LISMORE Council's 17-year journey to approving a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for south-east Lismore was concluded last week. Crs Clough, Dowell, Ekins, Houston, Smith and Yarnall delivered on their election promise to koala conservationists throughout the local government area and we thank them. The small-mindedness of Councillor Meineke and plan opponent Jeff Champion in attacking Friends of the Koala, in particular the latter's reference to the "bleeding heart club" was uncalled for and hurtful to the seventeen or so members and supporters in the gallery. For the record, Friends of the Koala commenced as a grassroots koala habitat and advocacy group in 1986. The "old" Friends of the Koala (as Jeff refers to them) certainly did work in partnership with landholders to extend koala habitat in several parts of the LGA, and in particular the south east. FOK volunteers assisted Professor Peter Baverstock and the Champion family to plant Hazlemount Lane and environs. Field days were held periodically to clean up the Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve. It wasn't until 1989 that some members were encouraged by then NPWS Ranger Steve Phillips and his wife Sue to undergo the necessary training for the group to become licensed under the National Parks & Wildlife Act to rescue and rehabilitate koalas. Some members at the time did not agree with this development and left the organisation. 1989 was also the year in which Landcare was established. Friends of the Koala collaborates with numerous Landcare groups across the Northern Rivers. Landcare has not yet reached Tucki - perhaps formation should be encouraged?
It is true these days Friends of the Koala volunteers don't carry out the amount of planting they did 20 years ago. We provide planting advice and food trees for landholders because our experience has been that there is more chance of their maintenance if landholders have done the hard work themselves. Today's volunteers, the "bleeding hearts", have got over 300 koalas to deal with each year - higher admittances than anywhere else in the state. A koala call-out can occur any time of the day or night. Their commitment is 24/7.
To their credit the Champion family has brought in or advised Friends of the Koala of numerous koalas requiring attention over the years, indicating their genuine interest in and concern for koalas and one presumes, their respect for the organisation. Threatening to chop down koala food trees and to stop planting food trees because of a philosophical opposition to a management plan which will not interfere with the activities of the vast majority of landowners, is a sad indictment on those who make them.
The koalas deserve better.
President Friends of the Koala Inc.
Smoke and mirrors
IF YOU want to learn about cooking forget "Masterchef", just come to a Lismore City Council meeting. On Tuesday night last week I had the best cooking lesson I have ever had. If you need to balance your cash flow, you don't need to cut spending, all you do is move interest from your reserves. If your borrowings are growing too rapidly, it's easy - just take the money out of reserves and/or move those borrowings into the next council's term. Brilliant stuff if you have an election to face in a few months time. And then there's how to cook a Local Environment Plan (LEP); again no problem, you write an article which is both misleading and incorrect. In this article just imply to the farmers that they can put up their fences and sheds in an E2 Zone. Trick them into thinking they can change agriculture pursuits even though you know full well that your own "existing use rights fact sheet" and "land use matrix" says they cannot. Who cares about the truth when you're cooking? And if you want to add salt, pass a Koala Plan of Management, forget about the "inconvenient truth" about koala populations increasing, or about the effect that this layer of green tape will have on agribusiness. Don't worry that you are sending a message to all land owners not to plant koala food trees because they now know that if they do they will be negatively impacted by this plan. Just keep cooking LCC, forget about the consequences. If the cake turns out to be a mess, well, who cares? The election will be over and you'll get another four years, and nothing else really matters does it?
Ratepayers Association President
A THROWAWAY line by Jennie Dell in her article about the Base Hospital (Echo, May 10) is going a long way to undo the hard work many of us have had to do to educate the public about mental health and remove stigma from the mentally ill. She casually states the mentally ill in A&E are "yelling their heads off" and frightening children. The bogeymen of the 21st century? Here she conforms to age old prejudices about the behaviour of the mentally ill, reinforcing stereotypes that do nothing to help the situation of people genuinely disabled through biological differences from whatever "normal" is. I've spent a fair bit of time in A&E over the years, with the ordinary and not so ordinary accidents that happen in any family, not just visits due to mental health crises. Not surprisingly, many of the patients are in distress. Not just the mentally ill. Whenever someone is clearly upsetting the others, the fabulous staff do what they can to either alleviate the distress or separate the person, and keep things as peaceful as they can. How does a casual observer tell who is physically ill from the mentally ill? People in great emotional distress and people in great physical distress act in very similar ways. The Human Rights Commission states that people with a psychiatric disability, the mentally ill, as she calls us, are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and as such should be treated with dignity and respect. Editor Andy Parks explained to me that Dell was trying to create an atmosphere for an article that was a good news story, and I certainly agree that the more money put into our health system the better. I accept his explanation that her slur was unintentional, however I believe that a professional journalist/writer should be aware of the implications of the language that is their everyday tool. I hope that in future she checks her atmospheric prose just in case she's unintentionally stomping on toes.
No great loss
I NO longer have the opportunity to thumb through your weekly tome of environmentally unfriendly advertising, opinions of white menopausal male columnists, crossword puzzles that don't match up to the clues, and a colossal vacuity of any pertinent stories of the political corruption that is wrecking this town - because delivery of your crappy little rag has now (like the rest of your company) been nepotistically delegated to another incompetent middle-aged white male who doesn't bother to deliver them. No great loss.
Ed's note - Ouch!
The fight continues
SATURDAY'S CSG rally and march was a joy to be involved in and for me it's delightful to ponder the fear it will engender. But the important thing I hope will come of this protest is a growing awareness of the fact that our governments are not heeding their people, they'll only heed those that would wallow in the wealth created by the destruction of our environment. I believe we'll win,
and also gain an awareness of what we're still up against. The fight must continue. Privatisations will deliver profits not previously extracted, as we're seeing now with power and water bills. Transport, health and education will follow. The casualisation of our workforce by stealth has also been abetted by our governments. The latest "good news" on jobs is a blatant lie from our government. Employment increased by 15,500 jobs. Full time employment decreased by 10,500 jobs. Part-time employment grew by 26,000 jobs. The proportion of our workforce in casual work, labour hire, short term contract or other part-timers is around 40% and growing alarmingly, according to that "good news" on jobs. Almost all of those workers suffer job insecurity. It's estimated about 10% or more of the workforce considers themselves underemployed, and youth unemployment has risen to 25%. But we're only told the "good news".
The fight must go on, comrades.
No social licence
SEVEN thousand people, from all backgrounds brought the city of Lismore to a standstill as they made their way through the streets last Saturday, all united against the biggest threat to our lifestyle and wellbeing of all time - CSG.
Everything from the air we breathe, to the water we drink and swim or fish in, to the very land we grow our crops on is under threat. And so to the streets we took to let every gas mining company right across the world know that the Northern Rivers is not for sale. No gas company will ever have a social licence to mine our land. The streets were filled with colour as the banners waved in the breeze, complete strangers walked side by side and spoke of their hopes and dreams of a future made safe and secure from CSG. Many people spoke of how being in this huge crowd was like being with family; a real sense of belonging and united as one at stopping CSG mining in the Northern Rivers. On our return to the Riverside Park bands, musicians and comedians all took turns to entertain the masses. All had come to support the Northern Rivers in its fight against CSG and all donated their time to be part of this wonderful and inspiring day. Thank you. But not all was fun. Many people spoke of the real dangers and threats that CSG has caused to many other parts of Australia, including the Pilliga region of NSW, and Tara and Dalby in Queensland where farmers have had to walk off their land, too sick to work, land too poisoned to farm, water that causes burns and rashes, and if you are really lucky, ignites in your kitchen. Wildlife dying or disappearing from the areas they once called home. We the people of the Northern Rivers do not want these things to happen to our region, and we will not stop until our home is safe and free of CSG.
Short term financial gain
I WAS unable to attend the anti-CSG rally on Saturday due to a prior family event with my family. I would like to congratulate the organisers and participants who marched in this historic event, which brought people of varying ages and from all walks of life together to participate. Just this morning in a shop window I noticed a map of proposed (exploration) areas where the companies Metgasco and Arrow (aka Shell/PetroChina) intend to sink at least 5000 wells. It covers almost the entire Northern Rivers; Byron Bay, Evans Head, Ballina, Lennox and Brunswick Heads on our coastline, and indeed the majority of the catchment for the Richmond River. That any politician can be so short sighted as to endorse such a proposition in this region, which is characterised by rich World Heritage-listed areas, rich farming country, flooding rivers and creeks and months of rainfall, beggers belief. Andrew Gordon (Echo, May 10) strangely suggests that Lismore City Council "is spending money we cannot afford to find out something we already know". Well, I beg to differ and congratulate LCC on this crucial decision to give the people of our community a chance to say to our local, state and federal governments that we will fight this proposal.
Thomas George, who has known my family for his entire life, should note that three generations of my family, including my mother Neryl Chalmers JP (aged 88) are astounded that the country where they came to establish their livelihood after WWII, is to become an enormous gas field. My brother, who is a solicitor, commented that "all those farmers and landowners paid for their land for the purpose of farming. Why should this legal premise be overruled by mining companies?"
The people of our region and other regions are to have their livelihood, the amenities of their land, including their privacy, taken away from them. Where is the political vision? Where is the political leadership? Why are our politicians looking at the short term financial gain for mining companies and not looking 20 years into the future? What will be here then? The prospect is too horrifying to contemplate.
Continuation of colonisation
The CSG-free Northern Rivers rally and concert last Saturday, May 12, was an epic gathering! Thank you to all the volunteers who organised it. It shows what people like you and I in our community, who understand something in their head, know something in their heart and take action, can achieve in bringing people together. People from all over shared a vision of protected, healthy families, land, and communities.
Displacing people from their land, hurting families, and dividing communities are not new things to this land or its people, however. CSG is simply a continuation of colonisation, a progression of the colonial process, which has never ceased. Making people sick, turning the land sick, and having total disregard and disrespect for all future generations is the reality Aboriginal peoples have lived with since the white fella came.
When we are standing up for a CSG-free northern NSW and Australia, remember and respect those who have fought before us, who are fighting right now, and that we are standing on and standing up for Aboriginal land. This is not a new fight for our local people. When we reflect on this point we see we are walking in the footsteps of our Aboriginal peoples.
We are not so different after all, having diverse cultural expressions and deeply shared values that are interweaving through our resistance to CSG. It is essential to connect the CSG process with the colonial process to understand that what all CSG-free people value has always been valued by Aboriginal Peoples - family, land and community. Just as CSG is a progression of colonisation, so too is the CSG-free northern NSW movement a progression of the fight for land rights, human rights, and equal rights in this country.