Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Science of Sustainability featuring Questacon's Earth quest

Months of planning and anticipation is about to come to fruition as time stands still for Science Week. One week with two weekends means several super-hands-on science sessions are available for all the community near and far to attend on 12-13 August and 19-20 August, or perhaps during the week.

What will be on show?

  • 15 Earth Quest interactive exhibits from Questacon will spark an interest from Outer Space to Inner Earth. 
  • A mini festival of the best short science films from Scinema - (no popcorn though). 
  • Some local sensory exhibits around our feathered and furry friends with nestboxes built by the Toronto Men’s Shed 
  • An observation trail in the bush out the back to wander along and discover some field science and the impacts of fire on garden escapes. 
Over 400 students have booked in for the mid-week sessions, which is very exciting including two sessions with the Hunter Home Educators-Schoolers. Some mid week 9am sessions are still available.

Whilst bookings aren’t essential for the weekends, if we do get overwhelmed with enthusiasm those with a ticket will get in and numbers will have to be regulated. If you’d like to lend a hand contact us.

Bookings can be made through Eventbrite- The Science of Sustainability – Questacon’s Earth Quest exhibits-Community.

National Tree Day Planting perfect for Threatened Species

This year’s National Tree Days have been a celebration of community enthusiasm. 

On Schools Tree Day 120 Stage 3 students and Kinder buddies from Coal Point Public School planted 240 Blue Flax Lilies and native grasses as a border to the expanding Squirrel Glider Garden that has been growing since 2015. The joy and skills exhibited by these students was inspirational.

On the community-planting day, Sunday, The Rotary Club Toronto Sunrise pitched in and
planted with perseverance and purpose, 1260 plants forming an instant forest on the site of the decommissioned water tank and Whitelocke Street edge of Hunter Water’s land.

Thanks go out to Hunter Water for providing the resources not only for making the planting possible but also for providing professional bush regenerators to tackle the weed infestation that was compromising the integrity of the West Ridge Reserve.

Overseeing the planting were our resident high profile Powerful Owl duo (Ninox strenua). The avian intel is that the pair have produced another chick this year due to the amazing hundred year hollow that is home-sweet home.

Rod Warnock, Wildlife Photographer, captured some amazing photos of the Powerful Owl on National Tree Day. He’s also taken this photo of a Regent Honeyeater that was at Blackalls Park recently, just a flutter away. The Regent Honeyeater is listed as endangered because it has been badly affected by land clearing. A lot of the planting of winter flowering plants that has been undertaken for the Threatened Species Last Stand project is an attempt to increase the numbers of nectar producing trees for Regent Honeyeaters and Squirrel Gliders. If you see the Regent Honeyeater please share the joy it’s quite rare.

More information about it is on the Birds in Backyards website

Want to plant a tree in your backyard for your own personal National Tree Day?


There’s lots of good reasons to plant a tree, the recent native tree workshop hosted by Lake Macquarie Landcare provided some great information about local native trees. 
Ann Loughran from Warners Bay Landcare & Trees In Newcastle provided list of suitable not too tall, local native trees that could serve a variety of functions such as shade, privacy, screening, windbreaks, be ornamental, bird attracting, have featured flowers, edible fruit and just look real pretty.

Seven local lovelies  

Banksia serrata
Forest Oak - Allocasuarina torulosa
Grey Myrtle Backhousia myrtifolia
Old Man Banksia - Banksia serrata
Willow Bottlebrush - Callistemon salignus
Tuckeroo - Cupaniopsis anacardioides
Blueberry Ash – Eleocarpus reticulatus
Snow In summer – Melaleuca linarifolia

The Landcare Resource Centre at Teralba sells local native plants to the public. Phone 49210392 for more information on plant availability.

To B or not to Air B & B… that is the question!

The popularity of short-term holiday letting (STHL), through on-line platforms such as Air B& B, has seen a rapid growth in this form of accommodation nationally, regionally and within our own local area.

Whilst this form of accommodation supports tourism it is important that this not be done to the detriment of people, families and communities that reside in residential neighbourhoods.

In recognising that there needs to be a balance, the State Government released an options paper on 20th July 2017 that details a proposed regulatory and planning framework to deal with Short Term Holiday Letting in NSW.

The report is comprehensive and provides details of the experiences of how cities overseas have dealt, through regulatory and planning framework, with this rapidly growing form of accommodation that at this point, is largely unregulated in this State.

In the context of Lake Macquarie, short-term holiday letting is a permissible use in a residential zone where the permanent residents live on site. This is essentially the traditional bed and breakfast model that has successfully operated around the lake for years.

Problems have occurred in some areas, with the more recent operations, where owners DO NOT reside on site. These problems generally stem from the owners not being on site and therefore rules on noise, parties etc aren’t enforced. In these situations, the adjoining owners bear the consequences of poor behaviour when guests aren’t respectful of the fact they are staying in a residential environment. These types of operations, where owners DO NOT live on site are currently prohibited in Lake Macquarie in a residential zone. Effected neighbours, in these circumstances, have described the experience as like living next door to an unregulated hotel in a quasi tourism zone, not a residential neighbourhood.

The options report is available for community comment until 31st October 2017. A copy of the report can be downloaded on the following link and submissions made on the webpage.

It is very important that the community engages in this process, if the policy settings aren’t carefully considered and understood, the impact on the amenity of people in the community could be dramatic. Some planners believe this is one of the most significant issues to impact on the liveability of communities we will experience in a long time.

If you have any questions or have had any issues relating to STHL, Greg Piper’s office would like to hear from you, contact details are:

Phone 4959-3200

Email address:

$30 for your thoughts on Sea-level rise

Do you have a young family and/or are from a diverse background?

Lana Frost from the Department of Geography and Planning at Macquarie University would like to talk to you about preparing for sea level rise.

Everyone that completes a 1hour interview will receive a $30 gift voucher. All the research interviews have to be completed by mid August so timing is crucial.

The research project is part of a Master of Research and will produce a case study of understandings of fairness and social justice in planning for sea level rise in Lake Macquarie.

If you are interested in this research, please Lana Frost on 0400 612 829 or email

Intrepid Landcarers are coming

The roving Hunter Intrepid Landcare tribe are coming out to Coal Point during Biodiversity month on 23-24 September to assist with the annual Squirrel Glider nestbox monitoring. If your 18-30ish and want to get involved with this dynamic group get in touch through Facebook

Intrepid Landcare provides a common space to inspire, connect and empower young people to join local environmental initiatives in their communities.

DAs In Play

You can keep up to date with developments in the area through Lake Macquarie City Council’s Application Tracking system.The abridged list below has been compiled to support community understanding of developments in our area. Please consult LMCC’s website for details and a complete listing. Listings below are from 8/7/17 to 3/8/17.
  • 6 Alkira Street: Boundary Adjustment, 1 into 2 Lot Subdivision and 2 Dwelling Houses - Amendment To Consent: Check New Application 
  • 47A Brighton Avenue: Dwelling House and Demolition of Existing Dwelling: Awaiting Information Requested 
  • 77 Coal Point Rd: Dwelling House and Ancillary detached Garage/Shed - Amendment: Awaiting information requested 
  • 128 Coal Point Rd: Dwelling House Alterations & Additions: Awaiting information requested 
  • 226 Coal Point Road. Dwelling Alteration & Additions. Under Assessment 
  • 254 Coal Point Road: New Garage: Approved 
  • 269A Coal Point Road: Fence: On Notification/Advertising 
  • 279 Coal Point Road: Jetty: Approved 
  • 38 Kilaben Road Dwelling House – Amendment- Approved 
  • 1 Laycock Street: Steel reinforced swimming pool and associated pool surrounds: Under Assessment 
  • 1/17 Laycock St: Child Care Centre: Under Assessment 
  • 1 Oakhampton Court: Dwelling Alterations and Additions: Under Assessment 
  • 7 Robey Crescent :Dwelling Alterations & Additions & Attached Secondary Dwelling: Awaiting Information Requested 
  • 20 Skye Point Road Dwelling Alterations & Additions. Under Assessment. 
  • 47 Skye Point Road. Dwelling House Additions. Awaiting information requested 
  • 74 Skye Point Road. Dwelling House, Garage, Swimming Pool, Alt & Adds to Boatshed. Awaiting Information requested 
  • 78 Skye Point Road: Dwelling House - Alterations & Additions, Boat Shed, Water Recreation Structure: Awaiting information requested 
  • 228 Skye Point Road: Dwelling House, Swimming Pool with Associated Safety Barriers and Demolition of Existing Dwelling: Awaiting Information Requested 
  • 268 Skye Point Road: Detached Dual Occupancy and Strata Subdivision: On Notification/Advertising 
  • 268 Skye Point Road Residential Addition - Studio – Modification-Approved 
  • 296 Skye Point Road: Dwelling Alterations and Additions: Scanning of Application Documents 
  • 308 Skye Point Road. Proposed Jetty. Approved 
  • 27 Whitelocke Street: B149 - Dwelling House: Awaiting Allocation 
  • 29 Whitelocke Street: Secondary Dwelling and Retaining Wall Under Assessment 
  • 151-155 Brighton Av (Hirecrafft Marina) Awaiting Information Requested. From the Application Tracking website it appears there has been a meeting held on 12th July and a document provided on the Capital Investment Value of the proposed project of $14,779,520.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Friendship Festival

A celebration of  community diversity is happening on Wednesday 2nd August at Toronto Library (RSVP to library)

The program of events include

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Science Week is Sneaking up…helpers wanted!

It is less than one month to the biggest event Progress Hall has seen in quite a while and the sponsorship goal has been met thanks to the support of our amazing community and Origin Energy.

The next logistical hurdle to leap is having helpers on hand. We’ll need guides to assist with receiving the weekend visitors and supporting the mid-week students, 400 students have already booked.

There are other jobs too, meeters & greeters, and ticket receipters as well as catering for the volunteers and at the community event. If you’d like to lend a hand please contact Suzanne with your availability so a roster can be produced.

Looking for a contractor with a strong back and moving equipment.

The exhibition will also be required to be set up and pulled down. For this we’ll require some muscle and are looking for a contractor that can move big things without breaking a back. The exhibition states equipment required to include ‘Pallet jack, fork lift and any other equipment required’. If you know of someone who might be interested in this job please pass on their details.

A free social science session for locals!

What could be more fun than a Questacon exhibition? Catching up with friends and neighbours at the same time. The final session on Sunday 20th August from noon till 4pm will be a free session for locals. If you receive a Chronicle in your letterbox, bring the Science Week sponsors panel along, this is you free ticket. You’ll be welcome with open arms, some afternoon tea and friendly local faces.

If you want to come along to one of the other weekend sessions book through Eventbrite to avoid disappointment. 

There are session limits to ensure that everyone can enjoy the exhibits. Book Now!

Bookings with Eventbrite

Details for school bookings and the exhibits on display
are provided on the Science Week page.

National Tree Day Sunday 30th July

Be inspired by nature this National Tree Day, Get down and gritty for our local community planting day on Sunday 30th July 9am-noon.

Research from Planet Ark repeatedly shows that spending time outdoors provides a range of health and wellbeing benefits, by making people happier, healthier, and calmer. A new 2017 report from Planet Ark also shows that learning outdoors can help kids develop the crucial skills Australian teachers say they will need most to face major global challenges, like climate change, critical thinking and problem solving, ‘grit’ or resilience, and emotional intelligence.

National Tree Day is a fulfilling opportunity to do something good for the environment and experience the many positive benefits associated with spending time in nature.

Schools Tree Day

The Threatened Species project is supporting Coal Point Public School to continue the creation of the Squirrel Glider Garden on Thursday 27th July. 240 plants will be planted around the perimeter providing food and habitat for critters that Squirrel Gliders like to eat.

Community Tree Day

Thanks to the support of Hunter Water on Sunday 30th July from 9am - noon a community planting of over 1000 plants will be undertaken on Hunter Water land on Whitelocke Street and on the site of the decommissioned water tank. These plantings will provide a buffer to the bushland to protect it from garden escapes and also aid in the regeneration of the ex-water tank site.

All community members are welcome to attend. The Sunrise Rotary crew will be on hand to ensure that the planting targets are met.

Registration on the National Tree Day site is helpful for catering purposes.

So long Senna…it’s pod-picking time

What’s bright and yellow and given half a chance will spread throughout your garden and the local bushland? Cassia, also known as Winter Senna, botanical name Senna pendula var glabrata.

Its yellow flower-heads were a visual treat a month or so ago but now the flowers are gone the cylindrical green bean-like pods are drooping with intent. Soon they’ll burst open and spread the 20-40 seeds amongst your garden and then eventually into the bush as the birds, bugs and beasties carry them off.

So what’s the harm in a few lovely yellow flowers? They spread and keep spreading, replacing the native plants and eventually changing the whole plant community if not controlled.

Controlling it is easy and very doable, if it’s in bloom now, you can’t miss it.

If you’re really fond of your Senna, responsible plant ownership is needed. After it’s finished blooming pluck off the seed pods and put them in the bin.

If you want to remove the plant permanently, they are easy to dig out, especially now the soil is so moist, just make sure you get all the roots. Being a very weedy species you’ll probably have to go back over the area a few times to deal with the seedlings but they pull out very easily.

There are some very clear pictures of all life stages of the plant available online

A great Gum Guide for Coal Point tree enthusiasts

In the spirit of National Tree Day The Common Gums of Coal Point can now be celebrated and identified thanks to a case study produced by LMCC’s Landcare Resource Centre.

The Gum Guide describes the trees that are also known as Eucalypts, Angophoras and Corymbias. These are tricky trees to identify. The handy pocket sized pictorial reference of identifying features such as the bark and the fruit can be downloaded from the CPPA website on the Plants in our Bigger Backyard page.

Winter Bird Survey

The Winter Bird survey has turned up a treat…White-headed Pigeons, three of them perched high in the Casuarinas that border Puntei Creek. This sighting is perhaps a rarity on Coal Point since there are very few records of these birds on the western side of Lake Mac. In the Hunter region they are mostly reported within the wet forests and rainforests margins further north although occasional sightings are made along the margins of the Watagans. In these areas these birds forage for various native fruit but also like Camphor laurels and Privet. The Privet along Puntei Creek is currently heavy in fruit.

The complete Winter Bird survey can be read on the CPPA website

Some great Reconciliation Reads…Part 2

In 2014 came DARK EMU BLACK SEEDS: agriculture or accident? By Bruce Pascoe.

Here further extensive evidence makes a compelling argument “that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing” as well as building houses, storage and dams and altering the course of rivers to provide for irrigation.

So many revealing stories from early explorers such as Major Thomas Mitchell and Charles Sturt are common in early colonial records. Writers such as Mary Gilmore and Kate Langloh Parker tell stories of pioneering families witnessing planting ceremonies, dam building, irrigation and harvesting.

It is now believed that over long periods of time Aboriginal people made changes to genomes and habitats of plants through selection of seeds for use. In the case of RICE the genome of Australian rice is of importance as Asian rices are losing qualities that protect them from diseases. Protection of the environment without use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and even, at times, the growing of rice in brackish water are features that have valuable effects in food production.

Other grains, such as wild oats (a round grain) were extensively harvested and the process of baking developed. Grindstones from Walgett (dated to 30,000 years ago) and Kakadu (dated to 25,000 years ago) suggest that Aboriginal bakers were at work well before Egyptians (dated to 17,000 years ago) previously believed to be the earliest bakers. Sturt describes the “evening whirring of hundreds of mills grinding grain into flour”.

Early records “were so persistent in their description of grain harvests from all parts of the country that Norman Tindale in 1974 was able to draw a map of Indigenous grain areas “which went way beyond the current grain growing areas.

The loss of valued grasses through grazing was disappointing to early settlers – one Wimmera settler commenting that after 3 or 4 years of grazing “the long, deep rooted grasses… have died out”(to be replaced by??).

An example of the managed use of valuable but scarce ‘domesticated’ plants is the Bush Tomato or Desert Raisin (Solanum centrale) now a feature in cooking products. This is now needing to be built up in availability by Aboriginal groups – not a rapid process.

While Bruce Pascoe is strongly arguing for a reconsideration of the “hunter-gatherer” label for pre-colonial Australians he also points out that the SHARING and TRADING of the fruits of the land by Aboriginal people resulted in “a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity” .

This book has been well recognised as making an interesting and compelling case for a different way of looking at our land and its history.It is available at Lake Macquarie Council libraries.

Choose to Refuse!

The War on Waste is being won in Toronto with all but three local cafes having now switched over to biodegradable coffee cups instead of the plastic lined variety. Not only that but all cafes will now allow you to bring your own cup in for a refill and some are offering a discount if you do. Steve Dewer, the TASNG Waste Champion, has recently followed up on the cafe survey of November 2016.

Are you in for the Plastic Free July Choose to Refuse challenge? A couple of weeks of noticing how much plastic you encounter makes for an interesting experience.
Sign up at


2 Brighton Avenue- 133 Excelsior Pde

This development proposal will be heard at the Land & Environment Court on October 9-10. Anyone who commented on the original application should have received a notice from Matthewsfolbigg Solicitors by now.

Several Residents for Responsible Lakeside Development including the CPPA’s President will be attending the hearing in Sydney. A meeting of this group will be held in September to clarify once again the issues that we’ll be putting forward. The developer has not yet submitted any amended plans and until they do it will be hard to know what to comment upon. If you are planning an overnighter to Sydney why not build in and informative session at the Land & Environment court…it could be lots of fun!

DAs In Play

You can keep up to date with developments in the area through Lake Macquarie City Council’s Application Tracking system.The abridged list below has been compiled to support community understanding of developments in our area. Please consult LMCC’s website for details and a complete listing. Listings below are from 18/6/17 to 8/7/17
  • 58 Amelia Street.Dwelling Additions/Alterations. Approved
  • 47A Brighton Avenue: Dwelling House and Demolition of Existing Dwelling: Awaiting Information Requested
  • 23 Coal Point Road. Demolition of Dwelling House. Approved
  • 47 Coal Point Road : Attached Rear Fly-Over Patio fixed to Existing Deck. Approved
  • 77 Coal Point Rd: Dwelling House and Ancillary detached Garage/Shed - Amendment: Awaiting information requested
  • 128 Coal Point Rd: Dwelling House Alterations & Additions: Awaiting information requested
  • 226 Coal Point Road. Dwelling Alteration & Additions. Awaiting Information Requested.
  • 254 Coal Point Road. New Garage. Approved
  • 151 Excelsior Parade: Footpath works for Multi dwelling housing: Approved
  • 38 Kilaben Road Dwelling House – Amendment- Under assessment
  • 1 Laycock Street: Steel reinforced swimming pool and associated pool surrounds: Under Assessment
  • 1/17 Laycock St: Child Care Centre: Awaiting Information Requested
  • 1 Oakhampton Court: Dwelling Alterations and Additions: On Notification/Advertising
  • 7 Robey Crescent :Dwelling Alterations & Additions & Attached Secondary Dwelling: Awaiting Information Requested
  • 20 Skye Point Road Dwelling Alterations & Additions. Under Assessment.
  • 47 Skye Point Road. Dwelling House Additions. Under Assessment.
  • 74 Skye Point Road. Dwelling House, Garage, Swimming Pool, Alt & Adds to Boatshed. Awaiting Information requested
  • 78 Skye Point Road: Dwelling House - Alterations & Additions, Boat Shed, Water Recreation Structure: Awaiting information requested
  • 228 Skye Point Road: Dwelling House, Swimming Pool with Associated Safety Barriers and Demolition of Existing Dwelling: Awaiting Information Requested
  • 268 Skye Point Road Detached Dual Occupancy and Strata Subdivision
  • Applicant: On Notification/Advertising
  • 308 Skye Point Road. Proposed Jetty. Awaiting DA Determination
  • 151-155 Brighton Av (Hirecrafft Marina) Awaiting Information Requested
  • 29 Whitelocke Street: Secondary Dwelling and Retaining Wall On Notification/Advertising

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

5 down 1 to go

The Year 5 report on the Threatened Species Last Stand project has be lodged, reviewed and given an Excellent overall rating. The Environmental Trust reviewer congratulated the group “on another solid year of achievement. The project has maintained high standards in terms of delivery of on-ground works, monitoring results, volunteering and community engagement outcomes and it appears to be in an excellent position to delivering its overarching objectives”

A summary of Year 5

The progress to date continues to be exciting and rewarding with 2,539 landcare hours contributed in Year 5 continuing to move on ground outcomes in a positive recovery trajectory on all of the reserves. The expanding local landcare team continues to meet each Thursday morning for 5hr with several individuals putting in additional hours, especially at the Carey Bay Wetlands.

The hazard reduction burn at Stansfield Reserve has added an extra dimension to the project that manual weeding could not provide. The regeneration of the reserve after the burn has been inspiring to explore and monitor and has provided a unique insight into the floristic composition, the resilience of the seedbank and the weed responses. It is proving to be a great educational asset for the impacts of garden escapes.

The monitoring of fauna and flora continues to reap new information. Several new species of birds have been spotted, the presence of Sugar Gliders along with the Squirrel Gliders confirmed on the West Ridge, another Powerful Owl fledged and the annual flora survey has added 22 new species to the list, with the Stansfield list having 59 new species identified in the three quadrats.

Year 5 saw 3 powerpoint presentations delivered, 3 site tours of Stansfield Reserve, 2 TAFE field days and 2 workshops sessions provided to local and regional groups on the project activities.

Regular communication with the community saw 9 editions of the Chronicle produced and letterboxed. An increased use of social media, facebook and mailchimp, saw the facebook following double. The production of the verge and bank-planting guide to encourage and simplify selection and use of local native plants is available on the website.


July Events

Winter Bird Survey

The Winter Bird Survey is planned for Monday 10th July 7am-11am. Wandering through the local reserves with Tom Clarke’s avian expertise available adds another level of appreciation to our local bushland. Every visit turns up a birding treat. If you’d like to come along meet at the Scout Hall by 7am, wear suitable clothing for walking and the weather, BYO water, snack, binoculars and camera.

Native Trees are Tremendous

The Lake Macquarie Landcare Volunteers Network will be hosting a Super Saturday Session on Native Trees at Progress Hall on Saturday 15th July 9:30am-12:30, including lunch. A variety of speakers will share information on Native Trees endemic to our area, how to protect and enhance Native Trees, backyard Native Trees and the effects of fire on Native Trees. Bookings can be made with the Landcare Resource Centre 4921 0392.

Progress Patter

Sale of Progress bushland to commence.

LMCC has made an offer to buy the bushland behind the hall to expand the reserve. At the 2015 AGM this process was endorsed if the price was right…and it is.

Hall HooHa

Your community hall is in need of a maintenance working bee which has been set for Saturday 8th July 9:30am-12:30. The aim is to ensure everything is in tip top shape for the upcoming Science Week Extravaganza. All welcome, contact Tony for details of jobs.

Meaningful mounds emerging

Local Landcarers have been rounding up weed menaces, making mounds of Mothers of Millions (MoM) and turning fields of Fishbone Fern into hummocks of would be humus.

Gurranba Reserve has the mother of a patch of MoM (Bryophyllum delagoense).This pesky persistent succulent is coming into bright red flower now and is an easy to pull out plant. If you visit Gurranba Reserve with your canine companion (it’s leash free) you could easily fill a bag of MoMs whilst Fido frolics. It’s a great kids pull-out-plant too because it has camouflage capability. Just when you think you’ve got them all, there’s always another one lurking in the shrubbery, a great holiday Treasure Hunt activity. If you want to add some MoMs to the pile at the park the landcare group will happily keep an eye on them.

The West Ridge Reserve, just up the hill from the School, is another spot Landcarers have been making efforts removing Fishbone Fern. This garden escape has a tendency to run rampant and the amount of fishbone fern plant material is formidable. It is being kept contained on site and will be watched.

Fishbone Fern is a native of Queensland and does well in its state of origin, we have some local supporters that could well give it the heave-ho if given the chance such as Rasp Fern (Doodia aspera) and Maidenhair fern (Adiantum hispidulum.

Would you like to know what local plants are in the area? The updated flora list from the 2017 Flora surveys is now available


Seeking Science Week Sponsorship from Booming Businesses

Did you know that sponsoring the August Science Week extravaganza counts as a tax deduction? As the End of Financial Year rapidly approaches it is not too late to support this local educational endeavor.

So far our amazing community has chipped in $2900 and the CPPA has been active seeking additional funding. We are committed to hosting the event. It costs $6372 to loan and transport Questacon’s Travelling exhibition, $200 for extra insurance and there are other expenses. More details about the event are on the website.


Reconciliation Reads

In the past 6 years two “eye opening” books have been published in Australia about the nature of the Australian landscape at the time of European settlement. Both authors have carefully searched archives, diaries, reports, letters, drawings and paintings from the early days of settlement as well as extensive archaeological evidence about management of the environment by Aboriginal people. The first of the book reviews by Robyn Gill is below.

Bill Gammage in 2011 published The BIGGEST ESTATE on EARTH HOW ABORIGINES MADE AUSTRALIA. He found that “early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife it evoked a country estate in England.” He attributed this to “an extraordinarily complex system of land management” by Aboriginal people “using fire and the lifecycles of native plants to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year” (“firestick farming” – virtually a form of mowing).

Many details of this management process and the sources of the information are the focus of Gammage’s book. He concludes that, “once Aboriginal people were unable to tend their country it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires we now experience.”

Interestingly, low intensity “cool burning” is being widely used again as a way of stopping the hot fire outbreaks. The low to medium intensity hazard reduction burn promoted by Landcare, facilitated by LMCC and carried out by Fire and Rescue on the Coal Point Ridge recently has had great results in reducing flammable material and also in regenerating the local vegetation so it competes better with weeds. Many rural Landcare groups are holding field days with titles such as COOL BURN INDIGINOUS FIRE MANAGEMENT FOR PRODUCTIVE PASTURES.

This book has been well recognised as making an interesting and compelling case for a different way of looking at our land and its history.It is available at Lake Macquarie Council libraries.

The second book review will follow in the July Chronicle.