Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Icons Under Threat - Putty Valley

Yesterday I went to the launch of Icons Under Threat which includes Putty Valley and then I marched from St James to Parliament House with many others to hand over a petition with 20,000 signatures. In the evening I listened to the news hoping to find out if the Mining Tax was passed in the lower house of the Federal Parliament.

Icons Under Threat
Icons Under Threat, an initiative of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Hunter Community Environment Centre and The Wilderness Society is a report on natural areas and threatened species at risk from mining and gas in NSW.

The NSW Coalition government was elected with a Strategic Regional Land Use Policy that stated they “believe that agricultural land and other sensitive areas exist in NSW where mining and coal seam gas extraction should not occur”. However, plans to greatly expand the mining footprint over NSW are pushing into iconic natural areas that sustain life for threatened species and are highly treasured within their regional communities.

The report, Icons Under Threat, outlines unique case studies from seven iconic, sensitive natural areas of NSW under significant threat from mining and gas expansion. It provides insights into the thousands of hectares of rare habitat proposed to be clear felled for mining activities, the damage already being done across water catchments and the current inadequacy of mining company assessments and biodiversity offsets.

These seven case studies bring to life the harsh reality of a choice between species extinction and survival:

Pilliga Forest – NSW’s biggest coal seam proposal threatens a biodiversity hotspot.
Warkworth Sands Woodland – biodiversity offsets give green light to habitat destruction.
Leard State Forest – misleading mine expansion maps.
Putty Valley – Water versus coal seam gas.
Woronora – Mining in Sydney’s water catchment, ‘remedial action’ not working.
The Great Dripping Gorge – Cumulative impacts of many mine projects.
The Gardens of Stone – Threatened species missed in mine assessment.

20,000 Signatures on Petition
The march from St James Station in Hyde Park, Sydney to Parliament was small in comparison to the earlier police’s protest march. People arriving for our protest were shocked to see the number of police in the area and lots of jokes were made about an over reaction to our march. We were a peaceful lot with a purpose but were very disappointed that Barry O’Farrell refused to come out to take the petition and address the protesters. Perhaps this has just made us more determined than ever.

The petition calls on the O'Farrell government to instigate:

- A Royal Commission into CSG mining;
- A moratorium on all CSG mining activities pending the outcome of the RC;
- A ban on hydraulic fracturing.

Mining Tax
Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor voted with the federal government on condition that the government spends $200 million from the mining tax revenue to fund research into the environmental impacts of coal seam gas developments, and to encourage state governments to use independent research when approving coal seam gas projects.

When Independent Andrew Wilkie increased the threshold for the mining tax from $50 million to $75 million The Greens waited until the government committed to $20 million a year of budget savings to make up the short fall before voting for the bill.

The vote finished at 2.42am and the legislation will now go to the upper house Senate in early 2012.

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