Felix is Environmental Champion for 2017

It was with great pleasure that I presented the Shaun Bromfield Environmental Champion Award to Felix O’Meara at the Bruny Island District School Final Assembly on Dec 18th. This is an annual award donated by BIEN in memory of founding member, Shaun Bromfield.

Felix (centre) with proud parents Ross O’Meara and Emma Harley

Felix is a fine young champion who at a very young age has displayed a passion and regard for the environment. He is a keen participant in school environmental activities and has assisted in wider community events such as the annual gull count.

 

The awards states that the recipient has

  • Outstandingly displayed the value of caring
  • Excellence in the skills of awareness and observation.
  • Has researched around an environmental issue.
  • Has used these skills in a practical way to inspire others, or to achieve a better outcome for the environment.

Felix not only received  a cash prize for himself but also two books donated for the school library in honour of his great work. Well done Felix!

Marg Graham

Reflections on the last year

by Bob Graham

Earlier in the year I prepared and presented a discussion paper which proposed that we engage with the process of developing a Government sponsored Destination Action Plan (DAP) for Bruny along with BICA, BIPIG and the Friends of North Bruny. All of these groups participated actively in the process and argued strongly that the plan should focus on increasing the resilience and capacity of the local community and the Island’s environment to cope with rapidly increasing tourism numbers.

The group responsible for DAP implementation agreed on those priorities and they were included in the final plan. BIEN provided significant input to the measures needed to achieve that.

However, it soon became apparent that the DAP process was not designed to deliver concrete results (despite the sincere efforts of the DAP co-ordinator).

BICA and BIEN after attempting to get better outcomes, publicly withdrew from the process in June. This has been a disappointing outcome as it was an attempt on our part to work with Government, Council and other community groups to achieve better environmental and community outcomes through the development process. Representatives of BICA and BIEN have concluded that community involvement was being used to legitimise the process.

The DAP affair raises a fundamental question of our effectiveness and role. It is not the only matter on which we have provided input and tried to work with Government and Council, only to see those efforts largely ignored.

The unfolding story of the Neck road and walking track upgrade has similar characteristics. We made submissions and provided input which specifically argued for a broader environmental focus (beyond penguins) and the need for a joint development and on ground management program involving Parks, State Growth and Council. That was agreed to in a meeting with State Growth and Council. Now all we have is the road and car park – minimal resourcing from Parks, no management program and the potential for increased environmental degradation with ever increasing numbers of visitors.

Whilst this sounds negative and defeatist, I think it reflects the growing confidence in Government that environmental lobby or action groups can be ignored.

This is reflected in a number of ways by all levels of Government.

The State Government has introduced a planning regime that provides zero protection for most of the State’s important environmental areas, including all State owned land on Bruny. Has any one noticed that the Federal Government is about to further tighten rules on tax deductions for environmental groups? Council continues to avoid their responsibility to enforce planning conditions. This situation makes it much more difficult to define an effective role for groups such as BIEN.

However, there is no evidence that the level of interest and involvement in environmental matters has lessened, and we have large numbers of individuals and communities who do see environmental issues as critical. Bruny is still promoted widely as a place with significant environmental attributes, and there is a strong interest among visitors in those attributes.

I have given all of these things a lot of thought (usually at 3am) and have tried to observe what is happening elsewhere. I think it is pointing us in the direction of lowering our sights somewhat and trying to develop an approach built on shorter term more achievable and realistic results. We have been successful in some of these things in the past. Maybe it is time to go back and revisit an approach that highlights local issues and is built around activities to do with those issues. As we are no longer directly responsible for the Bird Festival and the fact that we have some resources we have an opportunity to pursue some different aims.

BIEN Convenors Report to the 2017 AGM

by Bob Graham

Following the success of the 2016 Bird Festival, things have been relatively quiet. The festival consumed most of our efforts and resources in the months prior to the event. In particular Daniel Sprod’s hard work and dedication in his role as festival co-ordinator underpinned that success. It demonstrated clearly that the coordinator’s position is crucial to the success of the festival. Thanks are due once again to our partners Birdlife Tasmania and Inala and the wonderful volunteers who support the staging of this event.

The 2016 festival also demonstrated that future festivals can be self sustaining. Accordingly, a joint management group consisting of Birdlife Tasmania, Inala, BIEN, Nick Mooney (Australian Raptors Association) and Sally Bryant (Tasmanian Land Conservancy) is in the process of being established. Cat Davidson has been appointed as the 2018 festival co-ordinator and planning is well advanced under the guidance of the wider group. BIEN will still continue to be closely involved but we can now give more attention to other environmental issues on Bruny.

Throughout the year BIEN has continued to be engaged with a number of activities, including;

✦ The Bruny Island cat management strategy – BIEN has been a participant in the strategy which is being managed through Kingborough Council.  Kaylene Allen, the Cat Management Officer, has developed the strategy in discussion with BIEN, BICA and the Primary Industries Group. BIEN has contributed funds to support the strategy. That strategy includes a cat by-law and Kingborough Council is in the process of developing that. Bruny was also selected as one of five Islands around Australia for Federally funded cat management programs;

✦ Agreement on a tribute for Louise Crossley to be held next year;

✦ Re-design and reprinting the wildlife on Bruny brochure;

✦ Purchase of a container for equipment storage;

✦ Wildlife monitoring – two workshops facilitated by Daniel Sprod and Matt Taylor (co-sponsored with TLC) have been held and a number of individuals have monitored wildlife on their properties using equipment supplied through the program;

✦ Shorebirds – signage and fencing to increase awareness and provide some protection of nesting sites has been put up on beaches primarily in Adventure Bay. Several pairs of hooded plovers nested successfully on the main beach and Two Tree Point Beach. Pied Oystercatchers also successfully raised chicks. Of note has been the dramatic increase in the population of Crested Terns which appear to have partially usurped silver and Pacific Gulls;

✦ Web Site – the BIEN web site is now working;

✦ Continued monitoring on the possibility of logging recommencing on Bruny – nothing new to report, but the Island’s production forests have been removed from the interim reserve list

✦ Submissions to PWS and State Growth on the Neck redevelopment;

✦ Participation in workshops on the Destination Action Plan, Plan and the “Trove” concept;

✦ Developing the idea of environmental accounting – including talk by Peter Cosier;

✦ Weed removal at Grass Point; and

✦ Liaison with Bruny Island School.

The year has largely been one of continuing work begun in previous years. I want to thank the Committee and members for their support and work throughout the past 12 months.

Potential activities for BIEN going forward

Due to Governments’ seeming view that ignoring needs to the environment and groups trying to engage at a policy level (see blog here) , there is potential for BIEN to become a much more “hands on” group.  Here is a list of possible activities that could be successfully pursued:

✦ Develop a system of environmental accounts for the Island

✦ Monitor wildlife – particularly threatened species such as the swift parrot

✦ Ongoing shorebird protection – maybe we could also have community field days for residents and visitors and group activities to implement protective measures.

✦ Working with BI school and assisting with environmental education activities

✦ Regular information articles in Bruny News (this could be a double page spread as the school does)

✦ Wider use of social media and posting to this website

✦ Environmental works (e.g. Ragwort removal, tree planting, nest boxes, etc)

✦ Becoming a source of environmental information (through social media, web site, Bruny News) on sustainability and environmental management issues

✦ Continued support for the Cat Management Program

✦ Regular forums on environmental issues

✦ Support research activities into environmental issues, including working with researchers

✦ Excursions/field days

✦ Sponsor BI film society to show films of environmental interest

✦ Monitoring and publicising shifts in Government policy on matters such as forestry, land use planning

✦ Working with BICA to develop a “Respect Bruny” campaign for visitors

✦ Provide visitor information through commercial outlets and accommodation places

Feedback from members and interested people is always welcomed: contact us here.

Tassal and Huon Aquaculture seek community views

Jane Ryan – Community Engagement Advisor with Huon Aquaculture has invited everyone interested to a consultation session 12 September 2017,  6 – 8:30pm at the Alonnah Community Hall.

Contact Jane Ryan, Community Engagement Advisor, Huon Aquaculture mobile 0468 632 044  and email jryan@huonaqua.com.au

Luke Kapitany for Tassal, is seeking volunteers to participate in Community Advisory Groups across the regions that they operate including Bruny Island. They seek representatives from Environment, Education, Community, tourism and local Business groups as well as Council delegates as a community representative voice.

Contact Luke Kapitany – Community Engagement Officer TASSAL GROUP LIMITED – mobile 0408 149 768 and email luke.kapitany@tassal.com.au

The key changes being carried out by these companies is expansion into Storm Bay (see our previous article on this).

Cat Management survey results

Responses from many (22 of 28) cat owners on Bruny Island confirmed the current approach in supporting owners to desex, microchip and contain their beloved moggies. Interestingly, the bulk of owners were already doing at least some of these things, but 4 households said they would not contain their animals.

Backyard playpen for cats.

 

These results align closely with research conducted elsewhere showing cat owners are critical to success in reducing the impact of cats on wildlife and that they need costs of participation reduced, and plenty of support to help them make the changes for their cats.  The full report is available here and makes interesting reading.

Of the 22 households surveyed, 19 own 1 or 2 cats, one has three cats and two households had more than 3 cats.  These 2 households reported that this was due to having undesexed cats and to their feeding of strays.

Despite most households have desexed (96%) and microchipped (86% ) cats , about a quarter of all cats were not desexed or microchipped due to the large number of cats in one household.

Providing financial subsidies was identified most frequently by respondents to encourage desexing and micro-chipping. This was followed by offering these services on the island.

Key recommendations arising from the survey were to:

  • continue individual one-on-one cat owner engagement to identify and address individual barriers and motivators;
  • enhance the established programs particularly to build cat owner capability and motivation, specifically:

1.  extend the advisory and design/building assistance to all individual households (with cats) requiring assistance.
2.  develop and distribute a cat containment guide. The guide will include containment options; environmental enrichment for a cat’s physical and emotional needs; addressing stressors in individual cats; and training principles to support transition.
3.  document and photograph new cat containment stories (& where appropriate video).
4.  print and distribute (to individual households on Bruny) additional stickers (developed by students on Bruny).
5. purchase 4 GPS cat trackers for use with the program.

  • continue to promote the By-law engagement program so that ideally all Bruny cat owners are engaged. Door-knock Bruny households (over summer) to discuss the By-laws and broader cat management on the island and ultimately engage more cat owners. Consideration will then be given to undertake a mail-out to all Bruny households and rate payers.

 

 

Field Officer: cat management on Bruny Island

Cat at the Neck bird colony

Interested in working at the cutting edge of wildlife management? Do we have the job for you!

Working up to 38 hours a week, the position will responsible for the on-ground monitoring and control activities to support the “Progressing feral cat eradication on Bruny Island – a Threatened Species Strategy project”, employed through the Tasmanian Conservation Trust.

Contact Peter McGlone, Director, TCT by email peter@tct.org.au or phone 03 6234 3552 (business hours) and see the full position description here.

BIEN Annual General Meeting 2017

Mark the date: Saturday October 14th, 3pm at the Adventure Bay Hall

As usual, we will be seeking nomination for the office bearers.  This year, our inaugural Convenor, the redoubtable Bob Graham will be stepping down, so nominations for Convenor are warmly invited (respond to bien.treasurer@gmail.com), as are those for the other positions (Secretary, Treasurer, Public Officer and Co-convenor).

We were to have Brett Woodruff, Cat Management Officer with the Council and TCT along to reagle us with catty comments, but unfortunately Brett has moved back to the Land of the Long White Cloud, so we will update you with our new focus as news comes to hand.

Cat control Annual Report

Bruny Island was selected under the Australian Government Threatened Species Strategy – 2015/2016 as one of five Australian islands to progress feral cat eradication, in recognition of the potential threat that feral cats pose to the significant biodiversity values on Bruny Island.

A huge thank you to all those partner organisations and individuals that are making this project a reality: Kingborough Council, Invasive Species Branch and Parks and Wildlife, UTas School of Zoology, Ten Lives Cat Centre, Birdlife Tasmania, Bruny Island Environment Network, Bruny Island Community Association, Tasmanian Land Conservancy and private landowners.

It aims to provide the foundations to assess and manage the impacts of cats at the Neck and North Bruny to inform both the long-term control of cat impacts across the island and the feasibility of feral cat eradication.

It is proving to be a very exciting adventure, offering excellent learning and a model and tools for other Councils and cat management programs across the state.

Workshops and consultation with community members and key experts in 2016 provided the basis for a cost benefit analysis of different options and found significant knowledge gaps about the differences in feral cat activity across the island and the impact of cats on native species and agriculture. Control of feral cats at the Neck seabird colony came out as best environmental benefit (both locally and for North Bruny) and value for money during the initial three years of the project. Importantly it also identified that responsible pet cat ownership is critical to reduce the source of un-wanted and stray cats. A special thank you goes to all the participants in these workshops, especially community members.

The current foci of the project is on developing robust baseline data and monitoring systems to assess the impact of feral cat control on threatened and priority native species; achieving community adoption of responsible pet cat ownership; and an assessment of the feasibility and cost of feral cat eradication from Bruny.

Brett Woodruff came on board as the Field Officer for the Bruny Project in March. His role is to monitor and control the feral cat population around the Neck and North Bruny. Brett is a great asset to the project with extensive experience detecting, monitoring and controlling invasive species throughout Tasmania, mainland Australia and New Zealand.

A comprehensive monitoring program has commenced at the Neck and North Bruny to try to quantify the impact of cat control at the Neck and adjacent areas on priority seabirds and small mammals, and to determine the distribution and density of feral cats on North Bruny. By tracking the movement of feral cats, the project is also assessing if intensive management at the Neck can play a key role in limiting the dispersal of feral cats to North Bruny. Additional research funds are being sought to collect data that will help assess the feasibility of feral cat eradication from the entire Island. Research includes identifying cat activity across South Bruny, determining interactions between cat, quoll and rabbit distribution and the prevalence of cat borne disease (cats, native fauna and sheep) across the island.

Kaylene Allen – Project Officer

Musings on the power of the natural world

Greetings folks,

The Reddish Vale railway viaduct and former mill pond

I am putting down some thoughts on environmental matters from the perspective of being here in Reddish Vale in Greater Manchester half the year and Bruny for the other half.

One of the things that’s exercising my mind is the relationship between environmental conservation and community well-being in the management of local natural areas.  That’s of key interest to us at BIEN, especially when thinking about the Biosphere Reserve and the whole culture/nature question, as well as to those of us on the Friends of the Vale (FOTV) management committee.  The question is whether the context is so utterly different that nothing meaningful can be gained from a comparison.

Reddish Vale Country Park consists of 140 hectares of post-industrial woodland along the lower reaches of the River Tame.  As one of the larger reserves in the area it is a refuge for waterfowl and raptors, a range of endangered wetland species, habitat for woodland species and home to half a dozen Sites of Scientific Interest.  Situated in the middle of heavily populated working class suburbs, it is a heavily-used recreational area with a Visitors Centre open 363 days a year staffed by FOTV volunteers.  Three former millponds used by the calico mill when it operated here, and walkways along the Tame River, are the focus of most of the visitors.  When we arrived here 6 years ago, there were three Park Rangers under the leadership of a Senior Ranger.  All four jobs have now been made redundant because of local council budget cutbacks, and they have been replaced by one part-time maintenance person sort-of funded by Council.  That puts problems BIEN has with Kingborough Council in perspective!  Incidentally, there’s a greater North-South divide in this country than I realised – Northern English Councils are debt-ridden and not coping, London boroughs are flush.

I am one of a team of around 10 volunteers who are primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of the Park as best we can. I only put in a day a week down here, so others are more involved than I am.  Our stated goal is to manage the Park for the benefit of the community and the wildlife, but the practical effect of these daily decisions is that wildlife usually comes second when there is a clash between the two.  Everyone on the committee is strongly wildlife-oriented, and we are cheered when there are sightings of deer or badgers, but the immediacy of community concerns means they take precedent.  One small example:  we were out in the southern part of the Park, clearing undergrowth away from an area close to the carpark. A number of us were unhappy with the resulting loss of habitat; ‘where are all the little birds and mammals going to live now?’ grumbled someone.  We were planning to speak about this the next week to the volunteer supervisor, but before we could, he reported that a woman had come up to him a few days later in tears, thanking him for clearing out the undergrowth and removing one of the places where a local stalker used to lurk.  He had apparently moved on to the great relief of women who jog in the area (the local police are useless in such matters, being hopelessly understaffed).  Well, what could we say about habitat after he reported that?

I could go on about the dilemmas we face, the problems with vandalism, the way any planted trees seem to be a focus for destructiveness, but that’ll do it for the moment.  When I think about the monthly boneseeding sessions we used to do with Killora Coastcare Group, the contrast is apparent – a large area, very sparsely populated, where the one environmental issue of the spread of invasive species dominates all other considerations.  Of course, the well-visited areas of Bruny Island are facing the prospect of being loved to death, just as Reddish Vale is, but for very different reasons.

One of the differences that is very much in my mind is that for me, the power of the natural world beyond the human-made environment is so much more evident on Bruny.  I miss it here, though there are glimpses of it in the nearby Peak District.  It seems so important, to have the experience of the power of the more-than-human world as part of life. I know that it is quite possible to have that here, in one’s garden, in the night sky, by the river, and I know the human and natural are inextricably linked everywhere, but there’s something palpably different, the land on Blackstone is alive in a way that is still difficult to sense here.  From this distance, it seems to me that is one of the most precious things about Bruny, something that we in BIEN don’t do a great job of articulating, but that’s easier said than done.

I’d be interested in people’s reactions. Is this of interest?  Is it of any value in thinking about what we do in BIEN or are the differences too great? Are there particular comparisons that would be more interesting (such as my impression that global warming and its effects is much more an accepted part of ordinary life here than in Tassie, where it seems to be still seen by many ordinary folk as a controversial environmental issue)?

With warm regards to all,

John Cameron