Suddenly I have two hours unbespoke in my shopping town as I wait for the car to be serviced. I slide-walk down a grassy slope, water-dense after recent rain, and pass the old corrugated iron boatshed on the bank of the Deua River. The river is running fast and catching clouds. There are bright sun-spots where the mangrove pneumatophores meet the water. A man in a motorised wheelchair taking his dog for a walk murmurs hello. I stand in the gazebo near the lotus and water lily pond, which is bordered by desiccation. But the pool is loud with frogs, including the woody clack of what I think is a pobblebonk frog.
The river looks tranquil, idyllic and unperturbed, but there is danger afoot. A mining company is seeking approval for a cyanide gold-processing plant in its headwaters. Local residents are concerned about spillages and pollution of the river and the water table: the company doesn’t have an unblemished record, and one small accident would be a disaster. Already one orchardist in Araluen has bulldozed 250,000 peach and nectarine trees: that’s three full time jobs gone and a lot of seasonal work – J used to prune, thin and pick there before he retired. There is a potential threat to the town water supply for parts of the Eurobodalla shire; concern about the future of market gardeners who grow and sell organic at the Tuesday afternoon farmers’ markets in Moruya; implications for the health of Batemans Marine Park, off the coast where the Deua River meets the sea. I have long been mystified and angered by the power mining companies seem to wield. They rape, pillage and pollute and then disappear with the profits, leaving the local community and environment permanently scarred.