2016 NSW Environment Awards

The NSW Environment Awards celebrate the outstanding commitment and achievement of campaigners, grassroots environmentalists and conservation groups across the state.

The 2016 awards were presented by NCC Chair Professor Don White and NCC CEO Kate Smolski on the evening of Saturday, 22 October, 2016, as part of the Annual Conference.

Dunphy Award

This award is given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the conservation of the NSW Environment, and courageously challenged Government and non-Government decision-makers, in honour of Myles and Milo Dunphy. Myles Dunphy (1891-1985) campaigned for national parks and wilderness in NSW and Myles’ son, Milo (1928-1996) led the fight to preserve the Colong Caves and the Kanangra-Boyd wilderness. 

WINNER: CRAIG SHAW

For the past six years, Craig Shaw has been the driving force behind the sustained Battle for Bylong campaign to stop Korean power company KEPCO developing a greenfield coal mine in the valley.

The pristine Bylong Valley in the Upper Hunter is a National Trust-listed Landscape Conservation Area, home to an array of native flora and fauna.

Craig, a landowner in the valley, has been pivotal in inspiring a groundswell of public support and sustained media interest to delay this coal project and protect the valley.

He has reached out to journalists, politicians, high-profile Australians, locals, industry and environment groups, historians and everyday people who have all, due to Craig, raised their voices to speak out against the mine.

Craig also exposed the fact that KEPCO used false and misleading photographs to gain approvals, which lead to an investigation by the Department of Energy and Resources and landed KEPCO in court with fraud charges.

Craig’s work to influence government at a local and state level to protect the environment from this coal mine has been significant and sustained.

Ziggy Megne Volunteer for the Environment Award

NCC acknowledges and appreciates the valuable contributions made by countless volunteers in a broad range of capacities in past and present environmental campaigns and efforts to make our world a more sustainable place. The Ziggy Megne Volunteer for the Environment Award celebrates these unsung heroes. The award is given to the most outstanding and inspiring individual who has voluntarily contributed his or her time for the cause of conservation and the environment over the past year. 

WINNER: CATHY MERCHANT 

Cathy has dedicated much of her free time to environmental activism, with years of work as a volunteer with various groups.

Cathy was the former president of the Ryde Hunters Hill Flora and Fauna Preservation Society, a position that she held for many years.

During her tenure, she was active in her local community, leading local environmental campaigns, lobbying local government and her local state and federal MPs, promoting education activities and organising events. The society was particularly active in the conservation and protection of the Field of Mars Reserve.

Cathy has also been a member and volunteer with the National Parks Association of NSW, volunteering at the Sydney head office every week for many years. She has been closely involved in the association’s travelling stock reserves campaign.

Cathy has also supported the Nature Conservation Council’s Crown lands working group for several years, including coordinating meetings, taking minutes, undertaking research, attending meetings with government representatives and working on draft submissions.

She regularly attends rallies and events and has also been involved with the Hunters Hill Council Bushland Regeneration Working Party.

Allen Strom Hall of Fame Award

NCC's Hall of Fame was established in memory of the late Allen Strom’s untiring dedication to conservation and education in NSW. Individuals for this award have been actively involved in the conservation movement for many years, have made a constant and invaluable contribution to the environment and have displayed qualities of integrity, reliability and commitment. 

WINNER: MIKE CAMPBELL 

Mike Campbell has dedicated much of his life to protecting the environment in NSW, with more than 40 years of activism, particularly on the Central Coast.

His passion began in the early 1970s as a young unionist with the Newcastle Trades Hall Council as he worked on local environment issues after he and his wife, Lynn, moved to the Central Coast in 1976.

During the 1980s, Mike successfully led campaigns to stop two proposed coal-fired power stations on the Central Coast, mobilising doctors to give evidence on the health impacts of living near power stations. This led to the proposals being defeated and the pre-existing coal plants being forced to clean up their operations.

Other major achievements include preventing the construction of a new coal mine in the Central Coast drinking water catchment and stopping the sale of the Old Pioneer Dairy, a sensitive wetland area with a wide range of threatened species, which was subsequently gazetted for public use.

Mike was also on the Save Riley’s Island campaign in the Brisbane Water to protect it from development. Mike was a member of the Trades and Labour Council, and with Allen Strom and Jack Mundey, Mike convinced the union movement to get on board to successfully protect the pristine island from development with a ‘green ban’ strategy.

In the 1980s, Mike worked closely with Allen and Beryl Strom in an environmental study of the Wyong Valley and Mike became the State Treasurer for the Association for Environmental Education, Australia's peak professional body for Environmental Educators that works with government, schools, businesses and community organisations and aims to grow sustainability education and behaviour change. In the 1990s, Mike continued as Secretary and Treasurer for the Association for Environmental Education.

Today, Mike continues as a community leader in the Hunter and Central Rivers Alliance, the Australian Coal Alliance, Community Environment Network and the Lock the Gate Alliance.

Marie Byles Award

This award celebrates a group which has initiated an outstanding new environmental campaign, launched in the last 12 months, and has demonstrated strong commitment and passion for the conservation of the NSW environment, in honour of Marie Byles. Marie Byles (1900-1979), the first female solicitor in NSW and a passionate bushwalker, conservationist, explorer, mountaineer and feminist. 

JOINT WINNER: SAVE WOLLAR CAMPAIGN

The Wollar Progress Association's new campaign, Save Wollar, has gone from strength to strength over the past year, involving hundreds of people to great effect.

The small community of Wollar has banded together to stop a proposed coal mine expansion on the edge of the Goulburn River National Park.

The Wilpinjong Coal Mine is owned and operated by Peabody Energy US. The mine has been operating since 2006 and the proposed extension will result in the destruction of a further 800 hectares of land.

The proposed expansion will bring the mine to within 1.5km to the village of Wollar and extend the mine’s operational life by another six years to 2033.

The campaign’s key milestones have included a fundraiser in August 2015 attended by more than 150 people, a Facebook page with 600 supporters and the empowering of locals to voice their concerns.

The campaign has mobilised 625 people to make submissions opposing the expansion, which forced the NSW Planning Department to commission an independent social impact and noise assessment.

The group has also been part of investigative reports by the media into Peabody’s operation of the mine, including breaches of its licence and concerns over the rehabilitation of mines.

In August 2016, the campaign organised and hosted a historic train trip through the Hunter Valley for 90 people to build the movement and campaigns to Save Wollar and more broadly to raise awareness of the impacts of coal on Hunter Valley biodiversity, air quality and global climate.

JOINT WINNER: PILLIGA PUSH 

The Pilliga Push camp started in October 2015 and ran for seven months in the heart of the Pilliga Forest, the largest temperate woodland in NSW.

More than 2000 people joined the protests, with organiser Dan Lanzini working closely with The Wilderness Society, North West Alliance, People for the Plains, Coonabarrabran Residents Against Gas, No CSG Walgett and a number of local Indigenous groups, to run the camp.

The campaign’s goal was to oppose the construction of the Leewood Water Treatment Facility, which was part of the Santos Narrabri Gas Project.

Santos proposes drilling 850 coal seam gas wells on top of recharge beds of the Great Artesian Basin, Australia’s largest underground water source.

During the campaign, 45 people were arrested, 200 charges were laid and the camp stopped worked at the facility about 350 times, which delayed progress at the site by three months.

The sustained involvement of people in the north-west has seen property handed over to the protesters to set up camps for future actions.

The media coverage generated during the campaign helped to raise awareness of and community resistance to coal seam gas activity across Australia.

Nature Conservation Council Member Group Award

This award is given to a Member Group of NCC which has demonstrated outstanding commitment and success in the conservation of the NSW environment. 

WINNER: WILDLIFE PRESERVATION SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA 

Founded in 1909, the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia continues to make a major contribution to wildlife conservation and environmental education.

WPSA has played a role in the development of many of the legal protections that now exist for native fauna and flora, and has supported all major conservation battles over the years, some with outstanding success.

A major development in recent times is the board’s emphasis on science, which has led the society to fund 12 university scholarships every year for masters and PhD students to study wildlife conservation issues.

The society is a member of the NSW Pest Animal Council and the Kangaroo Management Advisory Panel. Representatives attend all major conservation, zoological and botanic conferences throughout Australia and New Zealand, including those hosted by the Australasia Wildlife Management Society, Mammal Society and NSW Zoological Society.

Since 1932, the group has published the quarterly Australian Wildlife magazine that which now reaches more than 1500 people across Australia.

The society is an outstanding example of a long-term and sustainable wildlife conservation group that has made a considerable contribution to conservation over the past 107 years.

Rising Star Award

This award is given to a young individual under the age of 30, who has demonstrated outstanding effort and commitment to the conservation of the NSW environment. 

WINNER: KEITH HUANG 

Keith Huang is the NSW campus divestment coordinator for 350.org Australia, a climate activists network that has branches worldwide.

Keith has been involved in two projects over the past 10 months, helping to design and implement the Flood the Campus project and the Fossil Free Fellowship.

For the Flood the Campus project, Keith supported and mentored Fossil Free groups in Sydney by running training sessions, facilitating strategy days and having countless meetings with students.

These efforts were key to helping produce an inspiring video to encourage students to take bold action against their university if they refused to divest by a set deadline.

The other project Keith was involved in was the Fossil Free Fellowship, a semester-long training program for 16 activists in community organising skills. Keith took an active role in the design of the overall program, including co-designing eight of the workshops, and then coaching the Sydney participants every fortnight.

Keith has also been a much-needed advocate for increasing the diversity within the organisation and its volunteer base, and in particular by lowering barriers to participation of international students.