Monday, May 12, 2008

The RTA Intends to Expose Human Lives to these Hazards at Bulahdelah

Do you use the Pacific Highway? The following established hazards are just some of those the RTA intends to expose you and countless others to with the use of Option E for the Bulahdelah section of the Pacific Highway Upgrade:-

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Boulders are Already Falling from the Cliffs of the Alum Mountain

Boulders have been falling from the Alum Mountain's cliffs since around the time of commencement of blasting for the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority's (RTA) Pacific Highway Upgrade at Nerong. (Some ten kilometres south of Bulahdelah.)

When the boulders hit the ground they shatter into fragments. The following photographs are of just some of the boulder fragments and trees which have been struck by falling boulders/fragments.

All bar the last of these photo's were taken in the tourism area at the mountain's summit. The last photograph is of a boulder-fragment damaged tree about a quarter of the way down the road from the top carpark.

And the RTA, knowing that boulders from the Alum Mountain's cliffs can reach the their planned Option E roadway area (ref. the RTA document Geotechnical Issues for Community Information - which was not issued to the community) and having been notified that there have been ongoing boulder falls from the mountain's cliffs since the commencement of blasting some ten kilometres south of Bulahdelah, continues to pursue this insanely dangerous route for the Bulahdelah section of the Pacific Highway Upgrade.

The above tree is about a quarter of the way down the road from the Alum Mountain's summit. Fragments of boulders can travel for that distance and more. Prior to recommending the Option E route to (now former) N.S.W. Minister for Roads, Carl Scully, the RTA had documented 'boulders up to six metres in diameter' in the area of the planned roadway (ref. the abovementioned RTA geotechnical document).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Bulahdelah Hill - A Trucks Overtaking Trucks Scenario

In addition to exposing road users (and construction workers and residents) to the multiple risks of boulder falls and landslide/s, the route the N.S.W. Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is determined to use for the Bulahdelah section of the Pacific Highway Upgrade (Option E) would also have a hill.

That the speed limit for all traffic would lower from 110 km per hour to 100 km per hour at the hill's crest and that northbound laden trucks would be slowed by some 25 km per hour over a distance of 900 metres were recorded in the RTA document Bulahdelah Upgrading the Pacific Highway Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as areas where the Option E route failed to meet upgrade objectives. However, although it was also recorded in the EIS that southbound laden trucks would be slowed by 20 km per hour over a distance of 1 (one) kilometre, this was not included as an upgrade objective failure.

The slowing of laden trucks would average out at around 22.5 km per hour over almost 2 kilometres. The Option E section of highway, albeit with sufficient width for later widening to six lanes, would initially have only two lanes on each side.

What a scenario: some 2 kilometres of trucks overtaking trucks, all traffic being slowed when this occurs and frustrated drivers galore - and all in a cutting beneath the nearly perpendicular, 40 metres tall cliffs of a 292 metres high mountain long known to be prone to rockfalls, boulder falls and landslides.

Although pre-construction work has commenced on this dangerous route, it is not too late for the safest route for road users - Option A, to the west of Bulahdelah - to be used. Already, massive sections of rock on the Alum Mountain's cliffs are being undermined by ongoing boulder falls which commenced at around the same time as did RTA blasting some ten kilometres south of Bulahdelah.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The RTA's Deceptions Regarding the Health Hazards of Alum Stone Dust

As is confirmed by Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) documentation, RTA authoritarianism has been prioritised throughout the processing of the (Bulahdelah Pacific Highway Upgrade) Option E scheme and has been bolstered via the disregarding/distorting of facts related to human rights issues.

The RTA is well aware of the fact that there are multiple concerns – not just ‘one concern’ [1] – regarding the dust which would be produced during construction of Option E.

Alunit is Latin for alum. It is from this that the word alunite – meaning: alum – is derived. Alum, aluminilite, alum stone and alunite are synonyms.

Those who are not neophytes to alum stone and aren’t attempting to impress/deceive with newly gained and inadequate knowledge commonly refer to it as alum. This is the case with the nickname of the mountain in Bulahdelah’s eastern sector, ‘the Alum Mountain’. It is not and has never been: ‘the Alum Stone Mountain’; ‘the Aluminilite Mountain’; ‘the Alunite Mountain’; or, according to RTA terminology, ‘The Potassium Aluminium Sulfate [sic] Hydroxide [2] Mountain’; it is called the Alum Mountain due to the fact that alum is a name for its massive quantities of rock-forming sulphate mineral [3].

Concerns regarding alum dust were not only expressed by those who were closeted with the RTA during their closed Focus Group meetings [4]: in response to other citizens who raised concerns about alum dust (and heritage issues), the RTA’s former Project Manager for the Bulahdelah section of the upgrade declared (long before the addition of Part 3A to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act), “The RTA can build a highway anywhere.”

In the case of alum-bearing dust, the RTA’s first step in their ‘we can build it anywhere’ approach to their Option E scheme was to attempt a put-down with the claim:

· ‘Alum does not occur naturally’.

Although alum – as in the product extracted from alum stone – can and does occur naturally, [5] it is not the processed product which is of concern to informed community members.

Next, the RTA announced:

· “We’ll wet down the dust.” (This was followed up in the EIS with ‘Wet down construction areas to minimise dust emissions’ [6].)

Commercial processing of alum stone can entail calcination (roasting – as occurs during bushfires on the Alum Mountain) followed by lixiviation (separation of soluble from insoluble substances through percolation in water) or the even simpler method of lengthy exposure to the elements. Lixiviation can also take place when alum stone is simply soaked in water. In other words, ‘wetting down’ alum-bearing dust would produce alum. (The RTA has acknowledged that ‘the chemical alum … is hazardous when mixed with water’ [7]. Also: ‘When alum is mixed with water, it forms sulphuric acid which is hazardous’ [8].)

Although arrogance and ignorance could be said to be responsible for the above two (bulleted) RTA pronouncements, nothing but a blatant attempt to deliberately endanger the health of citizens, including children incarcerated in schools near the proposal, could be responsible for the following RTA statement:-

· ‘… the raw mineral which would be exposed during construction is alunite, which is not toxic and poses no risk to the community’. [9]

The RTA has admitted that there are ‘high concentrations of acid sulphate rockin the Alum Mountain section of Option E. [10]

The ‘acid sulphate rock’ to which the RTA refers is alunite (alum stone). The acid it produces is sulphuric acid. The RTA has acknowledged that sulphuric acid is ‘hazardous’.

Sulphuric acid is corrosive and, as the RTA is aware, so much so that it can corrode roads.

Aluminosis – which is a Schedule 1 Prescribed Dust Disease under the Dust Diseases Tribunal Act 1989 No. 63 – and cancer are just two of the hazards posed by inhalation and ingestion of alum-bearing dust (alum stone dust).

Adele Carrall.

References:-

1. Bulahdelah Upgrading the Pacific Highway Environmental Impact Statement (Bulahdelah EIS) Technical Paper 9 3. Potential Hazards and Risks.

2. Bulahdelah EIS Summary (S35) – Air Quality.

3. Encyclopædia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/eb/topic-18100/alunite

4. As per 1.

5. Chambers’s Encyclop√¶dia. (Internet search results concur with this.)

6. Bulahdelah EIS Vol. 6 Technical Paper 9 Hazard and Risk Table 3.1 Page 3-8.

7. As per 1.

8. As per 2.

9. As per 1.

10. Bulahdelah EIS Vol. 6 Technical Paper 11 4.9 Acid Sulphate Rock Page 4-33.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act Enabling Devastation

The township of Bulahdelah, N.S.W., is situated on the northern bank of the Myall River about an hour's drive north of Newcastle and fifty minutes or so south of Taree.

Southern Bulahdelah

© M., A. & E. Carrall

Bulahdelah's most outstanding feature and the source of its name is the mountain in its eastern sector. Originally called Bulla Della - meaning: 'the Great Rock' - by the Worimi, the Aboriginal people who once inhabited the area, the mountain, a volcanic extrusion, was nicknamed the Alum Mountain in the late 1800s when it was discovered that much of its rock is alum stone (synonyms: alunite, aluminilite, alum) and mining for its alum content commenced.

The Alum Mountain, Bulahdelah
© M. & A. Carrall

The Alum Mountain has long been renowned for: its geology relationships; its mining history; being the site of discovery of an orchid which flowers underground (Rhizanthella slateri); and for its exceptional quantity of native orchid species.

It has also long been highly valued by many people:-

On 16th May, 1866, Rachel Henning, whose letters to her sister in England were later published in book form, wrote of the mountain: … backing up our house and the village, is “Bulladilla”, a great rocky mountain with steep sides clothed with forest and a range of perpendicular cliffs at the top which always catch the last rays of the sun long after they have left us, and very beautiful old Bulladilla looks then. Rev. Herman Montague Rucker Rupp, a renowned naturalist who lived in Bulahdelah in 1923-1924, wrote (page 123 The Orchid Man – The Life, Work and Memoirs of the Rev. H.M.R. Rupp 1872 – 1956 by Lionel Gilbert):-

“After three months of uneventful relief work, I accepted charge of Bulahdelah on the Myall River, about seventy miles north of Newcastle. The village is scattered along the western base of one of the most remarkable rocky hills in Australia, known as the Alum Mountain. Barely 1,000 feet high, its bold cliffs and rock-masses make it the dominant feature of the landscape for miles along the Myall Valley. I know of few more striking scenes than that which greets the traveller’s eye when, climbing to the summit of the range that walls in this valley on the west, the road suddenly curves, and he finds himself looking over a sea of undulating tree-tops to the strangely tinted Bulah Delah – ‘the Great Rock’ – on the far side of the valley. The colour scheme of the Alum Mountain is unique. …”

“If you approach Bulahdelah in the late afternoon and are lucky enough to see a passing shower sweep across the Great Rock, you will never forget the opalescent sheen that suddenly gleams as the rays from the western sun strike the wet cliffs.”

“The Alum Mountain is the pride of Bulahdelah.”

The mountain is a long-established part of local culture and is Bulahdelah’s principal tourism asset. One of its unique features is that the public open spaces and recreation areas on its foot provide for a wide variety of cost free activities in a natural environment which is within easy walking distance from the village shopping centre. These include a large park - the Alum Mountain Park - which was established on the foot of the mountain almost twenty three years ago and tranquil, easily accessed walking trails from which a wealth of native flora and fauna species can be viewed.

The Alum Mountain Park, Bulahdelah - A Section of the Picnic and Rest Area © M. & A. Carrall

The park, which delineates and conserves a former mine processing plant site of National significance, has two sections: a picnic and rest area and a sports recreation area, both of which are used for respite and social gatherings. It is also an education facility and is a popular stop-off point for road users.

With: State Forests 'managing, caring and sustaining'; a State Government whose slogan is: NSW Labor Securing NSW's Future; and a Federal Government which claims to have 'mainstream values', this unique ecological, geological, heritage, cultural and educational site should, it may seem, be well protectected. Not so! Largely due to an amendment - Part 3A - to the N.S.W. Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP and A Act), the N.S.W. Minister for Planning, Hon. Frank Sartor (email: office@sartor.minister.nsw.gov.au) has recently approved its proposed destruction by the N.S.W. Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

With the inclusion of Part 3A, the EP and A Act serves as a licence for the RTA and their ilk to destroy the major geographical and social infrastructure of townships and to exterminate state and nationally significant species and heritage.

In this case, Part 3A of said Act, in addition to permitting the destruction of the Alum Mountain with a massive new section of highway, six-lanes-plus in width and up to 24 metres below current ground level, also serves as a licence for the RTA to:

  • exacerbate air and noise pollution within the township, sandwiching residents, children at two schools and others between two sources of ever-increasing pollution, including potentially deadly ultrafine diesel exhaust particles;
  • locate part of the roadway in (13 metres below the surface of) a colluvial landslide and under 40 metre high scarps of a mountain which is prone to mass movement (landslides) and rock (and boulder) falls; and to thereby
  • jeopardise the lives of construction workers, residents, visitors to the area and road users.

    With (but not necessarily limited to) Part 3A specifically stating: "environment" includes all aspects of the surroundings of humans, whether affecting any human as an individual or in his or her social groupings, it can now be said that an intent of the EP and A Act is to enable the killing of humans.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 Caters for Dysfunctional Personalities

In incorporating Part 3A into the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the Act) the N.S.W. State Labor Government has invalidated: all threatened species listings; all heritage listings; all Aboriginal cultural heritage listings; and all N.S.W. environmental protection agencies. (In the case of the latter, jobs and at least one department – the N.S.W. Scientific Committee – which were made pointless with the enactment of Part 3A are being maintained; yet one of the motives behind the introduction of this amendment to the Act is the notion that Part 3A projects contribute to economic growth.) Even Commonwealth listings of N.S.W. Rare and Threatened Species and Heritage are rendered ineffective by Part 3A.

Cryptostylis hunteriana – a saprophytic State and Commonwealth listed native orchid species growing on the foot of the Alum Mountain. Attempts at relocation (transplantation, translocation) will kill this species. Photograph © M. Carrall.

The power to sign off on Part 3A project proposals is in the hands of just two people from the one department: the Director General, Department of Planning (currently Robyn Kruk), and the Minister for Planning (currently Frank Sartor – email: office@sartor.minister.nsw.gov.au).

In the case of those projects where an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been produced, there is no prerequisite for the Minister to even peruse it, let alone investigate its accuracy.

On the whim of the Director General and the Minister for Planning, albeit with advice from ‘experts’, immeasurable and unwarranted environmental destruction is taking place in New South Wales and United Nations Treaties which have been ratified by Australia are being contravened.

In the case of the Pacific Highway Upgrade, Bulahdelah, although several alternatives are available, not limited to but in particular Option A – a perfectly viable, cheaper route and the safest one for road users – to the west of the township, the Director General and the Minister for Planning have given their consent for the N.S.W. Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) to use Option E, an internal deviation, and (but not limited to) to:-

  • destroy Australian heritage which is of National heritage value (ref.1);
  • eliminate two non-relocatable relics of the above: a boiler wall (which, contrary to the RTA’s propaganda, is directly in the path of the proposal) and a brick crucible;
  • eradicate most – if not all – of the Alum Mountain Park – a public recreation area which delineates and conserves the site of a former mine processing plant of National heritage value (and which the RTA publicly stated in Newsletters 3 and 4 would not be affected by the proposal);
  • mutilate the principal and historically recognised (ref. 2) aesthetics of a small country township;
  • decimate a small country township’s principal tourism attraction;
  • obliterate most of and scar and pollute the remainder of the highest usage section of said tourism attraction;
  • cut off public vehicular access to the summit of the Alum Mountain;
  • rob Australian citizens of their culture and their natural wealth;
  • increase flood levels (ref. 3) and, despite the RTA’s denial of same, have the potential to adversely impact a wetland classified as significant under State Environmental Planning Policy No. 14 (SEPP 14) – Coastal Wetlands (ref. 4);
  • sandwich residents, including children in two schools, between two sources of air and noise pollution;
  • turn a residential street where a hospital and a nursing home are located into a highway access road (with an estimated initial usage of some 2,000 vehicles per day);
  • put humans and their lives at risk from boulder and rock fall hazards which do not exist with any other route options (ref. 5);
  • put humans and their lives at risk from the hazards of land slides and land slips which do not exist with any other route options (ref.5);
  • decimate terrestrial flora and fauna habitat (both actual and potential) of a National level of conservation significance (ref.6);
  • destroy plants which are listed on threatened species registers, including orchid species which cannot be successfully transplanted or propagated and annihilate the Type Site of Rhizanthella slateri;
  • eradicate a geological seepage-zone habitat area which is inhabited and frequented by an unusually wide variety of fauna, including: Microbats; the Blue-bellied black snake; Glossy black-cockatoos; the Red-tailed black-cockatoo; White-headed pigeons; the Green and golden bell frog and many others; the Brush-tailed Phascogale and the Powerful owl; and to
  • put the Alum Mountain’s population of squirrel gliders at risk of extinction (ref. 7).

    And the RTA’s internet publicised major ‘reason’ for wanting to use the only route which would incorporate all of the above and more? It’s a blatant and ludicrous falsehood: that a power transmission easement (which is vegetated, not as the RTA falsely claims, ‘cleared’) discourages animals from moving to the area on its western side (ref.8).

This King Parrot from the Alum Mountain was photographed in the residential area on the mountain’s lower foot (west of the power line easement). Photograph © E. Carrall.

With Part 3A, the Act no longer serves as a preventative to the realisation of projects which are founded on unintelligence/negligence/corruption. And with a killer Act which itself displays contempt for the environment and for human life, it is to be expected that working on Part 3A projects will be particularly attractive to those with dysfunctional (e.g. authoritarian) or depraved (e.g. sadistic) personalities.

This year, during RTA surveying on the foot of the Alum Mountain, Bulahdelah residents found a Vietcong-style spiked trap. Its sharpened spikes, which were firmly embedded into the ground, were made of small branches from saplings hacked by the surveyors:-

A Vietcong-style spiked trap with sharpened branches from saplings slashed by RTA surveyors. Found by Bulahdelah community members during RTA surveying.

References:- 1. The RTA document: Bulahdelah (Alum Mountain) Alunite Site-Complex, A Cultural Heritage Assessment with Reference to the Proposed Bulahdelah Pacific Highway Upgrade Route. 2. Rachel Henning (19th century) and H.M.R. Rupp (early 20th century). 3. Page 7.25 of EIS Technical Paper 8 – Water. 4. EIS Technical Paper 8 – Water. 5. Soil Landscapes of the Dungog 1:100 000 Sheet – Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney. L.E. Henderson, 2000: page 9: ‘Mass movement occurs on steep slopes, particularly the Alum Mountain Volcanics, which are also prone to rockfall’. 6. EIS Volume 4: 3.5 Overall Conservation Values of the Study Area – 3.5.1 Terrestrial Conservation Values. 7. EIS Volume 10: Conclusions. 8. The Parsons Brinkerhoff Upgrading the Pacific Highway website: http://www.pb.com.au/bulahdelah/index.html where it was previously stated, “…The significant advantage of Option E over other options to the west of the town is that the cleared power transmission easement is immediately to the east of the alignment. This cleared easement already discourages animal movement to the west of the easement.”

Friday, October 12, 2007

RTA Persecution of Aboriginal People of Traditional Beliefs

With its 40 metre tall fissured crags at an elevation of 282 metres above the township below, the Alum Mountain at Bulahdelah, New South Wales, Australia, is the predominant feature of the area.

The Alum Mountain, Bulahdelah, with its cliffs glowing orange-pink in the afternoon sun. (Note: all of the inserts are of items on the mountain’s foot. All are in imminent danger of being destroyed.)

One of the world’s only two known outcrops of alum stone in mountain form, the mountain attracts thousands of visitors each year. A quaint footbridge leads to its lower walking trails and to a group of boulders where, over the years, many people have been photographed sitting on ‘Big Rock’ (one of numerous boulders which have fallen from the cliffs to the lower foot of the mountain).

Being a hydro-geological seepage zone, the Alum Mountain has an exceptionally wide variety of life-forms and provides the ideal environment for the development of new ones.

Various plant types on the mountain’s foot are at their northernmost, southernmost of easternmost extremity. Some species are not yet fully named. Natural hybridisation of Australian native orchids has occurred on both the upper and lower slopes of the mountain and it is home to one of the world’s rarest known plant species – an orchid which lives out its entire life cycle underground.

Originally aptly named Cryptanthemis slateri (Cryptanthemis meaning ‘hidden flower’ and slateri after its discoverer, Ernest Slater) but later renamed Rhizanthella slateri, the species was first discovered growing on the foot of the Alum Mountain. It is one of only three known underground orchids, all of which are Australian. It does not rise above soil level to flower and its flowers, some thirty or so of which open from the one capitulum (flower head) are a pale, delicate pink.

Home to innumerable fauna species, from rainforest dwellers to those which are usually found in more arid areas, the mountain also provides a safe haven for creatures which are returned to the wild after being found injured and nursed back to health.

The Alum Mountain is highly valued by Aboriginal people of cultural belief. That it catches the first and last rays of the sun alone makes it a very special place and with its: uniquely coloured cliffs; lookout points; alum stone; ochre; and wide variety of food sources, it is all the more so. In addition to these, the mountain has a healing stream and a large sacred site with a Guardian- Healing-Tree as its focal point.

The Guardian- Healing-Tree

This old growth tree is a white mahogany estimated as being 400 to 500 years of age. It has two Coolum scars and, with some five or so other very special trees in the vicinity, the site in which this tree is located is very sacred indeed. A great deal of spiritual energy emanates from not only the Guardian- Healing-Tree but from the entire site and its healing powers have been experienced by both indigenous and non-indigenous people.

I conclude with this extract from a letter written by a local resident (published with permission):-

Those of us who know and appreciate that we have one of the most significant heritage sites in Australia are both devastated and outraged to know that our State Government only considers such an important heritage site their preferred location for a six-lane-width state highway. However, I have always believed that any experience in life is something from which we can gain knowledge and insight:-

The uncaring attitude of our state and federal government departments and many of our politicians have made me realise that our feelings of frustration and powerlessness in the face of such implacably callous and oppressive behaviour can not in the least compare with the feelings of utter abandonment suffered by the Aboriginal people who value their sacred sites.

We are only in danger of losing a century and a quarter of our history; their loss is so much greater – for their loss is not solely the destruction of their heritage, it is, as well, a denial and crushing of their spiritual beliefs and endopsychic knowledge.

In the path of the Option E Highway Upgrade is a sacred site of immense spiritual and cultural significance to the Worimi elders. But members of the custodial organisation in charge of this sacred site, the Aboriginal Land Council which is local to Karuah, have a pecuniary interest in this area of forest. This sacred site is at the northernmost end of their area and is in the way of their monetary gain. Their mitigation measure to appease the Worimi elders is laid out in a letter printed in the Summary of Submissions (to the Bulahdelah Upgrade Environmental Impact Statement) – October, 2006. It is horrific indeed – the only parallel I can draw with their intended fate for this sacred site is to go back to medieval times when an executed corpse was displayed in a gibbet: it is their intent to kill the Guardian Tree/Healing Tree which, with two Coolum scars and a burl which needs no imagination whatsoever to be regarded as having the form of an Aboriginal woman’s head, is at the heart of this very sacred site, and to put the head on exhibition.

The eradication of Aboriginal culture is still going on just as it did in the 1890s when the sacred mountain used by the Worimi for their initiation rites and other traditions, was desecrated for a mining venture.

Despite the mining of the mountain, its sacred qualities remain strong – Aboriginal men of cultural belief will not go anywhere near it at night. However, as if Aboriginal people have not been wounded and disempowered enough, the almighty RTA, has chosen a part of the mountain which is of immense significance to both men and women to mutilate and destroy. I know that I can not even begin to imagine the feelings of hopeless, helpless despair felt by genuine Aboriginal people in the face of this persecution.