Rebooted Redbank Power Station an existential threat to our future

MEDIA RELEASE – 24 November 2020

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The imminent rebooting of the mothballed Redbank Power Station (near Singleton) with north-east NSW’s forests will make it Australia’s most polluting power station and an existential threat to the future of our children and wildlife, according to the North East Forest Alliance.

Hunter Energy is currently seeking expressions of interest for timber from across north-east NSW to fuel their Redbank Power Station, with plans to restart the facility in mid 2021 fed by native forests to make it one of world’s ten biggest biomass power plants.

The claims are that it will power 200,000 homes, which was identified in 2017 North Coast Residues Report as requiring one million tonnes of biomass to be taken from north-east NSW’s forests and plantations each year, with 60% of this coming from private forests, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

This is shear madness as burning this volume will release some 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year to fuel climate heating, increased droughts, heatwaves and more intense bushfires, while increasing forest degradation and hastening species extinctions.

The community needs to urgently speak up to stop the NSW and Commonwealth Governments from allowing this environmental disaster” Mr. Pugh said.

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Cusack the Koala's saviour

MEDIA RELEASE - 18 November 2020

Koala's under threat from LLS Amendment Bill 2020

The North East Forest Alliance sincerely thanks Liberal Catherine Cusack for coming to the rescue of Koalas by refusing to support the National Party's Koala killing bill when it went to the Upper House for ratification last Thursday.

In his recent opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald Peter FitzSimons described Catherine Cusack as a hero of the Liberal Party, citing her as stating “I sent a message to Premier last week saying I couldn’t support it if goes ahead.”

The Greens, Labor Party, Animal Justice Party and Justin Field are opposing the National Party's Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, so the Government needs every vote to get it passed.

As a result of Catherine Cusack's refusal to support this draconian legislation it was deferred last Thursday and is now due to be voted on by the Upper House this Thursday said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"We trust that Catherine Cusack will maintain her principled stance and vote the bill down,

"Catherine Cusack was a member of the bipartisan inquiry 'Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales' that exposed the grossly inadequate protection for Koalas on private land and their likely extinction by 2050 unless we take real and meaningful action to save them.

"In a perverse reaction to the inquiry the National Party threatened to resign from the coalition unless existing Koala protections were substantially reduced.

"While Premier Gladys Berejiklian claimed to stand strong, she effectively capitulated to their demands by narrowing the definition of core Koala habitat in the Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to make it harder to identify core Koala habitat, and gave the Nationals free reign to make dramatic changes to the Local Land Services Act.

"Not only are the Nationals seeking to remove the prohibitions on logging and broadscale clearing of core Koala habitat, they are also trying to stop Councils from being able to include core Koala habitat in environment protection zones, and trying to prohibit Councils from being able to regulate logging and clearing in environmental zones.

"Catherine Cusack has shown that she has enough integrity to stand up against National Party bullying for the survival of Koalas. She is the saviour for the 67% of Koalas that live on private lands" Mr. Pugh said.

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EPA's Belated Prosecution of Forestry Corporation Welcomed

MEDIA RELEASE - 8 October 2020

The North East Forest Alliance has welcomed the Environment Protection Authority's (EPA's) belated prosecution of the Forestry Corporation for illegally logging rainforest, rainforest buffers and Koala High Use Areas in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest.

This is the first time since the North East Regional Forest Agreement was signed 20 years ago that the EPA have prosecuted the Forestry Corporation for breaches of their Threatened Species Licence in north-east NSW, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"This follows the EPA issuing their first Stop Work Order in 20 years, after catching the Forestry Corporation illegally logging 2 giant trees in Wild Cattle Creek in July this year. In the same area NEFA subsequently found another 2 giant trees cut down and numerous others damaged.

"After 20 years of getting away with murder the Forestry Corporation is finally being held to account. Their illegal activities have flourished under lax regulation for far too long, we can only hope that by finally holding them to account that they will start obeying the law.

"Unfortunately this has come too late for the Koala as the requirement to protect Koala High Use Areas was abandoned in 2018 because the Forestry Corporation refused to do the thorough surveys required to identify them and the EPA refused to make them.

"Taking legal action now over one of the few Koala High Use Areas identified is like shutting the door after the horse has bolted.

"Both the logging now being prosecuted and the area where the giant trees were illegally felled this year, are part of the priority areas the Department of Planning Industry and Environment identified in 2019 for protection as the Great Koala National Park to "provide a feasible and strategic balance between increasing protections for koalas, while minimising impact to forestry operations".

"It is past time to stop logging these know Koala hotspots if we want Koalas to survive" Mr. Pugh said.

Photo: Giant tree found illegally felled by NEFA in July in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest.

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Berejiklian Government back-flip a nail in the coffin of Koalas

MEDIA RELEASE - 7 October 2020

The Berejiklian Government's back-flip over identifying and protecting core Koala habitat from development, clearing and logging is another nail in the coffin of Koalas, according to the North East Forest Alliance.

"The Government's spin that their gutting of 25 years of Koala protection is somehow a good outcome for Koalas is utter nonsense", said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"With 61% of Koala habitat on private land, making mapped core Koala habitat available for logging and allowing its broadscale clearing without approval, is a major loss of protection and will hasten the looming extinction of Koalas.

"Koala populations had declined by 50% over 20 years on the north coast before the fires, then they lost 30% of their remaining populations in one fire season, and now the Berejiklian Government is reducing Koala protections on private lands, while logging their surviving populations on public lands.

"Despite the warning of the bipartisan Koala Inquiry that Koalas could become extinct by 2050 the Berejiklian Government's perverse response has been to dramatically weaken protection for Koalas.

"The Liberals caved in to National Party bullying, this is not how you double a species population, this is how you make a species extinct." Mr. Pugh said.  

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The Koala State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) was introduced by the coalition in 1995, with the principal intent of getting Councils to map core Koala habitat across their Shires. 

"Once core Koala habitat was mapped developers were required to avoid, minimise and manage impactson it. In 2007 the Private Native Forestry logging code forbade logging of core Koala habitat. And in 2013 the Local Land Services Act designated core Koala habitat as Category 2 - Sensitive Regulated Land, meaning that broadscale clearing of it required approval.

"Due to problems with restrictive mapping criteria and a political lack of will, since 1995 only 6 councils have mapped a total of 5,000 hectares of core Koala habitat.

"The revamp of the Koala SEPP in 2019 attempted to fix the mapping criteria and make it easier to identify core Koala habitat. Finally there was hope that Council's would start to fulfil their obligations to map core Koala habitat and that Koalas would get the legal protection promised since 1995.

"It was fear of Council's now mapping core Koala habitat that upset the timber industry and land developers, and thereby precipitated the National Party's dummy spit.

"The outcome is that the mapping criteria are being tightened to limit the ability of Councils to map and identify core Koala habitat, and that when identified it will no longer be excluded from broadscale clearing and logging.

"The measely 5,000 ha of core Koala habitat mapped over the past 25 years will be opened up for clearing and logging.

"Contrary to the Government's pretence, outside mapped core Koala habitat there is no meaningful protection for Koalas on private land.

"The bipartisan Koala Inquiry found that the regulatory framework for private native forestry does not protect koala habitat with the theoretical protections for koalas 'weakened substantially, or indeed non-existent, when practically applied' 1.

"Land clearing is again rampant with 61,800 ha of woody vegetation being cleared each year, and the Government doesn't even know or care why much of this is being done, let alone how much of it is Koala habitat.

  1. 1. Legislative Council inquiry into Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales (CKPOM = Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management , mapping core Koala habitat, as required by SEPP (note SEPP 44 was actually 1995))

7.49 Upon its introduction, the 1994 SEPP was a key piece in the government's suite of actions to protect koalas. However, the overwhelming evidence presented to the Committee is that whilst the intentions and principles of the 1994 SEPP were admirable, its implementation has fallen well short. Nowhere is more apparent than in the low approval rate of CKPOMs by the department.

7.50 To hear that in the 25 years of the 1994 SEPP's operation, only 6 CKPOMs were approved by the department shocked and angered the committee. The committee empathises with the frustration felt by both local councils who prepared these plans, and residents of these local council areas who sought better protection for koalas. The committee was displeased by the department's failure to provide a clear reason for its low approval rate and inexplicable delays of CKPOMs.

Committee comment

7.91 Based on the evidence received, the committee believes that the regulatory framework for private native forestry does not protect koala habitat on private land. In fact, the 'number of quite stringent protections for koalas' that government witnesses asserted the PNF Code contains are weakened substantially, or indeed non-existent, when practically applied. The committee finds it unacceptable that land identified as core koala habitat can be cleared because of departmental delays.

7.92 The committee concludes that many of the issues with the Private Native Forestry Codes of Practice stem from their reliance on protections under SEPP 44. Once again, the committee reiterates its disappointment at the systemic failure to approve koala plans of management under SEPP 44. Because of this failure, it is clear that protection of 'core koala habitat' under the Private Native Forestry Codes of Practice is not occurring as the NSW Government claims it is in its submission.

 

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EPA stand against more National Party anti-Koala bullying welcomed

MEDIA RELEASE - 24 September 2020

NEFA is calling for urgent surveys to identify and protect areas where Koalas and other vulnerable species have survived the fires given the EPA's advice that logging of fire refugia could cause catastrophic population declines in species such as the Koala, Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider.

The expert advice obtained by the EPA from Dr. Andrew Smith warns that the combined impacts of logging and burning will be devastating on wildlife and contravene State and Commonwealth legal obligations unless there is immediate protection of fire refugia and a reduction in logging intensity, according to NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"While the National Party are demanding that the impacts of the fires on wildlife and timber resources be ignored to continue logging public forests as usual, it is a welcome change to see the EPA standing up for wildlife against their bully-boy tactics" Mr. Pugh said.

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Dr. Andrew Smith identifies that the 'primary effect of fire and past logging was to restrict fauna populations to a series of small, fragmented and isolated patches of unburnt or lightly burnt forest, referred to as fire refuges, scattered throughout the severely burnt forest'.

Further warning 'Fauna populations surviving in fire refuges in state forests are at risk of elimination by timber harvesting under the normal Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (CIFOA) which could prevent recovery, and cause catastrophic population decline in species such as the Koala, Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider'.

"As scientists have been saying since the unprecedented extent and intensity of the fires became evident, the highest priority is to identify and protect these fire refuges" Mr. Pugh said.

"NEFA have had to undertake manual searches to identify Koala refugia in Braemar, Myrtle and Bungawalbin State Forests because the Forestry Corporation refuse to and the EPA are not allowed to.

"While the Forestry Corporation are happy to use Koala scat-detection dogs to look for Koalas in Kiwarrak State Forest, they have again refused NEFA's request to use them elsewhere in this region. This is sheer bloody-mindedness.

"It is going to take a long time for some species to recover from the fires, with Dr. Smith identifying recovery times around 10 years for the Hastings River Mouse, up to 45 years for the Koala and 20-120 years for the Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider.

"It is reprehensible that the Forestry Corporation are pretending that this crisis is all over and demanding a return to business as usual as if the fires never happened.

"It is clear that, even with the temporary additional measures agreed between the EPA and Forestry Corporation to manage logging impacts in burnt landscapes, that the rules do not meet legal requirements", Mr. Pugh said.

Dr. Andrew Smith considers that the standard logging rules 'will not deliver ecologically sustainable management as required under the objectives of the Forestry Act 2012 and is likely to cause a significant impact under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999'.

Dr Smith also considers that extra Site-specific Operating Conditions (SSOCs) developed by the EPA and Forestry Corporation to manage logging impacts in burnt landscapes 'will have little or no benefit' because of their temporary nature.

"We have the extraordinary situation whereby the National Party are demanding that there be no meaningful protection for Koalas on private lands, on the grounds that they should be protected on public land, yet on State Forests they have removed the need to look for Koalas before they log to identify and protect core Koala habitat", Mr. Pugh said.

"Now despite the loss of 44-100% of Koalas from burnt forests the National Party are insisting on maintaining logging volumes irrespective of the devastating impacts on native species.

"It is not just Koalas, there has been a massive loss of timber resources from these fires. Timber commitments need to be immediately reduced to take the pressure off surviving wildlife for the remaining 3 years of the Wood Supply Agreements.

"While the Government uses inflated and vague job claims to justify logging, the industry itself2 identifies that there are just 566 direct jobs in north-east NSW dependent on the unsustainable logging of public native forests"

"To put this into perspective, over the ten years 2006-16 the NSW timber industry shed 7,396 jobs due to over-logging and restructuring3. If we want to save our wildlife, we need to complete the restructure of the industry into plantations as soon as possible," Mr. Pugh said.

Photo:  One of the thousands of Koalas killed in the fires.

  1. Smith, Dr. Andrew (2020) Review of CIFOA mitigation conditions for timber harvesting in burnt landscapes. Report to EPA.
  2. Ernst and Young (2019) The economic impact of the cancellation of NSW North Coast Wood Supply Agreements due to the creation of the Great Koala National Park. Unpublished report for Australian Forest Products Association.
  3. ABARES (2018) Australia’s State of the Forests Report 2018. Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia and National Forest Inventory Steering Committee, 2018, Canberra, December. CC BY 4.0. www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/forestsaustralia/ sofr/sofr-2018 and www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/ publications
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Why do the Nationals want to kill Koalas?

MEDIA RELEASE - 17 September 2020

According to the North East Forest Alliance the National Party has been intentionally misleading the community over their attacks on the Koala SEPP as decisions had already been made months before to abandon the maps and exclude logging and landclearing, making it perplexing as to what truly motivated their actions.

"With 61% of the north coast's 'likely' Koala habitat remaining on private lands, and probably less than 6,000 Koalas left, we cannot save the Koala from extinction without protecting its core habitat on private lands, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

"It is extremely concerning that the National's attacks on Koala protections have been based on misinformation.

"In a letter sent to the Nationals leader Barilaro on 21 August Rob Stokes1 informed him that the 'Pink DA map'2 would be removed and they would 'revert to a survey process which existed under SEPP 44'.

"The decision to abandon this map had been made months previously as the Koala Strategy Board Meeting of 28 May 20203 was informed of this intent.

"This is the Koala Development Application Map which simply triggered the need for Koala assessments when submitting Development Applications.

"Given that the Nationals knew the map would no longer be used they have been deliberately misleading the community by making this mapping the focus of their attacks on the SEPP.

"Stokes also informed the Nationals on 21 August that "Planning officials would welcome the opportunity" to exclude land clearing and logging from the ambit of the Koala SEPP, meaning that core Koala habitat identified in a Koala Plan of Management would no longer require approval to be extensively cleared and can be logged.

"When core Koala Habitat is mapped in a KPoM it is included as Sensitive Protected Land under the Local Land Services Act 2013, which means that approval is required for extensive clearing. And since 2007 mapped core Koala Habitat has been protected from logging under the Private Native Forestry Code.

"There are a whole raft of routine agricultural activities that are still allowed without approval, such as clearing within 6m of tracks and fences, and clearing for 'sustainable grazing'.

"It is important to recognise that Timber NSW have focussed their attack on the SEPP using misleading claims that routine agricultural activities would no longer be excluded, when really their intent has been to ensure that core Koala habitat is no longer protected from logging.

"Before their threat to bring down the Government the National Party seem to have succeeded is excluding land-clearing and logging from the ambit of the Koala SEPP, so that only leaves development as the real target of heir revolt.

"The revelation4 that the only representation that John Barilaro has raised with planning Minister Rob Stokes is from a Newcastle property developer with multiple residential developments on the edges of towns including Maitland, Lismore and Armidale says a lot about the National's true motivations for their belated attack on Koalas.

"Now that the map of likely Koala habitat has been thrown out and core Koala habitat mapped by Council's will no longer apply to logging operations and land clearing, if the Koala is to be saved it is essential that the NSW Government step up and undertake urgent and accurate mapping of core Koala habitat itself for application across NSW", Mr. Pugh said.

FOR COMMENT: Dailan Pugh 66 807063, 0400711054

  1. Letter from Stokes to Barilaro Sydney Morning Herald 14 September 2020.
  2. This is the ' Koala Development Application Map which was intended to fill the gap until core Koala habitat is mapped by a Council n a Koala Plan of Management. This map of likely Koala habitat was intended to simplify the DA process by making it clearer when Koalas were required to be considered in a DA process (in mapped areas) and when they weren't (unmapped areas), It was then up to the developer to assess whether core Koala habitat was present..
  3. EES Koala Strategy Board Meeting 24 - Minutes, Monday 28 May 2020, released under parliamentary 'call for papers'.
  4. The Guardian, 16 September 2020.
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Liberals need support to save Koalas from National Party

MEDIA RELEASE - 10 September 2020

Call to protect core koala habitat from logging.

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The North East Forest Alliance is calling on people who want core Koala habitat to be identified and protected from logging to contact the Liberal Party and encourage them to resist National Party bullying.

The Koala State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) was introduced by the coalition in 1995, with the then National Party member for Ballina, Don Page, claiming credit for it, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

"The SEPP basically requires the preparation of Koala Plans of Management (KPoM) that identify core Koala habitat. These are required to be prepared for individual Development Applications over core Koala habitat, though the emphasis is on Councils preparing shire wide Koala plans.

"Where Councils identify core Koala habitat it is identified as Sensitive Regulated Land and therefore can't be cleared under an exemption, and is excluded from logging under the Private Native Forest logging codes.

"This has been intended since the first 1994 Koala SEPP, yet the Koala inquiry identified that over the last 25 years only 6 comprehensive KPoMs have been approved, and these are mostly just for parts of Local Government Areas, and mostly don't identify core Koala habitat.  

"The bipartisan Koala Inquiry found that the regulatory framework for private native forestry does not protect koala habitat with the theoretical protections for koalas 'weakened substantially, or indeed non-existent, when practically applied'.

"In 2019 the Coalition adopted a revamped Koala SEPP that tries to make the process for identifying core Koala habitat workable.

"Since then Timber NSW have been worried that if Councils identify core Koala habitat then they won't be able to log it, and have been targeting the National Party in a campaign to overturn the SEPP.

"The current threat by the National Party to resign from the Coalition is all about trying to make the identification of core Koala habitat unworkable so that it can continue to be logged  and cleared.

"Koalas had declined by over 50% on the north coast since the Koala SEPP was first introduced 26 years ago, then in 2019/20 30% of their high quality habitat was burnt, with losses of 44-100% of Koalas from firegrounds. Since 2015 clearing of native vegetation has doubled, with no consideration of Koalas.

"Wild Koalas will likely go extinct in NSW by 2050 if the National Party continue like this.

"NEFA are asking people to email or phone the offices of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Environment Minister Matt Kean to thank them for helping protect Koalas against National Party bullying.  Encourage them to provide support to Councils to complete the mapping of core Koala habitat across NSW within 5 years.

"NEFA are also asking people to email or phone the offices of north coast National Party representatives to protest their attempts to remove protections for Koalas, such as Geoff Provest (Tweed), Chris Gulaptis (Clarence), Gurmesh Singh (Coffs Harbour), Leslie Williams (Port Macquarie), Melinda Pavey (Oxley), Stephen Bromhead (Myall Lakes) and Upper House representative Ben Franklin.

"We need to show that the community supports Koala protection" Mr. Pugh said.

Parliamentary contacts are at:

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/members/Pages/all-members.aspx

 

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Kean needs to Stump Up!

After finding further logging breaches in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest, NEFA is calling on Environment Minister Matt Kean to stump up by protecting important Koala habitat from further logging and ensuring that the EPA prosecute the Forestry Corporation for flagrantly breaking the new logging rules by cutting down giant trees and recklessly endangering the survival of other giant hollow-bearing trees and Koala feed trees.

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NEFA Welcomes Belated Stop Work Order

Belated Stop Work Welcomed.

MEDIA RELEASE - 19 July 2020

NEFA welcome the EPA's belated imposition of a 40 day Stop Work Order on Forestry Corporation logging in Compartments 32, 33 and 34 of Wild Cattle Creek State Forest, inland from Coffs Harbour, after their finding of 2 giant trees >140 cm cut down.

Despite NEFA making numerous requests in the past for the EPA to issue Stop Work Orders they have refused to do so, instead taking years to investigate while allowing the Forestry Corporation to go on offending and cover up evidence, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"It is great that the EPA have issued their first Stop Work Order on the Forestry Corporation, though reprehensible that the EPA waited 9 days after finding the breaches on 9 July until logging was virtually complete before stopping work.

"NEFA have been waiting over a year and a half for the EPA to take action in relation to other serious breaches in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest, yet they still won't tell us what breaches they found or what action they are taking.

"While the EPA dither the Forestry Corporation continue their illegal logging in the expectation that they will get away with it, as they usually do.

"NEFA have reported thousands of illegally logged hollow-bearing trees in the past and at best the EPA only issue warning letters, and often not even that. It is not surprising that the Forestry Corporation regularly flout the rules.

"The situation is dire for the plethora of native animals dependent upon the hollows provided by large old trees, and the few left  in our forests were further depleted by the recent fires.

"All trees >80 cm diameter need to be protected to maintain the hollows vital to the survival of so many of our unique animals. Even the EPA recommended in 2016 that trees >120 cm diameter should be protected, though were overridden by the Forestry Corporation.

"The Forestry Corporation's claims that measurements of tree bases are unreliable beggars belief as the rules are so explicit that anybody with a tape can do it, said Mr. Pugh.

FOR COMMENT: Dailan Pugh 66 807063, 0400711054

https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2020/epamedia200718-epa-orders-stop-work-on-forestry-operations-in-wild-cattle-creek-state-forest

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Action on Climate Needed for World Environment Day

To mark World Environment Day the North East Forest Alliance is calling upon people to raise their voices to demand that State and Federal Governments take urgent action to avoid climate chaos by hastening the transition to genuine renewable energy, while at the same time increasing the removal of atmospheric carbon by protecting existing forests and increasing regeneration.

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Knitting Nannas Join NEFA on World Environment to Stand Up For Forests.  Photo: Jimmy Malecki


This year World Environment Day 2020 is focused on biodiversity with the theme "Time for Nature",  stating:

The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature.

Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message:

To care for ourselves we must care for nature.

It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices.

It’s time to build back better for People and Planet.

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