Monday, May 13, 2013

Mushroom Club CEO briefs shareholders May 8, 2013

We came, we sat and we listened. Our town, our future, not in our hands.

(Images: Map of Operations, Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator [HVCCC])

...from 10 million tons of coal travelling through our town in 2012 to increase to 55 million tons in 2018.

We heard that we need:

(1) unrestricted access across the railway line and,
(2) heavy vehicles off Kelly street (our high street and simultaneously the New England Highway).

We heard the Upper Hunter Shire Council (UHSC) council feels that our local federal member Joel Fitzgibbons has caused great confusion with his recent letter to residents requesting our thoughts on the bypass and overpass options - (but hey shouldn't our democratically elected representative check in with us occasionally - why was this so wrong?)

(note: traffic is actually flowing in Herald's image above - taken in roundabout days...alas, dear roundabout, we loved thee well)

We heard that our General Manager, Daryl Dutton, feels 'mushroomed' (oh welcome to the mushroom club, Dazza!), and that council are not impressed with the remaining two options on the Roads and Maritime Services' table (options 1 & 4) so much so that council has amended option 4 into a vision that council likes and are calling it option 6.

We heard that it will eventurally come down to the Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) making suggestions to the federal government which in turn will end up paying 80% of the final tab.

So specs for Option 1 (bypass)...
(a) $95m
(b) 4.2km long from power substation south of Scone to Macdonald's north of Scone, instead of 2.9km from and to sames points along length of current New England Highway
(c) cutting through flood plain, a congruence of the 3 waterways, Middlebrook, Kingdon Ponds and Parsons Gully
(d) cutting through town sewage plant
(e) loss of land from Golf Course and White Park
(f) loss of Bill Rose Sports Complex
(g) traffic lights across Liverpoo Street
(h) loss of  land from Scone Rugby Union Club
(i) high embankments with width of 65-70 metres - equivalent to three quarters of a footie field
(j) fences for bypass 
(k) re-routing of New England Highway will mean downgrading of Kelly Street to a local road and therefore the responsibility of council 

...versus specs for Option 4 (RMS' overpass)...
(a) $70m
(b) large T intersection at Muffet Street,
(c) roundabout at Guernsey Street intersection big enough for a b-double or b-triple to do a U-turn
(d) traffic lights at Susan Street
(e) loss of Elizabeth Park
(f) loss of Visitors' Centre
(g) unncessary costs of temporary connections and access conveniently morphed into specs for Option 6 (Dazza's warm & fuzzy overpass)...
(a) $51m
(b) traffic lights at Muffet Street, controlled by traffic on Muffet Street so green otherwise
(c) roundabout at Susan Street and Kelly Street
(d) roundabout at Kingdon Street and Kelly Street
(e) narrowing of Kelly Street from Airlie House
(f) Kelly Street to be single lane through town consisting of a 'browsing' lane and through lane (errrr are two lanes counted as a single lane?)
(g) 3% gradient to be introduced for overpass similar to the gradient across an ordinary road (currently road dips down to pass over level crossing)
(h) intersection with Guernsey Street at higher level than its current level with pedestrian footbridges to be introduced on both sides of overpass
(i) re-opening of Kingdon Street level crossing for temporary time or longer to facilitate alternate heavy vehicle detour along Guernsey Street
(j) short lead time for construction (2-3 months) as parts of UHSC's overpass can be built offline and then brought in and assembled

We heard we could express an interest in either the 'Devil' (Dazza's Option 6 overpass) or the 'Deep Blue Sea' (RMS' Option 1 bypass). 

So recalling that it counts for nought what we think (99% of us didn't want traffic lights, anybody?), I opted for the Devil because having grown-up in a kingdom of ringroads and bypasses, I never want to have to talk again about whether I took the A 'god-knows-what' to 'Baldock' (or Australian equivalent) followed by the B 'who-gives-a-shit' to the 'Winchester-Preston trunk road' (or Australian equivalent) all the while managing to avoid the 'Newbury bypass' (or Australian equivalent) - ever. How you got somewhere and how long it took takes up a huge amount of British conversation - it's mind numbingly dull (ok, I know it's their island's reality and consumes a significant proportion of British lives) yet British traffic congestion still continues to increase destructively despite ribbon developers' continued committement to bypasses and ringroads.

But all that aside, I want immediate answers as to why our expressions of interest were limited to only 2 choices? And I demand to know why weren't the RMS at the meeting? really would have been a lot more useful to have had a panel of experts present for last Wednesday's Q&A rather than 'management-with-form' (new council chambers and traffic lights, anyone?).

In a nutshell, I hate what's on the table for our town period

So I've been thinking...if the general manager can come up with a half-baked option (Dazza's Option 6) I can too...

...drum roll, ladies & gentlemen, introducing...

... Option 7 (Suzie's tunnel - well, actually not my tunnel at all - sourced from many conversations with a local expert and the 'Options & Feasibility Study Community Consultation Briefing 25th August 2011' p.12) & its specs...

(a) cutting under New England Highway; plans already drafted
(b) no loss of northern end of town's heritage history (note to self; council obviously keen on preserving town heritage history as used loss of town southern end's heritage history as a reason not to have  bypass...oh my, must have omitted to think about loss of northern-end treasure in warm & fuzzy overpass planning excitement?!)
(c) independent expert workforce which knows what it's doing because now we're talking 'serious projects' well outside the realm of council's actual or imagined expertise
(d) essential negotiations with ARTC for significant funding for tunnel/cutting project (their coal, their responsiblity)
(e) alternate heavy argument to counter council's inevitable scare-mongering tactics (oooh...what about the 1 in 100 year flood?...oh my!)
(f) reminder to council that a city 4 hours to the south of us popped a tunnel in under a harbour a few years back quite successfully - no major leaks that we know of
(g) re-instatement of former roundabout on Kelly and Liverpool Streets intersection, the loss of which has largely contributed to sudden decline and congestion of our high street and town (well done, council!) .

But more importantly than any of the stuff above, what are we doing planning these major alterations to our town on such skinny projections? Two new mines in Gunnedah getting the go ahead in the last couple of weeks may just amount to mere puffs!

According to last week's Guardian Weekly, it is only a matter of time before our 'coal reserves become worthless as the world attains carbon emission limits.' John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute says that 'investments in Australian coal rest on a speculative bubble of climate denial, indifference or dreaming.'

Why does our council not publicly recognise in either their actions or their rhetoric what the rest of the world is starting to appreciate? - that 'Australia's huge coal industry is a speculative bubble ripe for financial implosion if the world's governments fulfil their agreement to act on climate change.'

The 'Unburnable Carbon - Australia's carbon bubble' report cited in The Guardian Weekly goes on to say that:

'...within the coal sector it is clear that if demand is reduced and prices fall then the most expensive sources of coal will suffer first. Given Australia’s current position as a high-cost producer, this should be of concern to the sector and those who invest in it.'

Why then should we even consider these devastating town and community alterations put forward by council and the RMS given that the future of the coal industry in Australia is obviously threatened as the rest of the world wakes up to the responsiblities we owe other nations as well as other generations?

If council gets its way or the RMS gets its, we can say goodbye to Scone & District as we know it - small town community living & engagement (utterly priceless...we'll be grateful to Scone helping us raise our 4 children until our dying days), farming, local businesses, vineyards, horses...

(Photos: Richard Abbott, Scone Horse Week Parade 2013)




Alas, dear Scone, we loved thee well...sigh

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