Monday, April 27, 2009

Around the New England press - week ending 24 April 2009

I have been all over the place in posting terms, with the result that none of my part completed posts have made the light of day. I can only promise to try to do better!

As part of my reading, I have been browsing round the on-line editions of various New England newspapers. I do this all the time to keep in touch. However, I thought that I might start sharing some of this with you on a weekly basis.

In Grafton, Council has been looking at the best way to redevelop the waterfront area. My suggestion: please focus more on the city's history as a major port. You make damn all use of this.

Further south in Kempsey, judging is underway for the Miss Show Girl competition. That takes me back. One of the more pleasant tasks that I once had to perform was judging the same competition at Walcha. I do love country shows. Some have struggled in recent years, but we would all be poorer for their absence.

Port Macquarie has been having problems in getting its new hospital beyond the blue print stage, despite promises. Tamworth, too, appears to be in a similar position. In all, a bit of a mess.

The latest population statistics suggest that Maitland is NSW's fastest growing inland city.

Inland? Look I may be wrong, but if my memory serves me correctly Maitland is, what, 40 minutes from the sea? If Maitland is inland, then Penrith is outback.

There is actually a very serious issue here, the way in which changing official definitions affect the way we see things. They have got to the point that they have become a very serious distortion.

Still at Newcyellow bellied sea snakeastle, the discovery of a live yellow bellied snake washed ashore sent shudders down my spine. This is a seriously venomous snake.

Fortunately, this is a rare thing. Still, if the sea does warm in the way projected, it does worry me just what things might move south.   

In Cessnock, the Member for Cessnock, Kerry Hickey, has welcomed an announcement by NSW Premier Nathan Rees that just over $3.5 million is being invested in Cessnock to upgrade 1149 social housing homes.

This was a somewhat belated response to an earlier announcement by NSW Premier Reece that the Government would spend $48 million on upgrading social housing in the Hunter Valley. 

It's quite complicated from my perspective because Sydney has not, to my knowledge, released details of the total pattern of spend on the various Rudd Government packages at local level. This makes it very hard to assess total New England impacts.  

Moving inland and north, there was concern in Tenterfield  with the level of homelessness, with 64 homeless, twice the national average. I have noticed that release of this data at local level has generated a number of stories in the New England media.

Putting my professional hat on, one of the messages that I have tried to get across is the need in official policy to consider relative as well as absolute measures.

We live in a world of performance measures. This means that with something like homelessness, targets get set like reducing the absolute level of homelessness by x or y. The best way to do this is to focus on big numbers.

A big population area may have a large number of homeless even though relative homelessness is well below the average. Once absolute targets are set, policy makers focus on the big numbers. Places such as Tenterfield with just 64 homeless miss out even though the local need is in fact far greater.

I do not have a solution to this, beyond the constant need to localise when looking at the real impacts of policy.

More from the New England media next week.

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