Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps



Aerial spraying of herbicides in the Ovens Valley

Information session

Bright aerial spraying.

This forum will be an opportunity for residents to hear about the impacts of aerial spraying of the herbicides Clopyralid, Glyphosate and Metsulfuron Methyl in the plantations around Bright and surrounding townships.

Saturday May 16, 4.30pm

Bright Elderly Citizens Club, Cobden street, Bright.

Guest speaker: Anthony Amis, Friends of the Earth.

For further information, please check the Bright Community aerial spraying concerns facebook page.

Background information available here.

How much will the Stockman mine cost Victorian tax payers?

Mountain Journal has previously highlighted the potential environmental impacts of the Stockman project, which would see a major mine re-opened in the headwaters of the Tambo River.

In the following story, Scott Campbell-Smith outlines the economic cost of the previous mining operation and the risks associated with a major expansion of the mining operation.

The new minister for Energy and Resources will need to make a final decision on this project shortly.

Continue reading “How much will the Stockman mine cost Victorian tax payers?”

who – or what – is to blame for declining trout population?

In the following piece from The Weekly Times anglers accuse the environmental policies of the Victorian government for “ruining the state’s trout fishing areas in the high country”.

According to the Times,

“Anglers say the past season was disastrous in terms of lost brown and rainbow trout populations, and fear famous trout rivers are now years from recovery. “It was the worst trout fly fishing season in living memory,” Greenwells Fly Fishing Club at Albury president Des Walters said.

Many blame the widespread removal of non-native willows and poplars on public land under government environmental policy as the chief cause.

Continue reading “who – or what – is to blame for declining trout population?”

Australian backcountry film festival – Spring 2014

For the past four years, the backcountry film festival has been attracting good numbers of people and is showing in more locations.

It seems like it might be time to have our own festival – with films made in Australia.

At previous Melbourne shows, we have added a film about skiing and boarding on The Bluff, and this year saw OFF GRID, a new effort on Mt Bogong from SoO Airtime.

The plan is to hold an Australian backcountry film festival in late spring 2014 with only local content. There are some fantastic film makers out there, and we hope to be able to showcase some of these.

We are seeking expressions of interest from film makers who would like to submit films.

Any human and gravity powered backcountry adventure would be welcome: walking, skiing, boarding, MTBing, paddling, climbing, …

As this is an entirely volunteer effort, with no budget, we are not able to offer payment for showing the films.

Films can be in two length categories. We hope to show an hours worth of short films (3 to 7 minutes) then up to 2 longer films (30 – 40 minutes).

At this point we are looking at doing a Melbourne showing, with the ability to offer the festival to other places once its packaged up.

If you’re keen, please get in touch:

And get out there and getting filming!

Introducing The Watershed

6a00d8341d07fd53ef01a3fd06febb970b-500wiAs we wait patiently for cooler weather and serious snow falls, you may enjoy this one. Its the pilot issue of a newsprint publication.

The previous one focused on all things snow and was called The Drift.

The Watershed is a collaborative newsprint publication between The Usual (‘The Usual is a creative team with a penchant for the outdoors’) and Patagonia to celebrate the joy of simple fly fishing, healthy rivers, dam busting, and sustainably sourced food.

The Watershed features Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia fly fishing ambassador April Vokey, DamNation producer Matt Stoecker, director Travis Rummel, 1% for the Planet co-founder Craig Mathews, dam buster Katie Lee. With contributions by Malcolm Johnson, Jeremy Koreski, Paul Greenberg, Jeanine Pesce, Keith Malloy, Trevor Gordon, Stefan Knecht, Jim Mangan, and others.

Pick up your  Spring/Summer 2014 copy at select Patagonia stores worldwide.

You can read it here.

Three Rivers


Image: Brainsick Productions
Image: Brainsick Productions

Brainsick Productions have released a lovely 6 minute meditation on whitewater paddling in Australia called Three Rivers.

It reflects on the early descents of the Franklin, where paddling parties weren’t really sure of what awaited them down river, then shifts to the Mitta Mitta, which flows from Victoria’s high country, and finishes on the Herbert River in Queensland.

You can find it here.

Brainsick is Australian grassroots production company creating ‘meaningful media about outdoor environments in an attempt to build positive relationships with nature.’

NSW Government to remove independent Snowy Scientific Committee?

The Snowy River, in Kosciusko National Park looking downstream from Island Bend Dam
The Snowy River, in Kosciusko National Park looking downstream from Island Bend Dam

The NSW Government’s Bill to amend the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act and replace the independent Snowy Scientific Committee with an advisory committee under the control and direction of Katrina Hodgkinson (NSW Minister for Primary Industries) passed the Lower House last week.

Check here for some background.

One of the key benefits of the current Committee is that it was “firmly independent of government” as Ms Hodgkinson puts it (ie, doesn’t tow a government line).

According to a report in the SMH:

Scientists, including former members of the six-member scientific committee, said the separation from powerful interests such as the giant Snowy Hydro Ltd gave the panel a critical watchdog role that is likely to be lost. Irrigators, Snowy Hydro and government officials from NSW and Victoria are likely to hold sway, they say.

Independence is “the way scientists give you the best advice”, said Sam Lake, an aquatic expert from Monash University, who served on the committee.

It is set to pass the Upper House Tuesday 25th March unless the Shooters and Christian Democrats change their mind and vote against it.

An independent Snowy Scientific Committee is vital for the restoration of the Snowy River and all other rivers affected by the Snowy scheme.

take action

If you value the Snowy, please write to the Christian Democrats and Shooters and Fishers policy managers, urging them to oppose the government’s Bill.

A quick email is sufficient.

Possible text:

(cut and paste, make any changes you want, add your name and address and email to the two emails below).

Dear Paul and Robert

Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act

I write to you to express my concerns about the NSW Government’s Bill which will amend the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act and replace the independent Snowy Scientific Committee with an advisory committee under the control and direction of Katrina Hodgkinson.

I believe it is essential that the panel continue to be composed of independent, appropriately skilled people. If the proposed changes in the Bill are passed, a critical watchdog role is likely to be lost. Irrigators, Snowy Hydro and government officials from NSW and Victoria are likely to hold sway, rather than scientists.

Having the ability to get independent advice is the best way for government to make sound, long term decisions about the Snowy River. An independent Snowy Scientific Committee is vital for the restoration of the Snowy River and all other rivers affected by the Snowy scheme.

I urge you to vote against the proposed amendments to the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act.

Yours sincerely,

Send to:  for the Christian Democrats for the Shooters and Fishers Party

or alternatively contact the Minister directly:

Katrina Hodgkinson: or call her office on (02) 9228 5210.

Lessons to learn from the Snowy

The following opinion piece comes from the Weekly Times.

Snowy River in Kosciusko National Park

GOVERNMENTS have failed the mighty river, writes LOUISE CRISP

The big spring releases from Jindabyne Dam into the Snowy River will capture the media’s attention this week.

Snowy Hydro Ltd will allow up to 84 gigalitres to flow down the Snowy River during the next two weeks.

Although they are much reduced, the spring releases are intended to mimic the huge spring snowmelt flows the Snowy was named for.

Most people now believe the Snowy has been saved.

When Jindabyne Dam was completed in 1967, the Snowy River had 99 per cent of its headwaters captured and diverted west to the Murray-Darling Basin for electricity generation and irrigation, resulting in severe degradation of the Snowy and considerable economic loss to the downstream communities.

In 1996, an expert panel scientific report identified that a healthy river needed the equivalent of 28 per cent annual natural flow below Jindabyne.

Ten years ago, the Victorian, NSW and Commonwealth governments signed agreements and legislation to fund a 10-year plan to return environmental flows to the Snowy.

The three shareholder governments of Snowy Hydro Ltd were committed to providing $375 million to Water for Rivers for savings in the Murray and Murrumbidgee systems to off-set increased flows by 2012 to:

THE Snowy River below Jindabyne Dam – up to 21 per cent of annual natural flow.

SNOWY montane rivers – up to 118 gigalitres a year.

SEVENTY gigalitres a year to the Murray.

The three governments also agreed to return up to 28 per cent to the Snowy below Jindabyne Dam post-2012.

The legislation also required the NSW Government to establish an independent Snowy Scientific Committee to provide advice on the best environmental flow release regime and produce annual state-of-environment reports on the rivers affected by the Snowy scheme.

So where are we 10 years later?

In November 2010 and October last year, large spring flows were released into the Snowy River below Jindabyne from water savings obtained by Water for Rivers.

While the Snowy has seen some good flows this year, it is far from saved.

The annual allocation to the Snowy below Jindabyne this water year (beginning May 1) is only about 15 per cent of the annual natural flow, and half the required minimum environmental flow identified by scientists in 1996. Releases below Jindabyne are unlikely to be much more than 15 per cent, as half the water acquired by Water for Rivers is general security or low reliability.

These entitlements would only deliver much real water to the river in exceptionally wet years.

The upper Snowy River in Kosciuszko National Park was scheduled to receive increased flows from 2007-08 (below Guthega Dam) and from 2009-10 (below Island Bend Dam). However, these sections of the Snowy have not received environmental flows.

For months the Snowy River in Kosciuszko National Park remains a dry stony riverbed.

In addition, the main eastern tributary, the Eucumbene River, and many other tributaries were not included in the original Snowy legislation and will not receive environmental flows.

Snowy Hydro Ltd has made one release to the Murray in 2005-06 of 38 gigalitres.

There is now 230 gigalitres of taxpayer-funded water savings owed the Murray River held by Snowy Hydro Ltd in Snowy Scheme storages. Nevertheless, the Murray Darling Basin Authority has included it in baseline modelling for the proposed Basin plan.

The 2002 legislation also required NSW to establish the independent Snowy Scientific Committee but it was delayed until 2008.

The committee produced a series of invaluable public reports on the adequacy of flows to the Snowy and the upper Murrumbidgee.

The committee’s term expired on May 15 last year and despite commitments from the three relevant NSW ministers, it has still not been re-established.

The 10-year plan to restore the Snowy is a simpler and smaller version of the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The failure of governments therefore, to deliver the environmental outcomes for the Snowy, does not bode well for the future of the Murray.

    Louise Crisp is vice chairwoman of the Snowy River Alliance

Check here for a you-tube video on the upper Snowy river.

a copper zinc gold mine in the Vic Alps?

Benambra from McMillans Lookout. Image:

The Stockman Project is located in the Victorian Alps, 470km by road north-east of Melbourne and 60km by road north east of Omeo. The project contains two copper-zinc-lead-silver-gold rich deposits, called Wilga and Currawong. Wilga was discovered in 1978 and Currawong in 1979. Denehurst mined the copper rich core of Wilga deposit from 1992 to 1996. In 2006, following rehabilitation of the plant site and tailings dam by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, the project was put out for public tender as part of an exploration incentive program. Jabiru Metals Limited (Jabiru) was awarded the project in March 2007.

The Independence Group has now bought up Jabiru, and is proposing to recommission the Wilga mine and establish a new mine four kilometres to the north (the Currawong deposit).

Check here for a summary of the project, and some of the issues concerning locals.

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