Letters to the editor Nov 20

Some of Northbank Community Garden's committee members Mick Maher, Pete Bufo, Dan Hartney, Josh MacKenzie and Katharina Tittl. See also the story on page 3.
Some of Northbank Community Garden's committee members Mick Maher, Pete Bufo, Dan Hartney, Josh MacKenzie and Katharina Tittl. See also the story on page 3.

Community Garden 

In response to the article in the Courier-Sun ('Garden's uncertain future', Nov 13) Northbank Community Garden's committee would like to provide you with further information.

Unfortunately there was no mention how this garden was created and transformed from an empty, mostly privet-filled paddock to what it is now, an established food forest and permaculture garden with amenities, work sheds, workshop spaces with solar power and irrigation.

This has come about by many hard-working women, men and families who were not mentioned in the article. We also have people paying off fines through community work under the Work Development Order and Work For The Dole programs in progress. Also many varied courses that have been held at the gardens, such as TAFE Cert III Horticulture and the recent wooden bow-making workshop.

It was mentioned we had the chance to purchase the land, which is not entirely true as we have been working to get a subdivision through over the last few years, but due to the current NSW planning laws we have not been permitted to subdivide such a small area of land in this current zoning. This has not due been to a lack of effort or resources on our behalf but in fact the NSW planning laws that have stopped us from purchasing the land that was generously offered to us by John Lavis. This has meant that a boundary adjustment to a direct neighbour has been the only option for John to be able to sell his land.

Nearly everything we have achieved has been generated from volunteer efforts and with support from other community groups and initiatives. We currently have no funding and rely solely on the work of volunteers and donations from the public

People have stayed at the garden, sometimes homeless people in situations out of their control. Some can outstay their welcome but we have had to be empathetic to their situations. People staying there is something we do not encourage. Unfortunately a lack of emergency or temporary accommodation in this area has meant there are many more people needing somewhere to stay and we cannot police or control this 24/7.

We also do not condone irresponsible drinking of alcohol and have had a no consumption of alcohol policy during daytime working hours or during the running of any of our workshops, TAFE courses, work for the dole or any activities of the like. As for the weeds, there always has been and always will be, but understand this is not broadscale agriculture, we are following permaculture principles. We are providing food for the community, meeting friends, sharing knowledge and ideas, while working together towards a common goal.

Socialising and networking at the garden has given people the chance to meet new people, build friendships, learn about gardening, learn about plants and get advice from people with experience and knowledge. There are a lot of different varieties of plants growing at the garden, many not so common in Australia, and we are fortunate to have been visited regularly for many years now by refugee families living in Coffs Harbour from all over the world. This has been a great opportunity to learn about cooking and gardening techniques from their culture.

We have also been a tourist destination since our early days for people from all around Australia and, in fact, the world! Many people, locals and travellers alike, have given overwhelmingly positive feedback to what has been created and achieved. Not only the garden itself but for the many community projects that have been initiated by Northbank Gardens, such as the Connell Park planting of citrus trees, Bello Food Box, river revegetation programs and the Bellingen Bee Sanctuary.

It would be truly a shame to see such valuable community asset lost and people no longer having access to the services we provide. Please come to the Public Meeting at 5:30pm today.

Northbank Community Garden committee, Bellingen

The elephant in the closet in the room

Had the circumstances been different, it might have been comical: our esteemed Prime Minister squirming in response to journalists' questions about the relationship between the recent disastrous bushfires and climate change. His refusal to acknowledge this link had a quality of almost clinical denial about it: "Now is not the time to talk about that."

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro went further, blaming what he called the 'bloody greenie(s) or lefty(s)' for politicising the crisis: ''It is an absolute disgrace to be talking about climate change while people have lost lives and assets," he said in a rant on ABC radio. ''If this is the time people want to talk about climate change, they are a bloody disgrace.'' In similar vein, the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack took aim at the Greens and "all those other inner-city raving lunatics" who, he claimed, were using the tragedy to push their own 'extreme agenda'. Barnaby Joyce sang along, the same demented chorus.

Many in the media and elsewhere excused such remarks as heat-of-the-moment stuff, not to be taken seriously. Others, myself included, saw a more sinister agenda: to deflect public attention from the mega-issue behind the fires, the questions John Mullins and others with decades of firefighting experience in the field were asking: What is the relationship between the fires and climate change? Why are we facing such conditions so early in the fire seasons, not just here but internationally? Why have the fire seasons extended from four months to eight over the past decade?

The issue of lack of controlled burning 'by the Greens', which Morrison and his lackeys attempted to turn into a cause of blame, is by any rational standard a non-issue. According to National Parks and Wildlife Services, controlled burning targets have been increasing steadily from year to year, and even these targets have been exceeded. The Greens have no political influence over this program.

So why make it an issue? The reason, of course, is that such simplistic answers appeal to the right-wing, 'bogan' element that is the cornerstone of the Coalition's constituency in the bush. Like the 'refugee' issue and land rights, environmental issues are easy fodder for right-wing governments.

By the end of the week, with fires raging across four states, the word 'unprecedented' had crept into common political parlance. There was a brief flurry of rhetoric around the link between the current drought (also 'unprecedented') and the fires; but while the word 'emergency' was everywhere, fed by a rapacious news media, the link between 'bushfire' and 'climate' itself was notable - remarkable, even - by its absence. The elephant in the room stayed, for the most part, in the closet.

As Morrison's lackeys handed out token packages to those whose lives had been devastated by the disaster, he stared blankly at the screens telling the story: the country was burning, on a scale and intensity never seen before. Yet still the script prevailed: "Now is not the time to talk about climate change."

He's right, of course. The time to have that discussion was ten years ago, when the Greens first suggested it; when the Labor Party still had some enlightened, independent thinkers, and when even some members of the Coalition might have had the courage to put it out there for rational debate.

Rob Simpson, Urunga

Don't mention the war

Remember Corporal Jones from Dad's Army screaming: "Don't panic" and Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers yelling: "Don't mention the war"? That was funny.

What is not so funny is when our Prime Minister and the NSW Premier in response to the drought and the bushfire situation are crying: "Don't mention climate change!".

The time for action on climate change is long overdue and because of the long delay in dealing with this issue we need a strong non-party political approach.

If that means to wind down the export coal industry and the public native timber Industry, so be it! If that means that the leaders must stare down the National Party members of the governments, so what! Perhaps we could all start by reducing our consumption and plant some trees?

Leif Nielsen Lemke, Darkwood

Urunga foreshores

Loved the photo of the newly installed 'no camping' signs ( Nov 13, p1). Ironically the green signpost shown is one of the original signs where campers have removed the top part which said 'no camping'.

Bev Miles, Raleigh