A report to our members and supporters, Dec 2011

With the election of the Coalition to power in November 2010, our organisation has had it’s work cut out for it this year.  At the time, we stated that:

“a Coalition victory could set the climate agenda back years…”

Sadly, we have been proven correct, as the new government has jettisoned almost all action to tackle climate change and put in place a growing number of regressive environmental policies.

The following are some highlights from our year. While certainly not exhaustive, this list does give a sense of the breadth of our work in 2011. The more formal annual report (which covers the financial year 2010/11) is available here.

Our year started well: VCAT Knocks Back $70 million Eastern Golf Course Relocation.

Late in 2010, FoE had worked with Healesville Environment Watch Inc (HEWI) in a hearing in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

After a 10 day hearing in which 13 experts gave evidence, VCAT overturned the local Council's decision to grant a planning permit to allow a controversial golf course relocation to be built in close proximity to Melbourne's water supply.

The $70 million Eastern Golf Club has been planning to move from their current location at Doncaster to a new location at Yering for the past few years.

JANUARY

Cattle back in the Alpine national park

Cattle were removed from the Alpine National Park in 2005 by the government of Steve Bracks. This was an important step forward for good land management in our state. Since then, some of the long term damage caused by decades of grazing have started to heal.

In January, the new Coalition government sent cows back into the Alps, ostensibly to help with research into wildfire. FoE supported the campaign lead by the Victorian National Parks Association to oppose this move, including the public meeting held in Box Hill, which attracted several hundred people.

FEBRUARY

Senate Inquiry into wind energy

We generated many positive submissions into this inquiry, which had been initiated by Family First senator Steve Fielding, presented at the hearings, and got great media coverage.

MARCH

Protecting the Strezlecki koala


In March, we took ABC’s 7:30 Report through the Strezlecki Ranges to show the impacts of logging practises on this unique strain of the species. FoE was actively involved in the federal inquiry into the status of the species in Australia. We have been working to get the Strezlecki koala listed under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

APRIL

Protecting the Gippsland Lakes

In April FoE lodged freedom of information requests regarding the impacts of dredging at Lakes Entrance on the Lakes system, which have greatly increased the amount of salt water entering the system.

Pesticide residue in Victorian produce


FoE released the results of its research into pesticide residues in conventionally grown produce grown in the state. Strawberries, table grapes, apples and lettuces topped the list of products with the most residues.

MAY

 

Radioactive exposure  tour

Friends of the Earth held the annual Radioactive Exposure Tour from May 19 to 29. Since the 1980s, these tours have exposed thousands of people first-hand to the realities of 'radioactive racism' and to the environmental impacts of the nuclear industry.

We travelled from Melbourne to Adelaide then north to the South Australian semi-arid outback, visiting BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam uranium mine at Roxby Downs, the largest uranium deposit in the world.

Minister approves Chepstowe wind farm

Future Energy is developing a three turbine wind farm at Chepstowe, approximately 30 km west of Ballarat, Victoria. The proposed wind farm will produce enough renewable energy annually to power over 3,400 average households.

After the planning minister called this project in for hearings, FoE worked hard to generate many letters of support from the community. In approving the wind farm, the minister said he had heard the voices of the community on this issue.
After the announcement, FoE said "we are delighted that the Chepstowe wind farm will go ahead, it's a small but important step toward a renewable energy future for Victoria."

EPA approves HRL coal-fired power station

Community action group Stop HRL and Friends of the Earth reacted angrily to the Environment Protection Authority's decision to approve the staged construction of a new coal-fired power station for the La Trobe Valley.

JUNE

Voluntary water buybacks must continue to save the Murray-Darling


In early June, Victorian environment groups called on the Federal Government to stick to its election promise to ‘bridge the gap’ and save the Murray-Darling river system by buying back water entitlements from willing sellers.

Over the past year, FoE greatly expanded the level of work it is carrying out across the southern half of the Murray Darling Basin, with long term Barmah campaign co-ordinator Jonathan la Nauze becoming the water campaigner at FoE.

FoE International turns 40

 

June 15th marks the day that Friends of the Earth International was founded 40 years ago.

We held an informal gathering at Friends of the Earth in Collingwood, with a 20 minute film featuring activists from around the FoEI, a couple of quick talks, and a drink and catch up with other FoE members, supporters, campaigners and fellow travellers.

We also launched our new publication: 40 STRUGGLES AND SUCCESSES. This is a collection of 40 key Friends of the Earth struggles and successes from our member groups and the communities they work with around the world.

Wind supporters project launched 

As part of our yes2renewables campaign, Friends of the Earth is doing short profiles of people who support wind energy – a bit about them and why they think wind is a good idea. We know support for wind energy is high, so we wanted to show the stories of people in communities working for renewable energy.

You can find the profiles here.

Forum: Wind power - risks and opportunities for the Macedon Ranges

On June 23 2011 we held a very successful public meeting in New Gisborne entitled Wind power: risks and opportunities for the Macedon Ranges. The intention of this forum was to give an opportunity for people in the local community to hear some of the positive news about this energy source.

JULY

 

"I love.. We Can.." Murray-Darling Public Art


On 7th and 8th of July a dozen volunteers from Friends of the Earth and the Students of Sustainability Conference took to the main street of Albury armed with blank chalkboards and time to chat.

We asked people 'What do you love about the Murray? What we can do to look after it?' and if they would like to send their answer to Murray-Darling Basin Authority Chair Craig Knowles and Water Minister Tony Burke.

80 participants in 8 hours shared both their fondest memories and deepest concerns. A common ground was found. All love the Murray and want it healthy now and forever.

CSG application withdrawn

Mining company Mecrus Resources lodged a number of applications for Exploration Permits for districts in south-western Victoria.

Following a strong community campaign driven by FoE and the local Greens branch, Mecrus announced it would withdraw its application to look for coal seam gas (CSG).

'Wind Energy: Myths and Facts' animated film released.


'Wind Energy: Myths and Facts' is a short animated film which has been created in response to the common myths and confusions that threaten the future development of wind farms. The film has been produced by Pablo Tochez Anderson as part of FoE's Yes 2 Renewables project (www.yes2renewables.org)

You can watch the film at the FoE Australia youtube channel: www.youtube.com/user/FriendsOfTheEarthAUS

visit to Yass – Boorowa – Crookwell area, NSW

 

We visited this ‘wind country’ hotspot to hear some of the other side of the story to the wind debate. We met with a range of people who are supportive of wind energy, from land owners to small business operators to people living in local towns.

There is a report here.

AUGUST

Earthworker Co-ops 100,000 Australians Campaign

FoE joined many unions and community and environment to launch Earthworker Cooperative’s 100,000 Australians Campaign.

Dave Kerin, the national coordinator for the project said at the launch “we are going to grow Australian manufacturing jobs which produce the renewable energy goods and work our way out of the climate emergency.”

The project intends to enlist 100,000 members, at $20 per member, to purchase the factory equipment for Eureka’s Future first workers co-operativ e, which will be set up in the Latrobe Valley.

Further information here.

Senate Inquiry into Australia's koala population


FoE submitted information to the Australian Senate's  'Inquiry into the status, health and sustainability of Australia's koala population' in early August.

The committee released its final recommendations on September 22, making a number of recommendations which could lead to the listing of the Koala under the Federal EPBC act.

SEPTEMBER

CSG forum in The Otways

Otway Ranges Climate Action (ORCA) and a group of concerned residents in Forrest are organising an information session on Coal Seam Gas Extraction: what it is; the dangers; landowners legal rights; and other issues.

A good crowd turned up to hear about the threat of CSG operations. FoE presented at this event – one of a growing number of coal and CSG public forums that we have spoken at in the second half of the year.

Farmland not coal mines

WA company Mantle Mining are planning to dig a huge, open-cut, brown coal mine in Bacchus Marsh, then dry and export this coal overseas. They already have an exploration license, and despite strong local opposition, are poised to commence test drilling at a number of sites in Bacchus Marsh.

If successful, this project would:
-destroy local farmland
-threaten ground water
-place an experimental coal mining & drying industry close to local communities and schools
-create a new coal export industry in Victoria
-push our planet further towards climate catastrophe

FoE has been working hard to support the local community, including holding a rally in Melbourne, lobbying and doing media and supporting an occupation of the drilling operations near Bacchus Marsh.

Rally for renewables

In one black week for renewable energy, the state government brought in planning laws that will restrict wind farms from any new developments in the state, and then slashed the solar feed-in tariff.

It is clear this is having a negative effect on the development of clean, renewable energy. Wind developers and solar companies are closing down or leaving the state.

FoE organised a rally at Parliament House to show that many people want renewable energy in Victoria. This was held exactly one month after the new wind laws were introduced.

There were protests in other centres at the same time, including Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong.

FoE worked with Mount Alexander Sustainability Group, Geelong Sustainability Group, and Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions to organise this day.

Nano-silver breeds superbugs ?


A report released by FoE in September reveals experts believe that widespread use of nano-silver could breed superbugs, leading to more Australian deaths in hospitals. Antibiotic resistant bacteria (superbugs) in our hospitals claim over 7000 Australian lives each year. Public health experts have called this one of the greatest health threats of our time.

"Australia's top microbiologists are warning that the widespread use of nano-silver in 'antibacterial' and 'odour-killing' consumer products will breed superbugs," said report lead author and FoE nanotechnology spokesperson Dr Gregory Crocetti.

The report 'Nano-silver: Policy failure puts Public Health at Risk' is posted at
www.nano.foe.org.au

Australian Nuclear Free Alliance meeting

 

FoE helped organise the annual meeting of the Aboriginal-led Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (www.anfa.org.au) in Alice Springs.

Eighteen Indigenous groups attended the meeting.

What is the real cost of Ted Baillieu’s wind energy policy?

In August, the Victorian government implemented new planning rules which place large parts of Victoria off-limits for wind farm developments and set in place a 'right of veto', whereby a single household can block any turbines within two kilometres of their house.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy said at the time that he did not believe the policy would stop developers investing in wind energy in Victoria. Sadly, the facts of the matter are very different. FoE has released an initial estimate of the likely impacts on potential employment and investment as a result of this policy. In a little more than three weeks, lost or stalled investments amounted to around $955 million and around 630 direct jobs in construction and ongoing management of wind projects. When indirect job creation is factored in, the lost and stalled job opportunities are close to 1900.

FoE's full assessment is posted at: www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1007

OCTOBER

SNAP NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION against BHP Billiton

BHP Billitons Olympic Dam mine expansion in South Australia was approved in October.

South Australia will soon be home to the largest open cut mine in the world.  It will take 5 years of digging to reach the uranium ore body. The mine will be 1km deep, 4.5km long & 3km wide.

In response FoE generated media stories, increased its lobby efforts, and held a rally in Melbourne outside the BHP Billiton building to raise awareness about the expansion.

The CSG roadshow

In October, FoE held a series of forums in western Victoria to highlight the threat posed by the expansion of Coal Seam Gas (CSG), coal, and shale gas in the region. It featured leading anti-CSG campaigner Drew Hutton, president of the Lock the Gate Alliance. We held events in Warrnambool, Colac, Ballarat, Geelong and Melbourne.

We had a good outcome in Colac, where two days after our forum there, the company that holds the exploration permit for the region announced it would surrender its permit. This is a great testament to the community campaign being built by Otway Ranges Climate Action and the Colac Sustainability Group – congratulations to them. This makes seven victories to the community this year when it comes to new coal and CSG operations!

CSG petition launched

With the Victorian government finally beginning to understand the level of concern in the community about new coal and CSG, it is imperative that we continue to increase pressure on key politicians.

FoE launched a petition to build pressure on the state government.

Govt rejects labelling of nano-sunscreens


Confidential government documents obtained by FoE under Freedom of Information laws reveal that the federal government has decided to reject calls for labelling of nano-sunscreens (and probably other products). Mandatory labelling of nano-ingredients in sunscreens is supported by the Cancer Council, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Choice (the Australian Consumers Association), the major industry group Accord and many others. At a time when health experts are warning that young children, people with damaged skin, and people who use sunscreens regularly should avoid using nano-sunscreen, this attack on labelling is a big concern.

More information: http://nano.foe.org.au/secret-docs-reveal-feds-position-nano-labelling

Another 50 years of coal mining at Anglesea


In October it was announced that coal mining will be allowed to continue at Anglesea on Victoria's Surf Coast, to the west of Geelong. Alcoa began operating the mine in 1961 and indicated in 2008 that it would exercise its right to extend its lease another 50 years.

FoE campaigner Cam Walker said: "Who wins? Alcoa, who gets to continue to burn dirty, high sulphur coal. Who loses? The community of Anglesea, who will have to bear decades of public health impacts. The environment loses, as climate pollution will continue. The highly significant coastal heath lands will continue to be negatively impacted."

FoE believes that the Baillieu government has missed a significant opportunity to begin the transition to sustainable energy and has launched an ongoing advertising campaign in regional media and also a petition calling on Alcoa to source its energy needs from renewable sources.

More information: www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1025

The petition is posted at www.change.org/petitions/premier-of-victoria-alcoa-must-transition-to-re...

The ads placed in regional media are posted at www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1031

 

FoE calls for more pesticide testing


Friends of the Earth has called for more pesticide testing by Barwon Water in the water supply for Gellibrand in the Otways. We are particularly concerned about lack of testing for the herbicide simazine.

Approximately 400 hectares of plantations lie in the Lardners Creek catchment, within four kilometres of the Gellibrand town offtake. A large proportion of these plantations were pine plantations and have recently been converted to bluegum plantations by Midway Plantations Pty Ltd.

NOVEMBER

Gippsland Plains under threat from coal and CSG application

In November, FoE alerted communities to the fact that Commonwealth Mining Pty Ltd has lodged an application for a permit to explore for coal and coal seam gas (CSG, also know as coal bed methane, or CBM) for an area of Gippsland to the north east of Traralgon, covering the localities of Toongabbie and Cowwarr. It covers private land and road and road reserves.

The communities have started an intense campaign against this proposal.

 

Murray Darling Basin water report


FoE and the Inland Rivers Network released a new briefing paper in November on the environmental water needs of major wetlands, lakes and river reaches in the Murray Darling Basin.

The document provides a visually engaging snapshot of what is at stake for the environment in the Draft Murray Darling Basin Plan. FoE has questioned the independence of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority after it was revealed it is planning to allow a massive increase in groundwater extraction in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The briefing paper includes photos, maps and contact details for scientists, local residents, naturalists, graziers, conservationists and traditional owners who are available to speak to the media about environmental water needs in their district. It details the water needs of 25 significant environmental sites from the Coorong to the Murrumbidgee.

The report is posted at www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=bmc/media/7nov11

 

Backwards March in Melbourne


The Victorian National Parks Association, the Wilderness Society, Environment Victoria and FoE organised a 'Backwards March' on November 13 in Melbourne to protest the state government's policies. In just one year Premier Baillieu has taken Victoria decades backwards on the environment: cattle trampling our national parks; new wind farms blocked; C02 emissions target ignored; endangered species habitat logged; new coal-fired power station approved; green Wedges threatened; and Westernport destruction fast-tracked.

Up to 1,000 people joined the rally. You can find photos from the rally here.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/foeaustralia/sets/72157627990402601/

FoE exposes NSW lobbying efforts on behalf of CSG industry

A document obtained under Freedom of Information by Friends of the Earth reveals that the NSW Government pushed the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to increase limits on groundwater extraction to supply water for the mining industry.

This resulted in extensive national media coverage, including front page news in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Indigenous voices heard in BHP Billiton AGM

Friends of the Earths Anti nuclear collective brought Indigenous custodians from across Australia who are affected by BHP mining operations to attend BHP Billiton Melbourne Annual general meeting. All in total 22 Indigenous and environmental campaigners entered the AGM to put forward their concerns to the BHP Billiton board and shareholders. 

A protest was also held out the front of their AGM at the Melbourne exhibition and convention centre, with live music and speakers. Great media was gained in the AGE, ABC news, Crikey and the SMH, the 22 proxy places also dominated the question time and extended the AGM by 2-3 hrs.

We have also staged many creative protests at pro nuclear events that Resource minister Martin Ferguson & RMIT Chancellor Ziggy Switkowski have spoken at.

DECEMBER

A round up of good news on the anti nuclear front …

While the Olympic Dam situation is distressing, and the tiny Honeymoon uranium mine has reportedly begun operations, there has been much to celebrate for anti-nuclear campaigners this year:

* Uranium mining has been banned in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in SA, putting to an end Marathon Resources' plan for a uranium mine at Mt Gee.

* A strong campaign has put in jeopardy the proposed Angela Pamela uranium mine in the NT. At various stages both the NT Labor government and the Country Liberal Opposition have opposed the mine.

* Traditional Owners have put an end to plans to mine the Koongarra deposit in the NT. Plans are in train to incorporate Koongarra into Kakadu National Park.

* ERA has abandoned plans to use heap-leach uranium mining at Ranger in the NT (though it still plans to expand the mine).

* The extraordinary early-1980s film 'Dirt Cheap' has been updated and is being launched in November/December.

* At least two proposed uranium mines in WA have been put on hold (and hopefully abandoned).

* The WA Labor Opposition has strongly reaffirmed its no-uranium policy.

* All the eastern states/territories maintain their bans on uranium mining.

* The corporate partners in the Beverley Four Mile uranium mine in SA are engaged in a protracted legal dispute.

* Figures from the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics showing a 19% fall in the value of Australian uranium exports from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Uranium accounts for a paltry 0.3% of Australia's export revenue and 0.03% of jobs in Australia – if the industry disappeared tomorrow, few would notice and still fewer would care.

South Melbourne Commons opened

On December 10, around 1,000 people visited FoE Australia's community hub in South Melbourne to join the official opening celebrations.

After 4 years, we are finally - and fully - open for business! There is a food co-op, ethical cafe, office spaces, meeting hall, and weekly events. We will be open over summer. Please drop by for a visit.

Full details here.

FoE exposes pollution risk from CSG water

Working with the Wilderness Society, FoE carried out water tests which revealed that Coal seam gas exploration by Santos in the Pilliga Forest near Narrabri is discharging polluted water into the Bohena Creek system.  Bohena Creek is part of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Despite being treated before discharge, the tests show water extracted from the coal seam during mining is responsible for elevated levels of ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, lithium, cyanide, bromide and boron in the Bohena Creek.  Ammonia levels were found to be three times drinking water standards. 

safe sunscreen guide

Using sunscreen is an important preventative measure to help reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. So no-one wants to use sunscreens that may make sun damage worse.

Our new season summer 2011-2012 Safe Sunscreen Guide gives the Australian public information to make an informed choice and to avoid high risk nano-sunscreens. The guide lists a range of non-nano, SPF 30+ sunscreens. It also includes secondary sunscreens (moisturisers, anti-ageing creams and mineral foundations).

You can find a copy of the guide here.

 

2012 

With the many new challenges that come with the change in government in Victoria, we need your help like never before. Please consider joining us or giving a donation.

You can donate here. http://www.foe.org.au/donate/

The following description is from a section entitled Ones to watch in 2012 which appeared in an article by the environmental reporter for the Canberra Times, Rosslyn Beeby (Jan 7, 2012).

Friends of the Earth: The green scene's doggedly determined, ever-reliable Duracell bunnies. FOE Australia keep drumming away at tricky issues, and always turns in a cracker report, bristling with meaningful statistics. Their submission to this year's Senate koala inquiry delivered evidence of a potential koala sub-species (possibly even a new species) in Victoria. They're also emerging as strong social justice advocates in the MDB water reform debate. And they do it all on the smell of a crumpled muesli-bar wrapper. 

We are well underway with our planning for the new year and will be launching a number of new projects in January.

If you have time to be involved in FoE in the coming year, please check our volunteers list.

[Thanks to Jessie Boylan, Peter Cahill and Gengis Akel for use of images].