Kidney disease


Apparently the collective noun for cormorants is a flight, but what happens when they’re just standing still?


The ownership of waterways within Newcastle’s Throsby Creek and Cottage Creek catchments is about as mixed and varied as you can get. Hunter Water owns most of it, but Newcastle City Council owns chunks and other parts are in private hands, or pass through buried channels with easements over privately owned properties.

The result is that our waterways’ maintenance is divided between many different parties. Hunter Water relies on rates and catchment contributions for work on major stretches of the Hunter River and its tributaries, with larger works (such as the work on Throsby Creek’s banks in recent years) coming from federal government. Smaller grants are available for community groups, and I was pleased to see this one from Islington Public School:

Islington Public School is located in the Newcastle City Council area and its student population take an active role in serving their local community. Hunter Water’s grant will go towards raising awareness about the conservation of Styx and Throsby creeks with a project that will use recycled materials to filter runoff from the school playground and surrounding area before entering Styx Creek. This project will help keep Styx Creek and ultimately Throsby Creek clean.

I also got a newsletter from Council with my latest rates notice. In it was information on two rehabilitation projects Council has funded and carried out: one at Coal Mine Creek (Richley Reserve) and another at Gunambi Reserve, Wallsend.

This is heartening stuff. My stretch of the Styx works non-stop on its own rehabilitation. I sometimes wonder how long it would take for Nature to reclaim the drain. Imagine that the zombie apocalypse has come and gone and there are no more clean-up crews to cut back the grass and poison the reeds and shrubs and grasses that occupy the skinny cracks in the concrete bankings.


Some trees were cut down on Bates Street a year or so ago. Their response? Get the root ball to send a few suckers down into the creek.


It really does make the place look a bit prettier. Not much, but a bit. The interesting aspect about this is that Hunter Water and the Hunter – Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority has over recent years produced several publications that encourage landowners to protect reed beds and filtering plants on their properties as these plots are “nature’s kidneys” and reduce the inflow of pollutants and agricultural fertilisers into the water system. I suppose the sad fact is that, by the time we get to this stretch of the Styx, we’ve all given up on any chance of pollutants being filtered out. Nature’s kidneys are, by Hamilton North, effectively knackered.


I hope the kids at Islington Public School have some success in turning attitudes around. I look forward to seeing what they get up to.

And here’s a rat who was so perfectly camouflaged that I nearly stood on him. I don’t think he’d mind though; I have a feeling he might be a bit under the weather.


An explanation at last


I went to see Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams at the Newcastle Film Society on Sunday night. The images from the Chauvet Caves in France, thousands and thousands of years old, were spectacular, absolutely breathtaking. I wonder if my eyes were opened to new visions by seeing the film, because the next morning I saw this piece of repaired concrete in the creekbed, which I’ve walked over countless times before, and immediately thought of the paintings of the Chauvet cave lions. Perhaps it was the chance placement of a dead leaf that made an eye; I minute earlier or later and wouldn’t have seen it.

And here’s a photo of a spider, for no other reason than that I nearly walked into it and it scared the bejaysus out of me.

On Anzac Day evening I addressed the Booklovers, a group of people who meet every month at Cooks Hill Books. Derby Street just after dark was full of young men with the unfocused eyes and wobbly gait that’s a direct consequence of overdoing your remembrance. I cool wind blew in off the harbour and I wondered whether anyone would turn up to hear me prattle on about the creek and A Year Down the Drain.

I needn’t have worried; there was a good turn out and extra chairs had to be dug out from the back room. And apart from having a good conversation about books and drains I learned, at last, just what it is that I’m doing wrong by being in the creek.

I’ve been told many times that walking in there is illegal. However, when I’ve fronted up to Hunter Water’s offices and asked exactly what law I’m breaking I haven’t found anyone who’s been able to tell me. Explanations are garbled and convoluted; I know that Newcastle City Council have the rights and responsibilities over some of the creeks, Hunter Water over the others, and that there are various agreements and easements that allow NCC and HW to allow buildings and developments to take place over covered drains. But there isn’t, as far as I know, a map that a member of the public can go to to find out exactly who has rights over what.

This dog, for example, and his skateboard, is a CRIMINAL but does not even know it.

And this ballooon!

Seriously, I finally found out that this stretch of the Styx is held in freehold title by Hunter Water. It has a DP number (is that the correct term?) and a lot number. It’s private land, from the bankings down to the bed, and so to walk in there is equivalent to walking into someone’s back yard. Not all of the Styx is like this, and many of its tributaries are treated differently, but that’s the basic information that applies to the bit that I’ve been toddling along twice a day for several years.

It was like a great weight had been lifted from shoulders. At last I know what I’m doing wrong! Hooray.

Having said that, it won’t stop me, at least it won’t until I get the summons.

Finally, a photo taken on the way home from pub quiz at the Gateway last night, one of the last trains into Hamilton from Telarah. My eyes were as blurry as those young guys staggering up and down Derby Street on Wednesday. We came second and I won an ice bucket in the raffle. Apparently the person who delivers the meat trays didn’t turn up. Does anyone want an ice bucket?