Eurobodalla protesters move in on Member for Gilmore

The Eurobodalla wing of the Refugee Action Collective held a protest today at the office of local MP Ann Sudmalis.

The action was lead by Moruya’s Bernie Richards who has almost 20 years experience with the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Immigration, including time as a Senior Investigator with the People Smuggling Strike Team.

“I used to go to Christmas Island, Broome, Port Hedland etc to do an initial analysis of people arriving by boat to see where they had originated from and whether they had any claims for protection,” Ms Richards says.

“I’ve interviewed hundreds of refugees who made it to Australia by boat when investigating people smuggling organisations.”

Posted by Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla on Tuesday, 22 August 2017

 

The death earlier this month of thirty-one year Hamed Shamshiripour near Lorengau on Manus Island prompted today’s protest action.

“This is the latest in a long line of tragedies in the offshore detention regime for which the Australian Government must be held responsible,” Ms Richards says.

“Many of Hamed’s friends on Manus and in Australia, including myself,  appealed to authorities for treatment for his serious mental health problems. That treatment was not provided.”

The Guardian Australia published a letter on August 9 from the chief medical officer of Australian Border Force,  Dr John Brayley, who twelve months earlier had indicated his awareness and interest in Mr Shamshiripour’s deteriorating mental health.

Questions remain around the Iranian refugee’s death, self-harm and foul play are both being suggested.

After four years in detention on Manus what doesn’t seem to be in dispute is Mr Shamshiripour’s mental state.

ABC journalist Eric Tlozek, who says he knew Mr Shamshiripour wrote, “He [Mr Shamshiripour] became increasingly isolated and desperate. I last glimpsed him alive when I drove through the centre of Lorengau town last month.”

“Then, last week I watched his body being loaded onto an aeroplane. He was leaving Manus Island, but not the way anyone wanted,” Mr Tlozek wrote.

The Guardian reports of, “Shamshiripour’s chaotic presentation, erratic and unpredictable behaviour, and unstable state…the subject of repeated entreaties from health professionals during his time on Manus.”

Ms Richards says even people within the local Manusian community knew that Mr Shamshiripour needed mental health attention and had also appealed to authorities.

“I was personally sent photos of his body. As an ex-police officer, there are indications that Hamed’s death may not have been suicide and this really needs to be investigated independently, Ms Richards says.

“I ‘spoke’ to Hamed quite a few times on Facebook Messenger when he was healthy and not suffering from mental health issues. Once his situation deteriorate and he became more unwell, it became more difficult to connect with him.”

Hamed Shamshiripour who was found dead on Manus Island earlier this month after four years in detention. Source: The Guardian Australia.
Hamed Shamshiripour who was found dead on Manus Island earlier this month after four years in detention. Source: The Guardian Australia.

Those gathered outside the Nowra office of the Liberal Member for Gilmore today feel Australia is responsible for Mr Shamshiripour’s death and argue that the Turnbull Government has a duty of care that is being ignored or forgotten.

Tension seems especially high on Manus at the moment as the Australian Government moves to close the detention centre by the end of October. It seems the future of many of the 803 refugees housed there remains unclear, a deal with the Trump administration to settle detainees in America still unresolved.

Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla believes the publication of the fruity Trump-Turnbull phone conversation suggests that safety and refuge for the 1,200 people on Manus Island and Nauru is false hope.

“Refugees are being placed in a more dangerous and untenable situation,” Ms Richards suggests.

“Further tragedy is inevitable unless the Australian government pursues a humanitarian policy and brings those on Manus and Nauru to Australia.”

Today’s group of 20 – 30 protesters tried to speak with Ms Sudmalis but were told she was out of the office on other business.

“Sadly we have found that our local member is just not listening or doing the work that she should, despite at least two years of trying to engage with her,” Ms Richards says.

“At her last village stop in Moruya,  Ms Sudmalis expressed shock that there were children still in detention, despite us repeatedly flagging this as an important issue.

“We have provided factual information to her on more than one occasion, but she ignores any approaches we make,” Ms Richrads says.

As at June 30, the Department of Immigration reported 42 children in the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru.

Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla suggests close to 130 other kids are living in the community on Nauru.

“That’s lives left without proper health care, education, or safety, and Ann Sudmalis as our local member of parliament presides over that,” Ms Richards says.

About Regional spoke with and emailed the office of Ann Sudmalis for comment on Monday ahead of today’s protest, no response has been received.

The group says it will also be presenting its concerns to the Labor candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, and Mike Kelly, the sitting Labor member for the neighbouring seat of Eden-Monaro.

Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla protesting today outside of the Member for Gilmore's office. Source: RAC Eurobodalla Facebook
Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla protesting today outside of the Member for Gilmore’s office. Source: RAC Eurobodalla Facebook

“Both the Liberal – National Government and the Labor Party continue to peddle the misconception that they have stopped the boats and that mandatory detention has resulted in deterring people and stopping people smugglers,” Ms Richards says.

“Those detained on Manus and Nauru are in effect the human hostages of this approach, losing their lives and their human rights as a result of such a deeply warped policy.

“Australia has had a successful past of settling refugees. We can seek to solve problems, draw on our past successes and just evacuate them before there are more deaths or injuries,” Ms Richards pleads.

The Refugee Action Collective has raised over $17,000 in the Eurobodalla to date for emergency legal and medical responses on Manus.

“Regional people have big hearts,” Ms Richards says.

“We see the value of mateship, of a fair go, and how we are actually connected, by virtue of our Government’s actions, and our tax payer money being spent on locking up people and breaking human rights.”

Thanks to About Regional members – Cathy Griff, Patrick and Meagan O’Halloran, Kym Mogridge, and Rosemary Lord for supporting local news and stories.

 

 

Hall of Service to take soil from 65 South East locations

NSW Governor, David Hurley collects a sample of soil with members of Narooma RSL sub-branch looking on. By Ian Campbell
NSW Governor, David Hurley collects a sample of soil with members of Narooma RSL sub-branch looking on. By Ian Campbell

Soil collected from sixty-five war memorials across South East New South Wales will be featured in a new state memorial honouring First World War veterans and their hometowns.

The Office of Veterans Affairs is overseeing the program, which is collecting soil from almost 1,700 WW1 enlistment locations for an art installation in what will be known as the Hall of Service at the revamped Hyde Park memorial in the centre of Sydney.

An artists impression of what the Hall of Service will look like when complete in 2018. Source: anzacmemorial.nsw.gov.au
An artists impression of what the Hall of Service will look like when complete in 2018. Source: anzacmemorial.nsw.gov.au

Narooma is one of 15 Eurobodalla locations identified for the program, and one of the first local spots where soil has been collected. NSW Governor, His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley who visited the Shire this week was the one to do the honours.

Other South East locations include:

Adaminaby

Batemans Bay

Bega

Bergalia

Bermagui

Berridale

Bibbenluke

Bimbaya

Bodalla

Bombala

Bredbo

Broadwater

Burragate

Candelo

Cathcart

Central Tilba

Cobargo

Colinton

Conjola

Cooma

Craigie

Dalgety

Delegate

Dignams Creek

Eden

Eurobodalla

Jerangle

Jindabyne

Jervis Bay

Jingera

Kameruka

Kanoona

Kiandra

Maharatta

Merimbula

Michelago

Milton

Monaro

Moruya

Myalla

Narooma

Nelligen

Nerrigundah

Nethercote

Nimmitabel

Numeralla

Pambulla

Quaama

Rock Flat

Rockton

Rocky Hall

Roasedale

South Pambula

South Wolumla

Stony Creek

Tathra

Tilba Tilba

Tomakin

Towamba

Ulladulla

Wagonga

Wolumla

Woodlands

Wyndham

Yatte Yattah

Linda Hurley chats to Narooma school kids about life in Government House. By Ian Campbell.
Linda Hurley chats to Narooma school kids about life in Government House. By Ian Campbell.

When complete, memorial visitors will be able to learn about each location via their personal digital devices.

The information presented will include details on the soil collection, the names of enlistees who gave that location as their home address, and maps showing the local area and its surrounding memorials and schools.

The simple soil collection program forms part of a $40 million enhancement of the memorial marking the centenary of World War 1.

Works are on track for opening on Remembrance Day 2018, which will bring to life the original 1930’s vision for the space and include a second water feature and new educational areas.

NSW Governor, David Hurley told About Regional, war memorials like this are a reminder of the strength of service and sacrifice for current day service women and men and of the history they are a part of.

His Excellency believes the new Hall of Service will be stunning and emotional…

This story was made with the assistance of About Regional members Wendy and Pete Gorton, Amanda Dalziel, Phil Martin, and Olwen Morris – thank you for supporting local story telling.

Marriage equality – have you got the energy for this? South East locals hope you do.

'Love Makes a Family' as seen at the 2016 Sydney Mardi Gras
‘Love Makes a Family’ as seen at the 2017 Sydney Mardi Gras. Source: C and N

The disappointment around the postal plebiscite on marriage equality is real and bitter for many, but it seems it is the only course of action available to bury this boring issue once and for all.

Boring because for so long the vast majority of Australian’s have understood that ‘Love is Love’ yet the months/years of political scratching around has disillusioned and disengaged the community.

There are those challenging this process in the High Court of Australia, describing it as unlawful; the full bench of the court will decide  on September 5 and 6.

The wheels of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, who will run this show, will continue to spin regradless – getting ready for the survey which is due to start just a week after the High Court decision.

While those in our community at the sharp end of this cheer on the High Court challenge, in the back of their mind they are also laying the ground work for the campaign ahead – mobilising as many people as possible to vote ‘yes’ in this non-compulsory process.

Bega Valley LGBTIQ advocate, Tas Fitzer says it took him a couple of days of reflection to work out the way ahead.

“I really understand the temptation for supporters of marriage equality to say ‘I am not voting, I am boycotting this process’, because it’s not a process we’d like to legitimise,” Tas says.

“We are giving a platform to debate that is going to be harmful to children of same sex couples, for young LGBTIQ people, and for people struggling with their identity.

“We don’t want to be here but we are here, this is something we have to deal with and the best way to deal with it is to take it head on,” he reasons.

Tas Fitzer. Source: Facebook
Tas Fitzer. Source: Facebook

Tas says he’ll be voting ‘yes’ and will be actively campaigning for others to do the same.

“Disagree with the process – absolutely, disagree with how it’s being done – absolutely, but let’s accept the fact we are here and make the most of it,” Tas says.

C and N are women who live on the Sapphire Coast and have been together for over two decades, they have a teenage son and are active members of a range of community and sporting organisations.

They have asked me not to use their names, mindful of the impact any publicity might have on their boy.

“For the first time in a very long time, I feel different and vulnerable, and that I have to somehow show evidence of how healthy, normal, and loving my relationship is with both my partner and son,” C says.

“How I live my life day to day and how I parent our child is under the microscope for those who don’t know us.

“And, I’m embarrassed for Australia – friends, colleagues, clients, people I know, across the age span, those with faith and those without, really don’t understand what the problem is, there is this sense of – really, we are still talking about marriage equality?,” C says.

Reflecting on the weeks ahead C and N believe there will be a relatively small but vocal group of people who will feel the postie poll gives them permission to voice their bigotry, to judge, attack, and say dreadful, hurtful, untrue and damaging things about the LGBTIQ community.

If it goes ahead, the result of the poll will be known on November 15 but it will be parliamentarians that ultimately decide if the Mariage Act can include same sex couples.

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has said he’ll be encouraging a ‘yes’ vote and if ‘yes’ wins his Liberal MP’s will be free to vote according to their conscience.

ABC South East reported this week that Anne Sudmalis, the Liberal Member for Gilmore which covers the northern end of the Eurobodalla, won’t reveal her personal view on same sex marriage.

The ABC said that Ms Sudmalis would stand up for what her electorate decides.

A survey on the issue conducted by Ms Sudmalis in October 2015 pointed to 62 percent approval for marriage equality in Gilmore, 36 percent were opposed, while the rest undecided – the ABC reported.

Colourful tutus with a clear message
Colourful Bega Valley tutus with a clear message at the 2017 Sydney Mardi Gras. Source: C and N

Labor’s Mike Kelly, the Federal Member for the neighbouring seat of Eden – Monaro told About Regional, “The fastest and cheapest way to deliver marriage equality is through a free vote in the Parliament, not a $122 million survey.”

“If we are going to be forced to take part in this farce then I think the best thing we can do is send the Turnbull Government a message they can’t ignore – vote yes for marriage equality,” Dr Kelly says.

Dr Kelly is urging eligible voters to enroll or update their details with the Australian Electoral Commission before August 24 so that they can take part in the marriage law survey.

The former Army colonel is hopeful the campaign ahead will be respectful and tolerant.

“I plead with everyone in our community to exercise the utmost civility and join with me in urging that we all refrain from engaging in misinformation or hurtful comments,” Dr Kelly says.

Twenty-one-year old Tas Fitzer is of a similar mindset.

“The mental health of some of our young LGBTIQ people is of real concern to me,” he says.

“That’s why I have decided to get out there and campaign for a ‘yes’ vote so that they can see there are people out there to support them.”

Click play to hear more from Tas…

 

Speaking with C and N in fading light this afternoon, both fear some in the community who would vote ‘yes’ are now unmotivated to take part given the level of discussion the issue has had over an extended period of time.

“Many people honestly don’t understand what the fuss is about and are exhausted by this debate,” N says.

“Because same sex marriage seems a no brainer to them, I’d implore people to realise that unfortunately for some Australians the idea is frightening and abhorrent.

“Giving free reign to people to say whatever they like, to judge us simply for not living our lives like them is scary, scary for us now and for the next generations,” N explains.

Both are hopeful people will push past the grubby, lengthy politics of the issue and find the energy and motivation to say ‘yes’.

Writing for About Regional almost 12 months ago on this issue, Iain Dawson the convener of Bega Valley for Marriage Equality asked people to walk in his shoes…

“John Howard’s change [to the Marriage Act] in 2004 defined marriage as ‘a union between a man and woman only’.

“I am incredulous that Australia still judges my relationship with the man I love, ‘to the exclusion of all others’ as less than equal to my peers, friends, and family.

“For those not yet convinced; put yourself in that equitation and see how it feels, what it says to your soul.

“80% of Australians want our leaders to change the Marriage Act.

“The majority of my countrymen see my relationship as equal; that gives me and the LGBTIQ community strength and hope,” Iain wrote.

Whatever happens in the High Court on September 5 and 6 this issue will remain unresolved, work still needs to be done to finish this, energy needs to be mustered.

As a heterosexual father of three, with friends and family seeking equality that I take for granted, I will find that energy, despite the shit sandwich we are being served, I ask you to do the same.

Thanks to About Regional members – Tim HoltAmanda StroudDeborah Dixon, and Nastasia Campanella for supporting local story telling.

Declaration: Tas Fitzer is a part-time Electorate Officer for Mike Kelly and former Country Labor candidate.

 

Calling candidates for Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council
Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council. Source: SMRC

The wheels of democracy are starting to spin again across the High Country with nominations now open for candidates at the September 9 Local Council Election.

Eleven councilors will sit in the chamber of the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which has been run for the past 15 months by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

In his role as Administrator, Mr Lynch called on the advice and input of Local Representative Committees covering the former shires of Snowy River, Cooma-Monaro, and Bombala.

Ultimately though final decisions fell to Mr Lynch, an arrangement put in place by the NSW Government and one many have described as undemocratic.

Mr Lynch, who says he won’t be standing on September 9 says he understands the criticism but has enjoyed the opportunity despite feeling burnt out.

He says the whole merger process has got people thinking more about local government and perhaps has inspired some locals to stand for election.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of new faces,” Mr Lynch says.

Nominations opened on Monday and will close at Midday on Wednesday, August 9 through the Electoral Commission on NSW.

In the lead-up, Snowy Monaro Regional Council held candidate info sessions in Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala.

Leanne Atkinson sat on Snowy River Shire Council between 1999 and 2003 and has stood as a Labor candidate for the NSW Parliament in the seat of Bega a number of times since, she says it can feel like a ‘leap of faith’ when you first put your name forward for election.

“You really aren’t sure what you are doing at the beginning,” Ms Atkinson told About Regional.

“You need to get the message out about yourself and what differentiates you from other people.”

Ms Atkinson says she went into her first campaign with issues she felt connected to and could speak on.

“I was a young mum, and was very aware of the constraints there were for families in the area and what services were available for them,” she says.

“That was how I went into that first campaign, looking at services for families, for young people, ” she says.

Ms Atkinson says she never considered standing for council until a couple of people suggested it to her.

“I said I can’t see myself doing this, there are all those people sitting around that table, all that procedure, I couldn’t do that.

“The funny thing is that once you are elected you realise that you absolutely can be at that table,” Ms Atkinson says.

And once you are elected what is the job of a new councilor on Snowy Monaro Regional Council?

Ms Atkinson believes the role goes beyond the popular catchphrase of ‘roads, rubbish, and rates’.

“There are a lot of demands on Council, and the role a Councilor is to have a strategic view, to set the tone, and to set the direction,” she says.

“It’s really important to engage effectively with the community.”

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC

The merger process, taking three council areas into one has left smaller communities concerned that they will be over looked by the big new entity shaped by the Baird – Berejiklian Government.

Leanne Atkinson believes it’s incumbent on the eleven new councilors to think beyond their own home town.

“Don’t focus just on the big towns, there are little communities where those people matter and are just as important as the people in the bigger towns,” she says.

“You have to be aware that you are there for the whole community.”

But there is some strategic advice from this Labor stalwart for smaller centres keen to see one of their own elected.

“I have a view that the amalgamations shouldn’t have been forced, but the fact is it’s amalgamated,” Ms Atkinson says.

“The community needs people who are going to move the shire forward in it’s new form.

“Maybe some smaller communities should get together and ask, who is the one person who could represent us well?” she says.

Find a candidate and get the community behind them seems to be the advice.

“I lived in Berridale for a while, and if it was me in a community like that, I’d be pulling people together and saying, okay we want representation on this council, who can we advocate for and increase our chances of getting someone elected,” Ms Atkinson suggests.

Reflecting on her council time, Ms Atkinson says it was one of the best experiences of her life, she is keen to see a diverse range of candidates stand for election on September 9.

“There were lots of little things that I would look at and think, we can do better than that.”

“If you are willing to work you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve,” Ms Atkinson says.

Thanks to About Regional Members, Simon Marnie, Alison Oakley, Linda Albertson, and Kiah Wilderness Tours for supporting local story telling.

Festival of Daring Possibilities asks – What if? Big picture thinking in Bega.

Cayce Hill
Cayce Hill

The ‘Festival of Daring Possibilities’ at the Funhouse in Bega has asked people to think big and solicited ideas that lead to new solutions and attitudes.

In stimulating the discussion, Funhouse founder, Cayce Hill said, “It’s the people not like us that make us grow.”

Cayce urging her audience of 30 people or more to inspire each other with their differences and unique perspectives.

“We’ve stopped telling the story of who we are and why, our identity gets weaker,” Cayce said.

The Festival was held as part of first birthday celebrations for the Funhouse, which over the last 12 months has become a hub for a range of artistic, sporting, social, and youth interests.

This old video shop come ‘community centre’ is itself a result of the big picture thinking the ‘Festival of Daring Possibilities’ looks to encourage.

“I started this place looking for a community, creating a space where not only I felt comfortable but also a place that welcomes and values strangers,” Cayce said.

Bega Valley Shire Councillor, Jo Dodds was also one of those planting seeds in the discussion.

“I love that random encounter and the challenge of finding common ground,” she said.

“We need to help the people in our community who are scared or afraid of difference.”

Offering an indigenous insight was Djiringanj and Ngarigo women, Tamika Townsend, who grew up in the Bega Valley but now works in Canberra across Aboriginal employment initiatives and more broadly – reconciliation.

“What if we could just start again?” Tamika pondered.

“What if the Djiringanj culture was more visible in this community?”

Tamika Townsend
Tamika Townsend

With family adding weight to Tamika’s message, Aunty Colleen Dixon spoke with strength to a captivated room about her experience growing up in Bega.

She spoke of not feeling welcome in town and an ever present racist attitude across every aspect of life.

“I was the eldest, and I remember walking along the river at Jellet one night with my brothers and sisters and bullets flying over our head, I just told them to get down,” Aunty Colleen said.

“There is a lot of trauma in this community,” Tamika said.

“Our history is very recent, there are people still traumatised.”

When asked to answer the question – What if? Aunty Colleen responded, “What if we had a cultural centre?”

The Djiringanj Elder suggesting such a space would bring all cultures together and create opportunities for connection and understanding, and build pride and purpose in her people.

Two more nights of discussion will roll out as part of the Festival of Daring Possibilities at the Funhouse – August 18 and September 15.

With a dinner of curry and spices infused in the air last Saturday night, festival goers were asked to add ideas to a wall of what if’s?

Click on each photo for a bigger view, and feel free to add your own ‘What if?’ in the comments box below…

Thanks to About Regional members Phil Martin, Gabrielle Powell, and Deborah Dixon for empowering local stories.

 

 

 

 

Head garbos point to new opportunities in the local ‘war on waste’

Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

‘Head garbos’ across the region have welcomed the supermarket ban on light weight plastic bags but are looking to new opportunities and challenges in their ever present ‘war on waste’.

Woolworths and Coles were tripping over themselves in announcing the news last week, both committing to a phase out of single use bags over the next 12 months.

Shoppers will be asked to bring their own bags or be charged 15 cents for a heavier weight, reusable plastic bag.

“This will significantly change the number of bags going to any landfill or transfer station,” says Mandy Thurling, Rescouse and Waste Manager for Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

In the Eurobodalla, Amanda Jones, Council’s Manager of Waste Services says, “This is great news, keeping problem waste from entering the environment.”

While also welcoming the action, Toby Browne, Waste Services Manager for Bega Valley Shire Council has signaled a need for further change, “It’s a move in the right direction but definitely more needs to be done to reduce packaging and other soft plastic waste.”

Environmental groups have been campaigning for a plastic bag ban for decades, and while some states and towns have imposed restrictions, the ABC TV series “War on Waste” seemed to inject new momentum into the national discussion.

Clean Up Australia estimates six billion plastic bags are handed out every year, with just 4% recycled.

Let loose in the environment they choke, smother, and tangle wildlife.

The supermarket ban doesn’t go far enough according to Clean Up Australia, who continue to lobby the Premiers of New South Walse, Victoria, and Western Australia for an out right ban.

“Hopefully more commercial premises will come on board and ban the bag,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

Given their ‘last for forever nature’ all three South East councils will have to continue to manage plastic bags and soft plastics into the future.

A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.
A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.

Apart from taking up tip space, the Eurobodalla’s Amanda Jones says, “Plastic bags at landfill sites get caught by the wind and need to be managed by catching them in litter fences and manual litter picking.”

Toby Brown is frustrated by plastic bag contamination of other waste streams at his Bega Valley facilities.

“When they contaminate recycling and organic waste streams, they must be manually removed,” he says.

With that Amanda Jones jumps in.

“Please don’t put your recycling in plastic bags!” she says.

“The bags don’t always fall open to allow recyclables to be sorted.”

The recent introduction of  REDcyle bins at Coles supermarkets in Bega, Eden, Batemans Bay, Ulladulla, and Cooma is part of the equation Mandy Thurling is hoping locals might take up.

REDcycle bins not only take plastic bags but the soft plastic wrapping and packaging many products come smothered in.

REDcycle askes you to do the scrunch test, “If it’s soft plastic and can be crunched into a ball, it can be placed into a REDcycle drop off bin,” their website says.

The material collected is transformed into a range of products including street furniture, decking, and bollards by Replas.

“Council is always looking at the next step in reducing waste to landfill, this could be by reducing all soft plastics and finding alternate recycling avenues for this material,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

In the Eurobodalla, where Council runs their own recycling facility the ‘war on waste’ is reaching new heights.

Crushed waste glass is starting to be used instead of quarried sand in road construction projects.

The sand substitute has just been tested in Murray Street, Moruya where 63 tonnes of the local product was used to install new drainage culverts and reconstruct the road.

“The crushed glass has proven to be a viable product to replace sand in concrete mixes,” Council’s Works Manager, Tony Swallow says.

“It does need to be treated differently to bedding sand but our crews are happy with the performance,” he says.

Around 30 tonnes of sand like substance is produced each week at the Materials Recycling Facility in Moruya; glass represents 40% of the 5,200 tonnes of recyclables collected in the Eurobodalla each year.

“The savings to our environment and Council’s materials budget are significant,” Mr Swallow says.

Polystyrene is the other win in the Eurobodalla’s waste war.

Known for making a mighty mess, up until now polystyrene had taken up valuable landfill space at Surf Beach and Brou.

The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

With a $30,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Authority, Council has installed a thermal compaction machine at its Surf Beach facility.

“The process reduces the volume and turns polystyrene into a hard white substance,” Mr Swallow explains.

“Our contractor is shipping it to China where the material is made into items like picture frames.

“What has made this such a success is that we have supplied local businesses that have a lot of polystyrene packaging with metal frames and wool bales to easily collect the material,” Mr Swallow says.

Council estimates the move will save them $100,000 worth of landfill space each year, with other savings spinning off to local electronic businesses and supermarkets in reduced waste disposal fees.

Bega Valley Shire is looking to do more with waste and is currently developing a waste strategy.

“Our key areas are likely to be addressing food waste recycling and improving local economic opportunity in recycling and resource recovery,” Mr Browne says.

“It’s great to see business making meaningful change in response to community concern. Change creates opportunities.”

At the start of July, Snowy Monaro Regional Council introduced a fully commingled recycling service for the Cooma kerbside collection area

“This allows locals to place recyclable items in the yellow lidded recycling bin,” Mandy Thurling says.

“There is no longer a need to separate paper and cardboard into the black crate.”

Council is now considering giving households a larger capacity recycling bin – more room to recycle.

The action, appetite, and ideas that swirl in this discussion points us in the right direction and into a better position to win the ‘war on waste’ locally.

*Thank you to About Regional member Tim Holt for his contribution to local story telling.

Disclaimer: Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council

 

 

Postcard 2 from Timor Leste, touch down in Dili. By Tim Holt

Dili Harbour, beauty lined with plastic water bottles.
Dili Harbour, beauty lined with plastic water bottles.

The Air North flight from Darwin to Dili can take 76 passengers and it’s a full house. Two Australian school groups and their teachers, all bubbling with excitement for the adventure that lies ahead.

One group is bearing gifts of ukuleles, fourteen in all. I imagine a Timorese ukulele orchestra in the making.

We land in Dili a little after 7am, having flown over the south coast and Natabora but overcast skies have shrouded our view until we descend below the clouds.

The passage through check in and customs is slow but neither the grey skies or the form filling-in can dull the anticipation.

The morning in this city of 265,000 people is warm and sticky but not as warm as the welcome Dave and I receive from Jose Da Costa, his partner Lucy and two beautiful daughters, two and six years old, and Augus – he is to be our traveling companion for the week ahead. The eldest girl, Moira steps forward and presents us with personalised Timor Leste Tais.

It is a beautiful and touching little ceremony for both of us and Jose is unable to shield us from the warmth, respect, and love he displays. Dave and Jose go back to 2008 when Jose was employed by the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste, their friendship is warm and they fall into easy conversation about family and life in the five years since Dave was last here.

Our transport is Jose’s Toyota Land Cruiser wagon. Dave made all these arrangements with Jose several months ago. Over the next eight days, we will spend many hours over some fairly challenging roads, the white Toyota proving a worthy beast.

From the airport, we drive thru Dili to Jose’s home in the Comoro Suco overlooking Tasitolu. It is my first glimpse of Dili, and I am absorbed by the sights, sounds, and smells.

The traffic is chaotic; motor scooters are the main transport – there’s a dad with a small child on his lap, mum holding a bub to her breast as they weave thru the morning traffic of buses, cars, SUV’s, 4WD’s, numerous state vehicles known as ‘Kareta Estadio’, trucks, water tankers, and the ubiquitous yellow Dili taxi.

Jose De Costa
Jose Da Costa

The atmosphere is humid and thick, the acrid smell of wood smoke from roadside stalls and homes is all pervasive.

The grandeur of embassies, government buildings, and modern shopping malls is mixed with Portuguese architecture, humble abodes, roadside stalls and markets made of rusting tin.

Dili, as is the case in much of the country, is a city in transformation. Construction everywhere. Businesses, many of which are Chinese, selling everything from hardware to electronics and all that plastic crap that is endemic around the world.

The roadside litter takes me by surprise, plastic water bottles, and bags everywhere. Not just by the road but around shops and market stalls, along the beachfront, in drains and waterways.

As I am to discover Dili has little or no reticulated drinking water, or sewerage system for that matter. Grey water runs in roadside drains. Shops and market stalls sell water all over the island. From city to village – plastic water bottles are endemic.

On the way to Jose’s home, we stop at a bakery for fresh bread rolls. Tasitolu is about 8 kms from the centre of Dili.

Tasitolu is the site of three saline lakes. It is described as a protected area – a designated Wetland of National Significance for its ecological, historic and cultural significance. (See video above)

However, this is the dry season on the north side of the island. And Dili is dry. Very, very dry.

We cross a vast dry flat mud, salt pan beside a shallow lake, the edges littered with plastic and garbage.

There are homes built around the edges, I wonder what happens in the wet season. The homes are of concrete block construction. On a raised footing of stone and cement and mostly tin roofs. The disparity of wealth is starkly obvious.

Jose and his family live on the rising land overlooking Tasitolu. The home is still under construction with an upper level yet to be completed.

His is a household of at least 16 people – his family plus perhaps ten or more young men and women he is supporting with accommodation, food, and fees while they study. They come from his home village of Oecusse, a Timorese enclave in Indonesian West Timor and elsewhere.

One of his enterprises is making stone and cement pots which provide income and work for his extended family.

Our first meal in Dili – breakfast including bread roll, egg, sliced cheese, and coffee.

These cement and pebble pots support Jose and his extended family. Pebbles a plenty in Timor Leste.
These cement and pebble pots support Jose and his extended family. Pebbles a plenty in Timor Leste.

The coffee is from roasted Timorese beans. The ground coffee is simply put in a jug, pot, or thermos with hot water and sugar. Much sugar! Cloyingly sweet to my taste. But the coffee is good. I make a mental note to avoid the sugar wherever possible.

The hospitality in these few short hours has been almost overwhelming. It is to become the enduring and endearing feature of our stay here.

Our home during our time in Dili is Fatuhada, the Carmelite Convent near the centre of the city.

We arrive to a welcome from several of the sisters and another breakfast. Tea, bread rolls, sliced cheese, and jam, with bottled water. My plan for losing a kilo or two while here is looking doubtful. Lunch and dinner with the sisters that day is further confirmation.

It is now after 10 am Dili time and both Dave and myself are in need of rest. It’s been more than 24 hours since either of us have had real sleep, there’s some time for a nap and wash before lunch with the sisters at 12.30.

Lunch is more substantial than breakfast, rice, steamed greens, salad, noodles with chicken, bananas, and apples. The bananas are small, from the palms within the convent’s garden – sweet and delicious, fresh and still on the bunch. They are a feature of most meals at Fatuhada.

There are about 19 sisters and acolytes gathered for lunch. They are warm and friendly, and I feel very welcomed. Several have been to the Bega Valley as guests of the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste and they are excited to see us and talk face to face of the wonderful contribution the advocates have made and the enduring friendship formed with the Bega Valley.

Jose and Augus return at 2 and we head off a trip to along the coast of Dili Harbour. First to Cape Fatucama at the eastern end of the Harbour, where in 1988 Indonesia’s former president Suharto built a statue of Christ. But because it was built by the dictator it was not popular with the Timorese. The Cristo Rei (Christ the King), was a failed attempt by Indonesia to dissuade East Timor from demanding independence.

On the western point of the harbour there stands a giant statue of the late Pontiff, Pope John Paul ll.

When dozens of East Timorese students defied Indonesian security forces and rioted in front of Pope John Paul II in October 1989, Indonesia’s brutal rule was highlighted to the world for the first time in years.

Jose Da Costa, his partner Lucy and their eldest daughter Moira, named after Moira Collins, pictured here with husband Jim. Both founding members of the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste. This photo hangs on Jose and Lucy's wall.
Jose Da Costa, his partner Lucy and their eldest daughter Moira, named after Moira Collins, pictured here with husband Jim. Both founding members of the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste. This photo hangs on Jose and Lucy’s wall.

Twenty years on the statue of the late Pontiff was erected as a symbol of renewed hope for the people of Timor Leste. The Pope’s face looks towards Dili’s western outskirts where the riot took place.

There is some confusion in articles I have read from that time.

One refers to the statue as being a six-metre high bronze statue, another describes it as a ten-metre concrete construction. Either way, it is massively impressive.

There is also some contradiction around the 1989 riot during the mass held by Pope John Paul II, as to whether rioters were angry at the Pope for calling for an end to the violence and reconciliation with Indonesia or whether they were inspired by the Pope’s message. Whatever the true motivation for the riot, the Pope’s visit focused world attention on the Indonesians and East Timor and is seen by many Timorese as galvanising a determination for independence.

Our afternoon is spent in Comoro with Lorenzo and his family, friends of Jose and Augus. Timorese coffee, strong and black, conversation shared about family, life in Dili, study, work and survival.

I’m learning that everyone has a mobile phone, they are as common as the plastic water bottles. The fixed line and telecommunications network was destroyed by the Indonesians in 1999. Though somewhat reinstated since, mainly in Dili, mobiles have taken over. By 2015 94% of the population could access mobile and internet services. And they do. Coverage seems to be 4G with at least three providers, Timor Telecom, Telstra, and Vietnamese provider Viettel.

Dave Crowden with Jose at his home, Dave wearing a traditional Tais.
Dave Crowden with Jose at his home, Dave wearing a traditional Tais.

Timor Leste’s young population is perhaps also driving the mobile take-up. This is a country of 1.2 million people, where 50% of the population is under 25 and 40% under 15.

Over coffee, we talk of Chinese business and investment in roads and power. It is a contentious issue for many Timorese.

We take our leave with a warm farewell, bundle into the Toyota for the drive back to Fatuhada for the evening meal with the sisters – rice, chicken, spicy steamed greens, spinach, a side dish of deliciously hot salty chili, a cup of tea and of course bottled water.

What a day it has been. Nearly forty hours with just snatches of shut-eye on the three flights that brought us here, and a nap this morning before lunch. Sleep beckons with visions of generosity, joyous smiles, and the contradiction of poverty and wealth, but above all those faces that break into gorgeous smiles.

More to come…

Click HERE to catch up on Postcard 1.

Words and pictures by Tim Holt.

*Tim Holt retired as Mornings Presenter at ABC South East NSW in December 2015 after a three-decade radio career.

Thanks to About Regional Member Robyn Amair and her contribution to local story telling.

 

Bronnie Taylor sticks with State politics, says ‘no’ to Eden-Monaro seat

NSW Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro, John Barilaro addresses the first meeting of the Cooma-Snowy Nationals Branch in Cooma on July 10. Source: Nationals for Eden-Monaro FB
NSW Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro, John Barilaro addresses the first meeting of the Cooma-Snowy Nationals Branch in Cooma on July 10. Source: Nationals for Eden-Monaro FB

One of The National Party’s strongest voices in South East NSW has moved to end speculation about her political ambitions.

Monaro local, Bronnie Taylor says she won’t stand for preselection if The National’s decide to contest Eden-Monaro at the next Federal Election.

Commentary has been building since The National’s launched a Cooma – Snowy Branch in early July.

Despite the sitting State Member for Monaro, being the National’s John Barilaro, the move to establish a local branch has been interpreted as a tilt at the bigger Federal seat. Talk suggesting the Nationals are either playing push back against their coalition partner the Liberal Party or will be an ally and direct preferences to sure up their conservative comrades.

Mrs Taylor has been a member of the NSW Upper House for the last two years, a gear change after being Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council while combining a nursing career.

Her high profile and popularity in the electorate and recent appearance alongside the Prime Minister in Cooma had political commentators tipping Mrs Taylor as a possible Nationals candidate in a three-way contest for Eden-Monaro.

Speaking to About Regional, the NSW Parliamentary Secretary for the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW moved to squash such talk once and for all.

“I ran for State politics because I really care about the things that State politics is in charge of, things like health and education and really important social issues, and I am really happy where I am,” Mrs Taylor says.

Earlier media comments seemed to leave the door open, Mrs Taylor says she was taken by surprise but is now moving to clarify her position and will not be contesting Eden-Monaro.

“I think it’s really important that we have Members of Parliament that are in places where their strengths lie, and my strength lies in the work that I am able to do at the moment,” Mrs Taylor says.

With six years still to run on her NSW Parliamentary term, Mrs Taylor says she is confident a strong Nationals candidate will be preselected for Eden-Monaro if that’s what the party decides.

Going into the 2016 Federal Poll, the ‘bellwether’ seat was held by the Liberal’s, Peter Hendy.

Mrs Taylor believes Mr Hendy lost to Labor’s Mike Kelly because he wasn’t present or connected to the people.

Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro. Source: Mike Kelly FB page
Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro. Source: Mike Kelly FB page

Mike Kelly regained the seat he lost to Hendy three years earlier with a 5.84% swingHowever, the seat which takes in Tumut, Queanbeyan, Jindabyne, Narooma, Bega and Eden is still seen as marginal, and perhaps leaning towards the Coalition.

The sitting member says he isn’t surprised the Nationals are interested in Eden-Monaro and if they do contest the ballot it will be the first time they have done so since 1993.

In a blog posted last week, Mr Kelly wrote that the news was further evidence the Turnbull Coalition Government was “falling to pieces.”

“Instead of focusing on issues like jobs, penalty rates, schools and Medicare – the Turnbull Coalition are focusing on themselves,” Mr Kelly wrote.

“The last thing the people of Eden-Monaro need is two Turnbull Coalition candidates bringing their Canberra power games into our local politics again.”

Mrs Taylor rejects any sense of political games.

“The [Coalition] agreement is that if we have a sitting candidate then you don’t run against them,” Mrs Taylor says.

“We don’t at the moment we have a Labor member, and so if the National Party is keen to run I really hope they do.”

Mrs Taylor says voters deserve a range of candidates to choose from.

“The voters will decide and they will vote for people on merit and they have shown that,” she says.

“They showed it last time [2016 Election] when the infamous bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro didn’t go with the Government because people chose a candidate they wanted for that time.”

Mrs Talyor hopes next time voters don’t choose the Labor candidate.

“But if they do they first deserve to have a choice between the Liberals and the Nationals,” she says.

Bronnie Taylor and PM Malcolm Turnbull, speaking about Snowy Hydro 2.0 in Cooma on June 28.
Bronnie Taylor and PM Malcolm Turnbull, speaking about Snowy Hydro 2.0 in Cooma on June 28.

“I love being part of the National Party, I really think they are the best party for rural and regional New South Wales.”

The NSW Liberal Party meets in Sydney this coming weekend to decide on how it’s candidates will be preselected for the next Federal Poll which isn’t due until late 2018 or early 2019. Former PM, Tony Abbott is pushing for greater grassroots involvement.

Local Liberals keen to contest Eden-Monaro at this stage are said to be Jerry Nockles, former Hendy staffer and current Head of Government Relations with UNICEF Australia and retired Major General, Jim Molan.

Labor’s Mike Kelly has a tip for any candidate that stands, “At the last Federal Election…they [voters] sent a clear message; they want their Federal Member of Parliament to be a person who is passionate about the region, works hard and listens to them.”

Feminism forum looks for local relevance and perspective

Join the forum on July 26, everyone is welcome
Join the forum on July 26, everyone is welcome

An open forum later this month is looking to find a local perspective and relevance around ‘Feminism in the 21st Century’.

It’s a topic that I instinctively pull away from but strangely am drawn to at the same time.

The women who lead these discussions continue to throw up modern experiences I struggle to identify with but none the less are experiences that I accept and am keen to understand.

This inaugural forum has been organised by the Bega Valley based ‘Mnemosyne: South Coast Women’s Journal

“At Mnemosyne, we have had many discussions about the term – feminism,” organiser Jodie Stewart explains.

“We have all had difficulties defining who we are in relation to a movement that has produced so many definitions of womanhood. We continue to search, to probe and to speculate.”

Perhaps I am not alone in the push and pull of Feminism?

Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muses, who were the goddesses of inspiration in literature, science and the arts. The story of Mnemosyne and her Muses centres on the skill and storytelling of oral cultures and the power of memory.

Locally a group of woman has taken inspiration from the Greek goddess and used her name to form a writing and discussion group, known as the ‘Mnemosyne: South Coast Women’s Journal

Those behind Mnemosyne the group/journal describe themselves as, “A feminist collective made up of PhD candidates, undergraduate students, creative writers, poets, musicians, filmmakers, historians, and librarians.”

Jodie Stewart. Source: Facebook
Jodie Stewart. Source: Facebook

“Our aim is to help raise the voices of women on the South Coast of New South Wales and to amplify them through the publication of the Mnemosyne: South Coast Women’s Journal,” the group’s website says.

To date, their writings have lived in the digital world, but the group is working towards a print edition of their ‘muses’.

Member, Noe Lumby says, “Our journal will reveal the stories, opinions, research and creative work of all south coast women.”

For any men still reading this, you are invited and welcome to Mnemosyne’s July 26 forum in Bega.

Mnemosyne hopes to foster a chorus of voices and men’s voices are an important part of this discussion,” Ms Stewart says.

“We have invited a young local man to be a part of our panel, Tas Fitzer, who stood as a candidate in last year’s local government elections.

“A range of experiences and insights are an important part of an open forum on contemporary feminism. All are welcome and we encourage everyone to come along,” Ms Stewart says.

Other panelists include Dr Annie Werner, Indigo Walker, and Lorna Findlay, with the discussion chaired by Ms Stewart, who is a PhD candidate and tutor at the University of Wollongong (UOW), Bega.

Dr Annie Werner is head tutor in the Faculty of Arts at the Bega campus of UOW. Her current research addresses the sexual and social challenges of living in a non-reconstructed post-breast-cancer body.

Indigo Walker is the founder of local business Topsy-turvy Intimates which makes underwear out of recycled materials. Indigo also represents the new generation of feminists and women’s social justice advocates.

Lorna Findlay is a feminist historian who studied law in Melbourne in the 1980s and then worked in the field of domestic violence.

Lorna’s research interest lies in the development of second and third wave feminism. She hopes to investigate the similarities and shared beliefs that remain and whether feminism has lost its political voice.

In speaking to About Regional, the forum’s chair is expecting some interesting discussion influenced by the forum’s rural setting.

“Like the rest of the country, there is still much work to be done here in South East NSW,” Ms Stewart says.

“At a practical level we need more women in leadership positions in our community and more women making decisions that affect other women.

“Only 7% of general managers and CEO’s in our area are women. According to the Bega Valley Shire’s ‘Social Issues Paper’.

“Women are also under-represented in higher paying jobs and over-represented in underpaying jobs,” she says.

“This has a significant impact on social justice outcomes for women in our community.”

The panel ready to talk feminism.
The panel ready to talk feminism on July 26 at UOW Bega.

While acknowledging the influence a female Mayor and a female General Manager of Council will have in the Bega Valley, Ms Stewart believes challenges still exist.

“It’s an important step forward and an important part of social and cultural change, but there remains a significant barrier in terms of social attitudes and pervasive gendered expectations,” Ms Stewart explains.

“Women are still funneled disproportionally into ‘caring roles’ both inside and outside of the workforce because these roles are still seen as inherently female,” she says.

Sexism and the equality issues that forged the feminist movement decades ago are still relevant now in the Bega Valley according to Ms Stewart.

“Sexism is the elephant in the room,” she believes.

“Sexism is institutionalised and is part of the everyday experience of being a woman, compounded when you are Indigenous, a woman of colour, if you are part of the LGBTQI community or a woman with a disability.

“In our community, it is still advantageous to be a white male,” Ms Stewart.

There is much of what Jodie Stewart talks about that I don’t understand or can relate to, I am one of those white males after all which no doubt blinds my judgment.

There is clear evidence though from those walking in different shoes that something needs to change, which gets my attention and opens my mind.

The ‘Feminism in the 21st Century’ Forum is on Wednesday, July 26 at the University of Wollongong, Bega from 5pm-7pm – a local opportunity to be part of a bigger discussion that is being led at a national and international level by writers and commentators like Clementine Ford and Jane Caro.

Mnemosyne: South Coast Women's Journal
Mnemosyne: South Coast Women’s Journal

Light refreshments will be provided and entry is by gold coin donation, all funds raised will go towards the publication of Mnemosyne’s first hardcopy edition.

RSVP to southcoastwomen1@gmail.com by Monday 24 July or book your free tickets online at www.mnemosynejournal.org/events

Disclaimer: About Regional is Media Partner for the ‘Feminism in the 21st Century’ Forum.

About Regional will be recording the forum for later publication.

Batemans Bay pitches to a future as the State points to a pot of gold

Batemans Bay from above. Source Bay Chamber FB page taken by Geoff Payne
Batemans Bay from above. Source Bay Chamber FB page taken by Geoff Payne

Batemans Bay’s seaside location is guiding a vision for the town’s future, with the Business and Tourism Chamber inspiring a plan that includes floating pontoons in the CBD and a pier off Hanging Rock for cruise ships to pull up alongside.

Lead by newish president David Maclachlan, the Chamber is making the most of the State Government’s pitch for big ideas that need funding.

Spruiking on Facebook, the Member for Bega and NSW Transport Minister, Andrew Constance said, “We’ve got a $1.3 billion fund, the message to the community is get out, push your councils, push your mayors, push us, look for great projects.”

“One central piece of infrastructure required at Batemans Bay is floating pontoons to enable recreational boats, personal watercraft, and seaplanes to access our town centre and seaside boardwalk,” Mr Maclachlan says.

Floating pontoons seem more feasible at this stage compared to a fixed pier at Hanging Rock. Current pontoon planning still accommodates cruise ships in that it might cater for cruise ship tenders as opposed to ‘a mothership’ that perhaps needs a purpose built fixed structure to tie up to.

Access for all seems to be a driver in the Chamber’s pontoon push, inspired by what is being achieved by ‘The Bay Push’ an the inclusive playground at Batehaven.

“The proposal is to install a wheelchair hoist on the proposed pontoon and at the existing Hanging Rock boat ramp,” Mr Maclachlan says.

Primarily though stimulating the local economy and tourism industry is at the heart of the Chamber’s plan.

Flat white thanks! Source: Bay Chamber FB Page
Flat white thanks! Source: Bay Chamber FB Page

“Without floating pontoons, there is little practical recreational boating access to the CBD,” the Chamber chief says.

“There is no mooring point at which the boating public can get a coffee, groceries, or bait and fishing tackle.

“There are few public wharfs available to boat owners and what is there is of such a height that it is largely unusable by recreational craft,” Mr Maclachan explains.

In a report presented to those who can make this stuff happen (NSW Ports, NSW Roads and Maritime, Regional Development Australia, Eurobodalla Shire Council) the Chamber also points to seaplane movements.

“The seaplane operators are now licensed to land on the water adjacent to the CBD, yet do not have pontoon access,” Mr Maclachan says.

“The seaplanes feature in Eurobodalla and Tourism Australia’s national and international marketing for the region.”

According to the Chamber, the plan has been received positively by the NSW Government. About Regional sought comment from local member, Andrew Constance, and Maritime Minister Melinda Pavey.

“The proposal has been internally submitted within Roads and Maritime Services for funding,” Mr Maclachlan says.

Sailing off Batemans Bay. Source: Chamber FB Page
Sailing off Batemans Bay. Source: Chamber FB Page

Eurobodalla Mayor, Cr Liz Innes says Council is supporting the idea.

“When you look at these projects that deliver tourism infrastructure into our shire, the potential is fantastic, Cr Innes says.

“But we need to be realistic about the environmental constraints.”

The Mayor points to wave action within the bay that perhaps impedes pontoons, and that Council is seeking expert advice.

Council is really keen to look at these kind of projects that the Chamber is bringing forward, we really commend them for thinking outside the box and having the courage to step up, but we do need to have a look at those environmental concerns,” the Mayor says.

“There is a little bit more involved in the engineering to make sure that they [the pontoons] are stable and that long term the maintenance doesn’t become a huge burden and an issue for ratepayers.

“But in this day and age, the engineering solutions are just incredible, we’ve just gotta make sure we get it right,” Cr Innes says.

Batemans Bay Foreshore. Source Chamber FB page, by Geoff Payne
Batemans Bay Foreshore. Source Chamber FB page by Geoff Payne

The Mayor is clear that Council has no capacity for funding such a project and that environmental considerations need to be explored further, but she is keen to see the idea succeed if feasible.

“It’s important that we take the time to ensure what we do now doesn’t create issues in the future,” Cr Innes says.

“We have a really good working relationship with our local member [Andrew Constance] and he is very keen to see benefits from the State flow down to this region in particular.”

Chamber chief, David Maclachlan accepts those concerns but is confident a solution already exists.

“You see it in Sydney Harbour and up on the Hawkesbury,” Mr Maclachlan told About Regional.

“Our largest industry is tourism, we need to keep growing and always look to do better and provide more – everyone benefits.

“Private and public tourism infrastructure has been identified by various studies as a solution to local employment issues and increasing visitor spend,” he says.

Batemans Bay Marina. Source: Chamber FB page by Geoff Payne
Batemans Bay Marina. Source: Chamber FB page by Geoff Payne

The Chamber’s pitch is just part of the Batemans Bay buzz at the moment, which not only includes a new $300 million crossing of the Clyde River but plans for the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site, MacKay Park/Batemans Bay Pool precinct, the Bay Link Road project to the Princess Highway, and Council’s CBD streetscape makeover.

“There is massive momentum Ian, an indoor aquatic centre and an arts and cultural centre are extremely exciting possibilities,” Cr Innes says.

“Both Andrew Constance and myself have made very strong commitments that that is something we want to see delivered.

“All this will have flow on affects for the whole Shire because it is a gateway site,” Cr Innes says.

The new bridge is locked in, the Batemans Bay community waits to see what the NSW Government’s $1.3 billion booty might deliver next.

*Thanks to Rebecca Henshaw at Livefire Batemans Bay for video production