28 February 2011

New COAG system replaces Ministerial Councils

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has announced a major reform of the system of Ministerial Councils that has for some years been the main Commonwealth/State arena for formulating and implementing national (cross-jurisdictional) policy. The number of councils has been more than halved. The new system includes a series of Standing Councils, time-limited Select Councils, Legislative and Governance Fora, and COAG Working Groups. The new structure will take effect from 30th June 2011. No arrangements for underpinning standing committees or advisory committees have yet been announced.

The new system is outlined in the COAG communiqué of 13 February 2011 with detail in its ‘Attachment C’. The implications for the biodiversity sector are not yet clear. The old Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRM MC) would appear to be being replaced by a new Standing Council on Environment & Water, with a similar translation for the Primary Industry MC. There will be a Select Council on Climate Change, and a Legislative & Governance Forum on the Murray-Darling basin.

However, the communiqué main text states that “these changes will see a fundamental shift towards a council system focused on strategic national priorities and new ways for COAG and its councils to identify and address issues of national significance”. COAG’s Attachment C further says “Standing Councils will support the move to a reform-based system by identifying a small number of priority issues of national significance (normally five to seven) they will deal with and in what timeframes, for endorsement by COAG.”

The emphasis on “a small number of priority issues” may be problematic, given the broad scope of the Standing Councils and the fact that that biodiversity management has already dropped well down the agendas of most governments.

Cattle back in Alpine National Park

Cattle grazing has been reintroduced in Victoria’s Alpine National Park, in the form of a trial to test the effectiveness of ‘strategic’ cattle grazing for fuel reduction and fire management purposes. The state’s Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has commissioned a trial by Prof. Mark Adams of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre and the University of Sydney.

The reintroduction of cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park was a pre-election promise of the recently elected Baillieu Coalition government in Victoria. It is unclear why the new research project needs to use sites inside the National Park, or whether on-Park trials were ever under consideration by DSE before the State election. On-park trials of grazing to reduce fuel loads were not a recommendation of the (2010) Bushfire Commission Final Report.

The trial involves 400 cattle introduced to six sites over about 4% of the Alpine National Park, until the end of April. According to DSE the initial research sites “have been carefully selected to avoid or minimise significant environmental impacts and will only use sites that have been grazed in the past. No grazing will occur on Bogong High Plains as part of the research” (see www.dse.vic.gov.au/dse/nrenpr.nsf/Home+Page/DSE+Parks~Home+Page)

However it also states that during 2011 “a longer scientific research program will be developed”, and that “there is a need to collect more evidence and research that looks at the direct effects of grazing on fuel load and structure in all [sic] alpine and subalpine ecosystems.”

The Victorian National Parks Association (www.vnpa.org.au/) and the Environmental Farmers Network (www.environmentalfarmersnetwork.net.au) see the trial as the thin end of the wedge, and liken it to a “terrestrial version of Japan's scientific whaling''. The lobby groups in favour of grazing access deny any adverse impacts of grazing and assert cultural heritage rights (see for example The Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria MCAV.

The Victorian rural newspaper, The Weekly Times, (http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/) has run a poll of readers over three weeks - while the poll is not methodologically robust, about 80% of respondents are against cattle in the High Country (Alpine National Park).

A longer version of this story, with ANPC commentary, will be available from the ANPC website from Wednesday 2 March, under Key Issues.

REVIEW: national strategy for bridal creeper and other Asparagus weeds

The National Asparagus Weeds Management Committee (NAWMC) is seeking your input into the revision of the national strategy for bridal creeper and other Asparagus weeds. A review of the 2001 national strategy has resulted in a draft revised strategy(2011-2016) which includes some new priorities. It provides guidance to all stakeholders involved in their management.

The consultation period runs from the 9th February to 10th March 2011.
The strategy and feedback forms can be found online.

CONFERENCE: Fungimap VI, Denmark, WA

14th to 19th July 2011

Fungimap VI will consist of a day of fungal talks on July 15th followed by three days of forays and workshops. Forays will include a day trip to the Valley of the Giants to see the giant red tingle trees. Registration is $250 (member), $300 (non member) until end of Feb 2011, and $300 (member), $350 (non member) afterwards. Click here for more information visit or call 03 92522374.

12 February 2011

TRAINING: Wetland Hydrology Course - Restoring the Basics

Location: Hunter Wetlands Centre, Hexham, Newcastle, NSW
Date: February 16-18, 2011
Cost: $980 (plus GST) per person for the 2 day course

The 2.5 day course is designed for practitioners, technicians and managers who have an interest in wetland management and/or restoration and desire further training beyond the basics. The course emphasises the importance of water movement, which is similar worldwide. As such, the physical form is emphasized over individual ecological species. While the course is specifically designed for coastal wetlands, the fundamental lessons are equally applicable to many other landforms.

Please go to the website for more information. To book or for further questions, please contact Dr William Glamore w.glamore@wrl.unsw.edu.au or on (02) 8071 9868.

NEW PUBLICATION: Vegetation, Fire and Climate Change in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

This new booklet summarises science of fire and climate change in the Greater Blue Mountains. The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area comprises seven national parks, plus Jenolan Caves reserve, and covers just over one million hectares from the edge of the Hunter Valley to the Southern Highlands. It is one of the most fire-prone regions on earth and adjoins long stretches of urban areas. These features present significant management challenges for DECCW. In addition, climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of fires in the region, adding to these challenges.

Dr Kate Hammill and Dr Liz Tasker (Fire Ecology Unit, Biodiversity Conservation Science Section) together with the NSW Environmental Trust and PWG (Blue Mountains Region) recently published this 74 page, full-colour booklet on the vegetation, fire history and climate change projections for the region. As well as the extensive written information, it also contains ten colour maps and many beautiful photographs. The booklet will improve access to the scientific information that underpins many aspects of fire and biodiversity management in the area for managers and the public.

The booklet can be downloaded from the DECCW website. Hard copies are available from Kate Hammill (kate.hammill@environment.nsw.gov.au) or Liz Tasker (Liz.tasker@environment.nsw.gov.au). The booklet will also be available from the NPWS Heritage Centre in Blackheath and Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens.

11 February 2011

WEEDS: Weed Society of Victoria Seminar

Contentious Perspectives on Weeds (a series of seminars)

Thursday 14 April 2011 - Melbourne

The Weed Society of Victoria presents its annual seminar (and AGM). Come along and hear speakers offering some very different perspectives on weeds. To view the program (and to book for the seminar), please follow this link to the program flyer. For all inquiries about the seminar, please contact the Secretary, Ros Shepherd, email: secwssv@surf.net.au

CONFERENCE: Education and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

22-28 October 2012 in Mexico

The focus will be on how gardens can address all targets of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. If you are interested please visit www.bgci.org/education.congress

MYRTLE RUST: Tasmanian Directive

All nursery stock from mainland Australia must now be treated with an appropriate fungicide prior to import into Tasmania. If you are a business exporting nursery stock into Tasmania, please contact Daniel Jackson from Tasmania DPIPWE ph (03) 6233 4626 or email Daniel.Jackson@dpipwe.tas.gov.au regarding this requirement.