Category Archives: the butterfly effect

The gold miner and the dragonfly … a modern day parable

macquarie river sketch M.Hogan

Macquarie River. From the sketchbook. M.Hogan


“Will you sell me your river?” the gold miner asked the dragonfly.
“Where would I live?” asked the dragonfly.
“On another river,” said the gold miner.
“I don’t have another river,” said the dragonfly, “This is the only river I have.”

“Will you sell me your river?” the gold miner asked the frogs.
“Where would we live?” asked the frogs.
“On another river,” said the gold miner.
“We don’t have another river,” said the frogs, “This is the only river we have.”

The gold miner went to the kangaroos, the platypus, the trout cod (who were particularly hard to find), the wild ducks, the tiny crustaceans, the river birds … he spoke to all the animals and asked them all the same question…

“Will you sell me your river?”
“Where would we live?” all the animals replied.
“On another river,” said the gold miner.
“We don’t have another river,” said the animals, “This is the only river we have.”

The gold miner was getting frustrated so he went to speak to the elders.

“Will you sell me your river?” the gold miner asked the Wiradyuri elders.
“Where would we live?” asked the elders.
“On another river,” said the gold miner.
“Another Wambool?” asked the elders. “There isn’t another Wambool. This is the only Wambool we have.”

“Hmmm,” thought the gold miner. “I know what I’ll do. I’ll go to the Council.”

“Will you sell me your river?” the gold miner asked the councillors.

And all of a sudden the river went quiet and every living creature that lived along the river listened intently to what they would say…


Two conversations from the week.

An acquaintance …

“I’m thinking of leaving Bathurst.”
“Where would you go?” I asked, a little stunned.
“To somewhere where they have no environment.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“To somewhere where they’ve completely screwed up their environment, where there is no environment left, where they’ve realised the error of their ways, and where they want to rebuild the environment. That’s where I’d go.”


Dinawan Dyirribang, Wiradyuri elder…

“It’s our life blood because the rivers and creeks are like the veins in your body … they carry blood so you survive … the water that comes down our rivers and creeks does the same thing.”

Please don’t defer the vote on Wednesday councillors.
Please protect the Macquarie (Wambool) River and everything that lives along it.
For now and future generations.

Please vote no.


I’d be grateful if you’d share this one. Two days and counting …


Throwing a light on Bathurst’s environmental future …

So time is ticking away till Bathurst Regional Council’s important February 17 decision about whether to deny the Macquarie River 10 million litres of its recycled effluent every day for the next 10 years or more… and instead, sell it to a goldmine … in Blayney.

Despite the concerns that Council might vote yes on the 17th, I’ve been musing in recent days about the benefits of Council being thrown into the spotlight on this one.

Because going forward, it would be wonderful to know where Bathurst Regional Council really stands on the environment. I mean really stands on the environment.

The Fish River

Work in progress. Detail from The Fish River. M.Hogan

The following ad did the rounds on Council’s Facebook site prior to Australia Day to the amusement/bemusement of many. And Tracy Sorenson rightly asked at last week’s Council meeting “It’s all very well for us to wash our lettuce in the sink rather than under a running tap … and not splash about too much when we’re in the pool … but can you please explain how Council’s Waterwise policy lines up with the proposal to sell 10 million litres of Macquarie River water to a gold mine in Blayney?”

BRC Waterwise ad

A friend of mine said later in the week “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our leaders instead of feeling like they’ve always got to be right, could actually just listen, pause, cut the spin and say “You know Tracy, you’re absolutely right. It doesn’t fit. It is a nonsense. We need to look at this from a wider perspective.”

On the Don’t Mine the Macquarie Facebook page someone highlighted Council’s 2036 Community Strategic Plan and posted a screenshot of page 6 from the plan which outlines the strategic goals for our environmental sustainability.

Note that the Community Strategic Plan “is the highest level plan that a Council must prepare.”  

2036 BRC Community Strategic Plan

  • To protect and enhance … the Macquarie River.
  • To protect and enhance the region’s biodiversity.
  • To protect and enhance water quality and riparian ecology.
  • To secure a sustainable water supply and raise awareness on water issues.

There are many, many good people who work for Bathurst Regional Council at all levels and none of this is intended to undermine the good work that they do for this region. Truly, it is a gorgeous place to live and Council and its staff play a huge part in making it so.

I’m posting these as a reminder because sometimes our loftiest goals can get lost in a drawer.

What do we stand for environmentally in Bathurst?

Can we take a different path to those around us?

Think back to the speaker last week who has owned a house in Bathurst for the past seven years while living in Sydney. For those seven years she has received Council’s quarterly newsletters and read about Council’s green initiatives with interest. And on the strength of that, four weeks ago, she made the move here. Three weeks later she found herself at a council meeting nervously stepping up to basically say WTF? Have I been sold a lemon?

And just on that note, can I make a final comment about courage.

I was sitting a metre or two behind all the speakers at last week’s council meeting, watching their bodies shake with fear and their hands tremble. It does take courage to step up and speak in front of a large audience when you’re not used to it.

It also takes courage to stand on a river with a lonely handful of supporters holding hand made banners. It takes courage to stand in front of the local newspaper with those same supporters and a good few more. It takes courage to be the dissenting voice. To be viewed as the one who stirs up trouble. When others get a bit squirmy, feeling uncomfortable in front of a newspaper or tv camera, Tracey Carpenter is always the first to step up to the plate for our local environment. And whether you agree with her politics or not (Tracey ran for The Greens at our last state election) I for one, admire her courage.

Let there be more of it I say. It’s healthy. It’s robust. It’s called democracy. And aren’t we lucky to have it.

See you on the 17th.

If you haven’t already, please consider signing the petition by clicking here.

Overseas friends please bear with us till this plays out. Our normal blogging program will resume shortly 😉


Why I may never work for Bathurst Regional Council again.

I flicked on the television yesterday at lunch and caught Jennifer Byrne interviewing Australian author Di Morrissey on The Book Club. She was reading Morrissey’s author statement from her 2009 book Silent Country.

‘There has come a time when we can no longer remain silent, but speak up for our country, which is being sold, abused, mined, depleted, drained, overworked, overloved, its plants and animals becoming endangered and exterminated faster than we can renew them. Our country is silent, so we must speak and act to save it.’

It’s funny how the universe works.

banks of the fish

In a couple of weeks, on February 17, the nine councillors of Bathurst Regional Council will vote on a proposal to sell approximately 10 million litres of recycled effluent to a gold mine in the Blayney Shire (about 23 kms away). That’s approximately 10 million litres a day. Approximately 10 million litres that is currently released into the Macquarie River and flows along the catchment. Approximately 10 million litres a day for the next 10 years. Possibly more.

There is, and Regis Resources will be quick to tell you about it, a Cease to Transfer clause proposed which means that if the river levels get too low, the Cease to Transfer clause will come into play and Regis will be prohibited from diverting water at that point.

A lot is riding on that Cease to Transfer clause.

There has come a time …

Over the past 12 years Bathurst Regional Council has been one of our valued clients and I’m very proud of the work we’ve produced for them. I love the Bathurst region and it has been a privilege to help promote it to the wider world.

When Bathurst took part in the Evocities project (a campaign designed to attract people from the city to the country) we were commissioned to design the welcome kit that would be sent to potential residents and businesses. It’s one of the jobs I’m most proud of in my 12 years running Red Moon Creative.

Interestingly, many pieces I’ve designed for Bathurst Regional Council have the river as their centrepiece.

Bathurst Welcome Kit front

Bathurst Welcome Kit

Bathurst billboard


I revisited the Evocities site this morning and this is what it has to say about Bathurst.


“Bathurst is in the top 5 growth areas of regional NSW
(Department of Planning & Environment NSW 2014).

Bathurst is booming! The region has experienced a strong population growth of 1.3% (ten-year average) and has been one of the fastest growth areas of all regional inland Cities in NSW (ABS: Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2011-2012). Additionally, the Bathurst economy grew by 2.2% in 2013 (National Institute of Economic & Industry Research). 

The Bathurst Region is a hot spot for business. Our City and surrounding region offers new and established businesses a dynamic economic environment, ideal for growth and expansion. 

Since the start of 2014 Council has received more than a dozen enquiries from companies and businesses wishing to relocate their business to Bathurst.

This is also reflected through the number of major infrastructure projects being planned in Bathurst including the $21 million retail/bulky goods development approved for Sydney Road, the expansion of Westpoint Shopping Centre and a development of a second major car racing track. 


So I am left thinking …

If “Bathurst is booming!”, if we are one of the top 5 growth areas of regional NSW, why the hell do we need to be putting the Macquarie River at further risk by selling water to a gold mine in another shire?

Regis Resources Ltd, the company behind the gold mine has been taking out regular full page ads in our local paper under the banner “Golden Opportunity for Bathurst”.  At first glance the figures look impressive but when you start to analyse them within the context of Bathurst’s total economic information, as Margaret Van Heekeren did in her submission to council (which I’ve included below) they lose much of their lustre.


I have been reading many of the submissions which have been shared on the Don’t Mine the Macquarie facebook page. Charles Sturt University scientist David Goldney’s was one of the strongest, pointing out a number of very important doubts and concerns (I’ve included his submission below too).

So these are the questions I would put to the nine councillors facing this vote…

  1. Are you unequivocally 100% confident that you have received the accurate, detailed, unquestionable facts that you need to make this decision?
  2. Can each of you confidently respond to the seven issues and questions that David Goldney raises in his submission?
  3. Can each of you, in good conscience, approve the sale of this water to a mine in a different shire, when Bathurst is already in the top 5 growth areas of NSW with a growing population that will place increasing strain on our resources?

You have an opportunity here Bathurst Council.

Be the council that says “Yes, we’re open for business but we’re open for business on our own terms.” Be the council that other councils look to and say “Look at Bathurst, they’re protecting their water and their land and yet they’re still managing to provide good economic growth.”

I thought about writing this post from a different perspective. From an historical perspective, 100 years hence, through the eyes of someone looking back at the major decisions, the major turning points of the Bathurst region in the early 2000s. Through those future eyes I was envisaging two scenarios. 1: a council with the foresight to protect its resources and promote steady, sustainable growth and 2: a council that made a deal to sell water to a goldmine in another shire.

I may well be shooting myself in the foot here.

We may not work together again.

There are plenty of other designers.

But in my heart, if this goes through, I’m out. I’m done.

There has come a time.


We all live downstream.



I’d be grateful if you’d share this one. Especially if you have friends, family or colleagues downstream.

If you would like to join the Facebook group click here.
If you would like to sign the petition click here.



Postscript … just as I hit publish on this, Councillor Monica Morse announced that she will not support the sale. That’s one. We need five. Thankyou Monica.




SOURCES Bathurst Regional Council Area economic profile Accessible at:
Regis Resources (2015). Proposal to acquire treated waste water from Bathurst Regional Council. Accessible via the BRC website at:


Benefit one: as claimed by Regis Resources
“Estimated $150 million of expenditure during project construction, 50% of which is estimated to be in the local region”

• If 50% is in the region, this means the benefit to the region is 50 per cent of $150 million, therefore $75 million.
• According to the 2013/2014 economic profile the annual output to the region of all industries is 4 078.5million, that is more than $4 billion.
• Therefore the economic value of the mine during the construction phase represents just 1.8 per cent of the economic value of all Bathurst industry.
• This is at 2013/14 rates, the impact would be less significant currently or in the future, given Bathurst’s economic growth..

Benefit two: as claimed by Regis Resources
“200 direct jobs during the 12 to 18 months of project construction”

• According to the 2013/2014 economic profile 18,443 people were employed in the Bathurst region.
• Therefore the employment value of the mine during the construction phase represents just 1.08 per cent of all Bathurst employment
• Again, this would be less at current or future rates.

Benefit three: as claimed by Regis Resources
“150 direct jobs and 400 indirect jobs during the ten years of operation”

• According to the 2013/2014 economic profile 18,443 people were employed in the Bathurst region.
• Therefore the direct employment value of the mine during operation represents just .08 per cent (less than one per cent) of all Bathurst employment and the 400 indirect jobs represents 2.2 per cent of all Bathurst employment.
• These calculations are based on 2013/2014 statistics. Given employment rose by 2.3% between 2009/10 and 2013/14 a similar growth rate over the life of the mine would see an even smaller contribution from the mine to Bathurst regional employment.
• These calculations also assume that the 150 direct jobs and 400 indirect jobs will be constant each year for the 10 years of operation. If the figures are a sum of all jobs over the 10 years (for example 50 direct and 150 indirect for a couple of years then 100 and 250 for eight years) then the annual impact on regional employment is again reduced.

Benefit four: as claimed by Regis Resources
“Approximately $800 million of annual expenditure in the local region during the operations.”

• If the mine were operating in 2013/14 and raised industry output from 4 078.5 million to 4 878.5 million, it would have contributed just 16.9% of annual expenditure in the Bathurst region
• Given Bathurst is one of Australia’s fastest growing inland centres the region is more than likely to grow regardless of the proposed mine. Therefore, by the end of the life of the mine the economic contribution to the region will be even less.

Between 2008/09 and 2013/2014 economic output from the Bathurst economy grew by 10 per cent.

There are no indicators that suggest this has reversed or will reverse in the short term.

This submission has compared the projected economic and employment benefits of the proposed Regis Resources mine and finds that while there are advantages, their overall impact on the Bathurst economy is minor.

It has shown that Bathurst hasn’t needed a mine for economic growth and doesn’t need a mine for economic growth.

Dr Margaret Van Heekeren



I am writing to register my opposition to the proposal to divert treated effluent water from Bathurst to the proposed gold mine at Kings Plains. I have reached this decision, only after careful consideration of the very complex hydrological and ecological issues that need to be mastered. I have done so as a scientist, independent environmental consultant, one of two hundred Bathurst Living legends, a nominee for citizen of the year in 2015, as a rate payer and as one who has lived and worked in the Bathurst region since 1972.

I am not philosophically opposed to the proposed gold mine at Kings Plains, although if I were a nearby resident I would not want it in my backyard! Independent of the decision that BRC arrives at re its effluent waste water, the gold mine would likely obtain its water from a potential range of other sources at or above market prices. Given its likely perceived importance to the economy of NSW, the proposal is likely to be fast tracked by the NSW Government. However, if the proposal falters, the gold will remain in the ground until it is economic to extract it and future generations of Bathurstians and others can still reap the supposed economic benefits.

The volume of water in question is approximately 10Ml/day around the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools or 6 x 20 litre buckets of water passing a fixed point every second. This may seem a relatively small flow when one views what we see every day as ‘normal’ flow in the Macquarie River adjacent to Bathurst. However, when inevitably Bathurst pipes it water directly from Chifley Dam to the city for distribution in a semi-closed system, Bathurstians will be somewhat surprised to see what ‘normal’ river flows are actually like in an overcommitted system already under a range of environmental stresses. Releases of environmental flows downstream of the storage dam would then be dependent on a gauging station upstream of Chifley Dam. Under this scenario, there would be many days in a normal year when there would be no environmental releases from Chifley Dam, and the flow past Bathurst in the Macquarie River would then be very dependent on flows from the Fish River system. In drought years in particular there are likely to be many days when there would be no flow in the river past Bathurst, with the frequency of no flows increasing as the predicted impacts of climate change kick in. It may only be then that the importance of the effluent flow from the treatment works would be fully appreciated – too late then to back track if we have sold our water to a mining company for 10 – 20 years.

In the last few years we have lost up to 2Ml/day from environmental flows from the Duckmaloi pipe-head weir (a tributary of the upper Fish River). That water is added to the other Duckmaloi water that is piped to the Cascades Dam and elsewhere to increase security of supply for Katoomba. There are many reasons to believe that additional upper Fish River water could be diverted eastward to sustain the continued growth of the City of the Blue Mountains. Council should also be aware of the example of additional pressures to offtake water along the length of the Duckmaloi pipeline that, at last count, was around 300+ landholders accessing domestic and stock water from the pipeline. Already there is talk of sporting organisations and other interest groups wanting to access water from the proposed McPhillamys Gold Mine (MGM) pipeline! Once the pipeline is built, lobbying to also utilise the water from vested interests is likely to intensify. In the final analysis BRC does not own the water in the Macquarie River or in Chifley Dam, nor can we be certain once the pipeline is in place that governments of either persuasion might see political advantage in allowing additional water users to access the pipeline.

So we stand to lose water via the gold mine pipeline and very likely additional losses pumped eastward via the Fish River system. When the water pipeline from Chifley Dam to Bathurst is built (a very sensible water efficiency measure), assuming that irrigators would access their entitlements directly from the pipeline, then there would be many days when there would be no environmental flows released from Chifley Dam and likely many days when there would be no river flows past Bathurst. The frequency of no flow days would likely increase under the various scenarios predicted re the adverse impacts of climate change within our catchment.

Bathurst is fortunate to have Chifley Dam. Whilst the upper Macquarie catchment operates within a capped shared water plan within a regulated system, Bathurst town water is not capped, and theoretically can be increased to accommodate population increases if there is available water. However, as partners in a water sharing plan we are expected to behave responsibly. An argument can be made that the Bathurst effluent water is included in the water sharing accounting. That could well be a legal obstacle to selling off effluent water that can only be tested in the Land and Environment Court by an aggrieved party.

Bathurst is growing rapidly but there are limits to its growth and the major limitation will be water availability. There is insufficient ground water to supplement our water supply and we cannot access desalinated water. Hence we are mainly reliant on rainfall captured in Chifley Dam catchment and increasingly so on additional water efficiency measures (eg tank water, stormwater harvesting, trickle irrigation for irrigators etc). The upper population limit for Bathurst is likely to be within the range of 50,000 – 100,000 people, much less if significant additional industrial water is required in the coming years. Chifley Dam can probably be raised once more but at a much greater cost than the last raise, with the important downside of a much greater dam water surface area and therefore a proportional significant increase in water losses due to evaporation. Even if we do raise the Chifley Dam, The potentially available water will likely be only available for around 20% of the time. The next dam wall rise would deliver much less bang for bucks expended compared with the cost-benefits of the most recent increase in the capacity of Chifley Dam. The economics might not even stack up.

Given the scenario I have sketched, the limits to the future growth of Bathurst are there for all to see – and the limiting resource is water, There are likely to be additional calls on Fish River water to be pumped eastward to the Blue Mountains and elsewhere, and the construction of a pipeline to Bathurst from Chifley Dam would significantly change the existing river flows passing through Bathurst that we have grown accustomed to assume as being ‘normal’ when they are not. This does not seem an appropriate time for BRC to be selling off what it might be tempted to see as excess waste water. Rather we should be debating as a community as to how best to manage the water resources that we have at our disposal and begin to plan for near zero population growth that will be a realty with in the lifetime of our younger residents. I suspect that neither the BRC nor local business interests including the Business Chamber, are yet mentally or philosophically prepared to engage with the notion of near zero population growth for Bathurst.

My ability and competency to comment on the important question to be decided by Bathurst Councillors are based on the following:

• 40 years of ecological research and advocacy in the Macquarie River and the upper Macquarie catchment, the Macquarie Marshes, Blackman’s Creek and Summerhill Creek, etc including a 15-year population project on the platypus population on the Duckmaloi Weir;
• One of three scientists who determined the environmental flow regime from the Duckmaloi Weir in 1986 (unfortunately these flows have recently been reduced by around 30% to the detriment of Bathurst and without any comment from our community);
• The sole scientist determining the environmental flows below the Cadiangullong Dam on Cadiangullong Creek, a major tributary of the Belubula River;
• With Dr Mactaggart joint author of the Bathurst Urban Waterways Management Plan;
• Leader of a multi-disciplinary CSU team determining the efficacy of environmental flows below the Cadiangullong Dam as part of the consent conditions for the Cadia Valley Operations;
• Deputy chair of the Central West Catchment Management Board for 6 years including active involvement in the development of water sharing plans; and
• A four-year term as an Acting Commissioner in the NSW Land and Environment Court.

I will not go over ground that has been well covered by submissions by other Bathurst citizens. I would particularly draw attention to submissions from Chris Marshall, Tracey Sorenson (on behalf of BCCAN), Dr Margaret Van Heekeren, Dr Barbara Mactaggart and Colin Gordon. I am aware of many others, some with a heavy reliance on emotional arguments – these however should not be lightly
dismissed since they communicate a widespread deep sense of unease about the proposal that some are unable to communicate in any other way.

In closing my submission I would draw Council’s attention to the following issues and questions:

1. Is it ever a sensible proposition for water to be transferred from one catchment to another (in this case from the Macquarie to the Lachlan), more so since in the current case, a usable pipeline infrastructure will likely be there for decades to come with the completion of the current project, a pipeline with a very significant capacity to enable others to share in Macquarie River water. We cannot now undo the decision to pipe western water over the mountains via the Fish River Water Scheme to provide security of supply for the Blue Mountains as well as for power stations etc. However, we can learn important lessons from that decision.

2. McPhillamys Gold Mine has put its cards on the table for this particular stage of its planning. There would very likely be a stage 2 already in the planning phase with unknown resource requirements. My significant experience as a consultant with a number of Goldmines in the Central Western Region is that they will do what it legally takes to implement phase 1 of their long term planning (think in multiple decades not just a 10 year horizon). If and when a stage 2 comes up for assessment the barriers to approving a stage 2 proposal are usually less since there is already a legally compliant project up and running. The requirements for water in a stage 2 development may well be much greater than for stage 1.

3. Assuming that the MGM has a life of 10-15 years, what does BRC expect will happen to the major pipeline infrastructure when the mine life comes to an end? Will it be dismantled? Hardly since it will be expensive infrastructure with the potential for multiple other uses. Like the Fish River System it would be difficult to turn off the tap once the pipeline is built. Furthermore it has the potential to transfer large quantities of water to other users on a daily basis.

4. For hydraulic drag reasons, the diameter of the proposed pipeline would likely be in the order of 300 – 350mm diameter rather than a much smaller pipeline that some might envisage. While low flows are envisaged in the current MGM proposal, appropriate pumps in the future could potentially pump hundreds of mega litres per day through the proposed pipeline. If one combines the scenario of a pipeline from the waste treatment plant to MGM with the inevitable construction of a major pipeline from Chifley Dam to the water treatment works then there is the potential to link these pipelines together at some point in the future. There is already significant exploration for a range of minerals in a 100km radius of Bathurst. Some mineral deposits within 20-30 km of the MGM may only be able to be developed with appropriate amounts of expensive water. It is not an impossible scenario to conceive of other potential mines or even agricultural enterprises who might wish to also tap into the pipeline, more so under the increased drought conditions that are predicted to occur across the region as the impacts of climate change are experienced. Such scenarios if they were to occur would in the long term reduce Bathurst’s ceiling population.

5. I would estimate that the working/holding dam purpose built for MGM would need to be in the order of 500 Mega litres, perhaps larger. Is BRC knowledgeable about its volume, rates of evaporation and the length of time required to fill? Will this water be wholly sourced from Bathurst waste water? Has BRC carried out due diligence studies on the nature of water conservation measures to be utilised at the MGM and if these are best practice methods?

6. BRC is to be congratulated in seeking to have the SKM water impact assessment peer reviewed. The GDH peer review is a scathing indictment of the SKM waste water impact assessment although it is very civil and diplomatic in arriving at its conclusions. I would urge council staff and councillors to reread this important document. The GDH report exposes multiple weaknesses in the proposal and multiple points where aggrieved parties might successfully seek to exploit in a challenge in the Land and Environment Court. Eventually the mining company will likely prevail but not without significant costs to MGM and possibly BRC without any guarantee of recovering costs. At this stage I have not seen the mine impact assessment although I have searched for it on the WWW. One hopes that this document is not as flawed. This is not a ‘Dunkeld Dog Kennel’ equivalent case since there are significant issues associated with this proposal that have the potential to be challenged successfully within the Land and Environment Court.

7. Our current water strategy is over reliant on water flows via the Fish River and its tributaries. As I have argued elsewhere, it would be irresponsible to assume that this water would always be available to BRC in lieu of releases from Chifley Dam.

As a society surely this proposal should be seen as a welcome wakeup call that we need to plan for a ‘near zero population growth’ in Bathurst based on a predictable ceiling population with water the major limiting resource to population growth. In my opinion BRC should reject out of hand the proposed pipeline to transfer effluent water since there are too many risks associated with the proposed pipeline. To proceed at this stage on the basis of a short term financial gain may well lead to adverse unintended consequences, some that I have flagged, that future generations may need to address at substantial costs.

Yours Sincerely

David Goldney BSc Dip Ed PhD DSc (honoris causa) MEIA FISCAST
Principal Consulting Ecologist, Cenwest Environmental Services
Adjunct Professor, Charles Sturt University


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