Saturday, October 28, 2006

Living without the car

Firstly I have to say that I have this idea is just a concept I have been entertaining. I can’t yet claim to have freed myself from the automobile trap and I can’t imagine it would go down too well with my wife. However we are suburbanites and the past month has shown us both that most trips we make can be done comfortably by bicycle.
Our car was put off the road about a month ago when Sam took it in late for it’s registration and roadworthy inspection. Of course the inspector went over it with a fine-toothed comb and subsequently it came home without registration and with a list of repairs to be done!
So after a trip to the mechanic two extensions of our special licence (allowing us to drive to the mechanic and the MVR only) and a mounting pile of bills we have only been granted a temporary registration for one month because the seatbelt we ordered 3 weeks ago still hasn’t arrived! This is the reality of owning a car. Total cost so far:


Am I pissed off? YES I AM!

Last year we must have payed about $3,000 to keep the thing on the road! Then there’s the escalating cost of fuel. I have to ask myself do we really need it? We could go into debt and buy a new one but would still have expenses and the trouble free lifespan of a car is not long. Is it even necessary to own a car? Most of our travel is within a five km radius of our home. Obviously we do like to travel further and for longer trips a personal automobile is quite essential but is it worth what it is costing us? Or is it just some kind of weird social prank that we have been conned into.

I recall a line of Aidan Quin’s from the film ‘Song Catcher’. In the scene he’s an Appalachian Mountain man having a brief conversation with a professor from the city. He says about the city folk they’re too busy “….work’in and gett’in and work’in and gett’in…” Well I guess that about sums it up really! Working to support the car; that seems to be the objective.

I do not hate cars. In fact I quite like them and on long journeys a car is quite a suitable form of transport. What I can't understand is how have they become so necessary for us who live in cities? In the bigger picture it is not sensible, practical, healthy or sustainable. It does not improve our lives and contributes greatly to environmental issues on a local as well as a global scale. It appears to be complete madness!

It is just one of those weird situations that we human beings have created for ourselves, kind of like painting ourselves into a metaphorical transport corner. But there is hope; if I am discontent with this situation I need only remember "The revolution is just a bicycle ride away"

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Friends of Brook Park Green Team Mentoring Program

What a great example these guys are. Great way to care for their environment and each other.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Urban wild spaces.
Since I was a kid I have loved visiting the urban wild spaces that seem to go unnoticed by the general population.
Being a regular train user in Melbourne I often glanced odd little corners that had been neglected or forgotten. Although I had a great love for undisturbed natural environments the vacant lands of the inner suburbs were great examples of natures struggle to exist. Due to neglect many of these spaces are left un mown for years and self sown seeds are often given the opportunity to grow. Although many of the plants are introduced species they have earned their place in the urban environment by struggling against the odds. These may be considered weeds but they do show the enormous power of life’s persistence. Where there is an opportunity for something to live, life will find a way. I really enjoyed learning about the concepts of the ecology of Niche habitats when I studied Lands Parks and Wildlife management. My teachers showed me how every living thing exists in it’s own Niche; A multi dimensional space that provides the conditions essential for that organism’s survival.

Being a social fringe dweller myself I found these places very attractive, hidden places within plain view of everyone but beyond most peoples scope of comprehension. People may see them every day but rarely consider them any more that an eyesore, a waste of space or a potential site for real-estate development. Once discovered our Urban Wild Spaces are often exploited for their only profitable asset, the space they occupy. But for a brief moment in time they are free and offer refuge to plants, animals and occasionally people that find it difficult to survive in the harsher urban landscape outside.
I used to explore these places whenever I found them and took great delight in finding odd plants and habitats that had escaped the scrutiny of the throng of people who pass them daily.

It seems that I am not unique in my appreciation of these spaces (thanks be to God!). There are some really cool groups out there who are committed to protecting the natural beauty of these spaces and using them for improving the lifestyles of their local communities. Ceres in Melbourne is one such place but I have also read of some fantastic projects in New York City that have grown from the same connection that people know must exist between human beings and their natural environment. Friends of Brook Park is a great project that is engaging children in their environment and providing them a way out of the usual traps of urban living. The testimonials from their website are a great example of how peoples lives can be inhanced by forming a connection with their environment. This is how communities become!
There is also a great article in The Vilager about a disused rail line that has gone wild.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The cheeky God of Taxi cabs

On Sunday our neighbor arrived home in a taxi. I couldn’t help scoffing about how I would never use a taxi unless it was absolutely necessary and how pleased I have been that we have managed so well since our car was put off the road about three weeks ago. Sam isn’t so pleased! It’s been much more of a hindrance to her as she doesn’t feel safe riding at night and has had to forgo some of her activities because it would mean night riding. It’s so great not to be dependent on a car and most places people travel to or from in a taxi can be reached easily by bike.

So after enjoying my moral superiority for a while I went out in the yard with the dog and my mate and pottered around with the bikes, and enjoying the thought of my independence from the automobile trapped society.

We had an accident and wound up spending the afternoon at the hospital.
So just two hours after my sanctimonious speech about taxi’s and there I was riding in one for the first time since went to Melbourne last year and needed a ride to the airport. The Imortals were definitely with me on the weekend and did they have some fun! This coincidence had to have been some kind of divine practical joke!

Anyway when we got there the nurse practically saw us immediately, it was a dislocated elbow, she’d had these cases heaps of times and quickly sorted the problem with a click. As soon as she clicked it back in the pain was gone! Amazing! I still felt guilty but was so relieved. We then walked back to Lisa and Steve’s place where we spent the rest of the afternoon and were very grateful for the lift home.

I don’t know what the moral of this story is but I guess there are times when it is necessary to use a taxi. I then started figuring out the average cost of using taxis occasionally to the cost of keeping a car…. Still looking for a way to escape the automobile trap.

Oh and I had a good time on Saturday because I managed to fix the crank on my Clasic Cruiser. After scrounging a good set of bearings from our friend Chris and a chrome crank from a BMX left out for the cyclone cleanup I was very happy with the results.

Take a look.

Bearing cups

Crank, sproket and bearings

Of course I didn't take the opportunity to clean up the paintwork which was obviously quite dirty when I did this job, and I'm not about to pull the whole thing apart so I can get back into those hard to reach places! The point is she rolls like a dream.

The old bearing cups had been seriously warn and the bearing cases bent so there was a constant grinding when I pedaled.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Politics and Passion

I’m thinking I’ll need to start another blog where I can post my thoughts on all these environmental and social issues, they appear to be taking up a large part of my blogging space here. There’s probably a good reason why. Unfortunately I have tried to stick my head in the sand and remain faithfully compliant to the world as it is. I’ve had a go at keeping my opinions to myself and not rocking the boat or questioning the status quo. It hasn’t worked! Although there is spiritual relief in accepting the world, as it is, remaining mindful that I am not responsible for changing the whole world, I still believe I am obliged to fight for what I believe is right!
Surely the greatest harm can be done by those who see wrongdoing yet remain silent?

I have linked to a copy of Hansard from the debates of 10/10/06 the McArthur River mine was discussed and there are more Hansard records that document parliaments actions on this matter. Time will tell the truth of this story.

Debates - Tenth Assembly, First Session - 10/10/2006 - Parliamentary Record No: 10

Barbara Mcarthy's speach

Saturday, October 21, 2006. 6:33am
McArthur mining chief discounts traditional owners' concerns

Also it appears that the Environment Centre will be taking the government to court regarding it’s approval process. I wish them luck but don’t imagine they will have any success. However I believe that it is time that the Australian courts got serious about holding government to their environmental obligations! How can it be that law designed to protect our environment can be whittled down to a bunch of dribble when it comes to the power of industry? Who is protecting the future of our children?

Clair Martin said she is thinking of the future for Territorians but what future is she thinking about? The river is an irreplaceable source of life that has supplied life giving water and food to people for thousands of years. How long will the money last and will it buy a new river? Will tomorrow’s children be grateful to this government for selling their river when the money is all gone? I doubt it! It will just be another terrible mistake of the past from a government that will probably claim they acted on the best information at the time and couldn’t possibly have foreseen the damage they have caused! Isn’t this the way it always goes?

It is time this country got fairdinkum about fighting these decisions in the courts! If this company stuffs up it should suffer the full weight of the law! A case could easily be made if we didn’t put their right to profit ahead of the true security of our country!

Now I’m really annoyed because I wanted to talk about what’s been going on in my own little world and I’ve run out of time to post it!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An hour in the Gallery

McArthur River protest

Yesterday I took advantage of my privileged right of flexitime and headed into Darwin to take part in another day of action against the decision to mine the McArthur River. I arrived just in time to join a group of people from Borroloola as they attended the parliamentary question time of the Northern Territory Government.
An air of freedom and power overcame me as I peddled away from my place of employment to take part in action that, according to my conscience and that odd feeling in my heart and in my gut, was long overdue!
Arriving in the Gardens outside Parliament House, hot and sweating profusely, I was glad to see a rather large gathering of people waiting for Parliament to sit at 2pm. I quickly headed for a public toilet where I could change into clean dry cloths before I joined the group. By the time I returned they had gathered outside Parliament House and were holding their banner as they posed for a photo shoot. Being a reasonably shy person I hung back and didn’t make conversation but I did notice there’s a huge benefit to having outgoing leaders who can raise the group’s spirits and bolster morale. Unfortunately as much as I appreciate the nee I don’t think it’s a role I could ever play.

Question time was very disappointing and way too predictable. It began something a little like this:
Member responsible for approving mine being questioned by the honourable member for somewhere or other (Same party as the Member being questioned).
Q. How goes it with this very important, yet environmentally sensitive McArthur River mine Minister? The mine in which government has worked so hard to come to an equitable solution for all.
A. I’m glad you should ask me that difficult question, honourable member for somewhere or other. You see this issue is quite important to the people of the Northern Territory and it has been quite challenging for the government to reach a solution that will please everyone. However due to the quality of our government and the hard work done by our caring ministers I believe we have resolved this issue in a way that will make everyone rich and happy and not impact on the environment in any way, at all, whatsoever ever. Not only have we assured the future financial security of the NT, but with the help of our philanthropic friends at XXX Mining corp. we have saved the environment, created an opportunity for unimaginable wealth for Territorians, and enriched the lives of the good people of Borroloola! Bla…bla…bla…

Then the opposition took the opportunity to use the presence of the people in the Gallery to make outlandish statements in a pathetic attempt to embarrass the government. Opposition leader Jodeen Carney Implored the Chief Minister to repent for her lies to the community and stated that the difference between the Labour Party and the CLP is that the CLP tell the truth! Please spare us the CRAP Ms Carney! How na├»ve do you think we are? This condescending pontification to the Gallary came across no better than if you'd said in your most condescending voice. "Jodeen GOOOOOOD person tell truth, Clare Martin BAAAAD…..tell lies! ME GOOOOD her yucky yucky BAAAAAAD!" (ha ha ha, I'm sorry I still laugh at the image this conjurs in my head and still it doesn't differ too much from what realy went down!)

So anyway the whole thing pretty much followed those lines. Ms Martin tried her hardest to assure us that the Governments decision was for the good of us all and that the environmental safeguards were fantastic and more than we could have hoped for. She made several ridiculous comments about how safe the mine would be and if it wasn't there's always the money... She made reference to the amount of money promised in trust for any unforseen environmental problems, as though it would be capable of fixing the problem. One comment was quite funny. The Chief Minister said that in the past the environmental damage was unsubstantiated due to lack of scientific evidence, but with proceeds from the new mine we will be able to monitor pollution levels much more adequately. I cracked and laughed out loud (lucky I wasn’t turfed out). It almost sounded as if she was saying if it wasn't for the mine we wouldn't be able to measure how much shit the mine releases into the river. (I'm still trying to figure that logic out)
She also conceded that a 5 km river diversion was quite a substantial diversion. Compared to what?! How many tropical river diversions has she had experience with?
The Xtrata web site had pictures of a river diversion they visited down in Morwell Victoria where a stretch of rive had been confined to a nice neat channel. Do they think that a tropical river can be contained in the same way?
I believe that the government has sold us out; they have sold the river off for promises’ of financial rewards and apparently spared little thought for the real future needs of the nation; Fresh water, un contaminated fish!

There are enough precedents to show that no amount of money can buy back a river, Mining companies will do as little as they must to honour any agreements and even the most stringent environmental protection amounts to nothing more than a diluted compromise when the possible effects of the mining opperation are considdered.
As far as I could see we have traded our future for (in the words of Simon and Garfunkel) “a pocketful of mumbles…”

“such are promises”!

I lingered for a while after the event, disillusioned and saddened. I rode home with the thought of Clare Martin trying to assure the people of Borroloola that everything would work out for the best but I think she knew in her heart she had failed them. I saw her falter as she spoke and she was looking directly into the eyes of people who would not forget her promises. Like a soldier who is trained to kill for the good of his nation a politician may some time after realize that the blood cannot be washed of his or her hands with bureaucratic rationalization?

Monday, October 16, 2006

A car a river a muffin and a basket

The car is off the road, out of rego and deemed un-roadworthy by the MVR. Good news for those of us who would rather ride our bicycle. (Me) So we’ve been cycling around like tourists and loving it. I don’t even mind travelling at a quarter of my usual pace just, it’s great to be free of the car for a while and get Sam out on her bike!

Before I continue just a reminder that there will still be a gathering Parliament House tomorrow to protest the mine approval. A contingent will also be attending the parliamentary halls when the government is in session at about 2 pm.

NT News story on the mine today:

McArthur mine challenge

Sam and I both got a bit creative over the weekend and came up with some rather satisfying results.

Mango & Macadamia Muffin
Mango and macadamia muffin

Firstly Sam found a great way to dispose of some of those delicious mangos we’d been given. She made some absolutely delicious mango and macadamia muffins! We’ve finished eating them now but she has promised to make some more this week.

Our tiny storage shed was starting to overflow with spare wheels, tyres and other assorted bike stuff including two extra child seats for the bikes. So I decided to put a long time plan into action and put one of the child seats to good purpose.
The plan was to create a bicycle basket that could easily be transferred from one bike to the other and wouldn’t be too difficult to remove when we wanted to put a child seat on either of the bikes.

Sam and I each have a Rosebank child seat and rack on our bikes but we only need to use one of the child seats when we are cycling together. So the idea I had was to use the simple Rosebank claim system to attach a basket. This way the basket could easily be installed or removed in seconds to suit our needs.

Interchangeable child seat and basket

Bike seat and basket

Clip on bike basket

So I unbolted the backrest from the seat, cut the handle off at the base and the sidewalls down with a hacksaw, finishing the base off to a reasonably smooth surface with my pocketknife. I then cut a few grooves drilled some small holes and snipped off some unwanted wire filed down the rough edges and cable-tied what remained together. Then… bada..bang! Walah! A clip on bicycle basket that is fully interchangeable with your Rosebank bike seat.

I left the foot rests on because I found they are just the right size to fit a 1.5 litre water bottle in one side and a rolled up picnic blanket in the other side. The Velcro straps do a great job holding the picnic blanket in.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rivers for the taking!

My apologies to those of you who would like to see more pretty pictures of flowers and sunsets and nice stuff like that, but there is some serious stuff happening in the NT at the moment and I think it is important to raise awareness of a very sad issue.

Last night on Stateline (ABC 7:30pm) Clare Martin declared that the McArthur River diversion and open-cut mine will go ahead. Please read the transcript here:

McArthur River Mine gets the go ahead
Broadcast: 13/10/2006
Reporter: Melinda James

NT NEWS 14/10/2006
Mine given green light
By NIGEL ADLAM,7034,20578601%255E13569,00.html

It is a very week defence when the best you can say about your actions is that what you are doing is within the bounds of the law!

I wonder if this Government needs relationship therapy?

No amount of self-deceived, propaganda about the inherant 'goodness' of mines will resolve the issues that will be caused by this project.
As far as I can see the government is so head-over-heals in love with mining companies that they are willing to roll over and wach the country raped by their partner of convenience. What wouldn't they be willing to sacrifice for the sake of continuing a sick relationship?
Time will tell what the true cost of this abusive relationship will have on us citizens, the neglected children of wayward parents.

The people will continue to speak against this decision and action has been planned to remind the Government of their responsibilities please see the forwarded email below:

The Environment Centre NT and the Borroloola People are holding two days of action next week to focus attention on the McArthur River.

Over 40 traditional owners (Yanyuwa, Garrawa, Mara and Gurdanji People) will be in Darwin, they will be travelling over 900km to get here.

Show your support for the River and the Traditional Owners by;

1. Demonstrating support for McArthur at Parliament House, in the gardens from 10am, filling the Public Gallery at 2-3pm on Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th.

2. Attending a Don’t muck up the McArthur Public Meeting, Museum and Art Gallery NT, Fannie Bay at 6.30pm on Tuesday 17th October.

For more information call 8981 1984 or email


For those who are unaware of the strength of the TO’s opposition, here are some statements from the Borroloola Traditional Elders Group (BTEG) 25th Sept 2006.

“The BTEG are united in their position that the McArthur River, Surprise Creek and Barney Creek must not be shifted from their current position”

“The Gurdanji people know that our gudgiga, our songs and stories, will be destroyed by the shifting of our creeks and rivers”

“The Yanyuwa people know that the McArthur River and our coast and islands are already being polluted with heavy metals. The pollution will only get worse if they shift the rivers.”


Charles Roche
Freshwater Campaigner

Environment Centre NT
PO Box 2120, Darwin NT 0801
Ph. 08 8941 7439
Fax. 08 8941 0387
Mob. 044 888 7303

Friday, October 13, 2006

Security for cyclists

The Northern Territory Department of Planing and Infrastructurel has installed a new lockup bike shed at the Bus interchange in Casuarina.
Hooray! What a great move. Although there is still a chance of theft I'm sure it will be a great improvement.

Bike shed

Step by step we are inching towards a cycle friendly city and I'm sure the sheds (there's one at the Palmerston interchange as well) will be much welcomed by those commuters who make the effort to cycle and use public transport rather than Gass Guzzle to work or shops.

Bike shed

Maybe the University would like to add one of these to their assets list. It would definitely make an improvement to the quality of life for all those poor students who'd like to ride their bikes home after class.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Bird in the Bush (Is worth two in the hand!)

When I was a kid I would occasionally wag school (sorry Mum) and catch the train to the Zoo. Once or twice there happened to be school groups visiting the zoo and I joined the cue to get in for free, then quietly sliped past the roll call and off to the aviaries! (Hmm I may have some kind of amends to make for that) I was obsessed with birds and had practicaly enclosed my parents whole back yard in a aviaries and cages. I loved to watch them and always dreamed of creating some kind of bird Utopia (behind wire). It took a few more years of experiencing life and many visits to various zoos, petshops , and bird dealers to realize that a bird in a cage could never be as beutiful as one in the wild. No cage I could ever build would replicate the splendour of a wild creature living in it's own natural environment. Eventualy I realized I could never possess the thing I loved about these creatures.
So anyway in the aviaries that I used to haunt at the zoo (not always when I was wagging!) there where these peculiar long-legged birds with huge eyes that I was totaly fascinated by. I'd never seen anything like them and was supprized to learn that they were native. I read somewhere that they were once more widely spread but that their numbers had diminished due to land clearing for agriculture. Just like the brightly coloured Gouldian finch, I wondered if I would ever see one in the wild.

Curlew on nest

There are two pair of Curlews that I've been seeing on my way to work lately. The bird in the photo above has at least one precocious chick hiding under it's wing, it's mate is just out of shot and keeping a very close eye on me as it crouches close to the ground totaly motionless.

culew pair

When I finaly left Victoria and came to live in Darwin I found that creatures I'd once thought of as rare or exotic can actualy be found in abundance in the suburban environment of Darwin. Not just birds but reptiles and mamals too. The list of creatures I have become familiar with since I've lived here is astounding! This is the way to enjoy God's creatures! I'd rather be dodging them in the street than petting them in a zoo any day!

Back to the fun business of Bicycle activism!

The ABC’s Australia wide ran a story on Melbourne’s Critical Mass, which is now a regular event and becoming quite popular. The story can be viewed online. Check it out.

Not a bad story. Thanks AustraliaWide.


The perfume from these frangipani flowers was quite strong, this afternoon, the conditions must have been just right for me to get such a good whiff of them. The trees have some kind of welcoming allure. What a privileged life I live. My work is just a 15 minute bike ride from home and the early morning ride often graces me with the luxuriant tropical scent of frangipani and, lately ripe mangoes that are easily picked from trees as I pass.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Chief Minister Interviewed

Transcript: NT Stateline 7:30pm Friday 06/10/06

On Stateline last Friday Reporter Melinda James interviewed the Chief Minister Clare Martin and Mines Minister Chris Natt about the issue of the McArthur River mine proposal.

One of the key questions related to the letter from the Prime Minister which appeared as a virtual directive to allow the mine at any cost.
I was quite surprised by the Chief Ministers response to such an overstep of the PM’s political boundary. The blatant disregard he showed for the legal precautionary procedures, which have been put in place to offer some kind of protection to a national asset and the intrinsic rights of local people!
I have no idea why she would play down this gross insult to the people of the Northern Territory by the Prime Minister.

I wonder if they are joking when they say that no decision has been made. I also wonder if Chris Natt realized his contradiction when in the first instance he said “… we've got to make sure the McArthur River mine and the Territory economy does go ahead.” In the next breath he said “…haven't made any decisions whatsoever.”

Whatsoever? I dunno if I get what he means by whatsoevert. I would think that the term whatsoever is all inclusive which would mean that he has not committed to any course of action at all. Yet he has already said that he is committed to ensuring that the mine will go ahead. Semantics? Or outright untruth. It is obvious that there is lack of real commitment to sound environmental management when it comes to the extraction of minerals in the Northern Territory.

References have also been made in the media about greenies and being against all mines. This is predictable and absolutely absurd! Warning bells are ringing from the very devices that the government has put in place to protect our shared resources and they want to ignore them. The issues raised by the people of Borrolloola and environmentalists are in the interests of all Australians for the protection and sensible use of our natural resources.

Surely the Chief Minister is capable of discerning the difference between informed professionals acting to protect future generations from reckless environment damage and those who’s comments stem primarily from their own self-interest?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Vegemite
Last week bleary eyed and fumbling around in the fridge I dropped a full $6 jar of Vegemite on the kitchen tiles! The impact smashed the glass pulverizing it into a fine dust at the point of impact.
The Vegemite was in the fridge because we have tiny ants that are so determined to get our food that they will chew through just about anything. They are capable of eating through plastic and although the jar is glass the lid is not and so the Vegemite goes in the fridge with all the other stuff that Southerners would leave in a cupboard.

This morning I replicated the exact scene with pinpoint accuracy! Butter in one hand Vegemite in the other I was trying to slide it over the peanut butter when the condensation on the jar caused it to slip just enough to clip the peanut butter jar and fall precisely where the other one did last week!

I couldn’t believe it, but it really happened sometimes things like that just do.
We replaced it this time with a plastic tube instead.

On a completely different note. We watched The Corporation tonight and the reality of the whole corporate situation was so glaringly obvious that I wondered why there hadn’t been some kind of revolution to free us of this tyranny. Then I remembered that of course there will be no revolution. It’s too late for that now that we are all share holders; our pensions are dependant on superannuation contributions that are channelled into investment funds the success of which is intrinsically linked to the profits made by the very corporations our consciences would otherwise forbid some of us from dealing with.
The film asked one very good moral question.
“What kind of person is the corporation?”
(The Corporation : a film by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott & Joel Bakan)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

While there's still time

Please check the Environment Centre NT for updates on action to raise awareness of an immanent threat to The McArthur River.

On the ABC tomorrow night at 7:30 Stateline will be running another story on the McArthur river.

If you prefer to remain aloof, disconnected or blissfully ignorant of environmental issues you might be slightly disturbed by this comment Aldous Huxley once made:

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored"

What a fact is I'm not entirely sure but If my conscience tells me something is wrong it doesn't cease to be so when I look the other way.

Some more articles on the McArthur River:

Howard backs NT zinc mine expansion
The Australian October 04, 2006,20867,20523920-5006790,00.html

Message Stick Wednesday, 27 September 2006

ABC NT Tuesday, 3 October 2006. 17:43 (AEDT)

Please don't look the other way

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

NEWS FLASH...McArthur River

ABC TV 7:30 Report: Transcript 02.10.2006

Today's Newspapers running a story on the McArthur River Mine Check out the Story at online here:

The Age
Sydney Morning Herrald

More on the McArthur River

My father rang from Melbourne last night, a little exited. He just seen a story on the 7:30 report about the McArthur River Mine. There is an element of doubt about the wisdom of granting this mining lease and it's growing fast!

A mine in the NT

The current mine site

Last night I met with my local member Len Kiely who acknowledged Xstrata’s poor track record when it came to community involvement. He had visited the site during the wet (why? I did not ask) and conceded that a huge amount of water builds up over a very large area that the mine would be built in. He was sympathetic to some people’s fears about the validity of the mine and conceded that there might be considerable risks involved. However as far as he is concerned the government is following the correct process and the proposal (in theory) has been approved by the Minister for the Environment and is currently in the hands of the Minister for Mines Mr Chris Nat. He gave me little hope that there was any way of stopping the approval of the mine and indicated that as proper procedure had been followed he did not intend to go against the decision to mine if it were made.

I challenged him that if the mine was granted the plan is so ridiculous that his government would likely still be in office when the toxic mining waste hits the fan and their popularity might suffer terribly. I warned him that although there had only been a few people present at the day of action in front of Parliament house last week, momentum was growing and there will be more opposition and more action in the weeks to come.

Have we been given any reason to think we can trust Xstrata with the life of this River?

The ABC's 7:30 Report last night ran a 10 minute story on the issue and revealed a little bit of the history of the mine. They were originally granted the right to mine after the Keating Government, (in the interest of profiteering for maximum return and maximum damage) passed legislation that allowed for approval of mining leases prior to the submission of environmental impact reports or any of the other safeguards that the public require for sound decision making. Mines could then be fast tracked into operation and the paperwork and various reports could be submitted retrospectively. How arse up is that? But basically saying that our environmental measure have no real value and so can be disregarded and diluted into worthless pages of toilet paper.

The Mine's presence appears to have had no meaningful beneficial impact on the community of Borroloola and it's activities are threatening the very life blood of the people who live along the river.

Please look at these images taken from Google Earth.
You can easily see the tributaries diverging on the river all around the flood plain tht the mine site is nested on top of (and under). The river then flows into a large rock outcrop that must act as a bottle neck for all that water in the wet season causing it to bank up and collect in the area that the new mine is proposed. If you can imagine this scene in the wet it would look like an enormous dam, and Xstrata think they can build a mine at the bottom of it!

McArthur River mine site
(The mine site is in the top right hand quarter of this image)

McArthur River mine
(Mine north of centre in this image)

Please send the Chief Minister and Minister for Mines and Energy a message.

You Can Make a Diference
We must act NOW

Monday, October 02, 2006

Of Gleaners and Wombles

Scrounging through other people’s junk is one of my favourite pastimes. I believe I am at heart a Gleaner in the classic sense. I once saw a great documentary called ‘The Gleaners and I’ which allowed me to find a new sense of honour in a lifestyle that to the observer is disgusting and low.

For some reason the thought of things being discarded before they have truly worn out their usefulness makes me feel a sense of sadness and loss. Have you ever seen the Australian TV series Bush Mechanics? Those guys realy know how to improvise and prolong the usefulness of stuff that would never occur to most people. Of course If the item no longer suits the needs of it’s original owner it should be given up for something that does; but why should it go into land fill when others may find another use for it?
(I may have watched too much of the Wombles as a kid!)

One of my favourite places to visit is the Tip (Dump) shop. It’s a place where people are employed to scrounge through the junk that turns up for landfill and extract anything that may still be of value. There is an area set aside at the tip where these things are sold reasonably cheaply. As far as I can see it’s a pretty good operation. People are employed and I can get stuff at a very reasonable price (sometimes) so I don’t mind paying for stuff like that. (Councils don’t like people getting in amongst the heavy machinery scrounging for them selves!)

This weekend I managed to finally get a tricycle for my daughter and a few other bike bits for myself. As I was scrounging I found something I’ve wanted for a long long time. A tandem bike; well what was left of one anyway! I had a dilemma. Sam has been giving me a hard time about all the junk I have in our shed (smaller than a walk-in robe), I’d already promised her I'd bring home nothing big until I’d repaired that chair I brought home about four months ago. I couldn’t imgagine that I could fix the tandem in anything like the time I would like, all that was salvageable was the frame, so I left it there!

Pink trike

I wandered around for a short time before taking my newly found trike parts (I had to cannibalise a couple of identical trikes that didn't pass muster but it was complete by the time I’d finished) to the money guy to haggle a price. I told him I’d really like the tandem and he laughed. “It’s gone” he said! Wow that was quick! It was quite a treasure but what could I do? I wished the buyer luck for his project and headed home with my stuff. I am not really regretting missing out on it though. I have learned and believe whole-heartedly that when the time is right the thing I want/desire (need?) will appear. You might think that tandem bikes don’t grow on trees and I was mad to let it go. Well so did I for a short while but realistically I don’t have the room or the time to play with it. One day I will; and maybe something will turn up then. I like that idea and guess what it works! So shut up already about the great deal I missed…! Ha… ha... ha...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Relaxing afternoons by the sea.

Another balmy evening

A couple enjoy the last rays of a magnificent day while others stroll the empty beach.

Child on the beach

The wonders of the sea enthrawl my child.
Sand worms, crab holes, sea urchins, mud skippers and shells are all subjected to her curious probing investigations as she explores the sandy coast.