Thursday, June 28, 2007

Logging the Strzeleckis

There is a heap of information about the logging that is being undertaken in the Strzelecki Ranges in Gippsland. Those who want to help save the Strzeleckis and establish the sensitive areas known as the 'Cores and Links' as a reserve managed by Trust for Nature, take a look at and sign the petition at
The petition is to SmartWood and the Rainforest Alliance who are the certifying body for the Forest Stewardship Council. Given Hancock's track record, it won't do the credibility of FSC any good if Hancock is able to retain its accreditation while it trashes native forest which is subject to the Heads of Agreement it signed with the Community and the Government.
Have a look at the Friends of the Earth website too at
The plans involving the 'Cores and Links' - important areas identified by Biosis Research - are almost certainly the most vital in terms of biodiversity conservation and impacts on water quality in South Gippsland. Nothing else stacks up.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Certified Organic Audits

As if I didn't have enough to do already, I have just taken part in a three day inspector training workshop with the the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia ( NASAA). I already carry out environmental audits for small businesses including farms, inspect members of the Free Farmers Association for compliance with their regulations and audit farms for the Australian Egg Corporation's 'Egg Corp Assured' program.
It seemed to be a natural progression to add organic audits to the mix and I'm looking forward to it even though time is a precious commodity.
It's hard being away from the farm for three days because there is always so much that needs to be done. I had to take the baby wombat with me - she is the only animal in our wildlife shelter at the moment. She needs around four feeds a day (mostly at night) and by taking her with me it meant that Anne had one less thing to do while I was away.
Our farm is running well and we are getting ready for the arrival of a new point of lay flock.

Friday, June 15, 2007

MPA Williams cuts boundary fence

There's never a shortage of problems on the farm, but I can do without ones generated needlessly by other people. I had a phone call at 7.30 this morning while I was sitting at my computer getting ready for a busy day. A neighbour rang to say that five of our horses were on an adjoining property. My wife and I raced off to see what had happened and we found the 'herd' enjoying itself in new surroundings.
Needless to say, they were quite a handful to get back where they belonged and then we had to work out how they had 'escaped'. It soon became evident!
The fence had been cut by employees of a water monitoring consulting firm MPA Williams, to drill a bore to monitor ground water flows on the land we lease which is owned by a sand extraction company. They had 'repaired' the high tensile barbed wire fence with very fine wire, rather like something that might be used on an old fashioned fuse.
Four hours later, after having moved the horses to where they should be and repaired the fence with wire strainers and replacement wire more suited to the task, I emailed MPA Williams with an invoice for the work which had to be carried out because of their inability to do the job properly.
The response was from a Peter Reid, who presumably was in charge of the crew who undertook the drilling and cut the fence. He said 'When the installation was carried out we were not permitted to access the property through existing gates, and were therefore required to cut the fence to gain access. We were not happy with this.
Nevertheless we carried out our work and repairs were carried out to the fence to the best of our ability. It appears that the repair has been adequate up till now
Well the repair clearly was not adequate. We had not run cattle or horses on the property for some six months because of drought conditions, so the pathetic quality of the fence 'repair' was not obvious.
Why on earth the decision was made to cut the fence when the crew had no tools or equipment to repair it is a demonstration of poor judgement at the very least. Rejoining the barbed wire with baler twine would probably been more effective than the light gauge wire used - but that wouldn't have made the fence stock proof because the wires were not strained!
The company is fortunate that the fence cutting was not on a boundary adjoining a road. The implications of someone being killed by driving a car into a horse don't bear thinking about.
The principal of MPA Williams, Mr Paul Williams is reputed to be an honest and ethical man but he is not always aware of the actions of his staff.
Hopefully this matter can be resolved even though Mr Reid says 'We do not believe that we have been negligent in this instance.' and, at the moment, refuses to pay the invoice.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Logging in the Strzeleckis

The Gippsland community and Friends of the Earth are alarmed that Hancock Victorian Plantations, owned by the US John Hancock group has begun logging in a rainforest reserve in Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges. The reserve was announced by the State Government just before last year's election and involves a $7 million forest buyback currently under negotiation.Under the Memorandum of Understanding associated with the reserve, logging was allowed in certain parts of the reserve, on the proviso that sensitive rainforest areas would be protected. Two of the most sensitive areas were nominated with buffer widths of 100m and 60m.Now the company has been found to be logging a coupe within 10-20 metres of cool temperate rainforest. According to Friends of the Earth researcher Anthony Amis “The Heads of Agreement clearly states that none of this coupe should have been logged at all. This is the second breach of the Heads of the Agreement that we have witnessed within 8 months of Hancock signing the agreement.”Further details are at

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Farmers' Market at Pakenham Racecourse

The Cardinia Ranges Farmers' Market held at Pakenham Racecourse on the second Saturday every month is one of the best places to buy fresh local produce - straight from the grower.
Whether it's free range eggs, cheese, meat (beef, rabbit, pork etc) fish, wine or a wide range of veggies, you can find it all at Pakenham.
So many markets have stalls from all over the place which can hardly be described at 'local' (although I suppose it's local somewhere).
We always do well at Pakenham and have built up a regular customer base - but it's great to see that there are always new faces.
The region is growing so quickly. It's one of the fastest growing areas in the State with houses being built on an unprecedented scale - so the future of the market looks pretty secure.
If you're planning to be at the market this Saturday, come and say hello!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Illegal eggs sold at markets

I had a reasonable day selling our free range eggs at the Kongwak market in South Gippsland today, but it was interesting that at least three other stalls were selling eggs.
It is potentially a real problem for consumers, as even though the number of bodgy eggs was small - probably around 15 dozen in total - consumers are at risk.
The eggs were packed in second hand cartons (which is illegal), they did not met labelling requirements and none of the sellers had food safety programs in place.
The biggest problem for us is that if consumers get sick from eating eggs and they say they bought them at one of the markets where we are the only 'official' egg sellers, we will have to convince health authorities that the eggs were not ours.
It is still a significant issue as the cost of compliance with food safety regulations (including labelling, using new cartons, candeling and grading requirements, refrigeration etc) all add to our costs. The backyard operators ignore all those regulations.
Given the number of markets held each week in Victoria, it's likely that at least 5000 dozen 'illegal' eggs are dumped on consumers at markets. That's around 260,000 dozen a year in the State of Victoria alone - probably more than a million dozen throughout Australia.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Climate Change Petition

On June 7th a petition on global warming will be presented to the G8+5 summit - the meeting of politicians who regard themselves as the most important in the world! Germany is chairing the summit, and is leading the many countries who support strong action on climate change. The German negotiators want an unprecedented global outcry from citizens to strengthen their ability to influence the others -- particularly the US.
If you feel like helping please sign up at: