South Australia is anticipating an precedented boom in mining activity in the coming decade, spearheaded by the massive Olympic Dam mine expansion. From an environmental standpoint, massive mining activity equates to massive impacts. The Olympic Dam mine alone will, if approved by operator BHP Billiton’s board in mid-2012, become the world’s largest open pit mine, with an estimated total life of a century. Principally a copper mine, the ore body also holds the largest known deposit of uranium, the fuel required to drive the world’s nuclear power plants. Overshadowed by Olympic Dam’s elephantism are an additional 30 billion dollars worth of smaller mining projects at varying stages of development, peppered all over the state.
Unlike its western neighbours, South Australia currently lacks the infrastructure to adequately support the incoming boom, and in response, development proposals are popping up left, right and centre. Perhaps the greatest noted absence for regional SA, is that of a deep-water bulk commodities port suitable for the mass export of minerals. State Government, rather than taking a leadership position and spearheading the development of a single, optimal deep-water port, are encouraging industry to come forward with the answers.
The result is likely to be a distributed and cumulative impact, with port developments and expansions proposed at numerous sites around our magnificent South Australian coast. Put simply, increased shipping increases the risk of introducing feral marine pests to the area, along with marine pollutants and potential shipping accidents. Port Bonython (near Whyalla on the Point Lowly peninsula) currently services the needs of Santos, and their Gas Fractionation Plant on the Point Lowly peninsula. Irrespective of the peninsula’s proximity to critical fish nurseries (which include the only known mass breeding site for the iconic Giant Australian Cuttlefish) plans are in place to degrade and sacrifice the area’s social and environmental values. An expansion of the port has been proposed, and a variety of petro-chemical, desalination and heavy industrial operations are looking to move in. You can see the state of affairs in the video episode below.
Port Spencer is a different kettle of fish, or more aptly, marine birds. The proposed port site repurposes land previously used for agriculture, immediately north of Lipson Cove. Less than a kilometre to the south of the port site sits Lipson Island, an 8 hectare conservation park established for the protection of bird rookeries, which include Fairy Penguins, Black-faced Cormorants and Crested Terns. After watching in horror late last year as the freighter Rena broke apart in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, imagining a similar event ruining Spencer Gulf has become all easy. We sincerely hope that proponents Centrex Metals have the compassion and wisdom to seek out an alternative site in a less sensitive area.
Located between Port Neill and Tumby Bay on Eyre Peninsula’s south eastern shore, Lipson Cove (immediately south of the Port Spencer site) is also an exceedingly popular campsite, entertaining a steady flow of tourists and locals who visit to fish, surf, explore and relax. The parallels to Port Bonython are glaring. In both cases, environmental and social values of chosen locations are being casually cast aside by decision makers who live elsewhere. Both projects have recently been granted Major Project Status by the South Australian government.
There is only one Lipson Island, and our penguin colonies, just like our breeding population of Giant Australian Cuttlefish, are already in trouble. These sites should be regarded as sacred, and protected for all time- not jeopardised by foolhardy beaurocrats and miners whose interested are overwhelmingly economic.
If you’re interested making a written submission to the South Australian government in response to either of these developments, we urge you to do so. You can find out more about these projects over at Cuttlefish Country, the website for danimations’ forthcoming documentary film, due for release in May 2012. Formal submissions on Port Spencer close on April 27th.
Nowhere in the world can the chameleons of the sea, the Giant Cuttlefish, be seen aggregating en masse… nowhere that is, except for the shallow waters off Point Lowly, near Whyalla in South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf. After first learning of their annual breeding migration back in 2002, Emma and I have been fortunate enough to share their waters over the years on several occasions. We’ve followed their history closely- from nearly being fished into oblivion in the late 1990′s to be sold as bait and pet food, through their emergence as an eco-tourism attraction in the mid-naughties and the establishment of a ‘no take’ sactuary zone. Tension around the animal’s turf has never been greater than now though. Numbers of cuttlefish successfully reaching the breeding grounds have plummetted to one quarter of the previous year’s numbers, with no clear explanation. Add to this a formidable series of proposed industrial developments, each threatening to disturb and alter their habitat with the promise of effluent, altered salinity and noise pollution. While industry appears to understate the risks, even short-term damage to their habitat could cripple the already struggling population of Giant Cuttlefish, and bear unknown consequences on the wider ecology. Did you know they are a favoured food of the local dolphin pod among other creatures?
The concern among communities along the Spencer Gulf has been sufficient to raise serious, organised and scientific opposition from prawn and oyster farmers, conservation groups and others, supported by a variety of expert oceanographers, marine biologists and passionate politicians. We have taken it upon ourselves to act, and will be interviewing subjects as of July 28th, and releasing each condensed interview via our NatureScope online video channel. As the story unfolds we will then compile and extend the work, adding animation, extra footage and detail for release in October as the documentary film, working title ‘Cuttlefish Country’.
There are already many ways you can contribute to the cause of protecting this marine wonder. Start by sharing the above video with your friends and colleagues. Share it on Facebook. Tweet about it (and don’t forget the hashtags). Show your teachers… heck, show it at your school assembly. Write to the State Premier and Minister for the Environment. For more immediate detail, visit Cuttlefish Country website, and start asking questions. Who owns the right to pollute or disturb our coast and oceans? How do we band together to defend them?
We’d love to hear what you have to say about the Giant Australian Cuttlefish and this current state of affairs… comment passionately and prodigiously.. with enough public objection and outrage, surely anything is possible!
While on Kangaroo Island in spring this year, I spent an hour or so on my belly on the beach at Antechamber Bay, observing and photographing a small group of Greater Crested Terns at the water’s edge. Beautiful marine birds, these animals are succeptible to a threat we’ve been focussing on recently, through our collaborations with Tangaroa Blue and the Two Hands Project. Marine debris- essentially human waste entering the world’s oceans, is hazardous to a broad range of marine life. The two main risks are ingestion and entanglement, and each can lead to slow and painful deaths for birds and mammals alike.
Terns and other marine birds are mostly at risk from the ingestion of hooks or non-digestible substances (usually plastics), and can die of starvation as their stomachs are gradually filled with items the birds mistake for food. The other threat marine birds face is entanglement, with fishing line and netting proving the most common and often deadly hazards. Plastic bags, balloons and packaging materials are afew more problematic substances- and the list goes on.
The video below shows the final release of a Greater Crested Tern who was brought in by a member of the public to Taronga Zoo in New South Wales, Australia, for treatment. The bird’s legs were entangled in fishing line, and it was found very weak and emaciated. Recreational fishing is an obvious contributor to this problem, and as a beach goer, snorkeller or diver, removing any discarded or entangled fishing line from your marine environment should be a high priority.
As per April 2009, about 1600 animals were being brought to Taronga Zoo’s animal hospital each year, with marine debris related injuries becoming an increasing problem. You can read more about this bird’s story in the Mosman Daily. You can also purchase our Greater Crested Tern photograph on gift cards or as art prints here. All proceeds go to the continuation of our commitment to conservation activites, blogging and nature photography.
Heidi Taylor is a co-founder of Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society- a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting oceans and the life they support around the world. With established project sites in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the USA, Heidi and her partner Richard have turned their passion for marine ecology into a lifestyle which balances education, recreation and environmental action. NatureScope caught up with Heidi to discuss Tangaroa Blue’s latest exciting collaboration with American folk-rock musician and keen surfer, Jack Johnson.
Heidi, what prompted your personal involvement with ocean conservation?
I’ve always loved nature and grew up visiting the beach. When I became a scuba diver and then a diving instructor I felt a strong responsibility to protect the ocean environment. It is where I make my income (teaching people to dive) as well as where I spend my pleasure time. Richard has been a surfer his whole life and is also a diving instructor and skipper and has also been passionate about the oceans for years. We’ve both had some amazing interactions with marine life and know we need to keep our oceans clean and healthy or our marine life will suffer the ultimate price!
How did the term Tangaroa enter your life, and how is its meaning reflected in your organisation’s work?
Richard and I wanted to form an organisation that would support and promote our marine conservation message. We choose Tangaroa Blue as it highlights the importance of respecting the ocean. Tangaroa is the Maori and Polynesian God of the Ocean – his laws include “if you look after me, I’ll look after you”. This is what we want people to understand – you can’t continually take from the oceans, there will be long term consequences. Tangaroa Blue gives people opportunities to give back and have a positive impact on our ocean environment.
We also felt the need to respect the Maori people as this is the name of one of their Gods. We consulted with several Maori Kamatua’s (elders) about using this name, and we were given their blessing to do so. We also worked with a Maori artist to design our logos.
It’s great to see your organisation thinking laterally about partnering with other organisations. How do strategic partnerships benefit your organisations goals?
Partnerships are what makes this project so strong. Tangaroa Blue works with many groups, individuals, schools and other organisations already doing beach clean ups. We invite them to join in by submitting information to us on what they are finding- engaging people already passionate about the oceans. We also need strong partnerships with local, state and federal authorities, industry groups and other organisations. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel- we want to work as a central place where all these groups can submit data, request data, find out more information and specifically how they can help with the issue of marine debris. We’ve found with this approach, the messages can be spread much further and networking is a great way to exchange information and recruit volunteers.
Who are some of the other organisations, businesses and individuals Tangaroa Blue has partnered with previously? Can you share an example of a previous collaborative success story?
One of our longest partnerships is with Keep Australia Beautiful Council in WA. They started partnering with us right at the start, back in 2004. They supported us with clean up materials, promotions and funding. Recently we partnered with them for the Clean Marine Initiative which focuses on marine debris mitigation in the recreational fishing industry. We also have a partnership with Surfrider Foundation Australia for the Victorian Surf Coast Marine Debris Initiative, which engages volunteers in the area to help out- not only with beach clean ups but also with collecting data on what is impacting the southern Victorian coastline. I’d also like to recognise all the local councils, businesses, authorities and of course the thousands of volunteers who help out with our projects. Many hands make light work!
How did you connect with Jack Johnson and his coming ‘To The Sea’ album tour?
Richard and I have spent many holidays in Hawaii and have very close friends there that are also friends of Jack and his wife. We became involved with their Kokua Foundation and through that they learned about our marine debris projects in New Zealand and Australia. We were then contacted by Jack’s team and invited to participate in each concert on his Australian and New Zealand tour. We have a stand in the Village Green which is an area at the concert showcasing local not-for-profit organisations, giving concert-goers an opportunity to learn about local environmental issues and how to get involved in events and projects. Tangaroa Blue, along with partners Two Hands and Sustainable Coastlines then decided to organise a beach clean up in each location where the concert visited!
How has the Jack Johnson tour partnership gone so far?
Yesterday in Perth we ran a beach clean up at Cottesloe Beach and both Jack and Zach (pianist in the band) came down to help out! Jack’s focus is on showcasing and acknolwedging the continuing efforts of non-profit groups and engaging fans in sustainable local food systems and plastic free initiatives. He will also be matching donations that each organisation participating in the Village Green receives- dollar for dollar up to $2500US! You can visit www.AllAtOnce.org for further information.
What are some of the actions your group promotes and engages in on a regular basis?
We have two levels of marine debris events. Firstly, we hold annual events where we rally as many volunteers as we can to do a mass marine debris removal from the coastline. For example on the middle weekend of October each year we hold the South West Beach Clean Up in WA. This year, over 720 volunteers helped clean up beaches between Geraldton and Albany over one weekend – 46,000 pieces of debris were removed! We also hold some bi-annual clean up events on islands in Far North QLD adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. In November this year, 57 volunteers removed 519kg in just a couple of hours from Snapper Island (close to Port Douglas).
We also have monthly monitoring clean ups where individuals run a clean up along a specific section of beach every 4 weeks, collecting data and submitting it to our National Marine Debris Database. This database is used by local, state and federal government agencies to find practical ways of stopping those items found at each clean up site from entering the ocean in the first place.
What’s a great next step for someone who’s concerned about ocean conservation to take?
It’s important to understand the issue so you know how to make a positive change. Choose to make a positive impact on the environment, put your rubbish and cigarette butts in the bin, choose resuable items instead of one-time use plastic, recycle and think about your impact. This is the easiest way to get involved. Everyone can make a difference- it doesn’t matter if you have one day every week to volunteer or half an hour every month. Every bit of debris we remove from the marine environment prevents it from killing or injuring marine life and seabirds.
When are your next clean ups happening, and how can people get involved?
Our next clean ups are part of the Jack Johnson Beach Clean Up Series. You don’t need to register, just turn up and bring a pair of gloves, sunscreen and some water!
- 06.12.2010 – Semaphore Beach, Adelaide – SA – Meeting at the Jetty at 3pm.
- 09.12.2010 – Kerferd Road Pier, Melbourne, VIC – Meeting at the Pier at 10am.
- 11.12.2010 – Manly Cove Beach, Sydney, NSW – Meeting at Oceanworld at 9am.
- 13.12.2010 – Nudgee Beach, Brisbane, QLD – Meeting at 9am at the carpark.
I received a tweet during the week from Gavin Heaton @servantofchaos regarding the uncertain fate of a bush block in his community in New South Wales, Australia. Sympathetic to his cause, I caught up with Gavin to find out more about his newly formed Save the Hills Bushland group and their action to protect green space in their community and preserve the habitat of a number of threatrened species. What follows is a great example of a community coming together to lobby for conservation of bushland in their neighbourhood. You can show your support by becoming a fan of their Facebook page and visiting their blog.
Where is your community, and what are you rallying to promote or protest?
The majority of us live within the boundaries of the New England Estate – what was a new housing estate in Castle Hill (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) about 30 years ago. All the land for miles around was originally part of the Government Farm that was established in 1802-03. Over the following 180 years or so it remained largely rural, with lots of native bushland mixed in with orchards and farms. The area of land that we want to protect represents an ecotone between two endangered ecological communities – Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest and Shale Sandstone Transition Forest. The current Development Application will destroy habitat for endangered local species such as the Gang-gang Cockatoo, Swift Parrot, Powerful Owl and Grey-headed Flying-fox, Eastern Bentwing-bat and the Eastern Freetail-bat.
This land was part of a large parcel of land (about 14 acres) which has been held by one family for decades. They resisted many efforts to subdivide the land – but a few years ago, the land passed to an estate and the was purchased by a developer. An interim ruling by the Land and Environment Court set aside a significant portion of land to protect the endangered species that shelter there – but development (land clearing, house and road construction, services connection etc) has continued on the remaining land over the past two years. This has had an impact on the land that was earlier set aside – and the developer has revised the original development application. While they acknowledge the need to manage this land from an ecological point of view, they have no interest in the land other than for resale. The current Development Application before the Hills Shire Council is to reduce the building lots from seven to six, with one of these six lots being subjected to development restrictions.
We believe that this area would only further degrade as development takes place – and without management and care, will eventually become unsustainable (and ultimately subdivided). Our vision is for the Hills Shire Bushcare Volunteer group to actively manage and maintain this vital bushland corridor, with the Council taking ownership in trust for future generations of local residents.
How was the block’s fate first brought to your attention and how did the word spread through your community?
We received a letter from the Hills Shire Council advising of the proposed development application. Two locals who have lived in the area for over 30 years, Alan Heritage and Clive Potter, banded together and began talking to their neighbours. Conversations spread and developments were relayed through email, newsletter/flyers and then a blog and a Facebook page. We held a public gathering and petition signing recently with a very strong showing from long term and newer members of the local community.
What did your group decide was the best action to take to save the block?
We lodged objections to Council after speaking with the Council Flora and Fauna Officer, to find out more about the risks to the forest area. We held a public meeting and handed a signed petition into Council asking them to uphold the interim ruling of the NSW Land and Environment Court to maintain this forest area under Flora and Fauna Management plans. We are also speaking with the Environmental Defenders Office and will attend a conciliation meeting with Council on December 1.
Why does your community feel it is important to save this block?
- to conserve a recognised habitat for several animals on the New South Wales List of Endangered species
- to maintain an area of green space for the local community in the absence of a public reserve in our sub-division
Have you or others been involved in conservation activities in your area before? Elsewhere?
Alan has served on the Riverina Committee of the National Trust to identify and preserve examples of buildings, woolsheds, streetscapes, etc.
What are some of the species of flora and fauna that will be displaced if the development goes ahead?
The Species Impact Statement (SIS) identified the affected threatened species as:
- Eastern Bentwing Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis)
- Eastern Freetail Bat (Mormopterus norfolkensis)
- Gang-gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum)
- Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)
- Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) and
- Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
The affected community has been identified as an ecotone (transition area between two adjacent but different plant communities) between the endangered ecological communities Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest and Shale Sandstone Transition Forest (referred to as the “EEC”).
When will the fate of the block be decided?
We should know more following the Council meeting on December 1, 2010.
What will be the consequences if the proposed development proceeds?
The subject land restricted by the NSW LEC decision (Lot 31) has an area of 9,220 square metres and is mostly vegetated. The proposal will directly impact approximately 5,420m2 of land through the clearing of native vegetation – leaving just 3800 square metres as a restricted development area. This area will be bordered by a 1.8m high Colorbond fire-resistant fence. This fence, in itself, will replace the 1.8m high wire fence that is currently in place and we believe will obscure the capacity of the local community to supervise, observe and monitor the space. It’s also likely to attract graffiti.
The 9220 square metre area is a recognised roosting area adjoining the Castle Hill Creek wildlife corridor. The proposed reduced area of 3800 square metres severely reduces the aspect to this corridor – particulary since the contact of part of Lot 31 with the corridor is masked by existing houses. Those animals that seek refuge from development on other parts of the land and the wildlife which use this corridor will be severely impacted. Many of these endangered species are likely to be pushed closer towards extinction.
What would be the ideal result of your actions?
Ideally, Hills Shire Council will uphold the restricted development on the whole of Lot 31 proposed by the North Western Estates Pty Ltd v Baulkham Hills Shire Council (2008) NSWLEC 1167, and refuse housing development on this forested area. We’d like to see this forest area named Prager Bushland Conservation Area and be managed under Hills Shire Council by a body of volunteers (we have more than 24 volunteers already).
If you live anywhere in Sydney and would like to show your support for the Save the Hills Bushland group, you are invited to join them in person at the Hills Shire Council meeting on December 1, 2010. If like us, you live in another part of the world, you can show your support by becoming a fan of their Facebook page and finding out more about their efforts and situation on their blog. NatureScope wishes the Save the Hills Bushland group success in their work to protect established native habitat and its appreciation.