Wollongong harbour plan remains secret

The NSW Department of Lands is remaining tight-lipped on the lease agreement which will underpin the planned redevelopment of Wollongong Harbour. Yesterday’s picture shows the latest improvements on the beachfront. Picture: KIRK GILMOURThe NSW Department of Lands is remaining tight-lipped on the lease agreement which will underpin the controversial redevelopment of Wollongong Harbour.A spokesman would not say whether the public would have a voice when the department sets lease conditions with its chosen developer for the prominent Wollongong site.The spokesman said an agreement would be drawn up “in accordance with normal commercial arrangements”.”Such an agreement would require a development application to be approved before a lease is finalised,” the spokesman said.”The type and extent of any agreement is unknown at this point and thus the level of public disclosure cannot be predetermined.”The department is pushing forward with plans to redevelop the harbour precinct amid fears a lease will be imposed on the public with no consultation.Action group Reclaim Our City has accused the department of keeping the community in the dark over the lease conditions.Spokesman Arthur Rorris, who is also secretary of the South Coast Labour Council, said the Government was trying to bring in a Killalea-style agreement, referring to the move to hand over parts of Killalea State Park to developers on 50-year leases.”Stop treating the community like mushrooms and come clean, once and for all,” he said.”This is exactly and completely consistent with what happened at Killalea. This one will be fought all the way by the community, we will not accept it and it shows this government has learned nothing from the disaster at Killalea,” he said.The department’s silence over the lease agreement comes a week after Wollongong administrator Col Gellatly told the department that any proposal “must involve consultation with local residents”.The department is assessing six proposals for the harbour area submitted by developers, behind closed doors.Bound by its expressions of interest process, the department has not allowed the public or the council to view the submissions.The department and Lands Minister Tony Kelly have been under fire from community groups, who fear they are being locked out of the assessment process.The department has consistently said the public will only get their say on a proposal when a development is chosen and put to council as a development application.In an attempt to appease his critics, Lands Minister Tony Kelly set up a consultative committee of stakeholders in August to advise on the redevelopment, but the group will not have access to the proposals at present being assessed.
Nanjing Night Net

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Wollongong Hospital to lose 12 beds

A 12-bed unit at Wollongong Hospital is to close, sparking fears more patients will wait for treatment in the hospital’s already overrun emergency department.The Mercury understands the facility – the clinical decision unit – is being closed because it would cost the health service $200,000 to refurbish it to a safe standard.South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health said beds from the soon-to-be axed CDU unit would be used elsewhere in the hospital, but did not say where they would go.The CDU was originally intended for short-stay patients but has more recently been used for longer, more serious hospital stays when the emergency department overflows.Nurses worry that the beds will now be placed where they cannot accommodate the emergencies overflow.A source within the hospital told the Mercury the closure would place an added burden on emergency nurses working with too few beds, resources and colleagues. “At the moment, as opposed to coming into emergency and taking up a bed they don’t have, patients go to CDU,” the source said.”If they don’t go to CDU any more it’s going to be emergency’s problem.”The source said Wollongong emergency nurses were ill-equipped to cope with more patients because they had a disproportionately low number of beds to work with.According to the most recent quarterly hospital activity data, Nepean, St George and Wollongong hospitals have 12,843, 13,830 and 12,631 emergency department attendances respectively. The source claimed Nepean Hospital had 40 emergency beds, St George had 49 and Wollongong had 28.”We have the least number of emergency beds for the amount of patients we see and there’s senior nursing staff that go home in tears because they don’t have time to do nursing care anymore.” Area health representatives would not confirm the emergency bed figures yesterday and a spokeswoman for Wollongong Hospital said the comparison “wasn’t meaningful without looking at a range of factors including number of presentations annually, complexity of patient presentations and design of the ED (emergency department)”. According to the spokeswoman a move towards “more innovative models of care” was behind the decision to close the CDU. She said the changes would relieve pressure on the hospital’s emergency department by vacating treatment bays for urgent patients.But NSW Nurses Association organiser Lisa Kremmer said the closure was a financial decision.”We were advised that the area didn’t have the necessary capital (about $200,000) to carry out the refurbishments required … so the health service has made a decision to close the unit because of the cost of refurbishment,” she said.
Nanjing Night Net

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Port Kembla power plant in doubt

Port Kembla steelworks, where BlueScope Steel may build a co-generation power plant – if it can remove all the financial barriers. The plant, expected to cost at least $1 billion, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions each year equivalent to taking 185,000 cars off the road. Picture: KEN ROBERTSONFinancial barriers may get in the way of BlueScope Steel’s plans for a $1 billion-plus co-generation plant at Port Kembla, the company’s chairman has warned.Graham Kraehe told a meeting of shareholders this week that a review into the viability of the plant – which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions each year by the equivalent of taking 185,000 cars off the road – would have to consider “sound financial management in a tough economic environment”.The new national emissions trading scheme, and its potential effect on BlueScope profits, would also have to be factored in.A one-year feasibility study of the co-generation plant, which would convert waste gas into electricity, was announced exactly two years ago. BHP also revealed plans for a plant in 1998 but it did not proceed.The BlueScope board spent Wednesday at Port Kembla analysing the feasibility study but a decision is unlikely until next year.”Apart from improving operational performance, the investment will deliver environmental benefits by reducing carbon emissions by a net 800,000 tonnes annually,” Mr Kraehe said.”However, while the board would like to proceed with the project, we are studying the proposal to fully understand our real options,” he added.Meantime, the $370 million reline of the No 5 blast furnace will begin in March. Steel production will be halved for at least 105 days, but “given the current global slowdown, the timing of the reline is fortuitous”, Mr Kraehe said.With the price of steel expected to drop, BlueScope is predicting a tough period ahead and is focusing on reducing costs by limiting “non-essential spending” and “re-scheduling production”.It aims to cut capital costs by $200 million by the end of the financial year.The poor financial environment in the United States has also led BlueScope to speed up its plans to rationalise manufacturing facilities there.BlueScope took the unusual step of revealing its fully franked interim dividend several months before its half-year result to reassure shareholders.Mr Kraehe said despite a fall in the share price, from about $12 to below $4 at one stage in the past six months, “we remain confident in BlueScope’s future”.BlueScope’s shares opened at $4.49 yesterday.However, Mr Kraehe argued the present share price did not reflect the true value of the company.”The current replacement value of our largest manufacturing facility, the Port Kembla steelworks, is more than $10 billion – well above the current market capitalisation of the company,” Mr Kraehe revealed.”So it is clear the current share price does not reflect the full value of this asset, let alone BlueScope’s total suite of assets.”
Nanjing Night Net

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

The spike in spiked drinks

A young woman heads out for a night on the town and is found several hours later unconscious in a park, her clothes missing and her memory of how she arrived there a blank.Tests confirm she has not only been sexually assaulted, but has the potentially lethal date-rape drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate, known as fantasy or GBH, in her system.She has been the victim of a spiked drink.Wollongong Sexual Assault Service senior clinical psychologist Alison Grundy said sexual assault was insidious enough, but when compounded by drink spiking it went to a new level of psychological damage.”Often with these drugs the memories don’t get laid down … As a psychologist we work on processing trauma. If you can’t remember what the trauma is, how can you process it?”And when you don’t know, your imagination is much worse.”Ms Grundy said the Wollongong service had counselled an average one to two drink-spiking victims a month. In the past five weeks, with warmer weather, that figure had increased to one a week.NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures show 10 drink-spiking cases reported in the Illawarra during the first six months of this year – six in Wollongong and two each in the Lake Illawarra and Shoalhaven police commands.Trends are impossible to formulate as these figures are all that is available since legislation against drink spiking as a stand-alone crime was introduced in March.The offence, officially termed “assault – spike food or drink” carries a maximum penalty of two years’ jail. Since it was introduced, 130 cases have been reported statewide.Ms Grundy said it was uncertain which drugs were most frequently used because they had usually left the victim’s system by the time the case was reported. Those who do front within the first 24 hours are tested for the most common drugs: alcohol, benzodiazapines such as valium, GBH, ketamine, speed, ecstasy, and sometimes a combination.”There’s also a range of different drugs that I’ve never heard of. The ‘ice’ kind of thing. There’s a lot of cooking up different types of drugs,” Ms Grundy said.It’s a chilling climate for young people about to embark on the club and pub scene.Full story in the weekend edition of the Mercury
Nanjing Night Net

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Caring Rhonda connects with the lonely

Rhonda Bowen has been deluged with calls from senior citizens. Picture: ANDY ZAKELIA woman’s decision to place herself up for “adoption” last week touched a nerve that reverberated all the way to London.Rhonda Bowen’s unusual method of connecting with senior citizens in need of friendship placed a spotlight on loneliness and social disconnection.Since Ms Bowen was featured in the Mercury on Wednesday, she has received calls from seniors living on their own, a widower in Tasmania seeking friendship, people across the street and friends from her old Bellambi district with whom she had lost touch.The courageous act of reaching out, despite concerns her heartfelt plea would be ridiculed, left her dancing around her Wollongong living room.”I feel like however long I live now, I am truly blessed,” she said.Since losing her mum Vi five years ago, Ms Bowen said she had become increasingly lost and lonely, a situation not helped by arthritis, which forced her to leave her job as a technical aide at Wollongong Hospital.Despite several long-term relationships, she never married, has no car and the internet is a foreign language.The 59-year-old has regular contact with her best friend Veronica, an aunt, a sister and the sister’s three children.She has friends through the Wesley Church on the Mall and visits seniors in nursing homes.Then there’s Frank, her friend of three years with whom she chats daily on the phone and socialises on the weekend.But there has been a bond unfulfilled since the loss of her mother. The two women lived apart, with her mum down the road at Warrawong (“I liked living by myself and so did she”), but the distance mattered little.”I miss my mum. The cuddles, the love. The food. I used to take her out and she’d play the pokies and forget about her pain – she had heart problems. Lots of health problems.”Since placing herself up for “adoption”, Ms Bowen feels the gap is slowly closing.”I had to stop taking calls after 12 people. I’ve contacted three so far and it’s been great.”A lady at Corrimal said she’d like me to go out there so I’ll catch a train out.”Next week I’ll be visiting a 90-year-old lady who lives around the corner …”When I was ringing these people, they said to me, ‘You’ve made me so happy.’ As soon as they say that, I get that back and it’s fantastic,” Ms Bowen said.Her story has featured on national TV show A Current Affair and she had a call from the BBC in London, seeking an interview.But while her story created immense interest, those on their own are not alone.According to figures from the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, 48,600 clients in the state got domestic assistance, 10,800 received personal care and 34,200 received respite care in 2007-08.This included more than 3300 people in the Illawarra who were assisted through the Home and Community Care program. Thousands more are supported by church and community groups.Yet the propensity for loneliness increases with people’s age and disabilities.Professor Brian Draper, who specialises in “old age” psychiatry at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital, said seniors often suddenly found themselves out of touch.Older people faced several general types of loneliness, with the first relating to isolation as a result of declining physical ability.”They can’t get out to do the things they want to do. They can’t catch the bus because they can’t walk to the bus stop any more or maybe they had to give up driving the car for whatever health reasons,” he said.Prof Draper said this might be compounded by a reduction in their social and familial network through death and people moving away.”When you’re isolated and not able to participate in social activities it can become very lonely,” he said.People who have enjoyed close personal relationships with a select few in their lives would also find it difficult to circulate and form friendships with new people.”They become like the person you hear of who can be in a group of 1000 people but still feel lonely.”Prof Draper said one of the greatest contributors to social isolation was a lack of public transport, particularly for the disabled.”In a survey of older people and what they needed, public transport was top of the list. It was the difficulty in connecting,” he said.These problems were compounded for people who came from non-English speaking backgrounds.Day care facilities have made a world of difference to thousands of seniors, but many are unaware that such social outlets exist.Diane Zisis, case manager for Community Options Illawarra, which handles an average of 200 senior clients each month, said it was not until their health deteriorated and they ended up in hospital that the elderly became exposed to the range of options available.Prof Draper said accessibility and promotion were key issues.”We might think we have a variety of things available. but it’s hard finding them. “The average older person isn’t connected to the internet,” he noted.In addition, such group outlets are not always the answer, particularly for those who prefer one-on-one relationships.”A lot of people don’t want to be in a group. Helping people has to be tailored to their particular needs,” he said.Prof Draper said thousands of people had successfully negotiated their senior years by remaining engaged in the community.”Most of our volunteers are seniors. There are many who, given the opportunity to do things, will grab it and that can be a very effective way to help people who tend to get lonely,” he said.Through ingenuity, Ms Bowen has successfully tailor-made her own social network – with a little help from above.”I think Mum’s had a bit of heavenly intervention in this. She knew I wasn’t getting what I needed, the friendship and the love, and I just reckon she’s hooked up,” she said.
Nanjing Night Net

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.