Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, March 31, 2006

Music Night

I have written before of the joys of Music Nights at the CTC (every Thursday night, from 6:00pm). Well, last night was a big night.

A great crowd of people, great musicians, and, as usual good companionship. Of course, we ordered pizzas from Pizzas in the Mist. Thanks, Thomas and Belinda for the good food.

But the music is what it is really about. So many artists, so much good music. BJ, seen at left, shows how to rock it out.

The evening started out with some Rock and Roll, then moved on into some drum (percussion) work, with people banging, shaking or rattling whatever they could find.

Then they moved back into classic songs, lead by people like Steve, or Niall, with Boney backing up on vocal, or harmonica, or from the keyboard. Boney is like that, he can do more than one thing at a time! Melinda did a few songs too, which was great.

I am forgetting to mention the new-comer, Marty, who is obviously a great fan of Lou Reed, but who also sang some original songs too.


Zoe and I did a duet of my favourite song: "Perfect Day" (also a Lou Reed number)


The whole house sang with us (a great feeling), and with all the people with instruments helping out too. It was just great.

Thanks to everybody for your support - vocal, instrumental, and in every other way too. You know what I mean by that, and you know what it means to me!

Celeste and Greg brought the house down with a rendition of "Wild Thing". It was fabulous, and much appreciated by the crowd. Steve then brought the evening to a sentimental close with his rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". It was a great finish to a lovely evening.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dingos, what dingos?

Dingos, what dingos? We don’t have them in Robertson do we?

“Australia's decision to consider asylum to 42 Papuan asylum seekers has reignited Indonesian derision of John Howard, with one newspaper portraying the Prime Minister as a dingo fornicating with the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, over Papua.” Sydney Morning Herald 30 March 2006.

(DJW notes: the cartoon was not attributed, in the SMH when it reprinted it. I can do a little better than that.)

The cartoon which ran in Monday's "Rakyat Merdeka" newspaper depicted Downer and Howard as dingoes (wild dogs), with Howard's front paws on Downer's back, saying: "I want Papua!! Alex! Try to make it happen!".
(Source: Reuters World News: UK)

How very polite of the Reuters journalist to express it that way: ... "with Howard's front paws on Downer's back".

Is that what was going on? I thought it was two dingos copulating!


What can I say? In an apolitical blog like mine, it would be inappropriate to endorse this view of two of our nation’s leaders, wouldn’t it?

I would draw your attention to the cartoonist’s art in attaching an Australian Flag to the tail of the second dingo.

Canyonleigh forests and gullies

Today, Roy Freere and I visited a private property in the mixed Eucalypt forests of Canyonleigh. We went in search of rare and unusual species of plants, birds and fungi. We had a nice time in the bush, with our hosts.

The sandstone plateau was covered in dense regrowth of Stringybark, Scribbly Gums and Grey Gums, for the property has been logged for firewood. As you can see from the attached photo, there were some very fine examples of termite mounds.

There was a very interesting gully, with a permanent stream, fed by springs coming out of rock ledges, about 20 metres below the top of the plateau. This gully had some caves with interesting eroded rock features.

The ledge below the cliff had exposed oil shale or perhaps very low grade coal, in shallow strata. There was a wet point, where rust-stained water oozed out from below a rock ledge. There were several Fungi growing in the red-brown mud there.

There were also several tiny, dark brown froglets there, little more than the size of a fingernail.

We had lunch at a point overlooking the Wingecarribee River (or a tributary). Although we were in sandstone country, the edges of this valley were steep, but not cliff-faced, unlike the more familiar escarpments of the local coastal escarpment, or the edges of the Kangaroo Valley.

My favourite observation was a tree dotted with white fluffy feathers, (see above, left) which indicated that a Wonga Pigeon had been killed by a large bird of prey, most likely a large Owl, possibly even a Powerful Owl.

We also found several specimens of the Ground Orchid known as Parson's Bands (Eriochilus cucullatus). It is a tiny pink-white Orchid, which flowers in late summer and autumn, and has a preference for sandstone-based soils apparently.

There were also many other interesting plants in the "myrtle" family, which formed a low mat of heath growth, which were notable for their lemon scent. These plants might have been the Micromyrtus ciliata, but, as they were not in flower, I cannot be sure.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Threatened Persoonia species

Readers of this blog may remember that I mentioned that Persoonia glaucescens is growing, as bold as brass, along Tourist Road, just near one of the "test" bore sites.

The grey-green leaves of the small shrub at the base of this large Eucalypt (left) are a give-away. The specific name of this Persoonia refers to its "glaucous" or grey-green colour.

By contrast the neighbouring plant of Persoonia lanceolata (below) reveals how much more yellow its leaves are than P. glaucescens.

Persoonia glaucescens is on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Threatened Species list, classed as "Endangered".

The website (linked above) states: "recent surveys have indicated that the species no longer extends to Fitzroy Falls or Kangaloon and that the present southern limit is near Berrima."

At last, I have been able to take some photos of my own to demonstrate that the plant does still exist in Kangaloon (upper photo). Unfortunately, this particular plant is more than "endangered", it is threatened, because of the proximity of the test bore.

That bore is one which the Sydney Catchment Authority was testing around Christmas time, by pumping water from this bore, via a pipe, into the Upper Nepean River, about 300 metres away. This site is one of the proposed pumping stations for the proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer.

The close-up photo (below, right) reveals the classic small yellow flowers of the Persoonia, although at a distance the shrub could easily be mistaken, by its leaf colour, for a small Eucalypt, or else, a Hakea dactyloides, which also grows there. But it is clearly a Persoonia (from the flowers).

Finally, I have attempted a "cut and paste" image of the foliage of these two related species, to show the difference in their leaf and stem colouration.

I had some camera problems today, and I hope to take better leaf comparison photos tomorrow, to get the scale of the leaves more closely comparable.

Hoddle's track "under wraps"

Visitors to the CTC will be aware of the Potato Pathway at the front of the building.

Well, today we got a glimpse of the second half of the composition - the full length of Hoddle's Track, and the line of the escarpment, and another trail, with tiles decorated with words from the local Aboriginal language.

This part of the pathway will look very different to the left hand side, which is dominated by the famous ceramic potatoes. About two-thirds of the potatoes are in place already, and they look terrific, especially when the soft light of a Robertson afternoon appears to make the potatoes "glow" - the result of the light on the natural, pink tones of the oxide finish.

Today Celeste (above), assisted by Ray, a friendly builder, laid out the tiles for the tracks and the escarpment on the right hand side of the pathway. This is a complicated process, as it involved the marking up of both the cardboard base sheet, and also a plastic sheet over the top. Ray will cut some plywood to match the outline of these "tracks", so that when the concrete pathway is laid, the plywood can be used as formwork, to keep open the final position for the tiles. Then, once the pathway concrete is set, the tiles can be added precisely in their correct places.

It is a complicated process, but today, it somehow looked very attractive, appearing to me, to look like "snail trails under glass".

Monday, March 27, 2006

Autumn evenings, and migratory Honeyeaters.

The wonderful cool freshness of Robertson evenings is seldom as comforting as in early Autumn.

Another comfort is Anni's blog, where she continues to intrigue us with the breadth of her imagination, and occasional clever photographs, such as today's self-portrait in a teaspoon (the photo is relevant to her story)

We have had a string of balmy days, with clear air, and temperatures in the high 20s, but dropping to the low teens, over night. Weather watchers could do worse than visit the "Mittagong Weather and Weather Cam" website. It is a weather statisticians dream.

My personal gauge of the changing of the seasons is the first sign of migratory Honeyeaters passing through. Yesterday I saw my first migrating Yellow-faced Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus chrysops) for the season. Today I saw a few more. There is no spectacular wave of migration with these birds, unlike images from Europe and North America of migrating Geese and other wildfowl.

These little birds drift to warmer climates, and to coastal feeding grounds, from their summer nesting grounds in the high country in southern NSW and Victoria. But they form small flocks, currently a mere handful of birds. They fly in small groups from one tall tree to another, in short distances of perhaps 200 metres at a time, then rest for a few minutes, then fly on. In a few weeks time, the numbers of birds in these groups will swell to 50 or maybe 100, and the frequency of the passage of these groups will also increase. Just because it is not a spectacular flight of passing birds, does not mean it is not a real migration.

I can tell these birds are migrating, quite simply, because they do not reside in the Yarrawa Brush over the summer. These Honeyeaters are birds of the tall Eucalypt forest, primarily. But they migrate to coastal heathlands, to arrive when the nectar-rich Banksias are coming into flower. So, over the summer I see none of these birds here in Robertson. But they pass through in autumn, and again pass through on their way back, in spring.

Incidentally, these birds do reside a mere 5 Kms away, on the sandstone based forests, down along the Belmore Falls Road. I am not saying that these migrating birds come from there, simply, just pointing out how specific their choice of habitat is. Belmore Falls, has sandstone-based scrubland and Eucalypt forests, with many proteaceous shrubs in the understory. That environment suits them as a breeding ground. The Yarrawa Brush, cool temperate rainforest country does not. The difference is primarily that our trees do not produce the kind of nectar supplies that these birds need. So they do not breed here. They fly through to get to other environments which suit them, for the autumn and winter seasons. Typically, that is the coastal heathlands of the NSW coast where many Banksias flower at the suitable time for them - autumn and winter. (Photo above is courtesy of the Macleay Valley Coast birdlist, on their Tourism website.)

Food sources is the limiting factor in this migration, by the way, not temperature. This is demonstrated by the fact that every year a small number of these Honeyeaters overwinter in the Australian National Botanic Gardens, in Canberra. Canberra has far colder winters than the Southern Highlands. But the Botanic Gardens has a cultivated collection of suitable food plants for these birds, with thousands of Grevilleas and Banksias, which flower over the autumn and winter seasons. So, a number of birds stay there, instead of migrating through to the coastal heathlands.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bush walking over Bells Hill

Today I was fortunate to join Ian Archer, with Jim, Celeste and Rose in a truly delightful stroll up and over the hills between Yeola Road (off Belmore Falls Road) and the Robertson Cemetery.

Ian had sought the appropriate permissions from the local landholders. We set out climbing the steep hills behind Ian's property. There is a great rainforest gullythere, which I found surprisingly steep and very wet. The springs on this hill were working overtime. There was one particular Wombat burrow which had been freshly worked, and the amount of mud around the entrance was quite amazing.

For me the surprise find of the day was a clump of the Ghost Fungus, (Omphalotus nidiformis) (photo at left)

Apparently this is one of the famous luminous fungi. I did not know that when we found it, out in the bush, growing under a huge old Brown Barrel tree (Eucalyptus fastigata). The specific name refers to the deeply cupped "nest like" shape of the caps.

In fact how people ever discover these kinds of things about fungi remains a bit of a mystery to me. In the bright daylight, it looked a perfectly nice, interesting fungus. Who would have guessed it has the power of luminescence?

We also found some stunning, tall, white "toadstoods" growing in the grass, in open farmland. These seem to be the Macrolepiota dolichaula , and are known as "parasols' for their perfectly formed caps, over tall stems.

Because of the long grass on this paddock, this photo does not show the length of the stem, which was quite impressive. It might have been nearly 200mm long (longer by far than the width of the cap, which was about 150mm wide).

The distinguishing characteristics were the white gills, and the membrane, or ring (annulus) on the stem of this toadstool, which was free to be moved up and down the stem.

We then circled around the edge of Bells Hill, where we were in some classic cool temperate rainforest, with tree ferns, Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras), Lillypilly (Acmena smithii) and Possumwood (Quintinia sieberi).

Out in the Eucalypt forest, we heard many birds, including both the Fantailed Cuckoo and the Brush Cuckoo calling from the dense undergrowth. Rosellas and Rufous Fantails were seen frequently.

A great walk in the early Autumn weather of Robertson.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

On Lutheran funerals and other rituals

I am including here parts of note from Anni about the Lutheran funeral service.

"There is something reassuring about those kinds of formal rituals, I
find. But then the Lutheran funeral is always the same, always very
formal, everybody dressed in black, the music consists of hymns only

"It is about participating (the dust to dust bit), isn't it? That is the
bit I remember from the funerals in my childhood - first the priest
takes his little shovel, and drops some earth on the coffin, three
times. The Finnish translation is slightly more concrete, it goes "From
Earth you have come, to Earth shall you again return. Jesus Christ the
Saviour will wake you up on the last of days."

And then the family and friends do the same thing after him, one by one."

Anni added this note: "I remember my shock when I attended my first Anglican funeral service in Sydney a few years back, and there were people dressed in pink, and they played Dean Martin when the coffin was carried out from the church. I just wasn't used to that sort of thing and kept thinking how shocked my Mum would have been!"
My family didn't go that far. We stuck with recognised hymns, but rather than playing a dirge, we finished with the Schubert "Ave Maria". I accept that, strictly speaking, it is not a natural fit with the liturgy. But, it left everybody feeling pretty calm, and uplifted.

Someone suggested "Amazing Grace", but I just asked: "Have you ever listened to the words"?
Apparently it was sung at the funeral of Ronald Regan. I say no more!

Incidentally, I vividly remember a funeral of a friend, who was an avid "Aussie Rules" supporter. His family sent him off to the sounds of "Up there Cazaly". This song became the unofficial anthem of Aussie Rules Football. But the lyrics are strangely appropriate, when you examine the chorus:

"Up there Cazaly, in there and fight

Out there and at 'em, show 'em your might

<>Up there Cazaly, don't let 'em in

Fly like an angel, you're out there to win

"Up there Cazaly, you're out there to win

In there and at 'em, don't let 'em in

Up there Cazaly, show 'em you're high

Fight like the devil, the crowd's on your side"

I'm sure that would have scandalised Anni's Mum.

But I knew the guy concerned, and his family, and it went over well!

Dust to dust

"Ashes to ashes; Dust to dust."

I am grateful to Anni for reminding me of the symbolism of the sprinkling of "dust" over the coffin. I had interpreted it simply as an "inclusive" act, to be part of the burial.

This phrase, or variants of it appear in the funeral service of the Anglican Church (in the "Book of Common Prayer") and the Catholic funeral liturgy. Anni informed me that this little ritual is a traditional inclusion in the Lutheran funeral service as well. We are dealing with traditions here which are deeply buried in our European culture. (Sorry about the pun!)

The phrase: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (or variants of it) is also a familiar expression which is used in the Ash Wednesday service.

What a bleak world view we have inherited! No wonder we try to make the best we can of these rituals.

This week's experience was the "real world" view of a Requiem. Perhaps next week, I shall turn up the volume and give Mozart and Berlioz a work out.

PS: I nearly posted a link to several useful reference sites, but I feel uneasy about promoting any religious site on this blog. If you wish to find out more, test your favourite Search Engine.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Saying Goodbye to my Mother

Dad was impatient to be up and dressed this morning - worried that he would be late (as if!).

The rest of us tried to keep things calm, perhaps privately dreading the inevitable tears, and hoping that they would remain more-or-less private. And I write that, having yesterday published the Graeme Connors text. Anyway, I guess I can acknowledge that we all choked up at various points, but we got through the formal processes of the day.

The Requiem Mass was modest, but with nice hymns, appropriate readings and prayers. Importantly, many, many people came to pay their last respects to Mum and to express their support to Dad and the rest of the family. There was a good crowd of people, including friends and relations, including many visitors from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. It was great to meet again some people who I had not seen in 40+ years.

I was worried that Dad would "lose it" when Mum was buried, but he was very dignified. Once Mum's body had been lowered, those who wished to, added a symbolic scoop of gravel, as our participation in the burial process. To me this simple ritual allowed me to participate in the actual interment process, making it seem more real, less clinical, and closer to my heart. Today I helped bury my Mother, with dignity.
Interestingly, some of the great-grandchildren added some little rainbow coloured "sparkles" (star-shaped tinsel pieces), presumably to brighten Grandma's new world. A nice touch, which Nonie herself would have appreciated.

After the funeral we returned to the parish hall, where Dad met and talked with nearly everybody who attended the funeral. The rest of us got on with catching up with particular relatives and friends. The day went off as well as anyone could possibly have hoped for.

When a good woman dies ...

Graeme Connors wrote a wonderfully whistful song, back in about 1991. It is called :"When a good man dies".

When A Good Man Dies

Words and Music: Graeme Connors

When a good man dies the boys take care of their own

They drink to his memory drink to their loss

Drink to the lovely old bastard he was

Then come the stories, the glorious times

He made it against the odds

How he saved someone’s hide

How they fought side by side

How he always put his money on the underdog

But when a good woman dies
A good man just cries

When a good man dies his mates come gather ’round

Looking for reasons looking for words

Looking uneasy at the hole in the Earth

Then come the handshakes the hard sweaty palms

That grip you like a vice

Refusing to show

Any sign of emotion

The respects have been paid now get on with your life

But when a good woman dies

A good man just cries

Copyright 1990 The Panama Music Company Pty. Ltd.

I shall be reading part of this song lyric at my Mother's funeral today (Thursday). Partly it is a tribute to my Mother. Partly it is in the hope that my father will realise that emotions are "allowed" in the year 2006. The great Australian silence might once have been regarded as noble and dignified. But I think it is unhealthy to close down one's emotions too tightly.

Mum and Dad were married for 67 years, and were "going together" for a further 6 years (a total of 73 years).

Kindly wish my father well, as he attempts to start a new life by himself, aged 93 years. Sure, he has "family", but nothing can replace that degree of bonding between two people.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Mottos of Life and death

Well, there are lots of slogans which appear appropriate to my personal situation at present. For a brief period, Was tempted to adopt the Nike slogan: "Just Do It!"

For purely personal reasons, and not out of fear of impending lawsuits from the "suits" at Nike, I have decided to stick with my own personal motto:

"Love to Grow: Grow to Love"

On Thursday I was told that my Tumour has not been totally killed by last year's Chemotherapy. I could "wait and see", or I can opt for the aggressive Chemotherapy treatment, the so-called "Industrial Strength Chemo". I have decided to do that, rather than allow the Lymphoma any chance to build its strength back up. I am feeling fit enough to face that course of treatment at present.

It will be short and sharp, with 8 consecutive days of treatment, followed by re-implantation (via a process analogous to a blood transfusion) of the stem cells which were harvested from my blood, late last year.

I know I shall get sick in the process, but if it is as brief as they say, I will be glad to get it over with. So, it is myself I am wanting to "grow", not my tumour.

On Saturday afternoon, my Mother, Nonie Wilson, died peacefully, at a nursing home in Canberra, with her husband, Steve close by her side. They both moved into a Nursing Home late last year, when Mum's condition deteriorated. In fact she had been hospitialised for a while, made a minor recovery, but she was at a stage when no amount of "home care" could provide for her needs. Hence the Nursing Home.

Mum will be buried on Thurday morning, following a Requiem Mass at St Thomas the Apostle Church, Boddington Crescent, Kambah, ACT.

My parents were married for 67 years. Pretty amazing. They were totally loyal to each other throughout their long life together - through good times and bad, in sickness and in health.

She Loved to grow: She grew to Love.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

How old is the water in the Kangaloon Aquifer?

The absolutely critical question in the whole debate over the Government’s proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer is "How old is the water in the Kangaloon Aquifer"?

Mr Iemma said the aquifers could supply two years of backup water until they were emptied. They would take five years to replenish (he said).

My personal opinion of this proposal, and especially this replenishment time “guess” is on record. As I said on 13 February:

…. Water from the aquifers has been tested, and shows that at about 200 metres depth, the water is roughly 1000 years old. (SMH Feb, 9, 2006 - “The myth of Sydney being drought-proofed”).

Now the SCA has produced a pamphlet about the Kangaloon Aquifer, which they were handing out at the Robertson Show last weekend. Good. Some information, at last. In part, it says:

Specialist investigations are now under way to fully assess the size of the groundwater resource. Studies include detailed water chemistry, environmental isotope analysis (dating), pumping test analysis, borefield modelling, and ecosystem impact studies.

These studies will confirm the likely environmental impacts (if any) and refine the current predicted sustainable pumping volumes.

Good news. Such studies, especially the “ageing” of the water are critical knowledge, which is absolutely necessary to planning of the proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer. So, how can SCA justify the following 2 statements, in the same pamphlet?

How old is the groundwater?

Groundwater across the Sydney basin is variable in age. The Upper Nepean groundwater has been dated from modern (recent rainfall) to a few thousand years old. These ages are typical of sandstone aquifers in recharge areas where recharge is constant and the resource renewable.

How long does it take for the groundwater to recover?

Recovery times, like the age of groundwater, are highly variable. For the Upper Nepean borefield area, it is expected that water levels would recover in periods of approximately five to seven years if average to above-average rainfall patterns prevailed.

(From SCA Pamphlet about the Kangaloon Aquifer.)


We know that they do not know how old the water in the Kangaloon Aquifer really is. They admit that, by saying they are going to commission someone (presumably ANSTO) to age it, by isotope analysis.

So, how can they justify making this ridiculous statement?

”…it is expected that water levels would recover in periods of approximately five to seven years if average to above-average rainfall patterns prevailed”.

They simply do not do not have the science to back up the claims which they and the Premier have been making.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Kangaloon Aquifer - The SCA's pamphlet

Here is a link to a pamphlet about the Kangaloon Aquifer, which the SCA was handing out at the Robertson Show on Saturday. This document is extremely vague in its assertions on two critical issues: The age of the groundwater, and whether it is linked to the groundwater that feeds the springs in Robertson and the Kangaloon Range, and other basalt hills in the Southern Highlands.

Is this a separate resource to others in the
Southern Highlands?
The high volumes of available groundwater and very low salinity suggest that the groundwater resource in the Upper Nepean sandstones is separate to the other areas to the south, south west and west of Kangaloon.

Hmmm, “Interesting”. The salinity issue is related to the presence of the Wianamatta Shale in the region, for (apparently) if there is leakage of groundwater through the shale layer, it can increase salinity in the Aquifer. (So I have read elsewhere in the SCA website.) But I am puzzled by the reference to high volumes indicating that the Kangaloon Aquifer is not related to the basalt-based springs in the Robertson and Kangaloon hills. After all, we are in the highest rainfall area in the State.

Will my springs and bores be affected?
Most groundwater users in the area access springs for their water. Springs occur in the higher basalt areas of the catchment and are not connected to groundwater in the sandstone. They will therefore not be affected by SCA
production bores and borefield pumping.

Hang on! In half a page, they have moved from claiming that indications suggest that the groundwater resource … is separate …to “Springs occur in the higher basalt areas of the catchment and are not connected to groundwater in the sandstone.”

A categorical statement, to support their proposal, without a scrap of evidence! Worse, it is contradicted by earlier Government studies.

It is my understanding that the basalt rocks which form the hills of Robertson and Kangaloon and many of the typical green hills of the Southern Highlands, were extruded up (in a volcanic process) through the older Sandstone layers (which one sees on the escarpment), and through the Wianamatta Shale layer. The basalt is heavily fractured rock, and so it is permeable, allowing water which falls as rain in the local area to seep down through the basalt, through the shale and into the sandstone layers.

I am not a geologist, but in April 1998, the (then) Dept of Land and Water Conservation produced a paper: “Aquifer Risk Assessment Report”. On P6, there is a table “Sydney South Coast Region”. Within that table there is a category “Medium Risk Aquifers”. It lists:

Southern Highlands Fractured Rock (aquifer) (approx. Wingecarribee Shire LGA boundary).

I am more persuaded by the DLWC scientific assessment of all of the aquifers in NSW than the self-serving propaganda put out by the SCA, to justify a political decision by the Government of the day to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer, and in so doing, let itself off the hook with the proposed Desalination Plant at Kurnell.

More about the age of the groundwater later.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tales of the unexpected - at the Robertson Show.

A mystery novice knitter won a prize at the Robertson Show for her craft. When the lady's niece came to collect the prize on her behalf, a few eyebrows were raised. It transpired that the lady in question was 93 years old! She was indeed a novice. She had not entered her craft work at the Show before.

I met a man from Range Road, Glenquarry, who had not missed a Robertson Show in 81 years. He was 81 years old.

Rumour has it that the rules for the Potato Race will be changed next year, to restrict entries to people from Robertson (and maybe Kangaloon and Glenquarry, and possibly even Burrawang). Why? To prevent the outrages which occurred this year, of "outsiders" winning the Mens (Senior) and Junior Races. The Junior Men's prize went to a guy from Moss Vale. The Senior men's prize went to a man from Bowral, who might indeed possibly be a South African. Is nothing sacred?

Word is that Hope Waters, proprietor of the General Store, was pleased to be able to display the "poster" for the Southern Highlands news today, with its banner headlines about Robertson. That makes a pleasant change.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Kangaloon Aquifer - the view of the National Party

On the Kangaloon Aquifer matter, I note the statement by Adrian Piccoli, Member for Murrumbidgee, and Shadow Minisiter for Natural Resources.

Mr Piccoli firstly says:
“The NSW Government has to be very careful here, because they have admitted making massive mistakes already across NSW when they have tried to estimate the size of groundwater aquifers." He continues:

“The NSW Government has been ramming groundwater reform principles down the throat of farmers in NSW for the last 5 years, saying that extracting groundwater is unsustainable and that the environment had to have a priority over productive use,” Mr Piccoli said.

“I would like to see the NSW Government use the same principles now that they have ‘miraculously’ discovered this huge water source very close to Sydney.

These principles include the fact that they cannot use the whole resource, only the sustainable yield, and that they must allocate a large amount of that sustainable yield to the environment, as they have done in western NSW aquifers

Mr Piccoli said “What’s good for country NSW is good for Sydney as far as I am concerned”.

Morris Iemma must also ensure that all the hydro geological work is undertaken, as well as ensure the myriad environmental impact studies have been done.

“In the past this process has taken as much as five years and even then the results have not been exactly reliable."


This blog does not endorse a particular politician on this topic. There is a considerable element of "sour grapes" in the tone of Mr Piccoli's full statement. He does not appear to be a "true believer" in the need for Environment Impact Statements, for example (as I would be). But I surely do like some of the points which he has made. You may read the full statement at this link.

Incidentally, a glossary of hydrogeological terms on a website about the Edwards Aquifer in the USA provides a description of "Sustainable Management of an aquifer" as:

sustainable management
method of exploiting a resource that can be carried on indefinitely. Removal of water from an aquifer in excess of recharge is, in the long term, not a sustainable management method.
refers to water entering an underground aquifer through faults, fractures, or direct absorption.

In layman's terms, Mr Piccoli's point about sustainable yield means the Kangaloon Aquifer should not be pumped out at a faster rate than it is being recharged. The rate of "recharge" is not just "rainfall", of course, it is the amount of water which annually tops up the existing groundwater (in simplistic terms it is rainfall, minus "stream flow"). But it is never that simple! That is precisely why hydrogeological studies are needed before any pumping starts.

Mr Piccoli's statement at least puts pressure on the Government to follow its own rules for groundwater extraction. In that most basic point, I agree with him.
Where I differ from Mr Piccoli is that I am opposed to any extraction from the Kangaloon Aquifer. Once the Kangaloon Aquifer is tapped,even with the best possible studies, it is entirely possible that environmental damage could be set in train (irreversably), by over-exploitation of the resource, long before the damage to the environment starts to become evident. In fact, the older the ground water, the greater the risk.
More about the need to "age" the water later on.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Robbo show - good weather, great crowds

The caption says it all. No thunderstorms this year. Just the most gentle of fogs, which rolled in about 5:00pm, to wrap the people of Robertson in their familiar "soft grey comfort blanket".

Rosemary Turner, Leesa Stratford, Ted Ross and the rest of the gang can be well pleased with the attendances, and the quality of the exhibits. The livestock people take the Robbo Show very seriously. As do the horse people, who had the main arena for most of the day.

The public got to do their thing, of course, with a variety of competitions, from tiny kids in bike races, wheelbarrow races, "gig" races (more or less "human drawn sulkies" - forgive me if the terminolgy is not correct). Then there were the egg throwing (and catching) competitions, and gum boot throwing. Log splitting competitions, and of course, the Australian Championship Potato Race. It is amazing to see how "willing" some of these people are: kids (boys and girls), women, and the men. The first 2 categories run around the oval, carrying 12.5 Kg of potatoes; the blokes carry 50 Kg. Several people fell towards the end of their circuit, which is not surprising, but must be very disappointing for them.

My favourite event was the "jumping dog" event. (Not "dog jumping" where people might jump over a dog). No, this is where dogs jump, climb or scale a barrier which started at about 4 feet (old terminology folks, but this is "The Bush") and the wall was raised in increments, by adding another board to the height of the barrier. Eventually it came down to 2 dogs, both owned by the same person, a guy from Camden (Ireland, via Camden, I should say). Anyway, both his dogs cleared 7 foot 2 inches, and one managed 7 foot 10 inches, to become the champion. Amazing. This event is something of a crowd pleaser, I would have to say, and you could tell the sympathies of the crowd were with some dogs (and owners) as they variously failed the fence height, or, insisted on ducking around the side of the wall, to join their slightly embarassed owners on the other side. These dogs are not stupid, you know. Why leap over a 7 foot wall, when you can duck around the side of the wall, and leap up onto the Ute behind the wall, and join your owner that way?

Ah, this whole Show Day revealed the true Nature of Robertson.

Honest, decent country people doing what comes naturally to them, and honouring a tradition handed down from their grandparents, or great grandparents..

Friday, March 10, 2006

Heartbreak at the Robertson Show

My fellow Steward from the Cut Flower Section of the Pavilion Exhibitions, was Mrs Cazna Norman. She was very excited yesterday at the prospect of winning the First Prize for her Apple Pie. Today, I noticed that she got a Second Prize instead (bad luck).

Cazna's full name is: Cazna Peace Norman. If you spell the first name backwards, you will see she was a First World War baby. Isn't that delightful?

The reverse spelling of "Anzac" seems to have been a response to restrictions on the use of the name "Anzac". So much so that in 1916 the Government brought in ‘Paragraph (2)’ of the ‘War Precautions (Supplementary) Regulation’. Amazingly, you can read about applications for the use of the names "Anzac" and "Cazna" which were variously approved and disapproved, at the hotlink above.

Anyway, the resilient, and charming Cazna has survived a fair bit of stress and strain in her lifetime. At least enough for most 80 year olds. So, I am sure she will survive the minor tragedy of getting only a Second Prize. I am sure she will come back fighting, next year, like the true Anzac baby she is. I'll see if I can place a bet for Cazna to win the first prize for Apple Pies, in 2007.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Robbo Show!

Well, it has arrived. The Robertson Show starts officially on Friday, 10 March (tomorrow).

I spent the morning helping set up the display of cut flowers in the Pavilion, with Mrs Caz Norman. Trish Pemberton had the whole Pavilion humming with busy worker "bees", setting out the wonderful display of vegetables, the amazing Dahlias, and the ambiguously named "decorative" category, which seemed to included flowers, vegetables and found objects. It looked very attractive indeed.

And while we were busy with the flowers and produce, others were tasting jams and preserves. And they looked happy in their work! The really prestigious awards are for the cakes, and sweet pies (apple pies, etc.). People compete over years, indeed lifetimes, with their "rivals", to win a particular category. Ah, it is the stuff of dreams for a country town. Of course, the rivals are often close friends and relations, but rivalry will show its true colours at show time! No love is lost when it comes to who will win this year's award for the Best Apple Pie!

Outside the Pavilion, the rest of the show will be in top gear tomorrow, with the horses, the cattle, alpacas, and this year, for the first time in 40 years, poultry. And then there will be the ring events, too numerous to mention. And the famous Potato Race.

We are all hoping for the traditional Robbo Show Thunderstorm to occur. It always adds spice to the Potato Race. Last year the fog was so thick, no-one could see what was going on over the other side of the paddock. Rumours persist about competitors being "nobbled", but I would not like to spread those rumours. Read more about the true events of the 2003 Robbo Show Potato Race at the CTC website Arts Page. The CTC has a display of Marjo Halliwells superb photographs from that race.

As a Robbo Show special promotion, the CTC is offering free coffees or free Internet access for selected winners and also CTC Volunteers will be handing out coupons at the Show. The CTC will be open on Saturday from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, just to support the Robbo Show.

You cannot help feeling part of it all, at Robbo Show time. It is great to live in a small town, like Robertson.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Getting back to normal, in Robertson.

It may be an illusion, but life in Robertson seems to be returning to normal.

The Aquifer issue has dropped off the radar. Peta Seaton does not seem to have sent out anything, yet, since the meeting last Saturday. Hopefully something will appear shortly. I have been doing a bit of homework, privately.

This morning I had a look at Anni's garden, which is looking great. Many of her plants are only about 18 months old, (since planting). Nearly everything was growing like crazy. Some of her original native plants - a few Bottlebrushes (Callistemon sp.) needed pruning back, to tidy them up. Some Sasanqua Camellias, just 18 months in the ground, warranted a bit of tip pruning, to encourage them to thicken up. But they are growing beautifully. Her Orange bush is looking fantastically healthy. Well done, Anni.

This afternoon, at my place, I had another group of small insectivorous birds stage a "raid" on the plants underneath my Study window. Brown Thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla) and Silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) were the main species involved.

At the same time, a Grey Fantail (
Rhipidura fuliginosa) was giving a wonderful display of "loops" in the air above one of the small trees, while catching insects in mid-air. These are small birds, with large tails, and full, rounded wings, which equip them to be wonderful aerial acrobats, with all that surface area to give them "traction" against the air.

An example of Nature's design for control, not speed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


The guys from the Lions Club run the BBQs at the local Robertson Markets, and occasionally at the Moss Vale Markets. They also do BBQs for graduation ceremonies at Triple Care Farm, and for other events in the local region.

Bob Cupitt (seen at left), Roy Heyhorn, Ron Johnson, Jenny Cupitt and a few other people have been carrying this project for years. Bob and Roy's wives, Joyce and Thea (respectively) regularly help out too. However, things have been tough recently. Some of these events, especially the Moss Vale Markets, are such a large operation that it is physically challenging to these people.

To put it bluntly, Bob, Roy, Ron and Jenny need help.

Without some regular assistance, they may have to simply give up doing the Lions BBQ.

What would the Robertson Markets be without these cheerful people knocking out almost endless supplies of sausages, with or without onion, on a roll (or bread), all for $2:50?


Can you offer a couple of hours this coming Sunday morning and once each month? It would be helping to keep a local institution alive. And I am here referring to the monthly Robertson Markets themselves, not just the Lions BBQ. This is not an appeal for help from old men, by the way. Younger men, and women of any age would be welcomed.

You do not have to join the Lions Club, just be prepared to help.
You can talk to me, on 4885 2725, or see me at the CTC on Thursday night (Music Night), or just turn up on Sunday morning.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jonathan Bell's statement to the Aquifer meeting

The following is the text of Mr Jonathan Bell's statement to Saturday's meeting regarding the Kangaloon Aquifer.


Robertson School of Arts
12.30pm, 4th March 2006

Address by Jonathan Bell,
New South Wales Farmers' Association Sydney Water Catchment Taskforce

My name is Jonathan Bell.

We breed and fatten Angus cattle at Glenquarry. Very close to here. Our property, originally a dairy farm, is fundamentally, and has always traditionally been, dependant on the aquifer that keeps our springs flowing.

The wonderful creeks in our area, many of them carrying the highest environmental classification under the Environment Protection Act, the 'S' classification, are spring fed. That is to say, they are dependant on the aquifer that keeps our springs flowing.

We have had two bores drilled by the Sydney Catchment Authority in very close proximity to our land ~ one less than 100 meters away. The other some 150 meters away.

We have been very concerned by this bore drilling activity in this general area for some time and have been in correspondence with Mr Tony Collins, Program Director, Metropolitan Water Plan for the Sydney Catchment Authority. We have been seeking a formal covenant or agreement with the NSW government ~ an agreement that will run with the title to our land ~ that, in the event that the proposed use of the deep aquifers to provide Sydney with water deleteriously affects our traditional water supplies, that we will be granted access to surface water supplies controlled by the government in the immediate vicinity of our property.

Not an unreasonable request you might say.

The government is not coming to the party. I am told that my worries are ill founded and premature.

Well, if our worries are ill founded, why has not the government said to us that they will sign such a covenant? The government would have nothing to lose. But no such offer is being made. This is all very alarming indeed.


As some of you know, I have a long history of involvement with the New South Wales Farmers' Association. I have continuously held elected office in that Association for the past 32 years.

I am currently the President of the Moss Vale Branch of the Association.

I also currently serve (and have done so for a number of years) as an elected member of the Executive Council of the Association.

I am also the Chairman of the NSWFA Sydney Water Catchment Task Force which was set up by the then President of the Association, Mal Peters, following upon the 1998 Sydney water quality scare. It is for this reason that Peta Seaton invited me to speak to the meeting today.

I congratulate the initiative of Peta Seaton in calling this meeting today. Peta is doing a great job in representing all members of her constituency no matter on which side of the political fence they stand. She is a good listener and a hard and effective worker who empathises very closely with the vital concerns of those whom she represents in our NSW state parliament. Well done Peta ~ we are very lucky to have you.

My involvement with the NSWFA Sydney Water Catchment Taskforce arose out of the following saga of events which most of you will recall very clearly:

· On 21st July 1998 Sydney Water informed the NSW Health Dept that Cryptosporodium and Giardia were present in the Sydney Drinking Water Supply in quantities large enough to cause concern for human health.

· On 26th July 1998 the government issued a “boiled water alert” and indicated that Sydney's Drinking Water posed a risk to health and in the case of immuno-suppressed individuals the possibility of death. Citizens were informed to boil all drinking water prior to ingestion. This alert continued until 4th August 1998.

· A second “contamination” occurred on 24th August 1998 which instigated second boil water alert. This was followed by a third on the 5th September 1998, when a two-week boil water alert was put in place.

· On 11 September, Cryptosporodium and Giardia were reported at six water treatment plants as at high levels although no boiled water alert was issued. The reason given was that the laboratories had misidentified the organisms. Their methods, were deficient, quality assurance failed, erroneous data was generated and misinterpreted.

All the above assertions are substantiated by the McClelland QC Enquiry and are on the public record. It is also a matter of record that no person in Sydney became ill as the result of drinking water during the crisis.

As is known, the public were terrified by the alleged “crisis”. It was in this atmosphere that the government made a knee jerk reaction to the McClelland QC Enquiry that identified the failures in laboratory work etc… but failed to criticize the NSW government's response to the “crisis”. The unedifying result of all of this was that the government's attempt to appease the population resulted in splitting Sydney Water in two, leading to the formation of the Sydney Catchment Authority.


It was in this environment that the government proposed to saddle the vast Sydney Water Catchment with the draconian Regional Environmental Plan Mk I. It was to represent the interests of farmers within that vast catchment in dealing with this piece of draconian beaureucratic nonsense that Mal Peters set up our Taskforce.

The work of the Taskforce over a long period has seen two re-drafts of the Draft Regional Environmental Plan with a third soon to be released.

I think it fair to say that we are very hopeful that Mk III of the Plan will deliver a document that we can all live and work with. Our Taskforce stands by to see that this is so.


Then on Wednesday, February 8th February 2006 came the bombshell for this Southern Highlands region.

On that day, Premier Iemma announced that the deeply unpopular $500 million desalination plant had been shelved indefinitely following the discovery of two deep groundwater sources in Sydney's west and down here in this very area where we are meeting today.

The announcement stated that the sources found underneath the Nepean River catchment are extensive enough to provide up to 30 billion litres of water a year for the next three to four years.

That is to say it will provide almost the same amount of water on a daily basis as the desalination plant.


It is the serious public alarm and concern that this announcement has caused that has brought us here today. These concerns are not idly held. I raised my own concerns and some specific questions with an eminent scientist who had this to say to me:

  • Some aquifers are comprised of geological water and once they are pumped out, the water is gone and that is that. Others are replenished rapidly and provided the pumping rate does not exceed the replenishment rate, they can be a supply of water indefinitely. Of course, with our variable rainfall, the replenishment rate will vary over time and so they are just like a dam in that respect - except that the water is underground and it is harder to estimate the amount of water left. I know of one bore (which had been fitted with a windmill) on an aquifer on a property near Walcha where the replenishment rate was very fast. In 1990 when we had had very heavy winter rain for the past three winters, it was so full that the water was squirting out the top of the pipe even when the mill was turned off!

  • Hydrologists can estimate the rate of replenishment of an aquifer by estimating the age of the water. This is done by isotope studies. I have forgotten the details but I know it can be done. If the water being pumped out of an aquifer is very "young" - in other words, it fell as rain recently - then the replenishment is rapid. If it has been there for a very long time, then the replenishment rate is slow and it may even be geological water and is not being replenished at all.

  • It seems to me that if you get water from a bore 100 m from your boundary, you need to find out the age of that water. If it is "young" water, then there is less concern than if it is "old" water.

  • Therefore, my advice would be to find an independent consultant hydrologist who can age the water for you and give some estimate of the rate of replenishment. You will also need to find out how to collect suitable samples for ageing. With this knowledge, you would be in a better position to tackle Sydney Water if it becomes necessary. It may cost an arm and a leg to get samples aged, but it would be worth it in the long run.
  • Now to have a go at your specific questions:

  • Will the aquifers replenish? It depends entirely on the geology of the area and how long the present water has been in the aquifer.

  • If so, where will the water come from to replenish these aquifers? Again, this depends on the geology of the area. Sometimes it comes from local rain as in coastal sand mass aquifers or in ones near the top of the divide as in the one near Walcha that I described above. The intake beds for the Great Artesian basin for the bores near Moree are near Warialda.

  • For those farming in the areas close to the bore heads will their aquifers be disturbed? Assuming that the local farmers depend on the aquifers for either stock water or irrigation, then it depends entirely on the rate of pumping in relation to the rate of replenishment. If the replenishment is slower than the rate of pumping, then the water level in the aquifer will fall.

  • What science is there to say just where the water will come from to replenish these deep aquifers? Just how big is the area in which farmers' aquifers will be affected by Sydney plundering water from them? Again, I can't answer these questions but have suggested how you might go about finding out the basic information to present the government with a good case for what you want. Over a larger area, it would mean dating the water from a number of different bores to find out how many different aquifers are involved and something about the different (if they are different) replenishment rates.

  • A brief case study might help you: Coffs Harbour has a water problem in that it is not on a major river and most of the area behind it is on a large coastal sand lens with fresh water underneath. Some years ago, consulting engineers for the local council estimated the volume of water and found that there was plenty there and so the council decided to build a big pumping plant to enable them to use this water. However, it was all new water and, because there were no rivers running into the area, the conclusion was that it was entirely replenished by local rain.
  • A couple our botanists were engaged by the council to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement concerning any effects the proposal might have on the local vegetation. A quick, back of an envelope calculation showed that with the proposed pumping rate and the estimated annual input from the average rainfall over the area, the aquifer would run dry in a very few years. The final result was that the council eventually abandoned the scheme.
  • I hope all this helps. The key is to find some independent hydrologic consultants with the expertise and facilities (or contacts) to age the water and estimate the replenishment rates of the aquifer(s) involved. Some NSW Farmers Association members must have engaged consulting hydrologists in the past and so must have a better idea than I do about who to talk to.

The NSWFA has pledged to play a full part with all the citizens of this community to have this very dangerous and ill thought out proposal by the Iemma Government reversed

Our current President of NSWFA, Jock Laurie, has extended the terms of reference of our NSWFA Task Force so that we can effectively fight this issue. We are now preparing a detailed brief, addressing the scientific issues raised, and pledge here today to work with this entire community to see that common sense and 'a fair go' prevail on this issue.

NSWFA believes the strategy announced by Premier Iemma on February 8th 2006 is deeply floored in that it puts the cart before the horse in a most worrying and irrational manner.


The 2004 Metropolitan Water Plan (Meeting the challenges. Securing Sydney's water future) states that, "It is a balancing act between having enough water in the short term and ensuring we manage our water resources sustainably in the longer term."

NSWFA does not agree with this. We say that it makes more sense in today's context to manage our waters sustainably in the short term so as to ensure enough water in the longer term.

We say that, instead of encouraging the population of Sydney to believe they can use as much water as they want, the government would be better advised to concentrate an intensive public education program to encourage households to use no more drinking water than they need to sustain household health, to encourage industries to use recycled water to sustain the health of their industries, and to discharge the recycled surplus back into the rivers to sustain the health of the rivers and estuaries.

The issue of recycling is the big sleeper in all of this. Many other major cities in Australia and throughout the western world, with the assistance of state of the art recycling and purification plants have adopted this option to secure their water needs.

NSWFA sees it as the major challenge to successfully advocate this recycling option to those who occupy the Treasury Benches in Macquarie Street.


So where do we start and how can we all, as individuals play, a part:

  • Form Local Groups:I hear that a local Kangaloon residents group may be formed. This can only do good in bringing the community together to keep informed and to share knowledge and opinions as to how best to meet the challenge of wheeling the government on this vital issue.

  • Encourage Wingecarribee Shire Council to take a leading role in coordinating the bringing together all groups and individuals in our community by setting up Community Aquifer Advisory Council.

Our area is rich in talent and expertise of many different kinds. I would love to see our Council foster and encourage these rich talents to come together for the good of the whole community on the important aquifer issue. The benefits of combined wisdom can never be over-estimated in my opinion.

On behalf of our NSWFA President, Jock Laurie, I have been requested to say to all present here today that NSWFA will not be found wanting when the whips are cracking on this issue. We regard it as a vitally important issue confronting this community. We will be vitally involved with you on this one and would be very happy to serve on any Community Advisory Group that may be set up, if invited to do so.

End of the statement by Mr Bell.

Thanks Jonathan - a very thorough review, and a plan for future action by the community.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Huntsman Spiders.

Anni has published a comment on the latest David Attenborough series of TV programs, called "Life in the Undergrowth". Specifically she wrote about Episode 3: "The Silk Spinners", about spiders. Anni, being Anni, of course, wrote about the music in the program, as much as its visual content. But she acknowledged that the photography and the research was fantastic. I agree with her on that point. Of course, my only comment on the music was that I was oblivious of it, which for me, means it was a successful sound track. But I shall listen for the music tonight. (Sunday. ABC TV 7:30 pm)

She illustrated her comment with a nice photo of a Huntsman Spider inside her house, with a hand in frame, as a nice scale reference. Anni was debating whether Huntsmen Spiders use webs to catch their prey? She did not think so. I can assure her that they do not. They are stalkers of their prey, with excellent eye sight, and great agility.

Robertson residents all have "pet" huntsmen around the place - it goes with the territory. Rather, we are within their territory. My daughter Zoe, who has just moved to Robertson, has not yet learnt this fact, but I'm giving her time to adjust.

Anyway, while not wanting to compete with Anni's nice photo of a Huntsman Spider, I thought I might complement her "clean" photo with a "messy action shot". This large Huntsman (Genus: Isopeda or Isopedella) was on the outside of my kitchen window last year, and it had just caught and devoured a Hawk Moth (Family: Sphingidae)

Moths have fine scales covering virtually all their wings and their bodies, and clearly, from the "dust" all over the window, in this photo, there had been a very heavy struggle. The "dust" on the glass is from the moth's scales, shed as it fought off the spider, unsuccessfully. The particular Hawk Moths which were around Robertson, back in November, when I took this photo, have a rusty red colour to them, the colour of the "dust" on the window.

From the marks on the window, I was able to measure this spider (after it had left) for it did not like me photographing it this closely, as being 3.5 cm long (in the body) and 11 cm across in the legs. As a matter of interest, there is the faint reflection of an upside down "bottlebrush" (the cleaning implement, not the flower) in the window, which might help give you a scale reference.
For the record, I have since cleaned the window.

Consider this, though, not only can a Huntsman Spider walk over a vertical sheet of glass, it can trap a moth (from the markings on the window, a large moth) and kill it there on the pane of glass, without losing its grip.
How successful is that, as a hunting technique? An appropriate name for a hunting spider, eh? They are stalkers of their prey, and have excellent eye sight, and great agility.

The web page linked here suggests that spiders with the ability to climb on extremely smooth surfaces, such as on glass, (and not all have that ability) can do so because of their extremely fine hairs on their legs which can adhere to the faintest trace of water on that smooth surface (scroll down to the 60 power magnigfication photo of a spider's leg, on that website). Basically, they are using the surface tension of the film of water on which to walk. At night, in Robertson, just about any window pane will have a film of moisture on it. So that explanation makes sense to me.

It is refreshing to write about the creepy-crawly parts of the Nature of Robertson, rather than its politics, for once. I thank Anni for the inspiration to do that.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The (first) public meeting about the Kangaloon Aquifer

I have deliberately entitled this story the "first" public meeting about the Kangaloon Aquifer, as I believe we are in this one for the long haul.

A very well attended meeting (about 200 people) gave their full (and polite) attention to a panel of speakers about the NSW Government's proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer. The meeting was well run by Peta Seaton MLA, Member for the Southern Highlands. Peta gave a very thorough history of the proposal and also outlined what information she had been given by the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA). She then introduced a panel of speakers, including Jonathan Bell, a Glen Quarry resident and representative of the NSW Farmers Association, followed by Matt Brown, MLA, Member for Kiama.

Matt handed out an information sheet which had been prepared by the SCA. He talked about the various steps which the Government is taking with regard to water management. As Mr Brown had to leave early, he fielded a number of questions, mostly about wastage of water. Ford Kristo asked an interesting question about Sydney having exceeded its "optimal size" and so, was the Government considering decentralisation? Mr Brown's answer completely missed the point, for although he spoke about various "Growth Centres" which had been designated by the Government, they were all within the same conurbation, and specifically (as far as this audience was concerned) within the same water catchment.

How is that going to help this issue, Mr Brown?

Then Clr Larry Whipper, from Robertson spoke about the Wingecarribee Shire Council's involvement in lobbying the NSW Government about this proposal, and specifically, the disinformation which Council had been given previously by the SCA. Next to speak was Dr. John Skidmore, from Kangaroo Valley, representing the campaigners against the raising the wall of the Tallawa Dam. Then Joanna Gash, MHR, Federal Member for Gilmore spoke. The deputy Mayor, Clr Campbell-Jones and Clr Jim Mauger were also present.

Peta Seaton then invited general questions and statements from the people at the meeting. Questions ranged from possible legal remedies to this situation, to what measures are being taken to reduce wastage of water in Sydney, and specifically by industry.

Clearly, the meeting was entirely unconvinced by assurances from the "authorities" that the ground water to be tapped was different from the springs of the local hillsides and the ground water and currently being tapped by bores. A geological chart which Ms Seaton had been given by the Sydney Catchment Authority showed the Robertson Basalt overlaying the Wianamatta Shale and in due turn, the underlying sandstone. That is basically correct. However, the claim was made by the SCA to Ms Seaton, (who relayed it to the meeting) that the Shale layer was impervious to water, and so the water in the Basalt hills was "above" and separate from the aquifer in the sandstone. Farmers and other people with bores spoke about their experiences with deep bores going well into the sandstone, and even, in one case, through the underlying "coal measures" (which surprised me). The point was made over and over, that nobody really knows where the water begins or ends, but we do not believe what the Government is telling us about our springs and the bore water being separate from the so-called deep water aquifer. The point was made that the Audit of the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment (December 2005) called on the authorities to establish the precise relationship between ground water and surface water in the catchment. That Audit report appears to have been ignored.

With regard to the geological chart from the SCA which Peta Seaton showed us, it is my understanding that the Basalt of the local area is a volcanic extrusion up through the sandstone plateau and the overlying Shale, and so the supposedly "impermeable" shale layer was ruptured in many places, when the volcanic activity underneath forced the basalt to the surface (about 30 million years ago). That is how water, which falls as rain on the Robertson basalt caps enters the aquifer below. As such I feel it is simplistic nonsense for the SCA to tell us that our springs are "safe" as they come from the basalt caps above the aquifer, when geologists tell us that the lower strata of rock have been ruptured, and so do not form an impervious layer at all. That allows a potential 2-way flow of water to and from the aquifer below. So, in my understanding all the local groundwater is part of the one system.

Ms Seaton concluded the meeting with a summary of the "mood of the room" (which was abundantly obvious), and undertook to lobby the Government accordingly, and to circulate information to the people who attended the meeting, and to convene any community group which might be formed (perhaps in conjunction with the Council) to consider the aquifer proposal further.

As one of the speakers from the floor said: "Lets keep the Green Heart of the Highlands green".

I could not agree more.

Band Bonanza # 3

I am pleased to report that a bunch of local musicians took control of the back room at the Robbo Pub, and played to a very appreciative audience. It was a happy crowd, which was also good to see.

The organiser of the Band Bonanza # 3 was Anthony (Bone) Bonito, and he did a great job with it. There were 7 bands, I think, but I will not list them all, nor try to "review" their performances, as I confess I turned up late, and missed the first couple of acts. (I was off at a Committee meeting, folks).

Anyway, there was a good deal of variety of music over the course of the evening. The biggest impact was made by "Sluice", "Impact of Reason", and the "Tailenders", who were a definite crowd favourite. There was another group of young local musicians, with an odd and vaguely innapropriate name (it seemed to me), which I cannot remember just now, but which I shall discover tomorrow and update on the blog tomorrow. Anyway, they were the first band to manage to get the crowd up and dancing.

Theirs was a simple formula - it's called Rock 'n Roll. Straight rock and roll, mostly old crowd favourites. You might even call them covers, but hey, folks, it works. Good music, played well, with a clear intention to please the crowd. What's wrong with that?

Anyway, live music was pumping all night from about 7:00 pm until some time after I left, at about 12:30am.

"Bone" is a passionate advocate of live music, and it is great to see it happening on a large scale, as we witnessed tonight. This is a different atmosphere from the regular Thursday Night Music Night sessions at the CTC, even though most of these musicians have played at the CTC at some stage or another. But the Band Bonanza was full on, live music, with enough space for the musicians and the crowd, to let their hair down and really enjoy themselves.

Long may it be so.

Zac and Mel deserve to be congratulated for going with Bone's suggestion to run the Band Bonanza #3. I will come again, for the next one, in a few months time, hopefully.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Public meeting re the Kangaloon Aquifer

The Member for the Southern Highlands, (Ms Peta Seaton), and Mrs Joanna Gash, Federal Member for Gilmore have called a public meeting to consider the Kangaloon Aquifer issue. The meeting will be on Saturday, 4 March at 12:30 pm.

It is a public meeting, so feel free to let everybody know who is likely to be interested. Local farmers would be likely to have a special interest in this matter. So, if you know any of them ....

Here is the text of an email I received from Peta Seaton's Electorate Officer, advising me of the meeting. Incidentally, this meeting has apparently been planned for some time. It just has not been widely publicised, for reasons which puzzle me.

Dear Mr Wilson

Thank you for your email.

For your information Peta Seaton and Joanna Gash have convened a public
meeting at Robertson School of the Arts, this Saturday March 4th at
12.30 - 2pm.

I am lead to believe that Matt Brown will also attend the


There has been considerable feedback from the community on this


yours sincerely

Rebecca Reid,

Office of Peta Seaton MP

As far as I am aware, this will be a real information meeting, (with an opportunity to hear from the floor as well as to hear presentations of some research which has been undertaken already). To the best of my knowledge, it is not envisioned as a "protest meeting". After our recent experiences at the School of Arts, I think that is an important distinction to make.

Protest meetings may well be necessary later on. I feel this campaign might be a long-term matter.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Endangered plants along Tourist Road, Kangaloon

Around Christmas time 2005, the Sydney Catchment Authority had a "test bore", just near the Nepean River crossing on Tourist Road, in East Kangaloon. We now know that this is one of the places where the SCA was researching the Kangaloon Aquifer, which Mr Iemma has proposed to drain, as part of his plan to supposedly "drought proof" Sydney.

Within 50 metres of this particular bore site there are a number of Persoonias growing. Most are Persoonia lanceolata. Some, however, are Persoonia glaucescens - The "Mittagong Geebung". This plant is on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Threatened Species list, classed as "Endangered".
Both photos at left, of P. glaucescens are from the NPWLS Threatened Species site linked above.

The website (linked above) states:
"The Mittagong Geebung's historical distribution places the northern and eastern limit at Couridjah (Thirlmere Lakes), the southern limit at Fitzroy Falls and the western limit at High Range. However, recent surveys have indicated that the species no longer extends to Fitzroy Falls or Kangaloon and that the present southern limit is near Berrima. The northern limit appears to have contracted a few kilometres south to Buxton."

I am here to tell you that this plant does exist - in Kangaloon, within 50 metres of one of these test bore sites. What chance does it have of surviving if that place becomes a pumping station?

For the record, I reported on the Persoonias of the local area including P. glaucescens, in a blog entry on 17 January, some 3 weeks before Mr Iemma's infamous announcement about draining the Kangaloon Aquifer.