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Costly recovery: $20million bill for ongoing flood repairs in Warrumbungle Shire
Costly recovery: $20million bill for ongoing flood repairs in Warrumbungle Shire

20 May 2024, 9:20 PM

Over 1,000 sites still need to be repaired in the Warrumbungle Shire some two years after flood waters ripped apart roads all over the region. Warrumbungle Shire Council documents show that there are 1701 defects approved for funding for the November 2021 event and 80 defects for the September 2022 event. To date, the amount of $10,582,454 has been approved for restoration and works are still being carried out. But the final repair bill could be twice that amount. "The Australian Government and the NSW Government through the jointly funded Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) recognised that in 2021 and 2022 the Warrumbungle Local Government Area (LGA) was hit by multiple flooding events, declaring them as natural disasters and providing funding to repair the affected road network" the council said in a statement. “Council has now obtained $10.57M in funding for the 2021 Natural Disaster event and repair works are in full swing with a lot of noticeable improvements," Mayor Doolan explained. Road crews have been focusing their time on the Flood Damage repair program to make a dent in these defects and get our road network repaired in a timely manner."  Major damage on roads like this at Johns Crossing in 2022 have sent the recovery bill soaring. “Council has submitted further funding applications for the 2022 Natural Disaster events bringing the total claim for these Natural Disaster events to almost $7.4M, and once that funding is obtained further works will be scheduled.” The are 10 roads which remain partially closed or significantly changed in the shire since the 2021 and 2022 floods. Of the $10m so far spent, more than $7m has gone on repairing unsealed roads. The next lot of works to be completed are at:Lambing Hill RoadDapper RoadDiehm RoadDanabar RoadUpper Laheys Creek RoadLincoln RoadBrooklyn Road "Council has engaged contractors, Rollers Australia and Rigour Excavations, under the Casual Plant Hire Contract to supply unsealed road maintenance crews to assist with the Natural Disaster Restoration Works. Both contractors have been with Council since August 2023" council documents show. The council says it also submitted applications for Local Government Recovery grants for Coolah Rising and the Neible Siding Box Culvert.

Crime doesn't pay, but policing does!
Crime doesn't pay, but policing does!

20 May 2024, 3:40 AM

Last October, the New South Wales Government announced that police recruits would be paid to study at Goulburn Police Academy. This saw 1235 new applications - an increase of 26 per cent of people wanting to train to join NSW Police. In December, the first cohort of probationary constables who were paid to train were sworn into the NSW Police Force. Officers then began 12 months on the job training as a probationary constable. In the Western region, we saw 13 new recruits hit the ground. At the time, Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism Yasmin Catley said she wished every one of the 179 Attesting Officers a long, rich and rewarding career in the NSW Police Force. “Each of these officers have displayed an unwavering commitment to make a difference to the people of NSW. Our state and the policing family is all the richer for it,” she said. On the back of this success, two new programs have just been announced, specifically aimed at attracting both experienced officers and regional recruits to the NSW Police Force. To attract experienced officers, the government will launch a Professional Mobility Program (PMP) that will incentivise officers from other Australian states and territories and New Zealand to join the NSWPF while keeping their equivalent rank (up to senior constable level six). Previously, serving police officers who wanted to join the NSWPF needed to complete eight months study including four months in-person at the Goulburn Academy before graduating at the starting rank of Probationary Constable. Successful applicants will now undergo a three-month course at the Police Academy in Goulburn focused on NSW policing policies and procedures. They will be paid in-line with the current payment for Student Police Officers.This is expected to be powerfully attractive to serving police from interstate and New Zealand to join Australia’s largest police force.The NSW Government also have plans to launch the ‘You Should Be a Cop in Your Hometown’ program that will ensure people from regional NSW serve in, or near their hometown after they graduate from the Goulburn Police Academy.While new recruits currently nominate several areas where they would like to serve, ‘Be a Cop in Your Hometown’ will give appropriate officers from regional NSW the opportunity to request to return to their hometown or a nearby community.Preference will then be given to these recruits to fill any vacancies in their home town or nearby.Ms Catley described these initiatives as a "game changer". “Paying recruits to study is starting to look like a game changer but we won’t stop there,” she said. “Our Class 364 which will attest in December is full to the brim with more than 350 new recruits – the first full class in years. We have more than 1,500 vacancies to fill and mark my words, I’ve made it my personal mission, alongside Commissioner Webb, to fill them." “I know our police are stretched and overworked. Many are exhausted. We need more boots on the ground and that’s what we’re determined to achieve. The two schemes announced, alongside paid study makes becoming a NSW Police Officer the most attractive it has been in decades. The proof is there, the numbers don’t lie. We are getting many more recruits and a more diverse range of recruits.” There are currently more than 1500 vacancies in the NSW Police Force that programs like this are aiming to fill. One happy recruit is Probationary Constable 'Gabby', now stationed at Dubbo after attending the Police Academy. She said some people are apprehensive about a country placement but for her it was the best lifestyle change. "What I love about it our here is that the people are very friendly and very welcoming. You should become a cop if you want a lifestyle change and if you want to make a difference in someone's life," she said. President of the Police Association of NSW Kevin Morton said it was heartening to see the pay-to-train model is working."These additional recruitment initiatives will hopefully begin alleviating the strain on our frontline workers," he said.From March 2024, student police officers will be employed as clerk grade 1/2 administrative employees on a temporary fixed term contact. They’ll receive a total salary of approximately $30,984 over the 16-week study period, including super and award-based allowances.  Click here for more information 

"Look elsewhere": Greens back farmers to block Biosecurity bill
"Look elsewhere": Greens back farmers to block Biosecurity bill

19 May 2024, 9:20 PM

The Federal Greens look set to block the widely-criticised Agriculture (Biosecurity Protection) Levies Bill 2024 and Agriculture (Biosecurity Protection) Levies and Charges Collection Bill 2024 in the senate.In order to pass the Senate, the Federal Government would require support from either the Coalition, or the Greens and two minor party members.The government was seeking to impose a 6 per cent tax on producers on biosecurity costs. This would result in an estimated $51m to government coffers, with the grains industry the hardest hit at $12.5m.The Coalition and farmers have been vocal opponents of the legislation, they call the “fresh food tax” and it seems the Greens, One Nation and other independent senators share their concerns.Greens spokesperson for agriculture, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said “The fact this new proposed levy has zero buy-in from the agricultural sector speaks for itself – consultation on it was rushed and inadequate. “If the government needs an extra $50m to boost biosecurity border security, it should look elsewhere."To put things in perspective, if Labor accepted the Greens’ offer on doubling the tax on gas corporations to pass the government’s PRRT changes, we would raise $500m a year, ten times the annual amount Labor is seeking from farmers.Senator Whish-Wilson. Image: supplied.In a statement, the National Farmers Federation also confirmed One Nation, and Senators David Pocock, Jacqui Lambie, Tammy Tyrrell and Ralph Babet have all indicated that they would oppose the levy legislation.Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton has also welcomed news that the crossbench will block the bill calling it "disastrous and ill-thought-out".“This bill just didn’t make sense – asking Australian farmers to pay for the biosecurity risks of international importers was just disgraceful, from a Government that has shown time and time again how little regard it has for farmers and regional Australia" he said.The NFF's Tony Mahar has been campaigning fiercely in Canberra against the proposed levy.National Farmers Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said “We’ve fiercely fought to #ScraptheTax and now we hope the government can finally hit delete and find a better way to ensure Australia’s biosecurity system is the best in the world".In their statement, the Greens questioned why the government is taxing "farmers doing it tough" rather than "the fossil fuel industry and the supermarket duopoly”

Lack of funds causes Narromine's Dolly Parton Festival to be cancelled.
Lack of funds causes Narromine's Dolly Parton Festival to be cancelled.

19 May 2024, 7:36 AM

With great regret, the committee of the 2024 Narromine Dolly Parton Festival, scheduled for Saturday October 12, have announced the cancellation of this year's event. Susie Rae, President of the Narromine Dolly Parton Festival said it was a difficult decision.She explained that lack of State and Federal Government funding and rising costs to host the Festival has led to this cancellation. "We agonised over this decision as it is highly anticipated by local businesses and community members alike, providing a significant boost to the local economy," Ms Rae said. "While numerous funding applications were lodged, our festival was unsuccessful in securing any funds and with an approximate event cost of $150 000, continuing without this funding was deemed too risky." Visitors and locals have flocked to the two past festivals, donning cowboy hats and helping celebrate the American country singer-songwriter, musician, actress, philanthropist, and businesswoman, Dolly Parton. Narromine Mayor, Craig Davies shared the community's disappointment at the news. ‘It’s with a sense of deep regret and frustration I note the inability of the Dolly Parton Festival to continue in Narromine [this year]," Mr Davies said. "That cultural events of this nature in rural locations are ignored but our city counterparts appear to never miss out is a blight on governments who lack the empathy and understanding that we also deserve to be funded appropriately.’Dolly's galore at an earlier festival. The Narromine Dolly Parton Festival committee said they acknowledge and greatly appreciate the ongoing financial support from the local Narromine Council. The committee hopes to stage the event in 2025 and turn this situation around, and are more than willing to continue working hard to ensure this festival continues.

Warrumbungle Shire consider their ""commercial" activities
Warrumbungle Shire consider their ""commercial" activities

19 May 2024, 3:40 AM

Warrumbungle Shire Council is looking at the possibility of partnering with private enterprise to push forward on residential land development in the shire.The council has long planned to subdivide parcels of land in Reservoir Street Coonabarabran. The proposal was to create 30 residential allotments.But newly released council documents state “Efforts had been made to work with Landcom to undertake thi,s however this does not now seem achievable” and that “Council may consider some private partnership arrangement to develop the land”.The proposal comes after an evaluation of the council’s Long Term Financial Plan.The ever-expanding demands on council's budget has created serious discussions within Warrumbungle Shire around the scope of council's responsibility to provide infrastructure and services normally in the realm of private enterprise.The council notes it should be a provider of “last resort” and Council’s operating “‘commercial’ activities can be a vexed issue”.“If there are local contractors who are able to construct private driveways, then Council should not be offering a competing service,” council documents show.The documents note that “With the Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone becoming a reality, consideration to reclassify this (council) land for subdivision may be appropriate” - with much of the council land held for ‘community’ purposes and are often classified as ‘community’ land.“This is not to say that the classifications cannot be changed however a lengthy process needs to be followed and subject to community consultation. The best examples of such parcels are located in Coolah where there are properties in Goddard Street (Swanston Park), Yule St off Martin St adjacent to the hospital or Brownie Park”.Warrambungle Shire's Community Care bus service. Image: facebookThe council is also considering what to do with “Warrumbungle Community Care” and “Long Day Pre School”, noting that “Councils need to strike a balance between the desire to successfully generate income through commercial activities and competing with local businesses."Often there are good commercial reasons why private enterprise is not operating an activity, at times this needs to be balanced with the desire to stimulate activity.”Warrumbungle Shire Council currently operates Yuluwirri Kids Preschool and Long Day Care Centre. IMAGE: facebookThe 3rd Quarterly Budget Review Statement shows that Warrumbungle Council’s income budget for the 2023/24 financial year is $54,809,055. Expenses are projected to be $54,083,543 resulting in a $725,512 surplus.  

Protecting your most precious package.
Protecting your most precious package.

18 May 2024, 9:28 PM

Conflicting advice around food safety can often leave pregnant women confused and vulnerable. There are already plenty of dos and don'ts when it comes to pregnancy, and plenty of medical check-ups as well. While we don't have close access to pregnancy specialists or maternity hospitals in many areas of the Western Plains, there is plenty an expectant mother can do to keep herself and her baby as healthy as possible. The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has recently released information around what foods to avoid during pregnancy. While food poisoning would obviously be an issue, it is the disease, Listeria which can pose a huge risk. UNSW food safety expert, Associate Professor Julian Cox said the outcomes of Listeria infection can be severe. “If a healthy adult becomes infected with Listeria, the likely worst outcome is a bad case of ‘gastro’, that may last only a day or two. However, the risk for an expectant mother is much higher,” he said.In 2018, a national Listeria outbreak, traced to contaminated rockmelon, sadly caused the death of five people and one miscarriage. Food to avoid Besides soft cheese, a well-known possible carrier of the bacterial pathogen, UNSW scientists suggest keeping unpasteurised dairy products, deli meats, sliced or diced packaged ready-to-eat meats and refrigerated meats including pate, off the menu. “The biggest problem is the resilience of Listeria," Assoc Professor Cox said. "The bacterium can survive and thrive in natural, domestic, and industrial environments where food production, processing and preparation take place.” The resilient pathogen can even thrive under refrigerated conditions unlike other well known pathogens like salmonella. “Even in food processing settings, it can easily contaminate various environments, including floors and drains, and complex equipment that may be difficult to clean and sanitise," Assoc Professor Cox said. “So even if we have, for example, a perfectly safe block of cheese or salami, it can become a risk if exposed to a processing environment, such as grating or slicing, that has become contaminated with Listeria."Associate Professor Cox urged pregnant women to be aware of use-by dates on foods and choose safer alternatives like hard cheese or pasteurised milk. Conflicting advice from different states makes things even more confusing. For example, the NSW Food Authority advises against eating processed deli meats, such as ham, salami, and chicken meat, unless thoroughly cooked to at least 75 degrees Celsius, and eaten soon afterwards whereas the South Australian Women's and Children's Health Network recommends to avoid cold meats altogether.Processed meats have joined soft cheeses on the list of foods to avoid during pregnancy. Consuming fish should also be done cautiously, due to possible high levels of mercury.What can an expectant mother do to avoid Listeria? “Following the food hygiene practices in a commercial setting is so important because we know that Listeria can grow and contaminate the environment and equipment used to process foods,” Assoc Professor Cox says. “And much the same can then be said about the preparation of food in the home kitchen."“Work clean, observe good personal hygiene, like washing hands after toileting or handling high-risk foods like raw meats, and remember good food hygiene practices like maintaining cleanliness in the kitchen." A handy tip is to use different chopping boards when prepping any meats and fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.”Researchers suggest we double-down on cleanliness to protect unborn babies.Associate Professor Cox also mentioned the importance of time-temperature when preparing foods.“If you’re still worried, cook or reheat your food thoroughly to reduce the risk of any bad bugs surviving or growing,” he says. “And when you do, remember the danger zone: try to keep foods at or above 60 degrees Celsius or at or below five degrees Celsius. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and get perishable and cooked foods into the fridge as soon as possible – this will minimise any risk of food becoming unsafe.“Keeping food well below five degrees Celsius greatly slows the growth of Listeria. Still, while it is generally considered safe to consume leftovers within two to four days, in pregnancy restrict that to one day, given the greater risk of listeriosis.”     

We're all going to die - so how do you want to live?
We're all going to die - so how do you want to live?

18 May 2024, 7:40 AM

Palliative Care Week starts tomorrow and its here to show how planning for death can make life more enjoyable.  Dr. Louis Christie is a palliative care specialist working in Western NSW.  "Palliative care is about the care of people who have an illness that we know we can't cure," he said. "It is a philosophy of care around the provision of good symptom control and helping maintain people as well as we can." "And to be able to do that in a place of their choosing, ideally, in a way that is authentic to them. So they're able to have important people around them and to be supported by the people in their lives that they value as they're going through that dying process." "The process of dying is something we tend not to plan for. If you plan for something, it'll go better than if you don't." "The focus of our end-of-life and palliative care services is to improve the quality of life for patients facing a life-limiting illness by addressing physical, psychological, social, or spiritual challenges or symptoms, who also providing support for families and carers," Western NSW Local Health District Manager for Palliative Care Services, Christine Symington said.  Palliative care has only been around relatively recently as its own discipline in Australia, according to Dr. Christie.  "It's been around 30 years as a separate medical discipline." "Any doctor, nurse, or allied healthcare professional who's involved in caring for people should be able to provide care for symptoms and distress," Dr. Christie said. However, in some cases specialised care is necessary. "For some people, the management of symptoms becomes very complex. And so the regular procedures we do to keep people comfortable, don't necessarily work. In those settings, you need to engage a specialist palliative care service." "A lot of the development of palliative care services focused initially on urban areas, large hospitals, and large communities. There wasn't initially as much focus on how we do palliative care in rural communities. Generally speaking, if you look at workforce data, per capita, there is more access to specialist palliative care services in urban areas than there are in rural areas." Another challenge for palliative care patients in rural areas is planning face-to-face appointments with their doctor.  "If we're talking about people being able to receive care as close to home as possible that means palliative care has to come to the person, the person can't go the palliative care." Despite an increase in teleconferences since the COVID pandemic, Dr. Christie said some patients require in-person care which means a lot of travelling for staff.  Dr. Christie also said that providing palliative care in rural areas can often hit close to home.  "If you're living in a town, say of 10,000 people then chances are the social connections are such that the people you end up looking after are people you have some connection with socially. There's that extra challenge of managing that complex human relationship at a very distressing time for people." Despite the complexities of providing palliative care in rural areas, the discipline is continuously developing and improving.  "The Western NSW Local Health District ( WNSWLHD) recently completed refurbishments of palliative care spaces at health services in Wellington, Canowindra, Trundle, and Brewarrina," Ms. Symington said. The Orange Health Service's palliative care space is currently also in development as part of the World Class End of Life program from the NSW government.  During palliative care week, teams in Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo, Parkes, Forbes, and Mudgee will be doing activities for palliative care week, including palliative care and death literacy. This gives people an opportunity to talk about healthcare to understand what it is and to think about what the service may be able to offer. "National Palliative Care Week is a wonderful opportunity to increase awareness about the importance and benefits of accessing end-of-life and palliative care services and to begin conversations with our family and friends about how we may like to plan for our future, including our own end-of-life care," Ms. Symington said.  Providing palliative care can help make a painful situation manageable for the patient and their loved ones.  "Generally speaking, the reactions of people, we look after are very positive. Obviously, we're coming into people's lives at a very profound and challenging time in their life. We can't necessarily make everything better. But we can make sure it's not overwhelming for them," Dr. Christie said. To find out more about National Palliative Care Week click here

 'An illogical decision' - NSW Government under fire for diverting money from Western Plains DV service
'An illogical decision' - NSW Government under fire for diverting money from Western Plains DV service

18 May 2024, 3:40 AM

One of the region's leading DV service providers has hit out at the state government for preventing it from competing in a tender for new specialist service funding because they are not considered Aboriginal controlled.  Earlier this month, CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes were told by the NSW government it cannot compete for funds under the' New Specialist – Family Domestic and Sexual Violence Workers' tender because priority has been given to Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations (ACCOs).  Currently, CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes operates across 52% of NSW in Western and Far West NSW in places like Bourke, Cobar, Condobolin, and Wilcannia. The organisation is the main DV service provider in Forbes and Bourke and manages the women’s refuges in both towns.  CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes chief executive officer Anne-Marie Mioche says the government’s approach is concerning. “There are 148 positions in total, and 23 in our areas we should have been allowed to compete for, and the government is only allowing us to apply for two positions,” she said. “Those two positions are in Cobar and Warren, and it feels like that is only because they could not find an ACCO to fill those jobs. “One of the priority areas for the NSW government is to get more Aboriginal workers in DV, which is appropriate in the regional and remote areas where we work However, we already do this – for example in Forbes 43% of our team members and 44% of our clients identify as Aboriginal."Image: llu.edu Ms Mioche said that in Bourke 100% of their team members are Aboriginal. “To add insult to injury the government seems to have gone out of its way to knock us out of the competition, telling us we could compete in places such as the Snowy Valley LGA and the Warrumbungle. That’s hundreds of kilometres from our nearest offices".  In a statement, member for Dubbo and NSW Nationals Leader Dugald Saunders said  "It was disappointing to hear today that the Minns Labor Government has only delivered 5 of the 118 additional front line domestic violence workers that were promised by June 30".  "What’s more concerning is that women’s shelters across the Central West, including CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes and The Great Lakes Women’s Shelter, were among those that missed out because they were deemed “ineligible” to tender" he said. Incidents of Assault (Domestic assault) from January 2023 to December 2023. [per 100,000 population] SOURCE: BOCSAR Crime Mapping ToolThe top 48 local government areas in NSW for domestic violence assaults were in regional NSW in 2023 including LGAs in the western plains region. Walgett notes the highest rate at over eight times the state average with 3625.8 incidents per 100,000 people. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) notes that domestic violence numbers in Western Plains local government areas remain at the top of the most common offences, with statistics as of January 2024 as follows , Bourke (179), Coonamble (119), Lachlan (77), Narromine (73) and Warrumbungle (72).  Half of the 26 women who have been killed so far this year have been in regional parts of the country – though not all have been domestic violence incidents.  Offenders proceed against in 2023 for violent crime remain overwhelmingly male but do not appear to be predominantly Indigenous.Age, gender, and Aboriginal status of persons of interest proceeded against for violent crime by region: 2023. SOURCE: BOCSAR report Crime in Regional & Rural NSWThe recent report - Crime in Regional & Rural NSW in 2023: Trends & Rates - showed that 55% of the persons proceeded against for violent crime in regional NSW were non-Aboriginal (41% adult male, 14% adult female) with 27% of Aboriginal background (18% male, 9% female).Statistics relating specifically to the characteristics of domestic violence victims in regional NSW were not readily available.Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jodie Harrison says the government are rolling out the program and a tender is now live."Evidence shows that there are better outcomes for Aboriginal victim-survivors of DFSV (domestic-family-sexual-violence) when services are delivered by Aboriginal-led organisations," she told the Western Plains App."We will work with communities to ensure positions are filled in areas where there is most need." 

Trust in Australian agriculture on environment and animal welfare at all time high
Trust in Australian agriculture on environment and animal welfare at all time high

17 May 2024, 9:20 PM

Australians trust in their rural communities has reached an all-time high in the five years Agrifutures has been running its annual survey.  While just 3.5 million out of Australia's 26 million live in rural Australia, the rest of the population has a deep-seated trust in what we do the latest survey has found.  In 2023, 91.4% of respondents agreed that rural industries are important to our way of life in Australia, marking a notable increase from 88.2% in 2022. Additionally, community acceptance of rural industries rose by 12%, matching the highest level recorded since the program started.  "Australians believe fishers, farmers and foresters play an important role in society and are a vital part of Australia’s history, however there are areas of community uncertainty that present risks and opportunities for the sector"  Image: Australian Ageing Agenda.   3028 survey respondents put management of environmental performance by rural industries was the strongest driver of trust in 2023.  "Similar to 2021, other influential drivers of trust included animal welfare, industry responsiveness, distributional fairness (i.e. the extent to which Australians feel like they get a fair share of the benefits created by rural industries), and confidence in regulation of rural industries," the report said.  Image: realestate.com.aju  The report also warned that "younger Australians hold less positive views about rural industries" and there is a decline in people who feel "connected to farmers" and who agree that "rural industries are part of my heritage".  Most Australians get their information about rural Australian from TV news and current affairs followed by social media.  The Agrifutures research commenced in 2019 canvassing almost 20,000 Australians over three years.  It showed again this year that Australians are worried about a rising set of issues in rural Australia – water security, use of chemicals  

$10 mill for Bre sports hub
$10 mill for Bre sports hub

17 May 2024, 7:40 AM

Brewarrina Shire will get $10 million from the federal government to build a new sports centre and youth hub.  The Brewarrina PCYC Youth Hub and Indoor Sports Centre will have a community gymnasium, basketball and netball court, boxing facilities and general community space, according to the council's General Manager, David Kirby.  He said the council also will contribute half a million dollars to the "hybrid facility," which will be built on Bre's main street, Bathurst Street, and replace the old centre on Young Street. "Probably the best comparison I can use to our current youth centre is it looks more like a shearing shed than a youth centre," Mr Kirby said.  "So, having the opportunity to bring infrastructure such as this into the community, and getting to spend $10 million in doing it, will ensure that we have a state-of-the-art facility that can cater for the whole community.  "I'm sure our community's going to be a much better place for it."    The federal government announced the funding on 16 May as part of the Growing Regions Program, which awards between $500 000 and $15 million to help local governments and non-profits to deliver infrastructure projects in rural and regional areas.  The centre could also serve as the base for a Brewarrina branch of the Police Citizens Youth Clubs.   "At this stage, we're still working through the final details with the PCYC in terms of the management of the facility," Mr Kirby said.  "That'll come at a later date, but obviously the main thing for us is ensuring that it maintains community ownership and obviously that they have the greatest input into the future use of the facility."  Mr Kirby said Brewarrina Shire will look at pre-existing design templates, tailored to local needs, to speed up the facility's initial planning and approval stage. IMAGE: Wikipedia  Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO John Reidy he was "exuberant" over the announcement.  "Being a health and fitness fanatic, not having a fitness centre and fitness in infrastructure in the community was a real disappointment," Mr Reidy said.  "We've been connecting with multiple players over the years trying to get some really good assets for our youth.  "As places like Walgett and Bourke have it, we've always felt left out, so to now have some health and fitness infrastructure, potentially a PCYC, it's very exciting."  Mr Kirby said Brewarrina Shire will still make use of the old youth centre. "At the moment, we actually lease half the space out to different community organisations."  "So, we're obviously talking to some of those stakeholders and looking at what their needs are moving forward and the potential to keep utilising that space.  "There definitely wont be any sheep being shorn in there." Brewarrina Shire Council's General Manager David Kirby Federal government senator for New South Wales, Deborah O’Neill, said project applicants for funding were selected on merit.   “Each of these projects was assessed through a merits-based process initially involving Senators and Members from across the parliament, and then was further assessed by the Department which determined the final successful bids," Ms O'Neil said.    “No NSW representatives were involved in assessing the projects in our own state, because Labor knows that probity standards matter to Australian taxpayers.   “Each of these projects will bring significant benefits for these communities, making a real difference for people in Moree, Brewarrina, Narrabri, Caroona, Gunnedah, Dubbo and surrounding communities." 

Walgett Shire Council say airport upgrade is urgent, Bogan shire gets new funding
Walgett Shire Council say airport upgrade is urgent, Bogan shire gets new funding

17 May 2024, 3:40 AM

Walgett Shire Council mayor Jason Ramien has told the Western Plains App that the runways at Lightning Ridge airport should be urgently upgraded because it is preventing some medical flights from taking off at the airport. The shire's GM Megan Dixon met with the the Border Regions Organisation of Councils (BROC) to show the shire's support for be made by BROC on behalf of member Councils, to the Australian Government for improved funding for rural airports.  It comes as it was rejected for funding in Round 10 of the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program, with Nyngan Airport the only location in the western plains to receive support in that round. Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton explained Bogan Shire Council received $116,550 to undertake a lighting upgrade at Nyngan Airport. “I recently met with the Mayor and General Manager of Bogan Shire Council, who had been anxiously waiting for this funding so that they can begin upgrading the lighting at Nyngan Airport, to enable planes to safely land at night. “However, I am disappointed that Bogan Shire Council was the only recipient in New South Wales". Mark Coulton. Image: Supplied “I know for a fact that numerous other councils in my electorate applied for this funding and have unfortunately missed out. I’m hoping that further funding for the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program will be made available in next week’s Federal Budget.”  In Tuesday's Federal Budget the Australian government announced an additional $101.9 million over five years from 2024–25 (and $0.8 million per year ongoing) to extend the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program and the Regional Airports Program for two additional rounds, and continue the Remote Aerodrome Inspection Programme to improve aviation safety and access at remote airstrips and regional airports.  "We are hoping we get this upgrade as soon as possible" Cr Ramien said.  

Farmers react to sheep export ban
Farmers react to sheep export ban

16 May 2024, 9:20 PM

Sitting at a table with five other sheep farmers at the Coonamble Show on 15 May, Warren's Andrew McGrath dismisses the Federal Government's plan to end live sheep exports by May 2028. "I think it's ridiculous," Andrew said. "I think it's just to keep people in the city happy and get a few votes. "If Australia doesn't do it, then someone else will. There's obviously a market for it. There'd be other countries that'd take up the slack, which don't have the animal welfare standards that we do." Minister for Agriculture, Murray Watt said the government made the decision to protect Australian sheep and that live sheep exports have been in decline over the last 20 years.Mr Watt also announced $107 million to smooth the 4-year transition from live exports, which includes increasing domestic demand for sheep products. “The community expects Australia to have the world’s best animal welfare practices,” Mr Watt said in a 11 May media release.“I understand that some in the community will want to see the trade stopped tomorrow, and others not at all.“This approach strikes the right balance, based on extensive industry and community consultation - including a detailed report from the independent panel, which we are releasing today."While live sheep exports have shrunk by $338 million over the past 20 years, our sheepmeat exports have grown by over 300% over that same period, with exports to the North Africa and Middle East region more than tripling in value over this period."Gulargambone sheep farmer Paul Fisher is concerned the ban will redirect Western Australian sheep in the NSW market. PHOTO: River McCrossen Andrew, like the other farmers around the table, is not involved in live export.However, Paul Fisher from the village of Gulargambone, near Coonamble, says he expects the ban will still impact local sheep producers."There'll be more of the Western Australian sheep coming to the eastern states. It'll affect our market," Paul said."It's a compounding affect. We don't actually live export ourselves, but it's going to be detrimental."Agriculture industry bodies walked out of the Agricultural Industry Budget Breakfast on 15 May when Minister Watt addressed the event, including the National Farmers Federation.“We turned our back to the Minister just like he turned his back on farmers,” NFF President David Jochinke said. “The walkout represents what this government did to agriculture when it pursued this ideological agenda, disregarding the real-world implications this ban will have on farmers, communities, our trading relationships and animal welfare outcomes. “It appears this Government listens to activists over agricultural experts and farmers. Perhaps if we start behaving like activists it might listen to us. “Overseas farmers are taking to the streets to rebel against governments who won’t listen. We don’t want that here, but is that what our leaders want? “We are putting this government on notice. We are only just getting warmed up. There’s plenty of fight in farmers.”

Budget wins and losses for rural health
Budget wins and losses for rural health

16 May 2024, 7:40 AM

While many media outlets consider health as one of the winners in last night's budget, it fails to address the ongoing health care inequity between rural and urban Australia according to the National Rural Health Alliance."The Budget falls short of our expectations," said Nicole O’Reilly, Chairperson of the National Rural Health Alliance."It is disheartening to observe the government's lack of responsiveness to rural voices and its failure to commit to comprehensive reforms that would offer sustainable and long-term benefits for rural communities." New health initiatives in the budget included the following -$319.50 a week placement payment for student nurses/midwives/social workers, via means-tested Commonwealth Prac Payment, from July 2025$49.1m to give women with complex gynaecological conditions better access to specialist doctors. Specialist consultations of 45 minutes-plus covered under Medicare from July 1, 2025. 29 extra Medicare Urgent Care Clinics at a cost of $227m. While this may be good news, it doesn't change the fact that the further an Australian lives from an urban centre, the lower their life expectancy. Regional dwellers are also twice as likely to die from preventable illness. Rural men are 2.5 times and women 2.8 times more likely to die from potentially avoidable causes than those in urban areas. Many rural people have no access to primary healthcare services within an hour’s drive from their home. They use Medicare up to 50 per cent less than those in cities, showing that people rather not make the long journey or wait long hours to access health care somewhere else. As a result, the burden of disease in remote areas is 1.4 times than that of major cities.“Evidence is clear that per-person spending on healthcare is not equitable," Ms O'Reilly said."Funding could have enabled rural Australians to access health and medical services in their local communities. We call on the government to make a better commitment at the next opportunity to ensure that our rural communities are looked after."Not just for emergencies: Extra funding in the budget will enable the Rural Flying Doctor Service to expand it's growing role as a primary health care providerMs O'Reilly said the National Rural Health Alliance welcomed the commitment to support rural training opportunities."The establishment of the Charles Darwin University Menzies Medical Program which aims to educate home grown doctors is vital for growing the next generation of rural doctors. We acknowledge the new Commonwealth Prac Payment and the opportunity it will provide to support students to experience rural based clinical placements," she said.“We are also pleased to see the Royal Flying Doctors Service supported with top up finding to deal with the increasing costs of service delivery of vital services they provide to rural communities. But their model is only one that addresses the vast variety of health care needs across rural and remote Australia. There are many struggling rural and remote primary health care services that are on the brink of closure and need support and significant reform.“There is much more to be done to address the inequity in health care outcomes for rural and remote Australians,” Ms O’Reilly said.

Sale-O? EOIs extended for sale or lease of Dubbo Regional Livestock Market
Sale-O? EOIs extended for sale or lease of Dubbo Regional Livestock Market

16 May 2024, 3:40 AM

Dubbo livestock agents say moves by their local council to look at leasing or selling the Dubbo Regional Livestock Market (DRLM) could hit the region's producers - and the Dubbo economy - where it hurts.Dubbo Regional Council called for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) to buy or lease the facility in April with a deadline of Tuesday 14 May but the timeframe has now been extended to 23 May, just a couple of days ahead of the Council's May meeting on 25th.Industry stakeholders around the region have been vocal in their opposition to the direction they believe the Dubbo Regional Council (DRC) is taking.The Dubbo Stock & Station Agents association (DSSA) say the facility is a major income-generator for both council and the wider community, and that the process being undertaken smacks of a pre-determined outcome.A delegation of concerned users is expected to attend the May 25 meeting as they continue to make their argument in favour of keeping the facility under Council ownership.Thirteen licensed livestock agents operate at DRLM, and sales are supported by meat companies, butchers, farmers and feedlot operators from across a wide region of central and western New South Wales."Understandably, the DSSA are upset with the Dubbo Regional Council (DRC) and extraordinarily little, if any, feedback was asked for from the Producers or Users of the facility, or the ratepayers of Dubbo LGA," agent Andrew Peadon said recently in a statement."The DRC have not reached out for any data or statistics whatsoever in relation to what areas the livestock come from or what states and towns support the DRLM."President of Dubbo Stock & Station Agents Association, Martin Simmons. IMAGE: EldersAs President of the DSSA, Elders’ agent Martin Simmons sits alongside councillors and other stakeholders on the DRC's advisory committee for the saleyards.He says even he hasn't seen the report which convinced DRC councillors to advertise for parties interested in leasing or buying the facility."It was a confidential report only for councillors," he told the Western Plains App."I understand there were up to 120 pages in that report. It raises concerns over why they chose to look at leasing or selling at this time."One key question, he says, is whether "a modified status quo has been floated as one of three options.""We've been told at the committee level that the yards can no longer remain operating under the current arrangements but in their motion moved last month there was no mention of looking at the status quo - only lease or sale."Recent figures show a throughput of more than 1.1million sheep and 156,000 cattle at the DRLM, making them first in NSW and third in Australia in terms of cattle throughput, and third in NSW for sheep.“The privatisation of similar selling facilities in NSW had proven to cost stakeholders more to operate with the same outcomes,” said Dubbo agent Paul Dakin.“Producers must be aware that fees may increase by double, as has happened in other centres who faced the same shift to privatisation as we are,” he said.“All rate payers should be alarmed at the speed of which this process to sell or lease the facility has been managed by Council rather than being presented during the upcoming election where a democratic outcome is achieved and greater thought and consideration can be given to such a large decision for the region.”The Dubbo council's own website attributes $60.902M in total output and 307 full time equivalent positions in their local economy to the flow-on effects of the DRLM.While there appears to be no argument around the sizeable revenue the DRLM delivers to the Dubbo Regional Council, there are clearly different ways of looking at the bottom line.“People look at the income of $3.3million but turnover is different to profit and the saleyards have costs of $5.1million including depreciation so we know sustainability is a big issue,” says DRC Mayor Matthew Dickerson."It does inject money into the Dubbo economy, but we don't think it's running the best it can be.”"It's all about getting the best outcome for the community."Cr Dickerson says changes to regulations around work health safety, anti-competition and animal welfare laws are all scenarios involved in bringing on a saleyards review."No one at council thinks Dubbo should lose the facility but if we continue to own the saleyards the charges will go up," he said."On a day-to-day basis it is cashflow positive but after depreciation and upgrades it is not."We are looking at all our assets. We need to make sure we optimise their operations."Mayor of Dubbo Regional Council Matthew DickersonCr Dickerson says the status quo "is not the best model" and that agreements with the DSSA are outdated and probably need to be reviewed."It would be remiss of us not to look at all the options before making a decision," he said. "A review has to start somewhere. We're starting, not ending, the process."He said DRC is conducting “an internal review simultaneously” with the EOI process which will include possible changes to the current operating arrangements.Malcolm Kater, from Egelabra at Warren, is a major supplier of prime cattle and sheep to the Dubbo selling centre. He said he was unable to understand why a facility like the DRLM would be sold if it is profitable. “The question needs to be asked if there is a revenue issue or budget black hole within Council that is forcing a review of the saleyards that will culminate in the decision being made to sell or lease it,” he said. “You don’t sell a cow in full milk so why should the saleyards be any different?”Dubbo Regional Livestock Market. IMAGE: Dubbo Regional CouncilOnce the EOIs are received Cr Dickerson says the information will then come back to councillors."We have no way of making a decision until we have the numbers to work with including lease or sale."A report is due to come to DRC at their June ordinary meeting seeking "a direction not a decision"."If we like the lease idea we'll go with a more formal process."Councillors are expected to participate in a workshop on 6 June with council staff to discuss the options for the saleyards.Whether information from the review comparing potential improvements to the existing operating model will also be included in the report for comparison purposes is not clear."As councillors we have to make sure we get the best outcomes for the community," said Cr Dickerson"We have 66,770 people to look after. We have to make sure we don't focus on a small group of individuals, we've got to make sure the assets provide optimum value for the whole community."As for the DSSA, President Martin Simmons says that they expect a good turnout of saleyard users at the May 23 meeting."I suggest any users interested in the future of the facility come to that meeting or get in touch with the councillors well before a decision is made," he said.

Stronger bail laws aimed at DV perpetrators
Stronger bail laws aimed at DV perpetrators

15 May 2024, 9:20 PM

Tuesday night's Federal Budget threw a lifeline to women escaping domestic violence.The Government will put in place $5000 in financial support to help women leave a violent partner – including $1500 cash and $3500 in goods and services – under the Leaving Violence Program - a $925.2m investment over five years. This week also saw the announcement of legal reforms making it more difficult for those accused of serious domestic violence to get bail. Domestic violence is high on the list of crimes across the Western Plains, closely followed in many cases by the associated crime of 'Intimidation, Stalking and Harassment'. New reforms include reversing the assumption of bail for offenders - instead they will need to demonstrate why they should be in the community.This will apply to serious DV offences including sexual assault, strangulation, kidnapping or coercive control (which will be a criminal offence as of July 1st). Premier Chris Minns said these new reforms will make it more difficult for alleged domestic violence offenders to get bail.“These are long overdue, targeted and will help keep women and children safer," Mr Minns said.Premier Chris Minns has so far announced two major packages aimed at reducing domestic violence. IMAGE: ABCOther changes include requiring electronic monitoring of people charged with serious domestic violence who are on bail and expanding the categories of offences for which bail decisions can be ‘stayed’.That means the accused person remains in custody while prosecutors challenge their release in the Supreme Court. This will act as an additional safeguard to prevent the release of dangerous domestic violence offenders.For all other domestic violence related offences, laws will require bail decision-makers to consider, where relevant:domestic abuse risk factors, including ‘red flags’ such as behaviour that is physically abusive or violent; behaviour that is sexually abusive, coercive or violent; behaviour that is stalking; behaviour that causes death or injury to an animal; behaviour that is verbally abusive; behaviour that is intimidation.the views of victims and their family members, where possible, about safety concerns for all domestic violence offences.Changes to make it easier to prosecute perpetrators who use tracking and surveillance devices as a tactic to maintain control over their victim are also on the cards as well as changes to weekend bail courts across NSW, to ensure bail decisions are made by magistrates (for example, using audio visual links) with consultation on the design and rollout of the scheme.NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) notes that domestic violence number in Western Plains local government area remain at the top of the list of local offences, with statistics as of January 2024 as follows - Walgett (200), Bourke (179), Coonamble (119), Lachlan (77), Narromine (73), Warrumbungle (72), Brewarrina (61), Warren (53), Gilgandra (37), Cobar (28) and Bogan (26), .Karen Bevan, Full Stop Australia. Full Stop Australia is an organisation that works with the NSW government to end sexual, domestic and family violence.They have acknowledged that these bail law reforms are in accordance with a large and well-established evidence base and hope this drives further reform that prioritises the safety and wellbeing of victim-survivors of sexual, domestic and family violence. “We are broadly supportive of these changes, which respond to known risks in serious domestic and family violence matters." Karen Bevan, CEO of Full Stop Australia said."As the government has recognised, reforming bail laws won’t end the sexual, domestic and family violence crisis. But ensuring that bail decisions appropriately prioritise victim survivor safety, and considers well-established risk factors, is one of many important steps." "We commit to continuing to work alongside the government to increase safety and support to victim-survivors of these most heinous crimes. These reforms must be backed in by increased resourcing of the sexual, domestic and family violence frontline services sector, rapid deployment of housing options, and increases to income and employment supports for people seeking safety." Call the NSW Domestic Violence Line for free counselling and referral services. Available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Call 1800 656 463.Call Emergency Triple Zero (000) if you or your children are in immediate danger.

Health + rugby partnership blossoms
Health + rugby partnership blossoms

15 May 2024, 7:40 AM

Board members and staff of Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service were treated to a feast of rugby union on the weekend with a trip to Sydney that also paid dividends for their Fair Dinkum Choices health promotion campaign.CAHS have embarked on a partnership with Western Plains Rugby to engage young Aboriginal sports stars who will be developed through regional Rugby training camps to maybe one day make it to the big stage.Over the weekend, staff and directors of CAHS were invited by NSW Rugby and the Waratahs, to attend a formal function in Sydney for the launch of the co-design health promotions of ‘Fairdinkum Choices' (TM).The launch was broadcast on Stan TV and seen around the world. Early on Friday morning 10 May the CAHS delegation attended the Captains Run at the Waratahs Headquarters in Daceyville Sydney.The Board of Directors, Executive Officer Beau Ewers, CEO Phil Naden and Event Co-ordinators Pam Renata and Kylah Fernando were on hand for the presentation of the Koori design on the Fairdinkum Choices guernsey’s to the Captain of the Waratahs Jake Gordon, by Dubbo-based artist and Aboriginal Health Practitioner Coen Naden.With Western Plains Rugby and other signed partners, CAHS are working to co-design their Fairdinkum Choices campaign that encourages healthier choices for lifelong wellbeing in communities across the region.Their health education slogan is "If you're serious about your health, isn’t it time you made some Fairdinkum Choices?”Warathas Captain Jake Gordon and artist Coen NadenCAHS CEO Phil Naden says by selling licence agreements to key partners, CAHS can step away from a reliance on government grant programs to get their health messages to the grassroots."It means we don't go to the government cap in hand for promotions and workforce, to keep our staff employed," he said.The deal has already seen the delivery of rugby gala days in Coonamble and Gulargambone, with another planned soon for Walgett."We provide first aid, health checks, and registrations are through the Fair Dinkum Choices app," Mr Naden said."We look after the back end stuff and let Western Plains Rugby do the rugby."We have demonstrated that CAHS can think outside the box and we can demonstrate to Government, that we can achieve the same outcomes to those organisations that are receiving large amounts of funding."I am super proud the work CAHS are doing in this space, but more impressed that the Board have supported the initiative and worked with the Executive to get this to where it is today. "CAHS Board members with Western Plains Rugby repsHe thanked co-ordinators Kylah Fernando and Pam Renata for bringing the weekend together."There were many highlights on the weekend - watching the Junior Western Plains Rugby teams play on the big stage, launching the co-design of Fairdinkum Choices (TM) with NSW Rugby Union and the Waratahs, as well as getting to meet local boy Ned Hanigan who managed to find time to spend with our team whilst we were in Sydney.”CAHS will be working with many more organisations across the region to co-design our Fairdinkum Choices (TM) health promotions. 

Budget dot points - exclusive for our readers!
Budget dot points - exclusive for our readers!

15 May 2024, 3:40 AM

The 2024-25 budget was handed down on Tuesday night, and there is a lot of 'political speak' to wade through. At the Western Plains App, we have sifted through the information to provide our readers an outline of what Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ third budget might mean for you. HouseholdsAll households will receive a $300 energy rebate. There is also an allocation of $3.4m to list new medicines on the PBS and a five-year price freeze for pensioners and concession card holders. The ACCC will hold 12-month supermarket sector inquiry and CHOICE will publish quarterly supermarket price comparison reports. Taxpayers earning above the tax-free threshold of $18,200 are to get a tax cut under Labor’s changes to the previous stage three tax cuts. Average household expected to be about $1900 better off. Workers and small business owners $90m has been allotted to address skilled construction worker shortage through 20,000 new fee-free TAFE and VET places and pre-apprenticeships. The $20,000 instant asset write-off, which was to end on June 30 this year, will be extended for another 12 months. One million small businesses will also benefit from a $325 energy rebate, if they meet the eligibility criteria. 12 per cent superannuation to be paid to those on commonwealth parent leave payments. Indigenous affairs The $700m remote jobs program, contained in February’s Closing The Gap document was part of Tuesday's budget, along with a $4bn remote housing program for the Northern Territory. HealthThe budget announced a $319.50 a week placement payment for student nurses/midwives/social workers, via means-tested Commonwealth Prac Payment, from July 2025. There is also a $49.1m pledge to give women with complex gynaecological conditions better access to specialist doctors. Specialist consultations of 45 minutes-plus will be covered under Medicare from July 1, 2025. Women$5000 will be available in financial support to help women leave a violent partner – including $1500 cash and $3500 in goods and services – under the Leaving Violence Program. StudentsHECS will no longer be a dirty word for some university students with $3bn worth of HECS debt wiped for over three million Aussies, backdated to July 1, 2023. There is also a $319.50 a week payment for student teachers on professional placement, from July 2025. Access to means-tested Commonwealth Prac Payment scheme for about 68,000 eligible higher education and 5000 VET students a year. $350m for fee-free uni-ready courses was also announced. FarmersFuture drought preparation funding for farmers and regional communities sees them have access to $519.1m. There is also $625m to help farmers and rural communities reduce emissions and better prepare for climate change and drought. Sheep farmers aren't so thrilled and say phasing out live exports by May 2028 is not feasible, despite $107m transition support package. While this doesn't cover all budget items (we haven't got that much space!), these are some of the highlights. The not so good news, for some, is as follows. Consultants to GovernmentThe Albanese government say they will cut back on use of consultants, contractors and labour hire to result in savings of $1bn. Home buyersWhile the cost of building a new house rose almost $20,000 in the past year, the budget did not include any assistance to help homebuyers with these property buying costs. MotoristsDon't expect any decrease in your costs at the servo! The Government expects to rake in record sums from diesel and petrol tax in coming years, with fuel revenue to increase by about $1bn a year for the next four years. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the pros and cons of Mr Chalmers latest budget, but hopefully gives some insight. If its all too much, take advantage of the new fast-track passport applications. From July 1st this year the five-day service will cost applicants $100. This is estimated to generate $27.4m in the five years to 2028-29. Bon voyage!

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