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'Drug traffickers getting smarter' says Walgett mayor
'Drug traffickers getting smarter' says Walgett mayor

14 July 2024, 9:20 PM

The Mayor of Walgett Shire has said that drug traffickers are constantly changing up their methods of getting drugs into the region as a new report shows an alarming increase in methamphetamine use across regional NSW.Cr Jason Ramien told the Western Plains App that methamphetamine use is “becoming a growing concern in all towns rights across the shire”.“I know the police are doing everything they can to get on top of it, but traffickers are changing their methods all the time,” he said.“At the moment I think the people bringing drugs into the community have really changed up the day and time they normally arrive with their drop offs”.It comes as wastewater analysis conducted by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission shows that methamphetamine use in regional NSW has hit its highest levels since COVID.Their December 2023 collection covers around 55 per cent of Australia’s population – about 14.1 million Australians and found meth consumption in regional NSW sat at a four year high.The report also found that while cannabis and heroin use dropped, cocaine use in regional NSW reached an eight year high.Meth consumption in Australia ranked it 2nd highest of 30 countries on the ACIC international comparison list.Shane Neilson: ACIC.ACIC Principal Advisor Drugs Shane Neilson explained that both meth and cocaine were coming from a large range of organised crime groups and being shipped from all over the world.“We are seeing a combination of drugs being smuggled through sea cargo in other items and large numbers of smaller packages coming through the mail,” he told the Western Plains App.Meanwhile a new Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) survey found that a majority of people worried about a loved one's alcohol or drug use didn't know the best way to help them.Image: NSWCLCNearly 60 per cent of people said they weren’t sure of the best way to raise their concerns.Many said they did not know where to find information or support for loved ones impacted by drug abuse.Path2Help is a tool to connect you with local services in your area that can help you have that initial conversation with a loved one about their substance misuseOther contacts includes Family Drug Support on 1300 368 186 and SHARC 1300 660 068.

Brian’s big bilby goes to uni
Brian’s big bilby goes to uni

14 July 2024, 7:40 AM

Coonamble artist Brian Campbell’s giant bilby sculpture has found a new home at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Kensington Campus. On Tuesday 2 July, the Minister for Climate Change, Energy, Environment, and Heritage, Penny Sharpe, officially opened a new garden at the Michael Birt Lawn where the bilby sculpture has been installed.The garden was designed and constructed by Regal Innovations to reflect the arid desert landscape.Mr Campbell finished the bilby in February. In June, the bilby travelled to Sydney on the back of a ute.Mr Campbell’s wife, Susan Campbell as well as family friend Lynette Firth accompanied Brian to the opening.The sculpture is made of recycled wire netting and is part of the Wild Desert Project to reintroduce locally extinct mammals to a part of the Sturt National Park near Milparinka in far west NSW. Mr Campbell said the 200-kilo heavy sculpture took him around four months to make.He made around a dozen sculptures of netting since 2016.  PHOTO: Brian’s bilby in its new home in Kensington, Sydney. In 2021, Mr Campbell completed a sculpture of a western-barred bandicoot as part of a trial of art work stretching from Broken Hill to Cameron Corner on the border of NSW, South Australia and Queensland. “I’m still learning how to do the netting, so it’s always interesting. You change things as you go,” Mr Campbell said. The location of the sculpture also has a special meaning for Mr Campbell. “My daughter Leah Campbell and future son-in-law Sam Hunt both went to that university. It’s a bit of bush going to the city.“I really enjoyed the day and representing Coonamble, it got mentioned quite a bit.”Thanks to the Wild Desert Project bilbies have made a comeback in an enclosed area in the Sturt National Park.  “This project is not only turning around the future for animals but showing us how an ecosystem approach to recovery is possible. That’s something really worth celebrating,” Minister Sharpe said. The project in 2020 started with 40 bilbies within a 50-kilometer feral-proof fence network. UNSW researchers say there are currently between 300 to 400 bilbies within the enclosure. The Wild Deserts Project is a partnership with the UNSW Science’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences, NSW National Park and Wildlife Service, and Ecological Horizons in collaboration with the Taronga Conservation Society Australia.“It’s an audacious idea to think that you can shape an ecosystem back to health after all the damage that’s been done in such a short period of time. That’s really what Wild Deserts is about”, said Minister Sharpe.“This incredible statue will stand as a reminder for everyone who walks past it at UNSW that reversing the extinction crisis in our country is critical.“Congratulations on a great opening Professor Richard Kingsford, Professor Merlin Crossley, Dr Reece Pedler and sculptor Brian Campbell.”The bilby is classified as vulnerable nationwide and is listed as extinct in some areas. 

 Tomingley Mine meets production goals as mayor praises  “good corporate citizen”
Tomingley Mine meets production goals as mayor praises “good corporate citizen”

14 July 2024, 3:40 AM

Output from the Tomingley gold operation in New South Wales has dipped slightly in the last 12 months as Narromine Mayor Craig Davies describes the mine’s owner Alkane Resources as a good corporate citizen for the region.Newly released figures show gold production fell from high levels in the 2023-24 financial year but it still met its production guidance.The mine delivered strong production in the final quarter of the financial year to meet its updated production guidance of 55,000oz to 58,000oz Au.Preliminary all in sustaining costs (AISC) are expected to fall within updated guidance (A$2,150/oz to $2,350/oz) for the same period.FY2023 gold production was 70,253oz (guidance 65,000oz to 73,000oz).Tomingley produced 57,217oz of gold for the 12 months to 30 June 2024.It comes after a period where Alkane said that "Roswell ramp-up has not been sufficiently rapid for us to meet our original FY24 guidance, particularly given the recovery issues experienced in February from a discrete mining area in Caloma Two, as highlighted in our March quarterly report," Alkane managing director Nic Earner said.PHOTO: Nic Earner. Image: Supplied.But the production levels have since recovered.2025 production at Tomingley is anticipated to be between 70,000oz Au to 80,000oz“Tomingley is steadily increasing production from the Roswell underground,” Mr Earner said. “Tomingley is now performing well, and the paste plant and flotation circuit upgrades remain on schedule.“Alkane’s board and management acknowledge and thank the employees and contractors of the company for their strong and continued commitment to safety, production and exploration performance.“Tomingley has always been a great mine. “I think they have found more gold there than they ever expected to”.Image: Australian Mining MonthlyCr Davies said Alkane Resources were a "great corporate citizen"“You are talking about a mine that meant the Newell Highway had to be moved,” said Davies. “Tomingley Mine contributes a great deal to this community”.Alkane announced in June it was looking to expand key infrastructure at Tomingley, increasing its production to above 100,000oz of gold per year while also expanding the site’s plant to a nominal 1.5 million tonnes per annum.Alkane also delivered its five-year expansion plan on June 24. The company forecast gold production this financial year to be between 70,000 to 80,000 ounces, which was reconfirmed in Thursday’s announcement.Alkane reported its unaudited cash, bullion, and listed investments position at June 30 was $54.5 million, comprising $45.5 million in cash, $8.7 million of bullion on hand, and $300,000 of listed investments."During the quarter, A$42.8 million was drawn from the Macquarie Bank $60 million debt facility," the company said.Alkane also noted that the cash and liquid assets figure "assumes no value for shares in Calidus Resources Ltd, as receivers and administrators were appointed for Calidus on June 29, 2024."

Access to education is "boarded up" for remote students
Access to education is "boarded up" for remote students

13 July 2024, 9:40 PM

The closure of Allison House, a high school student accommodation in Broken Hill has been met with disappointment from the Isolated Children's Parents' Association (ICPA) of NSW. ICPA-NSW was formed over 50 years ago due to the closure of student hostel accommodation in Bourke and it was realised that geographically isolated children had significant challenges accessing their compulsory education.This latest closure is like history repeating itself. Britt Anderson lives at Cymbric Vale Station near Broken Hill and is the ICPA NSW Publicity Officer and an active member of the group. She was instrumental in creating and distributing a survey to members in the far west, seeking feedback on the closure. Ms Anderson said the shut down came with little notice. "I think was about halfway through term one," Ms Anderson said. "The Board of Allison House notified parents of the students that were staying in the hostel that it would be closed at the end of the term, so they essentially had about a month's notice to make different arrangements for their child for the rest of the year." Ms Anderson said that because Allison House is a private entity and not actually attached to school, it makes it very hard for the Department of Education to step in and take over. She said it was disappointing that more hadn't been done to prevent the closure of the only student boarding facility in town. "Without asking the public for help, or the local council or ICPA or the local member for the area or anything like that, the Board made the decision on their own and closed Allison House down," she said. "For a number of years, our members have identified that New South Wales needs another public boarding school, because there are only three in the state, one of which is boys only." "So what ICPA decided to do is get a survey out to as many people as physically possibly in the far west region, anywhere from Dubbo and west."  The respondents were residents in the following council areas: Balranald, Bourke, Brewarrina, Central Darling, Cobar, Unincorporated Far West NSW, Wentworth, Unincorporated South Australia and Bulloo Queensland.Ms Anderson said questions included if people were aware of Allison House, if they were concerned about the closure and ascertaining where children would go to board now. "The survey was out for seven weeks, purely because we wanted as many people to fill it out as possible. We closed the survey last Wednesday, and then obviously the survey pulled out some results from there." When asked ‘are you aware of the service offered by Allison House Student Accommodation in Broken Hill?’ 83% of respondents said yes and 92% of those said they are concerned about the closure. Around 37% of respondents said that they would consider Allison House as an option for their child/ren and another 38% of those families have indicated they would consider an active role on the Allison House Board or operating committee. The survey also asked, ‘if there was a Public Boarding School in Western NSW, would you consider sending your child/ren there?’ 74% of respondents said they would. Ms Anderson said a media release had been sent to politicians, people in power, and "anybody that we could possibly think of." Tanya Mitchell, ICPA – NSW President said that for a number of years ICPA members have been asking state council to advocate for another Government Boarding School."We know that there are waiting lists at the two agricultural high schools and this survey gives us a bigger picture of the needs of our most remote families in Far West NSW, including the need for alternative accommodation such as a student hostel,” she said. "Anything ICPA-NSW can do to raise awareness and highlight the needs in communities is the reason we did the survey.”

It's GREAT for Gilgandra winners announced
It's GREAT for Gilgandra winners announced

13 July 2024, 7:40 AM

Eight Gilgandra businesses and charities are delighted to receive funding through the It’s GREAT grant program from the Gilgandra Shire Council. The program is dedicated to community events that contribute to the region's economic growth. “The delivery of events in our community is critical to drive the economic growth and competitive advantage of the Gilgandra Region,” Gilgandra Mayor Doug Batten said.“The successful events are complementary to our Community Strategic Plan, and we encourage the community to get on board in supporting these events as they arise, and capitalise on the opportunities being brought to the Region.”In total, $50,000 was available to both private businesses and non-profit community groups in the district. Between them, applicants requested $73,000 and offered $47,000 in co-contributions. Successful organisations receive 75 percent upfront and once confirmation is received that all the money is spent, the remaining amount is transferred. The Gilgandra Film Festival is one of the successful applications. They will receive $10,000 to go towards their film festival next year. “We anticipate that it will allow us to do more advertising and become more involved in the schools,” Sue Armstrong, Director of the Gilgandra Film Festival said. The film festival gives donations in the form of recording equipment to the four schools in Gilgandra to help the children develop a curiosity for cinematography.Sue Armstrong presenting school children with sound equipment.“The hardest thing is if you’re using mum’s phone to get good sound. Having a sound system connected to your phone can make your audio, so much better.” The Gilgandra Film Festival has been around for two years. This year, the event took place in May and had over 200 guests on its first night.The organisers present one local documentary and one documentary from overseas. “We have to pay for them and although we are able to this year, it will help considerably in doing that,” Ms Armstrong said.Ms Armstrong said they are always aiming to improve their sound equipment this year.“This grant will also help to get proper sound systems, rather than borrowing them from someone. So, the grant is really appreciated,” Ms Armstrong said. The Curban Community Hall also received a grant. They got $1,000 out of the $2,000 they requested. “I’m sure everybody is just as happy as we are because it’s giving us all an opportunity to do activities within our community,” Secretary of the Curban Community Hall Robyn Howard said. The money will go towards the Singing Chef Entertainment Show which is a dinner that features live entertainment as well. The date for the show is set for March or April of next year but what exactly the entertainment will be is still a surprise. Other organisations that received the grant included the Country Women’s Association (CWA) Armatree, Rustic Burrow Trading Co, Toowareenah Prime Lamb Marketing Cooperative, Tooraweenah Show Rodeo, Tooraweenah Golf Glub, and the Old Bank. The It’s GREAT program was launched in 2023/2024 to develop a culture and infrastructure that supports and grows a vibrant events calendar in the Gilgandra Region. “It was great to see businesses and community groups eager to apply and host events in the region,” Mayor Batten said. 

120 homes to come for regional and rural health workers
120 homes to come for regional and rural health workers

13 July 2024, 3:40 AM

Lake Cargelligo has been flagged by the NSW Government among the first sites for some of the 120 dwellings to be built for healthcare workers across regional and rural areas.The funding has been tagged under the $200.1 million Key Worker Build-to-Rent Program. "NSW Health is working with all regional local health districts to address locations that require health worker accommodation,” Minister for Regional Health Ryan Park said. “Early assessment has identified locations such as Lake Cargelligo, Tweed Heads, Lismore, and Eurobodalla as examples of areas of need.”Areas will be prioritised for dwellings through a consultation process based on the need for health care staff.Around 500 healthcare workers will benefit from the additional housing in the state, according to the NSW Government.The accommodation will include dwellings such as new and refurbished houses and unit-type accommodation. The NSW government said they are working together with NSW Ambulance, Homes NSW and the NSW Department of Primary Indues and Regional Development to assess the housing needs of healthcare workers. “NSW Health is also procuring a range of other accommodation options to meet short-stay requirements, including refurbishment of existing properties, purchase of available properties (e.g. motels) and land, procurement of modular homes and construction of new builds,” Minister Park said."Investing in affordable and accessible accommodation is a key factor in attracting and retaining health workers and ultimately enhancing the delivery of care across rural and regional hospitals."The NSW government said they are also investing $450 million to build 400 homes for key healthcare workers in metropolitan Sydney. Lachlan Shire Mayor Paul Phillips welcomed the potential housing.“Council and our respective communities are grateful for any and all initiatives that help solve the health care and housing issues being experienced across our shire and indeed the state," Cr Phillips said.  "I am particularly pleased that Lake Cargelligo has been identified as an area that would benefit from this program however. I note that it is only an early assessment of possible future locations for funding. I look forward to hearing more about this program with confirmation that funds have been allocated for Lake Cargelligo. "Council will continue to advocate at all levels for improved health outcomes for our community.”The rollout of the accommodation for healthcare workers will begin in 2024 and continue into 2025.

New medical centres coming for Bourke and Coonamble
New medical centres coming for Bourke and Coonamble

12 July 2024, 9:38 PM

The Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service (CAHS) and the Bourke Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (BACHS) have secured $6.4 and $5.3 million in funding respectively to update and expand their infrastructure.  The funding is part of the $33.7 million in funding announced by the federal government to support Indigenous health infrastructure projects following the Joint Council on Closing the Gap Meeting. It means new facilities to serve the communities in both districts. CAHS will build a brand-new, two-facility, in the spot where the current Coonamble Local Aboriginal Land Council's (CLALC) office is.  The CLALC will move across the road to the current CAHS complex in Castlereagh Street.  "We've been trying to secure land and building fund for new combined offices and clinic since I started with the organisation," CAHS CEO Phil Naden said.  "There will be about 18 offices, disabled access, and even an elevator." "The old clinic is really old. Older than the organisation itself." "We've been through a long process which has been a real team effort and involved consultants, advisers, and architects to secure the funding."Mr Naden said they received 35 letters of support from local, regional, and state partners.  "The funding body was overwhelmed to see such a high level of support from a community that fully backs us." Community drop-in session in Bourke BACHS will use its funding to contribute to the rising costs of construction materials for the Primary Health Care facility.It has been 38 years since the BACHS saw its last renovation or expansion. "This funding means we have secured the long-term future of providing health services for Bourke and surrounding townships Aboriginal community members and the broader community," John Fetuani, CEO of BACHS, said.  Mr Fetuani said that upon receiving news of the funding, community drop-in sessions in Bourke and Enngonia were held to establish what designs are culturally appropriate and work best clinically for current patients.  "The feedback from the community will make BACHS' future clinic a better place." The Aboriginal Health Centres are excited for the opportunity to provide new facilities.  "All we want is a new building for staff and patients to be comfortable and safe in a clinic designed for the 21st century," Mr Naden said.  

Burren Junction CWA turns 100
Burren Junction CWA turns 100

12 July 2024, 7:39 AM

Burren Junction marked it's own slice of history on 26 May after the local Country Women's Association turned 100. Longtime members gathered at the Burren Junction School of Arts Hall for a luncheon of up 50 people on the Sunday, where they heard life member and former president Pamela Moore speak about the branch's history.  "It was nice to have everyone together," current branch president Sally Croft said. "One of our members had got a lot of memorabilia together."The branch formed on 24 July 1924, it's first president being Bessie Cameron and it's membership growing to 27 that year. It wasn't just tea and scones. The branch has been an active in the community from the word 'go,' even running a hospital during the Depression. During World War Two, members sent Christmas cake and puddings to soldiers and were ready to help evacuate city children to country areas.Current and former members came together for the luncheon. PHOTO: suppliedThey also made camouflage nets as well as waterproof wallets and bags for men fighting in New Guinea.The branch has continued to lend a helping hand in recent years, including distributing IGA vouchers to flood-affected residents and purchasing a defibrillator for community use, both in 2020. Today the branch holds a flower show every year and has 21 active members, including five life members."We tried to get as many old members together as possible," Ms Croft said. "Two of them are still in the Burren district and then two of them travelled a distance to be here, and then one of them wasn't able to make it." Community members were able to see some of the history for themselves with a small exhibition set up in one of the concerns, complete with photos, explanatory text and old newspaper extracts. Ms Croft, a branch member for over 20 years, was also recognised with a long service badge along with Genevieve Sendall and Elizabeth Powell.

Cobar childcare centre nears finish line
Cobar childcare centre nears finish line

12 July 2024, 3:40 AM

Cobar's childcare shortage is set to be eased as the town's new Early Learning Centre looks to open by the end of August. The centre on Brennan Street began construction around 18 months ago and will provide 88 childcare places under Cobar Shire's Ward Oval Masterplan published in 2021. The current council-run facility on Bourke Street, Kubby House Childcare Centre, has capacity for 31 children aged 6 weeks to 5 years across two spaces. Centre Lead Educator Amy Curpen said that hasn't kept up with community needs. "We currently have quite a long waitlist," Ms Curpen said. "It's between 80 and 100," Ms Curpen said. "For most of them, one of the parents will probably have to stay at home and look after the children. "One will have to sacrifice working."A February excursion with children from Kubby House to the construction site of the new centre. PHOTO: suppliedCobar mayor Jarrod Marsden told the Western Plains App on 3 July that the new centre will be open "within the next four to six weeks." "Childcare is a massive issue for Cobar at the moment," Cr Marsden said. "This childcare centre will remove that waiting list and allow everyone in Cobar that needs childcare to have it. "It's only the final touches that are going on at the moment. It's all but done, there's a little bit of finish work and a bit of clean up. Put the furniture in and away we go."The official opening will depend on the availability of the politicians obviously, but it'll be physically open and doing business." According to project designer Dunn Hillam's website, classrooms and office spaces will be organised around a central courtyard, which will act as a play space. The centre will also have a children's library and double as a community space outside of business hours. Ms Curpen said the new centre will create local jobs. "It's going to allow us to have more educators, so increasing the workforce, and also to give back to the community by providing more space and more spots for the children," she said.  Cr Marsden said the old facilty will be "refurbished and repurposed," with one option being an afterschool childcare centre.

Concern over turbine waste for Cobar Wind Farm
Concern over turbine waste for Cobar Wind Farm

11 July 2024, 9:20 PM

A Cobar Shire councilor says she wants to see more information on the end-of-life cycle for WestWind's proposed Cobar Wind Farm. Lillian Simpson told the Western Plains App she is open to the project, which would include 30 wind turbines covering around 7800 hectares up around 25 kilometers north west of the Cobar township. However, she is concerned over the wind blades' recyclability."I'm a little bit of a sceptic underneath, but I don't have a closed mind. It's a new industry in Cobar, which is going to be good," Cr Simpson said. "It's just that I worry for the day when they do wear out. From what I see, they can't be recycled, they've got to be buried." Wind turbines generally last around 20-30 years, although it can vary depending on the quality of maintenance. Most wind blades are largely made with fiberglass, which is non-biodegradable and difficult to recycle, meaning they tend to end up in landfill.However the disposal challenge is far into the future. A screenshot of the project map for the Cobar Wind Farm. SOURCE: Australian GovernmentWestWind anticipates the project will be up and running by 2030 and operate for around 25-40 years. Cr Simpson said she hasn't been approached by locals about the wind farm, which is currently carrying out an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  WestWind Senior Project Developer, Tom Walker, said he expects the statement to be completed by mid-2025. "It will involve the assessment of several areas of study in the environmental and planning space such as aviation, cultural heritage, biodiversity, noise, visuals, traffic and community," Mr Walker said. "We’ve met with local residents, the neighbouring mining companies and Council and the conversations we’ve had to date have been broadly supportive." WestWind expects the project to power an average 130 000 NSW homes annually. The company has also committed to paying $2500 per year, per turbine constructed, into a local community benefit fund.WestWind Senior Project Developer, Tom Walker. PHOTO: suplied In their July project update, WestWind said it conducted an on-site visit with landholders, representatives from the Cobar Local Aboriginal Land Council and Cultural Heritage Advisors from Austral Archaeology. Cobar mayor Jarrod Marsden said he has received "mixed" community feedback about the project. "Wind farms are good as far as renewable energy goes, but there's some stuff that comes with them. Obviously there's some negative stigma," Cr Marsden said. "Through the construction phase they're going to bring people to the town, so there's good and bad I guess."WestWind held a community consultation session on 13 September 2023 at the Cobar Bowling and Golf Club, as well as a meeting with top Council staff the same day, including the shire's General Manager Peter Vlatko.  Mr Walker said West Wind will hold more local consultations in 2024. "We will be hosting a stand at the upcoming Cobar Public School Spooky Spring Fair on 13 September," Mr Walker said. "We’re also planning to have a stand at the Festival of the Miner’s Ghost on 27 October. We attended this event last year. "Another way the community can stay updated on the project – including future opportunities for engagement – is by subscribing to our Cobar Wind Farm updates via the webpage. "As the project progresses, we’ll continue to offer more opportunities for locals to ask questions and provide input." 

Lachlan Shire back in the winner's circle
Lachlan Shire back in the winner's circle

11 July 2024, 7:40 AM

Lachlan Shire's Condobolin Improved Freight Logistics and Information Centre is back in the winner's circle, scarcely a month after being awarded a highly commended award at the NSW Local Government Excellence Awards in Sydney. Advancing to the 2024 National Awards for Local Government, council staff were elated at the announcement on Thursday 4 July at the Australian Council of Local Government Gala Dinner in Canberra. Here they learned the Condobolin Improved Freight Logistics and Visitor Information Centre project was awarded an Honourable Mention in the Road Safety category. Mayor Paul Phillips said the award was the result of many years of dedication to the end result. “Lachlan Shire Council has been committed to this project since 2016 and has worked tirelessly to deliver it," Mr Phillips said.  "I am thrilled that our project has received this national accolade, following the Highly Commended award in the Asset and Infrastructure category at the 2024 NSW Local Government Excellence Awards in June.” The National Awards for Local Government are an annual celebration of local government achievements in Australia. They highlight initiatives that are innovative, strengthen communities, and have outcomes that are replicable across the country. This year the awards received 144 nominations across 11 categories from councils around the nation. In addition to a winner being announced for each category, 13 councils were awarded Honourable Mentions to recognise the high calibre of their entry. Lachlan Shire Council nominated the Condobolin Improved Freight Logistics and Visitor Information Centre project in both the Road Safety and Regional Growth categories. The winner of the Regional Growth Category was City of Launceston’s Public Wi-Fi Network project. The Road Safety Category was won by the City of Gold Coast for their Active School Travel Program. The aim of the project was to assist the travelling public, harvest contractors and the broader transport industry by improving road conditions and providing a safe, visible rest area facility. To achieve this, the project incorporated road reconstruction, realignment of intersections, and replacement of culverts to improve the flood resilience of 9 km of roadway used as an alternate traffic route when the Newell Highway is closed by flooding. Lachlan Shire Council General Manager, Mr Greg Tory, said he is immensely proud of the entire team from Lachlan Shire who have worked to deliver this project for the community and the wider region. "It is gratifying to see the far-reaching impact of this project recognised at a national level through these prestigious awards,” he said. The roads are also popular with heavy vehicle operators and as tourist routes for travellers seeking off-highway experiences. To assist people driving long distances manage driver fatigue, the project also included construction of off-street long vehicle parking, 24–hour accessible toilets and showers, and construction of a visitor information centre. 

Travis selected for scholarship
Travis selected for scholarship

11 July 2024, 3:40 AM

Promising, young local artist Travis Jones won the Ros Whitney Scholarship to join artists from across Australia and New Zealand at the Country Music Association Award (CMAA) Junior Course for country musicians from July 14-20 at Tamworth’s Liberty College. “I want to learn more voice control and music theory and it’s also good to meet new people from the music industry,” Travis said. The 14-year-old’s parents, Lisa and David Jones will also be joining their son at the course to learn more about how to support and manage their children as artists and how to navigate the music industry. The students aged between 10 and 18 will sharpen their song writing, performance, business, and media skills at the camp. Travis is taking part in the singer/songwriter/performance course. Academy Director Lyn Bowtell, General Manager Roger Corbett, and Assistant Director Ashleigh Dallas will be teaching the students. Meanwhile, the parent course is coordinated by Dobe Newton and led by Liam Kennedy-Clark, Anthony Snape, and Jayne Denham. “It’s extra special to nurture the students and their burgeoning careers when they are young. It’s also wonderful seeing them make lifelong friends during the week,” Ms Bowtell said. “These talented young artists truly find their tribe at the Junior Academy as they meet so many like-minded people of similar ages,” Mr Corbett said. Travis got the opportunity after his performance at Golden Gig at the 2024 Tamworth Country Music Festival.Despite not coming in first, the Academy reached out to Travis via the Facebook page of his family band, Castlereagh Connection. Travis also performed at the Toyota Fanzone Stage at the Country Music Festival as part of the Aboriginal Cultural Showcase.Travis has been singing since the age of four. At seven years old, he began to pick up guitar thanks to his father David and older brother, David Junior. Travis said he started teaching Braydon how to play the drums but says “he’s way out of my league now.”Castlereagh Connection is made up of brothers Travis and David Junior, dad David Senior, and cousin Braydon Dodd. Mum Lisa Jones is the manager of the band. Travis is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist in the band. The songs include renditions performed in his ancestral tongue, Gamilaraay. The band released their debut EP ‘We Will Remember You’ in 2021. In 2022, Castlereagh Connection made it on The Voice Generations, and although none of the judges turned around the audience was in awe of the band. When asked where Travis plans to take his music career in the future Travis said that question is still open. “I’m not sure at the moment. I’m just enjoying it.”

Gilgandra council between “rock and hard place” on free camping
Gilgandra council between “rock and hard place” on free camping

10 July 2024, 9:20 PM

Gilgandra Shire Council Mayor Doug Batten said the council is stuck “between a rock and hard place” on whether to allow caravans to camp for free outside of the shire’s caravan parks. Several caravan park owners from the shire told the Western Plains App on the condition of anonymity that they were concerned that free camping was costing their businesses customers. Cr Batten told the Western Plains App he understood their concerns, but also those from venues in the areas who were offering free camping to attract tourists to the region. In 2019, Council passed a motion supporting Freedom Camping at commercial businesses, under a number of conditions.According to the resolution the primary factors is “That these are primitive camping arrangements and these sites should not offer amenities that paid commercial caravan parks provide – i.e. water, showers, electricity and/or 24 hour access to toilet facilities”. Cr Batten said there was a number of valid conflicting interests in deciding the best policy approach, including council-owned caravan park lease-holders asking for reductions in rent because of the availability of free camping sites across the shire. “There have been a dramatic increase in the number of caravanners in the last 10 years to the shire” he said. Cr Batten said that ultimately the council decided to create its own free campaign spot next to the Gilgandra Heritage Centre with a maximum of 10 vehicles a night. “The Council will extend the existing overnight parking area trial to the 31 December 2024 in it’s current form to allow the opportunity to explore alternate models for free and/or low-cost camping options, along with the locations, with a view of maximising benefits to the Gilgandra Region visitor economy” Cr Batten said. He said council would meet regularly with caravan park owners about how this is impacting on their businesses. 

Blizzard blows ice skating rink to Brewarrina
Blizzard blows ice skating rink to Brewarrina

10 July 2024, 7:39 AM

A blizzard isn’t something you expect to find in outback NSW, but that’s exactly what Brewarrina is in for this week with the Brewarrina Blizard ice skating rink in town, just in time for the school holidays.The huge 600 square metre ice skating rink, with the capacity to host up to 100 skaters at a time, will be right in the middle of town for the whole week, from Monday July 8 to Sunday July 14, offering locals, travellers and the entire region this free school holiday experience. Brewarrina Shire Council General Manager David Kirby said he was thrilled this incredible experience was back in Bre this year. “An ice-skating rink is definitely not something you’d expect to find in our little outback town,” Mr Kirby said.“It’s something you’d usually have to travel hundreds and hundreds of kilometres to experience. So we are very excited to have the rink here, and completely free, for the second year running.” The equipment to set up the rink started arriving this week, with Stars on Ice, the company behind the experience, travelling all the way from Sydney with three truck loads worth of gear.“It’s a mammoth effort from Stars on Ice. They bring everything with them - the refrigeration unit, the rink, generators, skates, and then just add water! They essentially build a swimming pool, and then freeze it. The whole process only takes a few days,” Mr Kirby added.As well as all the equipment, Stars on Ice also bring with them professional instructors and skating aids, perfect little penguin pals, to help people master the ice. And best of all, the aids mean anyone can have a go! “It truly is a magical experience. Last year was the first time many in our community had the chance to try ice skating. This year, I’m expecting some real pros,” concluded Mr Kirby.The Brewarrina Blizzard opens daily, from Monday, July 8 to Sunday, July 14. Session bookings for the free experience can be made online now and walk-ins are welcome, until sessions are at capacity. 

Cobar iron ringer receives Order of Australia Medal
Cobar iron ringer receives Order of Australia Medal

10 July 2024, 3:40 AM

Cobar iron ringer Colleen Boucher's service to the Cobar community was recognised in the King's Honour Award 2024.  The Honourable David Hurley informed the recipients on 10 June that they will receive the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).  Mrs Boucher is the third Cobar resident to receive this honour. CWA Members Marie Hudson and Dorothy Blacker received the OAM in 2011 and 2014 respectively.  "I am very proud and overwhelmed. You don't think that people are seeing what you do." "You don't think about what you do, you just do it," Mrs Boucher said.  She said she even received calls from Western Australia congratulating her on the award. "I just couldn't believe the response." Mrs Boucher said she never imagined she would receive the OAM.  "You do these things because you like doing it. You don't look beyond that."  In January 2024, Mrs Boucher was also named Australia Day Citizen of the Year.  The OAM recognises her 20-year dedication to the Brennan Centre Senior Citizen Amenities Organisation.  Mrs Boucher also started volunteering at the Girl Guides almost forty years ago and later became a Girl Guide Leader until 1996. She has been part of the cadets for 30 years along with her husband, Chris. "Chris has always been a steadfast support. We support each other. Whatever we do, we do together."  The couple has been married for 52 years and has three daughters together.  "Family is everything to me. I love spending time with my grandchildren." She said working with the Cadets is her most proud achievement. "It doesn't matter how long you don't see one of those cadets for when they see me, the respect is still there.  "Watching young people grow and develop leadership skills is a wonderful thing." "They are so shy when they start and at the end, they can do a speech." For 27 years she has also been part of the Country Women's Association (CWA). Her roles included president, secretary, treasurer, and handicrafts officer, as well as, vice-president of the CWA Far West Group.  Mrs Boucher is part of the 5th generation in her family to be born in Cobar.  Her great-grandfather, George Wells, drove the Cob and Cob between Cobar and Wilcannia. After he retired from coach driving, he became the licensee of the Meadows Hotel.  She said the community in Cobar is one of a kind.  "The community is very friendly and supportive if someone is in trouble. You find the community is very generous in supporting that person." "I have never imagined living anywhere else and could not live in the city," Mrs Boucher said.  "I love visiting my daughter's block, the wide open space just gives me that peace."  The date for the reception of the OAM is still to be confirmed.

Regional arts dancing to a new tune after funding changes
Regional arts dancing to a new tune after funding changes

09 July 2024, 9:20 PM

Changes to funding from the Arts and Cultural Funding Programme (ACFP) will soon shake up the creative scene for regional arts.   The $3 million in annual funding to the Regional Arts Development Organisations (RADOs) is no longer guaranteed in the new NSW budget.  Prior to the changes in budget, the RADOS were part of a negotiated programme with Create NSW. Each RADO was assured $200,000 to support projects in the community. Now the statewide ACFP will be reduced from fourteen to four funding streams with organisations required to compete for their portion.  Although the RADOs in Central West NSW see it as an opportunity to reimagine the work they do, some are concerned what this could mean for the future of regional arts. "We have all become competitors," Alicia Leggett CEO of Orana Arts said.  "There are a lot of unknowns. We don't know how much money is in the pool." "The government has told us they are really committed to the RADO network but that's just in word. There's nothing really cementing that," Ms Leggett said.  The ACFP will now also be streamlined from fourteen funding groups to four which leaves questions open as to who will fall into which funding group.   "We fall in the criteria for the multi-year funding programme. A smaller organisation won't," Ms Leggett said.  Nonetheless, many artists see it as a time to draw up a new and better plan.  "We can actually become more innovative in our programming because it's freed us from the constraints of just having a core," Ms Leggett said.Orana Arts' Alicia Leggett with writer Sharon Bonthuys of Narromine in June 2024. The current funding contract only supports core services, such as office costs, wages, and travel but does not include workshops artist fees, and extra staffing.  Kylie Shead, CEO of Arts Outwest, said she welcomes the changes.  Ms Shead said she sees the funding reform as an opportunity to come up with new programmes and partner with other RADOs, such as Outback Arts.  "We're looking at developing some new programmes." "We're all kind of hoping there'll be more positive opportunities open to us."  "Moving forward from the four-year negotiated contracts and partnership agreement, of course, brings a lot of questions," Jamie-Lea Trindall, CEO of Outback Arts said.  "The history between Create NSW and the regional arts development network has been really positive." "Currently, they fund our core business, but they know we can deliver more than that."  "I don't see a that the changes to logistics around how our core funding occurs will change anything negatively about the way we do business with artists in our region other than stronger support and partnerships” Ms Trindall said. One thing the RADOs agree upon is that there are still many questions left open about the conditions for funding.  "We won't really know until we see the guidelines ourselves," Ms Shead said. 

Row, row, row your boat - all the way to the Olympics!
Row, row, row your boat - all the way to the Olympics!

09 July 2024, 7:40 AM

As reported by the Western Plains App recently [Narromine student off to the Paris Olympics,] young Callum Hutchinson is off to Paris as an Australian youth ambassador at the Olympics which start on July 26th. Callum is one of six Aussie youths to be chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity following his involvement in the Rugby Creates Chances program.  But he's not the only Western Plains athlete heading to Paris for the historic 33rd Olympics. Jack O'Brien from Walgett and Jack Hargreaves from Nyngan have both made the cut and both in the sport of rowing. Australian rowers first appeared at an Olympics in 1912, and then every Games since, meaning Paris 2024 will mark 100 years of Australian rowing’s continuous participation in the Olympic rowing regatta. Joseph ‘Jack’ O’Brien from Walgett has won a place on Men's eight rowing team. Born in Dubbo and raised in Walgett, Jack competed for NSW at a youth level in his chosen sport. Jack spent 2019 as part of the men’s four, claimed gold at the World Rowing Cups II and III before qualifying for Tokyo at the World Championships. By the time of the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games were held, Joseph was selected in the men’s eight instead of the four. The Australian crew came fourth in both their heat and semi-final, to qualify for the A-Final and give themselves a shot at gold. However, a disappointing start to the final gave their opposition a head start they couldn't come back from. Throughout 2024, Jack, now 26 years old, has continued to train and compete in the men's eight. He featured in the crew's fourth place finish at the World Rowing Cup II in May.Walgett's Jack O'Brien Fellow Western Plains local, Jack Hargreaves' journey from the small town of Nyngan to Olympic gold medalist is one of dedication and resilience. Jack was a talented rugby player and originally only committed to rowing in summer to keep fit. Following high school, Jack elected to pursue rowing instead of rugby, joining Sydney University’s Boat Club. In 2019, Jack helped the men's four to qualification for the Tokyo Games, through strong performances at the World Rowing Championships. Alongside rowers Alexander Purnell, Spencer Turrin and Alexander Hill, Jack won gold at the Tokyo Games. This year, Jack and his fellow Tokyo gold medallists Alexander Purnell and Spencer Turrin were added to the men's eight team to try and win an elusive first gold for Australia in the event. On the announcement of his place in this year's Olympic squad, Jack, who is studying a Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology, said he was excited to make the trip to Paris. "I can't wait to make some good memories with everyone," Jack said. "If you go well it's great, but its more about the time we spend together."Nyngan's Jack Hargreaves The Australian Olympic Committee has selected a 37-strong team across nine boats to contest the Olympic rowing regatta at the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium in Paris. Rowing Australia Chief Executive Sarah Cook, who rowed for Australia at the 2008 and 2012 Games, said being selected for the Team was the ultimate reward after years of dedication, focus and commitment. “Our rowers train three times a day, six days a week, and commit themselves above and beyond, all with the goal of having their name on the Australian Olympic Team,’ Ms Cook said. “On behalf of everyone at Rowing Australia, I offer my sincere congratulations and know they will do themselves, their family and their country proud in Paris.”The Olympic rowing schedule runs from the 27th of July to August 3rd, so keep an eye out for our local heroes!

NSW Government restores riverbed at Oxley Break Number 3
NSW Government restores riverbed at Oxley Break Number 3

09 July 2024, 3:40 AM

Restoration works at Oxley Break Number 3, eighty kilometers north of Warren in the Macquarie Marshes are complete.  The works took a week and a half to complete starting on 24 June and finished on 3 July. “This work is fantastic news for the Marshes. It’ll help deliver significant environmental benefits and mean better connectivity throughout the southern system, allowing operators to more effectively deliver water where it’s needed at crucial times," Andrew Lavelle, NSW DCCEEW Director of Infrastructure Projects said. Over the past two decades, the stream channel has widened and deepened, taking flows from the Macquarie River.  The restoration works include reinstating the rock bed level to its state 10 to 15 years ago across 600 square meters. "The NSW government is doing really important work right now," Mel Gray Water Campaigner at the NSW Nature Conservation Council said. Mel Gray on the Macquarie River in 2021. Source: Newscorp Australia Ms Gray said restoration works will have to continue to compensate for the erosion in the heavily regulated system.  "Works like this are going to be necessary to make sure that we can get water spread out across the country as much as possible like it would have been before irrigation." "At the moment, an environmentally unsustainable level of water has been licensed through flood plain harvesting." "The solution is to make sure over time that irrigation is brought down to sustainable levels."Workers doing restoration at the Macquarie Marshes Credit: NSW DCCEEWMs Gray said the water in the Macquarie Marshes had gone down by two-thirds since the start of irrigation. Less water means that the soil becomes dry and more fragile.   An extra 100 megalitres of water should now reach the southern Macquarie Marshes every day, according to NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment, and Water (NSW DCCEEW) "We have to make sure every drop gets out there and runs across the floodplain, runs across the wetland, out of the channel," Ms Gray said.  Garry Hall President of the Macquarie Marshes Landholder Environmental Landholders Association said the restoration works are long overdue. "The overriding cause of the issue is that what was a natural stream is now a highly managed stream and the river operator and the NSW government have been negligent in their attempt to address these issue." "When it takes so long to have any works completed, it just keeps getting worse and worse." The project was part of the Northern Basin Toolkit measures being delivered across NSW intended to improve and maintain healthy rivers and floodplains.  NSW DCCEEW is currently surveying sites further north along the Macquarie River.

Cemeteries excluded from Walgett Shire alcohol free zone after spirited debate
Cemeteries excluded from Walgett Shire alcohol free zone after spirited debate

08 July 2024, 9:20 PM

A motion to make Alcohol-free zones in the Walgett, Lightning Ridge, and Collarenebri cemeteries has split Walgett Shire Council, but was ultimately rejected.The motion was supported by councillors Jane Keir and Greg Rummery at the most recent Walgett Shire Council meeting.Cr Keir said she was concerned about broken glass she had recently seen at one cemetery.Cr Rummery said he was concerned that “there is nothing to stop people having a party”.One of the first to speak out against the motion was Cr Michael Cooke who said “you should be able to have a beer there to say goodbye to someone”. Cr Cooke. Image: Supplied.“I don't think you should have a party there, but I think you should be able to say goodbye someone. That should not be an illegal act”.His position was ultimately supported by five of the other councillors, who in Mayor Jason Ramien’s absence, voted down the motion.Instead council voted to exclude cemeteries from a motion to make public areas in the shire alcohol-free zones from August 1.Cr Col Hundy told the Western Plains App said he was relieved cemeteries would be excluded from the alcohol-free zone.Cr Hundy. Image: Supplied.“I asked Cr Ian Woodcock if there has been any problems with alcohol during burials,” he explainedFor 40 years, Cr Woodcock was the Funeral Advisory Service's manager in Walgett.“He said no, there hasn’t been a problem and to me that’s answered everything.“People can get picky on wasteless ideas like that.”Cr Hundy said that he noted “a strong drinking culture in the Opal Fields”.“If they want to celebrate someone’s life, then why not? It’s not causing anyone any problems”.The council’s alcohol free zone policy is expected to be put on public exhibition in the coming week.

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