Tasmanian forests won UN world heritage listing

A grand celebration is happening in Tasmania.

Conservation groups have fought for years for the protection of old-growth forests around the Tasmanian Wilderness. Finally, the UN World Heritage Committee  approved the extension of the state’s forest into its World Heritage List. About 170,000 hectares were added into the highly protected area.

The fight for the southern forests take over a decade until the UN’s decision on June 24. (Photo: Still Wild Still Threatened)

The decision was passed in a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia June 24.  The 21-nation committee unanimously accepted the nomination. Committee members Germany, Malaysia, India, Serbia, Albania and Estonia all spoke in strong support of the extension, the Habitat Advocate notes.

Although an advisory body earlier recommended to refer the case back to Australia for more work on the extension’s cultural values, the nomination went ahead. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature had been making repeated recommendations in support of protecting these forests.

The announcement protects outstanding forests such as Styx, Weld and Upper Florentine Valleys and on the flanks of the Great Western Tiers, while the extension covers forests from Cockle Creek to Cradle Mountain. See map here.

The UN’s decision means thousands of hectares of contiguous tall eucalyptus wild forests, endangered species habitat, wild rivers and ancient karst systems have finally had their globally significant values recognised.

Tasmanian forest on fire. (Photo: HVEC)

Jenny Weber, campaigner of the Huon Valley Environment Centre’s said this is the first time HVEC has witnessed the protection of forests after 11 years of campaigning for the globally significant forests of the Weld, Middle Huon and wild forests in the Esperance and Far South. “We have achieved an awesome milestone here as an environmental NGO,” she notes.

“This is truly the people’s achievement. For decades people have struggled to protect these particular forests and finally we can say, despite shortsighted and wasteful governments, inept land resource management and failed efforts to undermine and marginalise conservationists, we did it!” Weber said.

Vica Bayley, spokesperson for The Wilderness Society (WS) also welcomes the decision and congratulates “each and every person who has participated in the campaign to see these areas protected over the decades of struggle and advocacy.”

Styx Valley, Tasmania (Photo: Supplied)

The eNGOs acknowledged the work of the Australian and Tasmanian Governments and the signatories to the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, Bayley said.

Dr Phill Pullinger of the WS also said the decision delivers a critical element of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement and a durable and tangible conservation outcome on the ground adding, “The support and follow through by all parties involved in the Forest Agreement has been very welcome and critical in the success of this nomination. It demonstrates the Agreement can work and is a viable way to protect forests.”

Tree Activists Miranda Gibson became an instant celebrity when she climbed a tree in December 2011 and vowed not to come down until the threatened forest is protected.

Miranda Gibson grabs media spotlight for her tree vigil. (Photo: Bob Brown)

Today, Gibson celebrates the victory.

“On December 14th 2011 I climbed to the top of a tree in a threatened forest and said I would stay until the forest was protected. That forest is now World Heritage. It is thanks to the support from people right around the world that the forest is still standing and is now protected.”

“For 14 months I watched over the forest every day with the hope that we, as a community, could defend those trees for future generations. Today, for that forest, we have achieved that” said Gibson.

Read more of Gibson’s statement here.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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Northern Australia poised to meet the Asian era?

Re-blogging:

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott indicated yesterday he is ready for the Asian Century.

If he wins in the federal poll this coming September, his coalition government will map out plans to fast-track the development of Australia’s northern regions- from Cairns in Queensland to Broome in Western Australia. This will lay the groundwork for linking Australia’s tropics to Asia. It will be Abbott’s priority within the first 12 months in office.

Northern Australia’s farmland which could be transformed into a food bowl of Australia and Asia. (Photo: Supplied)

The Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia, which was released Friday, highlights his plans. Topping the list is to develop the long-standing dream of many free-market economists and politicians to transform Northern Australia into a food bowl which will feed not only Australians, but also neighbouring Asians.

Abbott said the coalition wants to “capitalise on Northern Australia’s existing strengths and natural advantages in agriculture”—along with energy development, tourism opportunities, education and health services. Noting the economic forecast in the region, he said,

With Asia’s real GDP expected to grow from US$27 trillion to US$67 trillion by 2030 and Northern Australia’s proximity to the tropical region, Northern Australia is well placed to capitalise on the significant economic, strategic and environmental macro-trends that will shape both the Asian and tropical regions.

The food bowl mega-dream will include premium produce which could help to double Australia’s agricultural output.

A tractor ploughs through the vast land of Western Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

The resurrected food bowl plan, however, backfired from environmental groups.

The Wilderness Society (WS), for one, repulses the plan saying that past projects have failed. It said that while billion of dollars have been ploughed through large-scale irrigation projects, they were all doomed. Examples are the Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory and the Ord and Camballin in Western Australia, respectively.

The Society notes the Ord, the poster child of the northern food bowl,  has “been a monumental flop.” The government invested more than $1.3 but large-scale cropping for rice, sugar, cotton, and other crops have failed.

It also said that in 2010, rice failed in 12 months after being reintroduced in the Ord while the cotton industry collapsed after 12 years.

In 2007, former Samsung subsidiary Cheil Jedang shut down its unprofitable sugar mill. The Ord has now been given to a Chinese hotel developer for a “pittance in the vain hope he can succeed in the sugar business where the Korean food giant failed.”

Almost half the Ord is now planted with sandalwood for incense and perfume ‑ hardly useful for feeding Asia.

Crops in this northwestern region. (Photo: Supplied)

The Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce (NALWT) earlier released a sustainability report that finds no scientific evidence to support a food bowl vision for the north. The landscape is limited by poor soils, water availability and harsh climatic conditions.

The WS said recent research by the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge group (TRaCK) at Charles Darwin University has backed up previous substantial analysis showing the case for a sustainable northern food bowl does not exist.

Northern Australia is a graveyard for failed agricultural projects. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the northern Australia food bowl fantasy.

Rob Law from Melbourne University earlier wrote in The Conversation that the nation’s psyche has been obsessed with the vision for Northern Australia’s food bowl.  He notes it never left the minds of southern developers and politicians as well as other “visionaries.” The vast scope of northern land covers the vast and intact  savanna ecosystems across northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The Institute of Public Affairs, a free-market economy think-tank, highlights “the north remains underdeveloped and it is fantastic that the Coalition is looking to unleash its potential.”

By contrast, the NT Environment Centre  pointed out that “the north is a graveyard for failed agricultural projects inspired by ‘visionary’ southern politicians”.

Law predicted that if a coalition government wins in the 2013 election, “it is likely a new battle will be played out on familiar ground.”

The WS’s response: Abbott’s northern food bowl idea is doomed to be an expensive failure and repeat mistakes of past.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announces his coalition’s 2030 vision. (Photo: Alex Ellinghausen/Canberra Times)

National Director Lyndon Schneiders said Northern Australia needs new infrastructure and sustainable development opportunities but the north will never be the food bowl of the world, Asia or even Australia. He adds,

“This is bad policy, written with purely political objectives and dressed up as vision, with no costings and no hard commitments. The main point of this policy announcement seems to be currying favour with Australia’s richest person, Gina Reinhart, and to stem vote leak in northern Australia to the Katter Party and Clive Palmer’s United Party.”

Schneiders  suggests that rather than pursuing the “northern myth,” the coalition should be looking at ways to increase support and productivity for sustainable agriculture in southern Australia.

The Society welcomes proposals to increase investment in tourism but questions how destroying the north’s greatest asset, its extraordinary wilderness environments, to make farmland, is compatible with realising its tourism potential, including recreational tourism such as fishing.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Wind power activists gather in Canberra

Supporters and detractors of the Julia Gillard Government’s clean energy plans will converge into the Australian capital Canberra Tuesday to hold  two separate rallies in a showdown of rhetoric on wind power turbines.

Australia targets to get 20 percent of power source from non-renewables such as wind power by 2020. (Photo: Supplied)

The Green bloc led by Friends of the Earth and citizens’ watchdog GetUp! are rallying supporters nationwide to join the march to Garema Place at noon to face the anti-wind turbine top guns.

“Tuesday’s rally will be the biggest moment this anti-wind ‘movement’ has ever had, and it’s our job to make sure it stays that way. If they gather in opposition to renewables, it’s our job to gather in support [of renewables],” GetUp! said.

One group which opposes wind energy  and runs a website called Stop These Things, boasts of its  parliamentary members from the opposition coalition. Their rally will kick off at 10am on the lawns to the north of Parliament House. Their agenda is to thrash the “unreliable” and “costly ” wind power industry. They claim “wind turbines are not clean, not green and the cost consumers are forced to pay for the unreliable and intermittent power they produce is ridiculous.”

The anti-wind power group accused the industry and its benefactors of raking in about, “AU$50 billion  worth of consumers money in the form of REC tax”.

Supporters are instructed to take bring cameras and capture any misbehaviour from the Green bloc and spot their “Ditch the Witch”-type placards – or “equally unsavoury material.”

Bring a camera or use your phones to capture any misbehaviour from wind industry goons and their supporters – STT will have a name and shame spot where we will post photos and videos of any thugs in action…O ur fine people are smart enough to know that the Green-Labor Alliance is over and that – with a little more help – the Coalition will make energy policy work  again for all Australians – not against them – as is the case now.

Anti-wind power groups alleged wind turbines are threat to health and well-being. (Photo: Supplied)

The pro-wind groups shot back saying the Coalition’s anti-renewables crusaders are peddling misinformation to try and erode support for clean energy sources. The Gillard Government wants to achieve 20 per cent of energy sourced from renewables by 2020.

Anti-wind crusaders include Alan Jones of 2GB Radio; Victorian Senator John Madigan; South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon; Alby Schultz MP, member for Hume: Craig Kelly MP, member for Hughes and an early anti-wind fraud warrior; Chris Back, Liberal senator for Western Australia; Mary Morris – campaigner and community representative for Waterloo in SA;  Alan Moran of the Institute of Public Affairs; and other anti-wind turbines.

Opposition Leader Tonny Abbott earlier admitted he will scrap the price of carbon if elected in this year’s Federal election. He has described climate change as “absolute crap”.  Meanwhile, Crikey alleged that Abbott’s wife is linked to Jeanette Newman who is active in organising anti-wind power movement. She is married to Abbott’s business tsar, Maurice Newman – the former chair of the ABC and the ASX, and chair of Abbott’s proposed business advisory council.

Anti-wind turbines march to the Parliament House in Canberra. (Photo: Supplied)

The Guardian reports Newman earlier claimed that government subsidies for renewable energy is tantamount to a “crime against the people” because higher energy costs hit poorer households the hardest and there was no longer any logical reason to have them.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

A Threat to Renewables?

What’s going on with Australia’s sustainable energy resources? Here’s from GetUp:

Australia’s renewable energy future is on the line.

Windpower generators are also considered but its feasibility is under study.

Windpower generators as part of Australia’s sustainable energy future.

On Tuesday Coalition MPs will take the stage outside Parliament House with radio personality Alan Jones to demand a halt to wind power development and to advocate for the scrapping of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.

Never before in Australia have we had organised opposition to renewable energy. That means it’s no longer enough to just support renewable energy. We need to demonstrate it. On Tuesday we can counter fear-mongering with hope, look to the future, not the past and show the way to a clean energy future.

Join us in Canberra on Tuesday and show your support for renewable energy.

www.getup.org.au/rally4renewables

What: Rally for Renewables
Where: Garema Place, Canberra.
When: 12 noon, Tuesday 18 June.
RSVP: www.getup.org.au/rally4renewables

The last few months have marked a disturbing turn against renewable energy by the Coalition. Tony Abbott has described climate change as “absolute crap”3 and vowed to repeal the price on carbon that makes polluters pay for the real environmental cost of their emissions. Coalition MPs threatened the head of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which offers market rate loans for renewable energy projects and demanded that she stop investment by the fund. They even said that if elected that they would “tear up” the contracts signed with renewable energy companies despite the uncertainty it would create for jobs and investment in the renewable energy industry.

And now Coalition anti-renewables “crusaders” – Alby Schultz, Craig Kelly and Chris Back –  are peddling misinformation to try and erode support for renewables. The research has comprehensively debunked the health claims about the negative impacts of wind turbines4. But those facts aren’t important to these MPs. They know that without strong community support for more investment in renewable energy, it creates space for Australia to walk away from its promise to get 20% of our power from renewable sources by 2020. Tony Abbott and Shadow Environment minister Greg Hunt should condemn these MPs as a rogue element but instead they have been silent.

Right now, renewable energy has overwhelming community support, even among Coalition voters. It’s our one clear opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and do our bit to limit global warming to 2 degrees. We can’t let community support for renewable energy be undermined by lies and spurious claims.

www.getup.org.au/rally4renewables

I hope to see you there on Tuesday.
Carl, for the GetUp team.