It’s not often that you come across a rat fast asleep in the creek. Man, this little guy was out to it.
At least, I think he was asleep. Noooo, Jambo!
It was cold and horrible and I thought I’d be the only one to bother, but as it turned out there was a fair crowd at the Hamilton North Bowling Club to meet the mob from Jemena and GHD and hear about the proposed gasworks remediation.
There were posters and there’s a flyer and next month there’ll be a website but the short version is this: 2014, poke around and find out how bad things are then work out what to do; 2015, do it.
Exactly what the “it” will be has yet to be decided and will depend entirely on the results of the poking around and discussions with the EPA. However, it will most likely involve bringing the site up to a point at which it can be sold off for some kind of commercial or light industrial use. Jemena is into energy retail, and holding onto bits of dead land does not figure in the list of “core business activities” in its annual report.
The work to drill the monitoring wells is finished.
The lovely Creek Bingo numbers relate to work in sealing up the worst parts of the crumbling concrete banking, thereby reducing the flow of pollutants from within the gasworks footprint and into the Styx.
I’ll be happy-sad to see work start. Happy that no longer will the creek be filled with oozing filth. Sad that no longer will the wrens and silvereyes, fuscous honeyeaters and grey goshawks have anywhere to live.
Apparently the Shell fuel depot is also moving off site and has also entered into a remediation agreement with the EPA. I’ll be less sad to see that one go; it’s far too well maintained to be of any useful habitat for native fauna, and I won’t miss the heavy stench of petrol that settles into the creek on a winter’s evening.
I’ll post as I learn anything useful, such as links to the EPA agreements.
On another topic, Newcastle City Council’s personal ombudsman Mark Sampson notified me that Council recently passed a motion to name nine tributaries of local creeks, including one of the Styx. Yes, peeps, expect to start seeing signage for Waterdragon Creek popping up around Kotara way any time now. Apparently the “community name ’Waterdragon’ recognises the strong and healthy waterdragon population in and around the creek”.
Blue-tongue Creek might be a better name for down by the tidal zone. I found this poor wee fella the other night, looking cold and bruised and missing his tail.
Whether he’d been crow-pecked or cat-bashed I don’t know, but I think he must have slid down the concrete banking and had no idea which way to go or what to do to get out. When I picked him up he arched his neck and gave me the most feeble hiss, so I popped him in amongst the lantana. He might make it but, frankly, I don’t rate his chances.
And, anyway, when the gasworks is covered in storage units he’ll need to find some other corner of derelict Newcastle to hide out. But that’s a story for another day.
It doesn’t take much of a rain to fill the sinkholes and disused access areas in the gasworks. Within 24 hours of a downpour the roar and scrape and boom of frogs is almost deafening.
The gasworks is a disgrace; a polluted and filthy slurry of toxins and poisons that leaches who knows how many kinds of carcinogens into the creek and the water table around Hamilton North. But it’s the only place within a couple of kilometre radius where you’ll hear six species of frog going at it hammer and tongs.
Which leaves me in something of a quandary. Its its proximity to the creek and the unused lands around the railway line have made it a haven for flora and fauna. There’s no scrub, shrubs or bushes in our fancified gardens and so there’s nowhere for the wrens and silvereye and honeyeaters. There’s no cover for mice and rabbits, frogs and toads, the ordinary critters that make up the base of the food pyramid for the raptors and mammal predators. So, dirty is how I like it.
But of course I don’t want it to be dirty forever, which is why I felt ambivalent when I heard the news of its impending clean up.
Jemena Pty Ltd, the energy retail company that inherited the site, has entered a voluntary agreement with the EPA to remediate the site to a point where it could be sold and some kind of commercial activity take place upon it. Quite what form this remediation will take is as yet unknown, hence the flurry of activity over there in recent weeks.
If you’d like to find out more, or have any comments, concerns or queries, Jemena is holding a community drop-in session at Hamilton Nroth Bowling Club on Tuesday, 24 June between 4 and 7 pm.
Watch this space for more.
Just get yourself kitted out in your bestest olden-time clothes and cock your leg across your favouritest olden-time velocipede and meet at Islington Park, 10 am this Sunday. If you’re struggling to find an olden time bike then just head down the creek. There’s a variety of parts there on a daily basis.
A few weeks back – a windy Saturday morning – I was down towards the TAFE with Jambo. Gum nuts were raining down like hail from the trees by Islington School and the figs at the TAFE were swaying back and forth like sharpies at a Daddy Cool concert. I was watching this bloke up in a cherry picker and thinking, well, it must be a great view but there is no way I’d like to be him!
Then, in the way of these things, the bloke in the cherry picker sent me a picture that he’d taken on that windy Saturday morning. It’s not quite of me taking a picture of him, but … maybe!
Turns out he was up there checking out the fig trees as part of TAFE’s ongoing landscape management program. We messaged back and forth a bit and found that we both had an interest in the gasworks, though neither of us could cast any light on what’s happening to it.
Then today I went for my regular perambulation when I saw a truck sinking a monitoring hole. Not another hole! How much monitoring does that site need? Surely we know that its pure poison for the top 5 metres. But it feels like something is afoot.
It’s probably entirely unconnected but the holes in the creek are getting some attention too. Or should I say “two two”. Or even “two little ducks”.
I could even say, “Life begins at …”
Or stretch it even further with “Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I’m …”
The slab replacement program, if such a thing exists, hasn’t been down this part of the creek for a long time, maybe since the Big Flood. The result is that there are lots of cracks in them and, every time we have a heavy downpour, the fine soil washes out from behind the slabs leaving a hollow void behind them. Apart from being unstable it means that the creek develops a series of short-lived sandy beaches.
I rather like seeing the bird prints in the sand; it’s a pleasant reminder of the drain’s earlier incarnation as a tidal creek.
Bird prints of course allow me a clumsy segue into an update on the mother duck and her nine wee ones who were in danger of being picked off by Slow Joe Crow the other week. I didn’t hold out much hope for them but, who’d a thunk it, I counted mum and eight chicks the other day. Go mum!
Which just goes to show that life really is a game of lotto. (See how I did that, tied it all in with the title? Sometimes I even surprise myself!)
I sometimes get the comment that it must be boring, walking the same walk every day. Well, it would be, if that’s what I did. But the creek isn’t just one walk. The first thing is to decide whether I’ll go upstream or downstream. It’s usually downstream, so the next thing to look at is the tide: high or low? The tide can open up or cut off half a dozen walks. This morning I had intended heading down the eastern banking towards the TAFE but I got waylaid at the Styx.
The Styx at this junction is normally a slow but steady movement of water; not exactly babbling but not static either. The recent growth of the reeds and pondweed has slowed it even further, so I was surprised to see water fairly gushing into the main branch. So I changed my route and headed south to investigate.
Turns out the source of all this gurgling water was the fat pipe that comes out of the fuel depot. What were they doing with all that water on a Sunday morning? Hmm.
But that turned out not to be the story at all, as is so often the case. A dark shape out of the corner my … Old Man Crow, up to no good. I headed further south and watched him, swooping and flapping around the banking.
Crows don’t waste any more energy than is necessary on anything. If they start circling and moving in like this you can bet it’s because there’s an easy picking to be had. I headed towards him; he turned one emotionless silver disc of an eye on me before retiring to the big gum tree where the grey falcons had their nest. He could wait.
Here’s what I found: a very late hatching of ducklings. Mum had brought them down the creek, maybe even their first visit out of the long grass and the lantana to get their flippery feet wet and to teach them all that important duck stuff.
Problem is, when you get down the steep concrete banking it isn’t easy to get back up again. And what mum had found was that that the narrow break in the thick pondweed ends just upstream from the pipe. And Old Man Crow knew this, oh yes he did. That’s the scene I came upon: mum banked hard up against the choke in the stream with a batch of inexperienced ducklings and a crow who had all day to wait for breakfast.
A crow’s head and brain is about the same size as that as my chooks and yet it contains a depth of wiliness that a chook could only dream of. I’m not a fan of crows, but I do admire them.
I wonder how many ducklings there’ll be tomorrow.