Friday, 24 February 2017

Mine rejection saves thoroughbred industry again


The region's thoroughbred industry is praising the decision made by the Planning Assessment Commission to halt Anglo American's plan for a mine in the Upper Hunter.

It's the fourth time the Drayton South coal mine has been rejected by the PAC, with reports the state government are now making moves to cap the number of times an application can be lodged.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday that the submission was rejected because it posed a risk to the Coolmore and Godolphin's Darley thoroughbred studs in the Upper Hunter.

The Upper Hunter thoroughbred industry was in danger of moving interstate if the mine went ahead. [Picture: Scone Chamber].

Hunter Thoroughbred Association President Cameron Collins said the decision made by the PAC was "logical".

"The science, the economics, and common sense support this decision.  It's the fourth decision in our favour by 12 independent commissioners over the past four years," Mr Collins said.

"But, it doesn't prevent another application for a mine on this site and we think there's an opportunity now for the government to make a decision to block any further mining on this site."

Anglo American first made an application in 2011, to build a mine 500 metres from the same farms which bore runners including Black Caviar and Winx.

That application was rejected twice, and a third time when Anglo American moved the mine's border to 900 meters away.

Planning Minister Anthony Roberts has reportedly begun steps to limit the number of applications an organisation can lodge, even though the planning department recently recommended the mine be approved.

"At the moment, people can come back and appeal based on a very similar application," Mr Roberts told Macquarie Radio on Thursday.
Cameron Collins

"It would require some legislation and this is where I would hope the Labor party would support us."

Mr Collins said there needs to be an agreement between Upper Hunter industries to determine which land is for what.

"Both industries, the mining industry and the breeding industry - and agriculture in general - need an understanding of where mining can go and where it can't go," Mr Collins said.

"We would think it's time for the state government to put some buffers in the equine critical industry cluster.

"That would give us some certainty and investors certainty, and will also give the mining industry some clarity as to where they can and can't mine."

When lodging the submission, Anglo American made the assertion that the mine would generate almost 1,000 new jobs for the Upper Hunter, as well as $300 million in royalties.

That is a far cry from the $2.6 billion estimated worth of the thoroughbred industry - a number Mr Collions said was recognised by the PAC.

"They clearly came down on the side of the thoroughbred industry to say that this mine - the economic benefits of this mine - were not in the public interest at the expense of a long-term agricultural industry," he said.

Mr Collins said jobs in the agricultural industry were long-term ones, while mining jobs are short-term.

Anglo American have been especially critical of the PAC, saying it was costing hundreds of jobs in the region.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Expenses Scandal a 'non-issue': Lord Mayor


Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes has responded to a story in Thursday's Daily Telegraph, saying revelations she spent $270 of ratepayers' money on childcare for her daughter is a "non-issue".

The Daily Telegraph story - which did not contact Ms Nelmes for comment - said the Lord Mayor took her young daughter with her on a council trip to Singapore last year.

While in the South-East Asian country, MS Nelmes paid $270 for a single day's childcare and used public funds to pay for it, which is within the $6000 annual limit Newcastle Council staff have for career expenses.

"I'm not unique as a working mother in a leadership role and this often blends carers responsibilities with work.  At no time did I ever seek reimbursement for my daughter's travel, I paid for it all myself," Ms Nelmes said.

"The only expense I claimed was related to her childcare expenses for one day."

She said she was forced to take her daughter on the trip since Council gave her little notice of the trip.

"It was in the school holidays and the only way I could go for those three nights was to take my daughter and I paid for her and I claimed one day of childcare expenses," she said.

"In my mind, I thought that was reasonable to make sure I exercised my duty."

Ms Nelmes called the article in The Daily Telegraph a "beat-up" and said it was detracting from the exciting changes Newcastle is experiencing.

She said the story was a "relative non-issue considering all of the great things that are happening in the city and all of the important issues happening around the world".

A Newcastle Council spokesman said council introduced an expenses policy more than a decade ago, which was aimed to "increase the participation by women and underrepresented groups in local government".

"Pursuant to clause 17 of the expenses policy, the Lord Mayor was entitled to and did claim for one day of approved childcare in Singapore," the spokesman said.

The Daily Telegraph spoke with a number of Newcastle councillors - excluding the Lord Mayor herself - including Liberal councillor Brad Luke, who said he probably wouldn't pass the pub test.

"I don't think the average person ... is going to be happy that while on an overseas trip on council expenses she not only took her daughter, but claimed childcare," he told The Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

New brain cancer fellowship for Hunter- based doctor


Nationally renowned radiation oncologist Dr Mike Fay has been named the inaugural recipient of a three- year fellowship funded by the Mark Hughes Foundation.

The fellowship will allow researchers from the Hunter Medical Research Institute, spearheaded by Dr Fay, to use imaging technology in order to determine reasons why some brain tumour treatments fail.

In addition to this, Dr Fay is hoping to develop scanning markers and targeted therapies for cancer cells that resist current treatments.

Dr Fay believes a fellowship program, where doctors concentrate solely on research rather than seeing patients, will allow advances to be made. "We've been hamstrung previously as most of us [the research team] work in the public health sector and there's just not enough time for research. This fellowship will free people up to do that."

It is understood that the Mark Hughes Foundation accepted many applications for the funding before deciding on Dr Fay.

"I've been involved with the Mark Hughes Foundation for a while," Dr Fay explains, "They're an amazing organisation and it's wonderful that this is happening in brain tumours, which have been a bit of a forgotten area."

Dr Fay and his team are currently carrying out their research at Newcastle's Calvary-Mater Hospital in collaboration with associates in Brisbane.

Image sources: HMRI and Mark Hughes Foundation websites

Tourle Street bridge taking shape


The Tourle Street and Cormorant Road duplication at Koorangang is well and truly underway after a major milestone was met with the installation of all bridge piles.

The project was announced in April 2016, with work starting a month later and is being funded by both Federal and State governments aiming to improve traffic flow which often results in bottleneck conditions.

Work is expected to be completed by the second half of 2018 and will feature 3.8 kilometres of road wich will be duplicated between Industrial drive, Mayfield West and Egret Street at Kooragang, providing two lanes in each direction along with a second Tourle Street Bridge.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Catherine Cusack said it's great news for long-suffering motorists.

"For those motorists at the moment who are having to endure all the restrictions that all the road works are placing on the roads.

I want to reassure them that significant progress has been made, and we are really looking forward to this project finishing on budget and on time next year," Ms Cusack said.

Current condition of the project on the Tourle Street Bridge.

TAFE is Key to a Strong Economy


TAFE's are facing a challenge in meeting the needs of the Hunter community with the government's defunding of NSW's TAFE System.

State Member for Wallsend, Sonia Hornery is calling for the government to invest in TAFE in order to keep the Hunter's economy strong.

The O'Farrell-Baird-Berejiklian Government has overseen the defunding of the NSW TAFE system and poorly managed Smart and Skilled Program.

With the rise of youth unemployment, TAFE is being seen as a way to encourage workers to seek further education and upskill our workforce.

Sonia Horney said if the government wants to build a stronger economy, they need to provide courses at TAFE that provide apprenticeships and jobs for people in NSW.

The recent cuts to TAFE have been significant and have seen a reduction in courses, apprenticeships and jobs across NSW including the Hunter.

This has further resulted in a lack of skills needed for areas such as manufacturing and aged care.

Sonia Horney said that a strong education system is necessary for a strong economy and quality workforce.

Call To Boost Police Powers


Charlestown MP, Jodie Harrison is calling on the state government to boost police powers so they can properly deal with wild parties and those who organise them.

Officers were confronted by a group of around 300 young people earlier this month, with some throwing bottles at police and others vandalising shopfronts on the Pacific Highway.

Jodie Harrison says action is needed now.
"It's important that motorists feel safe and it's important that people feel they can walk the street in a safe way," she said.

State Member For Charlestown Jodie Harrison

Massive Illegal Dump Pile At Kurri Kurri


It's been revealed a huge pile of illegally dumped building waste at Kurri Kurri was most likely transported from Sydney.

The 50 tonne pile was found near a roundabout at the Hunter Economic Zone by workers yesterday morning.

Documents found at the scene indicate the waste came from Sydney.

Investigators from the Regional Dumping Squad want to hear from anyone who may have seen a B-Double truck in the area on Monday night.

The Illegal Dump Pile At HEZ