Stories and photos of my Life in the South West

Subtitle

Stories of the South-Branch River

The photo below shows the state of our once pristine River and allows me to tell you of an addiction I had for diving our Rivers, In the 60's and 70's. From 74 to 89 I was working in the underground coal mines. We would finish work at three o'clock, I would arrive home the same time as the kid's were getting home from school, the youngest was Craig about 5 or 6, then Brett was 10, Jamie 13 and David was 16.

The hot summer day's when the temperature ranged between 30 or 40 celcius, they would all want to go out to the river for a swim, the missus included. I would give in every-time on the conditions that I could dive for marron. The boy's would also put their diving gear in. They would dive and play around with the wife keeping an eye on them. At different times I would take one of the boys with me, he would hold the bag while I dived for marron. Many times over many years I would fill the bag to the top. Also when I was afternoon shift and the boy's were at school, the wife and myself would go out and swim the pools. I remember times when she could not handle the weight, so she would hold onto a log in the water and I would return to fill the bag to the top with marron.

The photo shows the logs and rocks, also the paperbark tree's leaning into the water. There was no better meal than marron and salad in the summer, also we would give different people a feed, a habit I got from my father. He always told us to never take what we couldn't use. I have never felt guilty for what I have done. Especially when I look at  this photo.  In time I will tell the history of the River systems that fed the Collie Basin.

Root System of the Paper-Bark

It shows the root system of the paper-bark's and different shrubs that hold the bank together, also you can see the  holes where the little marron hide from their predators. The shrub and root systems are dead and will eventually wash away. The bank will then collapse into the pool, also the bend in the river will give way when the winter waters come. In time you will be looking at long lines of water, not unlike a drain. The mine tunnels I worked in went under this River.

Continuation of South Branch

This is a photo of the South Branch River, this particular section was called The Town Pool, due to it's location to the Coal-mining town of Cardiff, that was built along side of the river. You can only imagine now, the good times that were had at this pool.

I dived these pools in the 60s and 70s with goggle, snorkel and flippers.The water line at the end of summer, would barely drop below the vegetation line, the marron would be scattered the full length of the pool, you would never see a small marron in the open where the big marron were, because they would fall victim to the predators. School's of Redfin Perch ranging in size from one to three pound.

I remember diving in the middle of the pool and swimming towards the bank on the bottom and I came into a wall of Perch I could not believe.Looking to my right the way they were travelling I could not see the end, also to my left. I've hunted these Redfin all my life, as old as I can remember with my Father. 64 yrs old and still addicted. I will show you photo's of these down the track. The other predators of the small marron, were the (turtles)( cormorant)or (shag), (water-rats)and(cranes). The marron have survived and co-exited with all these predators since the start of time. Also I hope in time I will find out what caused this. 

South-Branch

This photo shows what the above pool once looked like, it was known as The Town Pool. If you take notice of the little dovetail log protruding from the water and then look at the above photo, you will see the same log just above the rocks.

Town Pool

The gentleman standing in the middle of the river, was born and bred in Cardiff. His name is Jock Graham, he's in his mid 70's. He tells me that when he used to get home from school, in the hot summer months, he would head for the river, also many other kids from Cardiff. Jock's brothers, who today would be in their 80's and 90's would have learnt from their father, the same way that I learnt from my father, the different methods to catch the marron, the cobbler and perch.

His father had brought a small hobby farm and built a house roughly 300 yards from the river. The section of river the property ran into is now called Graham's Pool. Sometimes when he would walk to the pool, there was no other children there, but he could hear children laughing and playing further along the river in other pools, he would go and join them. There were many little hobby farms that joined onto the river like the Grahams. What a wonderful lifestyle, have we lost it forever?

Tree-Marker

This photo was taken on the 24 July 2007,on the river downside of Cardiff. I call this Pool the  Treemarker and I have used it as an example  over the last 8 years. To show the time lapse when full and empty. The next photo shows 10 kms up river, in flood the same day the treemarker photo was taken.

The reasons for this is that the mines diverted the river to an Opencut Mine roughly 6kms up river from the Treemarker. There were  many pools varying in size over this distance, including Town Pool, Graham's Pool, The Long Pool.

Paperbarks on the River

This sequence of photo's shows how the river and the pools rely on the root systems of the Paperbark, River gums and many rushes and shrubs that grow along it's bank.

The first photo shows the size of the big Paperbark and the way it survives when the water level drops from it's root system, it has developed another root system halfway along it's trunk, as the water subsides it grows to keep with it. Also it is the habitat of all the small species of fish, baby marron and shrimp, it was also were the cobbler would spawn.

I witnessed this one day while I was perching. On the opposite side of the pool, I heard loud splashing under the paperbarks.  At first I thought it was a school of Perch feeding, then I realized this was going on for to long, I called to my brother in-law Peter who was fishing a little further along the bank, I showed him what was going on, I said that maybe there was something caught in the root system, it got the better of Peter and he said he was going to check it out. He had to walk a fair way to get across a narrow neck of the water, when he got to where this was happening he couldn't believe he was looking at a school of cobbler, they had whipped up the water into a white foam, I believe they were spawning.

The next photo shows the Paperbarks also shade the river.

Another thing I witnessed  with Peter while we were Perching, I noticed a big tree had been stripped of most of it's paperbark. I realized what had been taking place, I said to Peter, the water-rats have been doing this, you could see all their little tracks at the base of the tree. They had worn a pad roughly ten metre's along the bank and back into the water and up under the bank to make their nest.  

The third photo down shows, the death of the Paper-bark's and shrubs, of many Pools along  the South-branch at Cardiff.

The last photo shows the root systems of the paper-bark's, river-gums, that hold this river together.

Tree-Marker Contd


The above photo shows the tree-marker  in flood on the 30th July 2007. Also the next photo show's the tree-marker  on the 28th Nov 2007. The one below this is three weeks later on the 9th Dec 2007. The last photo was taken on the 4th Feb 2008. Already showing greenery on the bottom of the pool.

Will This Become a Memory

I believe that this would have been a common sight with the early settlers on the South Branch River at Cardiff.

There was also marron on  what I think was the back leg of a Kangaroo, and more on the outskirts of the bait, but didn't show up in this photo.  The different methods we used to catch them was a long stick about 2 mtrs, with  thin snare wire with a noose on the end like the next photo will show.     Also how we used to walk around the edge of the water and every ten paces we would throw a small hand-full of chook pellets, which attracted the marron, as the photo  shows.

Many thousands of people over the years have experienced this, it was a family tradition. We would turn up, gather firewood from the bush and mark out a section, maybe a couple of hundred yards, either side of our campsite. I would light the fire, I remember doing this with my father many times. Now that he's gone, I cherish those memories.

Another afternoon I remember, when I was maybe 11 or 12, we arrived at the location that we were going to go marroning. It was roughly a couple of hours before sundown. On the opposite side of the backwaters, there was a half a dozen big Wedgetail Eagles. The Government had put a bounty on these birds. Two shillings and sixpence(25cents in todays language) Also Emu beaks were the same price.

I asked my father if I could try and get one with a single barrel shotgun,  Dad also liked duck shooting and I imagine that's why we had the gun. He agreed, I remember walking along the waters edge, it was late summer and the water level had dropped leaving a clear bank from the waters edge to the bush line of about 40 mtrs. I had to walk roughly about half a klm to get around a gully of the backwaters. It was shallow water, I seen a sight, there was a large school of Perch and they had maybe( minnows)or zambesi boxed in on the bank. I remember standing roughly six or seven mtrs  from them, thinking do I shoot them as I know I would have got a few. I decided to go onto the next bay to have a go at the eagles, but they had gone, I remember running back to where the perch were, they were also gone, I didn't get to pull the trigger. Which I now don't regret as the eagle is nearly at the same stage as the South-branch River, bordering on extinction. 

Collie River East-Branch

I have just been writing a chapter on the wild pigs, I said to the wife I think I'll go out and take a couple of photo's, because we had 2 inches of rain last night and I wanted to see the effect  on the River, you judge for yourself.  This is the Collie Park in the middle of Town. The date is the 22nd August 2011, imagine if this was the floods of 64 or 82.

The second photo shows were this came from. Just so the people in the future won't forget, it was known as Boronia Gully, and the aborigines used to camp there. The creek ran for a few klms, there were big Paperbark Swamps along it and the edges were lined with Boronia. This was one of the most sort after native flowers for its scent, they even developed a woman's Perfume to smell like it and it was a success around the world.

Many old bushman around Collie would go out into the forest and pick big quantity's of Boronia and they would rail it by train to the City, over 200 klms away. The buyers would employ people to stand in the City on every corner and they would yell out at the top of their voice, the same way they used to sell the daily news paper.!!BOR.ON.IAAA !! the scent would reach you from hundreds of yards.

I remember my father saying, he could not believe the price they were paying for a little twig. That the women also the men would put in the buttonhole of their jackets. You couldn't keep with the demand. My wife and myself also picked Boronia and overall we picked thousands of kilo's. In the ninety's. The value wasn't like it was in the early day's.     

East-Branch River

This sequence of photo's show's the slag heaps of the Opencut mines and the effects when the rains hit it. Will this all eventually dissolve into the East Branch?

The Effects of the Slag Heaps

This photo show the amount of Acidic soil that washes off these slag heaps, you can see in the photo where they've had to use graders or bulldozers to push it off the road

The Run-Off


This photo shows you the path of the run off from the slag heaps. It runs for a couple of 100 mtrs and into one of the biggest winter creeks that feed into the Buck's pools and the Boweling Flats. Which is the biggest Contributory to the East Branch River.

If you go up the creek from where this photo was taken, roughly 4 or 5 hundred yards, you will see the volume of water that feeds these creeks and flats. It appears that the paperbarks and shrubs have adapted to this, they look healthy.

Winter Waters

This is the photo taken 4 or 5 hundred yards up from the slag heaps and the water is flowing across a bitumen road. In the floods of 64, they say that the volume of water would have washed a car off the road. This photo was taken July 2009.

I hunted all this area in the 50's with my father for kangaroo's, then from the mid 60's to the late 80's I hunted it myself. I also used to catch a little native fish called the minnow, which I used for live bait for Perch. There was also marron and many other small species of fish. One we used to call a shally(or carp)another one we used to call the mudfish also a  smaller one called blackfish. The main area for these was where this system met  the Boweling flats. The summer pools were more permanent.

Boweling Flats

These two photo's show the amount of water that comes down the Boweling Flat and meets up with the big water flow shown in the photo above. Combined they carve out the big pools known as the Buck's Pool's.

Bucks Pool

This photo's show the first of the Buck's pools, it was known as the School Pool.

Bucks Bridge Pool

. Below is a photo of the Bucks Bridge Pool. I've dived these pools, through the late 60's, 70's, 80's and in the early 90's, I witnessed them slowly die. I told a few farmers that lived along the river, that we were losing the river.

The tree's and shrubs were starting to die and not long after the winter rains had stopped, the pools were already 2-3 ft lower than that they would be at the end of an average summer.

I remember in the 70's, I was working in the mines and a workmate of mine had a racehorse, that was being trained in the city and he asked me if I could get him some marron for the fellow that was training his horse. I told him to pick me up after work and we would go up to the Bucks Bridge Pool and I would dive and get him his marron. He walked along the bank and I swam the near side of this pool, from the bridge to roughly opposite the big tree. We had 24 marron and he was happy.

If you go down river from here, there are hundreds of pools like this. Over the next 30 -40klms before it gets to the Wellington Weir. It's also the same river that runs along side  the park in Collie. I also noticed the pools were getting shallower and sooting up. I watched as everything started to die.

I remember one day, before getting into a pool, I could smell a terrible odour, I did'nt realise until I dived to the bottom of the pool that all the little fish that used to breed at the head of these pools were laying there in their thousands, dead. I went up for air and could not believe what I had looked at.

I dived again and swam along the bottom, I had a snare wire on a stick. There was two big marron together, I put the snare wire over the tail of one and he barely moved, so I picked the both of them up, one in each hand and went to the surface. I looked at them and then released them, they did not try to resist me or flick, I realised that they were all but dead. I also realised where that odour was coming from. Lucky not to catch some disease myself.
  

The Death of a Pool

These two photo's show the Bucks Bridge Pool as it  disappeared in very quick time. The time between these two photo's is 12 days, Nov-Dec 2006 and there is still 4mnths of summer left.

My mind goes back to when my friend asked me if I could get some marron for the fellow who was training his horse. This pool at the end of summer would not drop below the vegetation line. The shrubs and bushes were that thick along the bank, I would battle to find an opening that I could poke my fishing rod through to throw the spinner for Perch.

And it's because it's let  get to this stage and exposed the root systems, that all the bush and shrubs have died and also the photo shows the banks collapsing and sooting up the Bucks Bridge Pool.

Pools Contd

This is a photo between the Buck's Bridge Pool and the School Pool. It shows you how our river has deteriorated and looking like a drain.

Grahams Pool

This photo shows the once picturesque South Branch that feeds the Collie River and the Grahams family that once lived there and the pool is named after. You could drink the water. Not too sure of the date maybe 1920's.

The next three photo's will show you what has taken place with this pool. I believe it is due to bad management. I also believe that something more sinister has taken place and I believe that  the evidence in  the photo's of before and after that I am going to show you will verify that. If you look into the back-ground of this photo you will notice the slight bend to the left. The next three photo's will show you what I believe to be the same pool.
This photo of the Grahams Pool was taken 16th Nov 2008.The above photo was taken on the 28th June 2009.
This photo was taken on the 6th June 2009. The gentleman standing is in his 90's and he tells me that most of his childhood was spent on the river, fishing and marroning, his name is Ron Bebbington or Big-bird to his friends. He is the gentleman that the young Mine-manager told, had to sit an exam so that he would be allowed to charge and fire the coal face underground after he had already done this for  40 years.

It was Bigbird and the miners that got this coal out from underground, not the fella that told him to sit for the exam. Did he think this up while he was sitting in his office with a fan going in the summer and a heater in the winter. People don't realize when the miners are preparing the tunnel to be fired, in some areas the air is not good and the miners sweat like you've never seen. You can see the steam rising off them like a sauna.

I have seen times before they went to the cribbo to have their lunch, they would take their shirts off and twist them in their hands so the sweat would run out. At the end of the shift the miners would have coats that they would put on over their wet clothes, because on after-noon shift when you came up out of the tunnels and onto the surface, you were sitting on an open trailer and on nights when there was a frost and maybe the temperature was zero or two or three degrees we would travel maybe 2 or 3 klms on a bush track over to the bathrooms and change-rooms, freezing cold.

You would take all your clothes off and hang them on a wire hook that was attached to a rope that hung from the ceiling with a little pulley, so you could pull on the end of the rope to take the clothes up to the ceiling. Where there was hot water in pipes that ran the length of the change-rooms, so the miners had dry clothes when they returned for the next shift. You can imagine some of the games or tricks that were played. 50 men stark-bollock naked.

The shower recess was maybe thirty feet long, ten feet wide with a pipe running down both sides with a shower head every 5 or 6 feet. There'd be 2 or 3 miners under each shower. If there was a new starter, they'd wait for him to lather his hair and face then someone would turn the hot water off. He'd have to stand there while the water was cold trying to get the soap out of his eye's and the language would be fairly flying. Then he would look for the culprit, but no-one seemed interested in him, it was as though nothing had happened. It was best not to react to this because they would get you every time.

Bad Management

This pool is located about 2 or 3 klms up river from the Grahams Pool, the photo was taken on the 3rd Feb 2007. I remember diving this pool in the 60s,70s and 80s. The marron were plentiful also many varieties of fish, and  animals also that relied on the river for water. The winter creeks that feed this river dry up early in the summer leaving very little water if any, anywhere else other than these pools. So you can see how much the animals relied on it.This photo shows the tail of the pool above and you can see the little feet marks and tracks of animals trying to get to the water. I shouldn't have to tell you this, it's contaminated.

The next photo shows you a close-up. I once showed these photo's to a gentleman who has a bit of Authority on what takes place with our environment. He could not believe what he was looking at, he asked me where these photo's were taken, I told him, I also told him that I was going to expose this to the public and it was going to be a surprise attack. Not to be, it was in the Collie Mail the next week. Was this a coincidence because this has been taking place for twenty years, give or take a couple.
This pool is about 100yrds down river from the previous photo. and as you can see nothing can survive this sort of contamination. Photo  was taken on the 15th April 2007.  The next photo of the same pool was taken on the 9th May 2008.
When I finished taking these photo's and I got back to where my car was parked, there was another vehicle parked there as well and as I approached it the gentleman on the passenger side who had a bit of authority, no doubt noticed the camera around my neck and with a sarcastic tone, asked me did everything meet with my approval. I said "is that a f!!!g joke". He said "what are you going on about". I said "where's the water from the river gone". He laughed it off saying "all the rivers are the same. It's due to the climate change". I said "you tell somebody else that, because  I knew better". Then I asked him "where he was from", he would not answer, I repeated it three times. Then I said "you have already answered that". Then he said with that pissed off tone "I'm from Bunbury".

I didn't tell him that I had many photo's of pools, not too far up river from where we were. Where it was out of range from the effects of the mines also that contaminated water that they were letting get to this river. The next photo shows you the pools I was talking about. The photo's below were taken on the 9th May 2008 the same day as the photo above.

Bad-Management Contd

This photo shows you how desperate the animals are, no doubt the kangaroo's have checked it out and realized it's no good. The photo was taken on the 1st Mar 2011 and there's still a few months before any water will reach these pools. The next photo will show you the continuation of this pool up around the bend.This photo shows you another pool on the South-branch that's been effected by the mines. It was taken on the 6th June 2009. If you look very closely at the end of the pool on the right, then move your eye's up to the limb that's leaning over the water you will notice a swing. Where the young one's of Cardiff would have put in many hours also the next photo shows you another form of entertainment for the young one's. A home-made raft. The photo was taken on the 9th May 2008. The next photo was given to me by a gentleman who lived next to and was brought up on the river. His name was Brian Astle (deceased). Brian told me he remembered times when he upset his mother because he would not return to the house when she called him, he told me it was because there was still marron on his baits and the big kerosine tin was not quite full. I would say many  Collie boys were brought up the same. But I believe not too many would have caught what he did. The photo would have been taken in the 50's. Like I've  said before has this life-style gone forever.This statement was in the Collie Mail:
 
"Cr Glyn Yates, acknowledged the summer flow allowed  Premier Coal's de-watering.
"to my knowledge, the Collie River was the only river in the State that had the comfort
of a good water quality summer flow to recharge the pools and streams... we are very thankful."
 
 I asked the Question:
 
Why was the same not done for the many pools of the South Branch river,
 also what caused this to take place. No doubt there is a reason for the destruction of this River.
I would like a response from any of the Authorities generally concerned.
Yours sincerely
 
 But there was no reply

 I asked for my name not to be published for fear they might kill me ( joke)

The reason I stated that I would like a response from any of the Authorities was because you would have thought the Fishery Officers that patrol our rivers and water-ways would have reported this over the last twenty years. Especially when you think of the amount of different species that were killed, by the countless thousands. If I'm wrong here it was because there was millions. 

Out Of Control

This photo shows you  Blackberries which are out of control on the South-branch. The river is maybe 30 mtrs on the left of this photo. They run for quite a few klms. I shouldn't have to tell you but I couldn't get to the river. The photo was taken in 2007.

The most devastating thing about these Blackberries, they now have to poison them and as you know Blackberries climb over all the natural bush and shrubs that grow along the banks of the river. When you think the Blackberries are 30-50yrds wide and are over an area covering klms. You would think it would take thousands of litres of poison to fix this problem. I cant understand why they didn't attack this problem when they first saw the signs of Blackberries here.

I would have thought the APB which is the Agriculture Protection  Board  would have had knowledge of this or maybe the PWD (Public Works Department). More to the point CALM which stands for (Conservation and Land Management) or our Local Shire.

The next photo's will show you where whoever it was attempted and failed.
As you can see they have poisoned the Blackberries in the foreground. I don't know if they poisoned all the Blackberries and what you can see in the background is re-growth or what they had missed, or they had intended to come back. The river is in there somewhere. The photo was taken on Dec2009.This photo was taken from inside the river looking out. The photo below shows you where they have poisoned in the foreground. The photo was taken in 2006.The photo above shows the river on the left and the Blackberries on the bank and the next photo shows you looking down the river along the bank and you can see the Blackberries out of control. These two photo's were taken May 2012.

You can see the destruction of the South-branch river.The photo below was also taken on May 2012 The photo below shows the result of when the Blackberries are poisoned. The natural bush and shrubs are gone. You can now see the river in the background, which was once hidden from view. The bottom photo is a close-up of the poisoned Blackberries, which are the thin stems and the thick stems are of the natural bush, also poisoned. I generally hope there is something that can be worked out to save the South-branch river.

Discovery of Coal

They say George Marsh discovered coal in the 1880's, he was a shepherd. It's said he built a fire on the bank of the Collie River and encircled it with what he thought was rocks. But we know now it was coal, they were still burning the next day. So that tells us that the coal along the river is virtually on the surface. Another story was a farmer struck coal when putting in a fence post.

The next photo's shows you the river and also what looks like coal. This is just my opinion, I think it makes it the most profitable coal seam, being there's very little over-burden. So maybe we should keep our eye on this.

The three photo's below were taken in 2010.

Gone

The photo below was taken maybe 10 years ago and you can see the look of dis-belief on the faces of two of my grandsons, Ricky and Daniel.

A few years earlier than this I heard talk that something bad was rapidly  taking place with the pools on the South-Branch. So I went out to the pool where the boys are standing. It was half empty and I could see the big marron walking around on the edge of the water, they knew they were in trouble.

Another gentleman that lived on the river told me, as some of the smaller pools dried up, he gathered 100's of marron and shifted them to bigger pools. Unfortunately they also dried up. When you think this has taken place over 6 or maybe 8 klms roughly and maybe 100's of pools varying in size.

As I've said before it scares you to think of what we have lost. What scares me even more is, have they created an on going death-trap. Because these pools fill up every winter and are empty again very early in the summer and we know every thing travels up river to spawn or breed. The photo above is of my grandsons on the same day. The look has changed to shock. All the rocks they were turning over on dry ground, had baby marron under them and they were going to die there rather than go to the water that I believe had been pumped there.

Surely the Authorities have knowledge of this or the different people or committee's that keep an eye on our river. I think this started to take place in the mid-nineties when the water was getting to the river from under-ground, un-treated. Also stop-start, so it wouldn't be too obvious that they had killed the river.

I will show you photo's and tell you my version of what took place.    

Stop -Start

I remember why I was taking the next couple of photo's you are going to see. I was standing on a small bridge that goes over the South-branch at Collieburn, the old people knew it as the China-mans bridge. The name originated from the vegetable gardens the Chinese had developed there.

As I was taking the photo's a gentleman walked up to me and asked what I was doing. He was born and lived on the edge of the river for 74 years  and told me his Grandparents first settled there in 1913. I told him I'd been taking photo's over the last 10years of the destruction and mis-management of the South-branch. He said "what makes you say that. The rivers still running and the quality of the water is still reasonable". Also he said "the Authorities had taken regular checks where we were standing".  I said "they've pulled the wool over your eyes", he said "why do you say that". I said "this is no longer the South-branch as you know it".

I told him that they had pumped water from the mines maybe 7 or 8 klms east of where we were and it was channeled through creek systems that fed down to the South-branch, just up river from where we were. I told him to go and check the South-branch river, top side of that creek and he would see no water in the South-branch as the photos you have already seen show you.

Two or three years have passed since then. He's taken photo's himself now and I believe he's as browned off as much as  I am and disappointed with the people that let this take place or caused it.

The photo above was taken from the China-mans bridge bottom side. As you can see the water is running, also the different types of reeds that are native to our rivers and you can see they are healthy. The photo was taken April 2007.

The following photo is the same location taken in March 2008.

 The photo below is also the China-mans Bridge taken on March 2009

 The photo below was taken March 2008

The following photo was taken on the 18th-10-2010. The same pool. The next photo was taken up river the same day. So somebody has been playing god with our river. He must have a stop-start button.

Memories of the East-Branch

The photo above shows the Boweling Flats, maybe 4 or 5 klms up from the Bucks Pools. I have driven over this little bridge many times since the late 1960's. I still visit a farmer there occasionally. I was talking to him one time about how the Bucks Pools and the Boweling Flats had deteriorated. I said that I believed a lot of the damage  was due to the blue-gums and the mines. We'd been talking for a while and he said "is it as bad as your saying". So I told him to click into his memories and go back into the past when he was a boy and he used to travel over this little bridge every day when he was returning home from school. He didn't say anything straight away. About 20 minutes later he said "your right".

The water course was lined with bushes and shrubs also big river-gum, better known as flood-gum. I told him I used to be able to walk in line with the big trees and shrubs and get close enough to shoot the wild ducks with the shot-gun. I've watched something take place over the last 20 odd years and still takes place today. The wild-ducks breed off to the side of the Boweling flats.

I  witnessed many times when the baby ducks hatch and the parent ducks try to get them from the timber line to this water, the crows are waiting and ninety percent of their young do not make it to the water, the crows have got them. They'll get the other ten percent when their in the water. There's no where for them to hide.

The following photo's will show you the Boweling Flats looked similar to this.

 The next two photo's were taken roughly 7 or 8 klms up river from the Bucks Pools and its a breeding ground for  many different breeds of wild ducks, also swans. Then there's the many different bird species that rely on water.

 

 

 The photo above was taken maybe 10-15 klms further out than the previous photo. It's on the edge of the Bowelling flat where they had formed a road across and as you can see it's held water and allowed the vegetation to grow and protect the baby ducks who are in the reeds under the mother.

I remember seeing a documentary of a farmer who revived a creek system that was feeding into the Murray River by putting obstacles into the creek system, like rocks, logs and stumps and nature done the rest. Maybe the same could be done to the Bowelling Flats and help nature revive the East-branch River.

When you think the mines are clearing the big Jarrah forests within a rifle shot of the East-branch. Maybe some of the left-overs could be put into the Bowelling flats, also a few truck loads of rocks.   

Blue-Gum Plantations ( good or bad)

I remember getting into an argument with a white collar or a gentleman who had a lot of authority on the head-waters of the East-branch and the contributory's that feed it, also all the water-ways that feed the Collie Basin. This argument could have been avoided.

I had turned off to another bush track leading through the blue-gums when I noticed a white vehicle four or five hundred yards further up on the track I had just turned off. So I reversed back and as I was driving up to the vehicle, I was thinking its a good chance it's someone with authority. As I pulled up he reminded me of a big emu, stretched right up and looking at me.

He walked over to the side of my vehicle. I said "how ya going", he didn't answer, his first words were "what are you doing in this area?"  that put a bad taste in my mouth straight away. I told him I'd been visiting this area quite often taking photo's. He said "and what have you been taking photo's of". I said "the blue-gums and the problems they have caused to the enviroment and the eco-system in this area". He said "we've got (scientific) evidence what your saying is wrong". Then he say's " do you know what scientific means?" (I didn't)

Each time I mentioned something different, he came up with that "we've got scientific evidence, do you know what scientific means?" I said "you want to pull up on that scientific bit because I believe I know what it means". He say's " what does it mean". I said "it means in this particular case, that there's a half a dozen fat arse white collars sitting around a table working out the right words to deceive the public". He said "I don't know where your coming from, whats your name?" I said "James", then I asked him what his name was. He didn't answer and he said "whats your last name", I said "would you believe f!!!ing Finnigan".

He took off for his car, first thing I thought was I hope he hasn't got a gun.(joke) He'd already told me he was high up in the water authority. Next minute he's heading back to me, stands in front of the car with a notebook and pen writing down my number-plate. I think I yelled my address out to him. Then he goes back and sits in his car, so I drove my car over and parked in front of him and took a photo. Next thing his door flings open and he's walking to me, so I took another photo, then I got out of my car and walked to him. He said "what are you going to work out with the photo's." I said "whatever, you've got my number plate and I've got your photo". 

When we were disputing the blue-gums a bit earlier, I told him that the big furrows and mounds that run around the contour of the hills prevented a big percentage of the winter  run-offs getting to the creek systems and the big water flats that feed our rivers. Which he disputed. 

The photo's below shows the furrows and mounds, which I said to him restricted the winter waters getting to the creeks also the river. It seems so obvious I feel silly arguing about it.The next two photo's will show you further down the hill and along side of the creek.

 As you can see in the photo above there's no water it's further back up the hill trapped. If you look in the background you can see the paper-barks and t-tree that grow along the bank of the creek. The next photo shows you the creek with no water. Just in case they get me on a technicality this is a pine plantation and you can see the remains of the previous harvest in the creek, which I believe should have been flowing big time.The next photo shows you the pipes they put in to handle the flow, fifty yards down from the previous photo's. If you remember, I told you about an argument I had with a gentleman with a bit of authority on our rivers and water-ways and he told me it was the climate change that had done the damage to the south-branch, not the mines. Just in case they suggest the same here.  The photo above was taken on 24 August 2007 and we've already had 24 inches of rain, give or take an inch and the Wellington Dam is not far from over flowing. Which it eventually did in the September.I don't know the correct figure, but I would say it's in the hundreds of thousands of acres of blue-gums they have planted in our water catchments. The next photo was taken 20yards from the river. So it must have effect on the winter rains getting to the river.

Like the next three photo's show when the heavy rains hit the ground it becomes a sheet of water and flows to the creeks and the rivers, like nature had meant it to. Blue-gums will prevent this from taking place.

I remember talking to a lady, who was taking blood samples for lead contamination in the coastal town of Esperance. She said some of the people were more concerned for what the blue-gums had done to their water table. Another time I was fishing on the Busselton jetty and I struck up a conversation with four tourists from SA. Somehow the conversation got onto blue-gums. They said "don't mention blue-gums to us". Then they went on about the water table. But I can only talk on what I've seen take place in the Collie Basin and the catchments that feed it. 

There's more to come.

Winter Run-Off

The photo above shows you the forest floor and the water is actually running, also the next photo shows you the water running out of the forest and onto the edge of the road. It's crystal clear and you could drink it. Actually we do.

The photo above shows the same water running down to a creek and less than a kilometre from here it runs into the Harris River Dam, which supplies water to the city and many country towns. If you go to the right of this photo a little more than a couple of kilometres there's the Worsley Refinery. Also I've seen this water run for weeks after the rain has stopped. This cannot happen in the blue-gums as the photo's above have shown you.

 

Blue-Gums Good or Bad Continued 

The next few photo's will show you the effects the blue-gums have had on the farm dams they surround. It's the 10th month just as winter is ending.

The top two photo's are what I've always known as a basin swamp or a billabong and they've been surrounded by blue-gums. The dead grass you can see has been poisoned, used as a fire-break for the blue-gums. The rains are still around. It would be a shame if some of the poison gets to the basin of water. Because one farmer told me he had lost all  the crustaceans in his dams and he seemed to think it was around the time of the poisoning. 

 The following two photo's show they put the blue-gums in the best of the best of the farming land. When you look at the variety of the different grasses in the first photo you can see it's maybe 12 inches high and there's still a lot of growing to go.

The second photo is all clover and I know farmers long to see their paddocks in this condition.

 Then they do something I believe is wrong as the next three photo's show. They poison many strips through the blue-gums.These photo's were taken in September 2007 and the feed and grass is long gone dead. So they must have sprayed when there was still a lot of heavy rain around. The Wellington Dam was overflowing at the same time. You would have to ask the Authorities or the gentleman who asked me if I knew what Scientific was.

Did any of this poison get to the creek systems Because I know a lot of vegetation and shrubs have died along the creeks. Then you've got the big furrows and mounds they put in to support the blue-gums. I know the creeks dry up way before their time, there's no water trickle feeding them in the early summer.

I witnessed something that I'd never seen before, I was driving around this area after dark and I could see kookaburra's, crows and magpies in the headlights. This is only my thoughts, had the Eco-system collapsed and these birds were desperate for food. Everything evolves around water. But now the creeks have dried up also the Dams that these blue-gums surround. Also if you walk in among the blue-gums on a hot summers day, the smell is over-whelming.

I have always believed the blue-gum plantations were wrong, especially in agriculture land. I even suggested to a few different people that we may finish up living on blue-gum soup if these organisations ever collapse.

Another thing that scares me. Do foreign countries now own this farming land? When you think thousands of investors are either battling or done their money. So who's at fault and what should the penalty be, forfeit the land or the Government buy it back and return it to what it was. Then put it on the market and sold again. This time to Aussies or farmers who are still in the area.The photo below shows the quality of the crops this farmland produces. I've showed you the bad side of blue-gums, but I was unable to find the good side.

Environmentally Wrong

The following photos will show you why I've stated it's environmentally wrong. 

The photo above is a winter creek and it's the likes of these that helps the East-branch survive. I've seen this particular creek half to three quarters full of water and flowing strong, you could drink it. But now it's being starved of it's supply due to the big furrows and mounds as the next photo shows. The creek you've just looked at is in the middle of this photo. The East-branch river is at the base of this hill in the distance. What you're looking at was once a farm known as Coolangatta and in the winter when the heavy rains came the green grass was that thick and healthy it created a sheet of water that was as clear as tap water. It scares me to think when the big winter storms return like we used to have, a lot of this ploughed up ground will finish up in the river. 

 

Australian Parrots

 I took the above photo in  2006 and it shows you another bad side to blue-gums, they are waiting to be killed. If you go back to the story of Blue-gum Plantations (good or bad), I told you about the fella with authority telling me they had scientific evidence which indicated what I was saying was wrong. If the photo above is right I want to be wrong. Another angle to this if you check smuggling of Australian parrots or wildlife you will see there is a big demand World-wide and the prices they pay will scare you.Yet these are killed and to think the authorities or the powers to be condone this.

There's many traps like the one above. You would have to ask the authorities on how many are killed. I don't know if it's daily or weekly they do their rounds to kill. They've been doing this for many many years. There's another method they used but I have no photo's to prove it.  Incidentally these particular ones survived someone lifted up the corner of the cage and they flew away. I wonder if the authorities would have fined him had they caught me? 

Another thing the demand for blue-gums has collapsed, check out (MIS trees ripped out)and to think all these native parrots have been killed.

The photo above shows how pretty these parrots are, equal to anything. Why there's only one left in the cage is they killed the rest and they leave one which they call the (whistler), because he whistles to his mates and that attracts them into the cage.

I remember in the late 60's I was working in the middle of town in a laneway behind the Vic Hotel. I could hear someone whistling, I said to one of the workers, I have never heard whistling to match what I was listening to. It got the better of me so I walked along the lane maybe 100yards and it's a parrot like the one in the cage you're looking at. The tune he was whistling was "Bull-shit is all the band can play", appropriate to this story.

Again on my fathers memory this is the truth.  

  Collie's Fish Kill

I took the following photo's of a disaster that took place in the East-branch of the Collie river. It was estimated that 3,000 had perished. (Cobbler) or freshwater cat-fish, (marron) and many small species. Had they have said 300,000 I would not have doubted it. They gave their opinion, this is mine.

As you can see the first photo shows all the little marron out of the water and trying to shade themselves from the hot summer sun. It's the 31st of January one of our hottest months. 

 

 

 

 

 I asked the Authorities if there was any attempt to salvage or save some of the marron. They said "not as far as we are aware of". You'd think they would have some sort of plan for when this sort of thing takes place.

 When you look at the photo's above and try to count the dead, it's hard to come up with a figure. Especially when one report said it was over a three or four kilometer stretch. Then there's the other side of the river where the bank is steeper and the vegetation is thick. It was out of range for my camera, but I could see I believe more deaths on the other side than the side from where I took the photo's. The area of deaths that you've looked at was maybe 50yards.

I decided to drive along the river for roughly one  kilometer. Every so often I'd get out of the car and walk down to the river and it was the same with dead whatever laying everywhere. I decided to try and find where the problem came from. I already suspected what caused it. The next photo I believe shows the problem. You can see where they've poisoned the grass or vegetation under the power line and when the heavy rain hit it like it did. It became a mud slide heading for the river.

 Like the next photo shows. The orange strip of soil you are looking at came from the top of the hill under the power line.

 The next photo shows it's path into the river as you can see. Also if you look into the background through the paperbarks you can see another orange strip of topsoil from the hills and ninety nine percent of the kill started from this point down. 

 The photo below shows a different mud-slide in the same area as the photo's above on the same day. The green strip of bushes are on the bank of the river.

I've seen this sort of destruction many years ago when I used to dive our rivers and I've seen the bottom of the pools covered in dead marron, fish and whatever lived there  

 

 

 The photo's above were taken on the same day as the fish kill down river roughly 1-2 kilometers from where the kill took place and as you can see the water has diluted the pollution,there's no kill.

I rang the Environmental Officer from the mines the same day, hoping the water they were pumping in at the head of the river at Bucks was at half volume and they would have been able to take it up to it's maximum, which would have helped dilute the problem much faster. He told me that the transformers had been hit by lightning and there was no water being pumped into the river.

You can't avoid bad luck, but maybe this could have been avoided? If the photo's and story I've just told you is right! 

Fish Kill from the Past

I took the following photo roughly 35 years ago. If you look close into the shadows you can see the white belly's of the big perch. When I walked down to the river I could not believe the smell. The banks on both sides of the river were lined with countless perch, marron, minnows, shrimp and whatever else. So I drove up along the river and every half a kilometer or so I would get out and check the river. Some of the big marron were up on the bank out of the water and still alive. So I went back to the ute and got a hessian bag and started to put a few of the big marron in it. Then I drove up about half a klm and done the same. I done this over maybe a couple of klms.

The last section I checked there were no deaths, the river was normal. I realised then that somewhere back behind me from where I'd been was the source of the kill or the problem. As I started to head back looking for where the trouble had started I drove onto the owner of the property.  I was telling him what I'd seen, then I showed him the big marron in the hessian bag. He asked me what I was going to do with them, I said "more than likely eat em". He asked was there any chance he could have some because a couple of his mates had put it to him about a feed of marron. I think there were 56. I said "you can have the lot".

I told him I was going back home and when my two oldest boys finish school I was going to bring them out here and I'd get a feed for myself. Then I continued to look for where the trouble was. I got out at one spot and the water was still clear. I knew the dirty water wasn't far in front of me so I kept walking along the bank. The next big pool I came to was the start of the dirty water. I could see the red line the topsoil had left so I followed it up the hill maybe 3-400 yards to a shearing shed and that's were the problem was.

Also on the other side of the shearing shed is what they call a race, which is two fences maybe 20yards apart and the farmers use it to bring their sheep from the back paddocks to the shearing shed.  Over time there are thousands of sheep either travelling the race or hold up waiting to be crutched or shorn. So there's not a blade of grass in the race, then there's the holding pens at the shearing shed. I used to shovel the top-soil which was a red loam powder with a lot of sheep shit in it which I used for my vegetable garden.

So when the heavy rain hit the race on top of the hill it flowed down and through the holding pens then down into the river and that's what caused this particular kill and I will stay with my view about that power-line.

I know the boys will never forget picking up big marron with their hands and not getting their feet wet. 

 The photo below show four cooked marron and there's no better sandwich.

Contamination Of Our Water

 I took the above two photo's  in 2006. As you can see the bad water is pumped into a creek, which runs into the river roughly 100 metre's from here. As I was standing there a gentleman pulled up who worked in the mines I knew him well, he asked me what I was doing. I said "what they are doing here is wrong", meaning the contaminated water being pumped into the creek. Another miner pulled up, who I also knew, so I started to tell them of a few incidents that had taken place and had effect on the river, which I will show photo's of further into the stories of the East-branch river. 

 Not long after I was telling those two miners it was wrong to pump contaminated water into the creek and the river. They shifted the pipe and the next photo shows you where they shifted it to in the bushes nearly out of sight and it gravity fed back into the creek where it was first pumped in, less than 100metres. 

 The next photo shows the same pipe, they shifted it again another fifty metres away from the creek roughly and you can see the water again is contaminated. The orange stain is iron.

Fish Kill in the East-Branch

I took the following video of a disaster that took place in the East-branch of the Collie river and today it still gets in my head when I look at it. There's quite a few different views on what took place or caused it and if you've read the stories above you'll know I have also give my view and I stand by it. If you were to go back through our local paper the Collie Mail over the last 20 years or so give or take a couple. I don't think there's too many editions that hasn't got a comment on the rivers, by many different people.

 

The sad part is the river has been deteriorating  since these people give their views and today there seems to be very little being done. Other than to maybe cover up. They've taken away many of the big creek systems that feed the river and they still can't add up why the river is running out of water. I liken that to cutting off a mans legs and not being able to work out why he can't walk.

All these creek systems are  vital to the health of the Collie Rivers, like the Bingham River also the Harris river, the East-branch river and the South-branch river. I was working at the Muja Power-house when the big flood of 1964 took place.

I remember relations of mine the Norries lived in Harvey Street opposite the Garden Center and the flood waters had reached the bottom of their house. They got word to us I'm not too sure how. So my father and brothers and myself went down and helped them put everything up that we could on benches, table and beds. Then we went to work out at Muja thinking that they were safe.

I just forget what time of the day they got word to us at Muja, telling us that most of the access roads to Collie had been flooded out some washed away like the Hamilton Bridge. The only way that we could get back into Collie was on a gravel road that went from the Muja road to the Bucks road. There was a  creek that we had to go over. The water was maybe 100 yards wide and the shire had a grader there to pull some of the cars through if they got stuck. There was a farm not far up the road owned by the Piavaninis and the road was named after them.

 The photo above shows a front-end loader trying to salvage whatever they could from the barbers shop, today they are known as hairdressers. It belonged to Jackie Green a well known identity of Collie, I had many haircuts there as a child and also later in life. My cousins house is in the back-ground in line with the loader and the water got half way up their house. The river is maybe 4-500 yards to the right of the picture.

The next photo you are going to see shows the middle of town and your looking up Steere Street from the old over-head bridge which went over the railway line and give you access to the other side of town.

 

 The photo above shows the Hamilton Bridge and you can see by the damage. There must have been a powerful volume of water coming down the Hamilton Creek. What you're looking at would have been under water.

The following photo shows the new Hamilton Bridge. They moved it maybe 100 yards to the left or down stream. I think they might have trouble when the next floods come. Have they allowed enough drainage? The flood water will cover the whole area that the photo is showing and maybe 10-15 feet deep.

 

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