Conservation Council AGM report

The Conservation Council Annual General Meeting was held 6pm 13 November 2018 at the Conservation Council office.

The meeting confirmed the minutes of the previous Annual General Meeting held 9 November 2017 and accepted a report from the President Rod Griffiths on behalf of the Board and the Executive Director’s Report from Larry O’Loughlin. The Auditor’s report and the financial statements were accepted and Saminda Maddumahewa was appointed as Auditor for 2018-19.

For the election of members of the board, including office bearers, there were nominations equal to the number of vacancies so the following were declared elected:

President: Rod Griffiths
Vice-President: Peter Ottesen
Vice-President: Marcus Hassall
Secretary: Helen Sims

Other Board Members:
Jenny Bounds
Rebecca Palmer-Brodie
Gordon McAllister
Ian Falconer
Glenys Patulny
Christopher Dorman

There were proposed changes to the Constitution. Two matters – the changes proposed to 19 (c) and (d) – were withdrawn for further discussion and all the others were accepted by the required majority.

The meeting closed and participants shared some refreshments.

Join us for Walk the Border – Light

2017 Walks Program for Walk the Border – Light

It’s on again but it’s LIGHT.

One year on Walk the Border ACT is back.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the successful completion of the Conservation Council’s 2017 21 day fundraising walk around the 306 km ACT border, the Conservation Council ACT Region is hosting a series of four half-day walks on the ACT’s border on each of the Sundays in November. Conservation Council President, Rod Griffiths,says the walks are in some of the more accessible areas of the ACT’s border and provide an opportunity for members of the public to experience some of the history and environments associated with the ACT’s boundary in a half day format – a light version of the 2017 walk.

The four walks include ecosystems ranging from ACT’s nationally significant grassy woodlands to the heavily modified rail corridor. All the walks will reflect the history of the original boundary surveyors and their legacy as well as touching on things like Australia’s most notorious spy scandal.

Details of the full program is here and further information on how to participate is on the Conservation Council’s Events Page on our website or via the links at the Walk the Border ACT Facebook page.

Recap of Walk the Border 2017

Last year, Rod Griffiths and his walking companions completed a 21 day journey circumnavigating the ACT border as part of Walk the Border ACT – A Watershed Walk. This fundraising and awareness campaign saw Rod and various intrepid adventurers traverse a range of interesting and diverse landscapes as they followed in the footsteps of ACT’s original surveyors, whose border markers can still be found over a century later.

Starting from Hall on the Centenary trail, the walkers crossed the grassy woodlands of the military firing range with the permission of the Department of Defence; they went through pine forests and saw a logging operation underway; then onto a railway line; urban streets; industrial sites; and up in the beautiful mountain ash country. The walkers crossed some of the area’s most remote and rugged mountain ranges and had close encounters with a wide range of ACT’s local plant and animal life.

Rod was only the ninth known person to have circumnavigated ACT’s entire border on foot.

Visit the Walk the Border ACT blog for more details about the great adventure and see the photos below!


You can donate to the Walks Program by going to donate at our website.

Walk the Border ACT is seeking to raise funds for the ACT’s peak environment body, the Conservation Council ACT Region. The Conservation Council has been a major force in the protection of the ACT’s urban and natural environments though lobbying, campaigning educating for more than 37 years. As a non-profit, non-government organisation, every donation to the Conservation Council, no matter how small, is important.

Spring Mingle Wrap-Up

Friday 26 October saw the Conservation Council’s annual Spring Mingle and presentation of the ACT Environment Awards. We would like to extend a very big thank you to everyone who came to this celebration – what a fantastic night! We are extremely lucky to have so many dedicated people in our communities who all enjoy coming together to celebrate the achievements of Canberra’s environmentalists and community organisations.

Now to paint a picture of this flowery affair…

The Lena Karmel Rooftop Garden is home to an array of native plant and vegetable gardens with plenty of spots for quiet contemplation. On this warm and balmy Friday, these gardens were basked in an orange glow that made you feel like you were in a dusk paradise. The Artivists added to nature’s colours with their spread of eye-popping painted banners that reminded us why we value the environment so much. Thanks go to the lovely Cathy Diver for providing us with dreamy folk tunes, which floated through the gardens to accompany the incredible views of Canberra city, Black Mountain and its surrounds. There was a spread of food and drinks, including soup which used some of the Rooftop Garden’s own homegrown vegetables and wine generously provided by Shaw Vineyard Estate.

After some mingling, music and chat, it was time to present the Conservation Council ACT Environment Awards. We would like to thank Minister Shane Rattenbury MLA for presenting the Awards. A huge congratulations go to Hannah Ford (Winner, Moira and John Rowland Young Environmentalist of the Year Award), Sarah Sharp (Winner, Environmentalist of the Year Award), and National Parks Association ACT (Winner, Member Group of the Year Award). We would also like to congratulate all the other finalists. MC Larry O’Loughlin expressed the Conservation Council’s excitement about the quality of the nominees:

“On the evidence in the nominations we have very good reason to be optimistic about our environmental activities in the ACT. We have great organisers, inspirers, workers, researchers and writers. The nominees look at small patches and big pictures. They are working on climate change and its solutions; biodiversity protection and enhancement; and with and within the broader community to bring about better environmental outcomes for the ACT.”

The Spring Mingle was another reminder of the fantastic environment community we have here in our Bush Capital. It was great to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds who have made a common commitment to serving the interests of Canberra’s environment. There was a lot of laughter and celebration. Thank you again to all those who came and contributed to this event!

We would like to thank in particular the amazing volunteers who helped set up the event, including the Artivists, Nick Blood (ANU Environment Collective) and Markus Dirnberger, Paul Magarey and Darcy Henderson for managing the bar, and Jenny Bounds and Kathy Eyles for preparing food. Thanks also go to David Howe from Dirty Deeds Event Sound for providing us with the tech for our music entertainment. Don’t forget to give Cathy Diver a ‘like’ on her Facebook page and stay up to date with her future gigs.

We hope you enjoyed the event and cannot wait until next year’s iteration!

2018 ACT Environment Award winners

Friday October 26 2018 saw our annual ACT Environment Awards at the Conservation Council Spring Mingle, which acknowledged the significant contributions of exceptional members of the community towards sustainability and the environment in the ACT. The diversity of our groups and activists working to protect the environment is quite amazing.

Moira and John Rowland Young Environmentalist of the Year was awarded to Hannah Ford of Australian Youth Climate Coalition – ACT (AYCC). Hannah is a dedicated and passionate young environmentalist who has made significant achievements in the ACT as the Campaigns Coordinator of AYCC. Hannah has initiated a variety of AYCC events and campaigns including fundraising for campaigns. Her achievements included developing the concept and plan for the 2018 AYCC Sustainable Careers Panel to give young people in Canberra the opportunity to learn about possible career pathways and make connections with people in the field. Hannah has developed AYCC links with other environment organisations and was also selected to take part in the national AYCC’s Climate Leadership Group in recognition of her potential as a climate leader.

The judges commend the other nominees Crystal Holt and Zoe Anderson.

Environmentalist of the Year was awarded to Sarah Sharp of Friends of Grasslands. Working both in her own ecological consultancy and providing countless volunteer hours to Friends of Grasslands as their president, Sarah has dedicated her life to conservation of delicate grassland ecosystems in the region. Under Sarah’s leadership, Friends of Grasslands has been significant in raising the profile of grasslands as key environmental components and as habitats for various threatened species. She initiated the Biodiversity Working Group’s project to have the removal of mature native trees recognised as a threatening process under the Nature Conservation Act. It is the first threatening process declared under the Act and represents a turning point in the protection of mature trees in the ACT. Now mature trees are afforded greater protection and developers will face more hurdles in trying to remove these trees.

This Award was a very contested field with eight finalists any one of whom would be a worthy recipient. Highly commended were Lawrence McIntosh, Waltraud Pix and Nicki Taws.

Member Group of the Year was awarded to National Parks Association ACT, which is a community-based conservation organisation that has worked since 1960 to protect the natural environment. In 2018, NPA ACT continues to be a leading environmental group in Canberra. Its most recent conference on Bushfire Management canvassed a range of key questions in the debate on the most appropriate methods for bushfire fuel reduction and has been acknowledged as influencing the current development of the ACT’s next round of bushfire management plans. The organisation’s other achievements include contributions to the successful campaign to create Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve, publication of high quality ACT specific nature guides and support of environmental research by young scientists at ACT universities.

Highly commended was the Australian Youth Climate Coalition – ACT Branch.

On the evidence in the nominations we have very good reason to be optimistic about our environmental activities in the ACT. We have great organisers, inspirers, workers, researchers and writers. The nominees look at small patches and big pictures. They are working on climate change and its solutions; biodiversity protection and enhancement; and with and within the broader community to bring about better environmental outcomes for the ACT. We’re very proud of all our nominees and would like to extend our congratulations and warm thanks for all the hard work they’ve done in 2018.

Loss of mature native trees recognised as threatening process

In the environment, as in many matters, if we recognise a problem then we might then be able to deal with it.

Over some years the Conservation Council and member groups have been working to have the loss of mature native trees recognised as a key threatening process under the Nature Conservation Act 2014.

We held an Environment Exchange on mature native trees in February 2017 and prepared public information on saving mature native trees. A submission to the Scientific Committee was made on behalf of Conservation Council ACT Region; Friends of Grasslands; Australian Native Plant Society Canberra Region; Canberra Ornithologists Group; and Field Naturalists Association of Canberra.

The Scientific Committee considered the submission and sought further advice from us and also from CSIRO scientists, a range of academics, and various other reports and sources. We waited – this was a scientific process rather than a campaign! – and offered assistance and further information and occasionally asked “are we were there yet?”.

Now the Scientific Committee has: “agreed to broaden the threatening process from the loss of hollow bearing trees to the key threatening process of Loss of mature native trees (including hollow bearing trees) and a lack of recruitment”. The instrument containing the advice took effect 27 September.

This will not save all mature native trees but it does recognise that removing them is a problem – a key threatening process no less! There will be an action plan drawn up to outline measures to reduce their removal. As the advice says: “The priority management objective is to reduce the loss of mature native trees and its impact on threatened native species and to improve recruitment of native woodland tree species across the ACT.”

Conservation Issues and Proposed Management Actions include protection such as restricting clearing of mature eucalypts and mature native trees that contain nest hollows and “retention of non-mature native trees across urban and rural landscapes to ensure a future supply of mature trees and avoid lag times”.

The advice also suggests actions to conserve and manage trees across the landscape and for further monitoring and research including on Eucalypt dieback in the ACT and “appropriate provenance for revegetation programs under climate change”.


Some changes to our constitution

The Conservation Council Board has been looking at our Constitution to ensure it remains in line with changes under consideration by the Federal Government in particular.

While we will have to await developments there we have looked at tidying up some matters in the meantime.

We are seeking comments – even finding typos would be helpful – and these amendments would go to a general meeting of the Conservation Council.

Our current unmarked constitution is here.

And the marked up proposed amendment version of the constitution marked up proposed amendment version of the constitution* is here with comments marked in red and amendments shown as either struck through text for deletions or highlighted material for additions.

Please contact [email protected] if you have any comments or questions.

* Please note some words at 14 (b) have been deleted in this version from an earlier version



The biomass delusion

Forest biomass – trees, woodchips, thinnings, forest ‘litter’ and other materials – should not be used for energy production given its impacts on forests and on climate change. The Conservation Council ACT Region has joined with other groups through the Australian Forest Climate Alliance in endorsing this position statement.

Position Statement on Forest Biomass Energy

We share a vision of a world in which thriving natural forests play a significant role in tackling climate change and contribute to a clean, healthy, just and sustainable future for all life on earth. Burning forest wood for large-scale energy production cannot be part of that future for all of the reasons outlined below. Instead we must protect and restore natural forests, thereby reducing emissions and removing atmospheric carbon dioxide while supporting biodiversity, resilience and well-being.

Large-scale burning of forest biomass for energy:

Harms the climate

It is not low carbon – Burning forest biomass for energy is not carbon neutral. It immediately emits large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In contrast it takes decades to centuries for forests to regrow and sequester the carbon, which is far too long to effectively contribute to the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target. Direct and indirect emissions from logging and the bioenergy supply chain also negatively affect its overall carbon balance.

It is encouraged by flawed accounting – Current carbon accounting rules incentivise forest bioenergy by considering biomass combustion as a zero-emission technology, expressed as zero emissions in the energy sector. The assumption is that all emissions are instead to be accounted for when the biomass is logged, placing the burden on the forest producer rather than the biomass consumer. Yet emissions accounting of forests in the land sector is fatally flawed and generally understates emissions. The true carbon cost of biomass burning rarely appears accurately on any country’s balance sheet.

Harms forests

It threatens biodiversity and climate resilience – Using forest biomass for energy can entrench, intensify and expand logging. This degrades forest ecosystems, depletes biodiversity and soils and harms forests’ ability to deliver ecosystem services like clean drinking water, flood protection, and clean air. Conversion of forests and other ecosystems to industrial monoculture tree plantations for biomass is especially harmful. These increased impacts come at a time when we recognise that rights-based protection and ecological restoration improve the health and well-being of forests and make them more resilient to climate change and other environmental disturbances.

It undermines the climate mitigation potential of forests – To meet the Paris Agreement goal of pursuing efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, scientists now agree we will need to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. A safe and proven way to do this is to protect and restore natural forests. Logging for biomass does the opposite.

Harms people

It undermines community rights and interests – Demand for biomass can exacerbate conflicts over land and forest resources, including land grabbing. This threatens rights, interests, lives, livelihoods and cultural values of indigenous and tribal peoples and local communities as well as established businesses relying on forest resources. The wide-ranging negative effects can also impact food security for the wider populace and for the long term.

It harms human health and well-being – Forests play an important role in safeguarding communities from the worst impacts of climate change. Those living at the frontlines of forest destruction are often most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and also face oppressive extractive industries. In addition, biomass manufacturing and combustion facilities are often located in areas of socio-economic disadvantage, where they pollute the air, increasing incidents of respiratory and other diseases. Local quality of life is affected.

Harms the clean energy transition

It provides a life-line for burning coal for energy production – Co-firing forest biomass with coal extends the life of coal power stations at a time when we need to move beyond emissive, industrial scale burning.

It pulls investment away from other renewables – Biomass undermines less emissive renewable energy solutions because it competes for the same government incentives. Unlike investment in low emission technologies, such as wind and solar, biomass energy entails ongoing feedstock costs and relies on continuous subsidies.

We, the undersigned organisations believe that we must move beyond burning forest biomass to effectively address climate change. We call on governments, financiers, companies and civil society to avoid expansion of the forest biomass based energy industry and move away from its use. Subsidies for forest biomass energy must be eliminated. Protecting and restoring the world’s forests is a climate change solution, burning them is not.


ACT agrees zero emissions by 2045

ACT has set a new zero net emissions target by 2045. We are the first Australian state to upgrade its target from 2050 with tri-partisan support. Contrast this with Federal Government policy paralysis on climate change. Plaudits go to the ACT Legislative Assembly. And congratulations to the Canberra Liberals for helping take the politics out of climate change.

In addition interim emissions targets for 2025, 2030 and 2040 have been established. This is great news as previously we had no targets or plans post-2020, except an aspirational target of zero net emissions by 2050 (now 2045!).

All this happened on Tuesday 18 September 2018 when the Legislative Assembly passed the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Principal Target) Amendment Bill 2018 to amend the zero net emissions target in the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act 2010 (ACT).  The bill proposed to reduce the principal target of zero net emissions from 2050 to 2045.

The Minister has set interim emissions targets which were also accepted by the Legislative Assembly:

  1. 50-60% less than 1990 emissions by 30 June 2025;
  2. 65-75% less than 1990 emissions by 30 June 2030; and
  3. 90-95% less than 1990 emissions by 30 June 2040.  

The next steps to be taken are critical to ensure we achieve these targets.

Minister Rattenbury has indicated a strategic plan will be finalised by the end of 2018 and this needs to happen.

It is necessary to maintain the tri-partisan support for our local action and leadership on climate change. Greens, Labor and Liberals have all endorsed the targets and all support having open and accountable plans to achieve the targets.

Importantly, we need to make sure our pathway to zero net emissions is fair, equitable, socially just, economically viable and does not displace our emissions into other jurisdictions.


  • 16 August 2018 – Amendment Bill for a zero net emissions by 2045 target tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly
  • 22 August 2018 – Minister’s media release stating the ACT government’s proposed strategy will be released by the end of 2018
  • 23 August 2018 – Determination of ACT interim targets for 2025, 2030 and 2040
  • 18 September 2018 – Amendment Bill debated in the ACT Legislative Assembly