Environment East Gippsland Update June 2014
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Environment East Gippsland Forest Update
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Warm winter greetings to our forest supporters,

photo by Jude Deland Snow on Gap Road East Gippsland The best piece of good news since the late 80s (when Errinundra National Park was declared) is that the Japanese-owned Eden export woodchip mill has announced that they no longer want woodchips from East Gippsland after December ! This has sent VicForests and the industry into a tail spin. More details here

We have been working on two more legal cases, and are close to launching one of them. We’ll send another E-bulletin around with the details when it begins.

VicForests is a wounded beast but still staggers on. EEG has it in our sights and managed to help stymie it being elected to the board of the FSC, a body which issues eco certification for timber.

Despite a declining native forest logging industry that was overtaken by the plantation sector years ago, the Abbot and Napthine governments are still keen to do away with legal impediments to more logging (such as laws to protect wildlife) and allowing native forests to be burnt for power.

So EEG has been fairly occupied.

Oh, by the way – as you’ll be aware – June 30th is fast approaching. We’ve been so occupied daily with the below and more, we’ve been neglecting to ask for membership renewals and tax-deductible donations. Unlike the industry (which is gifted millions from our taxes), we rely totally on our memberships and donations. We are great value for money (even if we do say so ourselves) and amongst our achievements are the following:
  • Three out of three successful legal actions against VicForests and the Department
  • Playing an active role in keeping VicForests from the board of FSC.
  • We are one of the 8 Australian groups taking the issue of Abbotts abuse of the environment to an international forum.
  • Highlight the unscientific and damaging use of large scale burns in fire management
  • Write endless submissions, attend meetings, present evidence
  • Submit FOI applications to gain hidden information
  • And much more …
Please consider a donation to help the East Gippsland forests and if sent before 30th (via GiveNow, PayPal, direct deposit or cheque) we'll send you a tax rct for this financial year.

Members should have also received their current membership status in a separate email. We’d love you to keep supporting us. Our members are our lifeblood!

If you’re a Facebook user you can keep up with weekly news by liking our page and then hover over the ‘like’ button and ask to 'get notifications'.

Contents list
  1. VicForests fails to gain board position
  2. International spotlight on Abbott’s env atrocities
  3. Move to greener electricity and save forests
  4. Legal news
  5. Bushfires and biomass burning
  6. Wildlife and Environment
  7. Other News
  8. Ways to Help


1. VicForests fails FSC position

One of VicForests’ recent moves was to attempt to get onto the Board of the international wood certification body, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Australia. This would have allowed them to influence the way this was run and the way FSC approved wood producers like VicForests.

VicForests goes for a green tick EEG is a member of the FSC and so was able to have a representative present at the AGM. John Renowden spoke against VicForests membership and their board nomination. He cited many instances of VicForests illegal logging, our successful legal actions against them and their continued destruction of important forests and wildlife.
Luckily VicForests narrowly missed out on the position when the vote was taken.
Read more here and the letter that EEG and MyEnvironment sent to FSC International here



2. International spotlight put on Abbott

EEG is helping to take Australia’s enviro vandalism to an international forum, the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Eight enviro groups are shining a spotlight on Abbott's plan to dismantle commonwealth environmental protection laws by handing responsibility to the states. We are using the state’s failure to oversee RFAs on forest management as an example.

Australia has been a signatory to this convention since 1992, yet every government since then has failed to meet its international commitments. Australia is experiencing the fastest rate of mammalian decline in the world which is getting worse every year. The international Convention on Biological Diversity has been given a report detailing Abbott’s plan to further weaken protection of rare wildlife and ecosystems by handing its responsibilities down to the states and why this will be a disaster.
Mr Abbott the people of Morwell would disagree with cutting green tape
EEG along with the ACF, Lawyers for Forests, MyEnvironment, Environmental Justice Australia and others are asking for an investigation into Australia’s non-compliance with its obligations.

Read the One Stop Chop Petition and Report. (PDF) and the article that appeared in the conventions newsletter, Eco, recently, written by EEG and the Green Institute CBD Implementation and Compliance in Australia (PDF)
You can read the background story here

STOP PRESS – the Australian National Audit Office has failed the Abbott government on its ability to oversee or police environmental laws! Read more about this scathing report here.



3. Mass movement in Oz for greener cheaper power

While the three nasty energy companies, Origin, AGL and Energy Australia have mounted an anti-renewables campaign, Abbott is planning to clear the way for native forest wood that is burnt in electricity furnaces to be deemed ‘renewable’ energy.
We need to act quickly to send these power companies two messages:
  1. that we don’t want their dirty power and their lobbying against clean energy.
  2. you want them to promise never to sell electricity generated from burning our forests
sun in sunglasses clipart If you’re sick of being stung by unethical power companies – join in the mass switch from the Dirty Three power companies to genuine renewable electricity retailers, and help save Australia's Renewable Energy Target. We have to act quickly. www.getup.org.au/BetterPower
Read more here. It takes 5-10 minutes to change your power company and Powershop will even pay up to $75 of any penalty for changing retailers. They are the cheapest and the best!



4. Legal

Yes – we’re at it again. We can only tease you with the delicious news that our legal team is looking at a 4th legal action against DEPI and/or VicForests. We’ll give you the details soon when the papers are served.


5. FIRE and the BIOMASS LINK


5.1. Govt arsonists – inquiry needed

Bairnsdale Advertiser editorial calls for inquiry This is exactly what we were hearing around our fire ground as well – that those being paid to fight the fire are raking in the overtime and bonuses to such a degree that it’s almost an unspoken agreement that if fires can be kept going it’s a lucrative rort and bugger the losses out there. This elephant is exactly what EEG pointed out to the attendees of the DEPI organised East Gippsland Roundtable on fire in March. It was met with cold shock at how I could dare suggest such a thing.

This Bairnsdale Advertiser is hardly a paper to parrot what a local conservation group might say, but when farmers are also saying this, the editorial makes it news. This has been raised before after past fires and it is a criticism right across the state. The mix of not putting fires out because it’s ‘too dangerous’, and the lucrative financial rewards, must have an urgent and thorough investigation.



5.2. Judicial enquiry essential!

Incompetence, chaos and lack of direct attack on bushfires in far East Gippsland saw 170,000 ha burnt in January and February this year. Why did this happen when so much more could have been done? Many of the problems experienced were avoidable. The Emergency Services Commissioner and Minister have only offered an internal review. The community is demanding an inquiry to fully explore why it was handled as it was.
You can help by signing this petition.



5.3. Most fires are started by humans

DEPI prescibed burn Only 6% of bushfires are started by natural causes. Almost as many fires (5.4%) are started by govt planned burns that escape. Maybe it would be more effective to target fire prevention towards the human and government caused fires. This photo is of a DEPI prescribed burn!
          Read more at www.smh.com.au/national/bushfires-nature-is-no-match-for-man



5.4. DEPI leaked report

A leaked report shows that DEPI don’t have the resources to safely or properly meet the mega burns the Bushfire Royal Commission recommended. They’ve been looking to farm out the role to ‘contractors’ (VicForests or the logging industry). But what contractor would be able to get insurance in case their fire went terribly wrong? Baillieu sacked over 500 DEPI staff when he came in – and the government is saying it will not employ more people. The government will never admit that the 5% target will be done away with or reviewed, despite it being unachievable, costly and ineffective.
Read The Weekly Times story from 30th April on the leaked report here
Prof. Michael Clarke does a good job describing the absurdity of the 5% plan in his Bush Telegraph interview on 29th April.



5.5. ABBOTT to BURN forests to keep us safe

The LNP will provide $15 million in the 2014-15 Budget The Abbott government has given $15 million to AID THE BURNING OF FORESTS. Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture) has set up a ‘National Bushfire Mitigation Program’ supposedly for more deliberate burning of the forest understorey and midstorey. It will kill off huge areas of ground level wildlife and their habitat.

Another concerning element in this plan could justify ‘thinning’ the forests in protected areas such as National Parks and logging contractors would be paid to do it – in aid of supposed fire safety.

The Australia Forest Products Association is actively lobbying for this form of whacky bushfire mitigation via removal of trees. They also believe the ‘waste’ could then be used for electricity generation in furnaces (how convenient). Energy retailers that go near this form of power generation, should know they will be the target of a major boycott campaign.



5.6. ‘Renewable energy’ – the new woodchip industry?

burning piles at Ellery Creek Track EEG recently made a submission to the federal review of the Renewable Energy Targets (RET) focusing on the plan to allow the burning of native forest trees as ‘renewable’ energy.

In the government’s review it states under 6.3:
"The Government is committed to the reintroduction of wood waste derived from native forest as an eligible renewable energy source under the LRET."

'Waste’ has been taken from our forests for the last four decades by the woodchip industry at 5-10 times the rate of sawlogs. That is – the ‘waste’ drives the logging. So it would if used for power generation.



5.7. HRL backs off biomass

HRL Technology in the Latrobe valley had to call a halt to its plans for a study into using 'Wood and Timber Waste' for power generation. It put out a call in mid May 2014 for funds to pay for the study. They were offering their supporters access to the results for a bargain $2700. By mid-June they had almost no interest so announced the project would be discontinued. However, they are hopeful that with changes in legislation that will allow forests to be burnt for electricity to be defined ‘renewable’, it might then be more financially lucrative and the plan could be reborn.

The reality is that such projects are mega costly, take 3-5 years to build and the fast-moving climate laws (and politics) could change dramatically, making it a dead-loss investment.


6. WILDLIFE and ENVIRONMENT


6.1. Mother nature worth $145 trillion to us

the value to human well-being, health and livelihoods fell by around $20 trillion a year between 1997 and 2011 due to loss of wetlands, coral reefs and tropical forests. A new study published in Global Environmental Change added up all the world’s ecosystem services – from carbon storage and crop pollination, to recreation and flood mitigation and the findings are staggering. Every year, nature provides $145 trillion in benefits. To put this into perspective the cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) of all nations as calculated by the World Bank was $97 trillion in 2012.
Australia’s ecosystem services were estimated to be worth around $5 trillion a year, compared to GDP of around $1.5 trillion (US dollars). Read more here



6.2. Feral cat eradication – Greg Hunt

Feral cats kill around 75 million native animals each night.
Federal Env Minister Greg Hunt is looking at feral cat eradication using a biological control. Mammal extinctions are 40% more than thought. Of the 133 mammals that are in the “extinct or threatened” category, only 115 are listed federally!
There are more problems to solve than cat eradication, but it's a damned good start.
Read the report in The Australian here



6.3. Antechinus – our wee marsupial ‘mice’ – active now!

delightful little critters! These wee sweeties are scampering around our homes and in the bush this season. They are not mice but native marsupials, (yes, with tiny pouches), called antechinus (Ann-te-kyne-us). They can actually kill and eat mice. Please don't poison or snap-trap them. This one (an agile antechinus) was caught inside in a cage trap and released unharmed. Notice their pointy little noses (cute!).



6.4. Squandered environment funds while wildlife goes extinct

Australia’s wildlife is going extinct while millions in federal funding is squandered on pointless programs. Only five of the 122 Commonwealth recovery plans for 191 endangered species had defined ''trigger points'' for intervention.
Read the SMH article here



6.5. Endangered Quoll recovery plan – 12 yrs bilateral dithering

I figured we might get better government protection if we looked like this Will combined state and federal governments’ deliberate foot-dragging see our mainland version of the Tassie Tiger become extinct? For the last 12 years the Spot-tailed Quoll, although recognised as in deep trouble nationally, has had no recovery plan written. So with almost no funding, no one can say how close to the edge our spotted marsupial carnivore is, but we do know that the species’ range and abundance is continuing to decline.

The federal draft recovery plan has been back to ARI at least three times, maybe four. The current hold up is again with Victoria, as they decide whether to endorse or demand the plan be weakened. This is a problematic animal for the state as it could severely hamper Victoria’s practice of clearfelling the Quoll’s habitat.

The major factors responsible for its decline appear to be the loss and fragmentation of habitat – previously it was clearing for agriculture and currently its logging. Other factors include use of 1080 poisoning for foxes and dogs, (particularly for small populations), inappropriate burning and potential competition with introduced predators. They have co-existed with dingos/wild dogs over millennia, but removing dogs allow foxes and feral cats to increase. Removing foxes allows feral cats to increase. Cats would compete with juvenile quolls for prey and would also potentially kill young quolls.

The Quoll was nominated to be reclassified as nationally threatened in 2002, the first draft came out in 2004, second draft in 2007, third reformatted draft in 2013 and we are still waiting! Meanwhile none of the factors responsible for the species ongoing decline, including land management, have been addressed.

This endless merry-go-round continues while more burns and logging continues every year. When it’s finally extinct, governments and the industry might then be satisfied and endorse a plan.



6.6. Approval of deadly 1080 poison dumped from the air

Deadly 1080 poison was broadcast across forested land in Gippsland and NE Victoria during May in an attempt to placate certain sheep farmers. How's this for contradictory spin. "The sites were chosen for their inaccessibility and remoteness, proximity to private land ... and the absence of spot tailed quolls". Close to farms but inaccessible? Absence of quolls they claim, because they had apparently put cameras out to check. Not too remote to set up infrared cameras but too remote to use the technique of hand burying poison baits. Napthine has promised $1.84 million to carry out 1080 poison aerial drops over the next four years. Read about the environmental impacts here and the EEG submission from an earlier government review (2011) here The arguments are just as relevant but the urgency is greater.



6.7. Cockroaches – they turn leaf litter into soil!

these little guys and gals are doing a great job at fuel reduction They are an amazing genus with over 4000 species worldwide, and over 500 in Oz. Only five give the rest a bad name and the big slow brown ones you sometimes find inside your house (or BBQ) are not one of the 'baddies'.
Cockroaches are an important part of the food chain, composting the ground humus and then offering a light lunch to birds, lizards and frogs.
David Rentz is attempting to rescue the reputation of Australia's cockroaches in a new book,
A Guide to the Cockroaches of Australia. Along with termites, bugs, Mallee Moth larvae and all the little diggers and hoppers out there turning over the forest’s humus layer daily, these little guys and gals are doing a mammoth job of ‘fuel reduction’.



6.8. Grey-headed Flying Foxes

The healthy colony of Grey-headed Flying Foxes at Bairnsdale was an amazing sight The healthy colony of Grey-headed Flying Foxes at Bairnsdale was an incredible sight. They are pollinators and seed dispersers but a small but vocal number of local residents want them gone. Listed as vulnerable, they’re in decline nationally and can’t be harmed by law. So far the Feds and State governments haven’t bought into the call to get rid of them. They’ve now moved on for Winter and will be back for Spring. Read more here


7. Other News


7.1. Auditor General finally investigates VicForests

DEPI and VicForests have designed their management approaches to protect biodiversity values in a precautionary way. In December 2013 the Victorian Auditor General’s Office (VAGO) brought to light the failings of both VicForests and DEPI’s claims of sustainable logging. The VAGO exposed and made official what we’ve been saying for years.
Read the highlights of the report here
You can download the VAGO report here.




7.2. State budget – cut, slash, burn and pillage

Our soils, water, vegetation and biodiversity are seriously degraded "The departmental budget for environmental policy has been cut by $19m, or 34%, while the budget for environmental programs has been cut by $46m or 25% on last year’s budget. ... The 34% cut for environmental policy is the single largest cut to any departmental output across the whole of State Government."

“Meanwhile the Coalition is pouring public money into propping up industries which damage Victoria’s environment, with a $4 million coal development fund to pursue brown coal exports, and $15 million to co-fund mining exploration activities. This means that for the first time taxpayers are actually footing the bill for drilling rigs and excavators to conduct mining exploration across the state"
Read more here



7.3. The Age attacks VicForest

"...as far as socialist-style, publicly owned businesses go, VicForests is in a league of its own".
www.theage.com.au/comment/axe-vicforests-or-chop-off-the-public-money



7.4. Approval for cattle grazing in Alpine National Park.

On 6th March, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt decided to allow the so called ‘scientific trial’ to go ahead with 60 beef cattle (to be upped to 300 over the next year or two) to be released into the remote Wonnangatta Valley. Read more about this unscientific and unproven ‘fire suppression’ technique here
not herd fields UPDATE: The Victorian National parks Association has launched a legal case to challenge this action. This is being run by Environmental Justice Australia (formerly the Environment Defenders Office or EDO, until their funds were recently cut to zero by Mr Abbott’s axe.) Read more about the case here




7.5. Killing the Lakes with salt – for the offshore oil and gas industry.

This is principally due to the dredging of the artificial entrance at Lakes Entrance from a historical depth of 2.5m to 6m in 2008 Lakes Entrance has once again been dug out to a depth that is killing the ecosystem of this Ramsar listed wetland and internationally renowned chain of coastal freshwater lakes. For the expedience of the offshore oil and gas industry, the Lakes are being left to die.

A new govt committee is asking for public comments on future management, but without any decent funds, no monitoring and a worsening of the situation, there’s reason to be skeptical.
Read more here



7.6. Tree Hugging Scientifically Proven to Improve Your Health

tree hugging is good for your health “safe, green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illnesses”.

In a recently published book, Blinded by Science, (www.blindedbyscience.co.uk) the author Matthew Silverstone, proves scientifically that trees improve many health issues such as; mental illnesses, ADHD, concentration levels, reaction times, depression and the ability to alleviate headaches.

Countless studies have shown that children show significant psychological and physiological effects in terms of their health and well-being when they interact with plants. They demonstrate that children function better cognitively and emotionally in green environments and have more creative play in green areas.



7.7. World Heritage Cttee rejects Abbott’s claim.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared that too many of Australia's forests are 'locked up' At a logging industry ‘Love-in’ in early March, Tony Abbott told his audience that loggers are the ‘true conservationists’ , "And I want to salute you as people who love the natural world, as people who love what Mother Nature gives us, and who want to husband it for the long-term best interests of humanity." He also pronounced that too much forest is protected in National Parks. Read more here.

And just this week (23/6/14) the World Heritage Committee refused Tony Abbott’s attempt to de-list Tasmania’s World Heritage forests so he could open them up for logging. Read more here



7.8. NOWA NOWA – the new Pilbara of the South?

An iron ore mine planned for the forests 7 km north of Nowa Nowa (east of Lakes Entrance) would have a 25 ha open cut mine plus much larger mine infrastructure footprint and three tailings dams. It would have a major impact on the Gippsland Lakes, a Ramsar listed wetland, the underground aquifers, the forest, local roads and the tourism industry.

The Environmental Effects Statement has been described as a whitewash, and it appears as though the government and shire are keen on fast tracking regardless of the wider impacts on the local area and economy. It will supposedly be using magnetic extraction which requires serious megawatts. The local Montana sawmill down the hill has been granted approval to build a forest-fired electricity generator to supply power locally.

Read the local Landcare group’s detailed comments and criticisms of the plan here, the ABC news story here and the company’s EES here.

The governments must abide by the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty to protect wetlands, but the Abbott government has decided not to assess the impacts under this agreement.



7.9. VicForests put EG tenders on long term hold
This process is temporarily postponed.  It is planned to be released in the next few weeks.



This process is temporarily postponed.  It is planned to be released in the next few weeks.
Since the mid-May announcement that SEFE will stop taking woodchips from East Gippsland after December, VicForests has halted its logging and hauling tenders. This page remains constant despite it promising to restart the process in a few weeks.

8. WAYS TO HELP


8.1. Donate

Please consider a donation to help the East Gippsland forests and if sent before 30th we’ll send you a tax rct for this financial year. You can pay via GiveNow, PayPal, direct deposit or cheque



8.2. Join EEG

please don’t forget If you have read this update and like what we do – please express your support by formally joining our group. We rely on our members to keep our wheels turning.
For those who are already with the EEG ‘family’ please don’t forget to renew your membership.



8.3. Plant ID pocket guide
Indigenous Plants of East Gippsland's foothills full colour guide Indigenous Plants of East Gippsland's foothills. Just $5 for a full colour 56 page pocket guide. Order one for yourself and a few for friends from our online shop. Or pick up a copy from the Lakes Entrance or Bairnsdale Tourist Info Centres or the Orbost Landcare office.



8.4. Boycott Greenhouse tomatoes

In the Strathbogie forests northeast of Melbourne, Murphy Fresh, a hydroponic tomato farm at Bridge Creek has been buying up to 10,000 tons of native forest logs a year to burn to heat their greenhouses!
Murphy Fresh Flavorite tomatoes destroying native forests Murphy Fresh will be one of the largest, tomato grower in Australia when their new greenhouse is completed. They sell through Flavorite. Until recently they have been grown in heated environments using briquettes. This has not caused economic hardship judging by their expansion plans. The driving force behind this is the carbon tax. Burning forest wood is regarded as ‘renewable’ and therefore considered carbon neutral - thus is not taxed. Coal/briquettes on the other hand are taxed. Read more here
An email to the director could add some pressure mark.millis@flavorite.com.au
Or publicly ask Coles who claim they are "committed to reducing our impact on the environment" at www.facebook.com/coles



If you like what we do, or if you feel outraged and want to help somehow you can donate here. EEG provides the most enviro-bang for your buck – and we work 7 days a week – no holiday pay, no office rent, power bills, wages or overheads.

           Jill and the team.

            Environment East Gippsland Inc.      FORESTS - our breathing space!


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