G`day everyone,  
                         We certainly are living in the era of resource management upheavel with Tasmania now having some major water controversies and suggestions the Murray river catchment should be transferred to the commonwealth for management.

Also the issue of how much underground water forests use is likely to cause some concern in the south east of SA as it may mean allocation reductions to other landholders if forests are planted in areas where water is fully allocated and later it is determined they are using some underground water meaning the water resource is over allocated.
The latest decision by SA minister Mark Brindal to accept CSIRO research that 17% of rainfall reaches underground water tables in plantations, still does not answer the question of if plantations use underground water. Now if forests do use underground water when water tables are within reach of the root zone, then to be consistent with current licensing arrangements, they will require a license the same as farmers do. A curly issue as both forestry and farming are major industries in the area.

Does anyone have any other research on this issue?


(1) Two corrections from the last News & views
(2) Some news in brief
(3) NFF not ruling out support for Murray referendum
(4) Tas Water issues
(5) Greens GE Free push
(6) Greenies for hire
(7) NSW DLWC promises to review water allocations
(8) Earth Sanctuaries Ltd endangered
(9) Exotic species imported for biological control
(10) Qld BRIA Irrigators to Consider Proposal to Resolve Water Pricing Dispute
(11) Fire Ant Control Looking Good
(12) Fire management issues - Judith McGeorge
(13) DNR using threats on dams - Dennis Fahey
(14) Opal mining regulation - The Two Faces of the NSW Government - Louise Crites-Foster
(15) Well said Dan McLuskey. - Ian Mott
(16) Rising sea levels questioned - Dan McLuskey
(17) Excerpts from the Skeptical environmentalist
(1) Two corrections from the last News & views

(1) Richard Stanton informs us the figure of $22 billion (used in Dan McLuskey`s comments) for imported timber products is actually $2 billion - Thanks Richard

(2) Graham Lightbody from the Fitzroy Basin Elders Committee also informs us the comments we posted last week concerning native title and protected areas were definitely not genuine or authorised by the FBEC committee and may have come from a hacker.

We appreciate being informed and hope it has not caused any problems.- Thanks Graham
(2) Some news in brief

The United States has lost an appeal against a World Trade Organisation ruling over export subsidies. The WTO ruled billions of dollars worth of tax breaks provided to US primary producers are illegal.
Fire authorities are being kept busy in the North of WA where
fires have been raging through Karijini National Park (Pilbara) Over 20 000 hectares have already burnt.
The Victoria Law Foundation has published a "Rural Law Handbook - A guide for Primary Producers.It aims to provide a basic grounding in  property rights, employment and other issues aimed at the growing trend to seek redress through the courts.
The SA Liberal government has announced a radical plan to stop the urban sprawl into prime farming land on the outskirts of Adelaide.
Three wind farms in SE of SA.  Stanwell power is going ahead with a small $55 Million dollar wind farm at Kongorong. (about 5kms away from us)
 Wind Prospect has a bigger proposal near Tantanoola as is another company involved in a wind farm between Port MacDonnell & Nelson
In a bid to improve the reputation of the rice sector, the industry has developed an environmental policy.
The policy will outline certain water efficiency practices as well as detail ways of encouraging biodiversity.
Qld Minister for Primary Industries has called for nominations for the newly established Smart Ideas Award to recognise an entrepreneur who has an idea that has the capacity to make a difference in the food and fibre sector.  The winner will receive $2000 cash, a certificate and  Entrepreneur's Assistance  valued at $5000.   contact Michelle Crawley on (07) 32396530
The Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council (GABCC) is holding its
inaugural symposium 11-13 March 2002 in Toowoomba, Queensland.  Titled GAB
FEST 2002: It will cover issues
including water reform, environment and cultural heritage, information and
technology advancements, and infrastructure renewal.  contact
A  world population web site reports
A new strain of rice capable of boosting yields by 25 per cent, improved
varieties of maize that could increase yields by up to 40 per cent and could be grown on marginal land, and a new blight-resistant potato may become available


(3) NFF not ruling out support for Murray referendum

The National Farmers Federation has not ruled out supporting an idea to give the Commonwealth government control of the nations largest river system. South Australian MP Christopher Pyne wants a referendum on the issue, saying the current system is failing the Murray Darling Basin as the four states involved cannot reach agreement on crucial issues.

President of the National Farmers Federation Ian Donges said, property and water rights for farmers must be protected but is not ruling out supporting the call for constitutional change. "I wouldn't close my mind to looking at major constitutional change, because quite obviously we're not doing it well at the moment. In the shorter term some common sense may prevail and that would help us through what is obviously a very difficult and convoluted problem that we are trying to wrestle with but at the end of the day you have to have an open mind, because if it doesn't work, and if we can't get these agreements and cooperation between the various states and the Commonwealth, then maybe constitutional change will be the only way to solve that problem" he said.

* Would anyone like to comment on this idea.
Apart from agreeing about the need for secure property rights, our first reaction is that the issues are so diverse and distances so great, that we believe the best way to proceed is to devise a flat decision making system where everyone in the catchment can communicate to everyone else using modern technology.  Dialogue, throwing ideas around and trying to get win - win solutions between people is a better process than putting the catchment under one juristiction and forcing blunt simplistic restrictions on a lot of people.  

Today`s technology has many ways for good dialogue to be done from peoples homes and at convenient times, so why stick with centralised, win - lose decision making.
(4) Tas Water issues

Tas  irrigators are up in arms over Hydro Tasmania's attempt to make farmers pay for surplus water that falls on their land. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association are challenging the 1999 Water Act which allocates all surplus water to the state government power producer. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association is developing a white paper for the state government, detailing why the surplus water allocation needs to be transferred to farmers. Chairman of the TFGA Water Committee, Ferdie Foster, says Hydro Tasmania is already calling for tenders for the sale of water to irrigators.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association is urging farmers to participate in the Water Management Plan consultation process to secure their water allocations.

Water Security evaporates

Farmers across the state fear their water supply security for irrigation is at risk under the new water management plans. The first example includes farmers in the north east, who will have less water available for irrigation, as part of a water management plan for the Great Forester catchment. The draft plan is the first in a series of management documents under the new 1999 State Water Act. General Manager for Water Resources with the DPIWE, Alan Haradine, says the plan includes the legal requirement for maintaining an environmental flow to maintain the health of the river.

Agriculture along the Great Forester river includes dairying, hops, poppies and potatoes. All of these industries are heavily reliant on irrigation, and many farmers pump irrigation water directly from the river. So how do local farmers feel about the prospect of losing some of their water, during the most critical irrigation period of the year? Manager of Forester River Farms, Peter Hamilton says there are some serious concerns about cuts to irrigation levels and the process of setting the required environmental flow for the Great Forester
* We would appreciate a detailed Australia wide study of river flows done to answer these questions to help all river allocation plans

(1) What is the water flow requirement for keeping any river healthy - Healthy being
(a) Keeping all current species in a river system at sufficient levels to not become endangered (i.e to reproduce regularly)
(b) Keeping oxygen levels high
(c) Keeping pollutants / contaminants at safe levels

(2) What is the ecological requirement for the sea to have fresh river water flows into it along the same reasoning.

Answering both these questions could help our society decide how much river water could be safely extracted from any river or pumped from a river mouth after providing a river`s environmental flow.

For the community to make good decisions we must demand good research
(5) Greens GE Free push

According to Tas Greens MP Peg Putt, the Tas government has "dropped the ball" on a GE Free Tasmania.  She says the government hasn't committed to a long term GE free future, and the government is likely to relax the moratorium on GE crops in the state without public pressure.

* While we are struggling to find scientific answers to the GE debate, we have one bit of information that may be helpful. Many claims are made that GE organisms will become super pests e.g. a roundup resistant gene going from crops into weeds
This may never eventuate, but if it did there is a possible method to combat it.

 When doctors find a patient with an infection resistant to antibiotics, they sometimes suggest the patient goes out and gets dirt containing other non resistant bacteria into the infection. The non resistant bacteria breed with the resistant bacteria so that the infection quickly becomes predominately non resistant bacteria. Antibiotics can then have an effect on the overall bacteria population once this happens.

(6) Greenies for hire - from the Sunday Mail

A secret group of militant professional greenies is being contracted to lead direct action protests across the country. The commando style organisation, known as Future Rescue has led several recent protests including last years anti-logging campaign in the Otways, an anti- nuclear protest at Jabiluka, and the current anti-logging sit-in near Marysville (Vic). A Wilderness Society spokesman said the society had contracted parts of the Marysville protest out to Future Rescue
(7) NSW DLWC promises to review water allocations

Irrigators in the Coleambally district are not alone in their battle to water crops this season. Allocations are tight, but many claim they've been made all the tighter, by inappropriate water allocations to the environment. It's a scenario that's reverberating throughout NSW, particularly as communities dependent on a vibrant farming economy, come to grip with less water, fewer crops and in turn, less jobs. As a result, pressure is mounting on the State Government to review its water management policy

(8) Earth Sanctuaries Ltd endangered

Wildlife visionary Dr John Wamsley's plan to "single-handedly save Australia's wildlife" ... appears to be in tatters. The share price of publicly listed Earth Sanctuaries Limited has crashed from its $2.47 opening several years ago ... to just 41 cents today. Ten Earth Sanctuaries around the nation have now been placed on the market and Dr Wamsley says it's a major blow to genuine efforts to save threatened Australian Wildlife species :

(9) Exotic species imported for biological control

The Qld Pest Management Research group has released a report on weed and pest animal research for 2000-2001.  Key achievements in the area of weed research include:
Permission to import and release the rust fungus, Prospodium tuberculatum, a biocontrol agent for lantana
Successful completion of laboratory testing with Osphilia tenuipes, a stem-boring weevil that is a potential biocontrol agent for mother-of-millions.  A permit for field release of the weevil is now being sought
Promising results from selective field release of the rubber vine rust, Maravalia cryptostegiae
Arrival of shipments of the leaf-mining weevil, Rhamphus sp., a potential biocontrol agent for prickly acacia.  Host specificity testing is to begin as soon as a viable colony is established

(10) Qld BRIA Irrigators to Consider Proposal to Resolve Water Pricing Dispute

  The proposal involves the Queensland Competition Authority undertaking a review of the return on capital component of the 5 year price path for the BRIA. Issues that will be addressed include:
Capital contributions that may have been made by irrigators, Commonwealth and
State Governments or other parties;
The appropriate rate of return assessed on estimated future returns and
future expected risk;
Whether the current price paths include any excess return on capital; and
Circumstances that it would be appropriate for an entity to charge a positive
rate of return on scheme assets.
  BRIA irrigators are required to pay all outstanding monies by 15 February for the QCA review to proceed.  

(11) Fire Ant Control Looking Good

Recently released preliminary results from the fire ant eradication program
in Brisbane indicate the first of 12 chemical treatment rounds has had up to
80% effectiveness
Twelve chemical treatment rounds will take place over the next three years,
which will hopefully lead to the total eradication of the fire ant after a
further two years.    Despite being only 2-5mm in size, the fire ant is
capable of inflicting a painful, burning sting; invading backyards, parks and
recreational areas; and harming animals and crops.
(12) Fire management issues - Judith McGeorge
Hi Leon
           I was absolutely infuriated listening to a Blue Mountains resident complaining about the firebreak installed to protect property and fire fighters- His gripe about the "unsightly mess" created by the dozers- then a demand to replant trees  on the firebreak is the very problem with these greener than green people.
If anyone can attest the attraction of burnt property- the material loss- and potential life loss- I would be interested to hear. Additional to the flora loss the fauna loss would have been horrendous.
No one begrudges the cost of fire fighting- but future policy must be changed so that insurance premiums will not escalate to everyone's cost so that some may live in "environmentally enriched" surrounds.
It should become mandatory that all property must have properly maintained fire breaks to ensure this disaster does not reoccur on a regular basis- and those who do not comply must not expect fire  fighters to put their lives at risk and the rest of us to pay for this life style choice.
When one reviews the policy of clearing around the  cities and settlements in NSW- administered by National Parks who refuse to allow residents to clear around their property- it borders on insanity.When common sense dictates that storms will fell trees on to property and fires will put property at risk- sensible clearing should be undertaken. The bush may be a desirable environment but its proximity to residential areas has caused disastrous consequences too frequently at great cost to all Australians.

The loss of livestock on property adjoining National Parks- with no recourse to forcing responsibility of this loss where the blame lies and compensation for the loss seems part and parcel of the "greens"- they will not control pests nor maintain adequate fire protection for their neighbours.A kilometer firebreak inside the perimeter slashed and maintained and a dog proof fence would be a start!
I am all for some militant action against much of the regulation being imposed without sound  scientific basis- one becomes tired of the portrayed dozers wrecking the environment- when in fact they are clearing regrowth.
The empirical bureaucracies that have mushroomed using unscientific data to rule our lives and cost us heaps surely need some accountability. The two sides of the debate are never aired- there are as many (if not more) scientists who dispute the environmental  edicts of  the "green" lobby- yet we have to research ourselves to find the countervailing point of view.

Judith McGeorge, Qld

Qld DNR using threats on dams - Dennis Fahey

Dennis has been talking to a Dam construction contractor at Mackay who has
been told he now has to construct all dams a certain way in future - fenced
off with a fluming inlet. The contractor has no objection to the fencing, but
rejected the fluming idea as it could lead to dam water being  metered (and
charged for) in the future. He asked DNR to show him the legal requirement in
writing with the details about why dam constuction needs to be done in this
manner, but nothing was produced, instead he has been told to do it this way
or else the DNR will find a cultural heritage or endangered species issue
that will stop him from doing certain work - For more info phone Dennis on
0747 417184

* We suggest anyone who encounters this sort of thing to record any
conversations with either a battery operated cassette player or video camera
hidden somewhere. This sort of evidence will be accepted in court. We know
someone who recently won a court case when a recorded conversation was
produced. - Leon

(14) Opal mining regulation - The Two Faces of the NSW Government - Louise

    As the Premier vows to apply the full weight of the law on alleged
juvenile arsonists, who he believes have destroyed huge areas of forest, his
own Ministry supervises the destruction of a large track of land in north
western NSW.

    The Narran-Warrambool Reserve Lightning Ridge was formed in 1988  and
encompasses approximately 52,000 sq km of the Western Water Catchment and the
Great Australian Basin.  Its boundaries are Queensland to the north, the
Narran River (which supplies water to Ramsar protected wetlands “Narran Lake
Nature Reserve”) to the west, the Big Warrambool River to the east and the
Barwon River to the south.

    The Department of Mineral Resources is responsible for granting or
renewing of authorities, mineral claims and opal prospecting licences.  Opal
mining began on the Grawin Field in the Lightning Ridge area between 1901/05
and since the discovery and establishment of the Sheepyard Opal Field in
1986/87, the Coocoran Opal Field 1989,  there has been continuing concern
expressed at the impact such ‘rushes’ have on the environment and the
viability of agricultural enterprises.

    The impact of a new rush or field results from the speed at which it
develops and the apparent unplanned manner in which it is established.  The
Mining Act provides that, subject to registering a claim and entering into a
compensation agreement with the landholder, a claimholder is entitled to
commence mining activities on a claim immediately without any other form of
prior approval.  Should the landholder not agree to the mining activity, the
matter is referred to the Mining Warden, who then adjudicates the mining
activity.  There is no recourse by the landholder.

      When, within a short period of time, a large number of claimholders
seek to exercise their rights under these circumstances, the existing
provisions of the Mining Act provide little effective practical means of
managing a planned development of a new field or the environmental impacts.

    The Mining Act pays particular attention to the marking-out and
registration of claims and provides, in part, for the control of activities
of claims.  It also provides the landholder or occupier with various rights
in respect of notification, compensation for agricultural land and general
nuisance caused by claimholders.

    These provisions, however, can become less than effective as the number
of registered claims and claimholders within a very localised area increases
beyond a certain limit.  Where a ‘rush’ on a new field develops, a large
number of claims are marked out and registered in a matter of a few days.  
During this period miners establish access in and out of the area, and very
quickly these tracks become the recognised roads.  Problems with fencing,
stock access to water, disturbance to residences, and environmental damage,  
are very likely to become major issues of concern for the pastoralists.  
Rubbish and litter are left behind as prospectors and miners move camp,
leaving the fields strewn with car bodies, household items and general
rubbish (media release 07/01 DMR Cleanup Annoucement).

     There are more than 6,000 mineral claims active each year in the
Lightning Ridge area and currently over $7,000 a year is forfeited in
security money to clean up sites and an additional $20,000 has been allocated
to the Lightning Ridge Opal Fields under the Derelict Mines Program for  
     The Mining Act, and its Regulations, does not satisfactorily provide for
the management of this type of mass involvement as acknowledged by Mineral
Resources on behalf of the Lightning Ridge Mining Board in 1997 (publication
A Management Plan for New Opal Fields).

    In 1986/87, opal bearing clays were discovered at what is now called the
Sheepyard.  As the result of a combination of factors, the area developed
almost overnight into a major and very substantial rush, resulting in the
registration of over 800 claims and the establishment of a new community.  
This happening at the sheepyard had a major impact on those concerned.

    Since the beginning of the 1980's a series of events have overtaken the
traditional operation of the opal fields.  These include the development of
drill rigs fitted with 9 inch auger drills for prospecting, a substantial
rise in the price of opal, an increase in the level of mechanisation (both
underground and open cut) and an increased capacity to process opal clay.  In
combination, all these factors have resulted in two significant changes - the
incentive to prospect for opal beyond the old fields and an increase in the
total number of registered claims.  

    As a result, new areas of  country are being intensively prospected and
undisturbed areas are now the subject of intense mining activity.  In March
1995 the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (DUAP) issued its “Best
Practice Guidelines for Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment
Act 1979".  This document presented the factors that should be taken into
account when considering the likely impact of an activity on the environment.
 One of the points raised in DUAP’s document was that all proposed activities
should have an appropriate level of environmental impact assessment (EIA).  
Additionally, the level of EIA should reflect the level of likely
environmental significance of impacts.

    Currently, the onus is on the proponent (miner) of the mining activity to
demonstrate the likely significance of impacts upon the environment.    To
date there has not been an EIS, EIA or the very minimum, a species impact
statement preformed  or a socio-economic assessment to ensure all stake
holders are compensated accordingly.

    The establishment of an Environmental and Rehabilitation committee
comprising representatives from all stakeholders, should be established to
assess the overall environmental impact of ongoing mining activity and ensure
the Department is following its own guidelines.

    There isn’t a great deal of scientific logic behind allowing self
assessment, when it comes to ones economic viability!  We would all chose to
earn more given the appropriate capacity to do so.  

L.  Crites-Foster
Walgett, NSW
 (15) Well said Dan McLuskey. - Ian Mott

Just imagine what our environment would be like if farmers acted like
We would start with the cheapest land we could afford, make lots of short
lived cosmetic changes (renovate) and then flog it to the next bunny and
trade up. There would be no particular attachment to one farm, and
especially no intergenerational attachments. If we uncovered a major problem
we would never make the sacrifices needed to fix it but simply unload it
onto someone else and move on.

This is the crux of the city/country divide. The urban majority inhabit a
place only until they can afford a better place.  All their "improvements"
are made with a view to "cashing in" at some point in the comparatively near
future. In fact, there is no better indication of a pending sale than a
flurry of renovation.

The irony in all this is that most farmers also understand that if they did
the same they would be a whole lot richer but a lot of so-called
"externalities" keep wanting to get into the economic model.  Fiddly bits
like letting the kids enjoy what their grandfather put in place, nuisances
like kids that want to finish the job, pains like the 60 year growth cycle
of native forests or the tedium of herd improvement and boring bits like the
cycles of season, climate and life itself.

So for all the urban mouthing-off it is still a case of "do as I say, not as
I do". We protest at each economic compromise that is forced upon us because
we understand the extent of the compromises that we have already made
because of our attachment to our land.

It was Paul Simon who expressed the typical urban view when he sang;
 "a man gets tied down to the ground, he gives the world its saddest sound".

Pity help the planet if we ever agree with him.

Ian Mott
 (16) Rising sea levels questioned - Dan McLuskey

If the islands of the pacific were being inundated, we could expect that the
Australian coastline would be inundated also. But there appears to be only a
very slight increase in sea level of about 1mm per year for Australian tide
gauges identified by research being carried out by the National Tidal
Facility at Flinders University. Under a similar project, series of tidal
stations have been established at many pacific countries, and they show
generally positive increases in mean sea level, but small.

There is a good paper which can be read at the facility web site at
www.ntf.flinders.edu.au it is a bit technical, but you can get the gist of it.

There are many natural reasons why this apparent inundation may occur.

    There is a phenomenon called isostatic equilibrium, which explains that
the earth's crust is not rigid, but is plastic under large load. Any large
mountain mass sticking up from the crust will sink into the crust over
geological time. And most of the islands in the pacific are tips of sub
oceanic mountains, and will therefore sink into the sea floor. Kiribati is on
the Matik chain of seamounts.

    Another is long term oceanic currents and tides. Some of these are driven
by variations in the moon's orbit (it precesses with a period of about 18
years), so it creates variations in tidal patterns.

    Another is a recently discovered phenomenon called the Pacific Decadian
Oscillation, which seems to occur due to shifts in bodies of warm water back
and forth across the pacific, and as water warms up, it expands, looking like
an increase in tidal height. It has an amplitude of about a foot, and cycles
back and forth over about 25 years.

    Another is buckling of the sea floor due to the drivers of continental
drift - these are irregular, but can be large over relatively short periods
of time

    Another, simpler reason is people pumping out ground water, lowering the
coastal water table, and the earth sinks

    Another is the near universal slumping of coastal features into the
ocean, much like a sand castle slumps into the tide.

Best wishes,

Dan McLuskey

(17) Excerpts from the Skeptical environmentalist book

It`s actually true that statistics can be used to manipulate the truth . But
used judiciously statistics are the best source of information about our
Why? Because the small part of the world that we see amongst our friends and
aquaintances and in the media seldom shows a balanced picture of the whole
........indeed, statistics is in many areas the only way we can make a
scientifically sound description of the world.

The key idea is that we ought not let the environmental organizations,
business lobbyists or the media be alone in presenting truths and priorities.
Rather we should strive for a careful democratic check on the environmental
debate, by knowing the real state of the world.

In 1900 we lived for an average of 30 years, today we live for 67 .
According to the UN we have reduced poverty more in the last 50 years than we
did in the preceding 500.

In 1970, 35% of all the people in the developing countries were starving.
In 1996 the figure was 18% and the UN expects that figure will have fallen to
12 % by 2010. This is remarkable progress, 237 million fewer people
starving......The food situation has vastly improved, but in 2010 there will
still be 680 million peope starving, which is obviuosly not good enough.

When we are to assess the state of the world, we need to do so through a
comparison. Legend has it that when someone remarked to Voltaire"life is
hard" he retorted "compared to what"    Basically, the choice of comparison
is crucial. It is my arguement that the comparison should be with HOW IT WAS
BEFORE. .....this means we should focus on trends.

While only 30% of the people in the developing world had access to clean
drinking water in 1970, today about 80% have. ......nevertheless, this does
not mean that everything is good enough. There are still more than a billion
people in the third world who do not have access to clean drinking water.

We can only elucidate global problems with global figures......On average the
developing countries have increased their food intake from 2,463 calories to
2,663 calories per person per day over the last ten years, an increase of 8 %

The point is that global figures summarise ALL the good stories as well as
ALL the ugly ones, allowing us to evaluate how serious the overall situation

More next time


Leon & Jane