ACT News


Big-smoke fibs exposed

Canberra's clear, clean, babbling Cotter River! In the news 100 years ago this month (in 1913) and in the news today.

To 1913 first.

Recent columns have reproduced defamatory (but very funny) cartoons from The Bulletin of 100 years ago defaming the Cotter River, water supply of the federal capital city site, of which the Sydney weekly disapproved. The Bulletin accused with doctored photographs and with cartoons that the Cotter ''Creek'' was a miserable trickle. A city there, The Bulletin said, would die of thirst. Today, of course, we know that a mighty dam is needed to store the Cotter's abundant and tasty waters.

Now a fossicking reader has come across a piece in the Queanbeyan Age of almost exactly 100 years ago. It is written by ''A Visitor'' who goes into bat for the river and against the truth-manipulating Bulletin.

After praise of several local beauty spots A Visitor notes ''The Capital Territory provides another valuable trout stream, the Cotter River. By-the-bye I have for some time been a reader of The Bulletin, and occasionally I have noticed illustrations depicting this stream as a trickling flow of some few inches in width.

''Altogether the artist, whoever he may be, has endeavoured to bring ridicule on what is to be the supply for the Capital City … I visited the locality for myself during the recent holidays.


''As I stood by the bank of this stream, saw, tasted, and appreciated the beautiful clear stream with a flow sufficient for the needs of a second Sydney, I exclaimed to my pal, 'Oh! that I had The Bulletin artist here, how I would like to sit on his chest, in the middle of the stream and baptise him in the name of falsehood and misrepresentation.''

Now, whether or not A Visitor saw them (for they are cryptic creatures) we know there were surely Murray River crayfish there enjoying the clean loveliness of the Cotter River on whose banks he stood.

For leaping forwards to the Cotter of today, on Tuesday the Australian National University announced the findings of a survey, carried out in part in the Cotter, that has discovered more Murray River crayfish than expected in Murray-Darling waters.

We spoke to Dr Chris Fulton of the Research School of Biology at ANU, and without prompting he rhapsodised that the upper Cotter (above the dam, below the dam is a more complicated saga) ''is a beautiful river … an iconic, beautiful montane stream''.

The presence in its waters of so many healthy crayfish is part of the testimony to the river's health.

He and his colleagues had been worried by an apparent decline of crayfish in the Cotter but the use of a new research tool developed at the ANU, baited underwater video cameras (it makes film stars of the crayfish), seems to show that the Cotter was probably always healthily crayfish-rich after all.

"When we used the cameras, we found five times more crayfish [in the Cotter and other rivers] than we did using traditional hoop-netting methods … This suggests the old netting method has been underestimating how many crayfish are in our rivers,'' Dr Fulton told us on Tuesday.

He sounded as enthusiastic about 2013's Cotter as the very impressed A Visitor was about the ''beautiful clear stream'' it was, contrary to the fibs of The Bulletin, in 1913.

Expressions of love for our floodlit oval

On Tuesday Manuka Oval's wondrous floodlights enjoyed their first, full, magical turning of dark night into luminous day, illuminating the night portion of the match between the PM's XI and the West Indians.

Perhaps it's because Gang-Gang has been so enthusiastic about the grand but dainty new floodlights that the column is receiving many more messages in praise of them than in condemnation. Perhaps the burghers who hate the newness the six pretty 47-metre sculptures impart to the city's skylines are resigned to them now, the way Parisians who hated the new Eiffel Tower adjusted to the fact that it was there to stay.

Here are two poems by readers, in praise of the new floodlights. One suggests, quite rightly, that the lights have the endorsement of the greatest sportsman ever to play at the hitherto Dickensian oval.

Claudia Hyles' poem is a reverent adaptation of Thomas Edward Brown's famous, staccato little poem My Garden. She wonders, though, if with the decline of the fly population people may have forgotten the ''Canberra salute'' she mentions.

My oval is a lovesome thing, God wot!

Green grass,

Tall trees,

Immense fly swat -

The veriest pursuit

Of the Canberra salute.

Guarding goal, pitch and wicket

Football and cricket

And any other game.

A glorious flame.

Here is the poem from reader Emily Gibbs. No prizes for identifying the famous work hinted at in it's opening line.

I love a floodlit oval,

A green for sweeping fours,

No shadows here; it's bright as day,

While Fingo* keeps the scores.

The illuminated Bob Hawke stand,

A thrilling PM's eleven,

In light we revel: a day/night match,

Bradman's smiling up in heaven.

*The oval's heritage-treasured Jack Fingleton scoreboard.

An earlier column's comparison of Canberra burghers' rage against the lights with rage against the new Eiffel Tower reminds a reader of the way in which one of the Eiffel Tower's most furious critics, aesthetically sensitive writer and designer William Morris, spent so much time at the tower's restaurant, dining and writing.

When asked why he was there so frequently he seethed that it was the only place in Paris he couldn't see the ''colossal vulgarity'' of the tower from!