If you have ever been to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DWELP) and asked questions, you would be well-aware that the native-animal department has almost no staff, that DWELP does not use the law to protect native animals, but prevents others from using it, due to legal lack of standing. At the same time, the Agriculture arm of DWELP enthusiastically issues permits to kill kangaroos and other native animals with almost no restriction or inspection, and quasi-imaginary
Dear Minister Matthew Guy,
You are obviously gung ho for political advancement!
You appear to do anything to appease those with the loudest voices as well as all developers.
We ask you to please consider native animals which have no voice but ours.
NATIVE ANIMALS NEED YOUR HELP MINISTER GUY!
DO THE RIGHT THING BY THEM – REJECT FRANKSTON COUNCIL’s REQUEST
DO THE RIGHT THING FOR KOALAS especially !
"Planning" must encompass more considerations than just stretching urban boundaries
Mr Matthew Guy, Minister for Planning, Victoria
1 Spring Street Melbourne 3000
Re: resolution that was passed by the Frankston Council on 20 Jan ’14 that Council writes to the minister requesting authorisation to prepare and exhibit an amendment to the planning scheme covering the rezoning of 42 ha of green wedge land in Stotts Lane, Frankston South for residential subdivision.
The resolution was passed 5:4 on the vote of the Mayor.
The Australian Wildlife Protection Council (AWPC) Inc believes you should reject Frankston Council’s request:
Already Franston's Green Wedge nibble at
Frankston should not lose any more Green Wedge, after such huge loss to Peninsula Link, and recent rezoning for Peninsula Private hospital development. Development in this area will see the loss of land currently classified as Rural Conservation Zone which is covered by a Significant Landscape Overlay.
Habitat clearance is the greatest threat our wildlife faces today ; the land in question would further deplete what was a significant bio-link between the listed RAMSAR Seaford wetlands and the listed RAMSAR Westernport wetlands.
Native animals need habitat, or they die!
This land is an important habitat corridor for Koalas. Every spring male koalas migrate from Cranbourne Botanical gardens to mate with the female population that lives in Frankston South. Since Peninsula link opening there have been two male koalas killed on the freeway. If this vital link is lost the South Frankston Koala population will be locally extinct
There is continual loss of habitat in this area due to the new freeway, and little to no offsets in Frankston.
There is increased competition for habitat amongst wildlife, and more vulnerable species such as sugar gliders and woodland birds especially the the eastern yellow robin will also become locally extinct.
Local wildlife shelters are faced with a number of problems
An increase of wildlife that needs care - Less habitat to release rehabilitated wildlife
- We need to find more volunteers to help run our shelters - We need find more funds to rehabilitate and feed wildlife
- If we are unable to meet those needs we have to limit our services which obviously causes stress to both us and the community member we are unable to help.
Stotts Lane has strong conservation values that need preserving, and shouldn't be dug up for housing
The applicant has engaged BL&A to prepare a Flora and Fauna Assessment Report. This report recognises that the land contains areas of vegetation of high conservation and the area is of very high conservation significance.
-The Report states on page 10 that the property “displays good habitat connectivity”, indicating a connection between Langwarrin Flora and Fauna Reserve and Frankston Natural Features Reserve via patches of remnant bushland. The report goes on to state on page 24 that
This "Planning" violates previous planning policies
The proposed change flies in the face of:
-The long standing bi-partisan support for protecting Melbourne's Green Wedges.
-The State and Local Planning Policies for protecting Melbourne’s Green Wedges.
-Plan Melbourne's initiative to establish a permanent metropolitan urban boundary.
-The strategy quoted in Planning Scheme Clause 11.04-5 - Melbourne Urban Growth:
Contain urban development within the established urban growth boundary. Any change to the urban growth boundary must only occur to reflect the needs demonstrated in the designated growth areas.
Protected land for wildlife and conservation is not an "anomaly"
In 2011 Frankston Council refused a request for the land to be treated as an ‘Anomaly’ in the Review of Urban Growth Boundary Anomalies Outside Growth Areas. An amendment to rezone the land to a residential zone was also refused by the then Minister for Planning in August 2004.
No strategic justification has been put forward for the proposal; instead it has been assessed on a purely ad hoc basis without taking into consideration the wider implications. . Regrettably, to date, Council has not undertaken a Green Wedge Management Plan that would provide guidance on the future management and planning for the Green Wedge.
Population is being "projected" but not land for native animals and vegetation
There is no need for additional residential land in the municipality because, as stated out in Council's Housing Strategy. Frankston's projected population can be accommodated within existing urban areas.
The proposal is opposed by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, Federal MPs Mr Bruce Billson and Mr Greg Hunt, and State MP Mr David Morris. We understand that the Member for Frankston, Mr Geoff Shaw, is also opposed to the proposal as is Mr Johan Scheffer the Member for Eastern Victoria Region.
The proposed would result in the urban sprawl extending down onto the Mornington Peninsula and would eliminate the break that separates the township of Baxter from the urban area of Frankston.
This is in direct conflict with the Draft Frankston Housing Strategy (para 1.2.1), which states that the “South East and Mornington Peninsula Green Wedges provide a limit to the region’s growth to the south and east.”
Approval of the application would mean the loss of pleasant, picturesque, rural properties that contain stands of mature, native trees that provide valuable habitat and vegetation that is classified as being of very high conservation significance. The importance of the scenic value of the area is recognised in the Planning Scheme by it being covered by a Significant Landscape Overlay.
Proper planning transcends ticking housing approvals and opportunities for developers
Approval of the application would create uncertainty and encourage more such opportunistic proposals. This was acknowledged in the officer report in the agenda for the meeting which stated:
Council and Officers have been contacted by representatives for other land holders outside the Urban Growth Boundary in regards to either their future plans with their land or enquiring of Council’s view to future urban rezonings.
An enquiry in the north of the City is suggesting rezoning 356 hectares to residential, centrally in the city 22 hectares to industrial use; and to the south 8.6 hectares to residential.
This proposal has no justification, is contrary to State and Local Planning Policies, would set a dangerous precedent and urge you to refuse to authorise the Council’s request to prepare and exhibit an amendment to the planning scheme.
The Green Wedge must be maintained to protect its conservation, recreation and agricultural values. Green Wedges have played an important part in making Melbourne the 'World Most Liveable City'. Frankston’s Green Wedge makes a substantial contribution to the mental and physical health of the community.
Current planning is ad hoc, destructive and opportunistic instead of being holistic
Current planning laws only take into account wildlife value or need for protection if it is deemed threatened, and even then that is always not enough to secure protection.
Do the Right thing please Minister Guy
Maryland Wilson, President Australian Wildlife Protection Council
My city’s been assaulted by an enemy within
That eats away its organs and pushes out its skin.
My city’s been assaulted by an enemy within
My city’s been assaulted by an enemy within
That eats away its organs and pushes out its skin.
Its green lungs are encroached upon with buildings and cement
And trees fall prey to processes not for their benefit
The creatures that inhabit them are treated like invaders
And councils put up possum bands to help their friends, the traders.
An example of a 'possum band'. This ridiculous sort of chastity belt for trees to stop possums sheltering where they have always sheltered is a cruel device for which residents unwittingly foot the bill to councils in nice little rorts arranged with the manufacturers of these totally unnecessary devices.
Our Bay was scarred so drastically, fish habitat destroyed
Dutch shipping firms arrived here by our government employed
Our scarce tax dollars spent on something few can see
To make Port Phillip’s shallow bed a highway in the sea
Our gentle houses on their blocks with gardens so appealing
Are bought for land and then smashed down by developers unfeeling
A moonscaped block means 6 for 1 of this you can be sure,
But these are not, as one might think much needed housing for the poor
They sell for more as “garden free” than all that went before!
If I had my way, most certainly, it would be against the law
Our suburbs densify, we’re told, to save the outer land.
But it’s not saved, it’s sleight of hand, the UGB’s right out of hand
It expanded once and then again. The belt is never ending
Blocked arteries, obesity: that’s the report I’m sending.
Now living here in Melbourne is as on a building site
The noise and the disruption remind us daily of our plight
We’re trapped in growth, why won’t they see?
This is the path to take from us our precious liberty.
I used to see all kinds of frogs in our garden as a child,
But they all went when the nearby swamp was drained completely dry,
The local horses disappeared when vacant blocks were sold
And working horses pulling carts all went away we’re told.
Poem - Our Lizard
My world is all the animals I meet both fenced and free,
When they are gone, all ploughed to dust, what will be left of me?
Now rarely glimpsed peripherally at night upon a wire,
Or soaring, graceful overhead in the night sky even higher,
I used to see all kinds of frogs in our garden as a child,
But they all went when the nearby swamp was drained completely dry,
The local horses disappeared when vacant blocks were sold
And working horses pulling carts all went away we’re told.
On Sunday drives it wasn’t far to see the grazing cows
And at my school the bush was home to harlequin bugs and flowers,
We found a possum, took it home not knowing it was wrong.
Our parents took it back again to join its family throng.
One day I found a lizard, cut deeply through his scales
I took him home all wrapped and warm to mend his little tail,
His blue tongue flicked
As he wriggled and kicked
But we slapped a bandage on him
We kept him for a time it seemed but God knows what we fed him.
The day arrived to set him free, he seemed quite well we thought
But not a pet to live his life far from others of his sort.
Quite close to home a sanctuary seemed the best solution.
We took him there and let him loose with bandage medication
His shapely legs with grateful ease in graceful coordination
took him away to live his life in carefree liberation
The media and various government websites clearly and openly qualifying native kangaroos and possums as 'pest animals' needing to be 'culled'. But what if they aren't pests at all? The law protects those who kill protected native species under certain conditions but could there be non-lethal ways of dealing with the problem? Could this be part of a national strategy to drive the nails deeper into our native animals' collective coffins? It is no wonder we have the world's worst record for mammal extinctions with government attitudes like this.
On 26 October, 2010 in the Banyule and Nillumbik Weekly (1) there was an article about how kangaroos in Plenty Gorge in Greensborough, the North-Eastern suburbs in Melbourne are becoming a problem.
In this article the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre says:-
“Kangaroos can cause serious damage to farm fences and crops, scare domestic livestock, such as cows and sheep, and cause motor vehicle accidents. Controlling numbers is essential for safety and productivity.
‘‘Kangaroos can also cause environmental damage, especially if they are confined on reserved land and their numbers are allowed to increase unchecked. Contraceptives may be useful for controlling kangaroo populations in confined areas or in the peri-urban area. However, much more work is required, including an assessment of their biological and ecological impacts, before they could be considered,’’ the centre’s latest report states."
In my mind many questions arise. Let’s examine all these claims to see if they are true:-
1. Invasive Animals?
What on earth is the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre doing commenting on a non-invasive animal? Kangaroos are native animals and by definition are NOT invasive, exotic or feral. Why did this newspaper choose to quote from this organization and not the Department of Environment?
Invasive Species (IUCN definition):
Invasive species are organisms (usually transported by humans) which successfully establish themselves in, and then overcome, otherwise intact, pre-existing native ecosystems.
According to Dept Env website, kangaroos are not invasive species either.
2. Destruction to the Environment?
It is well known that cows and sheep, being hoofed, cause massive soil erosion and destruction of soil ecosystems, pollute the air, soil, waterways, contribute to deforestation and biodiversity loss and the drought. In short they are turning this country into a desert. So why are kangaroos being scapegoated for causing environmental damage when it is not the truth?
3. Damage to Fences?
If kangaroos cause damage to fences, isn’t it time farmers erected ‘kangaroo-proof fencing’ so that kangaroos do not enter farms and do not get entangled in barbed wire fences. What about the damage fences cause kangaroos, does it ever occur to them that fences are a worse hazard to kangaroos than kangaroos to fences? And what about the fact that livestock routinely damage fences? Should we cull livestock because they damage their own fences?
4. Damage to Crops/Competition with Livestock
According to CSIRO kangaroos hardly ever visit wheat farms. According to the Dept of Environment grazing pressure of kangaroos is very small 1-8% compared to livestock (92-99%). (2)
It is a proven fact that kangaroos do not eat crops (8). Graziers will normally budget 10 litres of water per day for sheep which doubles in hot dry summers. An average size kangaroo of say 25kg only needs only 1 litre of water per day to survive. (Hume 1999).
According to the CSIRO, kangaroos do not compete with sheep (3).
5. Scaring Livestock?
As for scaring livestock, it’s more likely that kangaroos would be scared by livestock. Kangaroos do not attack cows and sheep - they are herbivores after all.
6. Causing Motor Vehicle Accidents?
It would be fair to say that humans cause motor accidents as equally as kangaroos. We are in their territory after all. In many ways we could prevent these motor accidents.
a) Why aren’t there overpasses or underpasses for wildlife on main roads?
b) Why aren’t there wildlife corridors for kangaroos to traverse to their habitat which we continually carve up as if the land is ours, not theirs? Surely we are the ones to blame for not accommodating them and their needs?
c) Why don’t more motorists slow down when they see kangaroos by the roadside, especially at dusk and dawn?
d) Why don’t more cars have shoo-roo devices attached to them emitting a high-pitched noise to alert the kangaroo of the approach of their vehicle?
Aren’t we equally responsible for all the motor vehicle accidents involving kangaroos? How many kangaroos and other animals die every day and suffer in agony compared to the number of humans losing their life as a result of these accidents? Aren’t we being a trifle selfish (anthropocentric) here?
7. Controlling Populations?
The Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre says it’s important to control kangaroo numbers. Well isn’t it time we controlled our own populations? Human overpopulation at 7 billion is certainly overdue for a bit of controlling! What a joke that we should be controlling a native species (and white man is feral to Australia remember) when we can’t even control our own. Perhaps compulsory contraception of humans would be a good start? Yet the Department of Sustainability and the Environment (DSE) issues permits for landowners to ‘cull’ kangaroos on their property. Obviously we live in a society where it is permissible to kill ‘protected’ native animals when people are unwilling to find other win-win solutions to a perceived threat.
8. Threat to Communities or Public Health?
The DSE spokesman Nick Talbot says
“The permit system is necessary because animals can …. pose a direct threat to communities or public health,’’
I have never heard of kangaroos attacking people unless they were walking a dog off the leash. That is understandable as those kangaroos were most likely only trying to protect their mob. If people would have their dogs on a leash at all times, including on their properties, such a situation would never arise. Herbivores are not aggressive unless there is a life-threatening situation.
As for public health, eating kangaroo meat (such as what is for sale in supermarkets around Australia) would be far more of a public health risk than having them hop around outside. It’s a joke that DSE can talk about public health in this way when kangaroo meat, being game meat, is full of parasites and zoonotic diseases (4).
9. Is it Humane to Kill a Healthy Animal?
According to DSE a condition of a permit is that humane methods of destruction are used. However, we know that this is not always the case. Not all landowners are skilled in the use of firearms and many kangaroos will not be humanely shot in the head. Anyone can get a gun and a permit without the ability to hit a target. Wildlife carers have to attend to animals with faces blown off, limbs missing, orphaned joeys. Yet DSE does not regard relocation as an option, which seems infinitely more humane to me. Given a choice between death and a new place to live, what would you choose? Is killing a perfectly healthy animal because it’s in our way humane? Or is there a better solution?
In view of the above points, how can anyone refer to kangaroos as a pest?
Definition of ‘Pest’
The website http://www.feral.org.au states the definition of ‘pest’ as:
A pest is an animal that causes significant damage to a valued resource. The pest status of an animal can change with time, between areas or according to the perception of the assessor. What might be one persons pest might be another’s valued resource. Native animals such as kangaroos and possums can be a pest in some situations.
By that definition, humans are pests because we cause significant damage to the most valued resource of all – our environment. We have destroyed 75% of our forests. Billions of native animals have died in the process. We have polluted waterways and sucked them dry, blasting all the fish out of the water.
We have ignored the unique biological and ecological role our native animals have to play in their NATURAL environment, which we are taking from them. To native animals we, with our bulldozers, concrete, trucks and cars, would be the biggest pest of all, worse than hoardes of dingoes, pythons, feral dogs and cats, poisonous toads, predatorial eagles put together. In fact WE are the nightmare to them! They flee from us on sight and no wonder.
According to http://www.feralfocus.org.au
The word 'pest' is generally used to describe an animal that causes serious damage to a valued resource. Such a pest may be destructive, a nuisance, noisy or simply not wanted. A pest may be an animal that was originally introduced by humans to new lands - this is particularly the case in Australia. Or, it may be a native animal such as a kangaroo, possum or parrot.
It is important to note that people decide whether an animal is a pest. What is one person's pest may be a valuable resource to another. For example, recreational hunters and meat processors may regard the feral pig as a valued resource rather than a pest. Others believe that feral pigs are a threat to the environment and agriculture. Such diversity of opinion is one of the main reasons that pest control has had varying success.
Strictly a feral animal is a non-native animal that has escaped from captivity and established a self-sustaining population independent of humans. Hence wild horses, pigs and cats are feral, while foxes and rabbits are not as these latter two animals were deliberately released to establish wild populations. However, the word is now generally applied to ‘any non-native animal that causes serious damage to human interests’
How convenient… for humans that is!
Definition of ‘Feral’
According to http://www.feral.org.au:
What is a feral animal? Strictly a feral animal is a non-native animal that has escaped from captivity and established a self-sustaining population independent of humans. Hence wild horses, pigs and cats are feral, while foxes and rabbits are not as these latter two animals were deliberately released to establish wild populations. However, the word is now generally applied to any non-native animal that causes serious damage to human interests, and is how the word is used in this web site.
Man has encroached native, endemic species' natural habitat, it would make more sense to refer to us as the 'ferals' in this scenario! Does that mean we should be culled, since we are a non native species infiltrating an area outside our natural range?
What is an exotic animal?
An exotic animal is an animal that is outside its natural range. It may be an animal that has been introduced to Australia or New Zealand from another country, or it may be an animal that has been translocated to another part of Australia or New Zealand. For example kookaburras have been introduced to south-west Western Australia.
Our National Emblem
Since kangaroos are on our national emblem and proudly displayed by Australian companies, airlines, rugby teams etc. and since we regard kangaroos as pests, how does that auger for our overseas images? Guess it affirms that we are a PEST WORSHIPPING nation?
AT ONE POINT THIS WEBSITE CLASSIFIED KANGAROOS AS 'FERAL' UNTIL THEY WERE INUNDATED WITH LETTERS! AFTERWARDS, ALL REFERENCES TO KANGAROOS BEING FERAL WERE REMOVED BUT THEY WERE STILL LISTED AS PESTS ON THE WWW.FERAL.ORG.AU WEBSITE. WHY ARE THEY THERE AT ALL WE ASK?
Since we classify kangaroos as ‘pests’, all those logos we use to flog things to other countries and to promote our country with our Coat of Arms, must by interpretation declare that our goods and our image is, indeed, a pest.
It is one thing to use something for largesse, another to appreciate its true worth.
Time for some reassessment methinks.
It is outrageous that government websites such as www.feral.org.au should list kangaroos and possums native to Australia at all let alone as pests.
Kangaroo Shooting Unsustainable
Referring to native animals as ‘pests’ is what drives local and complete extinctions, as any scientist well knows. Certainly it is more and more recognised by landowners and by ecologists and wildlife experts that the larger macropods such as Eastern Grey and Red kangaroos are disappearing from the landscape except in few pockets where their habitat and landowners allow them to exist.
Even the commercial 'culling' program in NSW lists densities of the 'common' Eastern Grey that are in fact scientifically quasi-extinct (5). The shooting of 15% of this species is unsustainable when consideration is given to actual kangaroo population biology.
Shooters do not limit themselves to shooting 15% of a local population. Local populations and mobs are in fact shot in entirety with the 15% quota only being applied as a whole to the state itself. This is why shooters are not meeting their quotas – as the populations do not exist. This is also why, in rural and regional areas, whole landscapes are being emptied of kangaroos - as ecologists doing field work in central and western NSW are noticing.
Certainly the National Parks and Wildlife Service in NSW does not check landowners’ claims of hundreds of kangaroos needing to be shot under occupier licenses. Rangers have in fact explicitly admitted that they don’t ask questions as the issuing of licenses are a ‘public relations exercise’. There is in fact no central collation of the numbers of kangaroos that are shot under s.121 licences in NSW. This means no baseline data or any idea of the numbers of kangaroos shot outside the newer commercial culling program has thus ever existed.
Further, the Kangaroo Management Program itself does not assert that commercial shooting is to protect the landscape from damage. It is a program driven by the kangaroo industry.
If you check and analyse the official surveyed population numbers and actual reports on government websites (6), you will see their numbers have plummeted between 40-80% across regions since 2001. As a whole, populations have crashed by an average of 50% across the state since 2001 – despite correction factors multiplying actual counts by higher numbers and despite population figures including whole new counted areas in the 2009 census.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics - Bureau of Rural Sciences (ABARE-BRS, formally BRS) administers the Australian Pest Animal Research Program (APARP) which engages in pest animal management issues. It is through this program that ABARE-BRS supported the development of the website feral.org.au.
ABARE says that native animals such as kangaroos and possums can be a pest in some situations as they cause significant damage to valued resources such as the environment or agriculture (e.g. possums in New Zealand). But that does not mean that native animals should be referred to on a feral animal website!
I utterly condemn the inclusion of native animals on a website about ‘pest’ animals, paid for by taxpayers’ dollars, using information that has not been tested or critiqued by independent sources.
Since Australia has the worst reputation in the world for mammal extinctions especially in the last 230 years, surely it means humans are the biggest pest to biodiversity as well as the environment in every aspect?
It's well and truly time we Australians stopped treating our native animals like vermin and learned to respect our national icon, at least as much as overseas visitors do. Premier Keneally (7) has acknowledged that our iconic kangaroos and koalas hold the key to a revival of tourism in Australia. So why don't the laws change to give them the protection they and their habitat so desperately needs? I only hope she is serious and not saying it because Oprah Winfrey (who hails from her country of birth) happens to be touring here right now?
What can I do?
Write to the following people and voice your complaints about the government's attitude to and treatment of our national icon, the kangaroo and possums, who are also supposed to be 'protected.'
8. Arnold, G. “Can Kangaroos survive in the Wheat Belt?”, West Australia Journal of Agriculture, Vol 31, 1990
Into Oblivion Report
See full article at:-
Very sad that all of these species that have evolved over millions of years surviving bush fires, ice ages, rising sea levels and hunters and in a few short decades will be gone forever. In the Kimberleys there isn't even the threat of development and roads as we have around the coastal areas.
The report quotes the researcher John Woinarsky as saying ''Twenty years ago we would go out and it would be a bonanza of native animals. Now we hardly catch anything - it's silent.''
What are Governments Doing about This Situation?
Governments are well aware that we have the world's worst record for species extinction and 2010 is the Year of Biodiversity yet what is changing? Not a lot.
On the 4th September 2010 I attended a lecture by Shane Ruming of Dept. Environment, Climate Change and Water in the Tweed Shire council building. He presented an impressive slide show outlining the Biodiversity Management Plan for the Border Ranges and Northern Rivers. The purpose of this plan is to conserve the rainforest and its species (see http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/border-ranges/ ) The emphasis was on removing invasive weeds to help the native species survive. But will they? DECCW did not address roadkill reduction methods nor the need to curtail domesticated cats and dogs from roaming. For that you have to go to another Plan.
Tweed Council is not doing enough to address roadkill or cats and dogs that are abandoned and left to fend for themselves in the bush. A friend of mine reported 30-40 cats abandoned on a property yet council refused to act. Another neighbour of hers is breeding dingoes with German Shepherds and letting them run in the bush and council again refuses to do anything about this individual.
In an attempt to control the devastating impact on native animals by feral dogs, council is laying 1080 baits on council land and landholders are delivered 1080 baits free on request. Is 1080 good for the environment? Hardly. This poison is banned in almost every country of the world except Australia and New Zealand and virtually outlawed in the US since 1972, 1080 should be outlawed in Australia, not only for its cruelty but also because we simply do not know what might be the long term effects of continually pouring substantial amounts of this poison into the environment.
Nor is it a humane death for the animals unfortunate enough to consume it (lace monitors, bandicoots, birds). In fact it is extremely inhumane with animals taking many days to die painfully (see http://www.wlpa.org/1080_poison.htm )
Then there is the question of trail bikes - in spite of numerous complaints some of the audience noted that no fines were given to neighbours driving these environmentally destructive and stress-inducing vehicles.
DECCW was generous enough to have a stack of free books each with a CD in the back. The acknowledgement page credits hundreds of people for contributing to the plan so it must have cost quite a bit of money to produce.
The detail and complexity of analysis in this plan backed by many pages of references was impressive and staggering to any layman.
However, being a simpleton I decided to raise my hand and ask one question:
'I appreciate you have actions that you are taking, but can you explain in practical terms exactly WHAT is DECCW doing to implement this Plan?
After more mumbo jumbo skirting around the issue and generally evading what I thought was a clear question, he asked me if that answered my question to which I replied with an utterly puzzled and shocked expression on my face while shaking my head. At that point the whole room burst into hands waving in the air with more questions in a similar vein. Within minutes the speaker realised he was way out of his depth and utterly lost. Perhaps he was not warned that the local residents in this, the most biodiverse parts of NSW if not Australia, were extremely passionate about protecting their environment and frustrated at the lack of local council and government support.
Just last year we barely survived a World Championship Rally tearing through our National Parks, World Heritage areas where endangered species and vulnerable koalas were trying to breed in peace.
And earlier this year the boxing gloves were out once again to try and stop our local council putting a dam in Byrrill Creek where 45 threatened and endangered species' homes would be destroyed. We are still waiting for the decision on this one.
Another battle we have been fighting is trying to stop a major development on the coast providing homes for 80,000 people in the largest remaining koala colony in Tweed Shire. This proposed development has no provision for overpasses, underpasses or exclusion fences on the proposed six-lane freeways to protect any koalas trying to connect to other areas of their territory. It would permit residents to own dogs and plans to build a golf course in the area where the koalas are supposed to live (as if carcinogenic, neurotoxic sprays on the grass are going to help them survive much longer).
In the last year we have seen four historic trees all over 100 years old felled by council, some of them healthy trees, some of them damaged by council workers. Recently a 116 fig tree at Chinderah Tavern has become the subject of another potential tree felling due to a very heavy cactus growing on one of the branches and causing it to fall. A national champion tree arborist examined the tree and said it is perfectly healthy and did a sit in when the chain saws arrived last week which drew media exposure and more protesters. Meanwhile the tavern proprietors claim it is unhealthy and must get the hench. And so the fight goes on.
We are tired, very tired and burned out. Every week there is Landcare and replanting trees, endless meetings for No Rally Group, Wildlife Carers, Environment and Greens groups, Team Koala, Water Options Group, fund-raising groups and Community Voice to develop new candidates for the next council elections on top of submissions to write for plans on public exhibition, speeches to write to present to council at community access, attending council meetings every month and writing letters to the Editor of local newspapers. Oh and did I mention we are not paid for our efforts?
So it would have been good to hear Mr Ruming say that our good government Department of Environment was going to use funds to actually DO something to help our biodiversity.
Finally, Mr Ruming confessed that DECCW was in fact not planning to implement this plan and that it was up to local groups, individual citizens
(yes, us exhausted, overworked, ageing, unpaid residents!)
to put pressure on councils to apply for funding to actually do something. It wouldn't be so bad if councils and governments actually listened to us but the sad fact is they rarely do. The result is that all of this drags on for so long and meanwhile .... day by day ... our species become extinct.
It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that since DECCW has the funding shouldn't THEY be doing the actions instead of passing the buck to councils, other government departments and ultimately us, the unpaid plebs?
Enlisting Tweed Shire Council
In another desperate attempt to get some action from Tweed council on the 5th August I wrote to the Biodiversity officer. Following is my letter:-
It was very helpful for me to talk to you the other week and again my apologies for taking so much of your precious time.
You said you were open to any ideas of how TSC could help biodiversity, and I appreciate your sincerity. So here are some ideas:-
1. As you know many animals are killed on the road. I realise it's not physically possible to put underpasses on existing roads but overpasses should be possible. For example on Kyogle Rd past Uki there is a great deal of roadworks going on with bush on either side where wildlife would inhabit. Are there going to be any overpasses included in roadworks there? These may be outside your domain i.e. transport authority so please let me know if so and who to contact. Simple animal crossings could be constructed of roap configured as a ladder as possums, bandicoots and koalas would traverse that. This is something that would not cost very much money and could be implemented widely without too much disruption to traffic.
2. Purchase a building to be used as a wildlife hospital and pay specialist wildlife vets and staff to work there 24/7. At present carers have to drive to Currumbin which is costing a lot in petrol and stressing out the injured animal unnecessarily. Yes this would cost a lot but didn't TSC receive a large biodiversity grant? It appears most of the funding is being used on bush regen and control of Indian Myna birds. TSC is spending millions of dollars on other programs, why not wildlife? It is worth a lot to the shire due to our ecotourism industry which is growing, but not if we lose them all due to roadkill!
3. Supplement wildlife carers for any costs incurred in rehabilitating injured animals (food, veterinary fees, medications, petrol, equipment). I realise this has never been done before but since many carers are on a pension they often sacrifice their own food requirements to look after the animals or buy a cheap type of food that is not good for the animal instead of buying the best food for them. Alternately, carers work full-time which limits their ability to care for wildlife. I have come across injured wildlife at midnight only to find that no carers wanted to help as they had to get up early to go to work.
4. The other problem is dogs, not just feral dogs but also dogs owned by people who let them run wherever they want on their property in the bush, especially at night. Could there be signs along rural roads as to what the fine is should people be found to let their dogs roam? This would serve as a perpetual education for locals. A better solution for people with dogs (and cats) would be to have dog and cat runs where the animal could run around in an area and be in the elements day and night if they chose to be or come into a sheltered area such as a house. These runs could be constructed of recycled materials by people working for the 'dole.' If runs weren't so expensive I am sure more people would have them as they want their animal to be happy and safe versus being locked up all the time.
5. It's good you are having more road signs urging people to slow down at dawn and dusk in order to avoid hitting wildlife. As I mentioned, many people are unaware of the possible presence of joeys in marsupials' pouches and if they were better educated more people might stop to check. Could there be an ongoing education of the community via Tweed Link?
That is just a few ideas for now. Please let me know if you think any of these are feasible.
Five weeks passed and no reply. The officer was at the DECCW lecture I described above so I said hello and he apologised for not answering, explaining that he passed my email around to other officers for comment. Apparently they nixed the idea of rope overpasses for koalas claiming they didn't work. I pointed out that they do work for possums and other animals however. His comment "Ah but possums aren't a threatened species."
That is exactly the attitude that is causing 'sleeper species' (today's common species that become tomorrow's extinct species - coined to by Dan Ramp, ecologist from University of N.S.W.). The most common animal I see killed on the roads is bandicoot, followed by possums and snakes. Even wallabies are seen more and more rarely as threats from habitat loss, cars, packs of feral dogs and stress take their toll.
This same officer responded to a question from the audience about logging that was supposedly happening in koala territory, Reserve Creek, Round Mountain. Whether it is or not, his response mystified me - "Logging is the least of my worries when it comes to koalas".
Hello, koalas live in trees, trees being felled often with them in it with no attempt made to remove them first, killing them. Funny, I thought ecologists agreed that habitat loss (which would include tree felling) is the #1 threat to koalas? With less than 200 koalas estimated to be left in the shire shouldn't we be doing everything possible to save every single one?
While we can say that every tree counts, every animal counts too, whether it is threatened or not because a vibrant and healthy ecosystem depends on having as many players as possible. The more native animals, the more manure (the good kind, not nitrogen loaded cow manure) for the soil. The better the soil, the more plants. The more plants, the more oxygen. The more oxygen, the better environment for humans to live in. Additionally, the more fauna the fewer insects which would raze our crops and make our lives miserable, forcing us to use carcinogenic chemicals that in the end kill us too.
If there was real community engagement on the part of DECCW or Tweed Shire Council, they would be coming to us and asking us, the people on the ground, what are the issues and how can we find solutions instead of spending possibly millions of dollars on elaborate power point presentations, publications, CDs and websites. Then our wildlife MIGHT have a chance. All that money could instead be put to immediate use with constructive results or better yet, paid to locals who have invested hundreds of hours compiling reports UNPAID for their services.
The gross inequity of this (distribution of funds being given only to those employed by government while expecting citizens do much of the work) is abuse of democracy of the worst kind. Further insult is heaped on top of that because while governments have the funds to implement actions and the ability to make laws that are necessary to protect our environment, they refuse to do so effectively and thus we are forced to watch with broken hearts our dying native species.
What a travesty.
(photo courtesy of freefotos.com)
Earth is experiencing its sixth great extinction event and the new report reveals that this threat is advancing on six major fronts,says the report's lead author, Professor Richard Kingsford of the University of New South Wales
Our region has the notorious distinction of having possibly the worst extinction record on earth.
A study out of the University of New South Wales identified six major threatening processes (habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, climate change, overexploitation, pollution, and disease) and developed a set of conservation policies for each process.
Threats TO Livestock
The study by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre estimated that six of Australia's most common pest animals cause annual crop and livestock losses of just over $620 million. According to Agricultural Minister Tony Burke, Feral pests are not an irritation; they sabotage farm businesses.
Feral animals impact on native species by predation, competition for food and shelter, destroying habitat, and by spreading diseases. Over the last 200 years, at least 19 species of native mammals have become extinct in Australia.
Extinction is the end result of a process over time as populations of a species gradually decline and disappear.
The feral animal problem in Australia is more than destruction of "assets" or "sabotage" of farm businesses! One of the more obvious impacts is that many invasive species will increase their range or population densities – cane toads hopping further south, for example.
Threats FROM livestock
Land clearing, primarily for agriculture, is perhaps the single most important cause of environmental degradation, loss of species, and depletion of ecological communities, both in Australia and worldwide. About 80% of the world’s original cover of forest has been cleared, fragmented, degraded or converted to plantations. CSIRO report.
Over the decade 1990–2000, Australia had the sixth highest annual rate of land clearing in the world.
The sequence of occupation and land use in the Western Division NSW and the timing of the loss of native mammal species allows the conclusion to be drawn that it was sheep, and the way the land was managed for the export wool industry, that drove so many of the mammal species to extinction.
The resemblance of Australian to European pasture was only superficial. Australian native grasses were adapted to a poorer soil type and soft-footed, grazing marsupials. In a short time, native grasslands began to lose their vigour as hard-hoofed, close-cropping stock were introduced to these areas. However, despite declines in sheep numbers, there are still about 77 million head in the Australian sheep flock.
There are roughly 29 million cattle in Australia. Most of these animals are raised to be killed for food. The climatic environment in Australia for sheep and cattle grazing is highly uncertain and producers face high levels of variability in grass growth and hence grazing pressure.
According to the Garnaut report, these industries are highly vulnerable to climate change.
Notably, Australia is the only country in the top 20 land-clearing nations with a developed first world economy! More than 550 000 hectares of native vegetation are cleared in Australia each year (Australian Conservation Foundation, 2001).
Grazing by Sheep and Cattle on natural or semi-natural pastures is the major land use for 4.5 million square kilometres (60%) of Australia’s land surface (Commonwealth of Australia).
Introduced ungulates (hoofed animals) are more dependent on permanent water than are native mammals. They congregate near permanent water, especially during drought. They eat and trample native vegetation, compact soil, alter soil structure and disrupt the soil.
Grazing by Cattle and Rabbits can have relatively severe ecological impacts in drought years. Over-grazing leads to desertification, and up to 4 million hectares of pastoral inland Australia could become permanent.
Food and Agriculture Organisation report Livestock's Long Shadow. Cattle possibly pose the single greatest threat to biodiversity as forests continue to be cleared to accommodate them; 70 per cent of clearing in the Amazon alone is for cattle.
Nearly 50% of the Australian continent is grazed by animals raised for human consumption. This is in addition to the land that is cleared and used for the production of hay and other food for animals. Clearing of forests and bushland for animal industries results in habitat loss throughout Australia, which is the major cause of wildlife species becoming threatened, endangered and extinct.
Wildlife as “invasive species”?
Of 53 species of kangaroos, 29 are now threatened and 6 extinct. Australia has the worst record of extinctions of any country having exterminated one third of its wildlife in just 200 years. The commercial killing of kangaroos is the largest land-based wildlife slaughter on earth, kills more unweaned young than any other country and is as shameful as the Japanese whale slaughter and the Canadian seal hunt.
Researchers from the CSIRO tested the grazing pressure of red kangaroos equivalence to 0.7 sheep and have shown it to be a two-fold overestimation of their contribution to total grazing. Moreover, kangaroos had extraordinarily lower rates of water turnover, being only 13% that of sheep. Consequently, our data support arguments that the removal of kangaroos may not markedly improve rangeland capacity for domestic stock.
Kangaroos only compete with livestock for pasture when total grazing pressure exceeds dry matter production.
A six year study by Dr Steven McLeod at the University of New South Wales, determined: There was no evidence of a competitive effect of red kangaroos on sheep in terms of body mass, wool growth, reproductive output of sheep or the growth and survivorship of lambs. In fact, Red Kangaroos consistently avoid areas used by sheep.
A 4yr study of Grey Kangaroos in Western Australia by CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation) found that 95% wheat crops are never visited by kangaroos who rarely wander more than 400 metres from their home range in the bush. Also kangaroos have virtually no impact on the country’s crops, despite claims by farmers to the contrary.
Speaking at the 2007 Biodiversity Extinction Crisis Conference held at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, ecologist Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney revealed data showing that in many areas - surrounding major Australian sheep farming regions - "where dingoes occur there are no foxes." Other research has shown a correlation between dingoes and low fox numbers on either side of 5,000-kilometre-long 'dingo-proof 'fence constructed by Australian state governments to exclude the dogs from sheep farming areas.
However, native species are not "invasive" but part of our ecology that provides "services" for farmers. They need to be treated as an ally and non-lethal management needs to be part of farming costs.
Native flora and fauna are part of our biodiversity, our heritage, our life-support system and their conservation and survival is a duty-of-care. Any wildlife and native plant losses have far more serious implications than financial and asset losses!
Colonial attitudes that consider wildlife losses as incidentals, or as inconveniences and "pests", still exist today and need to be challenged.
THE GREEN ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AUSTRALIA IS PART OF THE EASTERN CHRISTIAN TRADITION THAT GOES BACK TO THE APOSTLES. WHEN WE CARE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, SAYS
HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP STYLIANOS HARKIANAKI, WE ARE TRULY 'IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD'.
Human beings have caused species to become extinct, and destroyed the biodiversity of creation; we have degraded the integrity of the Earth by causing excessive and rapid climate change; we have destroyed forests and wetlands, and contaminated the Earth’s waters; we have polluted its lands and its air with poisonous substances. This is sinful. Sinfulness means we have ‘missed the mark’ as to God’s original purpose for creation, choosing instead to become beings consumed by avarice and greed, contrary to the will of our Creator.
(Photo from Wikipedia commons - African Elephant)
Dangerous emerging prominence of firearms and cruel sports in our society
Game Council chairman Robert Borsak, who intends to stand for the Shooters Party in the next elections, recently visited northern Zimbabwe, where, on a two-week trip he killed several elephants for entertainment. It is, thanks to corruption of Robert Mugabe. quite "legal" and the amount he and other great "hunters" must pay is adding to the dictator's coffers.
A demented boast ...
"As he came down there was an unearthly scream as the full weight of the falling bull collapsed his heaving lungs, expelling through the trunk and sending an involuntary shiver through me. On the ground now, on bended knee the ochre coloured wet bull thrashed around with its trunk, paralysed unable to move. I reloaded as the empties flicked over my shoulder & the PH yelled to drill him again. As I approached I moved in quickly, not being sure at all exactly at that time what had happened. As I approached with some caution he lunged as far forward as his trunk & position allowed, trying to grab me. At this I placed two frontal brain shots into the now almost defunct bull and it was all over." Source of citation re Borsak's elephant murder
An obscene and sadistic passtime
Elephants are intelligent animals, and their use as targets for the thrill of killing is totally callous, obscene and sadistic!
Mr Borsak is being paid $342 a sitting day for his part in regulating hunting in NSW, and if he and the shooters have their way, our gentle native animals will be aimed at with their firearms, all for entertainment!
This man may soon join the party currently holding NSW government to ransom
If successful, he would join a party that now holds the balance of power in the upper house and is holding the Government to ransom after Mr Macdonald failed to negotiate through cabinet the right to shoot in National Parks.
Would Borsak's breeding business constitute personal fiduciary interest?
Mr Borsak breeds and sells dogs to help killing duck, quail and other "game" bird hunting.
It's against the ethics of politicians to have a personal fiduciary interest in what they are in charge of as politicians! In a fiduciary relation good conscience requires one to act at all times for the sole benefit and interests of another, with loyalty to those interests. Borsak has financial interest in propagating hunting. This is something parliamentary regulators should be investigating.
The emerging interest in firearms in our society, as demonstrated by the rise in influence of this lobby and political group, is dangerous and needs to be quashed and outlawed.