NSW schools boss Mark Scott meets southern principals in Batemans Bay

Mark Scott speaking to principals from across southern NSW in Batemans Bay on Monday. Photo: Dept of Education.
Mark Scott speaking to principals from across southern NSW in Batemans Bay on Monday. Photo: Dept of Education.

The principals of 50 public schools from across Southern New South Wales have gathered in Batemans Bay to meet with chiefs of the NSW Education Department.

Schools from the Monaro, Far South Coast, Illawarra, Shoalhaven, Southern Tablelands, Southern Highlands and Queanbeyan were all represented, part of a road trip by Department Secretary, Mark Scott, Deputy Secretary School Operations and Performance, Murat Dizdar, and Deputy Secretary Educational Services, Georgina Harrisson.

“We have 2,200 schools and we want them to be great schools and you don’t have great schools without a great principal, and so we are asking them – what kind of support do they need in order to provide great leadership?” Mr Scott says.

The Batemans Bay forum came just two weeks after the release of the 2017 Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey, a nationwide check up on over 5,500 principals in state, religious, and independent schools.

Ninety percent of respondents said they were passionate about their work, however, a few alarm bells were rung:

*44% or close to 1 in 2 principals say they have been threatened with violence;

*The survey pointed to high levels of job demands, 1.5 times greater than the general population, emotional demands 1.7 times higher, and emotional labour 1.7 times higher when compared to the general population;

*Stress and burnout were flagged as issues, with principals saying the sheer quantity of work and a lack of time to focus on teaching and learning are impacting on them.

Mr Scott says he got a sense of that stress and pressure when talking to principals at Batemans Bay.

“If we are a world class system then we are providing outstanding support for principals,” he says.

“We are looking at how the Department and the system can better support principals and also how principals can better support themselves.”

Students from Batemans Bay High School and Broulee Primary combine for the 2017 Southern Stars Concert. Photo: Bay High Facebook.
Students from Batemans Bay High School and Broulee Primary combine for the 2017 Southern Stars Concert. Photo: Bay High Facebook.

The influence of the outside world is a big part of the daily challenge for teachers and principals.

“The complexity [of the job] is not all to do with teaching and learning,” Mr Scotts says.

“The complexity in part is because of broader pressures in society – pressures around families and the stability and security of the environments young people come from.

“Schools are often the one secure anchor point in a child’s complex and turbulent world, so schools often need to broker an array of support for students that often extends well beyond what has been traditionally provided in a school,” he says.

That traditional work of schools; preparing kids for their future, was also front and centre in the day-long meeting at Batemans Bay.

The former ABC boss, says his Department has been doing a lot of work trying to imagine the world of the future and the skills our kids will need.

“In the last year, we’ve done a big research project called ‘Education for a Changing World’ tapping into a global array of leading academics in this area,” Mr Scott says.

“To be successful we know that a young person will need to have very strong literacy and numeracy skills because frankly, they are going to spend their entire career learning.

“Young people are going to need a growth mindset, we know that they are going to need to be able to take on new challenges, learning new things, they are going to have to back themselves,” Mr Scott says.

Cooma cheers one of its own, Emily Blyton, top marks on the 2017 HSC. Photo: Monaro High Facebook.
Cooma cheers one of its own, Emily Blyton, top marks on the 2017 HSC. Photo: Monaro High Facebook.

Fostering a love of learning in each child is central to Mr Scott’s vision of the future, and indeed his challenge.

“We once may have thought we take young people to school to teach them knowledge, in a way now we feel they are at school so we can help them learn to learn,” he says.

“We think less in terms of a class and think more about where each individual student is up to.

“Our great teachers are aware that every student is different and at a different point in their learning – it’s a long way from a row of desks that’s for sure,” Mr Scott says.

NSW public education is the largest education system in Australia, with 810,000 students in 2,200 schools, looked after by 85,000 staff.

The Department’s tour also takes in meetings at Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Sydney, Penrith, and Liverpool.

#This article first appeared on RiotACT

Cooma MotorFest shines bright on a HUGE weekend

My car sits in the driveway at home covered by dust day in day out, rain is the only thing that gets my Subaru sparkling. A couple of hours at Cooma MotorFest on Saturday (Nov 4) is not going to change that but it has left its mark.

Brilliant blue Monaro skies backed the hard work of the Cooma Car Club and other local service groups; it was a magic day, not just for rev heads but for anyone that appreciates hard work, style, colour, and nostalgia.

This bi-annual event raises money for local charities and draws around 3000 people to Cooma Showground, not to mention car, truck, and machinery clubs from Canberra, the Far South Coast, and southern Monaro.

MotorFest is one of the anchor events for Cooma’s biggest weekend of the year – a weekend that also incorporates The Australian National Busking Championships and The Snowy Ride for the Steven Walter Foundation.

Cooma has extra buzz about it on the first weekend in November.

Capturing the hundreds of cars, trucks, and machines lined up on Cooma’s lush exhibition space is impossible, you’ll have to make sure you come along next time and see it all for yourself.

A few of my favourites were the Monaro, the “32 CDAN” and a hot red Mustang – any memories here for you?

How great that men, women, and families hang on to and protect this social history.

Cooma MotorFest is so much more than a “show’n’shine”.

Hope you enjoy the pics, more to come.

It wouldn't be a car show in Cooma without a Monaro! This 1969 Holden Monaro GTS was a crowd pleaser. Photo: Ian Campbell
It wouldn’t be a car show on the Monaro without a Monaro! This 1969 Holden Monaro HT GTS was a crowd pleaser. The car and the region are pronounced differently however. Monaro is said to be the Aboriginal word for ‘high plateau’ or ‘high plain’ or ‘treeless plain’. Photo: Ian Campbell
The HT Monaro marked the phasing out of the 5.0-litre Chevrolet V8 that featured in earlier models, and the introduction of Holden's own locally made V8 engines. Photo: Ian Campbell
The HT Monaro marked the phasing out of the 5.0-litre Chevrolet V8 that featured in earlier models, and the introduction of Holden’s own locally made V8 engines. Photo: Ian Campbell
According to Monaro car enthusiast Greg Wapling, a member of Holden's desugn team named the Monaro. "Noel Bedford, was driving through Cooma on holiday when a sign on the council offices took his eye. "It said Monaro County Council, n western-type lettering that reminded him of 'Marlboro Country', and fitted with the cars American styling and image. The car and the region are pronounced differently however. Monaro' is said to be the Aboriginal word for 'high plateau' or 'high plain' or 'treeless plain'. Photo: Ian Campbell
According to Monaro car enthusiast Greg Wapling, it was a member of Holden’s design team named the Monaro. Noel Bedford, was driving through Cooma on holiday when a sign on the council offices took his eye. It said Monaro County Council, in western-type lettering that reminded him of ‘Marlboro Country’, and fitted with the cars American styling and image.  Photo: Ian Campbell
Greg Wapling writes, in 1969, the Holden Dealer Team Monaro's came first (Bond/Roberts) and third (West/Brock) in the Bathurst 500. Photo: Ian Campbell
Greg Wapling writes, that in 1969, the Holden Dealer Team’s Monaros came first (Bond/Roberts) and third (West/Brock) in the Bathurst 500. Photo: Ian Campbell

This 1932 Ford Tudor was the jewel in the crowd at Cooma Showground for MotorFest 2017. Photo: Ian Campbell
This 1932 Ford Tudor was the jewel in the crown at Cooma Showground for MotorFest 2017. Photo: Ian Campbell
Look but don't touch! A sunny day showed this one off beautifully.Photo: Ian Campbell
Look but don’t touch! A sunny day showed this one off beautifully. Photo: Ian Campbell
The workmanship inside and out is jaw dropping. Photo: Ian Campbell
The workmanship inside and out is jaw-dropping. Photo: Ian Campbell
When first released in 1932, prices ranged between $495U.S and $650U.S, these days - priceless. Photo: Ian Campbell
When first released in 1932, prices ranged between $495U.S and $650U.S, these days – priceless. Photo: Ian Campbell

Ford released it's Mustang concept car in 1963, it was released on to the market in 1964. The original shape, style, and attitude continues to inspire the Mustang of today. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Ford released its Mustang concept car in 1963, it was released on to the market in 1964. The original shape, style, and attitude continues to inspire the Mustang of today. Photo: Ian Campbell.
The care and attention to detail the owners of these cars display is mind blowing. Photo: Ian Campbell
The care and attention to detail the owners of these cars display is mind-blowing. Photo: Ian Campbell
Wouldn't you just love to!? Photo: Ian Campbell
Wouldn’t you just love to!? Photo: Ian Campbell
How do you do that? Make a car engine shine and sparkle? Photo: Ian Campbell
How do you do that? Make a car engine shine and sparkle? Photo: Ian Campbell

*About Regional content is supported by the contributions of members, thank you to – Kiah Wilderness Tours, Alexandra Mayers, Amanda Stroud, Olwen Morris, Deborah Dixon, and Maria Linkenbagh.


Kids and convicts shape new Nimmitabel playground

Hanging around in Nimmitabel's new playground. Photo from NAG Facebook
Hanging around in Nimmitabel’s new playground. Photo from NAG Facebook

A new playground is turning heads at Nimmitabel on the eastern edge of the Monaro.

The bubblegum coloured update sits side by side with an existing ‘old school’ playground that has been there for at least 40 year according to Vickie Pollard, President of the Nimmitabel Advancement Group.

Using money from the Boco Rock Community Enhancement Fund, a climbing frame, rope net, and rock wall have been installed along with a spring loaded motorbike and seesaw and raised stepping stones.

“We haven’t had new equipment for such a long time, all the local children are very excited,” Vickie says.

The thumbs up for some of the kids who helped design the playground. Photo from NAG Facebook
The thumbs up for some of the kids who helped design the playground. Photo from NAG Facebook

“The playground also encourages visitors to stop, have a picnic lunch, get some nice food from up the street, it gets people to stop and enjoy Nimmitabel.”

The kids of this town of 224 people had input into the design and the equipment that was chosen, while inmates from Cooma Correctional Centre worked as part of the crew with Snowy Monaro Regional Council installing the new pieces.

Snow that could start falling any day now will add an extra dimension to this new attraction. It’s a space that has seen many happy times in winters past; on the handful of days snow does settle on the ground in Nimmitabel, this playground has offered a cheap and quick snow experience for kids from the coast.

And more so this winter!

Families with a connection to this spot at the northern end of town, just off the Monaro Highway will be pleased to know the old swings, steel slippery dip, and carousel remain.

Hang on, the new spring loaded seesaw. Photo from NAG Facebook
Hang on, the new spring loaded seesaw. Photo from NAG Facebook

At a time when many older parks are being pulled out, Nimmitabel has been able to hang on to its ‘old-school’ playground while getting an upgrade.

Vickie beams as she explains that all the older gear met current regulations, so was allowed to stay.

“And once the old gear gets a coat of paint, in the same purple and orange as the new gear, they’ll be brand new too,” Vickie says.

There’s more to come though.

Nimmitabel Lions Club has received funding to install tables, chairs, and shade, and there’s talk of a barbecue.

“And hopefully, a few years down the track we might be able to get funding for a flying-fox,” Vickie says.


Snowy Hydro signs off as rescue chopper sponsor after 15 years

Snowy Hydro no more on the SouthCare chopper. Original pic from ACT Health
Snowy Hydro no more on the SouthCare chopper. Original pic from ACT Health

Snowy Hydro will no longer be the naming rights sponsor on the region’s flying emergency room.

For the last 15 years, the blue and green of the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Helicopter has been a familiar sight in the skies of South East NSW.

That ends on March 31.

In a brief statement to About Regional, Snowy Hydro’s Corporate Affairs boss, Jane McMillan said that Snowy Hydro had been informed it was not possible to remain the naming rights sponsor of the ACT based chopper from 1 April 2017.

The news is part of a bigger change underway for aeromedical services across NSW.

The Toll Rescue Helicopter Service has forged a new 10-year partnership with NSW Ambulance to provide rescue, patient retrieval and treatment services across Southern NSW.

The deal is part of reforms first flagged in 2011 by NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner.

“When I became Minister for Health it was clear that we needed a long-term strategic direction for this vital service,” Ms Skinner said.

At the heart of the Government’s change is a desire to streamline aeromedical services, reducing the number of operators in NSW from five to two, covering the top and bottom halves of NSW.

The Minister’s pitch includes:

  • Faster care with reduced retrieval times
  • Bases that operate 24 hrs a day / 7 days a week
  • New and upgraded facilities
  • Single coordination phone line
  • Every chopper able to transfer sick babies

In Southern NSW the Toll Group replaces the Canadian Helicopter Company (CHC) who have been doing the job under the Snowy Hydro SouthCare banner since before 2005.

CHC Australia told Australian Aviation magazine it was disappointed not to have won the contract through the Government’s tender process.

Mission 1 – 11/10/17

See us take to the skies on our first mission, where we retrieved an injured bushwalker and provided medical care whilst transporting him safely to Liverpool Hospital.

Posted by Toll Air Ambulance on Thursday, 12 January 2017


The change over includes a new purpose-built Agusta Westland 139 helicopter, replacing the well-known Bell 412 which is notching up 35 years in the sky, 18 years of which as the Snowy Hydro SouthCare chopper.

The new Italian helicopter will have increased power, range and performance and will be fitted with the latest aviation, safety and medical technology. The flight team of doctors, paramedics and nurses will also have a larger work space in the rear of the aircraft.

Two helicopters will be maintained as back-up allowing for greater interchangeability amongst the Southern NSW fleet, which apart from the current base outside of Canberra will operate out of Bankstown, Wollongong and Orange.

“The new highly sophisticated fleet of Agusta Westland 139 helicopters will ensure we are even better equipped to care for communities, now and into the future,” Commissioner Dominic Morgan, Cheif Executive of NSW Ambulance said.

The deal with Toll to cover Southern NSW is part of the Government’s $151.2 million statewide package of reforms.

Sponsorship similar that provided by Snowy Hydro over the last 15 years is key to making the new Toll service financially viable, especially considering that each mission currently costs around $6000.

Speculation has suggested that Toll is looking to secure one naming rights sponsor across its fleet of eight helicopters, and while it seems Snowy Hydro were at the negotiating table, funding just one chopper wasn’t an option.

In her statement to About Regional, Snowy Hydro, Corporate Affairs Manager, Jane McMillan said the electricity generator had been a proud sponsor and during its time had contributed more than $7 million to the service.

“We are heartened that the service will continue with a new fleet of choppers and wish the service all the very best,” Ms McMillan said.

Community fundraising and donations have also helped keep the rotor turning.

A passionate and tireless charity effort from the regional communities that surround the ACT has been key – worth between $1 and 2 million each year.

The fundraising arm of the service is the SouthCare Helicopter Fund, which was established in 1998 to supplement sponsorship dollars and government funds.

A spokesperson for the Fund told About Regional that the financial support provided by sponsors and donors has and will continue to contribute to missions, as well as purchasing equipment and providing training for the aeromedical crews.

The new Agusta Westland 139. Pic from Toll Air Ambulance Facebook
No sponsor announced yet for the new Agusta Westland 139. Pic from Toll Air Ambulance Facebook

The spokesperson went on to acknowledge the backing of Snowy Hydro.

“It’s been invaluable in contributing to the life-saving legacy of the rescue helicopter service.

“We have been proud to partner with such an iconic local organisation and make a real and positive difference to the communities in which we both live and work,” the spokesperson for the SouthCare Helicopter Fund said.

So what will be the colours and name of the new service when it becomes operational in South East NSW on April 1?

A spokesperson for the Toll Rescue Helicopter Service said that an announcement on the naming rights sponsor would be made shortly.

High speeds match hot temperatures at Monaro Billy Kart Derby

Go you good thing - 2017 Monaro Billy Kart Derby
Go you good thing – Monaro Billy Kart Derby 2017

With squeals of family fun still hanging in the air from this year’s event, organisers of the Monaro Billy Kart Derby have already locked in a date for next year’s race.

A hot, sunny day at Cooma Showground yesterday (January 22) attracted 34 entries for the second running of the Derby, ten more entries than last year.

The only match for the high temperature was the speed these homemade machines got to.

Cooma Police clocked Tom Brown at 42 km/hour in the Cooma Rural Fire Brigade kart which was the fastest speed for the day. Ben Morley covered the track in the best time – 17.53 seconds.

The event springs from a partnership between two generations forged as part of the Youth Frontiers Mentoring Program.

The program pairs high school students with local business people in a mentoring relationship that builds leadership, career and education skills for the future.

Born to be wild - Monaro Billy Kart Derby 2017
Born to be wild – Monaro Billy Kart Derby 2017

In the case of the Billy Kart Derby, businessman Tony Nassar and student Kurt Wassink are the program’s winning partnership.

“He’s the brains and I am the height,” laughs Kurt.

For the last 11 years, Kurt has been a student at Snowy Mountains Christian School in Cooma but starts at St Mary MacKillop College in Canberra next week for years 11 and 12.

“Tony has taught me the importance and power of community involvement,” Kurt says.

In the week’s leading up to race day, local families were encouraged to build a billy kart for the day.

“There was a real sense of families coming together,” Kurt says.

“If one parent was at the top of the track then the other would be at the bottom.”

Posted by Cooma Car Club on Saturday, 21 January 2017

A colourful and creative cast took to the sloping 300-metre track into Cooma Showground, hay bales donated by local farmer Dave Barron acting as protection during some wobbly moments.

“The guys from Canberra were back again this year with their hot rod style karts, which really spurs the locals on,” Kurt says.

Kurt’s own creation was an army jeep inspired kart painted army green with a white star on the side.

“I went for a 4 wheeler this year, 3 wheels are trouble.”

Kurt is grateful to all those who come out to make such a great event, including Cooma Car Club, Cooma Rural Fire Brigade, High Country Automotive Group, and Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

The finish line in sight - Monaro Billy Kart Derby 2017
The finish line in sight – Monaro Billy Kart Derby 2017

“It just goes to show what a small community can do when they come together,” Kurt says.

The hale bales that lined the course and cushioned the blow for some riders were sold at the end of the day, raising around $400 for the Cooma Community Chest.

The third Monaro Billy Kart Derby will be held on Sunday, January 21, 2018.


‘Very soon I will crack and destroy everything’ – a 14 year old’s call for action

Tathra Surf Club pic from ABC
Tathra Surf Life Saving Club pic from ABC

It’s eleven years since Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) was first conceived.

On New Years Day 2006, orthopedic surgeon Dr Matthew Nott was on duty with Tathra Surf Life Saving Club, enduring the hottest day his town had ever experienced – 42 degrees.

There have been hotter days since, 44.6 degrees on January 18, 2013 is Tathra’s current record.

While keeping an eye on swimmers, Dr Nott was reading ‘The Weather Makers‘ by Tim Flannery, a look at the history and catastrophic future impacts of a warming planet.

And a warming planet we have.

The region’s run of beautiful beaches and cool mountain streams will offer blessed respite as South East NSW heads into a week of warm days, with forecast top temperatures above 30 degrees every day for most centres.

The sweaty weather is no surprise, it’s January, a month where records are set. But it coincides with news that 2016 was the world’s hottest year on record, due to the continuing influence of global warming according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Dr Nott says he remains committed to the cause of addressing global warming eleven years after that famous beach patrol but despairs that people and governments fail to respond to the mounting science.

“It’s really so terribly clear that we are hurtling towards an environmental disaster,” he says.

“That’s going to be something that has an enormous impact on my kids.”

Dr Nott is frustrated by but appreciates the fact that many people don’t understand or ignore the science.

“People think about climate change in the [same] way they think about death,” Dr Nott says.

“They think it’s a long way away and I am not going to think about it now.

“I find that really frustrating because that’s putting my kids future at risk,” he says.

There’s no hiding from the science for those who will inherit the future.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) boast over 110,000 members.

Like CEFE, the AYCC recognises the opportunities climate change presents, while also warning of the total fossil fuels take on our future.

The impacts include rising sea levels and more extreme weather events and the myriad of human, environmental and security challenges that follow.

The opportunities include cleaner cheaper power production using renewable energy sources.

The understanding youth have for this issue was further highlighted to me in the run up to New Years Day 2017, when my eldest son produced a poem – at the pushing and pulling of his Bega based English tutor Elizabeth Blackmore.

Neptune Unleashed

by Jim Campbell, 14 years

I am the meanest thing on earth yet also the calmest

I have seen changes that no human could imagine

I was here at the beginning

And I will be here at the end

I am the most powerful on this earth

Nothing rivals me



Why do you kill me? Yet you wouldn’t be alive without me

I am getting bigger

With every factory you build

With every atom that you let go

Very soon I will crack and destroy everything

I will rule again just like I did

A few billion years ago

I am the sea

Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega with solar panels installed with the support of CEFE
Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega, the solar panels were installed with the support of CEFE

Jim was just three years old when CEFE went about installing solar panels on community buildings around South East NSW.

Every community building in Tathra now generates it’s own power and puts the excess back into the grid. Countless Rural Fire Service sheds, surf life-saving clubs, community halls, and schools in other towns now do the same, all with the backing of CEFE.

Eleven years on similar projects continue, building towards CEFE’s 2020 goal of reducing the Bega Valley’s power needs by 50% while at the same time generating 50% of the Shire’s energy needs from renewable sources – 50/50 by 2020.

If you are keen to add some science to the emotion and colour of Jim’s words, the BOM’s Annual Climate Statement is great reading (and viewing) for weather nerds and paints the full picture.

In short 2016 was:

*The world’s hottest year on record and the third year in a row where that record was broken.

*Australia’s fourth warmest year on record, with the annual national mean temp 0.87 degrees above average.

*Ocean temperatures were the warmest on record, with the annual mean sea surface temperature 0.73 degrees above average.

*A year of extreme weather events.

Larsen C Ice Shelf, pic from NASA
Larsen C Ice Shelf, pic from NASA

News too this week that the crack in the big Larsen C Ice Shelf has grown by a further 18km.

Only 20km of ice now connects this 5000sq km (twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory) ice sheet to the Antartic continent. The result’s come from the MIDAS Project, a collaboration of UK universities and academics monitoring the effects of global warming in West Antarctica.

As Matthew Nott suggests, the future is being shaped now.

The science gives the facts and figures of it, my 14-year-old son gives it a voice.

As adults imagine being one of the next generation/s knowing that this is part of your future.

*Poem reproduced with permission of the author, he even made me pay an artist fee!


Money from the sun even after Solar Bonus Scheme ends

NYD 2007 CEFE use washing machines at Jellat Jallat to raise awarness of climate change
NYD 2007 CEFE use washing machines at Jellat Jellat to raise awareness of climate change

The days of money from the sun are coming to an end – at least in the way many of us have become accustomed to.

The NSW Government’s Solar Bonus Scheme ends on December 31.

As dogs go running for cover from New Years Eve fireworks, much of the money households with solar panels have received over the last seven years will go the way of 2016.

Around 7,700 homes in South East NSW have rooftop panels. Since 2010 most have received a payment of 60 cents or 20 cents for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar power exported to the State’s electricity grid.

Those payments have been delivered as credits and deducted from the total price on electricity bills, offsetting the cost of installing a solar system.

Perhaps what many didn’t realise or had forgotten was that the scheme and those payments had an end date.

A letter in the post back in March from the NSW Department of Industry was the first call to action for Solar Bonus Scheme customers; the Deputy Secretary of Resources and Energy nudging people towards an electricity retailer to work out a new deal.

Letters warning the Solar Bonus Scheme is coming to an end
Letters warning the Solar Bonus Scheme is coming to an end

It seems the best you can expect from January 1, 2017, is around 6 cents/kWh.

Tathra based renewable energy champion, Dr Matthew Nott says it won’t be worth much for a household to export energy to the grid.

“The fact that the [premium] feed-in tariff is going means we have to start thinking a little differently about solar panels on the roof,” Dr Nott says.

The success of the scheme has prompted nips and tucks along the way by the Government.

In October 2010 under Premier Kristina Keneally, the tariff was cut by 40 cents/kWh for new subscribers as households rushed the generous 60 cents scheme.

At the time the Sydney Morning Herald reported that solar grid connections had jumped from 2900 in 2008 to 50,000 in 2010 when the scheme was launched.

The Labor Government at the time said it acted in order to stop costs blowing out by $2.5 billion.

The Government says 146,000 NSW homes have joined the scheme, around 20% of households.

Matthew Nott says it has been an enormous boom for renewable energy, and a positive step towards reducing the impacts of climate change.

The action group he founded in early 2006 – ‘Clean Energy for Eternity’ has used the generosity of the scheme to install solar panels on Rural Fire Service sheds, surf clubs, and other community buildings across the Eurobodalla, Bega Valley, Monaro and Snowy Mountains.

The group’s aim is that by 2020, 50% of the Bega Valley’s energy needs will come from clean, green sources.

“The feed-in tariff was always going to expire by the end of 2016,” Dr Nott says.

“Although I think as that date gets closer and closer it’s taking a lot of people by surprise.”

With 86% of NSW households saying they installed panels to reduce the cost of electricity, that surprise is likely to turn into bill-shock as the first electricity bills of 2017 roll in.

But Dr Nott believes there are still ways to save money and that solar panels are still a good investment.

“What a household with solar now needs to think very carefully about, is using the electrons that are generating on their rooftop to power their house,” he says.

Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega with solar panels installed with the support of CEFE
Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega, the solar panels were installed with the support of CEFE

Rather than exporting that power to the grid Dr Nott says it makes more sense to keep as much of that energy as possible on site.

“Put timers on your appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers and dryers – those high energy appliances, so that they are being used during the day and powered by your solar panels,” he suggests.

“That stops you from having to purchase electricity from the energy retailers.

“We have got to get smarter and be using more electricity during the day,” the orthopedic surgeon says.

Night time should be the only time you need to purchase electricity from an external supplier according to Dr Nott – however, there is a ‘but’.

“There are some options on the horizon, in fact very close on the horizon,” he says.

“Look at investing in household battery storage, so that you can use the electrons generated during the day – at night.”

Dr Nott accepts that there is still a little way to go for those storage options to be affordable for the average family, but believes the winding back of the tariff will be a game changer.

“You’re looking at about $10,000 with a 15-year payback on your investment,” he says.

“But there’s a lot of companies in Australia making household batteries now.

“I think the cost is going to come down dramatically over the next couple of years and make it much more affordable, shorten the payback time and allow people to use less and less electricity from the grid,” Dr Nott says.

Dr Matthew Nott, founder of Clean Energy for Eternity. By Bega District News
Dr Matthew Nott, founder of Clean Energy for Eternity. By Bega District News

For those considering battery storage, Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) recommend that you at least have a 3kW rooftop system in place, but ideally a 5kW system.

“You want to have a system that is big enough to power the majority of your house,” Dr Nott says.

To help people start making the transition to battery storage, Dr Nott has flagged a new initiative from CEFE.

“We’re just starting to have discussions with some Australian companies about doing a bulk buy for the community,” he explains.

“If we can bring the cost down by doing that, it would be more affordable for people and reduce the payback time on their investment.

Clean Energy for Eternity want to do whatever we can to raise awareness about the value of household batteries in the same way as we have done with solar panels,” he says.

Money from the sun continues, but as always you need to have a few dollars first to make the most of it, but as Matthew Nott and Clean Energy for Eternity believe, the price for not investing is our children’s future.

For further info on the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme and what to do now, click HERE.

*Listen for more from Matthew Nott in episode five of the About Regional podcast out in the second week of December

Cooma busking championships become truly national

Allan Spencer, founder of the Australian National Busking Championships, with the Busk CD featuring talent from the festival.
Allan Spencer, founder of the Australian National Busking Championships, with the Busk CD featuring talent from the festival.

Cooma’s annual busking festival is going national.

For the last five years, the Australian National Busking Championships have been based on the Monaro. And while talent from across the nation has been drawn to the streets of Cooma to compete and take part, that claim of being a ‘national championship’ didn’t carry the weight the name implies.

That changes in 2017.

With the backing of Rotary Clubs along the East Coast, the Busking Championships will cover three states and at least six regional centres.

Cooma based Championship Founder, Allan Spencer is delighted as he rattles off communities that have picked up the idea and run with it, including Stanthorpe and Noosa Heads in Queensland, Ballarat and Wangaratta in Victoria, Narooma and Berry in New South Wales.

Most of the towns taking part are combining the Championships with an existing festival that needs a bit of ‘sparkling up’ according to Allan.

“I think that works well, because busking won’t work unless you’ve got a lot of people,” he says.

“In Stanthorpe for instance, they’ve got an apple and grape festival that’s in it’s fiftieth year and  it’s tremendously well attended, they have sixty thousand visitors, so the busking was quite an easy fit.”

Surrounded by the instruments and sheet music of his long-running business, Allan becomes emotional talking about the success of the Busking Championships.

“Yeah we’ve got some wonderful stories,” Allan says.

Guy Lilleyman
Guy Lilleyman

“There’s Guy Lilleyman, who’s a Canberra based musician, he won the title – Open Champion in 2013 and  2014. And on the strength of 2013, he was picked up by an agent and he had a tour of South Africa.

“He’s just come back from a 10-week tour of Afghanistan, entertaining Australian and NATO troops,” he says.

Allan’s connection with the Cooma community goes back 30 plus years, his connection with music even longer – around 40 years.

“It’s always been a bit of a crusade of mine to try and promote talent,” Allan says.

As the owner of the Cooma School of Music, the organisers of the annual Snowy Ride approached Allan in 2011 looking for live entertainment during their annual fundraiser for the Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation.

Over 2200 motorcycle riders took part in this year’s Snowy Ride, adding a whopping $250,000 to the $6 million that has been collected since 2001. The Australian National Busking Championships that were created to serve the Ride are now very much a part of the whole weekend each November, covering 28 locations around the Cooma CBD with over 160 acts.

“I’ve been talking to businesses after this year’s event,” Allan says.

“A lot of them are saying it’s their best trading day of the year.

“The proof is that every year all our wonderful local businesses put up their hand to sponsor the event.”

Centennial Park Cooma is a focal point for the Championships
Centennial Park Cooma is a focal point for the Championships

Ten thousand dollars was shared among the winners this year adding a serious edge to a craft some see as worth nothing more than loose change.

“There are buskers that do it as their career,” Alan says.

“It’s not an easy career, but they really enjoy the freedom.”

Allan says the prize money is key in attracting artists to play but he believes that local talent needs to be looked after as that stiff competition lands.

Matilda Rose,  a 15-year-old country singer won the local category this year, scoring return plane tickets between Cooma and Sydney from Rex Airlines.

“I want to also mention the City of Queanbeyan Pipe and Drum Band, which is a 20 piece bagpipe band,” Allan says.

“They marched down Vale Street, straight to our war memorial, and they gave their first set there.

“It was a ‘hairs standing on the back of your neck’ kind of situation, it was really a moment to treasure.

“Then they played outside various pubs, they were busking, and they raised $500 for their group, they were over the moon,” Allan says.

The Queanbeyan Pipe and Drum Band
The Queanbeyan Pipe and Drum Band

Allan believes we should celebrate our buskers and the contribution they make to life and culture in regional towns especially, he’s hoping more country towns come on board with the Championships.

“We’ve kept this a regional festival,” Allan says.

“We think this is a great opportunity for regional centers to add something to their town.”

The program for the expanded format in 2017 is still being finalised, with Allan keen to speak with his partners Cooma Rotary.

At this stage, however, his thinking is that the South East Regional Final will be held on the first Saturday in November, followed by the National Final the next day – both held in Cooma not Canberra or another capital city where national finals are normally held.

Cooma – the town that built the Snowy Scheme is influencing Australia yet again.

*Copies of the Busk CD are available from the Cooma School of Music and by mail order.

A summer of secure water for Nimmitabel – Lake Wallace Dam full and open

The first warm, fragrant licks of spring struggled to get up and over Brown Mountain on the day I visited Nimmitabel.

A cold, icy wind (not unfamiliar to Nimmitabel) laughed as I arrived with no jacket or jumper to inspect Lake Wallace Dam southeast of the township.

I was meeting two well-seasoned ‘gents’ of this community, one of which offered me his jacket as the breeze really started to bite.

John Alcock and Howard Charles
John Alcock and Howard Charles

Howard Charles and John Alcock first started pushing for this dam to be built over 11 years ago, and just a few days prior to our meeting it had been officially opened by the NSW Agriculture Minister.

Beaming with pride for what had been achieved, both men were keen to jump the two fences at the main entry to show me a vision they had been living with for a long time, one that was now a reality.

Named after the former owners of the landscape it sits in, Lake Wallace cost $5.3 million to complete and now holds 320 megalitres of water.

An East Coast Low just after the 13 metre high dam wall was completed ensured Nimmitabel, once described as the driest town in South East New South Wales, would have water security this summer for the first time in many summers.

The potential of this site to capture and store water was recognised during some of the region’s driest times.

“I had cattle on the block next door,” John remembers.

“And I was riding around there, in the midst of the 10-year drought, and there were all sorts of springs (water) still out through the bush.

“And then I noticed what a magnificent big catchment area it was,” John says.

Later hydrogeological studies would also find ‘excellent clay’ in the area, meaning a good seal on the dam floor.

The potential John saw was not obvious to everyone, the dam site had a dry creek bed running through it known as Pigring Creek, and only tended to flow into the nearby Maclaughlin River during and after big rain events – an action that would be used in the dam’s design.

From the About Regional Podcast, John Alcock and Howard Charles:

With the people of Nimmitabel only able to wash themselves out of a bucket at the depths of the drought, in the mid-2000’s the case for a dam was building, spurred on by lobbying lead by the Nimmitabel Advancement Group.

But for a dam to work and capture the imagination of government it needed to rain, and that seemed impossible at the time.

The 2007 Federal Election injected some momentum with the sitting Liberal member Gary Nairn committing $550,000 for geotechnical studies and construction of a smaller farm style dam.

Labor matched the commitment but suggested a bigger plan overseen by Cooma-Monaro Shire Council.

Feasibility studies followed and in 2014 the NSW Government through the Member for Monaro, John Barilaro stumped up $5.3 million to build the dam.

Maclaughlin River 2004
Maclaughlin River 2004

Nimmitabel takes it’s drinking water from the Maclaughlin River, which in 2004 all but dried up.

It was said at the time there was more beer in Nimmitabel than water, the local council had to resort to trucking water in from Cooma.

Howard Charles believes a turning point in the lobbying for the dam came with a photo he took of a dry, sad looking Maclaughlin River in 2004.

“We got huge support from the Catchment Management Authority,” Howard says.

“They could see that through this (the dam) not only were we going to solve Nimmitabel’s problem, but we were also going to solve the problem of river health.”

Howard describes the Maclaughlin as a blue ribbon trout stream and home to lots of platypus.

“Fly fisherman come from all over Australia to fish on it, that’s always been part of Nimmitabel’s history and industry,” he says.

Over the last couple of years, good rain has restored the health of the Maclaughlin and now Lake Wallace sits ready to serve it and the 300 people of Nimmitabel.

“It (the dam) doesn’t supply direct to Nimmitabel,” Howard explains.

Maclaughlin River 2016
Maclaughlin River 2016

“Nimmitabel still pumps from the river, but when the river is too low, then all we do is just let the water flow out of this dam and down into the river and supplement the flow in the river.

“And as it flows down the old natural water course, it gives it a natural cleansing, so it is beneficial to the river’s health in two ways.”

Both men see water security as critical to the future of this small farming community and township on the edge of the Great Dividing Range.

During the worst of the drought, families and businesses fled Nimmitabel, but already Howard and John believe that Lake Wallace is injecting confidence into people’s plans.

The next idea for this body of water adds a new dimension to the town’s future.

Howard and John want to see the Lake’s normally locked gates open for recreation.

“What a tremendous place for fishing, this lake would just be the most perfect trout lake you could wish to find,” John says.

Lake Wallace Dam Oct 2016
Lake Wallace Dam Oct 2016

“People are going to drop in here (the Lake) and of course go into Nimmitabel or Bemboka.

“It would be a tremendous boost.”

It sure would, but for the time being and for the first summer in many summers, Nimmitabel will survive the heat ahead, a testament to a community that invests in its own future.