Summer 2017/18 – a wrap of nature’s peak season in South East NSW

A Spotted Harrier, more common in western NSW was spotted at Candelo during the summer of 2017/18. Photo: Leo Berzins.
A Spotted Harrier, more common in western NSW was spotted at Candelo during the summer of 2017/18. Photo: Leo Berzins.

Summer is nature’s peak season in South East NSW. Fauna and flora look to those warm rays from the sun to flourish and keep their species going.

Survival of the fittest means something new in these days of rapid environmental change; creatures of feather, fur, and fin are responding differently to those influences, and it’s often something that can be witnessed first hand.

With the first licks of winter being felt at dawn and dusk, a report card on the summer of 2017/18 was released by those observing the local environment at close quarters.

Sham Eichmann, is the Acting Manager of the Batemans Marine Park, for the NSW Department of Primary Industries. She says the long-spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rogersii) has been one to watch over summer as the impacts of sea urchin barrens become more widely noticed within the Batemans Marine Park.

“Long-spined sea urchins are a native species on the east coast of Australia,” Ms Eichmann says.

“Small barren areas are part of the natural marine ecosystem and have been found to provide benefits to smaller cryptic fish species. Not all barren areas can be considered ‘bad’ for the marine environment.

“There is concern that the barrens are expanding more rapidly and are detrimentally impacting a range of social, economic, and environmental values within the marine park.

“The scale of this change and its causes are unknown,” Ms Eichmann says.

Long Spined Sea Urchins and the barrens that create are being studied in the Batemans Marine Park. Photo: DPI.
Long Spined Sea Urchins and the barrens that create are being studied in the Batemans Marine Park. Photo: DPI.

For the time, the Department of Primary Industries is asking that people don’t take matters into their own hands and begin killing urchins.

Many species of sea urchins inhabit local waters including red, green, and slate pencil urchins, which play an important role in the biodiversity of reef systems.

In NSW a bag limit of 10 sea urchins applies to all species, and urchins can only be taken by hand. Hammers, mattocks, chisels, small spades, and screwdrivers must not be used to kill sea urchins.

Sanctuary zones within the Batemans Marine Park are no-go areas for urchin collection. Download the Fish Smart App to learn all the rules of fishing within the park.

Ms Eichmann says urchin barrens will continue to be studied by the Department and university researchers.

Shark Bay to the south of Broulee Island. Photo: DPI.
Shark Bay to the south of Broulee Island. Photo: DPI.

The other feature of the local summer just gone was a combination of king tides and very hot temperatures, which led to a fish kill at Shark Bay, Broulee over the Australia Day long weekend as temperatures spiked towards 40 degrees.

“Marine Park staff attended the site and determined the fish kill was due to a pulse of nutrients into the system,” Ms Eichmann says.

In the lead-up, big swells had washed a large amount of seaweed on to the beach and into rock pools, the fatal rush of nutrients flowed into the system as the overwhelming amount of seaweed started to break down in the extreme heat.

On the flip side, summer saw some good fish catches according to the Marine Park’s Acting Manager.

“Particularly Jewfish in the Clyde River, and DPI is investigating claims that Jewfish numbers are increasing within the Marine Park,” Ms Eichmann says.

Little Terns at Mogareeka, near Tathra. Photo: Leo Berzins
Little Terns at Mogareeka, near Tathra. Photo: Leo Berzins

Bird movements also point to the changing seasons. As I sit here tapping away, Gang Gang Cockatoos are settling into the bush outside, the birds move down from the high country each autumn ahead of the approaching cold.

Far South Coast Birdwatchers meet regularly in different locations to spy on and track bird activity in the region. Twitcher Leo Berzins says the past summer has not been a good one for beach-nesting birds.

“There are currently ten breeding pairs of Hooded Plovers in the Bega Valley Shire. These birds are critically endangered in NSW,” he says.

“Unfortunately, only one chick made it all the way through to fledging this summer.

“It takes five weeks from hatching through to fledging, predators include foxes, ravens, gulls, and goannas and on some beaches, domestic dogs are also a threat,” he says.

Pied Oystercatchers raised at least ten fledglings in 17/18, including this one at Mogereeka. Photo: Leo Berzins.
Pied Oystercatchers raised at least ten fledglings in 17/18, including this one at Mogereeka. Photo: Leo Berzins.

Pied Oystercatchers fared somewhat better with at least ten fledglings, including one at busy Short Point in Merimbula. These birds are listed as Endangered in NSW.

“Another endangered bird that nests on beaches in our region is the Little Tern,” Mr Berzins explains.

These birds arrive in late October to establish breeding colonies before departing in early February.

“The most reliable nesting location is at Mogareeka, near the Bega River mouth. Another location used this summer was Bird Island in Lake Wallagoot, where some thirty nests were established before being decimated by gulls,” Mr Berzins says.

Following the loss of this colony, many of the birds seemed to move up to Mogareeka to nest again.

“Only ten or so chicks made it through to fledging, well down on recent years. The main threats were again foxes, gulls, and ravens,” he says.

A Red-Capped Plover, raising young at Tathra in the summer of 17/18. Photo: Leo Berzins.
A Red-Capped Plover, raising young at Tathra in the summer of 17/18. Photo: Leo Berzins.

One beach-nesting bird that is not yet endangered continues to breed successfully.

“The little Red-Capped Plover is better at concealing its nest than other hoodies and sometimes succeed out in the open at a busy location such as Tura Beach,” Mr Berzins says.

Another positive was the sighting of a number of Beach Stone-Curlews; it’s rare to see them this far south but Mr Berzins says sightings have increased in the last couple of years, especially at Spencer Park Merimbula, Whale Spit in Twofold Bay, Mogareeka, and at Bithry Inlet.

“The question remains whether there are more Curlews in the region or whether the same birds are being sighted in different locations at different times of the year,” Mr Berzins says.

Away from the beach, some uncommon birds were observed over the summer of 2017/18.

“Two raptor species, birds of prey, a Black Kite at Tanja and a Spotted Harrier near Candelo,” he says.

“These birds are much more common further inland and are not often seen in the south-east. Possibly dry conditions further west drove the birds further afield in search of food.”

The Beach Stone-Curlew has been spotted at Spencer Park Merimbula, Whale Spit in Twofold Bay, Mogareeka, and at Bithry Inlet. Photo: Leo Berzins.
The Beach Stone-Curlew has been spotted at Spencer Park Merimbula, Whale Spit in Twofold Bay, Mogareeka, and at Bithry Inlet. Photo: Leo Berzins.

Summer in South East NSW bloomed according to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Local rangers spent a lot of time in the field surveying and monitoring the unique plants and animals that call this place home, as part of the “Saving our Species” program.

“Some of the region’s most threatened species burst into flower over the warmer months,” a National Parks spokesperson says.

Researchers from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage spent summer collecting seeds from a range of plants across a large area, from the mountains to the sea, including Wadbilliga National Park, South East Forests National Park, Bournda Nature Reserve, and Tinderry Nature Reserve, west of Batemans Bay.

Kydra Dampiera (Dampiera fusca) in Wadbilliga National Park. Photo: D Ansell OEH.
Kydra Dampiera (Dampiera fusca) in Wadbilliga National Park. Photo: D Ansell OEH.

“Seed was collected during the peak flowering period of each species, which included Parris’ Bush-pea (Pultenaea parrisiae), Merimbula Star-hair (Astrotricha sp. ‘Wallagaraugh’), Kydra Dampiera (Dampiera fusca) and Genoa River Correa (Correa lawrenceana var. genoensis),” the spokesperson says.

This work is one of hundreds of projects the Saving our Species program is undertaking, with the aim of ensuring the long-term future of threatened species in NSW.

“We work with the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra, and the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan to safely store the seed and undertake germination trials.”

Parris' Bush-pea (Pultenaea parrisiae). Photo: D Ansell OEH.
Parris’ Bush-pea (Pultenaea parrisiae). Photo: D Ansell OEH.

“This seed collection work often involves travelling to remote locations for field work and many hours of searching for very small and difficult to find plants.

“We collect the seed firstly to provide some insurance against threats to the remaining populations, and secondly to see what makes the seed germinate, to help with future management plans,” the National Parks spokesperson says.

Did you notice anything interesting in nature around your place over summer? Please share your experience below.

#This article first appeared on RiotACT

Bega’s Teen Clinic spreads – Kiama, Narooma, Bermagui, Merimbula, Eden

The Teen Clinic approach starts at reception. Photo: BVMP.
The Teen Clinic approach starts at reception. Photo: BVMP.

A fresh approach to youth health that started in Bega is expanding to five new locations.

South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network and Senator John Williams, Duty Senator for Eden-Monaro, have announced Commonwealth funding to roll out “Teen Clinic” in GP practices at Bermagui, Eden, Narooma, Merimbula, and Kiama.

Bega Valley Medical Practice in Bega started the free drop-in service for the region’s young people in 2015.

Dr Duncan MacKinnon says Teen Clinic starts at the front desk of his GP practice with reception staff.

“When teens come all they have to say is ‘We’re here for Teen Clinic’ and that’s as much information as they have to give, no questions asked,” Duncan says.

On two afternoons a week, each practice will set aside time for teens with registered nurses (RN). High schoolers simply show up, no appointment needed, and no fee – Medicare picks up the cost.

Doctors and other health professionals are there and ready to respond if needed, supporting the work of the RN.

With the Commonwealth funding, Teen Clinic has expanded to Bermagui Medical Centre, Curalo Medical Centre (Eden), Lighthouse Surgery (Narooma), Main Street Medical (Merimbula), and Kiama Medical Practice.

Dr Duncan MacKinnon from the Bega Valley Medical Practice. Photo: BVMP.
Dr Duncan MacKinnon from the Bega Valley Medical Practice. Photo: BVMP.

Conscious of the barriers that sometimes exist when ‘grown-ups’, bureaucracy, and adolescents try and engage, an easy, non-judgmental, welcoming approach is key to the Teen Clinic model, as well as the leadership of nurses.

RN Sue MacKinnon is one of the faces of Teen Clinic in Bega each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon between 2 and 5 pm.

“There has been a lot of research that shows teenagers can be reluctant to talk to doctors,” Sue says.

“But they are fairly happy to talk to nurses, we are a good entry point.”

Aside from offering their own high level of primary health care, Sue and the clinic’s other RNs work to introduce and connect teens to the people and additional care they might need.

“We do a lot of baton passing, it’s a really smooth transition for the kids and takes away some of the scariness for them,” Sue says.

It’s important that Teen Clinic is not “just” seen to be a mental health service or a sexual health service.

All bases are covered, open access covering all medical concerns for teens.

The response from Bega teens has been positive over the last two years.

“We have a small population, so sometimes we might get one person, sometimes we get seven,” Duncan says.

“We get groups of kids coming in which is really lovely because they’re bringing their friends.

“It’s important that teenagers know this is a confidential service,” he says.

“But we always talk to them about parental involvement, but a lot of teenagers are capable of making informed choices.”

The free, drop-in Teen Clinic service is now available at Bega, Kiama, Narooma, Bermagui, Merimbula, and Edem. Photo: BVMP.
The free, drop-in Teen Clinic service is now available at Bega, Kiama, Narooma, Bermagui, Merimbula, and Edem. Photo: BVMP.

In announcing the funding, Senator Williams said, “Any investment in rural health in the search for better outcomes is a good investment.

“There has always been a great divide between city and regional health services but thankfully with initiatives such as this it will assist our medical specialists and ease the burden on country people,” he said.

Bega Valley Medical Practice has already started to roll out the Teen Clinic service to the five other practices and will provide ongoing support and mentoring.

*The article first appeared on RiotACT

Big fish dumped at Bermagui – “Frustrating and disappointing”

“I couldn’t believe the size of the fish carcasses.” – Deborah Taylor.
“I couldn’t believe the size of the fish carcasses.” – Deborah Taylor.

Bega Valley Shire Council says it’s disappointed and frustrated by a recent incident of fish waste being dumped in a shared community space at Bermagui.

New Wallaga Lake resident Deborah Taylor came upon the fishy horror scene one day last week while walking her dog at Bermagui Harbour.

The heads of a number of big Marlin along with fish frames and innards were dumped into overflowing street bins right in the heart of the town’s famous fishing precinct.

“I couldn’t believe the size of the fish carcasses,” Deborah says.

“I called Council, and as we were talking the Cleanaway truck pulled up, one man hopped out to clean it all up – an awful job.”

The NSW Department of Primary Industries advises, “It is an offense to dump fish offal into the waters at Bermagui Harbour.”

The shire’s red top landfill bins are an option but in this case its the volume and manner in which the fish waste has been left that is the issue.

Part of the fishy horror scene at Bermagui Harbour. Photo: Deborah Taylor.
Part of the fishy horror scene at Bermagui Harbour. Photo: Deborah Taylor.

Council says the dumping of waste and litter detracts from the beauty of our region, “Our coastline is the Shire’s greatest natural asset and the protection and effective management of our coastline is a high priority.”

Council has previously provided a specially designed ‘offal trailer’ at the Bermagui Harbour boat ramp; local farmers were collecting the waste and using it as a fertiliser, but that service had to be discontinued.

Local’s have suggested the trailer often became full of general household waste, reducing the effectiveness of the composting service.

It seems that sort of idea is still on the table. Council’s Waste Management team is currently reviewing operations and looking at alternative options for the collection and treatment of fish waste, including processing it into compost products.

Bermagui Harbour with Gulaga looking on. Source: Sapphire Coast Tourism
Bermagui Harbour with Gulaga looking on, how it normally looks. Photo: Sapphire Coast Tourism

The sad thing is big Marlin like the ones dumped at Bermagui aren’t generally considered good eating and are often loaded with heavy metals from a long life at sea.

Most sporting fishermen tend to take a photo of these impressive creatures of the deep then tag and release them, ready to tussle again another day.

“I was appalled to see this human greed, cruelty and don’t care attitude,” Deborah says.

Council is directly responsible for a public reserve network that stretches along 225km of coastline, for many if not all of the towns and villages along the way these spaces are central to community life and the region’s tourist appeal.

Ten boat launching facilities throughout the Shire are part of that responsibility.

“The management of fish waste at some of these facilities has been a long-standing problem,” the Council spokesperson says.

“During peak fishing periods, large volumes of fish frames and offal are generated and are generally well managed by local fishing Clubs, charter operators, and fishing competition organisers.”

Council says it is working closely with fishing clubs in Eden, Merimbula, and Bermagui to find solutions to the problem of fish offal, and encourages fishing tournament organisers to contact their waste section to discuss options for the extra waste generated by these events.

The fish waste dumped at Bermagui coincides with the recent trashing of Tathra Lions Park at Mogareeka, where partygoers lit fires and left behind twelve bags of rubbish along with vomit and urine for Council to clean up.

“The management and maintenance of public reserves is an ongoing challenge for Council and for many members of the local community who provide countless hours of invaluable volunteer time helping manage and protect these areas,” Council says.

Deborah Taylor feels the frustration and has spent the summer picking up after people. “Tweed Bait bags, fishing line, food wrappers, bottles, cans, cigarettes, even underpants, and socks, I get quite upset about it,” she said.

The scene that greeted Council’s clean-up crew recently at Mogareeka. Photo: Bega Valley Shire Council.
The scene that greeted Council’s clean-up crew recently at Mogareeka. Photo: Bega Valley Shire Council.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

Change to Anzac Day fundraising upsets South East veterans

Anzac Day fundraising remains a concern for RSL sub-branch members in South East NSW. Photo: Patricia Woods Flickr.
Anzac Day fundraising remains a concern for RSL sub-branch members in South East NSW. Photo: Patricia Woods Flickr.

RSL members in South East NSW say they are embarrassed by the scandal that has engulfed head office and are angry their local fundraising activities on Anzac Day have been impacted.

Moruya RSL Sub-branch Deputy President, Kevin Setter, says concern was first felt when RSL headquarters in Sydney prevented the sale of poppies on Remembrance Day last November.

Since then, all RSL sub-braches in New South Wales have been instructed to hand in their fundraising authorities by this Thursday.

“There will be no fundraising with Anzac Day this year unless proceeds go to the Invictus Games,” Mr Setter says.

In recent years, the Moruya RSL Sub-branch has raised about $6,000 from the sale of Anzac Day badges and about $5,000 from poppy sales. Half of those proceeds go to Sydney HQ and the other half stays with the local branch.

Merimbula RSL Sub-branch President, Allan Browning says his members feel tainted by the corruption uncovered at RSL NSW. He doesn’t believe members or local residents will be interested in supporting the Invictus Games.

Lest We Forget, some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Lest We Forget, some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“People want their money to stay local, this is going to create all sorts of problems for us,” Mr Browning says.

“We don’t have anything to do with Sydney, this has been very embarrassing.”

Snowy Mountains RSL Sub-branch covers Jindabyne, Berridale, Dalgety, and stops in between. Member Jimmy Crocker says he is hoping the issue might be resolved before April 25.

“We are a very small cog, but this money helps cover the cost of the various remembrance services we hold each year,” Mr Crocker says.

“We also give a lot of assistance to diggers in need, a lot of emotional support, whatever they need.”

NSW RSL says there will be fundraising merchandise for sale on Anzac Day and that communities across NSW will be invited to support the veterans community in a different way this year.

“Whilst we fix our fundraising systems, we are negotiating an interim arrangement for our 40,000 volunteer members this Anzac Day,” NSW RSL President, James Brown said in February.

“RSL NSW will fundraise for the Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

“This inspiring event, created by His Royal Highness Prince Harry, will bring wounded warriors from 18 nations to Sydney in October to compete against each other, and show to the world they remain unconquered by their war wounds,” Mr Brown said.

Robert Phillipe of France in action during the men’s 100m Ambulant IT2 at Day One of the Invictus Games at Lee Valley Athletics Stadium in London, England. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for Invictus Games.
Robert Phillipe of France in action during the men’s 100m Ambulant IT2 at Day One of the Invictus Games at Lee Valley Athletics Stadium in London, England. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for Invictus Games.

The fundraising problems Mr Brown points to relate to the Bergin Inquiry instigated by the NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matthew Kean.

Patrica Bergin SC was asked to investigate concerns that NSW RSL and it’s governing body and officers had breached the Charitable Funds Act.

During the course of the inquiry, it was revealed that former RSL NSW President, Don Rowe spent $475,000 on his corporate credit card over a six-year period, including $213,000 in cash withdrawals.

The Berejiklian Government has referred the matter to the NSW Police.

As Mr Brown reported to RSL members, “[Ms Bergin] concluded that there had been “extensive non-compliance with the statutory regime for fundraising at the sub-Branch level” (p 139) as well as a failure by State HQ to comply with numerous parts of the Fundraising Act.”

“The Inquirer [Ms Bergin SC] was scathing in her assessment of certain former leaders of the league who she considered took the RSL “close to the brink of destruction”,” Mr Brown said.

She criticised State Councillors who served between 2014 and early 2017 for their ignorance of the fundraising law and their duties as directors and found that “each of them engaged in a cover-up”.”

With regard to current NSW RSL leadership, Ms Bergin SC concluded that Minister Kean, “would be satisfied that those persons are fit and proper persons.”

Only released in January, the Bergin Inquiry Report points to some serious work at NSW RSL – adding rigor, transparency, and accountability to its systems, work that won’t be ready for Anzac Day 2018.

The men and women of Bega answered the call to war: Some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.
The men and women of Bega answered the call to war: Some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Part of that work seems to involve a better business model for the state’s 353 sub-branches.

Mr Brown acknowledges that without fundraising, “nearly half our sub-branches will struggle to remain open.”

“Whilst we fix fundraising systems to be compliant with the law, we will need to change our league’s financial model to ensure that better-resourced sub-branches apply the surplus funds they hold to support smaller sub-branches.

“We will separately issue a State Council Directive outlining the new financial model for the league during 2018.

“We must make sure our smaller sub-branches, particularly those in the bush, can keep doing welfare and commemoration work in their local communities,” Mr Brown said.

RSL Sub-braches from across southern NSW will gather in Bega this weekend, and Merimbula’s Allan Browning says Anzac Day fundraising will be at the top of the agenda.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT.

Fluoride flows for Bega Valley water supplies – Council votes “yes”

Some of those in the public gallery today at Bega Valley Shire Council. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Some of those in the public gallery today at Bega Valley Shire Council. Photo: Ian Campbell.

A ten-month debate at Bega Valley Shire Council came to an end this afternoon with councilors voting to add fluoride to most of the shire’s remaining water supplies.

Council has been adding fluoride to the Bega-Tathra system since 1963, today’s six – two result in the chamber will see it added to two of Council’s other water supplies.

The long process has been characterised by conflicting science and at times hostile debate, which was on show again at today’s council meeting.

Before a public gallery of around 30 people, five community members addressed councilors urging them to reject the idea, most suggesting that Council would face legal action if they proceeded.

“I do not give council permission to introduce this toxic substance as mass medication without choice into my water supply,” Merriwinga resident, Sean Burke said.

Negative health impacts have been a real fear of those opposing the introduction. Reduced IQ, thyroid complaints, cancer, fertility problems, arthritis, and kidney disease have all been raised during the course of the debate.

“Imagine the outcry if you were to add some other medicine to the water?” Bermagui’s Anthony Hereford argued.

Pambula’s Fraser Buchanan, speaking for the Bega Valley Residents and Ratepayers Association suggested the recent NSW Health phone survey on the issue was biased in favour of fluoride.

Five hundred residents were quizzed over the summer holidays and asked, “Do you agree with adding fluoride to the public drinking supply to try to prevent tooth decay?”

“Step up and show you are unwilling to be part of a contrived process,” Mr Buchanan urged Councillors.

The validity of the survey was a theme that run through the discussion, however some councilors were clearly swayed by the results – 66.2% responded ‘yes’, 28.4% responded ‘no’, 5.2% were unsure and only 0.2% preferred not to respond to the survey.

Today’s decision for Bega Valley Shire Council was prompted by NSW Health asking regional water utilities who don’t already incorporate fluoride into their water treatment processes to do so as a prevention of tooth decay.

With 96% of the state fluoridated, NSW Health is moving on the remaining 4% and is providing all the funds needed for the Bega Valley to come on board.

Councilors Cathy Griff and Jo Dodds argued strongly for those in the room campaigning against the idea.

Cr Griff moved a motion to defer the decision pending legal advice but that was defeated.

“Sugar is the problem,” Cr Griff said.

“The case is building against fluoride, I would like to think we could lead the way.”

Despite a general acceptance among councilors of the benefits of fluoride in preventing tooth decay, many also seemed frustrated at the conflicting science presented during the course of the debate with both sides undermining the quality of each others research.

“This triggers in me the precautionary principle,” Cr Dodds said.

“There is too much evidence of risk.”

The Tantawangalo water supply source at Six Mile Creek. Image Kate Burke
The Tantawangalo water supply at Six Mile Creek, near Candelo.  Photo: Kate Burke

With Councillor Mitchell Nadin on leave, the vote could have been split four all but it soon became clear of the eight remaining councilors, six would be saying ‘yes’ to fluoride.

Cr Robyn Bain said, “This gives everybody the chance to have good dental health.”

“Not everybody has the ability to afford good dental care, this is equitable.”

In voting for fluoride, Cr Liz Seckold said, “I will always advocate for the socially disadvantaged.”

“I am sick of being bullied by the anti-fluoride brigade,” she added.

Cobargo’s, Cr Tony Allen was of a similar view, “This will be of benefit to people across the shire.”

Heckled from the public gallery, Cr Sharon Tapscott cut short her speech suggesting, “You are only interested that I vote your way,” she said.

Cr Tapscott drew on the 46-year history of fluoride in the Bega – Tathra supply.

“We’ve had no health problems, that experience should guide us,” she said.

In voting ‘yes’ Pambula’s Russell Fitzpatrick said, “Good oral health is vital and has a huge impact on overall health.”

After rising to her feet at least five times to settle the rowdy gallery, Mayor Kristy McBain was among the last to speak on the issue.

Cr McBain drew a compassion between her own childhood drinking fluoridated water and that of her eight your old daughters.

She told the chamber her daughter has already had four fillings.

“She doesn’t come from a poor background, she brushes her teeth and we see the dentist,” Cr McBain said.

“The only difference is that I came from a fluoridated area she does not.”

Council says the introduction of fluoride means extensive capital asset construction along with human resource considerations, staff training, policy and procedure reviews.

Meaning that it is expected to be a number of years before the people of Candelo, Wolumla, Merimbula, Tura, Pambula, Eden, Kiah, Quaama, Cobargo, Brogo, Wallaga Lake, and Bermagui are drinking fluoridated water.

In closing, Cr McBain made the point that fluoride was not the shires most pressing water issue, the Mayor suggesting that money would be better spent on building water filtration plants.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

New stable complex at Sapphire Coast Turf Club builds racing industry

Sapphire Coast Turf Club is set in bushland between Tathra and Merimbula. Photo: SCTC.
Sapphire Coast Turf Club is set in bushland between Tathra and Merimbula. Photo: SCTC.

A new horse stable complex has opened at Sapphire Coast Turf Club, north of Merimbula, a move that is seen as being key to growing the racing industry on the Far South Coast.

Turf Club President, Robyn Bain believes the $270,000 development allows local trainers to kick-start their business and offers travelling trainers somewhere to safely and securely house their horses.

“One of our difficulties is the tyranny of distance, trainers from the north, south, and west need somewhere to put their prized possessions,” Robyn says.

The new stables opened in time for the $430,000 Bega Cup weekend and were full on the first night, with 14 horses bunking down in the purpose-built bays.

The Turf Club is aiming to have them full at every race meeting.

The new stable complex houses 14 horses. Photo: Ian Campbell.
The new stable complex houses 14 horses. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Horses from Moe trainer Russell Cluning were the first to roll in the sawdust of the new facility. “I’ve sent photos to everyone in my network letting them know how good this is,” Russell says.

“We are on the road for 6 hours and you need to know you have a comfortable place for your horses when you arrive.

“And we’ll make a bit of a holiday of it, knowing the horses are safe we’ll go and stay at Tathra or visit Merimbula,” Russell says.

The new stables are the latest action to come from the Club’s strategic plan which has been rolled out over the last 5 years.

Completed project include new female jockey change rooms, a kangaroo proof fence around the track, shade sails for spectators, new fridges and solar panels, and track improvements.

“The thing that has triggered all this growth is that we have more race meetings from Racing NSW, we now have ten TAB meetings a year and one non-TAB meeting a year,” Robyn says.

“A TAB meeting means that whenever someone in Australian or South East Asia places a bet on a horse that races on our track, we get a percentage of that.”

An eye on the winning post from the new stable complex. Photo: Ian Campbell.
An eye on the winning post from the new stable complex. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Sapphire Coast Turf Club is working in conjunction with Moruya Jockey Club, and Shoalhaven City Turf Club at Nowra to secure 44 meetings a year between the three clubs.

“That will mean we are racing every two to three weeks and will provide opportunities closer to home for the local industry,” Robyn says.

Rewards from the work already done are flowing through – prize money for a race is now locked in at $20,000 minimum, which is attracting a higher class of horses.

“Five years ago our turn over was $1 million, today it’s $2 million and the majority of that money goes back into the local area,” Robyn says.

“The track costs about $300,000 a year to maintain, that’s a lot of agricultural products we buy, and we are now employing ten people.”

Money aside, there are good times in local racing that Robyn Bain is also keen to acknowledge.

“People have fun out here, it’s relaxed, the kids have got a jumping castle, mum and dad can sit down on the grass, chill out and talk to their friends – four hours of bliss,” Robyn says.

“People are happy!”

Rob Tweedie and Robyn Bain from Sapphire Coast Turf Club do the honours. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Rob Tweedie and Robyn Bain from Sapphire Coast Turf Club do the honours. Photo: Ian Campbell.

With the continued support of Racing NSW, there is one more big-ticket item on the to-do list, six to seven hundred thousand dollars worth of track lighting.

“Before and after daylight savings, if you are coming out here to train your horse it is pitch black dark at five o’clock,” Robyn says.

“We can’t allow horses and people on our track without at least 200 metres of ambient light.

“And in this part of the world a lot of our trainers are part-time trainers, so they’ve got full-time jobs. Not having lights here to train at night is a real handbrake,” Robyn says.

The next race day at Sapphire Coast is the Merimbula Cup Tradies Race Day on March 9.

Go the grey! What a beauty! Photo: Ian Campbell.
Go the grey! What a beauty! Photo: Ian Campbell.

*About Regional content is supported by, Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, 2pi Software, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, Jill Howell and Max Wilson, Ingrid Mitchell and Deb Nave, Therese and Denis Wheatley, and Bronnie Taylor.

*The story was first published to RiotACT

New citizens formalise their place in Bega Valley community.

Sittikai Henchaichone, Kannaphat Henchaichone, Deerana Kuskel, Brittany McConnell, Jason Badham, Saul Nightingale, Pavan Tenali, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, Kiran Rajesh, Jennifer Watson. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sittikai Henchaichone, Kannaphat Henchaichone, Deerana Kuskel, Brittany McConnell, Jason Badham, Saul Nightingale, Pavan Tenali, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, Kiran Rajesh, Jennifer Watson. Photo: Ian Campbell

Giving up your citizenship is a hard thing to get your head around if you were born in Australia.

Generally speaking, being born in Australia is the Wonka Golden Ticket of citizenship.

I guess there are Australian’s that renounce their citizenship – Rupert Murdoch comes to mind, but Aussie’s choosing citizenship of another country over the green and gold isn’t something you come across or hear about.

Other people becoming or wanting to become an Australian citizen is much easier to understand.

Around this great southland, 13,000 people made a pledge to Australia and its people on January 26, 11 of those in Bega, people born at all points of the global compass.

Nationally, people of Indian descent were the second largest group to take part in citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day behind the British, something that was reflected locally.

Indian born Bega residents, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, and Kiran Rajesh, along with Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali are now Australian citizens.

Cobargo's Pavan Tenali. Photo: Ian Campbell
Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali. Photo: Ian Campbell

“This is a lovely community and very peaceful, a good place to stay,” Pavan says.

With Australian Crawl’s hit “Boys Light Up” playing in the background, Pavan tells me he has been in Australia for 10 years, in recent years working at the Cobargo Service Station.

“India is a good place too, but now I live here and the feeling is good,” he says.

Skype helps Pavan keep in touch with his large family in India, he says they are very happy for him and support his decision to become an Australian citizen.

“It was a big decision, but I am very happy, my family have peace of mind.”

India and the United Kindom weren’t the only nations represented in Bega, others pledging loyalty to Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws came from Thailand and the United States.

Bermagui's Saul Nightingale. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Bermagui’s Saul Nightingale. Photo: Ian Campbell.

With the day’s soundtrack moving along to Men at Work, Saul Nightingale says his heart has always been Australian.

“I moved here when I was five, that’s forty years ago,” Saul smiles.

“Mum and Dad are from the UK and they just saw the way things were going there, they thought this is not a place to bring up a family, in terms of opportunity, safety, and employment.

Saul calls Bermagui home now and when he isn’t playing music he works for the not-for-profit training organisation – The Centre for Community Welfare Training.

“My earliest memory of Australia was pulling into Sydney Harbour on the P&O Canberra on a stunningly beautiful day, Sydney was showing off, Australia made a pretty good first impression,” Saul laughs.

While becoming an Australian citizen was a formality for Saul, it was something that came with a sense of duty.

“I have a responsibility to have a say politically, as all Australians do,” he says.

“It’s all very well to talk about politics and to support certain causes but if you can’t actually put a vote to that then there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”

Merimbula's Brittany McConnell. Photo: Ian Campbell
Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell. Photo: Ian Campbell

Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell has been in Australia for six and half years with her Australian husband, her background is a jumble of the United States and England.

“It is a big decision to take Australian citizenship, but now I just feel so happy and proud, it feels amazing,” Brittany says.

Like Saul, this nurse from Pambula Hospital is looking forward to having her say.

“Back home you don’t actually have to participate [vote] if you don’t want to, so it’s quite nice to feel that obligation and be involved in decisions and feel like you have a voice,” she says.

As the band starts with Mondo Rock, I chat to Jason Badham who was born in the United States and has found love, life, and work in the Bega Valley.

Wolumla's Jason Badham. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Wolumla’s Jason Badham. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Living in Wolumla, Jason is a website designer with 2pi Software.

“I’ve been thinking about taking out citizenship for almost eight years, but the final decision came at the end of January 2017, ” Jason says.

The Trump inauguration seems to have played a part in Jason’s decision but more so the influence of his Australian partner Kirsten.

“I was in the States and I discovered my wife here in Australia because she was breeding the same kind of parrots that I was, I found her website and it was an encyclopedia of information,” Jason says.

“One thing led to another, I helped her build a website, we started having a friendship and I decided to come over here – it’s the best choice I ever made.”

Australia Day remains a tangle of issues yet to be sorted, but the role the citizenship ceremony plays is beyond question. Those who already have Australian citizenship are reminded by those who are new to it why Australia is such a good place to be and why diversity makes us stronger.

*About Regional content happens through the support of members – thank you to The Crossing Land Education Trust at Bermagui, 2pi Software, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Fiona Firth, Scott Halfpenny, Bruce and Julie Williamson, Sue Hill, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison, and Kerry Newlin. Thank you!

Merimbula twins to stage ‘Oprah the Opera’ in San Francisco

David and Geoff Willis, natural showmen.
David and Geoff Willis, natural showmen.

Twin brothers from Merimbula have crafted a musical about one of the best-known and most influential women in the world, but its just one of a number of productions launching in 2018 for the Willis boys.

Oprah the Opera‘ will open in San Francisco during the second half of 2018 and charts the life of America media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, philanthropist – Oprah Winfrey.

Geoff and David Willis have been making music together for decades.

Their partnership with New Zealand performer Kathy Blain won the 1978 Grand Final of Bert Newton’s ‘New Faces’ TV talent show.

The decision to write a musical about Oprah came over a cup of coffee, buoyed by completing their first musical “The Great Houdini’ six years ago.

“Oprah is a one-woman show with a band and gospel choir,” David says.

The brother’s work is a true collaboration, Geoff writes the music and lyrics, David writes the script.

“She [Oprah] has opened up her life in a huge way, from abuse as a child to the most successful woman in America,” David says.

“There is so much there, a lot of comedy, a lot of heartaches, it’s a really entertaining show and people really love it when they’ve read the script.”

Click play to hear the full conversation with Geoff and David Willis…


Initial planning for the show is underway now, including casting.

Starting out in 1000 seat theatres in San Fransico, David and Geoff are creative consultants to musical director Gregory Cole and will relocate to the U.S closer to showtime.

“We’re excited because it will be an all-black cast and it will be a gospel choir of 50 or 60,” Geoff explains.

“There aren’t a lot of shows that are written for African Americans [cast members].”

The twins aren’t sure if the lady herself knows about the show yet, they have only been able to get as close to Oprah as her personal assistant, but she will be receiving an invite to opening night in July/August next year.

Oprah the Opera, opens in July/August 2018. Source:
Oprah the Opera, opens in July/August 2018. Source:

Both David and Geoff are natural showmen and play a range of musical instruments as well as sing. They are well known for pulling a crowd whether it’s on one of their regular cruise ship tours of the Pacific or Atlantic or in the many concert halls that dot the hills around their hometown of Merimbula.

Their signature tune ‘Me and My Shadow’ is always a hit.

“Being twins, we understand each other very well,” Geoff says.

In shaping their music the pair will often work apart in order to challenge their creativity.

“When we wrote ‘The Great Houdini‘, I actually went to the Gold Coast and spent a few years there,” David says.

“We thought it was a good idea to be away from each other, but it’s amazing how things tied up.

“He [Geoff] would write a song and we wouldn’t discuss it, I would write the script, and the words in the song and the script tied in,” David smiles.

“It’s a twin thing!”

The Great Houdini was the first musical the pair worked on – 16 years in the making, hard work that is now paying off.

“It’s a huge show to put on, we have just met with producers in New York and London, and we are looking at staging that later next year,” Geoff says.

The Great Houdini, talks are underway with producers in New York and London. Source:
The Great Houdini, talks are underway with producers in New York and London. Source:

The pair became mesmerised by the legend of the great magician as 10-year-olds after seeing ‘Houdini’ the movie starring Tony Curtis, twenty years later they felt compelled to write a musical about their idol.

“Dave wrote the script over a 16 year period, and I wrote 60 musical pieces for the show,” Geoff says.

“It had to be perfect,” he says.

The story starts in modern day New York at a Houdini exhibition and works backwards.

“Dave describes it really well as – music, magic and mystery,” Geoff says.

In trying to explain why it is that two Merimbula creatives have stage shows launching a million miles from home, David and Geoff believe there is a sense of confidence missing from the Australian entertainment industry.

“There is a bit of frustration that we are not being accepted by Australian producers,” David says.

“We’ve been to producers in Australia about our shows, and [the impression we’ve been given is that] if it is a success overseas they would probably say, we’ll do it here,” he says.

There is one success closer to home the Willis boys can crow about, and one their Bega Valley fan base can travel to easily.

Billie and the Dinosaurs‘ launched in Sydney last week to sell out shows at the Australian Museum.

Next April the production steps up a notch and will take to the stage in Canberra at Llewellyn Hall featuring the Canberra Youth Orchestra.

It’s a narrated children’s story in the style of ‘Peter and the Wolf’.

David and Geoff have worked with well-known funny man, Tim Ferguson, of Doug Anthony All Stars fame.

David, Tim Ferguson and Geoff Willis, part of the creative team behind 'Billie and the Dinosaurs'. Source: Facebook
David, Tim Ferguson and Geoff Willis, part of the creative team behind ‘Billie and the Dinosaurs’. Source: Facebook

“Tim is the writer and has worked very hard on the script and he is the narrator, he is a lovely person to work with,” Geoff says.

“The Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras are also interested.”

Geoff has composed all 27 orchestral pieces, while David has prepared all the educational material for the production.

The show tells the story of a 10-year-old girl called Billie who makes friends with real live Australian dinosaurs and together they defeat school bullies.

Despite their growing success far from the shores of Merimbula Lake, both men seem to relish and value their stage work at home.

“We live in a beautiful town, and we are very much appreciated by the people here,” David says.

“I was the conductor of the Sapphire Coast Concert Band and Geoff was the conductor of the Big Band and we only gave that up at the end of last year because of these other projects.

“And of course recently we did a show with Frankie J Holden and Michelle Pettigrove, which was a huge success and raised money for raked seating in the new Twyford Theatre.

“We are happy being here, we love living here,” David says.

David and Geoff Willis and the Sapphire Coast Concert Band. Source: Facebook
David and Geoff Willis and the Sapphire Coast Big Band. Source: Facebook

About Regional, is a new place for the stories of South East NSW, made possible by the contributions of members, including – Sprout Cafe Eden, Kaye Johnston, Nigel Catchlove, Therese and Denis Wheatley – thank you!

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

New Merimbula priest gives Bible a 2017 perspective

Bishop Stuart Robinson oversees the ordination of 14 priest, including Merimbula's Anthony Frost.
Bishop Stuart Robinson oversees the ordination of 14 priests, including Merimbula’s Anthony Frost.

One of the Anglican church’s newest priests is Merimbula’s, Anthony Frost.

Reverend Frost first put roots down in the Sapphire Coast Anglican Parish in February 2016. His theological studies had elevated him to the role of Deacon and a job based out of St Clements Church under Reverend Lou Oakes.

Towards the end of last year, Rev Frost was ready to take on higher orders and was ordained a Priest alongside thirteen of his comrades at St Saviour’s Cathedral in Goulburn.

Moving from Deacon to Priest allows Rev Frost to more fully take part in the key sacraments of the Anglican Church, in particular, holy communion and confession.

Despite the fact that church attendance is falling in Australia, down from 44% in 1950 to 17% in 2007, Rev Frost comes to his new job with a modern sense of purpose.

“We are needed on the ground,” Rev Frost says.

“There is a strong movement [from within the Anglican Chruch] to deploy ordained people into the community.”

This son of a butcher was raised in Newcastle, New South Wales. On the day I met him he proudly displayed the red and blue socks of his hometown’s footy team hidden under his traditional black and white priests ‘uniform’.

Rev Frost turns 50 in the middle of 2017 and comes to this new career with 24 years in early education behind him, having been a classroom teacher in communities around Mount Druitt, Wagga Wagga, and Canberra.

“I believed teaching was my calling,” Rev Frost says.

“It was an area [profession] where men weren’t working and I felt I needed to do my bit to redress that imbalance.”

Reflecting on his early church experiences Rev Frost remembers his ‘Nan’ taking him to church; he was baptised an Anglican even though his parents weren’t churchgoers.

The Rev Anthony Frost
The Rev Anthony Frost

But, “One day she [Nan] was pulled up for smoking outside the church and she never went back,” Rev Frost laughs.

It wasn’t until his late teens, under his own steam, and with his own spiritual needs, that Rev Frost started a journey that saw him take on religious studies and increasing church responsibilities as a layperson into adulthood.

The journey escalated on March 17, 2011 – St Patrick’s Day, at St Mark’s National Theological Centre in Canberra.

“I was listening to a talk on the pioneering days of the Anglican Church in the Canberra – Goulburn Diocese,” Rev Frost remembers.

“Halfway through the talk, I felt two strong but gentle hands underneath my shoulder blades, gently pushing me forward out of my seat.

“At that point, I knew I was being called to ordained ministry,” he says.

Four years of theological studies and part-time church work followed, ahead of his first full-time church gig in the Bega Valley, covering the nine centres of the Sapphire Coast Anglican Parish.

Now as a newly ordained priest, Rev Frost says he is looking to use his theological studies to contextualise the word and work of God for a modern time.

Challenging preconceived ideas about Christian faith, including the Bible, is important to Rev Frost.

“Scripture needs to be reviewed and looked at from different perspectives,” he says.

The twice-married father points to some of the passages of the Old Testament that appear to condone violence and the exclusion of certain people.

“Jesus is with us here today, through the church and people of faith,” Rev Frost says.

“He is guiding us to discern what is of God, what is loving, and what is not.

“We have so many examples around us now of what is not of God.” he says.

Rev Frost suggests the degradation of the environment and the exclusion of people based on religion and lifestyle are two examples of ‘what is not of God’ in 2017.

Click play to hear Rev Anthony Frost speak with Ian Campbell for the About Regional podcast:


With the community celebrations that followed his ordination in late November behind him, Rev Frost says he is getting on with the job of meeting the needs of his community, particularly looking for unmet needs.

Although still relevant, in an affluent town like Merimbula responding to need means something other than the traditional charity work of religious people.

“There can be a different kind of poverty,” Rev Frost explains.

“Where people have a deep need or yearning that’s not being met because of their affluence.

“Often the people who are not so well off in terms of material possessions, are actually more spiritually wealthy than those who are materially wealthy,” Rev Frost says.

As one of the Anglican Church’s newest priests, this Newcastle Knights fan believes he has been blessed by a calling to this wonderful part of the world.

“It’s a little bit of heaven on earth, and I look forward to working with this community and engaging with other organisations and individuals,” Rev Frost says.