Tuesday, 25 March 2014

On the night train

My grandmother Olga, died in 1990. Before she died she gave me two books of Australian poetry. In the cover of one she wrote 'M -  may you find the spirit of Australia in Henry Lawson's lines.'

Many years later I read from that book at the funeral of my other grandmother Jess. Both my grandmothers loved this land with a passion. Here is the poem.

On the night Train

Have you seen the bush by moonlight from the train go running by,
Here a patch of glassy water, there a glimpse of mystic sky?
Have you heard the still voice calling, yet so warm and yet so cold
'I'm the mother bush that bore you! Come to me when you are old?'

Did you see the bush below you sweeping darkly to the range,
All unchanged and all unchanging, yet so very old and strange
Did you hear the bush a calling, when your heart was young and bold;
'I'm the mother bush that nursed you! Come to me when you are old?'

Through the long vociferous cutting as the night train swiftly sped,
Did you hear the grey bush calling from the pine ridge overhead
'You have seen the seas and cities; all seems done and all seems told;
I'm the mother bush that loves you! Come to me now you are old?'

Sale of Block 9, Section 64 North Watson

I'm more than a little hot under the collar.

Following is my letter sent today to:

Katy Gallagher              gallagher@act.gov.au
Simon Corbell               corbell@act.gov.au
Andrew Barr                  Barr@act.gov.au
Shane Rattenbury        rattenbury@parliament.act.gov.au

Greg Hunt                      greg.hunt.mp@environment.gov.au

March 25, 2014

Dear Ms Gallagher,

I am writing to you about matter of great urgency. I believe the ACT Government is in breach of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012 EPBC Act environmental offsets policy. I am referring to the loss of a significant remnant of critically endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodland in the inner north of Canberra, also known as Block 9, Section 64 North WatsonDaniel McGrath, the real estate agent involved in the sale of the land, assured me today that contracts will be exchanged on this land today. The use of the local Watson Woodlands in Justice Robert Hope Park as a biodiversity offset is flawed. You must act with great urgency to investigate and halt this sale.

Can you confirm whether Justice Robert Hope Park is a biodiversity offset in this instance? If it is, does your government  believe that the work carried out by Friends of Mount Majura in that park, can be counted as an offset? Justice Robert Hope Park is not likely to be lost in the future for any development, which is a fundamental requirement for any biodiversity offset. The basis for this claim is not within the policy.

The Box Gum Grassy Woodland, Block 9, Section 64 contains many trees that are estimated to be up to 200 years old. Such old growth is irreplaceable, not just in our lifetime, but always. It is a critically endangered ecological community with 95% already destroyed in Australia. The hollows that birds and other animals require for nesting cannot form in trees until they are at least 100 years old. New plantings cannot replace this complex ecosystem. Because of the specialised nature of this Woodland, with mature growth and a natural watercourse through it, the area is unique.

Block 9, Section 64 North Watson

The area is home to many species of birds and animals and I have seen species in the Woodland that are localised to that area and do not enter North Watson. These include Cuckoo-shrikes, Fairy-wrens, Little Corellas, Pardalotes and threatened Superb Parrots. Naturally, the Woodland is also important for numerous other bird species. If the Regent Honeyeaters, that your government claims to care about, were to return to Canberra, they’d seek exactly this growth. Bird behaviour is purposeful and cyclical: not random. If birds are in an area, it means it supports them. Though birds are more visible than other species, this Box Gum Grassy Woodland sustains far more species than the birds, notwithstanding the Box Gums themselves (pictured above).

I believe your government must say NO to the developer and withdraw the land from sale. Canberra residents cannot remove trees from their land without consultation, because the government recognises their value, yet you are allowing the worst kind destruction, in one of the most significant Box Gum Grassy Woodlands that remains in Australia.

Your government is accountable to future generations, and in the immediate term you must face the community who are passionately concerned about our rapidly diminishing natural heritage and loss of biodiversity. Can you assure me that your government is not in breach of the 2012 EPBC Act environmental offsets policy, in relation to the land sale Block 9, Section 64 North Watson?