Saturday, 16 April 2011

Autumn and things will be alright - or will they?

One government department wants to pay for fencing off the creek from cattle while further down Putty Valley another decides if exploration for coal seam gas mining should go ahead.
Autumn arrives in the Putty Valley and the surrounding Wollemi and Yengo National Parks. The non-native trees turn yellow and orange in the gardens on the small lifestyle blocks which were once part of old dairy farms. The doonas are aired and on the beds and ugg boots are the preferred footwear inside the houses. The days are sunny and warm, the nights are crisp and cool. This is one of the best times of year and with school holidays and the Easter break visitors are keeping everyone busy.

A song plays on the radio. ‘Somewhere in the world tonight things will be alright.’ I often thought how lucky we are living in Australia, in a beautiful rural environment but close to Sydney and all its amenities. 'Things have been alright’ until two months ago when I heard of plans to mine coal seam gas in our area.

I’m not a greenie, I’m a realist. I know we need to generate electricity but this mad dash for cash to export coal and gas while destroying our water systems, farming lands and our health is going to be paid for by generations to come. I feel betrayed by both state and federal governments who have failed to appoint independent regulators to this industry. I despair of the many public servants who disagree with government policies but fear for their jobs and will not speak out. I deplore fellow Australians who have not educated themselves on this issue but will live in ignorance until they are affected by contaminated food or water, illness or plummeting property prices. After my research into the mining of coal seam gas my initial disbelief has turned to deep cynicism of all governments and authority in this country and my heart goes out to the many Aussies fighting to stop the degradation of our environment and lifestyle.

Last Saturday four representatives from Dart Energy came to the Putty Hall to answer questions from over 40 concerned residents and landowners on the company’s proposed exploration for coal seam gas in our area. On arrival company representatives who had not been here before commented on the beauty of the valley and of course you can imagine our response to that. At the meeting they explained the exploration process but would not answer many questions on production, which of course is the major concern to all residents. Someone in the area signed an access agreement for a test well on 7 April but a non disclosure clause prevents us from knowing where it is to be drilled.

At the meeting locals hear that the first property sale has not been completed due to proposed gas exploration. Dart Energy’s company brochure handed out at the meeting is at The questions from the community asked prior to the meeting are answered on the last couple of pages. An edited transcript of the Q&A session at the meeting will be available next week.

A woman, who plans to move to Putty, met with me on Monday to tell me about her fight with the NSW government over a waste disposal dump near Windsor during the 80s and early 90s. Her stories of pollution, contamination, water tests, health issues, plummeting property values and the silencing of scientists were horrifying and it took 15 years of fighting to change it. She believes that only one in 200 people will fight something like this but today all you have to do is pass an email on.

On the way home I stopped to talk to our new neighbour who was with two people from the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Authority. They were looking at fencing off the creek and wetlands from cattle, offering grants to landholders. I asked the obvious - Why is one government department paying out money to fence off cattle while another is signing off to gas mining which has the potential to be far more harmful to the water catchment? They would not comment. They are in another department.

A call to the Department of Industry & Investment revealed that the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) is still not approved. The company cannot drill a test well until this is approved. REF approvals are posted on the department’s website at and only then will we know the conditions and where it is going to be drilled.

Our Activ8 satellite connection has been very slow for a number of weeks. After months of complaints a technician finally arrives on Tuesday 5 April, admits it is really slow, speeds it up a little bit by cutting some cable and doing some other things, then leaves when it no longer works. We need a new modem he says and that was mailed to us express from Melbourne. We picked it up on Friday and spent hours on the phone trying to get it to work before they admitted that we needed a technician to come out. Although I rang Sunday, Monday and Tuesday it was not until Wednesday that we were told a technician would not be available until next Monday. In the meantime I get our emails at our neighbour’s place, usually twice a day.

Washing and cleaning are never ending chores and on Tuesday I had to clean the house ready for visitors from England. As the sun sank over the hills, the wallabies came out to feed not far from the house, the kookaburras called and wombats waddled out of their burrows. Although our overseas visitors usually see the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and Sydney, they treasure the time they spend here, the silences of the bush, the views all around the house and the eccentricities which make up our Australian home.

Links received this week
Health impacts of coal seam gas

1 comment:

  1. My commiserations,I live at Currumbin Gold Coast Queenland, recently
    viewed prizewinning DVD 'GASLAND' it should be viewed by all Autralians. Where are The Greenes, worrying about Carbon Tax!
    I am not a political Greenie but I care for & love my country, I feel for farmers effected by this innocuous industry but people power can move
    mountains, I have emailed" GET UP." they are reviewing votes to decide if they will take up the cause. Try to get public Screenings of the Documentary, i twill inform people, our air, farmland, water, future food for Aussies, health are all under threat by this scourge.