WALK UPDATE – SOUTHERN CROSS TO MERREDIN
October 2nd – October 8th
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Welcome to Southern Cross – a town in which all the streets are named after constellations! The community offered to give us a guided telescopic viewing of the stars, however the weather wasn’t on our side and heavy storm clouds blocked the stars and gave us quite the soaking! Our spirits were lifted again however, with the Country Women’s Association (CWA) hosting us that night for a community meeting to share information and our experiences. We were greeted with songs, and in true traditional CWA style, had smorgasbord of cakes and tea and dessert offered to us! (We haven’t quite managed to bake cakes that light and fluffy on the camp fire yet…. delicious!) Needless to say we graciously swarmed to the cake table like the flies that have been swarming to our eyes for the last weeks!
Then it was back to the road again, and our senses were treated with tall eucalypts, and brand new assortments of wildflowers (no kidding – they keep coming – weird colourful and stunning tiny flowers!). The weather heated up for us again after the rain, which was great but a bit of a shock to the system.
More people joined the walk this week, another Canberra, a young girl from Germany, a man from Greece and three more people from France. Had a presentation from our German walker about what’s going on in Germany with the nuclear chain and there are incredible annual protests there that should be recognised and celebrated. The nuclear chain really is global in all respects. One thing that is becoming increasingly apparent is that we are never alone in our efforts to say no to nuclear. There are people all across the world who are standing up to this industry and it is important to remember this unity, and to celebrate our efforts and draw strength from each other.
On the note of celebrations, we celebrated the 10th birthday of one of our young walkers, having a treasure hunt, apple bobbing, good ‘ol pass the parcel and party feasting! He got wished happy birthday in at least 10 languages from our now very diverse walking crew!!
We had a guided tour of the Collgar Wind Farm today where we learnt some hard and fast facts about the wind turbine’s production and maintenance, energy generating capacity, the community consultation process. The Merredin community was very welcoming, we scored free coffee from some cafes, and the Merredin IGA wrote us a letter of support and donated food for our community BBQ.
We have gotten a bit more used to civilisation again now, (and the perks like showers that accompany towns) and will continue to come into urban areas in the lead up to Perth. Only a few more bush camps left now, so enjoying our camp fires and the sleeping under the stars.
Collgar Wind Farm Update
A breath of fresh air….
On this walk we have been joined by people from all around the globe who have experienced the cultural and environmental devastation of the nuclear industry – the industry that begins in Australia’s backyard with uranium mining. Being conscious of the potential ramifications of nuclear waste can be pretty overwhelming at times, so it is great to look to the present and to a future using the real alternative energy – renewable energy.
As we walk away from uranium mining we are collectively aware of the need to transition to safe and real renewable energy sources. This morning we took a tour of the Collgar Wind Farm on our rest day in Merredin. It was a breath of fresh air (pardon the pun) to see real renewable energy in action.
Collgar Wind Farm is a $750 million renewable energy project. The farm consists of 111 wind turbines and is the largest single stage wind farm in the southern hemisphere. Walkers stood directly under one of the 85m tall turbines and we were all surprised by the near silence of the turbine’s operation. No exaggerating here, all we could hear was a very faint ‘whoosh’ on their rotation. Enough energy is produced here to power approximately 125,000 households per year. In the 3-year construction phase the wind farm employed 150 people, and it will provide ongoing employment for a team of 10-15 locally based staff. The energy that is generated goes back into the south western power grid.
It was interesting to draw a mental comparison of the consultation and landholder remuneration process of the wind farm compared to coal and coal seam gas in other areas. The Collgar Wind Farm spans across 11 private landholdings, and the consultation process was conducted in 12 months. A wind turbine cannot be built within 1.5km of a house, whereas coal mines can be built within 600m of a home. For these wind turbines, landholders are earning approximately $10,000 per year for each turbine on their property. This is a stark difference to the coal seam gas wells on farming properties where landholders are receiving between $500 and $1500 per year for each well sunk, and having to face potential serious long-term land degradation.
One of our young walkers, aged twelve, summed up what he thought about the wind farm he saw today in comparison to nuclear reactors. “The wind farm is way better. They make enough energy and it’s just big windmills. Nuclear is bad ‘coz if there’s an accident then we loose farm lands for thousands or millions of years.”
Pretty simple to see what’s better. And more people are seeing it. There is a lot of hope for the future right here in Western Australia. Denmark has plans for a wind turbine, and Mt Barker already has several wind turbines owned by the community.
While we face the current battle of ensuring that no uranium mines are opened in Western Australia, our group has been invigorated by the very real and existing renewable energy technology used here. These wind turbines are not going to cause a legacy of unknown radioactive toxicity for tens of thousands of years! As today we celebrated the 10th birthday of another of our young walkers, we also got to celebrate communities embracing safe and real renewable energy. Bring on the real forces of nature in wind and sun.
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