New parks for Southern Highlands
In June, the Government quietly announced the conclusion of a ten-year long assessment of State forests and Crown lands in the Southern Highlands. As a result it is protecting 17,000 ha as new national parks or nature reserves and a further 2,400 as state conservation areas. It also announced a further 22,400 ha of Crown lands will remain in public ownership, unlike in other areas of the State.
Attempts by NPA and other groups to protect areas close to pine plantations or with mineral interests failed. There is no action on the draft recommendation to assess the conservation values of Crown leases covering Lake George.
In creating the small but important parks between Canberra and the Blue Mountains, Minister Koperberg said, 'This will no doubt help to further stimulate the local economy in a way which was not previously possible while public lands sat vacant and unused.'
New planning ideas ignore the environment
At a forum 'New Ideas for Planning' held by Planning NSW in August, Planning Minister Frank Sartor outlined his intention to have new planning legislation in place by July 2008 that would 'streamline' the planning approval process, overhaul the NSW Heritage Act, expedite concurrence roles of agencies such as DECC and ensure half of all development is automatically approved (through 'exempt and complying' provisions).
Minister Sartor, responding to a question from NPA, said the process was not important, it was the outcome that mattered. Yet he refused to say how he would ensure the environment would be protected or the community involved in the decisions once the processes that ensure this are removed.
The forum was dominated by the development industry and councils and most of the ideas promoted bore an uncanny similarity to the views of the Property Council of Australia.
NPA and other environment groups have agreed to form a new alliance to counter this attempt to further wind back planning laws.
TTF action plan
A new Natural Tourism Partnerships Action Plan, launched by lobby group Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) and supported by the Federal Tourism Minister, makes a worrying push to open up national parks to new commercial development.
The action plan is commended for acknowledging the importance of the national park system, ensuring it is well funded and that good management is in place.
However, it also states that not enough is being done to allow business to get involved with management and provision of accommodation and visitor services in national parks. The action plan language of 'cutting red tape', 'streamlined approval processes' and providing 'pre-approval' for developments signals an intention to weaken important environmental safeguards protecting our parks.
As our Three Valleys Branch recently wrote to the Minister, 'Why do resorts and accommodation need to be inside the parks?' and 'Why should the tourism industry become so involved in the park management that they control visitor activity?'
NPA vs Forests NSW on Red Gum
Donations to the Red Gum court case appeal have recently been put to good use. NPA has commenced proceedings in the Land and Environment Court to prove that logging within the red gum forests is illegal because an environmental impact assessment and species impact statement has not been prepared.
The first step in the action is to seek an order from the Court to provide access for NPA scientific experts to survey compartments in the Barooga, Millewa, Moira and Pericoota state forests in the Riverina. Forests NSW has failed to approve NPA's request to undertake a survey that was lodged in December 2006.
In contrast to NSW's reluctance to rein in unsustainable logging and grazing, the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council has shown leadership in proposing 100,000 ha of new national parks to protect red gum forests and wetlands south of the border. These parks will be finalised after public comment.
Visit NPA's Red Gum Icons website at www.redgum.org.au for the latest news on the court case.
Snowy Hydro cloud seeding claim is bogus
The persistent claim made by Snowy Hydro that its cloud seeding trial in Kosciuszko National Park is increasing snowfall cannot be substantiated according to a new report released by the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) earlier this year.
The independent NRC has reviewed the first three years of the trial and found that there is 'no information currently available to determine whether snowfall is increasing as a result of cloud seeding…'. It has also found serious flaws in the trial methodology that means it is not possible to determine whether the trial is having an environmental impact on the national park. The opportunity to set up long term monitoring plots has now been lost.
Alarmingly, only one of the five recommendations made in 2005 by the NRC to improve the trial has been implemented. In its latest report, the NRC made a further 13 recommendations. NPA has written to Minister Koperberg to use his powers under the special legislation establishing the trial to require the maverick Snowy Hydro to implement the NRC recommendations in full or else halt the trial
NPWS quick response
to Muramarang track breach
One night recently the Durras Lakes locals made a very organised
attempt to open up some closed tracks in the catchment of Durras Lake
(a major undertaking).
John Perkins noticed some significant problems with
parts of the track, and the following day, NPWS Ranger Rob Perry
organised for a contractor to repair and strengthen these closures.
The job was completed within a few days. 'Now that's service', John said.
The track breaches were quite serious.
Photos: John Perkins