Gazette letter writers are well aware of the power of the pen, or their keyboard missives. Over the 60 years the Gazette has been published many writers have attested to their issues being resolved - a pothole fixed quick smart, an issue raised to their own village's attention after appearing in our popular pages. Here's an insight into just a few of those writers and how it all began.
DON MORISON, Katoomba started writing in 1989, the year after he moved to the Mountains.
Reaction: Most people who mention my letters say they like them. My sternest critic is the 96-year-old Harry Douglas of Katoomba who is always very fair. I have had multiple dozens of letters published since 1989. Writing is a family trait, but I am without peer the most wordy member of my family. Within my extended family, the viewpoints on opinions I express are very much divided.
Favourite letter: My favourite letter was a response to the late Hon Bob Hawke's suggestion that there be a nuclear waste dump in Western NSW. I suggested it would improve the Blue Mountains economy if we established the dump in the mountains, put the then Roads and Traffic Authority in charge of engineering it, put City Rail in charge of punctuality, put the United States Military Commissions in charge of legal services and give Blue Mountains City Council overall responsibility for coordinating transport and disposal of the nuclear waste.
Most popular subject: Many of my letters have referred to keeping traffic and parking installations limited near Blue Mountains beauty spots and taking more notice of best overseas practice in stopping large volumes of short-stay tourists from ruining our best places. Understanding of this idea has been slow to develop but I still feel compelled to write about it.
Bugbear: I wish people would stop confusing me with David Morrison of Springwood. He's got two "r's" and I have saved thousands of dollars worth of ink by only having one.
JULIUS TIMMERMAN, Lawson has written hundreds of letters to the paper since he started writing after moving to the Mountains with his wife in the 90s. "If I recall correctly the first letter concerned a development proposal by [former] Cr Chris Van der Kley, which sounded like a bad idea to me. Soon the highway widening in the Mid-Mountains became a major issue and I began writing a lot about how that might affect the local community."
Reaction: Sometimes when I meet someone new they recognise my name from my letters. Many people compliment me on my letters which is heartening. When I wrote about the effects of highway widening on the Mid-Mountains community I felt I was swimming against the tide. Many people just wanted it to be finished no matter how it turned out, but I had the support of a small passionate group of friends that kept me going, trying to get a better result that was less impactful. I am a stickler for facts so if I notice misinformation I feel I must reply and correct it. I always do extensive research before writing to be sure my own information is correct. I am retired after a long career in the public service. I have always taken a strong interest in national and international current affairs, as well as local community matters in the Blue Mountains. My key areas of knowledge and concern are climate change action and social injustice. I am also an amateur musician.
ERST CARMICHAEL, Lawson started writing in 1989 when a huge international 18 hole golf course was proposed for what is now, finally, South Lawson Parklands. This area was previously a 9 hole community golf course and the proposal included area for a further 9 holes consisting of pristine bushland, plus purchase of most of the houses/blocks surrounding it to build a resort and condominiums for the equivalent of another 25 per cent of the population of Lawson village. The letter was probably co-written with close neighbours who were equally concerned. But was this not published, instead an interview with a journalist from the Gazette led to an article.
Impact: My many letters may have had some impact but the work of a strong community group, then Lawson Community Action Group, together with several other groups finally saw the proposal rejected after 5 years. From that point I was involved in establishing the South Lawson Park bush care and then stream watch groups to preserve the bushland in the area, encompassing the Upper Catchment of Lawson Creek
Reaction: I mostly receive praise for my letters from people I know, but there is occasional criticism in replies to the Gazette from those opposing my point of view. This was especially the case for the above proposal by people wanting to make money from it.
Published: I don't know how many letters I've had published because the hard copies from 1989 to 2007 were destroyed in our house fire in late 2007. I have kept copies online since 2019. Letter writing was popular in my family until email took over, though these can often be set out and written like a letter by family members. I do have a sister in Mudgee who refuses to email so we still write letters. More than anything it is possibly my previous family member's connection with local papers that encourages Letters to the Editor for me - my father's father with the Bourke paper and my father with the Mudgee Guardian. My immediate family appreciate my letters and a nephew once found one, on climate change, online and sent me connections to a conference in Princeton USA.
Favourite letter: Titled PLANE CHAOS. In this letter I linked the lack of discussion about the impact of plane emissions on climate change, the battle over Qantas Qatar and the need for people to remember the value of exploring our own country and the first peoples who sustainably cared for it for over 60,000 years. I then referred to the local ridiculous International Western Sydney Airport proposal and its inevitable negative impact on the Blue Mountains World Heritage National Park, Aboriginal heritage and communities (published 20.9.23).
Reaction: I have long been a person who thinks global and acts local. I try to question everything - such as who stands to gain - is it the environment? Local community? Aboriginal peoples their heritage? Wildlife? Planet? Disadvantaged? OR the one per cent of wealthy people in the world? Capitalism and consumerism? How much waste will be produced?
The need to remember that climate change is one of the greatest threats to the planet and that other issues are distracting us from this, hence the connection between planes climate and Aboriginal respect and care for country.
DAVID MORRISON, Springwood believes his first letter to the Gazette was "probably in the 1970s". His subjects have included "government policy and shenanigans by politicians, a perennial topic if ever there was one". I have often been been inspired to write by other letters writers who have taken very different views from mine on politics, the Christian faith, plus the referendums and plebiscite on a republic, same-sex marriage and the Voice. Many other topics have driven me to write. He has 239 letters to the Gazette in his files. "One topic I especially like is defending orthodox Christian belief, but too rarely does another letter writer open up that opportunity". He comments on websites but believes they are "a sort of poor man's substitute for real Letters to the Editor".
Reaction: I have become noted (perhaps notorious) by some as a regular contributor. Many people I meet comment on my letters and most tend to agree with what I have written, with some exceptions. I think most people realise that in general the discussion is in the publication and doesn't necessarily have to spread beyond that forum and become personal. There have been times when I have been disappointed that others haven't written in support of my view, but It's always a good feeling to know that my letter at least has gone through to publication. On occasions when my letters have not been published I am content if others with the same views have been published. One thing I have noticed over the years is that some readers don't really read what I have written before responding. That is no doubt my fault in some cases, with my habit of trying to be humorous or cryptic, but failing to write lucidly enough for others to comprehend. Sometimes indeed I believe that the odd reader or two deliberately misconstrues what I have written. But then some aren't particularly au fait with syllogisms, sorites and enthymemes.
Why write: When I try to analyse my propensity to write to editors there are probably various reasons. One is my natural shyness which makes it easier to write than to speak. Another is my internal nonsense-detector (to use a polite phrase) which starts to tick like a Geiger-counter whenever I encounter what seems to me to be an inane or preposterous point of view. Such detectors need some re-setting from time to time as one's views and opinions change over time, but some of us can't turn it off altogether.
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