Thursday, 11 February 2016

New Beds for Newcastle Private

The State Government and Department of Planning have approved an extra storey to be built on top of a new building at Newcastle Private Hospital.

It will allow for 15 new beds and an additional operating theatre, bringing the total up to 196 and 10 respectfully.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald praised the announcement, saying "these extra beds and additional health infrastructure will assist the health system to meet demand and provide timely treatment."

"The Hunter community is fortunate to have a mix of high quality private and public health providers."

The plan also included an elevated pedestrian link between the existing Kingston and Croudace Buildings.

The original plan, back in 2010 approved a six storey building on top of a three stroy parking lot, that total has now been increased to seven.


Rural Mental Health Services Recieves a Boost

The State Government has committed $19 million to the University of Newcastle's Center for Rural and remote Mental Health Centre.

Funding will be delivered over the next five years and spent on improving the services and supporting rural and regional residents when it comes to their mental health.

"We will be looking at how we work with Government health services and the primary health networks ... in order to create a much more relevant mental health service for people in remote regions" says the Center's Trevor Hazell.

In these remote regions, the local GP acts as the mental health practitioner as opposed to urban areas like Newcastle and the Hunter, where specialised care is available.

"You may not be able to access a clinical psychologist, and thier are barries ... because of  fear that everyone in the town would know" says Mr Hazell

"In a metropolitan area, you can access them anonymously."

Mr Hazell adds that weather plays a significant role in the mental health of farmers, with the fear of whether or not their will be rain before harvest.

"Their continuously looking towards a possible good future, but also a possible uncertain future.  And this effects not just those of produce the agriculture, it affects the workers."

Image courtesy of Matthias Ripp, via Flickr (LINK).

Friday, 5 February 2016

AGL Walks Away from Gloucester

After eight years of protests and poor results, energy supplier AGL has walked away from the coal-seam-gas industry in Gloucester.

AGL had high hopes that the Waukivory pilot would provide 15% of the State CSG needs by 2018 however, it has now decided that number is unobtainable.

Protesters display anti-CSG slogans
Protests have been ongoing since the mine opened
"Unfortunately, the economic returns to support the investment of approximately $1 billion were not adequate" AGL said in a statement.

"Consequently, in the interest of our shareholders and customers, this is the most responsible course of action."

Groundswell Gloucester's Judy Lyford has been a strong advocate against the CSG industry and has welcomed this news.

"AGL were on a hiking to no where with the non-existent Gloucester gas fields because of all the inherit problems."

"We respect AGL's decision, now our focus is on the State Government and the collusion and culpability we fell has been happening for many years."

AGL's pull-out comes after Gloucester Council inquired to NSW Premier Mike Baird and asked to buy the CSG exploration license from the company back in November.

"Coal seam gas was a great concern to many people in our community, the lack of science and tech coming out from all over the world continuing unknown's was a real worry" said Gloucester Mayor John Rosenbaum.

"We need to move forward as a community."

"AGL, I'm hoping will be able to work with us and we're prepared to do that and I think the community will be at looking at the long term renewable energy source."

Ms Lyford says the focus now needs to shift to the conservation of the Gloucester environment.

"We to look at what's happening with the waste water, the holding ponds so there's a lot of work for AGL to do in that space."

"[Coal seam gas is] a shocking industry that has no guarantees of safety its been shown to be polluting."

"It's unacceptable and the State Government are really culpable for everything that's happened."

Meanwhile, Mr Rosenbaum is looking forward to getting on with the job.

"I'm looking forward to promote Gloucester (sic) without having this in the background."

"The beauty of Gloucester we have here, I can see the benefit is that now more people are assured that there's an industry [gone now] that they didn't want to live around, they can come and live here in this great environment we have."

"It needs to be protected for future generations."

Image courtesy of Ray Dawes, via ABC (LINK).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Lake Macquarie Council Promotes Awareness of Autism

Lake Macquarie families are encouraged to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) during free workshops held at Charlestown Library in both February and June.

Dr. Sturgeon will be a guest speaker at the February workshop.
It's part of Lake Macquarie Council's 'You're Kidding Me' program, which aims to provide families with free access to health, education and family services.

As part of the program, the workshops looks to guide families on how to recognise ASD, as well as support strategies both during and after diagnosis, and how parents can use visual cues to assist children.

Council's Manager of Community Planning, John Ferguson says the workshops aim to improve families understanding, where they will also "explore what ASD looks like, how it is identified in children."

Each workshop will focus on different topics, with the February one featuring special guest Dr. Lee Sturgeon.

"[Dr. Sturgeon] will present a workshop aimed at supporting families through an ASD diagnosis" said Mr. Ferguson.

"Then, on Tuesday 28 June, families can join the team from Early Start Speech Pathology as they explain how the use of visuals can assist children with ASD."

Bookings for both workshops are essential, interested families can book online HERE.

Image courtesy of The Newcastle Herald (LINK).

Friday, 29 January 2016

Night Works on Swansea Bridge

Roads and Maritime Services will be conducting roadworks from Sunday evening along the Pacific Highway, at Swansea.

The resurfacing work will be done on the southbound lanes of Swansea Bridge for three nights from January 31.

Work will be conducted between 8pm and 4.30am, with southbound traffic diverted onto the northbound brdige, via contra flow.

Weather permitting, works should be completed by February 7.

During work hours, a reduced, 40 km/h speed limit will be enforced to minimise risk for both workers and motorists.

Additional information can be found on  Motorists can also download the Live Traffic App for smartphones, or call the Transport Management Centre on 132 701.

Image courtesy of Matthew Fern, via Flickr (LINK).

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Hunter Breaks Rain Record

The Hunter is expected to have more rainfall for the rest of the week, following sunny skies for the Australia Day holiday.

Rainfall is expected to varied, with some parts expected to receive up to 60 millimeters of rainfall, while others may receive as low as 5.

Chris Webb from the Williamtown Weather Office says the showers will effect everyone.

"For the entire Hunter district tomorrow and Saturday, they'll be some showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon."

"At this range it's not possible to know where we'll get it, but we're confident there will be some about."

The upcoming rainfall will push this January into the wettest one in memory.

"We've got an old record of 404mm, 1895 it dates back to" says Mark Wilgard, Observations Officer at Williamtown Weather Office.

"As of yesterday, 9am we had 402.8mm, but since then we've got the 1.2mm."

"So the record's been equaled."

This weekends rain is being blamed on a low pressure trough which is moving itself across the Hunter.

"We think with the trough nearby there will be some showers and thunderstorms this evening" said Mr Webb.

"That trough will probably move across the Hunter on Saturday, causing more showers and thunderstorms."

The poor weather is expected to move on by Sunday.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Layoff's at Scone Abattoir

A downturn in the Australian livestock industry has seen 155 workers losing their jobs at a Scone abattoir.

The JBS owned facility aims to combat the downturn by shifting from double to single shift work days, resulting in the layoffs.

Most of the workers came from labour hire firms (who outsource skilled and unskilled blue-collar workers) or are on temporary work visas.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union Secretary, Newcastle and Upper NSW Grant Courtney said the writing for the layoffs was written on the wall.

"When there's livestock downturn or when the market corrects itself, jobs are always lost and usually the areas that are dropped first are labour hire workers."

JBS has confirmed it is still committed to the future of its Scone operations.

Mr. Courtney said the focus should remain on keeping local workers.

"It's about career opportunities for local people, who are also looking for work."

"The company needs to have a look at itself and say "well okay, who are the people we should be keeping"."

"We want to make sure that there's a career path for permanent residents into the future."

It comes after the abattoir was sold by Primo to JBS in March 2015. At the time, New England MP Barnaby Joyce confirmed then Treasurer Joe Hockey had the authority to divest JBS of the meatworks.  

Image courtesy of Emma Brown, via ABC News (LINK).