Monday, October 30, 2006
What is a citizen to do?
Immediately that a politician makes an announcement of a resignation, that person becomes a political irrelevance.
My point is this: the Robertson environment is under direct threat from the Sydney Catchment Authority's drilling in the Kangaloon Aquifer. Bob Debus is the Minister for the Environment, to whom we need to appeal, to prevent damage occurring. He is also the person to whom the Sydney Catchment Authority (who are inflicting the damage) nominally answer. As such we were already in "a bind". Now it is worse.
With his resignation, he is now irrelevant to the political process - nobody in Government will take any notice of him. But if he stays in the position, he will not have the "clout" to carry any significant decisions, thus preventing another Minister from making any decisions on the Kangaloon Aquifer. Thus his decision to resign, but to stay on in his position, blocks the only chance we have to seek his help to protect the Kangaloon Aquifer, and the environment which depends upon that Aquifer.
If you wish, have a look at this decision from another perspective - that of the internecine NSW ALP politics behind this decision (or some of it, at least).
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I sincerely hope I'm wrong, because this Government and the one that follows it may well be the last in Australian history to have the chance to avert a climate disaster."
Monday, October 23, 2006
The National Parks Association (Southern Highlands Branch)
to join local naturalist,
on an easy stroll in the bushland of
on Wednesday 1 November 2006,
DETAILS: GROUND ORCHID –SPOTTING BUSH RAMBLE.
Assembly point: Junction of Tourist Road and Kirkland Road, East Kangaloon
Time and Date: 10:00am, Wednesday 1 November 2006
Walking Distance: approx 4 Km.
Wear sturdy shoes & long trousers as we will go into some areas of bush
(NOT SCA SPECIAL AREA).
Bring camera & magnifying glass, (if you have one).
BYO drinks and snacks.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
(DJW EDIT: Identification subsequently confirmed on 7 March 2012 as Prasophyllum appendiculatum). At the time I originally published this blog, it was believed that this plant was so rare that the National Parks and Wildlife Service had listed it on the Endangered Species List, and that it was protected by legislation.
(Amended ID, by Dr Mark Clements)
This plant is listed as an Endangered Species under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. 83 individual plants might sound like a lot, but it is the restricted location of these plants which is the issue. After all, a bulldozer could wipe out the lot of them in a couple of hours.
(Amended ID, by Dr Mark Clements)
Recent amendments, "under the Threatened Species Legislation Amendment Act 2004, passed by Parliament in November 2004, signal the NSW Government’s commitment to further integrating conservation with mainstream decision-making about how we use land and build our economy. .... The Amendment Act puts greater emphasis on land-use planning which focuses on the protection and restoration of native vegetation and threatened species habitat at the landscape scale and integrates with the Government’s other reforms to natural resource management and planning." Source: Dept. of Environment and Conservation webpage on Threatened Species Legislation.
Ok, it is now time to see how this rhetoric gets put into action.
Ultimately, the responsible person is the Minister for Environment and Conservation in NSW, Mr Bob Debus. The Local Member, Mr Matt Brown, Member for Kiama ought be taking notice of this issue.
Already the Department of Natural Resources, as contractors for the SCA, are drilling a second "production bore" along Tourist Road, near the Nepean River, about 2 Km to the east of these Orchids. Another bore, or maybe two, are proposed for the very area where these Orchids are located.
They are building bores at the rate of one every 4 or 5 days, so these Orchids may have less than a week to live - unless the SCA is told to stop this boring - NOW, today.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
|Prasophyllum appendiculatum |
(CSIRO Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research)
Of course, as regular readers know, this is the key area of the Kangaloon Aquifer borefield, where the SCA wants to drill and pump water from, to help "drought proof" Sydney.
Ironically, on the very day when this endangered plant is trying to flower, just down the road the SCA workers are busy putting in a new "test bore". Judging by the size of the high quality stainless steel pipes being used, this one looks like it is destined to become a "production bore", not merely be a test bore.
Of course, this is yet another sign that the SCA is pushing ahead to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer, at the earliest possible opportunity. Meanwhile, the Community Reference Group is still deliberating over what response it should make to the latest Environmental Assessment which has been produced by the SCA's consultants. Yet, the boys are still happily drilling away down there.
It makes a nonsense of community consultation.
It was all I could do to stop from jumping up and calling out - "What about the Kangaloon Aquifer?" - but I knew I would embarrass myself more than Minister Debus.
Friday, October 13, 2006
This is not about Robertson, it is about Rock Art on the Burrup Peninsula, in Western Australia. But I believe it is important enough to write about here.
Readers will be aware that I went to Broken Hill recently, and on that trip, we were shown ancient petroglyphs (rock art), said to date back 30,000 years. It was a very special moment for me to come face-to-face with something so special, so ancient, as that.
Frog and other figures
We were shown these Rock Engravings by local Aboriginal guides who are the custodians of the entire site, at Mutawintji. Clearly it is very special to them, and I am sure we were only shown the less significant works. The creatures depicted, especially the frogs, were important totemic figures for these people, related to their stories.
These pieces of Rock Art rival the famous Cave Paintings of Altamira, in Spain which of course have been granted "World Heritage" status by UNESCO.
Rock Carving - figures
The Mutawintji Site is declared as a National Park, but that did not stop the rock (at left) from once being stolen. It was only recovered because the thieves had several punctures to their tyres on the way out from the Park, back to Broken Hill, because the huge weight of the rock was too much for their Kombi Van to cope with. That is not "protection", let alone "World Heritage" status.
The proposed industrial developments threaten to destroy one of the world's greatest concentrations of rock engravings. We are astonished that such a priceless piece of world cultural heritage should be threatened. The Dampier Archipelago is amongst the richest precinct for the art and archaeology of Australia's first peoples and is well known to specialists and enthusiasts around the world.
Answer: It is apparent that this is the home of the NorthWest Shelf Gas Project:
The Northwest Shelf Gas Project is the largest resource project ever undertaken in Australia. Gas is drilled at an offshore platform 130 kilometres north of Dampier and piped to the onshore treatment plant on the Burrup Peninsula. From here the gas is carried in a one thousand four hundred and fifty kilometre pipeline to domestic and industrial gas users in the south of the State.
After all, if this is the largest resource project in Australia, it i s not as if Woodside cannot afford to adjust their plans a little bit. Apparently BHP Billiton decided not to develop there - for reasons of the cultural and archeological importance of the site. Well done, them!
Here is the email address for Senator Ian Campbell, Minister for the Environment and Heritage.
Write him an email about this disgraceful decision.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Obviously Robertson is not in real drought, but it is surely drying out. I know it is incongruous to complain about dry heat, and show these lovely Peonies - but I want to show them anyway.
Today was warm, and with moderate north-westerly winds. The forecast is bad, however.
Tasmania is sufferering hot weather which would be typical of February, not mid-October. Melbourne had its hottest October day (36.2 C) since 1914. (Thanks to Miss Eagle for the link.) So, as this weather pattern is moving towards us from the west and the south, it is likely that we will see these conditions in a few days. Hold onto your hats.
I shall pick all Peony buds tomorrow morning, and bring the flowers inside to protect them. (See there was a reason to show the Peony photos in this blog.)
Meanwhile it is a mild night outside, and heavy scents of the local native Pittosporum trees (Pittosporum undulatum) are attracting various moths which are thick in the air. Mostly these are small moths, which I have been photographing, but which I doubt I shall ever get properly identified, as the tiny ones are very hard to identify from photographs (unless one is a Moth expert - which I am surely not).
It seems from the comment below that Miss Eagle has moths flying around down there too. Interesting, but not surprising - as Upper Fern Tree Gully is at the foot of the Dandenongs. So, she is also in Pittosporum undulatum country - indeed it is quite similar to Robertson, in climate, but with Eucalypt forest dominant, with smaller trees being rainforest-type under storey, as distinct from the true rainforest of Robertson. That is why the fire risk in the Dandenongs is far greater than here. But I don't wish to jinx anyone, by talking about Fire Risks tonight.
As a matter of interest, my Peonies are opening ten days earlier this year, than last year.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
in Hampden Park
I have received the following emails as a follow up to the Blog posting last night to do with the excavation works in the bed of Caalang Creek.
David Tranter came through today with this additional information. Well done, David.
Good Morning Friends!
The old earth dam on Caalang Creek at
Helen and David Tranter met with Council staff and SCA on Tuesday morning who agreed that “the job could have been done better”, but didn’t seem too worried about the condition of the creek that we have been nurturing for the past few years. It seems that Council required the developer to strengthen the dam wall and this requirement was part of the Development Application which was ultimately approved by the DIPNR, the final authority.
If you are as concerned about this as we are, perhaps you might wish to address some searching questions to the responsible authorities. First port of call should be DIPNR at
- Why did Council’s Development Plan require the developer to strengthen the dam? – To what end?
- If the dam was thought to be too weak to withstand a heavy deluge, wouldn’t it have been better to have no dam at all and let the flow (from the miniscule catchment upstream) run free?
- If the old earthen dam was serving no useful purpose, why were developers allowed to mess with it?
- Why did DIPNR approve Council’s Development Plan?
- What measures did DIPNR or Council take to see that Caalang Creek would be protected when the Developers breached the dam?
- Why wasn’t a DIPNR Officer present at the time to see it was done properly?
- Why wasn’t the water in the dam pumped out onto the grass verges of Caalang Creek so it could filter gradually into the creek?
- Why weren’t the neighbours notified beforehand ?
- Why wasn’t REPS consulted, whose members have been rehabilitating Caalang Creek for the past 10 years or so?
David and Helen Tranter
I am aware that DNR are the consent Authority. Mark has given me an undertaking to update me once we have spoken to them.
I will forward this email on to the appropriate people at Council. Maybe it can form part of our discussions with DNR.
I will raise the matter at Council tonight as well.
Tree Ferns on river bank
It was suggested to me privately, that a suitable penalty for a negligent developer might be to impose a time delay, in stead of a fine (after all such fines are merely built into the cost of future land sales - and passed on to the consumer, not borne by the developer). A time delay would be taken seriously by any developer.
An embargo of work for 6 months or a year would be a serious penalty to any developer, who would then be more careful about negligently (or deliberately) despoiling the environment.
What do you think? Comments welcomed below.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
When I employed an earth-mover to do a small amount of earth-moving to build a single house, 400 metres from a waterway, I was required to use silt fences. In this case, the creek bank itself was being remodelled to suit developers plans, with not a sign of erosion controls. In fact, soil and mulch was being dumped directly into the creek. Incredible.
One law for the rich and powerful developers and another for the little guy?
Anyway, this morning I got a call from one of our REPS stalwarts, asking if I could go over to Caalang Creek, as an observer, as there was to be a Council inspection.
When I got there, several of Wingecarribee Shire Council's Engineering staff were present, overlooking a wasteland, where the creek bed itself had been remodelled, and rechannelled.
I was stunned.
Don't developers have to follow any rules at all? After all, this is Council land, not private land. A representative from the SCA was also present - looking on in a bewildered manner.
I was advised by the Council's senior representative on site: "They haven't done it very well - that's why we're here - to get them to fix it".
That seems like an understatement to me.
What about next week? Or next month? This bald scar is likely to stay like this for months. Eventually it will rain, and rain heavily. The creek bed was originally fully sealed with plants, before this was allowed to happen. Now it is an erosion-hazard, a threat to the environment of all water-living organisms downstream.
It is not private property. It is Council Land. It might even have been a Reserve (I do not know).
The grasses, rushes and other water plants have gone.
The frogs will have been killed.
The stream is now susceptible to erosion, threatening the water quality of the stream down-river from here, right through the main area of Robertson.
Above all, it is bad governance by our Local Government Authority - the Wingecarribee Shire Council.
The developer and Council ought all be ashamed of themselves.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Bees love Peonies -
Perhaps even more than I do.
Several days ago I got this photo of a bee. It appeared that its wings were beating independently, not in "paired strokes" as we are familiar with in birds. Could this be true?
If you double click on this image, you can just make out that the right wings are barely visible, blurred in a slightly forward-beating movement. The left wing is clearly visible.
Bee in flight over a Peony
Again, if you look carefully at this photo, the right wing is clearly visible, but the left wing is blurred in a forward-movement (it is not reflecting the light in the same angle).
Weird? I thought so.
Bee on Lavender flower.
Today, there were lots of bees working the Italian Lavender bushes in my garden (bees love Lavender).
So I set my camera on a fast speed, to see what I could find out.
Lavenders do not appear to produce much pollen, so I assume they are attracting the Bees with nectar in their tiny flowers. The Lavender "flower" is a flower head, with numerous individual flowers clustered together.
Bees are pretty hard to capture well on film. Indeed, I am sure that insect photography is truly the work of specialist photographers. But here are a few of my amateur shots.
The hairiness of bees is important, apparently, in creating a static charge on the bee, allowing pollen to stick to them - an important factor when transferring pollen from one flower to another.
The right wing is beating down and back (catching the light). The left wing is twisted (held at a different angle) as it moves forward and upward. This is described as a "figure of eight" pattern of wing beating.
Apparently, Bees beat and rotate their wings 240 times per second - hence the blurred images of their wings when in flight.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Upper view of wings
White and green butterflies are fluttering all around Robertson at present.
These lovely creatures are the Macleay’s Swallowtail Butterfly.
Green and fawn underwings
Note the fat body, much
larger than other butterflies
of similar wing size
They were fluttering around a lovely Mintbush (Prostanthera incisa) in the warm sunshine we experienced on Saturday.
What a lovely creature it is. Incidentally, it has quite a substantial body – larger than many similar sized butterflies, such as the Caper White Butterfly.
Butterfly in flight
I love the aromatic Mint Bushes (Prostanthera family).
Clearly this Butterfly loved the aroma of the plant too. The Butterfly just kept on flying around the plant, round and round, settling for a millisecond, to suck some nectar from the Mint Bush flowers, then off again, to do the same again. If it is there tomorrow, I shall experiment with a faster speed setting on my camera, to try and “freeze” its wings.too close to the path, so that one has to brush past it to enter the house – thus getting engulfed in its spicy, sweet aroma.
Sassafras - food plant
for this butterfly
Of the plants listed as being known food plants for the caterpillar of this species, the Sassafras is the only species which commonly grows in Robertson. So, the local members of this species would be Sassafras specialists. Well, there is no shortage of food trees for them, in Robertson, I am pleased to say. This is a photo of a late flowering Sassafras, taken on 21 September. Most Sassafras trees had finished several weeks before that.
Their flowers are sweetly perfumed, and may be smelt on a warm breeze in early spring.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
20 metres high
Regular readers will be aware that Robertson was subject to extreme winds, at the time that the outer suburbs of Sydney were subject to bushfires, on Sunday 24 September.
The damage from those winds was immediate.
Parts of Robbo were blacked out for 36 hours. I was only off for 12 hours. But it often takes a while to collect a set of photos which might portray the real strength of the winds.
Vines still entangled
This grand old Blackwood was an important tree in the Robertson Rainforest - for the amount of vines, ferns, Epyphytic Orchids, etc which it supported. But it was a dead tree, weakened by fungal attack, no doubt. It is not surprising that it fell in the strong winds.
It was at least 25 metres tall - a grand tree, in its day.
A huge "Brown Barrel" (Eucalyptus fastigata)narrowly missed a house in East Kangaloon, when it fell. The house is a picturesque grey cottage, which was once a church, and would be familiar to many people in the district. The roof is damaged, but the garage adjacent to the house is flattened - totally flattened. It was a very lucky escape for the residents.
But what a clean-up job!!!
I paced out the height of the tree, and counted 35 paces. Something approaching 115 feet (allowing for some innacuracies in my pace measurements). Not a bad tree.
It is common for large trees to fall after rain. This storm was in a dry spell. So the soil was not so soft. The tree's huge tap root (visible just over the rear of my vehicle) was snapped off. What a mighty effort, to do that.
What does not show is that the tree had two trunks, so there is a second left-hand trunk which you do not see in this photo. It is just over the other side, and it destroyed the garden of the adjacent property.
Now, that's a big tree!
Friday, October 06, 2006
"The Nature of Robertson" is full of surprises.
Today I retract the "blast" which I directed at the SCA, over the slashing of the verge, along Tourist Road. My main problem was that I feared that they might have chopped off the buds of the local perennial native flowers, especially Ground Orchids, Vanilla Rush-lilies, Trigger Plants, and myriads of other tiny plants.
T. pauciflora - flower stem
Today I discovered that there are some Ground Orchids in flower (tiny little things, in amongst the severed grass stems). I was thrilled to discover these flowers today.
A stunning Blue Sun Orchid (Thelymitra pauciflora) - which is notorious for only opening on really warm days. It is a shy flowerer.
The Broad-lipped Leek Orchid. As it has been a dry season, this flower was only four inches high. It ought be about one foot high. Still, if it saved it from being slashed, well that is good.
It seems that the Orchids have such a long dormancy period that even though the area was only slashed two weeks ago, the Orchid flower-stems were only just growing out of the ground (if at all), and so were too short (at that time) to be chopped off by the slashers. Thank heavens for that.
This tiny mauve/blue Orchid was growing in nearly bare earth - yellow sandy soil. I have only ever found it in this one area (ever). By which I mean I have never seen it growing in any other district. Here on the impoverished sandstone soils, but without competition of other plants (due to slashing every few years), this tiny Orchid seems to thrive.
The books describe this species as haing a musky odour, but I could not detect any smell from it (even when lying on my belly to photograph it, at close range).
There was another thing I learnt today. Despite supposedly participating in a "review" of their proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer, the SCA is still conducting drilling in the Borefield. So much for community consultation.
Today, 6 October 2006, at 2:45 pm, while I was photographing these Orchids, a large drilling rig, marked with the insignia of the Department of Natural Resources drove into the fire trail just across from Dragon Farm (I think it might be just east of Orfords Road, but I'm not sure of the name of this road). I think that Fire Trail leads to "Belmore Crossing", according to the contour maps of the district. The driver told me he was going to drill some "test bores" - about 150 metres deep.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Photos courtesy of David Young, a resident Robertson photographer.
Yuri being welcomed back
to Robertson, by Boney,
the MC for the Spud Olympics.
Fortunately, Yuri has developed a sense of humour, which he has learnt from his Australian friends, since he first illegally jumped ship, and found solace and refuge in Fortitude Valley, back in the late 1970s.
Aaah, those were the days - when big men (like Yuri) ran Queensland!
Some Robertson people will remember the previous visit to the village of our favourite Russian Weightlifting Champion. He came for a Robertson Primary School Quiz Night, which had a sporting theme, to do with the Olympics - Yuri's favourite topic.
Hence the label.
Leon and Bernie, meet Yuri.
His full name is "Yuri - you bloody idiot", which is how he was continually addressed by his good Aussie mates, when he first got off the boat. It has something to do with his thick accent, and how people could not read the funny way he writes his name - in Cyrillic characters. That is why his full name is also written up in conventional "Latinised" script.
Yuri is a big, powerful man.
He loves throwing things.
He loves lifting bags of potatoes,
He loves ordering smaller people around, and generally being a bloody nuisance.
Yuri is good at this.
Levitating Potatoes with
thought power alone.
Yuri loves everything about potatoes.
He especially likes drinking the fine liquor produced from them. When Yuri heard of the Spud Olympics, you could not keep him away. This is stuff he understands.
Yuri launching a
Back when Yuri was a young man, he trained to launch satellites into orbit, by muscle power alone.
Here he demonstrates his own technique.
Yuri is impressed
with Meg's technique.
Yuri recognises a potential champion, in young Meg.
When Yuri is not ordering people around, blowing whistles, measuring how far people have thrown their potatoes, etc, he likes to keep up his bulk-building diet, by eating muscle food - Baked Beans (low-salt variety).
Yuri keeps his blood pressure under control, by careful dieting.
Before he left, Yuri congratulated the people from the Robertson CTC who volunteered their time and effort to organize the Robertson "Spud Olympics".