Letters to the editor - Sept 6
On ya bike
I've been car free for some years now. I took this decision both to avoid the expense of car ownership, and to integrate pollution free exercise into my life. Cycling is both an excellent way to get to work and feel healthier about yourself. That is why the Greens are putting cycleways on the agenda at this council election. Greens councillors want Lismore Council to progress marking of dedicated cycle lanes, and widening of footpaths to allow for shared cycle/pedestrian access. Who says we can't match Germany (where 10% of all trips are made by bike), Denmark (18%) or even the Netherlands (27%), all of which are wealthy nations like us where most people own cars. We must start with small steps, and council can lead this by rolling out cycle paths that will assist our community to become healthier and greener.
In reply to Greg Bennett (Echo, August 23), I question if Mr Bennett is against Lismore Council's Sustainable Development Policy, is he planning to operate council with an 'Un-Sustainable Development Policy'?
Are Mr Bennett and his team planning to run an un-sustainable budget deficit for example? How about an un-sustainable environmental program or un-sustainable social equity program? How about if we dropped the word 'sustainable' and used words like risk management, common sense, prudent stewardship for those they propose to serve now and into the future? How about if we change the words from 'Red Tape' to protecting the public interest, and 'Green Tape' to protecting the land on which we now live and hold in trust for our children?
While I agree that local jobs are a priority, I am left bewildered how simply building more houses and sheds is going to solve all of the complex problems that local government has to deal with now and into the future. Heavens help us if this is the best they can do.
Who is the master?
Forget politics, forget religious wars, forget obesity, forget climate change and all that 'used to be' important stuff. My worst nightmare has come true. After clicking the wrong graphic on my computer and hearing it 'zing' in disgust I actually said "Sorry" to it!
The servant/master role of technology has clearly been reversed. Will my world ever be the same?
High quality art
As the council election approaches it is a good time to reflect on many of the benefits that exist in Lismore. One of these, not often spoken of, is the Lismore Regional Gallery with its high standard and varied programme of exhibitions and activities that its small professional staff provide for locals of all ages.
Whilst the gallery is visited by around 20,000 people a year, it receives the lowest level of council funding across all council services and brings in around $80,000 extra to the council through government funding and sponsorship.
Lismore can be proud of the origins of its regional gallery. When officially opened by the director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Hal Missingham, in 1954, it was the only public gallery between Sydney and Brisbane.
Over these past 60 years Lismore Regional Gallery has provided the opportunity for both the local community and visitors to see high quality exhibitions of international, Australian and local artwork. Most recently gallery visitors during August were treated to free exhibitions of Leonie Lane's 'Bananas, Business and Bocce' - The Lismore Italians, contrasted with a performance art and exhibition Survivor from prominent Australian Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto. A regular hugely popular gallery run event is the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize visited this year by over 6000 people.
Children's shows are also regularly featured and enthusiastically attended, such as the beautiful illustration of Ted Harvey children's' books during July and the monthly fun of Peggy Popart's chartered tours for kids on the second Saturday of each month.
Lismore Regional Gallery is one of those iconic local places that play such an important role in contributing to the great diversity that makes Lismore such an interesting place in which to live.
President, Friends of Lismore Regional Gallery
I refer to Kate Olivieri's letter (Echo, August 23) re: Lismore Council and profits.
I fully agree with Kate that council is there to serve people and not be a profit making enterprise. Council should be spending our money/rates wisely and in an efficient manner.
My election slogan, 'Back to Business' does not mean that council should make a profit out of its activities. Rather council should operate using businesslike methods that do not waste our money. All activities should be done properly the first time and not have to be redone a few weeks/months later.
Cr Graham Meineke
There has been much talk in the council election debate about running council as a business and that the 'business' tickets will 'fix Lismore'.
We need to remind ourselves of the last time we had 'business' councils and what they achieved.
Under the 'business councils' elected in 1999 and 2004, we had negligible growth, the Memorial Baths $12m debt, Skyline Rd $2m waste, the forgotten southern trunk main, stalled development, the Magellan Street refurbishment fiasco, $3.5m Lehman's type high risk investment, the GSAC $18m debt, the North Lismore Plateau ignored and non-existent community consultation. The business men certainly 'fixed' Lismore and the current council has spent four hard years repairing nine years of damage.
The 'business men' running for council make all sorts of unattainable promises due to inexperience and a focus on profits before people.
That's what a 'business council' does. Only thinking of profits, they ignore the community and they ignore the environment. Is that what we want for Lismore? More job cuts? A reduction in lifestyle? More wish lists? Profits before people? I hope not!
Cr David Yarnall
I would like to comment on the recent axing of the Telstra jobs in Lismore from a sustainability point of view. I have seen studies that report that for every job lost in a country town, there is a multiplier effect. So the loss of over 100 jobs in Lismore has the effect of costing the community perhaps 400 more. In pure economic terms it means the loss to our local economy of perhaps $20 million dollars. I plead with Telstra to save these jobs so our local economy can flourish. Sending these jobs overseas is not helping the rural economy in times that already are worsened by the mining boom that is moving jobs out of our area to Western Australia and Queensland. Perhaps there is government assistance that could assist Telstra to keep these jobs in Australia, in the rural area? In the long term I think that both the state and federal governments must move viable jobs from the cities to the country. Enacting a policy to ensure that a certain percentage of rural jobs must be government funded, might be a start. This could be based on population distribution.
If we put a percentage on the job requirements of direct funded government positions (perhaps 5% of population), it would mean that cuts from one government department in an area must be balanced by growth in another.
This would give governments' incentives to decentralise departments to rural areas, assisting rural economies to stay strong.
In the last 20 years many government jobs have been centralised back to Sydney. I feel it is time this trend was reversed. Having a more stable jobs pattern in the future will help maintain services: we could even see the trains come back! By ensuring a basic level of government funded country positions, our rural towns would become more sustainable in the future, reducing the population drift to the major cities with all the inherent problems of large cities.
Crucial CSG issues
In the lead up to the Council election and the CSG poll, arguments are flying forth and back - the real issues are often shrouded under a cloud of hype. Here is what I believe are some of the crucial issues:
Job creation: Only the construction phase will yield some jobs. Specialist jobs will have to be met from outside, even from overseas, as other mining industries have already taken up all qualified staff. Considering the potential job losses in farming, food processing, manufacturing, tourism etc., the net balance will be significant job losses for locals.
Australia needs CSG: Australia's gas needs and increasing amounts of exports for at least the next 35 years can be met with existing conventional LNG. We only 'need' CSG to feed the profit hunger of mining companies!
CSG is safe: Yes, just as safe as nuclear? We live at a time where all our ecosystems are stretched to the limit: water, soils, forests… We can't allow any technology that has the potential to completely destroy one ecosystem if a major failure happens. Some risks are just too big to be taken.
CSG is a clean fuel: Theoretically yes, but adding up the energy used in mining, producing and transporting CSG, plus inevitable leakages, CSG is not any cleaner than brown coal. CSG puts money into government coffers and communities: Before any money for better roads can flow, existing roads will be obliterated by a myriad of heavy trucks on roads that were never built to take those loads. Governments will benefit - maybe. But the real benefit will flow to the shareholders and executives of the mining companies, while the community picks up the pieces. Regulation of an inherently dangerous industry can never be perfect. And once the damage is done - who is going to sue a multi-billion dollar company? In the end, as always, the tax payer and the community will foot the bill for failure.
We don't want it, we don't need it. Say 'NO' to CSG.
Deeds, not words
Councillors Meineke, Marks, Chant opposed the CSG poll, yet say they support a ban on CSG! Councillors Meineke, Marks and Chant profess to be in favour of review of infrastructure costs and spending efficiency, but in the past four years they have repeatedly stymied progressive councillors' attempts to get council to do efficiency reviews!
Councillor Chant says he works for his community and rests on his dedication to service and doing business, yet he has by far the worst council meeting attendance record and has only raised one motion in the past term of council!
Councillor Simon Clough has raised 45 Motions.
Would-be councillor Bennett says he is about supporting business, growth, development and promptly announces he will slash $2million in council staff, threatening many families, jobs and futures. And he says he will cut $4 million in services, but not saying what services he will no longer allow council to fund or provide!
Councillor Clough says he fights against CSG and dedicates 18 months to community education, meetings and campaigning and work to do just that!
Councillor Clough says he is concerned about climate change and council efficiency and achieves energy efficient street lighting saving council $200,000 in costs and reducing council carbon emissions by 1,000 tonnes.
Who you gonna vote for? Someone who talks the talk or someone who walks the walk?
Deeds not words maketh the man (or woman). Vote wisely.
Long cold winter
I would like to respond to Arogin Hansom's letter (Echo, August 23)
Anybody who has moved to Rosebank since 1970, in my experience, has not seen a winter with the western side of trees stripped of new shoots and lantana along creeks blackened with frost like the winter of 1960.
In 1960 the area was used for dairying banana and small crops with very little regrowth. However I have no sympathy for those who have planted trees under power lines which now require removal for safety reasons. One night back in the 1960s I had the misfortune to come across a power line arcing across the top of trees. Had this been a nut tree one can only imagine what would had been the results.
On the regrowth issue, with the current lack of grazing, what else can be expected other than to keep power lines clear? When I first saw a koala I raced for my camera, today (20 years later) I would not bother.
The same could be said about wallabies - nearly in plague numbers, ask any gardener.
Girls in high places
Telstra closure. Anti-CSG movement. Koala Management plan. Roads, footpaths, farming, small business, arts and culture; economic, housing and sustainable development. CBD/villages. There are so many things that local government needs to address and provide for the community. As a candidate, it's easy to say that you'll focus on your speciality, but we know that there is no such thing as a single issue councillor.
I put together the Girls in Government team as an independent group for Lismore City Council because we are a group of women who are highly experienced and skilled to assess the needs on these issues and other community priorities. Yes, we care about addressing the representation of women and young people on council, and wanted to bring awareness to this issue. Council should be representative of the community, and two women out of 11 councillors doesn't cut it. But that's far from being our main reason for standing.
Integrity is very important to us and being true to who we are, and that is why we are a group of women running an independent ticket focused on social justice and equity issues, from affordable housing to how we address infrastructure (footpaths again!). Vote for Girls in Government if you want to bring back the balance.
(Girls in Government candidate)
Last Tuesday night I attended a wonderful concert at the Lismore Workers Club. The local public schools Performing Arts Festival. I am visiting from Sydney and was there as a grandmother bringing a grandchild and I discovered I was very lucky because all the children were enthusiastic and the variety, musical standard, the hard work by the teachers, pupils, sound and lighting help, all contributed to an excellently presented evening's entertainment.
I refer to former Lismore City Councillor, Ros Irwin's letter in The Echo (August 30).
Ros has obviously forgotten the SEPP44 legislation which came into effect during her period on council. That legislation covered koalas and their habitat the same as Lismore council's KPOM (Koala Plan of Management), except that it didn't have the unnecessary restrictions on farm land. Lismore City Council did a survey which included extensive 'ground truthing' and it showed a decline in koala numbers in parks and forests and an increase in numbers on private farm land. The Tucki nature reserve was supposed to be a koala reserve, but is so overgrown with lantana and other weeds that koalas have deserted it.
The fence on Skyline Road which was one of her projects is so overgrown with vines and other plants that koalas could climb over almost every panel with ease. Part of this fence was destroyed by a vehicle accident about 18 months ago and is still not repaired. This current Labor, Green, socialist council is far more interested in closing rural properties than protecting koalas.
If Ros and the 64% of people whose submissions were in favour of the KPOM were genuinely concerned about the welfare and survival of koalas, they would organise working bees to rid the Tucki Nature Reserve and the Skyline Road fence of plants which are a threat to koalas. Also, 10% of the Lismore City council area is either State Forest of National Parks. Koalas are deserting these areas because of lantana and other weeds.
If Lismore Council was genuinely interested in koalas, the mayor and her six-pack green socialists would look at the breakdown of wages under their management. $13.2m internal staff and $10.8m on outside staff. This is gross mismanagement of council funds - perhaps these figures should be reversed.
The mayor and councillors are responsible for the council expenditure and should be instructing staff on the best way to use these funds for the benefit of rate payers.
Farmers and koalas can live in harmony. Farmers and greenies can't, but the farmers still produce food for the greenies.
Two very old sayings apply here - "don't let the lunatics run the asylum" and "old politicians should be seen and not heard."
I am appalled with the attitude that Neil Marks, Graham Meineke and Gianpiero Battista displayed against Jenny Dowell. (Councillor's true colours, Echo, August 23). Jenny Dowell is the most understanding person who cares for the community and does so much in the community.
How I see it, you boys call yourselves adults, well start acting like adults as it seems like school yard bullying and if that is the case, why would we vote for you boys when we are trying to stop bullying? But how can we when we have boys like you on council? Grow up and look in your own backyard before you judge other people.
Jenny Dowell you have my vote.
On the eve of the local government election, I would like to thank Lismore City Councillors, and particularly our mayor, Jenny Dowell, for their committed, balanced and cooperative efforts to support this community. I do hope that voters recognise those councillors and candidates whose track records speak of respect, integrity, constructive approaches and positive achievement, especially the balancing of the fundamental importance of both environmental and economic considerations. Our region is one of the most attractive in NSW and we simply cannot afford to allow the achievements of our council to lose their momentum.
I would also like to urge the electorate to support many councillors' efforts to keep our water supply, farmland, natural environment and human health free from the harmful effects of CSG mining by voting 'no' in the poll. Pro-CSG supporters often advocate the economic benefits of this industry, but such benefits are at best temporary and unequal, and are far outweighed by the industry's consumption and pollution of water and the consequent impacts on environmental and human health. CSG production is far from being 'clean', and even residents of urban Lismore are not immune from gas field impacts. The encroachment of the CSG industry into nearby areas would have a substantial impact on our water supply, property values and noise levels. Let the statistics of the 'no' vote send a clear message to the state and federal governments that we are not willing to ransom our city and its surrounding areas to this industry.
In response to Greg Bennett's letter in The Echo on August 30th.
The Aquatic Centre and the Regional Gallery are not merely businesses. They are community amenities paid for and maintained by the ratepayers of Lismore for the enjoyment of all. The so called loss you mention is the price we pay for having a community that values sport, leisure and the arts. They are part of the infrastructure of a 21st century community, which also includes water and sewage, flood, fire and emergency services, parks and sports grounds, tourism and events management, libraries and many other community facilities. But by far the biggest slice of the pie is taken by our urban and rural roads (e.g. over 30% of our rates compared to 1.7% for the art gallery).
By your definition Mr Bennett, our roads are also a business running at a loss. Maintaining our roads costs the ratepayers almost $8 million a year. Will your proposed review of council businesses include moving their maintenance to a manager and volunteer basis to save money or privatising the business so that it can be run at a profit and boost the returns of shareholders?
What's more, if we could move the management of all these community assets into the hands of private enterprise, there would be no need for an elected council at all! There would be minimal if any council infrastructure and all our core or non-core indoor and outdoor staff would become redundant. There would be no need to pay rates. Instead we would all pay the private businesses for their services directly.
What would happen then to those of us unable to pay? Would we no longer be able to use the facilities? Is this what is meant by progress?
We're about to elect a bunch of people to run our council. When some of them suggest it should be run more like a business, I want to say, sounds great, but what kind of business? Slash funding you say. Put profit first. Telstra's run like that and we all know how well that's going for us.
When I think of making council business-like, I'm thinking of the stuff that makes 'good business'. Responding to customer needs, providing a quality service, rewarding initiative. Ask good businesses (and the people who work for them) what sets them apart and they will tell you - it's not about what you cut back, it's about what you build up. Build up service, build up quality, build a culture of efficiency and team spirit. Is council a business? Maybe, but it's more than that. It's a business network that deploys expertise in planning, landscaping, road-building, food standards, environmental management, conflict resolution, community services, and more. If you've ever waited longer than you wanted for one of these services, you'll want more efficient staff, not less.
Council is also a social enterprise. We are not just customers of the council service we're using this week. We're stakeholders in how the whole show is run, because it affects the kind of community we get to live in. So if we're going to run council like a business, let's run it like a business that cares about its stakeholders. Let's run it like a business we'd be proud to work for. But please, let's not try to run it like Telstra. Mindless funding cuts are not the answer.
(Candidate Our Sustainable Future)
As one resident adjoining Champions Quarry said to me shortly after the Planning and Assessment Commission's (PAC) approval was announced this week, 'Our community is totally devastated by this result'. His community is the rural residential community that the quarry owner developed and sold to unsuspecting people long before his mega quarry was mooted. Ten houses in the community are within the council's buffer zone that is supposed to protect residents from quarry development.
I and other councillors have been criticised for our role in opposing Champions Quarry. It must be remembered that council did not take the developer to court, nor was it council that refused to mediate the matter prior to the Land and Environment Court hearing. It was the developer that took the issue to court and who refused mediation.
Some have argued that council should have accepted the developer's original application to avoid going to court. The implication of this thinking is that council should always give in to development if there is a threat of court. I for one will not be a party to this. I believe all matters must be judged on their merits.
It is worth remembering that the Land and Environment Court, after one of the longest and most exhaustive cases in its history, found in favour of the council. The finding was on four grounds and concluded 'There are insufficient public benefits to outweigh the adverse impacts and thus the quarry expansion is rejected'. The court decision was all but ignored by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI).
The decision of the PAC will mean more than 10 homes will have little or no resale value and the residents will be exposed to constant noise, dust and loss of amenity which they will be virtually powerless to stop as nearly all compliance issues will be referred to the DPI in Sydney, or at best Grafton. All this for a sandstone product that many experts claim is of dubious quality.
Cr Simon Clough
Meeting the candidates
I too attended the 'meet the candidates' session at the Workers Club. I am new to local political activity, being a little younger than many active council watchers and I am paying close attention in order to use my vote wisely. John Remynse of Goonellabah (Echo, August 30) describes it as a circus, and perhaps he is right. I saw some candidates talking in generalisations, being indirect and dodging questions - a real life magic show complete with illusion and sleight of hand!
I for one appreciated the obviously well researched and informed questions presented by resident Jack-in-the-Box Gordon Fraser-Quick which highlighted discrepancies in some councillors' activities. Where were you John, to provide balance to the questioning and help me cast my vote wisely? Perhaps you were in the back rows, with the other sour faces, watching and judging but not participating.
At least the Greens and Our Sustainable Future gave clear and concrete examples of what could occur and has already been achieved with their votes. All I get from the conservative camp is unclear rhetoric about red tape, green tape, slashing budgets and getting on with business. As one questioner put to Graham Meineke, 'How?'. When they outline exactly how they propose to do that, perhaps I'll pay more attention.
The local government elections will be held next weekend and you will be asked to consider the claims of a range of contenders for local government office, but the system our newly elected councillors will administer on our behalf seems to barely rate a mention.
In a recent discussion paper 'A New Planning System for NSW' the NSW government recommended the role of elected councillors in determining development applications is removed. You will have no say in what is built or mined, near you or next to you. The real decisions will be left to a collection of private certifiers for so called exempt and complying development, and decision making panels appointed by the state government.
The Greens see this as terribly unbalanced and a developer-friendly set of planning laws that remove all community involvement in almost every development decision. Powers to local councils to certify development need to be strengthened, not removed, giving the community an equal say to developers in the assessment process.
The government's plan also removes Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) as one of the key objectives.
The kind of suburbs and rural areas we live in are about to be transformed, and we won't have a say in it. The best we can hope for is a local council who will fight the state government tooth and nail to defend what little say we have over planning what happens in our neighbourhood.
Wouldn't it be good if we had a real say and planning was based on community needs rather than greed? The Greens are committed to doing this.