by John Robertson
On Saturday morning, 9th December, John F as team leader, Neville as crew and Robbo as driver set off in 51. The choice of 51 was deliberate. Since the arrival of the turbo-charged 52, 51 has been a bit unloved. It remains an excellent truck whose performance differs little from its younger sibling.
The first task was to check out the accessibility of a large dam below Eagle Heights. It is down a steep, narrow, rutted track which is soggy at the bottom but it has a huge amount of water just where we might need it. In 4-WD 51 made easy work of access and we did a case 4 from the lily covered dam. We used a rapid case 4 system and had water drafting to both tank and hose in <5 seconds from hook up. Next stop was at the shining, stainless steel tanks on Holt Road. This is a great water source with 'drive in drive out' on bitumen from beside the tanks. The outlet is a 64 mm camlock which must feed via the tank lid. A key is needed to actuate the switch which starts the pump. Thence to Sierra Drive and Neville's 'over the fence' neighbour. Here we are offered a full 35,000 litre tank which is never used otherwise. It is ideal for putting a portable pump on the tank, running 30 metres of 38mm layflat to the road and filling trucks parked on the roadside. From there to Kootenai Drive and a house just one along from that which was burnt down over a year ago. Again a 35,000 litre tank. Again a short run from a portable pump on the tank to a truck on the roadside is the go. From there to the kiwi-fruit farm opposite the hang-gliders. Neville had given the owner, Graham (Graeme?) one of our spare 50 mm Camlocks as a pattern of what we would like him to fit. Fitted it was. Brand new and needing only a 90 degree turn to give us access to 550,000 litres of gravity feed water any time we require it. Ideal! Our final foray was to the first Western Escarpment shelf, accessed from opposite the Show Ground, and lying some 100 metres below the main road level. John F knew the area of old and directed us perfectly. We met up with the main property owner who proved to be “Mr Big” in Mountain water and a very helpful and down to earth guy. With his young son on his lap he guided us on his quad bike along tracks he had opened up on this lower shelf. The track ended in a nice turning circle – what more could one ask? The circle is roughly where Lahey Road would run if it continued straight on down the Escarpment. The owner mentioned that he had several 10,000+ litre water tankers and that these were at our disposal in the event of fire anywhere in that area. They use 64 mm Camlocks so again feed will be via the tank lids. The warm welcome which we received from all those whom we met was striking. It is a tribute to the on-going work and diplomacy of John F and Neville on behalf of the Brigade.