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Environmental

AUSTRALIA’S ONLY MOBILE WILDLIFE HOSPITAL ON ALERT TO RESPOND TO CATASTROPHIC BUSHFIRES

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Matilda truck

AUSTRALIA’S ONLY MOBILE WILDLIFE HOSPITAL ON ALERT TO RESPOND TO CATASTROPHIC BUSHFIRES

 

“Matilda”, a unique wildlife hospital hauled by a UD Truck is preparing for the worst as the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasts increased risk of bushfires in eastern Australia due to reduced rainfall, high fuel loads and above average temperatures.

“We built Matilda three years ago through public support and a successful fundraising campaign,” said Founder and CEO Dr Stephen Van Mil.

“The world saw the terrible images of burned koalas in laundry baskets during Australia’s catastrophic Black Summer Bushfires.”

“WWF Australia estimated that three billion animals died in that horrifying natural disaster. It’s impossible to get your head around the scale of that loss. We vowed to never again allow that to happen, which is why we are preparing for the worst.

The Matilda team helping a Koala.

Photo: Craig Parry Photography

We’ve treated over 5000 animals since opening in 2020.  We have a crisis operations plan for deployment, and unique capacity to save wildlife during a bushfire, flood or other natural disaster. We have written to every level of government including the Prime Minister offering our services.

We hope they call us to help. It will be dreadful to receive a call from Emergency Incident Controllers, but that’s what we are here for. We’re ready.”

Matilda is wholly owned by Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital, the only all-species wildlife hospital in NSW outside of Taronga Wildlife Hospitals. Licensed by the Veterinary Practitioners Board of NSW, BBWH is open 7 days a week and provides full veterinary hospital services exclusively for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife, free of charge.

Through a partnership with UD Trucks Australia, Matilda can be mobilised to travel to the scene of a natural disaster such as a bushfire, flood, mass stranding or oil spill affecting wildlife on a large scale.  The hospital has all the veterinary equipment and supplies needed to triage, treat, and carry out lifesaving surgery on sick and injured wildlife. The mobile hospital is equipped with a satellite dish, solar panels, onboard water and deep cell batteries to operate self-sufficiently for an extended deployment to a disaster zone.

Matilda truck

Matilda

“Sustainability and environmental care are at the heart of everything we do, both at UD Trucks and as a part of Volvo Group Australia” said UD Trucks Vice President Philippa Wood, “This incredible mobile hospital is powered by one of the cleanest, most fuel efficient and safest trucks on the road today, the UD Quon, which is entirely fitting given its mission.”

“The partnership between Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital and UD Trucks is incredibly important. We are facing a dangerous summer in terms of fire risk, and I think the work that the BBWH team does is sadly becoming increasingly important as the effects of climate change become more extreme.”

“We’re working closely with The Wildlife Hospital team to prepare for and assist with their deployment, and we stand ready with BBWH to proactively respond to help wildlife the minute it is needed.”

 

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Brunswick Heads News

Clarence Property hit back

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An aerial image of the Wallum development site provided by Clarence Property

Clarence Property hit back

 

By Sarah Waters

In a lengthy statement, Clarence Property’s Chief Executive Officer Simon Kennedy outlined ‘key facts’ about the Wallum development.

Mr Kennedy said the land on which the development is proposed was zoned ‘residential’ under both the Byron Local Environmental Plan 1988 and the updated LEP of 2014.

The original Concept Plan for the Wallum site was lodged by the site’s previous owner Codlea Pty Ltd and received approval from state government in 2013.

Clarence Property acquired the site from Codlea in 2021.

Mr Kennedy said the project was not a ‘zombie DA’ and had been continually worked on since concept plan approval was first received in 2013.

“Clarence Property’s amended concept plan reduces the amount of developed land from 17.3 hectares to 12.3 hectares, retaining 18 hectares of the 30-hectare site for existing vegetation,” he said.

“Management of vegetation is guided by Australian Wetland Consulting (AWC), who have been working on the Wallum site since it was originally approved for development in 2013.”

An aerial image of the Wallum development site provided by Clarence Property

An aerial image of the Wallum development site provided by Clarence Property

Mr Kennedy said the highest quality habitats on the site are to the eastern and western extents of the site and they are being retained as conservation areas.

Clarence Property also revised the design of Wallum to avoid clearing approximately 3000m2 of forest vegetation on the land to the south, which would have been cleared under the previous designs.

The company claim, prior to the subdivision works certificate approval by Byron Shire Council, Council engaged its own independent ecologist to review the ecological report who confirmed that all conditions of consent had been fully addressed.

And ‘extensive investigations’ into the impacts of the development were prepared by the company’s ecological consultants.

Three independent ecologists agreed there would be no impacts on threatened species which require further assessment than has already been completed.

Mr Kennedy went on to say 50 artificial hollows will be created to offset the expected loss of 20 hollows.

Hollows identified within scribbly gums marked for removal are ‘unsuitable breeding habitat for the glossy black cockatoo’ due to being too close to the ground, he said.

While BioNet records provided by the Sharing and Enabling Environmental Data (SEED) have determined the Wallum site is unlikely to be frequented by koalas.

But, in the same paragraph, he said the removal of 21 secondary koala food trees will be offset in a conservation corridor on site at a 2:1 ratio resulting in ‘a gain in food trees in the long term’.

Clarence Property will retain 2.6ha of wallum froglet habitat. To date, 19 homesites in Wallum have already been sold.

 

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Brunswick Heads News

Save Wallum campaigners call on federal government to intervene in development

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Save Wallum

Save Wallum campaigners call on federal government to intervene in development

 

By Sarah Waters

The Save Wallum campaign continues to be fought on two fronts.

A large group of campaigners are maintaining a 24-hour presence in front of the gates at the Wallum heathland site on Torakina Rd in Brunswick Heads.

Another group is working behind the scenes to challenge what they claim to be inadequacies in various reports put forward in the development application.

The developer, Clarence Property, has stated all the necessary environmental assessments have been carried out rigorously.

The Northern Rivers Planning Panel approved the DA in May last year.

But the fight to protect the environmentally sensitive coastal heathland continues.

Local ecologist James Barrie and fellow Save Wallum campaigners have called for the federal government to intervene.

They are supporting the community to lobby Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek to call Wallum in as a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

The Save Wallum Sedge Frog

The Wallum Sedge Frog is a vulnerable species which is protected under the EPBC Act. Photo credit: Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water (DCCEEW).

The EPBC Act protects certain plants, habitats, places and nationally threatened species, as they are considered as Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) or protected matters.

Ecologists have identified nine EPBC listed species at Wallum, including the Wallum Sedge Frog and the south-eastern Glossy Black-Cockatoo.

According to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water (DCCEEW) a person must not take an action that has, will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on protected matters – without approval from the environment minister.

To obtain approval, an action must undergo an environmental assessment and approval process.

But it is up to an individual/developer to refer their project to the DCCEEW if they believe any action they undertake, such as construction, will significantly impact any protected matters.

Mr Barrie said the developer is refusing to honour their legal obligation to self-refer the federally listed threatened species and their habitats (MNES) despite their documented presence.

He said multiple experts have identified that the development will have a significant impact on the protected species.

The Federal Environment Department have previously said Clarence Property has been notified of its obligations under the EPBC Act.

The developer has all the required local and state environmental approvals.

Questions were also put forward to Minister Plibersek asking if an environmental assessment of the Wallum development will be undertaken by the DCCEEW.

She is yet to respond.

Save Wallum

Ecologist James Barrie discusses Wallum’s unique biodiversity during an ecological tour of the site

Byron Shire Councillor Asren Pugh said the EPBC Act was ‘thoroughly inadequate’ when it came to protecting threatened species as it was up to an individual/developer to decide if they would refer (self-refer) their project to the federal environment department.

There are also ways around the Act, especially if local and state environmental approvals have been given, which include environmental offset plans to counterbalance a development activity.

The federal government is currently in the process of bringing in a new set of environmental protection laws.

Mr Pugh said the problem with the Wallum development has always been the fact that the original concept plan was approved in 2013 and it only had to abide by the environmental regulations that were in place prior to that.

Save Wallum campaigners argue the one law developers’ have never abided by was the EPBC Act and they have ignored previous instruction to refer the project.

The development is often referred to as a ‘zombie DA’ which has become the term for projects approved years and sometimes decades ago, which do not meet modern environmental or cultural impact surveys/assessments.

Mr Pugh said he believed negotiating with the developer to improve the environmental outcomes for Wallum was now one of the only options left.

 

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Environmental

Janelle Saffin secures $1.5 million boost for koala care in the Northern Rivers

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Penny Sharpe and Janelle Saffin at FOK for koala care Northern Rivers

Janelle Saffin secures $1.5 million boost for koala care in the Northern Rivers

 

Janelle Saffin, the local member for Lismore has delivered on her election commitment to provide additional support to wildlife hospitals, koala protection and research with $1.5 million in new funding provided to Northern Rivers wildlife care facilities.

Koalas in the state’s north will have a more secure future with $1.4 million allocated to complete building the Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital in Wollongbar, a key election commitment made by Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.

In another of Ms Saffin’s delivered commitments, Northern Rivers koalas will receive protection against chlamydia, with 300 koalas to be vaccinated by the Friends of the Koala Hospital. The $110,000 grant will also be used by the group to develop a koala database.

This funding builds on previous NSW Government commitments to protect the region’s koalas from vehicle strike and degraded habitats.

Grants totalling $460,000 have been awarded to Lismore City, Tweed Shire, Ballina Shire, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley councils for signage to alert drivers to slow down and watch for koalas in vehicle strike hotspots.

Koala habitat restoration is also underway in the Northern Rivers region, with $810,000 invested to restore 660 hectares across private land and national park estate.

The NSW Government is committed ensuring the long-term survival of koalas in the wild and each partnership with councils, land managers, community organisation and wildlife groups is an important step toward achieving that goal.

Penny Sharpe and Janelle Saffin at FOK for koala care Northern Rivers

Penny Sharpe and Janelle Saffin at FOK

Quote attributable to Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe:

“Janelle Saffin has fought tirelessly for this funding, and I am pleased that the NSW Government can deliver it.

“It is important that koalas have a bright future in NSW, which they do under this government thanks in part to the strong advocacy of Janelle Saffin.

“The NSW Government is taking steps to prevent koalas needing to be in veterinary care, and this funding helps to ensure that native wildlife have the best possible outcome when treated and returned to the wild.”

Quote attributable to Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin:

“The Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital is wonderful. We have already turned the first sod but this $1.4 million in funding ensures its place within our network of native wildlife care.

“Our local communities love our iconic koalas and the $110,000 in funding will help protect them against chlamydia, and importantly, keep track of them.

“Friends of the Koala in East Lismore is a fantastic organisation, professional, with compassionate and competent volunteers.

“I am proud to have advocated for and secured funding for these projects and very pleased to join Minister Sharpe to announce them here in the electorate.”

Quote attributable to a spokesperson for Friends of the Koala:

“The licensing and funding to administer the chlamydia vaccine to koalas marks a significant leap forward in safeguarding our local population.

“We have recently seen a decline in community and corporate donations. We will continue to meet with the NSW Government to discuss ongoing support, but it will take all levels of government, corporate and philanthropic support to help us save this iconic species.”

 

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