In court with the Sekusu Sisapi people

65 villagers travelled from the Gulf Province to Port Moresby to get justice for the illegal logging of their forests by Rimbunan Hijau, and I sat with them in the back of the Supreme Court. Seeing as they were probably sleeping rough, and wearing the same clothes every day in this tropical climate, the atmosphere was pretty ripe! Alas, the matter was adjourned:

Now until February 2014, meaning that the landowners have not had a reasonable hearing and either will have to wait it out on the streets of Port Moresby, or somehow find a way to get back to their families in the Gulf Province. So much for the justice system in PNG.

Illegal loggers, Rimbunan Hijau, at it again!!

Gaden’s Lawyers Port Moresby have just engaged Curtis NRA to assess the environmental damage, and to quantify the economic loss of resources owned by the customary landowners around Kikori, in the Gulf and Southern Highland provinces, due to sustained illegal logging by Malaysian Giant, Rimbunan Hijau (RH). Corruption and bribery was also high on the agenda, as the PNG Constabulary were used to suppress the customary landowner’s objections to the ilegal logging of their land, resulting in many injuries to young men and boys. Keep watching for more updates on this matter. Damage is estimated to be in the vicinity of PNG Kina 70 million.

A hearing before the National Court of Papua New Guinea is pending. Clearly the Kiunga-Aimbak judgement in the Western Province will be used as a legal precedent.

Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, fails to protect the environment!

Tony Burke has approved the Maules Creek Open Cut Coal mine, which will result in the loss of about 5000ha of Grassy Box Woodland in Leard State Forest, and the Koala habitat. THIS IS A NET LOSS of this community, DESPITE the required offsets! Just have a look at the description of this community included in the NSW listing of the community as critically endangered:

When is an environmental offset not an environmental offset?

When they are not commensurate!

The author sat in on a meeting with Boggabri Coal in 2011, and heard that the offsets required by the NSW Govt for the clearing of critically endangered Grassy Box Woodland (GBW) in Leard Forest had been set at six times the area impacted by the mine, however, the offsets acquired (and approved) were ‘derived grasslands’ ie. where the GBW had been completely cleared (leaving only grassland with a seedbank in the soil). All physical scientists know that eucalypts will not regenerate without intervention, such as fire (heat); smoke; sclarifying (scraping the seed with a knife). So there is little or no chance of natural regeneration on the derived grasslands.

Now Ecologist Phil Sparks has drawn this conclusion from his investigation of other offsets put in place by Boggabri Coal. Continue reading

The ACF’s ‘Brave New World’

The Australian Conservation Foundation has finally adopted what a  lot of us have known all along. That being, the environment is NOT a ‘free good’. Recognising this, leads to an appreciation that we need to know precisely what it is worth in money terms. As money value is the primary motivating factor in land-use decisions, it must be shown that to knock down native vegetation comes at a price.

The ACF put it this way:

“Valuing the environment is not an idealist goal, it’s a crucial factor in much of the decision-making affecting our environment. That’s why we’ve launched the New Economics Advisory Service, a specialist crew of economists who can provide economic assessments for your environmental project”.

CurtisNRA are one of the leaders in the field of environmental valuation, and are connected with this initiative through their association with one of the advisory panel members, Economists at Large (see previous post where CurtisNRA collaborated with Eco-large to value the ecological goods and services provided by the travelling stock routes in NSW).

Professor Bennett and Rob Gillespie LOST in their paradigms??

In a recent Land and Environment hearing in regard to a Rio Tinto subsidiary’s plans to extend the Warkworth Coal Project into areas of native vegetation in the Hunter Valley, including areas of threatened Warkworth Sands Woodland. Professor Jeff Bennett and Mr Rob Gillespie for the applicants stated that the methodology used by Curtis NRA to value native vegetation “has no basis in Welfare Economics and is therefore incompatible with Benefit Cost Analysis”.

Clearly they did not think it through,  Continue reading

Protect the Bush Alliance

A new book written by Sharyn Monroe sets out the issues facing farmers, Nature Conservation Organisations in all States, and other advocates of the protection of areas of High Conservation Value, particularly those dedicated as Nature Refuges and others  under protective covenants.

“Rich Land, Wasteland is an exposé on the true costs of coal mining and coal seam gas on our communities in Australia. On a nearly year-long trip Sharyn discovered that towns and districts are dying. Homeowners and farmers are being forced out by mining—broken in spirit and in health. Once reliable rivers and aquifers are drying up or becoming polluted. Once fertile agricultural land is becoming unusable. What was once a rich land is becoming a wasteland”.

For enquiries  about the Bush Alliance, phone: Paul Donatui 07 3367 0878 or Sheena Gillman 07 3201 1982


Ecosystems worth more than logs!

And it is about time we had some evidence of this. The customary landowners in the Middle Fly region of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea were awarded PNG Kina 225.2 million (about Aus/US $95 million) for the degradation of their traditional land, and trespass. The tribes and villagers rely completely on the ecosystems goods and services extant for their livelihood, lacking any social security system in PNG. Curtis NRA expert evidence was critical in the final award of damages. See