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Clarence Valley News

Historic ferry on chopping block says MP

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Ulmarra Ferry

Historic ferry on chopping block says MP

 

By Tim Howard

Ulmarra residents fear their iconic river ferry could be on the chopping block due to maintenance failures that have been causing daily disruptions to the service.

Residents have been invited to a public meeting in Bailey Park on Monday to take the opportunity to voice opposition to the idea. The meeting will begin at noon and residents are encourage to take part and send a message to the NSW Government that they want to keep their ferry.

Ulmarra resident John Leask said in recent weeks disturbing rumours have emerged that the ferry could shut down, because it grounded on the river bottom at low tide.

Mr Leask said this has resulted in the ferry going off line at least twice a day and making it unreliable for local users.

“It’s come about now that the local member (Member for Clarence Richie Williamson) has got a petition out there for people to sign to keep the ferry going,” Mr Leask said.

Mr Williamson said the NSW Government continued to cut regional services and the Ulmarra Ferry would fit right into that target range.

“Shutting down our historic ferry service would have major consequences for Clarence Valley

residents,” Mr Williamson said.

“It would turn a return trip between Southgate and Ulmarra from 4km to 60km.

“This extra mileage, time, and cost will be devastating for the many families and small business operators who use this service.”

Mr Leask said locals there were other developments which led residents to believe the ferry could be in danger.

“A big punt from Boral used to come up with excavators on it and dredge the sand out from where the ferry would ground out,” he said.

“It was a big bit of gear, you couldn’t miss it and we use to see it come up here regularly, but couldn’t remember the last time I saw it here.”

Ulmarra Ferry

Maintenance issues could result in the Ulmarra Ferry service being cancelled claims the Member for Clarence Richie Williamson.

Boral quarry manager Brad Doyle said he didn’t know anything about the matter.

Mr Leask said losing the ferry would be a blow to the Ulmarra community as it was an important part of the village’s identity as a river port.

“Having boats and a ferry is an important part of our history and identity,” he said.

“People come here and one of the first things they ask is ‘where’s the ferry?’”

Mr Leask said the ferry was important for local businesses.

“A lot of people from the other side of the river catch the ferry over to go to the pub, or come to the visit the cafes and art gallery,” he said.

“For people who work at the new jail the ferry means a 10 minute trip across the river, then a quick drive to work instead of a 30 minute drive back through Grafton.”

Mr Williamson said he put a Question on Notice to the NSW Minister for Regional Transport

and Roads Jenny Aitchison questions in Parliament this week about the Government’s intention

regarding the ferry service and will be interested in her response.

“I have it on good authority that the Government is considering a proposal from its Sydney bean

counters to shut down this essential and long-held link between Southgate and Ulmarra, which

has served the community well for so many years,” Mr Williamson said.

Mr Williamson encouraged locals who back the retention of the ferry to email him at

clarence@parliament.nsw.gov.au.

“The more support I can get from the local community, the better the chances of convincing the

Government not to make this cruel decision,” Mr Williamson said.

Transport for NSW, which operates the ferry service through a local private contractor, has been contacted for comment.

 

For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

Our Seniors Are Tops!

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Seniors Achievement Award

Our Seniors Are Tops!

 

State Member for Clarence Richie Williamson has shown his appreciation for the invaluable contributions of seniors in our community by presenting the inaugural Seniors Achievement Award in Lawrence today.

During this year’s Senior’s Week celebrations, Mr. Williamson called upon the community to nominate individuals and groups who exemplify dedication and commitment to enhancing the Richmond and Clarence valleys.

“I was thrilled to receive numerous nominations showcasing the remarkable efforts of seniors and senior’s groups,” Mr. Williamson said. “These individuals and organisations consistently go above and beyond, supporting various aspects of community life, from maintaining community halls to providing essential transport services.”

The first Seniors Achievement Award was awarded to Connect You Too, a not-for-profit community-based organisation dedicated to enhancing the lives of residents in the Clarence Valley. Connect You Too offers a vital range of services, including transportation for people of all ages, meal delivery in Iluka, Maclean, and Yamba, non-emergency medical transport, shopping excursions, and social outings. With a team of 60 volunteers and staff, Connect You Too plays a pivotal role in fostering community well-being.

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the board, volunteers, and staff of Connect You Too,” remarked Mr. Williamson. “Their outstanding commitment to serving seniors and the broader community is truly commendable, making them deserving recipients of this prestigious achievement award.”

Mr. Williamson anticipates presenting additional achievement awards across the Richmond and Clarence Valleys in the forthcoming weeks, further acknowledging the exceptional contributions of seniors and senior’s groups.

 

For more seniors news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

Mayor to “eyeball” AG over courthouse hours cut

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Attorney General

Mayor to “eyeball” AG over courthouse hours cut

 

By Tim Howard

Clarence Valley mayor Peter Johnstone is brushing up on his diplomatic kung fu, after his fellow councillors voted to have him “eyeball” the NSW Attorney General over a state government decision to cut service hours at Maclean Courthouse.

At its March meeting, the council indicated it was not satisfied with the government’s response to a letter to the Attorney General, Michael Daley, in December 2023, advocating that face to face services at Maclean Courthouse, remain the same.

Instead the parliamentary secretary to the Attorney General, Hugh McDermott’s reply, indicated the cuts to services would remain.

“The Attorney General has asked me to respond on his behalf, Mr McDermott wrote.

“I’m informed that in May 2023, court services in the Department of Communities and justice initiated a change in the level of face to face service delivery at Maclean based on the low level of demand for this service.

“The service was reduced from five days per week to five days per month.”

Crs Debrah Novak and Ian Tiley combined to provide a motion to stiffen the council’s opposition to the decision.

After fine tuning of the wording, the council settled on the motion: That council:

  1. notes the report.
  2. makes direct representations to the NSW Attorney General, seeking support of the Member for

Clarence, Hon Richie Williamson, objecting most strongly to the service hours reductions at Maclean Court House, and the mayor seek to meet the minister to convey these concerns.

Cr Novak said the decision was clearly not in the interests of Clarence Valley people.

“We have the key issues here in front of us in black and white,” she said.

“So this motion now is to go back to the NSW Attorney General and the minister with Richie on one side, the mayor on the other side to the minister saying we’re not happy with what you’ve determined.

“What you think is in our best interest because at the end of the day, it is not in our LGAs best interest to have this service downgraded.

“It’s in the state government’s best interest because it’s a cost saving measure.”

Cr Tiley said the council had little to lose and a lot to gain.

“It’s a matter of great concern, especially to the people of the Lower Clarence, as Cr Novak has well articulated that yet another important service will be lost,” he said.

“Perhaps the next one’s Ulmarra Ferry if we meekly acquiesce on this. What next will we lose?”

The approach was not to the liking of all councillors, including unlikely allies on this matter, Crs Karen Toms and Greg Clancy.

Attorney General

Cr Debrah Novak is leading the charge to keep Maclean Courthouse open five days a week, moving that the council confronts the NSW Attorney General Michael Daley over plans to cut hours of service.

Cr Toms worried the motion made it seem the council was throwing a “tanty” when a ruling didn’t go its way.

“I find this a little interesting that we’ve actually been there done this,” she said.

“We’ve got a letter back which tells us the reasons, but we as the local government council have decided we don’t like the reasons and we’re going to have another go and we’re going to get up face to face with the Attorney General.”

Cr Clancy said he was more concerned that continued opposition was “pushing a snowball uphill”.

“Are we  just putting our finger in the dyke?” he said. “Because unfortunately, the modern world is moving in the direction of less face to face, more phone or internet connection.

“The response is fairly straightforward.

“And it’s to do with the demand and the cost of keeping it open when there’s no demand.

“It would be nice to keep everything opened forever. But I really think that we’ve taken this far enough.”

Other councillors showed more fight.

Cr Steve Pickering said cutting courthouse hours was just a start to further cuts.

“It’s to cut to cut the courthouse hours from five days a week to five days a month is the start,’ he said.

“Obviously, the next step will be zero days per month and then everybody in Yamba and Maclean will be traveling to Grafton to use the courthouse there, while it’s still open.

“Who knows? In two years time will we still going to have a courthouse in Grafton?

“Maybe we’ll be traveling to Coffs Harbour, but as a council we need to stand up for our community it’s not about having a tantrum.

“It’s about it’s about doing what our community would expect us to do.

“And when we receive a response that we’re not happy with, we need we need to challenge it.”

But Cr Alison Whaites disputed that Grafton could lose its courthouse, because of the presence of the new jail at near South Grafton.

“Because we’ve got Serco here and it’s busy every day I drive past and it’s packed,” she said.

‘So anyway, so I want to vote against his motion and I really don’t see the point of moving forward with this and the mayor going down and speaking to that person.”

Deputy mayor Jeff Smith said he supported the motion because he believe the community expected its leaders to fight for them.

“I was I was voted in to be an advocate for the community,” he said. “And  there’s often complaints around the LGA that are were very Grafton centric.

“Well, in this case, we’re fighting for something that’s in Maclean.

“And I’m sick of this valley losing out all the time. It loses out to Coffs and it loses out to Lismore and seems to lose out to Byron Bay constantly.

“Let’s just fight it. Let’s have another go.”

The mayor made a rare foray into debate, arguing the council needed to stand up for the region.

“I think we should go for it, shouldn’t we? he said. “I need to brush up on my martial arts skills.

“We should be fighting for our community and we need to fight for our community because otherwise we’ll be seen as a soft touch.”

Summing up, Cr Novak said in the past decade the region had lost many services to Coffs Harbour and Lismore.

“What that actually means to those people because we’ve lost those services, is people now have to travel,” she said.

“So there is a cost imposed to those people who need to access those services.

“We have a high rate of people who don’t have access to computers, who don’t have access or the skills to access computers. All that sort of stuff.

“That just pays puts the onus back on to the potential clients and I think that’s unfair.

“And and we just need to be out there fighting for what we believe is a service that should remain here in the Lower Clarence Valley.”

Council voted for the motion 6-3 with Crs Toms, Clancy and Whaites against.

 

For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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Alstonville News

Seniors encouraged to get moving this April Falls Month

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April Falls Month

Seniors encouraged to get moving this April Falls Month

 

Older Australians in Northern New South Wales are being encouraged to get physically active this April, to help build their strength and maintain their independence.

Better Balance for Fall Prevention is the theme of this year’s April Falls Month, an annual event held throughout April supported by the NSW Fall Prevention and Healthy Ageing Network to encourage older adults to become more active and reduce falls.

Locally, exercise and dance classes for people aged over 50 are underway in Alstonville, Casino, Grafton, Lismore, Tweed Heads, Wardell, Yamba and across the Northern Rivers.

Health Promotion Manager, Elayne Mitchell said staying physically active is the single most important thing we can do to stay independent as we age.

“As we get older, our bodies lose muscle strength and coordination, so the more active we remain, the better chance we have of maintaining our physical function,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Improving strength and balance in our legs allows us to complete regular daily activities more easily, including getting up and down stairs, in and out of cars, negotiating uneven surfaces and reducing the risk of falling.

“Older people benefit from regular tai chi, group exercise programs, gym sessions, community-based falls prevention programs such as Stepping On, or simple exercises at home to improve muscle strength and balance.

“Research has also shown that regular exercise can reduce falls in older people by 23 per cent, but slowly building up high-challenge balance exercises can increase the effects of exercise by up to 40 per cent.”

NNSWLHD is partnering with Rotary Clubs across the District to provide pop-up Falls Prevention Awareness information stalls, where you can find out about falls prevention and healthy ageing.

Locations

  • Friday 5 April, 10am-4pm, Lismore Square, Uralba and Brewster St, Lismore
  • Sunday 7 April, 8am-midday, Iluka-Woombah Community Markets, Middle Street, Woombah
  • Thursday 11 April, 9am-2pm, Alstonville Plaza, 93 Main St, Alstonville
  • Friday 12 April – Sunday 14 April, 9am – 3pm, Bunnings, 2 Bruxner Hwy, Lismore
  • Friday 12 April – Sunday 14 April, 9am – 3pm, Bunnings, River Street and Horizon Dr, West Ballina
  • Friday 19 April, 10am-4pm, Lismore Square, Uralba and Brewster St, Lismore

The Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) has collaborated with the NSW Fall Prevention and Healthy Ageing Network to produce a range of April Falls resources for patients, families, carers and health staff.

Fall Prevention information is also available on the CEC website.

To find local physical activity and healthy lifestyle programs, including fall prevention programs, visit the Active and Healthy exercise directory. Information and advice to support older adults to be more active is also available on the Active and Healthy website. This includes home-based exercise circuits designed for beginners to follow along at your own pace from the comfort of your own home.

 

For more seniors news, click here.

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