Television news footage in the last couple of days has shown, once again, drivers getting into trouble driving through flooded areas, some at unbelievable speeds.
I drive a four-wheel drive vehicle and frequently go off-road. I have been doing this for years and consider myself an experienced four-wheel driver, but I think that some drivers consider such a vehicle makes them invincible. I refuse to drive through water deeper than up to the floor of my vehicle.
What a lot of drivers apparently don't realise is that once the water rises higher than the floor, the vehicle starts to lose weight (it's called buoyancy) and therefore tyre traction. It then does not take much of a current to wash you sideways and off the road. Not to mention you cannot see the surface beneath you or its condition.
I have heard other four-wheel drivers boast the reason they have installed snorkels on their vehicles is to facilitate driving through deep water, thereby lulling themselves into a false sense of security.
What utter foolishness! Of course it goes without saying this is even worse in other types of cars. Then, when the situation goes pear-shaped, someone else has to risk their life attempting to save these idiots.
I have long considered that a separate licence endorsement to drive off-road vehicles, after having completed a suitable course, would go a long way to alleviate a lot of dangerous situations, not just in floodwaters.
Unfortunately, you cannot legislate against idiocy.
Bill Snow, Stockton
NO CAUSE FOR PANIC
THE story about asbestos contamination in Newcastle East Public School seems to have developed its own momentum. Emotion and fear have driven an ongoing concern by parents and neighbours of the school.
People should be aware though that static asbestos in buildings poses no significant measurable risk to occupants. It may be a different story for those people trade-working or demolishing such a building.
The words of hygienist Josh Trahar ('More questions than answers at meeting', Herald, 4/2, seems to have gone unnoticed.
He said that "215 samples from 2500 individual samples" - a relatively large sampling program - resulted in a "small number of positive samples indicated the level of contamination found in the school was no higher than would be expected to be found in the wider community".
A simple explanation of those words could be that asbestos contamination in the school was no greater than asbestos levels outside the school. That is, the rest of Newcastle.
Hygienists don't like to claim zero risk for anything. But that is about as close to zero risk that you can get in a real-world environment, such as the industrial city of Newcastle.
Peter Devey, Merewether
Libraries and learning
IN her usually entertaining way, Joanne McCarthy praises libraries and laments that our politicians confine their discussion on climate change to how government action will play out within electorates, without meaningful discussion about the actual challenges posed by climate change and the policies and strategies needed to meet them ("Information, please", Weekender, 8/2).
Then you turn to the Letters page and see a couple of correspondents complaining that, on the one hand nobody is able to tell him how coal-fired power is going to be replaced (apparently he lacks the capacity to do his own research and think the opportunities through) or, in the second case, nobody is going to tell him what to think (even if his beliefs on climate change do appear to be at odds with enlightened, informed, validated thinking).
Perhaps these examples link back to Joanne McCarthy's other concern: the danger of limiting information sources to the internet, where searches on critical issues are likely to lead to inconsequential banter or straight-out misinformation being promoted by those with a particular financial, ideological or political (particularly right-wing conservative) agenda.
On the other hand, a book on the issue will come with references to steer you to further reading or validation of claims made, a point which the first correspondent clearly fails to understand.
John Ure, Mount Hutton
ENERGISE THE DEBATE
THE Australian Energy Management Office (AEMO) predicts that 12,670 MW of coal-fired power plants in the eastern Australian grid will close in the next 15 years.
It took 25 years to build this capacity when we had a large dedicated workforce skilled in power station design and construction, less environmental barriers and plenty of capital available to finance the large capital cost of construction ($63 billion in current terms).
Given the current lack of a skilled workforce, no market investment interest and increased environmental barriers, it would be logistically impossible to replace old coal with new coal in the time available even if the government decreed it.
Fortunately, wind, solar and storage are much quicker to build and do not require the same specialist skills as coal plants.
AEMO has plans that show we can fill the energy gap with renewables in the time available, but we need an integrated and enthusiastic approach from the federal and state governments and the private sector.
It isn't about ideology or economics (although both favour renewables), it is simply about the logistics of construction if we want to keep the lights on and industry operating. It is time our politicians realised this.
Wayne Bissett, Hamilton South
SURVEYING THE LAKE
CENTENNIAL'S Myuna Colliery is using a sparker, which is a commonly used, low-impact piece of equipment that will be towed behind a small boat over a 12 square kilometre area of Lake Macquarie to help determine the distance between the mine workings and the bottom of the lake.
An essential process for maintaining a safe underground workplace for our people.
This survey program is a government-approved activity, last conducted in 2009-10.
We are not using a seismic airgun blasting method as previously claimed.
The sparker is similar to survey methods used to inform decisions about safe navigation, including where to install navigation or channel markers; or whilr dredging Swansea channel, Newcastle harbour, or during any construction activities in and around waterways.
With a workforce of nearly 300, Myuna Colliery has been mining under Lake Macquarie for 40 years and supplying coal to the neighbouring power station.
Information on the survey program is available on our website www.centennialcoal.com.au
Katie Brassil, Centennial Coal
SHARE YOUR OPINION
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a text message to 0427 154 176 (include name and suburb). Letters should be fewer than 200 words. Short Takes should be fewer than 50 words. Correspondence may be edited and reproduced in any form.
Stockton has been forgotten again, a waste of time putting sandbags there ('Rain pain', Newcastle Herald 10/2). Rocks are needed like in the photo, other places have had rocks for years and it works. Do the job right for Stockton.
George Tattersell, New Lambton
IN December, Bureau of Meteorology officials told a meeting of state and federal ministers that there would be no "significant rain" until April. The current deluge is just more proof that even the experts can never be sure what the climate will do.
Jim Gardiner, New Lambton
THE Bureau of Meteorology said, to state and federal ministers, drought would continue until April. Unless I am mistaken we are still in February. Do you think they may be a little out in their computer conclusions? Perhaps they should also learn about the impending "solar minimum" that will change thinking on global warming. Even NASA has noted a problem.
John Hollingsworth, Hamilton
GREG Harborne, I could not have said it better myself. You hit the nail on the head. The majority think your thoughts.
Mick Porter, Raymond Terrace
A SHORT survey: Grant Kennett (Short Takes, 8/2) asks the readers to choose between a fully funded NSW Rural Fire Service or a stadium in Sydney. The RFS is funded by your insurance premiums already; any extra money saves the insurance companies. I'm not a fan of wasting tax dollars to knock a functioning stadium down to build another while we need hospitals, etc. Another short survey: build Tillegra dam in 2016 for $450 million or a light rail 2019 for $450 million. Who needs to be held accountable?
Jason Procter, Merewether
DAVID Speers is like a new person. He said he was happy to be at the ABC. I watched his reports often on Sky News and he had a stilted, suppressed style. At the ABC, he's all smiles. His body language is positive and engaging. Perhaps out from under the suppression of his hard right bosses, David is a new man.
John Butler, Windella Downs
I THINK Jim Molan on ABC TV's Q&A summed up the attitude of the average climate change denier when he asserted "I'm not relying on evidence!" Meanwhile, the Antarctic continent recorded it hottest ever day on February 6. No wonder the youth of today despair.
Mac Maguire, Charlestown
I THINK Scott Morrison should take his entire cabinet to Wuhan, China and witness the problem firsthand.
John Bonnyman, Fern Bay
FROM an early age I was taught to always respect the umpire's decision and carry on whether you agreed or not. May I suggest Brian Burgess (Letters, 6/2)and Michael Hinchey (Short Takes, 8/2) do the same. While I'm at it, I reckon Mr Hinchey could do his bit for climate change and turn off his computer and phone and start walking to the Herald with his handwritten letters.