Feral fruit between Coast – Cooma – Canberra, delicious and part of history

Dozens of apple trees dot the roadside between Canberra and the Coast. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Dozens of apple trees dot the roadside between Canberra and the Coast. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The drive between the Far South Coast, Cooma, and Canberra is dotted with sites that make your mind wander.

Dilapidated railway bridges, decaying wildlife, rows of rural letterboxes, and sparkling solar farms, all inspire thought and question for the mindful traveller or curious passenger.

Right now, mixed with the scenic vistas on this 240km stretch of road is a more seasonal point of interest – apple trees heaving with fruit. Red, yellow, green apples bending branches to the ground.

There are dozens of apple trees growing in the harshest of conditions parallel to the highway and old railway line. At some points in this golden landscape, this native from Central Asia is the only show of green life.

How did they get there?

Are they any good to eat?

Red, yellow, and green apples all bending branches to the ground. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Red, yellow, and green apples all bending branches to the ground. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Growing alongside the Snowy Mountains and Monaro Highways is not the managed orchard environment I thought apples needed – perhaps I’ve watched too many pruning videos on YouTube and forgotten that apples are a tree like any other with their own wild force of nature!

While apples are the dominant feral fruit, you’ll also notice peach, plum, and pear trees.

Bega Valley Permacultrulist Kathleen McCann has a few theories to explain this roadside fruit salad; one of which is that she believes some of the trees date back to the horse and cart days.

“People did grow fruit trees and plant tree shelters at some of the stops they made on their journey,” Kathleen says.

“Often you can see tree cover, lone pines, and fruit trees in the oddest places along our highways, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. These are where the horse or carriage needed to stop for lunch or for the night.

“In the days of horse and carriage, people were only able to cover 10 to 20 kms per day, depending on the weight they were transporting and the terrain they covered. Remember everything was a dirt track and ungraded in those days,” she says.

Often these apple trees are the only "green" in the Snowy Monaro landscape. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Often these apple trees are the only “green” in the Snowy Monaro landscape. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Apple and pear cores, plum and peach seeds, discarded by travellers are also part of the story according to Kathleen.

“You can spot fruit trees along the railway track as well. These were definitely tossed out the window as a passenger finished their prized fruit and have germinated where they fell,” she says.

“These trees have existed in the elements all on their own and are therefore very hardy.”

Our green thumb also believes birds and animals have been a factor in spreading the trees.

“Stone fruit especially could have been carried quite a distance if the seed was swallowed by a cow or horse. Apple seeds could have been carried by birds and deposited in droppings,” Kathleen says.

Weeds are spread in similar ways and are a significant problem to the region’s landholders, however, despite not being a native, the apple trees aren’t considered a pest.

“The apples certainly aren’t a problem for us,” says Brett Jones, Vegetation Management Officer, Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

“The Biosecurity Act deals with weeds which have a direct impact on the areas social, economic and environmental values, which the roadside apples certainly don’t.

“If they were identified as harbouring pests like fruit flies, then they might cause some concern but I’m not aware of any negative impact,” Brett says.

Far from it, it seems a whole variety of species are enjoying this wild harvest – birds, kangaroos, cattle, flying foxes, and humans.

Friends of About Regional report using the apples in all sorts of recipes.

Former Canberra girl, Renee Griffiths O’Reilly says, “They are cider apples so very tart and ideal for making cider. Juice them then add winemakers yeast or alternatively make apple pies with a lot of sugar.”

Akolele local, Deborah Taylor suggests an old-fashioned apple dessert: “Baked apples – cored and filled with a mix of currents, raisins, sultanas, zest and juice of two oranges, butter and brown sugar too if you want to be indulgent”, she writes.

“Bake until soft. Serve with yoghurt or cream. Leftovers are great for breakfast with muesli and yoghurt.”

People throwing apple cores from a horse, train, or car is thought to be one of the reasons these ferals are here. Photo: Ian Campbell.
People throwing apple cores from a horse, train, or car is thought to be one of the reasons these ferals are here. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Show winner, Fiona Scott suggests apple jelly and is generous enough to share her secrets.

“It’s a bit fiddly but a good way to use apples that aren’t perfect,” she writes on About Regional Facebook.

“Cut up 2 kilograms of apples into fours, skin, core and all. Put into a big pot, like a stock pot with 1cm of water in the bottom.

“Bring slowly to the boil and simmer the whole mess until soft. Cool, then (the vital step) pour the whole lot into a muslin lined colander over a large bowl.

“A clean old cloth is fine if you don’t have muslin, just rinse well so the detergent remnants don’t make the jelly taste like Cold Power!” Fiona suggests.

“Leave overnight for the juice to drain. DO NOT SQUEEZE the leftover apple, compost it or the jelly will be cloudy.

“Measure the juice and put into the stockpot and bring to the boil. Add 40% equivalent in sugar, i.e. 1 litre of juice to 400 grams sugar.

“Stir the lovely pink mess until the sugar dissolves and continue boiling until it tests as set.

“I put a teaspoon of the juice onto a cold plate and when it is cool give it a push with my finger. Highly scientific! If wrinkles form like skin the chemistry is right for the jelly to set,” she writes.

“Pour into sterilised jars, cover with a clean cloth until cool, then cap the jars. Don’t put the lid on too soon or condensation from the cooling jam will make the jelly go mouldy.

“All that effort will give you several jars of the loveliest, clear pink and slightly wobbly apple jelly.

“Now you know all my jam making secrets,” Fiona confesses.

Sprout Cafe in Eden is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake. Photo: Karen Lott, Sprout Eden.
Sprout Cafe in Eden is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake. Photo: Karen Lott, Sprout Eden.

Sprout Cafe in Eden builds its weekly menu around what is seasonal and what is local, and the first apples are starting to come in from growers.

Elaine O’Rourke in the kitchen at Sprout is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake, and has shared the recipes with us!

Vegan Apple Loaf (Gluten Free)

1 ½ cups gluten-free self-raising flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce
½ cup Nutlex
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Vanilla
½ cup almond milk
2 apples – peeled, cored and diced

Beat Nutlex and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar until creamy, add apple sauce, vanilla and milk.
Mix in flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and stir until well combined.

Mix the remaining 1/3 of a cup of brown sugar with the apple sauce and stir half the apples into the mixture.

Pour into a loaf tin approx 23cm x 13cm
Sprinkle the remaining apples on top.

Bake at 180 degrees for 20 – 35 mins until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Apple Crumble Cake (Gluten Free)

Crumble:
1 ¼ cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g butter
½ cup caster sugar

Apple Filling:
5 apples – peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp butter
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar

Base:
100g butter
½ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk

Make crumble by mixing flour, baking powder and sugar together and rubbing in the butter.

Make the filling by cooking the apples until soft and cooling.

Make base by whipping butter and sugar together, adding the egg, flour, baking powder and milk.

Spread base into a lined pan or tray, top with filling mixture and sprinkle topping over.

Bake at 180 degrees for 40 – 50 mins until a wooden skewer comes out clean and sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

Feral apples at home among the gum trees of the Snowy Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell
Feral apples at home among the gum trees of the Snowy Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell

Like the weather-beaten shearing sheds and chimneys without a house that dot the Snowy-Monaro countryside, the apple trees that grow in this soil are also a throwback to another time.

These tough local specimens of one of the world’s favourite fruits will be ready for harvest come late February – early March. Find a safe spot to pull over, grab a bag, and be a part of their ongoing connection with travellers.

*About Regional content is supported by, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Sprout Eden, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg, Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, and Geoff Berry.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

“Keep going and see what comes” – Bombala’s Sandy Lewis

Sandy Lewis, making a new life in Bombala. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sandy Lewis, making a new life in Bombala. Photo: Ian Campbell

Sandy Lewis is putting down roots again. After a life living in all parts of Australia, this Army brat from Western Australia has settled in Bombala, with a sense of fate guiding her hand.

Mind you Sandy says she is still West Australian to her core.

“Dad was SAS (Special Air Services), so it was an interesting childhood – 16 schools,” Sandy remembers.

“When dad left the Army after Vietnam we moved up to Karratha, that was heaven on earth, that was it for me, I was never a city kid again.”

Sandy’s life is a jigsaw of experiences that all combine to shape the life she is now building in southern New South Wales.

Overseas travel to places like Iceland and Mexico are part of her story, “I like to go to places that are a little bit different,” Sandy says.

This short biography of Sandy’s life starts forty plus years ago. After abandoning study and a career in art and graphic design, Sandy’s aunt bought her a ticket to Melbourne on the Indian Pacific.

“You can’t be taught to be an artist and I just knew I didn’t have it,” Sandy says.

“Melbourne was the big smoke and I wanted to learn the hospitality trade so that I could travel.”

And so began a life that has followed opportunity, adventure, and a spirit of community.

Twelve years of family life in Canberra are at the core; two children with her first husband  – a boy and a girl, now in their mid to late thirties.

“When that marriage broke up I went back to the Pilbara licking my wounds,” Sandy says.

Time as housekeeper and cook at the Forrest families historic Minderoo Station was next.

“Yeah, I saw Twiggy a few times, not fond of the lad, bit of a spoilt boarding school brat,” Sandy laughs.

Fencing, roo shooting, and work on a fruit plantation all in North West WA followed before time on the iconic Hamersley Station.

“But that was after Lang Hancock, it was fantastic, Hamersley Gorge was our swimming hole,” Sandy says.

The Australian Army Reserve is mixed through these years, with Sandy taking up a position with the Pilbara Regiment.

“The motto of the Pilbara Regiment is ‘Mintu wanta’, which is a Western Desert Aboriginal dialect for ‘always alert’,” the Army website says.

Its work involves surveillance operations throughout the North West of Australia.

“It was a pretty incredible experience, sometimes we got to try stuff out even before the SAS or Commandoes did,” Sandy says.

And then there’s a car accident 10 years ago, Sandy is shy about having her photo taken, self-conscience of facial reconstruction surgery only she can see.

“I failed to negotiate a corner and sadly I totalled my 1952 Plymouth,” she says.

“No seat belts so when I saw that there was no way out, I ducked, straight into the glove box.

“I spent 10 days in an induced coma, two and a half weeks in ICU, a trachy in my throat all that time.

“Then a further 2 weeks in a general ward. There were a further 5 or 6 operations and much dental work. I am one lucky lady,” Sandy says.

It was love and husband number two that got Sandy back on the East Coast, the pair spending 12 months travelling in a 10 tonne D Series Ford truck across the top to Queensland.

Learning the Bombala region's history is part of Sandy's new passion. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Learning the Bombala region’s history is part of Sandy’s new passion. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“There was a bedroom in the back and two Harleys and off we went,” Sandy laughs.

A magnificent house and tropical garden on the Atherton Tablelands was the next focus.

“We had in the meantime bought a bush house in Gulf Country, 600k’s up and inland from Cairns, old gold country.”

The bush home served as Sandy’s retreat when her second marriage broke down, but the heat and humidity become too much.

“I was basically living in an air-conditioned room during summer with my dogs and a TV – that’s not a life,” Sandy says.

“I was walking the dogs at 9 o’clock at night so I could breath and their feet didn’t melt.”

Having an eye for vintage design, Sandy bought an old caravan, packed up the dogs and headed south, with no real plan or intention.

“I had a wonderful time just cruising down and ended up in Queanbeyan so I could spend Christmas [2015] with my son and granddaughter – light of my life.”

“Ten days in Queanbeyan in a sardine can had me heading to the coast through Bombala,” Sandy chuckles.

“It was January the third when I arrived [in Bombala] it was raining and I was so tired, I pulled into the caravan park, and then woke up to the most glorious day.

“I walked the dogs around the river walk and I was just hooked,” Sandy beams.

Chatting with others in the caravan park inspired Sandy to investigate Bombala a bit deeper and longer than her usual three-day stay.

“I came over to the information centre and there was a guy working here named Peter Mitchell,” Sandy says.

“I said to Peter- I’ve heard that it is pretty affordable here, could you tell me some more?

“And he said – I am actually thinking of selling my cottage, come with me.”

Sandy fell in love with the place and a cuppa at closing time sealed the deal, by April Sandy and her five motorbikes and two dogs were moving in.

Having sold his house, Peter’s job at the Bombala Information Centre came up and before too long Sandy had picked up where Peter had left off.

“When I found out I’d got the job I cried,” Sandy says.

“I was a blow in, I thought a local would get the job.”

A sense of pride and purpose had been restored for Sandy after a difficult break-up.

“My son knew Bombala a bit because he’s a mad keen fisherman, but I didn’t really know Bombala at all,” Sandy says.

Two years on and just about to turn 61, Sandy is enjoying being close to her granddaughter in Canberra, as well as the coast and the snow.

“Skiing is not like riding a bike,” Sandy chuckles.

Sandy says a stubbornness and a determination to “make it work” has guided her life and it’s twists and turns, a sense of “keep going and see what comes.”

Her travels and agility are now being used to guide, inspire, and welcome fellow travellers, a role Sandy seems to revel in.

“And I’ve needed to immerse myself in the region and get to know it – I love that,” Sandy says.

Researching the skeletons in Cathcart’s history has been a highlight

“And my own house, it was a grocers store, built in 1865,” she says.

“I like being kept fascinated, I am like a dog with a bone, learning more and more about this area.”

Locals and visitors can see that and have started throwing Sandy questions to research and explore.

Part of her mission is to also remind locals of the riches around them.

“When I was living in the Pilbara, I backed on to Ningaloo Reef – I never went to Ningaloo Reef, that’s nuts, I was on its doorstep for years,” Sandy laughs.

“But the thing is, there are fifteen hundred people in this town that don’t need me, but I need them.

“I am too old to be a local now, but there is such a great sense of community here, you’ve gotta get involved and try and give back and meet like-minded people,” Sandy says.

Sandy works most Mondays and Saturdays at the Bombala Information Centre, the museum next door is part of her work and passion, drop by and see where a conversation will take you.

Bombala, on the southern Monaro. Photo: Google Maps
Bombala, on the southern Monaro. Photo: Google Maps

*About Regional content is supported by Julie Rutherford Real Estate at Bermagui, Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, Sprout Cafe and Local Produce Store in Eden, Jeanette Westmore, Patrick and Meagan O’Halloran AKA Oh’Allmhurain Films, Claire Blewett and Neroli Dickson, Kate Liston-Mills, Fay Deveril, Shane O’Leary, Fiona Cullen, Nancy Blindell, Jo Riley-Fitzer, and Jenny Anderson. Thank you.

Bombala kids shape design of all abilities playground

A vision for Bombala's new all abilities playground by students at St Joseph's. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council
A vision for Bombala’s new all abilities playground by students at St Joseph’s. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Buddy benches and reflection ponds are just a couple of the bright ideas Bombala students have come up with as part of their studies into playground design.

Students from St Joseph’s Primary School have just presented a range of thoughtful and captivating 3D playground models, paving the way for future playground construction in Bombala.

Following months of hard work, their final playground designs have been pitched to staff from Snowy Monaro Regional Council – Major Projects Manager Linda Nicholson, and Recreation and Property Technical Officer Jane Kanowski, as well as family and friends.

“All the students should be very proud of their efforts,” Linda says.

The students designed and built a playground space that incorporated elements of physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being for people of all ages and abilities – community gardens, slides, handball courts, picnic areas, and bright, colourful equipment, were all part of their vision.

“The designs are very exciting, it was a pleasure working alongside the students – a great community partnership,” Linda says.

Dylan and Alexander Bruce make their pitch to classmates, Council, and family and friends. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.
Dylan and Alexander Bruce make their pitch to classmates, Council, and family and friends. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

A number of valuable skills were picked up along the way, including team work, communication, public speaking, engineering, and building.

A terrific example of project-based learning.

Council staff presented students with a certificate of achievement for their outstanding efforts.

The students will continue their involvement throughout the design and construction of an all-abilities playground in Bombala during 2018.

Historic Bombala school given a future as part of the community

Bombala Infants School, ready for new energy. Photo: Ian Campbell
Bombala Infants School, ready for new energy. Photo: Ian Campbell

Plans are underway to turn the Bombala Infants School into a place of learning again, with a safety net in place guaranteeing a positive outcome for the community.

Locals were taken by surprise when an auction sign went up on the school’s fence back in June.

The site overlooking the town first opened as a place of learning in 1863. James Poulton, the school’s first teacher had 75 kids to mark off his role on day one.

As an aside, school fees amounted to ninepence per week for the two eldest children in each family and sixpence per week for each additional child.

Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell
Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell

In the mid-1990’s the school was closed and childhood education in Bombala consolidated on the Bombala High School site.

TAFE moved into the space for a period of time offering a range of vocational and special interest subjects, however changes within TAFE and the opening of the Trade Training Centre at Bombala High took momentum and opportunities away from the historic site.

With the State-owned building empty and unused its future was put out to the market, swift community action halted the sale with the Member for Monaro, Nationals Leader, and Deputy Premier John Barilaro gifting the building to Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Not much has changed since kids last played here. Photo: Ian Campbell
Not much has changed since kids last played here. Photo: Ian Campbell

The group that formed to stop the sale is now looking at its next step and a new chapter in the buildings 144-year-old story.

Sue Haslingden from the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee says with the new Council in place it’s time to get going.

“My three children went to school here, a lot of families have incredible ties with this beautiful old building, ” Sue says.

Sue is a former Bombala Shire councilor and has just been elected to the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, she also remembers taking part in art and photography classes at the old school under TAFE.

“Once the art classes stopped we just found rooms here there and everywhere and applied for arts funding to bring instructors in a few times a year,” Sue says.

“We approached TAFE about using this space, but it would have been at a commercial hire rate, so it just wasn’t viable for us.”

Sue Haslingden, part of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sue Haslingden, part of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Photo: Ian Campbell

A resumption of arts and cultural activities is seen as part of the old school’s future.

“Over the years we’ve lost Ando Public School, Bibbenluke has just gone, this building is such a part of Bombala,” Sue says.

“This building was put here by the community, the building itself was funded through fundraising and back in the early days even the teacher was funded by community efforts.”

The thought of the building being sold and the proceeds deposited into the combined TAFE coffers was a ‘red flag to the community’ Sue says.

“It was a real concern that the money from the sale wouldn’t be turned back into our community,” she explains.

The building is home to two vast learning spaces. Photo: Ian Campbell
The building is home to two vast learning spaces. Photo: Ian Campbell

With a business plan already in place through the gifting arrangements between State and Local Government,  the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee is now waiting to get the keys and put the plan into action.

“We would like to see this place as the home of a local progress association, as a place for tourist and cultural events, and as a community meeting place for a range of interests and groups,” Sue says.

Appointing a project officer to activate and manage the space is one of the first steps to drive the idea forward.

“The town needs a place for a range of groups to call home, this will be a hub for the Bombala community,” Sue says.

An exit clause has been negotiated that guarantees funds from any future sale of the building would be returned to Bombala.

“So if our business plan doesn’t work, and we find we can’t maintain it or it’s not viable, in three years time we can sell it and the money stays in the community,” Sue says.

With plans for an opening event growing, Sue says, “Watch this space!”

Anyone for cricket? Photo: Ian Campbell
Anyone for cricket? Photo: Ian Campbell

About Regional content is supported by the contributions of members – thank you! People and businesses like Patrick and Meagan O’Halloran, Patrick Reubinson, Kym Mogridge, Danielle Humphries, and 2pi Software.

Small communities represented on new Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Lynley Miners. Photo: Keva Gocher ABC Rural
Lynley Miners. Photo: Keva Gocher ABC Rural

Small towns have made their presence felt after the first flush of counting in the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election.

Just over 10,200 of yesterday’s votes have been counted at this point, with 11 new councillor positions to be decided from a field of 27 candidates.

Former Bombala Mayor and grazier Bob Stewart has polled the most votes with 1,447, followed by Adaminaby livestock carrier, Lynley Miners (1,364), and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart from Jerangle (948).

Former Cooma – Monaro Mayor, Dean Lynch who has over seen the operations of the merged council for the last 16 months as Administrator says he’s happy to see the election come and democracy restored to the region.

“My biggest concern was representation for the smaller areas, and you can see that’s not going to be an issue now,” Mr Lynch says.

“I am a little bit worried about the lack of female representation in the results at this stage,” he says.

Bombala’s Anne Maslin is the highest polling woman with 243 votes which puts her in thirteenth position over all – outside the 11 member council.

Postal votes and preferences will come before the poll is declared and the final results are known.

Under the counting system used for local government elections in New South Wales, each candidate must reach a quota of votes to be elected, preferences follow and are distributed according to the voter’s instructions on their ballot paper.

“You get the total number of voters and then dived it by 12, one more than the new Council needs, to work out the quota,” Mr Lynch explains.

“Going off previous elections I think the quota will be around 930 votes.”

Preferences help candidates who don’t reach the quota in the first round of counting get elected.

Bob Stewart. Photo: Town and Country Magazine
Bob Stewart. Photo: Town and Country Magazine

Bob Stewart believes it might not be until Tuesday or Wednesday before all 11 seats in the new chamber are decided, he is hopeful a flow of preferences from himself and running mate John Last will get Anne Maslin elected.

Mr Stewart, a passionate critic of the merger process says he is humbled by his result and is looking forward to getting back to work.

“I will be putting my hand up for the Mayoral position,” Mr Stewart says.

“We’ve gotta make sure there’s equity down our way, the merger process for council staff in Bombala has been very unfair.”

“We don’t need it [Council] to be centralised towards Cooma so that Bombala loses out on jobs, we must try and protect jobs for the social and economic benefit of our smaller communities,” the former Bombala Mayor says.

Mr Stewart says he is also keen to address recent extra charges on utility costs like water and waste, he says he’ll be asking for a report to Council early in the term.

Speaking to About Regional while loading livestock on to his truck, Lynley Miners has mixed feelings about being elected to Council.

“The truth is I didn’t want to stand now, I am too busy with my own business, but now is the logical time, it’s a fresh start being the first council,” Mr Miners says.

Being a truckie, Mr Miners says he’ll be taking a particular interest in the region’s roads and better infrastructure.

“A lot people think we are going to be able to fix theses things over night,” Mr Miners says.

“We’ve got a three-year term and the first 12 or 18 months will be taken up with learning and trying to get sorted with whats been done during the administration period and get the ship steering straight.”

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council
Dean Lynch Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Despite his high personal vote Mr Miners says he won’t be standing as Mayor in the near future, preferring to leave the job to people with more time and experience for now.

When asked to reflect on the merger process between Bombala, Cooma-Monaro and Snowy River Shires, Mr Miners is hopeful people can move on

“It will hang there for a bit, but once people get to the table if they want to strive to make this better, it can’t be about us and them, it’s done, it’s happened, it’s time to move on,” Mr Miners says.

Dean Lynch will remain Administrator until the first council meeting on September 26 when the new Mayor is elected, says he has been working hard to tidy up loose ends and set the new council up for success.

The election marks an end to Mr Lynch’s nine-year career in local government, he says the last 16 months have been some of the most challenging times.

“I always knew pulling this together would be a poison chalice, but I love local government and I love this area,” he says.

“Some of the social media comments have been hard for my family but I’ll stand behind all the decisions I made, I feel like I’ve given the new council every chance possible to be good.”

Mr Lynch is delighted James ‘Boo’ Ewart appears to have been elected.

James Boo Ewart voting in Saturday's election. Photo: Facebook
James Boo Ewart voting in Saturday’s election. Photo: Facebook

“Boo has been around Council meetings with me for the last four years, he’s always wanted to be on Council, it’s great to see him get in without the need for any alliances, a fresh start is just what this council needs,” Mr Lynch says.

“The new council needs to get out and meet with communities right around the area

“My advice for the old and the new, they just need to get around and meet everybody before they rush in and make decisions,” Mr Lynch says.

When asked about his future, the former Cooma-Monaro Mayor says they’ll be a holiday with his wife first.

“The most exciting thing, I am the chair and a director of the Country Universities Centre and we are rolling those out right across the state at the moment, that’s my passion.

“I’ve had various offers, but I just need to take a step back for a while,” Mr Lynch says.

To keep track of the progressive election results head to the website of the NSW Electoral Commission.

 

*Thanks to About Regional members, Simon Marine, Kelly Murray, Gabrielle Powell, Nastasia Campanella and Thomas Oriti for supporting local story telling.

 

 

Making an informed choice for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day for Snowy Monaro Regional Council is this Saturday – September 9.  Photo credit: AEC

A new era in Local Government is set to bloom with elections for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday (September 9) ending 16 months of administration by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

Pre-Poll voting is already underway at Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala with 27 candidates contesting 11 positions in the merged council chamber.

Familiar names on your ballot paper include Bob Stewart, Winston Phillips, Sue Haslingden, John Shumack, and Roger Norton.

But there is some new interest including solicitor and tourism operator Maria Linkenbagh, Nimmitabel grazier John Harrington, and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart.

You can explore the full list of local candidates through the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Former Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council, and now Member of the NSW Upper House, Bronnie Taylor says a mix of old and new will be important for the new council.

“Yes we need experience but this is an opportunity to get some really great new people on council and I really encourage people to look at that,” Mrs Taylor says.

With just days to go until polling day the attention and interest of voters will start to sharpen.

Voting instructions on each ballot paper will guide locals, but generally speaking, each voter will be asked to select six candidates in order of preference, you can select more if you wish and perhaps push out to 11 to reflect the full council you want to be elected. But for your vote to count, you must at least number six boxes in order of preference.

The inaugural mayor will be elected by councilors at their first meeting after the election.

Mrs Taylor admits the process and choices can be overwhelming but she is calling on locals to take an interest and use the days ahead to find their new councilors.

“Vote for who you think is going to make a difference…vote for someone who has the same values and aspirations for your community,” she says.

Despite being part of the State Government that drove the merger of Bombala, Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro Councils, The Nationals MLC accepts that the process could have been better but has confidence in the future of the 11 member Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Mrs Taylor is adamant small communities won’t be forgotten in the new larger entity.

“The councilors that get elected, they’re good people, they care about their communities [but they also] care about their region,” she says.

The former Deputy Mayor points to the $5.3 million State investment in the Lake Wallace Dam project at Nimmitabel as an example of that ‘bigger regional thinking’.

“I am someone who lives in the town of Nimmitabel which has a population of around 300 people,” Mrs Taylor says.

“We had a really shocking time during the drought.

The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a 'meet the candidates' forum on September 4.
The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a ‘meet the candidates’ forum on September 4.

“There was not one other councilor from Nimmitabel or from down this end of the shire [on that council except me but] every single one of those nine councilors on Cooma-Monaro Shire Council voted to invest that money.

“They knew it was really important for that community (Nimmitabel) and that that community was part of them,” Mrs Taylor says.

Given the size of the field to choose from and the need to at least number six boxes on the ballot paper, voters can be forgiven for feeling confused or unsure of who to vote for.

“I think people that get up there and promise 16 different things aren’t very realistic,” Mrs Taylor says.

“You have to have someone who is prepared to work with other people and prepared to see other points of view.

“At the end of the day…you have got to find compromises and ways through to get good results,” the former Deputy Mayor suggests.

Working out who those people are or finding the information you need to have an informed vote can be a challenge in amongst the posters, Facebook pages, and how to vote cards of an election campaign.

“I think candidate forums are really good,” Mrs Taylor says.

“And the great thing about local government is that you can pick up the phone and ring them (candidates) and ask them what they think about something and they should be able to give you some time to do that.”

Mrs Taylor also suggests talking to other people in the community as a way of making your vote count.

“Talk to the people that you trust, they know the pulse of the community, I think that’s really valuable,” she says.

Contact phone numbers and email addresses for many of the candidates can be found on the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Polling booths are open between 8am and 6pm this Saturday (September 9), voting is compulsory at one of 13 South East locations from Adaminaby to Delegate to Bredbo.

 

*For more coverage of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election, including comment from former Snowy River Councilor Leanne Atkinson, click HERE.

*This story was made possible thanks to the contribution of About Regional members Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, Jenny Anderson, and Ali Oakley. 

 

 

 

Calling candidates for Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council
Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council. Source: SMRC

The wheels of democracy are starting to spin again across the High Country with nominations now open for candidates at the September 9 Local Council Election.

Eleven councilors will sit in the chamber of the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which has been run for the past 15 months by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

In his role as Administrator, Mr Lynch called on the advice and input of Local Representative Committees covering the former shires of Snowy River, Cooma-Monaro, and Bombala.

Ultimately though final decisions fell to Mr Lynch, an arrangement put in place by the NSW Government and one many have described as undemocratic.

Mr Lynch, who says he won’t be standing on September 9 says he understands the criticism but has enjoyed the opportunity despite feeling burnt out.

He says the whole merger process has got people thinking more about local government and perhaps has inspired some locals to stand for election.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of new faces,” Mr Lynch says.

Nominations opened on Monday and will close at Midday on Wednesday, August 9 through the Electoral Commission on NSW.

In the lead-up, Snowy Monaro Regional Council held candidate info sessions in Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala.

Leanne Atkinson sat on Snowy River Shire Council between 1999 and 2003 and has stood as a Labor candidate for the NSW Parliament in the seat of Bega a number of times since, she says it can feel like a ‘leap of faith’ when you first put your name forward for election.

“You really aren’t sure what you are doing at the beginning,” Ms Atkinson told About Regional.

“You need to get the message out about yourself and what differentiates you from other people.”

Ms Atkinson says she went into her first campaign with issues she felt connected to and could speak on.

“I was a young mum, and was very aware of the constraints there were for families in the area and what services were available for them,” she says.

“That was how I went into that first campaign, looking at services for families, for young people, ” she says.

Ms Atkinson says she never considered standing for council until a couple of people suggested it to her.

“I said I can’t see myself doing this, there are all those people sitting around that table, all that procedure, I couldn’t do that.

“The funny thing is that once you are elected you realise that you absolutely can be at that table,” Ms Atkinson says.

And once you are elected what is the job of a new councilor on Snowy Monaro Regional Council?

Ms Atkinson believes the role goes beyond the popular catchphrase of ‘roads, rubbish, and rates’.

“There are a lot of demands on Council, and the role a Councilor is to have a strategic view, to set the tone, and to set the direction,” she says.

“It’s really important to engage effectively with the community.”

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC

The merger process, taking three council areas into one has left smaller communities concerned that they will be over looked by the big new entity shaped by the Baird – Berejiklian Government.

Leanne Atkinson believes it’s incumbent on the eleven new councilors to think beyond their own home town.

“Don’t focus just on the big towns, there are little communities where those people matter and are just as important as the people in the bigger towns,” she says.

“You have to be aware that you are there for the whole community.”

But there is some strategic advice from this Labor stalwart for smaller centres keen to see one of their own elected.

“I have a view that the amalgamations shouldn’t have been forced, but the fact is it’s amalgamated,” Ms Atkinson says.

“The community needs people who are going to move the shire forward in it’s new form.

“Maybe some smaller communities should get together and ask, who is the one person who could represent us well?” she says.

Find a candidate and get the community behind them seems to be the advice.

“I lived in Berridale for a while, and if it was me in a community like that, I’d be pulling people together and saying, okay we want representation on this council, who can we advocate for and increase our chances of getting someone elected,” Ms Atkinson suggests.

Reflecting on her council time, Ms Atkinson says it was one of the best experiences of her life, she is keen to see a diverse range of candidates stand for election on September 9.

“There were lots of little things that I would look at and think, we can do better than that.”

“If you are willing to work you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve,” Ms Atkinson says.

Thanks to About Regional Members, Simon Marnie, Alison Oakley, Linda Albertson, and Kiah Wilderness Tours for supporting local story telling.

Head garbos point to new opportunities in the local ‘war on waste’

Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

‘Head garbos’ across the region have welcomed the supermarket ban on light weight plastic bags but are looking to new opportunities and challenges in their ever present ‘war on waste’.

Woolworths and Coles were tripping over themselves in announcing the news last week, both committing to a phase out of single use bags over the next 12 months.

Shoppers will be asked to bring their own bags or be charged 15 cents for a heavier weight, reusable plastic bag.

“This will significantly change the number of bags going to any landfill or transfer station,” says Mandy Thurling, Rescouse and Waste Manager for Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

In the Eurobodalla, Amanda Jones, Council’s Manager of Waste Services says, “This is great news, keeping problem waste from entering the environment.”

While also welcoming the action, Toby Browne, Waste Services Manager for Bega Valley Shire Council has signaled a need for further change, “It’s a move in the right direction but definitely more needs to be done to reduce packaging and other soft plastic waste.”

Environmental groups have been campaigning for a plastic bag ban for decades, and while some states and towns have imposed restrictions, the ABC TV series “War on Waste” seemed to inject new momentum into the national discussion.

Clean Up Australia estimates six billion plastic bags are handed out every year, with just 4% recycled.

Let loose in the environment they choke, smother, and tangle wildlife.

The supermarket ban doesn’t go far enough according to Clean Up Australia, who continue to lobby the Premiers of New South Walse, Victoria, and Western Australia for an out right ban.

“Hopefully more commercial premises will come on board and ban the bag,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

Given their ‘last for forever nature’ all three South East councils will have to continue to manage plastic bags and soft plastics into the future.

A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.
A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.

Apart from taking up tip space, the Eurobodalla’s Amanda Jones says, “Plastic bags at landfill sites get caught by the wind and need to be managed by catching them in litter fences and manual litter picking.”

Toby Brown is frustrated by plastic bag contamination of other waste streams at his Bega Valley facilities.

“When they contaminate recycling and organic waste streams, they must be manually removed,” he says.

With that Amanda Jones jumps in.

“Please don’t put your recycling in plastic bags!” she says.

“The bags don’t always fall open to allow recyclables to be sorted.”

The recent introduction of  REDcyle bins at Coles supermarkets in Bega, Eden, Batemans Bay, Ulladulla, and Cooma is part of the equation Mandy Thurling is hoping locals might take up.

REDcycle bins not only take plastic bags but the soft plastic wrapping and packaging many products come smothered in.

REDcycle askes you to do the scrunch test, “If it’s soft plastic and can be crunched into a ball, it can be placed into a REDcycle drop off bin,” their website says.

The material collected is transformed into a range of products including street furniture, decking, and bollards by Replas.

“Council is always looking at the next step in reducing waste to landfill, this could be by reducing all soft plastics and finding alternate recycling avenues for this material,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

In the Eurobodalla, where Council runs their own recycling facility the ‘war on waste’ is reaching new heights.

Crushed waste glass is starting to be used instead of quarried sand in road construction projects.

The sand substitute has just been tested in Murray Street, Moruya where 63 tonnes of the local product was used to install new drainage culverts and reconstruct the road.

“The crushed glass has proven to be a viable product to replace sand in concrete mixes,” Council’s Works Manager, Tony Swallow says.

“It does need to be treated differently to bedding sand but our crews are happy with the performance,” he says.

Around 30 tonnes of sand like substance is produced each week at the Materials Recycling Facility in Moruya; glass represents 40% of the 5,200 tonnes of recyclables collected in the Eurobodalla each year.

“The savings to our environment and Council’s materials budget are significant,” Mr Swallow says.

Polystyrene is the other win in the Eurobodalla’s waste war.

Known for making a mighty mess, up until now polystyrene had taken up valuable landfill space at Surf Beach and Brou.

The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

With a $30,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Authority, Council has installed a thermal compaction machine at its Surf Beach facility.

“The process reduces the volume and turns polystyrene into a hard white substance,” Mr Swallow explains.

“Our contractor is shipping it to China where the material is made into items like picture frames.

“What has made this such a success is that we have supplied local businesses that have a lot of polystyrene packaging with metal frames and wool bales to easily collect the material,” Mr Swallow says.

Council estimates the move will save them $100,000 worth of landfill space each year, with other savings spinning off to local electronic businesses and supermarkets in reduced waste disposal fees.

Bega Valley Shire is looking to do more with waste and is currently developing a waste strategy.

“Our key areas are likely to be addressing food waste recycling and improving local economic opportunity in recycling and resource recovery,” Mr Browne says.

“It’s great to see business making meaningful change in response to community concern. Change creates opportunities.”

At the start of July, Snowy Monaro Regional Council introduced a fully commingled recycling service for the Cooma kerbside collection area

“This allows locals to place recyclable items in the yellow lidded recycling bin,” Mandy Thurling says.

“There is no longer a need to separate paper and cardboard into the black crate.”

Council is now considering giving households a larger capacity recycling bin – more room to recycle.

The action, appetite, and ideas that swirl in this discussion points us in the right direction and into a better position to win the ‘war on waste’ locally.

*Thank you to About Regional member Tim Holt for his contribution to local story telling.

Disclaimer: Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council

 

 

Big kids launch new Cooma playground

Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro, John Barilaro got a chance to goof off today (May 26) with the official opening of Stage 1 of the Cooma Lions Park upgrade.

Mr Barilaro left talk of nuclear power, council amalgamations, and the sale of Snowy Hydro behind as he tested the park’s new flying fox with Snowy Monaro Administrator, Dean Lynch.

The redeveloped Cooma Lions Park at Yallakool Road was officially opened today. There's a leash free dog area, improved seating and an adventure playground fitted out with a flying fox! Here is our Administrator Dean Lynch and Deputy Premier John Barilaro trying the flying fox.

Posted by Snowy Monaro Regional Council on Thursday, 25 May 2017

 

The work is the first step of a big vision for the park on Yallakool Road, just north of the Cooma CBD.

Lions Club members and Snowy Monaro Regional Council have got the job done ready for winter; stage 1 includes landscaping, road and parking area improvements, fencing of a ‘leash free’ area for dogs, installation of a flying fox, and most importantly new playground equipment.

Cooma Lions say the upgrade is already popular with local families and no doubt will pull a crowd over the busy winter months.

An extraordinary 1,500 volunteer hours have gone into the project which has been looked after by Lions Club Project Manager Chris Reeks and Construction Manager John Britton.

Chris says, “Our ongoing aim is to bring the park into the 21st Century and provide an up-to-date fun and recreational facility.”

Cooma Lions Club members, right proud of what has been achieved atYallakool Road. Source: Cooma Lions
Cooma Lions Club members, rightly proud of what has been achieved at Yallakool Road. Source: Cooma Lions

The dream of the club is to develop the site into an adventure playground, future works are likely to include additional car parking, construction of the next section of the Cooma North to Murrumbidgee walking/cycle path, as well as refurbishment and upgrade of the existing BMX circuit.

The club is also open to community suggestions for further upgrades.

Cooma Lions has a long association with the park having originally owned the site and carrying out the initial development before handing it over to Council to manage and maintain in 1986.

These works have been made possible by a grant under the NSW Government’s ClubGRANTS scheme.

 

*Content contributions from Cooma Lions and Snowy Monaro Regional Council 

South East NSW makes its pitch for jobs from Canberra

Barnaby Joyce, pic from Sportsbet
Barnaby Joyce, pic from Sportsbet

South East NSW is pitching itself as a new home for a range of Federal Government departments.

Following the political and media stink around the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale, a Senate inquiry was established to investigate elements of the decision by Agriculture Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and local member for Armidale, the National’s Barnaby Joyce.

However, the work of the committee has been seen as bigger than just the issue of the APVMA as regional leaders look to fertilise a deeper discussion around moving public service jobs out of Canberra, all looking for a greater share of the $16.7 billion annual wages bill for their local economies.

Headed by Labor Senator Jenny McAllister, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration held hearings in Townsville last week. Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain was one of five local government officials from around New South Wales invited to phone in and take part in the discussion.

The invitation to speak came after the committee had considered written submissions.

Apart from Bega Valley Shire Council, Snowy Monaro and Eurobodalla councils also provided written advice to the committee, along with the Canberra Region Joint Organisation.

All of the local submissions declared the region as an ideal location for Commonwealth investment and backed the idea of decentralisation.

Kristy McBain, pic from Bega Valley Shire Council
Kristy McBain, pic from Bega Valley Shire Council

In his submission, Snowy Monaro Administrator Dean Lynch spoke of the boost such a move would be for the local economy and pointed to an available workforce.

Andrew Greenway, from Eurobodalla Shire, highlighted lifestyle advantages and the benefits that had for staff retention.

Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain pointed to the region’s proximity to Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne and the private investment that would follow.

Senator McAllister says the terms of reference of her committee are narrow and focused on the APVMA decision, none the less local government and regional business organisations from around the country have seized on the opportunity to put a stake in the ground.

Among the 200 written submissions were councils from the Mallee, Longreach, Manning Valley, Colac, and the Spencer Gulf along with groups like Australian Wool Growers, NSW Business Chamber, the Winemakers Federation and the Country Women’s Association.

Listening to the live stream on Friday morning as Cr McBain spoke, Senator McAllister and fellow committee member Senator Bridget McKenzie seemed to encourage that wider discussion, moving beyond the APVMA.

All those on the call were asked if their region had been considered along with Armidale as a new base from the APVMA, all answered, “Not as far as I know” and the conversation quickly moved on.

Both senators went on to point to the separate but related process underway within the Turnbull Cabinet, where the Minster for Regional Development, Senator Fiona Nash is developing the Government’s broader decentralisation policy which will be released later this year.

Speaking at the National Press Club in April, Senator Nash said regional Australians deserved the jobs and opportunities that come with government agencies.

“When government invests in community it breeds confidence,” Senator Nash said.

Fiona Nash, pic from ABC
Fiona Nash, pic from ABC

She went on to explain the process all Federal ministers are currently involved in, which asks them to detail the departments, entities or functions that might be suitable for relocation to a regional area.

“We are not going to leave any stone unturned in looking for those agencies that could be relocated to the regions for the benefit of the regions,” Senator Nash told the Press Club.

Danielle Mulholland, President of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils and Mayor of Kyogle, told Senator McAllister that she is keen for the government to better definition ‘the regions’.

At the moment a regional community is seen as being one that lives at least 150km from a capital city.

“That’s a really loose definition,” Cr Mulholland said.

She fears authentic regional communities might miss out with a 150km starting line.

It’s a point echoed in the written submission from Snowy Monaro Regional Council and the Canberra Region Joint Organisation in regards to Cooma, which is just 116km from Canberra.

Dean Lynch from Snowy Monaro, in fact contends that regional areas around the ACT should be “initial priorities” and that Cooma’s proximity would “facilitate an easier transition from existing to new workplaces” for Commonwealth staff.

Cooma to Canberra, 116km.
Cooma to Canberra, 116km.

As the phone panel’s assessment of decentralisation evolved on Friday, Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain said there also needed to be a synergy between the agency being relocated and the new host town for the process to be a win-win.

“From our point of view, it would have to be an agency or a department that had a natural fit with our area,” Cr McBain told the Senate committee.

From a Eurobodalla perspective, Business Development boss, Andrew Greenway believes that includes agencies responsible for regional communications, marine services, sciences and safety, regional development, regional transport, aged care, tourism, and education.

Both Snowy Monaro and Bega Valley also point to agriculture and environmental management services.

“We are going to have a big conversation around this over the next six months,” Senator McKenzie said.

All those on the call encouraged the two Senators in their suggestion that there should be a parliamentary committee formed with broader terms of reference than their own to fully develop a transparent and fair criteria and assessment process around decentralisation – the suggestion being, to avoid the allegation of political pork barrelling that has been leveled at Barnaby Joyce in the APVMA decision.

The findings of Senator McAllister’s committee will be delivered in June, it’s understood Turnbull Cabinet ministers have until August to complete their departmental reviews and report back to Senator Nash.

With 83% of Commonwealth employment located in Canberra or the five largest Australian cities, the potential of shifting some of that into regional areas is huge, hence the level of interest. In the Bega Valley’s submission, Cr McBain points to NSW Government data that estimates for each public sector job in a regional area, two jobs are created in the private sector.

However, “Government can’t fix everything,” warned Senator Nash at the Press Club, signaling that the Turnbull Government would be looking to partnerships with local government and the community more broadly as decentralisation rolls out.

It would appear that regional Australia is interested to know more and ready to play its part.

Disclaimer: Author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council