The Coastwatchers Association Inc. is the leading community environmental and conservation group serving the South Coast of NSW, principally in the Shire of Eurobodalla between Narooma and Batemans Bay.

Welcome to our website. We aim to provide information and resources in this website such that it can be used as a significant community resource. We welcome comments or suggested improvements (click the envelope icon on the right to email).

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Proposed Changes to Rules Governing Environmental Organisations

The Coastwatchers Environment Fund is one of hundreds of environment funds which have been registered on the Commonwealth Government’s REO – the Register of Environmental Organisations. This registration process provides the legal basis for attracting tax-deductible donations.

A Commonwealth Parliamentary Inquiry is considering requiring 25-50% of all tax deductible revenue to be spent on remedial environmental work.

The NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has prepared the following comments.

“DGR STATUS: Should all Environmental Charities have to plant trees?

For decades, groups on the Register of Environmental Organisations (REO) have been eligible for tax-deductible donations – encouraging private funding for the public good.

But in 2016, half the members of a (Commonwealth) Parliamentary Inquiry proposed that in order to remain eligible, environmental groups, including EDOs, must spend at least 25% of their donations revenue of reactive ‘environment remediation work’ – activities like tree planting.

We (the EDO) believe proactive protection of the environment provides clear public benefits in many forms:

  • raising environmental awareness;
  • enforcing and strengthening environmental policy and laws;
  • and new research on species, ecosystems and environmental innovation.

Imposing a minimum spend on remediation would require many well established environmental charities to

either radically alter the way they operate;

inefficiently divert money to other groups at the Commonwealth Government’s direction;

or lose eligibility for taxdeductibility donations altogether.

Following the 2016 REO inquiry, a 2017 Commonwealth Treasury Consultation paper asked what stakeholders think about the ‘minimum spend’ proposal for environment groups. It even floated the option of increasing the minimum to 50% of donated funds.

During the consultation period, environmental Deductible Gift Recipients were for the first time required to report the percentage of their public donations expended on ‘onground environmental remediation’, ‘advocacy’ and other activities.

The proposal did not originate within the Commonwealth Treasury – it takes up arguments made by the mining and resources lobby, including the Queensland Resources Council and the gas-industry funded Energy Resources Information Centre.

It’s vital that the views of these lobbyists are not given more weight than those of the hundreds of environment groups, community members, donors and governance experts who made submissions to the REO Inquiry, pointing out the pitfalls artificially distinguishing ‘on-ground’ rehabilitation from other things environmental groups do to pursue their public purpose. Their evidence led to half the Commonwealth Parliamentary Committee rejecting the minimum 25% spending proposal.

It may suit some private interests for the Commonwealth Government to constrain environmental voices, restrict community access to legal services and place new administrative burdens on the charity sector.

But it’s not in the public interest, nor what the broader community expect of our charity and tax laws. That is why our current laws focus on charities’ purposes, rather than attempting to define their activities.

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Dargues Reef Mine Gets Final Approval

In April 2017, Big Island Mining received final approval from the Commonwealth Government to proceed with the development of the Dargues Reef Gold Mine at Majors Creek. Big Island Mining had previously received approval under NSW Planning legislation following the NSW Planning Assessment Commission determining the matter.

Box Cut Entrance to Dargues Reef Mine

The initial Commonwealth conditional approval was granted under the (Cth) Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 was in February 2017. After further submissions from Big Island Mining addressing the issues of a Construction Environmental Management Plan and a Water Management Plan, final approval was granted in April 2017.

Now that this 3 year process has been completed, the Association will be making a further submission to the NSW Minister for Planning. That submission will request the need for mandatory consideration of potential downstream impacts of all mining activity, given the massive damage to the environment and communities that discharges from mine sites can and do cause.

Earlier sediment discharges into Spring Creek

The bond arrangements that currently exist for miners are totally inadequate, and that will be an issue that will also be addressed to the Minister and other peak environmental groups.

These issues need a coordinated approach at State level, by peak NSW environmental organisation such as the Nature Conservation Council, as they impact State-wide development and are not simply a local issue.

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Victorian Forest Investigation Underway

In February 2017, VicForests began logging an area near Warburton known as the Blue Vein coupe, just a few hundred metres from the famous 350- year-old Ada Tall Trees Reserve.

Local citizen scientists from the ‘Wildlife of the Central Highlands’ Group, had found protected habitats for the Leadbeater’s Possum within the area. With the bulldozers already at work Environmental Justice Australia (previously the Victorian Environmental Defenders Office) reported the matter to the Environment Department and VicForests, on behalf of four local community groups, and demanded that logging stop.

The Victorian Government called a temporary halt to logging operations and commenced an investigation. This was despite the fact that part of the forest in the coupe had already been destroyed. Local citizen scientists – who suspected there were threatened species in the area – then worked into the early hours of the morning and found the colony of Leadbeater’s Possums.

Logging was halted by VicForests, and the colony of Leadbeater’s Possums saved. The Victorian Environment Department is currently investigating this logging activity. It is illegal in Victoria to log habitat, which contains endangered species.

Coastwatchers Members will be kept informed of the outcome of this matter. One scenario is that the Victorian Environment Department could end up suing VicForests, another Government agency. The law in NSW is quite the opposite, where timber is far more important than endangered or vulnerable species, such as the Yellowed-bellied Glider or the Greater Glider found in the Mogo Forest.

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Moruya Forest Forum Success

The Coastwatchers ‘Moruya Forest Forum’, was held on Wednesday 23 August 2017, and was a great success. About 100 people attended the Forum in the St. Mary’s Performing Art Centre, an ideal venue for this type of activity.

The meeting opened with the showing of an abridged version of the film “Understory” produced by David Gallan. The film highlighted the struggles over the past 30 years to save the local south coast forests from destruction.

The Forum heard from three expert speakers:

Mike Thompson, a Coastwatchers member who talked about local forestry issues;

Virginia Young, the former Wilderness Society Forest Campaign Coordinator who outlined issues occurring internationally in forestry, the need to retain forests as carbon banks and biodiversity; and

Dr Oisin Sweeney, the Chief Ecologist with the National Parks Association who addressed the NPA’s “Forests for all Plan”.

The facilitator of the Forum was Dr George Browning, who did an excellent job. The Association thanks David, Mike, Virginia, Oisin and George, for their contributions and their professionalism in making the evening such a success.

Three resolutions were passed at the end of the Forum, calling on the NSW Government to:

  1. Cease Logging Mogo State Forest

Immediately cease logging the Mogo State Forest until a professionally based pre logging review is undertaken and assessed, given the known presence of both the Vulnerable (Commonwealth) Greater Glider and the Vulnerable (NSW) Yellow Bellied Glider, which have so far been ignored.

  1. Existing Claytons Review

Note it is an insult to the South Coast community, for NSW Forestry to prepare a highly inadequate and Claytons pre logging review, when the review was constrained to an 18 hour budget for a 400 ha forest, and when reviewers in that forest were limited to a few tracks because of night-time occupational health and safety concerns, while searching for nocturnal species.

  1. National Parks Association “Forests for All Plan”

Support the aims and rationale of National Parks Association’s “FORESTS FOR ALL PLAN”, and calls on the NSW Government to commit to the implementation of the PLAN as a more equitable and sustainable use of public native forests across NSW.”

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Forest Forum Letter to the Premier October 16th 2017

Dear Premier,

Prohibition on the Logging of Mogo State Forest

The Coastwatchers Association Inc. opposes the continued logging of State Forests in the Batemans Bay region of the South Coast of NSW, particularly the logging of timber, which is destined for the wood chip mill at Eden. The Association recently coordinated a ‘Moruya Forest Forum’, and the 100 community members present resolved unanimously that logging should cease immediately in this region because it was destroying the habitat of the Greater gliders and the Yellow-bellied gliders in the area. In turn this loss of habitat was destroying these Gliders. (The three resolutions of the Moruya Forest Forum of 23 August 2017 are presented in Attachment A.)
The viability of Forestry operations on the South Coast of NSW is highly questionable, given so much timber is processed into unprofitable wood chips at Eden. State Government subsidies are necessary to keep that sector of the timber industry afloat, all for the employment of a very small number of jobs.
As has already happened in Victoria, the sustainability of timber harvest in NSW has been overtaken by politics, and the NSW Government will shortly need to address the same issue as Victoria, a shortage of timber, because sustainable harvest practices have been ignored. Victoria has addressed that by nationalising the Heyfield Timber Mill. That mill cannot continue to have long-term viability as it will be financially unviable to maintain, because of the lack of timber. The financial losses will be ultimately borne by the community, and the mill will become a dead asset.
NSW faces the same bleak prospects.
But the bleak prospects are even more alarming, given that habitat is currently being wiped out, endangered and vulnerable fauna are being destroyed, and community water supplies are being adversely impacted. This is all happening at a time when Governments world-wide are encouraging habitat retention and regeneration. Even Tony Abbott supported the creation of a Green Corp to increase tree plantings to absorb green house gases such as carbon dioxide. The NSW State Government is doing exactly the reverse.

The NSW Government must look at the big picture, and allow the use of State Forests as Carbon banks. It has been estimated in Victoria that if that approach was followed, VicForests operational performance would reverse from an $80 million annual loss to a $100 million annual profit. In other words it is more profitable not to harvest State Forests than it is to continue with the current policies.
All governments need to develop long-term policies to protect the environment for future generations, rather than pursue irrational short-term policies, which result in financial loss, and loss of habitat and fauna, while accelerating climate change and global warming. At the end of your term as Premier, please don’t let this scenario be your legacy to the State of NSW, and future generations.

View the letter as a PDF: Forest Forum Letter to Premier 2017-10-16 (91KB)

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Moruya Forest Forum Resources – August 23rd 2017

NPA Forests for All Plan   https://npansw.org/what-we-do/our-work/campaigns/end-native-forest-logging/
Great Southern Forest Campaign seeks to protect all of the 430,000 hectares of public native forests of the Southern and Eden Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) regions following the expiry of the RFAs. The GSF is a partnership between NPA Far South Coast Branch, the South East Region Conservation Alliance and the National Trust NSW.  Forests For All seeks to build a broad alliance of regional communities, health, environment, business and outdoor recreation groups.

Understorey Trailer   http://www.greatsouthernforest.org.au/media.html
Subscribe to Nature News re upcoming actions and events.  https://npansw.org/npa/take-action/
Carbon Storage http://press.anu.edu.au/publications/green-carbon-part-1
Tourism re Unspoilt Eurobodalla
National Trust Register of Significant Trees   

Forestry Website Extract and links
Forestry Corporation welcomes stakeholder input to inform our detailed operational planning.  In particular, we are keen to:
•        Identify whether stakeholders have any specific concern in relation to particular compartments
•        Ensure stakeholders have access to the Harvest Plans and answer any questions they have about these documents
•        Identify any additional issues, both on the forest and along potential log haulage routes, for consideration prior to operations commencing
Interested stakeholders can email info@fcnsw.com.au to make contact with a forester and discuss the Plan of Operations or an individual Harvest Plan in more detail.

Media Contact Pages
https://www.beagleweekly.com.au/  Eurobodalla Shire Online News
Riot Act Canberra https://the-riotact.com/ Canberra Online News

Politician Contact Pages phone, request appointment with staff, email, write letters, facebook
Andrew Constance re Bega – Office in Bega   https://www.andrewconstance.com.au/
Anne Sudmalis re Gilmore Office in Nowra   https://www.annsudmalismp.com.au/
Mike Kelly re Eden-Monaro – Office in Queanbeyan and Bega.
Dawn Walker NSW MLA http://www.dawnwalker.org.au/forestry
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian https://www.gladys.com.au/ https://www.facebook.com/gladysnsw/ 

Nature Conservation Council has been campaigning the Premier about clearing laws in August.

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Moruya Forest Forum Resolutions- August 23rd 2017

This meeting calls on the NSW Government to:

1. Cease Logging Mogo State Forest
Immediately cease logging the Mogo State Forest until a professionally based pre logging review is undertaken and assessed, given the known presence of both the Vulnerable (Commonwealth) Greater Glider and the Vulnerable (NSW) Yellow Bellied Glider, which have so far have been ignored.

2. Existing Claytons Review
Note it is an insult to the South Coast community, for NSW Forestry to prepare a highly inadequate and Claytons pre logging review, when the review was constrained to an 18 hour budget for a 400 ha Forest, and when reviewers in that forest were limited to a few tracks because of night-time occupational health and safety concerns, while searching for nocturnal species.

3. National Parks Association ‘Forests for All Plan’
Support the aims and rationale of National Parks Association’s ‘FORESTS FOR ALL PLAN’, and calls on the NSW Government to commit to the implementation of the PLAN as a more equitable and sustainable use of public native forests across NSW.

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Rabbit Control Continues in Eurobodalla

The Eurobodalla Shire’s Environment Team are commended for their efforts to reduce the numbers of rabbits across the Shire. Rabbit warrens have been destroyed and fumigated in Tuross, Long Beach and South Durras.

The new Korean strain of Calcivirus (RHDV-K5) was released across nearly every part of the Shire. Post release monitoring has shown an excellent uptake, with a rapid decline in rabbit numbers.

Follow-up work to the virus release and the fumigation has been in progress, with nocturnal low caliber shooting by an expert being the primary method of control.

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Propping Up a Potential Dead Asset – The Closure/Sale of the Heyfield Timber Mill

A salutary lesson in timber resource management

Gippsland in Victoria is still reeling from the loss of hundreds of jobs following the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station. And then months later the largest hardwood sawmill in Australia, also based in Gippsland, indicates it is closing.

The Heyfield Timber Mill is located in the small Gippsland town of Heyfield which has a population of about 2000. The largest industry in town is the Mill employing 250 workers. The mill is operated by Australian Sustainable Hardwood, owned by the Hermal Group.

The mill’s operator has been locked in a dispute with the Victorian Government and the State-owned logging company, VicForests, over the quantity of timber which could be supplied to the mill.

In March 2017 the company announced the mill’s closure, saying the shutdown would begin in August. This in turn led to a series of workers’ protests at Victoria’s State Parliament.

The dispute arose because of the shortage of timber. VicForests intended to slash the mill’s timber supply from 130,000 cubic metres to 80,000 cubic metres in 2017, and to 60,000 cubic metres in 2018 and again in 2019, because of dwindling log supplies. ASH (Australian Sustainable Hardwood) demanded the 130,000 cubic metres to maintain viability. (The original unsigned contract was to supply between 125,000 and 155,000 cubic metres of timber every year from 1 July 2017, until 30 June 2034.)

The hardwood processed at the mill grew in the environmentally sensitive central highlands. The management of the Victorian forests, like those in NSW, have been characterised by over-logging. Add to that the destruction of 26% (some reports say 40%) of the remaining harvestable supply in the 2009 Black Saturday Victorian bushfires,and it is little wonder there is a supply crisis.

The regeneration rate for mountain ash is over 80 years, and over 110 years for timber in the mixed forests.

To save the 250 mill jobs, the Victorian Government reached an in principle agreement with ASH to buy the Heyfield Mill and keep the sawmill operating and keep the existing workers employed. An initial offer of $40 million was rejected and speculation is that the final price was about $50 million (subject to due diligence)

Commentators have said that despite the Government’s assurances, job losses will be inevitable because the supply of timber simply cannot be maintained.

The mountain ash forests are also home to the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, – Victoria’s emblem. Industry maintains that large areas of forest are tied up to protecting the Leadbeater’s possum and in turn have led to the declining timber supply.

However, the Wilderness Society have said that just 3,000 ha (1.2%) of forest, allocated to VicForests for logging ash forest in Victoria’s east, was set aside for the Leadbeater’s possum. It was equivalent to 0.16 % of the 1.82 million hectares of state forest allocated to VicForests for logging all forests across eastern Victoria.

The Wilderness Society is proposing the establishment of a Great Forest National Park, arguing that preserving the mountain ash trees (which are also an endangered species) and facilitating tourism would boost jobs and the State’s economy more than the timber mills.

It has also been suggested to VicForests that they would be far more profitable leaving the trees standing and marketing the forests as carbon offsets.

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Concerned Community Members Find Endangered Greater Gliders, and Vulnerable Yellow-bellied Gliders in the Mogo State Forest

Since the logging operation commenced, volunteer members of the community have been surveying the Mogo Forest, searching for fauna that would be adversely affected by the logging activities. They were also noting the presence of habitat and feed trees. The volunteers included members of Coastwatchers, Wires, and the National Parks Association of NSW.

Yellow Bellied Glider

They found the presence of the Greater Glider (Petauroides volans) – Endangered in NSW, and the Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis) – Vulnerable in NSW, in the Mogo State Forest, in the area being logged.

They also found wombat burrows. It is critical that logging contractors are aware of the presence of wombats and their burrows to avoid heavy machinery crushing the animals. Continue reading

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