Letters to the editor - Apr 29

Doing time for kids
What an experience to be handcuffed and escorted by police to the Lismore Square to be “locked up”.
It was well worth it and, in doing so, I would like to thank everyone who supported me in the fundraising. To think you can call on public support and receive donations from $10 to $500 when there are so many demands for worthy charities – well done and many thanks.
I would also like to thank my “cell colleagues” for giving their Time for Kids.
Jim Crethar

No subdivision

I am opposed to the subdivision of the land at Cameron Rd for the following reasons:
The subdivision does not provide any playgrounds or sporting facilities that are desperately needed at McLeans Ridges. To participate in sports we have to either go to other shires with facilities or drive to other areas in Lismore. Council has told us that we should go to Bexhill but there is no public transport and the roads are too dangerous to ride our bikes. When we want to have a walk we always have to walk on the roads, as the Council never cuts the grass on the roadside, the roads are really dangerous, and when a car comes we have to jump into the long grass, sometimes we get sprayed with water from the huge potholes. Our school bus goes down McKenzie Rd, when another car comes the bus has to stop so the car can get past. Council told us that the road was beyond repair but then said it was OK. We have to pass through the Cameron Rd/ Boatharbour Rd intersection, it’s really bad but Council won’t fix it. It’s less than a kilometre from the development but Council doesn’t think that it needs fixing.
Sometimes we go to the McLeans Ridges hall and we have to be really careful crossing the road there as the intersection is really bad. When the hall is busy it’s hard to park but the developers’ Social Impact Assessment said the hall was OK for another 10,000 people. The Alstonville School Bus turns at the intersection during peak hour, I’m glad we don’t catch that bus.
We are not allowed to ride our bikes on the road as it’s too dangerous. Most of the kids in the new subdivision will not be able to have bikes as the land is too steep and they will only be able to ride on the roads. Perhaps they will all get motorbikes and ride up and down the hills all the time, that would really make dad cranky. When we go to school we can see the subdivision from Boatharbour Rd. It will look really ugly and nothing like the area does now.
Please don’t let this subdivision ruin our neighbourhood
P Parker, aged 15
McLeans Ridges

Big wrap for Rudd

Isn’t it great to see a federal government actually trying its best to turn the health system into an effective and efficient one which will work for the majority of people. This, along with the Rudd government’s new ideas for improving education, should provide Australians with healthier bodies and healthier minds. If only the recalcitrant Opposition would pass the appropriate legislation in the Senate we might just do our bit towards having a healthier planet!

Need for gallery

A huge congratulations to The Echo and the Lismore Regional Gallery for the clear demonstration of the very real need for a new Art Gallery in Lismore. The huge crowd outside on Friday night trying to gain entry into the already seriously over-packed gallery was compelling evidence of the total inadequacy of the current space. If you were too busy at home planning your next bitter complaint scapegoating the proposal to build a new funded gallery for all your rate woes, you are most certainly out of touch with the local community’s intense interest in art and the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize.
I was one of the lucky ones to actually gain entry to the crush in the sauna-like conditions, sweltering amongst the halogen lights and hot bodies, NOT relieved at all by a struggling ‘toy’ air-conditioner.
I watched as judge Michael Zavros took the microphone and mimed so perfectly to a soundtrack thoughtfully translated into what I assume was one of the lesser known dialects of Swahili by the Gallery’s existing public address system. I watched him but could not tell you anything of his comments. He had an unenviable job - the standard was incredibly high and the competition brutal.
The paintings, suffering under the intense heat almost as much as the patrons, were equal to anything in Sydney’s famed Archibald. Well at least the ones I managed to see were. The two main rooms and the tiny annexe were so packed that any observing of the great artistic merit was restricted to the one painting you were in very real danger of being shoved into!
With such a huge number of eager patrons crammed in, it was impossible to even see some works at all. Any attempt to bend down to observe those that for some reason were placed very low on the wall put you in very real jeopardy of disappearing underfoot, being trampled to death, or pitched forward to shove your head through a canvas, thereby becoming one of the portraits yourself! Surely no one has eyes in their knees?
The winner was at last announced, ...apparently. No one actually heard it due to that sound system’s incomprehensible gobbledygook.
The long awaited news had to spread like swine-flu by word of mouth through the packed throng.
The first prize was certainly a most excellently painted piece. I know this because it was one I actually got to see. Perhaps not the one that appealed most to me, but then you really should go along and see for yourself. Make up your own mind and cast a vote for the People’s Choice Award.
The total inadequacy of the present facility to hold any major exhibition, or even smaller ones for that matter, is patently obvious, and this prize has once again demonstrated the vitality and intensity of the appeal art holds for so many of the local residents of the Lismore area.
Despite the current bitter-bleatings of those who flatly refuse to see the value in anything cultural, the new gallery must go ahead should the government offer the assisted funding currently applied for. It will not be offered again should Lismore refuse. It is a once only chance for Lismore to take precedence in this area that is expecting such a huge population increase. Or we can just continue to argue interminably over potholes, parking and package deal cars.
B. Parker

Another vision
If this council is so eager to establish a new Regional Art Gallery then let’s talk seriously about some alternatives that are economically viable, support local art and attract visitors to the CBD. Let’s engage in a genuine public debate in the local media where everyone can partake and the decision-making process is not concentrated only into one set of hands.
Let’s start thinking outside of the box not just about the thing we create, but in the process that leads us there.
What if the Regional Gallery wasn’t a gallery space at all, but a community of spaces (both physical and virtual) run by exhibiting artists and volunteers? Rather than centralising control under a single multi-million dollar roof, why not spend less money to lease or rent different commercial spaces in different locations throughout the region? Why not make the Regional Gallery truly regional?
Why not provide emerging artists the flexibility and opportunity to run their own show and deal directly with the public as a means to encouraging their future independence?
Why not provide a variety of options - a free space where the artist can pay a commission on everything that sells, or rent the space themselves and keep the takings. A space where artists can exhibit by day and run courses at night for fee-paying students. Why not do something innovative - why not make the Regional Gallery a highly adaptable and dynamic space that gives maximum latitude to the widest number of artists simultaneously?
Rather than rigidly concentrating everything   into one basket, why not do the opposite and focus instead upon diversity and independence? If the object of a new Regional Gallery is to inject life and money into the CBD, then why not do so in ways that benefit the maximum number of people?
Why not create a Regional Gallery that is genuinely a part of the community and is jointly run by various members from within that community? Rather than a tightly regulated space run exclusively by career bureaucrats recruited from outside the region, why not draw upon the wealth of local talent and make better use of this region’s creative potential?
There is a wealth of artists in this region who have experience running their own exhibits and marketing various products and events in public. Rather than ignoring this resource, Lismore City Council could do something in keeping with the region’s alternate reputation. Let’s think outside of the box and do something that supports and encourages local culture in ways that are genuinely original.
R J Poole

The cost of quarry

There has been some suggestion in the media that Council is losing money by not agreeing to Champions Quarry. Let’s look at the facts.
While the S94 (road levy) may be a significant sum it’s only justification is to repair the roads damaged by the quarry’s trucks. So there is absolutely no surplus to be made by Council.
The last Council business paper shows that the owner of the quarry, former Lismore Mayor Jeff Champion is proposing to pay a mere $0.11 + CPI per tonne rather than the cost of road damage calculated by the Council of $0.96 + CPI per tonne. This amounts to a subsidy of $5,170,475 + CPI over the 25 year life of the proposed quarry. It’s worth noting that while the consumer price index (CPI) increases by about 3.5%, road construction costs increase by double this amount. So Council will inevitably subsidise Champions Quarry even on its own figures. The community subsidising Mr Champion is one of the characteristics of his proposal.
Some of us would find it difficult to calculate the cost in terms of safety and amenity of up to 60 trucks (30 tonnes, each with a large trailer) a day going through the Wyrallah Rd/Ballina Rd roundabout.
Two Lismore Councillors obviously feel that the community should be subsidising the private profit of Mr Champion as they voted for the $5,170,475 reduction in the road levy. I wonder how many members of the community would like to see such donations to a large developer?
Simon Clough
Lismore Councillor

Classroom ethics
The introduction of ethics classes in some state schools last week is to be welcomed. These are to take place in the hour otherwise reserved for religious instruction, the ethics curriculum being available to instructors of religion if they want it. Rational discussion of moral issues at all stages of education can only help people to make decisions that are good for them and society at large. But religion is still important to many, even if the growth areas in Australia seem to be Gaia-worship and charismatic jumpin’ for Jesus. The traditional monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well as Buddhism have much to offer in answer to the question “How should I live my life?” In a more mystical vein, religion can offer a vision of the sublime. The great body of Western and Middle Eastern art, architecture, music and literature is inseparable from the religious impulse.
The lack of understanding of these issues can be seen in the letters of some of your correspondents who seem to derive their understanding of history from old and revered Blackadder and Monty Python sketches, perhaps viewed through the haze from funny cigarettes.
So I would advocate the teaching of both rational ethics and comparative religion – ethics if only to counteract the moral fables presented by narrow proselytisers as fact and so often used as justification for atrocity, and religious history (warts and all) as an aid to tolerance and the understanding of mankind and its need for the ineffable and the numinous
Peter Mullins

Ballina’s LEP
It’s an excellent sign that local groups such as Chambers of Commerce and Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Associations are inviting Ballina Council’s wonderful staff to make presentations about the new (draft) Local Environment Plan. It’s a credit to Council that they are on the hustings explaining their new plan. Everyone in Ballina should study and learn what the plan will mean for the next 25 years of the Shire’s environmental history. But it’s equally important, perhaps even more so, that the community takes time out to talk together among themselves and critically discuss the plan. That’s not always easy, or even appropriate, at meetings where Council is making formal presentations. So a Public Community Forum is being arranged for Wednesday evening, May 5th at the Richmond Room, down town in Ballina between 6 and 8pm. The Environmental Defenders Office (Northern Rivers) will make expert presentations from the community’s perspective as to what the plan should be trying to achieve for this Shire. Local environmentalists will explain what the plan might mean for critically sensitive localities. There’ll be plenty of time for open discussion and debate. Refreshments will be served and your hosts for the evening are Ballina Environment Society, supported by a wide range of local community groups. Everyone is welcome. Arrive 5.45 for a 6pm start. If you’re going to attend at least one public event about the environment this year and you’re a Ballina resident, make sure it’s this one. You’ll be glad you did.
Lee Andresen
East Ballina

Abbott wrong boat
Tony Abbott has stated that the Rudd Government should stop asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat. How does Tony propose to stop them? Would he follow the lead of his hero and mentor, John Howard? Howard’s strategy broke UN Conventions Australia has agreed to by towing boats back into Indonesian waters. This created the scenario of boats being set on fire, sunk, and people ending up in the ocean. It also involved covert operations in Indonesia designed to stop boats leaving port. Howard also broke international conventions of the sea by refusing to allow ships to disembark rescued people at the nearest safe port. Tony Abbott has said as much, and he hopes to create a race to the bottom of the electorates’ morality.
Eric Kaiser

Culture shift needed

One of the most perverse results of globalisation and economic deregulation has been the outcome for those things which show themselves to be valuable when considered in relation to the long term. For example, the fact that financial speculations can become assets, while renewable forms of energy production struggle for funding indicates a world that exists in topsy-turvy, an Alice in Wonderland type of cultural landscape, divorced from reality and living on borrowed time . Petroleum geologist turned Greenpeace global warming activist Jeremy Leggett puts it succinctly when he talks about the current state of the debate.
So it is not simply enough to change the government, the real work begins when governments take the truly difficult decisions to actually begin the work of changing the culture that has developed into our fossil fuel dependent modern world. Up until now very few major developed nations have had the foresight to even consider this aspect of the climate change debate. It is high time they did. Our children’s future demands it.
M Mizzi

The theocratic PM

Our Conservative Compassionate Christian PM, Kevin Fudd, intellectual younger brother of Elmer who left the carrot farm, who pontificated climate change is the moral imperative of the century, who professes to reach out to the poor, the sick, the dispossessed, the homeless, but has in reality put global warming on the back burner as it is too politically contentious... And has the Krudd government announced in spin from fantasy land that Afghaniland has settled down enough so refugees from there are not welcome?
Will the real Kevin Rudd stand up? Ahhh there he is. The one over there. Now over here. He is the Theocratic Technocratic Turd who puts politics before morality and compassion.
Paul Recher

Last chance

We must be the only generation that has been given so many chances of learning the obvious, yet we are still avoiding the move to the next level. Is it just because we are stuck with our beliefs and patterns, unable to change voluntarily while the writing is all over every wall? Or are there people out there who don’t want us to change, because they have an interest in the status quo? Isn’t the real truth, that we running fast out of time and money to deal with the real issues, which will impact on life on the planet for future generations? Has our bureaucracy developed into a ‘more jobs creating monster’ and never fixing or finishing issues, because then some people would lose their jobs? We see that maelstrom is finally realising how rotten, selfish and corrupt some people in powerful positions are.
The church sexual misuse scandal, which has been going on for decades if not longer and their gutless approach to the truth and to support the victims. The scrupulous selfishness and greed of some people in the banking sector, which nearly made the whole financial system collapse worldwide. How good of our politicians to save them with taxpayers’ money, just so we could see them paying themselves the usual millions as bonus only a short time later.
Will we see the police wasting thousands of dollars again at MardiGrass? Will we have the same stupid bully attitudes again this year? Remember the waste of money trying to charge Rusty, bringing back three squad members and have them in hotels etc., to be thrown out of court by the magistrate? Well, we are now allowed to grow industrial hemp in NSW,   you can take cannabis tincture if you are sick, things that the Hemp Embassy has fought for a long time. Please stand up and be counted to save more lives from being destroyed.
Chibo Mertineit

edited for length

Off the grass

As the Nimbin ‘Off Your Face-fest’ (aka. Mardi Grass) approaches again, I can’t help but wonder if the promoters have any awareness of the disproportionate number of premature deaths of prominent locals in the last 12 months? Sure, people die, but so many Nimbin identities have died in the last year (judging by their ages, about one to three decades too early) that it beggars belief that anyone can ignore the role which a life-time of self abuse may play in this. The culture being promoted is not one of treating your body as a temple, but rather as a dump to be trashed with any known carcinogen you can get your hands on. Cannabis smoke is a known carcinogen. To abuse it is no healthier than abusing another known carcinogen, alcohol. If you are abusing a carcinogen, then a vegetarian, organic or vegan diet will not save you. Even if you want to call it a healing herb, you are simply poisoning yourself.
The event has all the spiritual and political astuteness of a traditional beer-fest, just a different substance. It’s a pity- Nimbin has so many things it could celebrate, but like our overall dumbed-down culture, the self appointed Nimbin community leaders choose to celebrate and promote obliterating consciousness, as well as trashing lungs, body and brains. All with a defiant adolescent fist in the air (from unhealthy middle aged pot heads) fighting for their right to paaaarty!
Name and address withheld by request and edited for length


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