TOPICS knows how bad the Newcastle mozzie plague is that we deliberately ignore the full kitchen garbage bin and its putrid smell, letting our housemates take it out instead.
“Don’t forget the Aeroguard,” we say cowardly from the comfort of the lounge room, knowing full well we don’t own insect repellent.
It’s why we tip our hat to Amie Wilson, who took to social media this week to highlight the scale of the invasion.
Read more: The big Hexham Grey mozzie goes missing?
In a video, she bravely stands in a field “covered in Bushman tropical repellent”. Still, dozens of mozzies are attracted to her hat. “This is the current mosquito situation at Newcastle,” she writes. “Getting eaten alive at Shortland and Mayfield.”
And it’s not over.
University of Sydney medical entomologist Cameron Webb told Topics the hotter-than-normal weather meant the plague could last until the end of April, but there is a chance cooler overnight temperatures could “slow” the onslaught.
“The good thing is they only have a lifespan of three weeks and, in the absence of any substantial rain, there is no more population [to hatch],” he said.
In short, the blood-suckers are dying off, these past few weeks being their last hurrah.
But, as Dr Webb explained, a mosquito will lay about 200 eggs for every blood meal, meaning there are potentially “trillions” of dormant eggs in the wetlands. The eggs can survive until next season.
“There’s more eggs there than I would ever care to count,” he said. “How vigorously they come back in late-September and early-October depends on how much water we get.”
He said mozzies were “part and parcel” of life in the Hunter.
“They are part of the environment as much as bushfires and floods,” Dr Webb said. “They are a nuisance, but we just have to live with them in water environments.”
He said the resources needed to control the plague would “completely overwhelm local authorities”, and even so, taking an eradication program to the source would hurt a “very important wetland”.
Wide world of spin
PRESS conferences follow a familiar pattern: the politicians line up, they deliver a few polished one-liners, they answer or deflect questions and the show comes to an abrupt or drawn-out end, depending on how bland or juicy the topic is.
What readers and viewers don’t get to see is those candid moments when the cameras aren’t rolling. It’s a bit like a peek into the sausage factory.
Monday’s press conference about an affordable housing project on Merewether Street is a good example.
It began with one Honeysuckle resident wandering up to Topics to express their “discomfort” at the project.
“Don’t tell me they’re putting that here,” they said, exposing a hideous class divide.
The PR flacks were too busy putting up banners as this unfolded, but there were more hand grenades coming their way – and a few of them were thrown from their own side.
“How’s Alex McKinnon getting out there to change the story,” one well-known Newcastle identity would say about the real issue of the day, the Brown and Bennett feud.
“No one believes it!”
The flacks casually wander over to defuse the potential PR threat, but they walk into a minefield.
Meandering up the street is Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson, who is due in court that morning to front allegations he covered up child sexual abuse. Then there was the writing on the wall: vandalism directed at Newcastle council chief executive Jeremy Bath so rude it’s not fit for print.
There’s a few laughs before the banners begin to topple in the wind mid-press conference.
One almost hit a talking head, the eyes of the assembled media following the lean before a staffer comes to the rescue, grabbing the banner before the wind does.
The press conference wraps up; the flacks breathe a sigh of relief as the hacks lose interest … until lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes spots the graffiti.
She reads it but stays guarded, wisely keeping her distance in the presence of a Newcastle Herald photographer and NBN News cameraman.
Another bomb diffused.