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Archive | Conservation

Floods Ignite Raising Warragamba Dam Wall Debate

In late March 2021 an extreme rain event on the Australian East Coast caused serious flooding which endangered people and property in many areas including the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley on Sydney’s outskirts. The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley flood highlighted the dangers of urban development in flood-prone areas given the high likelihood of more climate change-induced flood events in future.

The rain event and resulting floods have intensified debate on the controversial proposed 14 metre raising of Warragamba Dam Wall.  Many experts and conservationists contend that the most extreme floods are unlikely to be stopped by raising Warragamba Dam wall. Flooding in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley comes from other river/creek sources in addition to water flowing over Warragamba Dam wall. In addition the geography of the Hawkesbury-Nepean area restricts the amount of water that can flow out of the Valley.

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness states that the raised dam wall proposal is being driven by pressure from developers.  As part of the Warragamba Dam wall raising proposal, Infrastructure NSW plans to house an additional 134,000 people on the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain in coming decades. The Foundation states that people in new and existing residential developments in the Valley will not be safe from future extreme floods even if the Warragamba Dam wall were to be raised.

The Foundation states that the proposed dam wall raising will lead to flood water inundation of World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Parks and wilderness streams and desecration of rare and ancient natural heritage and Indigenous cultural sites.

Adding weight to arguments against the raised dam wall proposal, the Australian Insurance Industry recently withdrew their support for the Proposal due to concerns over the probable loss of important cultural sites and natural habitat. The Industry suggested that the State Government should investigate alternative measures to mitigate flood risk in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley.

Alternative flood mitigation actions available to the State Government include improving floodplain evacuation routes such as the Castlereagh Connection, pre-emptive dam-water release water and relocating people in the most flood-prone areas. NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro recently stated that alternatives to the dam wall raising need to be considered including lower water levels and building desalination plants for water supply.

 

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Dalmeny-Narooma Bushwalkers – Eurobodalla Regional Botanical Gardens

Eurobodalla Regional Botanical Gardens Easy 6km walk, Dalmeny-Narooma Bushwalkers, Saturday 27th March 2021

A recent Dalmeny Narooma Bushwalkers Club walk was an easy 6kms in Eurobodalla Regional Botanical Gardens. The Eurobodalla Regional Botanical Gardens are set on 42 hectares of Mogo State Forest, adjacent to Deep Creek Dam. The site has not been logged since the early years of the twentieth century and visitors can appreciate many of the region’s plants in a natural setting.  The Gardens has 8kms of beautiful public walking tracks which vary in length and gradient to cater for individual requirements and limitations.

It was a perfect day for the Club’s walk during which Margaret Lynch explained what was happening in the Gardens.  After the recent bushfires a lot of work has been completed and more is planned. The walkers were delighted to see the Gardens regrowth including many young green wattles which protect the undergrowth floor and let other native plants thrive.

The Club members walked 5.5km and had a look at Deep Creek Dam, for which a new lookout is planned. At the end of the walk Bev Brazel thanked Margaret for the walk on our behalf. Some walkers enjoyed lunch at the Cafe, some bought plants, and others had their lunch in the grounds. Overall all participants agreed that it was a very pleasant day.

Our Club of the Month for April 2021: Dalmeny-Narooma Bushwalkers

Our club of the month is Dalmeny-Narooma Bushwalkers who have been walking for 35 years. The Club meet at the Red Tractor, George Noble Park, Dalmeny, with a plywood tractor now used to represent the original to honour the Club’s history.

Dalmeny Narooma Bushwalkers was established in May 1986 to encourage bushwalking as a pleasant group activity. The Club welcomes new walkers to join in and enjoy the beautiful bush and coastal environments of the far south coast of NSW.

Volunteer walk leaders offer various grade bushwalks twice a week around the local area of Eurobodalla and Bega Valley, as well as club camps in other localities and some social activities. The Club aims to keep its procedures as simple and as affordable as possible but also has a few rules to keep all walkers safe in the bush. Walks are grouped into 3 programs a year – Autumn, Winter and Spring – and are published on the Club’s website.

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The Jack Mundey Spirit Lives On

Peter Stevens, a past President of the Wolli Creek Preservation Society, has been
honoured by Canterbury-Bankstown Council with its inaugural Jack Mundey Environment
and Heritage Award.

 

“This is recognition of Peter’s long-term commitment to the completion of the Wolli
Creek Regional Park, established and grown as the result of community pressure, led by
the Society, over several decades.’ said Gina Svolos, the present President of the Society.

“The Park is now nearing completion and Peter has renewed his commitment by
organising to protect the Wolli Creek Valley bushland and the Regional Park from the
proposed location of an industrial plant within the Park boundaries. The proposal would
have negative effects on both the natural environment and a heritage-listed structure,
the two things cited in the Award, and for which Jack Mundey as an initiator of Green
Bans is rightly famous.”

“There is a better alternative nearby: a vacant, government-owned, non-bushland site,
outside the Park boundaries that we want Sydney Water to use.” Ms Svolos emphasised.
Mr Stevens reports that, working with the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the
Society’s petition to the Minister for Water, Melinda Payne, passed 3,000 signatures on
February 10 and is still growing.

“That is a thousand signatures a week since its launch,” Mr Stevens said, “and over 100
of these are from interstate and many more from regional NSW and urban areas remote
from the Wolli Creek Valley. Which goes to show that while people may leave the Valley,
the Valley does not leave their memory or their concern.”

See here to sign the petition.

Contact: Gina Svolos President 0431 308 303
Media Contact: Peter Stevens 0412 596 874

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Help Reclaim Kosci this summer

Got walking shoes and a camera? You can help Reclaim Kosci this summer.

The Reclaim Kosci campaign would like bushwalkers to help record sightings of feral horses, pigs and deer in Kosciuszko and nearby areas – especially areas which have been previously considered horse-free or low density. These areas include the Main Range from Mt Kosciuszko north to Mt Selwyn, parts of the lower Snowy, Bimberi Nature Reserve, and parts of Namadgi.

Reclaim Kosci want to see if the horses’ range is expanding and need photos of animals, dung, or other evidence such as crystal-clear hoofprints or pig-rooted soil, with locations and dates, taken this summer or in the past.

Please email photos to Linda Groom or, even better, join the iNaturalist project and upload them through the citizen science app iNaturalist.  More information on how to contribute, plus downloadable maps, can be found here.

Some parts of Kosciuszko and Namadgi are closed for fire recovery. Please check the NPWS and ACT Parks web sites for up-to-date information.

Questions? Visit our website for full details or email project co-ordinator Linda Groom at lindagroom@invasives.org.au

Raising Warrangamba Dam Wall Impacts

The NSW Nature Conservation Council (NCC) says that up to 1000 hectares of world heritage area and 3700 hectares of national park will be inundated for up to two weeks by raising Warragamba Dam wall.

The NCC is very concerned about 58 threatened species within the area already impacted by  recent bushfires including the koala, critically-endangered regent honeyeater, greater glider, broad-headed snake, brushtail rock wallaby, eucalyptus benthamii and eucalyptus glaucina.

In January 2020 the World Heritage Centre asked the Commonwealth Government to provide an update on the state of conservation of the Blue Mountains heritage area after more than 80 per cent was ravaged by fire last summer.

In response, the Commonwealth Government said Water NSW would re-assess bushfire impacts and include them in the pending environmental impact statement (EIS).  However, to date the draft EIS states Water NSW has no intention of re-assessing the area impacted by fire.

Ornithologist Martin Schulz said last summer’s Green Wattle Creek blaze burnt most of the southern Blue Mountains leaving only a small unburnt section which will likely be flooded by the Dam. “The ecosystems are different and parts will be in recovery for decades. How can an assessment done before the fires be valid? Dr Schulz asked. The fires changed so many things,” he said.

The draft EIS shows before the bushfires only 15 hours of spotlight searches were conducted for the koala, greater glider and squirrel glider in the inundation area, despite a 61 hour recommendation. Dr Schulz says this is “bafflingly low” especially for koalas given the area is so vast and how hard they are to find.

The time spent gathering sample collections of the squirrel glider and brush-tailed phascogale also didn’t meet the guidelines with only 1820 nights completed but 3224 nights recommended. The assessment of the large-eared pied bat was 11 times less the suggested amount with traps laid for 78 nights yet 864 recommended. “The low survey effort for the large-eared pied bat is particularly disappointing,” Dr Schulz said.

Community group Give a Dam spokesman Harry Burkitt has called on the Federal Government to intervene.

“The barrow-loads of leaked material now in the public domain show (Western Sydney) Minister Stuart Ayres and Infrastructure NSW haven’t even bothered following NSW guidelines, let alone those required under federal law or by UNESCO,” he said.

Infrastructure NSW, which oversees the project, says feedback from state and federal governments on the draft EIS is important in developing the final version. “The final decision on the dam raising proposal will only be made after all environmental, cultural, financial and planning assessments are complete,” a spokeswoman said.

The World Heritage Committee, which selects sites for UNESCO’s world heritage list, has expressed concerns over the project and will review the EIS before the Federal Government’s decision.

Adapting to new bushfire conditions

The recent unprecedented bushfire season disrupted our outdoor adventure plans and devastated national parks and wildlife. Unfortunately, with rising temperatures and drier years, this is only the start of a new trend of more frequent and destructive bushfires.

Bushwalking NSW is excited to welcome Professor David Bowman to talk at the Bushwalking NSW General Meeting about new bushfire conditions and the surprising things we need to consider to adapt to them.

David is Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of Tasmania, and Honorary Professor Archaeology and Natural History at the Australian National University. His research is focused on the ecology,­­­ evolution, biogeography and management of fire. David is exploring the relationship between fire, landscapes and humans and has an incredibly deep and broad understanding of:

  • how bushfire affects our natural environment,
  • what future we can expect for national parks and wild places that we love to walk in, and
  • how to adapt to new conditions to continue enjoying outdoor adventure.

David is establishing the new transdisciplinary field of pyrogeography which understands landscape burning from a multi-time-space-and-disciplinary perspective and considers human, physical and biological aspects at local to global scale over the geological past into the future. David is also a bushwalker who can provide first hand insight into the future of outdoor adventure. David recently made a submission to the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry.

The Bushwalking NSW General Meeting will be held online on Tuesday 19 May at 7pm for a 7.30pm start via Zoom or telephone. The full agenda is here and RSVPs are essential.

Learn more about Professor Bowman’s work here.

Koalas and raising Warragamba Dam Wall

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness have raised concerns about inadequate koala field assessments completed in relation to raising Warragamba Dam Wall.

On 18 March 2020 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a leaked document that showed the NSW Government’s biodiversity assessment of the 5,700 hectare proposed World Heritage Zone was rushed with ecologists having only eight weeks to complete the task.  The Herald reports that the search for koalas during the assessment lasted only three hours and forty minutes when the search should actually have taken 112 hours.

It is extremely alarming that such little regard has been shown for the wellbeing of koalas and other species given the fight the our wildlife now faces for survival after the recent bushfires.

Colong Foundation is asking concerned readers to send a short email to Environment Minister Matt Kean telling him that he should demand a proper survey of this iconic Australian species in the Blue Mountains. The following points have been provided by the Colong Foundation to help you write your message:

  • The leaked document showed a total of 3 hours and 40 minutes was spent looking for koala’s over an impact area the size of 10,600 football fields (5,700 hectares).
  • The document also showed just 15 hours was spent looking for greater gliders over the same 5,700 hectare area.
  • The leaked assessment report did not once mention the words ‘World Heritage’.
  • All assessment field work undertaken before the bushfires is not worth the paper it is written on and needs to be re-done, as the fires have caused a dramatic redistribution of threatened species across NSW.

Give a Dam about World Heritage Wilderness

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness is concerned that the insurance industry and developers are lobbying politicians to raise Warragamba Dam wall [1]. The Foundation believes that they are primarily doing this because raising the dam wall would generate 40,000 additional home insurance policies in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley resulting from new floodplain developments [2].

In response, the Foundation is lodging a shareholder resolution to QBE’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) requiring them to protect our Blue Mountains World Heritage listing.

The Foundation plans to submit the following resolution to QBE:

“Shareholders request that the company develop a policy which guarantees QBE does not invest in, insure or advocate for any projects or works that could result in negative impacts occurring within the boundaries of a World Heritage or Ramsar property.”

The Foundation states that to get world heritage protection on the agenda, they need 100 QBE shareholders to sign on to our resolution on world heritage before Friday.

The Foundation believes they are so close to reaching 100, and are asking that if you own QBE shares could you please sign on to this form to help get them across the line. If you experience any trouble during sign on, or have any questions, please contact the Foundation at hello@giveadam.org.au

[1] Insurance Council of Australia
[2] Infrastructure NSW

Volunteer Weeding

Volunteer! Weeding, especially of juvenile species requires excellent ID skills. Direction from an experienced bush regenerator is fundamental to getting it right.

National Parks and Wildlife staff across the state are in the process of planning how to best get on top of these invasive weed populations and the good news is we have a bit of time to get it right!

Now is not the best time to jump into burned places, as we trample much of the new growth, both good and bad.

As the fires ripped through the forest, they burned much of the vegetation. The playing field has now been levelled. However, now the battle begins as young plants fight for space, sunlight and water. By springtime most weeds will have grown to a sufficient size to identify and kill with relative ease. This is when we will deplete the seedbank and tip the balance in our favour. Preventing any new plants reaching maturity and reducing the population for generations to come.

So, what can you do? Go online or call your local National Parks office and find out what opportunities there are in your area. Councils and private Bushcare groups are also great alternatives, and don’t forget your own gardens either.

Guest note by:

Grant Purcell

Ranger

Blue Mountains Branch

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

10,000 Koalas Dead

The Nature Conservation Council (NCC) states that shocking new analysis estimates that fire, drought and starvation have killed 10,000 koalas since October [1]. That’s one out of every three koalas in the state!

Koala numbers were already declining steeply and slipping towards extinction. The fires have made their plight even more urgent.

In the midst of this crisis, you would expect our government would do everything in its power to protect remaining forests. But it is doing the opposite.

The NSW Government has now approved logging in two state forests that fires ripped through just weeks ago.

The NCC wants you to call on Premier Berejiklian to put an immediate moratorium on logging and to conduct a wildlife and habitat assessment.

More than 5 million hectares has burnt in NSW this fire season [2], including more than 41% of the national parks estate and 40% of state forests [3].

Native forests are resilient and will recover in time. Burnt forests are living forests with trees that are sprouting fresh leaves. Animals that survived the fires will slowly move back into these forests as life regenerates, so it is critical that these areas are kept safe.

Logging burnt forests not only destroys wildlife habitat, it slows recovery and harms soil and water health. It also increases future fire risk and leaves the forest uninhabitable for decades [3].

Premier Berejiklian has the power to keep forests safe from further destruction. The NCC asks you to call on her to put a moratorium on logging and give our wildlife a fighting chance after the bushfires.

Unburnt forests are critical refuges for koalas and other threatened species. With so much of the state burnt, koalas cannot afford to have their homes and food chopped down and their lives put at risk.

Right now, the NSW Government is looking at where else can be logged, against the best scientific advice, and before carrying out a post-bushfire wildlife and habitat impact assessment.

Pressure from the community has made a difference this bushfire season already, allowing wildlife carers and ecologists into closed state forests on the North Coast where koalas were dying of starvation.

We need to keep being a voice for koalas and other threatened species.

In times like these it can be hard to hold on to hope, but tens of thousands of people are standing up for nature and we are not backing down. Burnt forests are recovering and koalas are being rescued and rehabilitated by dedicated wildlife carers.

[1] Ten thousand koalas may have died in the NSW bushfires, inquiry hears. ABC, 19 February, 2020.
[2] Understanding the impact of the 2019-2020 fires. Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, February 2020.
[3] Analysis by The Wilderness Society, 2020.[4] Post-bushfire logging makes a bad situation even worse, but the industry is ignoring the science. ABC Lindenmayer, 29 January, 2020.