Wednesday, January 31, 2007
George has added his own artwork to the "No Borefield in Kangaloon" campaign. I love it.
It is a worthy addition to the range of No Borefield signs around the hills of Kangaloon.
Congratulations George - from "Denis of Robertson".
Monday, January 29, 2007
Image "user contributed" - on the ABC website.
On Friday night (Australia Day) night, I had been to an Aussie Day BBQ with the "Moresby Hill Mob". I came home about 9:45, and there was the comet, just over my house. I was surprised to see it, as I had heard that it was only visible just after sunset. But there it was. The sky was dark, and it was very clearly visible with the naked eye. Its tail spanned the width of my hand, when my arm was extended. Pretty impressive. Much better than the damp squib that was "Halley's Comet" when it came past last.
Tonight I had dinner with Steve and Celeste, and we planned to try and see the comet again. We observed where the sun set, and then, allowing the sky to darken, went back out to look for the comet. Steve spotted it quickly, just above tree-top height, about 30 minutes after sunset. The sky was not totally dark, as the moon was brighter than several days before. None-the-less, the comet was clearly visible.
We went back inside, and reminded Jasper how in earlier cultures, such an apparition was taken as a harbinger of great events. Such an event (though apparently a conjunction of planets, rather than a comet) is of course, described in the story of the birth of Jesus. The point about this is that Jasper is named after one of the "Magi", or the "Three Kings", or the "Three Wise Men from the East" who followed the "Star" to find where the baby Jesus was born.
Wikipedia reports that "Caspar is also sometimes given as Gaspar, a variant of the Persian Jasper — "Master of the Treasure" — from which the name of the mineral jasper is derived."
I liked the serendipity of seeing a comet, with Jasper.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
I shall report this find to some friendly botanists. The flowers have a faint tinge of red flushed through the golden colour, so it is likely that they would be regarded only as a variant from the type. Still, it is great to see them growing in the wild, in Butler's Swamp.
I have done a "Google Image" search under "Blandfordia nobilis". Some are more orange and yellow, than the standard red and gold flowers. But none of the images which come up in a "Google Image" search show this clear gold colour. So it is obviously unusual. Click on the hot link above to go straight to the Google Image search.
These are serious pipes.
Butler's Swamp is one of those "Endangered Ecological Communities" which is protected under Federal legislation. With unusual plants such as this, it is important that the place be protected from the effects of the borefield sucking the groundwater from under this swamp, and others like it.
The photos of the pipes show just how large these pipes are. They will carry a huge amount of water, 24/7 for 6 months. In the process, they will do huge damage to the wetlands, and to the forests as well, we believe.
The AAP Newsagency carried the following story yesterday:
"Environment and Water Resources Minister Malcolm Turnbull has put a stopwork order on the NSW Government's key $50 million water plan project, thanks to Latham.
The Latham Snipe, the bird, that is.
Mr Turnbull's department believes the bird may be harmed by the State Government's Kangaloon aquifer project, News Limited reports.
The project would "mine" water beneath western Sydney to augment the city's dwindling water supply. It was meant to come online next month.The stopwork move had put Premier Morris Iemma's whole water policy at risk, New Limited said.
However, the federal Department of Environment, Heritage and Conservation has written to the Sydney Catchment Authority saying it is concerned that "subtle" changes in the hydrology from the mining may have an impact on a number of birds and flowers."Large diameter production bore"
It means what the name says.
"The state government has cried foul, claiming it is nothing more than political interference and hypocrisy," the News Limited writes and quotes state Environment Minister Bob Debus as saying: "Again, the Federal Government entwines us in red tape as we try and deliver water".
© 2007 AAP
There are some factual problems with the details of this story. None-the-less, at least we know that the Department of Environment is now asking the right questions of the SCA.
Clearly, they have read our submissions in detail and are asking the SCA to answer the very specific questions we raised. For example, we raised the details about hydrological changes to the swamps? The DEH's own listing of the "Montane peat swamps" (as a category) lists hydrological changes as a threatening process. In its original submission, The SCA had said there would only be minor disturbances around the fringes of the swamps. They completely omitted to mention that they were going to suck the groundwater down to 60 metres below the swamps.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Amazingly, this is a river bed in the Sydney Catchment.
Dry and dead.
Surely not Sydney's catchment?
Yes it is.
The now dry riverbed of Waratah Rivulet, cracked,
uplifted and drained by longwall mining in 2006.
The Rivulet comprises nearly 30% of the Woronora Dam catchment.
This is what happens to river beds when mining is allowed to occur close to, or, in this case, underneath a river bed.
The issue is subsidence under the river. Mining has taken place deep underneath. But because of the mining companies use Long Wall Mining process, they take out a flat stratum of coal, entirely. Then, before they move on, they remove the chocks which temporarily supported the rock layers above where the coal was. The now empty cavern slumps down, and the rock layers above crack and subside.
In the picture, what you are seeing is caused by "upsidance", but it is a variant of normal subsidence. As the rock layers below collapsed, they sometimes slump unevenly. That can produce a twisting in the levels, and if there is not sufficient room for the rocks to drop evenly, the outer rocks drop down, and the bit in the middle has nowhere to go, and it pops up.
Most importantly. This is supposed to be a river.
Where is the water?
Well, guess? It has already fallen down other similar cracks in other rocks. And the water has disappeared down into an abandoned mine cavern below, perhaps 300 metres below.
It is a scandal. Mismanagement of a Catchment on this scale is totally unsupportable. It verges on the criminal. It certainly is negligent. This river can never be brought back to life.
The Total Environment Centre has produced a report called:
Impacts of Longwall coal mining on the environment in New South Wales.
It is a devastating indictment of the Sydney Catchment Authority, the mining companies, and the other NSW Government instrumentalities which approve this terrible damage.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Damn these SCA people.
While we are busy trying to persuade the Federal Government that they have the power to block the work on the Kangaloon Aquifer under Federal Environmental Protection legislation (the EPBC Act), the SCA's contract workers are laying our pipes as fast as they can.
We don't blame the workers - they are doing a job of work. But we surely do blame the Minister, Bob Debus, who as Minister for the Environment and Conservation, ignores his protectionist responsibilities, while pressing ahead with his authority as boss of the Sydney Catchment Authority.
The irony of this situation is beautifully illustrated by the fact that within a few metres of Butler's Swamp, large diameter pipes are being laid, to take the water away.
And within the Swamp, just 20 metres away, several Christmas Bells are valiantly flowering. (Click photo to enlarge).
These precious flowers are in blissful ignorance of the threat to their environment.
The State Government has deemed the Kangaloon Borefield to be "Critical Infrastructure" under something called "Section 3A". All I really know is that this power gives Minister Sartor the power to declare something as being necessary to proceed, and all the local Government Regulations and by-laws are rendered irrelevant. Not only that, all the usual protections which people rely upon, for example under the Threatened Species Act, also are deemed irrelevant.
Some of my friends, who know about this stuff consider the Minister's declaration to be outrageous. They argue that with a realistic yield from the Kangaloon Aquifer borefield will only amount to 7 days supply of water to Sydney. You should hear what Jonathan Bell really thinks about this stuff.
You will be able to discuss this in full and loud voice at a forthcoming Public Meeting to be convened by the Save Water alliance at the Robertson School of Arts on Thursday 1 February, at 6:00pm.
More about that later.
Christmas Bells (Blandfordia nobilis)
Butler's Swamp 22 January 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
On Friday 19 January, the Liberal Candidates for the region descended upon the Kangaloon area - having strategy meetings with the Save Water Alliance, and then doing an inspection of the Kangaloon Aquifer works area.
In the morning, Pru Goward, the Liberal Candidate for Goulburn met with the SWA people, and then we went on to the main works area, on Tourist Road, just east of the Nepean River crossing. This was an interesting and informative meeting, and Pru was keen to lear about the Aquifer.
In the afternoon we met with Ann Sudmalis, the candidate for Kiama - which includes Robertson and the area up to Sheepwash Road (Kangaloon, Glenquarry and across to Avoca and Fitzroy Falls). Ann was with Michael Richardson, Shadow Minister for the Environment. I would have to say that the SWA people were disappointed that Michael Richardson appeared not to have received copies of the materials which had been forwarded on to Peter Debnam. And so he was poorly briefed on the Kangaloon Aquifer issue. None-the-less once on site, in Kangaloon he quickly appreciated the value of this area of bush, and the reasons why we were so keen to protect it from being sucked dry through pumping by the SCA.
Ann Sudmalis is across the issues to do with the Aquifer, and is keen to assist in whatever way she can. As a matter of fact she was just on the phone, as I write this entry, speaking with me about a further submission to DEH, and also offering to help in any way possible.
The attitude of the Liberal candidates is in total contrast with the attitude of Matt Brown, who is still in denial about the SCA's plans, quoting it as "deep water" which is going to be taken. It is not. We have shown him documentary evidence of that, and he still keeps quoting the SCA "line". Matt Brown is totally wrong in his assertions about that point.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I am always reluctant to give the "Dirty Digger" a free plug, but credit where credit is due. The map associated with this story works well. Click on any of the dots, and a screen will open up explaining what is happpening with that particular area, and will give you links, if there are any to follow up on.
The story itself starts with a report on a possibility that a particular fire in South Australia (in which one person died) might have originated with a BBQ gone wrong. But from page 2 onwards, you will find an update on the major fires in Victoria. It seems this story on Rupert's blog probably originated in the Herald Sun.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Victorians knew before yesterday that it was going to be hot. But they did not know that fires in the north of the State would burn out an electrical connection with NSW which is there as a back-up, just as they needed that back-up power.
As a result, a bushfire hundreds of Kilometres from Melbourne, caused blackouts in Melbourne, and caused chaos on the suburban train network.
On the bushfire front, it is put this way: 8 homes were destroyed yesterday, a million hectares are said to be burning (I suspect that is likely to be incorrect - that 1.05 million hectares have been burnt this season - but it is how it is reported in The Age today). See the Aus-Emaps bushfire hotspots map.
Howard's view on Bushfires
Just remember, folks, that John Howard wants you to be "relaxed and comfortable". And further, remember that he does not believe in Global Warming. He said:
"Mr Howard said there was not enough evidence to suggest climate change had caused extra bushfires in Australia. "I don't think anyone could ever prove that either way." He said that, just one month ago. See the full report in The Age, December 16, 2006.
See my impression of John Howard and his "weasel words" on this subject, in a previous blog entry.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Thanks Denis, I appreciate you looking into it. You are right donating “profits” is quite different to donating their entire takings for the day.
I don’t like cartels nor what Woolies is doing to the farmers – it is not only the farmers in Tassiey that are being affected, it is also Qld and possibly elsewhere. Woolies instituted their own quality control system in order to knock out all the little farmers and are buying absolute crap from the big growers with whom they have gone into bed – however even the big growers will be screwed in the long run as once they have them signed up on a contract and they have dropped their individual marketing agents they are stuck with whatever price woolies wants to pay because the agents won’t have them back.
The other thing I notice about Woolies is that virtually on a weekly basis there is less and less choice – they are cutting out a lot of items and also a lot of items are no longer available in smaller containers – only large eg my Caro – an alternative to coffee beverage. The large container goes off by the time I get to finish it.
I will circulate your email.
Monday, January 15, 2007
What is happening with the Kangaloon Aquifer?
Well the SCA contractors are steadily laying out pipes, in preparation for pumping, soon.
The workers cannot (or will not) say what their timetable is.
large diameter pipes
However, they are obviously getting ready to pump. These pipes are 25mm in diameter (roughly one foot, in the "old money") so they will pump a huge amount of water throught these pipes,
24 hours per day,
7 days a week.
for 6 months. It's a hell of a trial pumping program.
Regular readers will recall the stories about the Mittagong Geebung which I identified (with some difficulty) as being not just an ordinary Geebung, but a rare and endangered species. I published a photograph of this very same plant on 29 March 2006, in a special blog about this endangered species.
The "endangered plant"
has been "saved"
Well, in a wonderfully ironic move, the contractors have erected a protective fence around this particular plant.
On 1 March 2006 I wrote: "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?" Well their answer is to say: Don't worry, we shall put up a fence around this particular plant. It's nice to see that the SCA has been reading this blog, and acted to protect this particular plant.
Aquifer notice. (click on image to read the details)
It's a shame that pumping the bores may kill off the Kangaloon Aquifer, don't you think?
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
You might recall that I wrote two stories last week about the super storm which buffetted West Australia last week.
Well, today Miss Eagle sent me a link to this story from news.com.au. Naturally I am always wary of Rupert's media network, but occasionally they do get good stories.
This story falls into the "incredible - but credible" category. (Ah, the joys of the English language). I read what I see in this story, and cannot pick holes in the reports. So, in that regard it is credible. But it is hard to believe that such a thing can happen - therefore we can describe it as "incredible".
The story says: "Thousands of birds have fallen from the skies over Esperance and no one knows why".
It seems that autopsies have been conducted on many of these birds, and no obvious reason can be found for the death of these birds. Poison and infection ("bird flu"?) appear to have been ruled out. Incidentally, bird flu seems to mostly be an issue with water birds, which tend to hang out in huge numbers, and in large flocks.
More significantly, this apparently started before the big storm hit last week. That was my original theory - exhaustion from trying to fly against the storm. Or even some massive electrical effects of the storm. But apparently not. Not if it started three weeks ago.
It is interesting that of the main species listed - Wattlebirds, Yellow-throated Miners, New Holland Honeyeaters, and Singing Honeyeaters - are all in the family of Honeyeaters. All are nectar feeders and insectivores. These birds are not normally represented in huge numbers, and they are not the obvious, colourful birds which people normally notice (not like Parrots, for example).
Some other species, such as Crows, Hawks and Pigeons are listed, but not in the same numbers as the others. Crows are carrion eaters - so they could get poisoned or diseased from eating other dead birds. Hawks are hunters, but could be poisoned or diseased form eating live birds, but that is less likely. But Pigeons are out of the frame completely. They are seed eaters, not at all likely to be eating the same foods as the other birds.
It is all very odd indeed.
"Acting chief veterinary officer Fiona Sunderman said toxins were the most likely cause but the deaths could be due to anything from toxic algae to chemicals and pesticides.
"Dr Sunderman said there were no leads yet on which of potentially hundreds of toxins might be responsible. Some birds were seen convulsing as they died."
My money is on some form of insecticide spray - but for all the Honeyeaters to have gone first, it requires their food sources (mainly native flowering trees such as Eucalypts and Banksias) to have been poisoned. Why? Has there been an outbreak of spraying of Christmas Beetles in WA? That my best guess.
Until more reports come to light, we should leave this report up in the air. I would not mind betting that it is some form of human "cock-up" but, those are the hardest cases to prove, because if it is something like that, then the humans responsible will be covering their tracks, and denying any knowledge.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
As Dave lives on McGuinness Drive (just at the top of the Pass) I called in and had a cuppa with Pip and Dave, and their kids Steele and Malaika. Pip is pregnant, and I had not seen her in a while.
They seem to be keeping well, out there at Mt Murray. Pip had taken the kids swimming at Minnamurra River. She reported that the water was very cold - which confirms something I had heard on the radio in the last few days.
As I recall, warm currents do come down the coast - but not until late January (about the time the kids go back to school).
Anyway, I had a good enough look to realise that this bird was a Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis). This is a shy, skulking bird which normally hangs out on the edge of ponds, in rushes and reeds. Of course, with two ponds, with rushes and reeds in the ponds just opposite, this was a pretty good habitat for this bird. But it is the first time I had ever seen this species in Robertson.
According to the Canberra Ornithologists Group website, it is classed as an uncommon summer "breeding" migrant (which means it breeds in Australia), unlike some summer migrants, such as the Latham's Snipe, which breeds in Japan and comes here in its non-breeding season, (the northern winter, which is our summer).
Monday, January 08, 2007
Where was it coming from, we wondered. It was very thick to the east - further along Tourist Road. But Lucy noticed that the wind was coming from the south-west. Very odd. The sky was fairly clear in that direction, but very heavily smoked in the eastern quarter.
Shortly after this, the sky cleared, and we all relaxed.
Later in the afternoon, I heard on a weather report on the ABC local radio that a cool change which had blown in from the south-west had brought in a wall of smoke coming from the East Gippsland fires. That's pretty extraordinary. It was also odd that the smoke was so dense, given that it had travelled some 500 Kms.
Obviously a very tightly confined wind pattern had brought in the smoke, and then, as the "front" passed by us, the concentrated cloud of smoke then started to disperse. Still it gave us an anxious wait for half an hour or so.
Let's hope they do not lose any homes, or other property (and lives, of course).
Thursday, January 04, 2007
"The remnants of tropical cyclone Isobel were lashing a wide area of Western Australia's south with heavy rain and damaging winds today."
According to the satellite photo (at left) (courtesy of the Bureau of Meteorology), the clouds appear to be centred on the Goldfields district. However, the pressure chart (below) indicates that the storm is actually further north than that.
The report in the SMH goes on: "Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Noel Puzey said the system would move into the Great Australian Bight by tomorrow and would probably bring rain to fire-ravaged Victoria by the weekend."
My father always told me that the really good rains in the eastern half of the continent were usually the "wash" from a tropical cyclone coming in from the north west of the continent, and heading into the gulf country of Queensland, then continuing down into central NSW. Those storms are the key to the rivers which flood Lake Eyre and the Darling River system. Those floods are the stuff of legend - part of the great Australian myth.
Lets hope so. They need it.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
red = dry
blue = wet
The Bureau of Meteorology has announced its calculations for Year 2007. Australia is a large land, covering tropical and temperate climate zones - so what happened was that the south-east corner was hot and dry (as most of us will remember), as was the coastal strip near Perth. But the north and most of the west was hugely wet, and that helped cool the averages.
So, despite some spectacular figures, such as Sydney's record New Year's Day last year (45.2 degrees C at Mascot Airport), it was not the hottest year on record. That claim is held by 2005. Instead we achieved 11th place (since comparable records have been available in 1910).
Rainfall was well below normal in the southeast and far southwest, but close to normal when averaged over the whole country. The south-eastern region scored the second-driest year on record.
So, for the sake of the dams (and the Kangaloon Aquifer) we need more, and heavier rain.
Monday, January 01, 2007
over Kangaroo Valley
from my back deck
It is raining outside (or has been) and we need that - if only to prevent the SCA from committing an act of environmental vandalism on the Kangaloon Aquifer.
I have followed a link from a fellow blogger, Robert Merkel, whose "The View from Benambra" carried a link to a Bushfire monitoring hotspot site which is run by the Federal Government, believe it or not! It is called "Sentinel" and is run by Geoscience Australia. This is an entrance page to their web page, and you need to "sign in" to access the maps. It is a free service. It is similar to the Aus-emaps site I have linked to previously.
I would have to say, there are a few odd records, including one "hot spot" in the middle of the ocean, north-west of the Kimberleys. Is it Ashmore Reef on fire, I wonder, or a ship at sea - on fire? Maybe some "People Smugglers" having a BBQ?
Rain on the deck
The Web map for all of Australia shows NO bushfires in Tasmania (good news for them). There are 3 fires still burning in Victoria - two in Gippsland, (near Dargo, north from Bairnsdale) and one up in the hills above Mansfield (seemingly not near any main settlements).
To zoom in on the fires, either progressively click the + buttons, over the centre where you wish to look at in detail. Alternatively, click on the fires in Gippsland, and then type in in a scale of 1,800,000 in the scale box, below the lower left corner of the image. That will show you the general central Gippsland area. Zoom in or out with the + and - buttons, as appropriate.
Another interesting fact is that there are numerous fires across the north of Australia, and in the west which we in the south-eastern corner of Australia never hear about. Ah, the joys of parochial media, based in Sydney and Melbourne.