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Clarence Valley News

Smoke alarm proposal fires up councillors

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White smoke alarm in wooden room
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Smoke alarm proposal fires up councillors

 

By Tim Howard

Good intentions have not been enough to get local support for stronger legislation to install and maintain smoke alarms in manufactured homes and caravans.

At the latest Clarence Valley Council meeting Cr Alison Whaites brought forward a notice of motion calling for the NSW Government to beef up planning laws to ensure relocatable home style residential development that targets seniors, places responsibility for annual testing and maintenance of smoke alarms with the complex management and not the individual unit owner.

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Cr Whaites NOM also included submitting a similar motion to the 2023 Local Government Annual Conference and seeking the support of the Member for Clarence Richie Williamson in the matter.

The NOM was in some regards inspired by the recent death in Yamba of an elderly woman when her home burnt down.

In answering question on her motion, Cr Whaites outlined the costs associated with installing and maintaining smoke alarms.

“The one that you actually get for a residential tenancy through real estate is $109 a year and they do the 10-year smoke alarm with the 10-year smoke alarm battery as well,” she said.

“They also go annually to check and they also check between tenancies so the tenant leads they go check it as well and it’s a one cost.”

She said in a two-storey home, where an extra alarm would be installed attracted the same $109 fee.

She added hardwiring an alarm using an electrician was a different thing.

During debate councillors praised Cr Whaites for bringing the NOM to the meeting, but several were concerned there could be unexpected consequences from the proposal.

White smoke detector in wooden room

Good intentions have not been enough to get local support for stronger legislation to install and maintain smoke alarms in manufactured homes and caravans.

Speaking to her motion, Cr Whaites legislation to include make smoke alarms mandatory in manufactured home estates was needed so NSW could catch up with other states like South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, where from 2027 all homes must have a smoke alarm.

“As you can see in NSW. All you need is a $10 battery and a $10 smoke alarm from Bunnings,” she said.

“That’s all we need for our state. So I do see there is a big gap in this.”

But Cr Peter Johnstone worried the legislation would curtail some people’s rights.

“This motion would give some of the same responsibilities and rights to the operator of the community, as the person who owns the land’s investor,” he said.

“It’s the same as the person who owns the land, the land is called home by a renter. To me, that’s a step too far.”

Cr Karen Toms said this sort of legislation “reactionary” and was an attempt to take “try and change law to take someone’s responsibility away and make somebody else responsible for what they should be responsible for.”

Cr Pickering also argued against the need for change and pointed out elderly residents could take advantage of offers from NSW Fire and Rescue and the Rural Fire Service who were happy to install and check up on fire alarms for private citizens if asked.

“There are many many resources to check these smoke alarms,” he said.

“If we take the onus off the homeowner we’re adding more red tape onto business it’s another it’ll be another legislative requirement. It will have to be reported on.”

Cr Bill Day was surprised at the fuss and supported the motion.

“There’s no harm in this motion. None at all,” he said. “There is significant potential benefit.

“Other states have passed similar legislation. There’s no reason why NSW shouldn’t catch up.”

Cr Debrah Novak sought to amend the motion to have it workshopped by councils and return at a later date, but this was defeated.

Cr Whaites, in her reply, said her NOM was not a reaction to the death of the woman in Yamba, but as a result of her involvement in the real estate industry since 2009.

“It’s not a reaction. It was just an example of what can actually happen in one of these estates,” she said.

“Thank goodness it didn’t go on to the next one and then the next one, the next one and burn them all down.

“I don’t understand why the councillors don’t trust me on this. Like I said I’ve been doing for a long time. And I know that legislation back the front.

“Yes, we’re responsible for our own lives but at the end of the day, we’re here to support our community and our age community like Cr Novak has stated.”

Crs Whaites, Novak, Day and Jeff Smith voted for the motion, but the other five were against and it was lost.

 

For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

Lawrence Loves… the big day approaches

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Lawrence Ferry Lantern Lawerence Loves...
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Lawrence Loves… the big day approaches

 

Lawrence Community Fundraising Inc. invites Clarence Valley residents to enjoy a free a community arts festival in Lawrence, this Saturday 25th May.

LCF Inc President, Jenna Thompson said, “Lawrence Loves… is a way of shining a light on aspects of village life that contribute to its identity. We’re focusing on three tried and tested ways of bringing people together: through food, performing arts and ceremony.”

The project is funded by the Yulgilbar Foundation and has comprised a series of free arts and craft workshops which culminate in a one-day festival.

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Following several craft workshops at Lawrence Public and Pre-schools, a ‘school’ of brightly painted papier maché fish will adorn the festival site, while students will be showing off their lantern designs during the parade after sunset.

There will be live music all afternoon and evening thanks to a partnership with local curators Original Sound Lounge, plus a performance from the Maclean Scottish Town Dance Troupe. A Welcome To Country ceremony will take place at 3pm sharp.

Activities on the day have a family focus and include ‘Pat a Paca’ sessions with Wahgungurry Alpacas, a circus playspace and giant wooden games. Visitors will be able to view displays and interact with members of Lawrence Historical Society, Lawrence Gardening Club, Lawrence Fishing Club and Lawrence Community Fundraising Inc. And if you’re feeling creative, sign up for the Wattle Ball and/or Lantern Making Workshops on the day.

Hot food will be served by the Lawrence General Store food truck, a bush tucker barbecue hosted by The Hungry Gooris and an RFS sausage barbecue, with sweet treats offered by the Lawrence Public School P&C and I-Scream.

The event runs from 2pm to 9pm with the lantern parade at 6pm. For anyone interested in learning the art of scone making, while enjoying a good yarn, join in ‘Sconversations’ with Maclean CWA at the Lawrence Hall from 10am on Saturday morning.

Attendees are advised to bring chair or picnic blanket and something warm to wear after dark for the lantern parade.

Head to lawrencecommunityfundraising.com.au for detailed event information.

 

For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

Mayor and MP continue fight for ferry

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The Member for Clarence Richie Williamson in NSW Parliament with petitions containing 6000 signatures, to save the Ulmarra Ferry, which will be decommissioned on June 10.
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Mayor and MP continue fight for ferry

 

By Tim Howard

The NSW Government needs to overturn its decision to decommission the Ulmarra Ferry says Clarence Valley mayor Peter Johnstone.

Cr Johnstone said a motion urging the government to abandon its plan to end the 130-year-old service on June 10 would come to next week’s Clarence Valley Council.

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Cr Johnstone also revealed the full letter he received from the NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Jenny Aitchison, giving her reasons for the closure.

The mayor said he’d met the minister shortly before the announcement of the closure was released.

“She was really well informed about the closure, so it was obviously something that had been in the works for a long time,” he said.

“Her arguments were very similar to those presented by Transport for NSW when it announced the ferry would be decommissioned.

Cr Johnstone said it was very disappointing the needs of a local community had been ignored, a view also shared by Clarence MP Richie Williamson.

The Member for Clarence Richie Williamson in NSW Parliament with petitions containing 6000 signatures, to save the Ulmarra Ferry, which will be decommissioned on June 10.

The Member for Clarence Richie Williamson in NSW Parliament with petitions containing 6000 signatures, to save the Ulmarra Ferry, which will be decommissioned on June 10.

Last week Mr Williamson took a petition signed by 6000 Clarence residents against the NSW Government’s shocking choice to sink the Ulmarra to Southgate ferry service into NSW Parliament.

He said the arguments in the petition should be enough for the government to reverse the decision, told the NSW Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

“When the Government drove the last nail into the coffin by axing the Ulmarra Ferry service that had served the community for 100 years, I can only imagine the letdown, the disappointment, the disengagement and the sheer disbelief, just to save a few dollars, whilst those in the metropolitan area continue to have their transport subsidised by the public purse,” Mr Williamson said.

He revealed that in addition to the 6000-strong signature petition, he had received countless written messages from locals – all against Labor’s cost cutting.

These messages included statement like these.

“Our business operates a logging and sawmilling business in the Ulmarra area, and this ferry service is absolutely essential for us to be able to continue with our business,” a local family firm wrote.

A man called Bill wrote “In these times of escalating costs and high petrol prices, we deserve a trip that now takes us four kilometres. That is compared to the 62 kilometres the new trip would take.”

“Losing this vital piece of infrastructure will destroy our tiny community,” Shelley wrote.

Bobbie wrote, “I write in support of your petition, Mr Williamson. It is unfair that regional residents have to pay just to get to work—an extra 64 kilometres for me in my round trip.”

Mr Williamson said he was surprised at government boasts that the Labor Party represents the bush and the country.

“Where I come from, that is not the community sentiment,” he said.

“They are disappointed in the decision that has taken place and hurt by the lack of community consultation. They are urging the Minister, as I am, to reconsider her decision,” Mr Williamson said.

“The community of Ulmarra and Southgate feel bitterly let down by the Government.”

 

For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

Spider woman’s book lifts lid on care risks

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Jenna Thompson with her book jumping spider guide
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Spider woman’s book lifts lid on care risks

 

By Tim Howard

Jenna Thompson has always had a soft spot for spiders.

When she and her partner Dennis Mavridis moved houses in Maclean, before they finally settled at the property near Lawrence, she recalls packing up the huntsman that had taken residence with them and moving it into their new home.

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But the former school teacher and journalist, who does communications for the NSW Department of Primary Industries, took this love of arachnids to a new level when she discovered jumping spiders.

These spiders – think of the stunning, if tiny, dancing peacock spiders – are the new darlings of the micro-pet world.

And Jenna, who stumbled across one a couple of years ago at her home and helped it raise 32 babies, has put everything she learned from that experience into a 64-page self-published booklet, Australian Jumping Spider Care Guide.

Asked to explain how these spiders have broken down the instinctive fear spiders bring out in most people, Jenna said it came down to the “cuteness factor”.

“These spiders have the big, forward-facing eyes. They’re fuzzy, they almost look like teddy bears,” she said.

“I’ve seen people online call them spider puppies, or web puppies because they do really break down that scary spider vibe.

“And they’re very smart. They sort of work out pretty quickly, that big person over there isn’t going to eat me.”

Jenna cannot recall how the fascination with this species of spider started, but she thinks it was around the time that Jürgen Otto’s stunning pictures of peacock spiders started making headlines.

She said she had been vaguely aware of their existence due to some posts on Facebook, but a chance discovery of an incapacitated female jumping spider in her backyard two years ago changed her focus.

“I wasn’t even looking for her to be honest,” Jenna said.

“I knew I wanted to keep one for a couple of weeks to get the feel of them and understand them a bit more. Just out of curiosity.”

Luckily for her new charge Jenna had just finished caring for some green tree frog froglets and had a supply of live little crickets which she tried out as a jumping spider food source.

“She was a big fan of those crickets,” Jenna said. “She went from struggling to turning things around very quickly.’

Jumping Spider Care Guide

The forward facing eyes, the shaggy coat. They’re just some of the characteristics of the jumping spider that are making them the new darlings of the pet world.

But Jenna was in for lot more surprises, 32 in all, beginning just a week later.

“She was pregnant, so within less than a week of having her she went straight into nesting and then produced 32 offspring a couple of months later,” Jenna said.

Jenna spotted an opportunity to gather more information about this species.

“I just wanted to keep her in captivity, understand how she behaves, how she reacts to things and then let her go again,” Jenna said.

“With the surprise babies, I sort of took it on the chin and went cool, this is a great opportunity to learn more about them from birth.”

But even basic details like, how long should I wait until they come out of the nest, were hard to come by, even online groups selling spiders and products to care for them.

“I thought it was strange that, for people who are breeding and selling them, they couldn’t really tell me how long it was going to take before they hatched,” she said.

So, Jenna decided it was time to fill in the blanks and began to record the data the hatchlings provided.

It wasn’t an easy task, looking after animals about the size of a pinhead.

“I almost went blind,” Jenna said.

“But I found there’s so much data to come from them and there were patterns in that data.”

Unfortunately, Jenna found people with a commercial interest in the spiders had attitudes ranging from indifferent to hostile.

“There was really no interest in that information,” she said. “I found I was pretty much alone in actually recording this kind of data, at least within the hobby community.”

Instead, Jenna went down the scientific route and found scientists looking at the jumping spiders were also amazed by what they were finding out about these tiny creatures.

“I started looking at scientific papers, reaching out to the scientific community and just got really into it,” Jenna said.

“One study, for example, found that they actually have an REM sort of sleep just like us.”

But it’s what the spiders do when they’re awake and hunting for a meal that really has scientists on the edge of their seats.

Jenna said she’s been in contact with New Zealand scientist Dr Ximena Nelson, who has just received a A$1million grant to study the hunting tactics of Portia jumping spiders.

“It’s very similar to the way a lion hunts in that it assesses the situation it compares the risks and the rewards which isn’t invertebrate behaviour,” Jenna said.

Jumping Spiders Care Guide

Photographer Tom Wainwright has been hard at work tracking down jumping spiders in the Northern Rivers area. He’s captured some of the features that are turning them into sought after pets.

Prof Nelson, while speaking to the press last month, said the research had ramifications for humans.

She said the new research would test whether planning is possible, not only in mammals and birds with large brains, but also in small animals with tiny brains such as Portia, which has a brain with less than 1 million times fewer neurones than a human brain.

“Our findings will be significant because they could lead to the development of algorithms that enable the creation of artificial planning systems in machines with severe power constraints, such as those used on space missions. This may have implications for artificial intelligence,” Prof Nelson said.

Jenna said she was thrilled that Prof Nelson not only read her book but provided positive feedback and advice for any further editions.

“She also shared some fascinating information about population decline for the species and the importance of returning spiders to the exact location they were found after any studies are completed,” Jenna said.

Jenna said she had come to a similar conclusion after her contact with the species.

She said she had put the spider she cared for into a clear acrylic container which is commonly marketed and sold as a standard jumping spider enclosure.

She said the spider was happy to nest in the container for two months while she hatched her babies, but after that she exhibited some troubling behaviour.

“Within a day or two of that spider emerging from the nest, she began obsessively pacing around the top of her enclosure. To me, it didn’t look normal, she didn’t look happy.”

“That’s when I started to realise she’s actually a really smart spider, and to put her in something so tiny and understimulating was totally inappropriate for her.”

So how big an area do jumping spiders need?

As the name suggests, they’re active creatures and one that lived in the kitchen at her workplace, the old Agricultural Research Station at Trenayr near Grafton, moved around the whole room seeking food and mates.

It’s no surprise that when Jenna put those views in the spider community it generated opposition.

“There was a real lack of information out there, accurate information,” she said.

“I have my reservations about the enclosures. I don’t think they are appropriate.

“People were constantly asking questions, good questions, like, why is my spider behaving this way or what’s the best spider to start with?

“Those questions were often answered by the online community, but when it came to enclosures and behaviour, the answers given were often wrong.

“Some of the answers simply directed you to go and buy a product that doesn’t have any consideration for the welfare of the spider.

Jenna Thompson with her book jumping spider guide

Clarence Valley woman Jenna Thompson has just written an informative booklet on how to care for the latest craze in micro-pets, jumping spiders. It’s available online.

It’s something Jenna has taken to heart and as much as she enjoys having spiders around, she won’t be keeping any in tiny enclosures.

“I prefer to see them in the wild, in their natural habitat,” Jenna said.

“Though I know the scientists I’ve spoken to really struggle with the ethics of containing these spiders in those little cages while they study them.”“But they and I both realise it’s for a purpose, it’s the most efficient way to view them in a scientific context, and it’s not for their entire lives.”

“For me the issue is, if you’re going to have them as a pet, it’s not good enough to just stick them in a small cage on a bookshelf with cute little trinkets inside that appeal to you and not the spider.”

Jenna says this book could be the start of something more.

“It’s still early days in unlocking the potential of these spiders, but I’m already thinking about how to build upon and expand this guide as more information is discovered about them,” Jenna said.

Already she’s enlisted the macro-photographic skills of photographer Tom Wainwright to capture close up images of local spiders.

“I’ve given Tommy a bingo card of spiders I would like photographed and he’s done a great job of finding them and sending me the photos,” she said.

“His beautiful photos will definitely compliment the next edition.”

To get a copy of the book Jenna has set up a web page.

 

For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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