Icing on the Cake – Water

Comments (0) Susie Dunn

I’ve always (dramatic alert!) said that people may kill for dirt, but they’ll coat you with honey and stake you out on an ants’ nest for water. Water is life. 

Digby Moran’s exhibition, The Values of Water opened at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre as the drought was grinding on, the tragedies in the Murray-Darling system were unfolding (a friend in Bourke sent me the Western Herald showing the Darling there – scary), and then the punishing effect of the Queensland floods underlined the powers of water. Internationally exhibited, Digby’s art tells us his personal story centred on water in the Northern Rivers region. Water makes his life.

I was lucky to be taken around an international business based in Armidale to see another aspect of water’s story. Peter and Susan Cull’s ICT International P/L manufactures and exports “scientific measuring and monitoring solutions to some of the world’s harshest and most vulnerable environments”. Peter’s UNE PhD in irrigation monitoring led on to more research and then to practical applications of scientific theories in more than 55 countries – monitoring e.g. sap flow, and measuring the water use of plants. I haven’t space to describe the fascinating examples, but the lesson is that science can, through entrepreneurial thinking, offer a range of practical solutions to the “management of water, soil, vegetation and the environment”. AND, be based in a regional centre.

Bruce Whan, Chair of Landcare’s Urban Rivercare, has happily received $20,000 funding from State MP Adam Marshall to purchase a steam weeder to assist in the rehabilitation of Dumaresq Creek. It’s interesting that along the Cooks River, Sydney Water has begun returning concreted banks to natural contouring.  With grants available to local government, poor Dumaresq Creek might also have a chance to stop resembling a drain. That was one suggestion from the Visions4Armidale Creeklands group – removal of the stone trench to maximise the benefits of water in the heart of the city. 

Quality presentation is an important art. The Armidale Library has certainly shown that the addition of the wonderful dragon mural by David Allan and Fiona McDonald in the children’s section can lift the appearance and spirits of the whole library.  

And thank goodness that Adam Marshall has managed to finesse the sensible return of the OTC to the Education Department – which should indeed accept responsibility! Certainty of tenure for NECOM has been one very big worry.

I was talking with Garry Slocombe – whose Rotary Armidale AM Club manages the Mall Markets for the PCYC – about the changing kinds of stalls and future plans for improvement.  Markets always add such a buzz, and it’s wonderful to see people thronging the Mall, with a decidedly food-oriented emphasis these days, as well as more hand-made items. The additional success of the Farmers’ Markets shows the public appetite (literally!) for such events. Perhaps more evening markets?

Armidale’s Business Chamber has re-launched its popular Enterprise Women’s Breakfast series as WiNG – Women’s Networking Group. They say “more than a breakfast – a networking program, empowering women to take flight”. Good on them.

One of my forays this month has been to visit the Community Garden behind NERAM, and my reaction was both a lot simpler and a lot more complicated than I’d expected. Frankly, I’d wondered why there would be appeal here, when most have gardens available to them at home. However, after chatting and sitting with Jo Leoni, the magic became apparent. Transforming the old tennis courts has taken years, but now the garden itself dictates the way it grows. Mixed flowers and vegetables tend to self-seed in a delightfully unruly fashion – neat and purposeful gardeners need not apply! But there is, nonetheless, what I suppose could be called a tremendously “zen” feeling of peace, and the regular workers obviously gain great pleasure, with produce being sold through the Farmers’ Markets.

Physicist, chemist and winner of two Nobel prizes, Marie Curie [1867 -1934] commented that we don’t notice what’s been done, but only see what remains to be done. Always something to be done, but important, as W.H. Davies’ poem says, to also have time to “stand and stare”.

Susie Dunn.

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