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Wednesday, 03 February 2016 18:53

Hornsby Quarry Diatreme

In November last year STEP held a talk by Dr Ian Percival on the unique volcanic diatreme that has been exposed in the Hornsby Quarry. The Geological Society of Australia and STEP made submissions to the Roads and Maritime Services about the project to use the quarry void to dispose of spoil from the NorthConnex tunnel. But while it appears that the upper two levels of the quarry will escape burial, so far we have seen little reference in any document to the enormous importance of this site as a scientific and educational tool.

Wednesday, 03 February 2016 18:56

Prickly but Friendly Close Encounter

STEP committee member, Andrew Little, happened across an Echidna searching for ants in a driveway in Roseville Chase. It was a concern that he had open shoes without socks at the time and so stood perfectly still. He describes the experience.

Mark Diesendorf, UNSW Australia

Can Australians be sustainable and enjoy endless economic growth? It’s not likely.

Wednesday, 03 February 2016 19:12

Beverage Container Deposit Legislation

The Boomerang Alliance, a coalition of groups led by the Total Environment Centre, has been campaigning for more than ten years for the introduction of a drink container deposit scheme to reduce the appalling level of litter, especially along our waterways and highways.

Wednesday, 03 February 2016 19:29

Hard Times for Flying-foxes in Sydney

Out thanks to the Ku-ring-gai Bat Conservation Society for permission to publish this article that was originally published in Friends of Bats newsletter in December 2015. It is written by Tim Pearson, a wildlife ecologist who is researching flying-fox communication for his PhD at Macquarie University.

Wednesday, 03 February 2016 19:34

Late Spring in the Snowies

Two members of the STEP committee visited the Snowy Mountains in recent months. John Martyn saw plenty of flowers in late-spring but my experience in mid-January was that most of the flowering had finished. Traditionally January and February have been peak season for flowers. More evidence of climate change? John’s perspective on his visit follows.

About a year ago the discovery of a new species of Hibbertia in was announced. The species, with the scientific name Hibbertia sp Turramurra and common name of Julian’s Hibbertia, was officially listed as critically endangered under the Threatened Species Act in September.

Friday, 18 December 2015 20:40

Vale Glenn Johnson

Sadly another STEP stalwart has died. Glenn Johnson was a member of the committee for nine years from 1984 to 1992. His fellow committee members describe Glenn as a sensitive person who loved the natural environment and who was passionate about his family, garden and work with the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. He was a born teacher and explainer.

Friday, 18 December 2015 20:41

Young Scientist Award 2015

The Science Teachers’ Association of NSW conducts a program to assist students and their teachers to carry out scientific investigations. Since 1992 an annual award program has provided prizes for the outstanding projects. STEP sponsors an award for a project relating to an environmental issue.

Wander through the bushland of Wahroonga Estate and you will see the delicate heads of native orchids peeping out from between Sarsparilla (Smilax glyciphylla) and Old Man’s Beard (Clematis aristata). The first indications that orchid flowers are about to emerge are the tiny leaves – heart-shaped, ovular, arrow-headed – solitary leaves of a variety of shapes that carpet the ground.

Friday, 18 December 2015 20:47

Ever-changing Birds of Northern Sydney

Ross Rapmund gave a fascinating talk on the changing birds in northern Sydney. He started with a slide which compared the ten most common birds before 1900 with recent data. A hundred years ago the most common species were small birds with an average weight of 18 g (e.g. Superb Fairy Wren, New Holland Honeyeater, Golden Whistler and Willie Wagtail). Now the most common birds are much bigger with an average weight of 180 g (e.g. Common Myna, Noisy Miner, Magpie, Currawong and Rainbow Lorikeet).

Friday, 18 December 2015 20:48

Concern about Changes to Biodiversity Laws

The NSW Government is currently considering legislation to implement the recommendations of the Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel contained in their report released in December 2014.

This article by Connie Harris was originally published in the October edition of Native Plants for NSW. It concerns the massive expansion of roads proposed in the vicinity of the Northern Beaches Hospital development. See more detail at http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/projects/sydney-north/northern-beaches-hospital/index.html. It is of great concern to us all that these new roads will greatly encourage car dependence and inevitable congestion, at great cost to wildlife habitat.

Friday, 18 December 2015 20:58

United Nation’s Population Projections

Silly me; I thought world population now around 7 billion was going to stabilise at around 9 billion by 2050.

Not so according to the latest medium-variant projection by the United Nations [1]. What they predict is that Africa’s population will continue to grow so that by century end the population will be nearly four times what it is now.

Well might you say that that would be impossible, the continent struggles to feed itself now. How could it possibly accommodate so many people? [2]

1
Population (in millions) according to the medium-variant projection

A famous population pessimist writing around 1800 was the Reverend Thomas Malthus. He got it wrong because he didn’t foresee the opening up of the New World and the dramatic reduction in transportation costs among other things. Nevertheless his basic thesis was right; population tends to grow faster than food production.

Of interest is that the population of Europe is expected to fall by 2050, continuing on to 2100. Asia falls after 2050.

It’s important that we look at this in terms of annual percentage changes. The table below is based on the above but with the first column showing the rate of change since 2000.

2

These numbers might look low but please remember that 2% pa means near 25% overall over 10 years. The African 1.1% over 50 years means a growth of 77%.

The countries with the highest rates of growth from 2000 to 2015 are (% pa):

 3

And those with the lowest are:

 4

Australia’s was 1.5% pa. This has been the subject of much debate. Do you remember Kevin Rudd’s famous Big Australia statement?

STEP has contributed to the debate and has published a position paper on this subject

The countries with populations of at least 100 million in 2015 are:

 5

Some near 100 million with high growth rates are Ethiopia (99.4 million), Egypt (91.5 million) and Vietnam (93.4 million). Joining all of these by 2100 will be (current population shown):

 6

All these are in Africa except Iraq. Please don’t ask what the populations are likely to be in 2100, it’s too depressing, but to give you a teaser, Congo will be 389 million and Zambia 105 million.

To reflect on the issue of Africa, Rwanda’s population in 2100 is expected to be
25.7 million or 975 people per sq km. This is a country that has a very high proportion of the population dependent on subsistence agriculture. Ku-ring-gai’s density is not much above this at 1,278 people per sq km.

Japan will drop off the list.

One wonders just how accurate current counts are. Advanced countries use censuses where each household must complete a form every five or ten years.

What happens in third world countries with many villages often difficult to access and with literacy issues; think New Guinea? Presumably there is a lot of estimation.

The following table provides much available detail for selected countries. The first one is Australia. We should be familiar with our own country.

7

The next two are our near neighbours to the north. Neither has been a source of migration pressure on Australia. Indonesia has an enormous population; Papua New Guinea’s has grown rapidly.

China is extremely important. On 29 October China announced a further relaxation of its one child policy, it will now be a two child policy. China has been a major source of migrants to Australia and that is likely to continue.

Uganda is included as a representative African country. One was tempted to say typical but there is enormous variation across the continent. Russia is interesting because of projected population falls.

The first observation is to reflect on just how small Australia’s population is compared to the other countries. As of 2015 it is less than 10% of Indonesia’s and less than 2% of China’s.

The next part of the table shows annual percentage change, firstly for 2000–15, and then for the remainder of the century. The latter is very much an average so also shown is the end position, i.e. the change in the last year of the century.

Australia grew at 1.5% to 2015 but by 2099–2100 this will be down to 0.3%. Is this believable?

All the other countries in the list will also have much lower rates of population growth by then, except Russia which is already in decline. This is caused by birth rates being less than death rates and net migration.

To maintain population, births per woman, needs to be above two. It’s not now in Australia which is what gave rise to Peter Costello’s baby bonus.

Look at the frightening figure for Uganda for 2010–15 – nearly six. The rate for China is expected to increase.

Life expectancy is high for Australia and is expected to increase, as will be the case for all the other countries shown. The Russian figures are low for what is essentially a European country.

This increase will be accompanied by significant increases in the aged population; in Australia’s case the 80+ rises from 4% of the total now to 14% in 2100. Hopefully there will be improvements in medicine, in particular a treatment for dementia, so that people in this age bracket will have some quality of life.

[1]   World Population Prospects: Key Findings and Advance Tables (2015 revision) Working Paper ESA/P/WP.241, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division

[2]   Why has Africa become a Net Food Importer?

STEP member, Jim Wells, has provided this article on the outlook for future world population numbers.

Media Release 17 September 2015, The Hon Kelvin Thomson, Federal Member for Wills.

Monday, 31 August 2015 23:27

A Greater Sydney Commission?

Last year the NSW Government’s planning legislation was rejected because communities were going to be left out of significant parts of the decision making process. This last week the government announced the structure of the Greater Sydney Commission that could be just as bad.

Monday, 31 August 2015 23:27

Unique Geology Ignored in Hornsby EIS

The Environmental Impact Statement on Hornsby Quarry was released in August with a closing date for submissions of 4 September 2015. STEP and the Geological Heritage Subcommittee of the NSW Division of the Geological Society of Australia have some concerns.

The report on the review of the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice was released in August. The NSW Government is implementing all 30 recommendations of the review. However the fundamental problem with the legislation remains. Residents of urban areas that are defined as bushfire prone land can chop down trees within 10 m of their house or attached structure without obtaining expert advice on whether this will reduce bushfire risk. This is the reason over 95% of the 3579 submissions received called for repeal of the legislation.

Monday, 31 August 2015 23:27

Will there be a Ban on Plastic Bags?

The issue of waste and litter from single use plastic bags handed out by supermarkets and other stores has been discussed for many years. For example a detailed research paper was produced by the NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service back in May 2004. This paper recommended that these plastic bags be phased out within five years.

Monday, 31 August 2015 23:27

What Plastic is doing to Marine Life

The impact on marine life from plastic may be most obvious in coastal regions, but in August CSIRO released the results of the first analysis of the threat posed by plastic pollution to pelagic bird species worldwide. The report is published by the National Academy of Sciences of the US.

Allan Dale Professor in Tropical Regional Development, The Cairns Institute James Cook Universiity. Originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Australian Government is reviewing the tax deductibility status of donations to environment organisations and is in the process of handing over to the states most powers for decision making in matters of national environmental significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Monday, 31 August 2015 23:27

It's like Shazam for Plants

Ever heard of Shazam? It’s an app that tells you the name of that song you just can’t remember. Well now there’s promise of an app to identify plants.

Monday, 31 August 2015 23:27

Restoration of an Environmental Jewel

This article has been written by Frances O’Brien, Group Administrator at Wahroonga Waterways Landcare. The site is part of SAN Wahroonga Estate redevelopment that was approved in 2010 after three years of consultation.

A new high quality walking map of the Berowra Valley has been published by Friends of Berowra Valley.

The Sydney Institute of Marine Science, located in a historic sandstone quarry on the Chowder Bay foreshore, has opened a new Discovery Centre.

Ku-ring-gai Council has received considerable flak over a decision to close an unauthorised mountain bike track down a steep hill below the tennis courts near Warrimoo Oval, St Ives.

Issue 178 (p2) of STEP Matters outlined the content of a preliminary draft plan of management for the Canoon Road netball complex in South Turramurra. Night lighting is now on the agenda.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 23:41

St Ives Showground and Precinct Lands

In early 2015, Ku-ring-gai Council invited submissions on a draft plan of management for St Ives Showground and Precinct Lands. On 26 May 2015 the plan was adopted.

One area of concern to STEP was the Mini Wheels Training Club's use of a site containing an endangered Duffy's Forest ecological community. A consultant's report concluded that the club's use of the site could not be managed sustainably and was also damaging the coastal upland swamp down the slope below the site.

Council resolved not to renew their lease (due to expire in March 2016) and to prepare a report on biodiversity offset funding options to rehabilitate the site.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made by the Stop the Chop alliance have revealed that the NSW Government ignored expert advice when deciding to enact the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice. What were they thinking? Their attempt to make easy political capital out of the Blue Mountains bushfires in September 2013 has backfired. This misguided legislation is causing irreparable damage from the cutting down of thousands of trees for reasons other than bushfire protection.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 23:41

Tour of Biobanking Site in Hornsby

This information came from an article written by Margery Street for Blandfordia, the newsletter of the North Shore Group of the Australian Plants Society.

The efficacy of offsets depends on a strict set of rules and long-term consistency of application. The first article ponders whether offsetting will cost our natural heritage (koalas or coal, nature or one-off profits, short-term gain or things of wonder for our grandkids) whilst the second article provides an overview of the desirable guidelines for the creation and operation of offsets.

Under the United Nation's climate change agreement Australia’s current greenhouse gas emissions reduction task is to reduce its emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Participants in Clean Up Australia Day once again noticed the massive extent of littering and rubbish dumping from vehicles. The Comenarra Parkway is a prime example.

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:01

Wrap-up of NSW State Election

The NSW Government election demonstrated the high level of concern about coal mining and coal seam gas. Several seats affected by mining and coal seam gas had strong swings away from the Liberals and National Party. Ballina, Wyong and Campbelltown were lost to the Greens or Labor.

The residents of Malton Road and the Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust have been working for many months to try and save some 2 hectares of privately owned land in Malton Road, Beecroft from subdivision and residential development.

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:01

A Memorial for Neroli Lock

Several past and present members of the STEP committee were delighted to be invited to a function at Ingleside on 19 April 2015 to celebrate the unveiling of a memorial to the life of Neroli Lock (see STEP Matters 178, p7).

This article was written by former president of STEP, Barry Tomkinson, who has had a close involvement with the Berowra Valley National Park proposals.

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:01

Russell Valley Colliery Expansion Thwarted

Previous issues of STEP Matters (Issue 173, p7–8 and Issue 175, p2) have highlighted the damage that is occurring in Sydney’s southern water supply catchment in the Woronora area caused by underground longwall coal mining. Cracking of the surface has drained upland swamps and creeks that are the filter system and source of water flowing into the Cataract and Woronora dams.

The release of the 2015 Intergenerational Report (IGR) by the Treasurer Joe Hockey brings nothing new to raise hopes that the government is realistically managing the long-term future of our country. It is very odd that one of the major variables in the report’s forecasts is presented with no discussion or justification. This is the expected level for annual net overseas migration (NOM).

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:01

The Noisy Miner: A Friend not a Pest?

STEP member Ralph Pridmore describes his personal experiences with his local feathered friends.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, 31 January 2015 23:01

NSW State Election

The NSW state election is not far away and we have only just found out who the Liberal Party candidate will be to replace Barry O’Farrell in Ku-ring-gai. A set of questions will be sent to local candidates by Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment (FOKE). The responses will be emailed to members.

Just before Christmas, NSW Premier, Mike Baird, and the Environment Minister, Rob Stokes, announced that the Government favoured the introduction of state-based container deposit legislation (CDL). They seem to favour the current proposal developed by the Boomerang Alliance. This involves the installation of reverse vending machines in shopping centres and public places where people can return drink containers and retrieve the 10 cent deposit included in the purchase price. Council kerbside recycling collections would continue to operate.

Saturday, 31 January 2015 23:01

Interim Changes to 10/50 Code not Enough

Local environment groups have been calling for a moratorium on bushfire clearing under the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code while the public inquiry is held to no avail. On 26 November 2014 the Rural Fire Service announced changes to the rules that reduced the clearing entitlement area in most areas from 350 m to 100 m from bushfire prone land (see STEP Matters, Issue 178, p6 for more information).

The reasons for concern about the loss of old trees under the 10/50 Code are demonstrated by research.

Saturday, 31 January 2015 23:01

A Threatening Species: The Noisy Miner

Residents of Sydney's suburbs cannot help but notice the abundance of the native honeyeater, the noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala) in their gardens and their aggressive defence of their territory against other birds of all sizes and almost anything else (eg bats, cats, koalas and cows). One wonders if they can cause damage to the ecological balance of areas where they dominate.

Jim Wells, former STEP treasurer, has contributed this detailed information comparing the finances of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai councils. We leave you to decide the implications this will have for residents if the councils merge.

Saturday, 31 January 2015 23:01

Section 94 Developer Contributions

Much of Ku-ring-gai’s money has come from apartment building construction. Contributions appear to be about $30,000 per unit with most going to local roads and drainage, although this varies by suburb.

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