“Pack the Pool” floats 50 metre option for Batemans Bay

The option adopted by Eurobodalla Shire Council at their August 29 meeting. Photo
The option adopted by Eurobodalla Shire Council for the Mackay Park, Bay Pool, Old Bowlo site. Photo: ESC

Batemans Bay locals have laid claim to the town’s 50-metre swimming pool.

The future of the aging facility on the Princes Highway south of the Batemans Bay bridge has been a sore point since late August when Eurobodalla Shire Council adopted a draft concept plan for a new 25-metre, year-round, enclosed aquatic centre.

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.

https://www.facebook.com/fightforthe50/videos/168035247122884/

 

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.

As President of the Aquatic Centre Committee, Ms Harding attended “Pack the Pool” on Saturday.

“I think there are a lot of people who are not fully informed as to what the indoor aquatic centre is all about,” she says.

A closer look at the concept plan for a new aquatic centre at Batemans Bay. Photo: ESC
A closer look at the concept plan for a new aquatic centre at Batemans Bay. Photo: ESC

Earlier this month, Cr Innes called for unity around the idea.

“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.

Around 120 people turned out for Pack the Pool on Saturday. Photo: Facebook
Around 120 people turned out for Pack the Pool on Saturday. Photo: Facebook

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.

Take a drone flight over Dignams Creek roadworks

Looking north over existing highway, July 2017. Photo: RMS
Looking north over the existing highway. Photo: RMS

The roadworks at Dignams Creek, south of Narooma are a real talking point for motorists negotiating the Princes Highway at the moment – the scale of the project is epic.

Twenty-five large pieces of machinery are currently onsite supporting the work of 80 people, who during August, September, October shifted 100,000 cubic meters of earth.

At one point in your journey north or south, you end up in the middle of the worksite under the control of high-viz lollypop people who are dwarfed by the massive wheels and earthmoving blades cutting a wider, safer, straighter roadway through what was once a lush floodplain and a forest of eucalypt and tree ferns.

“This section of road was identified by the State Coronial Inquest 10 years ago as having a very real need to be upgraded,” Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says.

“In that 10 years there have been 26 accidents on this section of highway and unfortunately one life has been lost.”

Looking north over what will be the new bridge over Dignams Creek. Photo: RMS
Looking north over what will be the new bridge over Dignams Creek. Photo: RMS

The end result of this $45 million upgrade will be a widening of the current highway for about 800 metres leading into two-kilometres of new roadway built to current highway standards. There will also be new bridges erected over Dignams Creek and Dignams Creek Road.

“The narrow approach to the bridge and the twists and turns of the road where built to standards that are 70 years old,” Mr Constnace says.

“Modern-day traffic travels quicker and there are more heavy vehicles on the road – it’s important we get on and fix roads like this.

“To see the project progressing now is very pleasing,” he says.

The purple tracks the route of the new highway, to the west of the current bridge and roadway. Photo: RMS
The purple tracks the route of the new highway, to the west of the current bridge and roadway. Photo: RMS

The signs you whizz past on either side of the road point to competition in mid-2019.

In the run-up to Christmas 2017, extra hours have been added to the work schedule, a move welcomed by residents keen to see the finish flag fall.

Crews are now working 6 days a week including Saturdays from 8am till 6pm.

John Cursley and his partner Maggie live 200 metres from the new section of highway, “It’s dusty and the noise at times is quite disrupting, but in defense of them [York Civil Road Engineers] they have tried to address the problem,” Mr Cursley says.

“They changed the beeper on the reversing trucks to a squawker.

“These trucks don’t seem to ever go forward,” Mr Cursley laughs.

Paul Munro and his partner Sally are 100 meters away and pump drinking water from the creek, “Our pipes and basins have been turning blue,” Mr Munro says.

“I think it points to a change in the pH and acidity of our water.

“We’ve been here over 30 years and its the first time we’ve seen these signs,” Mr Munro says.

Rising water levels downstream in the salty Wallaga Lake might also be influencing the water table and makeup of the Munro’s creek water.

Mr Munro doesn’t believe the water is toxic or harmful and has consulted the project’s environmental officer.

“Somethings changed, but there is a lot happening in the catchment – dust, earthworks, new drainage, so its hard to know where the change has come from, we’ll be keeping an eye on water quality,” Mr Munro says.

Both men also have concerns about flooding while works take place, worried what will happen if an East Coast Low forms and drops a lot of rain while the ground is open and exposed.

“The quicker they get the job done the better,” Mr Cursley says.

“It is what it is, we just have to see it out,” Mr Munro says.

Andrew Constance says he is particularly grateful for the input and understanding of local residents.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to put community safety first, and I am confident the end result will address all concerns,” Mr Constance says.

“Look this work needed doing, the bridge is too narrow and the corner too steep,” Mr Cursley says.

Looking south over the new section of highway at the northern end. Photo: RMS
Looking south over the new section of highway at the northern end. Photo: RMS

Motorists will be moved to a new 800-metre temporary road at the northern end of the project from Monday November 27 until mid-2018, and work will be put on hold between December 16 and January 8 in order to keep holiday traffic moving.

“And motorists need to remember there are 80 people working on this site, and they need to go home to their families each night,” Mr Constance says.

“So please drive with patience, observe the reduced speed limits and traffic controls.”

*About Regional content is supported by the contribution of members, thank you to – Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, Fiona Cullen, Nancy Blindell, Jo Riley-Fitzer, Jenny Anderson, Ali Oakley, Julia Stiles, and Patrick Reubinson.

The Monaro’s Bronnie Taylor speaks to the NSW Assisted Dying Bill

NSW Nationals MLC, Bronnie Taylor on the family farm near Nimmitabel. Photo credit: https://twitter.com/bronnietaylor
NSW Nationals MLC, Bronnie Taylor on the family farm near Nimmitabel. Photo credit: https://twitter.com/bronnietaylor

It’s been an emotional day in one half of the New South Wales Parliament, with Members of the Legislative Council, AKA the upper house, speaking to the “Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017.”

Introduced by Nationals MP Trevor Khan, the legislation would allow terminally ill patients to take action that would cause their death with the assistance of doctors.

Following a similar Bill currently before the Victorian Parliament, under the proposed NSW law, only patients over the age of 25 and those expected to die within 12 months would be able to legally take their life.

The proposal is that patients must be assessed by a psychologist or psychiatrist and have their decision signed off on by two medical practitioners, including a specialist.

It’s action that can be challenged by close family of the patient in the Supreme Court.

Party leaders have given all MPs a conscience vote on the issue, but for it to progress to the lower house – the domain of local’s like Andrew Constance and John Barilaro, the Bill first needs to pass the upper house.

The Monaro’s Bronnie Taylor sits in the upper house and spoke to the Bill from her perspective as a nurse.

“The fact is that all the money in the world thrown at palliative care will not be able to help everyone and anyone who says otherwise is simply not speaking the truth,” Mrs Taylor told parliament.

Speaking to About Regaional later in the day, Mrs Taylor said, “I am very disappointed that this legislation was defeated by one vote tonight. I found it a difficult day.

“I respect everyone has their own opinions but I am absolutely convinced that this is a good Bill and should have passed.

“My heart goes out to all those that so desperately wanted to die with dignity which they so deserve,” Mrs Taylor said.

Read and watch Bronnie Taylor’s full speech to parliament below…

I understand that the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 is an emotive issue for everyone so I take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Chamber for the respect shown during this process.

We all come from different places, we all have different beliefs but we are all here to do the best we can.

I genuinely believe we all try to do our best, albeit in very different ways. I have thought long and hard about what I wanted to say today.

I have consulted widely with many people. I have strong connections with people in the health industry in many different professions.

I am conscious that many members wish to speak today so I will attempt to keep my contribution brief and to the point.

I still think of myself—and I always will—as a nurse. I love and value the profession; it was so very good to me.

I speak as someone who has walked the walk and talked the talk. I spent more than 20 years as a nurse before I entered this place just over 2½ years ago, all of that time specialising in cancer care, oncology, with eight years as a clinical nurse specialist in palliative care.

We all have our own stories of death and dying.

On this day, World Pancreatic Cancer Day, I remember my dad, Ward Washington, who died from a horrible insidious disease.

Dad lived in Sydney next to one of the best hospitals in the world but it did not equate to him getting the best palliative care—something for which I can vouch.

My father was a devout Catholic and I do not think he would have chosen the option of this legislation if it were available to him.

But it leads me to a point that has been talked about in the media—that the answer to all of this must be better palliative care and that access to good palliative care depends on one’s postcode.

That simply and most definitely is not true.

My husband, Duncan—a man of much wisdom and common sense; a farmer, lawyer and economist—lost his mum to metastatic breast cancer when he was 20. I remember it well.

I was doing my first practical at the time, doing a community nursing placement. I knew then that I had found my passion.

Duncan’s family cared for his mum at home. They live half an hour out of Cooma, which is the main town, and have a long dirt driveway so one could say that they are isolated.

They felt so grateful to be able to have her at home to die. They had excellent palliative care in Nimmitabel, postcode 2631, population around 300.

Mrs Walters was their generalist community nurse; she still works at Cooma Community Health. This brilliant nurse, with a wealth of experience, worked closely with Duncan’s mum’s general practitioner [GP], Dr Vic Carroll.

Duncan’s mum died surrounded by her husband, Peter, who carefully and lovingly cared for her, her sons and her treasured friends.

That was great palliative care, delivered by a community nurse and a GP—no fancy hospice, no specialist—just a great team in a rural community. 

Importantly, it was a community that cared for her and the family because that is what we do in the country; we care for each other in times of challenge and sadness.

When specialist doctors in the cities say that people in the country do not have access to good palliative care, they should come down south and have a look.

I know that is lacking in some centres but all of the specialists in the world will not solve that. What is needed is good basic nursing care, professionals who are willing and able to spend time with people and their families.

I have worked with people who are dying and their families for most of my professional life. I, too, have personal stories but I speak today from my professional experience.

 I spoke earlier about being a clinical nurse specialist based in Cooma and I covered the entire Monaro area.

The fact is that all the money in the world thrown at palliative care will not be able to help everyone and anyone who says otherwise is simply not speaking the truth.

I know we need more resources and I will fight for that every day in this place while I am privileged to be a member. I can also relate many stories of the patients I have cared for but that is not my job today.

However, specialists who state in the media that anyone who wants to end their life at a time of their choosing after being diagnosed to be in the terminal phase of their illness is depressed and after receiving specialist palliative care will change their minds is a falsehood and something I find offensive.

The whole notion that excellent palliative care can cure everyone’s suffering is not true. Anyone who has worked with people who are dying knows emphatically that that is not true.

Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017

I have been asked for access to my recent speech to the Legislative Council on the Assisted Dying Legislation.I have been deeply humbled by the phone calls to my office and emails on my words to the Chamber.Here is the speech for anyone that is interested.Bronnie

Posted by Bronnie Taylor MLC on Wednesday, 22 November 2017

 

Let us all be honest and truthful in this debate.

People’s opinions are their own and they should not be imposed on others as if they were fact when they are not.

It is an interesting fact that when people are diagnosed with a disease—and I use cancer as an example as I know a little about this—they are always given the option of treatment to prolong their life, treatment to make them live longer, regardless of whether that treatment has a less than 5 percent chance of working.

People are offered that option and it is their choice. We give people the right to choose if they want to extend their life so I ask: Why do we not give people the option to end their lives, at a time of their choosing, surrounded by the people they love and above all—the ultimate—with the dignity that they so deserve?

We have spoken a lot about vulnerability and I have seen it time and again. Vulnerability comes when we feel we are losing control. It is a horrible feeling.

I used to say to my patients when I sensed their vulnerability, “This cancer will not define you or control you. You need to define it.”

We worry that this will hurt our most vulnerable. I completely disagree; this legislation will empower them and give them control.

I would like to quote Dr Charlie Teo of whom I am very fond. Dr Teo said:

“I am proud of my reputation of never giving up on patients who still have the will to live despite what others believe to be an exercise in futility.

“I am equally as proud to support Dying with Dignity because the only situation that would be worse than not having control of your life is to not have control over your own death.”

They are powerful words from an outstanding individual who does so much for so many at the most vulnerable time of their lives.

I quote from my husband whom I have been quoting a lot, as I do about most things. He sent me this text the other day which states:

“There is happiness and peace in knowing you will retain control over your own destiny, even if in all likelihood you don’t use it.

“Knowing you will slowly lose control will surely increase suffering and misery. And giving your control over your destiny to the government … well that is very dissatisfying.”

The fundamental reason for my vote today is based on the ultimate principle that I do not believe that government and politicians should tell people how to run their lives.

My belief is that we need to get out of the way. Our responsibility is to provide a safe framework.

I quote from the excellent position paper of the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association, even though the association and I do not always see eye to eye. However, I commend the association for this document.

It states:

“Our members provide high quality palliative care that for the majority is able to alleviate physical pain and provide adequate comfort.

“Unfortunately, palliative care is not effective for all patients and some experience unbearable pain and suffering for prolonged periods of time.

“We believe that legislation reform in this area will actually provide protection to people who are vulnerable.”

The draft bill, which is rigorous in its requirements, requires that a person who wishes to seek assistance should express such a wish to three separate health practitioners over a minimum period of nine days before assistance can be provided.

It also requires that a person be deemed of sound mind before assistance can be provided.

I believe the legislation is rigorous and commend the working party for its bravery and courage. It has done a good job.

Under this bill, people will need approval from three doctors. I trust doctors; I trust that they will make the right decision and not allow people to access the provisions in this legislation if they do not qualify.

Clause 29 of the bill specifically states that this is not about letting people commit suicide.

It is not about telling people with mental health issues that they are unworthy. This legislation would not give them access so it is wrong to draw that conclusion.

People in this Chamber might not wish to use this legislation which is fine; it is their choice. But they should not impose their views on others.

It is their right to choose, which is the way it should always be in a free and democratic country such as Australia.

I support this bill.

Bronnie Taylor is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW and is a Nationals MLC.

*Text taken from NSW Parliament Hansard.

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

 

Over $5 million for local cycleways including Bega to Tathra link

The long-awaited Bega to Tathra cycleway is set to become a reality with $3 million set aside in the NSW Budget this week.

Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said, “I am so excited to confirm the funds to build this important project.”

“This will not only better connect two of our great communities it will also provide a fantastic tourism driver and give the region a further economic boost.”

The money will go to Bega Valley Shire Council to work with the community and stakeholders to design, plan and construct the much-anticipated path.

The Bega – Tathra money was the largest part of a big splash of cash for local cycleways.

Other money announced by NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet included:

  • $2 million for a shared pathway from Rotary Park in Merimbula to Merimbula Wharf.
  • Construction of 660 metres of shared path in Moruya along Bergalia Street.
  • Construction of almost 500 metres of shared path in Narooma along the northern end of McMillan Road.

The champagne corks were popping as Doug Reckord, the Secretary of the Bega Tathra Safe Ride Committee shared the news with his dedicated group. Click play for more.

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

Review of South East Regional Hospital on track for end of April deadline

A vote to extend the contract of Dr Phoon
A vote to extend the contract of Dr Phoon at the March 9 community rally in Bega

Four weeks ago the South East community erupted, concerned at what it had been hearing out of the new South East Regional Hospital in Bega.

Around 500 people gathered in the town’s civic centre, with interest from as far away as Moruya, Cooma and Mallacoota – highlighting the truly regional role of this $190 million health facility.

Speakers pointed to increasing waiting lists, a turnover of senior staff, doctors pay being cut, the increasing use of fly-in fly-out locums, admin staff in tears about their workload, good staff fleeing, stretched nursing care, and billions of dollars in Federal Government money stripped away.

The sacking of orthopeadic surgeon Dr Chris Phoon was described as ‘a flint to a tinderbox’ by his colleague Dr Matthew Nott, which galvanised the community rally of March 9 around the need for a full review of the health service.

Eight days later the NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard obliged, announcing a far-reaching review into the operation and management of the 12 month old hospital.

Under the agreed Terms of Reference, the reviewers will:
  • Analyse and assess  the  role  of  the  hospital and local health district management in establishing processes and procedures for transitioning to the new hospital
  • Identify any deficiencies in the management of the hospital
  • Assess  existing  mechanisms  for  clinician  and  staff  engagement and communication and their potential impact on culture, morale and staff turnover
  • Assess systems and the capacity to detect, respond and manage emerging critical issues.
South East Regional Hospital
South East Regional Hospital

Those charged with doing the review are Associate Professor Michael Reid, an experienced health administrator and former Director General of NSW Health and Queensland Health, supported by Dr Adrian Norwitzke, a neurosurgeon with broad experience across both clinical and business practice.

That work is happening right now and About Regional understands that the Southern NSW Local Health District Board has been interviewed in the last week along with respected local doctors.

The Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says the review is on track to be completed by the end of April and will be delivered to the Secretary of NSW Health for the Minister to review.

Responding to questions from the About Regional community, Mr Constance said he thought it was important that the heat and debate around the issue had settled down while the review team goes about its work.

“I am desperate to see a new era of collaboration in this brand new hospital,” Mr Constance said.

“The key point that I would make is – everyone hold fire, because ultimately there will be a report back to the community on the best way forward.”

Mr Constance was at the old Bega Hospital site on McKee Drive on Friday (April 7) announcing the Government’s intention to turn the prime location into a state-of-the-art TAFE campus.

In doing so he acknowledged the challenges the local health service was always going to face in adjusting to new work practices at the Tathra Road site.

“I always said it was going to be rocky and we are going to have to work hard to get through this transition period,” Mr Constance said.

“New bricks and mortar doesn’t necessarily mean that the morale within the staffing structure is what it should be.”

Mr Constance says he is looking for change and a better government structure to oversee the hospital on the back of the review.

“I’ve noticed over the last week or so that there is a sense that change is afoot, and there will be,” Mr Constance says.

Better engagement with medical staff, improved staff health and happiness, and less reliance on locums are key areas to address for the local member.

“But importantly, I get some really good feedback about the health experiences within the facility, we’ve got professional men and women delivering a great service at the facility and long may that continue,” he said.

When asked specifically about the future of Dr Chris Phoon and any contractual discussions underway, Mr Constance wouldn’t be drawn, but pointed to discussions the surgeon had had with himself and the Health Minister.

Mr Constance said it’s a discussion that should happen ‘off line’.

Click play to hear more from Andrew Constance…

 

More will be known in a few weeks, and we wait to see how the review and its recommendations will be presented to the public.

“The Health Minister was right to appoint these two experts (Reid and Norwitzke), it gives the community confidence that we’ve got the best people with the best expertise to be able to get through this challenge,” Mr Constance said.

Community rallies to fix hospital heartbreak 12 months after opening

Around 500 people turned out in a show of support for Dr Chris Phoon and to express concern with health management
Around 500 people turned out in a show of support for Dr Chris Phoon and to express concern with health management

Nothing brings a country town out like concern for its health service.

Five hundred people packed into the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre tonight (March 9) following the snap sacking of orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Chris Phoon.

Dr Phoon’s 3-year contract at the South East Regional Hospital (SERH) in Bega has not been renewed, despite, as the community was told tonight, an excellent appraisal from his managers just three months prior.

Reading from the appraisal report, long-standing orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Matthew Nott pointed to the four and five-star rating Dr Phoon received across a range of indicators from the then Health Service General Manager and the then Director of Medical Services.

“He is ranked as either good or excellent in effective management and treatment of patients,  maintenance of clinical skills and expertise, participation in clinical governance,  in clinical outcomes, maintenance of patient records, in effective communication with patients,  collegiate and cooperative relations with other medical and non-medical staff…the list goes on,” Dr Nott says.

At a loss to explain Dr Phoon’s treatment under different managers given the glowing appraisal, Dr Nott could only suggest that the 38-year-old was being silenced for his advocacy around better hospital systems and patient outcomes.

Dr Matthew Nott, the convener of Thursday nights public meeting.
Dr Matthew Nott, the convener of Thursday night’s public meeting.

Dr Phoon told the meeting the explanation he was given was that core values didn’t align.

People leaving the meeting tonight, all found the situation difficult to comprehend and lacking in logic.

“What’s happening? Why is this happening? That’s what we haven’t learned anything about,” one lady told me.

“How did we get to this point? This should have been resolved much earlier,” a local dairy farmer said.

“I was due to have surgery yesterday, I have no confidence in the local health service,” said another lady gripping a walking frame.

The jam-packed room heard from a range of speakers, Dr Emma Cunngingham – Bombala GP and President of the Rural Doctors Association, David Perry – Divisional Manager of Public Health at the Health Services Union, Dianne Laing – local rep for the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and Mike Kelly – Federal Member for Eden-Monaro.

While the Health Service accepts there have been teething problems at the new facility, all six speakers tonight portrayed dysfunctional systems and management, issues bigger than one doctor or simple teething troubles.

Dr Nott described Dr Phoon’s case as “a flint to a tinderbox.”

Speakers pointed to increasing waiting lists, a turnover of senior staff, doctors pay being cut, the increasing use of fly-in fly-out locums, admin staff in tears about their workload, good staff fleeing, stretched nursing care, and billions of dollars in Federal Government money stripped away.

A vote to extend the contract of Dr Phoon
A vote to extend the contract of Dr Phoon

Confidence in the management of the hospital and local health service took a hiding, the likes of which is uncomfortable to watch and unfathomable.

It is soul destroying for the community that rallied to get the $170 million hospital built in the first place.

I remember being on radio with ABC South East taking live to air calls from people who were breaking down as they described the joy and sense of security the new hospital embodied.

Those same people came out tonight, and again I heard the tremble in their voice, this time mixed with disappointed and fear.

The Member for Bega, Andrew Constance couldn’t be at tonight’s meeting, a statement was read explaining that parliament was sitting.

The community is now holding out hope that a review commissioned by Mr Constance last week might hold the key to what someone tonight described as a “most bizarre set of circumstances.”

Dr Chris Phoon thanks those gathered for their support and encourages people to 'keep fighting'
Dr Chris Phoon thanks those gathered for their support and encourages people to ‘keep fighting’

The Constance review asks the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation to look into orthopaedic services at SERH and find clarity around Dr Phoon’s contractual issues.

Tonight’s meeting called for the terms of reference to be expanded to include a review of the entire Bega Valley Health Service, providing an opportunity for comment that staff media bans and other contractual negotiations don’t allow for.

This heartbroken community has a sense they don’t have all the information. They committed themselves tonight (March 9) to finding out and “keeping up the fight” despite the fact they thought it was over this time last year when the new hospital opened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No threat to Anzac Day in South East NSW – marches will go on

WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll
WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll

Organisers of Anzac Day marches across South East NSW say they will take any new security arrangements “in their stride“.

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council told About Regional that there was no way Anzac Day marches through the high country would be stopped.

Concern was sparked this week following the cancellation of marches in the Blue Mountains after the local council refused to cover costs associated with new anti-terrorist requirements.

David White, a spokesman for ex-services organisations at Katoomba, Springwood, Blackheath and Glenbrook told the ‘Blue Mountains Gazette‘ that he was devasted by the decision.

“It’s such a long, unbroken tradition and something which we believe is cherished by the local communities,” he told the paper.

“The terrorists are winning. I say that because the reaction to events overseas continues to provoke overreactions here, in our view, which require mitigation actions that are beyond our means.”

The new anti-terrorist measures are said to include the need for solid barriers across roadways to prevent a truck or other vehicles being driven through crowds, similar to what the world witnessed in the French city of Nice in July last year.

Blue Mountains Mayor, Mark Greenhill told the ABC he was appalled that the State Government was forcing these changes on to communities and expecting local government to pick up the cost.

“What other government in a country around the world would say ‘you need these measures to keep you safe but we won’t fund them’? It’s completely outrageous,” Cr Greenhill told the ABC.

Australian soldiers with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment march on Anzac Day. From wikimedia commons
Australian soldiers with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment march on Anzac Day. From wikimedia commons

The State Liberal Member for Bega and NSW Transport Minister, Andrew Constance says the security requirements for commemorations in the South East will be guided by local police with measures put in place on a case by case basis.

“Unfortunately this is the way of the world,” he says.

“Governments everywhere need to take these steps, especially at high profile events, to protect people.”

While acknowledging the need for extra security, Mr Constance says it is important that people go about their business.

“We can’t live in fear, we need to stand together and be strong as a community and not let terrorists dictate our way of life,” he says.

Mr Constance suggests the cancelling of events in the Blue Mountains was politically motivated.

“The Labor Mayor for the Blue Mountains has behaved disgracefully,” Mr Constance says.

The Member for Bega says the NSW Government will ensure Anzac Day will continue around New South Walse as planned and any extra costs will be shared, which is now the case in the Blue Mountains.

Snowy Monaro Council chief Dean Lynch says an assessment will be made and if there are extra expenses locally, all involved will work together and find a way to cover them.

Eurobodalla Shire Council believes the terrorist risk is low and will liaise with NSW Police.

WW1 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll
WW1 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll

Director of Infrastructure Services, Warren Sharpe told About Regional he sees no reason why the marches wouldn’t proceed with the usual sensible traffic control measures in place.

“We absolutely support the wonderful traditions and symbolism of our local Anzac marches,” he says.

“They mean a great deal to all of us and Council will do everything possible to make them a success this year, just as we do every year.”

In the Bega Valley, Tathra ex-serviceman Allen Collins says the Bega RSL Sub-branch is conscious of the need for security but is confident it’s close relationship with Bega Valley Shire Council and local Police will ensure a positive outcome.

“Anzac Day does cost money, but Council and groups like Tathra Lions and the RSL Club have always looked after us,” he says.

“I don’t think there will be any problems,” he says.

Yellow buoys off Merimbula and Malua Bay listening for sharks

Shark listening station - Malua Bay, supplied DPI.
Shark listening station – Malua Bay, supplied DPI.

The sapphire waters of the Far South Coast naturally draw your attention – forever changing, forever surprising.

This summer, just below Batemans Bay at Maula Bay and further south at Merimbula, a tall yellow buoy beyond the last line of breakers will catch your eye as your bum finds that sweet spot in the sand.

It’s a Shark Listening Station or VR4G, installed during November before the place filled up with holiday makers.

The one off Main Beach Merimbula brings the number of listening stations along the New South Wales coastline to twenty, all designed to give our feeble bodies the jump on these ‘monsters of the deep.’

Other locations include Kiama, Sussex Inlet, Mollymook, Bondi, Byron Bay, Ballina and Lennox Head.

The Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says these satellite-linked VR4G receivers record the presence of tagged sharks swimming within 500 metres of the listening station.

“Information on the movement of tagged sharks captured on the VR4Gs goes straight to a satellite and is then instantly sent to mobile devices via Twitter and the SharkSmart App.” he explains.

There are 114 White Sharks and 88 Bull Sharks that have been tagged by either the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) or CSIRO. These are the beasties that give themselves away when they swim near one of these hi-tech posts.

“Whilst we can’t tag every shark, the new listening stations will enhance bather safety by alerting beachgoers and authorities when a tagged shark is in the area,” Mr Constance says.

“They provide beachgoers with information and knowledge to help them assess their risk of a shark encounter before they hit the water.”

Shark at Bournda Island December 25,from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart
Shark at Bournda Island December 25, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart

The technology is one component of the NSW Government’s $16m Shark Management Strategy and follows a run of fatal and near-fatal shark attacks in northern NSW during 2016.

Other parts of the strategy being seen locally include regular DPI helicopter patrols running between Kiama and Eden, and soon a new $33,000 viewing platform overlooking Pambula Beach.

Since the aerial patrols and listening stations became active seven local shark sightings have been reported to the Shark Smart App – all south of the Bega River mouth at Tathra.

The first alert on December 17 pointed to four Whaler Sharks near Bar Beach Merimbula, and two unidentified 2 metre sharks off Pambula Beach – both spotted by the DPI aerial team.

The most recent alert was sent out on December 29 with the helicopter reporting up to eight juvenile Bronze Whaler Sharks off Main Beach Merimbula.

In all cases, nearby authorities were notified and it was assessed that there was little threat to swimmers and surfers – sometimes simply because there was no one in the water.

If there is deemed to be a risk to people, lifesavers on the beach or the aerial patrol have the capacity to clear the water of swimmers.

Looking further north to the Shoalhaven, 13 shark alerts have been trigger during the same time frame around Ulladulla and Jervis Bay. On the Central and North Coasts, where there is a more intensive monitoring effort, 60 alerts have been issued taking in beaches between Lake Macquarie and Tweed Heads.

Unidentified sharks spotted 1km north of Tathra Beach on December 19, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart
Unidentified sharks spotted 1km north of Tathra Beach on December 19, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart

Broulee’s Andrew Edmunds, Director, Far South Coast Surf Life Saving says his organisation welcomes anything that helps lifesavers manage risk and allows people to make informed choices.

“Sharks are not the biggest risk to swimmers though,” Mr Edmunds says.

“Since the start of summer, we have had 18 deaths in New South Wales waters, none have been a result of shark interaction,” Mr Edmunds says.

“Unpatrolled beaches, rips and strong currents, not wearing life-jackets, unsupervised pools, ponds, and dams – these are the biggest risks.”

Mr Edmunds is hoping the listening stations might ease people’s concern about sharks.

“People will start to see sharks in the natural environment as normal,” he says.

“The frequency of the alerts will increase over time as more sharks are tagged, people might start to realise how commonplace sharks are.”

Shark Smart alerts as there appear on Twitter
Shark Smart alerts as they appear on Twitter

The yellow VR4G units sit high in the water and have been somewhat of a curiosity to beachgoers this summer with lifesavers taking regular questions.

“Stand-up paddle boarders have also been going out and back to investigate,” Mr Edmunds says.

The odds of being attacked or killed by a shark are said to be 1 in 3,748,067, despite the regularity of their presence in our environment that Mr Edumnds points to.

Those long odds however, are easily challenged by our active imaginations, fed by frequent news reports from the North Coast pointing to surfers bitten or killed and White Sharks snared in drum lines.

The tall yellow buoys that now sit out the front of Merimbula and Malua Bay not only highlight the physical presence of sharks but also our fragile minds when it comes to these creatures.