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Environment & Waterways Alliance featured in Australian Business News Source Magazine

Mick Callan

The Australian Business News Source Magazine, a growing digital publication that caters to top senior executives, has featured the Environment & Waterways Alliance in their current issue.

A theme of the January-February 2017 issue of the magazine is the 202020 Vision; a collaborative project that aims to make urban areas 20% greener by the year 2020.  As a proud partner of this initiative, the Environment & Waterways Alliance was chosen to feature in the magazine.

The article discusses the history of the Alliance, the current projects that are being implemented as well as the many challenges facing the 18 Alliance Member Councils.

While the interview with then Project Support Officer of the Alliance, Mick Callan, was conducted in late 2016, many of the issues are still pertinent to the Alliance moving forward.

To read the article as well as the entire current edition of the Australian Business News Source Magazine please refer to: Australian Business News Source Magazine Jan-Feb 2017.

New strain of rabbit virus released this week across the Central Tablelands

Mick Callan

A new strain of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus is being released across the Central Tablelands this week to reduce the impact of wild rabbits on agriculture and the environment.

Landholders, Local Land Services and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) are working together to release the RHDV1 K5 virus across more than two hundred control sites in NSW.

This work is part of a national project to reduce wild rabbit numbers—a damaging pest species estimated to reduce Australia’s agricultural productivity by over $200 million each year. Wild rabbits also have a direct impact on 304 threatened species nationally.

This is the first time in 20 years that a new rabbit biocontrol agent is being released into Australia. However, RHDV1 K5 is not a new virus. It is a strain of the existing virus already widespread in Australia, commonly known as calicivirus.

Unlike previous biocontrol releases, the K5 strain will not result in a 90 per cent reduction of wild rabbit populations. Rather, it is expected to ‘boost’ current management and help slow down the increase in rabbit numbers.

Farmers should continue to manage wild rabbits on their land, said Tim Seears.

“We know that rabbit biocontrol is not a silver bullet solution and is most beneficial if applied as part of an integrated and complementary pest management approach,” Tim Seears said.

“We recommend landholders carry out follow-up control measures after the release of the virus. The release of the K5 virus offers a chance for a conversation with neighbours for coordinated rabbit control across the landscape.”

Pet owners should contact a veterinarian for advice on how to protect their rabbits, with online information available from the Australian Veterinary Association

The national release of RHDV1 K5 has been delivered through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, with major financial and in kind resources provided by the Australian and NSW governments, CSIRO, Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia.

The release of RHDV1 K5 comes after more than 10 years of testing through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre RHD Boost project.

Landholders and other community members can report sightings of rabbits or evidence of disease through the Rabbit Scan online portal

To keep up to date with progress of the RHDV1 K5 release visit

Searching for Skinks on Newnes Plateau

Mick Callan

Researchers and Local Land Services staff have pulled on their gumboots to search swamps on the Newnes Plateau near Lithgow for a very special lizard found only in the Blue Mountains.

“This is the first stage in a 10 year monitoring and rehabilitation project aimed at protecting the Blue Mountains Water Skink through the ‘Swamped by Threats’ project,” explained Marg Duffy from Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

“The skinks depend on healthy upland swamps for their survival, but the swamps themselves are under threat and the skinks are in danger of extinction.”

The Blue Mountains Water Skink is listed as a threatened species which can be found in fewer than 60 swampland sites across the Blue Mountains, from the Newnes Plateau in the north west to Hazelbrook in the south east.

Assisted by Land Services Staff, species specialist Dr Sarsha Gorissen has been gathering data on skink numbers at key habitat sites.

“Sarsha uses specially designed traps to capture the skinks, which are then released on the same day after they are weighed and measured,” said Ms Duffy.

“This data will give us more accurate information about the skinks and we’ll continue to monitor them over a ten year period to see how the population is tracking. It would be wonderful to see numbers increase as threats are controlled and habitat protection methods are implemented.”  

The key threat facing the skink is loss of swamp habitat from impacts including climate change, a loss of ground water resources, storm water runoff causing erosion and pollution, weed incursion and fire. 

Senior Land Services Officer, Huw Evans, says predation by feral animals such as cats and foxes is also thought to be a threat.

“Sensor cameras are being used to monitor swamp sites for feral animal activity,” said Mr Evans. “We want to get an understanding of the species and numbers of feral animals around the swamps and whether they pose a threat to the Skink.”

This year on the Newnes Plateau the Swamped by Threats project will fund weed control and erosion control works to reduce sediment flow into swamp sites, such as a possible re-engineering of roads near the zig zag railway to slow and redirect runoff after heavy rainfall.

A community information day is planned in May 2017 for people interested in joining a new Swampcare group and for those who just want to learn more about our upland swamps.

Local Land Services is inviting members of the public keen to get involved to fill in the Swampcare Volunteer Form online at:

For more information contact Marg Duffy at email: or phone the Lithgow office of Local Land Services at: 02 6350 3113.  

The ‘Swamped by Threats’ project has been funded by the New South Wales Government through Local Land Services and Environmental Trust Saving Our Species Partnership Grants Program.

Central Tablelands Local Lands Services is the lead agency in the project working with stakeholders, community groups, and project partners including the Office of Environment and Heritage, Greater Sydney Local Lands Services, Lithgow City Council, Blue Mountains City Council, Forestry Corporation, National Parks and Wildlife Service and, Lithgow and Oberon Landcare Association.