Respect history, values and preserve trees
AUSTRALIA does not need another brutal confrontation to push Aboriginal people off their land.
I have listened to public comments made by the authorities in relation to the Western Highway duplication at Buangor with growing alarm. A young engineer with VicRoads said that Vic Roads had conceded they will: "Preserve 13 trees, but the route for the duplication essentially remains the same."
We all want a safer stretch of road. But ignoring the Aboriginal perspective and not developing the alternative, cheaper route they researched, through already cleared land, is retrogressive and just plain wrong.
Repeatedly, all of our Aboriginal people are made "sick and tired" - literally - because their perspective, their land, their knowledge, their ways of living, continue to be trampled by legislation and buried under tonnes of concrete and bitumen.
Their way of life implicitly, utterly, recognises that "Country" gives them life. Their lives and the life of their land and all its elements, is indivisible.
We must learn from them. Why? Because the way of modern industrialised man has simplified entire continents' ecosystems. Simplified ecosystems are like deserts - they are characterised by extremes of hot and cold. The extremes of hot and cold we are now experiencing we call "climate change".
Accelerated climate change has come about, not only by burning trillions of tonnes of carbon-rich fossil fuels, but because we have removed 50 per cent of the world's forests and severely degraded another 30 per cent. Forests absorb huge amounts of solar energy. They make summers cooler, and winters warmer. They turn carbon into timber and clean our air by releasing oxygen.
Replanting the world's forests will be a big part of arresting climate change.
The Aboriginal people fighting to have the 14-kilometre Buangor stretch of woodland preserved are showing us all a way forward out of the fracas and mayhem of climate change, and into a genuinely sustainable future. The ecological perspective is you cannot leave 13 trees in situ and think you have preserved them.
Amongst the Buangor trees is a unique gnarled, knot-forming tree whose branches were of particular importance. These branches have been used as an indispensable aid to hunting. I studied forest ecology at ANU early on, and I have not seen the like anywhere else in Australia. To look after these rare trees, and the birthing trees, you must preserve the community they live in.
Zellanach, the leader of the groups whose push to protect this important site has seen them camp out through two bitterly cold winters and endure a particularly harsh and dry summer - with no water on site - also said this country was not only part of Aboriginal Dreaming, it is in their Song Lines.
That means this country is sacred to many other Aboriginals, not just the locals. Song Lines connect Aboriginal people all the way from the Top End to Wilsons Promontory. That Langi Ghiran and Buangor remain in the ravaged remnants of Aboriginal "singing" demonstrates that this Buangor stretch of country has had, and retains, very special cultural significance. It is one of the very few places left in Victoria where this living cultural significance remains. And it is teeming with biodiverse wildlife!
A single tree can harbour up to 50 species of life. Some will be destroyed when the tree is removed; some may be able to migrate and survive with difficulty if there is similar habitat nearby. But when we start clearing vegetation, we actually start a chain-reaction of destruction, reducing biomass and simplifying ecosystems. If the vegetation around the 13 trees VicRoads have conceded to protect, is cleared, we shall soon also lose the sacred trees themselves.
Swamps, and the marshy, rivulet-strewn, country about Buangor, harbour great biodiversity. We must protect this biodiversity to have any hope of replenishing and repairing the damage we have done.
Instead of threatening this brave group of protestors with persecution and police action, we should be applauding their brave resistance and following their lead. Their determination to protect this small stretch of land demonstrates why Aboriginal culture endured and why it will endure.
Dr Bernardine Atkinson, Lake Bolac
HOW deeply can a public corporation dig themselves into a hole before they stop wasting taxpayer money?
Major Road Projects Victoria has spent years defending the proposed profligate waste of money on Stage 2B of the Western Highway, stating the proposed budget and damage are justified by calculations of safety improvements. For instance, their own documents show an expected drop of about 40 per cent in the crash rate from "5.5 to 3.4 crashes per million kilometres" travelled, however this occurs only if the road is further upgraded to an AMP1 freeway standard.
To achieve this would constitute an upgrade of the upgrade, and this is not part of the current AMP3 standard proposal. So, these figures are misleading, as its assumption is not valid.
Furthermore a senior MRPV engineer has admitted that the AMP1 freeway "will probably never be built" so any later upgrade is highly speculative.
Besides this, as speed limits are increased the nature of the accidents will change, with fewer head-on and tree-strike accidents, but more rollovers and high-speed accidents.
Already we see this elsewhere on the upgraded Western Highway.
And yes, in the meantime local landholders' recently expressed concerns about access will be satisfied, as the approved AMP3 standard road will provide a minimum of "left-in, left-out" access.
Meanwhile they continue to waste taxpayer money defending an entrenched position.
They continue to cherry-pick the opinions of those who agree with their position, wasting further taxpayer dollars on reports which they then bury if the reports do not support their position.
Russell Pearse, Ararat
Frustration over flyers
THE flyer I received in my mail from Member for Ripon Louise Staley about Victoria's recycling disaster is wrong on so many levels.
She states that the Andrews government is charging a "bin tax" via council rates and that the recycling is going to landfill. Northern Grampians Shire Council has responded by reassuring the community that there is no "bin tax" and that our recycling is processed by VISY and not going to landfill.
By sending this unsolicited junk mail isn't she contributing to the problem where she claims that all our recyclable materials go to landfill?
This is a totally inappropriate use of her taxpayer funded Parliamentary budget and I object to my taxes being used to spread falsehoods. She asks for our views on the subject with four questions to be answered yes/no. Hardly a way to express our views.
Instead of spreading her usual lies, fear and scaremongering why not work towards a solution for our recycling industry?
I expect a higher standard from our elected representative.
Veronica Monaghan, Stawell