State of the evnviroment
By MEL MARTIN
EVERYTHING you do has an impact on the environment.
The simple act of having your morning cuppa has required drilling for oil and metal extraction to make the kettle.
It has required land clearing for the tea leaves and sugar cane to be grown and for the cattle to graze so they could produce milk.
Electricity has had to be produced to heat the element to boil the water which has been diverted from a dam or river and treated to ensure safe consumption.
Metal has had to be extracted to make your teaspoon, chemicals have had to be produced to make the detergent to wash your mug, and the teabag will end up in landfill.
So imagine the impact we all have when we drive to work, build a new house or an extension, turn on the computer, or eat dinner.
Recently, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, one of the biggest scientific collaboration ever undertaken involv-
Coffs Harbour is listed as the third most water efficient user in Australia.
Despite a 58 per cent increase in population over the past 18 years, total water consumption in megalitres per year has only risen by one per cent.
Irrigation uses the most amount of water, followed by pisciculture, farming, domes- tic, and stock.
Coffs Harbour residents rely heavily on the use of private motor vehicles due to its dispersed towns, hilly topography and generally inadequate public transport system. Registrations of vehicles in the region continue to increase, with almost 45,000 reg- istered in 2003.
At the last census in 2001, 79 per cent of Coffs Harbour commuters travelled by car or truck as drivers, and 11 per cent as passengers. Only five per cent walked and two per cent rode a bicycle.
Australia is one of the highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases. In 2002, Coff Harbour City Council es- timated that each Coffs Harbour resident emitted 16 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
In 1995, Coffs Harbour shire residents emitted nearly 800,000 tonne of greenhouse gases, a figure that could grow to nearly 1.2 million tonne by 2010.
From 1950 to 2003, the NSW annual mean maximum temperature rose 0.15 degrees per decade, with the minimum rising 0.19 degrees per decade. The rainfall has increased 14mm per decade, and the sea level risen around 1.2mm per year.
While the waste Coffs Harbour residents produce has steadily increased over the past few years, the amount going to landfill has only slightly increased with more waste recycled or composted.
In 2003-04, each resident produced around 1600 kilos of waste, of which 588 kilos went to landfill.
Littering is a big issue for our waterways. Of the 46 cubic metres of materials removed from stormwater pollutant traps over one year, 25 per cent was litter.
Cigarette butts are one of the most poisonous pollutants, presenting a threat to waterways and wildlife and a risk of fire.
In 2003-04, there were 77 complaints regarding oil spills, rubbish dumping and vegetation clearing.
The Coffs Harbour local government area has 44 per cent state forest and national park, and 56 per cent private land, council or Crown re- serves.
Clearing vegetation can result in erosion, reduced soil fertility, loss of biodiversity, and reduced water quality.
Of the high value vegetation on coastal land, 607 hectares have been identified at critical threat being zoned for urban development, 720 hectares are not protected by zoning and could be cleared without consent and 1928 hectares are protected through zoning, but private, and possibly under threat of clearing.
In rural areas, 77 hectares were identified at risk for be- ing in development zones, 10,084 hectares zoned for rural purposes and not specifically protected, but not considered to be at immediate threat.
Of the 36,385 hectares of land managed by Forests NSW in 2003-04, 1185 hectares were logged. About 70 per cent was native forest and 30 per cent plantation.
About 853 hectares of native vegetation are cleared in Coffs Harbour per year with approval from the NSW Government. There are additional clearances with and without the approval of council.
31 threatened plant species and 92 threatened animal species ? 21 of which are listed as endangered and 71 as vulnerable ? are known to be found on the Coffs Coast. These include marine species.
Many introduced plants have become weeds in the region, putting pressure on its biodiversity by competing with native vegetation and altering natural habitat and food sources.
Reliance on pesticides from the banana industry means a high level of chemical use on the Coffs Coast. However, many of the persistent organo-chlorine chemicals are no longer in use and attitudes to pesticide have changed signifi- cantly.
Our creeks show contamination from faeces, exceeding Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) enterococci standards by at least 30 per cent and in some cases, such as Chinamans, Coffs, Jordans, Pinebrush, Fiddamans and Arrawarra creeks by more than 75 per cent.
For faecal coliform samples, ANZECC standards were exceeded at Chinamans, Coffs, Jordans and Fiddamans creeks.
Chinamans, Jordans, Fiddamans and Coffs creeks are consistently prone to poor water quality, show- ing high bacterial levels.
(Source: Coffs Harbour City Coun- cil State of the Environment 2004)ing 1360 scientists from 95 countries, found that human activities have caused irreversible changes to the natural world.
A UN atlas, One Planet, Many People, illustrates major environmental changes through satellite photos of specific areas, such as Sydney, where comparative photos taken as far back as the 1970s then again this year show the receding forests and advancing suburbs.
And the British Antarctic Survey Group has discovered through thousands of photos that in the past 50 years, 87 per cent of Antarctic glaciers have retreated due to rising temperatures.
Meanwhile, the world population continues to grow unabated ? many joining the ranks of seachangers growing Coffs Harbour's population, which is anticipated to grow to 85,000 by 2021.
The Coffs Coast, together with the Clarence Valley, is estimated to more than double in the next 50 years, from 95,000 to about 220,000.
With many environmental pressures coming from popula- tion growth, this will need to be managed carefully.
Population growth brings increased needs for housing and recreation that require land clearing, increased demand for energy, more pollution, and more waste.
Currently, the ecological footprint of Coffs Harbour residents is 2.77 hectares per person, meaning that 2.19 earths would be needed for all inhabitants to sustain this level of lifestyle.
The ecological footprint is a concept based on calculating how much of the earth's resources, materials and energy each of us uses and converting that into the equivalent area of the earth's surface.
The calculation includes the land needed for water collection, waste disposal, food and energy production, transport and residential space.
"This suggests we are living well beyond our means at present and significant changes by individuals, businesses and council are required to reduce our individual footprints," Coffs Harbour City Council State of the En- vironment (SoE) report said.