Letters to the editor - Mar 1
It's just not cricket
I totally reject claims made by Cr Meineke at a recent Lismore Council meeting that Council is "playing the man" in relation to the application for approval of expansion of Champions Quarry under part 3A Regionally Significant Development. This type of development is given status because of its size, not its merit. Following Council's refusal of the application on 11 grounds, Mr Champion took Council to the Land & Environment Court, known as the 'developer's court', costing Council a large sum of ratepayers' money. Council had no choice in the matter. After one of the longest hearings, Council's position was upheld by the court, which rejected the Champions Quarry application. Cr Meineke chose to make inflammatory statements rather than discuss the merits of the proposal. The application for the quarry expansion is now with the state government in Sydney and out of the hands of the local people who ultimately will be affected if this DA is approved.
An ex-mayor, Mr Champion made several accusations of conflicts of interest and bias against Council staff and councillors. My crime was that I wrote a letter to Council objecting to the quarry during my election campaign. My objection was based on my assessment that the DA would place an unnecessary burden on our roads and that several houses were within the buffer zones. I assess all DAs on their respective merits as to whether the application will 'fit' within the local area, not endanger the local amenity and not become a burden to the wider community. I stand by the Tucki community in their rejection of this mega quarry. I utterly reject accusations of bias made against me.
However these accusations and inflammatory statements are part of a wider political campaign to discredit this council. These groups want to turn back the clock to reinstate the 'boys club' that gave us two large swimming pools, a cracked levee wall, pet projects like Skyline Road, failed investments, lack of development, lack of infrastructure spending on roads and wastewater, and a failure to deal with difficult issues such as asset management and depreciation. They rely on misleading and inflammatory statements to create fear and concern in the community for political gain. It is base party politics and has no place in council business.
"There are two sides out there, but only one is playing cricket." (Australian cricket captain Bill Woodfull, from the Bodyline series.)
Cr David Yarnall
Can't see the wood for the trees
Didn't we kill and bury the idea to burn our native forests for electricity decades ago? (Forest Waste Plan Slammed, ABC North Coast, February 14). Why do crack-pot ideas such as this raise their ugly head when any rational minded person knows we already have affordable and currently available renewable energy technologies? Why does every energy policy of government favour a resource that can be mined, packaged, controlled and sold for profit, when the free and abundant resources of wind and sun stare us in the face? Why, as humans, must we be so short-sighted that we choose to pursue coal, gas and uranium, even if it means the death of us?
Signs of the times
Kate Green (Echo, February 9) is confused. The farmer she refers to was "signing up" for LNG. If she cooks with LNG could she tell us how and where she obtains it?
Also, bemused residents of Rose Road Tuntable Creek would love to know the decision-making process that led to Lismore Council spending its limited funds on speed advisory signs on their five-kilometre, dead-end, gravel road.
World gone mad
Am I missing something here Trevor Thomas (Echo, February 23). Are we to jump up and down in protest at the slaughter of whales yet blithely turn a blind eye to the slaughter of our children in the womb? Has the world gone mad?
Darcy P Mckee
Under the influence of smart phones
I am writing in the hope that my letter can help raise awareness of the dangers of using smart phones while driving - possibly saving a life.
The other day, I saw a young girl, maybe 18 or so, who almost hit a pedestrian at a crossing because she was busy on her smart phone. Fortunately she looked up just in time to prevent what could have been a serious accident.
Was a Facebook update distracting her? Was she checking her GPS? Regardless of what was proving such compelling reading at that moment, she could have broken someone's legs (or worse). I feel there is rarely any excuse for using one's smart phone while driving.
If you really need to use your phone while driving, pull over! If you're five minutes late getting somewhere, the world won't end, I promise. However, if you injure or kill someone because you were distracted by your smart phone, the world as you know it will end - guaranteed.
I'm especially concerned as recent statistics show that younger drivers are more likely to text while driving than any other age group. Considering that teens and young adults are the highest risk drivers on our roads, adding smart phones to the mix makes it even more worrisome.
I came across a study that says that 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involve some form of driver distraction. In most cases, the distraction occurred within three seconds before the vehicle crash. And it is a fact that most people who are guilty of a DWD, or "driving while distracted", are under the influence of their mobile devices at the time.
Studies have also shown that when you use your phone while driving, you reduce your reaction time to that of a 70-year-old, and your driving abilities are on par with that of a drunk driver.
A lot of people already know this. And yet they still use their phones while driving!
I am grateful that some people have taken notice of smart phone addiction in our society. Take for instance the recent 'Moodoff Day' campaign on February 26 (MoodOffDay.org), which asked people to use their smart phones more wisely - including not while driving.
Movements like this are refreshing and call much-needed attention to what is a growing addiction to (at times invasive and dangerous) use of technology in our lives.
While some may label me an alarmist, fact is that 6000 people die every year to distracted drivers in the US alone. That's 6000 unnecessary deaths, not to mention 450,000 injuries due to distracted drivers. Australian figures would surely not fall far behind these.
If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the three out of four drivers that use wireless devices while driving. So please, take a moment to reflect on what you've read here, and vow to change your smart phone habits while driving. You could save a life - maybe even your own!
I am a Year 12 student studying art at Mullumbimby High School and will soon be beginning my major body of work in visual arts.
We are lucky to live in a very diverse area of the world where people are naturally accepting.
The main idea for my photography body of work comes from this idea and is centred around people who break through the conventions of mainstream society and who may feel that they are not represented enough in the media, advertisements, etc.
If you feel this way and are willing to volunteer to be photographed, I would be very grateful if you emailed me at jasmine.wrightcatron @gmail.com.
Jasmine Wright Catron
Upper Coopers Creek
An open letter to all Ballina councillors,
The purpose of this letter is to formally request the recall of the draft LEP from the Department of Planning.
We believe that there are substantial grounds for the recall, including the need to re-exhibit the draft LEP and to call for public discussion on the rezoning. Further we believe that Council has breached or ignored several important Department of Planning guidelines without providing valid and proper reasons for doing so.
The Ballina Ratepayers Association through their investigations believe that the entire process has not been transparent, and that it lacks the due process necessary to ensure that it is unassailable.
Further, it has become known to us that what could well be the vast majority of landholders who are being affected by the highly controversial E2 and E3 zones are still unaware of their potential rezoning, and as such have not been accorded their democratic rights to be fully informed of all the facts.
The proposed rezonings are not supported by any independent economic, environmental, social or other impact studies about the consequences of rezoning large tracts of land used for tourism and agriculture. Therefore the proposed areas to be rezoned are unsupported by any factual material and highly suspect.
Finally we believe that a minority group has unfairly and inappropriately swayed Council's decision-making power and has clouded the judgement of staff.
This leaves Council open to law suits, compensation claims and other areas of liability resulting in litigation that have not been fully investigated and debated in chamber. Nor have such repercussions been assessed fiscally to ensure that the burden of litigation and compensation can be or should be borne by the ratepayers of this shire.
We believe that this is an urgent matter, and we ask that you respond within seven days of this date with your answer.
President Ballina Ratepayers Association
Fundraising for Legacy widows
On Sunday, February 18, a highly critical article appeared in the Sydney press concerning the fundraising activities of a firm titled "Legacy Marketing". This firm has been retained by some leading charity organisations to raise funds on their behalf. Legacy Australia including Far North Coast Legacy is NOT and would not be associated in any way with such practices. Far North Coast Legacy is dedicated to the welfare of the widows and families of those who died during or as a result of war. Legacy does not use professional fundraisers. Our funds are raised by volunteers from generous community support and expended on our local widows and families. The press article acknowledged in very small print that "Legacy Marketing" and Legacy Australia were not associated. Legacy Marketing's reported operational processes and ethics would be totally unacceptable to Legacy Australia.
Far North Coast Legacy
A Champion offer
Mr Woolley's letter (Echo, February 23) in relation to Champions Quarry is misleading and lacking in the truth. I do not intend to address all his incorrect claims as it would take over 500 words and that's not fair or allowed in letters to the editor.
Mr Woolley was offered the opportunity to meet with the Champions Quarry consultants and discuss any issues or concerns he had with the development. Mr Woolley chose not to meet with the consultants. It would appear Mr Woolley did not wish to learn the facts.
However, I will say that Mr Woolley is a serial vexatious complainant. He has engaged with a Lismore City Council employee and councillor to continue his scurrilous attacks on Champions Quarry. I have documented proof of that. I believe that Mr Woolley's claims have no basis of fact.
So The Echo does not have to continue this debate forever, I would be quite prepared to calmly debate the issues with Mr Woolley and Mr Wadsworth in a public forum with Lismore City councillors and the public present. This would bring the truth out, once and for all, and would give the press access to the facts. This is a fair offer to the opponents. Let's see if they are prepared to face the facts.
To Lydia Kindred (Echo, February 23). Can't people read? I didn't say I retained koala trees on my property, there were almost none there. I planted hundreds. A big difference! You don't know what I dedicate my life to. You should come and have a look. Maintaining an operational and productive agricultural holding takes a lot more time than living on a 20-acre lifestyle block.
In relation to koala experts, I know enough that if Lismore City Council, Friends of the Koala and others wanted the best koala expert in the region they should have Emeritus Professor Peter Baverstock, who was made a life member of Friends of the Koala. Yet they don't seek his opinion. Steve Phillips did his PhD under Emeritus Professor Baverstock. It amazes me that all this talkfest and counterproductive planning for koalas takes place instead of more koala food tree planting, which is the practical solution to increase the koala population.
Lydia, your letter contains a lot of incorrect statements, probably made in ignorance. No we don't have a very large quarry. Lismore City Council does.
If we all went down your track, there would be no jobs, no roads etc. Maybe it's time some people get rid of their houses and cars, and obtain a tent and a camel and you won't need development!
To Ros Irwin (Echo, February 23). I have known you for many years. You are an intelligent academic. Before I accept you telling me the Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) will not result in environmental zone restrictions on rural land and claiming that I mislead people in my letter, I need to explain the reality of the situation. Unfortunately, it would appear Ros that you have not read the state government SEPP 44 - Koala Habitat Protection. SEPP 44 states the aims and objectives are to encourage the inclusion of areas of core koala habitat in environmental protection zones.
As we know from the LEP and KPoM, local government bureaucrats don't need any encouragement to include more rural land in E (environmental) zones.
I'm sorry Ros, you missed this item of truth. But I understand, farmers tend to be more practical and academics, well, more theoretical.
I have lodged my objection to the Champions Quarry project. It is abhorrent that one person and his companies, Reavill Farm Pty and Tucki Hills Pty Ltd are able to cause so much angst and unrest in a community with an existing development and a further proposed expansion of that development. Having been objected to by our local community, with our Lismore City Council refusing his application for expansion and having the Land & Environment Court uphold the decision to refuse the massive expansion of Champions Quarry, I find it incredible that former mayor Jeff Champion is once again lodging a development application, though this time to the NSW Government. The impact on the lives of the community who live in the vicinity of the quarry seems to be of no significance to Jeff Champion. The impact on the lives of the koala population and their environment seems of little consequence to Jeff Champion. The impact on traffic, safety and the roads that would be used for access to the quarry are of no consequence to Jeff Champion. But there is the proposal of a capital investment of $2 million and 10 full-time jobs! Big whoop! How much for Jeff Champion? Our community says 'no' to any further development. Whatever happened to the rights of the majority? I object on behalf of our environment. I object on behalf of our koala population. I object on behalf of our safety on the roads. I object on behalf of our community. You have until close of business on Friday, March 2, to lodge your objections. Please do. Include Ref 09_0080 and email to email@example.com.
We know who we are
In reply to Councillor Ekins' letter in the last edition of The Echo (February 23).
The Ratepayers Association of Lismore Incorporated is well aware of how councils operate. Councils are structured in a similar fashion to listed companies. Councils have two parts; there is the mayor and councillors who develop policy. In listed companies there is the chairman and the board of directors who perform a similar role. Then there is the general manager and his department heads that implement that policy and run the 'day to day' activities of council. In listed companies there is the CEO and his (or her) executives who do likewise.
As for attending LCC meetings, the association was at the last one, indeed association members are at many council meetings. And whilst, as president, I do write most of the association's press releases (with committee approval), it should be noted that I am not the association. The association is made up of hundreds of dedicated members, many of which regularly attend Council meetings. You may be surprised just who these members actually are.
President, Ratepayers Association of Lismore
Don't blame the victim
It makes my blood boil to read phrases like "Police are urging women to be careful" (On the Beat, Echo, February 23) in regard to a woman being sexually assaulted. The inference that women are making some mistake that leads to them being attacked is, frankly, BS.
Victim blaming/shaming is one of the main factors in sexual attacks going unreported, and needs to stop. In future, could we please just urge men not to attack, victimise and rape women (or anybody else for that matter)?
Pretty good job
Thanks to Councillor Vanessa Ekins (Echo, February 23) for clarifying to the Ratepayers Association of Lismore Inc that LCC does focus most of its resources and staff time on core services such as roads, water, sewerage and rubbish. Cr Ekins also, in our view, correctly points out that the Council has an important role in planning for the future of our region. As LCC rural residents of more than 10 years, who do not directly receive water, sewerage or rubbish services, we have appreciated the improvements in our local roads over the years, including the completion of the tarring of Tuntable Creek Road, which by the way forms the road boundary to the president of RALI's macadamia property.
While we would all like LCC roads to be much better, we acknowledge there are many challenges to this like limited funding, high rainfall and a vast network of both tarred and dirt roads which require continual attention. We also believe that LCC does a pretty good job in providing services in other areas, such as public pools, parks, arts, cultural and tourism promotion, and library services, including to our nearest local town of Nimbin. There is always room for improvement, but we recognise it is a fine balancing act between the community's needs and available resources.
Perhaps if RALI tried taking a more open and positive view of what living rurally really means to a diverse population of people, they could work collaboratively with LCC to help make services even better in the future.
Robert Baldwin and Scott Harrower
I would like to respond to Jeff Champion's letter (Echo, February 23). Referring to the Local Environment Plan, Jeff Champion claims Mr Wadsworth isn't really concerned about it "because he only owns a hobby farm". The attitude expressed here makes me wonder whether we shouldn't be referring to Mr Champion as Lord Champion of Tucki Tucki.
Having sold some of his estate to the local peasants who set up 'hobby farms', he is outraged when they object to his plans for his mega quarry in their midst. Some of them have even written letters objecting to his plans, he calls them "serial letter writers" or "vexatious serial complainant(s)".
What is the world coming to when mere 'hobby farmers' (peasants) object to having their rights to quiet enjoyment, clean air, water and safe roads taken away from them by his Lordship's plan to expand his quarry. Hasn't Lord Champion heard of democracy?
Cr Simon Clough
Borrow and build
At Ballina Council's February meeting I moved for an urgent report that would outline the current state of Ballina's road network and explore funding options for increasing our road resealing program. Sad to report, this timely proposal was not supported by a single councillor. Yet Council's own engineering staff (April 2011) have reported that funding for the resealing program is insufficient.
If road resealing is not done in time it results in the need for costly road reconstructions. One thing is clear, unless Ballina dramatically increases its road resealing program, and discontinues the practice of "contracting out" its crew and equipment to complete private road works, our road network will continue to deteriorate. The good news is that the NSW Government has a mechanism for councils to borrow money at concessional interest rates for this specific purpose. Given that road reconstruction raises the costs to a shire 10-12 fold (up to 1200%) we have to ask why this Council isn't exploring all the options to reduce this future cost burden. Don Page, Minister for Local Government, in a recent a press release highlighted the NSW Government's Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme. He pointed out how it will "pay the first 4% of the interest on loans that NSW councils take out specifically to pay for the maintenance of infrastructure projects such as roads".
Don also explained that "the Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme is a key aspect of the NSW Government's Local Infrastructure Backlog Policy" and how it will "help NSW councils get on with the task of reducing the vast backlog of infrastructure projects in their communities".
Ballina Council is currently not adequately funding and maintaining our existing infrastructure. Instead I believe it is diverting much needed funds into speculative commercial property investments that are providing the community with a very low return on the funds invested. A much higher return is possible if these assets are sold and used to attract grant funding for infrastructure programs. Present activities are deferring substantial costs for a future Council and Ballina ratepayers.
Cr Jeff Johnson
The real Julia
The overwhelming vote PM Julia Gillard got from the caucus this week is less about Julia's skills (which are impressive), but about parliamentary members' fear of an election being called if one or other of the Independents withdrew their support if Kevin Rudd won.
I'm sure there are current supporters of Julia who don't like her strong connection with the Right faction and support for those NSW parliamentarians who managed to wreck the NSW Labor Parliamentary party. Let's hope Julia becomes her own person in the months to come.
Top cat, dead mouse
The Canberra media has been playing with the Labor Party like a cat with a mouse - now the game is over and the subject is dead (the mouse) for the moment. What mischief will they get up to next? Will they start on the Liberal Party leadership?
The Murdoch press, who didn't want a viable Labor candidate in the next election, will probably start positioning for Turnbull to step up because the electorate is just as disinterested in Tony Abbott as they are in Julia Gillard - as was evidenced in the last election. Both their polling figures are abysmal and I will be gob smacked if either of them is able to improve the situation. Although we mustn't forget the Murdoch press! And of course the spectre of Gina?
I am sick of the media trying to create news - just get on and report it - and if the politicians think the majority of the general public is informed/interested in policies, think again!
LEP in action
There's a disturbing trend where misinformation gets circulated about public matters. Worse, people then don't bother to check what they hear and carelessly repeat the myths. Recent public meetings have spread misinformation about Ballina's new Local Environmental Plan (LEP) affecting private landholders. One is that under changed zoning, people can't do what they've always done. But under the new LEP all existing land uses are permitted regardless of rezoning. Anything currently permissible or having consent may legitimately continue in the new zone. Another is that new zoning has been slipped through secretly without consultation, with people unaware or not being contacted. But the consultation process began five years ago under a previous Council. No proposals for land management changes have ever before been circulated more widely, or with greater fanfare. Public workshops; information sessions; advertisements; articles; personal letters; a dedicated website and phone line have all explained it comprehensively. Ballina Environment Society (BES) held a major new LEP public meeting in the Richmond Room, attended by a large crowd. Anyone has been able to object through a submission. Every submission has been responded to in detail explaining why it has been either accepted or rejected. BES does remain unhappy about some aspects of the new LEP and reserves the right to continue arguing. But overall we find the public consultation process very effectively managed. Why now these frivolous complaints at public meetings and letters to the editor? Sour grapes? Or grabs at personal advantage? BES often locks horns with Council, and will continue to - for our own good reasons. We're not generally regarded as "Yes general manager" types. But here we stand firmly with Council staff. They've undertaken this new LEP process with professionalism, and whilst the result isn't yet perfect, we believe it's one Ballina can be proud of.
I reply to Ros Irwin's letter (Echo, February 23) regarding her comments on Lismore Council's Koala Plan of Management.
Having read and re-read the KPoM, I have to say it is a very confusing document.
However, I believe Ros is misinterpreting the KPoM's requirements.
I will attempt to clarify my previous comments.
The KPoM defines land which is to be developed as the 'subject site' and that means "the allotment(s) to which a development application applies". So if, for example, a person wants to cut off four lots of 1ha each from a farm of 20ha, the whole of the 20ha will have to be assessed for koalas.
How will the whole 20ha have to be assessed? By means of a 'stadia survey' and that means "recording of the precise location and taxonomic identity of all preferred koala food trees" on a site, and is to be carried out by "a registered surveyor and an appropriately qualified ecologist."
The cost for the 'stadia survey' has to be paid for by the landowner. Quite an impost really!
The definitions of 'subject site' and 'stadia survey' are included in the KPoM.
Regarding the requirement to allocate land elsewhere to compensate for lost koala trees, the KPoM says that an activity to compensate for adverse impacts of development activity should only be approved (my italics) if Council considers that: (I will paraphrase here for brevity):
the requirements of all relevant legislation have been applied;
all feasible options to negotiate alternatives to avoid clearing have been exhausted;
there are good prospects that compensation works will lead to an improvement of koala habitat;
application of compensation works has been conducted in accordance with the principles outlined in the Habitat Compensation Policy in Appendix 2.
Appendix 2 says there are three acceptable primary protection mechanisms:
1) transferring land ownership to the Crown and/or Council for dedication as a conservation reserve;
2) dedicating land under a voluntary conservation agreement; AND
3) positive covenants imposing a restriction on the use of the dedicated land that bind the current and future owner of the dedicated land to manage the dedicated land for conservation of its habitat values.
Points 1), 2) or 3) above are all linked by the word 'AND', that therefore it requires that someone wanting to develop their land must secure the compensatory land by doing points 1), 2) and 3).
I trust this clarifies the situation for all readers.
Cr Graham Meineke
Dumb and dumber
I listened to a professor from Finland talking on ABC radio this morning about the education system in his country and what has led to first rate results for Finnish students. He explained that there are no private schools in Finland. It is acknowledged that equity is strongly linked to educational achievement, so a lot of work is put into the wellbeing of all students, particularly focusing on the early childhood years. Education is perceived to be a right for everyone and highly valued. So too are their teachers. Teaching is a highly sought after profession. Teachers are valued and do not have to see their young students subjected to standardised testing. This is because there is no standardised testing until students are teenagers, and there's no homework either. The Finnish system prizes co-operation, not competition. Students do not start school until seven years of age because it is accepted that the time playing is a worthwhile part of childhood learning, before the formal education begins.
What disappoints me is that Australia adopts education policy 10 years after other countries have thrown it away. Here I am referring to the "outcomes" education model and the increased focus on standardised testing to which schools are currently subjected. By the time we wake up and adopt the Finnish model, they will have moved into an even better model. We call ourselves the "lucky country" and our politicians talk of an "education revolution", but the horse has already bolted on outcomes education and standardised testing. Australia remains 10 years behind the times by employing policies that ensure we become "dumb and dumber".
I heard a caller arrogantly sneering at examining Finnish policy and suggesting that it is not possible to apply educational policy in multicultural Australia that was created in the land of the midnight sun. I ask, how can we not understand that educational equity is linked to educational achievement, and that co-operative learning does away with the competitiveness that eats away at the collective psyche of modern, global societies. It is competitiveness and privilege for an elite that has placed education out of the reach for so many Australians. What a shame our governments fail to employ advisors and policy writers that are abreast with current trends and overseas research.