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Ballina News

Answers sought after ‘Nightmare Trip’ to Thailand

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Answers sought after ‘Nightmare Trip’ to Thailand

By MARGARET DEKKER

They’re the well-travelled Ballina importers who’d waited 4-years for their ‘dream trip’ to Thailand to finally arrive; The opportunity for a little work sourcing jewellery and bronzes for their Smith Drive store ‘Summerland Antiques’ .. and a chance at last for lots of rest and relaxation in the ‘city of Gods.’

But from the word go, Bert and Marcia Elliott say their August 31 journey became the ‘trip from hell.’

“It all started when I went to organise Marcia’s and my trip to Thailand. I had over 800,000 frequent flyer points with my airline.  I’d been told that I had enough points for the 2 of us to go around the world business class but when I went to my travel agent, I could only book one ticket with the points and the other I had to pay for,” Bert Elliott explained.

The cap resulted in Bert paying more than $4000 he said, for his Business Class fare which he believes was available much cheaper, online.

“It’s a bl** dy con,” Bert Elliott told The Northern Rivers Times.

When it came to boarding, Bert said his requests for a wheelchair at both Sydney and Bangkok airports “because of my crook knees” were unheeded.

“If you know Bangkok Airport, it’s a fair walk to get to immigration and I could hardly walk,” he said.

To add insult to injury, once on board the plane, 80-year-old Bert was seated away from his wife, 77-year-old Marcia.

“I’ve flown 72-times to Europe and 71-times to Thailand and we’ve always been seated together.  And this was meant to be the first time we actually had a holiday there in Thailand and not just a work trip!”

Bert Elliott also claims he was short-changed on his hotel bookings.

“I had the name of an airline-backed hotel in Bangkok called the Berkeley which I could have got 14-days for $1,300.  The airline was charging well over $2000 for the same thing. You save all these points thinking you’ll get looked after, but you don’t,” Bert Elliott claimed.

Bert chose to use some of his 800,000 frequent flyer points to secure reservations with the Berkeley and Rydges Sydney Airport Hotels only to find his balance had dropped to 40,000 points once the bookings were made.

But the real, harrowing toll was still to come.

“After resting for 2 days, on the third day we had a meal .. and in a few hours, Marcia began vomiting.  She said she’d like to see a doctor.  Mam (friend) took us to the hospital where she went for an operation a few years before.  Big mistake! When we got there, they put Marcia in the Intensive Care ward and that’s when the sh*t happened,” Bert Elliott recalled.

High potassium foods affect Marcia Elliott’s heartrate.  Bert claims the hospital food served to Marcia was potassium-rich, including rockmelon, honeydew melon and tomatoes.

Bill told The Northern Rivers Times it felt like the system was “killing Marcia.”

“I tried to tell them that those foods were not good for her, but they gave her 3 blood transfusions. On the fifth day I demanded they get her out of ICU and into a room on her own,” he said.

“I finally had her in a room on her own and within 12 hours of feeding her low potassium food, her heartbeat was up around 60 pm.  While Marcia was in Intensive Care, they wouldn’t let her out of bed to go to the toilet and there were no bed pans or pads – very degrading for her and the stress on both of us was the worst we’ve ever had in our lives. She was on oxygen but was well enough to travel after 3 days so we contacted the airline to get on our flight back to Australia,” Bert Elliott said.

Bert claims a series of bungles and delays then followed in getting formal approval by a doctor for Marcia to fly, meaning the pair missed their initial flights home.  He said he was also unable to withdraw much-needed cash from a Thai bank and believes it was only after he got travel insurer NRMA involved, that the couple secured a flight from Bangkok to Singapore to connect to Sydney.  By now, the ordeal was entering its third week.

“But at the Bangkok Airport, guess what?  No ticket for me! Lucky for me there was a spare seat which I had to pay for at a cost of 4-thousand dollars,” Bert Elliott said.

Bert reported a ‘good flight’ back to Sydney and thought the couple’s travel-luck had at last improved.

“But when we got to Ballina, we had no bags. All Marcia’s and my medications were in the carry-on bags!” Bert said.

Three weeks on and the seasoned travellers are still coming to terms with their shock “nightmare trip.”

“This is the worst and most terrible trip you could dream of.  The stress was unbelievable,” Bert Elliott said.

Not to mention the total cost.  All up, Bert says he’s out of pocket $25,000 for the trouble.

“The stress .. we haven’t got over it yet.  Marcia is still recovering too.  I’m thinking about suing them, I’m serious,” Bert Elliott said.

The airline involved, which requested not to be named while a review is underway, is now “looking into Bert and Marcia Elliott’s booking experience.”

The Ballina travel agency, which handled Bert and Marcia’s ticketing, Frequent Flyer, seat, and wheelchair allocation requirements could be asked questions as well.

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BALLINA MP ANNOUNCES COMMUNITY FUNDING

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Tamara Smith - Community Building Partnership Progr
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BALLINA MP ANNOUNCES COMMUNITY FUNDING

 

Tamara Smith MP, Member for Ballina, today announced $300,000 in funding for a total of 14 projects to be delivered through the Community Building Partnership Program.

Local volunteer groups are the backbone of our community, Ms Smith said. “I am pleased that these groups can improve on their infrastructure and make life a little easier for their volunteers who do so much for our community.”

Ms Smith said the (Community Building Partnership Program) funds would deliver much-needed improvements to local facilities, including replacement of fencing and building a ramp at the Brunswick Heads branch of the Country Women’s Association, purchasing new equipment for OZfish to improve the health of the Richmond River, a kitchen upgrade for Fripp oval in Ballina, and better facilities for the disability therapy centre at Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Community Building Partnership Program.

Community Building Partnership Program projects

“This is exciting news for our community,” Ms Smith said. “This grassroots funding will directly help create a more resilient and inclusive local community with positive social, environmental, and recreational outcomes.

“I congratulate all the organisations that were successful in their applications and look forward to seeing how these projects make a real difference for people and the environment.”

The Member for Ballina has assisted more than 100 community organisations and delivered more than $3 million in grants through this program since she was first elected in 2015.

 

For more local Ballina news, click here.

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July Exhibitions Celebrating community, culture, and the environment.

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NRCG July Exhibitions
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July Exhibitions Celebrating community, culture, and the environment

 

Northern Rivers Community Gallery (NRCG) presents four new exhibitions this July. The 13th Annual Grace Cruice Memorial exhibition by BACCI (Ballina Arts & Crafts Centre) will be on alongside the 2023 SCU Graduate Award and two exhibitions that celebrate and show concerns for our local flora and fauna. Gallery Coordinator, Imbi Davidson, said “This July we are very excited to be presenting exhibitions that showcase our continued relationships between Southern Cross University (SCU) and the Ballina Arts & Crafts Centre Inc. (BACCI), giving emerging and local artists the opportunity to exhibit in a professional gallery. The enduring creative call of our local environments will also be highlighted in two exhibitions that serve as a celebration and call to action.”

Scribbly Gums and Landforms | Dianne Ingram Dianne uses mixed media to describe and translate her love of Australian gum trees and bushlands. Often working plein-air and employing her distinctive mark-making techniques to create abstractions of the landscape. Dianne imbues her work with ambiguity and unconventional juxtapositions that invite the viewer to create their own interpretations and experiences of our shared environment.

Brainstorm | Thomas Hannah (2023 SCU Graduate Award) The recipient of the 2023 SCU Graduate Award, Thomas Hannah’s Brainstorm details his time spent within the medical system after a diagnosis of epilepsy. This work explores the physical and mental effects of health issues with poignancy and humour, highlighting shared experiences between the artist and viewers.

Fallen | Jenny Kitchener Working with printmaking, Jenny Kitchener presents a glimpse into what the future may hold for five Northern Rivers endangered or vulnerable animals. The focus is on five threatened local animals, selected from five major animal groups: the koala (marsupial); the jabiru (bird); Stephen’s banded snake (reptile); the green and golden bell frog (amphibian) and the birdwing butterfly (insect).

13th Annual Grace Cruice Memorial Exhibition | BACCI Presented by the members of the Ballina Arts & Crafts Centre Inc. (BACCI), this exhibition is a tribute to founding member Grace Cruice, showcasing works created by BACCI members over the past year. BACCI is celebrating 26 years of continued activity and continues to promote a friendly meeting place for artists and craft people from Ballina and surrounding districts.

All NRCG July exhibitions open Wednesday 26 June and continue until Sunday 18 August. The official exhibition launch will be held 5.30 – 7.30pm, Thursday 27 June.

The Northern Rivers Community Gallery (NRCG) is located at 44 Cherry Street Ballina and is open Wednesday to Friday from 9am until 3pm and weekends from 9.30am until 1.00pm. For further information contact the Gallery on 02 6681 0530 or visit the website.

 

For more local Ballina news, click here.

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Ballina Shire Celebrates Multiple Finalists in the 2024 North Coast Tourism Awards

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2024 North Coast Tourism Awards
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Ballina Shire Celebrates Multiple Finalists in the 2024 North Coast Tourism Awards

 

Ballina Shire Council is delighted to announce that several local tourism businesses and initiatives have been named finalists in the prestigious 2024 North Coast Tourism Awards.

These awards acknowledge growth, entrepreneurship, and commend the success of tourism businesses throughout the North Coast Destination Network region.

Ballina Visitor Information Centre has been nominated for Excellence in Innovation, Excellence in Tourism Services, and Outstanding Young Tourism Business Leader, highlighting the centre’s innovative approaches, exemplary service standards, and the outstanding contributions to our local community.

Lennox Head Cultural Centre has been recognised for Event Venue of the Year, a category that celebrates venues excelling in business events, conferences, music events, and leisure events.

Ballina Contemporary Art Market (Northern Rivers Community Gallery) is a finalist for Festival/Event of the Year, a category honouring events that significantly enhance the visitor experience and contribute to the local cultural landscape.

We are equally proud to highlight the achievements of operators within our region. Sugar Beach Ranch in South Ballina has earned a nomination for Excellence in Wellness Tourism, recognising their unique and compelling visitor experiences focused on wellness. Bonito Peruvian Eatery in Wollongbar is a finalist for Excellence in Food Tourism, celebrating their outstanding culinary excellence and significant contribution to the region’s gastronomic appeal.

Taking part in these respected awards is a rewarding experience for businesses. It gives them a chance to think about what has made them successful—like their goals, strategies, and visions. Being nominated and shortlisted for these awards allows operators reflect on their journey, helping them gain valuable insights to continue their growth and secure their future.

“We are incredibly proud of our local finalists,” said Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. “Their hard work, dedication, and innovative spirit have not only elevated their own businesses but also enhanced the overall appeal of Ballina Shire as a premier tourist destination. We wish them all the best in the upcoming awards.”

The winners will be announced at an Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner on 1 August 2024 at Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges.

Tickets are available here.

 

For more local Ballina news, click here.

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