A Snowy Mountains couple brought together by a sense of respect and fairness has been in Canberra pitching their property overlooking Lake Jindabyne to same-sex couples looking to tie the knot in 2018.
Every love story is unique and Anton and Bibi Wiesmann, owners of the Panorama have their own tale to tell, one they shared at the Canberra Wedding Expo over the weekend.
“There is much to celebrate in 2018, with many same-sex couples planning to mark their love and relationship with marriage,” Anton says.
“There is some magic about the Panorama that allows people to be themselves, it’s a space that brings people together, but also allows for people to retreat for some time out.”
Bibi and Anton’s own relationship was built around social activism, equality, and fairness – the very themes that won out in the discussion around same-sex marriage during 2017.
Exposing slavery in the shrimp trade in Thailand was the mission that sparked their love.
Anton, born and bred in Austria, was working for the United Nations out of Bangkok.
“But nobody would talk to me, I am a white looking researcher, the cultural barriers were hard to break down,” Anton says.
“Until I started working with Bibi. She was recommended to me and started opening doors, building trust, and translating for me, she helped make it very successful work.”
Their final report was presented to the U.S Congress, where American retailers were put under pressure to support a more ethical shrimp supply chain.
“Thai shrimp farms were going to lose business unless they cleaned up their act,” Anton says.
“People were being trafficked from Myanmar and Cambodia and totally exploited, I believe that is starting to change.”
With Thai-born Bibi completing a Masters in Business Admin, and Anton keen to travel less, the pair spent six months in 2014 looking for an accommodation business to take on.
“We travelled Australia and did over 15,000 kilometres looking at hotel after hotel and then we came to this place – absolutely magic,” Bibi says.
“People come, share a meal, have a party, enjoy the big view from the balcony, ride a bike, go kayaking – it makes me happy to see that.”
Bibi and Anton’s own love story drives their vision for the Panorama – a place where people of all backgrounds are welcomed and invited to come together and celebrate love and friendship.
“Marriage is a fusing of two families and I just love seeing it all come together,” Bibi says.
Giving up your citizenship is a hard thing to get your head around if you were born in Australia.
Generally speaking, being born in Australia is the Wonka Golden Ticket of citizenship.
I guess there are Australian’s that renounce their citizenship – Rupert Murdoch comes to mind, but Aussie’s choosing citizenship of another country over the green and gold isn’t something you come across or hear about.
Other people becoming or wanting to become an Australian citizen is much easier to understand.
Around this great southland, 13,000 people made a pledge to Australia and its people on January 26, 11 of those in Bega, people born at all points of the global compass.
Nationally, people of Indian descent were the second largest group to take part in citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day behind the British, something that was reflected locally.
Indian born Bega residents, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, and Kiran Rajesh, along with Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali are now Australian citizens.
“This is a lovely community and very peaceful, a good place to stay,” Pavan says.
With Australian Crawl’s hit “Boys Light Up” playing in the background, Pavan tells me he has been in Australia for 10 years, in recent years working at the Cobargo Service Station.
“India is a good place too, but now I live here and the feeling is good,” he says.
Skype helps Pavan keep in touch with his large family in India, he says they are very happy for him and support his decision to become an Australian citizen.
“It was a big decision, but I am very happy, my family have peace of mind.”
India and the United Kindom weren’t the only nations represented in Bega, others pledging loyalty to Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws came from Thailand and the United States.
With the day’s soundtrack moving along to Men at Work, Saul Nightingale says his heart has always been Australian.
“I moved here when I was five, that’s forty years ago,” Saul smiles.
“Mum and Dad are from the UK and they just saw the way things were going there, they thought this is not a place to bring up a family, in terms of opportunity, safety, and employment.
Saul calls Bermagui home now and when he isn’t playing music he works for the not-for-profit training organisation – The Centre for Community Welfare Training.
“My earliest memory of Australia was pulling into Sydney Harbour on the P&O Canberra on a stunningly beautiful day, Sydney was showing off, Australia made a pretty good first impression,” Saul laughs.
While becoming an Australian citizen was a formality for Saul, it was something that came with a sense of duty.
“I have a responsibility to have a say politically, as all Australians do,” he says.
“It’s all very well to talk about politics and to support certain causes but if you can’t actually put a vote to that then there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”
Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell has been in Australia for six and half years with her Australian husband, her background is a jumble of the United States and England.
“It is a big decision to take Australian citizenship, but now I just feel so happy and proud, it feels amazing,” Brittany says.
Like Saul, this nurse from Pambula Hospital is looking forward to having her say.
“Back home you don’t actually have to participate [vote] if you don’t want to, so it’s quite nice to feel that obligation and be involved in decisions and feel like you have a voice,” she says.
As the band starts with Mondo Rock, I chat to Jason Badham who was born in the United States and has found love, life, and work in the Bega Valley.
Living in Wolumla, Jason is a website designer with 2pi Software.
“I’ve been thinking about taking out citizenship for almost eight years, but the final decision came at the end of January 2017, ” Jason says.
The Trump inauguration seems to have played a part in Jason’s decision but more so the influence of his Australian partner Kirsten.
“I was in the States and I discovered my wife here in Australia because she was breeding the same kind of parrots that I was, I found her website and it was an encyclopedia of information,” Jason says.
“One thing led to another, I helped her build a website, we started having a friendship and I decided to come over here – it’s the best choice I ever made.”
Australia Day remains a tangle of issues yet to be sorted, but the role the citizenship ceremony plays is beyond question. Those who already have Australian citizenship are reminded by those who are new to it why Australia is such a good place to be and why diversity makes us stronger.
A Bega man who was told to walk home from South East Regional Hospital (SERH) at 2am says his confidence in the local health service has improved.
Paul’s outrageous story drew a strong response from the About Regional community when it was first published in late November.
He had already made an official complaint about his shoddy treatment but was yet to receive an explanation or apology. In the days that followed the publication of Paul’s story, he was invited to a meeting with new hospital chief, Wendy Hubbard.
“She apologised for what had happened and told me new systems were in place to stop it happening again,” Paul says.
Paul is not his real name. In sharing his story Paul didn’t want to embarrass friends and clients that work at the new facility and asked to remain anonymous. He did however want to see change and a better standard of care for the community that has been his home for 20 years.
It seems he has achieved that.
Paul’s story starts with chest pains after dinner one Sunday evening in early September, after a day of feeling funny he and his partner called for an ambulance.
After five hours in care, Paul was told he hadn’t had a heart attack but was suffering from angina. By that stage, the hospital clock was saying 1:30 am and with a diagnosis in hand, Paul was advised to see his GP as soon as possible.
“They [then] gave me a blanket and said I’d have to walk home,” Paul explains.
Paul arrived at the hospital with his partner five hours earlier via ambulance, they had no car, no way of getting home.
“We have lots of friends, but it was two o’clock in the morning, we didn’t want to impose on people,” he says.
No other option was offered – no bed, no ride home, just a blanket to guard against the early spring chill.
“I did say – I can’t walk home with angina,” Paul says.
During the four-kilometre walk home, Paul had to stop on the path at Glebe Lagoon when the chest pains returned.
Thankfully he made it home and was able to see his doctor on the Wednesday.
“The problem is not that the hospital doesn’t provide transport, but rather that there is only one taxi in Bega and they won’t provide service after hours,” the NSW Health Transport Travel Support Group said.
While accepting that transport is an issue across South East NSW, the community reaction to Paul’s story and the heartless government response has prompted a rethink from the Health Service, with many people reporting similar tales of being stranded by a system that seemed to not care or understand life in a country setting.
In a subsequent statement to About Regional, a spokesperson for Southern NSW Local Health District confirmed that in the future patients will be offered an overnight stay in the hospital to help manage transport issues.
“To avoid similar incidents arising in the future Emergency Department (ED) staff will be able to raise potential patient transport issues with the After Hours Nurse Manager,” a Health spokesperson said.
“[Staff] will talk to the patient and consider any options, including an offer to stay overnight.”
Furthermore, the spokesperson said, “On December 15 the SERH on-site Carers and Relatives Accommodation will be opened, which will provide a further option for people in a similar situation.”
Paul says he feels vindicated and trusts that this won’t happen again.
“I appreciated the apology Wendy offered and I got a sense she is working to make things better,” Paul says.
“It seems there was a lack of understanding by agency and locum staff on duty the night I arrived.”
Confidence in the sparkling new facility and some of its staff has been shattered on the back of a raft of issues since the hospitals opening in early 2016.
The Carers Accommodation that opens on Friday is perhaps an opportunity to reinvigorate people’s trust.
Like so many things, the construction of this building has been driven by community fundraising coordinated by Bega Valley service clubs but embraced by people and organistaions around South East NSW, as well as State and Federal Governments and big business.
An 18-bed facility for carers is the full vision, six motel style rooms with their own ensuite will open on Friday representing stages one and two.
The community is invited to look through the new building between 2 and 5pm.
Paul is not surprised that the community has stepped up the way it has around his story or how it has rallied around the need to build carers and relative accommodation for a hospital that services communities from Batemans Bay to Jindabyne to Mallacoota.
He hangs on to the blanket he was given on that cold September night as a reminder that systems and bureaucracy are meant to serve people.
*About Regional content happens because of the financial contributions of members, thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, Jill Howell and Max Wilson, Ingrid Mitchell and Deb Nave, Therese and Denis Wheatley, Bronnie Taylor, Fiona Firth, and Scott Halfpenny.
Buddy benches and reflection ponds are just a couple of the bright ideas Bombala students have come up with as part of their studies into playground design.
Students from St Joseph’s Primary School have just presented a range of thoughtful and captivating 3D playground models, paving the way for future playground construction in Bombala.
Following months of hard work, their final playground designs have been pitched to staff from Snowy Monaro Regional Council – Major Projects Manager Linda Nicholson, and Recreation and Property Technical Officer Jane Kanowski, as well as family and friends.
“All the students should be very proud of their efforts,” Linda says.
The students designed and built a playground space that incorporated elements of physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being for people of all ages and abilities – community gardens, slides, handball courts, picnic areas, and bright, colourful equipment, were all part of their vision.
“The designs are very exciting, it was a pleasure working alongside the students – a great community partnership,” Linda says.
A number of valuable skills were picked up along the way, including team work, communication, public speaking, engineering, and building.
A terrific example of project-based learning.
Council staff presented students with a certificate of achievement for their outstanding efforts.
The students will continue their involvement throughout the design and construction of an all-abilities playground in Bombala during 2018.
For the last 3 summers, businesses in Tathra and Bega have worked together to fund a beach safety program that has kept the famous red and yellow flags flying on Tathra Beach during February.
Our golden strip of sand has been the only beach south of Ulladulla with a 7-day-a-week lifeguard service during the final month of summer.
To build on the reputation Tathra has with grey nomads and young families at this magic time of year, the Tathra and District Business Chamber is once again seeking financial support from local businesses and organisations to keep the flags flying in 2018.
“February is a big month in Tathra, many young families and retirees are attracted to our beautiful beach after the busy school holiday period,” Chamber Vice President, Rob White says.
“The feedback from holidaymakers is always terrific, it’s clear that people come to Tathra during February because they know our beach is patrolled, this extends our summer and gives Tathra a point of difference,” Rob says.
Locals know that February is the best time of year on our beaches, daily temperatures are similar to January, but the water is warmer and the winds lighter.
Lifeguards employed by Bega Valley Shire Council keep watch over beach goers Monday to Friday during the summer school holidays, complimenting the outstanding volunteer effort each weekend from Tathra Surf Life Saving Club.
“But once school goes back after Australia Day the Council service stops, leaving visitors to our town and members of our community at risk,” Rob says.
“Council considered working with us to extend their service into February to take the pressure off the community fundraising effort, but we have been told they don’t have the budget.”
The Chamber is now hoping to raise the $13,000 needed to keep professional life guards on Tathra Beach, Monday to Friday from January 29 until February 23.
Secretary of the Chamber, Carmen Risby says the results speak for themselves.
“The extended beach patrols on Tathra Beach during February last year meant that lifeguards were on hand to perform 14 rescues,” Carman says.
“Our stats show that lifeguards kept watch over approximately 6200 people on Tathra Beach during weekdays last February.”
Businesses who take part will receive significant media exposure, and generate tremendous goodwill within the local community.
Thank you to the businesses who have already made a commitment – Tathra Big4, Tathra Beachside, Tathra & District Business Chamber, Tathra Beach House, Tathra Beach Bowling Club, Bendigo Bank, and Tathra Hotel. More are needed to keep the flags flying.
Please contact Rob White at Tathra Beach House Apartments for further information on becoming a business or organisation sponsor – firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 6499 9900.
The first About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom landed in Bermagui this week, based out of Julie Rutherford Real Estate we uncovered some of the untold stories of this town.
Kelly Eastwood from River Cottage Australia dropped in to share her plans for a deli and cooking school…
The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is in #Bermagui upstairs at the harbour at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.This time chatting to Kelly Eastwood about her new deli and cooking school.Drop by with your story between now and 2pm.CheersIan
Longtime Bermagui fisherman Allan Broadhurst talked about his life on the ocean…
Can't come to #Bermagui and not talk to a real fisherman! Here's one – Allan Broadhurst.The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.Drop by with your story before 2pm.Thanks for tuning in.Ian
And then there’s Bruce Frost, a life of volunteering, beekeeping and managing MS, one of the region’s great men…
The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is at Julie Rutherford Real Estate, upstairs at #Bermagui Harbour until 2ish. Drop by and share your story.Chatting to Bruce Frost right now talking volunteering, beekeeping, life with MS, and who knows!Thanks for tuning in.Ian
European Carp have been using the warmer water temperatures of spring to move across the Snowy Monaro, bringing their destructive ways into new habitats.
Since the 1850’s, Carp have been spreading out into low land waterways like the Murray-Darling Basin, but in the last ten years, these ferals have been moving into higher elevations, places once thought too cold for them.
Carp were introduced to Australia in an attempt to imitate a European environment – some nice cheese and wine could have done the job!
Despite being a native of Central Asia, carp are extensively farmed in Europe and the Middle East and are a popular angling fish in Europe. Eating carp is also a Christmas tradition in some cultures.
Carp in North America and Canada are also considered a significant pest.
Cooma Region Waterwatch Coordinator, Antia Brademann has eaten carp but doesn’t recommend it. Her interest is working with the community to build knowledge and share information and use it as part of locally tailored control programs.
“Carp have a temperature trigger, so as water temperature gets to 20 degrees, that’s their spawning trigger, they need (and indeed love) that nice warm temperature,” Antia says.
Cooler water temperatures have perhaps slowed the pest’s progress across the Snowy Monaro, that is no longer the case with carp fanning out through the Upper Murrumbidgee River Catchment including the Bredbo and Numeralla Rivers, Cooma Creek, and into Canberra.
“They are moving, looking for suitable spawning habitat, “Antia says.
Locally that habitat looks different to what has been considered normal or ideal carp spawning areas – off stream wetlands, like those of the Lachlan River system, where large amounts of water gathers in shallow areas.
“In the Upper Murrumbidgee, we don’t have those big off stream wetlands, so we weren’t sure what the ideal spawning habitat looked like locally,” Antia says.
“Unfortunately from Carp Love 20 over the last three years, we are finding that carp spawning locally is opportunistic and variable.”
A 6kg female can lay up to 1.5 million sticky eggs, attaching them to submerged vegetation or rocks in shallow water where they wait for a male to fertilise.
“We think that carp in this part of the world might have a number of spawning runs outside the traditional October to December window, because of the variability of local temperatures during spring,” Antia explains.
“And in the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment, carp spawning is unlike the spawning of any other fish.
“You are listening for vigorous splashing, it will be very noticeable,” she says.
Fishing clubs at Numeralla and Bredbo have also been important players in the citizen science underway.
“We’ve found schools of carp that are less than 10cm long in Cooma Creek which tells us that’s a nursery habitat,” Antia says.
“By recording all these sightings and the anecdotal information, we are starting to build a picture of what’s happening in our catchment.”
Apart from scientific satisfaction, those taking part are also encouraged with free Carp Love 20 t-shirts!
Sadly, carp are now the most abundant large freshwater fish in some areas, including most of the Murray-Darling Basin. They have contributed to the degradation of large sections of natural aquatic ecosystems.
The NSW Department of Primary Industriespoints to the species destructive feeding practices leading to increased turbidity which in turn reduces light penetration, making it difficult for native fish that rely on sight to feed.
“Carp have this way of eating called, mumbling,” Anita says.
“They tear-out a bit of mud, and they suck out the macro-invertebrates and algae, and then they expel that mud out of their gills.”
Reduced light decreases plant growth, while suspended sediments smother plants and clog fishes’ gills.
Anita describes them as “ecosystem engineers” who undermine river banks to create the shallow sludgy environment they prefer.
But carp aren’t the only creatures responsible, poor catchment management practices by people have had a more substantial affect, carp have been clever and have been able to move into already degraded environments and build a lifestyle.
Many native species, including Golden Perch, Murray Cod, Silver Perch and Freshwater Catfish were already in decline before the introduction of these ferals into Australian waterways.
The presence of carp in terms of competition for food and the damage they inflict on freshwater habitats makes it difficult for native fish to re-establish.
In the man-made world, carp are also famous for choking water pumps and swamping irrigation channels.
The mapping of carp hotspots across the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment is important for understanding behaviour and identifying opportunities for control.
The annual Mud Marlin (AKA carp) Fishing Competition run by the Numeralla Fishing Club is a great example of the control effort to date. Over the 13 years of the event, thousands of carp have been fished out of local waterways and disposed of humanely.
Similar events have also been held at Bredbo and Cooma.
Carp warriors across the Snowy Monaro are now gearing up for the next phase in their attack – the carp herpes virus, which will bring on a “carpageddon” according to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
“Research from the CSIRO over the last eight years has looked at all sorts of different fish species, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans – the only thing that gets disease from this virus is the common carp.”
The $11 million program will culminate with the release of the virus towards the end of 2018, the aim is to reduce carp density below levels known to cause environmental harm.
The NCCP is about to undertake a community briefing session flagging a possible local release. South East Local Land Services is co-hosting a session at Goulburn Soldiers Club on Monday, December 18 from 6-8pm.
In the meantime, Antia Braddeman is calling on the community to continue making their contribution.
“Certainly if I am fishing I would not put a carp back, if people do catch carp we just ask that they humanely dispose of them,” Anita says.
“We are certainly finding out some interesting stuff about carp through community reports and observations, which helps with the control programs to come.”
Download the Feral Fish Scan App HERE to add your sightings to the database.
*About Regional stories happen because people become members – thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison and Kerry Newlin, Julie Klugman Jeanie and David Leser, Maria Linkenbagh, Jenny and Arthur Robb, Nigel Catchlove, and Cathy Griff.
One of the best blokes in Bega has just landed his dream job, four decades after he first had a crack.
John Watkin has been in the paint business for close to 40 years, but as a teen, he applied for radio school with the ambition of working on the wireless.
“Radio was my childhood dream and I got rejected,” John remembers.
“This was back in the day when youth unemployment was 30%, jobs were really hard to come by, you had to get a job wherever you could, which is how I ended up in the family business.”
John grabbed the opportunity with both hands, working with his father to build a business that is now one of the pillars of town – Inspirations Paint.
But from Monday, John’s radio dream becomes a reality as the new Morning presenter for East Coast Radio 2EC.
Program Director and 2EC Breakfast presenter, Kim Saker says giving John the job feels right despite his lack of professional radio experience.
“He and I had talked about the idea over a couple of scotches in years gone by,” Kim laughs.
Keen to bring stability to her station when yet another vacancy opened Kim pitched the 50 something painter to the powers that be.
“He doesn’t have the radio skills as such, but he’s got the personality, he’s got the stability, he’s got the maturity, and he’s got the passion – everything else you can teach,” Kim says.
John’s appointment comes at a time when regional media is under pressure and in many country radio stations local content has been replaced by networked programs from the nearest capital city.
Kim says it was localism that sealed the deal.
“The directors of Grant Broadcasters, who own 2EChave the technology to do hubbing, but they believe in keeping it local wherever they can,” she says.
During his years running the paint business and raising three kids with his wife of 30 years Sharon, John has fed his radio dream with a regular painting and decorating segment in Kim’s breakfast program.
“And for the last 10 years when we have our radiothon weekend, John comes into the studio and he and I pretty much spend the whole weekend on air together,” Kim says.
Learning how to drive the radio studio has been the focus for John over the last few weeks of training, getting to know the equipment, being able to respond to a live radio program, and above all getting comfortable in what many people see as an intimidating environment.
Listeners to Kim’s breakfast program might not have realised that on some mornings recently, John has been “paneling” – pressing all the buttons while Kim kept her gums flapping – as only she can!
From Monday (December 4) he’ll need to do it all himself (as country radio presenters do) during his own program.
This boy from Bega who grew up listening to 2EC or 2BE as it used to be known, says it’s been a nerve-racking experience.
“I’ve been self-employed for the last 27 years, this is out of my comfort zone,” John says.
Locals will be familiar with John’s community work through the Bega Chamber of Commerce, Legacy, Anzac and Remembrance Day, Bega Hospital, and more, it’s something he is keen to bring to his new role.
“For me, radio is part of the local community, it’s a connection point, it’s a conduit for the community to share what’s going on,” John says.
“When it comes to fires and floods that’s where radio really steps up, you can get instant news to people.”
John will be on air between 9 and 12 weekdays, treading lightly at first while he gets his bearings, but his plan is to include interviews and discussion in amongst the music that 2EC is known for.
“My day is about connecting with this community, I’ll be talking about what’s happening and how that impacts on our local area,” John says.
The career change is a significant shift in the operations of the paint business John and Sharon continue to run.
“My wife is still not talking to me,” John laughs.
“Sharon is very supportive, she knows I’ve had a passion for radio since before I had a passion for her.
“And the kids think it’s fantastic, they keep hassling me. My daughter has just moved to London and she can’t wait to live-stream me.”
As a 30 year veteran of the industry, Kim Saker says it’s a really nice feeling to make someones radio dream come true.
“My passion for radio started when I was 11, I couldn’t imagine waiting as long as John has,” she says.
“For John to be living the dream now is awesome for me.”
Radio needs real people, country towns need radio, and John Watkin is a welcome addition to the ranks.
*About Regional content is backed by members, including – Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg, Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, and Four Winds at Bermagui.
Aside from a 25-metre, eight-lane pool with ramp access, the full vision for the proposed aquatic centre includes a separate 10m warm-water therapy pool and spa, a freeform indoor leisure pool, that includes learn-to-swim and toddler areas, water-play splash pad, waterslides, gym, group fitness and wellness area.
The pool plan is coupled with a new 500 seat performance and cultural space taking in the current pool site, part of bigger plans that take in the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site and Mackay Park next door.
Both facilities would boast shared amenities, including a foyer, café, visitor information service and associated retail space, administration offices, as well as plant and support services.
Council is looking to take advantage of a ‘pot of gold’ on offer from the NSW and Australian Governments to turn the $46 million vision into a reality.
Around 120 people turned out over the weekend for the “Pack the Pool’ event, disappointed the draft concept plan adopted by Council doesn’t include a new or refurbished 50-metre pool.
One of the organisers, Maureen Searson believes the decision is backward.
“We’ve already got the 50-metres which is catering to an existing group of swimmers,” Ms Searson says.
“It comes down to this idea of community, and bringing the community together, it makes no sense that Council would not build something for the whole community.”
According to the business case developed by planning consultants Otium, a 50-metre pool will cost approximately $6 million more to build and up to $300,000 a year more to operate – in comparison to a 25-metre facility.
Otium pointed to a “limited local market for a 50-metre pool” and suggested stronger demand for a recreation and program/therapy pool space, given the shire’s older and aging population and appeal to the family tourist market.
Ms Searson disagrees suggesting that an indoor 50-metre facility will be a drawcard for visiting representative squads and rebuild a competitive swimming club in the town.
“Families are traveling to Ulladulla for training at the moment because Council has allowed the Bay pool to deteriorate,” Ms Searson suggests.
At the Council meeting of August 29, Mayor Liz Innes rounded out a discussion on the length of the pool by saying, “Ultimately, we will only build what we can afford to maintain.”
To date, Council has ruled out a rate increase to cover the project.
The idea of an indoor, year-round, heated pool has been the long-held dream of the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee. Carolyn Harding is one of those who have been selling raffle tickets for the last 20 years raising funds, “The committee would like to see a 50-metre pool included in the new facility, however, if it is not affordable we will accept a 25-metre pool as long as the rest of the plan is retained,” she says.
“Rather than miss out [on the government funding] and be disadvantaged by that, we are happy to see the 25-metre pool funded along with everything else,” Ms Harding says.
“Arguing over detail and process at this point is only detracting from our goal, which is to achieve government funding to build the facility.”
“First we need to show the NSW and Australian Governments that we have a concept that is excellent and affordable. And we do,” she said.
“Let’s get the facility funded, then we can really start to drill down into the details.”
Simply getting a draft proposal in front of the NSW Government for consideration in this round of the Regional Cultural Fund and the Regional Sports and Infrastructure Fund seems to have been a driver, with speculation that the fund is already oversubscribed and might not advance to a second round.
Council’s across NSW are pitching the dreams of their various communities to Macquarie Street for funding, and everyone wanted to make sure they were there in the first round.
One of the NSW Government’s key selection criteria in considering applications is affordability and viability, a 25-metre pool seems to tick that box in the Eurobodalla’s case.
When asked about the possibility of a 50-metre pool, the State Member for Bega, Andrew Constance told Fairfax there would be no issues with altering the design if affordable.
“Ultimately, running costs will have to be evaluated against other interests in the shire,” he said.
Council says a 50-metre pool was presented as an option, however, “Given the additional construction and operational cost of a 50-metre pool, it is likely that the warm-water program pool or the learn-to-swim area would need to be sacrificed if a 50-metre pool was included,” Council’s website says.
“To include a 50-metre pool would have also weakened our business case, undermining the strength of our grant application and the likelihood of securing the NSW Government grant funds,” Council says.
Maureen Searson’s group, “Fight for Batemans Bay’s 50m Pool” doesn’t accept that a 50-metre pool is still an option given that Council has already adopted the 25-metre option.
The group is hoping to address Council tomorrow (November 28) suggesting that the figures Council is using to argue for a 25-metre pool are wrong.
“One of our supporters, Jeff de Jager has raised questions about the audited financial statements that suggest the total maintenance costs for all three of council’s swimming pools was $229,000 for the year,” Ms Searson says.
“The report also says the gross replacement cost for three pools is $5,134,000.
“We are keen for Council to explain how it is then that a new 50-metre pool would cost an extra $6 million in building costs compared to a 25-metre pool and an extra $300,000 for maintenance annually,” Ms Searson says. *See response that followed from Council below.
News about the dollars flowing from the Cultural Fund could come this week at the Artstate conference in Lismore, shortlisted applicants will be asked to provide further project details in early 2018.
Council’s application for additional funding from the Federal Government’s “Building Better Regions Fund” is being finalised now for submission before December 9.
*About Regional content is funded by members, thank you to 2pi Software, Tathra Beach House Apartments, Kelly Murray, Gabrielle Powell, Tim Holt, Robyn Amair, Wendy and Pete Gorton, Shan Watts, and Doug Reckord.
Much has been said and written about the South East Regional Hospital in 2017 – most of it negative.
And as someone that purports to tell the stories of South East NSW, I haven’t always been sure of how to respond to the growing community concerns around services.
Politics, self-interest, and my own shortcomings have at times muddied the waters for me, and been a handbrake on About Regional coverage. And I didn’t want to add to the avalanche of “hospital bashing” stories.
Paul’s story has changed that, it’s a no bullshit experience that goes to the heart of what a hospital is supposed to provide – care and compassion.
Paul is not his real name. In telling his story Paul doesn’t want to embarrass friends and clients that work at the new facility and has asked to remain anonymous. But he does want change and does want better for the community he has made his home.
Paul is a long time Bega Valley resident, “It’ll be 20 years in February,” he says.
A Victorian by birth, Paul says he followed his dad to Merimbula for a holiday and stayed.
He’s in a longterm relationship, in his fifties and runs his own business.
In early September on a Sunday evening, Paul and his partner called an ambulance to their Bega home.
Paul was having chest pains, “I’d had a few incidents that day, but after dinner, it got worse and worse,” he says.
Sitting in his kitchen with spag bol bubbling in the background, Paul recounts the experience telling me he couldn’t breathe and that the pain got “pretty bad”.
“They kept me in hospital for five hours, did blood tests and told me that I didn’t have a heart attack, [they told me] we think you’ve got angina,” Paul says.
The clock had moved around to 1:30 am by this stage and with a diagnosis in hand, Paul was advised to see his GP during the week.
“They [then] gave me a blanket and said I’d have to walk home,” Paul explains.
Paul arrived at the hospital with his partner five hours earlier via ambulance, they had no car, no way of getting home.
“We have lots of friends, but it was two o’clock in the morning, we didn’t want to impose on people,” he says.
“They [hospital satff] didn’t give me any other option but to walk home.”
No bed was offered, no ride home, just a blanket to guard against the early spring chill.
“I did say – I can’t walk home with angina,” Paul says.
None the less Paul and his partner were tossed out to walk the four and bit kilometres home to the Bega CBD.
“It was a bit scary because I got the pain back when we got down to Glebe Lagoon,” he says.
Paul laughs when he says,”If they are going to make people walk home than they should make sure there’s a footpath all the way.”
Thankfully Paul made it home and was able to see his doctor on the Wednesday.
“It was a chest infection, it’s all good now and I don’t have angina,” he says.
Before publishing Paul’s story I sought comment from the Southern NSW Local Health District.
This is a mistake I thought, people don’t get kicked out of hospital with a blanket at 2am and told to walk home after presenting with chest pains.
In seeking a response I had hoped the Health Service would say, “We are sorry this happened, it won’t happen again.”
After all, around the time of Paul’s experience, the Southern Health CEO and Board Chair were sacked by NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard,
A new manager at South East Regional Hospital (SERH) had started work.
The Health Minister and the Shadow Health Minister had both visited SERH since Paul walked home that night.
Things have changed is what the community is told. No, they haven’t is the impression I am left with.
My request for comment about Paul’s experience was referred to the NSW Health Transport Travel Support Group.
“We are able to perform transport during operational hours if we have capacity but being 2 am, there would have been no capacity,” they said.
“The problem is not that the hospital doesn’t provide transport, but rather that there is only one taxi in Bega and they won’t provide service after hours.
“In cases of hardship we would pay for transport home if there was any available,” the Travel Support Group says.
In my mind, the response fails to understand or address the care that was missing from Paul’s experience that night and undermines assurances that the management and operations at South East Regional Hospital have improved.
Where is the care and compassion we assume will be a part of a visit to any hospital?
How is it that people who were drawn to a caring profession are able to give a sick man a blanket for the walk home but not a bed for the night or a ride home?
Where is the understanding of the regional setting in which this facility operates?
Am I right in thinking the NSW Health Service just dumped on the Bega taxi service?
The Health Minister’s review of hospital operations pointed to the need for a cultural change within SERH – on this count the reform so far has failed.
The new Cheif Executive of Southern NSW Local Health District started work this week. Andrew Newton comes from a nursing background and on ABC radio this week spoke of his understanding and appreciation of small hospitals.
He spoke clearly, compassionately, and with knowledge, and recognised the need to retain and attract good staff. The community is hopefully his words translate into better health experiences.
Paul has made an official complaint about his piss-poor treatment, he is yet to receive a response or assurances it won’t happen to someone else.
In the meantime he hangs on to the blanket staff gave him on that cold, fearful night as proof of his hard to believe experience.
Earlier coverage from About Regional on this issue: