Varuna (the National Writers House), in association with the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, presents the Mick Dark Talk for the Future 2016.
Jane Gleeson-White and Claire Dunn will explore responses to the challenges we face when contemplating a sustainable future and acting with the knowledge that we are not separate from but intrinsically connected to nature.
Neil Stuart organised many street-stalls for the Friends photo by Rosemary Brister
Neil Stuart was the founding member of The Friends of Katoomba Falls Creek Valley in 1989 in response to serious threats to the valley. He ran the Friends but he never dominated it, always listening to different viewpoints on the various issues, which confronted us. In 1990 we started doing a clean-up of tyres, dumped below Cascade Street just before Ian Kiernan launched “ Clean- Up Australia Day”, in which we then participated until 2015 after we found it hard to find rubbish!
In 1991 Neil introduced us to bush regen, which we then did intermittently until 1996, weeding and planting from stock Neil grew in his backyard. Neil held various positions in The Friends, settling for Secretary and Treasurer, a role he performed exceedingly well for many, many years, penning letters to various authorities at the drop of a hat.
In 1996 I assumed responsibility for the Friends’ Bushcare Group, when we began to work monthly for 11 months of the year. Neil attended regularly and enthusiastically on most of our rostered days and annual Clean-Up Australia days. Neil also enjoyed the camaraderie of our post work day lunches often leading the discussions which ensued.
We also needed to raise money for our activities, which we did by holding regular stalls in an often icy Katoomba Street. Indeed, Neil’s jams, which he produced prolifically and enthusiastically was always our biggest seller because they were very good. He even had regular clientele who routinely replenished their supplies.
Over the last few years of his life Neil battled with cancer, facing his end bravely and resolutely. In his last months he was supported with home care by over 30 of his friends looking after him, taking him shopping etc. He died on the 26th May, 2016. We will all miss him.
On May 2 the Leura Falls Creek and Jamison Creek Catchment Working groups came together along with Blue Mountains City Council Natural Areas and Healthy Waterways teams to do “catchment crawls” (minibus tours of the key work sites) in each other’s catchments. Residents of the Vale St end of the Leura Falls Creek catchment were also invited.
In the morning, the Leura Falls Creek tour showcased the recently constructed stormwater upgrades including the Vale St Baramy Trap and raingarden – shown below in full flow with the recent heavy rains in early June. The Jamison Creek Working Group had an opportunity to see what types of stormwater management systems will be installed in the Jamison Creek Catchment in the near future.
After lunch, a tour of Jamison Creek Catchment gave us a chance to learn about where the upgrades are planned and how they will be constructed.
The stormwater improvement projects in both catchments are an initiative between Water NSW and Blue Mountains City Council. The catchment crawl was filmed by KFM Media, Katoomba. Thanks to the tour guides, Eric Mahony and Geoffrey Smith from Blue Mountains City Council and Peter Bennet who designs the Baramy Traps. Thanks to Monica Nugent for driving the bus. And thank you to every one who came on the tour.
Beautiful creeks and waterways are a wonderful part of our City – but how healthy are they?
From July this year, it will be easier to find out, with the release of Council’s Blue Mountains Waterway Health Report – a user-friendly brochure showing the results of Council’s Water Quality Monitoring Program.
Since 1998, Council has regularly tested waterway health at up to 50 waterways across the City. As a result, we now have one of the richest water quality data sets in Australia, and Council uses this data to inform its catchment improvement programs.
Council regularly tests the health of our waterways at over 40 sites across the city. the diversity of waterbugs such as crayfish is an indicator of creek health.
While detailed water quality reports have been published on Council’s website since 2006, the new brochure aims to make this information readily accessible to everyone in the community. It is hoped people will be prompted to think about local waterway health and what they can do to help.
The report card shows each sample waterway in the Blue Mountains, the catchment within which it flows, and its state of ecological health (rated Excellent, Good, Fair or Poor). In the 2016 report, 53% of tested waterways are in good condition or better.
Our city is lucky to have some of Australia’s best waterways, but they are also vulnerable to pollution – especially due to stormwater runoff from urban areas.
Urban runoff is consistently identified as the number one environmental threat to our World Heritage listing and presents challenges for local drinking water catchments, Endangered Ecological Communities, threatened species and the City’s tourism reputation.
Everything that goes into our gutters and streets ends up in our creeks
Try these few simple actions to help protect our waterways from urban runoff:
Keep pollutants out of drains (litter, soil and sand, fertilisers and pesticides, detergents, oil, animal droppings and garden waste).
Install a rainwater tank to capture rainwater from your roof and use it regularly.
Design your garden to allow stormwater to soak into the ground.
Control invasive weeds on your property.
Don’t dump fish or plants in waterways.
The Report Card will be sent to all ratepayers with Council’s newsletter from July.
Pseudopanax crassifolius photo credit: Mike Hudson
One day, at bushcare with the Wentworth Falls Lake Bushcare Group, Ross Day called me over to identify a strange plant. It was like nothing we had seen before, five close vertical stems with enormous trifoliolate leaves springing directly from them on long petioles. Those leaves were dark green, only about 25 mm wide, but anything up to 400 mm long. And tough! They were also armed with vicious teeth along the margins.
It was identified by staff at the Herbarium in Sydney as the New Zealand Lancewood, Pseudopanax crassifolius, in the family Araliaceae. (It has a relative in SW Tasmania called Pseudopanax gunnii, and both are related to our Elderberry panax, Polyscias sambucifolia).
The intriguing ecology of this plant involves a straight upright trunk with largely inedible leaves. All this is designed to deter being eaten by the NZ Southern Giant Moa, a flightless bird 3 m high. Of course the Maoris killed the last one hundreds of years ago, but in evolutionary terms the tree hasn’t caught up yet! Even more amazing is that after 15-20 years, when the tree gets to about 5 m, well out of the range of the Giant Moa, it changes abruptly to produce broad succulent leaves in a short canopy, and then flowers more or less normally.
Don’t ask me how it got to Wentworth Falls! We surmise that it was a garden plant that was no longer required, dug up, and thrown in the bush to die. It didn’t, but put down roots in the damp leaf litter and survived. I suspect that it was lying down at the time, and that the present five trunks sprouted like epicormic regrowth from that trunk.
Music and nature were Ruth’s lifelines during her early years – they nurtured her and she wanted to give something back.
Ruth loved to get her hands dirty to help the bush. She proudly proclaimed her obsession with Bushcare, and backed that up with an impressive 25 years of volunteer work.
Ruth was a founding member of both Katoomba Creek and Minnehaha Falls Bushcare Groups and also worked with the Brahma Kumaris, Leura Park and Upper Katoomba Creek groups for many years.
Bushcare was never limited to monthly workdays, there was always something to check. She was the first to raise the alarm about the forest of broom seedlings emerging in early 2003 after the fires that roared through Govetts, Katoomba & Yosemite Creeks. This then flourished into catchment coordination. She played a big part in driving the massive effort to ensure that these creeks were not overrun by weeds. Ruth knew that tea and muffins were the key to success, ensuring a good supply of both as well as keeping everything ticking over in the background.
The Grose Valley and Bushcare will miss her – always there facilitating others if she couldn’t be there herself, or contributing to the bigger picture with planning.
Ruth loved to get her gum boots on and rid the creeks of Montbretia. She was acutely aware of the small window of opportunity for treating it and often rallied support to join her for a bit of extra “guerrilla weeding”.
The Minnehaha Falls Bushcare Group is planning to run “Ruth’s Revenge” on her birthday next year to target Montbretia – Saturday 1st April, and would love Ruth’s friends to join them on the day.
At a special awards dinner on Wednesday 6 April, the Leura Falls Creek Improvement project was announced as joint winner of the 2016 NSW Award for Excellence in Integrated Stormwater Design. Congratulations to all the Blue Mountains City Council staff and contractors involved in the project and the Leura Falls Creek Catchment Working Group.
There are currently five active Streamwatch groups in the Blue Mountains: Fitzgerald Creek, Gordon Falls Creek, Leura Falls Creek, Popes Glen and South Lawson Bushcare Group.
Streamwatch is coordinated by the Australian Museum. Members of Streamwatch register with the Museum and are provided with training, water testing kits and support. The Museum also does a visit to a newly proposed site. Streamwatch groups commit to doing water testing at a regular time once a month and uploading the data onto the Streamwatch website. Groups are also encouraged to take part in the Autumn Waterbugs Watch and Spring Waterbugs Watch run by the Museum.
BMCC Bushcare Officers have done the Streamwatch training.
If your Bushcare group is keen to get involved in setting up streamwatch at or near your site please let us know. You can contact your Bushcare officer or Jenny Hill email: [email protected]
This edition of Gecko is flavoured by snow, wind and rain – together with a mixture of emotions:
Sadness – we have had to say goodbye to two of our local Bushcare pioneers: Ruth Ley and Neil Stuart. We celebrate them and thank them both for their great achievements in Bushcare and community welfare.
Pride – we all know that Bushcare volunteers make the best neighbours and the proof is in the Seniors Week Awards yet again this year – see p 3!
Excitement! The Leura Falls Creek Stormwater project won a prestigious NSW State Government Award in July.
And of course I’m pleased to bring you the typical array of informative articles highlighting the importance of clean waterways to frogs and turtles, interesting invasive plants and P & J Smiths’ documentation of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area’s fauna.
And from the Bushcare Office: Erin has announced with great excitement that another baby is joining her family so she will be on leave for the next few months, and Jill has reluctantly decided to retire. We wish them all the best! – Monica, for the Bushcare Team.