The End of The Line Sells Out in Fremantle!

Powerful documentary The End of the Line sold out the first screening at Luna on SX cinema in Fremantle last night.
Labelled by The Economist as ‘the inconvenient truth about our oceans’ the film has returned to Luna after demand was not met by a previous cinema run in Northbridge. It uses stunning underwater cinematography and interviews with world leading scientists to tell the story of the devastating impact of overfishing on our oceans, and how we can each help to turn it around.
Tickets for the next screening at 6.30pm on Sunday 26th August are available on the special events page of the Luna Palace website. Bookings recommended.
More details and links to come…

Posted by Wordmobi

New Government Good News for Marine Sanctuaries

Both Labor and the Greens went to this election with a strong policy on new marine sanctuaries and defended them against Coalition and fishing lobby attacks during the election.  With these commitments and previous public statements of support from key WA Liberals like Mal Washer and Julie Bishop, the next few months are exciting times for saving WA’s unique marine life.

With increasingly harsh restrictions on recreational fishermen such as seasonal closures to fishing of the rapidly diminishing stocks of WA’s reef fish – like snapper, the unique dhufish and baldchin groper –  and the proposed expansion of deepsea oil drilling off the pristine Margaret River coast, there is an urgent need to follow the scientist’s recommendations and establish a network of large marine sanctuaries in WA’s southwest waters.

Up to 90% of the marine life in WA’s southwest is unique to the southwest region of Australia, yet less than 1% of waters are protected.

You can help by signing the petition at Save Our Marine Life and joining the discussion at Save Our Marine Life (Australia) on facebook.

If you live in Perth, come along to our September 19th screening of The End of the Line at Luna on SX Fremantle!

Margaret River Parliament Protest a Sign of New Times?

There is something happening in Australia that I haven’t seen talked about much in the mainstream papers.  Perhaps it is because they are so reliant on mining advertising, or maybe because they just haven’t thought about it.

But today on the steps of Parliament watching winegrowers, farmers and greenies together protesting about coal and oil development in Margaret River, I was thinking of the same protests over coal mining in the plains of NSW, mining in the ‘wild rivers’ of Queensland, oil and gas in the Kimberley and of the divisive debates over a carbon price and the mining tax.

Australia was once carried ‘on the sheep’s back’ but modern Australia is increasingly relying on mining. In the last boom, set to start up again, massive windfall profits were shared by mining companies, their employees and shareholders, whilst other industries and communities struggled with the effects of the boom, and in agriculture more systemic problems such as drought and land degradation. Ironically some of these problems through climate change are directly linked to the ongoing export of coal and burning of fossil fuels that underpins Australian’s mining industry.  The mining industry continues to get access to large amounts of water and subsidies originally meant to support agriculture, like the diesel fuel rebate.

In the boom, whilst some towns were fading out of existence, others were bursting at the seams – in both scenarios the Government and private sectors struggled to provide basic services for opposite reasons.  Whilst many agricultural areas were continuing their decline from being the economic powerhouse of Australia under the effects of salt and drought, other pristine areas were being opened up and industrialized with little thought to the future.

It seems that a flash point is fast approaching where the environmental and economic impact of the mining industry is increasingly being noticed in the broader community, at the same time as the industry is seeking to consolidate its power in Australian politics and the community.

Many commentators see all these issues as separate. But if you look at what makes them similar there is a trend.  In each it is about the mining industry overstepping the mark, and things needing to be bought back into balance, and the Government floundering on how to deal with the problem.  Whether it is getting an increasing share of the pie for redistribution to other sections of the economy though royalties or new taxes, or drawing a line on mining in our most productive agricultural and tourism regions, or protecting our remaining pristine environments – it is about pegging back an industry whose footprint is going too far for the comfort zone of Australia’s social and environmental conscience, and economic stability.

Australia needs a Government who understands this.  A Government capable of listening to the mining industry but also forging an economic and environmental future for Australia.  We should be able to look to the lessons of our agricultural boom; whilst it built a nation, the excesses of that boom have also left a legacy of failed towns, mass extinction of native animals, waterless rivers and expanding salt and dust deserts where there were once great woodlands.

In short, we need to have restrictions on mining with or without the consent of the industry, but preferably with some level of consultation.  There needs to be restrictions on where they can and can’t go, and on how much the economy can afford to rely on that high risk, high reward, industry.  However, these need to be restrictions that are sensitive to the needs of the industry, which doesn’t always mean the middle road.  For example, many complaints made by industry are about overregulation and onerous assessment processes when many of these could be avoided by clearer restrictions on any mining in sensitive environments.  The Government rhetoric of ‘strong environmental conditions’ too often means ‘we didn’t have the guts to say no to industry, so we are going to over regulate a project in the wrong place instead.’

Not all decisions required are this black and white, but they do require a sensitive yet decisive set of decisions to be made that are well explained to the electorate and allow the mining industry to continue to provide wealth, but without impoverishing the future.

Australian democracy has a 200 year history of mostly getting it right eventually.  Maybe that is why we have not so accidently voted away both a dithering centrist Government and a backwards looking Opposition for a new scenario where a motley crew of progressives from both sides of the political spectrum are holding the Labor party to account on delivering the progressive reforms they have been promising since 2007.  Such a diverse grouping probably has the best chance of any of getting the mix right for the future of Australia.

Government Falls Short on Protection: Risking WA’s Rare Plant Heritage at Mt Manning

For more than three decades attempts have been made to protect the unique plants and animals in the Mt Manning region from iron ore mining.  Some of the plants and animals on the ranges in this area are so restricted that their entire range can be threatened by a single mining project.

It is a biodiversity hotspot within a hotspot, being an area of particularly high biodiveristy within the international biodiversity hotspot of SW  WA, renowned for its extremely high diversity of plants.

Yesterday, the Ministers for Mining and Environment released a statement outlining plans for new reserves at Mt Manning, and whilst it was clearly based on the recommendations of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in their bulletin on protecting the area (Bulletin 1265) it stopped short of taking the hard decisions to protect key conservation areas on Mt Manning and the Helena Aurora ranges from mining.

Under the previous state Government good progress was made on the increasingly problematic issue of balancing mining development with conservation as the mining industry expansion into more of the environmentally sensitive areas of WA.  In the case of the BIF this was done through a Strategic Review process involving both environment and mining departments.  This report also recommended uptake of Bulletin 1265.

After having approved mining at Mungada Ridge, another of the biodiversity hotspots within the BIF identified by the Strategic Review, the Government needs to show it is taking this issue seriously by giving the needed protections to the critical BIF areas in the Mt Manning reserves.

More on the Banded Ironstone Formation ranges here.

And a suggested letter calling on the Premier to protect Mt Manning that you can download and send here.

(Image of Mt Manning Range courtesy of Brian Moyle, Wildflower Society of WA)

Government Ignores EPA: Leaves Rare Species at Risk of Extinction at Mt Manning

CCWA Media Release:

New conservation areas announced by the Minister’s for Mining and Environment yesterday leave key species exposed to the threat of extinction by failing to protect their homes from mining.

“The Government has yet again ignored the strong advice of the EPA by leaving key areas important to protecting rare species open to mining,” said Conservation Council Director Piers Verstegen.

The new Conservation Parks (conservation areas that allow mining) and new Nature Reserve (protected from mining) fail to act on key EPA recommendations1 that an extended Nature Reserve must be established to protect the rare plants and animals found on Mt Manning and the Helena/Aurora Range.

Mt Manning and the Helena Aurora Range are part of the unique and spectacular Banded Ironstone Formation (BIF) Ranges.  These ranges are hotspots of biodiversity and home to a unique suite of species.  Some species of plant in this area, such as a number of unique rock crevice flowers called tetratheca, are so rare that they are confined to certain ridges within the range.

There are also rare and restricted species of animals living on the ranges, and even within the rocks of the ranges (subterranean animals called troglofauna).

A Strategic Review2 looking at mining and conservation across all BIF in the Midwest recommended that there be high levels of protection in the most important areas of BIF, these included the Mt Manning nature reserve as recommended by the EPA, and a new reserve at Mungada Ridge near Geraldton.  This Government has already approved mining at Mungada Ridge, again against the advice of the EPA.

“The Banded Ironstone Ranges are like islands in the flat outback landscapes, their scenic peaks have evolved their own unique species of plants and animals.  Currently, none of these rare ridges are protected from mining.”

“Three times they have recommended against mining and three times the Government of the day has overruled their advice.  To balance mining and conservation, we need the extended Mt Manning Nature reserve as called for by the EPA, and again this advice has been ignored.”

“We call on the Government to fully protect the extended Mt Manning and Helena Aurora Range Nature Reserves from mining.”

Colin Barnett to Take James Price Point for Gas Hub by Compulsory Aquisition

See media release from Environs Kimberley below.

Coverage in The West here. And of Yawaru Man Mick Dodson warning of the potential for dire social consequences here.

The Squid is also wondering what the shareholders of Woodside, BP, Shell and Chevron think about taking land subject to claims by indigenous people in this way?  Surely these companies have ethical engagement policies?  They can’t just hide behind the Government, the land is being acquired for them to use.  Will be an interesting space to watch.

Some previous thoughts on the case for and against a gas hub at James Price Point here.

Environs Kimberley: Premier’s ‘rush to riches’ shows contempt

The WA Premier Colin Barnett’s rush to develop the Kimberley shows contempt for the local community and environment, according to Environs Kimberley.

“In his rush to riches the Premier has ignored community concerns about damage to the environment and to the local economy, which is largely based on tourism. The Premier’s Department of State Development has refused requests for a public meeting on the social impacts of the proposed oil and gas refinery on Broome’s doorstep,” Environs Kimberley Director Martin Pritchard said. “Every time we raise a concern about the proposed gas refinery the Premier dismisses it.”

A report by the Centre for Sustainable Tourism has shown that a gas refinery would have a serious impact on tourism in the Kimberley and Broome in particular, but the Premier is refuting the findings.

“Compulsory acquisition of the land shows how desperate the Premier is to industrialise this part of the Kimberley coast, regardless of the cost to Traditional Owners and the environment,” Mr Pritchard said.

Far from ‘unremarkable’ as the Premier once described it, the land in question had been earmarked by the government as a future National Park for the past 20 years, features a threatened ecological community and is adjacent to a whale calving area for the Kimberley coast’s famed humpback whales.

“The Premier has broken all agreements with the Commonwealth over the assessment of this project, including the agreement to have the free, prior and informed consent of Traditional Owners as well as to make a thorough assessment of processing sites outside the Kimberley”, said Mr Pritchard.

“The Premier has chosen a moment to announce compulsory acquisition when the Commonwealth government is in caretaker mode and cannot respond.” Mr Pritchard said.

“We are calling on Woodside and its Joint Venture partners Shell, BP, Chevron and BHP not to go ahead with the Premier’s oil and gas refinery near Broome, but to continue with their plans to pipe the gas south to the Pilbara.

“A JP Morgan report has stated that piping south is a more cost effective deal for the JV partners and the longer the decision is delayed, the more attractive the Pilbara option becomes,” Mr Pritchard said.