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Evidence is in: No new shark net trial off North Coast

The Greens have condemned confirmation from NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair at a Senate Estimates hearing today of a new shark net trial on the north coast of NSW. The NSW Government is pushing ahead with the outdated technology despite results from a six-month trial in the same region showing: the shark nets caught and/or killed 244 marine creatures during the course of the trial, including rays and endangered turtles. SMART drumlines deployed in the same area have caught more target sharks, with far fewer sharks deaths and almost no by catch; and Senate Estimates testimony of a decrease in community support for the shark net trial. The Greens have called on the NSW Government to heed the evidence and abandon plans for another shark net ‘trial’ – on the North Coast and beyond. Member for Ballina Tamara Smith said, “The shark net trial on the North Coast was a demonstrated failure and should not be repeated. “There is no scientific evidence and decreasing community support for putting shark nets back in the water this Summer. “We all want to ensure people are as safe as possible when enjoying the beach and ocean while minimising the toll on marine life. Shark nets don’t help achieve that balance. The Greens would prefer to see money wasted on the nets used instead on drone and human shark spotting patrols in order to offer better warning and protection to swimmers and surfers. “The NSW Government has continued to say they’ll take an evidence-based approach to shark management so why push ahead with more nets when they have failed to work?” Ms Smith said. Marine Environment spokesperson Justin Field said “Shark nets may make ocean goers feel better but the evidence shows they are not effective against target sharks and don’t make swimmers or surfers significantly safer. “The Minister can already act confidently from the results of the previous trial which made a compelling case for the Government to remove shark nets permanently from North Coast beaches. “We have already had an expansion of the SMART drumlines off the North Coast and there are other non-lethal technologies available, including expanding community shark observer programs. “Minister Niall Blair can now have the confidence to move beyond the ‘panic’ and keep shark nets out of the water,” he said.   Full copy of The Green non-lethal approach to shark management here: http://bit.ly/NSWGreensSharkPlan

Remove shark nets from beaches across NSW this Summer

The Greens are calling on the NSW Government to phase out the destructive shark net program and increase non-lethal shark management strategies on NSW beaches this Summer.More than 51 shark nets due to be installed at beaches from Newcastle to Wollongong from today (1 September). However, the recently released Annual Performance Report of the Shark Meshing Program and the government’s trial of SMART drumlines and other non-lethal strategies on North Coast beaches have shown that shark nets are the worst of all options for marine life and the health of the ocean.The annual report of the netting program in 2016/17 found: 373 animals were caught in sharks nets with 211 (57%) killed. most of the animals killed in nets were non-dangerous animals including dolphins, turtles and rays. 74 target sharks were killed in the year. Greens MLC and Marine Spokesperson Justin Field said shark nets are an outdated technology that is failing people and taking a toll on marine life and should be removed for good.“Shark nets may make ocean goers feel better but the evidence shows they are not effective against target sharks and don’t make swimmers or surfers significantly safer.“The Government’s trial of SMART drumlines and other non-lethal strategies on the North Coast caught more sharks than the net trial over the same period. There were almost no non-target marine creatures caught on drumlines and almost all sharks were tagged and released alive. “The trial makes a compelling case for the Government to remove shark nets permanently from NSW’s beaches.Minister Niall Blair can now have the confidence to move beyond the ‘panic’ and begin phasing out shark nets across NSW. “He should halt the process of rolling out nets due to go into the water off Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong on 1 September and replace them with effective, non-lethal technologies including SMART drumlines and community monitoring programs.| The Greens are calling on the Government to phase outr destructive shark nets and replace them with modern technologies that reduce the risk of shark bites but don’t kill our much loved marine animals,” he said.Shark meshing (Bather Protection) program 2016/17 Annual Performance Report:http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/728817/Shark-Meshing-2016-2017-annual-report.pdf Full copy of The Green non-lethal approach to shark management here: http://bit.ly/NSWGreensSharkPlan

Clubs NSW urges locking out community and health expert advice from liquor licence consultation

Clubs NSW is pushing the NSW Government for a restriction of community objection rights as part of consultation during liquor licence applications, recommending the removal of mandatory consultation with NSW Health, the Department of Family and Community Services and recognised leaders of local Aboriginal communities Clubs NSW’s submission to the government’s Community Impact Statement (CIS) review calls for a “honing down” of people, local groups and experts permitted in community consultation to those “directly impacted” by the granting licence. Greens NSW MLC and Gambling Spokesperson Justin Field said any reduction of community rights to have a say and challenge liquor licence applications in their neighbourhood was a step in the wrong direction. “The Clubs NSW push for a watering down of consultation on the impacts of alcohol is completely out of touch with the increasing community unease over the harm irresponsible alcohol cause people, families and our communities,” he said. “Health professionals and other experts are already concerned their detailed, fact-based advice is being glossed over under the CIS process with a close to 100% approval rate by Liquor and Gaming NSW. “The Greens want to see the community consultation processes around liquor licence applications strengthened. The advice of health professionals and police should be given more weight, not less, especially when it comes to applications from key alcohol retailers such as the big bottle shop chains. “The Government must side with the community and not with vested interests when it comes to these important public health and community wellbeing questions. “We can’t be too cautious when it comes to protecting people and our communities from alcohol-related assaults, alcohol-related hospitalisations, domestic assaults and malicious damage. “I’ve continued to raise serious questions about the extent to which the big alcohol and gaming interests in NSW seem to get their way and the community gets locked out of decision making. “The outcome of this CIS Review should be safer and better informed communities. The NSW Government should reject this recommendation from Clubs NSW and any other submissions that disempower communities,” Mr Field said. CIS stakeholder submissions available on the Liquor & Gaming NSW website here: http://www.liquorandgaming.nsw.gov.au/Pages/public-consultation/community-consultation/community-impact-statement-evaluation.aspx

Top 25 pokies hotels in NSW taking more than $253 million profits from vulnerable communities

New data from Liquor and Gaming reveals the top 25 hotels making the most profit from poker machines in NSW take a staggering $253 million in pre-tax profit per year from vulnerable communities. The figures show: the top 25 hotels for pokies profits took $486,538 per week from communities in the 2016/17 financial year alone. El Cortez Hotel in Fairfield tops the list, taking the most in pokies profits in NSW in the past financial year. 13 out of 25 hotels in the top 25 for pokies profits are in the Fairfield and Canterbury/Bankstown local government areas. Woolworths owns three of the top 25 hotels, Pritchard Hotel, Cambridge Tavern and Smithfield Tavern, all located in Fairfield. all of the top 25 hotels are in the Greater Sydney metropolitan area. NSW Greens MLC Justin Field said behind the mega profits from poker machines revealed by the data today is the immeasurable harm caused to people, families and communities. “The $253 million lost to addictive pokies in the top 25 hotels is no accident, these machines are designed for addiction and making profits from people and communities,” he said. “The vested interests in the hotel industry continue to push to wind back regulations on gambling. It’s long past time Government reined them in and put people before pokies profits. “Pokies are the new tobacco. They are both highly addictive products with powerful lobby groups pushing in their favour and covering up their true impacts. The changes in social acceptance of smoking and in favour of regulation of tobacco over recent years offers a way forward to reduce the harm from poker machines as well. “NSW must counter the tactics used by the hotels and clubs to protect their mega-profits from the pokies. That requires an acceleration in the overall reduction in poker machines across the state while putting limits on the capacity of existing machines to strip money out of communities such as $1 bet limits. “The balance has swung too far in NSW in favour of the gambling industry and pokies venues, now the NSW Government must stand with communities and protect them from these addictive machines,” Mr Field said. The Greens and Alliance for Gambling Reform will present a free screening of the documentary Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation at Fairfield Youth and Community Centre on August 30, followed by a discussion on gambling harm. More details: facebook.com/JustinFieldGreens Full list of State Rankings by Gaming Machine Profit for Hotels (June 2017 Quarter end): http://bit.ly/2wrIZay

Artificial reef planned for Sydney Harbour, next step should be Sydney Marine Park

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton spoke on Channel 9 News last night of plans for an artificial reef alongside the Sydney Opera House with the aim of monitoring and boosting biodiversity in the Harbour [1]. Greens marine and fisheries spokesperson Justin Field welcomed the artificial reef trial but said the most effective form of protection for biodiversity and other challenges facing marine habitats would be a new Sydney Marine Park. “The Greens welcome the NSW Government’s evidence-based approach to improving biodiversity with an artificial reef trial in Sydney Harbour,” he said. “The trial will tell us more about the role an artificial reef can play in improving life for the more than 600 species of marine life that call our Harbour home, yet it can’t solve some of the key threats facing our iconic waterway. “Our precious Sydney harbour and surrounding coastal areas, clean waters and coastal lifestyle are under growing pressure from pollution, climate change, stormwater and sewage runoff and other human impacts. “If the Minister is serious about her commitment to “breathe life into what is already a really healthy harbour” then she must urgently create a marine park for Sydney. “Marine Parks and dedicated and fully protected Sanctuary Zones are essential to build resilience in our marine environment to respond to pressures and help ensure fish for the future. “More than 90% of the NSW community, including fishers, support marine parks and sanctuaries an investment in a healthier marine environment for all. Over a decade of scientific assessment shows these protected areas are effective. “A Sydney Marine Park will be something for everyone with some areas dedicated for environmental protection while other areas are open to recreational and commercial fishing and other commercial activities. “The NSW Government’s own independent review of marine parks in 2011 recommended extending protections to the Sydney region. “We know a Sydney Marine Park can help ensure a healthy future for our marine life, communities and economy. What we need now is the political leadership to make it happen,” Mr Field said.   [1] http://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/08/21/20/50/artificial-reef-to-breathe-life-into-sydney-harbour

Greens reject secret sell offs of NSW assets

NSW Greens have welcomed the decision by the NSW Auditor General to investigate the Liberal/National Government’s sale of electricity network Ausgrid and the unsolicited proposal process. Treasury spokesperson Justin Field said the Government’s undue eagerness for a sell off of the state’s essential energy infrastructure had potentially compromised due process and the value obtained from the deal. “The push for privatisation of Ausgrid was largely conducted behind closed doors with opaque rules and confidential process and the NSW community deserves an answer on how this deal was done,” he said. “People and communities have had enough of privatisations that have not improved services or cost for them and has seen essential assets such as electricity and land titles pass out of public control into private hands. The companies snapping up some of our most valuable assets are doing so for profit, not any other motive, and again it will be the community footing the bill. “The Greens stand with the community in rejecting the NSW Liberal/National Government’s privatisation agenda and the added insult of negotiations conducted in secrecy with private buyers. “We expect the Government to represent our best interests in all dealings, particularly when finances and vested business interests are involved. Time and again, they have broken this trust when selling off our community’s assets and services. “Privatisation has exploded since the Coalition came to Government in 2011 with a major $53 billion fire sale of the state's assets, but what have been left to show for it? "NSW still faces growing inequality, some of the worst housing affordability in the world, massive queues for public housing and growing youth unemployment in regional areas. “The Government should get on with the business of delivering high quality public services and end its obsession with shadowy deals that privatise our state's assets,” he said.

Bang out of order: Greens call for halt on seismic testing off Newcastle

Greens Marine and Fisheries spokesperson Justin Field is calling on the NSW Liberal/National Government to permanently halt seismic testing for gas in the waters off Newcastle by cancelling Asset Energy's exploration licence.The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority has ruled that new plans for seismic testing by Asset Energy did not meet environmental regulations and asked for a revised proposal. The proposal follows similar testing in 2010. Mr Field said the idea that coastal waters off Newcastle and Sydney will be a future gas field is ridiculous. “It’s not worth risking the health of the marine environment, our valuable fisheries resources and those local jobs for oil and gas exploration where the community will never accept a future gas field,” he said today. “Seismic testing in the waters off Newcastle poses an unacceptable risk for ocean habitat, marine wildlife including migrating whales, and productive local fishing grounds. “I’m told by fishers that previous seismic testing left seabeds damaged and resulted in drops in fish catch for weeks, impacting on local businesses. “There are also serious questions about the safety of seismic guns on the hearing and navigation of  migrating whales. “Whales and their young will head back down the NSW coast from about September until November this year and they have a right to safe passage, not a seismic assault course. “The community simply won’t accept oil and gas exploration and drilling off the coast from Newcastle to Sydney. The NSW Government should put this matter to rest once and for all, cancel Advent Energy’s exploration licence and ensure the seismic testing doesn’t go ahead,” Mr Field said.

Don't let fear drive shark management in Coffs Harbour and Sawtell

NSW Greens marine spokesperson Justin Field has warned that ongoing fear-mongering about sharks is risking the public losing sight of the value of our wild oceans, and the importance of apex predators, including sharks, to healthy natural ecosystems. The comments follow the announcement of a Department of Primary Industries sessions in Coffs Harbour and Sawtell this coming weekend (Aug 11 and 12) promoting SMART drumlines. The NSW Government has an agenda of expanding the SMART drumline program along the NSW coast, despite there being no evidence of any change to the risk of shark bites in NSW waters. Mr Field has called on Fisheries Minister Niall Blair to release any data which suggests an increased risk from sharks in the Coffs Harbour region or step back from the SMART drumline expansion back which is driving unnecessary fear of sharks in some communities. “The risk hasn’t changed but the Government continues to ramp up the rhetoric. The chance of shark bite remains extremely low and SMART drumlines make it no less likely someone will be bitten,” he said. “I’m worried the ongoing commentary about sharks is stoking unnecessary public fear where it isn’t warranted. We should be trying to cultivate a greater understanding of the important role sharks play in a healthy ocean while educating about the real risks. “The Greens have supported targeted trials of SMART drumlines and the trials have been promising with no by-catch and low mortality of caught sharks. “A major expansion of SMART drumlines requires expensive monitoring and response. Without that response regime, endangered and non-threatening sharks risk being killed on the lines despite them presenting very small risk to ocean users. There are more cost effective ways and less destructive ways to mitigate those risks. “When we go into the ocean we are entering the domain of sharks. We have to learn to live with them and the constant focus on nets and drumlines is creating unnecessary fear.”

Greens call for community forum to discuss youth unemployment crisis in Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands

The Greens are calling for an urgent roundtable of politicians, service providers, businesses and young people to address the youth unemployment crisis in the Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands after latest data revealed more than a quarter of young people living in the local area are unemployed or underemployed. Youth unemployment has reached a staggering 27.4 per cent, according to Regional Labour Force data for June 2017 released by the NSW Parliamentary Research Service. The data shows youth unemployment among 15 to 24 years olds in the Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands is: the highest recorded youth unemployment rate anywhere in NSW since June 2012; is more than double the NSW average; up 35 per cent since Oct 2016; and increased by 20 per cent over the past nine months. Greens MP Justin Field will invite representatives of unemployed youth and their families, local MPs, local government councillors, business representatives, employment agencies and other local service providers to a community forum later this year aimed at identifying barriers and the action needed for addressing the crisis. “Alarming levels of unemployment in the Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands rob our youth of hope for the future and the opportunity of building the best life possible for themselves and their families,” Mr Field said. “These figures are shocking. At a time when unemployment is generally low across NSW, our young people are missing out with a long-term and chronic lack of jobs and training opportunities in the local region. “We need all hands on deck to address this crisis. We need everyone and anyone with an interest in the future of our young people to come together and put forward ideas to solve this crisis. “There are many factors driving local youth unemployment. It won’t be easy to solve and there is no simple solution, but that doesn’t mean we can just throw our hands in the air and say it’s all too hard. “We need to get everyone in a room and put together a plan of action otherwise an entire generation will be left behind,” he said. Parliamentary Research Service’s Regional labour force trends and NSW electorates publication ( June 2017) available here: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/researchpapers/Pages/NSW-regional-labour-force-data---interactive-portal.aspx  

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