Thursday, August 14, 2014

Great Barrier Reef still facing significant threats, assessment for World Heritage Committee shows

Panic about the reef is a hardy perennial;  I remember it from 50 years ago.  But coral recover quickly from damage.  The Greens would only be happy if all human influences were removed

Two major reports into the health and management of the Great Barrier Reef have found parts of the World Heritage site are still under pressure and the central and southern areas are deteriorating.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt today released a strategic assessment and a five-yearly outlook for the reef.

The United Nations' World Heritage Committee is concerned about the Abbot Point port expansion and the plan to dump of three million cubic metres of dredge spoil within the marine park.

It is due to decide next year whether to list the reef as a World Heritage site "in danger".

The outlook report, prepared by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), found the health of the reef was still worrying compared to its last report five years ago.

"Even with the recent management initiatives to reduce threats and improve resilience, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is poor and getting worse," the authority's chairman Russell Reichelt wrote.

While pollutants entering the reef had measurably reduced since 2009, the greatest risks have not changed.

They include climate change, farm run-off, coastal developments and fishing.

In recent years, a series of major storms and floods have affected an ecosystem already under strain, and the accumulation of all impacts had the potential to further weaken its resilience.

"This is likely to affect its ability to recover from series disturbances, such as major coral bleaching events, which are predicted to become more frequent," the report said.

"The Great Barrier Reef is an icon under pressure.

"Without promptly reducing threats, there is a serious risk that resilience will not be improved and there will be irreversible declines in the region’s values.”

The report found the northern third of the region has good water quality and its ecosystem was in good condition.

However, the habitat, species, and ecosystem in the central and southern inshore areas had continued to deteriorate because of human use and natural disasters.

The dugong population, which was already at very low levels, had declined further in those areas.

Overall, some species were rebounding, including humpback whales, estuarine crocodile and loggerhead turtles.

Hunt confident reef won't be listed as 'in danger'

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said there had been some improvements, but there needed to be more.

"The report is a mixture of pressure and progress," he said.

"In the south, there were some real negatives, to be honest. Now is the moment that we have to turn around the reef."

He said he was confident the Government would do enough to save the reef from being listed "in danger", including reducing port developments.

"It was put on the review list on somebody else's watch," he said.  "Our task is to not just remove it from the watch list, but to make sure the reef recovers to its former glory."

Environmentalists want the Government to commit billions to reduce water pollution.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman said billions were being spent to save the Murray River, and the reef needed the same commitment.

"Australians are deeply concerned that our national icon is dying on our watch," he said.


Crime rates fall across Canberra as jail admissions increase

The latest criminal statistics for the 2014 June quarter show a total of 20,088 incidents were reported to ACT police, the second lowest number reported per quarter since 2009.

ACT crimes in 2013-14 financial year

Crime    Change

Robbery, extortion, related offences    Down 23%
Property damage    Down 23%
Environmental pollution    Down 23%
Motor vehicle theft    Down 14%
Break and enter    Down 8%
Dangerous/negligent acts    Up 57%

The drop in crime corresponded with a 9 per cent increase in admissions to Canberra's jail during the 2013-14 financial year.

During the 12 months to June there were 556 admissions to the Alexander Maconochie Centre, 48 more than the previous year.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell tabled the figures in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

"While we still have more work to do, the results reported in the June 2014 ACT Criminal Justice Statistical Profile demonstrate this government's continued commitment to reducing crime and increasing community safety," he said.

Decreases have been reported in property crime with robbery, extortion and related offences down 23 per cent year-on-year.

Reports of property damage were down 23 per cent, motor vehicle theft was down 14 per cent and burglary, break and enter was down 8 per cent.

ACT Chief Police Officer Rudi Lammers said environmental pollution crime was also down by 23 per cent.

"It's due to a property crime reduction strategy that we set in 2010 with the ACT Government, a target to reduce crime across the board by 10 per cent.

"In many cases, we've met and exceeded those targets."

Assaults and sexual assaults also continued to fall, down 11 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

But the report also notes that during the year to June, there was a 57 per cent increase in dangerous or negligent acts that endangered people.

During the year, 428 such offences were reported to police, compared to 272 offences the previous year.


Uriarra solar farm west of Canberra will increase bushfire risk: report

A proposed solar farm near Uriarra Village west of Canberra would increase the risk of bushfire, a report commissioned by residents has found.

Elementus Energy has submitted an application to build a 26,000-panel solar farm near the village, which could power more than 1,400 homes.

But residents have long called for its relocation further away from their homes.

The report by fire analysis expert Helen Bull found the solar farm would increase the likelihood and risk of fire affecting the Uriarra Village community, and proposed tree screening could hamper firefighting efforts.

But the company behind the project has argued that infrastructure at the site would mitigate the risk of bushfire in the area.

The report recommended the proponent work with the fire services and community to further investigate risks presented by the project and opportunities to improve fire-response times.

"A fire burning in the proposed screen planting is expected to impact on the village through radiant heat and ember attack, although the effect would be short-term," the report said.

Ms Bull's report was partly based on a review of the development application and a site inspection, and noted there were limitations to its analysis, including limited information and a short time frame for its preparation.

Uriarra residents' spokeswoman Jess Agnew said the report's finding strengthened residents' arguments for the relocation of the solar farm.

"Now this is what we've been pushing for all along and this finally confirms what we need as well as putting the 22 kilowatt power lines underground," she said.

Solar farm will 'mitigate bushfire risk'

But Elementus Energy's managing director Ashleigh Antflick told told 666 ABC Canberra Uriarra residents already lived in a zone of high bushfire risk and previous plans for the village had called for dense visual screening along its northern edge.

"My suggestion to the villagers is the use of the land across the road from the village will in fact be a bushfire mitigant for them because we will be taking very good care of the land upon which the solar facility is located," he said.

"The screening that we've proposed is there obviously to mitigate the visual impact of the solar farm and that it represents a fire risk in and of itself we can I think accept.

"But what you need to do is look a bit further beyond the trees themselves and say in the direction that a fire would ordinarily approach Uriarra Village where those trees could become a concern, what are we doing?

"What we're doing is having a very well managed 40 hectare solar farm site where there are significant pieces of firefighting infrastructure including roads for Rural Fire Service vehicles to make quick and speedy access right to the very far edge of the site."

Mr Antflick said there would also be a 40,000 litre water tank on the site and the company had shifted the planned solar farm away from the village at residents' request.

"The nearest home is 150 metres away from the leading edge of the nearest solar panel," he said.


Middle Eastern crime gang linked to violent gaming venue robberies

Mostly Lebanese Muslims

A Middle Eastern crime gang armed with guns and knives is behind a string of robberies at gaming venues across Melbourne's north and west, police say.

Officers said the syndicate, with members aged as young as 16, stormed eight businesses in recent months, threatening staff with weapons before making off with cash.

The Armed Crime Squad released footage of some of the robberies, showing the masked offenders punching patrons, smashing property, and jumping behind counters to empty registers.

Detective Inspector Stephen Clark said the gang had stolen more than $100,000.

"It appears at this stage that the armed robberies have been committed by the same Middle Eastern crime syndicate," Detective Clark said.

"On each occasion the offenders, who we believe are aged between 16 and 25 years, were armed with a firearm and an edged weapon, and threatened staff."

The robberies occurred at Laverton, Epping, Thomastown, Kealba, Fawkner and Moonee Ponds between June 2 and August 11.

Police charged two people aged 16 and 21 with armed robbery earlier this month.


1 comment:

PB said...

Laverton, Epping, Thomastown, Kealba

Shitholes all.