Council to crack down on derelict buildings

Keira MP Ryan Park at the old Howzat cricket grounds. He is campaigning for greater powers to crack down on owners of derelict buildings. Picture: ADAM McLEANOwners of ugly, dangerous or derelict buildings have been put on notice with plans to give councils greater powers to deal with the neglected structures.

Wollongong City Council has joined a campaign by Keira MP Ryan Park for greater powers to crack down on owners of dilapidated buildings to rid the city of unkempt eyesores.

Mr Park wants laws to give councils the power to enter premises and clean them up, and send the bill to the owners.

‘‘At the moment they’ve essentially got powers only when a building is extremely unsafe or there are health and safety issues with a particular building,’’ he said.

‘‘The council doesn’t have the powers to get in there and clean it up, from an amenity perspective, or simply tidy it up and charge it back to the owners.

‘‘And that’s what they really need to do because the reality is these buildings – some of which have very large sites and have been left derelict for many, many years – have a negative impact on the local [community].’’

Mr Park said homeowners and small-business owners in the areas surrounding run-down sites were suffering the most, with the eyesores detracting from the general amenity of the neighbourhood.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery will formally take the motion to the Local Government and Shires Association of NSW annual conference on October 28.

Mr Park hoped raising the matter at the conference would force the state government to act on the issue.

If the push for greater powers is successful, the government would be likely to introduce the legislation later this year as a part of the NSW planning review.

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Popular culture inspires archery revival

Alicia Dale, 15, was inspired by Katniss Everdeen, the lead character in The Hunger Games trilogy, to try her hand at archery. Picture: MELANIE RUSSELLMount Keira is a long way from Sherwood Forest but Robin Hood would be proud of the increasing number of Illawarra merry men and women taking up archery.

Olympic spirit and The Hunger Games books and movie have reignited interest in the ancient art, so much so that would-be archers now have to join a waiting list for beginners’ classes at the Mount Keira range.

Illawarra Archers president John Chaplin said the club held beginners’ classes on Saturday mornings, but had had to put on additional Sunday morning classes to try to keep up with demand.

‘‘There’s certainly been a significant increase in interest, especially in the six months leading up to the London Olympic Games,’’ he said.

‘‘The popularity of The Hunger Games, which features archery, has also caused the renewed interest.

‘‘Of course this happens whenever archery is in the limelight – when Russell Crowe’s movie Robin Hood came out in 2010 there was a spike in interest too.’’

Fifteen-year-old Alicia Dale, of Oak Flats, recently did a beginners course after reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy.

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Asbestos site ‘too close’ to railway station

The dump site at Port Kembla. Picture: MELANIE RUSSELLUnion officials have raised concerns that soil shipped from Barangaroo to Port Kembla and found to contain asbestos has been stockpiled too close to Port Kembla railway station.

However, Port Kembla Port Corporation (PKPC) chief executive officer Dom Figliomeni said air monitors showed that asbestos fibres had not been dispersed as a result of the stockpile.

The Environment Protection Authority also said any risk was ‘‘extremely low’’.

‘‘Within the 15,000 tonnes, the 25 pieces of asbestos, which were no bigger than about a mobile phone, were safely removed and disposed of according to the law,’’ Mr Figliomeni said.

‘‘So there isn’t any exposed asbestos on site and the air monitoring shows that there are no airborne fibres as a result.’’

The EPA has also directed PKPC to keep the material compacted, damp and unmoved.

Shipments to Port Kembla were quickly stopped after the first 15,000 tonnes of soil unloaded from the bulk carrier CSL Pacific last week were found to contain a small amount of the deadly substance.

The stockpile won’t grow unless the EPA grants developer Lend Lease a new resource recovery exemption.

The South Coast Labour Council yesterday endorsed bans on unloading or handling further shipments.

Maritime Union of Australia southern NSW branch secretary Garry Keane raised concerns about how the soil was stored.

‘‘Given the ineffectiveness of their screening process at the other end, we absolutely have to have a concern as to any other pollutants… that may have got through their screening processes,’’ he said.

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Gardening helps Richard fight flab

Richard Moran has lost 30 kilograms through healthy organic eating and exercise. He now runs workshops on eating healthily and growing the food to do it. Picture: GREG TOTMANGreen thumb Richard Moran has had some home-grown success fighting flab.

He has melted away 30 kilograms with hard work, a good attitude and his vital ingredient – food from his soil.

Mr Moran now spreads the word – and his seedlings – to show people struggling with their weight that organic food is the way to a happy mind and a slimmer waistline.

‘‘One day I woke up and decided ‘That’s it’. I was tipping the scales at 100 kilograms,’’ the Albion Park horticulturist said.

‘‘I thought ‘Gee, I’m a fat bastard’. The weight just kept piling on. I had health issues, but that’s just an excuse. It’s what you put in your mouth.’’

A random phone call from a nearby gym for potential customers came at just the right time.

‘‘It was one of those random things. I said ‘you have called me just on the right day – sign me up’.’’

Entering a gym full of ‘‘muscle-bound fitness freaks’’ was daunting for someone overweight but ready to change his life.

Mr Moran soon hooked up with a personal trainer and dropped to 70 kilograms.

‘‘I’ve always been into horticulture and growing my own vegetables, and the more weight I lost the more I researched food and healthy eating. I want to be fit and fabulous at 50, not fat and flabby at 50.’’

It seems Mr Moran is not alone; his classes at Wollongong Wholesale Nursery have been filling up fast with Illawarra residents wanting to cultivate their own healthy lifestyles.

‘‘I’ve been teaching for 12 months at Jamberoo and now we are about to start classes at the nursery. The first classes are booked out already,’’ Mr Moran said.

‘‘Classes will change each month. It’s all about hands-on practical stuff, citrus trees and vegies at home … all kinds of things, like growing stir-fry vegies; how quick and easy they can be.

‘‘I’ve got all this knowledge in my head so when a customer suggested I start teaching people I thought ‘why not’.’’

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Father devastated by theft of bonsai

Barry Nobbs (front) and his son, Greg, have had about $5000 worth of bonsai trees stolen. Picture: DAVE TEASEBarry Nobbs’s first bonsai was a stunning Port Jackson fig, bought with funds pooled by his four children for Father’s Day, and resplendent for the past 12 years on its own table in his Primbee backyard.

He read bonsai books until he knew all its secrets – when to feed and water; how to strip the leaves, prune the foliage and trim the roots once a year so the tree would stay small but fulsome.

He nurtured it all those years, not knowing that the care and attention would one day end with theft, that the fussed-over little tree would just vanish.

The fig was one of an estimated 25 bonsai taken from Mr Nobbs’s collection of about 300 on Sunday night.

The stolen trees were mostly figs, popular for their wildly gnarled, exposed roots. There were also at least two junipers, a pine, a crepe myrtle and an exquisite crab apple that was in full bloom and capable of producing tiny, edible apples.

‘‘It was just the fascination,’’ Mr Nobbs said, holding his fingers a few centimetres from his thumb.

‘‘You buy them that big and then you watch them grow. I’m devastated.’’

Mr Nobbs and his wife, Marie, believe a number of thieves

parked a car near their back fence and passed the hefty potted trees to one another.

They fear the theft was provoked by their recent advertisement, using a sign near the property, that trees were for sale. At 72, retired plasterer Mr Nobbs had hoped to start reducing the time he spent on the trees’ upkeep, but he said he would never have parted with that first special fig. That tree would never have been sold.

Police are keen to hear from anyone with further information about the incident.

They can contacted via Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Love locks to be removed

Tourists check out the many padlocks attached to the railings on the southern side of the Sea Cliff Bridge at Clifton. The locks – symbols of the permanency of relationships – are corroding the bridge. Picture: KIRK GILMOUROwners of love locks on Sea Cliff Bridge have two weeks to remove them before authorities bring out the bolt cutters.

Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) southern regional manager Bradley Turner said the locks – usually regular padlocks engraved and left on landmarks to symbolise the permanency of relationships – were corroding and rusting the bridge and interfering with its maintenance.

‘‘The padlocks cause safety and maintenance issues on this iconic bridge,’’ he said.

‘‘While we appreciate the emotional tie people may have to these padlocks, we need to remove them.’’

Locks will be removed from the bridge on September 10, but will remain available for collection from the RMS works centre at 21 York Place, Russell Vale, until October 31.

RMS offered advance warning of its plans after Wollongong City Council removed locks on Mount Keira lookout in April without notice, prompting complaints.

Council later invited owners to collect the locks and about 30 out of 300-400 were claimed.

A council spokesman said the remainder had recently been recycled.

Both council and the RMS are investigating an alternative to the bridge and the lookout, including a purpose-built structure for love locks.

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Inter-town baskets

A new inter-town basketball competition known as the Camagong Basketball Challenge will be played this summer allowing players to represent Mudgee at the next level.

Organised between the basketball associations of Mudgee, Narromine, Gilgandra and Dubbo, the competition will see juniors, women and men play for their towns.

The decision to begin a district competition follows the successful social day of competition held at Narromine a few weeks ago.

The Camagong Challenge will be open to teams in the under 12s, under 14s, under 16s and under 18s, as well as the seniors.

Associations are able to enter two teams in any of the divisions if their numbers allow.

The proposed date for the start of the competition is Sunday, October 21 for the juniors and Sunday, November 4 for the seniors.

The competitions will run on a monthly basis on alternate days to allow associations the opportunity to fill full teams.

The grand finals for juniors and seniors will be held on Sunday, March 24.

Mudgee Basketball Association president Geoff Robinson said this would be the first competition of this format to be held since the now defunct Macquarie Conference series was held several years ago.

“The aim of the competition is to promote basketball at the grass roots level and give junior players especially, a higher standard of basketball than their local competitions,” Robinson said. “It’s also a pathway to higher representation.”

Robinson said the Camagong name for the competition was based on the rivers that run through the towns.

“Ca” for the Castlereagh River in Gilgandra, “Ma” for the Macquarie River in Dubbo and Narromine, and “Gong” the ending of Cudgegong River in Mudgee.

If teams would like to nominate it will cost them $50 a team and the closing date for nominations will be Friday, September 21.

Robinson said Mudgee is planning to enter teams in all age groups and he is calling on all players to become involved.

“Junior players are especially invited to make themselves available even if they are not currently playing, or have not played before, as training will be scheduled for all teams,” Robinson said.

NEW COMPETITION: Players like Brooke Colley will be able to represent Mudgee in a new summer basketball competition organised between Mudgee, Narromine, Gilgandra and Dubbo basketball associations. Photo: SANDY SMITH 190911ssbasketball7003

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Tip Top drivers stand to ‘lose hundreds’

Tip Top contractor and union delegate Brett Clarke (front) with TWU organiser Lee Lawler and drivers and families at the Oak Flats Tip Top depot. Picture: DAVE TEASETip Top bakery drivers in the Illawarra say they will lose hundreds of dollars a week under a proposal to restructure the company.

At the end of their shifts yesterday, the 10 Illawarra-based drivers drove their vans to the company’s Oak Flats office to protest against plans to restructure runs and cut pay by 30 per cent.

A similar protest was held in Sydney where 50 trucks from the company’s Emu Plains and Chullora depots drove to the company’s head offices in North Ryde.

Transport Workers Union senior official Lee Lawler said Tip Top had given its drivers what amounted to an ultimatum.

‘‘When the company produced the new contracts, the drivers were told they had five days to sign an expression of interest, and if they didn’t sign it they’d have no job,’’ Mr Lawler said.

‘‘There’s no redundancy involved in any of this, it’s simply 90 days’ notice and you’ve got no job.’’

Mr Lawler said the TWU members were owner-drivers, who had to pay their business expenses out of the money they received, which would become much harder with a 30per cent pay cut.

He said drivers stood to lose between $500 and $1700 a week.

TWU NSW assistant secretary Richard Olsen said runs had been expanded or restructured resulting in more work, more hours and less pay.

A Tip Top spokesman said the company was ‘‘disappointed’’ with yesterday’s action by the union.

‘‘Tip Top greatly values the service provided by its distributors and it is with regret that a proportion of Tip Top distributors will be adversely impacted by these changes,’’ the spokesman said.

He said the restructure was part of an effort to remain a viable business in the face of a challenging market that included fewer customer drops.

The company was standardising contracts to ensure conditions were commercial and equitable for all distributors, he said.

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Peacekeeper’s harrowing experience

Former Australian Army soldier Matina Jewell will speak in Wollongong on Friday. Matina Jewell was supposed to be on leave in Egypt when she slammed into a bullet-proof windscreen, broke her back in five places and learnt first-hand how the United Nations’ medical evacuation process could be brought undone amid the uncertainties of war.

It was July 2006 and Mrs Jewell had been working as a peacekeeper at a UN patrol base on the border of Israel and Lebanon when war broke out.

It took her two days to lead a convoy from the base to UN headquarters in Tyre, Lebanon – usually a two-hour journey.

Her cars were within 15 minutes of their destination, with an Israeli bombing run imminent and frightened civilians clogging the roads, when her driver braked suddenly, sending her into the windscreen.

‘‘The two closest hospitals had been damaged by Israeli fighter jets,’’ said Mrs Jewell, who had been rostered to leave the patrol base by the time the war hit but couldn’t because it was too dangerous.

‘‘I was left on a tiled floor for two days while the UN tried to come up with an alternative.

‘‘I was without any morphine. It was extremely painful. As I started to lose feeling and sensation in my extremities, I tried to block out those thoughts of whether I would be able to walk [and] what was going to happen to my career … ’’

Mrs Jewell, who was retired from the Australian Army in May 2009 as a result of her injuries and now lives in country Victoria, will speak at the Wollongong Legacy business and community luncheon on Friday in support of the Wollongong Legacy Group.

Her time working for the UN followed four earlier overseas operational missions, including two periods of active service aboard HMAS Kanimbla.

In the early stages of the war on terror, she was involved in boarding ships smuggling contraband.

She was also required to ‘‘fast rope’’ out of helicopters onto docks to secure HMAS Kanimbla’s docking locations.

Since retiring, she has carved out a career as a leadership and inspirational speaker, and an author (Caught in the Crossfire) and has been made a member of the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council, providing advice to the government on defence issues.

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Port row fires up council meeting

Community campaigner Paul Matters, who interrupted last night’s Wollongong council meeting. Fiery interjections from the public gallery prompted Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery to temporarily suspend proceedings at last night’s Wollongong City Council meeting.

Former South Coast Labour Council representative and community campaigner Paul Matters repeatedly refused Cr Bradbery’s requests for silence while the council was discussing the privatisation of Port Kembla port.

Independent councillor Vicki Curran had called on fellow councillors to support urgent reconsideration of the issue, asking for a meeting with representatives from Port Botany and Newcastle ports to develop a strategy to oppose the privatisation; a meeting between the council and the state government to express people’s concerns; and for the council to hold a referendum-style poll that would survey the thoughts of every Wollongong resident.

‘‘There was no mandate for this, it was never brought to the people of Wollongong before the [2011] election,’’ Cr Curran said in support of the poll.

Labor councillor David Brown agreed with all of Cr Curran’s points except the poll, because of its high cost, expected to be up to $600,000.

He instead called for the council to invite Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister for the Illawarra Greg Pearce to a public meeting to explain the rationale for privatising the port.

However, Cr Brown’s speech drew the ire of Mr Matters, who repeatedly heckled Cr Brown from the public gallery.

Mr Matters continued his fiery retorts when Liberal councillor Michelle Blicavs stood to speak in favour of the privatisation, prompting Cr Bradbery to declare his conduct disorderly.

Cr Bradbery then suspended the meeting for 15 minutes, with councillors withdrawing to an adjoining room while council staff tried to calm the situation.

Once debate resumed, Cr Blicavs was joined by only fellow Liberal councillor Bede Crasnich in speaking comprehensively in favour of the privatisation.

Liberal councillors Leigh Colacino and John Dorahy broke ranks with their hard-line party position, both saying they agreed with the sentiment from councillors Curran and Brown.

However, each said the city needed to be realistic.

‘‘I think privatisation of the port is a good idea. However, I think it’s being done in the wrong way,’’ Cr Colacino said.

Cr Dorahy said: ‘‘We need to look at the overall benefit for the community and that’s about getting jobs. I think those jobs will come with leasing the port.’’

The duo eventually joined councillors Crasnich and Blicavs in voting against the motion.

Cr Bradbery spoke against the privatisation, saying he had seen too many public entities sold off to the highest private bidder.

‘‘The port is an asset that belongs to the people of NSW, and more importantly, to the people of this city,’’ he said.

‘‘There isn’t a business case for this. From my perspective this whole thing needs to be re-


The council resolved to abandon the poll, however it will invite Mr O’Farrell and Mr Pearce to answer the community’s concerns at a public meeting.

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