Tassie tour

Mount Lindsay in the Tarkine — threatened by mining. Photo: Rob Blakers. Mount Lindsay in the Tarkine — threatened by mining. Photo: Rob Blakers.

On 27th March I’m flying to Hobart to begin a series of talks on the runaway resources boom, whatever that moneymaker might be: coal, gas, iron ore or…?

Let’s dig it all up and see what we can get for it.

Damage? What damage? Most unlikely! Anyway, we’ll fix it all up afterwards, good as new.

I’m taking the Bimblebox documentary to Tassie on behalf of Paola and the Bimblebox team, since neither they nor I believe these industries can ‘fix’ it and we don’t think they ought to be allowed to begin the damage, to the regions or the planet.

I’ll be talking about the film and the whole issue, especially as is beginning to be played out in Tasmania. The Tarkine isn’t all they have to be worrried about.

The Huskisson River in a current mining lease. Photo: Rob Blakers. The Huskisson River in a current mining lease. Photo: Rob Blakers.

Where and when:

Wednesday 27th March 8:30pm: State Cinema, Hobart
Introduction by Senate Greens Candidate Helen Burnet, Bimblebox screening, talk by Sharyn, and by Scott Jordan of the Tarkine National Coalition
Tickets $10.
Book online
Phone (03) 6238 2936

Wednesday 3rd April: 7pm the Supper Room, Cygnet Town Hall
Bimblebox screening and talk.

Thursday 4th April: 5:30pm Hobart Bookshop, 22 Salamanca Square, Hobart
Talk by Sharyn
Phone (03) 6223 1804

Friday 5th April: 6pm University of Tasmania, Burnie
Introduction by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, talk by Sharyn, Bimblebox screening
Admission $5 (donations welcome)
Book online
Phone (03) 6331 0033

5th—27th April: Sawtooth Gallery, 160 Cimitiere Stree, Launceston.
Exhibition ‘Document://Bimblebox’ of artwork influenced by the Bimblebox Nature Refuge.
Gallery hours 12-5pm Wednesday—Friday, 12—4pm Saturday.

Sunday 7th April 11am: Sawtooth Gallery, Launceston
Introduction by Kim Booth MP, talk by Sharyn, Bimblebox screening
Admission $5 (donations welcome)
Phone (03) 6336 2294

North to south

I’ll be hitting the road again soon, still talking… writing Rich Land, Wasteland has made this a full time follow-on occupation!

If the rains don’t intervene again, first I’ll be in beautiful—and wet—Dorrigo, so high up as to often be a cloudland. Then down to trendy and only slightly less wet Bellingen, at the feet of these spectacular mountains.

No, I’m not on holiday; I’m there as part of the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival.

No, they don’t have a coal or gas rush there—but they do have a gold and antimony rush (and whatever else they find in the process) and there’s plenty of reasons to be concerned about this. Unless you fancy a little arsenic in your waterways?

My Festival events are:

  • Thursday 21st March, 7 pm
    Dorrigo Community Hall, 
    Hickory Street.
    Chaired by Jacqueline Williams, with myself and Paul Cleary (Minefield) speaking on Mining of course—but with the theme of ‘Just keep digging? – our resources rush, local and beyond.’
  • Saturday 23rd March, 2.30-3.45 pm
    Bellingen Memorial Hall
    Discussion chaired by George Negus on ‘Dangerous Activities: Mining and Nuclear Energy,’ with myself, Paul Cleary and Richard Broinowski.

Then I’m off to Melbourne again, just overnight, to Sandringham on Port Phillip Bay, to speak at a public event organised by the Bayside Climate Change Action Group.

  • Tuesday, 26th March, 7.30 pm
    Sandringham Uniting Church Hall,
    21 Trentham Street
    Sandringham.

Next day I’m in Tasmania—details of that to follow.

North West awakening

I’m back home after a week in North-West NSW. I was there for the NorthWest Alliance of community groups across the Walgett, Moree, Narrabri, Coonamble, Gunnedah, Coonabarabran, Quirindi and Tamworth shires — all very concerned about the expansion of extractive industries there, especially coal and coal seam gas.

We were a trio at information forums in Tamworth, Gunnedah, Narrabri and Moree.

Mark Ogge from The Australia Institute spoke on the economic impacts, on agriculture especially, launching a new report, ‘Still beating about the bush’, I spoke on the social impacts, and Dr Steve Robinson from Gloucester and Doctors for the Environment, spoke on health impacts.

While issues were different in each place, interest was clearly high everywhere as good attendances (80-160) and keen questions showed. Eight times the current coal production is predicted for the Gunnedah Coal Field, as it is called overall, and CSG companies like Santos are well entrenched and keen to get going.

This is a major agricultural cropping region, proud of its water-retaining black soils, and most people want to keep it that way.

Tamworth may not be immediately threatened but I feel it could well become a Drive-in, Drive-out (DIDO) centre, where workers base their families, near amenities and away from the inevitable pollution if projects like those recently ticked off by Mr Burke go ahead — the Maules Creek mine and the Boggabri expansion. People also expressed concern about the role of coal in fuelling global warming.

northwest-2

Gunnedah worries about both coal and CSG, being near the BHP Billiton Caroona EL, the Shenhua Watermark EL and the Santos leases, given what we have seen in the Pilliga Forest gas fields, where spills like the above give good reason to be worried. (See Stop Pilliga Coal Seam Gas.) It also has the Whitehaven coal stockpiles and processing plant nearby.

Santos opened their ‘shop’ in Gunnedah’s main street last week, matched by a far more informative shopfront almost next door, of the N-W Alliance.

The main current coal expansion is around Boggabri, roughly halfway on the Newell Highway north from Gunnedah to Narrabri.  Boggabri is soon to get a single persons worker accommodation camp, as Narrabri already has. Gunnedah wants residential housing instead.

I fear for Boggabri’s future, for health and social reasons.

Narrabri Council has been and still is gung-ho in favour of these industries, with the Pilliga CSG fields between here and Coonabarabran, and the Whitehaven coal stockpiles not far away. Clearly not all the community agree.

To the north, Moree Council has stood up for their region to remain agricultural, not industrial. They also have the shining example of the Bellata/Gurley group who have stood united against allowing CSG exploration on their top cotton and wheat land, ‘locking their gates’ well in advance.

northwest-3

At the last three talks, I was greatly encouraged by the number of Gomaroi people who came, and who spoke up for the need for a united front to save our land and the water. The eloquent Alf Priestley at Moree moved many by his words about one human race.

At Moree I was also privileged to meet Auntie Shirley (front, above), the last person born at Terry Hie Hie, a mission, but also a very special place for the Gomaroi, who would be devastated to lose others like Leard Forest. As I showed her to a front row seat I felt like I was escorting royalty.

At chairperson Penny Blatchford’s enquiry, hands were raised in an overwhelming majority indication of wishes for a CSG-free community (Aunty Shirl certainly agrees, but is a little hard of hearing).

Further action meetings were planned in all four towns: the North-west will be an area to watch.

Next event in the region is the Leard Forest Listen Up on March 9-10, at the Frontline Action camp. See this good update from the camp and links about the event here.

On the move in February

Here’s my schedule of talks for the rest of this month.

PUBLIC MEETINGS: N-W Alliance NSW tour
Health, Environment and Economy:
What will coal seam gas and mining mean for our town?
I am speaking on ‘Community impacts’, Mark Ogge from The Australia Institute will address ‘Mining risks to our economy’ and
Dr Steve Robinson of Doctors for the Environment will talk on ‘Health impacts of coal and gas mining’.

TAMWORTH
Monday 25th February, 6:30-8:00pm
Tamworth Community Centre
Darling Street, Tamworth

GUNNEDAH
Tuesday 26th February, 6:30-8:00pm
Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club
313 Conadilly St, Gunnedah

NARRABRI
Wednesday 27th February, 6:30-8:00pm
Narrabri High School

MOREE
Thursday 28th February, 6:30-8:00pm
Moree Town Hall
Balo St, Moree

Winding down from Woodford

After almost two weeks away, I am greatly relieved to be back here on my mountain. Woodford was a visual and auditory overload, so back home I am appreciating small details once again, like the vines that wind their way up any handy prop.

It is the silence I most appreciate, just a wind whisper in trees, a little birdsong or frog croak.

Woodford was LOUD. In the Cloudland stallholders’ camp (I was there for Lock the Gate) on the ridge, the music from the venues below wasn’t clear, but the bass boom was, so loud it vibrated my skull! Earplugs didn’t help.

But Woodford was also wonderful: a rich, surreal world, where painted street artists like the Zombies or our Metgasgo Super Hero Girls Sheree Dearden and Liz Mahood, or the Stepford Wives stiltwalkers mingled with visitors. The variety of dress alone was worth watching as the parade passed our stall.

After talking to people for hours from the stall I was really too tired to dance or to go to any concerts, but the high point for me was giving a talk at late notice, filling in for Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton on Saturday. I spoke to about 300 people and received a standing ovation; only after that could I relax!

vines-3

Back home, I appreciate again details like the opportunistic seeds that make use of any water and silt receptacle, like this Lomandra happily ensconced in the bowl of this once-coppiced tree.

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My domestic vines are kept thoroughly in check to wallaby reach height, but they still manage to keep the critical verandah level shaded. And on that cool verandah I am eating and sitting and thanking my good fortune to have this to come home to.

Once upon a town…

Between Lithgow and Mudgee in NSW lies the Capertee Valley, the widest canyon in the world. Part of it narrows spectacularly to the old shale oil town of Glen Davis.

From 1938-1952, a shale mine, shale oil works (for gasoline) and a nearby purpose-built town of up to 1800 people occupied the valley.

It’s hard to imagine, as the the three buildings in the top photo are the only ex-commercial ones left.

There are a few houses occupied and new ones built, but a walk around the back roads that would have been streets shows the more common situation: crumbling or long-crumbled (or cannibalised) walls, now gentled by regrowth bush, and always against stunning escarpment backdrops.

It’s a little eerie, as all that life and bustle and industry was suddenly stilled.  It’s officially no longer classed as a town but  a ‘community.’

Glen Davis has a quiet open camping area, with no caretaker, but a donation box for the use of its hot showers and flushing loos.

I was there for work, so I was delighted, if astonished, that in that narrow ‘glen’ I could get mobile and email reception.

Land of extremes

A little over a week ago I was home on the mountain watching the morning sunlight stream through my damp green forest, marvelling and grateful as always.

I am now in so foreign a landscape as to seem like another planet.

On Thursday night, after speaking in Barcaldine, I followed my hosts’ dust cloud through gates and over grids, dodging kamikaze kangaroos, for about half an hour, but across what seemed like the Nullarbor in the dark, and woke up to this.

This is ‘the Downs’; no specific name like the Darling Downs, Denice and Ian Campbell tell me. It’s like this for 360 degrees around their homestead and they love it. I think it ought to be The Downs, to match its impressiveness.

These strangely beautiful Brahmans seem to thrive here.

It is no country for people who don’t like driving, as the roads are straight and seemingly endless. Long dirt roads leading to large properties are muddy or dusty in turns. 

They are a treat compared to the tarred roads, where road trains and utes and SUVs leave a trail of roadkill like bloody punctuation marks every 10 metres or so.

Crows and wedge-tailed eagles flap and rise as I approach and twice I saw a feral cat dart back from its feed, into the grass.

I’m a long way from home.

Wide open skies

There is always something grand about the skyscapes of Victoria’s wide open spaces.  I can remember being struck by them on my first trip to the state, back in 1978.

This dramatic beauty (above) was offered to me early on a very windy morning, on higher ground about 5km from Bacchus Marsh.

And yet, back on my own mountain, where my sky views are limited by the forest rim of my clearing, my ‘skybowl’, this pretty sunset presented itself like a welcome back gift.

I don’t need to compare; I just enjoy.

Woko fungi

While the Woko rainforest may be green, slow walkers and careful lookers can spot dashes and spots of colour as the fungi which love rotting wood and leaves display their amazing variety.

The flamboyant ‘flowerings’ of the orange coral fungi (Ramaria subaurantica) (left) were easy to see, unlike the single tiny orange cup (right) (Aleuria aurantia?).

I almost missed the strange grey groping fingers of what I think may be Clavaria zollingeri (left); another pointed out this solitary perfect dark chocolate sphere in its cracked wafer shell, which I first took to be some sort of Earthstar but think may be Scleroderma polyrhizum, although very dark?

And then there were the pretty ‘fairy’ sorts of fungi, like these mini red ‘parasols’, which I didn’t check if they were velvety or slimy, so could be Hygrocybe miniata or Mycena viscidocruenta? I must take the fungi book with me on such trips!

The elegant beauties on the right were growing on a fallen log high up in front of the waterfall; no idea what they are and I guess you wouldn’t normally be looking up into them.

This unknown creme caramel trio took my fancy because they were so determinedly offset, trying to keep their caps level — caps which were definitely slimy —  ‘viscous.’

This enormous colony seemed to be dying, as the host tree already had; half of the trunk had snapped off and lay on the forest floor, where the delicately flushed fungi fans were turning dark and papery. This reminded me of marine platform rocks covered in shells, so dense was the population.

Woko greens

The walk below the cliff face at Woko National Park is all about green. Rock-edged paths wound up and down through the greenish light, as if in a carefully designed garden.

Not just green leaves, but mossed and lichened trunks and roots and vines, some of which curl like serpents around rocks and trees.
Thus securedly earthbound on the steep scree slope, they head skywards to the light. Sometimes the vines had overwhelmed the host with its weight and pulled it down, laden with staghorns or birds nest ferns.

Some greens were to be avoided, like those of the Giant Stinging Tree, beautiful in the backlit canopy, whether alive, or dead and eaten into lacework.

Looking up, the forest crept along the base of the cliff, where green struggled in crevices and clawholds to clothe the rock.

Looking out, where the rainforest had been breached by fallen trees, the view past the densely colonising vines was still all green, but of lighter, brighter shades as pastoral lands were revealed in the distance.

This tiny nest was made of living green lichen; small fantails had been seen nearby. This nest was empty, but others found one with a blue speckled egg inside.

Woko waters

Recently I made my first visit to the Woko National Park near Gloucester, New South Wales. I was tagging along with the Upper Hunter branch of the National Parks Association, which I’ve joined.

The camp site was perfect, flat and grassy and right beside the clear and fast flowing headwaters of the Manning River. You could just float on the current, or skim along — but avoid the rapids if you’re a wuss like me.

Others, like Alan, (pictured) even tackled the log jam run left after an obviously mighty flood.

A fair-sized goanna came to see what riverside picnic lunch leftovers were on offer, but raced up the nearest tree at our chattering attention. Once again, I marvelled at the intricacy and variety of the patterning of this ‘prehistoric’ creature; and just look at its blue chin and neck!

There was water of a far more gentle sort in the dry rainforest  behind the camp, with several small waterfalls.

These were places to stop and listen and look, as the water fell perpetually and lightly down the gully. No roaring or rushing majesty here, but peace.

A good place to sit and take a tea break, except for the need to be on the lookout for the many leeches seeking to begin their ascent up your leg! Spraying insect repellent on socks and boots seemed to help — although one still found its way up under my shirt.

Being used to leeches, the walk was well worth the risk. Some others didn’t think so.

Gypsy transformer

This strange object now standing next to my cabin may resemble a robot ‘dog’, four-legged, keen and obedient, but in fact it’s a dream-come-true, a means of travelling affordably and comfortably while still keeping my essential 4WD ute.

And, since I can’t back a trailer, my ute and I can carry this on our back!

This wonderfully clever, compact and cute slide-on transforms in minutes into a gay gypsy van, complete with solar panels and gothic rear windows! The wallabies find the shade handy — and so does the ute cabin.

Designed and beautifully made in Woolgoolga, just north of Coffs Harbour, by Active Campers, it’s meant for 4WDs, and is one of the few available for double cabs. There’s relatively few of these about, so I was very lucky to find a secondhand one, in driving reach — and almost in price reach.

The owners were lovely folk and did all the electrical fitting etc, for me. As they said, the only problem I’ll have is inquisitive  fellow campers!

However, I hope to be mostly in national parks, writing about other wild edges than my own Mountain.

With all the windows unzipped, it’s delightfully open, and sitting up there feels more like being in a screened tent than a caravan. It does however have ‘van’ conveniences, such as a small fridge (solar!), a double gas burner, cupboards, table etc. The main bed is under the sloping roof.

It’s minimal but not cramped — clearly well-designed. I christened it the first night here with a sleepover. Can’t wait until writing commitments allow me time to play with it properly!