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New resolution to be re-considered: “We don't want faceless bureaucrats deciding crucial water matters”
New resolution to be re-considered: “We don't want faceless bureaucrats deciding crucial water matters”

24 June 2024, 9:20 PM

Walgett Shire Council will reconsider a key resolution that would allow “intensive plant agriculture” within the shire without local development consent.  Earlier this year, the council pass a resolution to amend the Walgett Local Environmental Plan 2013 to take council out of decision making when it comes to giving development approvals to heavy cropping projects such as cotton and other horticultural plants that require intensive irrigation.  The council had originally looked to simplify the development process to encourage more intensive agricultural projects and so deferred all its power in the approval process to the state government. Now, some councillors are wondering whether critical local knowledge may get missed in the decision-making. Council had resolved that this decision making process would involve “opportunity for public comment and that “Council will be guided in its consideration by the NSW Government, relevant legislation and submissions from the public”.   However, several locals have now told the council they are concerned that this means there is no local decision making input into big agricultural developments that could put a strain on the shire’s water supplies. Water security remains a hot button topic in Walgett and members of public have told the council they are worried that decisions could be made by state government departments who have limited local knowledge. At a recent Walgett Shire Council meeting, councillors were asked to consider “retaining some control over who takes our water”. Councillor Alf Seaton said that the council decided to make the change after “Council received a report recommending that it remove the need for Council consent for Intensive plant agriculture because water extraction licences were a function of state government not council”.   Councillor Seaton. Image: Supplied.Council documents show several counter-arguments have developed against this position including that “The current issues emerging in relation to both existing and possible new Weirs in our waterways show how unrealistic and disconnected various State Government agencies can be when dealt with by staff located on the Eastern area of the state” and that “If the Council surrenders this final ) decision on “Environmental Issues” such as water supply, allocation, conservation and usage in its area, those decision will be made by faceless bureaucrats who have little concept about the concerns of residents” Council will now consider whether to rescind its decision to remove the need for Council or adopt the resolution to make it easier for heavy cropping industries to develop land in the shire. Image: Arnhem clothing 

Blue tree movement reaches GIlgandra
Blue tree movement reaches GIlgandra

24 June 2024, 7:40 AM

Sure it's cold, but why are the trees turning blue?! Gilgandra is the latest Western Plains location to take part in the Blue Tree Project, painting a dead, local tree blue just last week. The Blue Tree Project is a charity helping change the way we talk about mental health after the tragic loss of Western Australian man, Jayden Whyte to suicide in 2018.Blue trees have popped up, not just all over Australia but across the world.The Blue Tree Project aims to help spark difficult conversation and encourage people to speak up when experiencing mental health concerns. Gilgandra Shire Council said they would like to acknowledge Bendigo Bank in Gilgandra for their community contribution towards this Blue Tree Project which was painted by local painter, David Corcoran of Paint’n’Plus. Mr Corcoran said that painting the tree wasn't as simple as it may seem. "It's been the pipeline for a while but we couldn't find the right tree for the purpose. That's actually the second tree that we looked at," he said. "Some of the other ones just didn’t have any character." "The one we ended up with is in a really good spot about 3km from town and right on the stock route. A local guy rang me and said I should check it out and when I went out there, it was just so much better. It was a tree with a bit of personality."Painting apprentice, Kyzack Corcoran from Gilgandra's Paint'n'Plus had an unusual job to tackle last week, painting a tree blur for mental health awareness. It wasn't a typical painting job for Mr Corcoran and his team, and preparation was required such as pruning the tree and hiring a cherry picker to reach the top. "We were flying blind as far as how long it would take and the cost," he said. "Bendigo Bank were in there funding it and then council came on board and also helped out. Being a small community everyone pitched in and then I kind of organised everything from there," "I had heard of the charity and I knew that it was for mental health, but I didn't realise there were so many blue trees around. When the guy who pruned the Gilgandra tree for me went away the next weekend, he said he saw them everywhere." Mr Corcoran said it took about 40 litres of paint to complete the blue tree and it should stay that way for 10 - 15 years. "Even then, it will still be blue, just faded a bit," he said. "There was a lady who was very much part of the Gil community who struggled with mental health and has since passed away from cancer. I believe there will be a metal chair placed in her honour near the Visitor Centre with the coordinates of the tree on it so people can come and check it out." There are several other blue trees across the Western Plains including at Cobar, Coonabarabran, Coonamble and Walgett. You can visit Gilgandra's new Blue Tree on the Castlereagh Highway, 1km from the Newell Highway turn off.For more information, including a complete list of locations of Blue Trees, click here.

 More money for pigs but no new $ for fire ants/varroa in state budget
More money for pigs but no new $ for fire ants/varroa in state budget

24 June 2024, 3:40 AM

The Minns Labor Government recently released information on a $945.7 million injection of funding to protect against biosecurity threats. According to government officials this includes an additional $13.1 million in the 2024-2025 budget as a follow up to the successful Feral Pig Program, which has culled around 100,000 pigs since the program began eight months ago.   NSW Farmers says an additional $13.1 million in the State Budget will help tackle surging feral pig numbers, however the NSW opposition says the Minns Labor Government needs to come clean on its biosecurity announcement that showed no new money across several key areas.   According to the NSW opposition, the majority of the funding provided to respond to major agricultural threats in the 2024/25 budget is leftovers from the 2023/24 allocation.They cite last year's budget allocation for Red Imported Fire Ants of $80 million which saw only $25 million spent, with the NSW Agriculture Minister recently re-announcing the remaining $55.3 million.    They say only $6.2million has been spent out of an allocated $10.2 million in white spot assistance, and for those affected by varroa mite there is $36.2million left over from an initial $77.2million.According to the Opposition, not even half of the $10million Good Neighbour Program was used to tackle weeds and pest infestations, and NSW Nationals Leader Dugald Saunders the Minns Labor Government need to do much more to keep our primary producers safe.   “What we are seeing from the Minns Labor Government is figures that simply don’t add up,” Mr Saunders said. “Tara Moriarty is making a lot of claims in her recent media release, when the only actual “new” money we can see is $13m to continue the Feral Pig Program. “It is extremely disingenuous to try and pass these re-announcements off as more support and it doesn’t spell good news for our hard-working fishers and farmers. “With a major red fire ant incursion spreading deeper into the state, our honey industry having to manage varroa mite and foot and mouth disease knocking at our door, this announcement provides no certainty to any part of the Ag sector.”  “It just shows that this Government is completely clueless when it comes to the impacts that are being felt by our primary industries right now and there simply won’t be enough new funding in next week’s budget to keep our food and fibre safe,” said Mr. Saunders. Minister for Ag Tara Moriarty with Riverina MP Helen Dalton. IMAGE: Helen Dalton MPMeanwhile Minister for Agriculture NSW, Tara Moriarty says the Government is prioritising the state's farmers and communities. “Agriculture and our farming communities are the lifeblood of our state and this $945 million investment in biosecurity over the coming four years will ensure our primary producers continue to have the support they need to thrive," she said.“Strong biosecurity protections are not just about keeping pest and weeds out – it is about protecting the state’s $22 billion agriculture industries and ensuring families across the state have access to the world’s best produce at the world’s best prices. “We have been busy implementing our comprehensive biosecurity plan, from feral pig management to tackling weeds and pests on public lands and fighting the threat of red fire ants.  “Biosecurity is an ongoing challenge, but we are a government who are committed to prioritising the wellbeing of our farmers, regional communities and environments.  “The success of the feral pig program speaks for itself, but there’s still more to do, which this essential funding will enable.” NSW Farmers Association President Xavier Martin. IMAGE: 2HDNSW Farmers President Xavier Martin is pleased to hear of the funding announcement following reports of a sharp increase in feral pig numbers, which continue to cause major damage and pose a huge biosecurity risk.   “These nasty animals are the size of massive footballers, and they charge through paddocks and national parks trashing production and damaging the environment,” NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said. “Not only are they causing major damage, they’re super spreaders of disease and reproduce at an alarming rate so we need to step up the cull and break the breeding cycle and this government funding is part of that. “Government support for baiting, trapping and aerial shooting of feral pigs has been welcomed and has made a dent in the pig population, but we’ve still got millions of them continuing to run amok on agricultural land.” Mr Martin thanked NSW Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty for securing the $945 million investment in biosecurity over the coming four years and said it would encourage farmers to continue their efforts.   “Agriculture is a major economic driver in rural and regional communities, and strong biosecurity is a key part of supporting this important sector,” Mr Martin said. “But we know farmers aren’t just a faceless industry, they’re the people who pull on their boots every day to produce food and fibre to feed and clothe the nation. “Ongoing efforts to support farmers are ultimately good for everyone.” The 2024-25 Budget allocation includes: $217.2 million for prevention preparation of future biosecurity threats including Weeds Action Plans, the first Biosecurity Commissioner and the Bio Lab Defence to provide key advancements in laboratory defences for diagnostics, pathology, virology, and entomology activities.  $250.9 million in major biosecurity programs covering active surveillance, rapid diagnostics, traceability investigations and responses for Varroa Mite, White Spot and Red Imported Fire Ant threats. $62.4 million to contain pests, weeds, and disease outbreaks to minimise adverse impacts on primary industries and the environment. Includes the Sheep and Goat eID program to enable tracking and identification during any outbreaks. $415.1 million to address existing plant, animal and invasive biosecurity threats including $13.1m for Feral Pigs in 2024-25. the Good Neighbour program, the independent Agriculture Commissioner, plus Emergency Management Capability in response to natural disasters. According to Ms Moriarty, this Budget is assisting the people of NSW by strengthening the frontlines against threats and incursions as well as funding advice and action on their land and waterways. 

“Anyone can become homeless” - big rise in those seeking help in Walgett
“Anyone can become homeless” - big rise in those seeking help in Walgett

23 June 2024, 9:20 PM

Family violence and a rise in cost of living is driving an unprecedented rise in homeless in Walgett. Figures released by Homeless NSW show the LGA with the highest rate of homelessness is Walgett Shire (285 people per 10,000), followed by the Sydney City (170) and Burwood (160). Other regional areas in the top 10 included Central Darling Shire Council in the state's far west (104.3), Griffith (83.4) and Junee (70.1). Kellie Maxwell, management specialist homelessness services for Mission Australia in Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Brewarrina said there has been a large increase in the number of people asking for help from her agency in the last three years. “We are getting people in the last two years who have never experienced homelessness coming to us for help” she explained. Image: The Daily Liberal. Ms Maxwell says that the cost of living, high rents on the private market and family violence were driving the increase. “What we are mostly seeing is people couch surfing, so a lot of it is hidden homeless” she explained. “But how do keep a job when you're homeless? How do you get your kids to school? Being homeless really has an impact on people”. It comes as Treasurer Danile Mookhey announced that 30,000 new homes including 8,400 public housing dwellings in the NSW State Budget delivered on Tuesday. Following an audit, the government has selected 44 state-owned sites on which to build the extra homes, but is yet to announce where those 44 sites are in the state. Ms Maxwell said she wanted to see more income support for those on government benefits and more affordable housing.Those who are homeless in the Walgett shire will be waiting to see how many, if any, new options will be made available to them. 

AMA argues vapes are a 'triple threat'
AMA argues vapes are a 'triple threat'

23 June 2024, 7:40 AM

Between 2019 and 2023, the daily tobacco smoking rate in NSW dropped from 11 per cent to 8.3 per cent. While this is greats news, another insidious smoking habit more than tripled. Vaping.The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is ramping up its calls to government to rein in vaping rates around the country. In early 2024, new regulations on vapes and electronic cigarettes came into effect which will hopefully cause a slowdown to these alarming statistics. These include restrictions on the importation of vapes (including those that do not contain nicotine), except for therapeutic purposes, such as tobacco smoking cessation and nicotine dependence. With the National Senate soon to consider further vaping reforms, the AMA is urging all members of parliament to consider the health of the community and the environmental impact of vaping.  “If you care about the health of our children, and the health of our environment, then the choice is clear on vaping – support the reforms before the parliament,” AMA President Professor Steve Robson said. “Anything less is a betrayal of a healthier, safer and cleaner future for our kids."The Therapeutic Goods and Other Legislation Amendment (Vaping Reforms) Bill 2024 is currently before Parliament. If passed, the Bill will introduce a single consistent framework that applies nationally to regulate the importation, domestic manufacture, supply, commercial possession and advertisement of all vapes. More than 21,000 people across the country took part in the latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey, held in 2022 and 2023. Results showed what has changed in the smoking landscape over the past 20 years. It is clear that it is primarily our young people who are taking up this new vaping habit. Between 2019 and 2022–‍2023, the use of ‘e‑cigarettes’ in Australia rose substantially, particularly among young people. While current use of e‑cigarettes among people aged 14 and over nearly tripled between 2019 (2.5%) and 2022–‍2023 (7%), it quadrupled among people aged 18–‍24 (from 5.3% to 21%) and increased more than five-fold among people aged 14–‍17 (from 1.8% to 9.7%). In contrast, only 1.6% of people aged 60–‍69 currently used e‑cigarettes in 2022–‍2023, and just 0.4% of people 70 and over were using them. This is the opposite pattern to tobacco smoking, which was more common among older people. Findings pinpointed that young people were most likely to use them out of curiosity, or because they thought that e‑cigarettes taste better than regular cigarettes, while older people were most likely to use them to help them quit smoking. Vapes a "triple threat" Professor Robson said vapes are an “environmental triple-threat” with plastic waste in the device body and pod, electronic waste in the form of lithium-ion batteries and a heating element, and hazardous waste due to the heavy metals in the vape and nicotine in the e-juice.“Vapes are classified as hazardous waste around the country but most vapes are being thrown away in the garbage, or worse – dumped as litter – which is terrible for the environment,” Professor Robson said. “The plastic waste from the device body and pod never fully decomposes.“Rather than decomposing, plastic turns into microplastics, or tiny pieces of plastic, which continue to pollute the environment and pollute our food and drinking water. The electronic waste or lithium-ion battery waste can corrode and the metals and chemicals – like lithium – leak into the ground, polluting the soil and water long into the future.Not so disposable. Vape waste is a looming environmental issue. IMAGE: The LatchProfessor Robson said that incorrectly disposed batteries can also cause fires in garbage trucks and landfills, which can harm people, animals and the land.“We know liquid nicotine is also an acute hazardous waste that is toxic to humans if consumed.”The Australian Lung Foundation is among many other health focussed entities who agree with this sentiment, stating that -"The waste from vapes pollutes our land and waterways with toxic chemicals, heavy metals and microplastics. You can help protect our land and waterways. "Vapes are devices made of plastics that do not biodegrade. These plastics build up in our land and waterways as they take hundreds of years to break down." Under current NSW law, people cannot use e-cigarettes in smoke-free areas under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000. They can use e-cigarettes where smoking is not banned.The AMA said material used to make vapes also comes at a cost to the environment with deforestation and destruction of habitats from mining for materials and carbon emissions from their manufacture and transport.The survey also found the use of e‑cigarettes is more likely than smoking in areas more socioeconomic advantage.“Anyone in parliament who is serious about looking after the environment cannot turn a blind eye to the environmental menace that vapes have become,” Professor Robson said.

Bourke trailblazing the path for justice reinvestment programs
Bourke trailblazing the path for justice reinvestment programs

23 June 2024, 3:40 AM

The Maranguka justice reinvestment program in Bourke is setting an example for communities across the nation as to how to take a negative and turn it into a positive.  A delegation from Western Australia travelled to Bourke and Brewarrina from 29 May to 31 May to learn about the area's successful community-led justice reinvestment strategy. The delegation included the chair of Yinggarda Aboriginal Corporation Tracey Tonga, the CEO of the Yinggarda Aboriginal Corporation Denise Cotterill, principal regional development officer at the Gascoyne Development Kate Boston and advisor to the National Indigenous Australians Agency Naomi McMahon. They also met with Justine Campbell, CEO of RDA Orana. Regional Development Australia (RDA) Orana facilitated the meeting between the different organisations.  "We enjoyed our trip very much. It was very informative," Yinggarda Aboriginal CEO Denise Cotterill said.  Ms Cotterill said that they travelled to Bourke to learn about how to "reduce the number of people tied up in the justice system and why they get there in the first place." "It's also about finding ways to empower our community to make decisions from a grassroots level." Maranguka is the first Aboriginal-led justice reinvestment program in Australia in 2013. It is a collaboration between the Bourke Tribal Council, Just Reinvest NSW, and the Bourke community.  The goal of the program is to keep community members out of the criminal justice system through Aboriginal-led grassroots movements and activities.  These activities included a school holiday program, a men's working group, an early childhood and parenthood working group, an Aboriginal Employment Prosperity Strategy, and many more.  “Maranguka is a success story about how communities can work together with local police, organisations, education, and health services, and local government to drive local solutions and were happy to share their journey with us,” Ms Tonga said.  Between 2013 and 2015, there already was a 23 percent reduction in the number of reported domestic violence incidents reported to police and a 42 percent decrease in the number of days adults spent in custody.  There was also an 84 percent increase in the completion rate of VET courses by Bourke high-school students and a 31 percent increase in the retention rate for Year 12 students.  Carnarvon in WA received funding from the Federal Government in April to support a similar justice reinvestment strategy.In total, the Federal Government has set aside $79 million to support 30 justice reinvestment strategies in First Nations communities.  Ms Cotterill said that in her community the biggest need is for an expansion of Aboriginal Health Services and finding out how to support children's educational pathways from a young age.  "I think Bourke needs to be highlighted. It leads the way in terms of how to design services moving forward," Ms Cotterill said.  Within the coming months, Elders and members of the Aboriginal community in Bourke will be travelling to Carnarvon to get a better understanding of the needs of the Aboriginal community there.  In the 2022-2023 federal budget, the Australian government committed $69 million to establish a National Justice Reinvestment Program 

NSW Budget: Implications for the Western Plains
NSW Budget: Implications for the Western Plains

22 June 2024, 9:38 PM

The intricacies of government budgets are hard to wade through.At Western Plains App, we have done all the hard work for you and outlined the important points of the recently laid down NSW State Government Budget for 2024/25, with a focus on how it pertains to the Western Plains. TransportThe Central West and Orana region have received funding for a couple of main transport projects, however there are few new projects flagged further west.Firstly, $132 million has been put aside to enable grade separations on the Inland Rail alignment south of Parkes. This amount is jointly funded by the Australian Government. This region will also benefit from a $28.6 commitment to build new heavy vehicle rest stops that will help combat driver fatigue. The rest stop funding also stretches across the Far West area, where long distance driving can be hazardous. HealthIt's good news for the Far West Local Health District (Wilcannia and west to Broken Hill), which serves a population of about 30,700 people across an area covering 194,949 square km. In the budget, $15.3 million for Key Health Worker Accommodation in the Far Western region. Unfortunately however, no funding for our local area in this regard.This Budget also delivers $188.8 million for the Bulk Billing Support Initiative, which introduces a new payroll tax rebate to medical centres in regional areas that bulk-bill over 70 per cent of eligible services. This will incentivise bulk billing for GPs in regional communities and is touted to assist with reducing the cost of medical care. However, in western NSW, around 90-95% of visits are already bulk billed so this initiative is expected to have minimal impact. EnvironmentFunding to the tune of $25 million has been earmarked to fund critical recommendations from the Independent Review into the 2023 Mass Fish Deaths in the Darling‑Baaka River at Menindee. An amount of $200,000 will also be provided to conduct a scoping study into the potential repatriation of carved trees at Collarenebri. These trees are of great significance to the Indigenous people of the area. HousingIn the Barwon electorate, $2.1million has been allocated for new social housing upgrades by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation. For teachers, $5million has been invested in an essential worker housing package to ensure that teachers continue to be employed in our regional communities. Locations of this housing is yet to be announced. Further east the Central West Housing Program will receive $40 million to enable flood tolerance for existing houses including house raisings, repairs, retrofits and voluntary buybacks.It is not clear if this funding will extend to homes near Carinda which were affected in the 2022/23 floods. EducationThere will be a roll out of three new public preschools as part of the NSW Government’s 100 new public preschools election commitment. One of these is flagged for Bourke, however much of the community remains unconvinced that a new and separate preschool is needed in addition to the successful community-fun facility that has served the town for many years.In addition Bourke, Broken Hill and Cobar will receive $10 million to establish, expand or upgrade early childhood and education care. Cobar High School will receive an upgrade. Youth Specific funding for youth initiatives in the Western Plains include $40,000 to refurbish the Bourke Police Citizens Youth Club’s education/training room and $30,000 for the Walgett Police Citizens Youth Club’s Afternoon Activity Program. Connecting Regional Communities While not specific as far as locations, $1.2 billion will be invested to continue delivering a new rail fleet to improve safety, accessibility, amenities and reliability of regional train journeys. The Gilgandra to Coonamble Country Rail line will receive an upgrade to 25 tonne axle Load totalling $24 million. This upgrade is required to rectify the constraints of efficient movement of rail freight. Water Security and SafetyAn amount of $36.3 million has been allocated for the Nyngan to Cobar Pipeline and Pumping Station and $22.9 million funded for Wilcannia Weir to improve water security and enhance cultural connection to the river for local communities. Under the Water Security for Regions program, $1.25 million has been allocated for the Western Weir project supporting work.  While much of the budget items require more details, it is naturally being hailed as a strong way forward by the Minns Government. “This Budget is one that celebrates the best of regional NSW and makes considered investments in strengthening the foundations of regional communities," Stephen Lawrence, NSW Labor Government Duty MLC for Barwon, said. "It prioritises building better homes, with access to roads, hospitals and vital essential services." Just as predictably the opposition are critical of the 2024/25 NSW Government Budget. According to Opposition Leader, Mark Speakman the budget has not offered any cost of living support for struggling families and he called it a "shameless attempt to window dress" support measures, while declaring the coalition would restart a host of relief efforts should it win back government. 

Former Coonabarabran Inspector awarded Australian Police Medal
Former Coonabarabran Inspector awarded Australian Police Medal

22 June 2024, 7:40 AM

Scott Tanner, superintendent for the Richmond Police District and former Coonabarabran inspector was awarded the Australian Police Medal as part of the 2024 King's Birthday Honours.  The medal recognises Superintendent Tanner's efforts throughout his over three-decade service in the NSW police force. "It's very humbling. The award is deserved by everyone who has supported me throughout the years," Superintendent Tanner said.   Superintendent Tanner started his career in 1993 at 19 years old at the police academy in Goulburn. After graduating from the academy on his 20th birthday, he got posted in Newcastle.  From 2008 to 2013 worked first as a sergeant and later as an inspector in Coonabaran. He also serviced other towns in NSW including, Grafton, Nymboida, Manilla, Gunnedah, Armidale, Lismore, Wallsend, and Duboo.Superintendent Tanner fondly remembers his time working closely with the community in Coonabarabran.  "It was a fantastic community. We were able to raise our kids through high school there and made life-long friends." The superintendent said he learned a lot by working hands-on in the community.  "You're part of the fabric of the community. You know who's who. I think it gives you a sense of belonging, whereas in metropolitan areas you don't even live where you police."  "You're not only the police officer there. You’re the coach of the footy team, or your kids play netball. You're involved in all those social aspects of the place."  While Superintendent Tanner was coach of the Under 16 Footy Team, the team went through the season undefeated and won the grand finale.  "That was a real highlight for me." Part of the job of being a regional police officer is to see the community go through tough times.  "The bushfires in 2013 had a major impact on the community. Just seeing the resilience and everyone come together to support each other, that was something that's stuck in my mind." As the district commander in Richmond, Superintendent Tanner now has his hands full managing the strategic operations of Ballina, Lismore, and Casino.  "You get to have more of a strategic view of how things operate and you certainly interact with a whole different levels of government and community." A major focus for Superintendent Tanner is preventing domestic violence.  "I spend a lot of time focusing on domestic violence. It's an insidious plague." "Being a regional police officer, you get to see the effects of domestic violence firsthand." "I think if you can't be safe at home, where can you be safe?" Superintendent Tanner looked back on how his approach to policing changed throughout his career.  "When you're a young constable, all you want to do is go and lock up crooks. As you go through your career, you realise that there's something else there as well." "It's not just about locking people up. There's got to be some kind of diversion and rehabilitation. I'd rather spend my time and effort at the front end trying to divert young people from crime, rather than wait till they have committed one." "We’ve gone from being a reactionary police force to focusing on prevention." During Superintendent Tanner's time in Coonabarabran, he was part of the Burra Bee Dee youth program which encouraged kids to take part in fitness three times a week.At the end of the season, the kids got to spend time with the NRL Club Players. The goal of the program was to give children a safe space to interact with one another.  In his free time, Superintendent Tanner likes to travel and spend time with his family. He is excited to be expecting his first grandchild any day now. 

40km limit on Walgett's main street
40km limit on Walgett's main street

22 June 2024, 3:40 AM

The speed limit in Walgett's main street will drop from 50 to 40km/h this coming Wednesday when the NSW government introduces a new High Pedestrian Activity Area (HPIA) in the town. The limit will take effect on 26 June along Fox Street, which is part of the Castlereagh Highway, from Montkeila Street to 30 metres south past Euroka Street. The HPAA will also include Euroka, Dundas, Wee Waa, Warrena and Keepit streets. Transport for NSW Regional Director West, Alistair Lunn, said the limit will improve safety in the town CBD. “Transport for NSW carried out a speed limit review at the request of Walgett Shire Council, with speed and public amenity being the main recurring issues in the community,” Mr Lunn said. “The town centre consists of a mixture of retail and business, the supermarket and cafes, the public library and council building, as well as the information centre and memorial park. The review length is also close to the school precinct and hotspot areas for students to congregate after school to socialise. “Traffic consists of tourists and regular heavy vehicle movements and, as a walking community, there is a lot of ad hoc crossing areas in the CBD and a lot of pedestrians out and about in general. “The introduction of the HPAA will improve safety in this busy part of Walgett and, by keeping traffic volumes to a constant 40 km/h, will also improve the amenity of the CBD.”Anne Dennis has lived most her life in Walgett. IMAGE: supplied Anne Dennis is based in Fox Street as a councillor with the North Western section of the NSW Aboriginal Lands Council. While Ms Dennis welcomed the limit, she said speed signage on the main street would help residents adjust. "People need to slow down because there's also foot traffic with pedestrians walking across the street, so I think it's a good idea," Ms Dennis said. "I think there will be some people who will probably take just that little bit of time to adjust. "That signage is critical so that people are aware of it."Further to the southern end of Fox Street, The Pink House Hotel owner Dale Bowden said the 50km limit wasn't an issue. "I think the issue, when you're talking about the southern side of town, is more so the trucks that accelerate past." "If they were trying to slow people down the main street, I think it was more people passing through town. There's a roundabout right in the centre of town. They hit that then fly down at a ridiculous rate."He said he has seen a truck pass him going around 70-80km down the street. "I don't know if making it 40km is going to stop that," he said "I think most people cruze down there according to the foot traffic anyway. If the speed limit's already 50km and there's people everywhere, I think generally most people slow down a bit regardless. "If we could petition to put a fixed speed camera on the southern part of town, I reckon that would fix a lot of problems."

Brewarrina LALC sets sights on renewable energy
Brewarrina LALC sets sights on renewable energy

21 June 2024, 9:20 PM

Brewarrina is focussing its attention on how to step into the future using clean energy.  The Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) got together with the members from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Bio-Diversity Institute (BRI) Lab, Tubular labs, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and other LALCs on Wednesday 22 May and Thursday 23 May to discuss the role renewable energy will play in the future of the regional town.  The LALC is now looking into what renewable energy strategies fit best into their region.,  "Our current potential to establish clean energy business is very strong," former Brewarrina LALC CEO John Reidy said.  Brewarrina's flat land and long hot summers make it ideal for solar energy.  "According to UNSW research, the wind data indicates that we have strong wind potential too," Mr Reidy said.  The next step for the forum is to conduct a feasibility study and connect with potential energy partners.  "Australia is in catch-up mode with the rest of the world in transitioning away from fossil fuels. And what that looks like in the bush is probably more microgrids," Professor of Aboriginal political history at the UTS Heidi Norman said.  Microgrids are local power grids that run independently of the main power grid. They can power single buildings or configurations of microgrids can power larger areas like a town or city.  "It means you could address energy costs for your members. It means you could run a viable enterprise." "The reality is that there is no alternative. Within 30 years the temperature will be a could of degrees higher which will increase energy consumption to keep yourself cool or warm. "Energy costs could rise as much as 40 percent. If energy bills are already high they will be even higher in the future" Dr Norman said.  "Climate change presents real risks for people in far western New South Wales. All evidence shows some parts of NSW will get so hot, they will be unliveable for people."   "One of the disappointing things is that in the federal budget, there was no money to support and incentivize Aboriginal communities to lead renewable energy projects. That is a terrible missed opportunity." "It’s more than a systems change." Dr Norman said that transitioning to clean energy would also impact human behaviour such as, for example, having more visitors with electric cars in town who stop in town for half an hour or an hour to recharge their vehicle.  Once the forum has established what the best renewable energy options are for the town, concrete plans will be set in motion to transition to clean energy. 

Did you meet the Korean Cowboy?
Did you meet the Korean Cowboy?

21 June 2024, 7:39 AM

Spectators of the Coonamble rodeo may have seen up-and-coming cowboy Jonte Handebo compete in the novice division for 18 to 21-year olds. He is one of very few Asian cowboys in Australia, earning him the nickname “the Korean Cowboy.”Jonte came to Australia at just ten months of age when his parents Cherrie and Mathew Handebo adopted him. He grew up on a property near Molong. Last year his parents decided to move into town but Jonte misses life on the farm.“Heck no, I prefer the property,” he said.The 19-year-old got on a bull for the first time about a year ago after watching one of his friends go bull riding.“I saw what he was doing and I was like, ‘Mate, you’re gonna die.”His friend offered to take him to practise in Orange and despite his initial aversion to the risk, Jonte agreed. He described his first time getting on a bull as “unreal”.“It’s one of the things you just have to experience yourself. It’s like an addiction. You get past the fear point and then just keep going.”“And then you just always try to outdo your last ride. “PHOTO: The Korean Cowboy dreams of becoming a champion.He and his friend Billy O’Neil soon signed up to five rodeos despite having little prior experience.Jonte made his rodeo debut at Coonamble last year. “We just kept signing up. We had nowhere really to practise to be honest.”That all changed when he met veteran bull rider Charlie Webster at the rodeo in Cobar. “I met him when I got on my second or third ever bull. Got bucked off, went behind the chutes and he just asked how long I’ve been doing it for.” Charlie offered Jonte and his friend the chance to practise at his pen in Neville, south west of Bathurst, to “show them how to do it properly.”Yet, before he could even get there Jonte had signed up for another rodeo in Nevertire. This time, the bull made Jonte work for his points. “It was going ballistic,” Jonte said. Nonetheless, he was able to stay on the bull for seven seconds which left a lasting impression on Charlie.Since then, Jonte has been training on Charlie’s property with his sons Alex and Troy Webster.Three months ago, Jonte’s bull riding career reached new heights when the Western country clothing store Lucknow Skin Shop & Boot Barn sponsored him. “Their support has been unreal,” Jonte said. “It’s made so much more possible for me.”Jonte has been to over ten rodeos but said he is still finding his groove when it comes to bull riding. “I don’t really like competing at rodeos because I’m not at the skill level yet. I’d rather practise in the pen and get as good as I can.”Fortunately, he has never had any major injures despite a few bumps and bruises. “I count myself pretty lucky. Out of all my mates, I’m the one with the least injuries.”Jonte got his nickname the “Korean cowboy” from his footy mates. “I went down to training and they were like, ‘Oh, the first Korean cowboy.’ And then I guess the name just stuck.”Although some people initially dismiss Jonte because of his ethnicity, he doesn’t let that deter him. “One of the guys behind the chutes, he kind of just ignored me at first but now, people come up and they have a yarn.”Jonte trains every week and hopes to improve his score at the Coonamble rodeo next year.“I have big goals and dreams of becoming a champion,” Jonte said.

Six charged over Coonamble brawl
Six charged over Coonamble brawl

21 June 2024, 5:00 AM

Six people have been charged following an investigation into a street brawl in Coonamble last week. Video of the fight, where more than a dozen people were present on Greene Avenue, spread via messaging apps throughout the town in the afternoon on Tuesday 11 June. Footage shows participants on the roadways and footpaths taking swipes at each other and being followed by noisy onlookers. Officers were called to the street around 4:40pm that afternoon, although the group had already dispersed. "Following inquiries, between 2.30pm and 5.10pm yesterday (Thursday 20 June 2024), police attended homes on Hermann and Ross Street, Coonamble, and arrested three men and another three men attended the police station," a police spokesperson said.It comes after police arrested three women over a separate brawl on 9 June in Coonamble, which left three officers with minor injuries. The two men arrested on Hermann Street yesterday were aged 32 and 20. The man arrested on Ross Street was 21. All three were taken to Coonamble Police Station and charged with affray.A screengrab from video taken of the fightThe 32-year-old was also charged with using prohibited weapon contrary to prohibition, and breach of bail. The 21-year-old, who police searched and seized cannabis and suboxone strips from, was also charged with two counts of possessing a prohibited drug. The three who attended Coonamble Police Station, aged 24, 30 and 31, were arrested and all charged with affray. The 32, 24, and 21-year-old were refused bail to appear at Dubbo Local Court today The remaining three men aged 30, 31, and 20 were given conditional bail to appear at Coonamble Local Court on Tuesday 16 July 2024. Police said inquiries are continuing. 

Western patients are bulk billing winners
Western patients are bulk billing winners

21 June 2024, 3:39 AM

More people in the Western Plains are receiving more bulk billed GP visits than almost anywhere else in Australia, but on the rare occasions we do pay out of pocket the rates can be the highest in the natIon.Newly released Medicare data shows that the average out of pocket expense for people in the Western Plains region to be an astonishing $77 per GP visit.This is more than 80% higher than the next most expensive region in the state - Moree-Narrabri at $42 - and more than double the average in Dubbo which sits at $38.However, the Australian Healthcare Atlas made up of data compiled by researchers from the University of Melbourne, shows that more than nine out of ten people who visit a GP in the Western Plains are bulk-billed.Image: National Rural Health Alliance.The data shows that the Western Plains sits well within the top 10 of geographical areas that bulk-bill – higher than Broken Hill and higher than almost every geographical zone in metropolitan Sydney.Bankstown had the lowest GP out of pocket expenses in the state at $30 – marginally more than the lowest average in the country; $29 in Kwinana in South West Perth.In Broken Hill and the Far West it is $48.The figures come after the introduction of "triple bulk billing" in November.Mark Burdack. Image: Supplied. Under these incentives, the federal government pays GPs in metropolitan areas a $20.65 bonus if they bulk bill concession card holders or children under 16 years.GPs in rural and remote areas are paid $31.35-$39.65 extra. These are in addition to regular Medicare rebates GPs receive. CEO of the Healthy Communities Foundation of Australia, Mark Burdack said the situation reflected a "market rate" in the context of a shortage of GPs in the Western Plains and the fact Medicare rebates were from from seven years until 2021. The revelations come as new data from Public Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU) at Torrens University shows shows Brewarrina has the second lowest life expectancy The shire of around 1,143 people has a life expectancy of 71 according to PHIDU, making for the lowest life expectancy in the Western Plains and second lowest in NSW.This compares to areas of metro Sydney such as Woolhara which sits at 86, the Northern Beaches (85) and Mosman (84).The data also showed Bourke people have aan average life expectancy of 72.Walgett and Warren have a life expectancy of 75.In Coonamble and Narromine it is 77.It's 79 in Cobar and 80 in Gilgandra and Bogan shires.      

Alert but not alarmed: bird flu lands in NSW
Alert but not alarmed: bird flu lands in NSW

20 June 2024, 9:20 PM

Chook lovers are urged to be vigilant after the NSW government announced yesterday that Avian Influenza had been detected at a farm in Hawkesbury in Sydney's north-west. High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (HPAI) spreads quickly and has a high mortality rate among chickens. The Hawksbury farm is currently under quarantine. "NSW consumers should not be concerned about eggs and poultry products from the supermarkets," Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty said in a statement on 19 June."This detection does not pose a risk to consumer health and the products are safe to consume, if they are handled and cooked as per standard food handling practices​."The detection has triggered the NSW Government’s Emergency Animal Disease response, including an individual biosecurity direction to the farm and business, closing it off."Under the individual direction the affected egg farm has implemented quarantine to prevent the movement of equipment, and animals, to stop further spread."A formal control order will be declared this afternoon that will extend biosecurity control to a radius of 1-2 kilometres around the farm site."The H7N8 strain detected in Hawkesbury is not the same as the current outbreak in Victoria. Agricultural authorities currently understand the NSW outbreak to be a separate event, potentially originating from wild birds. HPAI has been eradicated from NSW three times before, most recently in Young about two hours north-west of Canberra in 2013. President of the Exhibition Poultry Association of NSW, Danny Benn, urged poultry owners to keep on their toes."Those people within that proximity that have been asked to not travel with their bird close in surrounds to the Freemans Reach area have been asked to just stay put," Mr Benn said."Everyone has been asked to be vigilant and be conscious of what to look out for and, if there are any issues, to contact the government hotline straight away."Poultry owners are legally required to report suspected signs of disease. Owners can contact the 24/7 Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.A swollen head, combs and wattles, shown in this image, are also signs of avian influenza. SOURCE: Department of Primary IndustriesCoonamble Poultry Club member Mark Hoath said he wasn't too concerned so far about the outbreak."Thus far it's only contained to Hawkesbury," Mr Hoath said."It's not as active as the strain in Victoria, from my understanding. There's been no biosecurity warnings given to the poultry clubs at this stage."We just fall back onto our normal common sense as bird enthusiasts and breeders. You maintain the cleanliness of your water and make sure you've got no outside birds coming into your establishment."According to the Department of Primary Industries, symptoms of avian influenza include:Sudden death or elevated flock mortalityDecreased feed and/or water consumptionReduction in egg production or increased number of misshapen or shell-less eggsWatery eyesSinusitisRuffled feathersSwelling of the face, upper neck and feetLoss of appetiteDiarrhoeaNeurological signs. Owners can protect their flock by avoiding mixing it with wild birds and regularly cleaning their aviary, poultry yard and farming equipment.

Riding for kids through the Central West
Riding for kids through the Central West

20 June 2024, 7:40 AM

Thirty bikers rolled through parts of the western plains on Saturday 15 June as part of their annual Five 4 Kids charity ride. Bikers Australia Central West raised around three thousand dollars for the Dubbo Base's Hospital Children's Ward while in Narromine, Trangie, Collie, Gilgandra, and Dubbo.  "It all started just to help out the kids," Bill 'Rolly' Brown, chair of Bikers Australia Central West said. "Everyone has had their kids go through the ward." Bikers Australia Central West has been collecting donations for the Dubbo Base's Hospital Children's Ward since 2008. During the years when the hospital said they were unable to accept checks, the biker group bought medical and entertainment equipment for the young patients at the hospital.  To raise the funds, the group sold raffle tickets at the different hotels they stopped at for small gifts such as vouchers and gift boxes. The grand prize was a $2,000 toolbox donated by Regional Auto Supplies Dubbo.  The most diligent fundraiser was 13-year-old Caleb Barnett who raised a total of $800 in raffle tickets.  "He walked up to everybody at the pub for raffle tickets," Mr Brown said.The loud bikes attract attention wherever the group goes. "We do a lap through the main street. You get all the kids waving from the parks. We've got a rule that when a kid waves, you wave back," Mr Brown said.  Bikers Australia Central West, originally called, Bikers Australia Gilgandra was founded by Dave Anforth in 2006. Since the organisation moved its seat to Dubbo in 2015, the group changed its name to Bikers Australia Central West. Bikers Australia Central West returned to their roots with a stopover in Gilgandra. IMAGE: Bikers Australia Central West Their youngest member is currently four months old.  "I'd just like to say thank you to all the businesses that donated and the riders that contributed," Mr Brown said.  Bikers Australia Central West hopes to present the Dubbo Base's Hospital Children's Ward a check with the donations at the end of June. The touring party convene outside a Trangie hotel. IMAGE: Bikers Australia Central West

CatholicCare welcomes new bail laws amidst "unacceptable" levels of DV in Western Plains
CatholicCare welcomes new bail laws amidst "unacceptable" levels of DV in Western Plains

20 June 2024, 3:40 AM

CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes had told the Western Plains App it welcomes new laws making it harder for alleged domestic violence offenders to get bail in NSW. The NSW Government has just passed new laws making it harder for alleged domestic violence offenders to get bail, and ensuring all bail decisions are made by magistrates. Under the new law, people charged with serious domestic violence offences will be required to show cause why they should not be detained until their case is determined – reversing the presumption of bail. This will apply to those charged with offences, in the context of intimate partner relationships, that carry a maximum penalty of 14 or more years jail. These offences include sexual assault, kidnapping, and choking to render someone unconscious with intent to commit another indictable offence. Image: Australian Lawyers for Human Rights. In the Far West and Orana, domestic assault reports increased 16.5 per cent during the five years to March 2024, new data released on Thursday by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows. "These latest statistics underline what we know from our work in the field: that domestic violence rates are unacceptable in western NSW, and measures to keep women and children safer are long overdue," a CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes spokeswoman told the Western Plains App. "The new laws that will ensure all bail decisions are made by magistrates and judges, rather than registrars, are also an important step" she said. Under the laws if someone is granted bail, these accused offenders will be subject to electronic monitoring, unless the bail authority is satisfied sufficient reasons exist – in the interests of justice – to justify not imposing the condition. Image: Sydney Criminal Lawyers. The show cause provision will apply to coercive control, which will be a criminal offence from 1 July 2024. The amendments also strengthen the unacceptable risk test in the Bail Act. Under these changes, before granting bail, decision makers must consider ‘red flag’ behaviour as well as the views of victims and their family members. "Domestic and family violence is preventable, and we urge the NSW government to continue investing in measures to better support the safety of women and children" the CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes spokeswoman said."This includes the Men’s Behaviour Change Program, which works with men who cause harm to change, as well as supporting victim-survivors – a program CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes delivers". 

Beryl flies into national honours
Beryl flies into national honours

19 June 2024, 9:20 PM

Over her lifetime, Beryl Hartley from Narromine has made significant contributions to the gliding industry.Fittingly she was recently awarded with the highly-prized Nancy-Bird Walton Memorial Trophy from the Australian Women’s Pilot’s Association. This award is the Association’s most prestigious award and is given in recognition of the most noteworthy contribution to aviation by a woman in Australasia and is sponsored by the family of the late aviation pioneer. Ms Hartley has been involved in recreational gliding since 1965, has undertaken years of volunteer work and was pivotal in organising the World Gliding Championships at Narromine in 2015 and 2023. She also spends countless volunteer hours at the Narromine Aviation Museum.  It has been a great year for Ms Hartley who was also named as Narromine Shire's Citizen of the Year in January's Australia Day Awards, but she remains modest about her achievements. "The reality is that the credit goes to all those volunteers who have jumped up and helped me run the two gliding championships. We had 57 volunteers at the last event, including some people who came over from Europe," Ms Hartley said. "We have had two very successful championships here in Narromine, which is fantastic.IMAGE: Gliding Australia Ms Hartley said she had no idea who nominated her for the award "I just got a phone call from the Australian Women's Pilots Association and they invited me to their yearly gathering at Mildura," she said. "They have a weekend where they do a lot of flying activities, and then they have a presentation dinner." It wasn’t until Ms Hartley arrived in Mildura that she found out she would be the recipient of the Nancy-Bird Walton Memorial Trophy. "By Saturday night I knew and the award is a beautiful. It is a silver tray in a big display box with all the all the details engraved on it," she said. "It's special that it's come to Narromine as Nancy Bird-Walton is extremely special to this area."There is a whole lot of history about her in the Aviation Museum and she actually turned the first sod, prior to it being built, and she was also here to open it. I will be making sure this award eventually goes into the museum as well."Beryl Hartley and Barbara Trappett AWPA President Photo: AWPA by Kathy Mexted Dugald Saunders, Member for Dubbo also acknowledged Ms Hartley's achievement. "Beryl’s recognition as a deserving recipient of this prestigious award speaks volumes about her significant contributions and expertise in the gliding industry. Her impact and authority within the field are widely acknowledged and celebrated."The success of the World Gliding Championships that were held in Narromine last December, was largely due to Beryl’s instrumental role in securing and coordinating the event," Mr Saunders said."Congratulations Beryl on your receipt of this award and all you do as a champion of gliding and Narromine!" Ms Hartley said she was 'training up' some new volunteers to take over some of her volunteer work but she is still heavily involved in the flying world, holding roles as President of the Narromine Gliding Club, treasurer of NSW Gliding Club, and is a board member for the Gliding Federation of Australia. "I think if you stay busy you don't feel your age," Ms Hartley, who is in her seventies, said. "When people stop keeping their minds busy and stop doing things that's when problems start. I don't feel my age. Sometimes my body says to me, you're an old lady but I'm still as active as I was in my 50's."

Walgett Races are a winner once again
Walgett Races are a winner once again

19 June 2024, 7:39 AM

The annual Walgett Races were a stampeding success last weekend, with a crowd of around 1400 enjoying all the fun of the races and party atmosphere. Walgett Races committee member, Nicole Tuohey said, while she loved the event, her contribution was definitely on "the social side of things". "We were rapt with the result of the day, both on the track and off," Ms Tuohey said. "On the social side, we held a luncheon which seats 160 and it sold out in two hours after tickets went on sale." "We had a new area this year as well which we called Bill's Bunker. The grandstand at the track is named after soldier, Bill Colless, so we created another a space underneath to try to keep in theme. "We sold 82 tickets into there, and that was to the Scots College old boys from the boarding school in Sydney who came out and celebrated 25 years." "We also had our party marquees and had a few fun and games, including the Dino Dash when we auction of dinosaur outfits and do a dash for cash after the last race. We also had an egg and spoon race and plenty of live music." As for the actual race, Ms Tuohey said it went off really well in front of a large and appreciative crowd. "In the Geronimo Farm Equipment/ New Holland Walgett Cup, one of Clint Lundholm's horses won. Clint is from Dubbo and his horses name was Macchina Volante. We did have quite a few locally trained horses running from Dubbo and a couple of Collie horses as well." "The crowd was awesome, we even had some out of towners that come through. Some had contacted us earlier and knew it was on, but we did have a few campers at the caravan park next to the racetrack who didn't even know the races were happening. They they all wandered over and gave us a hand. It was really lovely, they all got stuck in and were moving tables and putting champagne glasses together. They said they're now making it an annual trip." Ms Tuohey said that after packing up post race, the committee is on a short break but have already started planning for next year. "It went so well this year, we will definitely run a similar program because it worked out brilliantly," she said. "We have already locked a few things in already."

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