Hope for hospital near expressway

PLEASE RECONSIDER: Rod Doherty and Alan Gray at the Hunter Expressway’s Loxford interchange, which they say would provide ideal access for a new Lower Hunter hospital to be located nearby.Proximity to the Hunter Expressway should have been the key factor in deciding the site of the new Lower Hunter hospital, local business and community representatives say.

Kurri District Business Chamber president and Ward D councillor, Rod Doherty says the new hospital should be located near the Hunter Expressway, not at Metford, where the NSW Government plans to build the hospital.

And according to Cr. Doherty, the newly-available Hydro site at Loxford would be the ideal location.

Cr. Doherty has written to Premier Mike Baird and health minister Jillian Skinner to express the business chamber’s belief that the Metford site is a “poor decision and not based on sound geographic and population growth information”.

Despite the NSW Government announcing the Metford site in August last year, the chamber’s Kurri 2040 Steering Committee has not written off the idea of the new hospital being built along the expressway corridor.

“Many of the Lower Hunter and Upper Hunter hospitals are greater than 100 years old and cannot cope with the 21st century population growth, which is moving north-west to places such as Cessnock, Kurri Kurri, Lochinvar, Branxton and Singleton Shire,” Cr. Doherty said.

“With the completion of the Hunter Expressway and the recent announcement of the Hydro Aluminium Smelter closure freeing up some 2000 hectares of developable land, we believe the decision needs to be revisited.

“The location of the Hunter Hospital at Metford is right beside a major coal train transport route for the foreseeable future and would expose the hospital to coal dust contamination.”

Local Health Advisory Committee member, Alan Gray said the new hospital has been talked about for at least 10 years and that the GretaCamp was the preferred site before Hydro became available.

Mr. Gray said the former aluminium smelter site ticks all the boxes – it’s flood-free; not undermined; has power, water and gas and is close to the expressway, giving it good access to all Hunter, Port Stephens and Central Coast towns.

It would also be the ideal site to build an emergency services precinct – another of the Kurri 2040 committee’s 10 Big Ideas.

Cr. Doherty said he doesn’t expect anything to happen before the State election in March next year.

“Once the dust settles, all bets are off,” he said.

The government announced in August last year that it had chosen the former PGH Bricks site at Metford – a 40-hectare Crown land site – as the home of the new Lower Hunter hospital.

But while in Maitland last week, the Premier refused to commit on whether construction will begin on the new hospital before the state election in March.

Mr. Baird said during a visit to the site on Wednesday that he expected the hospital to be complete within five years.

However, he said there was still no date for construction to begin.

When asked whether ground would be broken before the election, Mr. Baird said the important point was that the government had committed to building the hospital.

“Let’s wait until we get to the final position of the planning,” he said.

“We want the work to be done but the truth and reality is that the hospital will be built, that’s the exciting thing.

“The timing and schedule will be announced once the [planning] work is done, but we need to finalise that work and then we will announce it.

“My expectation is the hospital will be delivered in a five-year time frame.”

Hunter New England Local Area Health CEO Michael DiRienzo said the master plan for the site would be completed by the end of 2014.

Member for Cessnock, Clayton Barr said the opposition has concerns about the site selection process and will be reassessing the process if they are re-elected in March.

“We’re concerned that the site was chosen for political convenience, as opposed to the needs of the area.

“It needs to be built properly and in the right space,” Mr. Barr said.

“They are making an error from day zero, just because the land was cheap.”

Mr. Barr said the Hunter Expressway is the “aorta of the Hunter” and that building the new hospital near it would be a logical decision.


Meanwhile, the increase in traffic on Frame Drive, Abermain since the expressway’s opening has led to a 10-tonne load limit being applied to the bridge.

Cessnock City Council installed signage last week advising of the bridge’s new load limit.

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Tributes pour in for Deadly Awards founder Gavin Jones

DEVASTATING: Gavin Jones will be remembered as an inspirational person, and a champion for Aboriginal Australia.

Source: Goulburn Post

Jake KeaneGavin Jones: 1966-2014THE community is reeling at the loss of Vibe Australia founder and Aboriginal rights advocate Gavin Jones, found dead at his Goulburn property on Saturday morning.

Described as a crazy genius, a visionary and shining light, Mr Jones was the founder and director of Deadly Vibe Magazine, a national publication whose staff operated predominately from Montague Street offices.

Tributes flow in for Gavin Jones – visionary and leader

He established the annual Deadly Awards – an Australiawide event dedicated to showcasing the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Mr Jones was 47.

Police would not comment on his death in detail, but confirmed a brief was being compiled for the coroner.

The news stunned both the Goulburn community and those further afield.

We’ve lost a great man & trailblazer in Gavin Jones. He gave voice to contemporary Aboriginal culture. Sorely missed http://t.co/QwmqtUZl9T

— Warren Mundine (@nyunggai) July 14, 2014″Indigenous Australia has lost a champion this week. Vale Gavin Jones, he will be sadly missed…”

Troy Cassar-Daley”Gavin was the most generous, humble, warm-hearted man I have ever had the privilege of calling my friend…”

Cr Alfie Walker

Member for Hume Angus Taylor said “Goulburn, Indigenous Australia, indeed all of Australia, will mourn him and miss him.”

“I got to know him as an incredibly decent, visionary, caring and passionate individual and leader,” he said.

“He was a gem, because he was able to lead and inspire others, as few can. His primary motivation was to make a difference to the world around him.”

Details of Mr Jones’ funeral were yet to be finalised at time of going to press.

Those suffering from depression or anxiety are encouraged to phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Mensline on 1300 789 978.

Herald Breakfast – July 16

MORNING SHOT: Herald photographer Peter Stoop caught this rural vista near Testers Hollow.Weather: Clearing morning rain in Newcastle (19 degrees) and Scone (17 degrees) with similar conditions in Maitland (18 degrees).

Traffic: No reported delays on Hunter roads.

Trains: Trackwork means buses replace trains between Scone and Muswellbrook, leaving Scone 10 minutes earlier than the timetabled trains to meet services at Muswellbrook. Trains run as normal from Muswellbrook to Newcastle.

Beachwatch:The wind willstart out from the north before turning to the west and freshening while the swell is from the east-south-east around half to one metre. Wave conditions will be a bit uneven in the morning but will clean up during the afternoon.

DICK McGUIGAN: BOWLING CLUB SHOOTING SURVIVOR:IT was in a cold and barren Sydney courtroom when shooting victim Dick McGuigan bravely stood in front of one of two men who tried to kill him and eyeballed his attacker.‘‘May I inform the court that the perpetrators of this crime may have ruined their own life, but I am determined that they will not ruin mine,’’ he said.

TOURIST ROUTE PLAN TO KEEP HUNTER TOWNS ALIVE:A new tourist route will be created for the towns the Hunter Expressway has left behind.Cessnock councillor Rod Doherty said concern had been raised about the expressway ‘‘bypassing the many small towns and villages on back roads between Freemans Waterhole and the Upper Hunter’’.

NEWCASTLE POOLS LIKELY TO GO PRIVATE: ALL five of Newcastle’s inland public pools appear certain to be leased out to private management with a final decision set for next Tuesday.

US EXPERT TO TESTIFY IN TODDLER GONORRHEA CASE:A SEXUAL health expert will be flown from the US next month to testify at the committal hearing of a Hunter man accused of sexually abusing his three-year-old daughter who contracted gonorrhea.

MAN TO FACE COURT OVER ALLEGED MURDER ATTEMPT WITHAXE, CROSSBOW:A MAN will face court on Wednesday after allegedly attempting to murder another man at Somersby with an axe and crossbow on Tuesday.

WYEE REHOMING CENTRE FOR GREYHOUNDS: GREYHOUND Racing NSW hope a Wyee facility will become a key resource in its fight to give dogs a post-racing future.The governing body yesterday unveiled the Playhouse Pet Motel as a rehoming centre for former race dogs as part of its Greyhounds as Pets (GAP) program.

KNIGHTS SEASON “HARDEST OF WAYNE BENNETT’SCAREER”:Knights coach Wayne Bennett does not feel let down by former owner Nathan Tinkler.

THURSTON TO WEAR ALEX McKINNON’S #16:CHAMPION Queensland and Australian playmaker Johnathan Thurston will wear No.16 for the Cowboys against Cronulla on Friday as a tribute to injured Knight Alex McKinnon.

REAL NRL WRAP: RD 13VIDEOCATCH up on Real NRL Round 13 with Josh Leeson and this week’s guest, Newcastle Rugby League chief executive Matt Harris.

Banning sniffer dogs at music festivals could be valuable: experts

Drug-taking festival-goers are more likely use ecstasy or methamphetamines rather than cannabis if sniffer dogs are present. Men in white coats: Art Vs Science don’t pretend to have a plan, but no one seems to mind. Photo: Erik Bergan

Drug-taking festival-goers are more likely use ecstasy or methamphetamines rather than cannabis if sniffer dogs are present. Photo: Viki Yemettas

Trialling a sniffer dog-free music festival could be a valuable experiment, according to drug safety and policy experts.

It follows the plea by Australian band Art Vs Science to abandon the use of drug-detection dogs at this month’s Splendour in the Grass event to reduce the number of “panic” overdoses.

“Automatically you will cut out the number of hospitalisations due to people panicking upon sight of the dogs and ingesting their whole weekend’s supply of drugs,” guitarist Dan McNamee wrote on the band’s Facebook page.

A study of 500 New South Wales festival-goers conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre during summer 2014 examined how sniffer dogs influenced their behaviour.

Lead researcher Caitlin Hughes said 62 per cent of respondents said they would take drugs either way, but that the presence of sniffer dogs would prompt two key changes.

“There was a 13 per cent increase in the number of people who said they’d use at least some of their drugs outside the venue, rather than using them all inside,” she said.

“The other big change was a 40 per cent increase in the relative amount of consumption of ecstasy, methamphetamine and other drugs, as opposed to using cannabis.”

Dr Hughes said other studies had shown dogs found it easier to sniff out marijuana than other party drugs.

“So they’re switching from cannabis to ecstasy and methamphetamine for reasons we think are to do with reducing their potential risk of detection by the dog.”

Dr Hughes said sniffer dogs had become a default strategy for police around the country, and a trial could discover if there were better options.

“Given there are a lot of other police strategies that could be deployed at festivals, such as collaborative policing approaches, we suspect that the answer may be yes, and that they may offer a safer form of policing at high drug use settings,” she said.

“There’s certainly been a lot of consternation about this issue, so some sort of experiment might be a good idea…. but I’m not sure if police would be happy to participate.”

National policy manager for the Australian Drug Foundation Geoff Munro said the organisation was concerned about hospitalisations resulting from people swallowing their drugs to avoid being caught.

“We would support police and festival organisers using other measures to keep festival goers safe and healthy during the event,” he said.

“[The ADF] knows that the reality is that many people do take drugs at music festivals, so we need to all work together to make sure people come home safely.”

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Police seize guns, explosives, drugs at Belmont

LAKE Macquarie police have seized firearms, prohibited drugs and stolen property after a Belmont raid on Tuesday.

Special Operations Group investigators have been making inquiries into prohibited drug supply in Belmont and at 1pm on Tuesday, police searched a house in Evans Street.

Police will allege the search resulted in the seizure of amphetamine, cannabis and other drug paraphernalia as well as three unregistered rifles and an unregistered pistol.

They also allege four dismantled unregistered pistols, a loaded pen gun, firearm parts, ammunition, a taser, home-made explosives, fireworks and two stolen motorcycles were found.

It is further alleged they found the remnants of a clandestine drug lab.

No one was home during the search and investigations into the matter are continuing.

Police are urging anyone with information about this incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.