Letters to the Editor - Nov 5

Inquest over

The coronial inquest into the events leading to the death of Alex Wildman has concluded.

The focus of the inquest was on discovering what happened, not on assigning guilt, attributing blame or apportioning liability.

This was not how the inquest was portrayed by the media.

Headlines like “Bullies killed my son” and “School failed to stop bullies” demonstrates this. Selected statements, events and perceptions were reported with no avenue for redress.

Conflicting reports were given as evidence and often only one account was presented by the media.

Obviously not everything can be reported, however, omissions, frequently resulted in one-sided accounts. This has had a profound effect on the psychological and physical well-being of those who gave evidence. Many teenagers were called to give evidence and they are very vulnerable.

They have been struggling accepting, and coming to terms, with Alex’s death.

The reputations of the teachers who gave evidence have been harmed due to the public airing of their alleged failings. Spare a thought for these teachers, and in particular the relieving Kadina High School principal, Mr Bradd Farrell, who, at all times, achieves the highest degree of professional competence.

These teachers spend countless hours before and after school, at weekends and in school holidays supporting student welfare.

They should be praised for their work.

The death of Alex Wildman is a tragedy that one would hope would never again be repeated. It has left his family grief stricken.

It has also had a profound effect on the Kadina High School community.

Joyce Cordery
Lennox Head

Proud to be a Kadina student

After the recent press my school has received, I felt the need to write this to give a perspective of a student who has had a brilliant time in the five years I have attended Kadina High.

I, along with the majority of the student body, have had a safe and secure experience while being educated at this wonderful school.

After being in the Student Representative Council for many years I have had the opportunity to work closely with the school executive. They are all wonderful and caring people who want to make every student welcome and feel safe.

I have had many opportunities at my school and the school has a friendly and caring environment where students can grow into mature young adults.

I have personally experienced the school’s excellent and effective welfare system. I find the staff approachable and responsible.

I think it is rare to find a school to which the students are proud to attend. I know I am extremely proud to attend this school.

I will tell anyone who asks that I attend Kadina High.

The media has been extremely hard on my school and it is very undeserved, I don’t think that the media understands the ramifications it has on the whole school community and how damaging it can be to individuals at the school.

Drew Skimmings
Yr 11, Kadina High


Pedal power

I’d like to respond to “Cycleway to nowhere” ( Echo, Oct 29).

To the Harris Cycles team I’d like to say “Come on guys”– why would Council build a cycleway along the river (a good idea but not a priority) when we have large areas of the city which have no provision for pedestrians or cyclists? Council’s priority is to provide a network for non-motorised transport. This makes sense in a city which is not very affluent and at a time when we are facing climate change and inevitably rising petrol prices.

With the Commonwealth funding Council has the possibility of $1.265 million for cycleways this year. This is great news and I would have thought I would hear cheers from a bike shop.

The designated areas for cycleway funding make sense as it is all about connections – Lismore Heights to the CBD (currently pedestrians, often with prams, have to negotiate a very steep “goat track” on the side of the road which is extremely dangerous), South Lismore Public and the newly improved Nesbitt Park, Richmond River High and North Lismore and links between Lismore High, the university and Wyrallah Rd.

These proposals make great sense in maximising what we’ve got and are not “useless little things” as commented by Mr Pursey. Nor are they a “waste of money” as Mr Keogh claims.

I agree with Tony Keogh that we need a cycle lane along Ballina Rd to connect with Goonellabah and I’m sure it will happen in time. I believe recreational cycling is definitely a second order priority for Lismore’s cycle plan and good luck to those who choose to go to Ballina.

Cr Simon Clough
Lismore

Rocking the boat

What this boat people illegals debate or debacle needs just for a change is firstly some real fair and dinkum honesty! That’s the real challenge!

Secondly, a touch of common sense would also come in handy wouldn’t it?

If we imagine in our wildest dreams the UN (Aust), Indonesia or for that matter anyone on this entire planet could ever in a month of Sundays work out or find out without a shadow of doubt who these boat lot really are, whether they’re good or bad, fair dinkum or not, then you’re living in La La Land. I mean let’s get a bit real here.

Now remember: honesty and common sense please must prevail otherwise it is us who are not being fair dinkum. The reality is there is absolutely no way we can be sure about these illegals one way or the other – please tell me, please! Someone, anyone, how?

Reality then must be Wilson Tuckey, the only honest gutsy one of the bunch! Make no mistake: this bloke is right so why, oh why, do people like the PM make outrageous comments against him, and even more surprising Mr Turnbull saying he won’t abide any criticism of these boat illegals.

Not much honesty here either! What the hell is going on here! These lot simply are illegals, full stop!

They are breaking our laws. Laws set up to be fair and to protect our borders. Any country worth its salt has to have laws like this otherwise we might as well open the flood gates.

The Aussie land we know and love will be gone, make no mistake!! This is not fear mongering, it’s honesty, remember? It’s facing the facts! It’s truth!

These illegals are just that – illegal! Uninvited, unknowns and costing us all an arm and a leg with money we really don’t have.

Tell me where the common sense is now!

It’s no good going on about how desperate they are or about the kids on these boats.

This lot generally seem to not be short of the good old dollar. After all, each one managed to find the $16,000 odd for the passage. You don’t get on these boats for nothing, do you?

Thanks to dear Mr Rudd we are being had, taken for fools and I, for one, am sick and tired of this whole beat up!

They are jumping the queue, no question! It is estimated there are about 40 million people out there just waiting and yes, I do have sympathy for all of them, but I have none for those who are practically forcing their way here! Where are our rights in all this? We have to send them back, like it or not, to be decent and fair to all the rest, but most of all we have to wake up and face some truth before it really is too late. ‘Pacific Solution’! Bring it on!

AL Andrews
Girards Hill

The UN convention on Refugees, to which Australia is a signatory, and the Refugee Council of Australia advise that it is never illegal to enter Australia to seek protection from persecutio.- Ed.


Seeking asylum

Tamil asylum seekers are from an ethnic minority on the losing side of one of the longest running wars in Asia.

Most have had no involvement with the Tamil Tigers and yet in their home country are now paying the price for being on the losing side of the conflict.

Under the convention relating to the status of refugees, which Australia has ratified, a refugee is defined as anyone who has a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

Tell me that does not describe the Tamil asylum seekers.

Paul Recher ( Echo letters, Oct 22) uses the fact that the asylum seekers payed people smugglers $15,000 per person to get from Indonesia to Australia as evidence of their not being “true” refugees.

Yes, that amount of money is a significant sum in Sri Lanka but is that not just a sign of how desperate they were to escape persecution?

For many the $15,000 would have been everything they and their families had. Asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan who arrived via boat, before being assessed as genuine refugees, also payed smugglers exorbitant fees, yet Paul Recher does not dismiss their plight.

I, too, am not commenting on whether the Tamil Tigers should be classed as a terrorist organisation or not, but I do believe that Tamil Asylum seekers should not be tainted by or judged on the International opinion of the Tamil Tigers.

Spreading fear of asylum seekers by claiming that some may be Tamil Tigers is irresponsible and no different than saying that some aboard a boat of asylum seekers from Afghanistan may be Taliban members.

Yes maybe it is a very miniscule risk but not one that outweighs the right of persecuted people to seek asylum.

I believe that as a signatory to the refugee convention Australia had a right to take in refugees, including those who arrive here by boat, not to just pay another country with a population 10 times our own to intercept the boats in order to take the task off our hands.

C Hale
Goonellabah

Sandakan memorial

The Rotary Club of Lismore is planning the erection of a memorial to the young men of this region who were murdered in the WWII Sandakan death camps or on the infamous Sandakan death marches.

Whilst the original intention of the Rotary Club of Lismore was to erect a memorial to those that gave their lives from the then Lismore Shire, it is obvious that many more people from all over the Northern Rivers wish to be part of this commemorative event.

In researching the names of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, I was horrified to discover that among the list of over 40 names, there are three sets of brothers!

One cannot begin to imagine the additional horrors for these particular families when confronted with this dreadful news.

These particular six young men came from Lismore, Kyogle and Casino and highlight the fact that the results of conflict do not discriminate at any level.

Whilst some family members have contacted me with details of their loved ones murdered in Sandakan, the Rotary Club of Lismore is still keen to hear from any other family members or friends. I ask any family or friends of young men who gave their lives in this terrible event, to contact me on 6629 3404 or email wheatley@ ceinternet.com.au

Brian Wheatley
Rotary Club of
Lismore

Growing garden

Have the community garden people considered what action they’re going to take if their site becomes the target of vandals and thieves?

Already many businesses, sheds, homes in the area have had to invest in elaborate security to protect themselves against this menace.

It would be the final irony if the community garden had to erect an eight-foot high electrified fence to keep the young thugs and hooligans out and the good gardeners in.

Sadly, there is an underclass of disaffected lost souls who want to attack, vandalise and pillage other people’s property often for no more than the high it gives them.

When is society going to do something about them? Often their anger is a product of genuine frustration and anger over an increasingly unjust world.

When are we going to do something about that? There’s a generation who’ve grown up with very little in the way of moral training or role models and they have no respect for themselves or anyone else.

Respect, courtesy and good manners are disappearing fast from our society. The simple lack of good manners between people today is cause for concern. Whether it’s in shops, on the road or just in daily interactions out in the public domain, there’s a real lack of civility and simple good manners.

Try dealing with your caring customer service rep on the phone and you’ll see what I mean.

We allow ourselves to be processed, pushed around, queued into lines, given numbers and good, decent people who are too “well-mannered” to protest allow our human and civil rights to be eroded at an ever- accelerating rate.

“Formality” is a dirty word. Nobody today likes “Madam” or “Sir”. It’s “Darl”, “Sweetie” or “Love” but this “familiarity” erodes respect between people and ultimately is a cancer in society. Formality gives a structure that allows civility to happen.

Lydia Connelly
Nimbin


Farewell Rev Gary

On Sunday, October 25, I had the pleasure of being able to attend Reverend Gary Dronfield’s last service at Lismore Uniting Church. During the last couple of years that I got to know Rev Gary, I got to know a kind, caring, loving man of God who would go above and beyond his call of duty.

He was always there for anybody and everybody, regardless of race, colour, creed or background. He showed true Christian love by the way he lived.

Brother Gary, to you and your family, I pray that God’s richest blessings be upon you and I know that your new church placement will be blessed by your ministry.

You will be sadly missed but forever loved.

Daniel Jones
Lismore

Complex answer

Ho hum G J May ( Echo, Oct 29) challenges the recent forecasts of many reputable climate scientists and refers to the warm period in Chaucer’s England as so-called evidence that climate change isn’t happening.

The issues are very complex and it relates to heating of the atmosphere at different levels and a range of variables including orbit, axis of the Earth etc. Tim Flannery writes, “Scientists recently acknowledged variations in solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations affect Earth’s climate in fundamentally different ways. This is because solar radiation warms the upper levels of the stratosphere through the ultraviolet rays that are absorbed by ozone. Greenhouse gases, in contrast, warm the troposhpere, and they warm it most at the bottom where their concentration is greatest. At the present moment Earth is experiencing both stratospheric cooling (due to ozone holes) and tropospheric warming (due to increased greenhouse gases.)”

Let us remind ourselves that carbon dioxide is very long-lived in the atmosphere: around 56% of all the CO2 that humans have liberated by burning fossil fuels is still aloft. So the fossil-fuel power I use today, or the fuel I use in my car, will release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and last for a long, long, long time. And I am only one of the 6.4 billion people on the planet at present.

The bottom line is: what we humans are doing on the planet is not sustainable. We have totally over-fished our oceans to the point that only 10% of the larger fish species remain – blue fin tuna catch limits are one example of this with catch numbers drastically reduced as well as the proliferation of jellyfish in some areas of the ocean.

But does this stop the exploitation of what remains? We exploit all niches for our gain, for more stuff, more consumer luxuries. The human population grows and grows; our petri dish of resources are finite. All of us need to start to join the dots and start to recognise we have been living in a privileged era of oil, of prosperity, and that we have a relationship with the planet – one that can’t be ignored. We need to see that endless growth will eventually lead to collapse. For all and sundry: go and see the movie The Age of Stupid. The message in that is clear.

So, what are you doing G J May to reduce your personal impact on our Earth and its ecosystems? The relationship between Earth and the ecosystems is what enables us to live on this planet. And no other planets offer anything like what we have here.

Gayle Russell
Mullumbimby


BCAN says thanks

The Ballina Climate Action Network and the North Coast Climate Action Network would like to thank the generous sponsors who made it possible to host the 350 Climate Fair on October 24.

They were GeoLINK, Eko-energy by Rezeko, Jack Ransom Cycles, Eco-Options, Econstruct, Nickel Energy, and the Ballina Greens.

We would also like to thank the judges of the Youth Art Competition, Pat Jacobs from Island Quarry Inc, Shobhan Oliver and Eva Brown, and Cr Jeff Johnson.

Sue Fielder
Ballina


Maccas going nuts

While the macadamia industry provides significant and important economic benefits to areas as far apart as Nambucca and Bundaberg and includes a whole range of interesting and innovative people I have sometimes, as a macadamia grower, been intrigued by the actions and decisions of the Board of the Australian Macadamia Society (AMS), which is the industry’s controlling body responsible for managing the expenditure of almost $4 million on marketing and research and development in the interests of industry members and of which around $3 million is contributed by compulsory levies on macadamia growers.

But now I’m confused and more than a little concerned by the appointment last week of a new member to the board of the AMS, and the lack of interest by the board members in dealing with the issues raised with them about his appointment, because at the time that person was trying to get appointed to the board he was, and still is, actually trying to get out of the macadamia industry even though he has only been in the industry for the last four years.

Before Ian Clapham, the new board member concerned, was formally appointed (three positions, three candidates, so he did not have to face an election) he wrote a piece for the September 2009 AMS Newsletter in which he purported to outline his credentials and, among other comments, he stated unambiguously how “extremely bullish” he was about the industry’s prospects, that he was “determined to play a role in building a sustainable and viable industry..” and that he had a “..passion and vision for the industry”.

Unfortunately, in his article he omitted to inform AMS members, who, if there had been more interest in the AMS and the board position would have had a right to vote on his appointment, that at the time he nominated for the board, and for approximately six months prior to that date, and even at the time he accepted his position as a board member, the two macadamia farms owned by him at Brooklet and Dunoon were up for sale.

I was puzzled by his comments as, apart from not knowing how he proposed to continue his commitment to the industry and implement his vision after he sold his farms and left the industry, I was unable to reconcile the inconsistencies between his actions, ie selling his farms, and his public statements to AMS members in the AMS Newsletter, so I contacted Ian Clapham and put my queries and concerns to him directly.

Interestingly Mr Clapham, in declining to answer my fairly simple questions about the sale of his farms and his candidacy, replied that he “…had nothing to hide” ( which was an answer to a question I had not asked) and was in the industry for “…the long haul”, whatever that means in the context of him selling his farms. As Mr Clapham would not answer my queries, and as he was to be appointed as a new board member with effect from the closing of the AMS AGM on October 20, I submitted several questions with the same content to the AMS CEO requesting that my queries be asked and answered by Mr Clapham and the board at the AGM to be held on October 20.

To my surprise I was notified by the CEO that the board members refused to allow any questions to be asked at the AGM regarding the yet-to-be-appointed Ian Clapham on the basis they were “not appropriate” for an AGM and nor would board members answer a question regarding their knowledge and endorsement of Ian Clapham’s appointment to the board despite the fact he was selling his farms as a precursor to leaving the industry as a grower.

Again, such a question was “not appropriate” for an AGM.

So why were the board members so uncomfortable with the democratic process?

An AMS member has a right to ask why a person such as Ian Clapham, who was seeking appointment to the board, would refuse to answer some fairly routine queries from another AMS member about his candidacy if, as he says, he has nothing to hide and also why the AMS board would censor those questions addressed to both it and Ian Clapham and suppress any discussion about those issues by its members at the AGM.

I think it is not unreasonable to ask the CEO and AMS board members why they feared their own members participating in the democratic process and having an open discussion on the floor of the AGM on these issues if, like Ian Clapham, they too have nothing to hide. The issues surrounding Ian Clapham and the AMS board involve matters of full and proper disclosure, accountability and transparency and these are principles that should apply to all board members, or intending board members, when you consider they are responsible for spending other people’s money and, in particular, money received from macadamia growers by way of compulsory levies.

The concepts are not difficult to understand or to apply – except it seems for some AMS members.

Greg Woods
Dunoon


Bill not right

Disillusioned by NSW Labor?

Rudd not quite what you hoped for?

Then this will show you who owns them.

This week the announcement of a $1 million court costs bill, incurred by Greens MLC Ian Cohen in a defamation case, is another example of the use of the courts by the well resourced, rich and greedy to silence critics and those bringing their depredations to the public eye, as they trample across the landscape raping, pillaging and plundering to their heart’s content.

Supported by both of the tweedle dee and tweedle dum parties, who accept large donations from developers, the state of NSW has truly reached a new depth of corruption as the executive more closely sidles up to money at the expense of the amenity of locals in a variety of precincts in this state.

Car rally anyone?

No neighbourhood is safe from these political patrons. Yours could be next!

It is a disgusting irony that profiteering land grabbers can use the law to usurp the attempts by someone else to bring the breaching of these laws to the law enforcers’ attention.

That was my experience. I am still paying the courts costs (donations kindly accepted).

Politicians pay lip service to environmental issues but allow and encourage the judicial punishment of those who dare to expose their complicity in the breaching of standing laws and acts.

This is institutionalised thuggery and bullying of the weak by the rich, greedy and powerful.

In the meantime those with the money get their cards ticked off and are then allowed to rort and breach every environmental law in the books. No government agency has the real clout to stop these plunderers and every agency has a name which is a direct opposite to what they can do.

Think the Environmental Protection Agency (not).

This is due to laws which have been designed and are interpreted in the shade of corruption and sleazy financial deals done between lobbyists and government officers.

This week it was reported that Australia still has the worst record of developed nations as far as protecting its biodiversity, with up to 300 species being added to the endangered and threatened lists over the past few years alone.

That’s a whole lot of pillaging and plundering folks! Perhaps the amount awarded against Ian Cohen can be redirected to protecting some threatened species rather than enriching those who use courts as a weapon in attempts to bludgeon people into silence.

And pigs can fly!

Oink oink, mate.

M Mizzi
Tabulam

Bypassing process

Who does the RTA and Ballina Bypass Alliance really think they are kidding with their sudden and hypocritical claims of interest in agricultural land?

Their application to Council ( Ballina Advocate 27/8), for a 40,000 cubic metre fill site at Cumbulum was listed for the sole purpose of agricultural land improvement.

Yet the area has long been designated for the Ballina Housing corridor and acres of surrounding valley farmland has been knocked into oblivion by bypass works and flooding since highway commencement 16 months ago.

What responsible organisation, with agricultural improvement in mind, could possibly exclude as a prelude to highway commencement, a proper flood study?

And why not a complete overhaul of the 19th century floodwater infrastructure that is still in place in the Tintenbar Valley, an infrastructure originally designed to service the first roads of the horse and buggy era through the area.

Yet it is now expected to bear the burden of a 21st century, 10-lane freeway and ancillaries, through the same valley, without impacting on agricultural land.

And adding to the area’s burden is a relentless landfill right up the Sandy Flat Valley, including landfill for purposes unrelated to highway construction, as well as a new power grid and road base never mentioned at flood study meetings.

Its impact will link up with the aftermath from a proposed 10,000 people village below the Ross Lane highway interchange, to send the wrath of the Gods into the Tintenbar Valley.

Yet lowland farmers were left uninvited to a residents’ meeting and sneak preview of planning procedures.

And now the mother of all blunders, with the Pacific Highway re-alignment pushed westward against my farm boundary at the base of Tintenbar Hill.

The highway is destabilised and sinking at its Sandy Creek crossing and its inadequate box culverts have been heavily reinforced with steel scaffolding poles from beneath. This further jams up the passage of water during valley flooding to a life-threatening degree.

One of the worst acts of roguery ever encountered at individually held flood study meetings was how the combined impact of the separate developments of both the RTA and the Ballina Shire Council was never allowed to be discussed as one entity. Now we see the true consequences to the detriment of farmers and every other landholder along the floodplain.

And still they try to convince us that their concern is for agricultural land, when quite frankly, they don’t give a damn.

John Hayter
Tintenbar


Curiosity in Ballina

Now here’s a curious thing! The Riverside building is prominent in Ballina – great location, right on the water, and in the CBD.

Those picnicking on the grass at Fawcett Park might look across and think what a great place it would be to stay – and many locals have done that.

But not any more.

The building used to be part of the Ramada chain.

As more people moved in to live, their apartments were withdrawn from the letting pool, the number of units available for tourists/holidaymakers fell, and the Ramada Group withdrew their support, and the use of the Ramada name; thus, it became “Riverside Suites”.

In 2007, some unit owners lodged a Development Application for “Change of Use from a Tourist Facility… to a Residential Flat Building”.

Applying for a change of use from ‘tourist’ to ‘residential’ would indicate prior recognition of the building as a tourist facility; that is, acknowledgement by the applicants that the accommodation is for tourists and holidaymakers.

In March 2009, Council assessed this Application for Change of Use. Councillors heard submissions from affected business owners and community people.

One business in the complex paid a considerable amount in 2005 for a liquor license that gave it the right to service alcohol to the apartments. A change to allow permanent living means that the expensive license is worthless, and significant revenue is lost, as it is illegal to serve alcohol to rooms that are not ‘tourist’ occupied.

The Booking Service business once had receptionists on duty around the clock; now the reception area is open only during business hours, because of fewer units to let, and because permanent residents don’t contribute to reception costs. After wading through four years of reports, tables and statistics, councillors decided to refuse the application, and to have Council restate its position that this building be used for short-term tourist accommodation, because it does not, and cannot, meet the requirements for permanent residential accommodation. Crs Jeff Johnson, David Wright, Keith Johnson, Sue Meehan, Ben Smith and Robyn Horden supported this decision.

At the March Council meeting, both business owners making submissions, and councillors in debate, suggested that the those who were living in the building not be asked to leave, but that no new people be allowed live in the building.

That is, no one would be disaffected with their current living arrangements, but any units sold would be sold as holiday apartments.

This seemed a fair compromise.

The Northern Star carried the story of Council supporting tourism in Ballina, and letters to the editor supported this decision; but from Council, nothing happened.

In September 09, contrary to the decision of March 09, Council has now decided that the building can be used for permanent occupancy.

This takes the situation back to where it was four years ago:

  • the building is technically a tourist facility, as confirmed in March 09;
  • certain compulsory regulations for permanent occupancy can not be met in that building;
  • affected business owners have been hung out to dry;
  • there will be no business for the Booking Service and no reception.

Crs Robyn Hordern, Sue Meehan and Jeff Johnson voted against this motion.

It appears that Peter Carmont’s (his sister lives in Riverside) talk of legal action was sufficient to have some councillors change their position.

When this matter progresses to court – and it will – Ballina Council’s actions, and lack of action, will be called to account.

Given that holidaymakers spent 7000 visitor nights in the Ramada Riverside in 2007, what do business owners feel about the demise of tourist accommodation in Ballina’s CBD?And guess what! The same process is underway at the new Ramada!

Marilyn Perkins
Wollongbar


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