Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis
Showing posts with label Part_3A. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Part_3A. Show all posts

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Doing nothing - is it honourable or dishonourable?

Today I have a difficult task. I wish to discuss the politics of doing (or saying) nothing.

My first example is from the Beijing Olympics - and it is a comment on the way in which the Chinese People (there are so many of them they deserve a Capital P) are quietly protesting about the Beijing Olympics - by staying away in their droves. The mainstream media have noticed the numbers of empty seats but have not realised its full significance - as a slap in the face for the over-arching authoritarianism of the Regime in China.

Here is a little Haiku I wrote to commemorate their "passive resistance" - an example of doing nothing as a Political statement.


My second example is a local body, the Upper Nepean Groundwater Community Representative Group. This group has submitted two excellent, detailed reports. One has been published by the SCA, but buried deep with the SCA's Website. I have personally republished it. The other has not yet been responded to. That has been re-published by Leon Hall, one of the CRG members, via the Robertson Environment Protection Society website. I am glad that Leon has done that.

Some of these people have (individually) done good work as a way of providing a feedback to the local community about what the Sydney Catchment Authority has been doing with the Kangaloon Aquifer.

However, I must ask, why has this body has been so passive, and inactive, at a time when the most crucial decisions about the Aquifer are about to be made? The CRG has gone missing. According to the SCA website, they have not met since 26 November 2007 - but that cannot be right, as I know they met to finalise their submission on the Environment Assessment, in May 2008. The fact that the SCA has not bothered to publish the CRG Minutes tells you something, though. And the CRG is not demanding further meetings, or even for the records to be updated. Is this a case of simply not rocking the boat?

The SCA is preparing its final submission to the Dept of Planning under the Part 3A legislation. Supposedly it will be a "Preferred Plan" which would appear to be a shifting of at least part of the Borefield into the heartland of Kangaloon - the rich red basalt soil country which has been the home of the local dairy industry for a hundred years. This is some of the most productive land in the State. No environmental studies have been conducted on the forest type involved. It seems incredible. I have personally raised this with several of the members of the CRG, and they just say: "Oh, that can't be right". Well, I am here to tell you that it is right. I have checked with the Environmental Consultants whose job it ought to have been to do such studies, and they said: "It was not part of our Brief".

I have emailed my concerns to the majority of members of the CRG (I do not have email addresses for all of them) - and have had not a single response from any of them.

What about sticking up for the local Dairy Farmers? The SCA have even been trying to buy up their water licences, for heavens sake. That would directly put these farmers out of business- and not just for now, but for all future generations of their families. This has been reported in the local Media, and is well understood by many members of the CRG.
What is the CRG doing about this threat to the livelihood of the community?
Nothing. Nada, SFA.

So, by contrast with the Chinese people staying away from the Olympics as a kind of passive resistance, the CRG is just doing nothing. They are not lobbying behind the scenes. They are deluding themselves that the crisis for the Aquifer is over. It is not.

So, back to the theme of the day:
In my opinion, doing nothing can be honourable, or dishonourable.
Passive resistance in the face of an oppressive regime, can be seen as honourable.
Inaction because it seems there is no immediate crisis to address, or else, perhaps you believe the task is beyond your power to control, or because you have simply not thought about it enough - that is, in my opinion, dishonourable silence.

It is time for the members of the CRG to shake off their lethargy, and stand up to counted. It is now or never for the Kangaloon Aquifer. Please convene a meeting, and demand to be briefed on the SCA's "preferred plan" before it is submitted to the Dept of Planning. For after it is submitted it will be too late.

The community needs you to fulfil this role - it is after all, what you have undertaken to do. The Community needs you to recall your title - Community Reference Group.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nepean River is in trouble

This is a report on a major threat to the Nepean River. May I remind readers that the Nepean River starts on the very edge of Robertson. It then flows under Tourist Road at East Kangaloon.

Nepean River, at Tourist Road Bridge, Kangaloon
In every sense, it is our local river, and we ought care if it is being ruined, just halfway to Sydney, at Douglas Park.

Caroline Graham of the Rivers SOS group has sent out photos which she took two days ago, of methane gas bubbling out of the Nepean River. This is occurring just near the "Twin Bridges" on the way to Sydney. The gas is coming from the coal seams hundreds of metres underneath the sandstone rock layers.

The gas is naturally occurring (released by the coal seams, but it normally stays trapped by hundreds of metres of sandstone rock), but:

Methane Gas bubbling out of the Nepean River 27.1.2008
Illawarra Coal (a BHP Billiton subsidiary) has cracked the bedrock, by subsidence spreading out from their Longwall Mine (Appin West, Area 7) close by.
  • BHP Billiton, in a press release of 18.1.08, have admitted that the first of their four underground longwall coal mines at this site has caused “minor releases of gas at the surface of the Nepean River”.
  • Methane gas vents on this scale show that the river bed has been extensively cracked and fractured as a result of the current mining operation carried out by BHP Billiton, which is extracting coal here at an offset distance of a mere 180m from the river.
  • BHP Billiton indicated in their Environmental Impact Statement that, in their opinion, an offset distance of 500m would be safe for the Nepean, but that this was “not economically feasible.” (This from a company that made $14 billion in profits last financial year).
Methane Gas bubbling out of the Nepean River 27.1.2008

So, in effect, BHP has decided that the River can be cracked, and poisoned, because making profits from coal is more important than the health of the Nepean River. It is as simple as that.

The Iemma Government is complicit in this, as it approves the Mine Subsidence Plans which BHP submits in advance of any mining. And, let us not forget that "fees" the companies pay via the Part 3A process under the Environment Planning and Assessment (EP&A) Act 1979, and the "royalties" the Government receives.
Methane Gas bubbling out of the Nepean River 27.1.2008
What is to be done?
Tell everybody you can who cares about this iconic river. After all the Hawkesbury/Nepean basin defines the Sydney Basin (region), and it is the fresh food "basket" for Sydney, and these rivers supply all the water for the entire population of Sydney and Wollongong.

Ring your local Member of Parliament, or ring Illawarra Coal directly.
  • Pru Goward MP, the Member for Goulburn in the NSW Parliament, is our local Member in the Southern Highlands. She should know about this already, as I have emailed her directly. Her electorate includes the Nepean Dam (the main reservoir on this river, although the damage is occurring just below that point, and therefore is just outside her electorate.
  • Phillip Costa MP is the Member for Wollondilly - and is the State local Member for the area where the damage is occurring.
If nothing occurs to stop this damage from getting worse, then the future of the Nepean River will look like this (an actual photo of the Georges River at Marhnyes Hole (pronounced "Marney's Hole" at Appin, in 2005.)

A dead river.
Iron Oxide staining, algae and bacterial mats
George's River, Marhnyes Hole. 2005
Do something today, before the Nepean River is killed, as the headwaters of the George's River have been killed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - the Catchment is at risk

I honestly do not know if "Blog Action Day" is a scam, or a good idea which has not really taken off, or what. Several people have asked me. I am going to participate, on the basis that it looks like a nice idea. I usually do write with an environmental theme, anyway. So, what's the harm? I would like to think that the organisers would have lived up to their promise to contact participants, to "verify" their bona fides, (those of the organisers, I mean) - which they have not done - but what the hell? I'll publish my own contribution anyway.

I know David Young has published a participating blog, about the changed quality and quantity of "life forms" in rock pools on the Illawarra coast, where he grew up. And a damned interesting point he has raised about the steady decline in the state of "rock pools" and the coastal environment around Wollongong and Shell Harbour. Have a look at his posting (linked above).

Gaye from the Hunter has also taken up the theme, and published a heart-rendingly honest blog about the personal impact which environmental destruction has had on her. It is a beautiful piece, and deserves to be read and appreciated as widely as possible. Read it, and tell your friends to read it too.

Here is my contribution to Blog Action Day.

A healthy "Upland Swamp" (lower right of photo)
feeds a stream, running to the Avon Dam.
This is how the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment should be.
See below for examples of rivers further down in the catchment.
I want to write about "endangered species", as they exist around Robertson. There are a number of them, especially living out in the Sydney Catchment Authority's "Special Area", north from Kangaloon. The pathetic irony is that these species are endangered by the work of the SCA's own contractors who are preparing to pump the Kangaloon Aquifer, thus risking the future of these endangered species, which are living in what is known as 'groundwater dependent ecosystems" - in other words, take away the water, and you lose the species. Simple, eh? You would think so, - but that is too hard for the SCA to understand.
SCA Drilling Rig,
preparing to pump the Kangaloon Aquifer
And even worse, the SCA is powerless to prevent coal mining from cracking the river beds in the Catchment. The cracking allows pollution to leach out from the mines below, contaminating once pure streams - as may be seen in this photo from the Rivers SOS website.
coal mining causes this pollution in the Catchment
Mining also causes some areas to dry up completely. The SCA estimates that 90% of the catchment will be undermined by coal mines, within 20 years. And they simply "wring their hands". Pathetic.
Map of coal leases under the Nepean, Avon,
Cordeaux and Cataract Dams and the Kangaloon Aquifer.

Recently, there was an "Inquiry into the Southern Coalfields" - and environmental groups all lobbied for mining exclusion zones ("set backs" - from rivers) where coal mining ought be prevented from occurring. The mining companies objected (naturally). The SCA in its presentation, "outlined their concerns", but made no recommendations to the Inquiry for banning or reducing mining under the catchment. Hopeless.

So, my input to this Environmental Blogging day is to recommend that people wake up to the improper use of the Catchment's "Special Areas", where environmental groups, and even such bone fide groups as the Illawarra branch of the "Australasian Native Orchid Society" have been prevented from gaining access to the Special Areas, for legitimate study of endangered species. In particular, they wanted to search for the endangered species Thelymitra kangaloonica (Kangaloon Sun Orchid), which was described from specimens collected at Butler's Swamp, Kangaloon. Their native plant experts were unceremoniously ordered out of the area. Disgraceful. But, at the same time as legitimate plant conservation experts are excluded from the "Special Areas", teams of mining explorers, and water drilling teams are allowed to drive all over the area, planning for activities which all threaten not only the endangered species, but threaten the entire integrity of the catchment, for its principal purpose - safe and reliable catchment of drinking water. It is not just absurd, it is obscene.

Persoonia glaucescens - endangered species
with its best population found in the Kangaloon Aquifer area
so it is threatened by physical disturbance,
as well as pumping of water from the Kangaloon Aquifer.
People of Sydney are being duped by the Sydney Catchment Authority, and the powerful Mining Companies, into believing that the Catchment is safe. It is not.

And the politicians are complicit in these lies, because of the enormous power vested in the hands of the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, by virtue of Part 3A of the Planning Legislation (EPA Act) in NSW.
Wake Up, Australia. It is time to be counted. Make your voice heard, today.

And even though I am blaming the NSW State Government for this particular problem, and the election is a Federal Election, you can make up your own mind which of the various parties will do the most (or the least) to protect our precious environment (in the largest and most general sense).
So, please make your vote count - for the Environment, on November 24.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Meeting the Farmers

The Dairy Farmers and Potato Growers of Robertson and Kangaloon gathered at the Robertson Pub tonight, for a get-together with the Save Water Alliance.

This event was scheduled early last week, as a "thank you" event to the local farmers for their financial support, for funding us to commission Ray Evans, a consultant hydrologist, who prepared two reports for us, on the state of the Kangaloon Aquifer.
David, Trish and Greg

In fact, since Larry Whipper's statements to the Southern Highland News last Friday, it was obvious it was necessary for us to try and calm down a bunch of angry farmers, who obviously read the local paper. Even before the meeting, one of the farmers asked if Larry Whipper was going to be there? When told that he had been invited, but had another engagement - the farmer said: "Shame. I was hoping Larry would turn up and try and smile at us while he's screwing us up the a*rse" - And those are not my words, I swear. It is a direct quote, from one of the affected farmers. It has a certain rustic quality, don't you think?

Anyway, tonight's meeting was not used to score cheap points, we wished to thank the local farmers for their support. We provided them with factually correct information about the hydrology of the Kangaloon Aquifer (which their funding has allowed us to commission), and also to bring them up to date with the legal situation regarding the SCA's Upper Nepean Borefield proposal, which is to be considered under Part 3A of the NSW EPA Act, and the Federal EPBC Act, thanks to Mr Turnbull's intervention.

Thanks guys. Its good to work with you. Let's hope we have a result.