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Learning curve for Hill End nuclear warriors

Nanjing Night Net

THE ROAD TO CANBERRA: Hill End area residents Robyn Rayner, Geoff Rayner and Jodie Carter took their fight toCanberra. Photo: WESTERN ADVOCATE

THE past three months have seenthree unlikely environmentaladvocates embark on a journeythat has taken them all the way toCanberra and the halls of power.

Sallys Flat sheep farmersRobyn and Geoff Rayner werejoined by Turondale mum andstudent Jodie Carter in taking onthe Federal Government after aHill End property was shortlistedfor a proposed national radioactivewaste facility.

All three say they could neverhave imagined how much theirlives would change during the120-day public consultationprocess which ends tomorrow.

They learned through trial anderror how to become environmentaladvocates.

They sacrificed, they discoveredstrength they didn’t knowthey had and they made heartfeltconnections with people all overAustralia.

For the past three monthstheir day-to-day lives has beenput on hold with at least fivehours a day, seven days a weekdevoted to their cause.

And they know that oncetomorrow’s deadline passes,there will be no more chances toensure Hill End is not furthershortlisted.

They intend to run the wholeway to the finish line.

“I have learned that when youbelieve in something so passionatelyand love something somuch, you’ll find the strength todo whatever it takes to protectthat,” Mrs Rayner said.

Their journey began onNovember 13 last year when theFederal Government announceda property at Sallys Flat (lateramended to Hill End) had beenincluded on a short list of voluntarilynominated sites to potentiallyhost a new national nuclearwaste facility.

It was the first most living inthe area had heard about it.

Mrs Rayner said she and Geoffwere on their way to a ram salewhen a neighbour told them theyhad heard something about it onthe news.

The couple knew straightaway the property named wasright across the road from theirhome and sheep stud.

They were torn.

If they missed the sale it wouldput them behind 12 months ontheir breeding program.

“To be honest the enormity ofit hadn’t really sunk in.

“It was too much to take in sowe decided to keep going,” MrsRayner said.

“We were shocked.

“We didn’t even have aninkling this was coming.”

Two days later they sentemails to Federal Member forCalare John Cobb, State Memberfor Bathurst Paul Toole andBathurst mayor Gary Rushexpressing their horror.

Cr Rush was the only one torespond.

“First we went to Mr Toole’soffice and were told it was a federalmatter, then we went to MrCobb’s office and were giventhree glossy brochures,” MrsRayner said.

“We gave our details and askedMr Cobb to contact us, explainingwe lived directly across theroad.”

Still, they say, there was noresponse.

Members of the Hill End communitycalled a public meeting togive everyone a say in whetherthey were for or against a nuclearwaste facility being built in HillEnd.

By the end of that meeting MrsRayner was nominated as thecommunity’s spokesperson.

“I was reluctant.

“I had no idea what thatentailed.

“I’d never done debating orpublic speaking in my life,” MrsRayner said.

“It was a bit daunting.

“I didn’t even know where tostart.”

“Never had I realised thepower of social media,” MrsRayner said.

“Nuclear issues had neverbeen on our radar before,” MrRayner said.

“The more we dug, the morewe found out and the deeper wegot.

“We now know so much aboutnuclear waste we are at a pointwhere it is almost overwhelming.”

The Rayners own the highlyrespected Pomanara MerinoStud.

Mr Rayner believes that whenthe short-listing was announced,the government saw the peopleof Hill End as an easy target —half a dozen farmers from aremote community who knewnothing about anything.

“They didn’t get it.

“We had everything at stake —our existence, our livelihood, ourheritage,” he said.

As a sustainable wool grower,the Rayners must be accountablefor every aspect of the wool production— the chemicals used,how they store them, what theyput in the soil, their treatment oftheir animals and how they preparetheir wool for the mills.

Mr Rayner said no one hasbeen able to guarantee a nuclearwaste facility nearby would haveno impact on that.

So they started learning aboutthings like rallying people, meetingprotocols, lobbying seniorpoliticians, and holding pressconferences.

“I didn’t know I had this personinside of me,” Mrs Raynersaid.

“Never in a million years couldI have envisaged myself doingthese things.

She admits the past threemonths have been a very emotiveand anxious time.

“I’ve had thyroid cancermyself and the government hasgot to stop making people likeme feel guilty and responsible forcreating radioactive medicalwaste,” she said.

“Logistically Hill End is theclosest to Lucas Heights and thatmakes me sick in my stomach tothe point of tears.

“Never in my wildest dreamsdid I think they were going to puta nuclear dump on my doorstep.

“I’m bloody sure they had noidea how hard we would fight.

“We’ve got our smarts, butnone of us have degrees inEnvironmental Science.

“It just goes to show what ordinarypeople can do when theirbacks are to the wall.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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