Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Historic Village of Wandiligong

Wandiligong is a small town of about 250 people, 330 km northeast of Melbourne and 6 km south of Bright. Established in the 1850s during the Victorian gold rush, it was at one stage home to over 2,000 people. The whole town is now registered with the National Trust as a historic landscape and features historical buildings such as the Manchester Unity Public Hall (built in 1874), the general store, several churches and a number of quaint cottages.

The town is set in a picturesque valley surrounded by forests and mountain ranges. The National Trust describes the Wandiligong Valley as a small valley of great charm where the buildings achieve an excellent affinity with the landscape, a pleasant mosaic of patterns, forms and colours woven carefully together to achieve a satisfying blend. Michael Smith, a former editor of the Age has described the Wandiligong Valley in his book "Downsize Me" as being “in the same postcode as paradise”. Wandiligong is also the subject of a song by noted folk singer, Eric Bogle.

Wandiligong is an aboriginal name, whose actual meaning has been lost. It may refer to a place of the echidnas, meeting of the waters, spirit place or the little bushman. The aborigines inhabiting the lower Ovens, Kiewa and King Valleys are from the Theddora-Mittung Group of the Jaithamathang tribe.

Walking Trails

 Alpine Park ASeveral walks show the visitors the beauty and rich history of Wandiligong Valley. The Wandiligong Walk is a 5km, 2h return walk along the course of Morses Creek, which runs through Wandiligong all the way to Bright. Native eucalyptus shade much of the track.

The Wandi Wander (2km, 1h return) starts at the Alpine Park, created in 1877 for community entertainment, with a majestic two storey pavilion, ornamental lake and band rotunda. The pavilion and rotunda were reconstructed in 1972. Next, wander past the Manchester Unity Hall.

Wandiligong Primary School A
Wandiligong Primary School

See the impressive Wandiligong Primary School at School Road. Its first section was completed in 1877 and extended to accommodate 300 students during the gold era. It is situated along a scenic ridge which provides good views west across the town against a stunning backdrop of forested mountains.

School Rd A

Go past the Public Library (built in 1878 and recently became a studio for some talented local artists), the Holy Trinity Anglican Church (1865), the Wesleyan Methodist Uniting Church (1878) and the Post Office (1885, used to be the General Store). The walk continues through "The Diggings" along Morses Creek.

Wandi Pub A
Mountain View Hotel or Wandi Pub

Royal Bridge Walk (2km, 1h) starts at Royal Bridge, passes the former Police Station and the Williams United Mine and returns past the iconic Mountain View Hotel, also known as Wandi Pub.

The Diggings

Wandiligong's gold history can be explored at "The Diggings" which can be accessed via Centenary Avenue. It was the site of a small gold rush, the Growlers Creek being panned during the mid-1850s for alluvial gold and later by tunnelling into the quartz reefs. It has been beautified with walking tracks and several footbridges across both Morses Creek and Growlers Creek. In 2003, the Wandiligong community erected a swing bridge, crafted with a traditional Chinese design, across Morses Creek to commemorate the contribution of the Chinese miners. The scars of mining have now been hidden by regrowth of vegetation, which were planted by the pioneers.

 The Diggings - Chinese Bridge 01 The Diggings - Bridge 01
 The Diggings - Chinese Bridge 02

Wandiligong Maze and Cafe

The Wandiligong Maze is Australia's largest living hedge maze with 2 km of pathways, surrounded by gardens. The maze was built from 850 Cypress Lambertiana, planted in March 1990, with two towers within. It is surrounded by an extensive cottage garden filled with annuals, perennials and over 200 heritage roses. There is a cafe offering milkshakes, salads, pies, sponge cakes, coffee, tea and scones.

Wandiligong Maze
Photo from Wikipedia uploaded by Felix Dance

Apple Orchards

Morses Creek Rd B

A popular scenic drive is south along Morses Creek Road, past the Wandi Pub, across Morses Creek and through a valley lined with fruit orchards, nut groves and tobacco fields. You can see the Alpine Apple Orchard - the largest apple orchard in the southern hemisphere as well as the renowned Wandi Poplars, at their best during autumn.

Alpine Apple Orchard A

It happened to be the fruiting season, with bunches of tantalizing apples dangling from the trees.

Alpine Apple Tree 01

Wandiligong Nut Festival

Wandiligong is known as the Nut Capital of Victoria. Come each April and May, walnuts and chestnuts will fall from the trees in orchards, backyards and street lanes where they are gathered by residents and visitors. The Wandiligong Nut Festival is a 2-days annual festival celebrating this harvest. The festival began in 2001 as a low-key, local affair but has since grown to include a market, art, music, food and wine events. The highlights of the 2011 Festival include the “The Largest Nut" competition where the three categories of walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts were displayed and judged at Alpine Park.

Wandi Pub B
Chestnut Tree in the Beer Garden of Wandi Pub


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Smoke-free and Alcohol-free Areas in Hobsons Bay

Hobsons Bay City became the third Victorian municipality to ban smoking in beaches in Altona and Williamstown, after Surf Coast Shire in 2008 and Port Phillip City last summer (Ref 1). The smoking ban will also cover all public playgrounds in Hobsons Bay. City councils such as the councils of Yarra, Monash, Frankston, Moreland and Moonee Valley City have or are too considering banning smoking in outdoor areas (Ref 2, 3, 4, 5) while Melbourne City Council is resisting a push from anti-smoking groups to ban smoking at cafes, shopping strips and sports grounds, based on economic considerations (Ref 6).

Victoria lags behind New South Wales, where 79 councils have instituted some forms of outdoor smoke-free policy. There is currently no Victorian State policy on banning smoking in outdoor areas so individual councils have to introduce their own rules. A 2009 Cancer Council Victoria poll of 4501 Victorians found that 77% believed smoking should not be allowed in outdoor areas where children were present, 71% disapproved of smoking in alfresco dining areas, 66% didn’t want smoking at tram and bus stops and 63% said smoking should be banned on beaches (Ref 1, 6).

Our family went to the Movies by the Bay activity at Logan Reserve during summer this year. There were many families with children sitting on the lawn in front of the big movie screen. A young man was smoking with his girlfriend in front of me, not considering that the same grass area was full of children. We were so irritated by the puffs of smoke blowing towards us that we had to shift our location.

Under the new local law, those caught smoking at beaches and playgrounds will face fines of $200. It has been welcomed by Quit Victoria, which said public bans were critical in stopping children think that smoking was normal by seeing adults smoke. The ban will also help to improve the environment by reducing cigarette butts that made up a significant proportion of litter in public areas.

This smoking ban came after the extension of alcohol-free zones from the existing area south of the rail line (see map) to include the area bounded by Railway St North, Romawi St, Civic Parade and Bayview St during summer (Ref 7). These are all good developments for Altona, which is basically a very family-oriented suburb. We would not want Altona to become a sleazy and boozy place, like some other places in Melbourne.

Alcohol-free Zone in Altona - click map to enlarge it and click again to return to this page

Embedded map from Hobsons Bay City Council's webpage

Monday, May 16, 2011

Train Performance by Lines

The table below shows the past 12-month average train service performance by lines. The data are obtained from the Department of Transport's website, which can be viewed here. Service reliability is measured by the percentage of timetabled train services not delivered while punctuality is measured by the percentage of services arriving on time at destination. Train services are deemed as being on time if they are delivered between 59 sec early and 4 min and 59 sec late (Ref 1).

I have ranked the lines according to service reliability and punctuality, with 1 referring to the best performance up to 15, the worst performance.

% services not delivered
Rank by Service Reliability
% of services on-time
Rank by Punctuality
Glen Waverley

As you can see, among the 15 metropolitan lines, the Werribee Line has the most number of services cancelled while the Frankston Line is the least punctual. The Werribee Line is also the 4th least punctual line while the Frankston Line is the 3rd most unreliable line.

If you look at Melbourne train network map, both Werribee and Frankston lines run along the coast, with Werribee Line along the southwest corridor and Frankston Line on the southeast corridor. Both were accompanied by the shorter and more aflluent Williamstown and Sandringham lines, which also run along the coast. Sandringham in particular is a great beneficiary in this timetable change, with trains now running every 6-7 minutes. According to the Passenger Impact Statement released by Metro, it is considered desirable to make the Sandringham Line independent from the rest of the network. Millions of dollars will be allocated to replace a level crossing in Brighton on the Sandringham Line, with an underpass for cars (Ref 2, 3).

The destinies of Werribee and Frankston are now more intimately linked together than before, thanks to the new timetable, which see both lines joined to form a cross-city service. Trains coming from Frankston to Flinders Street Station continue as Werribee trains to the west and vice-versa. Any delay or incidence on one line is bound to impact on the other line, if no other trains are being arranged to stand in for the late-running trains. If this is the case, we should see the performance of one line, closely mirroring that of the other line in the future.

It was suggested during the Altona Loop Community Meeting that was held tonight that Werribee and Frankston commuters should join forces to seek better train services, as both share the same destiny, faring the worst in train service performance among the metropolitan lines.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Altona & Seaholme Community Update May 2011

I subscribe to the periodic Community Updates provided by Councillor Tony Briffa, Deputy Mayor of Hobsons Bay City Council, which I find it useful to be informed of what's happening around the area.

You can click this link to download a pdf copy of the May 2011 issue of the Community Update. Of course, you can email him to get you on his subscription list.

Of grave concern is the approval by EPA (which stands for Environment Protection Agency) of the Innova Toxic Soil Facility in Altona, despite a petition against the facility, signed by 3500 Hobsons Bay residents. It is stated in this update that the EPA has not even resolved outstanding issues such as appropriate buffer distances, end use and disposal of treated soil, ongoing independent environmental monitoring and audits with public disclosure of results, dust and odour issues, and the health and wellbeing of workers and residents in the area.

Read more about this Facility from these newspapers articles: 1, 2, 3.

EPA does not have an enviable track record, which was exemplified by evacuations of residents from the Brookland Greens housing estate in Cranbourne in 2008 due to methane leaks from a nearby landfill. In October 2009, the Ombudsman George Brouwer found the EPA had failed to ensure Casey Council met the requirements necessary for a landfill lining (Ref 4). He said: "Despite the efforts of [an EPA officer] to highlight concerns with EPA senior management about the risk to residents in the estate caused by the leaking methane, this information was effectively ignored by her regional manager. By July 2007, an environmental auditor warned of an 'imminent environmental hazard' and an 'unacceptable risk' to residents due to the presence of methane in the estate. However, it was not until June 2008 that EPA senior management began to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation" (Ref 5). Casey Council would pay compensations of $13.5 million and the EPA would pay $10 million to the 771 residents from the Brookland Greens estate as a result of a class action lawsuit (Ref 6, 7). EPA chief executive John Merritt himself had admitted that the agency has gone soft on polluters (Ref 8). Closer to home, we are well aware that Brookyln residents are suffering from foul odours and acute air pollution caused by industrial polluters, without any improvement in sight despite their years of complaints (Ref 9, 10, 11, 12, 13).

Just last year (2010), a Victorian Auditor-General report found that EPA inadequately regulated management of hazardous waste - including potentially explosive, toxic, radioactive and infectious material - at about 10,000 sites across the state (Ref 14). In 2008-09, the EPA made 46% fewer inspections of sites licensed to deal with hazardous waste than 4 years earlier, in part because it had adopted a policy of ''greater self-regulation'' by business.

The EPA said this was part of a decision to ''redirect effort to focus on other priorities''. But the Auditor-General's Office found that EPA could not name the new priorities, nor explain why they were more important than monitoring compliance with the law.

Acting Auditor-General Peter Frost said the EPA's monitoring and inspection lacked coherence, purpose and co-ordination. He found its records were unreliable, with information on hazardous waste spread across 9 databases, some of them incomplete. As a consequence, there is little assurance that hazardous waste is stored and disposed of appropriately.

Other findings included:

  • While the EPA once inspected all vehicles carrying hazardous waste, it now approved 95% of permit applications based on basic paperwork.
  • Recycled waste was not monitored, prompting fears it may be stockpiled or dumped.
  • Hazardous waste licence holders were not required to guarantee they could pay to clean up potential breaches, exposing the state to significant financial risk.

Ted Baillieu, the opposition leader at that time, accused the Brumby government of stripping the EPA of its powers, leaving it a ''totally and absolutely ineffective'' organisation that put Victorians at risk. ''It is not a toothless tiger, it is barely a toothless pussy cat,'' he said.

Now that he is in control of the government, he would be able to return the power to EPA to make it an effective environment watchdog and to change its image and perception as a toothless tiger.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Autumn in Bright

Where is the best place to see the colours of Autumn? I do not know about Melbourne - I will greatly appreciate if someone can inform me of a good place in Melbourne. However, I do know that there is a place in Victoria that looks spectacular during Autumn and people specifically visit that place for the ambience. I am talking about the town of Bright in the High Country of Northeast Victoria, about 4 hours drive from Altona.

The colours are in their full glory during the Bright Autumn Festival which run from 29th April to 11th May this year. The dates change slightly from year to year so it is best to check the festival's website. I visited Bright a week before the Festival with my mother before her scheduled return to Singapore. As a result, many leaves were still green but already I was stunned by the beauty of those tree foilages that had changed their colours. As I booked the accommodation only 2 weeks prior to the visit, I could only obtain weekday accommodation at the town of Porepunkah, which is about 5 minutes drive east of Bright. Although this is a nice town, I would still have preferred to stay in the centre of Bright where I can have access to the mesmerizing mosaic of colours right at my doorstep.

Unfortunately, it was raining throughout the 3 days that I was there and I often had to carry an umbrella while taking photographs. The photos would have turned out much better had it been sunny.

Directions to Bright

To go to Bright from Melbourne, drive northwards on the Hume Freeway, then turn right into the Great Alpine Road. You will be passing through Myrtleford. After passing through Porepunkah, you will come to a large roundabout, where one of the exit leads to Mt Buffalo National Park. Go straight.

Old Tobacco Sheds

Address: 7377 Great Alpine Rd, Bright

 Old Tobacco Sheds 04 Old Tobacco Sheds B

This is located on the left 500 metres prior to entering Bright. The Tourist Complex is comprised of the 26 Shops of Treasure, the Tobacco and Gold Museum, the Historic Hut, the Cafe, the Miners Hut and the Burley Shed. The shops sell a host of items such as antiques, bric-a-brac, collectables, books, records, art works, china and kitchenwares. Entry is free but you will need to pay a fee to visit the museum, which shows the history of gold mining and the tobacco industry in Australia. I did not visit the museum due to lack of time.

 Old Tobacco Sheds 03
 Old Tobacco Sheds 08 Old Tobacco Sheds 11 Old Tobacco Sheds 17

There is a prominent sign at the entrance advertising the sale of the lease of this tourist premise.

Streets of Colours

Visitors to Bright are greeted by rows of deciduous trees flanking the Great Alpine Road on its western entrance. I could not help parking my car by the side of the road to snap some photos.

 Great Alpine Road A

My behaviour is not unique as I discovered two days later people were setting up tripods at this stretch of the road. Directly on the left is a cattle farm where colours of crimson, brilliant orange, purple, green and the distant blue mountains shrouded in mist composed a picture-perfect setting.

Great Alpine Road Farm 03

This farm is also for sale. I had subsequently seen many other signs for sale. My mother thinks that people are selling to cash in on profits due to high buyer demand. I do not have the opportunity to talk to locals on whether this is the case or people are selling to get out of the Bright's property market.

Not far further east on the left is Adina Lodge and an information shelter. You can see fabulous display of colours in front of Adina Lodge.

 Adina Lodge B

The Great Alpine Road continues as Gavan Street in Bright town centre, then as Delany Avenue before reverting to the Great Alpine Road again as it leaves Bright. Delany Avenue is supposed to be one of the best places to see autumn in Bright, where you can see burning red leaves of scarlet oaks alternating with the dark green of Himalayan cedar trees. However, the change in colours arrived later this year and many deciduous trees still appeared green.

Delany Avenue D

Sporadic outbursts of colours can be found in some side lanes of Delany Avenue, such as in Houghs Lane.

Houghs Lane 08

There is one street called Showers Avenue, whose trees probably heralded the arriving of Autumn earlier. This street is located between the north bank of Ovens River and Back Porepunkah Road.

 Showers Ave B

I suspect the spectacle of colours in this street is no less impressive than that of the more well-known Delany Avenue.

 Showers Ave L

Town Centre

When you arrive at Bright, I would recommend you to visit the Alpine Visitor Information Centre at 119 Gavan Street first, where you can obtain walking maps and other information on Bright and the surrounding areas.

Howitt Park Carpark A

Directly behind the Information Centre to the north is a big carpark as well as Howitt Park on the western side and Centenary Park on the eastern side along the southern bank of the Ovens River, which runs through the town. Howitt Park has a playground, barbeque facilities, picnic tables, a shelter with toilets as well as a musical performance stage - the Sibley Soundshell. Both these parks are the centres of recreation in Bright.

Howitt Park 03 Howitt Park 01
Howitt Park Shelter 02Howitt Park - Sibley Soundshell

The commercial centre is the area around the War Memorial Clock Tower at Mafeking Square, with Anderson St, Ireland St and Camp St converging to a roundabout around the Square.

Mafeking Square Clock Tower A

You can see spectacular colours along Anderson St, Ireland St and the roundabout.

 Anderson Street C
Anderson Street at the roundabout

Ireland Street was lined on both sides by flames of intense pink.

Ireland Street A

Cobden Street may be another street worth investigating, according to this information source.

Huggins Lookout

The best way to view the town is from the various lookouts atop the surrounding hills. Due to limited time, I chose to visit Huggins Lookout which is the nearest to the town centre and which is accessible via car on a dirt road. A 4WD is not required. From Ireland St, drive south. After passing a roundabout, continue straight into Bakers Gully Rd, which becomes a dirt road after a short distance. Turn left into McFadyens Lane, which continues as Higgins Rd and you will eventually reach Huggins Lookout 460 metres above sea level overlooking the town.

Huggins Lookout C

Alternatively, you can take a 1.5 km or an hour return walking trail starting from the end of Deacon Avenue near the Stadium.

The Apex Lookout, accessible from Mt Porepunkah Road, supposedly offers a more breathtaking view of Bright. The Lookout will also reward you with views of Mt Feathertop, Mt Fainter and Mt Bogong, the highest peak in Victoria. However, I was told that a 4WD is required to drive all the way up there. Otherwise, you will need to park your car at Quinn's Gap and take a 3 km, 2 hours return walking track.

Bakers Gully Reservoirs

On the way to the Huggins Lookout, when Bakers Gully Road became a dirt road, you will come across an information board on the left with some space besides the road to park your car. This marks the start of the walking tracks to the Bakers Gully Reservoirs. You can easily miss this as there is no signpost.

Lower Reservoir A

Mushroom 03Mushroom 04There are 2 reservoirs, a lower and an upper one. The first dam was built in 1892 and the second in 1916 to provide a permanent supply of water to the town. The reservoirs no longer provide water and are now home to platypus, tortoise, fish, frogs and yabbies. Lots of fungi grow among the leaf litter in autumn.

Ovens River

The Ovens River plays an important role in the history of Bright, where gold was being mined at the turn of the century after the discovery of gold in the Buckland Valley. Now it has become a key tourism resource of Bright, with abundant holiday accommodation and caravan parks both on its northern and southern banks. I would say that the economy of Bright is supported chiefly through tourism. Everywhere you go, you would see holiday accommodations, of which many are fully booked a few months prior to the peak season. The number of tourists would probably outnumber the number of locals during such periods. I believe European deciduous trees were specifically planted in the area to attract tourists during autumn for their amazing myriad of colours.

Ovens River A

Canyon Walk and Cherry Walk are the two walks along Ovens River, on its western and eastern side respectively. Both walks are 3 km return, each taking one and a half hour to complete. I only have the time to do the Canyon Walk, which is the most popular walk in Bright.

Canyon Walk F

The Ovens River downstream from Bright passes through a staggering canyon, with sheer cliffs up to 15 metres high. The Ovens River shifted to one side of the valley and cut deeply into the bedrock, forming a canyon and leaving gold-bearing gravels from earlier flows stranded high above the water course. The "ribbons" of rock you see above the waterline are the layers of steeply-dipping bedrock when the river runs high.

Suspension Bridge A

There are two suspension bridges across the river. You can cross the bridge closer to the town for a shorter loop return or cross the most distant bridge if you wish to see the canyon and tail races. Tail races are deep, narrow slots or trenches in the solid bedrock cut by hand by early gold miners at right angles to the river, to flush tailings (treated earth and gravel) away from their workings which were some distance away from the river, on the river flats. The deeper the race, the further the mining site was from the river. There are several tail races along the southern banks between the two bridges.

Tail Races A

From the Canyon Walk on the southern bank, I caught glimpse of a cattle farm, probably near Frasers Lane, through the dew-covered thorns and bushes. I thought this composition is interesting so I am posting it here.


From Bright, there are many places that you can go and many activities that you can do. Nearby places include:
If you go further east, you will reach Mt Beauty and Falls Creek.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Passenger Impact Statement

Metro handed the Passenger Impact Statement for the timetable changes to the Baillieu government on 22 March 2011. The day after, Greens MP Greg Barber made a request to Parliament for the document, which remained confidential until yesterday - just 3 days before the timetable change. The report shows that Metro wants the government to pay it $6.6 million more a year to provide the extra services (Ref 1). The Statement indicates the winners and losers in this timetable change and can be downloaded from this page at The Age's website.

Here is a summary.

Train LineWinner (+) / Loser (-)
(-) All trains (40 services) withdrawn from City Loop.
(-) During interpeak, Westona, Altona & Seaholme passengers will have to take a shuttle and change trains at Newport to go to City or at Laveton to go to Werribee.
(-) Reduced interpeak services for Werribee, Hoppers Crossing & Aircraft passengers.
(-) Poor connections for Laverton services during peak hours and Altona passengers now have to stop all stations to Flinders St.
(-) Service frequency reduced from 1 train every 20 min to 1 every 22 min during peak hours.

(+??) 37 new daily services - these are actually the 37 newly-introduced daily Altona Loop Shuttle services, something that the Altona passengers do not want and something that will not benefit other passengers on the Werribee line. In reality, there will be 16 less Werribee to City services and 14 less City to Werribee services each day (Ref 2). It is dubious that Metro classifies this as a "winner" for passengers.

(+) Express Werribee trains run every 11 min between 8.30-9 am.
(+) Werribee-bound night services operate every 20 min instead of 30 min until 10 pm.

Williamstown(-) 20 min frequency reduced to 22 min during peak hours.

(+) 2 new services per day, including 1 more service between 1st train and 7 am.
(+) No more changing at Newport during interpeak hours.
(+) Williamstown shuttle night services operate every 20 min instead of 30 min until 10 pm.
(+) Passengers between Newport and South Kensington are serviced by trains every 10 min.

Sydenham(+) 3 new daily services.
(+) 6-carriage trains all day.


(+) 2 new daily services going through the City Loop, including an extra pre-morning peak service and an extra post-evening peak service to Upfield.
(+) 6-carriage trains all day.

Craigieburn(-) One morning train withdrawn, another starts from Broadmeadows instead of Cragieburn.

(+) 3 new daily services.
(+) 6-carriage trains all day.

Frankston(-) All 47 off-peak services withdrawn from City Loop.
(-) Journey time between Frankston & Flinders St increases by 3 min.

(+) 15 new daily services.
(+) More express trains in the afternoon and shoulder afternoon peaks.

Pakenham(-) Journey time between Pakenham & Flinders St increases by 2-3 min.
(-) One shoulder morning peak Westall-bound service withdrawn.

(+) 11 new daily services, including 6 extra City Loop services.
(+) Pakenham-bound night services operate every 20 min instead of 30 min until 10 pm.

Cranbourne(-) Journey time between Cranbourne & Flinders St increases by 3 min.
(-) 1 shoulder post afternoon peak City-bound service withdrawn.

(+) 6 new daily services.

Sandringham(-) Journey time between Sandringham & Flinders St increases by 1 min.

(+) 18 new daily services, including 3 new City-bound services from 7-9 am, 4 new Sandringham-bound services from 4.30-6.30 pm and 2 extra pre-morning peak services from Mordialloc to Flinders St.
(+) Morning and afternoon peak services now every 7-8 min.

Glen Waverley(-) All 34 morning services withdrawn from City Loop.
(-) 2 morning express services changed to stopping all stations.

(+) 4 new daily services.
(+) Morning peak services now every 7-8 min.

Belgrave & Lilydale(+) 28 new daily City Loop services.
(+) More express services.

Alamein(+) 1 new daily service.
(+) 13 extra City Loop services.

Epping & HurstbridgeNo change

The greatest losers in this timetable changes are the passengers on the Werribee Line, in particular those taking trains from Westona, Altona and Seaholme. In reality, there is a decrease of 30 daily services. The 37 new daily services that Metro claims to be an improvement are actually the Altona Loop shuttle services that Altona passengers do not want and these do not benefit passengers in other parts of the Werribee Line. Rather, this will inconvenience passengers coming to Altona.

There is a section (page 6) in the Statement that highlights individual stations with significant changes. I am very surprised that Westona, Altona and Seaholme stations are omitted from this list, either deliberately, due to overlooking or Metro really thinks that Altona passengers are trivially affected.

Wyndham is experiencing the highest population growth in Australia (not just in Melbourne). It is ironical that the Werribee services are reduced and passengers have to be contented with 3-carriage trains during night services. In contrast, new daily services are added to other lines, with the Belgrave and Lilydale lines receiving 28 more daily services, Sandringham line 18 more daily services, Frankston line 15 more daily services and Alamein line 13 more daily services. Also, other lines now run 6-carriage trains all day.

Some interesting points/statements from this document:

Page 2: "The most recent data indicates that train patronage has started to grow again by approximately 8% in the 2010 year, after a lull in 2009." 2009 was the last year of operation for Connex, Metro took over at the end of 2009 and began its disastrous year of operations in 2010 when it failed to achieve its performance targets month after month. So perhaps its dismaying performance is attributable to the a lull in passenger demand in 2009, followed by a boom in 2010?

Page 1: "More realistic journey times for Frankston, Pakenham, Cranbourne and Sandringham". The journey time is now revised by up to an extra 3 minutes. Perhaps, an unrealistic journey time is another reason why Metro is unable to meet its punctuality targets? By lengthening the journey time, Metro will be able to improve its performance as it can now meet its target.

In this statement, Metro has perceived running more Eastern line trains through the City Loop as a service improvement for people living in the eastern suburbs. But yet Metro CEO, Andrew Lezala said during the Altona Loop Community Meeting on 29 Mar 2011, that 82.9% of Werribee passengers prefer direct service to Flinders Street and not through the City Loop (Ref 3).

Metro considers it desirable to make the Sandringham Line independent from the rest of the network and to make the Northern Group of lines self-contained (Page 1), yet it has tied up the Werribee service to the Frankston service to become a cross-city service. Any disruption, delay, or cancellation on one line is bound to have flow-on effects to affect the other line operating on the other side of the City.

I have read from the newspapers that the Metro CEO lives in the eastern suburb and takes trains to work daily. I just wonder which line is he travelling on. If he is staying in the western suburbs, he may have got a different insight and adopt a different approach.

Now Metro is asking $6.6 million more a year to provide the extra services. From this impact statement, it appears that the negative impacts are not less than the suggested improvements, which we are still not sure at this stage whether they will be delivered as promised. Some of the announced increased services are questionable such as the Altona Loop shuttle services disguised as new Werribee services while others occur in odd hours of the day such as before 7 am, when the least number of passengers would be using them. As taxpayers, I feel that we should be getting commensurate value for all our every cent that we pay.

When I chanced upon this information revealed by the Age a while back, I hope that history will not repeat itself, with the taxpayers having to pay a huge cost. Britain's National Audit Office, found the management of Metronet had wasted millions of pounds of public money. We do not know of Andrew Lezala's role or involvement so he may not have contributed to Metronet's failure in any way, as claimed by Metro's spokeswoman.

Please note that the change is starting this coming Sunday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Red Rock Volcanic Reserve

With major earthquakes occurring in Japan, New Zealand and many other countries around the world recently, I did some online research to check if Melbourne is safe from these natural calamities. Places such as Japan, New Zealand, Indonesia, California, British Columbia and Chile are located on the Pacific Rim of Fire, close to the boundaries of tectonic plates which make up the Earth's crust. Large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in these areas due to the pushing and sliding of tectonic plates against each other.

Despite sitting in the middle of a tectonic plate (the Australian plate), Australia is subjected to the stresses and strains from movements at the plate boundaries. It has a relatively high risk of seismic activities compared to other intraplate regions such as India, South Africa, central Africa, central USA and Canada. Two earthquakes of magnitude 4.6 on the Richter scale struck the Gippsland town of Korumburra in southeast Victoria in 2009 and were felt 120 km away in Melbourne. Scientists warned that larger earthquakes could strike more populated areas in the future and Australian buildings are not designed to withstand a major earthquake. (Ref 1, 2)

I recall reading that the Blue Lake of Mount Gambier in South Australia was formed from the crater of an erupted volcano. I was surprised to find out that numerous volcanoes exist in Victoria and one of them, the Red Rock Reserve is actually only within 1.5 hour drive from Melbourne or 17 km, 10 min drive from Colac. It is located in the township of Alvie on the eastern edge of the Kanawinka Global Geopark.

Tips: Click a photo to enlarge it and click again to return to this page

Cororooke, Coragulac and Alvie

From Colac, drive west on A1 for 5 km, turn right at the Red Rock sign into Corangamite Lake Road and pass through the settlements of Cororooke and Coragulac. In Coragulac, St Brendan’s Catholic Church and the adjoining primary school are landmarks on the left.

Coragulac - St Brendan's Church 01
St Brendan's Catholic Church
Coragulac - St Brendan's Primary School 01
St Brendan’s Primary School

The Alvie township was the heart of a rich potato and onion growing district until the latter half of last century. Note the vineyard and winery/restaurant just before the ascent to Red Rock. The historic St Andrews Anglican Church, built in 1895 and featuring English stained glass windows, nestles at the foot of the rise.

Farmland C

Kanawinka Global Geopark

The Kanawinka Global Geopark extends from the south-western part of Victoria to south-eastern part of South Australia and was established as Australia's first National Geopark and the first Australian UNESCO Global Geopark on 22 June 2008. Kanawinka means the Land of Tomorrow in the language of the indigenous Buandik people.

Red Rock G

The sweeping plains and spectacular mountains in the Kanawinka Global Geopark are largely the result of volcanic activity. Between 4.5 and 2 million years ago, lava from nearly 400 individual volcanic eruption points flowed over an area known as the Newer Volcanics Province which covers 23,000 square km, extending to the north of Ballarat and reappearing in a small section of south-eastern South Australia. The flowing lava spread evenly across existing plains, followed valleys, flowed under water and in some cases forced upwards into rough, stony hills called tumuli or steeper scoria cones. Many of the eruptions were witnessed by indigenous people who have inhabited this region for up to 45,000 years. The volcanic stones were used both by the aboriginal people and later by European settlers in the 1870-80s for construction purposes.

Red Rock Volcanic Complex

Red Rock features a cluster of over 40 eruption points concentrated in a 4 km by 3 km area just south of Alvie and several smaller eruption points just north of the town. The massive eruptions, which created the well-preserved formations of maars, tuff rings and scoria cones at Red Rock, is believed to have taken place between 6,000 and 12,000 years ago. The presence of iron gives Red Rock its distinctive colour.

Red Rock D

The eruption history of Red Rock comprises 2 main phases. The first phase involves explosive interactions between magma (molten rock) and groundwater that formed wide craters called maars. During eruptions, fine-grained volcanic ash was blasted from multiple vents (openings) within the maar to form its rim (called the tuff ring). In the second phase, there was an initial short period of fire-fountaining, when the magma was ejected from the vent as a fluid lava fountain. Then gases within the magma expanded, fragmenting the magma and producing violent eruptions of scoria (volcanic rocks with vesicles) onto the surface, creating hills called scoria cones which occur throughout the Red Rock Reserve and overlay the maars from earlier eruptions. Before white settlement, the scoria cones were covered in predominantly Casuarina open woodland.

Red Rock F

Filled Red Rock Lakes
Red Rock Lakes in Dec 1984 - courtesy of Dr. Malcolm Buck (a geoscientist & volcanologist)
There are 9 complete craters up to 75 metres deep, some which were filled with water, forming lakes such as Lake Purdiguluc, Lake Werowrap, Lake Gnalingurk and Lake Coragulac. Lake Purdiguluc has been formed by at least 5 coalescing eruption points. The Red Rock lakes have been dry since 1999, which may be a cyclic event or due to over-extraction of groundwater. The critically endangered Corangamite Water Skink can be found around the lakes.

Red Rock H

The volcanoes at Red Rock form a contrasting landscape to the otherwise flat countryside formed by earlier lava flows, which gave the western district its rich fertile soils of immense agricultural value.

Farmland E

Similar explosive vulcanism occurred in many other areas of western Victoria and eastern South Australia, with the last eruption occurring 4,500 years ago at Mt. Gambier. Other maars produced during this time include Lake Purrumbete southeast of Camperdown, the lake at Tower Hill near Warrnambool and the Blue Lakes at Mt Gambier. Scoria cones include Mt Shadwell at Mortlake, Mt Leura at Camperdown and Mt Elephant at Derrinallum.

Alvie Picnic Area

Coming from Corangamite Lake Road, you will arrive at Alvie. Just after passing Red Rock Winery/Restaurant on the left, turn left into Coragulac Hill Road. Just prior to the ascent to the Red Rock Lookouts is the Alvie Picnic Area on the left, which has toilets, a playground, free gas barbecues, shady trees and a shelter with a fireplace, picnic tables and benches. Adjacent is the Old Shire Pit - a scoria quarry which reveals layers of ash and lava flow.

Lake Coagulac A
The now dried-up Lake Coragulac viewed from Alvie Picnic Area. It covers an area of about 34 hectares when full.

After ascending the hill a short distance, you will come to an intersection, where the left branch road will take you to the Eastern Lookout (Memorial Dial) and the right branch road leads to the Western Lookout.

Western Lookout

Red Rock Lookout AThere is a viewing platform and a stairway to the top of a hill.

To the south of the Western Lookout (see embedded map below) are Lake Gnalingurk, Lake Purdigulac and Lake Werowrap, which were formed from volcanic craters and are now devoid of water.

Click each placemark/icon to view the info & photo. Go to map to see more details.

View Red Rock Reserve, Victoria in a larger map

To the northwest, the volcanic peaks of Mt Porndon, Mt Sugarloaf and Mt Elephant are visible. To the west is Lake Corangamite, the largest permanent salt water lake in Australia with a surface area of 234 square km, a circumference of 150 km and a north-south span of 32 km. Corangamite means "bitter" or "salt water" in aboriginal language - a reference to its extreme salinity (3 times saltier than seawater). The streams that feed the lake do not provide substantial amount of water and being a rather shallow basin, the water merely evaporates, causing an accumulation of salinity. Tongues of lava extend out into the lake. These rocky outcrops and beaches of tiny Coxiella shells form the shoreline. The lake is home to around 75 bird species and one of the few breeding grounds for pelicans.

Red Rock B
Lake Corangamite can be seen in the far horizon behind the craters

Eastern Lookout

War Memorial AAlong the way to the Eastern Lookout is a War Memorial in the middle of the road, unveiled by General Birdwood on 24th March 1920. What a surprise as I happen to make use of the ANZAC DayMemorial Dial Lookout 02 public holiday to visit Red Rock! There is a Memorial Dial at the Lookout, which gives the direction of various places such as Port Campbell from this location.

The road going round the Eastern Lookout is a one-way loop circuit. I found the view towards the Eastern Lookout to be rather interesting, with the slope flanked symmetrically by two lone trees in the distance, as shown in the photo below.

Memorial Dial Lookout A

I was intrigued by an unusual landscape. Towering in front of me was the barren face of a "hill". You would expect a typical hill to be tapering towards the top. However, this face/slope was so extraordinarily rectangular and wide. A few trees dotted the top, breaking the otherwise spartan character of this huge canvas. I wonder whether these trees sprouted by themselves or were planted by humans and if they were planted, what purpose would they serve, other than to pique the curiosity of the observers. I suspect this is actually a gigantic crater and the road was built running along part of its rim.

Memorial Dial Lookout B

To the northeast of the Eastern Lookout are Beeac township and Lake Beeac. The milky white appearance of Lake Beeac is due to hyper salinity. Red-necked Avocets and Banded Stilts feed on the large numbers of brine shrimps in the lake. To the southeast are Colac city and Lake Colac, which is the largest freshwater lake in Victoria.

Farmland B

Directly below is situated the historic Coragulac House, a 26-room bluestone mansion built in 1873 by George Pringle Robertson, the third son of the early landowner William Robertson. The two distinctive conical towers were added around the turn of the twentieth century by a later owner. The original estate of 7 hectares included formal gardens and lawns, a kitchen garden, fishponds, glass houses and a full-sized polo field. The property is in private ownership and not open to the public.

Coragulac House A

Otway Ranges are in the distance sweeping to the south.

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