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EcoUpdate: November 2023

Dear Friend,

November’s EcoUpdate includes our usual mix of local issues and happenings – I hope you will also have time to read some of the thought-provoking articles we have included such as the Green vs Green dilemma. Although we live in one of the best places on earth, we should always take note and care about what else is important in Australia and around the world.

A huge thank you to all our EcoUpdate contributors and everyone who gives their time to support the amazing conservation work that all our members and affiliated groups undertake and achieve. Not bad for a 100% volunteer organisation!

Warmest regards


PS Please share this newsletter with your friends, or they can sign up to receive it directly.

How to beat ‘rollout rage’: the environment-versus-climate battle

In considering the environmental effects of the proposed Willatook wind farm in Victoria, the Planning Minister ruled that the developers were to build wider buffers around the wind turbines and observe a five-month ban on work at the site over each of the two years of construction.

Why? To protect the wetlands and breeding season of the threatened Brolga and the habitat of the critically endangered southern bent-wing bat.

The green vs green dilemma: How will governments reconcile their responses to the world’s two biggest environmental problems: climate change and biodiversity loss?

Read more

Caring for Country – with a cool burn

A Caring for Country event was held on 26 October to help community group members learn about the benefits of a culturally-informed cool burn – a low-intensity fire designed to improve land health, re-establish appropriate fire regimes, and reduce the risk and impact of wildfires.

This workshop in Mallabula was hosted by Port Stephens Council which supports an Aboriginal-led working group to develop a ‘Culturally-informed Cool Burn’ fire management strategy over the next 3 years.

The Firesticks Alliance believes that Caring for Country the right way means centring Indigenous knowledge in land management.

Read more

The workshop also included updates on Koala Programs including the Council’s Port Stephens Drive Koala Road Strike Mitigation Project and the Koala Landholder Partnership Program.

How native bees could help save Australian agriculture

Varroa Mites, a devastating parasite of European honeybees, were discovered in honeybee hives at Newcastle, NSW, in June 2022. Sadly, by September 2023, surveillance by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) revealed that Varroa Mites had spread to 277 locations in NSW. Management not eradication is now the focus.

Fortunately, research has shown that Varroa Mites cannot attack Australian native bees directly. This crisis highlights the vital importance of developing native bees as alternative pollinators for Australian agricultural crops.

Find out more

Hunter offshore wind farms – questions and answers

EcoNetwork Port Stephens took a public position on the proposal for Hunter offshore wind farms in early September 2023.

We believe that more information is needed before any rush to conclusions, which is creating tensions and division in the community.

We offer the following answers to Frequently Asked Questions, to assist in ongoing public discussion. Questions such as Why do we need offshore wind? Or, Can we trust the assessment processes?

Read more

Between a rock and a hard place

If approved, the Stony Ridge Quarry is expected to produce approximately 1.5 million tonnes of hard rock per annum, largely to supply the construction industry. Indeed we need materials for construction projects, although we need to be smarter about how we use these materials, and where we mine for them.

Sustainability expert Rob McCann states that there are so many ways we can reduce demand and thus reduce the frenzy of quarrying, at least so we aren’t at the point where we are clearing natural habitat in areas like Wallaroo State Forest.

Read more

We must protect nature from death by a thousand cuts

Australia’s national environment protection law ignores the big picture. Like a racehorse wearing blinkers, decision-makers focus on a single project in isolation. If they dropped the blinkers and considered the combined effects of multiple projects, they might shy away from allowing so many harmful impacts.

In response to international concern for the Great Barrier Reef, a cumulative impact policy was introduced – but it only relates to the reef. What is the way forward?

Read more

Our Members in Action – Walter Lamond

Over 60 people attended Walter Lamond’s book launch last month at the Tomaree Library. His book Reflecting on Landcare traces the history of landcare in Soldiers Point and Salamander Bay.

Walter said, “While the book does not purport to be a definitive historical document, I have tried to capture the evolution of Landcare in Salamander Bay and Soldiers Point. I have reported on the many challenges and successes of the group.”

Read Walter’s story

Voice to Parliament – statement by EcoNetwork

EcoNetwork Post Stephens believes rightful recognition of, and genuine reconciliation with, First Nations Peoples is fundamental to protecting nature in Australia.

EcoNetwork supported the Voice to Parliament as a positive step forward in empowering First Nations Peoples of Australia to have their say to government on the policies and decisions that affect them. We are saddened and regret that the Voice referendum was unsuccessful.

We believe that as part of an environmental movement we can respectfully learn and take action to protect Country together.  

Read our full statement

Innovation Roadshow comes to Port Stephens

Local members of Renew’s Hunter Region Branch attended a Hunter Innovation Festival Roadshow event last month. Hosted by Varley Group at their Tomago plant, this special event was supported by Port Stephens Council which recognises the contribution of local businesses to global innovative solutions.

The event highlighted the large scale energy storage needed to address not only residential but industrial energy needs as the world transitions to renewable energy. 

Pictured here are Councillor Steve Tucker, Alex Post from MGA Thermal and Deputy Mayor Leah Anderson.

Read More

Staying cool and healthy at home in an El Niño summer

Most homes in Australia are not built for extreme heat, averaging 2 NatHERS stars out of 10. But there are simple retrofits, appliance changes and behaviour adaptations that can make your home more comfortable and safe under prolonged heatwave conditions – for both owners and renters.

Last month, Renew Hunter Region Branch hosted a meeting with guest presenters Dr John Shiel from EnviroSustain and John L Hayes, a serial sustainable home renovator who provided an owner/DIY perspective.

If you missed the meeting, we have the powerpoint available here.

See the presentation

We also have lots of handy hints on things you can do to Save on Energy Costs

Walk ‘n’ Talk with the Birds

What is most surprising about bushwalking in Salamander Bay is the number and variety of birds you can encounter. But even then, you need an expert to identify what is what!

Nigel Dique writes about our recent Walk ‘n’ Talk with the Birds led by Neil Fraser during Aussie Bird Week and lists the species the group spotted. Includes beautiful photography by Colin Sheringham.

Read More

Clean ‘n’ Cruise News

An Olympian, an explosives expert, and a nurse walk onto a boat.

No joke! No pun, but there was a bunch of muddy fun. These are just a few of the people that have volunteered with Hunter Local Land Services to remove waste from our waterways.

Fires, floods, and informal dumps over the years have seen a lot of debris entering our environment. The Clean&Cruise program engages Clean4Shore to host marine clean ups to improve the health of our waterways.

Read More

Have your say on EV charging

Port Stephens Council currently has on exhibition, proposed changes to the Development Control Plan (DCP) to support future installation of Electric Vehicle Charges in two specific scenarios, for residents in new apartment buildings and for people using fast chargers at new commercial car parks such as shopping centres.

These changes ensure the Port Stephens DCP aligns with changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) that were implemented in October this year.

More details on the DCP changes are on Council’s website. Submissions close 13 November.

Make a submission

Book reviews

Please consider submitting a short 300 word review. Contact the EcoUpdate Editor for more details.

The Indi Way – how a rural community sparked a social and political movement. Reviewed by David Dungavell.

Indi is a federal electorate in North Eastern Victoria taking in several country towns. The story begins in 2012 with a small group of individuals who formed a group called “Voices for Indi”.  The rest is history.

The naturalist of Amsterdam. Reviewed by Alison Rogers.

My favourite genre is historical fiction. The Naturalist of Amsterdam by Melissa Ashley did not disappoint. I was transported back to the turn of the 18th Century and felt privileged to experience life in Holland and South America’s colonial Suriname through the character of Dorothea Graff.

Read the Reviews


  • Bird Calendars by Mat Spillard now available. If you came to our woodland bird forum or Walter Lamond’s book launch, you will have enjoyed Mat Spillard’s presentation of his photography from around Port Stephens. Now you can own a calendar of Mat’s beautiful images or buy one as a gift for someone special this festive season. There is a choice of 2 calendars. More details and how to order.
  • An update on Work Integrated Learning – EcoNetwork Reflections by Courtney Kelly
  • So why does Peter Dutton suddenly care about whales?
  • Write to your MP in support of better voter protections in political advertising – Zali Steggall bill to Parliament 13 November 2023.
  • Is nuclear the answer to Australia’s climate crisis?
  • EcoNetwork’s Koala Koalition has been busy with submissions, especially in relation to quarries – read them here.
  • The NSW Government is seeking public feedback on its proposal to ban or enforce new design standards on a range of plastic products and materials. Items being considered include single-use plastic dinnerware and food containers, heavyweight shopping bags, produce bags, helium-filled balloons, plastic ice-cream and lollipop sticks. Submissions open until 4 February 2024.

What’s On

For these and lots more exciting events, please see our community calendar. You can also upload your events there. (t&c apply).

  • Newcastle Climate Action Summit Newcastle City Hall, November 18 @ 9:00 am – 4:30 pm. An interactive day, with small group discussion, table talks and workshops. We’ll all learn, share and connect.
  • Port Stephens Walking Group’s Great Walks. November – December dates still available.
  • Renew Hunter Region Branch end of year BBQ, Hunter Wetlands Centre, Shortlands. Sunday 26 November 11am – 3pm. Everyone welcome.
  • ORRCA Rescue Member Training 2 December all day, Salamander Bay. Are you interested in rescuing whales, dolphins, seals and dugongs? Cost is only $99. 
  • Fly Point Halifax Park Market Day, Nelson Bay, December 3 @ 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. EcoNetwork will have a stall and picnic celebrating 40 years of the Fly Point Halifax marine park and 30 years of EcoNetwork Port Stephens.

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