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Originally published: Saturday, 16th October, 2021
The long-awaited lifting of COVID restrictions this week has led to confusion, frustration and anger in The Hill, as businesses and residents wrestle with the first leg of a “roadmap” that looks to some like a trip to nowhere.
Many are puzzled by the changes to the rules, while others are openly hostile to the health orders, the situation breeding an ‘us and them’ mood reminiscent of past struggles in the Silver City.
On Thursday, police raided the Argent Street photo lab, Shutterbug, after a tip-off from the public that the proprietors were neither wearing masks nor insisting on proof of double-vaccination from their customers. After being fined $500 by police, the proprietors shut up shop in apparent disgust.
Across town, at The Caff in Thomas Street, even some regulars are turning on their previous café of choice, owner-operator Tricia Watson taking the brunt of tempers withered by restrictions many believe are unnecessary.
“Some people don’t want to show proof or lie about their vaccination status,” Ms Watson told Barrier Truth, “or if they have been in before, they don’t want to show it again.
“Quite a majority are rude and are saying ‘I don’t want to show you’.
“People are stressing me and my staff out because they don’t want to abide by the rules that we’ve been given.
“They don’t seem to understand that the Government has stuck us in this position.”
At the Mulga Hill Tavern, licensee Dean Trengove says punters have been pretty good overall, but that the documentation requirements have led to some lousy local forgers trying to outfox the system.
“We’ve had some idiots who’ve tried to get past the doorman with falsified medical certificates and that sort of thing,” he said.
“It’s so ridiculous … you should’ve seen the documents they tried to pass off as official.
“But, mostly, people have issues with having to wear masks. It’s hard for staff. And when it gets to 40 degrees, it’ll be an OH&S issue.”
Meanwhile, the foyer of the Barrier Truth office has been haunted by bewildered locals pleading for information. One letter handed in, signed by “Frustrated Oldies”, seemed to encapsulate the local mood:
“Everything seems to have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous and no one really knows what’s going on. Opening up was supposed to make everything easier, not harder and more confusing.”
Barrier Police District’s Inspector Yvette Smith warns the Broken Hill community against taking out their frustrations on each other.
“Under the current COVID restrictions non-essential businesses can only open to double vaccinated people,” she said.
“The onus is on the business whether it’s the owner, or the manager or an employee, to actually ask for the vaccination certificate, whether it’s a paper one or on their phone.
“They have an onus under the public health order to ask for that. If people refuse to give that, then the person has the right to refuse them entry to their store under the Inclosed Lands Protection Act, which is essentially trespass if the person doesn’t leave.
“It’s under the public health order and yes, it’s effectively the Government that’s made that rule.”
Dean Trengove hopes peace will descend on Broken Hill soon, but reminds those howling about ‘civil liberties’ that they’ve never really had as many as they seem to believe.
“We’ll see how tonight goes,” he told Barrier Truth yesterday.
“One of the good things about owning a pub is that you don’t have to let anyone in if you don’t want to.
“I could turn away a bloke if he was someone I didn’t like when we were at school – not that it’s ever come to that.
“So the rules are basically the same as they always were; use your common sense.”
Originally published: Saturday, 16th October, 2021
For Broken Hill people who shop online, it’s hardly news that there’s been a problem of late at the Australia Post sorting facility.
But they might be surprised to learn how enormous that problem has become.
While late deliveries have been expected during COVID, a source told Barrier Truth the situation had escalated since the Post Office on Argent Street became a hotspot in mid-September and was forced to close.
Australia Post’s Broken Hill service has struggled to recover since then, with the 160 cages at the sorting facility all full, and many residents still waiting for parcels that were estimated to be delivered as far back as August.
Wild rumours have told of Australia Post intending to solve the backlog by destroying the mountain of parcels, refunding the intended recipients and starting again.
Thankfully, such rumours are not true.
A spokesperson for Australia Post did not deny the problem had become serious, but wished to assure Broken Hill customers that deliveries were on their way.
“We are currently experiencing Christmas like volumes, which, together with border closures, reduced domestic and international flights, lockdowns and the additional COVID-safe measures in place to keep our people safe, means there are some delivery delays,” the spokesperson said.
“Broken Hill has had additional challenges with recent changes to the local delivery contract, but, to manage this, we’re bringing on more delivery vehicles, making weekend deliveries and recruiting additional drivers, with three to start next week.
“We know delays are frustrating and we sincerely apologise to our customers for the inconvenience they cause.”
Australia Post urges customers who have special concerns about their mail delivery to get in touch at auspost.com.au/help.
Originally published: Saturday, 16th October, 2021
Having been racing in front of empty stands for the duration of lockdown, the Broken Hill Greyhound Racing Club is excited to welcome back patrons to the track tonight.
Broken Hill Greyhound Racing Club President, Regan Edgecumbe, said racing has been quiet in recent weeks.
“It’s been closed off to only the participants and staff,” he said, “so we’ve just been getting in and out, racing on race days to keep our dogs fit and all our trainers able to win prize money and keep their income coming.”
Edgecumbe said their restrictions are the same as most other businesses, as they’re restricted now to the fully vaccinated only.
“All children under the age of 16 can attend, but, again, they must be accompanied by a vaccinated guardian or parent and everyone must be signed in with the QR codes.
“They’re the main two restrictions we’re going to have. Since we’re an outdoor event they won’t need to wear masks. We’ll be abiding by the one-person-per-two-square-metre rule and they’ll need proof of full vaccination to get through the gates.”
Edgecumbe said being allowed to have patrons is a huge benefit to the club.
“Financially, it’s a relief for our club as we only race 23 times a year, so we only earn income for 23 days a year, and for the last eight weeks we haven’t been able to get any income at all into our club.
“But we still have costs and expenditures, so it’ll be great to see some people at the bar and the canteen enjoying a good night out.”
The first race meet with crowds tonight will see half a dozen races.
“Our racing will probably start about 7.40pm for the first race on Saturday evening, and we’ll have a race roughly every 20 minutes, so probably six races on the night.
“Unfortunately, we won’t have the TAB there this weekend – they’re not ready to return just yet, “he said. “So there’s only going to be the bar, the canteen and some good country racing. A good night out underneath the stars.
“We’d like to remind all our patrons to be respectful of our staff,” Mr Edgecumbe said.
“We understand the restrictions can be demanding on some people, but we’re only following Government and Greyhound Racing NSW legislations on our restrictions, so that’s the only thing.”
Originally published: Wednesday, 13th October, 2021
Broken Hill kicked up its heels this week by drinking beer and getting hair done.
The explosion of joy was due to the lifting of COVID restrictions after months of lockdown, which officially ended for the double-vaccinated people of NSW on Monday.
For Esther La Rovere, owner of The Palace Hotel, seeing the bar full of happy patrons on Monday night was a breath of fresh air.
“It was pretty steady all night,” she said, “but really nice. Really positive.
“There was a big bunch of regulars, people who hadn’t had a beer together for a while, as well as people who’ve been in Broken Hill for a while and haven’t had the chance to get out at all.
“Mostly it was an atmosphere of people who haven’t seen their friends in ages.
“It was like; ‘Oh my God, I’d forgotten that I’ve got really nice friends!’
“Just a big sigh of relief.”
Celebrations of a similar calibre were underway at The Hair Strand out south, where the phone bounced off the hook as former clients needed to look good again.
“It’s very exciting for the clients and us to see everyone again,” said salon Manager, Tracy Gauci.
“We are booked solid for a few weeks trying to fit all our regular clients in.”
“We can only have a number of people in, and everyone has been very understanding of the wait times.”
Ms Gauci said the double-vaccination rules hadn’t appeared to have affected business too much, as only two of the first 200 calls did not have COVID-19 jabs.
“Ninety-nine percent of the clients I’ve rang are double vaccinated,” she said, “so it’s not been an issue.”
But it’s certainly been an issue for retired Broken Hill resident, Ray White, who was turned away from Kmart and Cheap As Chips last Monday even though he had proof he was fully vaccinated.
“It’s a slap in the face that they won’t accept a doctor’s certificate,” he said.
“If they won’t accept a doctor’s certificate, what is the world coming to?”
For those like Mr White, even essential services are difficult to access if one doesn’t have the right passport.
“To me it’s not reasonable,” he said.
“I was shocked, and I didn’t want to shoot the messenger, but I thought it was wrong.
“I walked away; I didn’t want to make a scene.
“I felt as if I was an undesirable and they didn’t want me in the shop.
“I have to go line-up at Centrelink to get my number so I can set it up, and I have to get my grandson to set it up on my phone.”
The same frustrations hit Bob Gosford, who came in to Broken Hill for a bit of retail therapy after having spent a long lockdown at his home in Silverton.
Despite having a doctor’s certificate showing a long list of vaccinations – including the COVID AstraZenica vaccine completed in July – Bob was told to take a hike.
“I was told this would be fine,” said Bob, referring to his medical certificate.
“It’s proof that I’ve been vaccinated, and I can’t find any official information anywhere that says otherwise.”
In fact, the official Services Australia website states explicitly:
“If you can’t get proof online, your vaccination provider can print your immunisation history statement for you.”
Nevertheless, like Mr White, Mr Gosford must now line up at Centrelink to find out when he can kick up his heels.
“A doctor’s certificate can get you a week off work,” said Bob, “but it can’t get you into a pub.
Originally published: Wednesday, 13th October, 2021
Officer Inspector Tom Aylett of the Broken Hill Police says the recent media attention to scammers hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of your average swindler.
“We've seen some trends over the last couple of months of the robo-calls, with people contacting people on the phone to try and offer a refund from an online seller,” he says.
“So you may get a phone call from someone pretending to be from Amazon and offering a refund. And then, that person, to offer the refund, wants you to check your bank account online.
“Then, while you're doing that, they ask you to install an application on your computer or your phone or your iPad, that allows that scammer to access your bank details and then deplete your account of funds.
“So obviously, if you don't make an order with an online company and that company rings to offer you a refund, hang up.”
Officer Aylett would like to drive home the point that police never execute warrants over the phone.
“I know historically there have always been those scam warnings around people who say they are from the Australian Tax Office and you had to hand over money or the police were going to come with a warrant. That's not the case. Police don't act on behalf of the Australian Tax Office and we're not out there enforcing warrants for unpaid tax bills. Please don't fall for that.”
Officer Aylett also warns that social media pages are another hunting ground for sharks.
“I know there's some social media pages where there’ve been some concerns raised with some people selling some animals online, particularly puppies,” he says.
“Now, obviously, a puppy online – a cute, generic photo of a little puppy – invokes some heartstrings and people think that it'd be great to buy a puppy, especially leading up to Christmas. The motive that people are using is that they're happy to give the puppy away for free, but they just need to have the dog or the cat shipped to Broken Hill from another part of the state and to go halves or share the cost of that freight.
“At that point, they try and get you to pay funds into an account. Look, be very, very cautious of this. My advice would be that I wouldn't be paying for an animal online. Certainly, you're best off going there and seeing someone in person. Make sure that you know who you're dealing with. Don't hand over your details or credit card details over the phone. Don't agree to transfer funds into an account unless you are very certain that it's not a fraud.
“I understand that, yesterday on one of the social media pages, there was a lady - or a person purporting reporting to be a lady - that was selling a Jack Russell, who was challenged on the validity of her details, then the post was removed and the evidence of that attempted sale was deleted. So, don't be suckered in by it, because the chances of identifying the person are difficult. And the chances of recovering your funds are virtually impossible.
“Don’t give away your hard-earned money by a scam. If you have any concerns, contact the police and discuss the scenario.”
Originally published: Wednesday, 13th October, 2021
The four people who walked away from this accident have someone looking out for them.
Their moment of truth came at 5:50 PM on Monday evening, when both drivers approached the intersection of Wyman and Oxide streets.
The sound of the collision was heard blocks away, with one resident saying she “thought it was a shotgun discharge”.
Despite the damage, all walked away, eventually – the 31-year-old female driver of the little white Kia was taken to hospital as a precaution but suffered no serious injuries.
Tom Aylett, Inspector in Charge of Broken Hill Police, said it was a miracle nobody was seriously hurt.
“Whenever you hear of a car that's been flipped on its roof, it certainly has the potential to be a significant incident,” he said. “You see similar accidents can have a much more devastating outcome. But here, it's very surprising that everyone, the drivers and the passengers, walked away with no serious injuries.”
Officer Aylett said the accident occurred when the 17-year-old driver of the utility failed to see and give way to the Kia.
“It was a fairly, I guess, average crash,” he said. “There is no suggestion of alcohol, drugs, or speed being a factor - just a combination of someone hitting a car at a particular angle through a give way sign can cause such a dramatic scene.”
Officer Aylett said that police are expecting more incidents on the roads now that lockdown is lifting, and for that reason police will be more visible around town.
“Now that we're allowed regional travel within New South Wales if you are fully vaccinated, there are going to be a lot more cars on the road, and a lot more potential for collisions,” he said.
“People need to remember to drive to their conditions and their ability. Remembering that when you leave town, the outskirts of town, if you head towards somewhere like Menindee or Wilcannia, you are going to come across animals on the road which presents a significant hazard.
“And that's obviously going to be a focus of police going forward … a distinct focus from yesterday onwards around traffic management. People will be stopped and random breath tested. There will be certainly an increase of that occurring.”
As for the four who walked away from the corner of Wyman and Oxide, Officer Aylett thinks even the 17-year-old who was issued with an infringement notice should count Monday as his lucky day.
“I’m very surprised that no one suffered anything more serious, injury-wise,” he said.
Originally published: Saturday, 9th October, 2021
The food insecurity issue in towns like Broken Hill is worsening, with relief organisations required to ramp-up operations to meet demand.
More local families accessed support during the latest COVID-19 lockdown and that has exacerbated the problem.
Foodbank NSW/ACT Chief Executive Officer, John Robertson, said there has been an increase in the amount of people that need help.
“We’ve learned throughout COVID just how much need there is in our community,” he said.
“People, for the first time in their lives, are finding themselves in a situation where they can’t put food on the table.”
Foodbank is Australia's largest food relief organisation, providing about 70 percent of food assistance to individuals and families across NSW and ACT.
The state branch has responded to thousands of requests from people in hardship and have distributed dozens of emergency relief hampers to homes in Broken Hill.
Mr Robertson said he does not expect the trend to decrease for months, with regional communities among the most vulnerable.
“We’ve seen the demand look like it’s far from the decline at this point and we don’t anticipate it will drop off until February-March next year,” he said.
“It’s extraordinary just how difficult this has been.
“I think anyone who lives in those remote parts of the state know how much impact the lockdown has had and the end can’t come quick enough.”
One average, Foodbank NSW/ACT send out about 7500 of the emergency hampers per week that are on doorsteps within a few days.
The organisation also had to adapt to ensure operations were conducted in a COVID-safe environment and added an afternoon shift to boost production.
It received financial support from the State Government and logistical assistance from the Australian Defence Force to keep-up with extra demands.
“We are very appreciative for the support that’s been given to us,” Mr Robertson said.
“It has been the difference as to whether or not we would’ve been able to make sure people who needed food got it.
“With the generous support of people who have donated and the government, we’ve been able to ship that food out to people at no cost.”
Foodbank will save a reported $1.3 million on transport costs this year that it would usually spend to deliver to regional and rural NSW.
The warehouse will continue to package the relief hampers that include a variety pantry staples.
A donation of $35 will help deliver the emergency relief to support those in need.
“No one needs to go hungry, particularly now, and people should feel comfortable to reach out,” Mr Robertson said.
For more information or to contribute, visit www.foodbank.org.au.
Originally published: Saturday, 9th October, 2021
A Broken Hill family says opening up their home and hearts to children in need is one of the best decisions they have ever made.
Local couple, Jenna and Jake Peters, made the choice to become foster carers in 2019 and have never regretted it.
“Even before we met each other we both wanted to be foster carers,” Mr Peters said.
The Peters’ have welcomed and taken care of 16 children from nine months up to 14-years-old in the past two years.
Their passion and eagerness to making a difference to young lives is why they decided to take on the responsibilities.
Mrs Peters said making a strong connection with each child is a lifelong gift they will always cherish.
“Having a positive impact on a child’s life and being able to show them love and support when they need it most is a real joy,” she said.
“The connection you make with each child you meet is something you never forget.”
Last month, foster carers were recognised as part of an annual awareness week for the vital role they play in raising children.
Mr Peters explained that the couple were not after praise but are getting the message out there to enlist more carers.
“Foster caring is not something we have ever done for recognition - we get that from the children,” he said.
“Being able to raise awareness about the importance of opening your home to a child in need, if you’re able to, is more than we could ask for.
“Unfortunately, the region needs many more foster carers.”
Lifestyle Solutions is an organisation that provides a range of foster care, family group homes and residential services for children and young people who are unable to live with their families.
The service provider has worked closely with the couple to organise the care arrangements.
Mrs Peters encourages others who are have thought about it to get onboard.
“We would absolutely encourage anyone who has considered becoming a foster carer to do so,” she said.
“Just a simple phone call to Lifestyle Solutions to let them know about what you can offer, no matter how small, can make a difference.
“You have no idea what a big impact you can have on a little person’s life.”
For more information, contact Lifestyle Solutions on 1800 634 748 or visit www.lifestylesolutions.org.au.
Originally published: Saturday, 9th October, 2021
Broken Hill women are being encouraged to check out their chests, wear pink and master a three-step approach during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
This October, the McGrath Foundation is asking everyone to follow this simple process, developed by its Breast Care Nurses, and to repeat it once a month.
CEO Holly Masters says ‘‘if you grow them, know them”, and encourages Broken Hill women to become intimately familiar with their own bodies.
“Part of good breast health understanding means getting to know your breasts, so you know what’s normal for you,” she says.
“Early detection of breast cancer while it is still small and confined to the breast provides the best chance for treatment to be effective. It’s so important that if you find a lump or notice any changes to your breasts that you seek medical attention straight away. Don’t wait for lockdowns or the pandemic to be over.”
Broken Hill local, Julie Garner (52), couldn’t agree more.
“I first found a lump when I was 28-years-old,” she says.
“I [went] to the doctors to tell them that there was something not right, and they kept telling me that I was too young to have breast cancer. It got to the point that I was in a lot of pain, and I kept persisting.
“A specialist who used to come to Broken Hill finally said that I needed to have a biopsy, so I went to Adelaide and had a biopsy. I was 32 at that stage. It came back positive, so I was told that I really needed to have a mastectomy. The pathology was sent to England because it was a very rare type of cancer … I had carcinoma in situ.
“I didn’t have any better treatment, like chemotherapy or radiation, because my specialist virtually just said I didn’t need to have that.
“I had my mastectomy done, and, back in 1986, you basically just went home. There were no breast care nurses or very much help whatsoever.”
Ms Garner says when both her sisters developed breast cancer, she decided to look more closely at her other breast. It was a move that ended up saving her life.
“I decided to go back in 2006 and have a precautionary mastectomy from my other breast and have a breast reconstruction,” she says.
“In doing that, they found that I had cancer in my chest wall above my right breast, which I had done in 1986, so that then led to me having chemotherapy and radiation and a lot of treatment.
“My reconstruction actually saved my life, because, had I not had breast reconstruction, they would never have found the cancer back in the old area. They didn’t know if the cancer had been sitting there for the 20 years or if it was a new cancer, and it had also moved into my lymph nodes under my arm.”
Ms Garner says it was a challenging time for her as a young woman.
“At that stage, I was in a new relationship and not married. It was hard because, really, there were no guarantees. I had the operation and my now husband and I got married the year after.”
Ms Garner says Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an important time of the year for her, and being part of the local support group is helpful.
“It makes people aware, which is really good, and it helps people, like when we have the Pink Shops, you get ladies that will come out and say, “Yeah, look, I’ve had breast cancer.” So it helps them talk as well.”
“The local breast cancer group has a wig bank for anyone that’s had chemo. Anyone can go and get a wig from there free of charge.
Usually, during Pink October, fundraising activities take place.
“Normally, in October, the Broken Hill Breast Cancer Support Group has a shop at Westside Plaza, and they sell t-shirts and merchandise,” Ms Garner says. “We also usually have kite stalls to raise money, we make rosettes which people can buy and they actually put them on their garden or on their houses to show that it’s Pink October.”
“A lot of people like the clubs raise money in their town, people have had their heads shaved to raise money, all sorts of fundraising, and all that money goes to the Broken Hill Breast Cancer Support Group.
“So we fund the wig bank and we also, if anyone needs to go to Adelaide for breast cancer treatment, we will give them a one-off $500 donation to help them along with that as well.”
Ms Garner encourages women of all ages to take the McGrath Foundation’s breast check advice.
“If you feel a lump or you feel that something’s not right, you tell them [doctors] that you want something done.
“You go for it, because it’s not something you can muck around with.”
For further information or to donate head to the Broken Hill Breast Cancer Support Facebook page.
Originally published: Wednesday, 6th October, 2021
She doesn’t want to be identified, because she feels like “a bloody fool”. But she’s no fool. She’s a victim of a bloodless, gutless and merciless crime that threatens to empty the bank accounts of Broken Hill citizens. For the purposes of this story, we’ll call her Margot.
Her story begins ten days ago, with a phone call that seemed fair dinkum to her.
“He said he was from the Australian Federal Police,” said Margot.
“He had a lot of authority in his voice. There was also noise in the background that was convincing – people talking and papers rustling and things like that.
“He asked me my name and address and when I told him he said something that made me think he already knew, like he was just checking to see he had the right one.”
In an accent Margot described as “a little bit Chinese, or something”, the man then told her a story that chilled her to the bone: Her identity had been stolen, he said, and been used to commit crimes.
“He said it wasn’t just a small turnout, but a big gang that had been importing drugs worth millions of dollars.
“He said I was in a lot of trouble.”
The trouble, said the man, was not with the police – they understood Margot had been used – but came from the syndicate that had stolen her identity, who were watching her every move, intent on protecting their investment.
“He said they had spies all over Broken Hill watching me,” she said, “and that they could be anyone, even people I thought were my friends.”
There was only one way out of this mess, said the man: Margot must do whatever he told her.
“He said I had to stay on the phone, go to my car and drive to the nearest shopping centre,” said Margot.
“He said I was not to stop and talk to anyone, or wave to anyone or anything.”
Once at the shopping centre, Margot followed the man’s instructions, by removing as much cash as an ATM would allow. He said it was important Margot empty her bank account in case the syndicate began to smell a rat and emptied it for her.
“It was all about moving my money to a safer place,” said Margot. “He warned me against going into the bank itself, because he said there was a chance the tellers were probably involved.”
With the $1000 she was able to withdraw, Margot then, as instructed, entered the shop and purchased a series of gift cards, being careful not to make eye contact with any other shoppers or checkout staff who, she was warned, might be secret operatives for the syndicate, too.
“By this point I was just completely paranoid,” Margot recalls. “I was shaking and really terrified. I’d been on the phone to him for, like, an hour already.”
She was then instructed to photograph the gift cards and send the pictures to the man on the phone. Once she’d done so, she was told to drive to her home and wait. But the caller had one more task he wanted Margot to perform.
“He told me to give him my bank account details, my driver’s licence, my passwords, everything.
“He said this was needed to protect my details from the criminals, and to follow their actions.
“I was so exhausted by the whole experience by this stage that I did whatever he told me.”
Then Margot was told to sit tight, stay off the phone, refuse to answer the door to anyone, and await further instructions from the AFP.
So began a long and anxious night for Margot as she sat, sleepless and terrified, a prisoner in her own home.
“I didn’t sleep a wink,” she recalled. “I was just so totally freaked out. I was just going over and over the whole thing and worried about what would happen next.”
It was mid-morning of the next day that Margot began to get hungry – she needed to go out to get some sustenance, and waiting for the phone to ring was driving her crazy. So she called the AFP, in Canberra, who had some good news and some bad news for Margot: The good news she was free to go, but the bad news …
“I’d been scammed,” she said. “I hung up and checked my account and it was empty. Everything was gone from my savings and everything was gone from my credit cards.
“They took everything.”
According to the Australian Federal Police, Margot is just one of many, the AFP switchboard lighting up with calls from some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“Scammers take advantage of people’s trust in authorities and fear of doing the wrong thing,” says AFP Detective Superintendent, Jayne Crossling.
“Victims can feel an array of emotions – from helplessness and humiliation to anger and guilt – but it is important to know you are not to blame and help is available.
“The sooner people report fraud where the victim has suffered any financial loss, the better the chances that banks or authorities can help have funds returned.”
Detective Superintendent Crossling says the AFP would never contact people privately asking for money or personal information – that’s just not how police work – and that the best thing to do is to hang up and ignore all texts and emails that seem even slightly suspicious.
For Margot, the warning is too late.
“I feel like such a bloody fool,” she said.
“I hope I can get some of my money back."
Originally published: Saturday, 2nd October, 2021
Floodplain harvesting has been a contentious topic in New South Wales over the last couple of years.
Last week, Bret Walker SC, one of Australia’s leading barristers and the former Commissioner to the South Australian Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, advised a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry that floodplain harvesting was not illegal, but that licensing it as proposed will be unlawful. Confused? That’s because politicians and bureaucrats have designed it that way.
Floodplain harvesting has never been licensed, measured, monitored, or regulated in New South Wales, despite commitments to do so since 1995.
The NSW Government is now trying to do exactly that. The Water Minister, Melinda Pavey, is frustrated that her efforts are being thwarted by “vested interests and lobbyists who are spreading misinformation”.
There are arguments and accusations from both sides of the debate. Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann established an Upper House inquiry to get the bottom of it. The Inquiry heard evidence from witnesses all last week.
The week kicked off with written advice from Brett Walker SC. He was responding to questions asked by the committee about whether floodplain harvesting was an offense against specific sections of the Water Management Act. His answer was “no” because there isn’t actually a law to offend against.
The ‘pro-floodplain harvesting camp’ was jubilant. However, whether or not it’s illegal is beside the point. After all, the Government is trying to license it now.
The real question is, rather; how much will be licensed? There are two legal valley limits that are important here: the Murray Darling Basin Cap, and; the Basin Plan sustainable division limit.
The Murray Darling Basin Cap is the amount of water that could be legally extracted in 1994. NSW proposes to issue licence volumes much greater than the Cap. When quizzed on this by Ms Faehrmann, the water department said that the Cap is old, and it’s going to be replaced by the Basin Plan sustainable diversion limit. This is true. But what they failed to say is that the Cap is still the law in New South Wales. Legally, the amount of water extracted from a valley, including floodplain harvesting, cannot exceed the Cap.
The official Cap has virtually no floodplain harvesting in it (because it was never measured or monitored). The NSW Government is saying they have now assessed what was taken under Cap and will limit floodplain harvesting to that level. But that claim doesn’t stack up.
The Cap is an estimate of conditions on 1 July 1994, which are legally defined as the infrastructure, rules, and entitlements at that date.
Let’s look at the first condition, the level of infrastructure that existed in 1994.
In 1994, the capacity of on-farm storages was 600 gigalitres. Now it’s around 1,400 gigalitres. The proposed floodplain harvesting volumes and accounting rules will allow about 1,750 gigalitres of take in one year. With only 600 gigalitres of storage in 1994, it was simply not possible to capture the proposed level of licensing because there was nowhere to store it.
So, the first Cap condition, limiting extractions to the level of infrastructure in 1994, isn’t met.
The next condition of Cap is the rules and entitlements that existed in 1994. Given that the Government is trying to issue floodplain harvesting licences and agree on the rules now, they clearly didn’t exist in 1994.
So, the second Cap condition, limiting extractions to the level of rules and entitlements in 1994, isn’t met either.
It is not plausible to argue that the volumes proposed for floodplain harvesting are within the 1994 Cap.
Floodplain harvesting must also comply with the Basin Plan sustainable diversion limit. This is an easy concept made complicated.
The short story is that floodplain harvesting wasn’t in the original sustainable diversion limits set in 2012, and the MDBA and the New South Wales Government are trying now to increase the sustainable diversion limits to accommodate floodplain harvesting.
Bret Walker told the Inquiry that this approach is in clear breach of Commonwealth law, and could be subject to legal action, or an injunction.
The total amount of floodplain harvesting in the current NSW sustainable diversion limits is 46 gigalitres. A far cry from the 350 gigalitres proposed by the NSW Government.
So, floodplain harvesting is not illegal, but it’s not legal either. Licensing will make it legal but only if the licensed volumes comply with existing legal limits in the Murray-Darling Basin Cap and the Basin Plan’s sustainable diversion limit.
Floodplain harvesting might not be unlawful, but the way the NSW Government plans to license it is.
Originally published: Saturday, 2nd October, 2021
On a Sunday two weekends ago, late night strollers on Beryl Street may have noticed the incongruous but nonetheless charming sight of a couple pushing a pram through the dark of the night.
A closer inspection would have revealed the pram was ferrying no baby at all, but a safe.
Earlier, CCTV cameras in a nearby business recorded a gentleman breaking into the premises and removing the company strongbox while the woman waited outside.
The couple then hurried to a nearby dwelling, where the ‘baby’ disgorged some $20000.
The following day, the man appeared as an enthusiastic customer at a Broken Hill automotive shop, where
he purchased a shiny new motorbike, with cash.
Sometime later, we are told, he came within a whisker of being caught; police inspecting a premises found too many residents for COVID comfort, and moved him along. He was last seen taking his bike by the handlebars and removing himself from the scene with some haste.
And that was the last of his local appearances, the heat in The Hill having evidently become too much for him, suspected sightings in Ivanhoe and Leeton suggesting this guy is on the move.
Back home, the whole affair must’ve come as an awful shock to his wife – not just that police are after her man, but that they’ve also spoken to his girlfriend.
What’s more, the woman in the CCTV footage is neither wife nor girlfriend, but some other woman entirely.
Meanwhile, police are after a man on a motorcycle – a man in a hurry, though probably not in a hurry to come home.
Originally published: Saturday, 2nd October, 2021
A North Broken Hill junior, Kobe Mutch, will be looking to place his number alongside a multitude of Silver City Australian Rules Footballers across more than century that have enjoyed SANFL premiership success in Adelaide.
“This is my first senior Grand Final,” Mutch explained, about playing for the Woodville West Torrens Eagles in SANFL title fight against Glenelg, tomorrow, Sunday October 3, at Adelaide Oval.
“I played in a VFL Preliminary Final with Essendon in 2018.
“There were a handful of Junior flags with North at 12s and 13s level, with teammates including Isaac Cumming and Lachlan Tiziani.
“The last flag I played in was with the Wentworth Roos Under 16s.
“After playing in the seniors during the season, I qualified for the Colts team to play in the finals and we beat Irymple by three points.
“That side was pretty stacked as well, including current AFL listed player Jarrod Brander and Derek Eggmolesse-Smith.”
The SANFL Eagles defeated minor premiers, Glenelg, in a thriller on second semi-final day to gain direct entry to the 2021 SANFL Grand Final. They will meet the Bays again, as the Tigers defeated South Adelaide in the Preliminary final on AFL Grand Final eve.
Mutch was a strong contributor on second semi-final evening, continuing his consistent form across the second half of the season, winning 16 possessions, laying 10 tackles and kicking a goal.
“I played as a defensive-minded midfielder in the semi-final, but we’ve had one forced change so my role may be a bit different on Sunday,” Mutch continued.
“As a group we’re starting to play our best footy at the right time of the year.
“It is important not to play the game in your head too much before the ball is bounced.
“Equally, you’ve got to have a level of excitement going into the Grand Final, as it still the biggest day of the year.
“We have a captain’s run today (Saturday October 2) and the final preparations will be discussed there.
“Naturally, playing my first AFL game was special from an individual perspective, but this is the largest game of my career so far.”
Mutch is keen to etch his name alongside a number of greats of Broken Hill Football that have come to Adelaide and enjoyed premiership success.
South Broken Hill talent, Chris Duthy, was a member of Glenelg’s back-to-back successes in 1985 and 1986, while fellow South export, Steve Hywood, played on the half-back flank in the Bays 1973 thriller against North, after playing in Richmond Grand Final team of 1972.
Captain of the first Glenelg flag in 1934 was another Silver City legend, Bays goal-kicking ace, Jack Owens.
A former West Broken Hill Robin and an original inductee into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame, Owens kicked 827 goals across a 177-game career that spanned more than a decade from 1924.
A 251-game key defender at the Double Blues, Colin Casey played in both the first Grand Final at Football Park in 1974, where Sturt defeated Glenelg, and in the famous ’76 flag where the crowd spilled onto the playing arena.
Distinct underdogs in that game, the Double Blues defeated the raging favourites, Port Adelaide, in front of an official crowd of 66,897, although the police estimated it was closer to 80,000.
Casey had already played A grade football with West’s before debuting with Sturt in 1971.
Starting with Woodville, the mercurial Peter Meuret moved across to West Adelaide, playing a role in the 1983 triumph against the Sturt.
Dual Magarey Medalist in 1926 and ’27, Bruce McGregor, was premiership captain of West Adelaide in the second of those seasons, where they defeated North Adelaide by a couple of goals to collect the Bloods’ first premiership since 1912.
“It was my best year in football,” McGregor, a former West Robin, said in the WAFC history book, Bloods, Sweat & Tears, written by 1947 premiership player, Merv Agars.
“There was a great team spirit within the club that year.
“We had a lot of good players, but no-one was looking for personal glory.”
McGregor was among a cohort of Broken Hill players in the 1927 success, including half back Harry Lee, rover ‘Chilla’ Payne, wingman Harold Solomon, John Scanlon and utility ‘Sonna’ Stokes.
In Norwood’s flags in 1922 and 1925, Roy "Alec" Bent was a star goal-kicker, kicking three goals and being among the best players in the first and slotting through six goals in the second.
The legendary William "Tiger" Potts played in the 1923 success as well, rucking in three flags in four years for the men of the Parade, in a career that started in 1921 and continued for the next 47 years, the large majority from 1935 as head trainer.
Journeyman Jack Woollard played SA football at four clubs before World War I, along with West and East Perth in the west, captaining the Port Adelaide Magpies to success in 1910, where they became Champions of Australia, after winning against WAFL and VFL premiers, East Fremantle and Collingwood, to claim that crown.