Thursday, 19 January 2017

Fires Blaze In The Hunter


Residents around the Cessnock, Kurri Kurri and Hunter areas are relieved the torrential fires from yesterday have seized.

With temperatures dropping and the possible chances of rain, bushland around the Hunter can take a break.

No reports have come through on houses being lost or damaged, although, other remnants such as sheds and open properties have been burnt or destroyed by the blaze.

At least 26 fire crews tackled the ongoing fires, with some extensive help from helicopters and other aircraft flying over, dropping water to extinguish the blaze.

Police undertook investigations today in order to figure out how these fires began and if one or more arsonists were invloved in purposely lighting the fire.

Investigations are still ongoing.

Mayor of Cessnock, Bob Pynsent says, "It was a very frightening experience for a lot of people in our local area."

"We are so happy that there's been minimal damage to surrounding properties and a big thank you to all the emergency services who worked so hard to protect our community", he says.

Image result for nsw 2017 fire

[Image sourced:]

Mike Baird quits politics

Mike Baird and Andrew Constance in Newcastle in December. [Picture: Simone De Peak/The Herald]

State Transport minister Andrew Constance has named in the running to succeed Premier Mike Baird after he announced his resignation on Thursday morning.

Mr Baird made the announcement, citing the current health of his close family members, and being content with what his government has achieved as the main reasons for retirement.

“I said many times I didn’t want to become a career politician; I wanted to go as hard as I could for as long as I could, and then step aside,” he said.

During a press conference on Thursday, Mr Baird listed what he considered were the main achievements of the Liberal party since it entered government in 2011.

Being the first state to sign up to the Gonski needs-based school funding was singled out as particularly important for “getting our kids set up” regardless of where they came from.

Particular emphasis was also put on the changes to transport, including the Newcastle light rail, which Mr Baird said would drastically change the landscape of the city.

Mr Baird became Premier in 2014, after former Premier, Barry O’Farrell was forced to resign over political gifts.

Mr Baird said he entered politics to get stuff done, and he now believes he has.

“When I set out on the journey I was frustrated on why New South Wales was behind the rest of the country,” he said.

“I was frustrated that nothing ever got built, and I wanted to make a difference.

“As I look on that now I strongly believe that we have.  We have made a difference.”

The Liberal Party will meet to elect a new Premier and deputy Liberal leader next week, with Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian and Transport minister Andrew Constance on the shortlist to succeed Mr Baird.
Mike Baird when he announced his retirement on Thursday [Picture:ABC]
Mr Constance was heavily involved in the construction of the Newcastle light rail.

In April, Mr Constance told Novocastrians they should embrace the future possibilities the light rail can bring.

“The light rail project will facilitate and open up enormous opportunities as part of the activation of the city,” he said.

“Not only is the [the Transport for Newcastle mandate] the integration of the transport modes, but it’s also bringing in the pedestrian and cycling access.”

The popularity of Mr Baird began to drop after a laundry list of policies and plans by the state government were refused by the electorates.

The Nationals Party lost their stronghold of Orange during a by-election last year, which saw a 20-point lead wiped out and a member from the Shooters and Fishers Party being elected to the lower house.

It has been widely agreed that Mr Baird's insistence on the banning of greyhound racing across the state led to the defeat.

Council amalgamations were another widely-panned decision by the Baird Government, which wreaked havoc on
Hunter councils.

Port Stephens Council is yet to know if it will be forced to merge with Newcastle Council, or if it can merge with their preferred choice of Dungog Council.

Mike Baird visited Newcastle in December. [Picture: Ian Crouch]
Mr Baird remained confident that council amalgamations were a good thing.

“Council amalgamations, I strongly believe, will deliver long-term benefits for every member of New South Wales.  It will provide huge opportunities and much more competitiveness into the long-term,” he said.

When asked on Thursday whether he will return to the private sector, Mr Baird did not rule it out.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Lack of OOSH Places as New School Year Looms

By Marissa Alexiou

Lack of Out Of School Hours (OOSH) care places is causing additional stress for families across the Hunter as the new school year looms.

Due to the Baird Government failing on its promise to deliver more spaces, parents are being forced to reduce their work hours, with casual workers most at risk.

In 2015 Premier of NSW Mike Baird promised 45,000 new before and after school places by 2019 but currently, only 5,993 places have been created. Only 10% of the allocated funding for the sector has been spent.

There are around 6,000 children enrolled to start in the area's schools at the end of the month and only 396 placed in out of school hours accredited centres, according to data from MySchool and ACECQA.

Analysis by NSW Labor shows there is only one place for every 25 students in areas such as Raymond Terrace. Shadow Minster for Early Childhood Education Kate Washington said there is alternative in the family day care space but when those options are not available parents are relying on informal arrangements that are unregulated and risky.

The lack of spaces is particularly providing another challenge for women trying to enter back into the workforce. Ms Washington said that it is mothers that are primarily looking at what they can do to make sure their children are cared for. It is also common for mothers to undertake casual work, putting them further at risk of being affected by the lack of accredited care.

Ms Washington said "the grants offered by the government to create additional OOSH places, have been a complete failure. The Baird government must consult with the sector to facilitate the expansion of services or the creation of new services."

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Photo source: Facebook

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Diesel Spill in Raymond Terrace harms park


Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington has expressed her disappointment in Port Stephens council for their handling of a diesel leak, which has impacted the Hunter River and Boomerang Park in Raymond Terrace.

In mid-December, a diesel slick was spotted in the Hunter River at Raymond Terrace.

The leak was then traced to the Raymond Terrace council depot where the diesel had drained into Boomerang park.

The EPA then issued a clean-up order to council but a second incident at the Depot worsened the situation.

Council has since fenced off a section of Boomerang Park, two weeks after the spill was spotted.

"There are stringent regulations around the storage of diesel. It's clear that there has been a failure of systems."

However Port Stephens Council group manager for facilities and services Greg Kable has defended the decision to fence off the park, saying it was just a precaution.

He also added the situation is under control and everything should be back to normal within a fortnight.

Boomerang park
Source; Port Stephens Examiner

Soaring petrol prices in the Hunter


Hunter commuters are still paying top dollar at the bowser with prices in the region higher than the state average.

Prices shot up in the past week, jumping an average 6 cents per litre around the state, but in the Hunter prices have been up to 10 cents higher than the average.

A number of petrol stations increased their prices overnight to 144.3 cents and higher, with the wholesale price 20 cents cheaper than what we are paying.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury says there is a reprieve on it's way and prices should start to fall.

"We expect prices to fall, they should've started falling and they should fall. The gap between the retail and the wholesale price is - certainly in Newcastle's case - about 20 cents per litre on average. That gives you an idea of the profit margins the major oil companies are making and we think the fall should happen to around 120 cents per litre."

NSW Government website FuelCheck and the fuel app is just one way commuters can find the cheapest fuel in the region.

Police Step Up Appeal For Help After Teen Bashed At Charlestown


Lake Macquarie police have released photos of a man wanted over a savage assault on a teenage boy at Charlestown.

The 16-year-old was sitting with friends outside Charlestown Square at about 4.30pm on Tuesday 27 November 2016 when a man approached and grabbed him by the throat before throwing him onto some chairs.

The stranger then kicked and punched the boy in the face before leaving the area in a silver Toyorta Camry driven by a woman.

The boy spent five days in hospital and had to have two plates inserted in his jaw.

Police have pursed several lines of inquiry but have so far not been able to identify the man or woman and are appealing for information about the pair or vehicle.

Calls to Crime Stoppers (1800 333 000) can remain anonymous and a reward of up to $1000 is being offered for information which leads to an arrest.

CCTV Images Of A Man Wanted For Questioning Over Teen Assault

Monday, 16 January 2017

Police Investigate Suspicious Barrington Tops Retreat Fire


Police say a fire which caused half a million dollars worth of damage at a Barrington Tops retreat appears to have been deliberately lit.

Emergency services were called to Salisbury Lodges just before 2.30am Sunday arriving to find a storage shed, granny flat and three cars well alight.

However, the accommodation area wasn't involved in the fire and the owners say the retreat remains open.

Salisbury Lodges Picture: