Tassie summer to be hot and dry | OPINION

Tassie summer to be hot and dry | OPINION


Opinion
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The wattles bloomed early. Time to get the irrigation ready.

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OPINION

SIGN: Wattles blossoming in Tasmania ahead of September is a reliable sign that the coming summer will be hot and dry.

SIGN: Wattles blossoming in Tasmania ahead of September is a reliable sign that the coming summer will be hot and dry.

OVER the past 20 or so years writing this column, I’ve usually commented about the weather on Wattle Day (September 1).

You can make a reasonable forecast based on the intensity of the blossom colour of that tree, which could be Acacia melanoxylon or A.dealbata to name but two of the thirty-odd species which are scattered around Australia.

As I write, Wattle Day is a week in the future, but the wattle is already bursting into bloom, so it looks like we’re in for a hot, dry summer.

Doubtless this will please the anthropogenic–global warming enthusiasts, but to repeat what I’ve said before, it’s happened before, and it will happen again no matter what we poor mortals do.

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You may remember me reminiscing about a primary school visit to a terrace in the cold valley where the school was located, to be told that this had been a vineyard in the middle ages.

They’re only just being re-established.

You may also remember that notorious comment by the climatologist Professor Phil Jones about 10 years ago, when going for research funds on climate change at the University of East Anglia: “We’ve got to get rid of the Medieval Warming.”

One of my favourite books at that time was “How to Lie With Statistics” by Darrell Huff (Pelican Books, 1975).

It’s good to see that the new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is off to inspect the drought damage in Qld (and presumably fly over the even worse damage in NSW).

In the immediate short term, all the government can do is to offer cash hand-outs to help farmers pay their bills.

In the longer term, it will have to fund infrastructure building to better manage water.

FEED: A water pipeline in Tasmania for hydro electricity generation. The state has a long history of utilising naturally generated power.

FEED: A water pipeline in Tasmania for hydro electricity generation. The state has a long history of utilising naturally generated power.

We’ve been doing this in Tasmania with varying success for over the last century.

We had the first electric street lights in the world in Launceston in 1895. That was hydro-electricity, and there was a sustained program of dam building which came to a juddering halt in 1983, with the Blockade To Halt The Franklin Dam.

I was on my way to Queenstown for a meeting at that time, which I had to call off. The Minister for Defence even sent in RAAF fighter planes to have a quick look.

Hydro dams, if properly managed, have the potential to support irrigation schemes. They tend to be quite small, which was one lesson learned from the Franklin debacle.

Whatever happens, we will need more water infrastructure and there are some good, if expensive, schemes coming on, or already on stream (using my words not very carefully). - Dr Mike Walker

It’s also feasible to consider very small on-farm generators using run-off from farm dams. Given the Green pressure against dams, Hydro Tasmania is focussing more on wind generators.

Whatever happens, we will need more water infrastructure and there are some good, if expensive, schemes coming on, or already on stream (using my words not very carefully).

As to Federal government funding, I and many others were delighted to hear that Senator Richard Colbeck has been appointed Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources in the new Morrison Government.

I first met him many years ago at a protest meeting to save the Mersey Hospital at Latrobe.

Since then we have had a very productive working relationship – he always responds to e-mails (a rare attribute in politicians) and we have had full and frank discussions on several issues over the years.

I sincerely hope he can deliver.

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