Displaying items by tag: annual report
Welcome to the annual report on the 44th year of operation of STEP Inc. Our lives have, in theory, returned to normal during 2022 apart from the lingering effects of the COVID virus. One disruptor has been the persistent rain with 2022 achieving the record of being the wettest year in Sydney since records began. The effects on our bushland will be apparent in years to come.
The political landscape has brightened considerably at the federal level. We await the implementation of new environment policies in relation to biodiversity that the 2021 State of the Environment Report revealed to be very poor. We hope for changes at the state level following the election due in March 2023.
Looking back over 2022 I am surprised by how busy this year has been with the resumption of most activities for members and plenty of demand for submissions and meetings.
Talks: After several attempts were stymied by COVID we finally managed to arrange a talk by Shane Fitzsimmons, Commissioner of Resilience. Ironically this took place in February just before the severe flooding events on the north coast. He gave a vivid description of the behind the scenes management of the Black Summer fires, particularly the stress placed on the emergency personnel.
Four other talks were held on the role of fungi in ecosystem health and the need to include fungi in bushland restoration programs, banksia regrowth after fire, threatened plant translocation and taxonomy.
Walks: We scheduled eight walks that featured local plants and indigenous knowledge. Unfortunately, two had to be cancelled because of bad weather. We thank our volunteer leaders, David Roberts, John Martyn, Greg Taylor, Helen Logie and Fran Rein who shared their local knowledge and Beverley Gwatkin who has organised these walks.
Publications: We are still offering a year’s free membership to anyone who buys a book or map. Sales of our maps is still strong and there is a steady demand for our books.
The supply of Middle Harbour North maps has now run out. We plan to complete a reprint early in 2023.
The STEP committee has, as always, been a great group of people to work with. We owe a huge thank you for all their efforts.
We thank Jim Wells for keeping track of our finances and compiling monthly finance reports. John Burke and Trish Lynch continue to keep Twitter and Facebook up to date and find lots of interesting items to add on a regular basis.
There have been several issues to review this year, often this is in association with other groups. The contribution of all committee members has been valuable. As always life would be easier if we could get more members on the committee!
The net cash balance at the end of the financial year has increased compared to last year because last year’s fee holiday reduced our revenue.
The Environment Protection Fund (EPF) balance is on hold in case a major issue arises. We need to maintain this separate fund that is part of our deductible donation status. The Fund’s purpose is to support our environmental objectives. We received a total of $530 in donations in the past financial year.
Our general fund can be used to support educational projects as well as the EPF. We are keen to support more environmental projects so please contact us if you have any ideas.
Again we thank Allan Donald, Chartered Accountant for his completion of the audit on a pro bono basis.
We are continuing to publish five issues of the newsletter, STEP Matters, each year with most members receiving a pdf version via email. Links to individual topics are also included in the email and are on our website so anyone can pick out particular articles of interest. These articles also have links to previous articles on related topics.
While the newsletter concentrates on local issues and events we also cover broader national environmental issues that affect us all. We aim to be educational but not too technical. I hope they are of interest, but feedback is welcome. Also, contributions from members about local events and developments can be published in the newsletter or on Facebook.
We did not receive any applications for the John Martyn Research Grant for 2022 and hope there will be more to consider in the future. This grant supports student research in an area relating to the conservation of bushland. In the end we awarded a grant to one of the applicants from a previous year to continue her work at the University of NSW on threatened species conservation through the use of translocation focussing on Hibbertia spanantha.
For many years STEP has been donating a prize in the Young Scientist Awards run by the NSW Science Teachers Association. The selection of a winning project out of a wide range of ecological issues is an interesting exercise. This year’s award went to a project on the use of organic methods to reduce heavy metals in waterways.
The major issues we have been working on are synthetic turf as part of the Natural Turf Alliance and mountain bike track plans and illegal activity. We are still waiting for the environmental review for the synthetic turf development at Norman Griffiths Oval. Major submissions were made on the Hornsby Quarry and Westleigh Park developments, Ku-ring-gai Urban Forest Strategy and NPWS cycling strategy. The Mirvac development at West Pennant Hills continues to need scrutiny and submissions.
A community group like STEP works best with many lines of communication. We enjoy a good relationship with other community groups and local council staff. Information sharing is an important part of our work. To that end we appreciate feedback from our members and reports on local issues that we may not be aware of. It is becoming harder to keep track of local developments as the local newspapers have shrunk considerably.
The NSW Government forecasts of population growth for metropolitan Sydney over the next 20 years are frightening, at 37% or 1.7 million. Planning systems have been put in place and legislation has been enacted to facilitate development that claim to maintain a ‘liveable’ city but we have serious doubts this can be achieved given the attitude of the current government to the environment. Legislation like the biodiversity offsetting provisions that came into force in August are aimed a facilitating development, not protecting bushland.
STEP and all the community groups that are concerned about the impending loss of native vegetation and suburban trees will need to fight to try to keep Sydney’s unique bushland and wildlife.
This annual report gives a brief summary of our activities over the past year. More details are in the issues of our newsletter, STEP Matters and on our website.
Several of STEP’s committee members have knowledge of our environment that makes an essential contribution to our work in making submissions and liaising with local councils. They have been doing this voluntary work for many years. There comes a time when dedicated people need to give up these responsibilities.
Andrew Little has decided not to stand for the committee next year. During his period on the committee since 2005 he has provided detailed analysis of local soils, vegetation and bushland restoration issues that has formed the basis of our submissions. He also has detailed knowledge of planning laws and has led and organised our walks program. He will be hard to replace.
Our committee members are being stretched by the volume of developments and changes in legislation. We need more resources to continue our work. If you would like to volunteer or know a potential candidate please let us know. Help with a one-off issue or particular aspects of our work is very welcome.
The updated version of the Lane Cove Valley map was published late in 2016 and has been well received. The waterproof paper is proving to be much more resilient.
There continues to be steady demand for our maps that are appreciated by those who want to plan a walk by looking at the ‘big picture’ and identify options for different routes.
Sales of books has slowed over recent years in line with the general reduction in interest in larger format books. The Field Guide to the Lane Cove Valley remains the most comprehensive source of information about this beautiful part of Sydney. The Weather Book is useful for all people preparing to venture into the outdoors and simply a great source of information.
Our operations broke even over the year so that membership fees and interest income cover our core activities. The use of email to distribute our newsletters has reduced costs significantly.
Total assets reduced due to accounting adjustments writing off the cost of our web system update and donations were made to some other environmental organisations with similar objectives to ours.
We appreciate the pro bono work done by Allan Donald, chartered accountant, who completed the audit of STEP’s financial statements.
Environment Protection Fund
We have maintained the Environment Protection Fund which provides deductible gift recipient status for donations that support STEP’s environmental objectives. We received a total of $349 in donations in the past financial year. The government is still threatening to impose more strict conditions on environment NGOs if they are to maintain entitlement to tax deductibility status of donations.
We have not made any payments out of the Environment Protection Fund for the past two years but we are currently developing a scheme for funding a student research project
Our website has been working smoothly. Helen Wortham does a sterling job in keeping the website up-to-date and setting up the newsletter on the main page in an attractive and easy to use format so that individual stories can be selected or the whole newsletter can be downloaded.
Trish Lynch and John Burke continue to alert readers to current issues and events through Facebook and Twitter. Trish and John have established links with many like-minded people and organisations. Social media does receive a lot of bad publicity but careful use does facilitate valuable information sharing.
We support the Young Scientist Awards run by the Science Teachers’ Association of NSW with a prize in the environmental sustainability category. The winner of the STEP prize this year investigated the design of nest boxes for sugar gliders.
We also supported the Children’s Threatened Species Art Competition. The primary school children produced some fabulous paintings.
We organised public talks over the past year on paleoclimatology, environment management in Hornsby, UNESCO World Heritage, the Hawkesbury River and the geology of Sydney Harbour.
Our walks program was disrupted by wet weather with two walks having to be postponed. Walks were held in the local area and on the Central Coast.
The walks aim to be educational and to encourage new walkers so most walks are not physically challenging. We thank Andrew Little and John Martyn for organising and leading walks this past year. If you have a request for a walk please let us know.
Our newsletter, STEP Matters, is our main means of communicating events, our activities and current issues. We also include other articles with an environmental angle that will be of interest to members. The newsletter is also sent to local councillors and politicians. We welcome alerts from our members of local events and developments and, of course, feedback on articles is always welcome.
Attendees at the AGM will be asked to approve a major rewrite of our constitution so that it is consistent with the model rules developed by the Department of Fair Trading. We have taken the opportunity to amend our objectives. We continue to focus on conservation of bushland but the defined area of interest is expanded to cover northern Sydney rather than our local area. This reflects the fact that threats are sourced more from broader state issues rather than local government.
We thank Jan Newby for her help in creating the new draft.
STEP was established in 1978 so 2018 is our 40th anniversary year. We are planning a celebration and publication of a historical report that is being prepared by Graeme Aplin.
It is 10 years since the Blue Gum High Forest Group, a local coalition of groups and individuals, including STEP, was successful in increasing the protection of a significant area of Blue Gum High Forest in St Ives. A number of walks and talks have been organised by FOKE during the year to celebrate this achievement.