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Covid Update – Another case in Muswellbrook
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THERE has been another confirmed case of covid in Muswellbrook, however Hunter New England Health have confirmed this additional case is part of the same household of previous cases and does not pose a risk of community transmission.

There have also been another seven cases in the Cessnock LGA overnight, which continues to be in lockdown.

The state has reached 84.1 percent first dose vaccination and 56.6 percent second dose vaccination, with 70 percent average second dose predicted to occur on October 7. Based on current data the state will reach 80 percent vaccination on October 17 and 90 percent vaccination on October 27.

The Premier said there are now only seven local government areas below 70 percent first vaccination rates, which includes Muswellbrook.

The LGAs which are behind the rest of the state include:

  • Muswellbrook 68.6%
  • Lismore 68.2% and
  • Junee 67.3%
  • Sydney (CBD) 67.3%
  • Byron 60.9%
  • Edward River 55.4%
  • Cessnock has just reached 70%

Local vaccination rates:

  • Upper Hunter Shire: 82.6% and 51.2%
  • Dungog Shire: 78.3% and 48.3%
  • Singleton Shire: 74.4% and 37.6%
  • Cessnock Shire: 70% and 36.9%
  • Muswellbrook Shire: 68.6% and 34.1%

Covid numbers in the past 24 hours:

  • 1044 new cases diagnosed
  • 1186 people hospitalised
  • 232 in intensive care
  • 110 people being ventilated
  • 11 people have died
    • 1 man in his 40s (died at home)
    • 1 woman in her 50s
    • 1 man in his 50s (Broken Hill)
    • 1 man in his 60s
    • 3 women in their 80s (1 died at home)
    • 3 men in their 80s
    • 1 woman in her 90s

Cases in regional NSW by local health district:

  • 103 – Illawarra Shoalhaven
  • 58 – Nepean Blue Mountains
  • 45 – Northern Sydney
  • 38 – Hunter New England
  • 34 – Central Coast
  • 32 – Western NSW
  • 11 – Far West
  • 4 – Murrumbidgee
  • 3 – Southern NSW
  • 1 – Mid North Coast
  • 4 – in correctional settings and
  • 13 cases are yet to be assigned to an LHD.
In Hunter New England local health district there are currently 373 active cases and 38 new cases in the past 24 hours:
  • 14 are from Newcastle LGA
    • 3 in Merewether
    • 1 in Mayfield
    • 1 in Wallsend
    • 1 in Elermore Vale
    • 1 in Newcastle
    • 1 in Hamilton South
    • 1 in New Lambton
    • 1 in Jesmond
    • 1 in Islington
    • 1 in Kotara South
    • 1 in Newcastle West
    • 1 in Warabrook
  • 8 are from Lake Macquarie LGA
    • 3 in Cardiff
    • 2 in Toronto
    • 1 in Mount Hutton
    • 1 in Cooranbong
    • 1 in Morriset
  • 7 are from Cessnock LGA
    • 6 in Weston
    • 1 in Branxton
  • 5 are from Maitland LGA
    • 3 in East Maitland
    • 1 in Rutherford
    • 1 in Thornton
  • 2 are from Port Stephens LGA
    • 2 in Raymond Terrace
  • 1 is from Muswellbrook LGA
    • 1 in Muswellbrook
  • 1 is from Mid-Coast LGA
    • 1 in Darawank
  • 19 people are hospitalised
  • 1 is in ICU
  • 15 are linked, 13 are unlinked, and 10 are still under investigation
  • 19 were infectious in the community
  • 9 were isolating while infectious.
  • 10 are still under investigation
  • 773 close contacts are in isolation
Safer waterways for Dungog
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THE NSW Government and Hunter Water have completed work on the new wastewater plant to service the town’s growing population and deliver improved environmental outcomes.

Deputy Premier and Leader of the NSW Nationals John Barilaro said the completion of the $28 million wastewater treatment facility will provide people in Dungog and the Upper Hunter with safer waterways.

“Farmer Jamie Alison has used this facility to provide irrigation for his properties and he and Dungog will reap the benefit for many years to come with this investment. We’ve delivered on this promise and now the people of Dungog are set up with their wastewater for probably the next 100 years with this plant,” Mr Layzell said.

Mr Barilaro reiterated Mr Layzell’s stance that as the population grows, it is imperative the government provide state-of-the-art facilities which incorporate innovative design for water and waste treatment to guarantee safer waterways.

“Nothing is more important to the NSW Nationals than delivering quality infrastructure to regional communities and this project for Dungog was committed to, progressed and has now been delivered by the NSW Government, another example of our track record delivering for the people of the Upper Hunter,” Mr Barilaro said.

Hunter Water Managing Director Darren Cleary said the major upgrade will also help deliver improved environmental outcomes.

“The design of the bioreactor, combined with the use of modern Membrane Bioreactor technology, means the new plant produces better quality treated wastewater,” Mr Cleary said.

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said this is a significant investment that will benefit the Dungog community for decades to come.

“This is a great outcome for Dungog, with the new plant replacing an aging facility that was more than 80 years old,” Ms Pavey said. 

“This $28 million investment will ensure the growing community is reliably serviced for many years, while also providing Hunter Water with ongoing confidence that it can continue to meet its environmental licensing commitments.”    

Construction has also begun on a new wastewater pump station at Dungog, which will replace the existing 75-year-old infrastructure and cater for increased capacity. Construction is expected to be complete in early 2022.

For more information on where candidates stand: Voting 101: Upper Hunter by-election.

Advocacy pays off for Newcastle Airport Upgrade
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AS former Dungog Mayor, Cr Tracy Norman took a trip to Canberra to speak with ministers and advocate for funding to upgrade Newcastle Airport. Today that effort and dream were realised with the announcement of a $66 million upgrade to the runway.

Cr Norman said she took a trip down to Canberra in 2018, as one of the mayors representing the Upper Hunter together with her Lower Hunter colleagues, with the group unified in their call for funding to upgrade Newcastle Airport.

“We can’t keep having by-elections to get the attention of governments but look it’s a positive thing. I welcome this announcement. This much-needed infrastructure will significantly boost the Upper Hunter economy by opening up easy access to the lucrative Asian market and beyond,” Cr Norman said.

“This is a great result for the Upper Hunter Electorate and one that I, as Mayor of Dungog, advocated strongly for along with my Hunter Joint Organisation colleagues. When we went to Canberra I was the voice for the Upper Hunter, hammering home the importance of such an upgrade. As I said then, it is vital for both our current agricultural businesses as well as new industries that will be phased in as the coal market declines,” Cr Norman aid.

Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said the upgrade was a game-changer for the region.

“I want to thank the Prime Minister and the Federal Government for the confidence and trust they have shown in our airport and the region more generally,” Dr Cock said.

“Attracting this funding has been the result of a huge effort from the entire region. The support we have received from all sectors of our community in advocating for this project has been extraordinary,” he said. 

“Of course, it will offer convenience for travellers from our region who want to fly internationally. But more importantly, it will drive huge, sustainable economic benefits into the whole of northern NSW. It is truly a nation-building project.

“From local tourism operators and hospitality owners to agricultural producers and freight and logistics providers, this project will drive significant jobs and economic return for generations to come.”

Referring to Newcastle Airport CEO Peter Cock’s comments, Tracy said “It is great to see acknowledgment of the multitude of grassroots movements and organisations that have been working tirelessly for years to achieve this outcome”. I would also like to personally congratulate the Hunter Joint Organisation, the Committee for the Hunter and other advocacy groups for their efforts in achieving this upgrade.

“We have been pushing for this for years. There’s nothing like a by-election to open the Government purse but let’s do it outside of a by-election. It’s exhausting having by-elections,” said Cr Norman who has been hitting the campaign trail hard for the Upper Hunter by-election on May 22.

The federal government’s investment into upgrading Newcastle Airport’s runway to international standard ahead of next Tuesday’s Federal budget will mean significant benefits for the region, including the Upper Hunter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Newcastle to make the announcement, said “This will be a jobs boom for Newcastle and the Hunter Region.”

The upgrade will see a code E runway to allow wide-bodied commercial aircraft such as Boeing 787’s and Airbus A330’s to use Newcastle Airport. These aircraft carry in excess of 250 passengers and significant freight loads. They are able to undertake long-haul flights into North Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.


Sleeping rough in the Upper Hunter
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HOMELESS people are sleeping rough along the Upper Hunter River including Quirindi through to Muswellbrook, Singleton and  Scone with women aged over 50 at particular risk of homelessness.

Crisis accommodation is at capacity with many unable to afford rentals. The immediate need is support for people experiencing homelessness and the commitment to providing better housing across the Upper Hunter and state.

Hunter Community Alliance and Upper Hunter Homeless Service demand that all by-election candidates put forward their proposed policies to fix the housing and homelessness crisis gripping the region.

Callan Lawrence, Organiser for Hunter Community Alliance, said governments of all parties had neglected the housing and homelessness crisis developing over the past decade. 

“Over the past six months Hunter Community Alliance members undertook a listening and consultation process with members and communities and found that insecure, unaffordable housing and homelessness were the most immediate issues causing stress and trauma for people,” Mr Lawrence said.

He said many people in the Upper Hunter have nowhere to lay their heads and it affects people right across the spectrum of demographics, with people resorting to sleeping along the Hunter River.

Jeff Drayton is with Callan Lawrence from the Upper Hunter Community Alliance and Sue George from Singleton Neighbourhood Centre to discuss homelessness and the housing crisis in the Upper Hunter.

“Our listening campaign showed us that people right across the Hunter, all demographics, were affected. Women over 50 are particularly at risk of homelessness for various reasons, but largely because many have spent their lives caring for families and are now poor. Domestic violence is another contributing factor,” Mr Lawrence said.

“But it is also families with two working parents, people on disability pensions, and people running their own businesses who are finding they have nowhere to go.”

Local homeless support services have resorted to handing out tents to deal with the Upper Hunter’s homeless crisis, as the NSW Government today claimed that all homeless people in the state could access accommodation.

Jeff Drayton, Labor’s Candidate for the Upper Hunter seat, appeared at a presser in Burdekin Park today to call out the crisis in homelessness.

Community Services Minister Gareth Ward said morning that “If you are homeless anywhere in the state right now, you can call Link2Home … we will find accommodation for you.” Local emergency accommodation provider Upper Hunter Homeless Support (UHSS) has 1000 clients needing housing support but only receives Government funding for 400 places,” Mr Drayton said.

Mr Drayton said local homeless support workers were “at their wit’s end and rightly fuming about the Minister’s comments as they struggle to address growing demand. This Government either doesn’t know about the homelessness crisis in the Upper Hunter, or it doesn’t care,” said Mr Drayton.

“Our region sends billions down to Sydney, but we have people in the Hunter sleeping in cars, under bridges or on couches. It breaks my heart to hear that people in the Upper Hunter are being given tents because there just aren’t the beds being made available,” Mr Drayton said.

“I’ve just spent a couple of weeks meeting with most of the community service groups in the Upper Hunter. Each of those groups tells me the same thing everywhere I go. There’s no housing, no support, not enough funding,” he said.

Lee Watts, manager of Scone Neighbourhood Centre said they have brokerage through the Upper Hunter Homeless Service to pay for the support of a homeless person whether it’s accommodation or another form of support.

“We try to support them with blankets, sleeping bags, and swags if they don’t want to go into accommodation and we also give out food and put them in touch with any service they need to speak to,” Ms Watts said.

“Someone may come in and their family lives away from the region so we help organise a train ticket for them to go home. We will do something like that if we’re in a position to do it,” she said.

“Again, depends on what their circumstances are. They’ve come to us for a reason. We do whatever we can for them.”

Lewis Millington-Plazey, General Manager, Upper Hunter Homelessness Service said it is a multi-speed economy here in the Upper Hunter.

“Some people are making a fortune and many others are sleeping under the bridge, or in the park, or in their cars. There are shutdowns on at a power station and a mine right now and that means we can’t put people into any of the hotels or caravan parks we often use for temporary emergency housing because they are all full of out-of-town workers,” Millington-Plazey said.

“We’re funded to work with 442 people per year and we’re seeing double that. And funding for those services hasn’t changed since 2014, when there was no data on homelessness in the Upper Hunter at all. We have access to 9 properties across the entire Upper Hunter to house 800-900 people per year. On top of that, we have landlords charging $400 per room on the private rental market, meaning they are totally out of reach for anyone on JobSeeker or a pension.”

Mr Lawrence also said that the mining sector had contributed a lot to the Upper Hunter but it had also caused many problems.

“How is it ‘a fair go’ when we have international mining companies extracting billions of dollars of wealth from Muswellbrook and Singleton, while people from the region are sleeping rough under bridges, in tents and their cars. The fact that there are not enough homes to house the region’s citizens is a disgrace.”

Hunter Community Alliance brings together diverse community organisations, environmental groups, unions and religious organisations to advance the common good and achieve fair, just and sustainable cities and regions. We do this by providing opportunities for people to have a say in decisions that affect them, their families and everyone working and living in our cities and regions. We are non-party political organisations.

For more information on where candidates stand: Voting 101: Upper Hunter by-election.

Candidates jostle on Mangoola Mine Expansion
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THE Independent Planning Commission’s (IPC’s) decision to extend mining operations at Mangoola mine near Muswellbrook for a further five years has drawn the ire of some Upper Hunter seat candidates and the praise of others across the political spectrum.

The IPC approved the extension stating it was a “reasonable brownfield extension”, providing 179 conditions are met. Glencore had sought planning approval to build the new pit to the north of the current site in a pristine part of the Wybong Valley.

The new pit would see an additional 52 million tonnes of coal extracted at the site and according to a statement released by the IPC, the project “represents a reasonable ‘brownfield’ extension of the existing Mangoola Coal Mine that would enable the economic and beneficial reuse of existing infrastructure and an orderly and economic use of land”.

Coal would be extracted over approximately 8 years, with operations to cease at the site in December 2030. This is a 13-month extension to the company’s existing development consent of November 2029.

“On balance and when weighed against the impacts under the current policy and regulatory framework, the project would generate net-positive social and economic benefits for the local area, Hunter region and to NSW,” the statement said.

CFMEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy District president Peter Jordan said the news came as a great relief to the 400 directly employed mineworkers at Mangoola mine.

SFF candidate for the Upper Hunter seat Sue Gilroy said: “They are using existing infrastructure. It’s good news for an industry that’s supported us through a lot of economic challenges. It’s a brownfields extension, it’s on the existing land they’re using. It’s an extension of what they’re doing and they’re continuing to employ people, I believe around 400, in an industry that is a very important part of the Upper Hunter economy.

“We haven’t transitioned yet and until we can transition if the government comes up with a renewable, reliable, affordable energy source, we need to support the industry that’s there right now because it puts food on the table of those workers every single day,” she said.

Kate Fraser, an Independent candidate in the Upper Hunter seat, said: “The goalposts are changing so rapidly, it’s hard to have a policy on anything. Everyone comes armed with a cheque book but nobody’s signed the cheque,” Ms Fraser said.

David Layzell, Nationals candidate for the Upper Hunter seat said, “this approval is an extension of an existing mine that extends the life of the mine to 2030 and gives job certainty to the hundreds of workers at the mine,” Mr Layzell said.

Mr Layzell said the IPC is independent of the Government and does not make decisions without going through all the checks and balances.

“This expansion will bring local job certainty, economic prosperity and new opportunities to our region, all things that I fully support,” he said.

The Greens condemned the IPC for approving the Mangoola Mine Expansion. Their Upper Hunter seat candidate Sue Abbott said it was important to urgently move away from reliance upon fossil fuels.

“Giving Glencore a green light to develop a new open-cut mining area at Wybong in the Upper Hunter completely ignores the evidence that we need to transition away from reliance upon fossil fuels, and we need to do that urgently,” Ms Abbott said.

“The risks and threats we face today as a result of global climate emergency are incompatible with life on earth as we know it – and yet here we are again watching the Coalition granting permission to a big multi-national mining company to continue the chaos and destruction of our landscape here in the Upper Hunter.”

One Nation’s candidate, Dale McNamara said the extension was wonderful news. “Common sense wins. The best thing is job, jobs, jobs for the people of the Upper Hunter,” Mr McNamara said.

Labor also weighed in with their candidate for the Upper Hunter seat, Jeff Drayton saying the NSW IPC’s approval of the Mangoola extension was terrific news.

“Mangoola mine employs workers locally – nearly 90% of workers live in one of the three local shires. Four hundred local families are relieved their livelihoods have been secured for an additional five years and the Muswellbrook region will continue to get ongoing economic benefit from the mine,” Mr Drayton said.

“The IPC has judged the extension on its merits and determined that it is in the public interest – taking into account jobs, strong local support, reuse of existing infrastructure and economic use of land. It’s a common-sense decision and I welcome it,” he said.
Independent candidate for the Upper Hunter, Tracy Norman questioned how it’s contributing to growth when there is so much spare capacity.
“When there’s so much spare capacity, we’re producing more than we’re selling of the coal we’re digging out of the ground now anyway so how does it create jobs? If it’s not selling, why would they be digging up more and have it stockpiling?” Ms Norman said.
“I don’t understand the economics of it and it’s causing a lot of environmental damage. I can’t see what the economic gain is. I don’t think just saying there’s going to be jobs makes it so,” she said.
Independent candidate Archie Lea said he believed in jobs and the coal industry. “It’s important to keep the mines open and the industry thriving”.
Steve Reynolds, an Independent candidate, supported the Mangoola extension through the IPC. He said Mangoola is one of the best mines in the area, with the highest rates of local employment.
“I came out and supported it through the IPC. I think Mangoola’s rehabilitation has been excellent. If you look at the rehabilitation of mines across the area, Mangoola does it the best. They’ve won awards for it,” Mr Reynolds said.
“I’ve grown up with people affected by mines. I do understand there are people that are impacted by it. There are always people who are going to be put out by these types of decisions but at the end of the day I think for the workforce and the community, it’s a great thing,” he said.

For more information on where candidates stand: Voting 101: Upper Hunter by-election.

Independent candidate Archie Lea chases Upper Hunter by-election
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INDEPENDENT candidate Archie Lea of Dungog joins the growing list of candidates in the hotly contested Upper Hunter by-election on May 22.

As this latest contender hits the race for the Upper Hunter, it will be interesting to see who will fill this seat, continuously held by the Country/National Party since 1932.

Mr Lea said living in Dungog has given him first-hand knowledge of how bad the roads are. He says he wants changes to the poorly maintained roads in the town, undeniably the worst in the state and would always be available to listen to constituents about road issues or any other concerns.

“Dungog’s roads are notoriously bad. They are a gateway to other industries in the Upper Hunter including the equine, viticulture, agriculture and mining industries. They need to be sorted, we need critical funds for roads, particularly since we’re the only council in NSW without a State Road. The number of people in Dungog can’t pay for all the maintenance and upgrade needed to the roads,” Mr Lea said.

“I want to see the coal mining industry strengthened. It’s important to keep jobs in coal mining going for as long as possible and I can’t see why the coal industries can’t coexist peacefully with all the other industries in the area,” he said.

“Also, dollar for dollar, I want to see our Upper Hunter public schools receive as much in resources as Sydney schools do. I’m fed up with the inequalities between, for example, Sydney and the Upper Hunter.”

He said he also wanted to advocate for the dairy farmer industry which had been adversely affected by droughts, bushfires and flooding.

Upper Hunter Independent candidate for the by-election, Archie Lea.

Upper Hunter Independent candidate for the by-election, Archie Lea.

“We need to help our farmers, they’re crying out for assistance. Things have gotten worse since deregulation and we need to listen to what farmers are saying in terms of products being sold that look like milk but aren’t really, out there and the problems with the labelling of those products. They have real issues they deal with on a daily basis and need advocacy.”

As an Independent, Mr Lea said he would be transparent and not be swayed by any particular political party.

Bruce MacKenzie betting on by-election
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FORMER Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie has registered as an independent for the NSW Upper Hunter by-election on May 22.

In his inimitable style, Mr Mackenzie said he chose to run to send a message to the power centres of Sydney that the people of the Upper Hunter deserve a better deal than what they currently have.

The long-serving public official who owns 15,000 acres in Gloucester, 3000 head of black cattle and 40 racehorses made a determination to register as a candidate after having conversations with people across the electorate, in particular conversations around agriculture and the equine industry.

“I entered this race to keep the bastards honest and make them think. There’s nothing better than a swinging seat, it forces the government’s hand so to speak and it’s better for the people in that particular electorate. In this case, it’s the Upper Hunter that stands to gain some of what they should have had years ago,” Mr MacKenzie said.

Mr Mackenzie said he was not interested in doing deals or preferences and at the age of 82 when many are thinking about how they’re going to spend the coming week in retirement, ‘Macka’ as he likes to be called is only just getting started.

“I may be 82 but I feel and have the energy of a 60-year-old. There’s a lot to be sorted. The roads in the Upper Hunter are a joke, they’re really bad. We want and need to get those fixed and the government should have fixed them years ago,” he said.

“It’s a very varied electorate with industries from the Coal mines to cattle to the horses and beyond. I’ve worked with a lot of coal miners in the past, top blokes and I know a bit about the coal industry, I know a lot about the horse and cattle industries and the issues affecting people in the region.

“Talking to the people of the Upper Hunter, having continual conversations with people around Scone and in the horsing industry whets my appetite for getting stuck into doing something about the issues. I spent the night in Scone last week, just talking to a lot of people. I saw cattle all the time at Gloucester sale yards, we get involved in the community there too. I just like to get around to find out what issues people are talking about and those conversations led me to run,” he said.

“People I know in Singleton, Dungog and Gloucester all told me I’d be good to run. I raced two horses in Scone last week, I was talking to a lot of people and they said ’well mate, just promote what you’re doing with horses and get out there’ cause I’m pretty well known in the racing industry now and there’s a lot of votes for horse people in Scone.”

On the topic of the controversial sale of Scone TAFE, Mr MacKenzie said the sale was probably decided before the resignation of Michael Johnsen which triggered the by-election.

“People that want to learn skills in TAFE will probably be on the pension before you get another TAFE in Scone, before the government contributes any money to it because the politicians’ promises are not worth the paper they’re written on.

“The mining industry has to continue. If they get rid of the coal mines, unemployment will be rampant in the Upper Hunter and power prices will go through the roof,” he said.

Mr MacKenzie seemed to have little tolerance for parties on the other side of the political spectrum to him. “The Greens, they believe in Santa and the tooth fairy. As far as I’m concerned they don’t rate with some of the things they come up with.

“Let’s face it, Australia rode on the sheep’s back in the old days, now how much income and revenue do coal mining bring to the state government. Let’s leave the coal miners alone and let them get on with the job of providing coal to the power stations that generate the electricity.”

“Coal mining has to continue. For political purposes only, politicians are ducking punches, they don’t know what to do about the coal mines because while they might be thinking about the coal mines and the employment, they’ll also be thinking about the pressure from the crossbenchers.

“Berejiklian has a one-seat majority, if she loses that, she’s got an independent. It’s going to keep things interesting. Let’s strengthen the Mining industry and ensure it co-exists peacefully with other industries in the area such as agriculture, viticulture and the equine industry as it has in the past.

He adds a cautionary note, “Look I’ve filled in the paperwork for the by-election but I’ve got until May 5 to withdraw if I want,” he said.

One is left to wonder who else will put their hat in the ring as the race to the by-election enters the final stages.

NSW Premier promotes Service NSW’s Dine and Discover initiative
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THE NSW Premier returned to the Upper Hunter to join Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Nationals Candidate for the Upper Hunter David Layzell at the Remington hotel and restaurant in Muswellbrook to promote Service NSW’s Dine and Discover initiative.

The NSW Government had previously launched Dine & Discover NSW to encourage the community to get out and about and support dining, arts and tourism businesses. NSW residents aged 18 and over can apply for 4 x $25 vouchers, worth $100 in total.

“I’ve had a lovely morning speaking to locals and also to share the love around Service NSW and especially around and Service NSW’s Dine and Discover vouchers sharing the love and good news around our Dine and Discover vouchers,” the Premier said.

“I’m really pleased around 30 businesses including The Remington have signed up to the program. This Remington hotel alone has had 90 people use the vouchers already in the last few weeks,” she said.

“It’s a really good way to save money but also to keep the local economy going so I’m urging everyone if you haven’t already done so to download the Service NSW app and to make sure you benefit from the vouchers.

“We know during Covid businesses have been hit hard and people are watching the cost of living which is a huge issue.

“I want to urge the people of the Upper Hunter. Make sure you go to the Service NSW centres and talk to our cost of living specialists. On average people in Muswellbrook and Singleton are saving around $600 when going into Service NSW and talking to our cost of living specialists on how they can save.

“I want to thank all the businesses for signing up, thank the thousands of people in this region who use the vouchers and urge all Upper Hunter residents to make sure you can discover the benefits through our cost of living program.

“Families are doing it tough and are worried about a number of things including the household budget. We want to make sure people feel they’re supported and have savings.”

Merriwa-Willow Tree Road meeting tomorrow
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UPPER Hunter Shire Council (UHSC) will install surveillance cameras to deter motorists from illegally using Merriwa-Willow Tree Road after it was closed due to safety concerns earlier this year.

A second community meeting featuring two sessions will be held tomorrow for residents impacted by the closure to have their say and hear the latest report findings from representatives of UHSC, Transport NSW, the Public Works Advisory and Infrastructure NSW.

Earlier this year the Merriwa-Willow Tree Road closed to all vehicles due to the risk of landslips and cracking across both lanes.

UHSC Mayor Maurice Collison said the closure has been undertaken to ensure the safety of road users, based on geotechnical advice.

“Despite all reasonable attempts to stop public vehicles entering the site, some have continued to disregard signage, move concrete and water-filled barriers and cut chains and locks,” Mr Collison said.

“Therefore Council will be installing surveillance devices this week to record all vehicles illegally entering the site. The collected information will be handed to the relevant authorities for processing,” he said.

“Council apologises for the inconvenience to the road users and the community, however, the safety of the community is paramount and people damaging these safety barriers are potentially harming themselves and other road users.

“The alternative route for motorists wanting to travel this road will be via the New England Highway and the Scone to Merriwa Road with an expected additional travel time of around 30 minutes (44 kilometres).”

Those wishing to attend the meeting tomorrow night should register here for the 4 pm to 5 pm session 1 and here for the 5.30 pm to 6.30pm session 2.

Meeting details

When:Wednesday, April 21 2021. Session 1 from 4 pm to 5 pm. Session 2 from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

Where: School of Arts Hall, Merriwa, Bow Street, Merriwa.

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Layzell relinquishes domain names
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NSW Nationals candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election David Layzell gave a directive to the Nationals head office to take down the websites and give the domain names back to two of its political party opponents.

The domain names for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers as well as Labor Party candidates, Jeffdrayton.com.au and Suegilroy.com.au could not be accessed on Sunday afternoon.

This action follows Jeff Drayton, Labor Candidate’s call for Mr Layzell to sign the pledge to run a positive campaign in the Upper Hunter by-election, earlier today.

Scone.com.au had reached out to David Layzell for comment but his response came through his Campaign Director Jock Sowter who said Mr. Layzell never endorsed what happened with the websites and wants to run a clean campaign.

Mr Sowter said Mr Layzell was not a part of securing the domain names and is instead focused on the future of the Upper Hunter.

“David said this morning, ‘enough is enough’. He’s given the directive to give the websites back because he doesn’t endorse them. Actions speak louder than words. He was very firm about it. My understanding is now the websites are down and that’s that,” Mr. Sowter said.

When asked if Mr Layzell would sign the pledge, Mr Sowter said he’d only just heard about the pledge. “Knowing David the way I do, I think he wants to run a very clean campaign. Obviously, when we think a policy position comes out that David disagrees with, he will put his name to that and counter that. He certainly doesn’t want to play at gutter politics and I think his actions today speak louder than words”.

As one sign of Mr Layzell’s determination to get on with running a clean campaign, Mr Sowter said Mr Layzell would run a ‘pollie in the pub’ night with locals in Quirindi tonight. “David wants to get on with a clean campaign and meet locals and discuss important issues with them”.

Mr Drayton said while he’s not “waiting around for an apology from the Nationals”, he does want to see a clean campaign waged in the lead-up to the May 22 by-election.

“My focus is on jobs and the community. I’m getting around all the different areas of the Upper Hunter and finding out exactly what all the issues are. Whatever the results turn out to be in the by-election, I hope I will have highlighted just how poorly the Upper Hunter has been serviced by the State Government,” Mr Drayton said.

NSW Deputy Labor Leader Yasmin Catley was relieved to hear the domain names were removed and said it was an indicator the Nationals knew “it was the wrong thing to do”.

Ms Catley’s comments come after the National’s executive confirmed it registered websites under the domain name of Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) candidate Sue Gilroy that intimated there was a risk Labor would be preferenced if they voted for her.

“David Layzell distanced himself from the get-go and I just think that is not the state of affairs. Here’s a guy who was Michael Johnson’s, right-hand man and he is part of the Upper Hunter national executive so you would know about these sorts of things because this is what they get up to,” Ms. Catley said.

“I was very suspicious when he tried to distance himself but what this has demonstrated is, they knew it was the wrong thing to do. They’ve admitted it now because they’ve taken it down. Let’s hope he will come out and pledge they will have a positive campaign,’ she said.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate for the Upper Hunter Sue Gilroy said although the domain names move was a “low-handed blow”, it won’t damage her campaign.

“It wasn’t a fair move. It was underhanded. People understand that it wasn’t me, if you read it, why would I put that up there. My initial thought when I was made aware of the domain names was, why would they do that? It’s laughable, truly. If they think they can fool the people of the Upper Hunter with things like that, what do they think of people of the Upper Hunter? They are good, intelligent people. Do you really think they’re going to fall for something like that?” Ms Gilroy said.

“It’s not going to change anything for me. I’m committed to getting out there to get the trust of the electorate. It’s not about me, it’s about them and understanding what they want and how they want to be represented, understanding the issues and what the Upper Hunter needs. That’s where our focus needs to be,” she said.

Ms Gilroy, who didn’t want to join Mr Drayton in the call to remove the domain names, said she just wanted to get on with her campaign.

“My approach won’t change. I’m out there to talk to the people and gain the trust of the people, understand the real issues, what we need to do, what that looks like if I’m fortunate enough to be elected and take it forward so I have a real voice at the table,” Ms Gilroy said.

As the race for the by-election heats up, preferences will likely determine the outcome. David Layzell hopes to win the seat to secure the Nationals 90-year reign in the Upper Hunter. If not, it will throw the Coalition into minority government in NSW,” she said.





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