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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rivers SOS planning meeting at Ourimbah

A group of dedicated anti-coal mining and water conservation campaigners met at Ourimbah yesterday.

Click on that image to enlarge it (you might need to scroll the image across the screen to see all the speakers.
David Harris MLA, Caroline Graham, Dave Burgess (from the TEC), Bev Smiles, Dr Ian Wright, Lee Rhiannon MLC, Col Maybury, Dr Steve Robinson, Bernard Eddy, Mike Campbell OAM.
The choice of venue was intended as a compromise to assist people from the Hunter and further afield to attend.

Anyway, we had some people from the Mudgee area, the Hunter (several different locations) and Gloucester, and Stroud, and the Wyong are, as well as Sydney, and the Southern Catchment and Southern Highlands. Mostly we were a typical group of environmental volunteer campaigners, but there were some full-time (professional) campaigners and several politicians and staffers.

There were several speakers who had not addressed the Rivers SOS group as a whole, before, so I have focussed this report on those speakers.

Firstly I would like to mention Dr Ian Wright. Ian is an academic, not an environmental campaigner, but he is trying to attract attention to the problems caused by coal mines leaking out acid leachate into the Grose River. Ian is a seriously well informed researcher, who deserves all the support he can get.

Col Maybury from Kurri Kurri (in the Hunter) has been working for years to actually neutralise acid in creeks which have been damaged by old coal mines leaking highly acid water into creeks and rivers in his area. Last December, his local Landcare group was prevented from continuing this voluntary activity - a practical effort to overcome environmental problems. Strangely, the plight of the Kurri Kurri Landcare Group was not taken up as a campaign issue following yesterday's meeting. Personally I think that there is scope for some lobbying on behalf of Col's group. I do not see why they ought have been stopped by a Departmental official who apparently has not even inspected the work they were doing. At the very least, surely some questions ought be asked in Parliament, as to why that action was taken?

Mike Cambell, from the Australian Coal Alliance (an anti-coal group, in case you were wondering), recounted some of their history in opposing both gas and coal mining in the Wyong catchment area.

They have had some success, and indeed their local MP, David Harris MLA came along to the meeting, and expressed his concern about the prospect of mining occurring under the local water catchment. Pretty amazing, really, for an endorsed Labor member. Good on him.

After lunch, Dr Steve Robinson from Gloucester, presented a paper on the health impacts of coal mining, and especially dust contamination of air (particularly near schools) and of drinking water. Again, while the audience was sympathetic to Steve's concerns, no formal strategy was endorsed by the meeting, to raise the profile of this issue. Perhaps I had a misunderstanding of the purpose of the meeting.

Then Bernard Eddy, my colleague from the Save Water Alliance, spoke to the meeting.

Bernie had taken notes of what the various speakers had said, and quoted back to them examples of them all bemoaning the fact that, despite much hard work on their part, they all felt they were not having the right impact for their work.

"Australia, the driest inhabited continent, is running out of water fast and coal mining is the worst offender."
"It is obvious that our situation in the Southern Catchment is just part of a State-wide picture, as your presence here to day indicates. And worse things are happening in Queensland, and Western Australia and South Australia. And then there is the entire Murray Darling Basin debacle. And then also, there is the abomination of the bottled water industry. A national challenge requires a national response."

At this point, Bernie announced the formation of the Australian Water Network, to act as a national platform for water issues.

We hope to be able to work with the various groups represented at this meeting, and already Bernie has been in contact with many other groups in the Murray Darling, (based in Adelaide) and also people in Melbourne.


Duncan said...

Best of luck with your endeavours Denis.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Duncan.
Judging by the adverse reaction of some persons, who clearly regard us as a threat to their own personal "fiefdoms", it will be a hard and slow process.
We do have some Victorian contacts - some people have done good work already. I have a friend in Melbourne who went to Yea yesterday for the "Plug the Pipe" rally.
Water is an issue everywhere.