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The Nation's Untapped Potential: How Small Businesses Can Tap Into Aussie Disability Employment Opportunity
The Nation's Untapped Potential: How Small Businesses Can Tap Into Aussie Disability Employment Opportunity

10 June 2024, 10:45 PM

While Australian employers are growing in their readiness to hire individuals with a disability, disability unemployment and workplace participation numbers remain stagnant despite critical industries struggling with severe employee shortages. Among these, small Aussie businesses have a highly capable, untapped talent pool waiting for forward thinking organisations to find them. With over 4.4 million Australians identifying as having a disability, young Australians are particularly struggling, with 18% of school leavers with disability not entering the labour force for up to seven years after leaving school. Of all people with disability, just 53.4% are in the labour force, compared to 84.1% of those without disability. Government initiatives such as the Commonwealth Supported Employment Plan mean growing support in this area, with a further emphasis on employer education and stigma reduction allowing Australia to become a global leader in harnessing this untapped talent pool. We’re certainly seeing positive momentum towards disability employment support in Australia, kickstarting a shift towards a more diverse and inclusive job market, and by doing so opening the nation up to a slew of broader economic benefits, with employee shortages in critical industries such as trade occupations. Continuing to offer support towards people living with disability is paramount. This extra care and focus changes lives and industries. With this in mind, here are three ways your small business can maximise a diverse hiring process and utilise disability employment to level up your operation. 1. Examine Your Hiring PracticesWhen writing your organisation's job descriptions, have a look through your hiring processes and see if they are inclusive for diverse candidates. Ensure your organisation's commitment to diversity and inclusion is clear to applicants. Have a look through the stages of the hiring process and assess its accessibility strengths and weaknesses. Small things like accessible online application systems or alternative methods for submitting applications, such as phone or email, go a long way to accommodate different needs or to deterring what could be a fantastic candidate. 2. Utilise Disability Employment Service ProvidersDisability Employment Services providers specialise in helping both those living with disabilities find and maintain employment, as well as employers in identifying, recruiting and supporting employees with disabilities. Through high level training for job-specific skills, these organisations prepare candidates for the workplace and also facilitate workplace modifications, wage subsidies and employer training. You can find your local Disability Employment Services provider online at jobaccess.gov.au/. The best candidate for your role might be closer than you think. 3. Enhance Workplace Accessibility and Accommodations Ensuring that facilities, equipment, and workspaces are accommodating for individuals with various disabilities is crucial to attracting talent to your workplace. There is an enormous opportunity to adopt rapidly developing assistive technologies and tools that can assist the participation of individuals with disabilities. Promoting flexible work arrangements and reasonable accommodation, such as modified work hours or job duties, to meet the specific needs of employees with disabilities, will be critical to a fair and equitable work partnership. By implementing these strategies, your small business can tap into a diverse and talented pool of candidates, enhance your workforce, and contribute to a more inclusive society. Those who are forward thinking will see the immense opportunity for business growth and competitive advantage available to them.

Pioneering the future: How the New Energy Apprenticeships Program can drive real change
Pioneering the future: How the New Energy Apprenticeships Program can drive real change

28 May 2024, 9:38 AM

The transition to a sustainable economy necessitates not just innovation in technology but also a skilled workforce to drive the transformation. As the world commits to net-zero emissions, the demand for skilled professionals in the renewable energy sector is skyrocketing.Recognising this need, the Australian Government has launched the New Energy Apprenticeships program, an initiative designed to equip the next generation of workers with the skills required for a green future while offering businesses the opportunity to lead in the clean energy transition.It's an excellent opportunity for businesses, school leavers and those transitioning careers alike.Open to a range of businesses and sectorsAs the new energy space continues to grow, it's hard to define. Many businesses are taking on new energy projects while continuing to deliver products that rely on fossil fuels.Just look at car manufacturers. Many of those at the forefront of electric vehicles are still heavily involved in petrol vehicle production, too. And this will be the case for some time to come. The challenges don't only lie within the business itself. The success of electric vehicles, for example, will involve significant infrastructure investment, and this all takes time.So, it's fantastic to see this initiative open to a range of businesses rather than those who can say today that they only use clean energy, enabling more businesses to access funds and hire the people who will carry innovation forward.Supporting Australian innovationBy directly addressing the skills gap and anticipating the future workforce needs of this rapidly evolving industry, the program plays a pivotal role in ensuring Australia's energy sector remains on the cutting edge of technology and sustainability.Through targeted apprenticeships, the program offers practical training and education in various new energy disciplines, such as renewable energy technologies, battery storage solutions, and smart grid technologies.This hands-on approach not only equips participants with the necessary skills and knowledge to drive innovation but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and adaptation to technological advancements. By facilitating partnerships and collaborations, it accelerates the translation of innovative ideas into practical solutions that can significantly enhance the efficiency, reliability, and sustainability of Australia's energy sector.An opportunity for school leavers and those transitioning careersThe New Energy Sector is ever-expanding, and there is a world of opportunity, particularly for those interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).New Energy is changing even the most traditional of apprenticeships. Take automotive mechanics, for example. Visit a Tesla Service Centre, and you won't see an ounce of grease anywhere. It's all about electronics, which takes a different skill set.Whether for a school leaver interested in electronics or an existing tradie looking to move into the growing EV space, the New Energy Apprenticeships Program can help you get started.Apprentices will emerge with qualifications that are not just a testament to their skills but are also in high demand globally. As countries worldwide strive to meet emissions targets, the skills learned through these apprenticeships can open doors to opportunities across the country and even the globe.Additionally, for those passionate about ensuring a sustainable future, the New Energy Apprenticeships program offers a chance to contribute meaningfully. Each apprentice plays a part in the transition to clean energy, making it an incredibly rewarding career path both personally and professionally.Amplifying the impactVERTO, with its rich history of supporting apprentices and employers, is helping to connect businesses seeking innovation with apprentices eager to make their mark in the clean energy sector.The New Energy Apprenticeships program promises to fuel the growth of the clean energy sector and open a world of possibilities for businesses and individuals alike.As we stand on the precipice of a clean energy revolution, today's apprentices will be paramount in building a sustainable, prosperous, and green future for all of us.

Does the increased use of technology in recruitment have the potential to further disadvantage job seekers with disability?
Does the increased use of technology in recruitment have the potential to further disadvantage job seekers with disability?

30 April 2024, 11:31 PM

Does the increased use of technology in recruitment have the potential to further disadvantage job seekers with disability?Undoubtedly, technology, particularly AI, has revolutionised the hiring process with its allure of more efficient and objective recruitment practices. However, as with any technology, there is the potential for unintended consequences, particularly for already marginalised groups. One of the groups that could face additional challenges is job seekers with disability.According to the Australian Disability Network, one in five Australians has a disability. Yet, their participation in the workforce significantly lags behind that of people without disabilities. Even as AI pledges to make hiring more objective, there is a risk that it could inadvertently perpetuate biases or create new barriers.Access to technologyThe first potential hurdle is a very practical one. For those fortunate to be living middle-class lives in our cities, it may feel as though everyone has equal access to technology, from smartphones to tablets and laptops.But that is simply not the case. And with almost all job applications being online today, this can be an immediate barrier before the process even starts.In fact, according to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2023, 1 in 4 Australians is still digitally excluded. The index also notes a ‘persistent divide’ between capital cities and our regions and a ‘considerable gap’ between First Nations and other Australians. So, it’s simply not a level playing field.Some people with disability also have accessibility requirements when it comes to technology. This can be about hardware, such as screen readers for people with vision impairment, and it’s important for employers to make sure their application process is compatible and accessible.Risk of accidental exclusionEven if the application process is accessible and the candidate has access to the required technologies, there are still risks of accidental exclusion via AI and other recruitment technology.If AI recruitment tools are trained on historical hiring data, they may replicate existing unintentional biases against people with disabilities. They may also be unable to effectively interpret subtle nuances, such as alternative career paths or experience gained through non-traditional means.Potential for inclusivityWhile there are some risks, there are also potential opportunities to increase inclusivity using these tools.For example, most tools omit personal details that may lead to unconscious bias, such as names, gender, age and potentially even disability-related gaps in employment.In addition, AI tools can standardise the recruitment process, ensuring that all candidates are asked the same questions, which can omit unconscious bias. In saying that, these standardised processes must be optimised for inclusivity.Many AI tools can also integrate with the assistive technologies discussed above, so there can be an accessibility advantage to using them.So, does increased use of technology disadvantage job seekers with disability?The jury is still out, and we’ll be watching closely as these technologies evolve. One thing that is clear is that organisations using these tools will need to be keenly aware of where the technologies may include and exclude marginalised groups.Monitoring for bias is a must when integrating tools to check and correct biases, and this applies not just to disability hiring but to the full spectrum of diversity in the candidate pool.AI legislation hasn’t caught up to the technology yet. However, as it evolves, standards, regulations and advocacy can all be used to ensure these tools are designed with accessibility in mind.In addition, feedback loops can be built into the process so that all applicants, including those with disability, can provide feedback on accessibility and fairness in the process. It is then incumbent on employers to act on and learn from this feedback.At VERTO, we are privileged to see the power of diversity and the potential of every individual in our work each day. Disability employment services providers, like VERTO, help job seekers navigate the recruitment process and match them with the right employers, ensuring no one is left behind in the age of AI-driven recruitment.With the right attention and safeguards, AI can ultimately advance the inclusivity and fairness of the recruitment process. However, it's our collective responsibility to ensure it serves as a bridge to employment opportunities for all job seekers, including those with disability.

Plateau Landscape Supplies - Successful Techniques in Suppressing Garden Weeds
Plateau Landscape Supplies - Successful Techniques in Suppressing Garden Weeds

23 October 2023, 4:15 AM

Gardeners and homeowners are well aware of how damaging weeds can be to their lawns and garden. It is also essential to understand how weeds spread. In this post, we share helpful tips and preventative solutions for suppressing garden weeds throughout every season.What You Need to Know About Weeds and How to Treat ThemHere at Plateau Landscaping, we want to provide you with adequate knowledge to control and manage weeds before they cause permanent damage to your beloved garden.How to Identify Weeds and Why They’re BadWeeds aren’t just annoying; they’re considered invasive plants. Unlike native shrubs and flora, weeds were introduced into Australia from another country, typically growing in various areas of your garden, lawn and backyard.Weeds are a threat to our native plant life and wildlife. The damage caused by weeds also impacts agriculture, food prices and our general health.Why Suppressing Garden Weeds is a Community EffortWe all need to take care of our gardens and public areas, keeping them free of weeds.Did you know? The NSW Biosecurity Act 2015 explains that all members of the community in New South Wales have a legal duty to protect the environment from weeds.The Act also contains a list of state priority weeds to use as a helpful reference. The document also provides a guideline to prevent, eliminate, and minimise the risk created by weeds.Another resource, the Weeds of the North Coast of NSW guide, is functional for local residents to understand and identify regional priority weeds, and how to control those weeds.Practical Methods to Remove WeedsWhen pulling out weeds manually, it’s essential to wear protective gloves. Also, digging up all the roots from the ground is vital, as weeds can still thrive from dead or rotted plants.Removing weeds through biological control involves using natural enemies such as insects, mites and even plant diseases. Using biocontrol agents from other plants and wildlife makes suppressing garden weeds a natural process that is also eco-friendly.Before attempting to suppress garden weeds with chemical herbicides, it’s crucial to read the label carefully. Certain products will require a permit, and users will need to comply with permit conditions.Effective Weed Control MethodsUsing mulch will help retain the health of your soil while controlling weeds. If weeds are thick and mature, it’s best to mow or cut them before applying mulch.When suppressing garden weeds with a chemical spray, please use the spray with caution. Commercially produced herbicides can be toxic and dangerous. A safer alternative is to create homemade mixtures from salt, vinegar and soap.Try to keep a close eye on your garden and remove weeds as soon as they appear. Regular weeding will help prevent them from further spreading across your yard and lawn. It will also avoid costly management and control solutions.How to Prevent WeedsWhile weed prevention requires extra care and attention, your garden will reap long-term benefits. Suppressing garden weeds can be incorporated into a daily gardening routine by:Ensuring your existing plants are free from weedsRemoving or having plants that will potentially grow into weedsConstantly clearing your garden from garden wasteFeel free to call our friendly staff to chat about your lawn and garden weeds. Our experienced team can help put together a practical weed plan.As the local organic mulch suppliers in Ballina, Byron Bay, Alstonville and the Northern Rivers area, we can help keep your garden healthy and clear from weeds. We have all the landscape supplies and products you need to keep your lawn tip-top shape.Visit our landscape supplies centre in Alstonville for gardening and landscaping inspiration. We can also deliver your landscape supplies to Alstonville, Byron Bay, Northern Rivers and Ballina.Need help with suppressing garden weeds? Contact us on 02 6788 1234 to chat with our friendly staff or call into our premises at 14 Kays Lane, Alstonville.

Amazing new ad formats released by the Lismore App
Amazing new ad formats released by the Lismore App

04 September 2023, 6:50 AM

The Lismore App has released a range of premium ad formats utlising products designed to enhance the ability of advertisers to be noticed and engage with customers."We have over 30,000 readers each month," managing director of the Lismore App Simon Mumford said."The release of these new and innovative ad formats will help advertisers stand out, engage with consumers, and communicate their message in a way that no other digital or print daily newspaper can."Recently released ad formats are demonstrated below.The Amazing CubeThis displays 6 images and captions of your choosing in a very slick rotating cube. Great for capturing attention. Supports individual links per image.The Countdown ClockCountdown to a big event or end of a sale. Displays a customizable and human-readable countdown, such as "7 days, 3 hours, and 10 minutes," which updates.YouTube Ad 2.0Embed a YouTube™ video as an advertisement, with an optional message below the embedded video. Responsive and mobile-friendly. This format tracks video plays as clicks, and several other events. With YouTube Ad 2.0, you’re able to track how many times videos are played, paused, and how much of each video is watched.Scratch InteractiveJust like a lottery scratch-off! Specify a front image that can be scratched and an optional back image that will display underneath the scratched area. Beta, but stable.Shop Local Text Line This advertisement is designed to increase the number of clicks through to your business listing with the added result of more contacts and a higher Google search ranking. It will appear randomly in the middle of news stories on a rotating basis.Shopping Centres with Multiple BusinessesThis advertisement is ideal for Shopping Centres that have multiple businesses. A banner would have rotating businesses which can vary in number with the aim of attracting people to the shopping centre. The cost can be shared thus lowering the expense for each individual business.Advertising creativity coupled with the Lismore App's incredible reach throughout Lismore and the Northern Rivers is a recipe for advertising success. To discuss how these amazing products can work for your business contact Debbie 0400 319 296/ [email protected] or Donna on 0419 620 010/ [email protected].

Plateau Landscapes Alstonville - Building Sandstone Stairs
Plateau Landscapes Alstonville - Building Sandstone Stairs

01 March 2023, 3:18 AM

Dealing with steep hills and slopes in your backyard can be tricky.Finding the right landscaping solution can also be a challenge.Outdoor sandstone stairs are an excellent option.With adequate planning and sourcing materials from a reputable local landscape supplies centre, you can transform your rugged garden slopes into an attractive outdoor feature.Our 5 Steps to Success for Building Sandstone StairsThis blog post outlines the simple techniques to create stunning sandstone stairs with an appealing natural look. Get ready to be uplifted.1. Choose the Right Area Finding a suitable garden location for your sandstone stairs is the first step in the right direction.Using a garden hose lets you work out the curves for your flight. You can also determine the best direction and position while making necessary adjustments to your pathway.When deciding on space, think about having enough room for two people to walk side-by-side. Our recommendation is to plan a width of 90 centimetres to 1 metre for your stairway. 2. Selecting Materials WiselyWhether you’re looking for a curved path or structured sandstone stairs, you want to choose the right blocks and stone type to enhance the surroundings.The choices can be overwhelming. Start with a sketch of your ideal structure and take your ideas to an experienced landscape rock supplier who can help you choose suitable materials.The friendly Plateau Landscaping team can provide advice and recommendations on building your sandstone stairs. Our landscape supplies centre holds a wide selection of blocks, slabs, and other decorative landscaping supplies perfect for your sandstone stair design. 3. Marking Out Your Ideal Sandstone Stairs LayoutWe suggest using spray paint to mark the path and location of your sandstone steps. You can also then calculate the highest point of your flight and locate its lowest. The markings can also be a guide to see how many steps you need to build. 4. The Only Way is Up in Preparing Your Sandstone Stairs Excavating the ground for your sandstone stairs project will require the most manual labour.The rest of the process will be more straightforward, once you have levelled out the ground for the base step. Having the right tools will help make the job easier.Our recommendations include:ShovelPickaxe or mattockTrowelLevelRake Don’t forget to arrange a wheelbarrow and a skip bin to remove and dispose of the excess dirt.This part of the project might also be a great time to call on a friend for some help. 5. Lay the sandstoneWhen setting down the first block of your flight of sandstone stairs, it’s essential to align and centre it to the pathway. You want to ensure that the ground is level for this part of the building process. Establishing the foundation correctly for the base will make building the rest of the sandstone stairs easier. Your pathway will also be safe, avoiding awkward slopes and tripping hazards. Here at Plateau Landscaping, we want to make sure your sandstone stairs project is rewarding and fun.Located in Alstonville, our team can offer professional advice for landscaping and natural paving in Byron Bay, Ballina and the Northern Rivers area.As your local landscape rock supplier, we can answer all your questions if you’re at the planning stage for your sandstone stairs.Our team will be happy to give you advice on which decorative landscaping stones will best work with your sandstone stairs while providing other valuable tips.We can also deliver sandstone and landscape supplies throughout Alstonville, Byron Bay, Northern Rivers, and Ballina for our keen gardeners and DIY enthusiasts. Ready to build your sandstone stairs? Let the team at Plateau Landscaping help with the right supplies.Call 02 6788 1234 to chat with our friendly staff or visit our landscaping supplies centre at 14 Kays Lane, Alstonville

Letter to the editor: Will engineering solutions help Lismore?
Letter to the editor: Will engineering solutions help Lismore?

09 May 2022, 2:58 AM

Hugh Nicholson, member of local group WATER Northern Rivers, has written a letter to the editor with his ideas and solutions to mitigate flooding in Lismore. Engineering works have been proposed to mitigate the extreme flooding experienced in Lismore in February and March 2022. Here are the suggested options:1. Build a higher leveeThe cost of raising the levee is as yet unknown but could be expected to be many millions, if not billions. The money is not yet sourced or assured.  Enormous disruption would be caused by the removal of existing infrastructure and houses, by the extensive excavations required for the site, and by the transport of earth and rock from other areas to provide fill for the levee. The construction would devastate efforts to rehabilitate the current levee area. The gross inequity involved in attempting to protect only the CBD and flood-prone parts of East Lismore is unacceptable.  A higher levee would:(a) signal the abandonment of South and North Lismore, and significantly intensify their flood hazards and problems.  (b) speed up and magnify the flood effects on downstream farmers and townships such as Coraki.Now that climate change and its damaging consequences are beyond all doubt we have to ask how high the next major flood will be. It could be 18m or 20m or 30m. There is no known limit – all we know is that more frequent and bigger floods are assured. Spending huge amounts of money in an attempt to alleviate, but possibly worsen, a threat of unknown size is the height of poor planning.  We need to admit that the existing levee was an expensive failure which merely protected parts of Lismore from small and medium floods. It has made major floods much more dangerous and destructive for both the “protected” areas and the remainder of Lismore.  We must not compound this blunder by repeating it and subjecting more people to greater peril and heartbreak.2. Construct “containment ponds”, aka dams, on upstream tributaries.The proposed Dunoon Dam (the DuD), below the existing Rocky Creek dam, has been advocated by some (although not Rous County Council) as the prime candidate for supposed flood mitigation in Lismore.Apart from the intractable problems of destruction of (a) nationally significant Indigenous heritage and (b) internationally significant rainforest, this dam would provide no flood mitigation and would in fact increase risk to downstream residents. Map of Lismore catchment (permission from Dr Rob Garbutt)Ineffectiveness of upstream containment dams. As the map above shows, the catchment of Rocky Creek, on which the DuD would be built, contributes very little to the flood waters that inundate Lismore. Figures provided by Rous show that Rocky Creek catchment above the DuD is 50 km², or 3.57% of the 1400 km² catchment above Lismore.Even in the extremely unlikely event that Rocky Creek Dam and the DuD were empty at the beginning of the rain event, they could not intercept more than 3.57% of the flood water heading for Lismore. A second flood within a month, as happened in March 2022, would be even less able to be contained as there would be no possibility of emptying the DuD into an already flooded landscape. This would be true of any other dams constructed on other tributaries with the aim of holding back flood waters. They could not provide mitigation, their cost would be astronomical and their construction would entail large-scale loss of farmland and native vegetation.  Increase in downstream risk.  The downstream risk from a large dam is explained in the 2012 Environmental Flows Assessment (EFA), commissioned by Rous CC. It states that the most extreme floods may be exacerbated in the 3 km immediately below the dam wall.  “Modelling shows that the magnitude of the largest floods may be increased, with the largest flows in the natural regime of 17,280 ML per day shifting to 20,456 ML per day with Dunoon Dam operating”.  This is an increase of 18.3% on the largest flood.The additional impact is explained by the surface area of a large dam. “When full, the dam acts to increase catchment runoff efficiency, with all rain that falls directly onto the water surface delivered directly into downstream flow when the dam is spilling. This phenomenon results in increased peak magnitude of the modelled flood events when these conditions are met.” This phenomenon on Rocky Creek Dam already increases the flood peak downstream. On 28th Feb the following text was sent to all residents below Rocky Creek Dam, including The Channon village and parts of Keerrong: “NSWSES DAM FAILURE EVACUTION ORDER ROCKY CREEK DAM. People at your home address BELOW ROCKY CREEK DAM should evacuate now to a higher ground” What warning would the SES have to send if there were another dam with an even larger surface area located only 3 km above The Channon village?  And at 3.5x the volume of Rocky Creek Dam, what would happen if that dam did indeed fail?3. Modify rivers by straightening bends, cutting diversion channels or deepening river bedsAny modification which hastens the flow of flood water past a town can only compound the problems for downstream people, towns, farms and land. It is a moral issue. Prioritising one community for protection over another is intolerable.Dredging the river, as done in the past to keep channels open for shipping, would have no effect on floods. The river at Lismore is tidally influenced so a deeper channel will always be full of water and will have no capacity to hold flood water. In conclusion, it is clear that Lismore will continue to flood in ever-escalating cycles in the years ahead. Whatever the solutions are, attempting to control with engineering remedies the colossal natural forces at work is at best childish and at worst criminally negligent.High NicolsonTerania Rainforest PublishingThe Channon Terania Rainforest Publishing

Letter to the Editor: Beth Shelley on more railway destruction
Letter to the Editor: Beth Shelley on more railway destruction

26 April 2022, 2:36 AM

Northern Rivers Rail Ltd (NRRL) has received information that the railway tracks are now being ripped out at Casino.Federal Nationals MP for Page, Kevin Hogan committed $7.5 million to destroy the 13km rail line from Casino to Bentley and replacing it with a bike trail.Railway experts say this is the best piece of track in the whole railway line.If it was the same to repair as the section for the Byron Solar train this would cost $6.5 million to repair the railway track to Bentley, less than the cost of the bike trail.Lismore City Council has recently accepted the funding offer of $9.9 million for a bike trail for the 16.3 km section from Bentley to Lismore, made by Kevin Hogan.At the same costings it would be $8.15 million to repair the tracks. Why waste money on ripping up valuable infrastructure?Jan Mangleson, Chairperson of NRRL says, “After the recent disastrous floods, having the roads blocked meant empty shelves in supermarkets and people unable to buy essential food or petrol.Especially when they’d lost everything it was important to have food and be able to get around.The Casino to Murwillumbah railway was built to be flood free and could have been an effective transport link for these essential supplies.We’re being let down by out-of-date government thinking and the total loss of public transport is an added disaster for everyone”.Beth Shelley from NRRL says, “We need to question in this time before the Federal election why the Nationals are wanting to rip up railway tracks. We know they don’t favour action on climate change.Railways have been proven to be the best way to cut transport emissions quickly. Yet here we are seeing the destruction of a railway in a busy, populated area like the Northern Rivers. Traffic congestion, road damage and accidents will continue to worsen.It’s sad to lose our transport because of a deliberately negative government report.”  It seems that local council in Casino are getting in early to destroy the line before the Federal election and possible government change.A different government could possibly withdraw the funding for the destruction of this great railway line if they cared more for our communities and action on climate change.”Construction of a bike trail at Murwillumbah has been happening for the last few months and after the floods we’ve seen what a mess is left when water washes away a bike trail.This would not be happening if the rails were still there to hold the earth in place.This bike trail is going to end up costing heaps for ratepayers when the government should be providing decent public transport for locals and the many tourists that come to the Northern Rivers.People come to the Byron Shire in huge numbers but have no transport to get around to the rest of the region.Finding transport to get to a bike trail in Casino won’t be possible for many of the tourists to Byron. Trains to Byron would offer the chance for them to get out to Lismore, Casino and Murwillumbah to visit these areas.Beth Shelley says, "Kevin Hogan doesn't show any real care for this community when he offers money to rip up the railway. People need to vote for someone who cares about our needs and we need our railway."For more information please call, Jan Mangelson on 0431 477 445 or Beth Shelley on 0423 030 346.

Letter to the Editor: Can Rous govern itself?
Letter to the Editor: Can Rous govern itself?

14 February 2022, 4:23 AM

The following letter to the editor was written by Terania Creek resident Nan Nicholson:With the new Rous County council being made up of 6:2 pro-dam councillors there is now a demand for Rous to shelve the current Integrated Water Cycle Management Strategy (IWCM) and put the Dunoon Dam (DD) back on the table. Much has been made of the 10,000 signatures on a petition which insisted that the DD be reinstated. Some pro-dam councillors have said that they can’t ignore these people.They apparently believe that the 10,000 people (6.6% of the population) should determine water policy for Rous County Council.But, these same people emphatically ruled out groundwater, recycled water, and desal plants as permanent water sources. Some of these measures are already being used by Rous and have been for many years.Does “rule by the 10,000” mean that Rous should immediately pull out the new deep bore that has recently been drilled into the Clarence-Moreton Basin?Should Rous immediately stop pumping water from the Wilson River (into which Bangalow releases its treated sewage) up to the Nightcap Treatment Plant?Should Rous be ruled by populist demand?  If Rous councillors dictate that Rous County Council should bow to the 10,000 and go with the only option they agree with (the new dam), then it will have to abandon all the other water management options that it has spent the last year developing and implementing.Rous would be become unworkable. How embarrassing for all of us. Our Northern Rivers community will look like a bunch of backwoods hicks who are stuck in the past and can’t read a scientific report or a cultural heritage impact assessment.Nan Nicholson 

Letter to The Editor: Daniel Peterson reply to Col Baker on Dunoon Dam
Letter to The Editor: Daniel Peterson reply to Col Baker on Dunoon Dam

18 November 2021, 10:18 PM

Daniel Peterson replies to Col Baker on the Dunoon Dam. Read the original letter: Letter To The Editor: Col Baker on the Dunoon Dam in reply to Nan NicholsonSimply claiming that Hugh Nicolson’s accusations are “untrue” based on what you “believe”, is not sufficient evidence with which to identify what you imply is either an “outright lie” or “distorting the truth”. In fact, what you “believe” those accusations were, is exactly that; your beliefs. You’ve described a petition in favour of your position, but failed to mention Rous’ community consultations requesting submissions and feedback on the Dunoon Dam option, moreover what the results of those community consultations have been. Perhaps those results were less supportive of your argument? You claim the Dunoon Dam (Dud) will “hold up to 4 years’ worth of water”, but you apparently fail to consider any corresponding rate of consumption. You go on to acknowledge desalination as a rain independent option, yet apparently fail to carry this acknowledgment through to provide an answer to your very own question of where we might get water to refill our tanks during drought. While we’re talking desal, apart from hyperbole, you’ve referred to “huge energy consumption” but failed to mention any renewable energy options. I like your idea that “the dam will release environmental flows in times of drought”, but simply asserting an occurrence will not make it occur. Likewise, I’m not sure what you are referring to by using (and repeating) the term “toilet water” moreover, how this (whatever it may be) will “reduce during a drought” – do we not use the toilet as much during a drought? Perhaps next time you what to tell us what Nan believes, you might do better by telling us what Nan says she believes, or even possibly asking Nan what she believes; simply asking the reader if Nan believes something is a very old and lazy way of “attacking those who disagree with you”. You also seem to assert that you have crystal-ball insight into what water rates will be in the future and exactly what projects “the Government” will subsidise. After giving us a paragraph on how economically affordable the Dud would be, you then shoot yourself in the foot, by exclaiming the Dud is “the most cost-effective long term option” (by far) “even without gov grants”. The reader must surely be wondering if you’re saying Government funding is actually required or not? I must say, you’ve done well to mention at least once “the Widjabul Wia-Bal people” by implying this stakeholder group would not be ignored by the Dud, but unfortunately, you then proceed to never mention the group again. You then imply Nan “should be ignored” but somehow found Nan worthy of a 1000+ words Letter To The Editor. But never mind all that, because you’re more than capable of speaking for the land, right? By implying the Dud footprint “has been cleared and farmed in the past” you’re parading naked your colonial mind-set before a 21st century readership, who will not accept what you admit as “environmental damage”. I don’t know if your apparent faith in the “offsets” regime says more about you or more about the regime. Have you asked anyone to show you the significance of the place which underpins their objection to the Dud? The ”demonstrations” you’re correlating with “anarchy” are not mere threats, they’re happening already every time Rous meets to discuss the Dud you’ll notice (if you look) dozens of demonstrators on the street and hundreds off the street, all demonstrating to you how much this issue means to them. If you want the Dud to be built, you’re going to have to fight for it. I think it might be called something like believing in one’s own convictions. You also claim to be happy with the CSIRO’s proposed “independent” and “impartial” investigation, but at the same time imply that the Dud is the “best option by far”. Seeing as you’ve been “reared on a farm” you’ll no doubt appreciate the phrase: putting the cart before the horse. Despite having “no political aspirations” and pining your hopes on the CSIRO’s intended “non-political” investigation, you have however, “banded together” with the Our Future Northern Rivers group to “give the silent majority a voice” – a contradiction perhaps? Scott Morison’s victory speech of May 2019 proclaimed a “miracle” and a victory for “the quiet Australians”. You also say you want to “salvage our area from rapid decline”, and that water security is “holding our area back”. So, you’ll need to try harder, a lot harder, if you want to convince me you’re not simply talking politics. - Daniel Peterson

Letter to The Editor: Daniel Petersen on the 'housing crisis'
Letter to The Editor: Daniel Petersen on the 'housing crisis'

17 November 2021, 9:15 PM

Housing Developments or Overshoot? Are we experiencing an affordable housing ‘crisis’ or is that another symptom of human overshoot? In our personal lives, most of us recognise a limit to what we need, and a limit to what we can get. So why is it apparently impossible to recognise our public limits, in public spaces; in politics? Housing becomes ‘affordable housing’ when the housing cost is below about 30% of one’s income. At the moment in the Lismore Local Government Area, median mortgage repayments are above median household income. Meaning that it’s no longer ‘affordable’ for the average mortgaged homeowner, to live in their own home – it used to be a right, but now it’s a privilege. Over the last generation or so, ‘affordable housing’ has become synonymous with rental housing. When residential development proposals claim to provide affordable housing, they’re actually providing investment opportunities for asset owners who benefit from owning property in the Lismore LGA, without actually living here, or being a part of the Lismore LGA themselves. It’s yet another way, capitalism sucks wealth from those who can least afford it, to make the wealthy wealthier – business as usual – another symptom of overshoot.Human overshoot occurred in the early 1970’s. The number of planet earths required to support our average human footprint is now at 1.7 – Australian’s require 3.8 – and it’s rising just like atmospheric CO₂. In 2010, of all countries, Australia had the 5th highest ecological footprint per person. Since European arrivals began, 10% of Australia’s land mammal species have become extinct – this number is also rising. According to the Genuine Progress Indicator, Australia reached an optimum human population of 15 million in about 1974. During Australia’s 2019-20 fire-season about 3 billion individual non-human animals were killed by what the Australian National University say is a “wake up call”. Some federal politicians (while in opposition) have remarked on an “accelerating and disastrous extinction crisis”, but during the same 12-month period of time, the number of Australians increased by 331500 individual humans. Human population growth is growing, when it should be contracting. But hang-on, I hear you say; if only we could live more responsibly, reduce consumption, we would reduce our damaging impacts on the environment, and then, a sustainable future would be possible for all! Unfortunately, not. Self-interest is a hard-wired aspect of being human, for most people, most of the time. When the 2015-2035 Lismore Growth Management Strategy is directed by ‘community aspiration’ for “population and economic growth … to be managed and sustainable in the longer term”, how can I possibly believe otherwise? Don’t get me wrong, I still advocate for reducing consumption, but I believe the issues of human population and consumption must be considered together. If our reformed human consumers are going to have something to consume, we must address human ‘overshoot’. I’m afraid we can’t have our cake and eat it too. What happened to the warning of unlimited growth on a finite planet? How is our Local Government Area not part of our planet? Lismore’s current LGA human population is close to 44000 people or about 34 people per square kilometer; that’s a higher population density than such countries as Sweden, Laos, Butuan, Papua New Guinea, or New Zealand. Hovering just above us is the population density of the United States of America. The average Australian enjoys a lifestyle at the expense of an ecological footprint of 6 hectares, which therefore gives the 1290km² of Lismore’s LGA a carrying capacity of 21500 people. On this basis alone, the Lismore LGA should reject any new residential development and manage the steady contraction of resident numbers. Hey, we might even make housing more affordable in the process. Given the current Council election, I’ve questioned each Mayoral candidate with the same question: What’s the optimum number of residents in the Lismore LGA? Disappointingly, not one candidate has a numerical alternative to the growth agenda. Responses below are summarised and listed in the order they were received. Vote wisely. Krieg = “… 50000 in our LGA is attainable by 2041” Marks = “… the magic number is approximately 70,000 and above” Rob = “I don’t do as I am told” (No response) Ekins = “We need to meet the needs of our community first and I don’t think the growth model will do it” Cook = “…we are not picking a number that would be optimal and committing to it”Bird = No response- Daniel John Petersen 

Letter to The Editor:  'Dam Lies' - Keith Williams responds to Col Baker
Letter to The Editor: 'Dam Lies' - Keith Williams responds to Col Baker

17 November 2021, 1:10 AM

Before Col Baker of Future Northern Rivers accuses Hugh Nicholson and others of distorting the truth and outright lies he would do well to check his facts. Read more: Letter To The Editor: Col Baker on the Dunoon Dam in reply to Nan NicholsonI do not support Hugh Nicholson’s comments about the Rous General Manager. We have worked side by side for the last 4 years to transform Rous County Council into a modern, fit for purpose agency to combat weeds, floods and supply our water. Phillip Rudd has been an outstanding leader through a period of significant change. However, Mr Baker’s letter contains a number of fundamental errors.1. Rous Councillors were not provided a copy of the Ainsworth Cultural Heritage Study or a briefing on its contents. As the Chair of Rous I was advised by staff that I could not view the Cultural Heritage Report due to a dispute with the traditional custodians who had refused to provide consent for its release. I eventually viewed a copy via direct discussions with Traditional Custodians but not via Rous. That is a fact, not an opinion.2. Mr Baker’s assertion that a Dam will be cheaper because it is the only option that will get State funding is absolute nonsense. A standard funding formula applies for all urban water supply projects that are part of an approved Integrated Water Cycle Management Plan. A dam has by far the highest upfront cost and even with State funding will require substantial loans to finance the balance of the construction cost. Another fact.3. Col says it’s all just weeds. It’s funny how Col says he wants more science but he refuses to accept the science we do have. Existing ecological studies show 52 Ha of Koala habitat lost and 33Ha of sub-tropical rainforest lost. Again facts, not opinion.4. Mr Baker says when you stoop to distorting the truth or telling outright lies and to attack those who disagree with you, you have lost the debate. Yet for the last year, spokespersons for Future Northern Rivers have shown no shame in repeatedly calling me a liar. It must be political interference they shout, pointing to a Facebook post by Bob Carr. Really, is that your evidence?How about you consider the 436 pages of a highly qualified archeologist’s detailed study like I did? It’s now publicly available on the Rous website in de-identified form following negotiations I undertook with the Traditional Custodians.The Dunoon site contains a burial ground of at least 25 graves dating from before European settlement to the recent past. Assessed against Heritage Act criteria, the site is described as State Significant.The archeologist employed by Rous was clearly of the view that the Minister for Planning would be unlikely to give consent to the Development Application for a dam at Dunoon, unless all alternative water supply options had been exhausted and genuine negotiation with the Traditional Custodians had been undertaken.This is a significant legal problem. It will either be resolved through the courts or by negotiation. Rous Councillors, sensibly chose to put the dam to one side until the next review of the plan in 5 years time, to allow those negotiation to occur.The site will not be sold. The matter will be reconsidered. In the meantime, Rous will get on with our job of securing additional water by 2024 and continuing to investigate all other viable water supply options for future years.The belated publication of the Ainsworth Cultural Heritage Report has no doubt been damaging to efforts to explain the Rous Council decision. It has allowed political opportunists to ignore reality and reduce a complex matter to a Trump like ‘Build the Dam’ slogan.But we need more than lies, dam lies and slogans.Keith WilliamsCouncillor Keith Williams

Letter To The Editor: Nan Nicholson on Patrick Healy and the dam
Letter To The Editor: Nan Nicholson on Patrick Healy and the dam

10 November 2021, 7:51 PM

This letter to the editor was sent in by Nan Nicholson.Read more about the issue: Patrick Healey leads independent team into council election campaignPatrick Healey, of the Lismore Independents team, claims to support Bundjalung heritage but also supports the Dunoon Dam which would destroy extremely important Aboriginal living heritage as well as burial sites that have been dated as pre-contact.Strangely, Patrick Healey doesn’t even mention by name the people who would be shattered by this desecration: the Widjabul Wia-bal people.He is of Aboriginal descent himself, and all the people on his team are either Indigenous (but not local) or are apparent supporters of Indigenous people.There are a few possible reasons for this stand:1. Patrick Healey's team holds local Widjabul Wia-bal people in contempt2. they hope that the Widjabul Wia-bal people will not notice this betrayal.3. they have been told that the sites are somehow safe. This is what Patrick Healey claimed in a FB reply but when challenged to supply evidence of this claim he deleted it. Here is the link to the (redacted) Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment released by Rous. https://rous.nsw.gov.au/page.asp?f=RES-UZW-46-31-12   It shows that the burial sites and other important cultural sites would indeed be destroyed by the dam.Please Patrick, be true to your people and renounce this cruel support for a project that would damage them so badly.Keep the rest of your policies but let go of this one that diminishes you and all of your team as well as the Widjabul Wia-bal people.Claiming that you don't have to decide because of the newly announced CSIRO investigation does not absolve you of responsibility to stick up for your people. You need to show where you stand right now and support Indigenous citizens.

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