The Collins dictionary defines a whim as a wish to do or have something which seems to have no serious reason or purpose behind it, and often occurs suddenly.
Example; last election, the two major political parties decided on a whim, to put lights around Lake Wendouree as a way of sweetening the electorate for votes.
Did the suggestion to put lights around Lake Wendouree come from Canberra after a Ballarat delegation went there ,saw Lake Burley Griffin and decided that would be a good idea for Ballarat and Lake Wendouree?
With a state election looming at the time, both the major parties were desperate for votes.
The original $2 million plan to light the lake was launched by the Liberal Party; snatched from the air with no scientific basis, a whim and suddenly the beautiful Lake Wendouree became a pawn.
Not to be outdone, and with no scientific evidence for or against, or any consideration for native birds and animals, and the local eco system, the Labor Party said they would "match" the offer but if Labor won, this $2 million dollars can only be used to light the Lake.
It can't be used to increase lighting around the hospitals to increase safety for doctors, nurses and hospital employees.
It can't be used to make the second rate walking/ running/cycling track around the Lake world class.
It can't be used to extend the tram line right around the lake.
No this $2 million dollars can't be used for anything BUT putting 225 light towers that are 5 metres tall and spill bright light 5 metres each side of the track. These lights will be every 26 metres approximately.
If this proceeds, it will benefit few when compared to the whole population of Ballarat.
Hearsay has it that the same political party wants these lights installed before next election, even though it could quite easily become a bombshell.
As a former professional photographer I know how to measure light and my calculations show that these lights will be the equivalent of three to four MCG's in added lighting to the lake environs and the Ballarat skyline.
Ten metres of light (5 metres each side) x 6 kilometres of track = 60,000 square metres of light.
The MCG playing surface is 17,720 square metres.
Lake lighting will be 3.38 times more than the whole MCG playing surface and it will be lit up so that one can see someone clearly.
I also measured the light intensity and it was easy to recognise people as far as ones eyesight would allow.
This test was conducted at the trial lights near the Olympic Rings.
It was also worth noting that I stood just past the five-metre spill zone and watched quite a few people pass and not one was able to see me in the darkness, a case of extreme contrast.
Residents of Wendouree Parade will feel the full intensity of these lights every morning of every season before dawn and every night until 11 pm and these will be a lot brighter in the open areas where all the housing exists e.g. from St Aidans Drive to Carlton Street.
Not only will there be added light pollution but more noise pollution.
Lake Wendouree is already a very delicate environment surrounded and compressed by suburbia and encroachment, people, dogs, cats, noisy vehicles, car doors opening and shutting, cyclists talking loudly, and general environmental noise.
These lights, if installed, will add over 1000 hours of virtual daylight to the lake environs and the Ballarat skyline when it's supposed to be dark.
To be up front and honest, I'm advocating for the animals today.
They don't have a voice, they don't have a car to pack up and go, they can't go to the supermarket for food and they certainly can't turn a light off or on and they certainly can't function with bright artificial lighting.
The animals of Lake Wendouree are too many to mention but includes moths, spiders, dragonflies, insects, frogs and lizards, small bats and mammals.
The nocturnal animals of Lake Wendouree precinct include many species but not limited to these, Nankeen Night Heron, Tawny Frogmouth, Barn Owl, Boobook Owl, Rakali, Possums, Gliders, Bats, Spiders, Mudeyes (Dragonfly Nymphs) and dozens of insect varieties and moths.
These animals have been genetically programmed over millennia to hunt, breed, build nests and forage and care for young at night.
Ballarat has visiting bird photographers from all over Australia that come to see our birds on Lake Wendouree, especially the nocturnal Nankeen Night Heron, which hides in thickets during the day and is very shy and will only come out in darkness.
We also have resident nocturnal Tawny Frogmouths which are very sensitive to human movement and environmental changes and these birds need long nights and a good insect population to survive.
Will these lights drive these beautiful birds away and worse still, draw insects to the lights and away from traditional feeding areas of these famous Australian creatures?
Many visitors are interested in our famed nocturnal Rakali's, and many nature photographers come to Ballarat just to see and photograph these quaint Otter-like native mammals.
There are Barn Owls and the occasional Boobook Owl at Lake Wendouree which rest and roost in some of the Lake's beautiful trees.
One of the most important insects to the Lake Wendouree environment is the Dragonfly.
Insects are the biological foundation of any ecosystem and this is no different at Lake Wendouree.
It's unknown whether these Dragonflies will survive if this lighting goes ahead simply because the Dragonfly nymphs, or mudeyes, must climb out of the water in the darkness or they will be eaten by birds and the lifecycle will be stopped and Dragonflies will vanish.
We've all seen trees and posts covered with the skeletons of these Dragonfly nymphs that have climbed out under the cover of darkness. And when they climb out of the water, a beautiful Dragonfly emerges.
Dragonflies are a large and crucial link in the food chain at Lake Wendouree as there is a co-dependency with many other animals.
Mosquito lays eggs - Dragonfly Larvae feed on the hatched Mosquitoes (Wrigglers) - Fish eat Dragonfly nymphs (Mudeyes) - Nankeen Night Heron or Rakali eats fish.
Mosquito hatches and gets caught in small Spider Web, Frog or Larger Spider eats small Spider, Tawny Frogmouth or Owl eat Frog or Spider.
Rakali forages on shoreline at night, also eats eggs, nestlings, yabbies, small fish, frogs, spiders and mudeyes.
One day we watched a small raptor called an Australian Hobby catch three Dragonflies in flight one after the other near Ballarat Yacht Club.
These examples highlight the crucial food chain that exists in the lake's ecology.
In the City of Ballarat Environmental Impact Statement and Consultants Report provided by Matthew Gibson from Biosis, Mr Gibson says this:
"The inclusion of perimeter lighting is unlikely to have any significant impact on insects and fauna given existing light levels, location and limited operational times."
1. The insect life that exists support artificial trout stocks (and other) in Lake Wendouree." (Unfortunately there was no mention of even one native animal.)
2. The lake is surrounded by a large urban area that already emits significant light. (Three to four MCGs of extra light to the lake precinct won't matter?)
And very importantly this item number 3:
3. There is a lack of clear scientific evidence to support the for/or/ against argument. (Don't chance Ballarat's best and most loved asset when you can't provide a "for" argument.)
The magnificent heritage trees at Lake Wendouree are also in danger of being killed with underground boring for lighting cables and conduit.
The conduit and cabling will be installed underground, to connect the 225 lights. All perfect if no tree roots are encountered but if we lose one very large tree that will be a disaster and there are no guarantees we won't - none.
Once again, Matthew Gibson, Biosis, tendered this information in the Environmental impact Report prepared for Council in points 6, 7 and 8.
6. Consideration of impacts to trees in the vicinity of the Steve Moneghetti Track has been made in regard to the proposed type of works. This includes excavation for conduit and light pole installation which present a risk of damage to roots and branches.
7. Significant sections of the conduit will be bored underground to minimise tree root impacts and ground disturbance
8. The City will work to manage and minimise tree damage during construction.
Not sure about anyone else but I think the trees on Lake Wendouree are very special and they cannot be risked. Not one!
In closing I would just like to say that this lake lighting will affect many - a whole delicate ecosystem in fact, but many people who rely on the lake for daily therapy.
Natural sunsets and sunrises will be a thing of the past at the lake.
This money could be so well spent elsewhere, money that could benefit a much larger percentage of the population.