Conservation and environment
news, issues and links
northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina
Projects, policies, problems and other issues
Opinions expressed on this page are those of the webmeister, K.W. Stockwell, and are not necessarily the views of any organisation which he may be a member or supporter of.
This page contains news items relating to northern Victoria and the southern Riverina. Emphasis is given to Echuca-Moama, Cohuna, Mathoura, Deniliquin, Bendigo, Barmah-Millewa Forest, Gunbower-Perricoota Forest and surrounding areas. This page is one of several in Section One of the Northern Victoria and Southern Riverina Conservation and Environment Site. There are several other sections to this site, covering bushwalking, birding, indigenous plants, landscapes and indigenous animals.
One hot topic at the moment is the announcements that much of the Barmah-Millewa Forest is likely to become a cross-border national park. There is much opposition from those likely to be impacted upon by the creation of a large national park. Some fear that they will lose their job and many fear that their way of life will be impacted upon.
Opponents make some good points. If the park is created ~ and legislation has already passed through the Victorian parliament ~ then good management is needed. At least some of the managers/rangers must have a good knowledge of the forest and its hydrology.
Furthermore, adequate supplies of environmental water are needed to prevent Red Gums from dying. Much of the environmental water released into the forest, which is like a bucket with holes, eventually finds its way back into the river system where it can be reused downstream. DSE estimates the percentage of water draining back into the system to be as high as 96% whereas other scientists claim it to be over 80%.
In order to temporarily close the holes in the bucket and in order to deliver environmental water effectively and efficiently, additional engineering works are necessary. Adequate funding is needed for these works.
Adjustment packages will be needed to help workers, industries and towns adjust to change.
Most people dislike most changes. It is often hard to cope with change. So the anger and concerns of national park opponents are understandable.
If the proposed cross-border park comes into being, those impacted upon should make the best of the situation, adapt to the change and try to make the most of it. Opportunities will arise and these should be grasped with both hands.
Over time, opponents to change often come to be supporters of the new order.
There was opposition to the creation of many national parks, including The Grampians and Wilsons Promontory. Local communities have benefited from the creation of these parks. Hopefully Mathoura and other localities will benefit in the long run.
Should cattle grazing be allowed in Red Gum wetlands?
For many years prior to 2010, the Victorian National Parks
Association, the NSW National Parks Association and other conservation bodies campaigned for the Barmah-Millewa
Forest, the Perricoota-Gunbower Forest and other riverside red
gum forests to become national parks. But many individuals and organisations were opposed to the idea, arguing that the
forests were well-managed, that job losses would occur should public land along and near the Murray River become national park or conservation reserve and that cattle grazing is essential to reduce the risk of fire in Red Gum wetlands.
The Victorian Government asked the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council to investigate red gum wetlands in Victoria along the Murray
River (and lower reaches of its tributaries) between Hume Weir and the
South Australian border; the enquiry does not embrace red gum wetlands
on the NSW side of the Murray River. VEAC produced a discussions paper
and, in mid 2007, made some draft recommendations in its investigative report. Following consultation, it released its final recommendations. Because of intense opposition from some individuals and organisations, the Victorian government appointed a Ministerial Panel to review VEAC's recommendations. The panel modified some of the recommendations and late in 2009 the Victorian parliament subsequently passed legislation creating some new national parks, including Barmah National Park, and reserves.
The NSW government asked the Natural Resources Commission to assess River Red Gum Forests and Woodland Forests in the Riverina Bioregion. Late in 2009 the Commission issued two documents: its 'Final Assessment Report' and its 'Recommendations'. Before the reports were distributed, the then Premier of NSW announced that the Millewa group of forests would become a national park.
As a result of these investigations, it seems inevitable that there will be a jointly-managed cross-border iconic national park which embraces most of Barmah-Millewa Forest.
Some forests in the region will remain multi-use forests in much of which lumbering will continue to be allowed but on a less-intensive basis.
Some argue that cattle grazing should be allowed to continue. But should it?
* * * *
Except for ecological reasons, cattle grazing will not be allowed in the proposed Barmah-Millewa National Park. Some fear that the removal of cattle may increase the fire risk.
According to research evidence,
to help control weeds and to promote the growth of indigenous grasses,
grazing is best done between Easter and late July provided, however,
the soil is dry. Cattle should not be present over spring and summer
when indigenous grasses are flowering and setting seed. At Terrick Terrick National
Park, sheep are used as an ecological control to reduce weeds and to
maintain suitable conditions for the endangered Plains-wanderer.
argue that the cattle reduce the "fuel" on the forest
floor and lessen the danger of fires. Others argue that cattle
increase the fire risk by spreading weeds and by promoting the
spread of woody weeds and less palatable, flammable plants such as Giant Rush (Juncus ingens).
nasty fire in the Top End in December 2006 occurred in an area
where cattle had grazed the less-flammable indigenous grasses
but avoided the less-palatable, more flammable Giant Rush.
According to fire fighters, the intensity of the fire in the
rushes was virtually beyond belief, even in beds that were
flooded to help control the fire. Someone should have told the
cattle to et the inflammable rushes and leave the less flammable
grasses! So bang goes that argument.
drought conditions may have contributed to the severity of recent
fires, the causes of which appear suspicious. An unattended camp
fire may have been to blame or the campers may have deliberately
ignited the fire referred to above. Camp fires (using solid fuel such as wood)
are banned in the NSW side of the forest over summer and the
VEAC report recommended they also be banned on the Victorian
side of the Murray River. However, this recommendation has not yet been accepted by the Victorian government and camp fires will be allowed except on days of Total Fire Ban.
other ways of reducing the fire risk, e.g. cold burns in winter.
Kinnairds Wetland, weeds are cut before they flower and are baled
for hay. Perhaps, in places, this could be done in parts of Barmah-Millewa
Because of community fears of a wild fire engulfing houses in Barmah, DSE has conducted fuel-reduction burns near Barmah Town.
is no doubt that cattle grazing reduces plant diversity. When
cattle are removed from an area, plants which have not been common
may become more common. At Terrick Terrick, some old trees and
shrubs not common in the park grow near the cemetery. Since cattle
grazing ceased, many young specimens of these plants have appeared
and are growing well. There are no specimens of intermediate
age: in all probability, the cattle ate them. Since cattle were removed from the Reed Beds near Mathoura and the Moira Lake area, some plants that were uncommon have become more common.
cause major damage on sand ridges where they not only prevent
the regeneration of banksias, hop bushes and wattles but may
destroy the nesting tunnels of Rainbow Bee-eaters.
also cause problems in reed bed swamps, pugging the soil and
reducing the vegetation cover.
If cattle are allowed to
graze when the soil is wet, pugging occurs.
Some argue that 'pugging' (marks made in mud by cattle hooves)
helps provide suitable habitat for certain indigenous plants. Others
The accompanying photo by Eris O'Brien shows native annuals
and exotic annuals in a lignum wetland on the Patho Plains. Eris writes:
left side of the photo, shows where cattle trampled the soil crust in
the previous summer, while the wetland was in the drying phase. This
photograph was taken the following winter season showing that the trampled
section is dominated by introduced annual Medicago spp. The right
side was not walked on and has 100% native annual cover of Aphanes
australiana, Annual Native Epilobium and Annual Native Veronica
species, growing amongst native moss. The seed bank for native and exotic
species would have been identical at this site, but soil surface conditions
due to "pugging" disturbance in a single season dictated which
annuals grew. This re-enforces the view that spraying of such annual
weeds is pointless, because the seed bank of weed seeds is not the real
issue. The pugging needs to be eliminated and the weeds will disappear.
same wetland, prior to the late 90's there were large open areas surrounded
by Lignum. These open areas were favoured by the Brolgas which nested
at the site. The open areas created habitat complexity that was important
for the ecology of this wetland. Due to the pugging effects of the cattle
in the late 1990's, lignum shrubs established throughout the natural
"pans" in this wetland because the cattle pugs created establishment
places for lignum seedlings. This one pugging even in the late 1990's
has caused the open areas to close up with lignum and destroyed the
habitat for the Brolga. Possibly cattle pugging is also increasing the
density of Red Gum seedling or other higher stratum species in the Barmah
lakes (which is also a negative outcome).' (End of statement by Eris).
above observations were made on the Patho Plain, it is reasonable to
assume that similar observations could be made on the wetlands of the
In short, pugging compacts
the soil and damages the environment.
many argue that pugging is bad, almost everyone agrees that a wetland
should sometimes dry out, allowing the soil to crack. But a wetland
depends on periodic flooding and long periods without adequate fresh
water are not good.
Gulpa Creek at Mathoura, reeds line the town side of the creek which
is not grazed. On the forest side of the creek, reeds are mostly absent
and creek bank erosion is more obvious. Cattle like eating reeds (Phragmites
australis). The have little or no appetite for rushes. The spread
of Giant Rush (Juncus ingens) is becoming a problem.
cattle damage the banks of waterways. There is a growing realisation
that cattle should be excluded from such areas and, in places, fencing
has been erected to protect sensitive areas, e.g. on sandy areas along
Picnic Point Road, along Millewa (Aratula) Road, along Tea Tree Road
and along Langmans Road in Gulpa Island. Recently, the Reed Beds and
Moira Lake have been fenced off and, despite prolonged dry conditions,
species diversity appears to have increased. The number of cattle which
can be grazed under lease has been reduced significantly over recent
years and more power given to land managers.
The removal of branches that are close to the ground (and fallen timber) is bad news for birds such as robins which feed low in the forest.
These birds need cover and perches close to the ground. But the cattle
tend to eat the lower branches of saplings and break off many of the
twigs which would otherwise serve as perches.
argue that a cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken, comparing
the benefits from grazing (income from license fees, weed control,
etc) with the costs (increase in non-palatable grasses, reduction
in incidence of palatable species, reduction in the diversity
of vegetation, pugging, administrative costs, damage to river
banks, spread of weeds, etc).
In NSW State Forests, cattle grazing has been managed,
it is claimed, with an eye to weed control. At a time when weeds are
about to flower, many cattle may graze the area. When indigenous grasses
are thriving and about to bloom and set seed (hopefully from August
over summer to Easter), cattle are removed. An aim is to promote indigenous
grasses, including everlastings, whilst controlling weeds. Cattle licenses have been valid for six
months for a certain area; the area is then rested for six months.
balance, cattle may do more harm than good. Excluding them
from forest reserves is probably a good thing environmentally. Nonetheless,
there may be times and areas where grazing is desirable, e.g. to help
Because authorities have decided to create a cross-border national park to cover most of the Barmah-Millewa Forest in which cattle grazing will not normally be permitted, it will be interesting, and easier, to compare and contrast ungrazed and grazed Red Gum forests over the forthcoming decades.
Logging of local forests
Are present logging practices sustainable and environmentally sound?
VEAC and the Natural Resources Commission have both proposed that commercial logging
cease in the proposed Barmah and Millewa National Parks.
Both, however, have recommended that some forest areas be
set aside for logging ~ including
part of Gunbower Island and most of both Perricoota-Koondrook and Campbells Island State Forests ~ partly because of the importance of
the industry to Barham-Koondrook and some other towns.
The Natural Resources Commission investigation found that present forestry practices may be unsustainable, especially in light of climate change, with drought and increased temperatures impacting upon the vegetation. A reappraisal of forestry practices is recommended.
Present Policy in NSW State Forests where logging is allowed
On the NSW
side of the border, where an area is selected for logging or
thinning, two habitat trees and two replacement habitat trees
have been left, as are dead trees (unless they pose a substantial danger).
Ignoring environmental thinning, around 20% of the trees in a
coup have been logged once every 20 years. Logging is not permitted
within a certain distance of streams, on sandhills or in exclosures.
Ring barking of trees which are considered unsuitable for timber
is no longer practiced. In reality, however, some areas have
Originally, there were
fewer and larger red gum trees than there are now. It was, and
is, common for many trees in an area to be of similar age. Smaller
trees are sometimes the same age as larger, stronger trees.
As a result of logging,
fire or interference, many young saplings may grow. In the past,
the weaker ones gradually died, leaving only the more robust.
To simulate this, in places, areas of forest may be thinned to
allow larger trees to prosper. Smaller trees may be removed.
The highest quality timber
is sought out for veneer production and indoor furniture. Good
quality timber is used for decking, posts, garden furniture and
the like. Essentially, poor quality timber and forest residues
are used for firewood. Off cuts may be processed into garden chips.
Sawdust is used for paths, especially on nearby dairy farms.
After about 25 years, the
coupe is revisited. Again, dead trees, habitat trees and replacement
habitat trees are identified and left. Logging or thinning then
Care is taken to protect
the middle storey. If the understorey contains endangered species,
the area should not be logged.
Logging is not permitted
within about 50 metres of watercourses. In NSW, Callitris and box trees (all species) are no longer logged in the Perricoota,
Koondrook or Millewa forests. Many sandhill areas have been restored
or have been fenced with restoration work (e.g. direct seeding
and weed control) under way. The Big Bonum Sandhill (Koondrook
Forest) is an example of a relatively new sandhill restoration
project whereas the Tea Tree Road exclosure (Gulpa Island) is
an example of a restored sandhill area which has been fenced
off for over a decade. The small Banksia Exclosure and the large
Tea Tree Road Exclosure are possibly the only places in the forests
where Banksia trees survive. Some young Banksias have been planted
in the Langmans Road Exclosure but most have succumbed to the
present prolonged drought. Some sandhill areas (e.g. Langmans
Sandhill) have been fenced to protect the feeding grounds of
Gilberts Whistler and other endangered species.
Royalties and other revenues
from forestry operations have been used for such conservation measures,
to meet salaries of forestry officers, to maintain forestry roads
and so forth. One concern is that roads may not be maintained
as well should the whole area become national park.
Some areas of the forest
are in excellent condition, with a variety of understorey shrubs
and a ground covered with everlastings and native grasses. e.g.
the area near Kate Malone Bend, Perricoota Forest.
More work is needed to
maintain bio-diversity and to help threatened species to survive.
The endangered Bush Stone Curlew is one species which may benefit
from keeping aside some box forest, provided it is kept free of foxes and feral cats.
Do locusts play an important ecological role?
A more-balanced view about locusts is called for
O'Brien has a web site 'Save the Locust.com' . Many
assume that locusts are bad news and should be sprayed before
they reach plague proportions. Eris calls for a more-balanced
view and has emailed the following:
locust swarms of Australian Plague Locust, are a natural cyclic
event in semi-arid Australia. In the Riverina, Australian Plague
Locust migrations historically occurred about once every five
years. It is logical to presume that wildlife and ecosystem health
and function are totally connected with this cycle.
current control policies aim to eliminate this migration cycle
with early preventative attacks on the permanent breeding areas
in the Channel Country. The aim of these attacks is to reduce
densities of locusts before migrating swarms can develop. This
is a recent change in tactic (only since the mid 1970's) and
we are yet to feel the worst effects of this in the decline in
grassland ecosystem health and wildlife abundance. This will
only get worse with new technology allowing more accurate detection
and destruction of locusts in the channel country. Recent media
hype has also boosted funding and resources for the Australian
Plague Locust Commission.
Locusts prefer native grasslands, especially for breeding (just
get hold of the DPI's locust egg bed map to see!). Locusts require
a diverse diet, especially when young. Contrary to popular belief
they do not like to feed on monoculture landscapes. Studies have
shown that young locust which feed exclusively on lucerne are
stunted and many die. This means that their density is highest
in the most natural environments. So the spraying that targets
nymph locusts, is most commonly done in the most natural parts
of the landscape. It is only when green feed reserves run out
that adult locusts may target irrigated crops and lucerne.
broad-scale use of insecticides (including biological insecticides
~ like those used on Terrick Terrick NP) on isolated grassland
reserves is completely inappropriate. Keep in mind what they
are killing there are natural densities of native insects in
nature reserves! Not only does it eliminate the beneficial effects
of the locusts on the ecosystem, but it also kills non-target
animals (especially invertebrates). In isolated grassland reserves
where re-colonisation is difficult, this is particularly devastating.
are poisoned by the the chemicals used to control locusts. Non-target
invertebrate populations are also decimated. The entire food
chain suffers from this life destruction. I really recommend
reading this article. Read pages 26-30 - environmental effects
locusts in some situations prolongs the "plague", by
dispersing the swarms and discouraging migration. Locust swarms
naturally come and go quite quickly. Dispersed, lower density
populations (caused by spraying campaigns) are much less likely
to migrate, causing prolonged problems for agriculture. This
may mean that locusts are present in some areas for a number
of years, rather than a number of weeks. Spraying also disrupts
natural locust predators, such as parasitic wasps. This is also
likely to prolong the "plague". Parasitic wasps, or
flies are believed to have brought and end to many of the locust
swarms throughout the last 100 years. http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/ZO9530070.htm
and barriers are the key to avoiding damage to high value agriculture
crops. In many situations crops need only be protected for a
matter of days until the swarm passes. In other situations, restoration
of tree belts in formerly-treed landscapes or surrounding intensive
agriculture developments will discourage locusts from breeding
in the area. http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AR9500064.htm
can, and should be, utilized as a highly nutritious food source
for humans. http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/gen/2006/01/02/news/locust.eating.binge.to.hamper.control.efforts.html
The effects of the recent migrating swarm of Locusts on Agriculture
in Victoria was exaggerated.
DPI received no evidence from farmers on actual dollar losses due
to locusts. Their overall impact on dry-land and irrigated pastures
was insignificant when compared to other seasonal variables. Cereal
crops were mostly not affected at all (despite SBS news reports of
the states crops being decimated!). Many times this swarm was referred
to as the worst plague in 50 years. Yet, despite this, Victoria recorded
an almost record cereal crop harvest. ~ Eris O'Brien.
the Locust web site
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warming is a problem which should be addressed.
Should we turn to nuclear energy?
Since this section
was first posted on this site several years ago, a CSIRO report outlining some
dire consequences of climate change, The Garnaut Report, Al Gore's film, 'An Inconvenient
Truth', the UK Stern report,
Tim Flannery's appointment as Australian of the Year and a UN report
on global warming have combined to raise awareness of the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions. More and more people are accepting that climate change is
occurring and that we all need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite measures that we take over the next few years, some climate change
is built-in and we will have to try to adapt to this.
illustration summarising a report on the NOOA site: click here for notes on the indicators shown in this diagram
predictions made by climatologists about ten years ago have come about.
Average global temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius over recent
years. In Australia, winter rainfall is contracting south of the continent.
According to a spokesperson for Insurance Australia Group Ltd, 19 of
the top 20 insurance claim events over the past 40 years have been weather-related. The past decade was one of the hottest on record.
of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed
to the clearing and burning of forests, and to emissions from coal-burning power stations.
and India are growing economies and are still constructing coal-burning
power stations. Australia is a major exporter of coal. About
40 per cent of the world's population live in China and India.
Although China has had a one child per family policy for around
20 years, the Indian birth rate is still very high indeed. Both countries produce far less greenhouse gases per head than the more advanced countries like Australia do. China is taking measures to curtail its emissions, and making more of an effort than are most other countries.
is a call to develop cleaner coal technologies. Others argue
that coal-burning power stations should be closed as soon as
possible. Some argue that nuclear power stations might take the
place of coal-burning stations. Others argue that we should rely
solely on renewables and, perhaps, natural gas. Renewable sources
include hot rocks (geothermal), ocean currents, tidal movements,
ocean waves, gases from waste water treatment facilities (e.g.
a new poser station has been built at the Tatura facility), waste
gases from tips, solar (new and better panels are being developed),
water (hydro) and wind.
scientists and officials are blaming global warming for a number
of China's recent disasters: longer and more devastating typhoons
and floods in some areas and prolonged droughts in other areas.
of China is becoming increasingly aware of the problem. A large percentage
of the population lives on land which is only a few metres above sea
level. As sea levels rise, vast areas could be inundated and rendered
unproductive. If present warming trends continue, China will only be
able to produce about half as much rice as it currently does. China
has announced that it will endeavour to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions
per unit of GNP but that it will continue to pursue a policy of economic
is even more pessimistic about the increasing amount of atmospheric
pollution produced in India.
meteorologist believe that increased monsoonal rainfall in northern
Australia may be associated with the increase of air pollution
originating in Asia, including China and India.
are fears that global disputes about water and arable land may
intensify over coming years. Climate change may mean an increase
in the number of 'refugees'.
in 2007, governments of Western Europe agreed to reduce atmospheric
pollution and to produce more of their energy requirements using
has set a benchmark, imposing regulations and setting incentives.
there are some promising signs and greater awareness of the problems
caused by global warming. Global action is imperative. We need
to reduce our consumption of electricity and turn to renewable
sources of power. Consumption can be reduced through regulation,
incentives and innovation. There is clearly a need for a carbon
tax (and carbon trading), for environmentally-friendly building
regulations, energy standards and so on. Once regulations and
incentives are in place, innovations are likely to follow. After
all, necessity is the mother of invention. Governments need to
set uniform standards. Governments can have an influence by only
purchasing products (e.g. motor vehicles) which meet low emission
standards. Governments across the world should follow or better
Late in 2009, a climate conference in Copenhagen, which was attended by many heads of State, further raised awareness of the issue but failed to reach a binding agreement.
decade is critical. We must act and act fast to reduce atmospheric
greenhouse gas pollution.
There are now several sites addressing this issue. Links to some of the sites appear below.
Stockwell, Webmeister, 2007; revised July 2008 and December 2009.
In We are the Weather Makers, Tim Flannery outlines some
measures which could be taken to avert a catastrophic situation.
It is a book which everyone, especially policy makers, should
read and act upon.
Tim Flannery's book The Weather Makers, which deals with the challenge and
ecological impacts of global warming, became an international
best seller, spearheading popular awareness of global warming.
There is ample evidence that global warming is under way and
its impact is likely to be horrendous.
Are the Weather Makers is a concise and revised edition that presents the facts about
climate change to an even wider range of readers. In this passionate
book Tim reminds us that climate connects us all, from the Arctic
to the Outback. And our climate is influenced by how we choose
to live; how we use our fuels, our water and our land.
The Stern report (2006)
and a United Nations report (2007) both painted a bleak picture.
It is imperative that governments act now to curb greenhouse
gas emissions. This means that the main sources of greenhouse
gas emissions must be substantially reduced. Coal-fired power
stations are one of the worst offenders. If action is not taken,
permafrost could start melting, releasing methane, and serious
and prolonged global warming would then be unstoppable and sea
levels would rise for centuries.
stabilisation requires a drastic reduction in carbon emissions
to the atmosphere.
our population numbers and energy use increase, some have advocated
that we turn to nuclear fuels. Nuclear power stations, it is
argued, release no carbon dioxide into the air and, as technology
improves, are safer than in the past.
nuclear power is costly and is associated with danger. It will
take time before nuclear power stations can be constructed and
become operational. In all probability, nuclear power costs more
than electricity generated using wind turbines, tides, waves
or some forms of solar energy. Ian Lowe ~ a scientist who is
President of the Australian Conservation Foundation ~ argues
that "as well as the risk of accidents, nuclear power also
increases the risk of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism".
Ian also points out that "the argument that nuclear power
would reduce greenhouse pollution presumes high-grade uranium
ores are available (but) the known resources of high-grade uranium
ores only amount to a few decades use at the present rate".
Nuclear waste remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years.
It needs to be stored safely and kept out of the hands of terrorists.
This raises the question: can we trust not just present-day governments
but governments over the forthcoming centuries?
yellow cake implies that present and future governments of the
recipient countries can be trusted. We cannot assume that future
governments will act appropriately. There are potentially dangerous
the receipts Australia receives from exporting uranium/yellow
cake are relatively trivial: presently the equivalent of one-third
of our cheese exports.
takes a lot of resources to build and maintain a nuclear power
station. The waste from nuclear energy has to be stored for thousands
of years. There is a terrible risk associated with nuclear stations:
the Chernobyl disaster is ongoing.
what is stated above, in some parts of the world some power may
have to be generated in this way. Australia is in a position
to be able to export uranium to such area.
in some areas of the world, to replace coal-generating stations,
it may be necessary to generate some electricity from nuclear
stations, this may not be the case as far as Australia is concerned.
to coal-powered and nuclear power stations
What other alternatives, then, are there? Hydro-electricity stations generate some of our power requirements but they alone
cannot produce sufficient power for our needs.
turbines are criticised for being an eye sore and for causing bird deaths.
If they are placed in certain spots, this criticism is valid.
But wind turbines can be placed away from sensitive coastlines
and away from bird migration routes and bird feeding grounds.
Although there is a place for wind turbines, they too can only
supply a percentage of our needs and, because they are reliant
upon favourable winds, cannot supply a constant amount of power.
too, is likely to only supply a percentage of our needs. At present,
solar cells are relatively expensive and a vast array of cells
is needed to supply even a small town. However, solar technology
is improving and there is a good argument for all homes to have
a solar hot water service which can be augmented with
mains electricity. Householders can save considerable amounts
on their electricity bill if a solar hot water service is installed.
public company, Enviromission, has been formed to construct a
tall chimney near Mildura. As air is sucked up the chimney, it
is hoped that the air flow can be used to generate electricity.
This is an interesting idea. Hopefully, the idea will be successfully
implemented and the station will be able to produce electricity
the coast of Newcastle, waves are being used to generate
electricity. There is also a project off the coast of Fremantle
(Western Australia) aimed at generating power using waves. Tidal movements can also be used. Perhaps we should devote more
resources to generating electricity using tidal and wave energy.
a company is interested in building a wave-powered station off
the coast of Portland, Victoria, and use the station to desalinate
sea water during periods of low electricity demand, e.g. at night.
sugar mills burn cane residues and use it to convert water to
steam to generate electricity. But some carbon dioxide is released
into the atmosphere as a result.
is yet another option worth exploring, geothermal energy. There is much heat under the earth's surface and, in some places,
hot rocks are relatively close to the surface. In the Cooper
Basin (in northern South Australia), there is a huge body of
granite which is heated to about 250 degrees C, the hottest near-surface
non-volcanic rock so far known. The rock is bathed in super-heated
water under great pressure. This body could help supply our power
needs for many decades, especially if used along with solar energy,
wind turbines, wave turbines and so on.
stations should be built away from population centres. Hot rocks
are likely to be close to the surface in geologically unstable
areas and a geo-thermal station is such a region could trigger
larger or more-frequent earth tremors.
electricity can be generated using gases produced from sewage and waste. Energy Developments Ltd has tried to
generate electricity at tip sites with some degree of success.
A new station at the Tatura waste water treatment facility is
now connected to the electricity grid and is an example of what
can be done. Apart from generating electricity, the station has
helped reduce odours which locals sometimes found most unpleasant.
has extensive gas fields and natural gas is already being
used in power stations. Such stations are less polluting than
coal-fired plants. A body of gas has been discovered by Lakes
Oil under one of the coal-burning power stations of Victoria's
LaTrobe Valley and Lakes Oil is hoping that the power station's
owners will convert the station from brown coal to run on natural
gas. Whilst the use of natural gas in generating power is not
sustainable in the long run, natural gas is less polluting than
coal and can be used as an interim measure.
should try to produce our electricity using a combination of wind, solar, geothermal, wave and other sources of energy.
As a last resort, we may also need some gas-fired power stations.
There is no doubt that coal-fired stations need to be closed
down, especially the least efficient ones which produce relatively
large amounts of carbon dioxide.
attention should be given to energy efficiency. Reducing waste
and using efficient electrical devices is a way to reduce greenhouse
pollution. Long-life electric globes which use less power than
conventional globes are on sale from a number of outlets in some
larger towns and cities: hopefully they will become more readily
available over time.
Round Table on Climate Change
Foundation's climate pages
Australian Government: Department of Climate Change
Climate Action Network Australia
Climate Change Matters (aimed at teachers and students)
CSIRO climate change pages
Green Power Australia
World Wildlife Fund Australia's climate change page
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Can Australia support millions more people at or above our present quality of life and standard of living?
in 2008, the Australian government announced that immigration would
be increased to over 300,000 persons a year. At the same time, the birth rate increased in Australia, party due to the payment of a 'baby bonus'.
In June 2007
it was reported that Australia's population had reached 21 million, a 75% increase over 40 years.
Australia's then federal treasurer, Peter Costello, urged Australian
families to have three children, one for each parent and 'one for the
Australia's population is estimated to be 35 million by the year 2050, a 60% increase.
Likely impacts of a population increase of such a magnitude could include:
• greater population density; less space per person
• longer commute times
• more-congested roads
• greater crowding on trains, trams and buses
• greater difficulty in being able to attend sporting and cultural events (where capacity is limited)
• loss of productive farm land to urban encroachment
• higher food prices
• an increase in crime
• more flats and units and a smaller percentage of those having a backyard and quarter-acre block
• harsher water restrictions than would be the case with fewer people or, if desalination plants are constructed, higher water charges
• greater difficulty finding a secluded camping site or uncrowded beach
• more pressure on coastal environments
• smaller gardens
• higher electricity prices
• a reduction in the quality of life
• social disintegration and the development of ghettoes
• greater polarisation between rich and poor
• an increase in our Greenhouse gas emissions compared to emissions of a smaller population size
• a greater likelihood of ecological tipping points being exceeded
• huge costs (and time) of retrofitting the infrastructure of cities so that they can better cope with an increased population
the same time as some advocate that Australia increase its population, severe water shortages have been, or are being,
experienced in much of southern Australia.
farmland is being encroached upon by spreading cities. Roads and freeways
in capital cities are becoming increasingly congested. Trains and trams
are struggling to cope with an increasing number of passengers. More
rolling stock is required and railway lines need to be duplicate and extended in
order to cope with the increasing numbers of patrons.
What is the optimum population which Australia can sustain at the present quality of life and a high standard of living? Can such a high rate of population growth occur without impacting upon the environment and upon our quality of life?
argue that the birth rate and immigration rates should be higher
because our population is ageing. Yet these advocates seem oblivious
to the fact that our environment is in a state of crisis, suffering
permanent and irreversible damage. Species are being lost at
an alarming rate, land-clearing continues, global warming is
worsening, resources are being depleted and our environmental
imprint is worsening.
Morrison in his book Plague Species (New Holland Publishers)
asks if we have set ourselves apart from other animals by a genetic
disposition for utter irrationality. Irrational and ignorant
land management actions with respect to the Alexandra area are
outlined in Joan Semmens excellent book Bush Seasons (Hyland
House). With the knowledge we have accumulated over time, exploiting
resources at the expense of our bushland and environment is inexcusable.
Yet we seem determined to increase our numbers and wage a war
against nature. Waging war against Nature, against our environment,
is a war which, ultimately, we cannot win.
|"Instead of controlling
the environment for the benefit of the population, maybe we should
control the population to ensure the survival of our environment." ~
Sir David Attenborough, The Life of Mammals
It has bern claimed that each
Victorian 'needs' 8.1 hectares to sustain their lifestyle, an ecological
overshoot. Resources are being used up at an alarming rate.
scientists believe that Australia can only support about 8 million
people at our present standard of living. But if we use resources
more wisely we can maintain our standard of living, supporting
something like the present population. This means we must use
more renewable energy and recycle more. It means we must improve
public transport and develop more efficient vehicles which can
run on renewable fuels (e.g. biodiesel).
book by J Goldie, B Douglas and B Furness, In Search of Sustainability (CSIRO
suggests what we must do to achieve a sustainable society.
if Australia's population continues to grow there will still
be more pressure on the environment; more pressure to develop
new housing estates in coastal swamp and heath lands; more pressure
on national parks and reserves; more pressure on state forests; longer queues at major sporting and cultural events; more- crowded beaches; more-crowded roads, and more crime. In short, in the long run, more people may mean a lower quality
of life. It means it will be harder to find wilderness areas
and riversides where there are no other people.
|"There are more human
babies born each day - about 350,000 - than there are individuals
left in all the great ape species combined, including gorillas,
chimpanzees, bonobo and orang-utans..." ~
Richard Cincotta, ecologist Population Action International
group called Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) has
been established. Counters on their web
site illustrate the speed of population increase.
aims and objectives are:
contribute to public awareness of the limits to Australian population
growth from ecological and social viewpoints.
promote awareness that the survival of an ecologically sustainable
population depends in the long term on its renewable resource
promote policies that will lead to stabilisation, and then to
reduction, of Australia's population by encouraging low fertility
and low migration.
promote urban and rural lifestyles and practices that are in
harmony with the realities of the Australian environment and
its resource base.
advocate low immigration rates while rejecting any selection
of immigrants based on race.
promote policies that will lead to stabilisation, and then to
reduction, of global population.
The two boxed quotes above were observed on the SPA web site.
must protect natural ecosystems, realising that humans are part
of these ecosystems. Population increases place more pressure
on natural ecosystems. We are currently living beyond our means
and rapidly using up/destroying resources.
warming is a growing threat. Many plants and animals are at risk
of extinction. Water supplies appear to be drying up in places.
We need not only to curtail population growth but work toward
a more-sustainable future.
Population size should
not be equated to power. Some populous nations have low incomes
per person. The Internet and globalization can help make "small"
nations rich. Recent wars have proved
that modern weapons are more important than population size when
fighting a battle.
Many of our environmental
problems are associated with population growth. Our planet has
finite resources and has a balance. If we abuse our planet or
become too many in number the balance of nature will collapse,
e.g. greenhouse effect causing melting of ice caps and destruction
of ozone layer leading to genetic mutations. 50 million or 60
million people is the last thing we need. So rather than "populate
or perish", it's "populate AND perish"!
|"Whatever your cause,
it's a lost cause without population control" ~
Sustainable Population Australia
Population and Climate Change (ACF site)
Mark O'Connor: Overloading Australia
Australia's Water Crisis
Is irrigation in the Murray Valley doomed?
2006 and 2007, some towns and cities of southern Australia were
running very short of water and severe water restrictions were
in place over much of southern Australia. There were predictions
that the Murray River could cease flowing; recent
rains appear to have alleviated the problem for now.
the past decade or so, rainfall has fallen over the southern
part of Australia. Runoff has fallen significantly. In parts
of southern Australia, rainfall has fallen around 25% but runoff
has fallen, say, by 65%. At the same time, the past decade was one of the hottest on record and evaporation rates were high.
Perth, annual rainfall roughly halved several years ago. The
annual rainfall has not reached the old average since. In the
past few years, rainfall appears to have fallen again. A desalination
plant has now been built to augment the city's water supplies.
Severe water restrictions are in force.
from desalinisation, there has been much talk of treating and
recycling water from sewage facilities.
have been hard hit and several have become bankrupt as a result
of the lack or ample and cheap irrigation water.
of using unsealed open channels to convey irrigation water, measures
are to be taken to line channels or pipe water.
many places, rainwater tanks are becoming more common. In Echuca,
runoff from the roofs of the hospital and surrounding houses
is directed into a number of tanks so that the water can be used
to water gardens, flush toilets, etc.
is obvious that the price of water needs to be increased and
water rights (or the number of licenses issued to farmers) needs
to be cut to more sustainable levels. Environmental water is
required for wetlands and to maintain healthy waterways.
flood water is reaching the lower Murray where up to 60% of the
river red gums are reported to have died.
far as the Murray-Darling Basin is concerned, former Prime Minister Howard proposed that the States hand over responsibility to the
Commonwealth. Whilst many welcomed this move, many believed that
an independent commission should be established, just as control
over banking and interest rates has been handed over to a central
bank (the Reserve Bank). Such a body will need generous funding
to help cover the cost of water-saving infrastructure and other
with the hot dry conditions, fires have become more common. Vast
areas were burnt in southern Australia over the summer of 2006-07
and in February 2009, adding to atmospheric greenhouse gases and polluting some water
the other hand, much of the northern half of Australis has been
hit by cyclones and flooding rain. Some believe that lightning
strikes have become more common.
2007 (amended/minor upgrades March 2007, June 2007 and August 2010)
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Why should we grow indigenous
Just as a strong case
can be mounted for retaining some areas of bushland, a strong
case can be made for growing indigenous plants in our parks and
gardens. Growing native can help ensure that our environment
has an "Australian" feel. Growing native plants can
also help provide habitat for native birds and other animals.
And indigenous plants require less water than most exotics.
If we plant mainly exotic plants, there is little
to distinguish our country and our region from any other. Local
plants can be propagated from seeds or cuttings or purchased
through a nursery. To protect our environment, native plants
should never be dug up from roadsides or the bush!
Dr Tim Flannery, author
of "The Future Eaters" and who was recently
appointed to teach about Australia at a leading US university,
recently stated that "devotion to imported lawn, trees and
pets reduces biodiversity and lessens the survival chances of
wildlife". Bringing the bush into towns is important, but
population control is also crucial to ease the pressure of urban
sprawl and to prevent our environment from coming under increasing
The Director of Educational
and Environmental Programmes for the New South Wales Zoo, Dr
D. Woodside, recently said that "small marsupials, frogs,
birds of prey and big lizards and snakes would be extinct around
urban areas within two decades, on current trends". Clearly,
this is not desirable and so it is up to every town dweller to
plant native. Cats and dogs kill birds and small marsupials and
it is pleasing that some cat owners now contain their pets to
the house and/or to an enclosed area.
Dr Flannery believes that
native trees and shrubs should replace foreign trees across whole
cities in a coordinated plan to create bird and butterfly habitats.
Such steps might also protect our sugar gliders which, in turn,
help prevent plagues of such pests as Christmas Beetles (which
have killed gum trees in New England, near Armidale).
Many local farmers are
now doing a great job using local native plants as windbreaks
and, in the case of saltbush, as fodder plants. Many bushland
areas are being looked after much better than in the past. But
it would be good to see even greater use of local native plants
on small holdings, in town gardens, in school grounds and in
Some enthusiasts have attempted
to grow native grassland plants, such as Lillies and Everlastings.
A lot of weeding and maintenance may be needed to avoid such
a garden from looking untidy or becoming weed infested.
Care is needed to avoid
such mistakes as planting trees and tall shrubs close to property
boundaries or the house.
In conjunction with Bendigo
Field Naturalists Club, the City of Greater Bendigo has published
a colour booklet on Bendigo area plants suitable for cultivation.
The Shire of Campaspe is to prepare a booklet featuring plants
suitable for local gardens.
Click here for more about
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Does wattle cause hay
is a widely-held belief that wattles cause hay fever and asthma.
Truth of the matter is that the hay fever and asthma are likely
to continue unabated after the wattles have been cut down.
Most hay fever and asthma
seems to be associated with dust mites (in carpet and woollen
blankets), with cats, with horse hair, with introduced grasses,
chemicals and smog. The wattle pollen is heavy and falls to the
ground. An allergy specialist has confirmed that wattle is not
to blame for allergies. So may be we should bring back Wattle
Day and plant wattles that are native to our area! What is an
Australian spring without wattles. Let's plant local wattle species
in profusion and help attract back Sugar Gliders to attack insects!
Remember though that some species of wattle are relatively
Wattles are nitrogen-fixing
plants. Eucalypts may grow much better when wattles grow alongside
them. The presence of wattles may also reduce 'dieback' insofar
as Sugar Gliders, which eat the beetles causing dieback in some
areas (e.g. New England), can feed on wattles when insects are
few in number.
Environmental Whistle Blowers
whistle blowers is unwise
A public company recently
took a number of individuals and organisations to court for speaking
out against the company's impact on the environment.
Apart from the implications
on freedom of speech, such actions do nothing to solve the economic
and environmental problems resulting from actions affecting the
Let us remember the public
debate about the dangers of blue asbestos. Because of a fear
of legal action, whistle blowers might, in future, be too frightened
to speak out and, because such a debate might no longer take
place, there could be undesirable economic, health and/or environmental
In July 2005, a court 'disallowed'
the action but further action could yet be taken.
Apart from the action of
companies, governments, too, tend to try to silence whistle-blowers
and dissenters. In Australia, some non-government organisations
have allegedly been pressured against criticising government
policies lest their government funding/grants be lost. Some scientists
have allegedly been reluctant to speak out and warn us about
global warming and its likely consequences. Some have alleged
that CSIRO scientists have been pressured not to speak in public
on certain issues lest funding be lost.
In Australia, some experts
who have expressed concerns have sometimes had their reputations
trashed by a government Senator. Although allegations made under
parliamentary privilege have sometimes been proved to be incorrect,
the reputation of an attacked person may remain tarnished.
It is important that whistle
blowers and critics feel free to alert us to potential environmental,
human rights, health and/or economic issues/problems. Attempts
to silence dissenters and whistle-blowers undermines democracy
and good government.
This issue is the subject
of a recently-released book by Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison, Silencing of Dissent.
rather than the soundness of their evidence or arguments, are
sometimes attacked by politicians and/or newspaper 'journalists'.
A case in point is a certain newspaper which appears to be carrying
out a smear campaign, against a scientist concerned with global
warming, accusing him of such actions as accepting money for
speaking to audiences (what's wrong with being paid to address
they disagree with another's economic, social or environmental
views, some politicians try to dig up dirt from one's past, resort
to mockery or call others by derogatory terms rather than addressing
the issue. Name calling and ridicule are forms of bullying which
should be discouraged.
Democratic Audit of
section on weeds has been moved to a separate page hosted by Echuca Landcare Group. Click
here to enter.