Saturday, July 30, 2011

Around the New England media 16 - a Gwydir Highway focus

It is just two months since I did my  last New England media round-up, although I have been monitoring. Last time my focus was as the title said - Around the New England media 15 - small town & independent focus. This time I thought that I would take an east-west slice.

In Grafton, MP for Clarence Steve Cansdell  (Nationals) remains concerned about the complete absence of Clarence Valley representation on the Northern NSW Local Health Board.

I actually blinked at the name. I didn't know that Northern NSW had a Local Health Board. It doesn't - this is the name for the Northern Rivers Board. The other New England Boards are Hunter-New England and Mid North Coast. This one is going to roll on for a while, I think. Tysona from Grafton was not impressed:    

Steve's " not sure what happened" is not reassuring for his understanding of issues in general. If his comments are to be believed re Bob Thompson, it would appear the North Coast Nationals got rolled by the Sydney Libs. Steve's "not sure what he will achieve" is further evidence that the Nat's are really second fiddle to the Sydney Libs and not really any power in the government even over matter in rural areas. This does not bode well for the bush, and particularly our part of the bush. The Health Board now has one rep from Clarence, one from Tweed and the rest from Lismore, with the same ever persistent CEO married to an upper house Lib. New Health management structure ?? NO same old same old.

Meantime, Maclean is seeking to enhance its links with  the Clarence River. The trigger is the development of the MacLean River Precinct Plan.

The aim of the plan is to maximise Maclean’s relationship to the river so that the town can be better accessed from the water by “yachties”, and so that visitors and residents in the town can get the most out of the river.

As an outsider who used to know Maclean quite well, this would seem to make a good deal of sense. One of the wonderful things about the Clarence is the varying relationship between river and the surrounding communities.

Yaegl native title claim The Yaegl Aboriginal  Aboriginal Land Council has lodged a second native title claim covering land from the Wooli River to Yamba and also extending three kilometres out to sea. 

The claim applies to only crown land that is vacant and does not apply to public infrastructure of private holdings.

The map from the Grafton Daily Examiner shows claims. What the map doesn't show is that the Clarence is the junction of three major language groups.

To the north are the Bundjalung (also Bandjalang), there are the Yaegl at the mouth of the river and  then the Gumbaynggir to the south. Yaegl is a Gumbaynggir language, but is sufficiently different to be classified as a language in its own right.

We now move inland up the Gwydir Highway. This original map from Mark's Clarence Valley Today shows  the old and new roads to Glen Innes.  Gwydir Hwy

in Glen Innes, Wendy Watts has been re-elected as chair of the Australian Celtic Festival committee. New England has a strong Scottish connection. Maclean has, I think, the oldest continuous Scottish celebration in Australia, while Glen Innes has turned its Scottish connection into a national Celtic festival. 

Continuing this theme, the Combined Gaelic Clans of Australasia Inc gathered at the Cooramah Aboriginal Cultural Centre for the Chieftain’s midwinter-dinner. Now there's a mix of the old, older and new!

Glen Innes is participating again in the Country and Regional Living Expo at Sydney’s Rosehill Gardens with a three member team: deputy mayor Col Price, Economic Development and Tourism manager Wendy Fahey and Economic Development and Tourism officer Melanie Fuller. Developed by Armidale's Peter Bailey, the Expo aims to market non-metro living to Sydneysiders interested in tree or sea change.

It's a slow process. I spoke of one success story in Sydney barrister tree-changes to Glen Innes.

Moving west just down the road to Inverell, the Inverell Times reports on the NSW State Government's plans to regulate wind farms. This has been quite a hot issue in the Glen Innes-Inverell area, with considerable community opposition.

The NSW opposition has called on the government to immediately clarify its position to put the concerns of rural and regional residents to rest. This led the Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay to point out that this could be very much a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

“That’s a bit rich, coming from a former government that prematurely approved developments and over-rode the requirement for a two kilometre buffer zone,” Mr Torbay said.

In November 2009 Mr Torbay attacked the then Planning Minister for approving a wind farm near Glenn Innes where two residences were less than 900 metres from the turbines.

At the time Mr Torbay said the decision was unacceptable and flew in the face of Glen Innes Severn and Inverell council guidelines that turbines should be at least two kilometres from people’s houses.

He also labelled the Labor Government’s decision as premature because it pre-empted the recommendations of an Upper House Committee inquiry into wind farms, which was still sitting at the time.

New England's environmental battles, something that I have written on a fair bit, continue.

In Inverell, the council is also worried about the impact of the carbon tax.

“The first thing that we do know is that electricity has already gone up, and in our current budget we’re up for another $190,000,” Cr Johnston said.

“Near enough to $200,000 extra for electricity, that’s without the carbon tax, so we can only assume that will continue to go up; the other thing we are aware of in this proposal is if the diesel fuel rebate goes, that’s $150,000 – now for us to raise another $250,000 we would need a special rate rise of three per cent above inflation.

“Our recent 2.8 per cent rate rise did not keep up with our Index Of Costs for Local Government, in NSW there’s a rate pegging legislation, which is obviously popular, but council has to comply with every other law in the country too, we can’t cut wages, we can’t cut superannuation contributions, we can’t cut long service leave entitlements, so the only thing we can cut is our services,” Cr Johnston said.

Cr Johnston said people had to understand there were only two things council could do; do the job and pay for it or not do it and not spend the money.

Meantime, Federal Opposition leaders continue to maintain the anti-carbon tax campaign in the Inverell area.

Continuing down the Highway, we pass onto the plains and reach Moree. Here, like Inverell, national issues affect debate. In this case its the poker machine levy. The Moree Champion reports:  

MOREE’S two registered clubs say they would have to close their doors if the Gillard Government pushes ahead with plans to introduce a ‘licence to punt’ for poker machine players.

The Moree and District Services Club and Moree Golf Club would face a $1.6 million bill to install the Federal Government’s mandatory pre-commitment technology. Revenues are also expected to fall by a further $3 million annually as recreational gamblers refuse to sign up for the Government’s pokie licence.

The general manager of Moree Golf Club, Geoffrey Benson, said that such a high installation cost was simply impossible to meet for not-for-profit clubs.

“The Federal Government is ignoring the important role clubs play in the community just so they can keep a Tasmanian independent MP onside,” he said.

“Here in Moree, our two clubs have more than 6200 club members in a town with a population of around 8000 people.

“We provide and maintain sporting facilities including an 18-hole golf course, two bowling greens and sports ovals. Without our two clubs, Moree locals would have to travel 100km to access these facilities.

“We also sponsor cricket teams, netball teams, junior golf, the local race club as well as a range of other local charities and organisations.

“The Government certainly won’t provide that community funding when we’re forced to close our doors,” Mr Benson said.

I am going to have to stop here. I have run out of time!

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