Podcast 19 – Eurobodalla Youth Forum

Some school holiday listening this time around.

During Local Government Week recently, Eurobodalla Shire Council made space for the youth of the shire.

Senior students from Carroll College and St Peter’s Anglican College at Broulee, and Batemans Bay High School were given time to address Council – including Mayor, Liz Innes and Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne.

One of the Shire’s Federal MP’s was also taking notes – Member for Gilmore, Anne Sudmalis.

Courtney Fryer from Carroll College used the opportunity to advocate for young people living with physical and mental disability.

Harrison O’Keefe from Batemans Bay High, made a great point around youth engagement –“show them what they are missing out on” and he has an idea to do just that.

While Pippi Sparrius from St Peter’s presented some surprising stats around teenage pregnancy in the Eurobodalla.

Keen to give the students a ‘real council meeting’ experience, Cr Innes was watching the clock, with Courtney, Harrison, and Pippi all given five minutes each.

Click play to listen here and now…

Or listen and subscribe via AudioBoom, Bitesz.com, or Apple Podcasts/iTunes.

For support or more info about the issues raised in this podcast check in with the Eurobodalla youth services directory or drop by one of the Shire’s popular youth cafes in Narooma and Batemans Bay.

About Regional is supported by the financial contributions of members, including Jill Howell, Max Wilson, Sue MacKinnon, Geoff Berry, and Four Winds at Bermagui – who have just released the program for next Easter’s festival, 60 artists, 10 ensembles, 26 performances, 10 stunning locations, over 5 days starting in late March 2018. Early bird tickets are on sale now.

Thanks for tuning in, see you out and about in South East NSW.
Cheers
Ian

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

 

Eurobodalla Citizens Jury – $100,000, 86 recommendations. Worthwhile?

Is Council spending your money on the right things? If not, what should it change?

That was the question put to the Eurobodalla Citizens Jury, a group of 28 randomly selected residents.

Starting in June 2016, the Citizens Jury reported back to Council in December making a wide range of recommendations from business development to land use to the role of the arts in the community, including:

  • Ensure that the potential for a performing arts base is considered in the redevelopment of the MacKay Park precinct.
  • Investigate revenue opportunities through use of waste facilities to generate income and or energy source, e.g. incorporating methane collection; recycling of plastics into a viable resource.
  • Continue and further develop collaboration with Aboriginal people and use of traditional land care techniques.
  •  Council recognise that the Jury supports the consistent application of the LEP and other environmental strategies and plans, such that green belts and riparian zones are protected.

The Citizens Jury project cost around $100 000 but was it worth it?

Yes, but it was not without its problems, according to Moruya juror Kate Raymond.

“The Citizens Jury was definitely worthwhile, it gave us all a good sense of what Council did and what kind of decisions had to be made every day,” Kate says.

However, the Jury struggled with the complexity of the task and was heavily reliant on Council staff to provide them with information.

“We came to realise that the question was just too broad, and we really couldn’t answer it,” Kate explains.

“How are we supposed to know if Council is spending enough money on roads, rates, and rubbish? What do we have to measure it against?

“We were briefed, but we only got Council’s perspective, and they said, ‘We’re doing the best we can with the money we have’. We had to take their word for it,” Kate says.

The Jury members also struggled to achieve consensus on issues.

“Even if some of us thought Council was spending too much on something, we’d never be able to reach consensus on it because it’s a group of 28 people with different priorities,” Kate says.

“For instance, some people wanted much more paving and guttering in the Shire but others disagreed because they thought it was less important for a rural shire. That’s just one example!”

It’s a point Deputy Mayor Anthony Mayne isn’t surprised to hear.

“By definition, a jury is a group of people who consider information and then reach a binding decision about it,” Cr Mayne says.

“Although the Jury deeply engaged with the issues presented to them, they weren’t expected to come to a unanimous agreement about them.

“To call it a ‘Jury’ does little to advance or promote the positive benefits of this project,” he says

Kate Raymond also believes the jury struggled to understand the role of Council.

“There were some jurors with quite extreme views about what Council does [views that] were simply outside what we were meant to be talking about,” she says

“I think the New Democracy Foundation (the Jury facilitators) did a really good job though.”

“Overall, I still think it was worthwhile,” Kate says.

Critic of the Citizens Jury project, Paul Bradstreet, took a keen interest in the process and observed a couple of Jury meetings.

Paul represents the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association (ERA).

Not a juror himself, he argues that the Jury wasn’t able to consider new ideas for the Shire.

“The Shire needs new ideas, but Council remains stuck in the same old patterns because it’s easier than dealing with new things,” he says.

According to Paul, citizens with innovative ideas were directed to make a submission to the Jury, but the Jury couldn’t consider them.

“For instance, the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association had ideas that we wanted to put to Council, especially following the [Council] elections in September,” Paul says.

“The ERA had a couple of councilors elected on our platform issues, so we know our ideas are relevant, but we weren’t being given a chance to express them.

“The Citizens Jury was set up as a public relations, rubber stamping exercise, where Council gets to hear that they’re doing a great job,”  Paul says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council says that new ideas and submissions from the public were included in the Jury project.

A Council spokesperson says, there were 39 submissions from the community, and the Jury considered all of them carefully.

“Although the Jury project was primarily set up to look at how Council currently spends its money, it did consider new ideas, for instance, a community ‘think tank’ activity to run as part of Local Government Week and investigating a mobile library service,” the spokesperson explains.

Kate Raymond agrees that the Jury considered new ideas, but was somewhat ambivalent about Council’s response,

“For instance, our report recommended (p.9) having an agricultural officer in Council, to supercharge the outcomes from the Rural Lands Strategy,” Kate says.

Council’s response was, ‘We will look into this’ and if there is grant funding available (p.32) they’ve told us they will investigate options.

“Does this mean Council is actively looking for grant funding for this position? What does investigating options mean? That’s unclear,” Kate says.

Council’s spokesperson says the Citizens Jury worked well and achieved the goal of providing feedback on how Council spends its money.

The jury made 86 recommendations, 76 of which align with the Draft Delivery Program 2017-21 and the Operational Plan 2017-18. These two documents inform upcoming Council spending in the immediate future,” the spokesperson says.

“We [Council] also realised that there’s quite a lot of confusion in the community about the three tiers of government (local, state and federal) and their respective roles. So we’re working at getting some information about this out there.”

Eurobodalla Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne. Source: Facebook
Eurobodalla Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne. Source: Facebook

The Deputy Mayor believes it was a worthwhile process.

“In the modern world of social media, to see 28 people deeply engaged and enquiring of any number of issues over a sustained period of time is to be applauded,” Cr Mayne says.

“These were volunteers, paid a small allowance to give up seven nights and many hours of reading over several months to listen, wonder, seek, exchange, explore and debate a variety of matters before finally presenting their outcomes to the Councillors”.

So, will the Eurobodalla see another Citizens Jury?

“Council has developed a Community Engagement Framework and the Citizens Jury will remain something we can use when appropriate,” Council’s spokesperson explains.

“The jurors provided significant amounts of their own time and Council is appreciative of that.”

Words by Fiona Whitelaw, Moruya

*Fiona contacted a number of other jurors for this article but Kate Raymond was the only one to take up the opportunity.

*Featured videos produced by Eurobodalla Shire Council before and during the Jury process.

Making sense of Candelo’s flying foxes – perhaps we can decide to cope with them?

Flying Fox, by Craig Greer
Flying Fox, by Craig Greer

There’s a colony of grey-headed flying foxes in Candelo, in the massive old plane tree by the bridge.  On the latest count, there are around 1400 bats roosting in its branches.

There aren’t many native species that arrive on our doorsteps in such sudden, large numbers, and with such noise, visibility, and aroma.

We’ll never see 1400 wombats hanging out on Candelo Oval at the same time!

Flying foxes challenge our sense of control over our urban spaces, failing to seek our permission to take over parklands, failing to give us notice for when they will check in or check out, and failing to place an order for what they might eat from our gardens along the way.

So are they simply unwelcome guests in our town landscapes?  Why might we want to attempt to understand their movements, their presence, and our relationship to their habitat?

In the Southeast region of NSW, grey-headed flying foxes are a well-known part of the landscape:  at Bega’s Glebe Lagoon a population has existed there for years, flying at night to feed on coastal forest flowers or south-west to the escarpment to flowering eucalypts.  They pollinate native forests and are an integral part of forest ecosystems.

However, native flora and fauna have become wrapped around the human footprint, existing in the margins, in strongholds that are weakened daily by pollution, deforestation and development.

Flying foxes are one of the few species that can actually transplant themselves back onto the human landscape – but it’s not always a comfortable fit for them or us.

This summer, they have been starving. Eucalypts that provide their usual spring and summer food sources have, for the first time in years, failed to flower at the right time.

Here in Candelo, I arrived back from a trip to Melbourne in November to find seventeen dead baby flying foxes under the poplar trees by the creek.  They were tiny.  The next day, checking under the trees, I found one alive.

The baby flying fox’s wings were spread out, her 7cm-long body tucked into itself, eyes closed.  She was cold.  I did something that you’re not supposed to do: I gathered her up in my jumper and tried to warm her up, taking care not to touch her directly, and I called Wildlife Rescue.

Some people find bats strange and scary, or smelly and annoying, and most will not get the chance to see one up close.

Annie from Wildlife Rescue named the baby flying fox Katie
Annie from Wildlife Rescue named the baby flying fox Katie

This baby was only just breathing, otherwise motionless, and at the mercy of my decisions. I held her and looked up into the tree.  Somewhere up there was her mother.  She would have nursed this baby to the best of her ability for weeks, as she slowly grew weak from lack of food. Eventually, her hunger would have caused her to stop producing milk, and her baby began to starve, eventually dropping from the top of the tree to the ground.

The other babies had not survived the fall or had died on the ground from the cold. There would have been more caught in the branches that I could not see. We were witnessing a starvation event, the evidence of which was brought directly to our town.

Candelo residents have reported losing fruit crops from their trees. The bats are tending to fly out along the creek line, so people in town aren’t suffering too much bat poo on their roofs or cars. But there is a low grumble of discontent in town: why are they here?  Will they keep eating my fruit crops? Should we move them on?

Flying foxes usually eat from just over 100 native plant species.  Around half of these are targeted for fruit, but the other half are flowering plants that can be visited over and over again as they continue to produce nectar.

Local fruit trees are usually visited by the weaker bats who aren’t able to fly to flowering plants in nearby native forests. The recent food shortage has made this behaviour more common.

Hugh Pitty runs monthly flying fox surveys at the Bega’s Glebe Lagoon colony for the CSIRO National Flying Fox Monitoring Program. He says historically there has been a camp at the Candelo Showground, which indicates they will continue to visit Candelo but probably won’t stay for good.

“It’s likely that you’ll see the camp last this year, and possibly next year, but it’s likely that it won’t be here long term,” he says.

“You’ve got water here in the creek, but it doesn’t have all the attributes that the main camp in Bega does”.

There are hundreds of previous camps around NSW that aren’t used anymore. The best long-term camps have permanent water, good shade, and no risk of disturbance from below.

When in 2001 the trees across the road from Hugh’s home in Bega became the site of the largest permanent bat colony in the area, he was fascinated rather than upset. He made them the subject of an animal habitat study for his Biology degree.

Hugh Pitty and Lea Pinker of the Bega flying fox survey team standing in front of Candelo's plane tree bat colony
Hugh Pitty and Lea Pinker of the Bega flying fox survey team standing in front of Candelo’s plane tree bat colony

“I sometimes say that my bedroom window is closer than you can legally put a bird hide vantage point for a flying fox colony,” he says.

Many locals are used to the bats, and the Glebe Lagoon colony is relatively uncontroversial.

In Candelo, the flying foxes make a bit of noise and don’t smell too bad most of the time – in fact, most days I find their smell takes me back to swimming at Mataranka in the Northern Territory as a 16-year-old on a school trip (how romantic!).

But the occasional wafts and the screeching aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the picnic area underneath the plane trees is a bit of a mess.

With winter approaching, local flying fox colonies will move on and it’s difficult to predict where the bats will turn up in a few months’ time, or what they’ll do next summer.

The question remains the same, though, how do we balance our needs and theirs?

When spotted gums flowered near Batemans Bay a hundred thousand bats arrived on the town’s council land, creating what was referred to as a community crisis.

In Candelo the colony is just over 1% of the size of the former Batemans Bay bat population, and the inconvenience is easier to put into perspective.

Perhaps we can decide to cope with them – because right now it’s the flying foxes, and not our homes and livelihoods, that are in crisis.

Words and pictures supplied by Kate Burke from Raisin – stories of regional science and innovation

“My Christmas present 2003 was to have it confirmed that I had breast cancer,” – Neville Baker

Neville and Dianne Baker
Neville and Dianne Baker at their Catalina home near Batemans Bay.

Catalina’s Neville Baker has just turned 70. As if it was yesterday, he speaks of the day 13 years earlier when he felt a burning in his right breast.

He knew something wasn’t right and took himself to the doctor.

“My Christmas present 2003 was to have it confirmed that I had breast cancer,” Neville says.

Neville and wife Dianne were living in Orange, in Central West New South Wales at the time

Neville has a background as an agricultural mechanic and as a Quickbooks trainer, Dianne is a retired TAA air hostess.

They met while both working in New Guinea.

“He bought me a drink and he has been buying me drinks ever since,” Di laughs.

Returning to Australia in 1973, two children followed – Adam and Serena.

The Christmas cancer diagnoses of 2003 opened a can of health, genetic and social worms for Neville, his family and community.

“In the January, Dr James French (Westmead Breast Cancer Insitute) removed my right breast and all lymph nodes in my right arm,” Neville recalls.

Four rounds of chemotherapy followed.

“It’s like getting yourself a schooner glass of kerosene and drinking it,” Neville says.

Every 12 months thereafter, Neville has had a mammogram. Since moving to the Eurobodalla in 2009, that check up has happened at Moruya Hospital.

“Just the other the day the radiographer joked that she very rarely does a mammogram on a hairy chest,” Neville laughs.

“If you didn’t laugh you’d curl up in a corner and cry.”

Neville and his family are grateful for the 13 Christmases that have followed and like anyone who has walked the fine line between life and death, there is a terrific “don’t tolerate fools” attitude from the Bakers.

Drinking coffee and eating homemade cake overlooking the Tollgate Islands from his lounge room, Neville is keen to share part of his story that he still struggles to understand – the reaction many had to his breast cancer diagnoses.

“People didn’t know how to handle me,” Neville starts to explain.

Neville says even his GP at the time seemed confronted by a man with a breast cancer.

“He basically ran away,” Neville says.

“Cancer is cancer, whether you have got it as a melanoma, or you’ve got it as breast, or pancreatic, whatever the case maybe.”

“Some people just couldn’t handle it – here’s a bloke who has just had breast cancer,” Neville says.

Neville and Dianne are reluctant to add too much more detail. Let bygones be bygones they say, but the shake in their voice and look on their face says it all.

“Fortunately we found a very nice doctor in Orange, who took over my case and was very supportive,” Neville says.

Memories of people who did step up bring a smile back to the Baker’s face.

Especially the story of a mate who mowed the neighbour’s lawn thinking it was Neville and Dianne’s.

“And the lawn next door was much bigger,” Neville chuckles.

Neville speaks with Ian Campbell for the About Regional podcast – episode 7

 

While breast cancer is uncommon in men the advice they receive is familiar.

Cancer Australia encourages men who find a change in their breasts not let embarrassment or uncertainty prevent them from seeing a doctor.

As with female breast cancer, early detection and treatment are the best ways to survive the disease.

In 2012, there were 116 men diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia, around 90% were over the age of 50.

Breast cancer in men is the same disease that affects women. Even though men have less breast tissue the disease works and progresses in a similar way.

Signs and symptoms in men include discharge from the nipple, change in shape or appearance of the nipple and or breast, pain, and swollen lymph nodes under the arm.

“Men are becoming more aware of their health, but (sadly) I would say a lot of men die having breast cancer and not knowing about it,” Neville says.

During his recovery, Neville was invited to take part in genetic testing, a move that would further challenge the attitudes and feelings of those around him.

“Within my family, my father died of prostate cancer and one of my father’s sisters died of breast cancer,” Neville explains.

“They (doctors and researchers) seemed to think there could be a link  – somewhere.”

A simple blood test followed and nine months later, Neville’s family genetics were blown open.

Associate Professor Judy Kirk at the Family Cancer Service in Westmead Hospital told Neville and Dianne that a BRCA2 gene mutation had been detected.

Associate Professor Kirk explained that BRCA1 and BRCA2 are normal human genes that help suppress the growth of tumours. They help repair damaged DNA and play a role in ensuring the stability of a cell’s genetic material.

When either of these genes mutates or is altered it is not able to function correctly and as such DNA damage goes unrepaired, triggering the potential for cells to mutate which can lead to cancer.

Associate Professor Kirk advised that a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast and or ovarian cancer was greatly increased if they had inherited the harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation and that cancer tended to develop at a younger age.

Neville wrote of his genetic discovery to family near and far and introduced them to Associate Professor Kirk in order that they could make their own investigations.

“One of my cousins had the test, she proved positive and had her ovaries removed, and they came back a cancerous.”

“I get a Christmas card (from her) every year,” Neville smiles.

Others in the family also took the test for the deadly mutation.

“The cousins that proved ‘negative’ breathed a big sigh of relief,” Neville says.

Neville and Dianne’s daughter Serena was thirty when she was tested and proved ‘positive’.

“At the time it was shock-horror, what have I done?”

“But because she was ‘positive’ to the gene she is eligible for mammograms and ongoing support,” Neville explains.

“Instead of having to wait until she is fifty.”

Some in his extended family never responded to Neville’s information pack. The 70-year-old accepts that cancerous genetics is confronting news to get at the letterbox but he says he felt obliged to pass the information on.

With the smoke from his 70th birthday candles still hanging in the air, Neville is concerned that regional cancer patients might not be given the option of genetic testing.

“This genetic testing is available,” Neville says.

“Don’t hold back.

“The more that people know, then the more lives can be saved.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Regional – the podcast, episode six, January 19 2017

Triangle Farm Tilba. From Facebook
Triangle Farm Tilba. From Facebook

About Regional, the podcast, January 19 2017.

In episode six…

The TV show River Cottage Australia has been mothballed, host Paul West gives us the inside story and speaks of his plans for the future. Read more HERE.

Author Deb Hunt shares her amazing love story with a pilot from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, a man given up for dead in a horrific helicopter crash as a young fella that goes on to help lead this iconic organisation.

And one of the Anglican Churches newest priests, Merimbula’s Anthony Frost talks about his life of faith and the relevance of the Bible in 2017.

Thanks for tuning in, feedback, story ideas and advertising enquiries to hello@aboutregional.com.au

About Regional – a new place for the stories of South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian

Listening options:

Click here to listen and subscribe via iTunes

Click here to listen and subscribe via Audioboom

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.

About Regional – the podcast, episode 4, November 23 2016

Guerilla Bay
Guerilla Bay

About Regional – the podcast, episode 4, November 23 2016

There’s a seaside feel to episode 4…

Recorded at Guerilla Bay, just south of Batemans Bay, the day and the water were warm, it’s starting to feel like summer holiday time!

In this program:

*Tathra’s Indi Wood chats to us from Fiji about his aid work at a Lautoka radio station. It’s a real twist on what you think Australian foreign aid looks like. Read more HERE

*Staying with foreign aid, you will meet the ‘Accidental Aid Worker Sue Liu. Just weeks after returning home from Sri Lanka in 2004, Sue watched as the people and the communities she had just left were hit hard. Her response changed the direction of her life. Her story is a good read for the summer holidays.

*The Australian National Busking Championships are moving beyond their Cooma base, next year the competition will include finals in three states and six regional locations. We chat to the founder Allan Spencer. Read more HERE.

Feedback and story ideas to hello@aboutregional.com.au

This program is also available for sponsorship.

About Regional – a new place for the people, issues, and colour of South East NSW.

To stream and subscribe to the podcast:

Click to listen via Audioboom

Click to listen via Stitcher

Coming soon to iTunes!

The power of a simple homemade meal By Leah Milston

Leah Milston @ Mystery Bay By David Wallace
Leah Milston @ Mystery Bay By David Wallace

Years ago when my children were small and I was very depressed, a friend arrived on my doorstep with a homemade meal.

I had gone from an energetic high to a motionless low.

I always managed to look after my children but everything took so much effort and time.

My friend was concerned about me, she had a sense I wasn’t well in the way friends know. She had no idea of or experience with what I was going through but thought a home cooked meal would be useful.

She was so right.

The fact she offered no advice and was honest about not knowing what I was going through, was such a relief from the well-meaning but ill-informed advice that I had been receiving from other people.

She made me feel so cared for – and what a relief to know that I could feed my family that night without worrying about what I was going to cook.

It’s a gesture that touched me and one I have tried to pass on; seeing someone in need and trying to think of something practical to do for them.

It can be just sitting with a person, folding laundry, bringing in firewood, taking children to school, feeding a pet, or going to the shops.

We don’t need to understand fully what someone is going through in order to help them.

When someone is ill it can be hard to know what sort of assistance is needed and even hard for the person who is unwell to know. So if you want to help – start with the simple stuff.

For me, when I was sick I felt I was so isolated, so alone, like no one understood.

When I received that home cooked meal all of a sudden I was not forgotten or alone, I was given strength to get through another day, a day closer to wellness.

During Mental Health Month there is much emphasis on what the individual can do to maintain their own mental health.

The importance of diet, plenty of exercise, being connected to the community, positive ways of thinking, coping with a stressful life by using meditation, mindfulness, cognitive behaviour therapy – all are seen as important parts to promoting mental health.

I am adding something new, an idea from author and philosopher Shannon L Alder:

“When the “I” is replaced by “We” illness becomes wellness.”

We all have the potential to make such a difference in someone’s life, and all it can take is a small gesture like a delivered homemade meal…or writing an article and sharing your experience.

Don’t be afraid to be the ‘we’ Shannon Alder talks about.

 

About Leah…

Leah Milston was diagnosed as being Bipolar over 40 years ago.

She says she spent the first 16 years living in denial, the next 16 she describes as ‘reluctant’ but for the last 9 years Leah has embraced the way she is wired.

So much so Leah is now a voluntary speaker for Beyondblue and was previously a voluntary rural ambassador for Black Dog Institute (2007-2010) and regularly writes articles and speaks on radio about mental health issues.

She is also a representative on the Eurobodalla Health Services Community Representative Committee.

Since 2005  Leah has been the owner, manager and personality behind Milston’s Past and Present in Mogo. The shop has enough order and enough chaos and quirkiness (just like it’s owner) to make it a  wonderful place to browse.

NSW Local Government Elections – there has gotta be a better way

People casting a vote
People casting a vote

The results of the poll have been declared, the new Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils are getting down to work, however some voters are perhaps still wondering who are these people?

Leading up to Polling Day on September 10, locals had to contend with a field of candidates that would have filled a few of buses.

Fifty-five candidates stood in the Eurobodalla, 26 in the Bega Valley; contesting nine spots on both councils.

Many voters expressed frustration leading up to the poll around the lack of information about each candidate. People had a real sense that they were voting blind and resented a feeling of being forced to vote without the necessary information.

Moruya’s Keith Dance has served two terms on Eurobodalla Shire Council and lays claim to having contested every council election between 2000 and 2010.

He says he has been arguing against the way councilors are elected for many years.

“My argument has always been – we have eight vacancies (plus the Mayor), we should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance says.

“As a voter, we should be able to elect our council, not elect one member of a group and hope that their preference trail will go where we want it to go to fill the other seven spots.”

An advocate for below the line (number every box) and first past the post voting, Mr Dance is of the view that many candidates simply contested the election to direct preferences to a lead candidate.

“I makes it hard for people to decipher, to work out what the candidate’s credentials are, or even to know whether these people are fair dinkum,” Mr Dance says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya
Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya

Rather than simply placing a ‘one’ above the line next to a candidate’s name, Mr Dance wants voters to be able to vote for each position on council directly.

‘Above the line’ voting plays out at Eurobodalla Shire elections more so than in the Bega Valley, where the makeup of candidates tends not to lend itself to that extra voting option. Having said that though, preference flows did influence the size of the field south of the Shire boundary at Dignams Creek, so the argument put by Mr Dance is relevant for both Shires.

“We should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance suggests.

“That would shrink the field down because you would only have people who were fair dinkum about being elected.”

He believes there are at least two people elected to Eurobodalla Council on September 10 that had no desire or ambition to sit in the council chamber. Mr Dance claims these candidates found themselves higher up the preference flow order than was originally intended and hence elected on the back of a strong lead candidate.

“Now they have to try and work out whether they can fulfill the commitment of an elected councilor,” Mr Dance says.

“I used to spend three or four days a week (on council business) so the commitment to be a councilor is fairly high.”

Keith Dance from the About Regional podcast:

Coincidently Victoria is heading into Local Government Elections next month and part of the process unfolding south of the border has merit and would increase voter engagement and confidence according to Mr Dance.

This longtime council watcher believes the postal voting method many Victorian councils adopt would be a win for disillusioned voters in NSW.

“Voting information is sent to the elector and they return it as a postal vote,” Mr Dance says.

“You do not have to run the gauntlet of going into the polling booth with umpteen people in front of you shoving paper in your face saying ‘vote for me, vote for me’ it frustrates the hell out of people.”

Mr Dance says the Victorian system includes candidate profiles as part of the voting information sent out to people on the electoral roll, reducing confusion while increasing confidence in the process.

“We had nearly 12% informal voting, a 12% vote is enough to get one candidate elected, it’s wrong, it just doesn’t work,” Mr Dance says.

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

A spokesperson for Local Government NSW (LGNSW), which represents the interests of the Local Government sector in NSW, says postal voting does not have widespread support.

“Postal voting could disenfranchise a significant proportion of the voting population, particularly young people and those with less permanent addresses,” the spokesperson says.

Mr Dance disagrees and says, “It allows people to have a proper vote.”

“It needs pushing and now is the time to do it, after the election, people have had enough of this,” he says.

A spokesperson for the NSW Electorial Commission says NSW Local Government Elections are administered according to the legislation.

“Responsibility rests with the Premier and the Minister for Local Government, reforms are therefore a matter for the government of the day,” the spokesperson says.

Any organisation or member of the public can make a submission on the conduct of elections to the NSW Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

“I raised this issue at a public meeting in Moruya,” Mr Dance says.

“There would have been 70 people in the room and I damn near got a standing ovation.”

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