The Tasmanian Government has cleared an endangered forest community at the Meander Dam site which is subject to a moratorium on clearing. Approval has been given by the Forest Practices Authority to clear this site even though the Rivers and Water Supply Commission was unable to come up with any concrete offsets or compensatory habitat.
The endangered Eucalyptus ovata forest community at the site and the surrounding vegetation was home to quolls, devils, masked owls and a host of other threatened flora and fauna species.
Amendments to legislation to protect threatened native non-forest vegetation such as native grasslands were passed last night by the Legislative Council. TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that while he was still waiting for a formal briefing on the changes, it appeared that one of the major commitments given by the Minister had been lost. “The amendment that will require approval by both houses of parliament to the list of threatened native vegetation communities is simply outrageous, and contrary to other natural resource legislation, such as the Threatened Species Protection Act. This is blatant interference by the Legislative Council in an area which they have no expertise in, and is contrary to an assurance that we received for the State Government.”
Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania (AACT) will hold a protest on Parliament Lawns at 12.00 noon tomorrow as part of an ongoing campaign to end recreational duck shooting in Tasmania. A striking display of 1000 duck silhouettes will stand in memorial of the tens of thousands that are slaughtered each year in this state.
AACT, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust (TCT) and RSPCA Tasmania are again urging the Lennon Government to ban this cruel and unnecessary “sport”, which causes enormous pain and suffering to many native water birds.
Figures compiled by the Department of Primary Industries and Water from shooters license returns show that more than 35 000 water birds were shot and bagged during the 2006 open season in Tasmania. Scientific studies estimate that a similar number of ducks may be shot but not retrieved, bringing the total number killed closer to double that figure.
Drought conditions observed across Australia this year are considered the worst seen in twenty-four years of aerial surveys. Recent surveys show that water bird numbers have declined dramatically across the nation.
New Tasmanian Vegetable Industry Strategic Plan will be seriously compromised if there is no distinction between vegetable growers who poison native animals and those who don’t.
The industry has a major opportunity to legitimately brand itself as clean and green which it cannot afford to miss. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of Tasmania’s persectution of native animals and want to be able to make an informed choice. They don’t want to buy produce that comes at such a huge cost for wildlife.
Each year in Tasmania, farmers deliberately poison tens of thousands of pademelons, wallabies, possums and native hens, with thousands of non-target species such as bettongs, bandicoots, eagles, goshawks and wombats also killed.
The TCT welcomed the State Government’s announcement of increased funding for the fox taskforce, but our Director, Craig Woodfield, said today that whilst the funding was welcomed, much detail had yet to be revealed, particularly how the fox baiting program would be expanded and the mechanism by which the wider community would be engaged.
TCT Director Craig Woodfield says that the Mynah is known to be aggressive and intelligent, and could easily become established in Tasmanian cities and towns. “This would be more bad news for Tasmania’s native species, which are far less secure than most people would believe.” Mr. Woodfield said that Tasmania’s biosecurity cordon was sub-standard, and presented a major risk to the State.
Pollution from effluent dumped via an ocean outfall in Bass Strait is one of the major concerns about Gunns' proposed pulp mill. An obvious way to reduce public concern would be to have a monitoring program that would identify problems due to pollution before they become too bad to do anything about them.
It seems incredible, but the Integrated Impact Statement still does not have a complete monitoring program available for public scrutiny in its Integrated Impact Statement (IIS). A proper consideration of the proposed mill's environmental impacts really requires that the monitoring proposal is available for public scrutiny.
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust seems to have hit a raw nerve with its media release of 25 July 2006. This exposed the threat to seals dolphins and other marine life in Bass Strait from persistent organic pollutants in pulp mill effluent.
Usually it takes days, often weeks, to get any sort of response from Government. That's usually OK. After all they are busy people.
But yesterday, our media release went out at about nine in the morning and the Premier's office had put a response up on the Government website during the afternoon (contact the TCT for a copy).
The response indicates that the Premier and his office are not only very sensitive about persistent organic pollutants, they appear to be getting bad advice about this issue. The Trust has participated in the RPDC process in the past and certainly intends to submit a formal submission to this body on this as well as other issues.
However, the threat of persistent organic pollutants has been raised with the RPDC before and the response by the Gunns Integrated Impact Statement has been totally inadequate.
The public is entitled to know about these shortcomings, particularly as the Gunns documentation is likely to be difficult for many people to access.
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust is not even in a position to comment on the proposed monitoring program for persistent organic pollutants as this has not been finalised according to the Gunns Integrated Impact Statement.
The Trust's expert scientific advice is that the concentration of persistent organic pollutants in the pulp mill effluent is much less important than the total quantities of pollutants that actually enter the environment and the pathways they follow once they enter the marine ecosystem.
The best way to detect persistent organic pollutants is by monitoring for them in the environment. However, the most glaring omission in the Gunns integrated impact statement, as well as previous RPDC documentation and the Tasmanian Government's approach to this issue, is the lack of any explicit commitment to stop pulp mill operations if a problem with persistent organic pollution or any other serious problem, is detected.
If the Tasmanian Government is truly confident that there will be no detectable persistent organic pollutants in the pulp mill effluent, then there should be no problem about it making a commitment to have this as a condition of the operation of the pulp mill right now.
If persistent organic pollutants will not be a problem for the environment, then there should be nothing to stop the Tasmanian Government from:
1. committing to a monitoring program that is capable of identifying pollution by persistent organic pollutants, and
2. giving an assurance that if pollution by persistent organic pollutants from the mill is identified, mill operations will be stopped until the pollution problem can be fixed.
These are basic and common-sense commitments that should not require advice from the RPDC. (Download the relevant 32 KB PDF media release for 26 July 2006 here)
The Gunns Integrated Impact Statement devotes an entire section to the impact of dioxins on the seals at the Tenth Island near the effluent outfall. This section states on more than one occasion that "dioxins are not significantly bioaccumulated or biomagnified by fish or bivalves".
In a review of relevant scientific literature, dioxins and other organochlorines are reported to bioaccumulated in fish and the marine mammals that eat them.
A complete IIS should have this important monitoring program developed to the point where it can be properly assessed. The Tasmanian Government needs to make a clear commitment to protect seals and other marine life from persistent oganochlorines.
The proposed pulp mill is sited in the Tamar River and is a potential source of pollution. The proposed mill will release a huge amount of effluent into Bass Strait close to the important seal colony at Tenth Island, and the spectacular marine habitat around Low Head.
Persistent organochlorines, such as dioxins and furans, will be produced by the mill, although the amount that ends up in the ocean is difficult to predict.
Notably, the project has so far not described any effective mechanism that would identify accumulation of these substances in the marine environment. Most importantly, there is no commitment by the Tasmanian Government to stop mill operations if any problem is identified.
Photo at top of this column by John Grist