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EcoPress November 2018

How Will We Stop Adani Opening Its Mega-Mine?

The world is facing a climate crisis and the next Australian federal election is a crucial moment that will decide the world's future. We're asking you to volunteer a couple of hours of your time to help our campaign to change Australia's and the Earth's future.

Two weeks ago we heard from the world's leading climatologists, the IPCC, that the world must stop burning coal by 2050 if we have any chance of maintaining a livable climate into the future. Every week Australia emits about 5 cubic kilometres of carbon-dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. That makes global air temperature hotter, rainfall less predictable, more intense cyclones and bleaches the Great Barrier Reef. It also presents a real challenge to future Australians when they try to reduce the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere.

Imagine trying to find 5 cubic kilometres of safe and secure underground storage, that's a pretty big job. Then multiply that by 30 years worth of CO2. About 7,500 cubic kilometres of storage must be found to secure the gas that will be emitted between now and 2050. If we start reducing our carbon-dioxide emissions today the future problem becomes much more achievable.

This week Adani announced it is close to financing its DSC_1297.jpgdisastrous mega-mine near Clermont west of Mackay with the aim of commencing construction early in 2019. The Carmichael Mine will operate for 60 years and produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal every year. It must never be opened so it's time for us to ramp up our campaign. 

Australia has a choice to make about whether we make the shift to renewable energy or continue to mine coal and destroy the Great Barrier Reef, putting all forms of life at risk. The federal election in May 2019 will be crucial in that decision but right now, neither major party has a policy to rule out new coal projects.

Even though most people in Australia oppose Adani's mine, politicians believe they can cruise to the next federal election without making a commitment to stop it. It's time they started to feel the heat of our campaign and make clear policies to Stop Adani and urgently reorganise our energy system to make life safe for everyone. 

We're asking you to make a commitment to lend a few hours to support our campaign. No matter where you live you can help. Over the next few months we'll be knocking on doors in Mackay and other parts of Central Queensland to find out what people think about Adani and climate change and let them know how they can help. We'll be writing letters to politicians of all persuasions. We'll be making phone calls. We'll have stalls at markets. We'll be surveying community opinion. That's just for starters. So please sign our volunteer pledge and let us know that you want to join this campaign.

National Park Privatisation

The Queensland Government recently asked for Expressions of Interest from private tourism companies to build infrastructure and operate exclusive walking tours in three of Queensland's iconic national parks. The parks are Hinchinbrook Island, Whitsunday and Great Sandy. The Minister for Tourism, Kate Jones, has also stated that this is just the beginning and other parks are up for grabs to private tourism interests. 

We have a petition on our website calling on the Queensland premier and Environment Minister to put an end to this nonsense and ensure that our national parks are protected for the conservation of nature and low impact recreation, not for private tourism development. So far we have about 500 signatures but we'd like a whole lot more so please sign today. We will deliver the petition at the end of the month. 

The Queensland Government says in the tender documents it is willing to provide the successful bidder with:

  • State-owned national park land for private eco-accommodation development;
  • exclusive ground leases for a term of up to 30 years plus one up to 30 year option to operate the private eco-accommodation;
  • assistance during the approvals process;
  • a coordinated “one government” approach to comply with other government requirements; and
  • a contribution of up to $5 million for eco-accommodation built along the Whitsunday Island Trail.

This outrageous plan must be stopped otherwise none of our national parks will be secure from large tourism operators who want to have exclusive use of the most ecologically important and beautiful parts of Queensland. Sign our petition and tell your friends to sign too.


We're So Proud To Receive The Bob Brown Foundation Award

Christine Carlisle, Bob Brown and Peter McCallumMackay Conservation Group has been awarded the 2018 Community Environment Prize by the Bob Brown Foundation for our work to protect the local and global environment. MCG's Christine Carlisle and Peter McCallum travelled to Hobart to receive the award.

Over the past three decades Mackay Conservation Group has been successfully engaging in campaigns that have challenged major government and corporate interests. In recent times we have risen to national attention for our work to stop the Adani Carmichael mine proceeding.

In 2015 the group put a temporary halt on the mine when it identified that the federal environment minister had failed to properly consider the impact of the mine on two threatened species. Last year, Mackay Conservation Group exposed visual evidence of pollution at Adani's Abbot Point coal terminal for which the company is currently facing prosecution by the Queensland Government. 

It is an honour to receive an award that has previously been given to luminaries of the environment movement in Australia. This award shows that a group of ordinary people can collectively make huge achievements.

The world faces an environmental emergency on an unprecedented scale in the form of climate change, yet our governments are continuing to allow new coal mining projects to proceed. Our community understands that we are at a turning point and that we must act urgently to prevent greenhouse gas pollution. It's crucial that we continue our work to bring an end to the expansion of the coal industry into the Galilee Basin.

The Bob Brown Foundation recognised these and the many other achievements of Mackay Conservation Group. The Bob Brown Foundation established its environmental awards in 2012 with the aim of encouraging community activist organisations that work on the frontline of conservation. 

Please make a donation today so we can carry on our work to protect our air, water and ecological systems.


Cane Farm Under Investigation

The Queensland government is investigating work undertaken at a huge sugar cane farm south of Clairview (about 135km south of Mackay) following complaints of excessive runoff by local residents and environmental organisations including Mackay Conservation Group. Last year MCG worked in collaboration with WWF Australia to gather evidence of the extensive clearing that was occurring at the cane farm development.

Sediment in Middle Creek south of Clairview following the September rainfall eventIn March a local resident raised concerns with MCG about the amount of sediment that had settled in one of the creeks adjacent to the farm. The creeks flow into a Dugong Protection Zone. Since then former MCG coordinator, Patricia Julien, has been undertaking extensive investigation of the regulatory controls that were meant to be in place for this project. 

In September MCG visited the site again after another rainfall event and it was clear that significant erosion had occurred. Our drone vision was featured on the ABC news. We took water samples at several locations, which were analysed at a laboratory in Mackay. The samples showed fertiliser concentration three times higher than was expected in the creeks and about nine times higher in a drain flowing from the field. 

It's clear we need stronger laws to protect the reef. Nobody should be allowed to pollute our waterways, protected habitats or the Reef.


Mine Rehabilitation: A Big Loophole in the New Law

Caval Ridge mineQueensland's mine rehabilitation laws have been under review for the past two years and now new legislation is set to pass through the parliament but the outcome may not be what you expect. 

Most people expect mining companies to fully rehabilitate the sites they have disturbed to make the $Billions in profits they earn. That's not how the mining industry sees it.

To date less than 0.5% of the 220,000 hectares of mined land in Queensland has been fully rehabilitated. Of the rest, around 18,000 hectares has had some rehabilitation. That leaves over 200,000 hectares of land that has not been rehabilitated at all. 

We have 15,500 abandoned mine sites in the state. Most are quite small but some are on a grand scale, including the Mount Morgan gold mine near Rockhampton with its toxic legacy of river pollution. Recently Linc Energy's underground coal gasification project near Chinchilla was abandoned when the company went into liquidation with a shortfall in the bond of about $75-95 million. If mining companies are allowed to continuously push back the date for rehabilitating then the greater the chance that it will never be done. 

Mackay Conservation Group has been collaborating with Lock the Gate and other state and national environmental organisations to push for reform of Queensland's mine rehabilitation laws. Until recently it looked like there were going to be some very positive outcomes. 

The Queensland Government has decided on a new method of collecting financial assurance (bonds) from mining companies that should make life easier for the miners. In exchange the mining companies will have Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plans  imposed on them that will require the miners to meet rehabilitation milestones during the mining process. However a significant loophole will enable an unknown number of Queensland's 218 open cut mine voids to not be rehabilitated.

The Minerals & Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Bill which is currently listed for debate in the parliament contains amendments to the Environmental Protection Act saying: 

  • if a mine will not produce any off site environmental harm, and
  • the cost of rehabilitating the open cut pits, the waste rock dumps and the tailings dams is so high that it would not be in the public interest to rehabilitate them

then they don't have to conform to a progressive rehabilitation plan for that part of the mine. 

The big question is "What is the public interest?". In our view, the public wants mines fully rehabilitated, creating jobs and business opportunities to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. The public doesn't want to see the Central Queensland landscape littered with mountains of rock and giant former coal mine pits. We want land to be fully rehabilitated so that it can support ecological or economic uses at least equal to the ones that existed before mining commenced.

However, the government is giving the mining industry a free kick in the form of this loophole and, despite our efforts to have it removed from the amendments, it looks set to feature in the new laws. The environment movement has been campaigning for mine rehabilitation law reform for 25 years and it looks like we are going to face another 25 into the future. 


Beautiful Walks

Shellgrit Creek

Last month's Beautiful Walk to Shellgrit Creek was very popular. We hosted 45 participants to observe the wading birds. The birds make an amazing journey each year when adults and fledglings set off from the edge of the Arctic Circle to travel all the way to our coastline. Some of the birds are only six weeks old when they commence this odyssey. They travel along the coast of Korea and China where they stop in wetlands to refuel before undertaking the remainder of their migration to Australia.

Jonathan Dykyj from Mackay Regional Council explains ecological management issues at Shellgrit CreekSince the 1960s, wetland reclamation for coastal development has dramatically reduced the food availability in South Korea and China. Those actions have sent some species that we observe in Mackay to the brink of extinction. It is heartening to hear that both countries have now decided to dramatically curtail coastal development in wetlands to protect threatened species. However, last year China had a particularly cold winter and most of the shellfish that the birds depend upon were killed, threatening already diminished populations. An international call to action led to many tonnes of shellfish being transported to the wetlands to give the birds the food they need to continue their homeward journey to their nesting grounds in northern Siberia and Alaska.

One of the key threats to birds in our region is the presence of dogs on beaches. While dogs don't necessarily kill the birds directly, they playfully chase the birds and force them to fly to a safer location. Each time they are forced to make an unwelcome flight, the wading birds use energy that would otherwise be laid down as fat for their return trip to the northern hemisphere. In the past month Mackay Regional Council has installed signage asking people to avoid using the southern end of Illawong Beach as a dog walking area during the months that the birds are present. 

You're welcome to visit Shellgrit Creek and observe the birds from the viewing platform. It's best to visit at high tide when the birds are close by. Head down Illawong Drive and you will see the start of the council's new walk on the left. The path is clearly marked and contains some interpretive signage that will help you understand the local environment. Take binoculars or a telescope to identify the birds.

Queensland's Smallest National Park

This month we're heading out of town a bit to explore the tiny pocket Reliance Creek National Park. Mackay Conservation Group members have been active in protecting the park since its inception in the 1980s. At one time it was almost completely overgrown with cats-claw creeper but manual eradication and the recent introduction of a biological control have brought it under control to a large extent. 

Reliance Creek is an interesting part of the landscape with small billabongs and a tangle of native hibiscus and palm forest. It is one of the few intact examples of riparian (riverine) rainforest in our region. The walk is on Saturday, 24 November 2018 from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. Bookings are essential so please book your place today.


Annual General Meeting

One of the formal tasks MCG must undertake each year is to elect a committee. So we're inviting all members to attend our AGM on Tuesday 13 November commencing at 7.00pm. You can attend in person or online. If you are a paid up member of the group, please RSVP as soon as possible so we can organise refreshments.


Rubber Jellyfish

The film Rubber Jellyfish will be playing in Mackay later this month. The screening is being organise by local resident Luana Giordano who is passionate about the marine environment. 

We all know that throwing rubbish on the ground is littering, so why is letting a balloon float away seen as something different? Rubber Jellyfish is a feature-length documentary that explores the effects of helium balloons on the environment, wildlife and human beings.

Mum-to-be Carly Wilson sets out on a personal journey to meet key players on all sides in the fight to ban balloons, and exposes the confronting truth behind our favourite party product.

As she travels around Australia and explores problems around the world, seeking to understand the science and various points of view, Carly discovers a range of issues, from the heartbreaking impact on sea turtles to the potentially deadly effect of helium on children. Her journey takes her from littered beaches to the capital, as she speaks to businesses and politicians to find out why the balloon problem is being ignored and if something can be done.

The screening is being organised through Demand Film which imposes a minimum audience number for the film screening to proceed. We need another 27 people to book tickets over the next six days. 

We have a winner!

Last month we said we would give a framed copy of Harry Bruce's wonderful cartoon about Mackay Conservation Group to one person who had donated to the group. We have applied huge computing power to conduct a random draw and we have a result. The winner is ... drum roll ... Robyn Cross from Clermont. We'll be posting the framed print to Robyn very soon. Robyn has been boldly fighting the encroachment of a huge coal mine on her family farm for many years. We think she's a very deserving winner and encapsulates the message that no matter how small you are or how big your opponent, you should never be afraid to stand up for your rights. Thanks to everyone who donated. 

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