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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  

Keep up momentum for ban on single-use plastic bags beyond #plasticfreejuly

The Berejiklian Government is out of step with growing community support for NSW to join the majority of other Australian states and ban single-use plastic bags, according to Greens marine spokesperson Justin Field. Momentum has grown during the past month of #plasticfreejuly with: thousands of individuals and families choosing to refuse single-use plastic during July. Woolworths, Coles and Harris Farm announcing plans to phase out single-use plastic bags over the next 12 months more than 117,000 signatures on a petition supporting Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi’s Bill before NSW Parliament that would ban lightweight plastic bags being distributed in NSW. An estimated 50 million plastic bags end up as litter in the environment each year in Australia, mostly in waterways and the ocean, where they kill and injure dolphins, turtles and other marine life. NSW Greens marine spokesperson Justin Field said, “the wave of support for action on plastic pollution will keep surging beyond Plastic Free July and cannot be held back by Premier Berejiklian. “Every year in NSW thousands of marine animals are injured and killed by plastic pollution in our oceans. There is one way to fix it - it's time to put an end to single use plastics. “NSW is falling behind the rest of the country and the rest of the world when it comes to reducing litter and protecting our marine life. While most other states have banned or are on their way to banning single-use plastic bags, Premier Berejikilan has refused to act. “The community is ready for change, the big supermarkets have announced plastic bag bans, now we need action from the NSW Premier. “The Greens will stand with the community and keep up pressure for the change needed. “Every day we delay a ban on plastic bags is a missed opportunity for reducing pollution, protecting marine life and creating a healthier future for NSW,” he said.

Woolworth, Coles phase out single-use plastic bags, now time for NSW to Ban the Bag

NSW Greens Marine and Fisheries spokesperson Justin Field has welcomed today’s announcement by Woolworths and Coles of a phase out single-use plastic bags over the next 12 months as a clear demonstration of growing momentum for a full ban on plastic bags in NSW. Australians use up to an estimated 4 billion light-weight plastic bags a year. South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT have already banned the bag, with Queensland joining them from July 2018. Mr Field said, “The two major Australian supermarkets committing to end single-use plastic bags in their stores is game changer, now it is time for Premier Gladys Berejiklian to act. “Today’s announcements by Woolworths and Coles, community campaigns such as Boomerang Bags and the thousands of individuals taking part in Plastic Free July show an unstoppable momentum to ban the bag in NSW. “The NSW Government is lagging behind other states and territories in taking action on plastic pollution and banning single-use plastic bags. “People are shocked to learn an estimated 50 million plastic bags end up as litter in the environment each year in Australia, mostly in our waterways and ocean, where they kill and injure dolphins, turtles and other marine life.“The Premier and her government continue to ignore the rising tide of plastic is choking our oceans and marine life, polluting our rivers and impacting our health and that of future generations. There is one way to fix it - it's time to put an end to single use plastics. “We can do more to clean up our precious natural environment and stop plastic pollution. “Supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles should not profit from convenience by selling any form of plastic bags, and  fruit and vegetable should be freed from plastic wrap. The goal has to be to reduce plastic consumption across the board. “A plastic free NSW would also include a phase out of all single-use plastics, a ban on microbeads and a fully-funded plastic pollution strategy” he said.

Sharks should be valued and managed, not culled: Greens

The indiscriminate killing of White Sharks will not make beaches safer and should not be permitted in NSW, according to NSW Greens Marine and Fisheries spokesperson Justin Field. He has called on NSW Minister Niall Blair to rule out the culling of White Sharks in NSW.   Media reports say Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg will consider removing the existing “vulnerable and threatened” protection status for great white sharks following a CSIRO study due later this year. The Daily Telegraph claims the NSW Minister has not “ruled out” a shark cull following the study results     Mr Field said Ministers Frydenberg and Blair suggesting a shark cull in the media long before the CSIRO is complete shows they are only interested in whipping up hysteria and fear about sharks with little interest in the scientific evidence. “The facts and science show the risk of a shark bite is extremely rare and healthy shark populations are essential for a healthy ocean,” he said. “I’m calling on NSW Fisheries Minister Niall Blair not to give in to the Daily Telegraph’s scaremongering and rule out a shark cull in this state. “Shark management has developed and evolved with a suite of effective non-lethal measures including SMART drumlines, community monitoring programs and significant improvements in personal deterrent devices. “Results from the recent trial of SMART drumlines at beaches off the NSW North Coast have found the technology more effective than shark nets in catching and tagging White Sharks. “Minister Niall Blair should make it clear that NSW supports an evidence-based approach to shark management and rule out the culling of White Sharks,” he said.

Greens back Fairfield City Council call for freeze on pokies numbers in 'vulnerable' communities

The NSW Greens support the call by Fairfield City Council for a poker machine freeze in its local area after more than $8 billion was put through the pokies in a year alone. New figures purchased from the Liquor and Gaming Authority and released today by The Greens reveal more than $19.5 billion was put through poker machines in NSW in the quarter ending Feb-March 2017 alone. There are 92,775 pokies in clubs and hotels across NSW. Addictive poker machines took $1.49 billion from NSW communities in the last quarter, according to the new data. NSW Greens MP Justin Field has backed calls from Fairfield City Council for the NSW Government to cap poker machine numbers in ‘vulnerable’ communities where poker machine density is highest and accelerate the overall reduction in poker machines across NSW. “NSW has allowed de facto casinos in our local communities that are ripping billions of dollars from local people and taking a toll on families and individuals,” he said. “Fairfield City Council has shown strong leadership to put people before profits and call for a freeze on more pokies in its local area. The NSW Government must now play its part and give pokies-impacted communities like Fairfield support for a freeze and then reduction in machine numbers. “Poker machines are designed for addiction and to strip money from the community to make profits for shareholders. It’s the responsibility of Minister Paul Toole to protect people and communities. “Despite having enormous losses on pokies, NSW has some of the least transparent access to information about poker machine impacts at specific venues. “NSW, Victoria and Queensland all have similar requirements for the collection of data but only NSW hides the true cost of pokies by making people purchase data and hiding venue-specific data with aggregation and anonymity. “Let’s get this data out in the open for free so local communities and councils can evaluate the true cost of pokies to the community and good councils like Fairfield can make decisions on when enough is enough for local individuals and families,” he said. Find out how much pokies in clubs and hotels are taking from local communities here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3TYzIUkS_e2VmFFaktYNU13WEk

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