Thursday, 25 May 2017

Pokies pulling in the big bucks in the Hunter

BY JESSICA ROUSE

The NSW Greens have unveiled just how much communities in the Hunter are being ripped off when it comes to the money being made from poker machines by hotels and clubs.

It's been revealed a staggering $1.1 billion has been put through poker machines at Hunter pubs and clubs during the last three months of last year and only small portion of the gambling income goes back to the community.

They've purchased the data, which wasn't publicly available, and revealed throughout the state in the last quarter of last year the data also found:
- poker machines took nearly $2 billion from the NSW community
- each club-based poker machine removed an average $19,638fromthe community, each hotel-based poker machine removed $28,358
- the average turnover from machines in hotels and clubs is $217,936
-there are an average of 62 poker machines per club in NSW and average 15 machines per hotel.

NSW Greens MP Justin Field says buying the data has brought to light a serious problem in the Hunter.

"And what was seen in Newcastle just in the last three months of last year, $438 million went through poker machines in the Newcastle local government area. That's a loss to the community of $43 million. They're huge figures - we've got a pokies problem in NSW and in the Hunter."

The Greens say the problems with how the industry operates, its transparency and how the money is taxed, needs to be fixed in order to put an end to the societal breakdowns and the huge impact on Hunter families.

"It would be appropriate for more tax to be paid so that tax can be put into services to support those people suffering addiction. At the moment the grants that are provided by some of the pubs and clubs for community projects actually offset their tax liabilities as well so there is a range of problems," said Justin Field.

He also said with such huge figures only a fraction of a per cent of the profits go back into the community through grants "and you can think about how many additional school teachers and  nurses and new infrastructure could be built with that level of money."

Housing Industry Association hits back at developer ban

BY JESSICA ROUSE

The Housing Industry Association (HIA) in the Hunter is hitting back after the state opposition called for a ban on real estate agents and developers from running in local council elections.

The legislation would aim to avoid another electoral donations scandal like that in the Hunter in 2011, and the opposition maintains allowing real estate agents and developers to make decisions about property and planning matters creates a major conflict of interest.

HIA Executive Director Craig Jennion disagrees, and believes it is really short sighted to say people in these professions shouldn't be involved just because of the occupation they work in.

"From the simple matters like what is a small or medium business and often they also handle very complex strategic plans and projects, they're involved with intricate financial matters, they have to market projects to the general public - these are skill sets and experiences which are highly desirable to local government," said Craig Jennion.

Measures like checks and balances are already in place to avoid any conflict of interest influencing decisions on council, and HIA believe that should be enough.

"The view that individual councillors have the capacity to influence a council vote on matters that will benefit them commercially is completely ignoring many of the checks and balances that are being developed in our system planning proposals where conflicts of interest exist have to be declared," said Craig Jennion. 

Driver escapes serious injury after bizarre crash

BY IAN CROUCH and JESSICA ROUSE

Police say its lucky no one was injured after a spectacular crash at Birmingham Gardens early this morning.

The driver of a car lost control on Sandgate Road near Moore Street just after 2:30am, slamming into three parked cars and a trailer carrying a boat.

The force of the crash caused the boat to topple off the trailer and onto a driveway.

The driver escaped serious injury.

Fish and chip shop fire

BY IAN CROUCH and JESSICA ROUSE

Quick work by firefighters overnight has stopped what could've been a disastrous fire at a Cardiff Shopping Centre.

Firefighters from six stations were called to a fish and chips shop, Paul's On Harrison, just before 11pm to find a large amount of smoke billowing from the premises.

They found a fire in an overheated oil fryer and managed to contain it before it took hold.

The smoke did however cause extensive damage to the shop.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Road to improvement for Frame Drive, Abermain

BY LAUREN FREEMANTLE

It has today been confirmed that Cessnock City Council will receive $4.45 million in funding as part of the state government's 'Fixing Country Roads' program. 

Cessnock councillors today attended state parliament to talk with Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, where the Minister confirmed the $4.45 million figure. 

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, has welcomed the news, saying the funding will be used to upgrade Frame Drive at Abermain into an 11-metre carriageway stretching from the intersection of Gingers Lane to Orange Street. 

The work, part of a larger plan eventually connecting Cessnock directly to the Hunter Expressway,
will complement the new concrete bridge which replaced the former single-lane timber construction on Frame Drive. 

It is understood that Cessnock Council has been lobbying for the improvements for two years. 

"You can probably say [residents have been waiting for these improvements] since the Hunter Expressway was completed a few years ago," Scot MacDonald says, "people have been using the Expressway to get to and from work and school, it's been very busy...

"I've first had representation from Cessnock City Council about two years ago, but they have put together a good plan and a good design; they've been working with RMS...So I'm very pleased they've been able to find the money under 'Fixing Country Roads.'" 

So far, the state government has awarded $90 million worth of funding towards 138 road projects across regional NSW under the scheme. 

Scot MacDonald believes the upgrade to Frame Drive will begin almost immediately. 

Parliamentary Secretary, Scot MacDonald. 

Cessnock East Public School Students Create Hunter Valley Tourism Guide

BY SARAH JAMES

Cessnock East Public School students, in conjunction with local community partners, have developed a special tourism guide for the Hunter Valley.

The 35-page book titled 'Are we there yet? A trip around the Hunter' aims to help families make the most of the range of activities on offer in the Hunter Valley.

Hunter Valley Visitor Centre Coordinator, Melissa George, said the students received an information session from the Centre's staff, and then researched the attractions which are now in the guide.

It is hoped the guide will encourage people from the region to connect with the region's local culture.



Service NSW Centre Personal Data Privatisation

BY LAUREN KEMPE

The state government has announced new regulation allowing Service NSW Centres to be privatised in the Wallsend electorate.

Employees are currently bound by the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998, but seven private companies have now been granted access to personal data.

Wallsend MP, Sonia Hornery believes the privatisation and recent 25% cut to operating hours in the Service NSW Centres are a concern amongst local employees and the wider community.

"[Wallsend] is concerned that [the NSW government] is privatising a facility that's working very well, and personal information is being given to private companies. This information should be kept sensitive, private and within government hands," said Sonia Hornery.

Ms Hornery believes the government's outsourcing could also threaten the job security of numerous Service NSW employees.

"The motivation of the government is to outsource parts of Service NSW. Private organisations have different operational methods to the government alternative in terms of pulling staff. There would be job cuts to people with local knowledge within New South Wales within local offices."

The data includes Births, Deaths and Marriages, Driver Licence information, Vehicle ownership and registration details.
Image Credit: http://www.zdnet.com/article/service-nsw-takes-infringement-payments-mobile/