President’s Report 2022 – Northern Rivers Guardians (NRG)
By Scott Sledge, at Murwillumbah CWA Hall
17 December 2022
Acknowledgement: We meet on land that was never ceded by its Aboriginal owners and pay
our respects to their elders and traditional custodians.
This year has been eventful on the larger stage with 2 environmental COPs, a change from
Coalition to Labor in the national government, and record floods, both in the Northern Rivers
and inland regions of eastern Australia. There has been continuing concern and disputation over
the responses of governments to the Covid Pandemic and a recognised shift away from fossil
fuels. NRG has been part of the movement to curtail damage due to industrial logging in our
forests and to protect ecosystems for the future.
On the local level we have supported Tweed Shire Council that was elected with three
candidates we supported late last year : Chris Cherry (mayor), Nola Firth and Meredith Dennis.
I am particularly pleased that candidates who campaigned in favour of water mining received
few votes. Our current council is against water mining. I rank Tweed Council much higher than
Lismore, where Nationals won a clear majority; Kyogle, which didn’t even have enough
candidates to have an election in one ward; and Ballina, which elected as mayor Sharon
Cadwallader. who favours building another dam at Dunoon.
A new Federal Parliament was elected in May 2022. The prospects for conservation improved
when the ALP took a majority of seats in the new House while Greens and Independents took a
balance of power position in the Senate. Gas mining opponent David Pocock won the ACT’s
Senate seat. New Minister for the Environment MP Tanya Plibersek is a high-profile advocate
for wildlife protection.
This month I represented NRG and the Nimbin Environment Centre for a round-table discussion
with the Federal Asst Minister for Climate Change matters Senator Jenny McAllister in
organised by Janelle Saffin in Lismore. Jenny was raised on the NSW North Coast is married to
John Graham MLC, the ALP Upper House advocate for the North Coast. Senator McAllister
attended COP 27 and is very keen to see emission reductions for Australia to achieve our goals
and preserve the biosphere for future generations. She listened and took notes of the concerns of
12 reps from different community organisations: I counted 6 others who were close colleagues
during the gas mining blockades which culminated at Bentley in 2014.
On the flip side , our advocacy for rail transport in the NR failed to get much traction, with the
NSW Coalition – backed walking/cycling path, known as the Rail Trail proceeding and some
sections of the existing rails were removed during the year. NRG supported a proposal to re-
design the cycleway to include retaining the rails for future use.
NRG joined with others to oppose a gravel quarry proposed for the land opposite side of the road
from the Bentley protest site. This month the project was approved in spite of various and
manifold objections. I suppose the Bentley neighbours will appeal if they can.
Another frustration for NRG has been the continuing use of forest “waste” to fire electricity
generation at Broadwater and Condong Sugar mill sites owned by Quinbrook, a multi – national
corporation branding itself as Cape Byron Power. NRG organised several protest demos at the
Condong site and supported candidates who opposed the burning of biomass for electricity. Due
to commercial secrecy provisions we made little headway in cutting off government subsidies,
but the fight goes on, and we probably will be more successful in shutting down the proposal for
CBP to import “builder’s waste” from Queensland to burn at Condong.
Redbank Power Station: The wood-burning power station proposal at Singleton
(Redbank/Verdant) still looms as a threat to our forests. It would be 5 times bigger than the
Condong and Broadwater power stations and would burn wood all year, not half the time as
these do. Verdant are no doubt waiting to see whether the federal government rules out wood
going straight from forest to power station – which will slow them down, but still leaves open a
major loophole that biomass could go to Redbank via a sawmill. NRG is watching this one
Late News : Electricity generated by burning native forest wood waste will no longer be allowed
to be classified as renewable energy under a regulatory change adopted by the Albanese
government. The decision, which Labor had promised to consider after it was recommended by
a Senate committeein September, reverses a 2015 Abbott government move which allowed
burning native forest timber to be counted alongside solar and wind energy towards the national
renewable energy target. (The Guardian 16-12-22) Yay! NRG and individual members thanked
for their part in 2,900 submissions.
Toxic waste incinerator : the state government’s offer to burn toxic waste at Casino has lately
become a local issue after Sydney residents said they didn’t want the resulting pollution so the
current NSW Coalition government decided to move it out to rural locations such as Parkes and
Casino. I believe this Coalition government will not be re-elected at the March 2023 poll, so we
are likely to gain significant improvement for environmental issues after that.
Murwillumbah mega campus: NRG called on members to protest the
NSW government decision to cut down 48 native trees at the Wollumbin High School
campus planted in the early years of the campus (1990s) to make room for a temporary car park
while they merge public schools in the town. More than 80 people turned out despite short
notice and gained significant media attention which resulted in local MP Janelle Saffin arranging
for the ALP Shadow Premier Chris Minns and MLC John Graham coming to Murwillumbah for
a public meeting. More than 100 community members including teachers and parents of school
aged children protested against the plan to merge the schools into a conglomerate K-12 campus.
Seems no public consultation was undertaken by arrogant government officials who said the
community had no say in the matter – and neither did Council – as it was proclaimed an “Exempt
Development.” The ALP delegation promised the merger would not go ahead if they are elected
in March and we will have their support for consultation, especially during questions of
developments that would result in tree removals. The NSW department called off the tree
removals, but still wants to cull some hoop pines on the Mur’bah High School site for fire safety
reasons and they have an endorsement from the RFS for that, so we are looking into this matter. I
reckon that NRG and our pro-environment allies had a significant win here and may achieve
more following the March state elections.
Forest Protection : NRG provided political and financial support for
the Fridays4Forests movement to control forest destruction in the NR , especially at public native
forests where there is a high level of wildlife diversity. Australia has overtaken Indonesia to
become the world’s No 1 in species extinction: not an enviable distinction! We will continue to
lobby for reform of land-clearing laws and forest protection to include removing
subsidies currently paid to logging.
NRG supported the fundraising efforts of NEFA in their challenge to the validity of the extention
of Regional Forest Agreements. The Federal Court hearing was on 28 and 29 of March . NEFA
was represented by EDO. Judgement has not yet been handed down. Another legal challenge
involves Cherry Tree SF near Mallanganee west of Casino. Acting for the First Nations original
custodians, Al Oshlack said that logging the remnant forest would harm the wildlife corridor
between the coastal areas and the Border Ranges causing irreversible damage to the biota of the
region. NSW state-owned corporation Forestry Corp pulled out of Cherry Tree, but could come
back if it wins the Court case next year.
Withdrawn: the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Private Native
Forestry) Bill 2022, which would have ended local government involvement in
regulating NSW land used for logging and extended private native forestry plans from 15 to 30
years. Wildlife campaigner Sue Arnold said NSW Premier Perrottet has shown complete
ignorance of the plight of endangered koalas and has diminished his chances of re-election next
year by reigniting the Koala Wars. North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan
Pugh joins me in thanking Tweed MP Geoff Provest for following Catherine Cusack’s example
and threatening to cross the floor and vote against the retrograde legislation….We will continue
to lobby at local, state and Federal levels.
Appeal for The Nightcap Madness DA: At last year’s AGM I mentioned that a DA for a
“staged development” which would ultimately allow up to 800 houses on land east of Uki had
been refused by Tweed Council and the Regional Planning Panel. Now we learn that
proponents want a review. The first step is a conciliation conference on 9 February. NRG can
make an oral comment at the hearing because we put in a submission.
At issue appears to be Council’s refusing the DA before the new LEP was accepted by the state.
Under the old LEP, the DA could have been approved. TSC is firmly against the development
and believes they have other strong grounds that support their refusal.
World Environment Day : The Caldera Environment Centre lost it’s shop front on Queen
Street but still staged its usual festival at Murwillumbah in June and once again NRG and NEC
cooperated on an info stall together. Raffle ticket sales were strong and provided funds to pay
Thanks to Mavis Kitchen and local businesses that contributed prizes.
Thanks to Committee:
The committee elected at last year’s AGM worked well during a difficult time in spite some
overseas absences. My thanks to VP Cas, Treasurer Rainer, and especially Secretary Denise
(Dee) as well as C’tee members Daniele, Wayne, Sue, Marian and Gwyn. Lori spent most of the
year in USA so didn’t participate much.
Conclusion: To quote from my own column in this month’s Nimbin Good Times (p. 7) : The
good news is that people worldwide are waking up to the climate crisis and applying innovation
to reduce waste and pollution. The cost of continuing to ignore our problems has become a major
issue so even those profiting from fossil fuels use see a need to reform. Will it be enough? I
suppose it has to be. I used to say, “There is no problem so great it can’t be run away from.”
Humanity can run, but we cannot hide. Mr. Musk and others who dream of living on the Moon
are simply lunatics.
NB: For information about the Federal government decision on burning forest waste for
electricity go to