21st October 2013

A large part of our country is on fire and yesterday while watching TV I saw images that are terrifying. Hundreds of houses have been lost, but luckily Australians are becoming so good at evacuating that only a few people have perished. This is amazing and a tribute to the Australian spirit of helping each other in a crisis.
 
Dave Mitchell, our Landscape Ecologist sent me this image of an area that we have mapped and wrote a Koala Plan of Management back in the 1990’s. I imagine the carnage for the Koalas and other wildlife in there is shocking. We will await the news as the fires go out and volunteers go in to find survivors.
 
A newsreader yesterday when describing the fires said the fires were burning in an area that was “uninhabited”, I was sitting with an animal lover at the time who said “what about the animals” and I decided that I wanted to write my Diary about how we, in the city, forget how shocking it can be when Mother Nature reeks her fury on us. For those who are regular readers of my Diary you will remember that Hurricane Sandy (31st October) was the largest Hurricane in history and when I saw the fires on the map last night, It dawned on me that every event “they are getting bigger” and presumably doing more damage.  I can also assume they are costing more; lives, houses, wild animals, livestock, photographs, memorabilia, memories and of course mental health.  It is well known that those who suffer these losses take years to recover and sometimes do not at all. I cannot imagine losing my home, my animals and every single tree I have planted over these many years.
 
So, where does AKF fit in to all this? We do not look after sick and injured animals. We do not run a hospital, but what we do, is map habitats. Yet again I know  these are essential for good planning to protect our cities, our towns and our biodiversity.
 
Do I think Australian politicians know this; no, I do not.
 
Two weeks ago, our new Environment Minister, Mr. Greg Hunt (g[email protected]) approved some coal seam gas in a Koala habitat called the Pilliga Scrub in western New South Wales. I sent him this Koala Habitat Atlas which clearly shows that the impact of the pipe line and the wells is in Koala habitat.  Because AKF did not go on site, it is impossible to make a value judgement about whether it will or will not affect Koalas in the area. What do you think? Write something on our Facebook.  
So the next question is do I think this type of mapping was involved in the approval process? No, I don’t.
 
Another question. Why not? Because this project was given what they call “controlled action” status and it was given prior to the Koala being listed as a federally listed species.
 
Last week, I was contacted by some activists trying to save 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres) that will be destroyed by coal mines and guess what “the project had been given controlled action status prior to the Koala listing May 2012”. Isn’t that a coincidence?    
 
We have maps of that region too. Did they get used by either the coal companies or the Government? No they did not. Worse still they didn’t even get used by the activists who have had them for two years. Why not? Probably because they don’t really understand the power of them to predict what is on the ground.
Another question? Does Government want them?   
 
I will answer that next Diary.
 
I am confident that your support of the AKF is more important now than at any other time in history. I think all of us are taking this fragile world for granted and mapping plays a key role. We have been visionary in this regard. Please find a way to donate – remember we take no Government funds.
 
Deborah