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Byron Shire
June 22, 2021

Why do we destroy what we love?

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I have been an environmental activist for over 50 years (I started when I was a 15 y/o schoolgirl in Melbourne). Some would call me ‘driven’.

Starting with Terania Creek, I have been involved in many campaigns to defend our rainforests, our old growth forests, and our beautiful rural landscapes from gas mining. Now I am fighting for the life of a rainforest that would be destroyed by a dam.

In all these cases I have been propelled by a powerful love of place, and of natural beauty. I think most Australians are familiar with this feeling, wherever they live. The first Australians certainly knew about it, with depths of connection that the rest of us can probably never understand. When the land is your religion, your history, your food source, your home, your responsibility, your future and your reason for being alive – then its preciousness can’t be described.

These two issues of heritage, natural and human, are central to the Dunoon dam debate. Heritage is something that is given to pass on intact, not to destroy in wilful ignorance.

So much of our heritage has been damaged in our region. Most of our original landscape has been transformed, and only a few original, or semi-original, remnants are left to tell us of what we have lost. Our Aboriginal heritage, now the heritage of all Australians, has been whittled away, over and over, while the traditional custodians are repeatedly ‘consulted’ then comprehensively ignored. How insulting is the Welcome to Country ritual when there is not a shred of willingness to act on their stated wishes?

I despair when I see that the new campaign to push the Dunoon Dam shows no interest in values that we all claim to hold dear – our love for our remarkable natural landscapes, forests, ecosystems and species that are found nowhere else on Earth, and our supposed respect for our First Nations peoples.  

The natural places of our region have been maintained and preserved for thousands of years by people whose desire to protect them is now swept aside by uninformed claims that ‘the studies are incomplete’.   

Detailed ecological and heritage assessments have already established why the Dunoon Dam site is extremely important, both to scientists and to our first people. Surely we can, just once, let the natural environment, and the people who have loved it the longest, prevail.

We know that extremes of drought are coming. Knowledge about droughts from the past can no longer be relied on. One big flood can fill the dam quickly, for sure, but five years of drought and low runoff would give us 253 ha of bare dirt with not a trace of the natural beauty and the millennia of human history that it destroyed with so little need.

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