Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary

Links to images and other pages are in blue. After about a week of diary entries, they go to an archive.
3 December -15 December.
After the attractive Christmas street decorations at the Rocks (see last weeks entry), the Queanbeyan council's version is just sad. It would be sad even if you hadn't seen decorations of a city council as affluent and fashion conscious as Sydney's Rocks area. These are last year's tinsel pipe cleaner angels, candles, reindeer and bells. I like the Queanbeyan main streetscape. Hiding under awful paint work and signage are some lovely old buildings. When the median strip garden was built it improved the aspect for both highway travelers and locals like me. Maybe that's what it needs to save the street, to detour the highway as promised and give the residents a sense of a special place, not a public thoroughfare. With a few regulations it could still be preserved. In the meanwhile, with some good Christmas decorations it could be something we'd be appreciate as we drive through. 
Heading home at dusk. At the top of the hill before dropping into the valley, you could see it was full of smoke. And you knew that you had to go into it because you lived there. Sleeping with the windows open on these nights, we are waking up with itchy eyes and the curtains smell smoky.  
December 3 - Bungendore School Hall
It started mean. The hall was hot and the crowd (I counted around 90 people from the photos) had come prepared for a fight. It was the special Yarrowlumla council meeting to discuss the Elmslea development, the area being called Bungendore North. The mood had changed a bit over the preceding month. Council's insistence that all the details of the development had been agreed to nine years ago with 'extensive' public consultation, was looking a little less sure. The Bungendore Bulletin letter pages started to tell a different story. The opposition to having the town double in residents and the impact that will have on the 'rural village community' was one issue. Where the access road that linked the development to the town was placed, was the main one (at least for me as much as for how future development will consider the aesthetic qualities of the town) . This road would have to cut across 'The Common', a strip of land that has been open to public access for over a hundred years, and maintained by the council as a recreational area. So this was more a heritage issue and the road cutting through it was a sign that it didn't matter. I hadn't been to any of the earlier meetings but I was moved this time.

The 'common' park area is really the only public land space in town, other than the sports ground and a few easements along areas near the railway. We walk there often, taking the dogs and letting them off the lead to run around, (of course keeping them on the leads like good citizens when other residents are walking their dogs, or if there are kids on bikes or horses and riders as there often are). I wrote about the road that runs parallel with the common, Turallo Terrace, in a past diary entry. The road that was marked on old (1993) plans to join the new suburb was to be a continuation of Butmaroo Street. It would cut the common area in half, and effectively stop the 'promenade' being used as safely for all those other recreational uses.

That's the background, and that's what the residents action group was worried about (Greg Nye called them 'shadowy' because they never seemed to put their names on their letterbox flyers, something that irritated me as well. They did have some of their names on their Geocities freebie website however, and they're all good concerned residents. While their newsletter moved me, it wasn't handled very well, with a subtle one-upmanship that seemed if you were not part of the group already and  if you're not online you were excluded from the real discussion.) The requirements for the developer (Alex Brinkmeyer) to also find a new reliable source for their ground water was a growing concern because the construction was well advanced. However there seemed to be well defined requirements for the developer to provide a certain flow, and per household quantities. Not so easy in a drought year if the level in our well is typical of the ground water around town.

When we all arrived, there were copies of the agenda for us, and that's where the murmurs started. There had been a change to that printed agenda from the advance one posted on the Yarrowlumla council web site. The requirements for water flow and quantities had been reduced. The agenda itself was pretty inflammatory with the road crossing listed as a fait accompli and a complaint by Mayor Terry Bransdon that the true views of the silent majority hadn't been heard yet on the road issue. (That's one of the bothersome things about those silent majorities they don't speak up. Or care very much.) And his statement that the Bungendore Public School Parents and Citizens supported the road (this was strongly debunked by a terse letter read out on the night). 

Cr Ian Marjason declares his conflict of interestWhen the meeting started the Mayor pointed out that we were not going to discuss the road tonight - that was to be postponed until the development reached 200 blocks, and we were just going to talk about water. Boo Hiss. Then the two councilors who live in and represent the Bungendore area, ex-mayor Ian Marjason and Miles Flanagan declared they had conflicts of interest and left the meeting.

Cr Miles Flannagan reads his solicitors conflict of interest letterMiles, because he had property adjoining the development (the lovely old Elmslea homestead, that he and his wife Toni run as a bed & breakfast) and Ian because his law firm Baker Deane & Nutt handle work for the developer. 

Two prime pieces of theatre and now, with no town resident representatives on the council bench, the audience was now really getting restless. I'm writing this from memory nearly two weeks later but I think this was the point when someone in the audience called for a walkout. An a lot of people did, including me.

The Mayor wisely called a time out, and some heated lobbying went on. I've made a page of images from the night (opens in new window)  and the faces alone tell a story. 

Amongst the tears (yes there was a woman weeping) outside, there was a strong call for everyone to return and at least hear the arguments presented. The Mayor called for cases presented by the pro development and against development representatives (limited to two each and they were asked to be brief). The first was a resident ( I'm sorry that I didn't know or record his name but he's pictured here) from the new estate who pointed out, in a hesitant manner, that they had surveyed all the residents there that they could, and found the majority in favour of a road to link them with the town. He said they'd been told the road was going to be at Butmaroo when they bought the blocks, and basically that's where they wanted it. Predictably there was a vocal audience reaction.

The response from the 'against' side (again I didn't know him) was as contrasting as was the body language of the speakers. Greg Nye called for the development as good for the town and lectured against the action committee's hidden nature and a particular representative's self interest in closing a public easement. He was boo-ed for the lecture. The other against argument wasn't all that focused either. Then the council engineer presented the reasons for revising downward the water flow and quantity requirements that the developer should meet. On the one hand the old book states that four people will live in each house and use 8,000 litres a day, the new book however says only 2.6 people will live in the house and they will use half that, much less if they're in one of the townhouse units, just ... 
"A minimum peak daily supply of source water of 4KL/day per lot (2KL/day/medium density unit) plus 5% for public area watering and 25% standby capacity"

To an onlooker like me, this immediately suggested collusion with the council to make it easier for the developer. The council are after all, in a sticky position. They've borrowed money to spend on the school hall and the new fire station buildings against the revenue that will come from the new estate, so if it doesn't go ahead they'll have to find another source. My usual response to such conspiracy theories is that I look for the stuff-up first, and it came out clearly that the council had been using old data (and quite old at that) and the State requirements really are for the lower figure.

(I'm not sure that the .6 of a kid will be needing the local school but this suggests that the development will not be attracting families. That doesn't seem really creditable considering the sizes of the houses being built so far.)

"I know we said this one rules...

..but it's really this one. Sorry about that".

The developer's representative was disarmingly calm and reasonable, saying that they had to find the water for the estate to go to the next stage and if they didn't it would not go ahead. He also said it made no difference to the layout of the estate where the connecting road came, and that seemed to trigger an immediate response.

Suddenly the road was on the agenda and being promoted by each of the councilors, voting an amendment that immediately said it was to cross the creek at the railway end of the common, and join up with Majara Street not Butmaroo. The mood changed, the crowd cheered, the amendment was moved and passed. There was also a motion foreshadowed to make it a requirement that all new building development applications in the shire should have a rainwater tank. The crowd cheered again, it rained outside, the Mayor grumbled again 'what about the silent majority' and the meeting ended. I went home to have a late dinner with my family.

Just another case of democracy in practice in a country town. Enjoy the photographs. (Oh and correct me if I've got the story/sequence wrong.)      

14 -15 December - the weekend.
The sour cherries on the smaller tree were easy to pick (I only fell off the ladder once) and although I left a few to ripen, if they looked reddish, they hit the bucket. It was filled it to the 7 litre mark (I didn't weigh it but I guessed about 4 kilos of fruit). The taste of last year's sour cherry jam was stored in my memory senses, and I was going to re-fresh it. Except I had used a web recipe and couldn't find the printout. Luckily Jan remembered that it was suggested served over icecream ,and that fitted one Google advanced search. Greek Sour Cherry conserve. The amount of sugar was tiny and the suggestion to store it in the refrigerator made me realise that this wasn't the jam I'd made last year but I figured it was worth a small batch as a taste test. I've added the recipe to the archive if you'd like to try it.    
Because the footnote to the recipe said that in Greece, the sour cherry conserve is spooned over ice cream as a desert, that's what we tried, with the conserve still warm from the pot. The sourness cuts the sugary ice cream nicely and everyone had a try and approved although we don't usually eat desert. 
So this photo is actually Take Two. Most of the first batch that was 'conserve' went back into the pot with some more sugar (usual balance of weight of fruit = weight of sugar) and a packet of Jamsetta (pectin). Viola. Sour Cherry Jam. I had pitted the cherries using a cherry pipper (hours and hours of dreary work) and it left the fruit almost whole. Next time I'll chop half of them and mix in the whole ones for appearance, as spreading the round lumps of whole fruit on toast is a bit difficult.
Fred Harden  
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