Dec 21, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Christmas Day is just days away and the year 2011 is fast drawing to a close.  Over the weekend family and friends will gather to celebrate what is perhaps one of the happiest times of the year – Christmas. The kids are on school holidays, their studies done for another year and they’re bursting with energy. For parents and everyone else there’s not enough time to do all the things we have to do to get ready for Christmas.  But that doesn’t matter, it’s part of the excitement the season brings. On behalf of all our Councillors and Council staff – and along with my family – I want to wish all our residents a very Merry Christmas and a really happy New Year.  I’m having a break over the next few weeks and I’ll be back in January, ready for another great year for the City of Botany Bay. My office at Eastgardens will be closed from this Wednesday December 21 and will reopen on Monday January 23, 2011.

Family Day at the Pool

On the 15th January, Council will host a special Family Day at the Botany Aquatic Centre.  The day will include entertainment for all ages and everything will be included in the entry price to the pool. 

There has been very little promotion of the pool in recent years but, with the appointment of a Recreational Officer, a program has been initiated to raise the profile of the pool over the summer months.There will be two inflatable play items in the big pool as well as live entertainment.  The inflatables will float around between 11am and 3pm and there will be live entertainment, which will start after lunch around 2pm.

Council has booked a group called Three Wishez, who gained popularity and a whole lot of fans with when they took part in the X-factor, the latest television show that seeks out new talent.  They made it in to the top four. There will also be entertainment for the young ones and we have secured the Jitterbugs, a popular children’s act. To add to the fun there will also be balloon benders, wandering magicians and a craft corner.

Then on again on Australia Day there will also be inflatables in the pool with a kids show by the Livelyhood.   It will be a much small version of what’s on offer on the 15th.  Because of our close proximity to the City and beach areas, it was decided not compete with all the Australia Day activities funded by the State Government.  

Welcome to our Sister City Councillor

It has given me great pleasure to welcome to Australia, and to our City, Councillor Giorgio Fantuz, from our Sister City in Gaiarine, Italy. Councillor Fantuz is on a private family visit but has graciously made time to visit our City and I am very appreciative that he has found that time to join us.The City of Botany Bay and the Community of Gaiarine have shared a long friendship which spans more than 25 years. 

Councillor Fantuz is now a second generation member of the Council of Gaiarine, who is continuing to build on that friendship.  His father Vittorino Fantuz, a former Councillor and Mayor, was involved in the original ceremonies, which saw the hand of friendship extended to the City of Botany Bay. His father, and his god-father, Councillor Romeo Antoniolli, both played a major role during the early years to establish the sister city bond that now exists between our two Cities.

Now Giorgio is a young man who, like his father and god-father, has put himself forward to make a positive contribution to his community by taking an active role in local government.  I commend him for his commitment and the role he will play in shaping his community in the years ahead. 

It has been a great honour for myself, and my fellow Councillors, to welcome Giorgio to the council meeting on Monday night.  We are indeed privileged. We send greetings to your father, Vittorino, and your god-father Councillor Romeo Antoniolli, and your family, as well to your Mayor, Loris Sonego, your fellow Councillors, Aldermen and the Citizens of Gaiarine.

We wish you a most enjoyable time during your stay here in Australia.

Dates to Remember

Six a Side Soccer – Summer competition 16th January to March 11th 2012. Registrations close January 9th. Visit
School Holiday Intensive Swim Programs:  9th to 13th January and 16th to 20th January.  For information call 93663590 or visit
Inflatable Days at the Pool: Two family fun days are planned for Sunday January 15, 2012 and Australia Day, Sunday January 26.  Watch your letter box for more information in January.

Dec 11, 2011

Best and Less Mural Upgrade in Mascot

The well known mural on the King Street wall of Best and Less, Mascot, will get a face lift next month.  A specialist Mural artist has been engaged and work is set to proceed to restore and repaint the mural which has deteriorated over the years.  The works will require scaffolding to be erected, and I again ask the Mascot Shop patrons for their patience.  The area has been in need of a face lift for some time and with the mural looking fresh again, and the new paving, I am sure the minor inconveniences will be seen as worthwhile in the end.

Bus Shelters getting the once over

Residents have been commenting on our new suburb signs, which feature a three dimensional Banksia.  All the new signs are almost in and the next job on our house keeping list is to give our trade mark bus shelters a new coat of paint to brighten up the streetscape.

Garnet Jackson Park at Botany

Residents could be forgiven for thinking nothing was happening with the upgrade of Garnet Jackson Reserve, but I can assure you it is progressing … slowly.  We have had a hard task getting enough clean land fill (it has to be a specific PH level) for the northern end, but this is now almost complete and it will then be left to settle for a few weeks before the landscape architects move in to work their magic.  There was also more rubbish to remove than we first anticipated.  Rumour has it there is a car buried there.  We have cleaned out a lot of rubbish and dug down deep and didn’t find one, so it is there then our staff say it must be buried VERY DEEP!   I am assured the advertised plan will be completed in the New Year.

Dec 10, 2011

January School Holiday Program

The school holidays aren’t too far away and it’s time to begin thinking about places in the January 2012 Holiday Program for 12 to 18 year olds, organised by Council’s youth workers. There’s a wide range of activities planned, some based at Hillsdale Community Hall while others are excursions. The program kicks off on Tuesday, January 11, 2012. To find out more, or get a full list of activities, contact Patrick on 93663888. We also have a January Holiday Program for the younger children aged 5 and above and we’ve got two events for those aged 2 and above.  For all three you’ll have to book in person with Candy, who you can find at the Central Library on the ground floor at Eastgardens, or phone 93663888.

Parking around Booralee Park, Botany

The Botany Aquatic Centre is now open for summer and with the hot weather we are enjoying it is a popular weekend venue. Council asks all patrons using the pool to be mindful of residents when parking in the surrounding streets, or dropping off and picking up children.  We had a few complaints about people blocking driveways and double parking.  Our Rangers patrol the area frequently and infringement notices will be issued if you do the wrong thing. The Pool is open daily from 6am to 7pm.

Dates for the Diary

Carols in the Park tomorrow Sunday, December 11, Mascot Memorial Park, 6.30pm.  Face painting is available for the early arrivals from 5.30pm.

Inflatable Days at the Pool: Two family fun days are planned for Sunday January 15, 2012 and Australia Day, Sunday January 26.  Watch your letter box for more information in January

Nature Strip SOS

It is that time of year when I send out an SOS to our residents to assist us with the maintenance of our nature strips.  With the hot weather and intermittent rain the grass, and unfortunately weeds, are growing like wild fire.  In the last week alone it looks like all our nature strips are filled with dandelions (those yellow flowers which turn to fluffy balls the kids love to pick and blow everywhere!).  Please, if you are mowing your own lawns on the weekend it would be appreciated if you could run the mower over the nature strip to keep our City looking good.  Council mows the nature strips on a block system, which means each street is done every eight to 10 weeks.  We try and get around more frequently in summer but it is difficult.  So if you can lend a hand it would be very much appreciated by both council and your fellow residents.

Update on Mascot Shops

Work is continuing on the Mascot Shops refurbishment and will do so until around December 16th.  The men are currently putting in the paver bands on either side, and across the centre at various intervals.  This has taken a little longer than anticipated and I do apologise for the delay.  The men have, and continue, to work throughout the night so that there is minimal disruption during the day.  Once the paving works are completed, the next task will be to give the area a good clean and top sealing coat.  The finished effect will look smart and fresh.  This will be complemented with new street furniture – seats, bins and colourful planter boxes.  I thank the shop owners, their staff and most importantly their patrons, our residents for their ongoing patience and support for this project.

Nov 29, 2011

Calling all shoppers!

Some people think of it as a necessity while others love it and can never get enough.  But we’re making it the subject of a special exhibition at the George Hanna Memorial Museum.  It’s shopping and we want some help from locals.

Do you have any memories, photographs or objects from or about our local shops and shopping centres? If you have then please get in touch with the museum as in 2012 there will be an exhibition on the history of shopping in the area at the George Hanna Memorial Museum. A week or so ago we held one of our oral history events as part of the Mornings at the Museum series. It was a very successful event and more than a few locals shared their memories about shopping in the area. Many stories were told about local dress shops, old fashioned butchers, who kept saw dust on their floors, and the coming of large self service supermarkets in the 1960s.

Quality Stores in Mascot – where Best and Less is today – was well known by many residents as a place that sold everything from school uniforms to curtains. According to locals you always felt special there and it was often better value (and quality) than going to the big stores in town. If you have any stories, photographs or objects to add be sure to contact Sam from the museum on 9366 3802 and help us make the next exhibition a great success.

Six a side soccer

 Planning is underway for the second six a side soccer for this current season and judging from the success of the spring competition the summer competition will be even better.

The summer competition runs between January 16 to March 11 and registrations close on January 9.

Six a side soccer is a competition for everyone – men, women and boys and girls and it’s played on the new synthetic turf pitch at Hensley Athletics Field.  Using Hensley means the competition is never rained out. Groups of friends, workmates, school teams and even a scratch team from up and down the street all have participated in this increasingly popular form of soccer, which is fast and furious.  It’s also a great way to keep fit.  Register a maximum 12 players for teams and get into training for the January kick offs.  Referees, insurance, registration, trophies and an end of season BBQ are all included for under $10 per player per match.  You can register on line on Council’s website:  Just click on “Six a Side soccer” on the left hand side of the home page and you’re on your way to having your team take to the field.

Playground replacement ready

Several weeks ago readers will recall I mentioned the vandalism which had occurred in Memorial Park resulting in the destruction of the children’s playground.  I am pleased to advise that works to replace and restore the playground will commence this week.  The new equipment has finally arrived and staff will work to have the playground operational as quickly as possible.  I thank all the playground users for their patience and understanding.  Sadly when such destruction occurs it takes some time to replace as orders have to be placed and insurance claims made.  I doubt those who carry out the mindless acts of destruction to public property ever stop to think about the costs involved or the inconvenience they cause.  As I said in my last column, one day when they have children they might take a moment to reflect on their past actions.  It is a shame they don’t stop to think before they act now.

Eastlakes Shopping Centre

I have received a letter from the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, the Hon Brad Hazzard, concerning the proposed redevelopment of the Eastlakes Shopping Centre at Eastlakes. Residents will be aware of the long and chequered history of this redevelopment proposal.  We have a tired shopping centre that all acknowledge needs redevelopment but we and the proponent are at odds on how it should be done. 

It is Council’s unreserved view that the proponent must acquire adjoining residential flat buildings – at 14 and 16 Evans Avenue – in order to produce an acceptable development.  The proponent resisted this contention and we have had numerous discussions with the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to resolve the issue.

A redevelopment without the adjoining residential flat is a missed opportunity and one which we, as a Council, oppose. We have made this view abundantly clear to both the proponent and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure. In his letter to me, the Minister acknowledges Council’s views and the concerns we have raised in the past about the potential isolation of adjoining sites and the best way to achieve an integrated development.

The Minister advised that the Department has required the proponent to consider the potential isolation of adjoining sites and the need for a holistic approach in the Director General’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (DGRs) that have been issued for the project.  He adds: “I have asked the department to further explore with the Proponent and Council the option of acquiring the adjoining flat buildings so as to integrate them into the development proposal.  Failing this, it will be necessary for the Proponent to show how redevelopment of the site can occur without isolating or compromising the ability to redevelop adjacent sites.”

This project will be assessed by the Department as it was not one of the developments that were returned to local government following the repeal of Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment ActOnce the Environmental Assessment has been received by the Department it will go on public display for a minimum of 30 days, during which we will closely examine it to ascertain if the DGRs have been addressed adequately and that our concerns have been allayed. 
This project, as I’ve said, has had a chequered history but Council will remain firm in its view that the right redevelopment must include the adjoining properties.

HCB ­ The celebrity waste

There are few things which make me almost choke on my cornflakes or cup of coffee.  But I must confess an article, or more correctly two articles, in last week’s Southern Courier produced that urge. The urge was exacerbated by parliamentary testimony by the Orica chief executive in Newcastle. 

The first local story was from Orica’s Bill Crowe who unashamedly said that HCB, or hexachlorbenzene, had become a “celebrity waste” and although it had a “bad name” it wasn’t too bad.Mr Crowe was speaking at an HCB Community Participation and Review Committee meeting. 

Well to our residents, HCB is not a celebrity, it is a curse. 

Mr Crowe’s company, which also has a bad name, wants to relocate the celebrity waste but, again in his words, “There’s a dance to go through to get people comfortable with the idea.” He quipped, tellingly: “People won’t dance.” 

People round here won’t dance, Mr Crowe, because, simply, they don’t believe a word or a commitment Orica makes.  That’s the case for the present.  It has been the case in the past. And, it will be the case in the future. At the Newcastle parliamentary committee hearing, Orica boss Graeme Liebelt, said that the leaking of the carcinogenic chemical hexavalent chromium in suburban Newcastle should not be considered a “serious incident” 

He may not have not considered it serious but the local residents did, and our own residents would agree with the Newcastle residents and not Orica. 

The other very disturbing fact that emerge at the Newcastle hearing was that Orica senior staff admitted that they “lost control” of the ammonia plant. To have senior staff admit that they couldn’t control a chemical plant is clearly terrifying. I’d like to know what levels of control senior staff have over the many and varied operations andmanufacturing at the Orica Botany plant. 

To people around here, the great Orica legacy is multifaceted, and distinctly negative There’s the stockpile of HCB, what Orica considers celebrity waste and which we know as toxic waste The waste is at Botany as it has been for many years.  It has to go. 

Then another facet of the legacy – polluted groundwater. For years Orica and the Environmental Protection Agency said no problem.  We differed and undertook our own independent analysis.  The outcome was the truth – that the groundwater was polluted. The EPA was forced to act. 

Then there is the occasional venting of chemicals – another constant legacy. While not as bad as what’s been happening to Orica in Newcastle, it is still not good. The common denominators are Orica and the EPA. 

This leads me to the second article in the Southern Courier and my breathing problems. The head of the EPA, Greg Sullivan, says the EPA is working with industry to make them better neighbours to residential communities. Mr Sullivan was speaking at the same meeting as Mr Crowe.Fresh from the Orica debacle, or debacles, in Newcastle, Mr Sullivan said these events would “reinvigorate” the EPA. 

Orica Botany couldn’t invigorate the EPA with year after year of environmental vandalism but now all is well and it’s about, to use Mr Sullivan’s words about “being a good neighbour.” Mr Sullivan can champion all the reforms to acts he likes.  What he needs to champion is actually regulating polluters and Orica stands, in this City at least, at the head of the queue.  I think Orica also heads the queue in Newcastle. 

The less than reinvigorated EPA hasn’t been a protector of the environment in our City for years.  I can only hope Mr Sullivan’s reinvigorated EPA steps up to the plate in the years ahead.

Only time will tell if we see words, or action. Then, hopefully, I can eat my cornflakes without problem.

Nov 23, 2011

Port Botany and Rail - Sydney's Traffic chaos is coming

Last week, the New South Wales Government, through its newly created body Infrastructure New South Wales, released its submission to Infrastructure Australia for funding for infrastructure associated with Port Botany. 

In a report of the submission, The Australian Financial Review seemed to suggest that the reason behind the submission for federal funds was an endeavour to increase the amount of money the State Government could expect when it sells the lease of Port Botany.  The State request is, initially, modest -- $28 million for planning the roads and freight hubs.  This is in addition to the $70 million allocated in the last Federal Budget for planning on the establishment of the Moorebank Intermodal, which is to serve increased contained traffic throughPort Botany. 

That’s a lot of money for planning studies.  It’s a pity nothing has been done beyond thinking and asking for planning funds. 

The Chairman of Infrastructure New South Wales, former Liberal Premier Nick Greiner, was at least open when he said: “Clearly people wanting to buy the lease of Port Botany will want to know the intentions of the governments, both federal and state governments.” 

So too, Mr Greiner, would the people of our City.

But our residents are not all that interested in the State Government maximising its sale price for the Port Botany lease.  No, our residents are more interested in their quality of life. 

I am not opposed to a more efficient operating port.  Far from it.  What I am concerned about, though, is planning that does lead to more efficient transport logistics in moving the containers. 

If that is what Mr Greiner is seeking while he maximises a lease sale price then, for totally different reasons, I would support him. 

But, in the absence of an effective container transport policy or strategy I would take a totally different view. 

A week or so before the article inspired by Mr Greiner there was another story and headline in The Australian Financial Review, which trumpeted “Port Botany to drive growth”.  The story below the headline was how Port Botany would be the significant driver of growth in NSW.  So says Paul Broad, the new chief executive of Infrastructure New South Wales. While acknowledging that the Port Botany precinct was, and I quote, “a much-neglected part of the economy”, Mr Broad said there was a need to unclog the links – the M5 and the M4.  The M5 is “a clogged artery”. 

Figures Mr Broad presented show that between 4:00am and 6:00pm each day between 2500 and 3500 cars and trucks travel eastbound on the M5 every hour.  Foreshore Road in the same time periods handles between 300 and 400 trucks every hour. 

Unclogging the artery and the links will boost growth, says Mr Broad. 

He’s right.  But if nothing happens and truck movement of containers doubles then7000 trucks and cars on the M5 every hour and up to 800 trucks an hour downForeshore Road and the situation is horrendous. 

If nothing is done, this generation of planners and bureaucrats, and governments, will strangle Sydney and we will all live under a cloud of car and truck emissions. 

But to unclog the links, as Mr Broad seeks, (and he is right) you need to plan and actually build things. 

What we’re promised now is a series of discussion papers to be released early next year and a 20 year infrastructure plan. 

We have been in touch with Infrastructure New South Wales and will ensure that our views are known to this organisation as it formulates its plans. 

Unfortunately, we’ve seen a few of those plans in the past – and now we’re to see more although this is the first time an infrastructure-focussed state organisation has been established. 

However, even before Mr Broad, a highly capable public servant, made his comments there were some others made to a Legislative Council committee hearing, which have bearing on this City and the port operations. 

Before I go into those comments, let me set the scene. 

There is a saying in the bush – “you shoot your own dog …” which means you face up to your own responsibilities and to reality. 

If there is something to do that’s not very pleasant then you have a responsibility to do it yourself and not flick it off to someone else. 

The NSW Government has done that in relation to Port Botany and the movement of containers – and it is not good news for our residents. 

When Terminal Three at Port Botany was approved there were two realities within the Conditions of Consent. 

One was that the number of containers (or to use the industry term – twenty foot equivalents or TEU’s) was capped at 3.2 million. 

That was a condition of consent and, like all conditions of consent, this Council and its residents would expect it to behonoured. 

The second one was the stated aim that 40% of the containers would be moved to and from the port by rail.

This mythical figure was stated, and restated, by successive ministers for transport and ministers for ports … and even, if I recall correctly, by premiers.  Indeed, I can go back to a report in July 2005, nearly seven years ago, from the Freight Infrastructure Advisory Board under the authorship of L. J. Brereton, someone not unknown to residents of this City. 

Recommendation number one from this report was, and I quote: “The 40 percent rail share target must be met and if possible exceeded …”.
The Freight Infrastructure Advisory Board went the way of so many advisory bodies – into oblivion. So too, now, is the recommendation which was adopted by all parts of government as almost holy writ. 

But what has not been consigned to oblivion is the fact that the 40 per cent figure was one this Council and the people it represents would expect to be honoured. 

The 40 per cent rail movement would mean that about 1.2 million containers would be moved via rail and around two million by road. 

When the 40 per cent figure became holy writ, the percentage of containers moved by rail was around 25 per cent. 

Last year, the rail percentage was around 17 per cent – a significant drop and one which, at the time, caused me great concern. 

A couple of weeks ago, in the estimates hearings held by the NSW Legislative Council, the new Minister for Transport, the Hon Gladys Berejiklian, appeared before the committee, along with her senior bureaucrats. 

This was a hearing that, understandably, focused on public transport – trains, buses and ferries. 

But buried in the midst of the estimates hearings was where Ms Berejiklian shot the Government’s Port Botany dog. 

She actually shot it twice with the same effectiveness on container numbers and rail percentages. 

She revealed the truth, unique itself in a politician, and that truth, although we have long suspected it, does not auger well for our residents and indeed for the entire Sydney metropolitan area. It’s worth quoting a bit of what she said. 

In answer to a question on the operation of the Port Botany rail service she said:
“The Government is keenly aware of the nationally significant role that Port Botany and its infrastructure play insupporting an efficient freight network.  Container trade through Port Botany currently stands at around two million twenty-foot equivalent units per annum.  It is forecast to be 3.2 million by the mid 2020s but it is likely to be achieved sooner than that.  The Government is working to increase the proportion of containers in and out of the port by rail to manage the growth in freight trucks on our roads.  Currently around 14 per cent of containers are moved by rail.  Our target is to double that proportion.  The Government is keenly aware of the challenges it is facing.”

Within that paragraph, the Port Botany dog was shot twice. 

Let’s look at the ritual execution.

First. The Minister said: “It (container numbers) is forecast to be 3.2 million by the mid 2020s but it is likely to be achievedsooner than that.”

I’d like to remind the Minister that the 3.2 million TEU figure is not, I repeat not, a forecast.  It is a legally binding condition of consent laid down by the Department of Planning when the NSW Government gave approval for Terminal 3.

Forecasts, to use the Minister’s word, can change.  This, to me, is an indication that this government, like its predecessors and the State Owned Corporation, Sydney Ports Corporation, considers the 3.2 million legally imposed cap is nothing but a hindrance.

We well remember the NSW Department of Transport submission to Infrastructure Australia, which publicly acknowledged that Sydney Ports Corporation and the NSW Government were working towards an annual container throughput at Port Botany of around seven million TEUs.

Indeed, the Greiner-inspired article in last week’s The Australian Financial Review said that the intended number of containers by 2030-31 was 7.5 million.

Only two months ago, I discussed how any sale of Sydney Ports Corporation, which was previewed in the State Budget, must include strict adherence to the conditions of consent that were given for all operations including Terminal 3.

As a State Owned Corporation, Sydney Ports Corporation must adhere to State laws. And that’s what any potential private owner must also do.

My concern has been heightened by a flow of comments and suggestions I have been getting recently that Sydney Ports Corporation may seek a variation to the conditions of consent to increase the 3.2 million TEU cap.

If it does, and given the absence of any effective transport planning, which has been sadly lacking for many years and from many ministers of the Crown, this Council should take every legal step it can tostop a move that could strangle our City and make the life of many of our residents a living hell.

Now, the Minister’s second bullet fired into the dog.  She said: “Currently around 14 per cent of containers are moved by rail.  Our target is to double that proportion.”

She has told two truths.  First, the percentage moved by rail.  What began as 25 per cent dropped to 17 per cent and is now at 14 per cent. Second, her pledge, or aim – “Our target is to double that proportion.”

Doubling means 28 per cent. If we all remember – and we surely do – successive ministers for transport, for ports, even premiers kept up the mantra that 40 per cent was the rail target.

I always knew 40 per cent was farcical. It was an honourable aim, a target.  But that’s all.

As almost a coupe de grace, the Minister added: “… I am also pleased to report that the doubling of the proportion target is due by 2020 and it is part of our New South Wales 2021 Plan.” 

I went to the New South Wales Plan 2021 – the latest edition of one of the more meaningless government documents – and it is there, on page 39 under the target for “Enhance Rail Freight Movement”.  There you find: “Double the proportion of container freight movement by rail through NSW ports by 2020.” 

Rail out of Port Kembla or the Port of Newcastle focus on bulk coal not containers and thus this honourable target from the honourable minister must relate to Port Botany. 

Channelling Marc Antony on the steps of the Roman Senate, the Minister has come not to praise the mythical 40 per cent – but to bury it. 

At least she had the honesty to do that. And, for that I give her credit. 

Let’s do some maths.  At the “forecast” of 3.2 million containers, 14 per cent means 480,000 containers by rail – and 2,720,000 by road. Doubling it, and I’ll give them a bit of leeway, means 960,000 by rail – and 2,240,000 by road. 

That’s a lot of truck movements down Foreshore Road to either the M5East or Southern Cross Drive. 

I have discussed many times the resultant road congestion, the pollution, the noise, the road danger and many other things that will flow from such road numbers. Suffice it to say – it would be disastrous for us and the rest of Sydney. 

But let’s extrapolate – and use the Minister’s forecasts and projections – in the case of a real possibility of an increase in the overall cap. 

Seven million containers through Port Botany.  If the Minister’s illusory State Plan numbers come into reality – 2,100,000 containers by rail and 4,900,000 by road. 

Given State Government infrastructure planning – both what we’ve seen and what we’ve been promised – these sorts of container numbers would strangle Sydney and create a permanent pollution cloud.

But who is to say the Government will meet its State Plan targets – they haven’t been met in the past. 

Say they get to 20 per cent.  That means 1,400,000 containers by rail and 5,600,000 by road. 

And where do the boxes go? The Enfield intermodal is underway but it can’t meet the sort of demand that is projected. 

Moorebank.The Federal Department of Finance is still studying the Moorebank intermodal – as did the Howard Government, the Carr Government, the Iemma Government and those that followed. 

Has one sod been turned at Moorebank?  The answer, after years of studies, plans, strategies, reviews and the like, is a resounding “NO!” 

Is it any wonder there is frustration in this Council and among our residents. 

Everyone talks and plans – but no one actually does anything. 

At least, this current Minister for Transport has, as I’ve acknowledged, told us the truth. 

And, in doing so, she definitely shot her own dog. 

Nov 21, 2011

Christmas Carols by Candle Light on December 11

It’s only a couple of week until our annual Carols in the Park, which will again be held in Mascot Memorial Park.  The Carols, which will be held from 6.30pm on Sunday December 11, are organised by the Inter Church Council and sponsored by Council.  So grab a blanket, and a picnic if you wish, and getting on down to the park to join in the carol singing is a great way to start the festive season.

This year’s Carols will be hosted by special guests Joy Smithers, Brendan Moar and Tyran Parke and performers include Daniel Belle, Katrina Retallick, Rebecca Tapea and Dallas  Watts. Also there will be the Botany Bay District Band, Scrap the puppet, the Combined Churches Choir, the Goodhew Academy of Dance, Graham Hunt, David Russell, the Tongan Youth Choir and students from

Our special thanks go to Pagewood Soccer Club for the sausage sizzle.  It will be, as usual, a great family night.  If it does rain then we all move over the road to Coronation Hall.

2011 Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal

The regular Christmas event, the K-Mart Wishing Tree Appeal is at the Kmart store in Eastgardens Shopping Centre.  The annual wishing tree appeal was launched last week by my wife Christine and it aims at helping children at Christmas – and it is really worthy of your support.

For some children, and for a number of reasons, Christmas is not that special time when they are spoilt with presents and Christmas treats. Most of us who are parents could not image how we would feel if were unable to make Christmas special for our kids.   We can make a difference by dropping a present under the tree.  On Christmas morning as you watch your own children get excited you will know that somewhere else another child is smiling because of you.  The feeling is priceless.

My wife was happy to make the first donation placing several parcels under the tree. K-Mart joins with the Salvation Army for the Wishing Tree Appeal, so you know your donation goes to a family in need. The tree is located inside the K-Mart Eastgardens store and anyone can donate by leaving a gift under the tree.  Last year over 3000 presents were donated and this year K-Mart Eastgardens is hoping to get the number even higher.  

Immunisation Clinics

Perhaps the most important of all Council front line health services are the free immunisation clinics, which are held every month.  On the first Thursday, these doctor led clinics enable all children to be immunised against life-threatening diseases.
A lack of immunisation increases the risk of suffering from diseases that are preventable – whooping cough, polio and many more.  Immunisation not only protects your own children but those they mix with at school, pre-school, play groups and in playgrounds.  It also reduces the frequency with which these life threatening illness occur.

The monthly Council immunisation clinics are held, on the first Thursday of each month in three locations;
  • Mascot Early Childhood Centre, 51 Coward Street, Mascot between 9.00am and 10.00am; 
  • The Central Library, Ground Floor Eastgardens Shopping Centre between 2.00pm and 3.00pm and between 6.00pm and 7.00pm. 
The next date the clinics will be held on is December 6 so, if you want to keep your child’s immunisation up to date, then come along.

Nov 13, 2011

Little Historical Gem

A little piece of our local history has made its way into Council’s archives – thanks, appropriately, to History Week and the focus on locally produced food.  The History Week talk on the place Davis Gelatine played in our local industrial history jogged the memory of one of the attendees.  He remembered that an old business associate had an old record book that might be of interest for ourarchives.  He asked his friend and this led to our archives acquiring the Minutes Book of the Botany School of Arts and Mechanics Institute for safe keeping.  The first entry in the Minutes Book is dated April 24, 1884 and the following pages record the activities of what in the late 1880s and early 1900s was in reality the university for the workers. The School of Arts and Mechanics Institutes were found in all Sydney’s early suburbs and with lectures and libraries they expanded the education of many young Australian workers.  We’re grateful for the donation of the Minute Book as it adds to our local archives. If anyone has any old record books or other material that gives insights into our history council would welcome them for the archives.  Without archives we won’t have a full picture of our history. The writing in the Minutes Book is superb – classic copperplate, pen and ink, which were how things were record pre typewriter and definitely pre Word era.

Scores on Doors

One of our primary tasks as a Council is to protect our residents when they buy and consume food from the many local outlets.  We aim to ensure that our residents have confidence that when they buy food from local outlets it’s safe to consume.  To improve food safety we’re going to participate in a trial with theNSW Food Authority called “Scores on Doors”. The scheme is aimed at food service businesses that process and sell food that is ready-to-eat, intended for immediate consumption and which needs to be handled in the safest possible manner. And the businesses to be involved within our City include: restaurants, take-aways, hotels, clubs, cafes and bakeries. 

The scheme requires participating businesses to display a certificate with a star rating – between three and five.  Three stars mean a ‘good level’ of food safety compliance and five indicates an ‘excellent level’. The certificates are emblazoned with “Good” for three stars, “Very Good” for four and “Excellent” for five. The scores are assigned after an unannounced routine inspection by Council’s Environmental Health Officers.  With the rating determined Council issues a certificate which can be placed in a highly visible location where customers can see it with a glance. Such a scheme gives greater confidence for everyone to buy and eat food from the outlets and gives food businesses an incentive to improve.

Honouring an aviation pioneer

Council has decided that a new park down in Mascot will be named after the Australian aviation pioneer Nancy Bird-Walton.  I reckon it’s appropriate that we honour Nancy Bird-Walton, especially as the new park is so close to Sydney Airport, where she was taught to fly in 1933 by the man whose name is the name of the actual airport itself – Charles Kingsford Smith.  I’ve still got a signed photograph on my wall of Nancy Bird-Walton, which she gave me when we met in 2004. 

The park in the Mascot Station Precinct is on the corner of Coward and Bourke streets, in an area that is being revitalised.  We’ve worked with the Botany Historical Trust in coming to the decision.  So we will have the Nancy Bird-Walton Reserve, honouring a great aviation pioneer.  Her name is emblazoned on the nose of the first Qantas A380 jet, which will, from time to time, fly over the Nancy Bird-Walton Reserve in Mascot.

Tiger at the Lakes this weekend

Residents in the Mascot/Eastlakes area are reminded that the Men’s Australian Open Golf Championships is on at the Lakes Golf Club this weekend.  With Tiger Woods playing there will be an influx of visitors to our city bringing increased traffic all looking for parking.  Whilst patience is appreciated if residents have any traffic concerns they can contact Craig Tindale, Operations Manager on 97009300 or Momtchil Vassilev, TrafficPlanner on 0416120848 or the Traffic Management Centre on 132701.

Making Safer Young Drivers

Our special workshop to help those supervising young learner drivers to be better and safer drivers is  filling fast – but we can still take a few more. We run the workshop in conjunction with the Roads and Traffic Authority. Disturbing statistics show young drivers between 17 and 20 are three times more likely to be involved in serious accidents.   We don’t want these trends to continue and that’s why we work with the RTA to try and overcome the high accident rate. 

The workshop focuses on helping parents and those who supervise learner drivers with safe driving messages and tipsthat they can use when teaching young people to drive.  The workshop is free and it will be held in the Central Library at Eastgardens on Thursday, November 24 between 5.45 - 7.45pm. You will need to book, which you can do by calling Yasemin or Patrick on 9366 3889.

A Call to Local Young Artists

I’m issuing a special call to all our residents aged 6 to 12 years for little help in illustrating the 2011 edition of our Report to the Community. We’ve done this twice in the past – in 1997 and again in 2003 – and each time we haven’t been able to meet the demand for copies. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles got copies of the two children’s editions. 

I still think my favourite comment from our local kids came from a Year 2 pupil in the 1997 edition who, above clouds, a big heart and a rainbow, said she liked living in our City “because it’s my kind of City.” Parks and playgrounds, our local environment, roads and streets, public buildings, kids at play, schools and right down to fishing, our local kids depicted our City in a simple and extremely effective way – also with great splashes of colour. The theme for the 2011 edition of the annual report will be “Our City through the eyes of Our Children.”   

The artwork can depict both the good and the bad!  Aspiring artists and authors might love our zoo in the Sir JosephBanks Park, but hate the big trucks that thunder along Botany Road. There is no part of our City, its day-to-day life, its environment and its place that will be exempt from this juvenile interpretation. 

All contributions should be sent to the Mayor’s Office, P.O. Box 331 Mascot, or dropped into my office at Eastgardens next to the Central Library.  Entries close on Friday, December 3. There’s no limit on the number of entries and following the completion of the report, which is distributed to all households during the first week of February, each child who submits an item for consideration will be invited to attend a special “Thank You” function I host and where each child will receive a special certificate.

Mascot Shopping Strip Upgrade

We’re now into Stage 2 of our upgrade of the footpaths along Botany Road in the Mascot shopping strip.  An example of the new paving that’s going in can be seen at the corner of Hollingshed Street and Botany Road.  We want to thank everyone for their patience with the footpath upgrades as we’ve tried to keep disruption to a minimum.  The end result will be a much improved stretch of Botany Road, similar to what we’ve done down in Botany.

Local Government Conference

Work and civic duties precluded me from attending the recent Local Government Conference (except for the weekend) where there were some important issues effecting residents, ratepayers and local government in general were discussed.  However, a lot of other topics, which I consider irrelevant to local government, were also on the agenda.  In our Council’s view collecting the garbage, keeping the streets clean and attractive, improving parks and playgrounds, protecting local environment and ensuring proper planning policies are far more important than uninformed opinions on international affairs, social engineering and interference in state and national issues and policies. While we are all entitled to express our individual views on any number of issues, local government should look after local people and issues. We are “local” if nothing.

Oct 27, 2011

Service or Process ­ or Madness

At last Council meeting, I presented a Mayoral Minute entitled “Service or Process?” in which I questioned whether taxpayers or ratepayers received value for money for many bureaucratic processes undertaken by the three tiers of government. 
Inherent in what I wrote was the question of whether a public instrumentality should, for example, spend $10 to save $1. Now I exclude any suggestion of expenditure to counter corruption in the theme or purpose of what I say – that goes without question.
I do not claim any skill of prescience, but an article in an edition of the Sydney Morning Herald last week showed that, perhaps, I might have some. 
The article detailed reviews and audits that had occurred involving and revolving around the sale, via a web-based auction site, of two billiard tables from the staff recreation area at Parliament House.  The review followed questions from the elder ALP statesman in the Senate, Senator John Faulkner.
I’ve known Senator Faulkner for some time and he has been unrelenting in his campaign for openness and transparency in government and in the oversight of public revenue and expenditure. But, in this case, I think even Senator Faulkner would bristle at what followed his questioning of the relevant government department responsible for management of Parliament House.
Following his questions, consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers were commissioned to audit the process. The audit found the process was within departmental guidelines but it did find some weaknesses in processes.
What government could live without “process”?
These weaknesses in process, or processes, led to a broader review by a former public servant.  As well, an investigation into whether staff had breached their code of conduct was commissioned from the Centre for Public Management.
Not content with all these audits or investigations, a survey of the cultural heritage value of items in Parliament House was also commissioned.
The secretary of the department responsible for Parliament House said he was grateful that such an affair had come to light as it had identified deficiencies in the department’s processes – there’s that word again.
The key is in the detail.  Let’s look at it.  PricewaterhouseCoopers were paid $42,000 for its audit.  The review of weakness in the processes by the former public servant cost $30,000.  Then the Centre for Public Management’s investigation came with a price tag of $25,000.  Lastly, the survey of the cultural heritage value of items will cost an estimated $5,000.
All up, the cost to review the processes of the on-line auction of two redundant Parliament House staff recreation billiard tables cost taxpayers some $102,000.
Process, after all, must be followed --- and reviewed, and investigated, and audited, and reviewed again.
That’s all well and good and the bureaucrats are no doubt reassured that the $102,000 expenditure was justified – all in the name of process.
The only issue I have is that, the outcome (another great word for bureaucrats) of the on-line auction was that the two tables sold for $2,500 each – a grand total of $5,000.
The federal bureaucrats spent $102,000 to check if all due process was followed in the $5,000 sale of two billiard tables.
If that’s the outcome of process then leave me out of it.  I’m just a mug taxpayer who helps foot the bill – for process, of course.
This is “Yes Minister” to the nth degree – or bureaucratic madness.
In Canberra, however, it’s normal process!

Oct 22, 2011

Your City - Summer Edition

Council’s spring edition of Your City will shortly be distributed to residents.  It is available for download at

Mornings @ the Museum - Shopping

Shopping – something we all have to do, which some of us like while others do it under sufferance.  Shopping, especially food shopping, is perhaps the most prescient illustration of society and it’s one our Museum is about to showcase.  But before the exhibition the museum has organised another in its Mornings @ the Museum events that will get the community involved in our City’s history. 

A number of questions will be asked at Mornings @ the Museum and the answers will make the forthcoming exhibition even better.  Before the construction of Westfield’s Shopping Town, where did you go shopping? Did you go to a corner store where the shopkeeper knew your name? Perhaps you remember Quality Stores in Mascot which is now home to ‘Best and Less’.

The Museum is asking locals to come and share memories and memorabilia over morning tea. Information collected may be used in an upcoming exhibition on the history of shopping in the City of Botany Bay.  Mornings @ the Museum is scheduled for 10am Thursday 17th November 2011 at the George Hanna Memorial Museum, Mascot Library in Hatfield Street.   

Bookings are essential, which you can do by calling 9366 3888. The Mornings @ the Museum series has been very successful not only putting locals in touch with our City’s history but providing more information and memorabilia to make our history exhibitions better.

The picture below shows shopping as it used to be – when, in my kids’ opinion, we were all in the dark ages.