The entire state of New South Wales has been declared in drought due to “unusually dry and warm” conditions throughout June, July and August.
The Department of Primary Industries said 61 per cent of NSW is in drought or intense drought, while the rest is drought affected.
Less than 10 millimetres of rain have been recorded over the past month in Western, North West and Central NSW. “This is tough, there isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” said Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair.
These unfriendly conditions are expected to continue. “The forecast suggests an increase of drier than normal conditions for the next three months across the majority of NSW.”
A number of towns have been placed under water restrictions, limiting residents’ ability to wash clothes and shower.
BOM meteorologist Jane Golding said all parts of NSW usually receive some rain throughout the winter months, but this year is different. “It is unusually dry and also unusually warm which exacerbates the problems, so the warm temperatures dry out the soils even more.”
The state government has announced over $1 billion in drought relief measures, including waivers on farming costs, animal welfare support and transport subsidies. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also announced $12,000 grants for families affected by drought.
The plan to build thousands of houses in Marrickville’s industrial land may still proceed despite the NSW government’s handover of planning control to local councils.
The Inner-West Council and the City of Canterbury Bankstown are now in charge of the strategic planning along the Bankstown rail line, which is set to be converted to a higher-frequency metro rail service by 2024. This effectively derailed the proposal from property giant Mirvac for a $1.3 billion apartment project in the zone, covering 20 buildings ranging from two- to 28-storey height, over 2,600 residential units and 17,300 square metres of new commercial and retail space.
“The community will develop the plans, where the buildings will go, where the new homes will go, where the new parks will be,” said Planning Minister Anthony Roberts.
Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne welcomed the return of planning powers to the local councils. “We’ve fought long and hard to put an end to developer-driven planning proposals in this corridor, and today we are thrilled to take back control of planning for Sydenham, Marrickville and Dulwich
Hill,” said Byrne.
“Today’s decision puts an end to Mirvac’s ridiculous proposal… Our new plans will be developed by the community, not multinational developers, because this is Marrickville, not Mirvac-ville.”
However, Toby Long, general manager for NSW residential development at Mirvac said the company will not give up on the project. “We are looking at many months of work ahead before the proposal will be ready, but we take a long view and we are prepared to take our time to get it right,” said Long.
The rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Port Macquarie is reaching its final stage, with 98 per cent of households and businesses now able to use the service.
The NBN, whose rollout in the area began in February 2017, is now available to more than 38,900 homes and businesses in Port Macquarie. The expansion process had received backlash from the community due to the destruction of footpaths and public property in Port Macquarie CBD during the installation.
“With our aim to help bridge the digital divide and see all homes and businesses have access to fast broadband, we are proud today to announce the rollout of the NBN access network in Port Macquarie is on the home stretch,” said Amber Dornbusch, head of NBN for NSW and ACT.
NBN national spokesperson Philippa Perry said the NBN network will soon be available for all homes and businesses in regional Australia. “We have seen a massive improvement in regional internet access, more competition, faster speeds and in some cases giving internet access to some Australians for the first time ever,” Perry said.
The decline in youth crime in New South Wales may be related to the widespread use of social media and video streaming services, a research by the Australian National University (ANU) has found.
The ANU compared the NSW Police data of crime rates for people aged 10 to 21 born in 1984 and those born in 1994. It discovered that the proportion of the population who had come into contact with the criminal justice system had halved. Car theft was down 59 percent, while property theft and drunk-driving dropped by 59 and 49 percent respectively. Drug offending also fell 22 percent.
Criminologist Jason Payne said the decline may be attributed to changes in the way young people spend their time.
“We now have kids who are engaging much more often online, using mobile and other portable devices in the home and spending less time out on the street,” said Payne.
“An increased use of home entertainment and social media is also reducing opportunities for traditional forms of crime.”
However, Payne warned that the changing habits might lead to new forms of crime. “Those native to social media may explore antisocial and criminal behaviours online which at present attract far less scrutiny from parents and authorities.”
The planned freeway extension linking Sydney and Wollongong has been priced at $18 billion, about three times as much as the rail alternative.
Government documents seen by the ABC and Fairfax reveal that the F6 toll road’s 32-kilometre extension is also estimated to cost $1 billion more than WestConnex.
The toll road would extend from St Peters to Waterfall through the Royal National Park. The construction costs are estimated at $14.5 billion, while operation and maintenance costs are at $3.5 billion.
Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said the cost for the F6 is still tentative. “We’re still in the very early stages, so no decision has been made regarding the final alignment,” Pavey said. “There is no decision on final cost.”
NSW Greens transport spokesperson Mehreen Fahruqi described the $18 billion price as “madness”.
“$18 billion of taxpayer’s money for yet another toll road, potentially through a National Park, is just obscene.”
The New South Wales government has announced its plans to build a new hospital, three new Sydney motorways, double-deckers and additional bus services, just a week before the state budget arrives.
Next week’s budget will allocate a billion-dollar package as planning money for three new motorways. $21 million will be allocated for the M12, whereas the F6 Motorway and the M9 Outer Orbital will receive $15 million and $2.09 million respectively.
“We want every community to be a vibrant community – and a local roads project can make a world of difference,” Perrottet said. “Some of these will be the most important links in greater Western Sydney for getting home and doing business.”
Also in the budget is a $534 million allocation to buy a site in Tweed and build a 350-bed hospital with extra cardiac and cancer services. “We believe that whether you live in the north shore of Sydney or northern New South Wales, every community deserves access to high quality health care,” said Treasurer Dominic Perottet. The hospital is expected to be built after 5 years.
Finally, the budget also aims to purchase 176 new buses. 134 of them are to replace aging fleets, while the rest is to boost the overall bus numbers. Six of these new buses will be double-deckers, set to replace bendy buses. “It’s a far better way in terms of road space to better utilise the roads, the bus commuting,” said Transport Minister Andrew Constance. There will also be over 3,300 new services for metropolitan Sydney, western Sydney, the Hills District and south west Sydney.
An air pollution alert has been issued for Sydney residents as ozone levels continue to rise beyond government standards.
New South Wales Health said the ozone excess, which causes “poor” air quality on Tuesday, could affect people with respiratory conditions.
Ozone is a pungent gas resulting from chemical reactions between atmospheric gases and nitrogen oxides from car-vehicle exhausts, which can cause chest pain, coughing and throat irritation when inhaled. Hot weathers could exacerbate ozone pollution levels, a statement by NSW Health said.
Dr Ben Scalley, Director of Environmental Health Branch at NSW Health said parents are advised to keep watch on their children when ozone levels are high.
“Ozone levels are higher outdoors than indoors, so parents should limit the time their children with asthma play outside as they are more susceptible to the effects of ozone pollution,” said Scalley.
Scalley reminded that people should remain alert to the link between high temperatures and ozone pollution.
For more information on local air quality forecast and hourly air quality updates, visit the Office of Environment and Heritage website: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/index.htm
For more information about air pollution and health, visit the NSW Health website: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/default.aspx
Five greyhounds have been killed since last week, when NSW Premier Mike Baird backtracked on his decision to ban the racing.
Baird and deputy premier Troy Grant announced that a panel will report to the state government about reforming the sport and “providing the most stringent, safest racing environment to eliminate avoidable injury”.
Baird said that he and his government were “wrong” about the decision to close down the industry after three months stating that the ban was “the right thing to do”.
“I got it wrong, we got it wrong, the cabinet got it wrong and the government got it wrong,” Baird said.
Baird said his advisor on the industry closure, Dr John Keniry had said that “there is now a deep appetite for change, for reform in the industry… [the industry is] desperate to change.”
The decision to ban greyhound racing from July 1, 2017 was a result of special inquiry headed by Michael McHugh, which found that up to 68,000 greyhounds had been euthanised in the past 12 years due to slowness and incapability to continue competing.
Brenton Scott, chief executive of the NSW Greyhound Industry Racing Alliance said cases of track euthanasia “represents an extremely small 0.13 per cent of runner. However, the industry accepts that every possible step must be taken to avoid any track euthanasia going forward.”
Fairfax’s Sean Nicholls said the reversal is likely caused by oppositional media and industry campaign, as well as predictions that the Liberal Party might lose the November 12 Orange by-election.