Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Newcastle Basketball Will Hold State Government to Stadium Promise


Newcastle Basketball will look to keep the pressure on the state government to deliver on its recent promise for a $25 million dollar stadium at Lake Macquarie.

The Coalition made the commitment just nine days prior to the state election, promising a 4000 seat multi-sport indoor facility for Hillsborough to be built on land contributed by Lake Macquarie City Council.

General Manager Neil Goffet said they've outgrown the current facility at Broadmeadow Stadium which was built in 1969 and holds just over 2000 spectators.

"It's 50 years old, it's falling down around us, so to get something like this would not only be a boost for current members but for thousands of new members I'm sure would come along," said Mr Goffet.

Newcastle Basketball has welcomed the Coalition's promise but at this point, says Neil Goffet, that's all it is.

"So we'll need to pursue that through the right channels and hopefully we can get it slated for the budget in June and get that happening in the next 12 months," said Mr Goffet.

"It'd be the greatest investment in basketball in the 70-odd years that our association has been running."

Neil Goffet said the government is well aware of the urgency needed to move on from the deteriorating Broadmeadow Stadium but he's aware the party has plenty of promises to keep across the state.

"We're just one of them but we'll try and get ourselves to the front of the queue," he said.

"They're well aware of the urgency regarding the dilapidated state this place is in and we understand the need to get this moving as fast as possible, so we'll certainly continue our conversations with them."

Having secured his seat at the state election, Lake Macquarie Independent MP Greg Piper is expected to continue pushing for the stadium's development, which he has advocated for consistently.

Former Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald, Newcastle Basketball Life Member and Olympian Terry Charlton, Neil Goffet, Greg Piper and Basketball Australia Deputy Chair David Reid at the Coalition's funding commitment earlier this month. Image: Newcastle Basketball

Beachside Vigil Held For Newcastle Cyclist


A sunset vigil was on Monday night for a cyclist who was tragically killed in a collision with a truck in the Newcastle CBD last week.

It's believed Brigitte Nilsen was on her way to yoga class last Wednesday morning when she was involved in a collision on the corner of King and Perkins Streets and died at the scene.

The 57-year-old had been living in Newcastle for 5 years after returning from Norway to live in Australia for the second time.

She's survived by her 30-year-old son, Jack who lives in Norway.

Friends and members of the public rode from the crash site to Newcastle Ocean Baths where Ms Nilsen loved to go for a swim.

Brigitte Nilsen was tragically killed in a cycling crash last week. Picture: therherald.com.au

Former Knights Star Being Investigated Over Drug Supply Ring


It's been revealed former Newcastle Knights player, Jarrod Mullen nearly died from a drug overdose in December last year.

The 31-year-old spent two days in intensive care and then 6 weeks in rehabilitation after overdosing at a party.

It comes as police confirm 10 people have been charged over an alleged drug supply ring operating in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.

Mullen is also reportedly being investigated but has not been charged at this stage.

He's currently serving a four year ban after testing positive to steroids in 2017.

Former Knights star Jarrod Mullen faces drugs probe Picture: foxsports.com.au

Monday, 25 March 2019

Community Calls for Balance in Bid to Stop Dartbrook Reopening


Farmers, business owners, health professionals and families have come together in the Upper Hunter to prevent more coal mines being opened in their backyard.

A new committee has been formed in response to a proposal from Australian Pacific Coal to reopen Dartbrook underground mine which was mothballed in 2006 following three deaths at the site over a twelve-year period.

Plans to reopen the mine and extend operations until 2027 are in their final stages after the NSW Department of Planning & Environment provided a positive recommendation in January of this year.

An Independent Planning Commission (IPC) meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 9 and new committee Friends of the Upper Hunter is urging fellow residents to have their opinions on the project heard.

The group believes the region has reached a tipping point in the number of mines it can safely sustain and hopes to see the same success Groundswell Gloucester had earlier this year in its bid to stop the opening of the controversial Rocky Hill Mine.

A major concern for the group is Australian Pacific Coal's long-term plan to run an open-cut mine on the site.

Committee member Kirsty O'Connell said it's not about being anti-mining but about finding balance for the community and ensuring healthy communities and clean air going into the future.

"We also need to be able to position ourselves for the future and to invest and strengthen those other industries that are going to be important as we go through these transitions with the mining industry," said Ms O'Connell.

"We really want to make sure there is enough quality land, there's enough water, there's enough space for those industries that will create jobs for everyone in the community now and into the future."

Kirsty O'Connell said it's about taking care of the health of local communities as the region continues to see worrying trends in air quality.

"There's been two separate reports now that the Upper Hunter, and particular the postcode 2333, is one of the most polluted in the country and certainly the most polluted airshed in NSW."

The group is also stressing the effect the mine's reopening could have on air quality for residents of the Lower Hunter, with unwashed coal to be delivered to Newcastle via the railway line.

Independent Planning Commission Meeting will be "Critical"

Friends of the Upper Hunter view the proposal to reopen the underground mine as a "stepping stone" towards an open-cut mine and Kirsty O'Connell believes next month's IPC meeting will be critical in the fight against Dartbrook's reopening.

"We want to make sure the community is wide awake to the strategic importance of the underground proposal, the fact that it does pave the way for an open-cut mine,

That's why it's really important that anyone who doesn't want an open-cut on the doorstep of Aberdeen and the Hunter River actually has a say now," she said.

"We're really trying to encourage as many people as possible to put in a written submission because typically people forget or they think it doesn't matter, and we're really trying to tell people strongly 'Your objection matters',

It only needs to be a sentence, it can be confidential, but please get an objection in and make sure our concerns are heard on this."

Anyone interested in having their say on the issue can apply to speak at the meeting before April 1st or provide a written submission via the IPC website.

Friends of the Upper Hunter has also provided a direct link to the submission portal on its website.

The meeting will take place at 10am at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music in Muswellbrook on Tuesday, April 9.

Meeting Sought With Local MP

The group has sought a meeting with re-elected MP Michael Johnsen to make sure he's clear on the details of Australian Pacific Coal's proposal.

"The state government has already set out in it's Hunter Region Plan a fantastic plan for diversification of the local economy and for transition, in fact, those are some of the priorities for the Upper Hunter," said Ms O'Connell.

"We're really encouraged that Michael Johnsen was one of the councillors who voted for Upper Hunter Council's first Coal and Coal Seam Gas policy,

He was part of that unanimous vote and what we're calling on him to do is to stand by those principles he was exhibiting in 2011 and call for the protection of farming and for the protection of our communities."

A map of Upper Hunter Mines. Image: Friends of the Upper Hunter via Australian Pacific Coal

Denman Train Derailment: Tracks Deteriorate Faster than Expected.


The report into the derailment of an empty coal train in Denman in 2016 has been released by the Australian Transport Safety Burea has shown that defects in train tracks could deteriorate faster than expected.

The 1.5 kilometre long train bound for Wilpinjong Colliery near Mudgee had some of its wheels mount the rail over a stretch of track in Denman and fall between the rails, leaving a 71-kilometre trail of damage to track and level crossings before the incident had been noticed by track crews.

The derailment site was under a speed restriction after geometry defects were identified a week earlier, and repairs had been planned to occur the day after the derailment.

The train left Kooragang Coal Terminal in the early hours of the morning on 19 January 2016, and passed through the speed-restricted stretch of track between Ogilvie Road and Rosemount Road level crossings.

The left-hand wheels of the 64th wagon mounted the rail along the stretch, and traveled along the railhead for 10 metres before dropping off between the rails.

Crews were alerted damage caused to a signal prompted crews to investigate, discovering the damage to track.

The drivers who were unaware of the derailment were asked to stop the train and inspect the carriages. 

The ATSB noted in its report that the defects deteriorated faster than expected, causing the derailment before the planned repairs.

The report states that, "Factors that can contribute to rapid deterioration should be considered when developing maintenance responses."

The wheels of the 64th wagon left a trail of damage after travelling 71km from the derailment site. 

Friday, 22 March 2019

Port Stephens Key Battleground for State Election


Port Stephens will likely prove to be a key win for whoever is successful at the seat in the state election.

The Liberal-National and Labor parties have fought fierce campaigns to win the marginal seat, with major commitments made by both parties.

In a final message to voters, incumbent Labor MP Kate Washington reinforced her party's clear message that it will prioritise schools and hospitals over stadiums.

"The voters should be sending a very clear message to this government, that they do not want stadiums in Sydney,

That they want to see local hospitals and local schools resources before splurging billions of dollars on wasteful stadiums." said Ms Washington.

Kate Washington's key opponent, Liberal candidate Jaimie Abbott, said voters need to consider the benefits they've seen during the Berejiklian government's term.

"The people of Port Stephens have a choice, they can go back to the same old Labor where sixteen years they ran our budget into the ground,

Or they can choose the Liberals, who've been able to pay back the debt and rebuild the budget to be able to invest in important infrastructure here in Port Stephens." said Ms Abbott.

The duplication of Nelson Bay Road, the reacquisition of the Mambo Wetlands and Tafe funding have proved to be the key issues throughout the campaign.

The Key Issues:

Nelson Bay Road Duplication

Both parties have pledged funds for this long-awaited project.

The Liberal-Nationals have pledged a total of $275 million dollars for the duplication of Nelson Bay Road.

Former Premier Mike Baird announced $70 million dollars in 2015 for duplication of the stretch between Stockton Bridge and Anna Bay, boosted by an additional commitment made by Premier Glady Berejiklian in January this year of $205 million dollars for the duplication of Williamtown to Bobs Farm.

NSW Labor last week announced a commitment of $600-million-dollars to fund the full duplication of the road.

The opposition's commitment would see the project delivered in three stages and is dependent on the party winning office for a second term.

TAFE Funding

TAFE cuts have proved to be an important issue across the state and most of the Hunter, with a number of Labor and Independent candidates from the region drawing attention to recent concerns raised by TAFE staff.

The NSW Liberal-National government announced in February it would fund the construction of a new TAFE campus at Nelson Bay, which Labor criticised at the time for lacking detail.

It was later revealed the Coalition's plan would see a Connected Learning Centre built, similar to the campus opened at Singleton earlier this year.

"This is a really exciting model of service delivery for those communities where there aren't sufficient students for a full-on apprenticeship course," said Duty MLC Catherine Cusack.

"This offers an opportunity to deliver these courses locally, whether it be hairdressing, all of these apprentices who otherwise have to travel into Newcastle, and therefore we're not getting the TAFE participation rates we'd like."

Mambo Wetlands

Both incumbent Labor MP Kate Washington and Liberal Candidate Jaimie Abbott have expressed support for a state government acquisition of the Mambo Wetlands following the Department of Education's sale of the site in 2016.

The Berejiklian Government indicated early last year it would explore its options for purchasing the Wetlands and later claimed the owner would not accept an offer to purchase the site.

NSW Labor promised in March 2018 it will buy back the land through compulsory acquisition if elected.

Bush Fire Danger Period extended in Hunter Valley District


The Hunter Valley District's Bush Fire Danger Period has been extended until April 30 due to ongoing dry conditions.

The extension was ordered by the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), and will mean those wanting to light a fire will still require a fire permit.after the usual cutoff date of March 31st.

The RFS advises the extension only applies to those in the Singleton and Muswellbrook Local Government Areas.

Anyone requiring a fire permit can go to their local fire station or NSW RFS Fire Control Centre to apply for one.
(Picture: RFS)