A documentary filmmaker is planning to send a thermal drone over Mount Sugarloaf to seek evidence of a black panther.
Stu Ross, director of The Hunt, said the area would "lend itself to launching a drone from the top and being able to survey a big area easily".
We reported last month that Chris Trees, 35, was riding his mountain bike at Mount Sugarloaf when he spotted "a big, black cat" drop from a red gum tree 25 metres away.
"The head shape was definitely the shape of a cat. The body size was like a big black dog, but it had a really long cat-like tail," said Chris, of Macquarie Hills.
Stud said the sighting was "a very exciting one for us because it ticks a lot of boxes".
"A big percentage of sightings are a fleeting glimpse from a car at night."
He said jumping from a tree was "classic black leopard behaviour".
"They spend a lot of time in trees," he said.
He said the close nature of the sighting added credibility.
"Usually there's a lot of potential holes in sightings. Black wallabies are the most common misidentified animals because they have a long black tail and slink off into bushes, unlike a traditional kangaroo."
He said sending a thermal drone to Mount Sugarloaf would be "more to highlight for the film's sake how a thermal drone operation would work should we get a quick sighting and be on the ground within 24 hours".
The film features Vaughan King, founder of the Australian Big Cat Research Group, and big-cat researchers John Turner and Simon Townsend who run the Big Cats Victoria website.
"Vaughan worked at Australia Zoo for a long time as a big-cat handler. He's got that big-cat experience and he's an avid wildlife photographer. His passion is big cats and trying to get proper photos of them," Stu said.
Simon and John have been on the trail of big cats for decades. They fear the black panther mystery will outlive them.
The film will highlight the trio's passion to secure evidence of a panther. It will explore what drives them to stay on the trail, despite the constant disappointment and public scepticism.
It examines the potential origins of panthers in Australia, while investigating sightings, photos and DNA samples.
"We did some initial filming and pitched it to Screen Australia," Stu said.
"Screen Australia has come on board to fund the project. We've also partnered with the Discovery Channel.
"In mid-December, we're delivering the film. It'll have a run on Discovery Channel in Australia and New Zealand.
"We have the licence to sell it to all other regions of the world, so we'll see how we go there."
Stu believes the black panther story needs to be told "whether it's believed by everyone or not".
"Whether we find the undeniable proof that cracks the case so to speak, I think it's still a story worth telling," he said.
"I'm quite a visual filmmaker. The idea of these guys staking out deep forest in the Otways [in Victoria] and using thermal night-vision cameras is pretty cool.
"Visually, it's an exciting story. Culturally, it's quite a crazy story. There are historical sightings and the potential origin of where these animals came from."
Thousands of sightings get reported every year but few people look into it, he said.
Cast Your Vote
The NSW Government says it has a new project that's all about "putting decision-making back in the hands of community".
Which is kind of hard to believe at first, but it does seem true. The government's My Community Project is a grant program that enables residents to vote for projects in their electorate to get some cash.
"It's very easy to vote, all you need is your Medicare card and a MyServiceNSW account," the government's Hunter spokesman Taylor Martin said.
A total of $24.4 million is available for eligible projects, with between $20,000 and $200,000 on offer for individual projects. Voting concludes on August 15.
Check out the project options in the Hunter and vote online at mycommunityproject.service.nsw.gov.au.
Up In Smoke
Central Coast Council sent a press release on Monday, titled "Wamberal's not on fire - council commences smoke testing to help save our sewers".
Say what? Turns out non-toxic smoke was being used to investigate whether stormwater and groundwater had infiltrated the sewerage system.
"Smoke testing is an efficient and innovative way to identify any potential leaks in our sewer networks which could put us and the environment at risk," sewer chief Jamie Loader said.
"Non-toxic smoke is pumped into the network and then the area is monitored above ground for smoke discharge, which could indicate a possible leak."
People may see smoke coming from manholes and sewer vent pipes.
"Don't worry, Wamberal isn't going up in flames," Jamie assured us.
Thank goodness for that.