A coincidence


Okay, so it’s April Fool’s Day, but I did not deliberately set out post about Jemena’s clean up of the gasworks site on this day. It is a coincidence!

Jemena held a community information session at the Hamilton North Bowling Club on Tuesday. There was food, so how could I not go?


The guys from GHD were there, and people from another organisation with a name made up of letters, something like AJC&P. Why do organisations do that? They’re impossible to remember. Or maybe (dons paranoia hat) that’s the point! I’ll call them Acme Productions for easiness.

Anyway, everyone I spoke to was helpful and informative. Michael and Melissa from GHD and Beatrice from Acme Productions were able to answer all of my rambling questions. (“Hmm. I think you’ve actually asked me three questions there. I’ll try to pick them apart for you.”)


As well as tote bags and spring rolls and meat pies (note to caterers: give up making sandwiches. I know you’ve got to provide a “healthy alternative” but no one’s eating them) there were displays with process flow charts and details on remediation options.

As I’ve said before, I believe that everyone in that room is genuinely doing their best to achieve the best outcome. The cynic in me can’t be quelled though. I know what happens when the men in suits get together. It’s simply a function of bureaucracies, from CSIRO to universities to the RTA.

But there will be an outcome. At some point in the not-too-distant future the gasworks will be much, much less dirty and polluted than it is now. And it’ll be on-sold for some other purpose: storage units, transport hub, Chinese funfair. Should I be happy with this? I know I never will be as I have other ambitions for that whole area, ambitions that will remain unrealised because no one would make a zac from it.

As an aside, the only people I don’t get to meet at Jemena’s open sessions are the people from Jemena. They tend to huddle by themselves while the folk from GHD and Acme Productions do the leg work and the talky stuff. Come on, guys: mingle!


The major outcome from the evening was the fancy-schmantzy cap I got in my tote bag. I can now retire my much-loved but distressingly knackered Oxford University cap to the bin.


I’m not a spokesman for a community or in any way representative of anything other than my own nosiness. And so, as ever, I wait. And watch.

Happy April, everyone.

Big yellow disc in the sky


Apart from not liking it at all, the recent wintry blast that huddled over Newcastle was brilliant. It made me appreciate the return of the sun in a way that rarely happens in sun-kissed¬†Australia. This morning’s walk down the drain was spectacular: clean and clear and crisp. Yellow-tailed cockatoos croaked and groaned in a ¬†wattle by the railway bridge, herons and egrets fished by the beck, swallows swooped above the water, fuscous honeyeaters trilled in the lantana.


By the little drain the bracken is shooting up faster than Japanese bamboo and the pair of chestnut teal are preparing their nest.


I say “the pair of chestnut teal” as though it’s always the same pair. I have no scientific evidence for this, and it’s probably about six dozen of them that I’ve seen over the years, but I only ever see one pair at a time I find it unscientifically and anthropomorphically comforting to think that they like hanging around this stretch of the drain as much as I do.

So it was rather alarming to see this article by Joanne McCarthy about the gasworks in todays Herald. Tomorrow I’m going on a guided tour of the site with a Jemena rep. If you have any questions you’d like me to put to him, ask now.

In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine, get your laundry dry and don’t drink the bore water.

Answers on a postcard


I recently had the extraordinary good luck to have a joy flight over Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the lower Hunter in a single-engined aircraft. After a couple of cancellations due to bad weather and head colds we finally made it aloft on what was a spectacularly glorious day. Among the many highlights was a moment of banking over the city at 500 feet and looking down to see my beloved Styx Creek and gasworks glide into view.


Seeing it from this altitude put the area’s scale into perspective. This is the view that developers and state government stamp duty collectors must have all the time, their eyes boring into this prize patch of land, quietly waiting for land values to reach the point where it’s worth scraping off the polluted topsoil and banging on a few hundred apartments.

That day’s unlikely to arrive for some time, but I do wish I knew what was going on with the gasworks and the triangular-shaped piece of land between Broadmeadow and Hamilton railway stations. I was chatting to the young fella whose job it is to collect water samples from the creek and the gasworks.


He’d been hearing theories about the proposed transport hub for the back of Broadmeadow, with the possibility of the gasworks becoming a car park for people to park-and-drive. This is one idea that bubbles around like the coal tar that oozes up from between the cracks in the concrete creek bed. One day? I dunno. Maybe.

There’s certainly been activity again in the gasworks. The lock was busted open (someone lost the key!) so that a big truck could get in.


Large pipes were trailed around the site.


They led to a wheeled manifold, and a pumpy looking thing, and a big tank … and … and there my knowledge of manly hydrographic implements became exhausted.


But it’s a sign, a sign that something’s happening.

Which I wish it would for the old admin building. The flagpole, rotten at the base, finally fell or was pushed over.


The windows have been smashed and the doors opened for some time now.


The old front room has had the spray treatment. G’day, Kismo.


Is that you who pinched the razzle magazine from the newsagent? In the age of uncensored internet porn this moderately risque magazine looked almost quaint. Well, almost.


Jemena don’t answer my emails asking what they’re going to do with the building. Renew Newcastle tried to get somewhere with it too but I haven’t heard from them for a while, so I think that that idea’s probably dead in the water. Poor old gasworks.


If anyone DOES know, please send me the answer on a postcard or the back of a stamped self-addressed envelope. Or an email.