The unprecedented bushfires experienced in Queensland and NSW this month have well and truly sparked political fervour around climate change. All around the country, firefighters, farmers, bushfire victims and regional mayors have come out in support of climate change action to protect human property and lives, but also our shared natural environment.
This has shifted the climate change conversation: no longer is it between the conservation movement and the rest of the population - it's between those who are linking the science with reality and political inaction, and those who choose to believe some wild conspiracy theories instead. (Speaking of conspiracy theories, did you know Greta Thunberg is a time traveller? No joke.)
Frustrated by a lack of policy action, local convenor of LEAN (Labor Environment Action Network) and longtime NQCC supporter David Cassells has lodged a petition calling on the Government to convene a Hawke-like National Summit to listen to scientists, fire management specialists and First Nation knowledge holders to craft a bipartisan national response to both the bushfire emergency and the wider climate emergency. Please sign the petition here and share among your networks!
If you've been having some tense conversations with family members and colleagues about the role of environmentalists in the bushfire emergency, we have some tips below to help guide such conversations. We also recommend you take five minutes to enjoy this interesting little video by the ABC featuring Craig Reucassel and about thirteen minutes to listen to this fascinating interview with former fire chief Greg Mullins.
In this edition:
- Did "Greenie" policies contribute to this bushfire season?
- NQCC's submission to the NQ Regional Plan
- Wilderness Matters - remembering Hinchinbrook protests with a lively event
- Flying foxes threatened by dispersal methods
- Sharks still at risk of culling
- Proposed Vanadium project
- Hells Gates Dam update
- Introducing Arcadia Coastcare's new beaut website
- Queensland's Container Deposit Scheme celebrates 12 months
- Member of the Month!
Bushfires: What Role Do Environmentalists Play?
The recent spate of bushfires throughout Queensland and NSW have probably trapped a few of us in some heated conversations with family members and colleagues about the role that environmentalists and "greenie" policies play in fire management. If you've found these conversations a little overwhelming, we've collated some key points to keep in mind when communicating with those hoping to weaken our movement.
The key argument we've heard being thrown around? "Greenies introduced legislation that stopped back burning, which is why these fires got so out of control."
Here are some key points with which to refute such logic.
- The conservation movement has never opposed fire management practices. This would be absurd. Also, conservation interests have never held enough influence to introduce legislation without significant support from at least one of the major parties.
- Less back burning occurred prior to this fire season because there were fewer days with suitable conditions to carry it out (the IPCC has warned of longer bushfire seasons). Also keep in mind that funding was cut to the fire services of NSW in their last state budget, which meant there were fewer resources to carry out back burning than in previous years.
- This year we have seen landscapes burn that have not burned in thousands (and possibly millions) of years, such as Gondwanan rainforest. These are not areas that would usually be managed for fire, as they are deemed to be of lower fire risk.
For a lengthy read on this topic that's worth your time, check out this article from The Saturday Paper.
North Queensland Regional Plan
Last month we sent out a series of emails to our supporters, seeking input on the draft "North Queensland Regional Plan". Many of you responded with valuable feedback that was included in our submission made last week. Thank you to those of you who got involved - it really was a tremendous help to us! If you have a few minutes to spare, have a read of our submission.
"Wilderness Matters" Band Night & Hinchinbrook Fundraiser
Inspired by the historical display opening in Cardwell last month, NQCC partnered with Kenn Parker to bring the display (and its important conservation message) to Townsville! This live band night held last Saturday night brought locals together to remember the early campaigns to save Hinchinbrook Island and the Hinchinbrook Channel from commercial development over 25 years ago. Newspaper clippings and video footage of the 1990s Hinchinbrook protests were on display, while we heard from guest speakers and enjoyed the lively music of four fantastic local bands.
"Trash Meow" (above) and other local musicians maintained a lively vibe throughout the evening. (Photo credit: Paul Freeman)
The event brought everyone in to hear stories of an important time in North Queensland's history - from activists who were involved back in the day to the people who weren't yet born but love the area. It is so important that we keep stories of past battles alive for the younger generation of people who are joining the movement and this event achieved just that! You can read more about the history of campaigns to save Hinchinbrook on our website.
NQCC volunteer Taz Laporte shows her support for our campaign to keep private leases outside of our National Parks. (Photo credit: Paul Freeman)
The evening's event was also an important fundraiser for our current campaign to protect Hinchinbrook Island National Park from being opened up to commercial leases. If you didn't make it to the event but would like to donate to the campaign, we'd appreciate the support - every dollar counts!
Thank you to the fantastic performers who kept us upbeat all evening: "Astronaut Launch Party", "Trash Meow", "The Resisdance" and "DJ Tropicalism" - our AMAZING team of volunteers, Derek Tipper, Kenn Parker, Umbrella Studio and everyone who showed up for a fun night out with a conservation twist!
Flying Foxes Threatened by Dispersal Methods
A few weeks ago we emailed you about the dispersal of a flying fox colony in Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens, and that we have reason to believe that the methods utilised by Townsville City Council are inflicting stress, injuries and death onto hundreds of animals.
Tarquin is taking this issue to the Ministerial Environment Roundtable in early December, along with our concerns regarding development in National Parks and action on climate change - particularly investment in regional areas.
A flying fox in Dan Gleeson Memorial Gardens, where pups are abandoned in trees when their mothers are dispersed. (Photo credit: Jon Luly)
Flying fox colonies are inherently noisy and smelly, but these highly mobile pollinators improve the health of our native forests - carbon sinks which need our help now more than ever. To ensure these species continue to thrive throughout our region, we must educate and communicate with community members, collaborate with wildlife carers and ecologists, and provide/protect suitable natural habitats and corridors to a much higher standard than in the past.
Sharks Still at Risk - Can you help?
You may have seen this news story come out last month, declaring that sharks caught in drum lines within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are no longer to be culled, but tagged and relocated or released. This ruling is thanks to a challenge by the Humane Society International into Queensland's shark control program. The State Government launched an appeal, but the decision was upheld, supported by "overwhelming" evidence that killing sharks did nothing to reduce the risk of unprovoked attacks, and therefore did nothing to protect human life.
Sharks are crucial to the health of our marine ecosystems, and the Coral Sea is home to over 50 species. Since the 1960s, Queensland's shark control program has been responsible for the deaths of a range of marine species, including at least 35 shark species (most of these considered not dangerous to humans, and most also at conservation risk), as well as a range of rays, turtles, fish and dolphins. This is a devastating situation for an area that is protected for its unique environmental values.
A tiger shark caught on a drum line off Magnetic Island. (Photo credit: AMCS/HSI/N. McLaughlan)
The changes to the program now mean that drum lines inside the marine park must be checked daily and SMART drum lines, which use GPS to alert authorities in real time to a catch, should be trialled and implemented as soon as reasonably possible. Sharks should be released where they are found, except tiger, bull and white sharks, which must be tagged and relocated.
While this decision is a huge win for our unique and biodiverse marine ecosystems, Fisheries Minister Mark Furner is not satisfied with this outcome and is calling upon the Prime Minister to intervene and allow shark culls to continue. If you agree that non-lethal methods should be used to monitor and manage sharks, and that Minister Mark Furner should respect the court's ruling, sign the Australian Marine Conservation Society's petition below and share our blog post to help spread the word.
Proposed New Vanadium Project: Input Wanted
NQCC have been invited to comment on the EIS for the proposed Saint Elmo Vanadium Project 25km East of Julia Creek. The project has been proposed by Multicom Resources Limited. In October, Epic Environmental Pty. Ltd. released the Environmental Impact Statement for the project. An information session on the proposed development was held in Townsville on 14 November.
The project is an open cut, shallow, panel mining operation for the extraction and processing of Vanadium Pentoxide. Vanadium is used in the production of steel alloys and as a core component in Vanadium redox flow batteries.
Production is expected to be at a rate of between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) over a mine life of 30 years. A dedicated Mine Infrastructure Area (MIA) will accommodate processing and logistics infrastructure. The Mining Lease Application (MLA) covers an area of 8882 ha approximately 25km east of the town of Julia Creek. The project includes shallow open cut pits with north-south aligned strip mining panels to be sequentially mined, backfilled and rehabilitated. The depth of the pit will vary from 20m to 40m depending on the depth of overburden.
The proposed mine site, 25km east of Julia Creek. (Photo credit: Epic Environmental Pty Ltd)
Issues addressed in the EIS include impact on the Julia Creek Dunnart, which is listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act and commitments to reduce risks to the groundwater in the region.
Comments on the EIS are due by 16 December. The EIS can be accessed here. If you (or someone you know) has expertise relating to this project and its environmental impacts, please contact Peter Hanley at [email protected], as Peter is coordinating NQCC's response to the EIS.
Hells Gates Dam: Not Feasible and Unnecessary
Earlier this month, the Federal Government announced that a further $24 million will be made available for a business case of the Hells Gates proposal. We believe that this project is both environmentally and economically unfeasible, with no net benefit for Townsville's water supply. The Final Report of the Townsville Water Security Task Force can be downloaded here.
Arcadia Community Values Nature
Magnetic Island community group Arcadia Coastcare has launched a website highlighting Arcadia’s natural values and what the community is doing to help look after the place. The website includes information for locals and visitors on public natural areas, native plants and animals, weeds, landscape, catchment, Indigenous values, Coastcare activities and contact details.
Previously called Geoffrey Bay Coastcare and Olympus Crescent Coastcare, the group helps look after natural areas on public land at Arcadia with approval from National Parks and Townsville City Council. Group activities include weed control, assisted natural regeneration, tree planting, habitat protection, interpretation and workshops for community consultation and knowledge sharing.
Funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program assisted the development of the website. Coastcare member Tony O’Malley said: “We’d like to thank the Australian Government, Queensland Government (including QPWS), Townsville City Council, NQ Dry Tropics, NQCC, Wulgurukaba, MICDA and MINCA for grants and/or support over the years.”
Queensland's Containers: 12 Months of Recycling
The first week of November marked one year since Queensland's Container Deposit Scheme was introduced. Thanks to the scheme, about one billion containers have been recycled, 700 jobs were created and container litter has reduced by 35%. It is fantastic to see a program that benefits communities, economies and our environment!
If you haven't already taken advantage of this scheme, check out your closest recycling point here, or drop your containers off at our office (114 Boundary St, Railway Estate Qld). To donate your 10 cent refund to NQCC, simply quote our ID number:
C100 283 66
(Save it to your phone so you don't forget!)
Thank you so much to everyone who has donated their container refund to our organisation in the past twelve months - it really is a win-win for the environment!
NQCC Treasurer Cam Leitch contributes to our collection.
Member of the Month
Matthew Garbutt (left) with Parimal Reddy, supporting our #SaveOurNationalParks campaign at JCU's O-Week Market Day.
Matthew is currently studying at James Cook University here in Townsville, and volunteered at our O-Week Market Day stall in Semester 2 this year. We have really appreciated the passion and energy he has shown for our campaigns, and wanted to let our Paperbark readers get to know him a little, so we asked him the following questions...
What made you become a member of NQCC?
I was really keen on joining some environmental organisations that I could volunteer for and NQCC stood out, so I signed up to the newsletter with hopes to get involved.
What are your life passions/hobbies?
I love music and playing guitar. I also like to skateboard in my spare time. Although over the past couple of years my love for nature and working in the environment has really grown.
What are you studying right now and why?
I am currently studying Environmental Practice at JCU. I decided to pursue this course after an eye opening trip to Vietnam with my family. After that I became much more interested in sustainability and EP looked to be the hands on course. I’ve been loving it ever since.
Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for others who are concerned about the environment?
Try not to get caught up in size of the problem and all the negative news about the environment. Make positive changes locally, whether it's at your school, workplace or your home. Encourage the people around you to change and think about their implications on the environment and you’ll be making a great impact.
Our membership base contains a diverse wealth of knowledge, passions and experiences, and we'd love to learn more about the people who make our organisation strong! Each month we will endeavour to reach out to a different member to learn about what drives them, and what NQCC means to them.
If the future of North Queensland's environment is something you care deeply about, why not join us?
Thank you for all that you do for our environment.
Tarquin and Crystal on behalf of
North Queensland Conservation Council