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Repco Rally route - the calm before the storm

BYRRILL CREEK ROAD (Friday September 4th,
After driving for 7 hours along most of the Kyogle stages today, it became very apparent to me that the most idyllic of all the Repco rally routes is indeed Byrrill Creek. According to an independent survey done by a local resident Joanna Gardner, comprising accounts of sightings of threatened species by 18 neighbours on the road, some going back 15 years, this is core koala habitat which was not picked up by Repco's ecology report. (See youtube footage of a digitally sped up drive along Byrrill Creek Road including koala and platypus footage at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sw18zvU5yU and embedded on this page below)

The most distressing thing about this setting is the proximity of extremely pure water to the road. For example, Cabbage Tree Creek flows right over the water.

The nationally endangered Giant Barred Frog and the Fleays Barred Frog live in these creeks. Repco plans to erect barriers to protect the creeks from the massive amount of dust generated by the speeding cars - but how on earth can you stop dust flying over the top of these barriers? Massive amounts of dust deposited in the water during breeding season would kill the eggs and larvae of these endangered frogs. See how clean the water is on the right?

The wildlife in this most diverse habitat was similarly amazing. I saw animals I have never seen in my life and could not even identify - beautiful birds that live and forage by the side of the road. How would these birds fare with 100 rally cars screaming by at 200+ kph? How many would abandon their nests and/or fledglings or be hit themselves as many (particularly the Albert's Lyrebird and Bush Turkey run along the road for hundreds of metres).

Then further along the road was a council-owned house in the worst possible position considering cars tear around corners at 160kph sidewise and out of control. I could just imagine them ploughing right into that house, destroying the renters' life forever. I heard that Repco had no intention of erecting any barriers in this incredibly vulnerable location.

Byrrill Creek is core koala habitat and locals have been watching and documenting the local population for decades.

(This video was made by a local who drove down the road and speeded the footage up digitally. However, this was ridiculed by an ex-rally driver who said that in reality it should have been way faster and a rally driver would have the car airborne and taken corners sideways with the foot on the brake hard.)

MOOBALL NATIONAL PARK ROUTE (Friday September 4th, 9.30am – 6pm)
From there I checked out other routes such as Mooball National Park which is 1100 ha in size. I called Parks and Wildlife ask some questions. The ranger told me that Cooradilla Rd is Ministerial Road and Minister can do whatever he wants even though there is an abundance of threatened species either side. Mooball National park is a lowland area and a rare subtropical rainforest making it a threatened ecological community. To preserve plants and animals camping is not allowed but some bushwalking is. As a Nature Conservation area it has a lower level of protection than a Nature Reserve.

I asked why on earth a rally race could go through a national park where even horses and camping is not allowed. He said Parks and Wildlife had no say as to what goes on but has the power only to make conditions such as fences and conditions (i.e. devices to scare away the animals that Repco is already using). However this would not be as good as a proper exclusion fence and overpasses and discounts the effect of stress on native animals of the scare devices.

At the entrance I noticed a sign saying "FINE; LITTERING $330". Can you imagine how much littering will be happening during a rally? I noticed this road was very rough and has not yet been graded like other rally routes.

CUDGERA CREEK RD (Friday Sept 4th, 9.30am - 6.30pm)
Next I went to Cudgera Creek Road where extensive grading has been done by Tweed Shire Council. Koalas have also been seen on this road. Some of the locals are very angry about this rally and are campaigning to try to stop it by hanging banners in their yards. A bush turkey ran into the bush by the roadside.

URLIUP RD (Saturday September 5th, 8am - 1.30pm)
Even though this road had been graded, I noticed an extreme amount of dust covering foliage in all directions, much worse than Cudgera Creek Road which made me wonder if there were hoons practising on this road illegally late at night. I stopped and spoke to a man who lived close to the beginning of the route. He was extremely aggressive and pro-rally so I was eager to exit. He asserted that the road graders were privately contracted and not council staff (even though this was not correct). He said that there were no koalas on Urliup (also wrong) and no animals would get killed and I should just get used to it because it was going to happen whether I liked it or not. There would be a lot of money coming to the area etc. blah blah. He told me that the snakes cause more damage to animals than a rally - in fact his neighbour lost 4 sheep from snake bites. They get Taipan, Tiger, Roughscale and Brown snakes.

On the way between these routes I saw horrifically mangled possum and bird on the main road.

SARGENTS RD (Saturday September 5th, 5.30am – 4.30pm)
This Road has been officially changed to 'Armor All Rd' in honour of the rally sponsor. I approached this road from the Homeleigh Rd end which is very flat, deforested and basically cattle ranches. Half way along Homeleigh Rd is the beginning of the route. Even though there is little habitat for wildlife, the cows on the road looked perilously close to the road to me. If a car went ploughing into the field out of control it would easily break the very weak fence and possibly kill the animals.

I noticed a calf had escaped from its enclosure as the mother looked on from inside. It ran right on the road in front of my car which made me worry. Will the dairy farmer be able to get all his cattle in on the rally day so none of them get struck? What an horrific experience for a young animal that would be.

At the end of Homeleigh Rd is a sharp turn which crosses a creek and the road becomes Sargents Rd. Take a look at the picture. Can you imagine a car going so fast around this bend that it loses control and smashes into the metal fence and falls into the creek below? It would destroy the creek. Or what if it ploughed into the field on the other side of the bridge on the left where a bunch of very frightened looking cows stared at me as I drove by. This road was not graded yet either.

Further along the terrain changed as the elevation rose higher into more koala tree habitat. Tried as I did I could not see any koalas. This is where Kathryn Kermode lives who documents on a daily basis her koala sightings then plots them on google maps. She has been trying to get Kyogle to take this route off the map because it is core koala habitat. Repco have approached her and asked her to help spot koalas so they don't run onto the road and get struck. The audacity of them, invading the koalas' homes then expecting the protectors to work for the enemy for free while they make millions on television rights!

Just today she found a mother and baby, which is not common. And will become even less common as stress interferes with breeding of koalas and causes local extinction. Some of her neighbours are pro-rally and have never even seen a koala. The koala-friendly neighbours who have been participating in her community-based koala project, documenting koala sightings and their movements, regard the first 5 km of Sargeants Rd as ‘koala real estate’ with certain sections regarded as ‘Sam’s territory’ and so on. To them, koalas are neighbours too, not just animals living in the bush.

Besides koalas, other species found on Sargeants Rd are Common Quail, Coucal Pheasant (cuckoo-like) (which are at risk during rally as they fly right into your car), Wallaby, Echidna, Glossy Black Cockatoo (not in the repco report), Powerful Owl, Brushdale Fascagale, Squirrel Glider and Sugar Glider.

She plans to go to the council after the rally and show them how they can make money other ways than the rally by building a lookout for tourists on the ridge with fabulous views to Mt. Lindsay, Mt Barker and Mt Warning etc. So far Kyogle Council have said they would erect koala warning signs on her road but they still don't have a Koala Management Plan which they need under SEPP 44.

Kathryn's koala video can be seen here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_ot_-GUgVs or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJiUW37KLOQ&NR=1 and photo album here - http://picasaweb.google.com/k.komodo

I also saw a kid goat that was somehow tied up outside the fence and quite freaked out. Was it also being terrorised by hoon drivers on that road at night? Why were all the animals on this street looking so frightened?

LYNCHES CREEK (Saturday September 5th, 5.30am – 6.00pm)
This is a very long stretch of road, mainly pastoral, flat land, cows, houses, not a lot of habitat for wildlife. I did see a purplish snake crossing the bridge at Lynches Creek Road.

ETTRICK - OLD COB O CORN RD (no sign) (Friday September 4th, 5.30am – 12 noon)
One house near the Ettrick end had big 'No Rally' sign and big 'No Rally' banner and on the adjoining property with hummers parked in front was a sign saying 'WRC BRING IT ON.' I can imagine emotions running very high in that neighbourhood!

AFTERLEE - UPPER CLARENCE (Sunday September 6th, 6am – 3.30pm
I saw a small dead goanna + 2 wallabies + 3 quail at the entrance of this route. This is Toonumbar State Forest! Hardly a place for an international car crash rally.
Between Eden Creek Rd to Upper Clarence saw another 2 wallabies at 4pm grazing by the roadside.

TOONUMBAR (Friday 4th September, 5.30am - 11.30am and Sunday 6th September, 9am - 4.30pm)
Driving through this scenic area I saw many small birds flying low across the road into roadside lantana and bushes. Their beautiful song enchanted my ears and it made me terribly sad to think that a single bird could be killed by this rally.

On Ghinni Ghi Rd a small dog tore out of the property and tried to chase my car on this stage. I hope they keep this dog indoors on both days or he will be beserk and/or dead!
In this area a Wedgetail eaglea flew right in front of my car very low into a tree. Had I been going fast I would have hit it.

Many of these roads have been specially graded for the rally. In just one day I saw independent contractors in hired vehicles working on various sections of road either grading, making the white lines even whiter and shinier, putting new posts in. Where is all the money for roadworks coming from? Of course, Events NSW gave Repco $6 million of taxpayers' money for this rally, that we don't want, how could I forget? Just when we have over $1 million shortfall in our local hospital budget and are suffering from the global economic crisis. And Tweed Shire recently raised the rates by 9%. No I didn't forget that Tweed Shire council gave $120,000 to Repco for this rally - along with free office space, free mechanical workshop facilities and other undisclosed perks. The list goes on.

On the highway many signs had 'No Rally' spray painted on them. Rally enthusiasts quickly changed it to just 'Rally' or 'Go Rally'. The division in the community is palpable.

Then on Iron Pot Rd (part of the Toonumbar route) two kangaroos ran into bush. Another wedgetail flew low in front of car. Another two kangaroos ran into bush. This area is alive with unusual native animals. In fact, This area is the Richmond Range which is of international conservation value with the highest diversity of marsupials in the world. It also has World Heritage values and contains numerous endemic Gondwanan relict plant species listed on the EPBC Act.

The rally will generate a major impact upon ecosystem function and processes essential to the viability of these areas. This is a biodiversity hotspot and one of 17 iconic landscapes in the world.

In fact, we have close to the most biodiversity than anywhere in Australia, even more than Kakadu! In Tweed Shire 2/3rds of our plant and animal species are threatened. Is having an international car crash rally going through State Forests, National Parks, Koala colonies and core habitats, World Heritage areas, areas where over 12 nationally-listed threatened species of animals and more plants live, in breeding season for the next 10-20 years going to do anything to lessen Australia's reputation as having the world's worst record of mammal extinctions? We are in the period of the 6th Mass Extinction Event and this is how we behave? I think there is something fundamentally wrong with the human race. Either we are collectively deluded, stupid or criminally insane.

People in this town are saying 'Give it a go, let's run the race once and see how we like it' but they forget that in Western Australia they decided after 2 years they didn't like it and it took them 17 years to get rid of it. Once Repco is in, they are in for their contract. People are saying 'It will make a lot of money' and I ask how? Most of the accommodation will go to the Gold Coast. In fact on checking with the Chamber of Commerce, bookings with local hotels is about the same as this time last year. Kyogle has enough space for 6000 campers but only 6 bookings. No economic proof of how this money will be made has been forthcoming from Repco. They are also saying 'The animals will be all right, none will die' but that is another lie. Many will die from stress alone and the young will be abandoned as families are fractured as they flee in terror from the assault of 100 speeding cars and low-flying helicopters, sirens, air horns, and tens of thousands of spectators.

Why are we allowing this to happen? People, WAKE UP!!! Don't believe the fairy tale Repco has woven! Wake up from the Repco Dream and realise it is a Repco NIGHTMARE.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: CONTACT PETER GARRETT'S OFFICE AND DEMAND HE STOP THE RALLY BEFORE THEY ARE LOCKED IN FOR 10-20 YEARS. IT IS HIS DUTY AND HIS MINISTERIAL OBLIGATION TO PROTECT OUR ENDANGERED SPECIES!

Visit www.norallygroup.org to learn more. Get involved!

See also: URGENT! Contact Peter Garrett re Injunction to stop Repco Rally of 26 Aug 09.

Comments

Great blog Menkit....I just put it up on our Australian site.

See: www.canadianvoiceforanimals.org/Australia-Index.html
and click on: "Calm before the storm" in the left hand column.

Cheers,

Earle

It was my house that you were talking about and likewise I think the same. I hope my life is not ruined because of this race. After numerous complaints they reluctantly erected plastic water filled barriers and flimsy looking hessian. I have also been involved in documenting the endangered species here. Thank you for your great article and let's hope all our efforts will count for something.

Hi Dharnishta

Thanks for your comment. Since writing the article I had the pleasure of meeting you briefly at the local Byrrill Creek community hall. If you happened to take photos of their flimsy barriers I'd be happy to merge into the article. It speaks volumes about Repco's lack of sincerity when they say they are responsible and environmentally friendly. I heard also they put no barriers at Platypus lagoon. Lucky that the race was cancelled. A crash over this narrow bridge could have been devastating. Were you at the stage on the day of the race by the way?

menkit

"It’s embarrassing for Australia that we eat our own wildlife ....I’m here to tell you it’s just not right. Simply do not buy, use or eat kangaroo products”
~ Steve Irwin
Sign the most important petition ever created to help kangar

Title was mine. See also response below. - JS

If your life can be ruined in a relatively short episode, I suggest you go & do something for people other than yourself.

I am sick of reading the comments of people who over react.

Maybe you could document your use of drugs, legal and otherwise, your diagnosed mental states and how you try to overcome the challenges of life.

I've had the great fortune to see the highs and lows of life, suffered from the effects, NOT given up, despite the temptation... but best of all, learnt from them and KNOWN that life can be hard. But That Rally wasn't !!

Get off your selfish seat and do something positive.

The above comment was posted on 2 October. I make no apology for having waited 5 days until I found the time to think of a response before publishing it.

We welcome comments expressing disagreement with views put on this site, but not personal attacks, particularly unhelpful gratuitous advice and insulting insinuations such as was included above.

Clearly the person who wrote the comment has not made the effort to understand the harm caused to the environment and the local community by the Rally.

To accuse people, who have freely given their time, money and energy to protect their community and environment from corporate greed, of selfishness demonstrates what seems to me to be wanton ignorance.

Perhaps you do not understand 'solistalgia' which describes the sadness felt by people who love nature when they see the natural world around them being destroyed. Or perhaps you do not fully comprehend the magnitude of planetary destruction perpetrated by humans? Or then again perhaps you only care about humans and not other species?

Why do you assume that I only care for animals and the environment but not humans? Is caring about others species-specific? It would be wonderful if everyone developed compassion for all species not just humans. Animals after all do have feelings too. Your assumption that I am a depressive individual who does nothing to help humans is baffling. How could you possibly know?

Please try to understand why others feel the way they do before you judge them so harshly. I am not alone in feeling grief at watching this beautiful earth die due to man's greed - in fact there is a growing number of people who are responding to the call of Mother Earth. There is nothing to be ashamed of in caring for the planet or being 'green.'
Without biodiversity humans will perish. Einstein said that if bees all die then in 4 years no life will remain on this planet.

This is not 'our' planet. We share it with other beings. Please try to develop tolerance and lovingkindness for all. That is the only thing that will save us now.

Editorial comment: Three more comments were since published, apparently by the same person, in response to my response to the above comment. I won't be publishing them, except to say that they complain of my editorial approach to the personal attacks in the original comment, repeat the insinuation that we use illegal drugs and accuse us of growing illegal drugs. None of this has any bearing on the topic at hand so I won't be publishing them. (If anyone is curious enough to want to see for themselves how facile were the comments that were posted, I will forward them.) As I wrote, comments which address the topic at hand, whether for or against the stance taken by candobetter are still welcome. - JS