FoE Australia News

Chain Reaction #115, August 2012, www.foe.org.au/chain-reaction/editions/115

Jono moves on from FoE

Jonathan La Nauze has just finished an 11-year stint as a campaigner with Friends of the Earth in Melbourne. As he starts work with the Australian Conservation Foundation, we want to acknowledge Jono's remarkable contribution.

Jono came into FoE through involvement in Indigenous solidarity activism, and started as a volunteer and then paid campaigner with the Barmah Millewa Collective (BMC). The BMC grew from the work of people like Pete Barker, who had responded to calls for support from the Yorta Yorta community in the Murray River country north of Melbourne. The backdrop to our emerging campaign to gain protection of the Barmah and Millewa Red Gum forests and wetlands was the ongoing Yorta Yorta struggle for recognition of their right to their traditional lands. The connected forests of Barmah (Victoria) and Millewa (in southern NSW) have long been considered the heartland of Yorta Yorta country. Their Native Title claim was slowly moving forward, and green and Indigenous groups had found common cause in the Dharnya Alliance.

In 2002, we formally launched the Barmah – Millewa Campaign as a collaboration between Yorta Yorta and FoE. Following a strong campaign, the Bracks ALP government gave an election promise to protect the forests in national parks, pending the outcomes of an investigation by the Victorian Environment Assessment Council.

Jono played a key role in the long years of this successful campaign. Much of the campaign story is told in Chain Reaction #105 (April 2009), and the short version is that Yorta Yorta, FoE and other green groups were able to gain protection for close to 100,000 hectares of new national parks. Aboriginal joint management was included.

Apart from a few months exploring in Europe with his partner Ailsa, Jono committed a decade to the Red Gum campaign. For most of this time, I sat next to Jono in the FoE office in Collingwood, and watched him play all manner of roles: campaigner, trainer, media spokesperson, lobbyist and strategic thinker, networker and connector between groups.

But it wasn't all sitting at a desk. He put in a lot of time out on Country, building strong and lasting friendships with many in the Yorta Yorta community, monitoring logging, planning, holding rallies and actions. Huge amounts of time were logged in the 2006 state election, which saw the commitment from the ALP. There were 'road shows' through Northern Victoria, and the beginning of a campaign over the border into NSW, including the first direct action by conservationists in Red Gum forests. As a boy from Albury, he brought his love for the River into all aspects of the campaign.

I cannot do justice to Jono's contribution. He became a pivotal person in the complex network of people, organisations and communities that lead to the creation of the new Red Gum Parks. He has been an incredible contributor to the development of FoE Melbourne and Australia. And he has been a driving force within the Forest Stewardship Council here in Australia.

More recently, he has become a person of great influence in the current national debate about the future of the Murray Darling Basin. Jono has brought a keen strategic eye to this new campaign area, helping to push the boundaries on what is needed, while ‘moderate' politics kept seeking 'reasonable' outcomes.

Go well, Jono, we will miss you. FoE is stronger – and has some great victories – as a result of your efforts.

− Cam Walker

South Melbourne Commons

The South Melbourne Commons, administered by Friends of the Earth, has made much progress since its opening in December last year. One of our recent developments has been the installation of solar panels, a 5 kw array of clean, green electricity to power the Commons. This is just one of a number of sustainability projects being undertaken to transform the old Galilee Primary School into a sustainable community hub. The solar panels complement our existing hot water solar system.

Earlier this year, the Commons appeared on Network Seven's Coxy's Big Break, a fantastic way to boost public awareness about our project. You can find the segment on YouTube by searching for "South Melbourne Commons on Coxy's Big Break".

Commons is a great meeting place and offers discounted hire rates for community and not-for-profit groups.

Corner of Bank and Montague Sts, South Melbourne
Web: commons.org.au
Video: youtube.com/watch?v=audtMYLBWVA

FoE Adelaide's 'Feast of Film' festival

FoE Adelaide's fourth annual 'Feast of Film' festival − a cinematic celebration of good food and farming − will be held on Saturdays July 21, August 18 and September 15. Featured films include Queen of the Sun, The Bushman of Tamban, Murder Mouth, Growing Change, A Community of Gardeners, We Feed the World, and La Via Campesina in Movement. All funds raised support local and international projects for just and sustainable food and farming.

Box Factory Community Centre, 59 Regent Street South, Adelaide, 4–7pm, tickets $10-$15 at the door, for more information contact adelaide.office@foe.org.au, www.facebook.com/foe.adelaide

Pesticides and Melbourne's drinking water

In June, Friends of the Earth released a new report assessing the pesticide risks in the Melbourne Water supply network. Melbourne is often touted as having the best quality drinking water in the world, however approximately 1.5 million people in Melbourne's northern and western suburbs consume water from Sugarloaf Reservoir.

Part of Sugarloaf's supply is pumped from the Yarra River, downstream of the some of the most intensively farmed (and sprayed) land in Australia. The report also suggests that the treatment process used at Sugarloaf was never designed to filter out pesticides. Melbourne Water have had 31 positive detections for pesticides at the Sugarloaf off-take over the past two years and a study published in January 2011 revealed that over 40 pesticides were finding their way into streams in the Upper Yarra, possibly making the it Australia's most pesticide laden river.

The June 2012 report, 'Issues Regarding Melbourne Drinking Water & Pesticides', was written by Anthony Amis. It is posted at http://tiny.cc/aimjgw

Tasmania's drinking water

Friends of the Earth has also launched a brief report on the state of Tasmania's drinking water. The report is part of a longer term strategy to tie in research from across Australia regarding drinking water issues. The information was sourced from three Right to Information requests from Southern Water, Ben Lomond Water and Cradle Mountain Water. In terms of breaches to the Australian drinking water guidelines, it would appear that the major concern is relatively high levels of chlorine disinfection by-products from four communities in southern Tasmania.

The report is posted at http://tiny.cc/xchxgw

The cost of Baillieu's wind policy

In August 2011, the Baillieu government implemented new planning rules which place large sections of Victoria off-limits to wind farm developments through the creation of No Go zones, and set in place a two kilometre 'right of veto', whereby a single household can block any turbines within two kilometres of their home. Planning Minister Matthew Guy said he did not believe that the two kilometre set-back policy would stop developers investing in wind energy Victoria. However research by FoE suggests otherwise. In our updated report on the impacts of this policy, it is estimated that the costs are around $887 million in lost investment, and 2,100 jobs that will now not be created.

The report is posted at yes2renewables.org

Big Ask membership drive

FoE Melbourne has launched our 'Big Ask' membership drive, as we urgently need to build our members/ supporter base to keep all our campaigns going at their current capacity. Annual Membership starts from as little as $40 − see shop.foe.org.au/membership-foe. Or you can join as an Active Friend and make monthly, tax-deductible donation − see givenow.com.au/foemelbourne

Vic parliament report into mining

A Victorian parliamentary committee report into 'greenfields' mineral developments was released in May. While green groups have expressed disappointment that it has failed to deliver a moratorium on further exploration for coal and coal seam gas, there is a significant shift in the governments approach to CSG. Three recommendations out of 25 contain some good news for rural people and environmentalists concerned about the spread of the fossil fuel industry:

  • a proposed strategic land use policy framework to better manage the competing needs of agriculture and mining;
  • a proposal that the government create a process to ensure open consultation with communities regarding future coal seam gas exploration and development; and
  • better notification requirements to inform land owners about intended exploration activity.

A joint media release by FoE, the Environmental Defenders Office and Environment Victoria is posted at melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1154

FoE and Quit Coal launched a campaign for a moratorium on new coal and gas earlier this year. Over 50 groups have now joined the call with the most recent support coming from the City of Port Phillip. More information is posted at melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1124

Court win for Gladstone dredge protester

In early May, the Brisbane magistrates court supported the efforts of Gladstone local Mark Discoll in his stand defending the destructive dredging of the Gladstone Harbour in the Great Barrier Reef. Mark walked from court with no fine and no record, after being charged under the Transport Operations (Marine Safety) Act 1994.

Marking the last day of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee visit to Queensland in March 2012. Mark chained himself to a harbour dredge boat, shutting down the controversial development of the Coal Seam Gas LNG port facility on Curtis Island in Gladstone. Concerns include the industry's impact on the Great Barrier Reef and Gladstone Harbour.

Mark Discoll said: "I have grave concerns for Gladstone, the social and environmental impacts from this massive development is too high a price to pay. I have no regrets for the action that I took. We have already lost one industry – fishing – and our tourism industry is now at risk."

More information: http://tiny.cc/99fxgw

In June, UNESCO released a report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef. It is critical of the rapid coastal development driven by the resource boom, saying that it has the strong possibility to severely damage the ecological and economic value of the reef.  The report is posted at: whc.unesco.org/en/list/154/documents

The myth of the 'professional protester'

Shani Tager − a campaigner with the Six Degrees Coal and Climate Campaign at Friends of the Earth Brisbane − has written an insightful article on accusations directed at so-called urban 'professional protesters' with the aim of delegitimising them and splitting important urban/rural alliances forming around Coal Seam Gas opposition and other issues. The article is posted at: brisbane.foe.org.au/content/myth-professional-protester

United Nations Association conference

The annual national conference of the United Nations Association of Australia will be held in Brisbane from 22−24 August. The Climate Frontlines collective of FoE Brisbane is coordinating the roundtable on the opening day on the topic, 'Climate Change and Sustainable Development in the Pacific'. The event will feature a screening of the film, 'There Once Was An Island', as well as several Pacific Islander contributors. For more information contact wendy.flannery@gmail.com