Thursday, December 8, 2022

Lord Howe Island Board Report

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Lord Howe Island Board, The Lord Howe Island Signal

Message from LHIB Chair, Atticus Fleming

Dear Lord Howe Island Community,

I write to provide you with a brief update on some key matters, in advance of the next Board meeting. I look forward to getting back to the Island after a complex year for everyone.

Important milestones – Qantas renewal and $3m road funding

As recently announced, QantasLink has confirmed vital air services from Sydney will continue to be provided. This is obviously an important outcome for the community and critical to tourism and local businesses. A three-year licence will come into effect from 30 March 2022, providing stability going forward.

The other great news is a grant from the NSW Government to improve roads on the island. Funding of $3 million will be used over two years. Our teams are in the project design phase. We look forward on updating the community as this work progresses.

Lord Howe Island CEO

I am pleased to announce that following a highly competitive selection process, Ms Suzie Christensen, has been appointed as the new Chief Executive for the Lord Howe Island Board.

Suzie will join us from Healthy Land and Water, where she is General Manager, Corporate Affairs. Suzie’s career has included senior leadership roles with the Fitzroy Basin Association, a natural resource management group working across the largest catchment draining to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as social services organisation Anglicare Central Queensland, and charitable trust the Moreton Bay Foundation.

Suzie is a highly experienced leader with over 15 years managing organisations across the environment and social services sectors. Please make Suzie feel welcome when she commences in her new role on Monday 6 December 2021.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and extend my appreciation to acting CEOs Angie Stringer and Mick Pettitt for their leadership and contribution over this period, and to all of you for supporting them.

Efficiency and effectiveness review

As many of you will be aware, we have commenced an independent review of the of the LHIB administration. The focus of the review is to ensure we are both delivering on the highest priorities of the community and that our service delivery is providing value for money.

The review team will be sending out a community wide survey shortly, and then be back on the Island in early December. They will be looking at a number of ways of engaging directly with the community to get input into the review.

The next Board meeting is scheduled for the 6 and 7 December 2021.

I am very much looking forward to getting back over to the island and hope to see as many of you as possible when I am there.

Atticus Fleming AM, Chair, Lord Howe Island Board

Message from our new CEO

Hello Lord Howe Island, and thank you to all those who have made me feel very welcome in the past two weeks.

It was great to meet young and old at the Senior Citizens Association Christmas lunch and the school end of year celebration, the Board and members of the community at our recent Board meeting, and staff at their Christmas BBQ.

I look forward to meeting all residents over the coming months.

It has been another difficult year across the country due to the impacts of COVID 19, and Lord Howe Island has not been immune. It is good to see the island busy with visitors and guests again.

The challenge of managing a world class rodent response has also been felt by all, and the Board extends our thanks to all in the community for your cooperation, along with all the dedicated personnel and contractors who contributed. We are now in the final stages of evaluation and reporting and look forward to communicating those results in due course. Our biosecurity team remain vigilant in the meantime.

Our aim is to see a 2022 where our service to you as a community can move back to pre-rodent and pandemic levels, and I look forward to working with you all to achieve that goal.

I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy, joyful and safe Christmas.

Suzie Christensen, Chief Executive

Thank you to our outgoing Board members and welcome to the new

On behalf of the Island Community a big thank you to our outgoing Board Members Mr Rob Pallin and David Kirk MBE.

Rob served as an appointed member representing firstly the interests of Business and Tourism from 08/09/2007 to 26/11/2012 and subsequently from 27/11/2012 to 26/11/2021.

In addition to his contribution to the Board, Rob is a long-time active member of the Friends of Lord Howe Island, which was set up in 2001 to assist the Board with weed eradication and other conservation projects.

David served as the appointed member representing the interests of Business and Tourism from 27/11/2018 to 26/11/2021.

We welcome Ms Chris Bath and Mr Bruce Baird AM who will serve as the appointed members serving the interests of Conservation and Business and Tourism respectively from 29/11/2021 to 28/11/2024.

Credit card surcharge notification

From 10 January 2022 the Lord Howe Island Board will introduce a credit card surcharge in accordance with NSW Government policy.

Payments to the Board Administration Office and Liquor Store by Visa or Mastercard will incur a surcharge of 0.4%. The surcharge will cover the cost of merchant fees charged by the bank.

Customers are encouraged to consider other forms of payment which do not attract a surcharge including debit card, cash and electronic funds transfer.

Public BBQ/picnic area facilities

A friendly reminder to everyone that public BBQ/picnic facilities (and public areas in general) are not to be reserved. If you are leaving picnic baskets/ eskis etc. for later use please leave these items to the side of the facilities (opposed to on the tables and BBQ’s) so they can be enjoyed by others when not in use.

Thank you from Rob Pallin

I would like to thank everyone for the honour of serving on the Lord Howe Island Board since 2007 first as the tourism appointee and then as the conservation appointee.

I believe I have contributed to the wellbeing of the Island’s residents and the environment.

It has been very satisfying to contribute to the rodent eradication and the renewable energy project.

I would also like to thank those on the board staff who have been so dedicated to the protection of the Island especially through the weed program. This program has proved very successful but needs to be continued to ensure that all the good work over the last 15 years is not undone.

I would like to thank the many people on the Island who have supported me and worked together for great outcomes.

I will continue to visit the Island especially on the weeding trips organised for the Friends of Lord Howe Island by Ian Hutton.

Covid allowing I will see you all in May while doing some weeding.

Regards, Rob Pallin

Board meeting open session

Chief Executive Officer’s report to the 6 and 7 December 2021 meeting of the Board.

Current position

Workplace Health and Safety review

The Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) review began in September and is being undertaken by Lloyd-Jones Meakin (LJM) Group. The assessor undertook interviews with staff prior to arriving on the island in early October. During his time on the Island, hazards and risks in the workplace were identified by evaluating and observing our existing approach to WHS. The Board’s managers and supervisors undertook WHS training, and every staff member was engaged in the assessment and feedback process through a series of workshops. The assessor also visited work sites and observed work in action. LJM will proved the Board with an assessment of our current practices and make recommendations for developing an improving safety plan.

Rodent Response Program (RR) and biosecurity

There has been no rodent detection for 125 days (as of 1/12) however constant monitoring of the settlement area for rodents has continued. The biosecurity camera surveillance network has been fully installed and continues to be monitored with the use of artificial intelligence software. The RRP is planned to finish the 17th of December, subject to a final decision being made that will be informed by the independent review mentioned below There then would be a transition where the biosecurity team will take on the camera monitoring and rodent surveillance responsibilities. See business paper 12 (i) for a detailed over view of the RR program.

An independent monitoring expert has been engaged from Queensland University of Technology to carry out an assessment of the monitoring program and help provide certainty (or not) regarding the likelihood of eradication. The report is due shortly.

Staff are working through key biosecurity tasks to mitigate against possible rodent incursion and other pest species establishing themselves on the island. A dedicated secure biosecurity room at the jetty is currently being built and the airport facility is being upgraded.

LHIB staff and contractors continue to work with Birdon to improve biosecurity from the mainland.

The RR program and funding for improving biosecurity has been funded by the Australian Government ($540k) in 2019/21FY and DPIE $2.5million over 20/21 and 21/22 FY.

Human resources

Ms Angie Stringer has remained acting in the CEO role since July 28th. The recruitment for the position has been finalised and Ms Suzie Christensen has been appointed to the role. Suzie begins on December 6th and there will be three day handover which coincides with the Board meeting.

Mr Mervyn Yuen begun in the Senior Manager, Business and Corporate Services role in September and joins the Board for a six month secondment from Department of Regional NSW. Mr David Waterhouse, Senior Manager Infrastructure and Engineering Services has tended his resignation and he will depart in mid-January. Recruitment is underway with interviews held on 22 November.

The Board has activated its employment page on its website and in the last quarter has advertised expressions of interest for five roles for either causal or backfilling positions and two ongoing roles.

Airport and shipping contract expiry

In November Transport NSW announced that the contract for provision of airline services from Sydney has been secured with Qantas signing another three year contract.

We are approaching the final 12 months of the initial 5 year shipping service contract with Birdon. Work has commenced to plan next steps to ensure continuity of service.

Effectiveness and Efficiency Review

The Effectiveness and Efficiency Review of the LHIB administration begun in early November. The key objective of this review is to provide advice to the LHIB, and the Minister for Energy and Environment, on the efficiency and effectiveness of the LHIB administration in discharging its duties under the Act and to make recommendations for improvement.

Consultants Spencer Maurice have been appointed and spent a week on the island interviewing staff, Board members and key community members. A community wide online survey has been distributed amongst residents. The reviewer return in December during the next Board meeting to meet with the Board and undertake broader community consultation. Their final report is due in March.

COVID-19

The Island residents have had a 95% vaccination rate since the end of August.

Due to limited internet and network connectivity issues, LHIB staff have continued to work from the office and the field in a COVID safe manner. The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (of which all LHIB staff are part of) released their draft policy on 24/11 which indicates that proof of being fully vaccinated will be a condition of employment beginning in January 2022.

The Island recorded its first COVID case on 26 November. NSW Health undertook contact tracing and all close and casual contacts were identified. Fortunately there was not any community transmission with all tests returning negative results. However a more widespread COVID outbreak has the potential to seriously disrupt the tourist season as staff need to isolate once being identified, impacting both service industry and board staff.

CEO Board report – infrastructure and engineering services

This report is a brief summary of IES activities and issues, and covers the period September to December 2021.

Parks and visitor facilities

  • Maintenance continues to public areas, parks and gardens to maintain a high standard of presentation.

Roads

  • LHIB has been awarded $3,041,795 in the NSW Government Fixing Local Roads Round 3 grant program. The funding is allocated by the program for specific sections of road. Funding deeds are currently being finalised, and early stage planning is underway.
  • The work on the lower sections of Muttonbird Drive and McGees Parade is largely complete. This work was funded by Roads to Recovery and Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (Commonwealth) grants.
  • A number of small scale repairs to road base and bitumen seal are underway using Roads to Recovery funds. This work is being carried out by contractor All Island Service.
  • The LHIB works team continues to perform pothole repairs, road drain clearing, sand and debris removal as required

Marine and coastal

  • Regular pressure cleaning to jetty stairs and boat ramp.
  • A request to market is being prepared for major jetty maintenance. This work is part funded in the 21/22 capital budget, but will likely require further funding in 22/23.

General maintenance, operations and
mechanical

Business as usual for maintenance, operations and mechanical workshop.

Electrical

  • All programmed maintenance and safety checks completed.
  • For reporting period 19 May to 23 November 2021:
    – Energy demand for the reporting period was 1 021 300 kWh.
    – Diesel generation for the reporting period was 369 200 kWh.
    – Solar generation for the reporting period was 805 200 kWh.
    – Fuel consumption for the reporting period was 74 600 litres.
    – Fuel energy efficiency for the reporting period was 13.7 kWh/L.
    – There were 73 days of diesel free generation during the reporting period.
    – The longest run of diesel free generation during the reporting period was 8 days.
    – There were 3 unplanned customer supply interruptions to the distribution system during the period. This outage was the result of localised customer overloads.
    – There was 1 planned supply interruption to the distribution system during the period. This outage allowed upgrade work to be carried out in the Skyline Drive area.
    – There are currently 294 customers connected to the electrical supply system. This reduction was the result of one unused service being disconnected from the system.
    – Significant fuel savings continue to be achieved as a result of the Hybrid Renewable Energy system. The TESLA microgrid controller continues to be monitored and updated by Photon, TESLA and Powerhouse staff to maximise the performance of the renewable energy system.

Airport

  • Aerodrome maintenance including mowing, weed control, and tarmac repairs continues. Access gates and fencing replaced in some areas.
  • There has been a delay in delivery of new bunting for Blinky dune bird management. This has meant that manual bird disturbance is required. Higher than usual numbers of birds have been in the area. The bird hazard is being monitored.

Island trader

  • IES has been working with the LHIB Biosecurity Team and with Birdon to monitor and manage shipping-related biosecurity initiatives
  • There have been changes to the voyage schedule, with a number of cancelled voyages. This has impacted the LHIB, residents and businesses. LHIB continues to liaise with Birdon on schedule changes.

Emergency management

  • Local Emergency Management Committee meeting held in October.

Waste management facility

  • Empty skip bins have not been delivered back to the island due to cancelled Island Trader voyages or due to skips being left in Port Macquarie due to ship load planning/prioritisation. A solution is being sought with Birdon. The flow on effect is additional processing time for waste, and an accumulation of bulky waste.
  • Compost sampling is due to commence, but logistics is proving difficult to set up, with courier networks unable to provide delivery pathways to the testing lab within the required timeframe.

Covid-19

  • Increased cleaning maintained for airport terminal and public toilets.
  • Hand sanitiser provided in public areas.
  • LHIB workplaces Covid safety measures have been adjusted to align with NSW regulations as required.

Projects

Aviation fuel shed

The builder has attended the site to conduct final measurements. Some materials have been delivered to the site, however the builder has experienced delays in sourcing the shed kit.

Once all materials are delivered, the builder will lock in a window to come to the island to dismantle the old shed and construct the new shed. This is expected in first quarter 2022.

Stronger Country Community Fund grants

Round 2 – Lord Howe Island skate park – SCCF2-0536

Information supplied to the Chair for consideration. Once this is finalised, the variation process will be completed with the grant office.

Round 2 – Stevens Reserve walking track

Variation required, with a proposed transfer of funds linked to the skate park.

Round 3 – Upgrade Aquatic Club building and storage and purchase new sailing / water sport equipment – SCCF3-1557

The Aquatic Club Committee is working to deliver this project.

Round 3 – Community playground upgrade – SCCF3-1561

Construction is complete and the playground is open. Positive feedback abounds.

Round 3 – CBD amenities and wastewater system

Options paper, timeline in preparation. Early discussions underway with waste water consultant to identify best means to increase capacity in the CBD precinct. The project has a budget of $137,000 from SCCF and a further $113,000 has been allocated from LHIB capital.

Windy Point coastal remediation

Drone survey work continues every three months. The beach profile and dune has remained relatively stable. Vegetation is becoming established.

Concrete started to protrude from the dune face. This appeared to be a remnant of the old Pinetrees boat shed. Pinetrees arranged for the concrete to be cleaned up and removed. There is still further concrete deeper in the dune, however this was left in place, in order to limit excavation and disturbance to the dune face.

Boating Now grant

A variation has been agreed with Transport for NSW to change the scope of the project. Due to numerous delays and previous scope changes over the past 6 years, the availability of funding will cease at the end of February 2022. In order to meet this date and still gain value from the grant, the variation will now be limited to a design exercise. This work will prepare a design for the jetty to enable strengthening so that large vessels can be lifted onto the jetty by the LHIB crane. This design can then be used in future to develop an upgrade to the jetty.

Prepared: David Waterhouse, Manger Infrastructure and Engineering Services
Endorsed: Angie Stringer, A/Chief Executive Officer

CEO Board Report – Environment and Community Services

Biodiversity management

  • Annual Woodhen surveys commenced 22 November and is due to finish on the 10th December 2021. As of November 30 over 430 woodhens had been recorded through the survey.
  • Hunting of masked owls to progress eradication continues. On 7th November 2021 a resident reported seeing a female masked owl at the jetty at 9pm. No further evidence of this owl has been obtained. Bird call recorders (Song Meters) have been installed at Kims Lookout, The Catalina, Stevens Reserve, Pinetrees Paddock, North head of Blinky Beach, Golf Course, Soldiers Creek, Rocky Run and the Saddle. Another will be placed at Red Point. The Song Meters are scheduled to record bird calls for a 2 hour period at dawn and dusk. These will be checked to determine presence/absence and assist to plan hunting strategies.
  • A total of 46 woodhens have been killed by motor vehicles since the start of the year. The Board is encouraging residents to report all Woodhen deaths to the Board.

Biosecurity

  • Termites have been detected in new locations and have spread from the initial detection area. Monitoring stakes are to be deployed (on 02/12/21) across the northern settlement, and as far south as the Waste Management Facility.
  • Two Green Tree Frogs (deceased) were detected at Lord Howe Island on the voyage arriving on 6th November 2021. One was detected in the cool room and the other on the hard stand.
  • The Board have engaged a contractor to consult suppliers and carriers to provide advice on what packaging standards are sought and any other biosecurity related issues.
  • Detector dogs are working hard with an increase in the number of planes and marine vessels since the opening of the island to travel. Contractor detector dogs continue to work on the RRP, but are assisting with the planes and Island Trader as required.
  • Pest species have been detected on recent ships
    – Green Tree Frogs and Asian House Gecko – all have been dead prior to arrival on Lord Howe Island. Suggesting biosecurity requirements and monitoring remain significant at both Lord Howe Island and Port Macquarie.

Rodent Response Program

  • 124 days (as of 31/11/21) since last rodent detection.
  • On-going biosecurity network has been modified and an increased number of monitoring devices have been deployed across the island, the most significant addition being 180 trail cameras.
  • All (non-biosecurity) monitoring devices have been removed from the southern portion of the island and the northern PPP (Malabar). Detection devices continue to be monitored in the northern Settlement and on Transit Hill. 180 Trail cameras continue to monitor throughout the northern and southern settlements.
  • Independent Review on Rodent Response Programs monitoring efforts is due shortly (coming week I believe).
  • Areas of the island are continuing to be monitored daily by detector dogs, the increase in planes and marine vessels has limited our capacity somewhat, however, searches continue with notably less indications being recorded than in previous months.
  • The biosecurity monitoring measures established through the Rodent Response will be handed over to the environment unit for ongoing maintenance and monitoring. Grant funding through DPIE provides sufficient funding to engage staff to maintain and monitor these devices.

Weed management

  • The LHI Weed Eradication Program (WEP) has reached year 17 of a projected 30 year program period. Infestations of environmental weeds that were once a common feature across the island landscape are significantly reduced and are getting harder to find; however residual weed populations are present in off – track harder to access areas; albeit in reduced abundance.
  • Over 6,500 hectares have been cumulatively searched, 2.52M individual weeds removed (90 weed species), with 2M hours of labour and $13M investment (prior reported).
  • Redirection of weeding effort to rodents has resulted, in at least 30% of weed blocks coming into their third year since treatment, which is not ideal. Teams on ground are recording increased presence of seedling and juvenile weed plants from historic or residual mature weed locations; at an abundance not seen pre-rodents. Fortunately, mature sized weeds remain at very low density however signifying the importance of ramping up weeding effort to prevent their spread.
  • The remaining mature ‘weed trees’ of Camphor Laurel, Silky Oak and Flame Tree were removed from leasehold land in October 2021. Seedling regeneration of Camphor Laurel is evident under the mature specimens removed from Stephens Reserve again highlighting ‘weed release’ minus the browsing pressure of rodents.
  • To gain traction on lost time from the REP and Rodent Response, the LHIWEP will be seeking external investment to apply yearly treatment of priority weed landscapes across the island (on ground effort and technical operations).

Threatened plants

  • Threatened plant recovery actions continue to be implemented according to the LHI Saving Our Species (SOS) program; now running a five year contract period, with funding availability subject to yearly reporting.
  • The Critically Endangered Lord Howe Morning Glory Calystegia affinis – Old Settlement continues to receive treatment to reduce Flea Beetle Arispoda sp, induced leaf defoliation and dieback.
  • The Critically Endangered Phillip Island Wheat Grass Elymus multiforus subsp kingianus remains established at eight sites on LHI (North Bay, Malabar, Windy Point, Blinky Point, Boat Harbour, Intermediate Hill, Old Settlement and Transit Hill) increasing the original population known from Old Settlement and Dawson’s Point of 50 plants to over 650 (including wild seedlings).
  • The Endangered Sand Spurge Euphorbia psammogeton population on Blinky Beach has been saved from localised extinction. The residual population of 25 plants prior to REP has expanded to over 75 plants, with supplementary planting and natural seedling regeneration. Trials to establish Sand Spurge at historic locations on the lagoon foreshore has had varied results. The Pines Trees, dune rehabilitation site, is providing another ex-situ translocation site. The aim is to get plants to set seed to improve their persistence in the wild. All locations of this species are vulnerable to storm surge.
  • Illegal clearing of bushland on the lagoon foreshore near Arajilla Lodge has removed a mature Knicker Nut Caesalpinia bonduc as well as several translocated seedlings planted at the site in accordance with an approved SOS translocation plan.

Compliance and enforcement

  • Board staff investigating an incident of alleged development without approval.

Community programs and education

  • Board staff have received and are currently processing an application from the Lord Howe Island Community Markets Association to hold twilight markets at the Old Powerhouse site on Tuesday 21 December and on Wednesday 19 January 2022.

Visitor infrastructure

  • The Middle Beach north steps will remain closed until further notice. Storm activity has resulted in the lower steps being washed away, and LHIB staff have identified concerns with the stability of the slope that the lower portion of the steps are installed in. Expert geotechnical advice will be obtained prior to any reconstruction works being undertaken.
  • Goat House walking track remains closed until further notice. Preliminary works on identifying an alternate route for the Goat House track have commenced. Repair and maintenance of walking tracks has been partially resumed, but currently paused due to resources being diverted to the Woodhen Survey.

Marine management / moorings

  • Mooring bookings continue to be steady over the summer period.

Human resource management

  • An offer has been made to a candidate for the Team Leader Biosecurity (temporary full time until June 2030).
  • Land and Property Officer position to be advertised shortly (temporary part time until June 2030).

Environmental assessment

  • Ecological assessments for all OC / DAs referred completed
  • Tree risk assessments completed.

Land administration

  • See business papers.

Development assessment and land use planning

  • Lord Howe LEP 2010 (Amendment 6) – Stage 1 various amendments – DPIE are in the final stages of making the new LEP incorporating the amendments.
  • Board staff continue to work with Spatial Services NSW to introduce rural addressing to Lord Howe Island. This provides each property on the Island with a unique address which in the coming years will be required to obtain or renew drivers licences and access government services.

Prepared: Justin Sauvage, Senior Manager Environment and Community Services
Endorsed: Angie Stringer, A/Chief Executive Officer

The Lord Howe Island Signal 30 December 2021

This article appeared in The Lord Howe Island Signal, 30 December 2021.

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