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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Address on the Environment: Noosa Parks Association

Posted by Jim McDonald on February 25, 2012

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge the Gubbi Gubbi people whose ancestors husbanded this land for aeons before my ancestors set off in ships to this continent.

I would also like to acknowledge the significant efforts of the Noosa Parks Association for 50 years of working to preserve what all generations can enjoy in a sustainable balance of environment and controlled development in Noosa and the hinterland.

This is a balance which, after all this time, remains under threat, especially from the Regional Council. Two of the three previous councils encouraged large scale high rise, transforming Caloundra, Mooloolooba, Maroochydore and Coolum while Noosa  followed Bali’s lead in keeping buildings in a perspective that respected the landscape. And the danger is ever greater because Noosa is under-represented by this Council.

I see it as my task – if I am elected – to ensure that our priorities for Noosa prevail. In addressing the five questions, I’d like to put them into a broad context because they are closely interrelated. That context includes ensuring food security in our region – and I include the Mary Valley beacuse many of you would have campaigned against the Labor proposal for Traveston Dam.

The environmental principles were clear:

  • preserve unique or endangered species,
  • promote the health of the river, and
  • protect the world heritage Ramsar wetlands in the waters of Hervey Bay and around Fraser Island.

Yet some of my political opponents who presented themselves as Traveston warriors for the lungfish, the turtles and Mary River cod are silent as the Labor Government dishes out coalmining and CSG exploration permits along Munna Creek that flows into  the Mary at a major turtle area.

”]Munna CreekI am looking at first causes here about greenhouse emissions: the gasses sequestered in coal seams that extend through our electorate.

Huge areas have been explored at Tiaro along the Mary. In the Tin Can Bay hinterland, drilling has occurred at the junction of Coondoo Creek and Tanunda Creek that flows into the Mary River estuary. Coalmining is imminent near the Susan River outside Maryborough. It also flows into the estuary and dolphins are not unusual in that river. This is not just something that is happening outside our region. It has imminent concern for those of us in Noosa who worry about the possible degradation of the  environment in our region. Because drilling has been carried out at Wolvi. And that’s in our neighbourhood. Indeed the coalfield that is being explored along the Mary River extends from Bundaberg down to Point Arkwright and from the Blackall range out to sea.

These are resources that the coal and gas industries want so much to get their hands on that they don’t care if they encroach on farms or suburbs, as the industry has done in America. And as it is doing on Queensland farms and in Sydney suburbs. Now.

So a Labor Government which gives free reign to miners and drillers, and an LNP which thought protection of the Mary Valley was important at the last election, will allow the ultimate degradation of our environment sustaining some of the most intensive greenhouse gas production industries. The scientific and anecdotal evidence is incontrovertable for responsible legislation. The least that should be done right now is a moratorium on CSG and the immediate cessation of coalmine expansion. No more coal mines! I will take this up in the Parliament as it is Greens policy.

Despite the Federal Government’s legislation designed to slow down emissions, the perspectives of government at all levels are so narrow that opportunities for better husbanding of the land in progressive agriculture are ignored. We should be looking at alternatives for the fallow land bought up by the Government for Traveston dam, and turning the Mary Valley into a regional food bowl, something that I have been calling for in the past two years. And I heard my own words used by Peter Wellington on the radio earlier this week.

This is a proposal for a regional food security strategy designed to deal with climate change. We get none of that. I see food security in our region under threat not only from coal and gas but also from foreign corporations buying up highly productive land often on behalf of foreign governments as part of their food security strategies while Governments in Australia sit on their hands and supermarkets seem to be moving towards becoming net importers of food.

These failures, in my view, represent a betrayal of our nation interest and a betrayal of responsible management of our resources. Policies dealing with the creation of protected marine areas and sustainable fisheries are also related to food security. The marine reserves gazetted by Queensland Government have minimal or no monitoring and policing. State stewardship of our marine resources moves at a snail’s pace. Clearly, for example, commercial netting along the North Shore beachesis unsustainable.  Recreational fishers tell us that – they have been agitating for protection of fish stock in Noosa waters [note: I had a useful discussion with two local commercial fishermen who put a different perspective that indicated that this statement might be incorrect].

What emerges from what I have so far spoken on is a broad vision for the region. One in which we have rapid, frequent, and environmentally efficient light rail transport systems perhaps integrated with low or no emission local buses. My vision includes a link from the light rail to a very fast train service so that instead of a three to four hour journey to Brisbane we can leave home and stand in St George’s Square 90 minutes later – faster than a car trip on an increasingly gridlocked Bruce Highway. Most freight is taken off the roads and delivered across the nation on a very fast freight network.

It’s a low emission vision that is driven by a regional renewable energy grid powered by wind and solar energy, whose costs are approaching that of coal-fired energy in the United States, supplemented by domestic power generation. In our policy there is a stable gross feed-in tariff rather than diminishing net tariffs, and I would propose methane capture from landfill. At the same time, our energy usage habits will have to change. This is something urgent for this decade.

Just how urgent can be seen from the accelerated effects of melting Arctic ice. Plumes of methane released from the sea bed off Siberia, which two years ago were 100 metres across, have grown to 1 kilometre across. It puts the tentative efforts of carbon pricing in Australia into perspective, especially when methane is a more effective global heating agent than CO2 and could accelerate current warming trends.

In doing our regional bit for the environment, the economy of Noosa and the Sunshine Coast must accommodate cleaner industry with businesses or landlords adopting responsibility for renewable energy on their premises where relevant and implementing
green practices to reduce energy consumption.

Our policies for small business encompass incentives for small business practices, goods and services to become ecologically sustainable such as energy efficiency, accessing 100% renewable, green audits, and seed funding through the proceedings of the carbon tax.

Our specific Energy and Climate measures for greenhouse gas emissions set targets which can be built into lregional planning. These include such factors as:

    • A binding target of 50% of GHG emissions by 2020 [we are behind in this target]
    • A 90% minimum reduction in GHG emissions by 2050
    • Ensuring that reductions occur across all sectors
    • Replacing the net feed-in tariff with a gross feed-in tariff to help offset the costs of installing small scale renewable energy systems
    • Transferring subsidies and government support (including research and development) for coal fired energy to fund research and development on improving energy efficiency, carbon capture through farming practices and developing competitive, large-scale, renewable energy sources such as geothermal power generation, solar power and wind.

I’ve already mentioned some aspects of creating more marine protected areas and making our fisheries sustainable. These include:

  • managing recreational and commercial fisheries to maintain sustainable
  • populations, and to minimise the environmental impacts of fishing.
  • protection of fish nursery habitat.
  • environmentally benign aquaculture industries.
  • a strategy to maintain adequate, biologically representative, ‘no-take’ areas within each fishery and/or marine bioregion for the conservation of marine biodiversity and fish stocks.

The key is to put funding into the State budget to enforce legislation governing existing protected areas inside the three mile zone, monitoring catch levels and seasonal bans. That has not happened in any serious way. Even the recreational fishing organisation wants better monitoring.

All legislation ought to be fact-based. Environmental legislation, the protection of species and the fisheries needs to be based on science rather than special interests and the vision has to be long-term for the sake of the generations that will follow us. We need on their behalf to jealously guard the future of our reef fish, onshore fishing, the pelagic fisheries such as the Pacific Tuna, the fish in our estuaries, rivers and lakes, from over-exploitation. And we need to follow the science in determining what percentages of fisheries and species need conservation in marine reserves. Our policy is for 30 percent of Australian waters to be included in reserves. This does not constitute a fishing ban: it is an essential element of a management plan.

My contributions in the Parliament will be driven by this vision for Noosa and the region. A vision that is lacking in the old parties. One that reflects today’s challenges to the vision the Noosa Parks Association has spent the best part of half a century pursuing.

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate Noosa
Address to Noosa Parks Association
24 February 2012 

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