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EcoUpdate: January 2023

Dear members, friends and supporters,

A bumper edition of EcoUpdate for you this month! While many of you have been lazing around over the summer break, EcoNetwork and affiliated groups have been busy busy busy! So sit back and enjoy reading about our local wildlife projects, submissions completed as campaigns continue and what new events you’d like to attend as part of EcoNetwork’s 30th anniversary this year.

Despite the frustrations and challenges of 2022, one notable positive change has been a move by Australians to take a greater interest in sustainability and innovation. The demand for lower cost electric vehicles is unprecedented and there is a growing recognition that energy efficient homes are not only better for the environment but will save us on costs. After all, whether you like it or not – money makes the world go round.

Three of our affiliates have organised an array of activities they would like to invite you to. From guided walks with Mambo-Wanda Wetlands Group, to getting active in nature with the Port Stephens Walking Group, to learning about practical home design principles with Renew’s President Dick Clarke, a sustainable building designer. More details below.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at one or all of these events.

Ewa Meyer

Here are previous editions of EcoUpdate, most content is still current. Please forward this edition to anyone you like (or don’t like) and they can sign up to receive it directly.

EcoNetwork founder Darrell Dawson wins Port Stephens Freeman Award

EcoNetwork is very proud to announce that EcoNetwork founder, Darrell Dawson, has been awarded Freeman of Port Stephens for his eminent service to the Port Stephens community over many years.

In this our 30th year, it is most fitting moment to recognise our founder’s commitment and successes, and to celebrate his efforts.

Photo shows Mr Dawson surrounded by friends from EcoNetwork at the awards ceremony.

Hear about Darrell’s early life and why he founded EcoNetwork Port Stephens.

‘Why your garden matters …

a wild guide to joining the plots in Port Stephens‘ is a new webpage we have developed to assist residents, groups, schools and businesses in creating a wildlife-friendly garden, nature strip or balcony.

As wildlife habitat shrinks, the corridors for essential seasonal or genetic movement also disappear. This is where you can help.

We provide tips on how to attract local wildlife to your garden, show examples of bird species you might encounter as well as offering a habitat planting guide and brochure you can download. Printed brochures are available on request. The webpage is a great resource and we’d love to hear if you find it useful.

Read More

Update on Anna Bay Helipad … and more from TRRA

EcoUpdate readers may recall reading about a proposed helicopter base at Anna Bay next to the cemetery. The proponents have recently appealed against the refusal of their DA by Port Stephens Council. The Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association (TRRA) has applied to be heard at a Land and Environment Court ‘conference’ on the matter on 13 March.

We are very fortunate to have a community watchdog like TRRA looking after residents’ interests. Read more about this and other local issues that TRRA has been busy dealing with – regional planning, quarries, various Council policies and transparency have all been under the spotlight.

Read More

Tracking critically endangered Regent Honeyeaters

Woodland Bird Program Manager at BirdLife Australia, Mick Roderick, introduces us to the Regent Honeyeater captive release program.

The Regent Honeyeater is a critically endangered bird that is now so few in number that there is an active breeding program underway, not just so that we have an insurance population but also to supplement the extremely small wild population, which may be as few as 250 individuals.

Mick introduces us to two of the birds – “Red Red” and “White White” which were released not far from Port Stephens in the Lower Hunter near Cessnock.

Find out more

Three special invitations for you!

Join Mambo-Wanda Wetlands Group in celebrating World Wetlands Day, not just on one day, but through the whole month of February! Come to one or more of the following walks and talks. Free but bookings essential.

Why a house has to be beautiful to be sustainable. Join EcoNetwork’s newest affiliate group, Renew Hunter Branch on 22 February with guest speaker Dick Clarke, the National President of Renew, sustainable building designer and multi-award winning Principal of Envirotecture. More details and RSVP.

Time to get active in nature. Join a couple of friendly and knowledgeable groups, the Port Stephens Walking Group to connect with nature, or its sister group, the Friends of Tomaree National Park, to take action for nature. Read more about how to get involved.

Keep in touch and up to date with what’s on in and around Port Stephens. Non-profit groups – promote your public events on our new Community Events Calendar.

Get Involved: Enjoying the journey

Slowing down over the summer break provides a great opportunity for reflecting on what has happened and thinking about what you would like to do during the year ahead. This edition of Get Involved may help with this reflective process.

Up to now the series has explored the personal benefits of volunteering, how to be more inclusive, the power of collaborating, decision-making, differences of opinion and how to capitalise on change.

But the most important message, that allows everything else to fall into place, is to make sure you enjoy the journey.

Read More

Killer cats – we must act now!

Annually, cats kill 609 million reptiles, 399 million birds and 1,067 million mammals. That is over 2 billion native animals each year yet it barely warrants a mention unlike the figure of 3 billion wildlife deaths from the 2019-2020 black summer fires.

Do you know who to approach for information to deal with a neighbour’s prowling cat, or when you find remains of a wallaby in a bushland reserve or national park? Port Stephens Council is not necessarily the first port of call.

We attempt to clarify who is responsible where and how, and whether after decades of evidence, what is being done to address this most urgent threat to biodiversity by governments and by cat owners?

Find out more

Attn: Port Stephens Councillors, property developers!

Did you know that dendrophobia is defined as the fear of trees? But there are also newly-identified tree phobias as follows:

  • Arboraphobia: the irrational fear or dislike of trees.
  • Arborafallaphobia: an inexplicable fear of being hit by a tree; overwhelming feeling that all trees are dangerous. Symptoms first occur when wanting to develop property.
  • Arboragoraphobia: an uncontrollable fear of being surrounded by trees; only known cure is to remove all trees. Paradoxically, people with this condition are drawn to areas with lots of trees. Medicos are unsure why. Again, symptoms first occur when wanting to develop property.

The planet is warming – trees help to keep our neighbourhoods, shopping centres and parks cooler. Does Port Stephens Council have a Street Tree Policy?

Which Plant Where has been developed by Macquarie and Western Sydney Universities and Hort Innovation providing tools and resources to enable climate-ready decision-making for resilient green spaces of the future. Visitors to the site can search and view over 2600 species, their traits and growing conditions by location.

Street trees are on the front line of urban forest service delivery, supporting neighbourhood character, human health, waterway health, biodiversity, tourism and business vitality. In order to deliver these benefits, street trees must be well suited to the local conditions. Find out more

Sharing the shore with nesting birds

At this busy time of the year for shorebirds, NSW DPE has launched an awareness campaign. Here are a few simple steps you can take to help keep beach-nesting birds safe:

  • Look out for bird nesting signs or roped-off nesting areas on the beach.
  • Walk your dogs on dog-friendly beaches only and always keep them on a leash.
  • Drive only on designated beaches and keep below the high-tide mark.
  • If you’re near a nesting area, stick to the wet sand – give birds lots of space.
  • Report sightings to the Environment Line or on 1300 361 967
  • Take 3 for the sea, or 4 for the shore – pick up rubbish and dispose of it properly.

To report a disturbance caused by or to wildlife or bushland, call the Environment Line on 1300 361 967 or by email.

Sharing the shore with beach nesting birds

Tips from the pros on observing and photographing nesting shorebirds

Book reviews

Here are some mind-blowing good reads for the new year. This month two of our members are giving you a head start!

The books reviewed are ‘Humanity’s Moment: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope’ by Joëlle Gergis and ‘The Sacrificial Valley – Coal’s legacy to the Hunter’ by John Drinan. There’s also an uplifting podcast recommended by Kassia Klinger.

Read the Reviews

Recent Submissions

Some recent submissions by EcoNetwork members and affiliates:

Important reminder: please register to receive DA notifications by email directly from Port Stephens Council.

Until 30 June, Council is trialling a DA awareness campaign that includes reinstating advertising in the Port Stephens Examiner as well as a new e-subscription service. It aims to increase opportunities for the community to contribute to broader decision-making. A review in July will determine whether this continues as a permanent initiative – so please take this opportunity to be informed and have your say. It’s too late to complain after the fact!

To receive email updates of DAs lodged with Council, subscribe to the e-subscription via Councils website. If you have any questions, please email Emily Livens, Communications and Engagement Coordinator or phone on 4988 0503.


  • Fortunately, a Nelson Bay turtle has been saved by vets after swallowing five fishing hooks. The incident has prompted a plea for people not to discard their fishing lines, hooks, plastic and other rubbish on foreshores or beaches but to dispose of them properly. Read More.
  • Shifting sands raise concerns about the future of coastal communities. Read More
  • The Federal Government is developing a ‘Nature Repair Market’ to encourage investment in biodiversity and drive environmental improvements. It will be underpinned by legislation – the Nature Repair Market Bill. Further consultation will work through details of the scheme and how people can participate. Submissions close 24 February. Visit the website.
  • Interesting article about it from The Conversation: ‘The Government hopes private investors will help save nature. Here’s how the scheme could fail.
  • Friday essay: the koala – when it’s smart to be slow

What’s on

  • 4 – 31 January 2023. Shorebird Exhibition Tomaree Library. Organised by Hunter Region Landcare Network.
  • Sunday 19 February. 8.30am – 12pm Boulder Bay climbing site off the Tomaree Coastal Walk. Book here.
  • 5 – 26 February. World Wetlands Day Program of walks and talks organised by Mambo-Wanda Wetlands Group. The events are free but bookings are essential – see EcoNetwork calendar.
  • Wednesday 22 February 5.30pm – 7.00pm. Raymond Terrace Community Hall in Boomerang Park. Renew Hunter Region Branch presents ‘Why a house has to be beautiful to be sustainable.’ Our special guest presenter is multi-award winning sustainable building designer and the new National President of Renew, Dick Clarke. Come and hear about what sustainable living is all about. RSVP here.
  • Saturday 4 March am at Box Beach and Sunday 5 March am at Fishermans Bay. Join the Friends of Tomaree NP group for Clean Up Australia Day. More details and how to get involved.
  • Sunday 19 March 2023 Sustainable House Day. Various locations tba. Follow Renew Hunter Region Branch facebook.

EcoNetwork Port Stephens

Our Vision: Ecologically sustainable communities existing in harmony with the natural environment.

Our Purpose: To support our members and to educate and advocate on environmental issues that impact Port Stephens communities. : : facebook