Issues can be solved if govt has fortitude

THERE are two recent local issues that I believe could be easily corrected if the NSW government possessed the fortitude to stand up for its constituents in rural and regional NSW.

1) The price of bulk water and the cost to the Peel Valley users.

The NSW government recently announced a one-year trial of a temporary water-trading scheme in the Peel Valley.

This it hopes will place downward pressure on water prices.

I think that if such a policy looks and tastes like a lemon, then it probably is a lemon and will probably just mask the fact that water prices in the Peel Valley will continue to be the most expensive in the state.

The NSW government says it “can’t do a thing” about the exorbitant cost of water to Peel Valley users, particularly after the ACCC’s recent bulk water pricing determination. Who could do something about it then, if the NSW government can’t?

The state governor, the federal government, who?

Under these frustrating circumstances, you’d be forgiven for thinking NSW water resources were already privatised with that argument.

A postage stamp pricing mechanism is the only fair and equitable method of water pricing across our state.

It is the only method that will address this core cost-of-living issue in the Tamworth electorate.

Hiding behind decisions made by IPART and the ACCC is just acop-out.

The NSW government, which is represented in rural areas by a party that says it is for regional NSW, cannot endorse the current policy, which discriminates against the people of the Peel Valley, forcing them to pay more and making our region less viable and less attractive by discouraging business because of the exorbitant cost of water here, compared to the cost of water elsewhere in the state.

2) Gunnedah Shire Council missing out on Resources for Regions funding again.

This policy has been a miserable failure from the start.

The Western Australian branch of The Nationals has a genuine policy of Royalties for Regions which mandates and returns 25 per cent of royalties back to the regions where mining occurs.

Why don’t we have such a policy?

The WA policy does not frustrate local councils with administrative red tape.

If you are in a local government area where mining occurs, you get money to help maintain your local infrastructure or develop new infrastructure to make the mining regions more attractive to the local residents or potential future residents, to future-proof communities when mining companies pack up and leave.

In stark contrast, NSW has an insipid policy which has delivered very little back to the mining regions of our state or concentrates on particular regions, where some state electorates are considered more at risk than others, such as those in the Hunter region.

This policy will ensure that our rural towns become ghost towns when unsustainable mining practices inevitably cease having debauched productive rural farmland.

Sadly, I have become despondent with the NSW government since Barry O’Farrell accepted and forgot about a bottle of fine wine, departed and was replaced with a bloke who history will demonstrate cares more about economic rationalism, big business and his mates in the merchant banking industry than the average punters in NSW.

Hence the pro-privatisation policies we see driving recent state government policy now which will exacerbate the decline of rural NSW.

Sadly for us all, the poor alternative is still the party of Obeid, Tripodi, Roozendaal, MacDonald and Kelly who cared even less for you and I.

Mark Rodda


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Marshall has learned lesson

HE’S a self-ordained “bloody idiot”, a lead-footed MP who has been in furious mea culpa mode since blowing the bag on a Glen Innes roadside last month.

And at his hearing at Glen Innes Local Court yesterday, it emerged Mr Marshall had more form than Phar Lap when it came to driving offences.

The 29-year-old has clocked up an astonishing 17 speeding tickets in his young life, in addition to his recent mid-range drink-driving charge.

In light of that string of speeding charges, Mr Marshall’s “moment of madness” defence rings a little hollow.

While he has shown admirable contrition in his words since his arrest, his actions behind the wheel over the years undermine his sincerity.

Mr Marshall has been a political wunderkind in his short career, respected by his constituents and widely tipped for a cabinet position in coming years.

With that power comes responsibility and accountability, as his former leader Barry O’Farrell discovered.

Mr Marshall is an effective local member and, as such, should be judged in context.

But as the leader of a region that has all-too-often been touched by the tragedy of road accidents, he must continue to lead by example both in and out of Parliament.

The member for Northern Tablelands is now on notice: his constituents expect better, he himself expects better and this newspaper will hold him to account if he slips up again.


IT WAS A piece of spin that would make Shane Warne proud.

A press release issued this week had Water Minister Kevin Humphries claiming a new trading scheme would drive down water prices for Peel irrigators.

The claim isn’t just insulting, it’s manifestly wrong.

You can’t trade what doesn’t exist and currently our general security irrigators, already being slugged 20 times more for water than some other parts of the Basin, have an allocation of precisely zero per cent.

Rather than throw up a political smokescreen, the minister would do better to focus on fixing the gross price inequity threatening to kill off our irrigation industry.

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Club lends swag of support

STREET SWAG: St Vincent de Paul Society’s Jeanette Elliot and Gambier City Lions Darrol Cameron have joined hands to help homeless people in and around Mount Gambier. Picture: CAITLIN KENNEDYON any given night in Australia, one in 200 people are homeless, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Gambier City Lions has extended a helping hand to those in need by donating 20 “street swags” to the St Vincent de Paul Society.

The street swags are Australian-made out of lightweight waterproofed canvas with a foam mattress.

They offer users a degree of comfort, warmth and protection from the weather and can be camouflaged for safety purposes.

Jeanette Elliot from the Mount Gambier St Vinnies charity shop said while not many people slept under the stars in the city, several lived in cars and caravans.

“It will be great to help those in need, I think it is fantastic,” she said.

‘There is such a high demand in Australia for street swags and Mount Gambier residents will benefit from them.”

The swags donated by the Gambier City Lions will be passed on directly to homeless people by the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Impaired drivers, speeders anger police

South-west police nabbed numerous speeders, alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in a weekend crackdown that revealed a disappointing reversal in road safety trends.

Police conducted more than 3500 preliminary breath tests across the south-west last weekend

Warrnambool police station commander Shane Keogh said a significantly higher number of driving offences were detected during last weekend’s blitz compared to the results of an earlier operation on the July 4-6 weekend.

Senior Sergeant Keogh said five positive readings for drink-driving were detected from the 3500 preliminary breath tests carried out.

He said most of the positive drink-driving readings were not a long way over the allowable alcohol limit.

Eight people were also charged with driving while drug-impaired after 126 tests were done.

The drugs detected were cannanbis and methamphetamine.

Senior Sergeant Keogh said 122 other offences were also detected, including 46 for speeding.

Twenty-two of the speeding offences involved motorists driving at more than 15 kilometres an hour above the 100km/h speed limit, he said.

“Speed and alcohol are the main drivers of our road trauma and this traffic blitz reinforces that we have a way to go,” Senior Sergeant Keogh said.

Police gave prior warning through the media of each of the road blitzes.

Ten drivers were caught not wearing seatbelts.

The blitz also found 15 unregistered vehicles and 14 in an unroadworthy condition.

The weekend’s traffic operation involved the allocation of a total of 197 daily police shifts to road safety duties in the south-west by about 85 officers from throughout the region and state highway patrol.

Another police blitz earlier in the month tested about 1300 drivers but only one driver was nabbed for allegedly drink-driving and two others for being drug impaired, one for taking cannabis and the other for taking methamphetamine.

The low number of offences detected in the July 4-6 blitz raised police hopes that most south-west motorists were taking on board the messages in road safety campaigns.

Senior Sergeant Keogh said while the blitzes might have finished, south-west police would continue to be out in force to reduce the incidence of road trauma by enforcing road laws.

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Coates locks horns with State Opposition over future of Carter Holt Harvey

STANCE: Forestry union boss Brad Coates says Carter Holt Harvey is in no position to dictate how State Government money is allocated. He is pictured outside the company’s panels production facility on White Avenue. Picture: SANDRA MORELLOGREEN Triangle forestry union official Brad Coateslocked horns with the State Opposition yesterday over the future of Carter Holt Harvey’s (CHH) panel production sites in Mount Gambier.

Angry over the speculation, Mr Coates said claims by shadow forestry minister David Ridgway were “wrong” and “misleading”.

The union boss also clarified his position regarding future State Government grant money for the CHH panel production sites.

“To come out with false information that CHH could be relocating its particleboard operation to Tumut in NSW has unnecessarily caused the workers at those two sites to have grave concerns about their jobs and has delivered another blow to community confidence in the South East,” he said.

“Mr Ridgway has once again demonstrated his lack of understanding of the timber industry and his contempt for the workers within the industry.

“He appears more interested in politicising the issue with his scaremongering. Is it any wonder that the Liberals are still in opposition when this is how they treat local communities?”

Meanwhile, Mr Coates said CHH also had questions to answer as to why they refused the $27m offered by the Weatherill Government in 2012.

He criticised the company’s decision not to support their South East operation, then turn around and throw their hat in the ring for funding from the government adjustment fund.

“CHH is in no position to dictate how that money is allocated, and neither is anyone else,” Mr Coates said.

“The funds should be distributed on the basis that jobs are created, and unless recipients can demonstrate an increase in employment numbers, they should not get a cent.”

Church service hits 150 years

LONG HAUL: Ruth Hein stands on the steps of the Baptist Church on North Terrace, which opened in April 1984. Picture: CAITLIN KENNEDYTHE Mount Gambier Baptist Church will celebrate 150 years in November since it first opened its doors.

But over the years, services were held in various places around the city before settling down.

The church was established after a small group of Christians met in the home of James and Christina Smith on the western side of Mount Gambier known as Rosaville.

Christina is depicted in the hologram at the Lady Nelson Visitor and Discovery Centre.

But it was not long before their home, named Bon Accord, became too small for the growing group and they applied for a room at the National School on Sturt Street – a building that still stands today.

On January 29, 1864 the first Baptist Chapel was built at 8 Bertha Street, but before long proved to be too small again and a move was made to open a new chapel on Helen Street in 1868.

The building was later sold when another larger chapel was built on Helen Street and opened in 1894.

The Helen Street chapel thrived before there was an opening for Baptist work in the north area of Mount Gambier and a new chapel was constituted in 1966 on the corner of Wehl Street North and McArthur Street.

This was in conjunction with the Helen Street Chapel and Reverend Arthur Payne came from Perth to minister it.

He decided to build a new church as there was a desire to hold community ministries and the current church was outdated.

The church was built by volunteers at 33 North Terrace and was opened in April, 1984.

It was built so that programs could be run for the public, worships and Sunday school.

Many initiatives have been pursued over the years by the Baptist Church, including a white goods program, provision for school lunches for hungry children, a living skills program and an ongoing Solid Rock Caf at the Mount Gambier show.

But, after the many location changes, the church has remained on North Terrace since 1984.

In 1989, the church celebrated 125 years of ministry and several past ministers attended the event.

Now plans are in place for a 150-year celebration on the weekend of November 1 and 2.

The celebration is sponsored by the Mount Gambier City Council and will be held in the City Hall from 2pm to 4.30pm on Saturday, November 1.

Photographic displays, a cake cutting ceremony and a visit from Mike Mills, the executive minister for Baptist Churches of South Australia will be a part of the afternoon.

In the week following the celebration, a photographic display will be on show at the Main Corner.

Bignell criticises ‘scaremongering’

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The sprawling CHH White Avenue pine panels operation in Mount Gambier. Around 180 people work in the company’s two panel production sites.FORESTRY Minister Leon Bignell has lambasted Liberal MP David Ridgway over what he claims as blatant political “scaremongering” over forestry jobs in Mount Gambier.

This follows the shadow forestry minister claiming the NSW Government was “courting” Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) to transfer its Mount Gambier panel board operations to Tumut.

Mr Ridgway called on the government to fast-track $10.5m in forestry investment funds to cement CHH’s future in the city.

While it is not confirmed, it is understood CHH hopes to attract a grant of up to $7m to modernise its panel production facilities in Mount Gambier.

Mr Bignell said he contacted CHH officials in Queensland last week after hearing rumours during his four-day visit to Mount Gambier.

The minister said members of the NSW government had a “chance meeting” with the CHH officials where the issue was raised.

“They said generally if it doesn’t work out in Mount Gambier then come and talk with us, it was as simple as that,” Mr Bignell said.

The MP said it was not “unusual” for CHH to have talks with other governments because they had operations in Queensland and NSW.

He said the statements by Mr Ridgway undermined hundreds of workers in Mount Gambier.

“This is scaremongering, it is really nothing to do with anything,” Mr Bignell said.

“He (Ridgway) has put two and two together and got 22.”

Explaining there were positive developments in the South East forestry sector, he said the Liberal Party should not be pedalling fear.

“You don’t go out and say ridiculous statements and upset the confidence of people in the South East, you have to work constructively with people,” Mr Bignell said.

“CHH knows Mount Gambier is the best place to have their operations.”

He said CHH had a good workforce and access to the fibre resource that it needed for panel production.

The minister confirmed the government had been in talks with CHH about future grants that would become available to the forestry sector for innovation-focused projects.

Mr Bignell said $10.5m was left in the forestry investment partnership program and the opening of this program would be announced as early as next week.

“We are just finalising the terms of reference,” the minister said.

“We have had some positive conversations with CHH and other companies in the region.”

He said $7.5m would be allocated this year and $3.5m in 2015/16.

Mr Bignell said regional forestry companies could also potentially tap into the $15m regional development fund accelerator pool, which was being overseen by Regional Development Minister Geoff Brock.

BACK OF THE NET: Gunners chase silverware

Valentine’s clash with the Emerging Jets will double as a fundraiser for the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation. Valentine players Cassidy Davis (left) and Toria Campbell (right) with the Emerging Jets’ Kobie Ferguson. Pic: Marina NeilSOUTH Cardiff coach Greg Asquith believes his players deserve to take something away from this season and tonight’s State Cup final against Broadmeadow looms as their best chance.

Sitting on 14 points from 14 rounds in the Northern NSW National Premier League, the Gunners are eight points out of the top five with four games to go and a mathematical chance only of making the finals.

Asquith agreed their hopes of silverware this season rested on tonight’s knockout final from 7pm at Magic Park, and the players would treat the occasion with that in mind.

“We’re worked really hard this year and not always had luck go our way,” Asquith said.

“They deserve to be playing for something. It’s nice to walk away from the season with something to show for it, and that’s what we’re trying to chase.”

Although Magic are only three points above South Cardiff on the NPL table, Broadmeadow coach Glen Chapman is taking a different mindset into the game.

He has not given up hope of his team winning a fourth consecutive league grand final, even though they are five points off the finals pace after a shattering 1-1 draw with South Cardiff on Sunday.

That followed 2-1, 3-0 and 2-0 losses to Weston, Jets Youth and Lambton Jaffas respectively.

“I only look at it from the point that we are competing in the State Cup. It has nothing to do with the NPL,” Chapman said.

“It’s a chance to win silverware and prizemoney, and that’s the only way I can treat things at the moment.

“When the weekend game comes . . . anything can happen in this competition.

“The truth is, we are running out of time. We know that.

“But we are just focused on tomorrow, and if we take the next step against Olympic on Sunday, you never know what can happen.”

Both coaches took positives out of the draw on Sunday, where Chris Berlin’s goal for Magic was cancelled out by Daniel Johnson’s converted penalty given away by Daniel Casciaroli.

Chapman said his players were “shattered” with the result but he was happy with their commitment.

“I thought first half we played really well considering the conditions,” Chapman said.

“And the boys gave it everything they had. I couldn’t have asked for any more.

“They dug deep, and you know they have when supporters are clapping and cheering them off the park, even they came away with a 1-1 draw.”

Asquith was pleased with his side’s work ethic and said they would need to repeat the dose to topple Magic tonight.

“I thought Magic were good on the weekend. It was the best I’ve seen them play this year,” he said.

“They have been very successful for a very long time and are the benchmark of the competition.

“I know they’re not sitting where they want to be at the moment, but they still have the players there to definitely make an impact.”

Magic welcome back Hakan Canli and Jon Griffiths from suspension for the final, which was postponed last Wednesday night after a power failure at Magic Park.

The Gunners, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of leading striker Jamie Byrnes, who lasted only 30 minutes on Sunday due to a corked thigh.

WESTON Bears hero Nathan Morris has a two-vote lead in the player of the year race heading into the final four rounds of the inaugural Northern NSW National Premier League.

After his late winner in a 3-2 win over Edgeworth on Sunday, Morris has 15 points in the count, which is judged on three-two-one voting from referees after each game and now goes in camera.

Despite missing four matches through a quadriceps injury, Morris has scored five goals and leads voting from Jets Youth midfielder Reece Papas and Weston’s Connor Evans, who have 13 points through 14 rounds.

Bears coach Steve Piggott said Morris’s effort had been outstanding given his trials this season.

As well as the quadriceps injury, Morris, who turns 28 next week, has switched from midfield to central defence mid-season.

Piggott said Morris had handled his recovery from injury and positional move like a professional.

“We had a problem playing out from the back, which is something we are trying to get the players to buy into, but we just couldn’t get it right,” he said.

“We chatted about moving him back there, and even though it’s not his favourite position, he has put all the energy and enthusiasm needed into it and he’s been an overwhelming success there,” Piggott said. “His tackling has been good and his talking and ability to organise the defence has been exceptional.”

Jets Youth flyer Brandon Lundy is fourth in voting on 12 points.

WESTON will celebrate their Bradmanesque feat in top-flight Northern NSW football at a dinner on August 9.

The Bears are playing their 50th consecutive season of top-division football in the region, a streak which is twice as long as the next best club’s.

Edgeworth have kept their place in the competition since 1990, while fellow heavyweights Hamilton (1992) and Broadmeadow (1995) are also long-term members of the leading competition.

The Bears, who have been in the competition since 1964, will mark the achievement at Weston Workers Club with a dinner, which will feature the announcement of their 50 Seasons team, raffles, guest speakers and auctions. Tickets are $30 from Weston Workers Club or the football club. For more information, contact Shane Johnson on 0412 512 722.

■ Skipper Blake Thompson came to the rescue again for Maitland to keep the Magpies on pace with Valentine in the promotion battle before their crucial clash in two weeks.

Thompson scored with a header midway through the second half to get the Magpies out of jail in a 1-0 away win over Thornton on Sunday.

The three points kept them level at the top with Valentine, who increased their goal difference advantage to 12 with a 7-0 drubbing of West Wallsend at Johnston Park.

Singleton beat Cessnock 6-5 and Belmont-Swansea defeated Toronto-Awaba 5-0.

■ The Emerging Jets under 12s team will serve as Newcastle’s Asian Cup ambassadors while competing in the Saitama International Junior Football Tournament this month.

The side leave on Saturday for Japan, where they will compete in the annual under-12 international tournament.

They were farewelled yesterday by Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy, who gave them gifts and Asian Cup invitations from the city to pass on to the Tokyo and Saitama governors.

The squad is: Isaac Quinn, Kellan Barry, Matthew Burton, Nicholas Curran, Alex Hilton, Ethan Kulupach, Dean Larson, Nicholas Martinelli, Adam Mlinaric, Sascha Montefiore, Dylan Newbold, Jack Simmons, Riley Tydd, Bailey Wells, Lachlan Bayliss and Joshua Gardner.

Celebration back on track

CELEBRATION SAFE: After some uncertainty, organisers of Mount Gambier’s sixth annual New Year’s Eve celebrations have confirmed planning has begun for the 2014 event. Picture: BRETT KENNEDYAFTER fears it could fizzle out of Mount Gambier’s annual calendar, organisers have confirmed the community New Year’s Eve celebration will go ahead to ensure the city enters 2015 with a bang.

Having faced financial hardship in recent years, and with members of Mount Gambier Community Events Inc looking to stand down, a question mark was thrown over the annual drawcard.

However, committee member Maree Thompson yesterday confirmed that the event would go ahead with a meeting held to further solidify a program.

“It will be going ahead as normal and it’s great, it would have been really sad if it didn’t continue,” Ms Thompson said, admitting she originally intended to take a step back from the organisational role.

“The event has proven popular and it gives somewhere for families to go where there is plenty of entertainment, moderated alcohol and just a good atmosphere in general.

“It would have been a real pity to see it go, but we do need help now.”

Ms Thompson said several factors had led to the committee considering a price rise to ensure the event’s longevity.

“We’ve only barely been breaking even, so this year there is going to be a price rise but it’s going to be as low as possible,” she said.

“One of the problems we have is so many people come through the gates on concessions – which is great because they’re the people we’re aiming to get out to celebrate New Year – however it means they’re getting through the gate cheaper.”

Ms Thompson thanked past and continuous sponsors for their efforts in successfully keeping the event afloat, calling on the community to once again band together to produce the event.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand how it is paid for, we rely heavily on sponsorship,” she said.

“The gate takings are only really a top up, sponsorship is what gets across the line

“We don’t mind how big or small the donations, everything adds up

“To put things in perspective, our fireworks alone are over $10,000 and we couldn’t have the event without it.”

Ms Thompson said a majority of support came from South East businesses, also praising the Mount Gambier \and Grant District councils for their financial assistance and in-kind support.

While planning is underway, Ms Thompson encouraged interested residents to consider joining the committee to help make 2014 the best yet.

“We need to get people with new ideas, to keep things fresh.

“They don’t need to come to every single meeting or be heavily involved, but we want inspired people to breathe new life into this.”

Among the planned changes for 2014 will be a revert back to an all-local musical program.

“We tried something a little bit different last year and had a band from Adelaide, but our local acts have a following here and people will come out specifically to see them.”

For more information or to join the committee, contact Steve Toope on 0418 838 930.