President’s Report 2023 – Northern Rivers Guardians (NRG)
By Scott Sledge, at Murwillumbah CWA Hall
16 December 2023
Introduction. Despite some success, 2023 has ended in a poor state for the world generally and the
Northern Rivers region in particular. Our environment has suffered the accumulating affects of
industrialisation and crony capitalism, especially as a result of humanity’s ever-increasing use of
fossil fuels. A recent study revealed that worldwide targets for reducing emissions exclude military
activity, which will make meaningful targets much harder to reach. Warfare will exacerbate the
The recent Conference Of the Parties (COP 28) failed to agree in their final communique to a
phase-out of fossil fuel use as a goal despite near-universal alarm over the damage fossil fuels do to
our global climate. This probably could be expected given the need for all parties to agree on the
wording of the statement and the conference being held at United Arab Emirates in a region whose
wealth relies on extraction and sale of oil. While the agreement may not have prescribed a full
phase-out from fossil fuels, this is the first time in 28 COPs that all fossil fuels–coal, oil, and gas–
have been mentioned and transition away called for. Nuclear is still an obscene option preferred by
For our part, NRG continues to support activism aimed at convincing government at all levels
that there is no social licence for activities which damage our environment, such as fossil fuel
extraction and export. Also we lobby against continued destruction of habitat through logging and
land clearing which threatens species extinction. NRG has always encouraged non-violent direct
action since our inception in 2009.
NSW Government Koala Policies. On 25 th March 2023 the people of NSW voted out the former
“koala killers” of the Coalition and allowed the ALP to form government with some MPs elected as
Independents and Greens. The ALP issued a Press Release on 19/01/2023 promising to save the
koalas from impending doom, especially by “creating a Great Koala National Park.” There has been
little movement on that commitment and the new Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe MLC, has
recently assured the logging lobby that there “will be no moratorium” on logging in the areas likely
to be set aside eventually for any such National Park. Very disappointing, but perhaps better news
will emerge now that the government has commenced the assessment process, including a
Community Advisory Panel which involves representatives from NCC, NCEC and NEFA. NRG is a
member of all these environmental umbrella groups. Local MP Janelle Saffin has said that is
sympathetic that koalas are under threat from logging, but this year’s the Federal ALP National
Conference voted down a LEAN proposal, backed by 366 ALP branches and 69% of Australians, to
end logging of public native forests. Instead the conference decided to make some slight
amendments to their policy rather than banning logging.
Forest Protection. NRG joined a concerted effort to draw public attention to the ongoing
destruction of our state-owned forests and many members assembled at Double Duke State Forest
east of Evans Head (between Casino and Grafton). About 80 protestors gathered on 16 th March as
part of a statewide campaign to raise awareness of Forestry Corp mismanagement. The police
barred entry into this “closed” public land and arrested some of the activists who crossed into the
forest. NRG voted to financially support these people, and so did Nimbin EC. All the people who
took their matters to Court had charges dismissed without convictions or fines.
NRG supported the fundraising efforts of NEFA in their challenge to the validity of the
extension of Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) which was supposed to bring about sustainable
forestry, but the rules are constantly broken by the state-owned Forestry Corp. With no individuals
held responsible, any fines are paid by the people of NSW who subsidise the destruction of native
forests. In Victoria and WA state governments are committed to end native forest logging in 2024.
We continue to ask our NSW government to do the same.
1. Mega campus for Mur’bah Schools: Due in part to protests organised by NRG ahead of the
NSW election 2023 the new state government has enforced its promise to reverse the Coalition
government’s decision to consolidate 4 schools in Mur’bah into a single mega school. We are happy
to have helped facilitate this win for the town.
2. Mardi Grass: NRG members marched in the Nimbin parade in May along with NEC, NEFA,
and others. Jeremy Buckingham won a seat in the NSW Upper House for the Legalise Cannabis
Party. Together with Greens and Independents, they hope to get significant reforms to drug laws in
3. Fridays4Forests: The group meets somewhere every Friday, sometimes in towns, sometimes in
the bush. At an election planning meeting on 6 Feb, and one observer recommended not pushing
Labor to promise an end to native-forest logging because if they do, they will lose the support of
forestry unions. Fridays 4 Forests is still actively involved with protests and other actions. Contact
via the Facebook. If nothing else is planned the Lismore group meets on Friday arvos for a poster
vigil along the Bruxner Hwy.
Song and Dance for Forests, organised by Fridays4Forests, went well on 4 Feb at Lismore.
Over 100 people attended, and the event raised $2000.
4. Bulga State Forest: Sledge and Daniele travelled to support NEFA blockade near Elands. A
protestors’ camp was well-established; good numbers of people at three different sites. Susie
Russell was arrested.
6. Deborah Whitley’s memorial service: NRG member Deb took on Metgasco in the Glenugie
Blockade and locked-onto the axle of a delivery truck which inspired many activists by her
dedication and courage. Some friends gathered on 11 February to celebrate her life.
8. Housing: NRG wrote to Parliamentarians asking for clarification on how the housing ‘crisis’
came about and whether foreign investment companies (like Blackwater) can profit from rising
home costs. Only Janelle Saffin replied.
9. Santos: At a meeting in Coonabarrabran, Aboriginal elders decided to fight the 180 gas wells
and associated pipelines in the Pillaga that were approved by NSW government. Public hearings 3
years ago showed overwhelming opposition to the development, but the government approved it.
The Aboriginal people raised further objections and successfully put a legal stop to the
10. Adani: Wangan & Jangalinggu Cultural Custodians’ Waddananggu protest camp against the
Adani mine is ongoing. The W&J now want to turn Waddananggu into a permanent cultural
reserve. NEC donated to this cause.
11. Myrtle and Braemar State forests were spared logging due to a court action by EDO for
NEFA most of this year, but the Land & Enviro Court Judge in November ruled logging can go
ahead. NRG donated to the legal challenge. We probably will need to protest on site soon. NEFA
may decide to appeal to a higher Court.
12. NSW Anti -protest laws: In a decision on Wednesday 13/12/23, Justice Michael Walton said
that the changes to the state’s Crimes Act, which criminalised a raft of protest activity around major
facilities – including ports, train stations, ferry terminals, airports, power stations, steelworks and
oil terminals – were partially invalid.
13. The Nightcap Madness DA: At last year’s AGM I mentioned that a DA for a “staged
development” called Nightcap on Minjungbal which would ultimately allow up to 800 houses on
land west of Uki had been refused by Tweed Council and the Regional Planning Panel. NRG had
put in a submission opposing the over-development. The proponents appealed for a review. NRG
Secretary Denise Nessel was allowed to listen to the conciliation conference on 9 February.
The Land & Environment Court’s Conciliation Conference was held on Feb 9-10 online. Dee
represented NRG during the brief public access time. The conference was quickly terminated by the
commissioner (no grounds for conciliation being found), and the case is now “listed for further
directions” before the L&E Court. We will be informed when next steps are taken. TSC remained
firmly against the proposal and we believe they have strong grounds to support their refusal.
14. World Environment Day: The Caldera Environment Centre lost its shop front on Queen
Street but still staged its usual festival at Knox Park in Murwillumbah but changed the date to mid-
July as grounds were too wet due to rain in early June. Once again NRG and Nimbin Enviro Centre
cooperated on an info stall together. Raffle ticket sales were strong and provided funds to pay our
expenses. Thanks to Mavis’s Kitchen and 10 other local businesses that contributed prizes.
A Plea: Sue Higginson is asking everyone to write to their ministers to object to the latest Climate
Bill, which has, as she says in a recent letter, “woefully weak targets and will establish a net zero
commission with no guarantee that it will be truly independent and free from fossil fuel industry
interests.” Sue notes that the Greens have called for: 75% emissions reduction by 2030, net zero by
2035, binding targets, and a Net Zero Commission that will have power over coal/gas interests and
be free from fossil fuel interests. Sue urges everyone to contact the environment ministers and their
local Members to demand action.
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 Secretary Denise
(Dee) as well as C’tee members Daniele, Wayne, Sue, Marian and Gwyn
Conclusion: It seems to me that a majority of people want to see a sustainable future. We can’t
pause in our efforts to achieve that goal. This year’s Sledge Award goes to a member whose good
humour, wise counsel, and perseverance has made NRG successful over the years … Rainer