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How a rural Australian community is taking a stand against bottled water giant

Updated August 16, 2018 16:23:47

A rural Victorian community has started a global campaign to stop water being extracted from its local water table for bottling, in what has been described as a David-and-Goliath battle.

Stanley is an agricultural hamlet in the state’s north-east and a prime apple and nut growing district.

Groundwater from the water table beneath Stanley’s plateau is being extracted under licence from a local property and transported to Albury where it is bottled for Asahi Beverages.

Ed Tyrie is one of many locals opposed to what he described as ‘water mining’.

“We have to stand up and change the situation,” he said.

“You can’t take water from agricultural areas and turn it into a product that damages the environment.”

Photo: A water tanker leaves the Asahi plant in Albury. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Erin Somerville) Cause gains support

Mr Tyrie is president of community group Stanley Rural Community Inc, which tried and failed to have the approval overturned in the Victorian and Administrative Tribunal and the Supreme Court.


‘Randwick goes to the rodeo’: Outback races draw record crowds despite drought

The windswept, bare earth of the Louth racetrack in far western New South Wales might seem an unlikely place to find glamorous women in high heels and elaborate hats.

In spite of this, the Fashions in the Field event at the annual Louth Races sets a very high bar and this year racegoers made the extra effort as they marked 60 years of racing in the tiny outback village.

“This is a very important community event for us and for our whole western community,” Louth Race Club Chairman Jim Strachan said.

“Last night was the biggest Calcutta [sweep] we have ever held, and if you look in the betting enclosure today, I reckon you’ll see some very happy bookies.”

The punters may also have relished the chance to thumb their nose at the devastating drought that has crept across the entire state.

The winner of the Fashions in the Field ‘best dressed woman’ Lily Ward (in pink, far right) from Berthong, Condobolin with her friends and supporters.

The winner of the Fashions in the Field ‘best dressed woman’ Lily Ward (in pink, far right) from Berthong, Condobolin with her friends and supporters.

Mr Strachan has been feeding his core stock cotton seed for months so that he can breed his way back into productive agriculture when the rains eventually come.


Native, domestic animals in a life or death tussle for food during drought

Posted August 17, 2018 07:06:20

Photo: Native animals are increasingly desperate for food and water in drought-affected NSW. (Supplied) Related Story: Kangaroo protections relaxed by NSW as state declared 100pc drought affected Related Story: ‘Widespread and so severe’: All of NSW officially in drought

Wildlife carers in New South Wales are having to keep the release of rehabilitated kangaroos secret to avoid the animals being shot.

As the drought brings native and domestic animals’ needs into direct conflict, the already difficult task wildlife carers face is getting harder.

The current attitude towards kangaroos as pests or competitors for livestock feed means their welfare is being increasingly disregarded.

Reports have recently surfaced of four-wheel-drive vehicles leaving roads and mowing down kangaroos in residential Cowra.

“It’s really hard, especially for eastern grey kangaroos,” carer Sarah Stewart (not her real name) said.


The Google map for wheat — scientists crack crop’s genome sequence

Scientists have cracked the DNA sequence code of wheat — a major breakthrough that could improve global food security and offer comfort for those allergic to the world’s most common crop.

Wheat points Key points: Breakthrough offers new hope for global food security Research effort was a collaboration between 73 institutes in 20 countries and took 13 years to complete Researchers can now track the parts of wheat that relate to coeliac disease and other allergies

The research effort involved 73 institutes in 20 countries and will allow the faster breeding and production of new wheat varieties, including those that are drought and frost tolerant.

The breakthrough means that farmers will now be armed with better information about quality, yield, diseases and a crop’s resistance to stress such as frost or drought.

And with wheat being one of the world’s major food sources, that could also mean improved outcomes for global food security.

Professor Rudi Appels led the Australian team’s contribution through Agriculture Victoria and said the research had offered ‘a map’ of the highly complex crop.

The genome of an organism has been described as being like having a detailed road map that contains everything you need to know about maintaining that organism.

Professor Appels said it was like having a Google map for wheat.


This couple’s Ekka love and life together comes full circle

Posted August 17, 2018 09:00:13

Photo: The couple, pictured in 2014, are regular Ekka visitors with their cattle. (Supplied: Donna Dingle) Related Story: Outgoing Miss Showgirl engaged at Ekka

There’s more to Brisbane’s Ekka than carnival rides and fairy floss — for some it’s the place where they fall in love, become engaged and return with their children year after year.

For Donna and Kris Dingle from Abercorn in Queensland’s North Burnett region, things have come full circle.

They have returned to where they became engaged in 2014, and now have their six-month-old daughter Blossom for company.

Much has changed for Ms Dingle, who was crowned the Ekka’s Miss Showgirl in 2013.

Photo: Blossom and her dad feel right at home in the cattle sheds at the Ekka. (Supplied: Donna Dingle)

“It’s done a full circle. Five years later I’m returning with my baby and my husband with our show team,” she said.


Why you should take your next holiday in a drought-affected town

Posted August 17, 2018 09:00:18

Photo: The sun shines down on Booligal in mid-western New South Wales. (Supplied: Alison McLean)

Drought-affected towns are encouraging people to support their communities by taking their next holiday in the country.

All of New South Wales is currently in drought and small towns are taking a hit economically.

Alison McLean from The Long Paddock Touring Route initiative in mid-western NSW said that having visitors in a drought is a great support for small business.

“The best thing that you can do is come and visit us,” she said.

“Come and meet these real people that are glad to see you in their towns.

“Buy a coffee, refuel, stay the night, go to the supermarket, because that is a really tangible way of helping all the people in our community.”

Photo: Travellers say it is important to see the country during the drought as well as the good times. (Supplied: Kylie Fisher)

It is not just all about business either, Ms McLean said that tourism also provided a boost for town morale


Crowing roosters cause a flap with early morning wake-up calls

Posted August 14, 2018 06:15:45

Photo: Crowing roosters are causing havoc in usually quiet neighbourhoods in Victoria. (Flickr: Blackthorn orphans)

Step aside barking suburban dogs, there is a new alarm clock in town — roosters are vying for the top spot when it comes to ruining your night’s sleep.

A spike in complaints from sleep-deprived residents in the Buloke Shire in north-western Victoria has prompted the council to issue a warning to owners of the world’s original alarm clock.

Local laws for keeping chickens and roosters in residential areas vary around Australia, and a check with the local council is needed to determine if there is an outright ban on keeping roosters in residential areas.

Can I keep a rooster in a residential area? Broome, WA: No Cairns, Qld: No Port Macquarie, NSW: Only large lot residential Shepparton: Vic: Permit required; subject to noise restrictions Port Lincoln, SA: Not if it causes a nuisance Launceston, Tas: Advises against due to nuisance potential

Check precise law with your local council.


Oil drilling bid for Great Australian Bight prompts fierce debate

Updated August 15, 2018 14:29:38

Photo: Norwegian fisher Bjornar Nicolaisen meets with Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Association CEO, Brian Jeffriess. (ABC News: Samantha Jonscher) Related Story: Chevron drops Great Australian Bight drilling plans Related Story: Australia’s oil supply plummets, with more drilling likely in the Bight, minister warns

Plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight off the coast of South Australia have sparked a lively debate in the seaside town of Port Lincoln.

In a city that calls itself the seafood capital of Australia, the discussion centres on the future of its greatest asset — The Great Australian Bight.

Norwegian oil company, Equinor, plans to drill for oil in the seas that support Port Lincoln’s most important industry.

Equinor is not the first company to entertain drilling in the rough seas of Bight, Chevron pulled out in 2017, and BP backed-off on plans in 2016.


War games and cattle mustering: How the RAAF once used the beef industry as radar targets

For decades in the Northern Territory, the Australian Defence Force has utilised the Top End’s vast, low-traffic skies for regular training exercises.

But what happens when the cattle stations on the ground below want to muster stock with a helicopter at the same time the RAAF is training in the skies above?

There is an interesting history between defence and the cattle industry, including a period when helicopter-mustering was incorporated into the war games.

Target practice

When Defence established the Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base, Tindal, near Katherine in 1984, it had to work out how its aircraft would operate safely alongside the fledgling aerial mustering industry.

Veteran pilot John Armstrong, now at Gilnockie Station, took two RAAF air traffic controllers up in his helicopter during a mustering operation at Willeroo Station so they could observe the practice.

Mr Armstrong said after that flight the RAAF began to use his helicopter and others, as pretend targets for their radar practice.

“They had to avoid where we were operating and they [the RAAF] said [mustering helicopters] would make excellent targets to try to find electronically,” Mr Armstrong said.

“We would be down behind the hills [mustering] and these guys would pop up from 100 miles away to have a quick look about and they would have to try and see us in a short space of time.


Christmas Island: Australia’s unlikely new frontier of coffee production

It is a tropical island paradise known internationally for its unique red crab migration, but Christmas Island locals hope the territory might, in future, also be known for its single origin coffee.

For the first time 150 arabica coffee plants, grown on old phosphate mining land, have produced a crop large enough to harvest and roast beans for a local brew.

The coffee trial is part of the Mining to Plant Enterprises (MINTOPE) project, which is funded by the Commonwealth Government, local mining company Christmas Island Phosphates and Murdoch University.

In recent years, MINTOPE has trialled a number of different crops including legumes, cereals and vegetables, in the nutrient-poor soils on the remote Indian Ocean island.

The project aims to both diversify the local economy and to improve food security for locals, who can pay more than $10 for a head of lettuce, flown in from Australia’s mainland.

The coffee trial is part of the Mining to Plant Enterprises (MINTOPE) project.

The coffee trial is part of the Mining to Plant Enterprises (MINTOPE) project.

Murdoch University consultant Peter Skinner first sowed coffee on Christmas Island four years ago.

He said it has been among MINTOPE’S most successful crops to date.