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Gwydir illegal clearing scandal NSW 4/2007

 

Page 1 Sydney Morning Herald 21 May 2007

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/bulldozed-a-vital-wetland/2007/05/20/1179601244335.html

Bulldozed: a vital wetland

May 21, 2007

ONE of the nation's most significant waterbird breeding habitats - the size of up to 750 football fields - has allegedly been cleared by a Moree farmer.

If proven, the case may turn out to be one of the worst since legislation was introduced in 2003 to protect native vegetation.

The new Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water, Phil Koperberg, has lashed out at anyone who continues to flout laws that protect remnant bush.

"I find it very hard to understand how anyone could think it was acceptable to mow down a large tract of native vegetation at a time when climate change is so crucial," Mr Koperberg told the Herald.

"This case is being investigated by the Department of Environment and Climate Change so I'm not going to comment on the specifics of it. But in general terms I'm very concerned about any incidents that not only damage our natural environment but also threaten important breeding grounds for bird life."

Fines of more than $1 million are possible, but the State Government's prosecution record on this issue has been woeful.

It is believed that the Government was alerted in early April to allegations that a vast area of floodplain had been bulldozed.

Between 500 and 750 hectares of Gwydir River floodplain wetland, consisting of lignum, coolabah and a type of wattle known as River Cooba, were allegedly flattened on a property known as Yarrol. It is owned by John and Lynette Hudson.

Yesterday, when the Herald called the property, the couple who  answered refused to give their names and said they were not aware of the clearance. They declined to comment further.

While the facts of the case are still emerging, it is thought that the Border Rivers Gwydir Catchment Management Authority had a meeting with the landowner. It is not known whether the authority knew of or approved any clearing.

A river and waterbird expert at the University of NSW, Richard Kingsford, said that in the mid-1990s more than 100,000 birds had bred at the property. These included egrets, several species of ibis and a variety of native ducks.

"It's the death knell of this colony," Professor Kingsford said. "Firstly there hasn't been enough water allocated to allow them to breed and now their essential nesting habitat has been destroyed.

"These birds faithfully return to the same place to breed but when the next flood comes they will have nowhere to lay their eggs and keep their nests out of the water.

"I am shocked at the scale of the clearing and the fact that it had occurred on one of the most important waterbird breeding sites in Australia."

The federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is also investigating the allegations to determine if any Commonwealth legislation has been breached. If the reports of land clearing are confirmed then the Gwydir case will be the first big test of the State Government's resolve to halt broadscale clearing since it handed native vegetation management to the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Amy Hankinson, the co-ordinator of the Inland Rivers Network, said it was devastating to see such a priceless area cleared: "We are going to see more wetlands destroyed if the NSW and Commonwealth governments continue to fail their international obligations to wetlands and the birds that depend on them," she said.

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http://www.wilderness.org.au/campaigns/landclearing/nsw/land-clearing-gwydir/

Gwydir wetlands land clearing - a travesty for NSW, a test for Minister Koperberg

The Wilderness Society (Sydney) Inc
MEDIA RELEASE
21 May 2007

The Wilderness Society has condemned the clearing of between 500 and 750 hectares of native vegetation on a property within the Gwydir River floodplain adjacent to internationally recognised RAMSAR wetlands.

“The bulldozing of native bush on this scale in the Gwydir wetlands region will be catastrophic to the huge array of migratory birdlife it supports. It is almost inconceivable that someone would deliberately set out to destroy the environmental values of this wetland”, said Reece Turner, NSW Campaigner with The Wilderness Society.

Stern words from the new Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water, Phil Koperberg have been welcomed by The Wilderness Society.

“It is good to hear that Minister Koperberg has responded with vigor in this case but there is a huge task ahead for the Premier and the new minister to address the broader issue of land clearing in this state”, said Turner.

“We know that illegal and legal land clearing is out of control in NSW. Premier Iemma has made a clear election promise to address clearing and now is the time to show the public that he and his new Minister are serious”, continued Turner.

New legislation to end broadscale land clearing was brought into operation in December 2005. Since then there has been only one known prosecution under the laws.

“When the Queensland Government is achieving between 20 and 50 successful prosecutions per year and we know that clearing breaches are being reported to the Government, it is simply not satisfactory”, said Turner.

“The NSW Government needs get tough with illegal land clearers by refining the laws to give more powers to investigating officers, expand monitoring and vegetation classification programs to track vegetation changes and start sending messages that this environmental vandalism will not be tolerated”.

“We know the impacts of broadscale clearing - it is the number one cause of wildlife extinctions, leads to dryland salinity, and is a significant cause of greenhouse gas pollution. Greenhouse pollution is released into the atmosphere when trees are bulldozed, logged or burnt”, concluded Turner.


For more information, please contact:

Reece Turner
New South Wales Land Clearing Campaigner
Email Reece Turner
Email Reece Turner
Workphone: 02 9282 9553
Fax: 02 9282 9557

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200705/s1928063.htm

Authorities investigate Gwydir wetlands clearing

The New South Wales and federal governments are investigating the clearing of part of a crucial wetland recognised for its huge array of waterbirds.

The Gwydir wetlands in north-western NSW are an internationally recognised breeding and nesting site for a huge colony of waterbirds, including the ibis and the egret.

But about 750 hectares has been cleared by a local landholder.

Richard Kingsford from the University of NSW says it will have a devastating impact on an already struggling colony of birds.

"There are only a handful of sites in the whole of the Murray-Darling Basin that were as important as this for waterbird breeding".

NSW Environment Minister Phil Koperberg says officers from the department will spend the next week investigating the claims.

"If they are proven and if it leads to prosecution and conviction then there are a range of somewhat complex penalties for an individual, depending on the seriousness of the breach," he said.

"It can be $1,000 - $5,000 for a corporation. But in the event of the breach being sufficiently serious, which this may well be, fines of up to $1 million can apply."

Federal Minister for the Environment Malcolm Turnbull says he is also concerned.

"We are aware of the issue. We've received complaints about it and I've asked my department to investigate and report back to me," he said.

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http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21766850-29277,00.html

Probe of bird-breeding wetland clearing

COMMONWEALTH and NSW authorities are investigating claims a large wetland important for bird-breeding has been illegally cleared.

Between 500 and 750 hectares of wooded Gwydir River floodplain have allegedly been flattened on a northern NSW property.

NSW Environment Minister Phil Koperberg said today the clearing was potentially disastrous.

"The site is just so significant as to make one wonder what on earth may have possessed the owners to do this - if in fact they did," Mr Koperberg told ABC radio today.

The Federal Government is also responsible for the wetland because it attracts migratory birds.

Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said today his department was currently acting on complaints about the clearing.

A river and water bird expert at the University of NSW, Richard Kingsford, said that in the mid-1990s more than 100,000 birds had bred at the property.

"It's the death knell of this colony," Professor Kingsford told the Sydney Morning Herald.

A complex system of penalties applies to illegal land clearing, depending on the seriousness of the breach, and who is responsible.

Fines ranging between $1000 and $5000 apply for a corporation, but in the event of the breach being sufficiently serious fines of up to $1 million can apply.

..............................

Update on broader clearing disasters in Australia:

smh3rdapril06.jpg

 

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Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Steve Truman of 'Agmates' of Gympie Qld - the 2nd hand farm machinery seller who likes land clearing
Mood:  down
Topic: ecology

Crikey.com.au runs this story today, as per similar advert in The Land this week threatening possibly illegal land clearing from 1st July 2007:

3. Each day more trees will die

Steve Truman, renegade farmer [actually not a farmer as admitted to Dan Lewis journo at the Sydney Morning Herald pers comm 30/5/07] and member of the Commonwealth Property Protection Association writes:

Australian farmers have had enough of federal and state governments' reclamation of their land by stealth. So, on Sunday 1 July as a form of civil disobedience, thousands of farmers across Queensland, NSW and Victoria will cut down a tree. On 2 July they will cut down two trees and so on.

How has it come to this? The Federal Government sent Senator Ian Campbell to the Kyoto Conference in 1997 with a simple instruction. Only sign the agreement if the Australian government could insert a clause that allowed them to count the carbon credits accrued from stopping landing clearing in Australia. The clause 3.7 is known internationally as "The Australian Clause"................

The end result of Governments acting unfairly and unjustly towards its citizens is civil disobedience. History has shown that in a strong democracy, if its citizens can’t rely on their judicial system to uphold their democratically won rights, civil disobedience is the only course of action. The result of Governments behaving badly towards its citizens is, in turn, a protest in the form of its citizens behaving badly.

Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or submit them anonymously here.

........

Nor is this the only anti environmental ratbag in the last few days rushing into the media: Don Burke the determined anti recycler and green baiter was at it for the rippoff of the Australian Conservation Foundation with a real democratic basis. Burke calls his bogus group the Australian Environment Foundation in a clear attempt at misleading and deceptive conduct on the opinion page of the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. A good legal case under the Trade Practices Act by the ACF would be our view:

Farmers' offer too good to refuse - Opinion - smh.com.au

It's mostly hogwash trying to cover up the outrageous criminal clearing of the Gwydir Wetlands here page 1 21st May 2007

Bulldozed: a vital wetland - National - smh.com.au

And we notice this story running of Rio Tinto paying farmers $1M for not clearing to get the carbon credits, which is just no good for someone like Steve Truman in the farm machinery land clearing business May 26th

Farmer makes $1m for doing nothing at all | NEWS.com.au

with this heartening image captioned "Tree change ... Queensland farmer Peter Allen and his wife were ready to chop down their trees until Rio Tinto stepped in / Annette Dew"

The following is a tip sent to Crikey.com.au this afternoon:

...................... 
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 4:26 PM
Subject: Steve Truman 2nd hand farm machinery seller for ...... land clearing

some astute googling of "Steve Truman" brings up Wesfarmers business link back in 2001
Store cattle producers in the Far West of New South Wales are ...  then "Steve Truman livestock brings up this massive financial conflict of interest as a seller of farm machinery to do the clearing, ploughing etc etc 
At first I thought he must be one of the Shooters Party 'cede from Australia' ultra right wingers but now I get it, another financial angle, not a gun seller but a dozer etc seller.
Tom McLoughlin, ecology action
[links with evidence attached of Steve Truman financial vested interest in pushing land clearing as a 2nd hand farm machinery seller based in Gympie Qld]
..........................................#1 of 2
http://www.aussieweb.com.au/map.aspx?id=2293479
Truman Livestock
Farmers Dealing Direct With Farmers

We call you now in 5 seconds.

(07) 5483-9388
0428 966819

Website: http://www.agmates.com Address: 106 River Road
GYMPIE
QLD, 4570
  GREATER SUNSHINE COAST AREA Contact: Steve Truman Opening Hours: Not available ABN:
32 556 307 251 Established: 2005 Payment

 

Listed In:

Marketing Consultants

Newspapers - Rural

Real Estate Listing Services

Secondhand Machinery

...................................................

 

..................................... #2 of 2

 

http://agmates.blogspot.com/2007/03/australian-farmers-really-what-hope.html 

AUSTRALIAN FARMERS - Really, what hope have you got?

G'day Agmates,

What hope have FARMERS got when the people that represent them have given up. I was appalled by this email I got from an AgForce person. I can't even imagine why they'd be purporting to represent QLD farmers.

Below is a copy of the email I got and below that my reply. As you will see I've kept this AgForce person's identity confidential. I see this persons name in the Queensland Country Life regularly.
_______________________________________________

From: (Name suppressed by Agmates) [mailto: @bigpond.com]
Sent: 08/03/2007 10:05 AM
To: Truman Livestock
Subject: Re: Agmates Alert - Breaking News

Please remove me from your Email list. This is unsolicited Email Perhaps you should read some of Agforce's press releases on Land clearing.
We know we have been sacrificed but only 4% of the population are farmers and that voting % means nothing.

_________________________________________________

Below is my reply, which the AgForce person has not answered.

_________________________________________________


From: Truman Livestock [mailto:trumanlivestock@bigpond.com]
Sent: 08/03/2007 11:51 AM
To: 'Name suppressed by Agmates'
Subject: (Name) - Australian Farmers Need YOU

G’day (Name),

Thanks for your email. At your request I’ve removed you from the Email list. I’d just like to clarify 3 points you raised in your email:

1. “This is unsolicited Email”:
Your email address is listed on the AgForce web site. I can only guess it is there because you want people to contact you about issues that are related to your role as an AgForce office holder.

In my 2 emails that is exactly what I’ve done. The only thing I’m peddling is a FAIR GO for the 1,000’s of QLD farmers your organization represents. I apologizes if this has offended you.

2. “Read AgForce’s press releases on Land Clearing”:

I would like to read the press releases on Land Clearing that you refer to. If you could tell me where to get hold of them, I’d be grateful.

I have a completely open mind on the subject and can only present the facts as I find them.

My suspicion is that AgForce and the other farmer representative bodies have been badly let down by the NFF on this issue and I’d like to bring that to every AUSTRALIAN FARMERS attention.

3. “We know we have been sacrificed, but only 4% of the population are farmers and that voting means nothing”:

(Name), unfortunately this is not the 1st time I’ve heard this sentiment / opinion from a representative of a State Agripolitical organization. I detect a lot of frustration in what you and others are saying. From what I’ve discovered I can understand your feelings.

However I’d urge you not to give up. I know you and your fellow AgForce representative know that Farmers HAVE BEEN SACRIFICEDand the real story of why FARMERS ARE NOT BEING REPRESENTED AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL.

But the problem is getting that information, and THE STORY OF THIS SCANDALOUS SITUATION to the 120,000 farmers across Australia.

THAT"S WHAT WE CAN ACHIEVE WITH AGMATES. Let me clarify firstly that Agmates has absolutely no political agenda, it is 100% PRO-FARMER.

Agmates uses the latest technology, email and – Blogging to give informed opinion backed up by links to the source documents, e.g. any farmer in Australia is able to Click the Link in my article Australian Farmers – Are they Second Rate Citizens?

FARMERS can read the 263 page NETS discussion paper or the related communiques and submissions for themselves. This is an incredibly powerful medium.

I don’t believe for a minute that my vote, your vote, plus the other 119,999 FARMER votes across Australia means nothing.

That number does represent 4% of the voters but it does not take into account all ex farmers, people who come from the land (and still have a strong affiliation with rural Australia), extended families and friends.

With the above numbers and the number of people who are sympathetic and empathetic to farmers would be 5 times that number or 20% of voters. Look what the GREEN’S have achieved with just 6-8% of voters.

We just need to get active and get the message out there. At present Agmates is being regularly read by people from Port Douglas to Perth.

We have a big percentage of our readers are people in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra (interesting), Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. We also have readers in the UK, USA, China, India, Europe and Asia. What an opportunity to get REAL AUSTRALIAN FARMER ISSUES out one the table.

(Name), from your email I think you are ONE OF THE GOOD GUY’S.

I’d ask that you join me and my friends in helping spread the message, rather than just give up.

Mate I’d really like to publish your email to me and this reply but respect your privacy and will only do so with your permission (otherwise I’ll publish it anonymously).

You can help and contribute by firstly contributing your views and information to be published on Agmates for every one else to read (You can do this by email).

Secondly by emailing an Agmates link to everybody you know so they have the opportunity to see the issues that you / we raise and pursue.

So there you have it. I have taken you off the AGMATES email distribution list and will leave it like that unless I hear from you. All the best!

Cheers – Your Agmate, Steve Truman
_____________________________________________

P.S. I never heard back from this AgForce person. Really, I mean What Hope have QLD farmers got with an attitude like this AgForce person has.

Cheers - You Agmate Steve

Postscript #1

Steve Truman makes a gracious respone in the comments section below, and interestingly hails from the Gwydir wetlands area. He denies directly (but obviously still indirectly) benefits from agri machinery trade but he also makes no apology for the clearing of wetlands which has really angered the broad community.

There may well be some degree of truth in his notion the miners and other industry are getting away with greenhouse murder at the expense of farmers. On the other hand my experience of agri industry (in particular the National Party)is that they are usually very gracious and personable folks - and just keep on killing the environment ...however nicely. We agree carbon pricing to keep bush upright would be a good way forward. We also note Prof Peter Cullen comment that much farming on marginal land should have been shut down decades ago. Harsh but true.

.........................

Thursday, 31 May 2007 - 2:16 PM NZT

Name: "Steve Truman"
Home Page:
http://www.agmates.com

G'day,

I'm Steve Truman from Agmates. Thank you for the coverage of my commercial web site Agmates and my rural commentary blog.

I'd just like to correct a couple of issues you have raised re the agmates site.

We do not infact sell second hand machinery (certainly there is not a bull dozer on the site). The agmates site allows farmers to deal directly with farmers selling their own livestock, rural property, used machiner, agistment and rural jobs directly to other farmers with no middleman. Our motto is Agmates - 100% Pro Australian Farmers - Farmers Dealing Directly with Farmers.

Secondly I'd not told Crikey that I was currently a farmer (they added that themselves). However I grew up on a sheep, wheat and catlle farm in the Gywdir wetlands. I have been in direct rural production and rural marketing all of my life. I have worked entensively in Southern QLD, Western NSW and far west South Australia. Because of my huge data base of farmers and contacts with leading players in the indusrty I do consider myself a farm advocate.

Thirdly and most importantly I'd like to think that environmentalist and green groups and farmers all have a common enemy in this issue and that is the Federal government. If you read my blog you'll see that farmers have been betrayed by the federal government over the issue of vegetation management.

The federal government (getting the State Labour Government to do their dirty work) has facilitated the locking up of huge areas of farmland across Australia in order to allow their mates in the power industry to keep polluting unabated. This is covered extensively in Dr Clive Hamiltons excellent book "Scorcher".

Dr Hamilton documents how the Federal government manipulated the Kyoto agreement with the inclusion of clause 3.7 (the Australian Clause). What this did was allow them to sacrifice Australian farmers, get the state labour governemnts to pass the legislations (hence cop the wrath of farmers) and appease the green lobby. This is brilliant brinkmanship (until they are now 10 years on been caught out).

What they have been able to do is through "slight of hand" is turn farmers and green groups against each other whilst until recently been seen as totally without blame.

What has happened by the locking up of farmers land (their business) is that the state governments has resumed their land by stealth. If the Government comes and wants to build a road or a dam or create a national park on land you own they resume it and "pay the land holder full compensation". What we argue is that is exactly what has happened with the Vegetation Management laws locking up huge tracks of farm land in NSW & QLD. 

I put this to you and your readers, If you owned a house and the governemnt decided that homelessness was a huge problem that needed to be fixed. From the end of June they are legislating that if you own a 3 or 4 bedroom home you the state will take possession of the bedroom and make it available to any homeless person to move into. Also those people will need to use your bathroom and kitchen. Now your property has just lost 20-50% of its value. But their is no compensation, you just have to wear it for the national good and if you don't they have also legislated that it is a criminal act to refuse to comply. Thats exactly whats happened to farmers. Is that fair? No!

If farmers as part of their commercial enterprise were able to trade the net carbon that is sequestered by trees and soil on their property then you'd find alot more examples of Peter allen selling his 10,000 acres to rio Tinto for the next 120 years.

Putting a commercial value on Carbon credits is a wonderful opportunity for farmers and green groups to achieve both of their aims. "Carbon farmers" who make a return on their capital invested by being environmental stewards of the land (without having to farm livestock or crops) and green groups will have huge areas of Australia preserved and cared for by responsible people with a vested commercial interest in preserving the habitat. Is there a better outcome?

Love to hear your thougths and those of your readers.

Cheers,

Steve Truman

Agmates

100% Pro Australian Farmers

PS. I enjoyed you Googleing me.  

 

 

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