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 From stranger to neighbour: making a new life in Cobar
From stranger to neighbour: making a new life in Cobar

08 April 2024, 7:40 AM

James Daymond says its been just over 12 months since he came to Cobar and only now does he feel like he is starting to become part of the community.  "It's a long process" he told the Western Plains App "Maybe you're never a local until several decades in a county town. But I love the community here".  Mr Daymond came to Cobar 12 months ago to become the town's first full-time Anglican Minister in 20 years. Now he is leading the way to co-ordinate Cobar's special welcome to other new residents. Reverend Daymond came to Cobar after six years working as an evangelist, first in Narromine and then Mudgee.   "I love the central west region and I feel called to here by God".  He said he has "increasingly come to appreciate its beauty" and loves the "beautiful walk down to the new reservoir".  Image: Supplied.  "Exploring the district has just been great," he explained.  Now Reverend Daymond is taking the initiative – he is co-ordinating the first 'New to Cobar' event for several years.  "We want to make sure new people are welcomed to the community and meet new people. I just think it is really great that when you are new, you are welcomed".  A national report by Ending Loneliness Together released in August found 35 per cent of rural Aussies feel lonely.  While the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says that 'social isolation and loneliness are concerning issues in Australia due to the impact they have on peoples’ lives and wellbeing.'   "Loneliness has been linked to premature death, poor physical and mental health, greater psychological distress and general dissatisfaction with life". "I hear that loneliness is such a huge issue," Rvd Daymond said. "So I encourage everyone to come to this event. Even though its run by churches, it is not a religious event and everyone is welcome." 

'An enormous challenge': how to have your say on regional crime
'An enormous challenge': how to have your say on regional crime

08 April 2024, 3:40 AM

The Country Mayors Association of NSW (CMA) has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement of a new Inquiry into Community Safety in Regional and Rural Communities, and urges community members to have their say.Late last month, the NSW Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Law and Safety launched a new inquiry to take a closer look at regional crime.In particular, the inquiry will investigate the drivers of youth crime in the regions and explore actions the NSW Government can take to improve community safety.It follows a report from the CMA showing that average rate of recorded crime across Rural and Regional NSW is considerably higher than in Sydney for most offences.For instance the report showed that in 2022/23 the rate of break and enter-dwelling was 115% higher in Rural and Regional NSW compared with Greater Sydney.In 2022/23 the rate of motor vehicle theft in Rural and Regional NSW was double the rate in Greater Sydney. Violent crimes were also much more prevalent in Rural and Regional NSW.Gunnedah Mayor Jamie Chaffey is the Chairperson of the Country Mayors AssociationCMA Chair and Gunnedah Mayor Jamie Chaffey said the statistics showed clearly there were disproportionate crime levels and fewer police resources in regional and rural New South Wales, and it was now up to community members to bring the full extent of the crisis to the attention of the State Government.“It has been an enormous challenge to make this Inquiry a reality,” Mayor Chaffey said.The CMA’s recent general meeting hosted top level speakers on regional crime at NSW Parliament House days after the announcement.“Our meeting saw presentations from the NSW Minister for Police, the Shadow Minister for Police, the Deputy Police Commissioner and President-Elect of the NSW Police Association” Mayor Chaffey said.“The inquiry that the NSW Government has announced is not everything we hoped for, but the Minns Government has listened and responded, which the CMA commends.“As Shadow Police Minister the Hon. Paul Toole told our meeting, this inquiry must get to the front lines of the regional crime battle and not remain safely holed up in Sydney. We encourage regional Councils to send submissions to the Inquiry members, including Mr Toole, asking that the inquiry conduct a hearing in their town and hear from locals in person.”Shadow Police Minister Paul Toole addressed the meeting in Sydney. IMAGE SUPPLIEDThe meeting in Sydney included a presentation by Executive Director NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Jacki Fitzgerald.CMA Deputy Chair and Temora Mayor Rick Firman AOM said the bureau’s data underpins the CMA’s recently updated Regional NSW Crime, Law and Order Report.“The statistics and trends speak for themselves,” Mayor Firman said. “As Jacki Fitzgerald told our meeting, the data shows that regional NSW has far worse reported crime figures than Sydney.“What we need is for policy makers and Government departments to get more than the numbers, to really understand what crime has done to people in our regions and what consequences or potential solutions are, when we do not feel safe in our own communities and our own homes.”To find out more about the Inquiry or to make a submission click here.

Time to prepare before 3G switches off
Time to prepare before 3G switches off

07 April 2024, 9:20 PM

When it comes to mobile telephone connections in the bush, the next big change is on the horizon and Coonamble farmer Sharon Single is taking it in stride. “Moving to new technology in itself is not a bad thing,” Sharon said. Despite concern over how things will handle after the major telecoms switch off their 3G networks over the coming months, Sharon, who volunteers with non-profit Better Internet for Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRA), says the 4G and 5G networks have much to offer. “The new towers should have better data speeds and will be much more capable of handling voice calls over a longer distance,” Sharon told the Western Plains App. “Like everybody, we’ve bought boosters over the years, a couple of the older boosters aren’t going to be usable anymore. For about five years, the technology’s been 4G compatible. “I mean, we’ve had 4G for quite some time now realistically, so this isn’t news. “I know we often talk about not having coverage over every hectare of our farm, but between UHF (ultra high frequency) or satellite phones, or if people want to invest in new Starlink technology, there’s a number of ways to have connectivity in the paddock.” Telstra will shut down its 3G network on 30 June, followed by Optus in September.SOURCE: Telstra.com.au The end of 3G means that older phones, EFTPOS machines and farming equipment that can’t use 4G will not receive service, including for emergency calls. Mobiles without Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology, also won't be able to make voice calls on Telstra’s network, even if they use 4G data. Orana Regional Service Manager with the NSW Farmers Association, Catriona McAuliffe, said the priority is ensuring mobile handsets are compatible with the newer networks. "There's always a bit of 'wait and see' with anything like that and when changes happen and with the amount of data being on the spectrum,” Ms McAuliffe said. “But the main thing is to make sure that everybody has their handsets and their other devices that they're using mobile service 4G compatible." "I know that there's some internet of things and maybe some farm machinery that people still have that is 3G. “They’ll need to upgrade, which will be a bit of a cost, but hopefully people are aware of that and are looking at their options.” She said there is onus on the community to prepare for the transition away from 3G. “We’ve still got three months until it shuts off,” Ms McAuliffe said. “The onus is on the community a little bit too, and individuals, and Telstra’s doing a great job in contacting the people that they know are still using those 3G handsets.”SOURCE: Optus.com.au According to online coverage maps of Telstra and Optus, most centres in the Western Plains are covered under their 4G networks. Both major telcos say they are contacting customers they believe have devices that will be impacted by the shutdown.'It’s not just 3G devices that will be impacted,' Optus explains on their website. 'Some recent 4G devices may also be impacted including models that may have been purchased overseas or imported which aren’t configured for Australian networks or do not support 4G VoLTE (Voice over LTE).' Impacts may include inability to make calls, send or receive texts, make Triple Zero calls or browse the internet.There is still time to check your devices and speak to your provider or trusted telecommunications supplier to work out how the 3G shutdown will affect your household or business.

Creatives give packaging new purpose
Creatives give packaging new purpose

07 April 2024, 7:40 AM

 A Medusa head decorated in wrappers, a river of bottle caps and a dress made from chip packets.  That’s some of the work on display at Outback Arts as Coonamble’s aspiring and professional artists flex their creative muscle for the opening of the local annual Waste 2 Art Competition and Exhibition.  Individuals and group entrants submit art from pre-loved materials that might otherwise end up on the scrap heap. Students from the Coonamble Public School’s Maliyan Room took out the Community Functional category for ‘The Dress.’  Their principal Annette Thomson said she is proud of her students' artistic ability.  “They love to see their work and their school displayed,” she said. “Our preschool made ‘The River,’ modelling it off the Coonamble river. So, our preschool kids have been collecting lids of all different colours and have turned it into three panels of the landscape. “And then our Maliyan Room has entered the dress made out of recycled foil packets.” Some waste material entrants used include cans, cardboard, Styrofoam and plastic bottles. Keeping in line with this year’s ‘Packaging’ theme, local visual artist Anna Kennedy said she went out of her comfort zone in ceramics to win the Open Two Dimensional category with ‘Believe What You Will.’PHOTO: CPS year 4 Temprance Wrigley helped make a dress out of chip packets. PHOTO:River McCrossen “For me it was about how packaging gives the opportunity for food producers to tell lies about their food,” Anna said. “So, words like ‘natural’ and ‘gluten free’ and all of that kind of stuff misleading the consumer about the quality of the food when we know that packaged food is not healthy. “It’s on a shopping bag to make the point that we fill our shopping bags, or our shopping trolleys, with a lot of trash and we believe the lies on the packaging.” Coonamble High School Year 9 student Annabelle Harris won $100 in the High School Two Dimensional category for ‘Everyone puts on a different Mask to hide their feelings.’ “I based it off mental health and tried just to get people to look at it more,” Annabelle said.  The exhibition remains open until 19 April.PHOTO: Coonamble High School year 9 Annabelle Harris won $100 for her piece about mental health. PHOTO: River McCrossen Winners receive money prizes up to $100 funded by Coonamble Shire Council and will exhibit their work in August at the Waste 2 Art Regional Showcase in Parkes. Outback Arts Director Jamie-Lea Trindall said this year’s entries were “really colourful.” “It’s really exciting to see what people’s imagination can create,” Jamie-Lea said. Council’s Tourism and Events Officer, Maddi Ward, said Christine Young’s ‘Aegis of Medusa’ was a standout for her.  “It’s just very 3D, lots of materials and colours used,” she said. “Even some of the kids works, I didn’t realise it was students that made them.”

Happy World Health Day!
Happy World Health Day!

07 April 2024, 3:40 AM

Today is World Health Day. Our health is something not to be taken for granted. Across the Western Plains, though we lack some health services, we are lucky to receive the dedicated care that we do. For example, Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service recently completed their school screening program with all schools in Coonamble, helping identify students who need further follow up for hearing, eyesight, and oral health as well as general health issues.Concerningly, at one school 150 of the 180 students checked were in need of follow up for oral health issues and have been recommended a visit to the dentist. Dr Virginia Smith, a Senior Research Fellow in the Violet Vines Marshman Centre for Rural Health at La Trobe Rural Health School saying it is a part of general health that is often neglected. "There are many people in our rural communities who face inequity in oral health, such as access to services but also to infrastructure (like water fluoridation) that is vital to promoting oral health," Dr Smith said. "Rural people face inequity in many forms and a lot of oral disease can be prevented but our rights to good oral health are compromised due to where we live. In some of our rural towns we see dental decay in children’s teeth (which is preventable) at much higher rates than in cities.” Health and wellbeing of our older population is also very important. At 30 June 2020, there were an estimated 4.1 million older people (aged 65 and over) living in Australia. Two-thirds lived in major cities, nearly one in four in inner regional areas and the remaining 11 per cent lived in outer regional and remote and very remote areas combined. Fortunately, there are many dedicated health professionals in the western plains who are on hand to help out. At the Trangie Multi-Purpose Health Service, staff recently assisted the residents to create beautiful artwork for an Easter display and also decorated two Easter cakes together. They also came together for Senior Week Activities at the local club on March 19 enjoying fun-filled activities organised by the students of Trangie Central School. This year’s WHO World Heath Day theme is ‘My health, my right’ looking at the equity and access to health care around the world.  We are fortunate to have many dedicated health professionals across our region who advocate for those who are unable. La Trobe University are offering the chance to talk to experts about health equity and how to improve clinical practice and social wellbeing, achieve equity and inclusion, and promote wellbeing across the lifespan.  Should you wish to participate, Professor Jane Mills, the Pro Vice Chancellor Health Innovation and Dean of La Trobe Rural Health School can be contacted on 0409 762 200.

End of Bushfire Danger Period
End of Bushfire Danger Period

06 April 2024, 9:40 PM

Mild weather conditions brought a timely end to the Bush Fire Danger Period (BFDP) this year for 36 NSW local government areas including Walgett, Coonamble, Warren, and Bogan shires.The wet weather of the past two days has added a punctuation mark to the official end of bushfire season“Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen milder conditions, so we have decided to not extend the BFDP from here,” Regional Fire Safety (RFS) District Coordinator Greg Cassidy told the Western Plains App.   Cassidy applauded the community for upholding fire safety measures, "A lot of people within the region are very responsible with their burning."Since 1 April, residents no longer need to apply for a fire permit before burning.However, Cassidy reminds landholders across the western plains that they are still required to notify the RFS prior to lighting a fire. “It is still the responsibility of residents to notify the RFS and their neighbours 24 hours before conducting a burn on their property.”   Despite the BFDP starting one month early on 1 September 2023 due to excessive dry grass and fire fuel, the RFS has not had to suspend any fire permits since Christmas.  Grassfire near Walgett in September 2022.The RFS is now focussing on daily operations and meeting their hazard reduction goals.“We have completed a couple in the Coonamble and Wagga shires within the last few months,” Cassidy said.  The District Coordinator reminded residents to take precautions before lighting a fire.“Make sure the burning is still in a contained area and that equipment is on hand to contain the fire if it does get out of hand,” Cassidy cautioned."I urge all residents to take the threat of bushfire seriously and to prepare their families and home now."The first thing you should do though is update your bush fire survival plan and discuss it with your household," Inspector Jillian Butler added. Residents can notify the RFS about any burning plans on their website.

Lachlan Council vies for national awards
Lachlan Council vies for national awards

06 April 2024, 6:40 AM

In November last year, Lachlan Shire officially opened the Condobolin Improved Freight Logistics project and a new cutting-edge visitor information centre at the award-winning “Utes in the Paddock” precinct. At the opening, Lachlan Shire Mayor, Councillor Paul Phillips said it was "a tremendous milestone for our Shire and something we should all be extremely proud of." These two 'jewels in the crown' for the Shire have now been entered into categories in the 2024 National Awards for Local Government and the council is encouraging everyone to vote. The National Awards for Local Government (National Awards) are an annual celebration of local government achievements in Australia. The National Awards highlight initiatives implemented by local governments that are innovative, make a difference to their local communities, display excellence, and have outcomes that are replicable across the country.Lachlan Shire's freight logistics project improved flood resilience along nine kilometres of road, providing a safe alternate traffic route for travellers when the Newell Highway is closed due to flooding. It was constructed at a cost of $8.5 million.The tourism side of the project included the development of the Utes in the Paddock Tourism Precinct, which is now home to a new visitor information centre, Jockey’s Memorial Garden, a heavy vehicle rest area and new traveller rest facilities. The construction of 24our accessible toilets and showers at the well-located tourism precinct is a welcome facility for truck drivers and travellers to assist in the management of driver fatigue. “There have been many components to this project, and Lachlan Shire Council is extremely appreciative of the support it has attracted,” Clr Phillips said.The new tourism precinct has become a focal point within the Shire, improving visitor experience. The project is entered in the Regional Growth category as it is supports increased economic activity in the region by encouraging tourists to engage with the unique experiences on offer.Lachlan Shire Council said it is proud to support the growth of tourism in the region and provide visitors with improved facilities that encourage them to linger in the Lachlan. One of the 'Utes in the Paddock' sculptures. IMAGE: NSW GovernmentIt is also entered in the Road Safety category as the project supports the travelling public and transport industry by providing a convenient rest facility and safer roads.Mayor Paul Phillips said that “Lachlan Shire Council was excited to have two submissions in these National Awards and encourages all residents to vote”.Voting is open until 26 April and can be done by clicking on the link below,Vote for Lachlan Shire Council’s entries here.

Coonamble Feedlot expansion flagged
Coonamble Feedlot expansion flagged

05 April 2024, 8:40 PM

A future expansion of occupancy at the Coonamble Feedlot was flagged again last month, two years after it was first floated with Coonamble Shire Council.At the March 2024 meeting council approved a Development Application (DA) with extra conditions attached, for the construction of an additional 26 pens and supporting infrastructure, at the Quambone Road facility.The approval for the extra pens allows for rehabilitation and ongoing repairs to existing yards, but does not allow for extra stock numbers at this time.Coonamble Feedlot representative Angus Chadwick took the opportunity to advise council that they have continued to work behind the scenes on the many pieces of the puzzle required to bring an operational expansion to fruition.The proposal was well received by all councillors back in May 2022 so the Chadwick family have proceeded with their investigations.At the meeting councillors were advised that it is now likely that the feedlot will look to aim for approval for a maximum of 30,000 head rather than the 20,000 mooted two years ago."Like all businesses, the feedlotting sector has enormous headwinds with the rising costs of energy, labour, machinery and insurances," Mr Chadwick told the meeting. "In order to remain competitive in the sector and run a viable business, we are pushed further towards the need to expand almost just to keep up with our competition."He cited their power bill at $100,000 per year power bill, even after their company invested in a 99 kilowatt solar system, and Rotomix feed trucks with a purchase price that has ballooned from $200,000 to almost $700,000, and the feedlot requires three of these to operate efficiently."These crippling increases in overheads are industry wide, with many yards having either expanded already or going through the same application process that we are.”"The usual fundamentals of supply and demand still exist and always will, however the only thing that will ensure the business remains viable and relevant is to get control of our overheads by way of expanding and spreading the costs over more cattle. "The Coonamble Feedlot is looking to grow. IMAGE SUPPLIED.Mr Chadwick explained that, along with demand for around 100,000 tonnes of grain and about 90,000 cattle per year, the feedlot would generate substantial growth in local employment.He said it will be "a huge benefit to the Coonamble district with around 1.5 extra jobs created in town for each person out at the feedlot." "If levels of employment increase by 28 people at the proposed 30,000 head occupancy, this would equate to 42 additional jobs created in the Coonamble shire, 84 jobs in our region and 146 jobs across the state of NSW."The overall expansion would need to meet stringent state planning standards and will be subject to rigorous assessment. Councillors raised questions about the availability of water and impacts on odour if the feedlot carries triple the number of stock than currently allowed."We do need more water, and we're actively working on that," Mr Chadwick said. "ultimately, you have to have the water before they'll approve a licence.""The Surat Basin is a lowly-traded aquifer because we don't have the irrigation where you see more water traded, so that's definitely taking longer than expected to attain the water."The amount of water required would bring the feedlot's take to 800 megalitres per year.Mr Chadwick said the matter of odour is the primary reason that the proposed capacity was not increased further.He said a Queensland company who specialises in odour modelling has been engaged.“Due to the rigorous and expensive application process, it became obvious that we needed to maximise the occupancy so that there wasn’t a future need to go through the process again. Odour models are being completed in accordance with the EPA technical framework, using data received from the Coonamble Airport weather station.  "Our family has lived here for six generations now and with the next generation on the ground, we don’t have intentions on leaving so our primary concern is for minimising any negative impacts and maximising the benefits to the local community." "Modelling suggested that 35,000 to 40,000 head would be okay from an odour viewpoint, however we decided to reduce it to 30,000 head minimise impact to the community. 30,000 head will have a very similar footprint to the current operations odour footprint.It is likely that the approvals process could take another 6 months. During that time information will be provided to the community with opportunity for feedback.

Goanna Manor to go under the hammer
Goanna Manor to go under the hammer

05 April 2024, 6:49 AM

Formerly the site of the Condobolin Youth Centre, the building known as Goanna Manor is being considered for demolition by the Lachlan Shire Council.Last November, in a council meeting, options were discussed for the future of the building on Bathurst Street which is in serious need of repair.A new Youth Centre was officially opened in Hay Street for young people in Condobolin by Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton and Lachlan Shire Council Mayor John Medcalf in 2022, situated in a former NSW Government building.The new building underwent $363,698 worth of renovations which included a new open plan kitchen, fully renovated bathrooms, media room with bean bags and big screen, a music space and new air-conditioning..Last November, at the Ordinary Meeting of Council, Lachlan Shire Council considered a report regarding options available for the future of Goanna Manor.Due to the dilapidated state of the building and the estimated costs associated to make the building safe exceeding $237,000, Council resolved to demolish the building.The decision is subject to historic and photographic records being gathered, particularly in regard to exterior mural, and community consultation being undertaken.Council staff are actively engaging with representatives from Lachlan Arts Council to record the details behind the mural project including the name of those who participated in the project.Council is now seeking the community’s feedback. If you want to have your say regarding the proposed demolition, submissions can be made email, post of hand delivery to council. 

Safer Coonamble Group calls out ‘ghost’ services
Safer Coonamble Group calls out ‘ghost’ services

05 April 2024, 2:40 AM

The newly formed Safer Coonamble Group (SCG) is hitting the ground running as it tackles some of the toughest issues faced by the local community.Born out of a public meeting in December 2023, the SCG team met earlier in March and were joined by Barwon MP Roy Butler’s senior adviser John Clements.A frank discussion about the lack of take up of services designed to support vulnerable families and young people as well as programs to help repeat offenders and youth at risk led to a decision to write to government MPs about particular funded services failing to deliver services on the ground.“This has been going on for decades,” one member said in the meeting. “There are millions of dollars coming in to our community to support people but in some cases the services just aren’t there.”Mr Clements told the group that Mr Butler is well aware of the issue.“We call them ‘ghost’ services,” he said.  “Governments believe they are investing in preventative programs but there is often a lack of accountability and communities are left wondering where the funding has gone.”The SCG members told Mr Clements that they believe local management of funded programs would allow the community more flexibility in ensuring services meet local needs and deliver better outcomes for all involved.With support from local Police, the Safer Coonamble Group is also pursuing more referrals by the courts to ensure that those released into the community are participating in activities to reduce the risk of re-offending.Encouraging residents to register the location of their private security cameras so that police can request access to footage when a crime occurs in that locality is also being explored.Similar registers operate successfully in other areas, including Dubbo.The next meeting of the Safer Coonamble Group will be held later this month.

Can Project Pathfinder lead to less youth crime?
Can Project Pathfinder lead to less youth crime?

04 April 2024, 8:20 PM

After committing to an Inquiry into the safety of regional communities and announcing more than $26 million in initiatives, the announcements keep coming. The NSW Premier joined police and NRL players in Moree on Wednesday 3 April to launch a program aimed at keeping young people on the right path. Project Pathfinder will provide mentorship by NRL players to at-risk teenagers from the regions. Participants will be selected for three-month rounds, with potential for intake to expand.Reactions to the announcements have been mixed and with the fine print still to come, western plains communities will be wondering whether the project will reach far enough to reduce youth crime. While teenagers will get the chance to spend time with players in Sydney, NRL head Peter V'landys told media in Moree the players will also come out to bush towns. "Will this program be successful? Well I'm a walking example." "I was in a similar situation as a youth, a migrant kid, found it hard to assimilate, and it was rugby league that made me assimilate," Mr V'landys said. "It was rugby league, through a role model that came down and spoke to me and gave me that inspiration to want to succeed." Premier Chris Minns announces Pathfinder Project in Moree on Wednesday 3 April.Bourke Police Citizens Youth Club Manager, Rozaria Suckling said the program is "definitely worth having," although she would like to see higher intake. "Our young girl that went, she absolutely enjoyed it and there's a lot of kids out this way that don't get opportunities like that. They hardly get to even leave Bourke," she said. "[It's] understandable there's budgeting , there's grants, obviously money gets involved a lot around this sort of stuff, but instead of having one kid could it be an opportunity where there could be a group? "Seeing the smile on her face and knowing she enjoyed it, I just wish a few more kids could've witnessed that experience as well." Three people from Lightning Ridge, Moree and Bourke completed the program's pilot. Teenagers who have committed crimes are not eligible. “Project Pathfinder is an innovative example of how the Government can work with community partners to support young people to stay on the right track and pursue their goals," NSW Premier Chris Minns said. “Sport is an invaluable tool in a young person’s life which teaches them vital lessons about teamwork and leadership." The launch follows an $26.2 million March announcement from the NSW government focused on youth crime in the regions, particularly on early intervention and prevention programs. $13.4 million of that is earmarked for a pilot program in Moree. The Project Pathfinder announcement is light on detail at this stage, with no news of which towns or how many young people might be involved. Barwon MP Roy Butler welcomed the program, but said existing programs already need attention. "Project Pathfinder is positive for Moree. There is a problem with youth crime in that community, and something should be done about it. And I know we have had a couple of kids complete the pilot program from Bourke and Lightning Ridge, which is great," Mr Butler said.  "However, the decision to invest in Moree does not account for the higher crime rates per capita of crime and youth crime in other Barwon communities." "The June budget is not far away, and I have asked the government to consider funding diversionary programs in Barwon as a priority.  "We have programs that exist but need support and others that are ready to go but need funding. We cannot wait a year for decisions about resourcing diversionary youth programs in Barwon." Greens spokesperson for Justice, Sue Higginson, called the program a "smokescreen." “Project Pathfinder is nothing short of a well-timed media distraction to turn heads from Labor’s recent youth bail law catastrophe. Instead of pushing genuine reform, the Premier is drumming up feel-good media stories and hiding behind the star power of the NRL,” Ms Higginson said.

Quambone ICPA parents attend State Conference
Quambone ICPA parents attend State Conference

04 April 2024, 6:40 AM

By BRON JOHNSTON, ICPA, Quambone BranchMembers from Quambone and District ICPA Branch recently attended the 52nd Isolated Childrens Parents Association State Conference held in Dubbo on 6 & 7 March. Linda O’Brien, Marie Younghusband and Bron Johnston represented the local branch attending two full days of guest speakers and branch motion presentations. Any ICPA member can be a policy maker by way of branch members bringing their concerns to State Conference in the form of motions which are debated and if adopted, become policy for State Council to lobby.Established in 1971, the ICPA (NSW) is a non-for-profit organisation that advocates for all NSW students throughout rural and remote areas to have equity of access to education appropriate to their needs. Sadly students in rural and remote areas of NSW still face greater challenges compared to their metropolitan peers as recently highlighted in the Audit Office NSW Regional, Rural and Remote Education Report. A decade since the last Rural and Remote Strategy (2013) to address educational disadvantage, there remain considerable gaps in access and outcomes between rural/remote students and metropolitan students.Guest speakers at State Conference included Deputy Premier of NSW Hon. Ms Prue Car MP, Hon Fiona Nash (Regional Education Commissioner), Ben Ballard (Executive Director NSW Department of Education-Rural Regional and Remote Education Policy Unit), Senator Perin Davey, Rod Crowfoot (Macquarie Homestay), Claire Taylor (Head of Strategy Innovation & Partnerships, Royal Far West), Michael Marom (Northern NSW Regional General Manager Telstra Retail & Regional Australia) and keynote speaker Joh Leader from Leader Life. At the conclusion of Conference, the Quambone and District Branch would agree that a ‘one size’ policy does not fit all and decision makers must think differently about education in rural and remote areas. Less than 50% of rural and remote young people will obtain a tertiary qualification. Whilst acknowledging the gap between urban and rural/remote areas, Government must ensure all NSW students access good education. It is the responsibility of Government to invest in education which in turn is a key driver to keep people in the regions. Government must work with rural/remote communities to improve educational outcomes and hopefully there is now a renewed focus on the multitude of challenges in these areas.The Quambone and District Branch welcome and encourage new members to sign up via the ICPA website www.icpa.com.au/nsw. The ICPA advocates for all rural and remote families, in towns and on the land, from early childhood to tertiary and training. 

Farmers v Supermarkets: the next round
Farmers v Supermarkets: the next round

04 April 2024, 2:40 AM

Just when we thought the cost of living couldn't rise much further, the Labor government has passed what the Nationals are labelling "a fresh food tax", condemning it as an attack on farmers and families. The new tax is a biosecurity protection levy, which, according to the Nationals, will force farmers to pay for the biosecurity risks of international importers. “In what parallel universe would a government charge its own farmers to pay for the risks their competitors are creating?” Leader of The Nationals, David Littleproud said. “This new tax will hurt families at a time they can least afford it and farmers who are already under pressure. It doesn’t make sense at all and comes amid a cost-of-living crisis. Farmers will be forced to pass on costs, meaning families will feel more pain at the grocery checkout.” Bundaberg cattle and poultry farmer Jodie Healy also agreed the tax doesn’t make sense. “I think it’s insanity on so many levels, it is almost like they are trying to destroy the farming industry deliberately,” Ms Healy said. “To me it just makes sense that people importing the products pay the levy – why should farmers pay more? With generational farmers and their children, the younger generation won’t want to stay on the land anymore if farming becomes too hard. “I really think this new tax will cripple a lot of already struggling farmers. It also comes on top of the truckie tax. Farmers truck their produce everywhere, so this is just another blow.” And while this law has passed, another proposed law is waiting in the wings, but this one has support from the farming lobby. Farmers are also having their say about possible new laws given to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). If passed, the consumer watchdog would be given new powers to bust apart Australia’s supermarket duopoly; Coles and Woolworths, if they are found guilty of anticompetitive behaviour. Under the proposed legislation, the ACCC could force the nation’s grocery giants to sell off parts of their operation if they were found to be engaging in practices such as price gouging or market power abuse.  NSW Farmers Vice President Rebecca Reardon said the development was welcome news to the peak farming body, which had long been calling for the powers to be introduced to address serious market power imbalances in the supermarket sector.  “Australia’s supermarket sector is one of the most concentrated in the world – and for years, we have seen farmers subject to gross market power imbalances as a result of this environment,” Mrs Reardon said.  “In the recent Senate inquiry into supermarket prices, divestiture powers were one of the key solutions we presented to combat the anticompetitive behaviour of these giant middlemen, and it is a relief to hear this recommendation heard.” As the bill entered the Senate this week, Mrs Reardon said many hoped meaningful competition reform was now on the horizon for the sake of farmers and families, who deserved fairer prices for their food.  “Farmers shouldn’t have to accept prices below the cost of production, or contract terms on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, nor should they have to face the prospect of produce being rejected for no given reason,” Mrs Reardon said. “Yet that’s been the reality for the agricultural industry as to date, there hasn’t been the powers available to bring these bad behaviours to account.  “There’s now real hope on the horizon for farmers and rural communities who have been suffering with unfair prices at the farm gate, as well as families who shouldn’t be paying the prices they do at the checkout.”

Pushing for payroll tax exemption in regional NSW
Pushing for payroll tax exemption in regional NSW

03 April 2024, 8:20 PM

Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall re-opened a long-running conversation this month, after introducing legislation to abolish payroll tax throughout regional NSW.The idea behind the proposed law is two-fold, to grow local businesses without financial penalty, and attract businesses from further afield to open up shop in regional NSW. “Payroll tax is outdated and archaic, costing regional businesses millions of dollars each year,” Mr Marshall said. The bill would create a special economic zone covering all regional NSW, that is, everything outside of greater Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong. “Everything within that special economic zone would be exempt from paying payroll tax,” he said. “We are following the example of Victoria as regional Victoria has a different payroll tax rate to Melbourne, positively encouraging growth in the regions”It’s not the first time NSW has explored helping regional NSW through discounted payroll tax.In 2018, the NSW Government held an inquiry into ‘zonal taxation’, with its number one finding being that ‘a zonal tax approach in NSW is justified to support and encourage regional economic growth’.Since then, the threshold for payroll tax has increased to $1.2 million, but falls short of the $2 million threshold recommended in the inquiry’s findings.During the inquiry, the Walgett Shire Council made a submission in support of zonal taxation, for more than just payroll tax. Similarly, the Western Division of Councils NSW - including Brewarrina, Bourke, Cobar, Lachlan and Walgett - said in a submission that tax reform could offset the barriers of remoteness, higher start up costs and higher unemployment. “By introducing exemptions or concessions relating to Payroll Tax, Stamp Duty and Land Tax, the Walgett Shire Council believes it would attract new business to the area and encourage the growth of existing businesses,” then General Manager Don Ramsland said. In 2020, Member for Barwon Roy Butler advocated for payroll tax relief in the wake of drought and Covid-19. “Payroll tax is a handbrake on regional economic growth and regional employment. A zonal taxation system, on the other hand, would provide financial incentives for people and businesses to live, work and invest in regional NSW,” Mr Butler said at the time. Later that year, payroll tax concessions were handed down in the state budget, but were Covid-19 based rather than location.Mr Marshall said in NSW Parliament last week that abolishing payroll tax in regional locations would ‘undoubtedly’ see businesses relocate from interstate.“I’ve been talking to local businesses who are looking to expand, or who are feeling the bite from cost-of-living pressures, and who are enormously tired of government restrictions,” he said.“I have long said that payroll tax is a huge burden on larger businesses, it is a terrible and punitive tax – it is a tax on employment in that the more employees you have the more tax you pay."

Pilliga Bilbies burrowing blitz
Pilliga Bilbies burrowing blitz

03 April 2024, 6:40 AM

The Bilby, Australia’s answer to the Easter bunny, is reinvigorating the Pilliga Forest landscape with a digging frenzy.  The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), managers of the massive feral predator-free area established in the Pilliga Forest near Narrabri in 2018, say that a recent population census shows that the Bilby population is expanding in their established forest haven.Following the reintroduction into the Pilliga Forest Conservation Area, the long-eared marsupials have dispersed throughout the fenced area, with ecologists witnessing a burrowing frenzy in the last twelve months. According to wildlife ecologist, Dr Tim Henderson, Bilby burrows are completely transforming the landscape.“They are popping up everywhere, even on our access tracks which can make it a little difficult for us to get around but it’s great to see,” Dr Henderson said.“All this burrowing is reinvigorating the landscape, and it’s not just Bilbies which benefit. We sometimes see multiple species using Bilby burrows, including Golden Bandicoots and Burrowing Bettongs.“Bilbies will normally dig a single burrow, then Burrowing Bettongs will come in and renovate it into a multi-entrance complex. This level of earthworks is incredible.”In the fourth year of the annual AWC Bilby Census, populations were surveyed at AWC’s Mt Gibson (WA), Newhaven (NT), Yookamurra (SA) and Scotia (NSW) wildlife sanctuaries as well as Pilliga State Conservation Area and Mallee Cliffs National Park where AWC works in partnership with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).PHOTO: Bilby caught on a motion-sensor camera. (image: AWC) Since the 2023 census, the Bilby population at Newhaven has dramatically expanded throughout the fenced safe haven, while in the Pilliga Bilbies have dispersed from the smaller breeding area into the wider fenced area. At Yookamurra, Bilby numbers have doubled since the end of the drought in 2020.The Bilby is an iconic Australian marsupial, instantly recognisable by its long-pointed snout, long ears, soft grey fur and striking black and white tail. The key to successfully reintroduce the regionally extinct Greater Bilby into the Pilliga has been the establishment of the massive fenced predator-free area. “These prolific foragers and diggers play an important role as ecosystem engineers, turning over 20 tonnes of soil annually through burrowing and digging for food,” said Senior Wildlife Ecologist, Dr Vicki Stokes. “Their digging improves water infiltration and creates fertile microhabitats where plant seeds can germinate.“The Bilbies with their engineering colleagues, the bettongs, have turned over a lot of soil in their search for food and when digging burrows. These activities will improve the ecosystem health of the Pilliga forest over time.”During the recent Pilliga population survey, the team encountered several baby bilbies.“Two of the female Bilbies had tiny baby Bilbies (called joeys) in their pouches,” added Dr Stokes. “We’ve also had increasing Bilby activity on motion-sensor cameras across the fenced area, indicating that the population is doing well.”With Easter falling early in 2024, it coincided with the latest round of Bilby surveys underway at several sites throughout March . 

Country Mayors Association wants new anti-crime initiatives in more towns around NSW
Country Mayors Association wants new anti-crime initiatives in more towns around NSW

03 April 2024, 2:40 AM

The Country Mayors Association (CMA) of NSW has welcomed the NSW Premier’s announcement that the NSW Government will implement new initiatives to start to address regional youth crime. However, the CMA want the state government to look beyond the town of Moree – where the premier Chris Minns announced a $13.4m package for the northwest town of Moree, enhancing youth and Aboriginal services aimed at crime prevention earlier this month.CMA Chair Mayor Jamie Chaffey said the announcement, a timely intervention by the Premier following his recent visit to Moree, was recognition of the CMA’s call for change to address the inequity regional communities face.“It’s obvious the Premier’s visit to Moree has shone a spotlight on the urgent need for action in regional New South Wales to address our crime issues,” Mayor Chaffey said.“We are supportive of the legislative reforms focused on youth crime and hopeful it will bring about meaningful change. We urge the Government to implement these reforms as soon as possible. Regional New South Wales cannot afford to wait".Narromine Police Station. Image: Narromine News.The CMA recently held their General Meeting in the Theatrette in NSW Parliament House on Friday, 22 March 2024. The theme for the meeting was ‘Regional Crime’. "This was timely following the NSW Government’s announcement of a Parliamentary Inquiry into Community Safety in Regional and Rural Communities, and the meeting delivered a wealth of relevant speakers for members. The CMA has been advocating for a parliamentary inquiry into regional crime for close to a year" the CMA said. The Yasmin Catley MP, Minister for Police and Counter Terrorism spoke at the meeting. Minister Catley said the government wanted focus on the "entrenched, complex drivers behind crime", adding that the $26.2m regional crime package that includes Moree may be expanded in six months.Yasmin Catley. Image: Supplied.Minister Catley said that Regional Operation Mongoose had been getting real results, and YAMS and safe transport of youth at night programs will be expanded. As leaders in their communities, Minister Catley said Local Government could help in the planning of crime prevention activities. She acknowledged the varying capacities of councils. Surveillance (CCTV) and youth events could help. ‘We can’t arrest our way out of the current situation’ she concluded. 

Bourke, Cobar and Coonamble worst in country for lack of access to mental health services
Bourke, Cobar and Coonamble worst in country for lack of access to mental health services

02 April 2024, 8:20 PM

A new report from the Royal Flying Doctor Service says that Bourke, Cobar and Coonamble have the highest number of people without access to mental health in Australia.  The Best for the Bush 2023 reports says there is ‘alarming’ crisis facing rural communities, saying "where the health need is greatest, there is the lowest supply of health professionals". The report said that 101,963 people did not have access to general mental health services across Australia, with the highest numbers of people without access in the regions of Bourke - Cobar - Coonamble, New South with 9,782 people without access. The report also showed the high number of people unable to access a GP when sick in rural Australia. The net result is that rural Australians are crowding out emergency rooms.’."When compared to people with these conditions who live in major cities, people living in remote and very remote areas were 1.3 and 1.9 times, respectively, more likely to be hospitalised (public and private hospitals combined)." the report said. "The Best for the Bush report demonstrates the massive health underspend in rural areas that contributes to a heavy burden of disease and shorter life expectancy. Most of these diseases are preventable with better access to primary health care,” said National Rural Health Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen. It follows a 2023 report commissioned by the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) identified a gap of $6.55 billion in funding health expenditure between major city residents and rural and remote Australians in 2020–21.This translates to a health funding shortfall of $848.02 per person in rural and remote Australia. The NRHA report also showed people living in the most remote parts of our country were likely to die 14.3 years earlier than their counterparts in major cities: 13.1 years earlier for males and 16.0 years earlier for females. The RFDS recommends that: The Australian Government, through the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, should lead a process to define “reasonable access” to primary healthcare services.The Australian Government should lead the development and publication of a detailed, targeted plan to deliver reasonable access to primary healthcare to every Australian living in rural and remote Australia.The Australian Government, working with State and Territory Governments, should lead the development of a National Compact on Rural and Remote Health. “We stand with the RFDS in its recommendations for expanded health funding that would help remove barriers to healthcare access. It’s important to agree on a definition for ‘reasonable access’ to health care. The Alliance and others are working to develop minimum standards for healthcare access and we’re keen on taking this project forward with the government" Ms Tegen said.Susi Tegen. Image: The Australian“We propose the Primary care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services (PRIM-HS) model, which addresses the complexities in rural and remote community health service delivery, as each rural community has different health needs. "The PRIM-HS model should be one of the targeted plans for rural and remote healthcare, as the Best for the Bush report recommends, ensuring local planning and leadership in healthcare delivery.” If you need support please call:Lifeline: 13 11 14Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36

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