Friday, 17 February 2017

Government failing Hunter on energy: MP

BY GARY-JON LYSAGHT

The federal government have no idea what the Hunter's energy providers are facing, and lack the plans to move providers into the future, Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon.

During Thursday's parliamentary Question Time, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the House of Representatives that Labor had a plan to close coal-fired electricity generators across the Hunter.

However, Mr Fitzgibbon said "nothing could be further from the truth".

"The Hunter's major coal-fired power generators are reaching the end of their commercial lives, we'd known this for a long time," he said.

Mr Fitzgibbon shouting "rubbish" at Mr Turnbull in Question Time on Thursday

He has accused the federal government, especially Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, of not having a plan to transition the region away from coal-fired generators.

"It's extraordinary how Barnaby Joyce represents the upper parts of the Hunter, but doesn't seem to understand that our power generators are coming to the end of their useful life," he said.

"We need a transition plan to retain jobs and to retain our reputation as the powerhouse of New South Wales, but, sadly, he and Malcolm Turnbull have no plan."

Mr Fitzgibbon's defence came after Question Time on Thursday, where Mr Turnbull, responding to a question about negative gearing from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made the claim that Labor wanted to close down coal-fired power stations.

"The Member for Hunter represents an electorate - the jobs in which are based on energy, on affordable energy," Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Turnbull in Question Time on Thursday

"He is a member of a party that wants to shut it all down."

Mr Fitzgibbon can be clearly heard yelling "rubbish" multiple times after Mr Turnbull made the claim, prompting him to be formally warned by House Speaker Tony Smith.

The Prime Minister's meandering tangent from negative gearing to coal-fired power generators in the Hunter Valley made Mr Smith also accept Mr Shorten's point of order on relevance.

Instead of return to negative gearing, the Prime Minister continued addressing power concerns in the Hunter, turning the attention to Paterson MP Meryl Swanson.

Ms Swanson's inaudible interjections were heard in the House.

Morpeth Bridge is closing again, prompting fears from business owners.

BY JESSICA ROUSE

Morpeth Bridge is undergoing yet another round of restoration works which has forced its full closure from today until 6pm on Monday - much to the dismay of many local businesses.

The closure is required for the installation of temporary support structures which will allow remediation work to be undertaken.

However the weekend is often the busiest time of the week for trade and with one road into the town closed off, local business owners fear their profit will be at another loss.

Local business owner Andrew Mason says while the community are supportive of the bridge closure so it stays fully functioning into the future, businesses still have grave concerns.

"Typically the businesses reported at the last business closure a significant drop in revenue for that weekend and we have approached RMS [Roads and Maritime Services] to discuss with them how we might solve that problem for the businesses not for this closure but for the following closures which will occur in May and August this year."

Andrew says there wasn't enough communication between the RMS and local businesses regarding the closures, but hopes this will change in the future.

Local businesses have already had one win with the closure scheduled for Mother's Day weekend in May being moved to earlier in the week.

There will be two more bridge closures this year including May, and another in August.

Image courtesy of http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au



Louth Park Prayer Room Dead And Buried

BY IAN CROUCH

A controversial Muslim prayer room proposed for Louth Park appears to be off the table for good after proceedings were dropped in the Land and Environment Court.

Maitland Council unanimously rejected the proposal last year, prompting legal action from Dr Fazal Moughal, however he's now withdrawn those proceedings.

The Louth Park Residents Group has always argued the development was not appropriate for the area due to potential noise and traffic issues.



Residents Met To Discuss Prayer Room Concerns Last Year. Photo:Maitland Mercury


Newcastle CBD Business Owners Voice Fears Over Light Rail Construction

BY IAN CROUCH

It's feared Hunter Street Newcastle could be closed down block by block for up to 14 weeks at a time during construction of the city's light rail project.

The Herald reports Transport for Newcastle officials met with business representatives last week to discuss the building program.

It's estimated the light rail could take up to two years to complete.

Some shopkeepers have accepted the pending disruptions as a fact of life, while others say the government's plan is unworkable and could be the death knell for their businesses.

Artist's Impression Of Light Rail Down Hunter Street

Man Injured In Suspicious House Fire At Lambton

BY IAN CROUCH

A man has suffered serious burns to his legs during a suspicious house fire at Lambton this morning.

Fire crews from Lambton,Newcastle, Mayfield West and Merewether arrived at the single storey weatherboard home in Johnson Street at 1.40am to find the front of the house engulfed in flames.

Police arrived to find a 26-year-old male resident outside the home with burns to his legs.

He was treated at the scene by Ambulance paramedics before being taken to the John Hunter Hospital for treatment.

Newcastle Fire Command says the front of the house was extensively damaged by fire, while the rest of the property was affected by heat, smoke and water.

Police have set up a crime scene and are urging anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. 




Thursday, 16 February 2017

Funding For New Facilities At Nobby's

BY ARIANA GATTI and GARY-JON LYSAGHT

A $1.5 million project plan was unveiled today to develop the iconic Nobby's Headland precinct.

The NSW Government is providing at least half a million to the project which will see viewing decks, a cafe, restaurant, conference facilities, a play area and an outdoor exercise area established.

The new developments around the Newcastle coast will be open to full use by the community, with stage three commencing soon.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Catherine Cusack says the funding is coming from the proceeds of the long-term lease of Newcastle Port.

Cusack says, "It's Newcastle's working harbour that's produced the revenue, it's the passionate community and volunteers who have designed the project and made it happen".

The project will be administered by local business group, Newcastle Now, and director Chris Leck said corporate and community support is being sought to fund the project.

Leck says, “One of the strategies that we have is for a crowdfunding campaign,” he said, adding he couldn’t be certain when it will be launched.

“I’m not sure exactly when, but shortly, so that the community have an opportunity to get behind it as well.”

Stage three of the project will involve the internal fit-out of the catering and conference facilities in the existing buildings on the site.

Catherine Cusack Announces Funding For Nobbys Development

Newcastle Now Director Kris Leck




State government's 'million dollar waste'

BY GARY-JON LYSAGHT

It was the beginning of the end for the Baird government.

The announcement by then Premier Mike Baird that his government was prepping to ban the greyhound racing industry was the catalyst for the Nationals losing Orange to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in the 2016 by-election, as well as the gradual decline in Mr Baird's popularity.

But now he's gone, and new the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, is starting to feel the heat from the Labor Opposition in the Legislative Assembly.

Sonia Hornery
A Notice of Motion filed by the Opposition on Thursday called on the government to justify the spending $1.5 million dollars on anti-greyhound industry advertisements between Mr Baird's announcement and his eventual backflip.

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery has joined with her Labor colleagues to debate the Motion and said Mr Baird retired, leaving Ms Berejiklian to pick up the pieces.

"Mike Baird did run away before he could face the music, now the new Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, is wearing that, which is unfortunate for her," she said.

"But, she's the Premier, and she's going to have to justify to the community how this money was spent.

"When you think that there were almost 6,000 jobs put in jeopardy in Wallsend because of this ... they would have been out of work if this ban came through.

"That the government thought it was acceptable to spend more than $1.5 million justifying an unjustifiable decision bewilders me.  It seems they were operating under a set of alternative facts."

Ms Hornery said the potential revolt by the National Party - the Liberal Party's Coalition partner - as well as thousands of signatures on petitions, caused Mr Baird's backflip.

She has labelled the spending as a million dollar waste.

The Notice of Motion came on the same day as a panel - chaired by former Premier Morris Iemma - handed down its findings on the animal welfare of the greyhound industry.

More than 120 recommendations were handed down to the state government for consideration.

Mr Iemma said NSW is "so far behind Victoria and other states in caring for greyhounds".

Racing Minister Paul Toole has taken on board the panel's recommendations.