Letters to the editor October 30

Forestry, wetlands, climate change, Chinese influence and letters to/from Darcey Browning

What Melinda Pavey should have written

Once again our State Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey has swallowed the Forestry Corporation's alternative facts hook line and sinker and ignored the strong concerns about logging from her own constituents. The 'response' from Melinda relating to Forest Corp's planned logging just days after 500 of her community marched in opposition to logging has clearly been written for her by a Forest Corp staffer. I'm guessing this is because a genuine response from a local member and senior minister who listens to and cares about her community would have perhaps been written something like this:

I acknowledge the concern from the Bellingen community that planned forestry operations will have negative consequences for your water security, create additional challenges for already threatened biodiversity and place unnecessary risk on communities, businesses and assets from increased fire risk associated with Forestry Corp operations.

As Minister for Water, I am aware that in a time of extreme drought (the second in 20 years) exacerbated by a climate crisis fast engulfing communities throughout the state we must do all we can to guarantee the security of our water supply especially in native forest catchments. Research made available to me from Australian scientists proves the relationship between native forests, water and stream flow. Even without rain native forests contribute significantly to river flows. The moist air that we all experience in this region condenses on leaves and then drips through the canopy to the stream and rivers below. Large intact forests also attract rain. Forest scientists also inform me that the removal of trees opens up the forest floor to drying conditions favouring weeds and alters ecosystems for ever. We are already locked in to 1.5 degrees of warming so forest protection must be a priority.

As a minister in a government that has overseen the repeal of the Native Vegetation Act in 2016, I am especially concerned by the further loss of native forest cover in this state. Environmental policy reform has resulted in an 800 per cent increase in native vegetation loss in two years with much of this in core koala habitat. Prior to the reforms led by my National Party only 8000 hectares of native vegetation was cleared each year. It is now 27,000 hectares. However, if we factor in land to be partially or fully cleared under the new codes it has now reached 368,000 hectares according to Local Land Services. The major agribusinesses who asked us to weaken environmental laws weren't honest with us. This is of great concern to me as I know the Kalang forests are home to a large and healthy koala population.

As minister in a government briefed by RFS leadership, we are entering uncharted territory in terms of bushfire risk. It is, they advise, the new normal for the bushfire season to start in winter as we have witnessed over recent years. In a normal year 200,000 hectares of forest is burnt. However, this year, 500,000 hectares of forest has already burnt and it isn't even summer yet. I am gravely concerned about this, as is everyone in my government and I will do all I can as your elected member and water minister to protect your communities from fire and any threat to your water catchments.

The accumulated impact on biodiversity from habitat clearing in addition to an unprecedented amount of native forest habitat is devastating and I am hearing these concerns from many people in my constituency. We can't continue to invest millions of taxpayer dollars into questionable conservation efforts in the state while contradictory policies of my government place further threats on ecosystems and wildlife. This has to stop.

The sensible solution would be to abandon native forest logging, it is, after all a loss making industry and retrain the small Forestry workforce to help rehabilitate and manage our state forests. With carefully crafted policies and investment our forest landscapes we could protect our natural assets and provide nature-based tourism jobs for our communities. Tourism is a major contributor to Mid North Coast communities and this could increase significantly to make this region an international destination of choice for nature-based tourism. All we need is leadership to chart a new course for this region, one that doesn't exploit nature, compromise water security and provide conditions for future catastrophic fires.

I understand why the people of Bellingen do not provide a social license for native forest logging in their catchment. I accept the science that tells me that we need to protect and increase forest cover, not log it. More protected areas will secure habitat for our dwindling wildlife populations. As a senior minister I will advocate for a change in policy that must lead to the immediate end to logging in Kalang Headwaters and the creation of new protected areas in this unique forest. This will be the legacy I leave the people of Oxley.

Kind regards, the Hon. Melinda Pavey MP, Minister for Water

Kevin Evans, Bellingen

Wetlands Walk

Two years ago, at a cost of $10m of the taxpayers money, the Urunga Wetlands walk was opened. It looks fantastic and everybody should enjoy it, but, the public cannot find it as the wetlands are off the main road, and there are no signs showing the way!

Very few visit it, a $10m white elephant.

Our state minister, Melinda Pavey, was contacted two years ago regarding signage. To date, no response. I contacted her office six weeks ago and again - no response. I then contacted Bellingen Council and they said it was not their problem. It is called inter-government 'pass the parcel'

Meanwhile the Urunga Wetlands remain quietly undiscovered

Jeff Smith, Urunga

Boys and Girls

Could I please enlighten Darcey (Courier-Sun, Oct 16) to the fact that 1.7 percent of the population are born with intersex variations. This means that they may not be either boys or girls. Or that they may be variations of both. This is roughly the same number in the population as redheads, so not as rare as he may think. It was once seen as shameful, and hidden, and therefore not known about or talked about. These people, as well as transgender people have always existed.

There is not an explosion of either, they have merely become visible, finally, as they demand the right to equality, dignity and self-determination.

I also wish to suggest that climate change hasn't just been born.The first rumblings of awareness began in the early 19th century. There is science. There are experts in the field. I'd rather believe them than someone interested in the economy over our environment. What they say, through careful monitoring and observation, not anecdote, is that our planet is heating up, and that this will bring certain unwelcome consequences. I have a 10-year-old who is aware of global warming. He's already responsible with things like recycling, reusing, growing food, power usage etc. It's hardly brainwashing to be educated with science. It's facts. I can only hope that all of the other young people who care so deeply about our planet grow up to be empowered and take over from those in charge, who are the ones doing the irreparable damage by choosing to remain so wilfully ignorant and money hungry. These kids are brilliant, and it is their future at stake.

Elisa Hall, Bellingen


Prime Minister Morrison and his hit-man Dutton are correct in their fear of Chinese influence in Australia. The Chinese government has managed to infiltrate our country in all walks of life, starting with Chinese companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Netflix in the communication sector; Fox (fake) News; Mastercard and Visa in the money market; Amazon and eBay in the online retail sector; Uber in the taxi industry; Expedia (owner of Trivago) and TripAdvisor in the tourism market; Kellogg for breakfast, McDonald for lunch and Pizza Hut for dinner, washed down with Coca Cola. Then we have the Chinese spy station at Pine Gap Central Australia listening in to all our conversations and Chinese troops stationed in Darwin. And ... now my neighbour Darcey tells me that all of the above should read USA? Can it be right that we allow Trump and his US Conservative regime such dominating influence and access to our country?

Leif Lemke, Thora

Letter to Melinda Pavey

You need to listen to the people in your electorate trying to draw your attention to the plight facing the Kalang river. We the residents of Kalang don't want logging to proceed as planned in the forests of the headwaters. In a time when water is scarce are you really going to stand by and allow the degradation of our river? What kind of minister for water are you? Oh that's right there's that matter of the Murray Darling, fish kills, water becoming a commodity that only the well-heeled can access, and your rejection of the findings of scientific studies. I ask you Melinda, is it your policy to always side with big industry over community? Is that what the Nationals stand for now?

Deb Borodin, Kalang

Friend Or Foe

Craig Nelson (Courier-Sun, October 23). Friend or foe, but now we know. A friendship these days is a fickle thing. It all seems to revolve around expert opinion. The world is full of them these days, some on the ball, many not. Expert opinion has cost me dearly over my life so it must be understood that I sometimes question some of this stuff and seek a second opinion, or just sit on the fence. The recent federal election is a good example of getting it wrong, but mate lick your wounds and get over it. Anyone these days who questions the viewpoint of the extreme left is condemned and sent to the sin bin, and its spreading like wildfire in our own backyard. There seems to be overwhelming evidence to support climate change, but there is still a minority of highly qualified scientists prepared to question the science. Natural cycle or man created. With ever increasing population and increased consumption, I lean to the latter. The crunch must come sooner or later.

Shame, shame on me, to suggest that for our kids we should stick to the old proven system, respect, discipline when required, and all those basics, until they reach a level of maturity to decide for themselves. Brainwashing, scaremongering and pushing propaganda into the developing minds of the young children is setting a dangerous precedent. Just my unqualified opinion. I watch the protests, listen to the interviews, but as yet have not witnessed a single individual say what their personal contribution will be, other than point the finger. Yes we can stop flogging our coal at a huge economic cost, only to see it dug out somewhere else. Still a lot of coal untapped on the planet. Maybe a huge protest march for Tiananmen Square in China our major polluter. Not a single hand up for that one.

Finally Sean Tuohy and his unresearched bit of slander. Darcey Browning non expert retired farmer. Maybe non expert, but at 76 not retired, and to avoid being a burden on society, my wife and I are still self sustaining. The old body is complaining but with a little of this and a little of that we get by and still produce something to assist the economy. The pension and a daily stroll along the beach is alluring, so who knows what the future holds. Could I be bold enough to ask of some, who condemn me for expressing an opinion contrary to theirs, what is their current contribution.

Darcey Browning, Thora

20 Million Trees

The Australian government's 20 Million Trees Program, set to be completed by 2020, sounds like a worthwhile move. Its aims include creation of wildlife corridors on private land and developing urban forests to improve air quality, store carbon and improve public amenity in cities. Such positive initiatives at federal level are being undermined by a massive increase in farmland tree-clearing, particularly in NSW and Queensland, following the relaxation of restrictions by the governments of those states. Much of this deforestation is for increased production by agribusiness: large-scale grazing and monoculture cropping, severely damaging to fragile Australian soils, and consuming huge amounts of scarce water. Australia has been declared a deforestation hotspot, adding to our already poor environmental reputation in the eyes of the world.

Some other climate change-impacted countries are making serious efforts to counter the desertification of their farmlands, with private-public schemes such as those being used in northern China and a coalition of nations in the African Sahel region. China is planting a "Green Great Wall" below the Gobi desert to halt its steady southern motion; the African project aims at reforestation of degraded land with drought-tolerant tree species for soil stabilisation and enrichment, and integrating this with peasant farming practices, to ensure livelihoods and regenerate the soils. As Australia's climate deteriorates and arable land diminishes, it will become imperative for government to incentivise regenerative sustainable food production. We know how to do this; what is lacking is, as usual, the necessary political will, vision and wisdom.

Jeremy Barrett, Bellingen

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