Tasmania to become world’s eco-tourism hub

Tasmania is dreaming big time. The Liberal government is plotting to transform the state into an environmental tourism capital to attract globe trotters. It comes as no surprise that conservation groups are blocking the proposed project and say the World Heritage Site will be exploited for development; a trade off to draw 1.5 million visitors a year by 2020.

Aerial view of Tasmanian island. (Photo: Supplied)

Aerial view of Tasmanian island. (Photo: Supplied)

The Office of Will Hogman, premier of Tasmania, has been advertising the mega-tourism plan approved by Matthew Groom, minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage. Last year, it called for EOI (Expression of Interests) from private developers to submit proposals. Out of 37 who submitted interests, 23 have been shortlisted as of December.

Stage 1 involved assessment of proposals against various criteria including appropriateness of the proposed project to the site. Building and operational qualifications of the proponent were also reviewed, as well as the financial capability of the proponent to carry out the proposal.

Shortlisted developers are now being asked to proceed to Stage 2. Final selection is set to be done by March 13.

Groom, in a press statement, said his government is determined to open Tasmania for tourism investments that will create jobs for many Tasmanians. He promised the natural and cultural values of national parks and World Heritage Area will be fully protected.

The Maria Island Walk EOI. The project involves developing a hut based six day guided walk on the 84km long South Coast Track in the Southwest National Park.  (Photo: Office of the Coordinator-General)

The Maria Island Walk EOI. The project involves developing a hut based six day guided walk on the 84km long South Coast Track in the Southwest National Park. (Photo: Office of the Coordinator-General)

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area covers 1.4 million hectares, almost a fifth of the total area of Tasmania. It encompasses 19 national parks and more than 800 reserves.

The heritage area is well-known for its teeming and diverse native flora and fauna, along with unique landscape, pristine coastlines, and tangible and intangible Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural values reflecting thousands of years of living culture.

Conservation groups have been up in arms to oppose the development project. Tasmania’s leading environment organisations are calling for local, national and global support to stop what they call “an intrusion” into the Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area.

The Bob Brown Foundation in Tasmania and Friends of the Earth in Melbourne, respectively, are spearheading to organise meetings and rallies to lambast the Liberal government. Environmental top guns will be holding the microphones in Melbourne like Bob Brown, The Wilderness Society’s Vica Bayley, Tasmanian Greens Leader and Bass MHA Kim Booth, and Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Adam Thompson.  In Hobart, on 3 March, speakers will include World Heritage expert Jamie Kirkpatrick, environmentalist Bob Brown, champion orienteerer and runner Hanny Allston, and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Ruth Langford.

The platypus is also native to Tasmania. Pic: Vera Rayson (Flickr CC)

The platypus is also native to Tasmania. Pic: Vera Rayson (Flickr CC)

Bob Brown Foundation’s spokesperson Jenny Weber said the Tasmanian government is opening the Tasmanian wilderness’ World Heritage Area to logging, mining and invasive tourism projects.

Weber admits there are positive aspects of the proposals like the Gordon River experience by World Heritage Cruises. However, 2-4 days package tours, for example, require construction of accommodation facilities like private huts. Weber foresees “the largest expansion of hut intrusions into the wilderness.”

Bob Brown also said, “A circuit around Cradle Mountain with a proposed ‘lodge’. What’s next a circuit around Federation Peak with a lodge? No absurdity is off the agenda in this process of opening the World Heritage Area to such intrusions.”

Robert Campbell from the Tasmanian National Parks Association lamented, “Our National Parks are a legacy handed down to us by Tasmanians who had the foresight to preserve what they held to be precious. They are not the Government’s to give away or auction off to the highest bidder…”

Indeed, known as one of the last frontiers of untouched wilderness, Tasmania’s pristine wonders is open for business.

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Greens rally to save Tasmania’s world heritage

The Bob Brown Foundation gathered around 2,000 people today to help rally against removal of 74,000 hectares of forests from the World Heritage List in the Upper Florentine Valley in Tasmania. The area is part of the 170,000 hectares added into the highly protected area which was decided in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last year .

Australia’s current Government proposed the removal as it intends to use the area for logging. The proposal has been submitted to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee and the decision will be announced around June 15-25 in Doha.

The Foundation said the area is largely intact with tall eucalyptus forests and karst region (underground cave formations) besides there are other significant geomorphological features and areas of significant Aboriginal heritage.

However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott reiterates his government’s mission, first and foremost, is to get back into business especially with the historic Free Trade Agreements (FTA) he recently signed with Japan and Korea, while FTA with China is also being worked out.

Noting his address to the 2014 Forest Works Dinner in Canberra last month, Prime Minister Tony Abbott  told the timber industry that his Government is working for the removal of the 74,000 hectares of forest from the heritage listing. He said,”One of the first acts of the incoming Government was to begin the process to try to get out of world heritage listing 74,000 hectares of country in Tasmania, because that 74,000 hectares is not pristine forest. It’s forest which has been logged, it’s forest which has been degraded, in some cases, it’s plantation timber that was actually planted to be logged.”

Abbott convinced timber investors that 74,000 hectares out of the world heritage listing will “still leave half of Tasmania protected forever.” He assured that his Government respects the timber industry and that it wants the timber industry to have a vigorous and dynamic future, “We want the timber industry to be a vital part of Australia’s economic future, not just something that was a relic of our history. That’s what this Government wants.”

The Bob Brown Foundation’s Campaign Manager Jenny Weber said, “Today’s outstanding turn out in the Upper Florentine forests clearly shows that Australians are very proud of their World Heritage forests. We are sending a strong message to UNESCO that we love our spectacular forests of outstanding universal value, and the Australian community will stand up to defend them.”
Rally speakers included Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne, Markets for Change CEO Peg Putt, Still Wild Still Threatened’s Miranda Gibson and Home and Away actor Lisa Gormley.
Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

 

 

Post-Easter

Australia has gone through a long weekend over Easter period and business has just resumed today.

Nonetheless, the past days had not been completely quiet. Issues on the rights of asylum seekers rage on while civic activism continues.

In NSW, residents fear about gas fracking and contamination while in Queensland, conservation groups rally against massive industrialization along the Great Barrier Reef. Tasmania Wilderness remains under threat as the Tony Abbott Government changed its mind about protecting the world heritage forested areas. There is a ray of hope in Western Australia as a result of the recently held election. However, the fight to protect the rights of sharks from culling is expected to go on.

Whales in the Southern Ocean, meanwhile, can enjoy a peaceful and safe interlude while the Japanese harpoons had lost their case in the international court. They are back home pondering what to do next and it is possible they will come back to pursue their “scientific research”.

I will resume my writing soon.

Arctic oil wells up, Russia sends home 30 activists

Tasmania awaits the homecoming of Colin Russell, 59, one of the 30 Arctic activists detained and freed by Russian authorities.

The Russian Parliament passed amnesty laws before Christmas absolving a range of minor felons, including 30 Greenpeace activists known as the Arctic 30. As New Year draws near, the immigration department also ordered to issue exit visas so that former detainees can go home.

Colin Russell is free at last and is expected to be home in Tasmania for the New Year. (Photo: AAP)

Colin Russell is free at last and is expected to be home in Tasmania for the New Year. (Photo: AAP)

Twenty-eight Greenpeace protestors representing 18 nationalites – Americans, Canadians Britons and Australians, to name a few– and two freelance journalists were seized at the Prirazlomnoye platform on September 18 by Russian commandos. They boarded on the Arctic Sunrise to protest against drilling in the ice capped region, but were intercepted, captured, and charged of piracy, then reduced to hooliganism. If convicted, they could be locked up for at least seven years in jail.

The pardon came at a time when Russia’s first Arctic offshore field Prirazlomnoye started pumping oil in the remote waters of the Pechora Sea. Gazprom Neft announced on December 20 that oil production has begun with an average of 10.6 million barrels of oil per day, close to its current capacity. Gazprom expected an initial production of 12,000 barrels per day in 2014 and the first tanker is likely to be loaded with oil in the first quarter of next year.

Already an owner of the world’s largest natural gas reserves and a growing presence in the oil sector, Gazprom also aims to produce 6 million tons of crude per year (120,000 barrels per day) at the site by 2021.

The Arctic 30 in St. Petersburg awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism.

The Arctic 30 in St. Petersburg awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism.

Prirazlomnoye’s estimated oil reserves stand at 72 million tons — a small field that would be responsible for just 1 percent of Russia’s daily production and be depleted in about two decades, the Reuters reported.

Prirazlomnoye deposit is Russia’s first Arctic offshore exploration project, which marks the start of establishing of a large hydrocarbon hub in the region. The Prirazlomnoye oil deposit lies 60 km offshore in the Pechora Sea. The announcement also marks Russia’s long-planned effort to turn the vast oil and natural gas riches believed to be buried in the frozen waters into profits for its ambitious government-run firms. Gazprom also stressed it has rights to 29 other fields it planned to exploit in Russia’s section of the Arctic seabed.

But both Gazprom and the Kremlin view the field as a stepping stone in a much broader effort to turn the Arctic into the focus of future exploration that makes up for Russia’s declining oil production at its Soviet-era Siberian fields, according to AFP.

The Arctic region is seen as an important source of potential growth for Russia, the world’s largest oil producer, in the next decade, with global oil majors including ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil clinching deals to enter the Russian Arctic. Russian President Vladimir Putin sees the Arctic offshore riches are of a strategic importance for the country.

Control over energy fields in Russia’s section of the Arctic is split between Gazprom and its state-owned rival Rosneft — an oil producer that wants to break Gazprom’s grip on the natural gas market. Rosneft is said to be partnering in the region with U.S. major ExxonMobil and has smaller deals signed with Italy’s ENI and Norway’s Statoil, the AFP report further added.

Gazprom sees overall investments into the project at about 200 billion rubles ($6 billion), of which half had already been spent with the bulk accounting for a special ice-proof platform.

Conservation groups react

Dima Litvinov, the first of the Arctic 30 to leave Russia for Finland said his freedom is not the end, but just a beginning.

Gazprom's Polarstar platform (Photo: Gazprom.ru)

Gazprom’s Polarstar platform (Photo: Gazprom.ru)

“ They (Gazprom) may have celebrated when our ship was seized, but our imprisonment has been a disaster for them. The movement to save the Arctic is marching now. Our freedom is the start of something, not the end. This is only the beginning. The oil companies are moving north, the world’s climate is changing, the biggest struggles still lie ahead of us.”

Greenpeace said all efforts to protect the last frontier of pristine resources will be exerted and the fight is not yet over. One of its campaign platforms to gather support is Save the Arctic.

Last year, the World Wildlife fund (WWF) released a joint report that seeks to find solution in the event of an oil spill in the region. It said that harsh conditions in Russia’s Pechora Sea coupled with an inadequate oil spill response plan mean that Gazprom would not be able properly respond to an oil spill in the Arctic

A comprehensive study and joint report was released last year by the WWF, Greenpeace, Hydrometcentre of Russia, SOI, AA RI, SRC Risk Informatics. The title of the report: “Simulation of the behaviour of oil spill in the course of OIRFP “PRIRAZLOMNAYA“ Operation Assessment of the possibility of emergency response related to oil spills.

The experts reviewed tens of thousands of possible scenarios and concluded that the area of possible contamination covers over 140,000 square kilometers of open water, as well as over 3,000 kilometers of coastline. The area at risk also includes three protected areas located 50-60 km from the Prirazlomnaya oil platform: the Nenetsky natural reserve, as well as two wildlife preserves, Vaigach and Nenetsky. These reserves are home to walruses and countless species of birds. Gazprom does not include any funds for animal rescue in its oil spill response plan.

 Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya platform in the Arctic (Photo: Gazprom)


Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform in the Arctic (Photo: Gazprom)

Gazprom’s Technology

Gazprom defended its Prirazlomnaya as a unique platform designed and built in Russia on Gazprom orders. In a press statement, it said it uses technology designed to work in extreme conditions, conforms to the strictest safety requirements and is capable of withstanding maximum ice pressure. Specification of the materials used are comprehensively detailed to ensure Prirazlomnaya is oil-spill-free.

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

New gov’t enforces military response to asylum seeker boats

Re-blogging:

Asylum seekers who attempt to land on Australian shores by boat will be turned away to Indonesia, effective Wednesday.

Tony Abbott is sworn in as Australia’s 28th prime minister in Canberra on Wednesday and has pledged to enforce Operation Sovereign Borders to combat people smuggling and the influx of ‘boat people’ arriving on Australia’s shores.

Australia’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends the first meeting of the full ministry at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday. Pic: AP.

Abbott said the government of Australia has changed and will impose a conservative policy against asylum seekers with tighter border protection.

Operation Sovereign Borders sets out a military-led response to incoming asylum seeker boat arrivals led by a three-star commander. The new government will also enforce Operation Relex II, an operation to turn back asylum seekers’ boats “where it is safe to do so”. Op Relex II  is the Australian Defence Force operation that detects, intercepts, and deters vessels transporting unauthorised arrivals from entering Australia through the North-West maritime approaches.

Deputy Chief of Army Angus Campbell has been picked to head Operation Sovereign Borders. News of the impending appointment came ahead of the new Prime Minister’s trip to Indonesia on September 30.

Major General Angus Campbell speaks to soldiers in Afghanistan. Inset: Asylum seekers aboard a boat.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has also been changed to Department of Immigration and Border Protection to usher in the new era. Along with this, the Abbott government will stop granting permanent protection visas to undocumented boat arrivals and will reintroduce the processing of temporary protection visas which will deny permanent residency in Australia.

The Papua New Guinea Solution introduced by former PM Kevin Rudd has been criticized by human rights organizations as inhumane, and therefore not acceptable to provide a solution for displaced people.

Indonesian Solution?

Abbott earlier unveiled his plan to turn back asylum seekers who boarded boats from Indonesia. The $440 million scheme includes buying old Indonesian fishing boats, paying coastal village heads for information, and deploying Australian policemen to Indonesia to arrest people smugglers.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natelegawa said the policy is problematic and Indonesia is sure to reject it. He said Indonesia would have to differentiate between the political campaign Abbott was trying to win and what the reality would be once he is sworn in.

Australia’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, and Australia’s only female Cabinet member, Julie Bishop said the Coalition will negotiate with Indonesia on all aspects of its asylum seeker policy where possible. Bishop said Indonesia’s perception of the policy is immaterial and what is needed is ‘understanding’ on how Australia tries to work out a solution. It will be discussed during upcoming formal bilateral meetings with Indonesian officials.

In Indonesia, local observers were already displeased with the plan, saying Abbott insulted the country’s sovereignty. Local newspapers such as the Straits Times and the Jakarta Globe have quoted observers including Professor Hikmahanto Juwana, dean of Universitas Indonesia’s law faculty, who said in a statement, “Mr Abbott came up with these programmes as if Indonesia is a part of Australia, without sovereignty… He insults the government of Indonesia, making us mercenaries doing his dirty work for the sake of money.” Juwana called on the Indonesian government “to speak out against these plans lest it lose the trust of Indonesians.”

Mahfudz Siddiq, head of Parliament’s foreign affairs commission, also described the proposals as “degrading and offensive to the dignity of Indonesians”.

Tasmanian Solution

At home, prominent barrister and asylum seeker advocate Julian Burnside has proposed that the entire state of Tasmania be turned into an immigration detention centre.

He has rejected Rudd’s Papua New Guinea solution as well as the Coalition’s plan to process asylum claims in the Pacific.

“If politicians are obsessed with the idea that asylum seekers must be kept in detention then that could be legally satisfied by declaring the island of Tasmania a place of detention,” he said.

He said it would save Australia about $3 billion a year. He suggested the Federal Government can give the Tasmanian Government $1 billion a year as “a thank you”.

The response in Tasmania has not been positive. The We say NO to Declaring Tasmania an Immigration Detention Centre  Facebook group has gained more than 11,000 members in just one week after Burnside’s comments. The other camp, We Say Yes to Asylum Seekers in Tasmania, had almost 1,000 fans at time of writing.

Blog Link: The Green Journal/Asian Correspondent

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

The Silent Victims of Bushfires

Australian summer is the peak season of bushfires. The CSIRO, a leading scientific body, said bushfire is a natural phenomenon no less than the sun and rain, and it occurs frequently all-year-round. When the mercury hits over 40 degrees Celsius (140 F), heat ignites wildfires that spread extensively engulfing farms, forests,  and communities,  including sanctuaries of wildlife. While many animals can survive, bushfires put pressure on many species to the verge of extinction. Plant and trees, however, have more power to regenerate.

A kangaroo hops through a burnt paddock in Melbourne West. (Photo: AAP)

Fire authorities across states have issued fire warnings , maps, and  precautions. Three states were under red alert early this week: Tasmania, New South Wales, and Victoria.  But temperatures dipped on Wednesday easing total the fire ban in threatened areas.

Fire brigades, community workers, and volunteers help in rescue operations while authorities assess the extent of damage.

Beyond the ashes are the silent victims of the catastrophe–  animals and endangered species.

The past bushfires had left many animals dead, their habitats destroyed. In Victoria, among the endangered species are the state bird emblem, the Helmeted Honeyeater and Leadbeaters Possums. According to Zoo Victoria, the Healesville Sanctuary is still reeling from the effects of Black Saturday in 2009. The Sanctuary itself was under threat and many animals were evacuated. The Vet team worked around the clock treating fire- affected animals in the wildlife hospital and in rescue centres in the community.

Threatened by bushfires (Photo: Supplied)

In Western Australia, many species of native animals and birds are feared to have been completely wiped out, according to Australian Geographic. Conservationists and animal carers note that populations of highly endangered possums, black cockatoos and other native species may now be locally extinct in the Margaret River, Nannup and Augusta regions. About 90 percent of wildlife in these areas are already presumed extinct.

Another endangered bird is the Red-tailed black cockatoo especially those the endangered Baudin’s red-tailed black cockatoos which are only found WA’s southwest. The number is estimated to be less than 10,000.

The ground parrot used to be a common bird seen in Australia, but the specie is disappearing. (Photo: Supplied)

The Wilderness Society has listed top five endangered species which could become extinct in the coming few years. These species are considered the most threatened by the fires: the Leadbeater’s Possum, Sooty Owl, Barred Galaxias, Ground Parrot. and Spotted Tree Frog.

Bushfires are wiping out the Spotted Tree Frog. (Photo: Supplied)

Koalas, kangaroos, sheep, and cattle are not spared from pain and suffering. The Department of Environment and Sustainability works with qualified and experienced wildlife care organisations and rehabilitators to assist with the recovery, treatment, rehabilitation and release of wildlife affected by fire.

This photo of CFA firefighter David Tree and Sam the koala became a bushfire icon of the Black Saturday in 2009. (Photo:Reuters)

Mobile animals, such as birds, kangaroos and wallabies, may be able to move out of burning areas to safer grounds. Other wildlife can take refuge underground, in tree hollows and logs, unburnt patches of vegetation, wet gullies, rocky areas and on leeward slopes.

Many perish in the fires while some badly burnt animals await DSE ‘s advice for their immediate ‘destuction’. Survivors are treated in vet clinics.

Plant species usually regenerate a few seasons after a bushfire. From the charred tree trunks and ashes from the earth, new life re-emerge–more resilent to face the evolutionary changes in the environment.

Many plant species resprout from protected buds, at or below ground level, and many others regenerate from soil-stored seed even if the adult plants were killed by the fires.

A wildfire near Deans Gap, New South Wales, Australia, crosses the Princes Highway. Pic: AP.

Links to Animal Rescue:

Department of Environment and Sustainability

Wildlife Victoria

Blog Link : Asian Correspondent

Hydro Tasmania called to pull out of Sarawak

Trouble never ends in this tiny bit of island, south of mainland Australia. If you don’t know Tasmania, you probably need to watch Hollywood blockbuster, The Hunter, to get a clue. Tasmania covers a pristine wilderness where exploiters could miraculously disappear and would never come back alive. Of course, this is an exaggeration.

Protestors at Hydro Tasmania daming it involvement in Sarawak (Photo: Sarawak Report/ FB)

However, there is an interesting turn of events. The trouble is not about the local Green groups accusing Forestry Tasmania, Ta Ann or the Gunns Ltd. of Tasmania’s forest destruction. Instead, the state-owned dam builder, Hydro Tasmania, is implicated in a colossal environmental threat in the Province of Sarawak on the island of Borneo in Malaysia.

Hydro Energy is commissioned to “provide technical support” to Sarawak Energy who is currently building the multi-billion dollar Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).  The project involves 12 highly controversial dams projected to produce 28,000 MW of power.

Local and international indigenous groups and communities denounced the project saying the dams will “flood huge swathes of the Borneo Jungle and destroy the lives of tens of thousands of indigenous people along with their cultures.” Exodus of people have begun.

The Sarawak Report said Sarawak Energy has a link to the Ta Ann Group– also maliciously imputed in the crime of exploiting Tasmanian forests and the jungle of Borneo. They are said to have a close link with the Tasmanian government, the report adds.

Both Sarawak Energy and Ta Ann have the same Chairman in Hamed Sepawi, the cousin and close ally of Sarawak Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud, who exercises an iron grip over this notoriously corrupted East Malaysia state.

The Borneo Project, a forerunner of environmental campaigns in Sarawak said Sarawak Energy is “not consulting with communities in good faith, and is not getting the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of the affected communities.”

There is an overall lack of transparency; Sarawak Energy is not sharing their environmental or social impact assessments, feasibility studies, and resettlement plans. Meager compensation benefits will force communities into poverty.

International civic organisation have thrown support to condemn the dams. Groups include the Borneo Project (USA), the Bruno Manser Fund (Switzerland), the Rainforest Action Network (USA), International Rivers (USA), the Rainforest Foundation Norway and the Sarawak Report (UK), and many more.

Save Rivers Network stage a protest against the dams (Photo: Save Rivers Network)

These groups demand that the Federal Government of Australia and the State Government of Tasmania to live up to their commitments to protect indigenous rights and the environment. They asked Tasmania Premiere Lara Giddings  to immediately pull Hydro Tasmania and all its subsidiaries out of Sarawak. Read their petition to Giddings HERE.

These groups said that despite Australian Government’s commitments to indigenous rights, Hydro Tasmania shares responsibility for the destruction of Sarawak communities. They also demand that the Tasmanian government severe all ties with Sarawak Energy and take a stand for environmental conservation and indigenous rights. Sarawak is home to over 40 indigenous communities, as well as many vanishing  species, including the orangutan. Conservationists said the proposed dams threaten to destroy some the last remaining rainforests in Borneo.

Sarawak Delegates visit Canberra (Photo: Sarawak Report/FB)

The Australian Greens have joined the activism and have launched a national campaign in November calling for the withdrawal of Hydro Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government from the controversial project.

Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne and Lee Rhiannon said Hydro Tasmania cannot walk away from their responsibility for the damage these dams will cause to thousands of villagers in Sarawak. Milne said “Hydro Tasmania continues to supply staff and technical expertise to push these projects along despite a growing campaign in Sarawak against the dams. I am calling on Hydro Tasmania to walk away from this destructive project.”

In other development, delegates from Sarawak arrived in Australia to have dialogues with Hydro Tasmania and local officials.

Indigenous leaders from the Sarawak met with Hydro Tasmania’s CEO Roy Adair in Launceston and Tasmania’s Deputy Premier Bryan Green. The final public event will be held in Hobart on December at the Republic Bar in North Hobart at 7 pm.

Sarawak delegates flash a banner denouncing Hydro Tasmania in Sydney (Photo: Sarawak Report/FB)

Peter Kallang, chairman of the Save Rivers group of Sarawak Indigenous leaders and James Nyurang, village headman from the Baram River Region, joined the Australian tour and called on Hydro Tasmania to pull their support out of controversial dams.

Adam Burling, spokesperson for the Save Sarawak Rivers Tour said,

Meeting with the CEO of Hydro Tasmania has meant that the people of Sarawak could directly request Hydro Tasmania to withdraw from the controversial dam projects.  Hydro Tasmania continues to supply staff and technical expertise to push these projects along despite a growing campaign in Sarawak against the dams, and deplorable human rights violations.

Kallang added Australians need to know Hydro Tasmania is involved in massive dam proposals that stand to affect up to 20,000 people who live along the Baram River in Sarawak.


Anti-Hydro Tasmanian protest in Melbourne (Photo: Sarawak Report/FB)

Nyurang said, “If the dams go ahead I will lose my home, my land. I have no idea where my family will be moved to or how we will make our livelihood.

Hydro Tasmania’s involvement in Sarawak will help to flood thousands of hectares of land belonging to the indigenous peoples of Sarawak. This will spell the end of our heritage, our means of livelihood, custom and culture. We will not stand by while our homes, our rice fields, our fruit trees go under water, James Nyurang said.

Sites of 12 controversial dams in Sarawak (Photo. Borneo Project)

Sites of 12 controversial dams in Sarawak (Photo. Borneo Project)

The delegates will continue to have public events in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and Launceston.  They met some members of the Parliament in both Upper and Lower Houses, including Victorian and New South Wales members from the Australian Greens. Watch the press conference HERE.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Greens join forces to save the Tarkine

The Wilderness Society, Tarkine National Coalition, and GetUp! joined forces in the campaign to protest the “out-of-control” mining ventures in the Tarkine in Tasmania and push for its enlistment in the World Heritage Site.

Convoluted rocks at the west coast off Tarkine. (Photo: Flickr)

Massive banners in front of a proposed Venture Minerals’ open cut mine in the Meredith Ranges have been unveiled as part of the Tarkine wilderness. Tarkine is claimed to have been recently assessed by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments to have a national and World Heritage values prompting strong community oppositions to any developmental aggression.

Here’s from the campaigners:

Liz Johnstone, Tarkine campaigner for The Wilderness Society, said many of these values, however, are under threat from new open cut mines. Some are proposed in existing conservation reserves that have been watered down to allow mining and exploration.

Venture and a range of other companies have plans to build strip and open cut mines in the region, ahead of the findings of an Australian Heritage Commission assessment of the environmental significance of the area.

Miners, Australian Workers Union join forces to support mining in the Tarkine. (Photo: ABC)

Paul Oosting, campaign director for GetUp, said the Tarkine has evolved over 40 million years to be what is now one of the few last remaining wild places on the face of the planet, yet Venture Minerals wants to go into what is currently a conservation area and strip mine it for just 2-8 years.

“Today we have seen the Tasmanian community stand up and take action to not let this happen and we know that they have the support of people from around the country who want to see this area properly protected,” Oosting said.

Vica Bayley, campaign manager for Wilderness Society Tasmania, said that the event signals an escalation of the community campaign and a counter to the provocative actions of the Australian Workers Union and the mining industry who are pre-empting the current national heritage assessment and pushing ahead with risky mining proposals.

“The AWU, the mining lobby and companies need to back off and allow due process and the heritage assessment to conclude before locking in destructive proposals that threaten the values of the area and impact on the heritage listing that previous assessments prove this region deserves,” Bayley said.

GetUp’s “Save the Tarkine” campaign

The action before Monday’s (24 Sept) Extraordinary General Meeting of Venture Minerals’ shareholders in Perth, where a decision will be made on capital raising needed to kick start its mines in the Tarkine. “The company, its shareholders and financial backers must realise that mining World Heritage value wilderness is a risk not only to the environment, but also to their investment,” Bayley said.

More info about this campaign: Tarkine National CoalitionWilderness Society Tasmania, GetUp!

Tasmanian Premiere Lara Gidding maintains that the Tarkine is insignificant, with mining representing only one per cent of the region.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Super trawler can’t super fish

Super trawler Abel Tasman could suck schools of mackerel off Australian waters (Photo: Pierre Gleizes/Greenpeace)

MV Margiris, the giant fishing vessel measuring 146-metre long, has been banned from its grand mission to fish 18,000 tons of pelagic fish off Australian waters.

Even before it reached Australian shores, more than a dozen of Green groups have already sounded the alarm bell pushing the Federal Government to block the super trawler.

Baptising it with a new name, Abel Tasman, early this month did not help the super ship either to set its past records straight. Green groups alleged the humongous vessel to have plundered the seas off the Pacific and the coasts off West Africa, among other major international waters. The vessel, longer than the Sydney Harbour Brige, can dwarf and make local fishing boats look like toys– if allowed to sail on, they said. The ship is now docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia.

Abel Tasman could be the largest fishing vessel to sail on Australian waters. (Photo: News Corp)

The Parliament said Abel Tasman cannot go ahead with its mission– banning it for two years until a comprehensive scientific research and review of the Small Pelagic Fishery Agreement has been made. Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig also announced a review of the 20 year old fisheries management legislation, in light of concerns about super trawlers devastating fish stocks.

Australian-owned, Seafish Tasmania, entered a joint venture with the Dutch-owned MV Margiris for small pelagic fishing that would net schools of Blue Mackerel, Jack Mackerel and baitfish. The MV Margiris weighing 9,499 tonnes can process over 250 tonnes of fish a day and has a cargo capacity of 6,200 tonnes.

Seafish Tasmania Gerry Green said the venture was estimated to provide jobs to about 50 people, including 45 in Devonport, Tasmania. At least, 15 of whom are likely to be from overseas. “It is going to be hard to tell these employees, some of them who were long term unemployed, that we no longer have a job for them,” SBS noted.

But the Tasmanian Times unearthed some evidence claiming the “Dutch owned, EU subsidised, Margiris Trawler, offers “no advantage to Tasmania or for that matter Australia.” If there is one beneficiary, it would be Seafish Tasmania owner Gerry Geen, the online paper said.

Pelagic or mid-water trawling is the process of deploying and towing a net at a chosen depth in the water column to catch schooling fish such as herring and mackerel. This differs from “bottom” (benthic) trawling in which a net is dragged along the ocean bottom where fish such as cod, haddock, and flounders live.

The Government's zoning of Small Pelagic Fishery. (Photo: AFMA)

Small Pelagic Fishing zones by AFMA

The Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF), managed by the Australian Fishery Mangement Authority (AFMA), is a purse-seine mid-water trawl fishery extending from Southern Queensland to Southern Western Australia. The AFMA said there are currently 71 licenses and five active vessels operating targeting several species including Jack Mackerel, redbait, Blue Mackerel, and Australian Sardine (off NSW only). Yellow Tail scud is taken as by-product.

AFMA has adopted various harvest strategy such as input and output control including limited entry, zoning, mesh size restriction, and total allowable catch limits. They are said to be based on sound science and best marine management practices.

Supernet scoops tonnes of small fish. (Photo: Greenpeace)

However, Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said, “These ships literally vacuum up entire schools of fish”

Greenpeace, GetUp, Environment Tasmania, and the 14 other conservation and fishing groups galvanised a CommunityRun! to block the giant net off Australian waters

The Fishingworld website noted:

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the organisation had confronted the Margiris off the coast of Mauritania in March, for its role in what it says is overfishing in the North Sea and South Pacific ”to the point of plunder”.

The environmental group claims the industrial super-trawler is part of the European Association of pelagic freezer trawlers (PFA), responsible for “some of the worst fishing excesses on the planet.”

It said PFA vessels had been reponsible for jack mackerel stocks off Chile plummeting by 90 per cent.

“There has never been a trawler of this scale in Australian waters to my understanding before and that is a serious concern that we just don’t know what effect it will have on the food chain,” Greens MP Kim Booth said.

Reflagged Abel Tasman awaits fate at Port Lincoln. (Photo: Ivon Perrin)

The Sea Shepherd said,

If this super trawler is allowed to operate in Australia, it would mean huge impacts on the already critically endangered Southern Bluefin Tuna and albatross, and the tragic death of seals and dolphins through being trapped and drowned in this super trawler’s indiscriminate killing nets of death as “by-catch”.

If overfishing does not stop, the world’s fisheries will completely collapse by 2048. The reality is that the oceans that provide up to eighty percent of our oxygen are in deep trouble and allowing this super trawler to operate in Australia’s waters would be a further sealing of humanities fate.

Sea Shepherd are calling on all our supporters to please for our oceans sake and our children’s sake, please assist Sea Shepherd in stopping this super trawler.

And the drama on the super trawler continues.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent