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  All four jobs have now been made redundant because of local council budget cutbacks, and they have been replaced by one part-time maintenance person sort-of funded by Council.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

Media Release – 25 June 2017

BRUNY ISLAND COMMUNITY GROUPS TO PULL OUT OF GOVERNMENT’S TOURISM PLANNING PROCESS

Community groups on Bruny Island have voted to withdraw from the Government’s tourism planning process. The Bruny Island Community Association (BICA) and the Bruny Island Environment Network (BIEN) have taken this stand because they say that the current tourism destination planning process does nothing to address the capacity of the Island and its people to cope with a massive increase in visitor numbers. Overseas and interstate visitors to the Island have increased by 75% over the last 2 years.

In a statement, both groups said that “The process currently in place will simply lead to ever more visitors and increasing pressure on the local community and the environment.”

According to the President of BICA, Fran Davis,
“This has placed enormous pressures on the limited community resources and the environment and we do not have the resources to manage the effects of the increases in visitor numbers. Meanwhile the Government and Council are focusing on infrastructure improvements such as a new ferry and road upgrades which will only increase the number of visitors.”

Community groups have participated in the planning process in the hope that capacity issues would be addressed as a high priority. The Destination Action Plan agreed to for Bruny had wide community involvement and support. The plan identified the key problem as:
“To ensure that visitation is matched by the capacity of the Island and its residents to cater for and accommodate the needs of visitors.”

Community groups participated in the process in the hope that this problem would be addressed as a high priority. They say that the problem has not been taken seriously by the Government and that the community has merely been used to provide legitimacy to the Destination Action Plan. “Questions such as the reliance on volunteers to provide emergency services, the impact of increased visitor numbers on wildlife, the failure of local government to enforce planning and building regulations and the lack of resources for Parks and Wildlife to manage natural areas remain unanswered”

According to the Convenor of BIEN, Bob Graham. “Although infrastructure is an important part of capacity building, it is far more important that tourism activity is managed to match the capacity of the Island and its residents to cope. Infrastructure is costly and often takes a long time to be provided. There are many simple and low cost things that can be done to increase capacity, but these are not on the agenda of the implementation group.”

BICA President, Fran Davis, said “we are not opposed to tourism, but unless we have the capacity to deal with the pressures it creates, community opposition will grow and the image of Bruny Island as tourist destination will be irreparably damaged.”

Community groups still insist that the key problem of capacity must be addressed. Ms. Davis and Mr Graham said “Remaining as part of a process that does not deal with the number 1 problem is not an option for us. We will continue to lobby and seek discussions with Government, Council and Industry to get concrete and effective action to build capacity to manage the pressures of increasing visitation.” They went on to say that; “It is time that Governments and industry realised and accepted that it is irresponsible and unfair to dump ever increasing numbers of visitors on a small community living in a fragile environment and then promote it as a tourist destination without addressing the capacity of the Island to cope with the demands and pressures created by visitors”

Fran Davis. President Bruny Island Community Association
62931129

Bob Graham, Convenor Bruny Island Environment Network
6293 2034

Bruny Island Cat Control Project – Update by Jenny Boyer

In this article Jenny Boyer gives an update on the Federally funded feral cat project, Kingborough Council progress on domestic cat control, the recent Wildlife Monitoring project and suggests the use of Feral Scan phone app to record any sightings you have of feral species on Bruny.

“At the end of May I attended a meeting of the Steering Committee for this Project and was again amazed at the breadth and support around the table with DPIPWE, Parks, Kingborough Council, Ten Lives Cat Centre (Hobart), UTas, Tasmanian Land Conservancy and the Threatened Species Recovery Hub sharing their knowledge and experience. Staff from the Federal Office of Threatened Species and Department of Environment participated by phone hook-up.

The Federal funding contribution requires the project to demonstrate both, a reduction in feral cat numbers and data to inform the impact of cat control on the numbers of threatened and conservation significant species. This is difficult to quantify without knowing what you have to start with.

Camera monitoring has identified many cats, including new litters, with 5 different cats identified on 1 camera near the viewing walkway. Of the 34 cameras at the Neck, 26 have detected at least 1 feral cat and the actual numbers of individual cats are currently being verified.
Continue reading “Bruny Island Cat Control Project – Update by Jenny Boyer”

Bruny Island trials world-leading battery storage system to secure energy future

Tasmania’s Bruny Island community is forging ahead with a world-leading trial of battery storage this weekend.The new system will allow thirty-five residential customers to create a “virtual power plant”, that both supports their own energy needs and feeds back into the grid.
Andrew Fraser, Network Innovation Team Leader at TasNetworks, joined Leon Compton on ABC Local Radio to discuss the CONSORT Bruny Island Battery Trial.
Listen here – duration: 10min 53sec

Survey of the State of the World’s Wetlands: tell us about a wetland you know

Why undertake this survey?
Knowledge about the status and trends of the world’s remaining wetlands is very patchy and limited. To improve this knowledge, and so as to better inform wetland policy and decision-making, we are conducting a simple worldwide questionnaire survey to gather better knowledge on the state of wetlands.
Who is organising the survey?
The survey is a collaborative initiative between the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS Ramsar Section), the World Wetland Network (WWN) and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), with the help of the Ramsar Convention Secretariat.

How can you help?
Are you familiar with a wetland? If yes, then you can help: the survey is open to anyone who can tell us about the state of a wetland(s), small or large, about which they know. The questionnaire asks for your opinion about the state of a wetland, and should take no longer than 10 minutes of your time to complete.

How to complete the questionnaire?
Go to:  http://www.worldwetnet.org/about-us/world-wetlands-survey-2017   You can complete the questionnaire on-line in either English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian or Chinese. If you prefer, for some languages you can download the questionnaire as an Excel form, currently available in English, FrenchSpanish, Arabic and Japanese. Save your completed form (with the name of the wetland in the filename) and email it to: wli@wwt.org.uk

Is there a deadline for completing the questionnaire?
Yes, please complete and return your questionnaire(s) by 30 September 2017.

How will the survey results be analysed?
Results will be analysed and reported at global and regional scales – results for individual wetlands will not be made public.

How will the survey results be communicated?
Summary reports will be made available publicly, through the WWN, SWS and other websites. All contributors will be kept informed when the results become available. The results will also be prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. We also anticipate showcasing the results of the survey during the next Ramsar Convention Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP13) in 2018.

Do you have any questions?
If you have any further questions, or need help in accessing or completing the questionnaire, please contact Chris Rostron at the World Wetland Network on Chris.Rostron@wwt.co.uk .

And finally … Many thanks in advance to everyone who knows and cares about wetlands for helping improve the knowledge about the world’s wetlands by completing the survey questionnaire.

Nick Davidson & Rob McInnes (SWS Ramsar Section), Chris Rostron (WWN) and Matthew Simpson (WWT)

Latest on the Battery Trial

CONSORT are pleased to report that batteries installed under the Bruny Island Battery Trial were used for support for the first time over the Easter and Anzac day period. As only three batteries had been installed and commissioned prior at that stage, they were unable to draw enough energy from the batteries to provide significant support to the network peak.  This meant that there was very little effect on the use of the generator, which was required to be operated seven times over that period.  The good news is that this provided us with a great opportunity for a test run and all batteries responded as expected. They requested support on ten occasions and discharged around 260 kWh from the batteries over this time. This is roughly the equivalent of ten days consumption for an average household. The installation of batteries is now ramping up, with another four ready to be commissioned. The next major event will be over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.

The Trial has continued to receive attention from media, local community members and the energy industry.  A report on the Trial featuring an interview with one of the first participants to have their system installed was aired on ABC News on Friday 14 April, with a follow-up print article published the following day.  Members of the CONSORT Project Team have been invited to talk about the Trial at several industry events; a copy of the slides presented at a recent event hosted by the Alternative Technology Association’s Tas South Branch can be viewed here, and a recording of the presentation can be viewed here.

The official launch of the Trial has been postponed; CONSORT expect that this will now take place during June. 

CONSORT  confirm that there will be a third and final intake of Trial Participants.  As per the previous two intakes, Participants for the remaining places will once again be selected via a ballot process during May.  All previous applicants will automatically be included in the ballot, unless they have advised us otherwise.

Pressures of increased visitation

BIEN has participated both in the community consultation involved in the development of the State Government sponsored Bruny Island Destination Action Plan and in the Implementation Group meetings to effect measures in the plan.  We have concerns that this process cannot address the real issues identified by the community consultations, that being to match demands of increasing visitor numbers with the capacity of the island to manage without negative impacts. The press release and the document below it detail these concerns.

Destination Action Plan

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Pressures of increased visitation”

Wildlife Monitoring Field Day and BBQ

Neck Campground, Bruny Island, 6th May 2017, 11am-2pm

Echidna on a sunny afternoon
Echidna on a sunny afternoon
Feral cat
Feral cat approaching the Neck bird colonies

Over the past 6 months Bruny Island landholders have been collecting valuable scientific data about native and feral species from all parts of Bruny Island.

This is an opportunity to come along and hear about what this exciting citizen science project has discovered!

The field day will involve:

  • Talks by local wildlife biologists and landholders about the findings of the project
  • An interactive discussion about the future of wildlife monitoring and conservation on Bruny Island.

And will be followed by a BBQ with vegetarian options.

All are welcome!

Please register your interest:

Daniel Sprod 0428 240 007 or daniel.sprod@gmail.com

Storm Bay fish farm expansion

Huon Aquaculture announced an intended extension of their salmon farming lease off Trumpeter Bay. This is in addition to both of the other large aquaculture players – Tassal and Petuna, seeking similar leases.

A recent meeting between Yachting Australia and Tasmanian Salmonoid Growers Association noted:

“The salmonoid industry wishes to expand and the Huon/Channel area has reached its allowable nitrogen cap while Macquarie Harbour has a similar issue that has received publicity in recent months.

“In moving to Storm Bay, the industry claim they are looking to move to deeper water in ‘offshore’ locations. “The industry saw this meeting as being part of their ‘community consultation’ however there was no discussion invited as to appropriateness of the expansion or locations suggested.

“Subsequent to the meeting the Marine Farming Branch at DPIPWE have provided the RYCT with a chart (depth in fathoms) showing both the current and proposed lease areas in Storm Bay. (DPIPWE advise that as of 17th Nov 2016 the companies are still to make formal applications so the proposed lease areas may be subject to change).”