Niko Leka

A crowded forum of 200 people organised by the Stockton Community Action Group learned about the serious risks posed by a proposed ammonium nitrate storage facility at nearby Kooragang Island on September 19. The new facility is proposed by Incitic Pivot and would add 21,500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to the 9000 tonnes already stored there by rival company Orica.
The Coal Terminal Action Group hosted a public forum on August 21, with several expert speakers opposing the proposed fourth coal loader for Newcastle, known as the “T4”. Georgina Woods, senior climate campaigner with Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said T4 was not “just another coal terminal … It is part of a long process of continual expansion that will more than double coal exports with an extra 120 million tonnes and 107 extra trains per day and destroy an internationally listed wetlands.
Secrecy: The Key to Independence Laura S. Abrantes & Beba Sequeira Asia Pacific Support Collective Timor-Leste, Dili 2012, 102 pp. This is a book you should turn to whenever you think activism is too hard. Twelve women from the remote areas of Timor-Leste (East Timor) tell how they fought for their nation's independence. In the 24-year war from 1975 to 1999, official estimates are that 18,600 people were killed by conflict and 84,200 died of hunger and disease.
Newcastle activist and satirical singer-songwriter Nicholas Barrington Wood died last December at home after a short illness. He faced death with the same courage with which he lived his life, true to himself to the end. His life was a journey that began in Manchester, England. It was his journey though: not to any destination, but to understand life. He spent years in Arabic, African and Asian countries, teaching and learning languages, playing and composing music, falling in love and having children.
After ammonia gas leaked from Orica’s Kooragang Island chemical plant on November 9 and made two people four kilometers away very ill, the Environment Protection Authority ordered the plant to shut down. But because Orica is its major supplier, the Hunter’s coal industry has as little as three to four weeks of explosives in stock. The largest Hunter mining company, Coal & Allied, told the November 22 Newcastle Herald it had cut production due to the explosives shortage.
Two people were hospitalised with breathing difficulties in the Newcastle suburb of Mayfield East on November 9. NSW Fire and Rescue crews identified the cause as ammonia gas blown from the Orica chemical plant five kilometres away on Kooragang Island. The Environment Protection Authority ordered the entire Orica site to be closed. A Fire and Rescue spokesperson said an estimated 900 kilograms of the gas had escaped over about an hour.
Just about every passerby stopped at a recent Green Left Weekly stall in Hamilton, Newcastle, to sign a Lock the Gate Alliance petition for a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) mining. All those who stopped were concerned about plans to mine CSG at nearby Fullerton Cove.
Israeli activist and author Miko Peled, currently touring Australia, is convinced that the Israel-Palestine conflict can be solved. But, he told public meetings in Sydney and Newcastle, he doesn't believe that it will happen while the government of Israel remains committed to Zionism (the maintenance of Israel as an exclusively "Jewish" state) and continues its ethnic cleansing operation by moving Palestinians off their land. “It is not some inexorable process of nature,” Peled said. “It is a conflict between people, and it is therefore something over which people can have control.”
As time passes, the reasons the public might have for trusting chemical company Orica and the NSW environment minister Robyn Parker are evaporating. On the night of August 8, highly toxic hexavalent chromium leaked from Orica’s Kooragang Island plant and blew over the Newcastle suburb of Stockton. Orica notified the NSW environment department at 10.45am the next morning. Orica representatives began doorknocking residents in Stockton on August 10. Parker says she was not told of the accident until that night.
The Orica chemicals plant at Kooragang, near Newcastle NSW, released hexavalent chromium (VI) into the atmosphere on August 8. Up to 20 workers were exposed in the accident. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) was not notified of the accident for 16 hours. Residents of nearby Stockton were not told that the toxic pollutant blew over their suburb for 54 hours.

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