2011 Annual General Meeting

The great news I have for you today is that lowland rainforest of subtropical Australia has been approved for listing as a Critically Endangered Ecological Community under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

This is a wonderful achievement for our group and a tribute to our great team of scientific advisors who did a huge amount of voluntary work in putting together the very demanding nomination document and in helping to progress the nomination through the long assessment process to its successful conclusion.

I would like the meeting to pass a special vote of thanks to Annette McKinley, Barbara Stewart, David Milledge, Nan Nicholson, Paul O’Connor and Rob Kooyman for their great contribution to achieving the national listing of Lowland Rainforest of Subtropical Australia as a Critically Endangered Ecological Community.
I would also like to thank Carmel Flint whom we retained as a consultant and who in the short time available did an excellent job in mapping the current and pre-1750 extent of the community across its range from Maryborough in central Qld to the Hunter in NSW in order to determine the percentage remaining. You may recall that we had to enlist her help a year ago because the Qld, NSW and Commonwealth governments failed to deliver on their mapping undertakings and we had to be able to demonstrate that less than 10% of the pre-1750 area remained so as to meet that important criterion for endangered listing.

We started working on the nomination three years ago and lodged it in March 2009.

Since then it has been a frustratingly slow process, particularly since early this year when the draft listing advice was completed. However, the Minister eventually approved the listing just two weeks ago and the legal formalities should be completed in the next day or so.
So, although it took two and a half years, the Commonwealth process was much quicker than the six years it took for NSW Government to process the nomination lodged by Gary Shearman on behalf of Big Scrub Landcare that resulted in the listing of lowland rainforest on the NSW North Coast as an EEC under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act.

You will recall that we sought the Commonwealth listing primarily to give greater recognition and protection to the remaining patches of lowland rainforest and to help access grants from Caring for our Country because one of the investment priorities of the Caring for our Country Business Plans has been conservation of Commonwealth-listed endangered ecological communities.

However, now that we have achieved the listing of lowland rainforest, I am concerned that the Caring for our Country Biodiversity priorities are now changing to climate change and carbon sequestration.

Some of you may have seen the Fact Sheet on the Commonwealth’s new Biodiversity Fund I circulated on Friday.

A major aim seems to be planting thousands of trees in wildlife corridors, which they can count, record the areas covered, and calculate the tonnes of carbon sequestered.

Whether we can access funds to manage and enhance the 90  endangered lowland rainforest remnants that we and our many partners look after so as to maintain their biodiversity and carbon benefits remains to be seen but I must admit I am not very hopeful and don’t relish another interminable battle with the bureaucracy.

We have failed in our last three Caring for our Country applications in spite of numerous submissions and lobbying.
We even failed in our efforts to have the Border Ranges Rainforest BMP included as a priority for CfoC funding, despite the fact that the Commonwealth spent a huge amount on the plan’s development and accepted it as one of the new regional recovery plans that I understand are supposed to supersede recovery plans for individual threatened species and ecosystems.

On-ground Work

Turning now to our on-ground work, the major highlight of the 2011 financial year was the successful completion of our seventh ET project. This $100,000 grant was supplemented by contributions of around $75,000. The total project delivered 400 days of weed control by professional regenerators at 36 endangered lowland rainforest sites with a total area of 240 ha  of which  127 ha was weeded. 

Other Activities of Note

The 2010 Big Scrub Day at Alstonville attracted a good crowd but was below expectations, which is attributable at least in part to problems with promotion. As usual our committee, and the many volunteers on the day, did a great job: without their dedication and hard work the event could not go on.

Our particular thanks go to Stephanie Lymburner, Georgie Jones, Tara Patel, Vanessa Ekins, Anthony Acret, Paul Shipway, John Chamberlain, Alan Rowe and, of course, to our scientists and other experts who did the walks, talks and workshops.

•    Our website has been further improved with more information downloadable, thanks to the skills of Jesse Vandenbosch, who does this work as a volunteer.
•    Our newsletter continues to  be widely read and greatly appreciated. This is involves a huge amount of work by Ken Dorey, our editor, to whom we say a big thank you.
•    Our manuals continue to find buyers and I wish to thank Mark Dunphy and his colleagues for handling their distribution for the past several years, and also Pauline Roatz at EnviTE who has recently taken over that task as well as doing all of our accounting administration, banking etc.

•    We also held two field days during the past year. Their success is a tribute to their organisers, particularly Alan Rowe, Stephanie Lymburner, John Leedom and Ken Dorey.

Partners and Supporters

As I’m sure members know, a key to our Group’s ongoing success is the strong long-term relationships we have with our partners and supporters.

Our leading partner is EnviTE, who do such a great job for our group in working with us on funding applications, in managing our projects and doing all our accounting and funds management.  EnviTE are a major sponsor and supporter of the Big Scrub Day and they assist us in so many other ways.

 We extend our particular thanks to Graham Bird, who retired early this year, his replacement Meg Nichols, Mike Delaney, our Vice President, Paul O’Connor, Peter Hughes, who also left EnviTE this year to run his own accounting practice, his replacement Jonathan Edwards,  Maree Thompson, Pauline Roatz and Georgie Jones.

I also want to acknowledge and thank our major financial supporters:
•    the NSW Environmental Trust, the main financier of our Big Scrub remnant rehabilitation project for 14 years, which has provided us with more than $700,000 of funding
•    Rainforest Rescue, which we co-founded and which has been a supporter of the Big Scrub Restoration activities for more than a decade 

We are most grateful for the ongoing support of our other partners in the Endangered Lowland Rainforest Restoration consortium, including: NPWS, now part of OEH; Rous Water; Lismore, Ballina and Tweed Councils; Richmond, Brunswick Valley and Tweed Landcare; plus, of course, the more than 50 other landholders and land managers involved in our Endangered Lowland Rainforest Restoration Program.

Thanks to our People

The continuing success of our Group is totally reliant on the dedication, skills and hard work of a small band of wonderful people, to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude.

I have already mentioned our committee members Mike Delaney, Julien and Stephanie Lymburner, Ken Dorey, Mark Dunphy, Alan Rowe, John Chamberlain and Jesse vandenbosch.

We have also formally thanked each of our great scientific advisors.

I also want to thank our secretary John Leedom and Martin Brook, who looks after our PR despite being incredibly busy running a very successful business with his wife Pam, whom I also thank for her great contribution in representing our Group and all other landcarers on the Australian Landcare Council.
Special thanks go to Darren Bailey who leads our number one regen team and who makes a major contribution to the planning, running and monitoring of our on-ground projects.

Finally a big thank you to all of our landholder members who devote so much time, effort and money to restoring rainforest on their properties.

Financial report

I have pleasure in tabling Big Scrub Landcare’s Financial Report for the year ended 30th June 2011 prepared by our auditors.

The Group’s financial position continues to be strong. Our accumulated surplus is $135,000 and in addition we have $26,000 in the Big Scrub Rainforest fund.

Income for the year, excluding project grants, was almost $36,000 and exactly matched expenditures, so that we achieved a break-even result.

We achieved this result by appropriating $5,152 from the Big Scrub Rainforest Fund to cover part of the bush regen expenses of $11,548 that the group had to pick up for maintenance weed control work at sites such as Booyong that are not covered by our Environmental Trust grants and by donations from Rainforest Rescue, which were less than expected. Also, because of an administrative oversight, for which I take responsibility, we failed to bill Ballina Council for maintenance weed control work we did at Lumley Park, Dalwood and Willowbank.

Our expenses were also much higher than the previous year because of the $8,000 we spent on consulting fees related to the nomination of Lowland Rainforest as a Commonwealth endangered ecological community.

Big Scrub Day expenses were $7,800 and were amply covered by Big Scrub Day income of almost $8,800.

Thank you.

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