Coastwatchers’ Submission to the EPBC Act Review April 2020

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the Australian Government’s key piece of environmental legislation which commenced July 16th 2000.

The EPBC Act enables the Australian Government to join with the states and territories in providing a truly national scheme of environment and heritage protection and biodiversity conservation. The EPBC Act focuses Australian Government interests on protection matters of national environmental significance, with the states and territories having responsibility for matters of state and local significance.

The Australian Government Department of the Environment administers the EPBC Act.

The second independent review of the EPBC Act commenced in October 2019, led by Professor Graeme Samuel AC, supported by a panel of experts. A report will be presented to the Minister for the Environment within 12 months of commencement of the review.

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Coastwatchers’ objection to Eden Timber Optimisation Hub May 2020

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Coastwatchers Submission to the NSW Bushfire Inquiry March 2020

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Comments – Dargues Mine Water Management Plan Feb 2020

Coastwatchers member Stewart Needham is a member of the Dargues mine Community Consultative Committee. He submitted the following document in relation to the Dargues Mine Water Management Plan.

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Batemans Marine Park Sanctuary Zones to be Abolished

The information below was sent by the Nature Coast Marine Group regarding the abolition of sanctuary zones in the Batemans Marine Park without scientific assessment or public consultation and even without consulting the Batemans Marine Park Advisory Committee. Click through to their website to sign a petition to Save our Sanctuaries, to join the group, or simply to subscribe to their emails (Membership Page) in order to be kept up-to-date on the issue.

The NSW Government is scrapping sanctuary zones in the Batemans Marine Park We have been struggling during this year to head off a push from local member Andrew Constance to get rid of a number of sanctuary zones in the marine park. Unfortunately the worst has now come to pass. Agriculture Minister Marshall put out a media release on Thursday 12 December in which he announced that recreational fishing will henceforth be permitted in sanctuary zones at Montague Island (2 sites), Wagonga Inlet (2 sites), Brou Lake and Nangudga Lake. The decision is even worse than we feared because these changes will take place immediately under an “amnesty” system, before any consultation with the community. 

There are good reasons why these sanctuary zones exist. They allow for protection of biodiversity in the wide variety of habitats in the marine park, they promote conditions for the flourishing of marine flora and fauna and protect threatened species, including grey nurse sharks, black rockcod, shorebirds and seagrasses. All these values will now be undermined.

By contrast, there are no good reasons for the changes that have been announced. There has been no process of scientific assessment. No scientific justification has been put forward for the changes, which in addition undermine the integrity of the zones as scientific reference areas. 

The process is deeply disheartening. The legislation requires that changes be open for public consultation for a period of at least two months, but with the decision already made, what hope can anyone have that that the consultation will be genuine?

In addition, these cut backs to sanctuary zones have not been considered by the Batemans Marine Park Advisory Committee (on which we are represented) or any other forum representing the wider community.

We are particularly disappointed because we met with staff from the offices of both Agriculture Minister Marshall and Environment Minister Kean in the past couple of months to express concern about the Constance proposals. Mr Marshall subsequently wrote to us to say that “any proposed change to sanctuary zones would need to be subject to public consultation for a minimum of two months as required by legislation”.

Looking forward we have to be concerned because Andrew Constance has foreshadowed a ‘step by step’ approach that would see the dismantling of further sanctuary zone protections. The prospect is for a marine park that would be there on the map but not in reality – nothing but a “paper” park.
Copyright © 2019 Nature Coast Marine Group, All rights reserved.
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Batemans Bay High School Report to Coastwatchers Environment Fund Dec 2019.

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Newspaper coverage – Coastwatchers Environment Fund and Batemans Bay High School

This article appeared in the Moruya Examiner / Bay Post on November 27th 2019.

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Dargues Gold Mine update from Coastwatchers’ new representative on the Dargues Gold Mine Community Consultative Committee, Stewart Needham

Stewart writes: I attended the last Dargues Reef CCC meeting on 30 September as an observer, and since then my nomination has been formally accepted so that I will be able to fully participate in the next CCC meeting to be held on 16 December. I hope I will be able to do Coastwatchers’ interests justice, as I have had relevant experience in my past career in geology and environmental management in mining. This experience includes developing and organising consultative groups for the environmental and social impacts of uranium mining in the Northern Territory, a nd implementing operational procedures for the regulation of mining in Queensland, as well as environmental auditing of mine sites.

The September CCC meeting was almost entirely dedicated to noise; presentations were made by the NSW EPA on regulatory requirements and how monitoring is undertaken, and by the company and Majors Creek residents on a number of issues which have arisen. Perhaps the most significant issue is noise at night. Negotiations have focussed on noise and vibration from blasting, and when ore processing operations begin, crushing and truck movement timetables. Currently the local community is pressing to have ore stockpiled underground at night, with truck movements to the crusher limited to daylight hours.

A short presentation was made to the company at this meeting about the unplanned release of water on 17 September, when an incorrectly graded slope related to construction of the tailings dam allowed sediment-laden water to flow into Spring Creek. The data presented related only to the timing and volume of water flow: flow before the event was below 10 litres per second and peaked at 80 litres per second; flow returned to less than 10 l/s on 20 September. Representatives of NSW EPA visited the site on 17 September, water samples were taken, and a diversion drain was constructed that day to stop the flow of water into Spring Creek. Unfortunately no data was presented at the CCC meeting or since regarding water quality and the extent to which any effects may have extended downstream. I have been pressing the chair of the CCC and the company for that information. I was informed by the company on 21 November that a report on the monitoring data has been drafted and will be uploaded to their website once approved. I believe the company has met the regulatory requirements for management of this unplanned release and subsequent reporting, but that community expectations are not reflected in the long time it is taking to report on water quality. I intend to pursue this matter at the next CCC, and stress that monitoring data related to unplanned water releases needs to be publicised fully and quickly to all downstream stakeholders. Delays in releasing such information can only perpetuate (or increase) negative opinions about the Dargues Reef project.

Resignation of the environmental manager

The The HSEC Manager (Health, Safety Environment & Community) has recently resigned and his last day is 22 November. The position of Senior Environmental Advisor​ is still vacant.

Water Management Plan for the Operational Phase

The operational phase of mining (open stope blasting, ore trucking, ore processing to produce concentrate, and trucking concentrate off-site) is planned to begin during the next 6 months. A Water Management Plan is being drafted for the operational phase. I has been given an assurance by NSW EPA that Coastwatchers will have the opportunity to comment on the draft prior to it being finalised. Key issues for us will relate to water quality monitoring, inclusion of parameters relating to downstream water quality risks, and release of monitoring data.

Public presentation and project update

The company held a public information forum in Majors Creek on the evening of 18 November. Key points were:

  • Construction of the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) is nearly complete and placement of the High Density Polyethelyne (HDPE) liner is in progress.
  • Licenced water bores have been installed into old mine workings (Snobs and Stewart & Mertons), and one ‘Harvestable Rights Dam’ has been built (these will allow the company to source water for mine operations, and also to maintain water flow in Spring Creek).
  • 24/7 underground mining operations began in September with over 2,000 metres of underground development completed. The first stope firing will take place in the next 6 months.
  • Construction of the processing plant is 80% complete; commissioning is expected by the end of February, with transport of concentrate to Port Kembla beginning in that month.
  • During the next 6 months, more ‘Harvestable Rights Dams’ will be built and tailings deposition into the TSF will begin.

A slide presentation from the public information session is on the company website:

Information is also posted on their Facebook page:

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Protect Lake Brou

Lake Brou is a beautiful coastal lake lying just 2.5 kms south-west of Potato Point near Bodalla on the NSW South Coast. It is part surrounded by Eurobodalla National Park to the north-east, east and south-east, and forms part of the Batemans Marine Park. The Coastal Lakes Inquiry undertaken by the NSW Healthy Rivers Commission in 2002 classified Lake Brou as a Significant Coastal Lake.

Photo courtesy of NPWS

Unfortunately the forest on the lake’s north-west edge is part of Bodalla State Forest (compartment 3004) and at this stage is scheduled for logging late 2019.

This is the Forestry Corporation of NSW’s Harvest Plan (current as of November 2019):

The boundaries of the proposed logging can be seen here (image courtesy of Google)

A variety of threatened species rely on these forests. As an example the Swift Parrot uses NSW South Coast forests for winter-flowering nectar trees on its annual migration from Tasmania. All State Forests ( including the compartment under threat of logging) in Eurobodalla Shire east of the Princes Highway form part of the Ulladulla to Merimbula Important Bird Area, identified as such by BirdLife International because of its importance for Swift Parrots. These critical forests extend about 10 km inland from the coast and include many other local forests currently being logged or planning to be logged. The most important feed trees for these migratory birds are Spotted Gum and other flowering eucalypts. Forests dominated by Ironbarks and Bloodwoods which are likely to support the Parrots in years when the Spotted Gums are not flowering are also vital.

In 2014, researchers from the Australian National University modelled that the Swift Parrot may face extinction by 2031 due to predation in Tasmania and loss of habitat on the mainland.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) upgraded the status of the Swift Parrot from endangered to critically endangered in October 2015 based on results from the study. It is thought that less than a thousand pairs remain, the key threatening process on mainland Australia being “Habitat loss and fragmentation from forest harvesting”

Giant Trees with girths greater than 4.4m grow in this forest.
Pied Oystercatchers (endangered) forage on Lake Brou shores next to the State Forest

Apart from threats to fauna and flora there is the increased risk of uncontrollable fire in the area due to large volumes of crown debris left drying out on the forest floor. Increasingly Forestry Corporation is experiencing difficulty finding time in the shortening annual windows for burning off all the “waste” on the forest floor that is being generated by all the logging operations. More and more logged forests are left to pose fire risks from arson or lightning strikes.

Victoria has now announced a phasing out of the native forest logging industry over 10 years. How much longer is the community going to put up with native forest logging on public land in NSW?

CoastWatchers urges all concerned citizens to write to the local State member Andrew Constance, to Forestry Corporation of NSW and to the Beagle, BayPost and Narooma News demanding a moratorium on logging of all coastal State Forests and in particular Bodalla State Forest adjoining Lake Brou…..too precious to lose.

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Coastwatchers sponsor high school native garden

Batemans Bay High School Student Environment Council is busy preparing a Year 12 Wellbeing Native Garden.  Beds have been prepared and Lilli Pillis planted.  “Next step is planting natives in tubs and installing planter baskets on the wall” said teacher Kerryn Hopkins.

The garden will encourage local native birds to return to the school environment as well as providing an attractive gathering place for year 12 students.  And the hands on work by the students improves their horticulture and ecological understanding. 

Ms Hopkins thanked the Coastwatchers Environment Fund for sponsoring the project.  

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