a one-off payment to us if you nominate the Conservation Council. We need to take long-term steps to diversify (and increase) our funding base and this partnership is helping!
In this Yellow Box Dispatch:
and check out the Events
Our vision: Nature is respected, protected and embraced by an ecologically sustainable, socially just and economically viable society which lives lightly on the planet.
Mature trees in landscape – pillars of biodiversity
The first Environment Exchange for the year was a success: well-attended with good discussion on mature native trees.
The presentations are available on our website including short videos from two of the speakers – Sarah Sharp and Darren Le Roux.
There was discussion of the nomination of “Loss of Native Hollow-bearing Trees” as a threatening process (see below).
Nomination of Threatening Process: Loss of Native Hollow-bearing Trees
The Conservation Council ACT Region along with Friends of Grasslands, Australian Native Plant Society Canberra Region, Canberra Ornithologists Group and Field Naturalists Association of Canberra have nominated ‘Loss of Native Hollow-bearing Trees‘ as a threatening process.
The Nature Conservation Act 2014 states: ‘”threatening process” means a process that threatens, or may threaten, the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of a native species or ecological community.’
As the explanatory statement for the instrument that sets out the criteria says: ‘Once a threatening process has been listed on the key threatening processes list an action plan must be prepared to set out proposals to minimise any effect of the processes on threatened species and ecological communities with targeted management and monitoring.’
Among reasons for seeking the listing is that the loss of hollow-bearing trees is a direct threat to four listed threatened species (species declared threatened under the Nature Conservation Act 2014): Superb Parrot – Polytelis swainsonii (Vulnerable); Swift Parrot – Lathamus discolor (Vulnerable); Brown Treecreeper – Climacteris picumnus (Vulnerable); Glossy Black-Cockatoo – Calyptorhynchus lathami (Vulnerable).
The nomination will be considered by the Scientific Committee (formerly the ACT Flora and Fauna Committee). BACK TO TOP
Meeting with Minister Gentleman
The Conservation Council met with Minister Gentleman in late February and discussed a range of issues including the proposed plastics to fuels processing facility at Hume; the Threatening Process nomination for Loss of Native Hollow-bearing Trees (which cites as case studies several of the Minister’s decisions); planning strategy which is due to be reviewed in 2017; several planning issues including: West Greenway, West of Murrumbidgee, West Belconnen, CSIRO Ginninderra Field station and Central Molonglo.
One small immediate outcome of the meeting was that the Minister extended Community meeting #1 into the evening to allow for members of the public to get to the meeting to talk with panel members.
The Minister also informed us that the terms of reference had been extended to include a reference to climate change (see below). BACK TO TOP
Plastics to fuel – proposal and inquiry
A proposal has come from a company called Foy Ltd to establish a plastics to fuel refinery at Hume.
Minister Mick Gentleman as Minister for Planning and Land Management established an inquiry panel to review the proposal and provide him a report. The inquiry has included two community meetings to ensure that the panel understands concerns within the community.
The initial terms of reference for the panel did not include a reference to climate change. The Conservation Council raised this issue as did others including Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability.
Minister Gentleman has now added an additional term for the Inquiry:
“Review the climate change and greenhouse gas implications (considering both direct and indirect emissions) and triple bottom line sustainability considerations of the proposal.”
Minister Rattenbury’s office expects that the panel will be required to consider how the proposal aligns with the ACT’s Climate Change Strategy and emission reduction targets as part of its assessment.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the inquiry into the EIS will look at what would happen to the environment if the proposal is adopted and look at what protections need to be in place. The EIS process reduces impacts but does not stop them completely. The proposal would only be stopped by an EIS if there was a major environmental issue. Taking climate change into consideration might be that major issue.
The proposal is to establish an industry proposing that will start with up to 50 tonnes of plastic per day be imported into the ACT to be processed into fossil fuels and then for the ACT to manage the residues. The proposal comes from a company wanting to establish an industry rather than emerging from consultation or assessment under the ACT Waste Feasibility Study.
That 50 tonnes would become 200 tonnes per day when the plant is operating at design capacity. It is also interesting to note that all plastics can be recycled and burning or heating and refining are not the only or even easy options.
At a time when the ACT is supposed to be reducing emissions from the transport sector we are considering importing waste, then burning fossil fuels to generate heat to refine the plastic into more fossil fuels.
It is unsustainable to reduce future greenhouse emissions through the light rail system but then generate more emissions from imported waste.
We might not have a proposed coal mine in the ACT but we do have a proposed fossil fuel facility. It is not clear that the Government has a process to say no but instead is only slowing down the process of saying yes.
The Inquiry Panel held community meetings 6-7 March and there was a good turnout and significant concerns were raised.
Minister Gentleman will make a decision whether to approve the EIS and if yes and the proposal proceeds to the next stage the Minister will also make the decision as to whether it gets planning approval. BACK TO TOP
Waste plans towards generating greenhouse gases
The ACT Government’s ‘market sounding’ on waste does not prioritise reducing waste or increasing recycling yet it proposes support for incineration or biogas or other greenhouse gas emitting ‘energy from waste’ proposals.
Energy from waste is backed up in the market sounding document with the proposal: “A feed-in tariff may be offered for the renewable portion of any energy generated from waste. It would likely be set a rate between the prices previously awarded in the Territory’s large scale renewable energy auctions, ie $79-$186/MWhr.”
The ACT Government launched a ‘market sounding’ through TendersACT on 21 February 2017 calling for ideas “To Build and Operate or Provide New Waste Services”.
The 2015-16 ACT Budget provided funding of $2.8million over two years for a full business case to be prepared on “alternative waste management strategies”. Budget Outlook 2015-16 p129 under “Improved Waste Resource Recovery” said:
“The Government will undertake a feasibility study to investigate long-term options for the management and treatment of waste in the ACT, including the development of a full business case for a waste to energy facility.”
It is not clear how the Government will make decisions on the proposals it receives.
The market sounding does not include a process for applying the waste hierarchy and is meanwhile encouraging the least preferable options through offering a subsidy via a feed-in tariff to get energy from waste, even though this will produce greenhouse emissions.
The Conservation Council has written to Minister Rattenbury asking whether he as Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability has been consulted and given support to applying a feed-in tariff to energy from waste. We have been advised that this has not been put to the Minister.
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Review of National Electricity Market
The Conservation Council made input to the ACT Energy Policy Consortium response to the Preliminary Report of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market.
The Consortium is comprised of representatives of ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), Care Financial Counselling Service, Conservation Council ACT Region, SEE-Change and the Small Business Taskforce of the Canberra Business Chamber. The consortium considers the importance of social, environmental and economic factors in the formation and implementation of energy policy and that enhancement of equity and inclusion improves outcomes across all sectors.
The Consortium welcomed the broad based direction of the Review and considered that any change to policy relating to the future security of the National Electricity market needs to recognise that:
- new technologies should form the basis of future investment, that while consumers may be driving change, vulnerable consumers do not have the same choices as other consumers,
- price increases impact the vulnerable more severely and unaffordable electricity can result in health problems if people are avoiding heating and cooling.
- Vulnerable consumers are often ill-informed of the choices available.
- Hardship programs are essential for vulnerable consumers.
- Low-emission solutions to counter problems with renewable technology need to be promoted over out-dated coal technology.
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Proposed changes to notice before urban tree removal
The Conservation Council was contacted by TCCS Directorate regarding proposed changes to the ways adjacent residents are informed of urban tree removals. There is no statutory requirement for the notification process and it has instead been adopted following a recommendation by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment tree investigation in 2010-11 and implemented by TAMS in late 2010.
The Commissioner recommended changes to the the way residents were notified of planned tree removal works in streets and parks, particularly where green trees are involved.
The Directorate says it has become apparent that parts of the notification process that have been in place since 2010 are ineffective and costly.
The current notification process involves:
1. A tree removal notification sign is placed on the tree to be removed indicating the intention to remove, the timeframe and whether the tree will be replaced.
This is an effective communication tool and no change is proposed to this notification.
2. Mailed written notification to the six residences closest to the tree, a minimum of two weeks in advance of the work being carried out.
This mail-out process is costly (about $5000-$7000 annually) and is proposed to be ceased other than to the immediate adjoining residence (i.e. the house that has the tree on its nature strip). Currently up to 15% of mailed-out works notices are returned to sender while almost 100% of enquiries about proposed tree removals are generated as a result of the notification sign that is placed on the tree to be removed.
In summary, the proposed notification process will be:
- Advise the closest adjoining residence by mail, and
- Install a tree removal notification notice on the tree.
The Conservation Council has responded that it is not raising concerns with the proposed approach. BACK TO TOP
Kangaroo management changes
The Conservator for Flora and Fauna has declared the Eastern Grey Kangaroo as a controlled native species under the Nature Conservation Act 2014 and consequently has also prepared an Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Draft Controlled Species Management Plan.
Community input to this plan closes 24 March 2017 (see response details below). Essentially the plan updates the 2010 Kangaroo Management Plan. It looks at kangaroo welfare, managing interactions between humans and kangaroos, managing kangaroo densities and managing captive populations.
The Conservation Council ACT Region acknowledges that kangaroo management is a complex issue needing to take into account ethical, social and scientific considerations.
In circumstances of demonstrated over-grazing and the need to protect precious, endangered ecological communities and nature reserves that support a range of species the Conservation Council recognises kangaroo numbers should be reduced. This view is based on current scientific knowledge. Reductions in kangaroo numbers should be adequate to prevent immediate repopulation and destruction of habitat.
Due to lack of other alternatives the Conservation Council recognises that kangaroo culls are the appropriate management response to reduce kangaroo numbers. These culls have to be undertaken in a humane way in accordance with ACT animal welfare codes.
In addition to being based on a solid scientific evidence base the reduction in kangaroo numbers also must also be part of a strategic approach within a landscape context. Kangaroo culls should be part of broader management strategies to protect and enhance ecological values from other threats such as rabbits, weeds and inappropriate fire management.
The Conservation Council supports ongoing research into alternative methods to culling which may provide viable options for controlling kangaroo numbers, eg reproductive control methods. However, measures are required now to reduce the ecological impacts of over-grazing.
Comments on the Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Draft Controlled Species Management Plan close 24 March 2017.
Send written comments to: Manager, Conservation Research, Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate by email: [email protected] or post: PO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601
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National Park Feasibility Reference Group
Following the 2016 ACT election the November 2016 Parliamentary Agreement included: “Undertake a feasibility study into establishing a new northern Canberra region National Park, including existing nature reserves around Mount Majura, Mount Ainslie and Mulligans Flat”.
The Conservation Council was invited by the ACT Government to provide two representatives to the National Park Feasibility Reference Group and nominated Larry O’Loughlin, Executive Director, and Jenny Bounds, Convenor, Biodiversity Working Group. The National Parks Association ACT nominated Rod Griffiths to the Group.
The draft terms of reference are here. The first meeting of the reference group was held 7 March and was informed that the matters under consideration could include areas beyond current nature reserves. Further discussion will be required so a second meeting will be held 5 April. BACK TO TOP
Biodiversity issues in 2017
The Conservation Council’s Biodiversity Working Group is a key committee in the organisation, meeting monthly and reporting to the Board on the range of biodiversity issues facing us in the region.
So far this year the Group has looked at priorities and emerging issues so as to identify where we need to focus our work over the year. Main issues included Planning Strategies; Threats to Biodiversity (for example including roaming cats and invasive weeds); Urban expansion-New greenfields developments; and then there are Planning Issues; Biodiversity Monitoring; Mature native trees; Reviews of Strategies and Plans for threatened species & communities; Plans of Management; Institutional arrangements – Restructure of LDA and National environment laws. The Biodiversity Working Group has also discussed kangaroo management and the process and policies around a new northern national park for the ACT.
If you want more information on the work of the Biodiversity Working Group please contact us. BACK TO TOP
Container Deposit Scheme delayed in NSW…
NSW has delayed the introduction of its Container Deposit Scheme by five months to 1 December 2017. ACT Waste Feasibility Study officials have previously described the ACT scheme as being behind the NSW scheme by six months so as to learn from it.
NSW is describing the delayed introduction as an extension and it has been welcomed by environment groups such as Clean Up Australia and the Boomerang Alliance as well as the industry group Australian Food and Grocery Council.
Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel said “The Alliance understood that getting the container deposit scheme up and running was a very complicated process. It’s better to delay the implementation by a few months, so the scheme is ready from day one.”
The Conservation Council has asked whether the month of December 2017 will be long enough to learn and tweak the ACT scheme and also whether the ACT scheme will be delayed or will it still commence 1 January 2018. We have been advised that ACT dates are still under consideration and will take account of the NSW change. BACK TO TOP
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Using nature for power
What: Timelines for a 100% renewable energy future
In Australia, harnessing natural forces for power seems to be an extremely clever option. Communities and engineers are working on the cutting edge to develop new technologies and systems to achieve this goal. What will it take to get there?
Speakers: Professor Andrew Blakers on “100% renewable electricity futures“. We will alsohave speakers from ACT Government on progress to 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2020 and on hydrogen production and use in the ACT.
When: Tuesday 28 March, 12noon-2pm starts with ploughman’s lunch (no gender-neutral term available for this specific dish (says Google) – ploughperson? plougher?)
Where: Renewables Innovation Hub, 19-23 Moore Street, Turner ACT 2602
Register: Conservation Council website No charge but donations welcome to help cover lunch costs
Volunteer: if you’re available to help set up and clean up contact [email protected]
Low interest rates, no fossil fuels, help Conservation Council
What: Conservation Council has partnership arrangement with Bank Australia where people can nominate us as they take out or transfer a loan and Conservation Council ACT receives one-off payment of 0.40% of loan value.
Who: Bank Australia does not invest in fossil fuels and is good way to move away from supporting fossil fuels. Bank Australia began in 1957 as CSIRO Co-operative Credit Society then became Members and Education Credit Union (mecu) then bankmecu then Bank Australia.
How much: Bank Australia fees and rates are lower given they are a member-owned bank. There is no money cost to you to move your home loan, just some of your time.
Contact: Executive Director, Larry O’Loughlin, for more details and to put you in touch with the bank. He has made the switch. BACK TO TOP
What: StopAdani Roadshow comes to Canberra
When: 6:30pm, Thursday 30 March
Where: National Convention Centre
Political support is building again for what would be the biggest coal mine in Australia’s history.
With fast-track status granted, many approvals secured, free water, and finance starting to flow, Adani’s megamine is one of the world’s biggest threats to our precious climate. To win the #StopAdani campaign it to needs to be our Keystone-XL. A line-in-the sand around which we will build a movement to shift the national narrative away from fossil fuels. This means organising communities across the nation taking action, so that Adani finds opposition everywhere they turn.
This is a town hall style event with speakers from all over the world as well as traditional owners to express issue, and then a practical, straightforward call to action in which every member of the audience can participate. In Canberra, the Roadshow is on Thursday 30 March at the National Convention Centre
Tickets can be found here: http://www.stopadani.com/
‘Demain’ screenings part of French Film Festival 2017
The Alliance Française French Film Festival 2017 is proud to present the Australian Premiere of Demain (French for ‘Tomorrow’).
By focussing on grassroots solutions and intermingling the serious with the playful, “Tomorrow” entertains while giving the audience autonomy to both engage in and change a situation in which everyone is involved. Above all, the message is one of resounding hope for a better future.
his is essential viewing for anyone wanting to know what they can do to help save the planet.
Demain has six screenings: 15 March, 20 March, 24 March, 26 March, 28 March, 31 March. BACK TO TOP
Have your say on Draft Lower Cotter Catchment Reserve Management Plan
The ACT Government is inviting comment on a draft reserve management plan for the Lower Cotter Catchment.
The plan was prepared under the ACT Nature Conservation Act 2014, which requires management plans for all public land reserve areas, and released for public comment 16 January with a closing date for submissions 10 March 2017.
The plan is at www.yoursay.act.gov.au or follow these links:
Personal and organisational comments are welcome through visiting the website or by email: [email protected] or even post: Manager, Conservation Planning, Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, PO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601.
Pedal Power ACT 2017 AGM
When: Tuesday 21 March 2017 7:30 to 8:30pm.
Where: Southern Cross Club, Woden
What: election of board and presentation of annual Pedal Power ACT awards
- Paul Truebridge Memorial Volunteer of the Year award
- Event of the Year award
- Annemarie Driver Memorial Leadership award
- Several service and recognition awards.
Agenda: can be downloaded and viewed here and contains agenda for AGM, details of those standing for election to Board, minutes of last AGM, and proxy and voting forms.
Pedal Power ACT annual report and financial statement for 2017 will be available prior to the meeting from the Pedal Power ACT website. Minutes of the last Annual General Meeting 2016 available here.
National Ride2School Day
(17 March 2017)
National Ride2School Day is held around Australia in March every year. It provides an opportunity for students, parents and teachers to try riding, walking, skating or scooting to school, while celebrating the regular walkers and riders.
On this day, riding and walking to school is normal and the entire school community can support it. It is a chance to celebrate on a large scale and to prove it can be done. More information and a range of resources are available at Bicycle Network website. BACK TO TOP
There’s an app for walking and riding!
What: ACTiveLog smartphone app to improve the ACTs walking and bike riding infrastructure
When: Canberra Walk & Ride Week Friday 17 – Friday 24 March
More what: An exciting new smartphone app has been developed to help the ACT Government provide better walking and bike riding infrastructure for all Canberrans. The app, ACTiveLog, is designed to use GPS traces to track walking and bike riding activities of those who download and use the free app (from iOS and Google playstores), to provide a picture of where, how and when Canberrans walk and bike ride as a mode of transport.
More when: All Canberrans are urged to use the ACTiveLog app between Friday 17 – Friday 24 March for any journey purpose during the week. It might be your commute to school, to work, to a meeting or appointment during the day, to a social outing, or to the shops on the weekend.
Why: The more we understand about how Canberrans move about our city on foot and by bike, the more informed our decision making processes will be for future infrastructure and facility investments.Further details: about the app, developed in conjunction with Bicycle Network, are at: http://bit.ly/WalkRideWk BACK TO TOP
Where: Conservation Council ‘Environment Exchange’ is at new venue: Renewable Energy Hub, 19-23 Moore Street, Turner (just off Barry Drive).
When: All events are scheduled from 12-2pm starting with a light lunch (donations welcome). The events are held Tuesdays and are adjusted for public holidays.
What: Events are (click to book):
Please forward this to people who might be interested in attending and encourage them to book online to reduce food wastage and stress.
- Saturday 3 June 7pm — Conservation Council World Environment Day Dinner
- Friday 21-Saturday 22 July — Bushfire Management: Balancing the Risk — a symposium with the National Parks Association ACT, Conservation Council ACT Region, Parks and Conservation Service and Emergency Services Agency
Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park
A Regional Botanic Garden for the Southern Tablelands at Forest 20, National Arboretum Canberra
Our working bees are held each Thursday morning from 8am, please feel free to join our friendly group at whatever time you can. We break for morning tea at 10 am at the table near our shed. Morning tea is byo.
Who: Volunteering & Contact ACT is proud to again host the Volunteering Awards, Canberra Region. This is an opportunity to recognise the volunteers in our community for their commitment throughout the year.
What: Check out our new award categories. Nominate here!
When: Nominations close 29 March 2017.
For more info: 02 6251 4060 or [email protected]
Fire Ants Down Under: National Emergency Tour
When: 21 March 6:30pm. Over the course of one week, 20-24 March 2017, the Invasive Species Council is holding fire ant forums in five capital cities across Australia.
Who: Travelling with us is US fire ant expert Dr Robert Puckett, who has a clear message for Australians – failure to eradicate the current infestation of red fire ants in Queensland will eventually have devastating consequences for your entire country.
Where: ANU Commons Room, 26 Barry Drive Canberra ACT 2601 (Rimmer Street, the buses-only street)
What: In just one week our key task is to warn as many Australians as possible of the dangers to our nation if we fail to eradicate Queensland’s current fire ant infestations. FIre ants will stop us using our backyards and parks, damage our natural environment and impacts on our health and infrastructure. All Australians need to know we can’t afford to let this genie out of the bottle.
More: To learn more about why Australia desperately needs to eradicate fire ants visit our website.
Bookings at Evenbrite BACK TO TOP
Threatened Wildlife Photographic Competition
What: The Australian Wildlife Society Threatened Wildlife Photographic Competition is a national competition that awards and promotes endangered Australian wildlife through the medium of photography.
Who: The Australian Wildlife Society invites photographers to raise the plight of endangered wildlife in Australia. Our Society aims to encourage the production of photographs taken in Australia, by Australians, which reflects the diversity and uniqueness of endangered Australian wildlife.
How much?: An annual judge’s prize of $1,000 will be awarded. An annual people’s choice prize of $500 will be awarded.
Rules of entry:
- The subject of each entry must be a threatened Australian species – fauna or flora
- The entry must be the work of the entrant
- The photograph must have been taken within the twelve months prior to the date of entry
- The name of the threatened species, photographer and date taken must be in the ‘file name’ of each photograph submitted
- Entrants retain the copyright to their entries but accord the Australian Wildlife Society (AWS) the right to use them in any of its publications or any reprint arising therefrom
- Entries to be submitted by electronic means to – [email protected]
- All entries must be accompanied by a short paragraph (maximum 150 words) describing the status of the endangered species, the location of the photograph and the reasons and circumstances for choosing to photograph it
- Directors of AWS or their families are ineligible to submit entries
- There shall be no charge for entry and entrants may submit more than one entry
- The final result is at the discretion of the Directors and will be announced in August each year.
When: Closing date for entries – 30 June 2017. Online voting for people’s choice open 1 July to 30 July. BACK TO TOP
See our Facebook events list for more environment-related events in the ACT region