Friday, 28 June 2013

Our Environment is all in the “Mined”

  Anyone who’s volunteered with a local Council “Bushcare” group will quickly realise that trying to conserve a small plot of remnant urban nature, involves a struggle of gargantuan proportions.  These small groups of be-hatted Australians face terrifyingly robust invasive weeds, tenacious rubbish dumpers, scary tick borne diseases and depressing acts of vandalism.  Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is the realisation that restoring such areas to robust environmental health can take more than one lifetime (unlike a quick “Backyard Blitz” style garden make-over).  Most of these sites are small, but beautiful, examples of a rich natural heritage that is often taken for granted.  We’re talking about places such as Bungan Beach, Pittwater, Tania Park, Manly and Mermaid Pool, Warringah.  All of this hard yakka provides the greater community not just with gorgeous scenery but with many thousands of hours of free labour, saving millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money. 

 If all this effort is going into caring for these modest areas of land...then you’d think it was a sure sign that Australia is really looking after its environment on a wider scale and we are the epitome of a clean, green modern society.  On the contrary though, it seems that, just as people are learning about biodiversity and what makes it so precious, our government is prepared to sacrifice it for a pound of resource-rich flesh.  

Many of our truly significant nationally iconic places...the ones we were confident would be around and looking stunning for ever...are being dug up and shipped out. Here’s a hit list of places that are likely to be “detonated” in the wonderful resources “boom” that the likes of Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart get so excited about.  The Tarkine in North West Tasmania is Australia’s largest temperate rainforest boasting extraordinary Aboriginal Heritage and providing habitat for over 50 threatened species, including the Tasmanian Devil.  Our Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has refused to give it formal protection and there are now nine open cut mining proposals and around 60 exploration licences in train. Tony Burke recently also approved the “South of Embley” Bauxite project on Cape York. This will involve the land clearing of 30,000 hectares of pristine landscape and result in 900 additional shipping movements through the fragile Barrier Reef.  Talking of the Great Barrier Reef, major new port infrastructure is proposed (and in progress) along the World Heritage Area from Gladstone to Cape York. These projects will devastate significant parts of Queensland’s coastline both on and offshore. Western Australia boasts the Kimberley, one of the world's last great wilderness areas, but it's currently covered in more than 700 mining tenements. Mines as diverse as coal, oil, bauxite and uranium are all on the drawing board. BP has applied for permission to search for oil in the Great Australian Bight.  This area has the greatest diversity of marine life anywhere in the world, including the Great Barrier Reef. Meanwhile in NSW, there are plans, by Santos, to sink 1100 Coal Seam Gas wells in the Pilliga, the largest remaining area of temperate woodland in our state. Apex Energy has even been given a licence to explore for gas in Sydney’s sensitive water catchment.  These are just a few examples of the enormous threats facing our natural world from industrialisation.  Add to that the havoc wreaked by climate change, drought, feral pests, introduced plant pathogens, pollution, land clearing, soil salinity, over development, deforestation, species extinction radioactive contamination, invasive species etc and it looks like “Houston...we have a  problem” in conserving Australia’s unique wild places.
 In the face of this onslaught “acting locally” is still important in making a positive difference. So please, join a local Bushcare Group today...but most importantly, call Tony Burke on 6277 7640 and tell him how much you care about the bigger picture!
Mermaid Pool, Manly Vale. Bushcare site.