After a busy 2016, including the federal election and campaigning on a range of local issues, Port Stephens Greens are seeing out the year with a Xmas social at the Hunter Botanical Gardens, Heatherbrae, on Sunday 11 December from 12.30pm. BYOG + picnic or BBQ – or use the Gardens café.
In the New Year we will meet regularly to continue our work supporting concerned local communities on issues such as the Williamtown contamination scandal; proposed new sand mines; protection of public lands and koala habitat, and more sustainable housing and commercial development. We will spread our message through market stalls and other events, while also having fun with movie nights and other socials.
We are in limbo as regards Council mergers, but whatever the State government decides we face the prospect of at least 12 months of an unelected Administrator before the next local elections. We will continue to press our case with whoever is calling the local government shots, as well as with State and Federal governments where appropriate.
In the federal election in July, the Greens managed to hold our vote close to previous levels in the face of many more options for those disillusioned with the old main parties. Locally we held our own in Paterson with our excellent candidate John Brown gaining 5.7% of the primary vote, and our voters preferences helped Labor to take the seat from the Liberals with a major swing. Disappointingly, there was a big vote for the Pauline Hanson One Nation party and other conservatives, although voters may not necessarily agree with the more reactionary views of these parties, but just be wanting to send a message about the failure of political elites to address real concerns. Our challenge is to persuade many of these people, as well as progressive Labor and Liberal voters, that the Greens offer real practical solutions.
While we wait for the NSW government to announce its intentions about the future of Port Stephens Council (a merger with Newcastle seems the most likely), we will not have Council elections in September. But other Hunter Councils do, and Port Stephens Greens will be helping Cessnock/Kurri Greens with the Cessnock election on 10 September. Offers of help to hand out ‘How to vote’ information at pre-poll from 29 August and on election day will be gratefully received.
Continuing local issues include the Williamtown contamination, where Senator Lee Rhiannon and NSW MLC Mehreen Faruqi have been helping to hold the relevant authorities to account and achieve meaningful action to assist the hundreds of affected families.
Port Stephens Greens remain active on a wide range of other local, state and federal issues, and we meet regularly in various locations, including for social events.
Tomorrow (Saturday 2 July) we have the chance to boost the state wide Greens vote and hopefully get Newcastle local Michael Osborne elected to the Senate alongside Lee Rhiannon. A strong vote for John Brown in Paterson will also send a message and could determine whether we have a Labor or Liberal MP for the next term.
Its not too late to help – we need extra help to ensure we can get our message over to voters at all polling booths (between 8am and 6pm). Please contact us today if you can spare an hour or two to handout our ‘How to vote Greens’ flyers.
Port Stephens Greens have joined with members in Maitland and Cessnock to pre-select John Brown as our candidate for Paterson in the forthcoming federal election.
John kicked off the campaign at a meeting in Raymond Terrace on 8 April with Senator Lee Rhiannon, who is up for re-election, our number 2 Senate candidate (and Newcastle Councillor) Michael Osborne, and Cessnock Councillor James Ryan.
The Greens have been vocal on the Williamtown contamination crisis, in support of the hundreds of families whose lives have been disrupted. The government has refused to act on many of the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry initiated by Senator Rhiannon, and Labor is refusing to commit to do any better if elected.
Port Stephens Greens have made a comprehensive submission to the Inquiry into the Liberal State Government’s flawed proposal to amalgamate Port Stephens and Newcastle Councils. See the submission here: PS Greens submission on Council merger
Our rejection of the merger should not be taken as satisfaction with the way Port Stephens Council has been run. The Mayor and his voting bloc of Councillors have irresponsibly portrayed the Government’s ideologically driven proposal as a ‘grab’ by a badly run Newcastle City for assets of a well managed Port Stephens. Neither assertion is true. But to the extent that Port Stephens has problems that need to be fixed, the voters should be left to address them through the ballot box at the next Council elections.
A public meeting has been called for Monday evening, 8 February to help Port Stephens and Newcastle residents defend local democracy by opposing the State Government’s proposal to merge the two Councils
“The State Government have initiated a poorly-advertised, tick-a-box, sham consultation process,” said Newcastle Greens Cllr Michael Osborne.
“When they made their forced council amalgamation announcement just before Christmas last year, they should have also announced a referendum of all affected residents,” Cllr Osborne said.
“For a council amalgamation to have any legitimacy, it should only proceed where residents and ratepayers of each local government area have voted in favour of amalgamation in a valid referendum,” Cllr Osborne said.
“A forced amalgamation between Newcastle City and Port Stephens is not the answer,” Newcastle Greens Cllr Therese Doyle said.
“When amalgamations have been forced on locals in other states like Victoria and Queensland, rates have gone up, services have stagnated and residents end up less connected to their local councillors,” Cllr Doyle said.
“When the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into local government handed down its final report last year, they recommended that the Baird government commit to a policy of no forced amalgamations after finding that much of the ‘Fit for the Future’ assessment process was flawed,” Cllr Doyle said.
“The Baird Government has failed to release the key financial modelling report being relied upon,” Cr Doyle said.
“We are encouraging all residents to come along and hear the facts about the proposed forced amalgamation,” said John Brown, on behalf of Port Stephens Greens.
A submission guide will be provided on the night.
Public Meeting: Keep our Councils Local!
When: Monday 8th February 6pm to 8pm
Where: Gallipoli Legion Club; upstairs, 3-5 Beaumont St, Hamilton (Newcastle)
David Shoebridge, Greens NSW Upper House MP, Spokesperson on Local Government
Kate Washington, Labor MP for Port Stephens, Shadow Minister for Hunter
Tim Crakanthorp, Labor MP for Newcastle, Councillor on Newcastle City Council
Therese Doyle, Greens Councillor on Newcastle City Council
The Fullerton Cove, Williamtown and Salt Ash communities face an unprecedented triple threat to their way of life, health and environment. The Greens have supported these communities in their resistance to these threats and will continue to do so. We share the vision of most local people for their area – a predominantly rural landscape offering a great lifestyle. Williamtown airport and RAAF base are important contributors to the local economy, but the Department of Defence has not been a good neighbour. All three levels of government have failed the community on at least three important issues.
Contamination from RAAF Base Williamtown
Sand mining on Cabbage Tree Road
Coal seam Gas exploration
Read more below:
Contamination from RAAF Base Williamtown
In September 2015, the local community became aware for the first time of what the Department of Defence (DoD), the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and Port Stephens Council have known for at least two years – that toxic chemicals from fire-fighting foam have been leaching into soil and water surrounding the RAAF base since at least 2011, and probably much longer. A large ‘red zone’ has been declared, stretching from Fullerton Cove to Tilligerry Creek, limiting use of groundwater, and consumption of foods produced within the zone, with fishing bans extending even further. 650 families within the zone have found their property values destroyed and livelihoods affected, with serious unanswered questions about potential health effects. DoD have lived up to their name by going into ‘Defence’ mode over the issue, only now being forced to give answers to a Greens initiated Senate Inquiry. The EPA and Council have also not responded adequately to date.
The Greens call on the Commonwealth Government to:
allow full access by the EPA and independent experts to the RAAF base to carry out tests
ensure that the contaminants are contained and removed
co-operate with the State government in a comprehensive plan for testing soil, water and human health throughout the affected area
urgently arrange financial assistance for affected families and businesses
establish an independently run, fair and just compensation scheme, and if necessary buy out affected properties
Sand mining on Cabbage Tree Road
In 2014, Port Stephens Council controversially awarded a contract for quarrying of 4.6 million tonnes of sand over 15 years from Council owned land north of Cabbage Tree Road. The quarry would remove habitat for koalas and other at risk species, would destroy the quality of life of local residents, and would add hundreds of heavy truck movements to already overloaded and unsuitable single carriageway roads. It would also threaten the water table and disturb potentially contaminated soil within the recently declared ‘red zone’. With a staggering lack of sensitivity to the Williamtown residents already struggling with the contamination issue, the quarrying company has just released its Environmental Impact Study for the quarry, which while scaled back will still seek to extract 3.3 million tonnes, clearing vegetation from 54 hectares.
The Greens call on authorities to defer assessment of the Cabbage Tree Road sand quarry Development Application until the contamination issue is resolved
Coal seam Gas exploration
The local community fought off Dart Energy’s plans to drill CSG wells at Fullerton Cove in 2012, but the new licence holder is expected to try to drill again before long. The exploration area, which could eventually see industrial scale production, extends as far east as Bobs Farm and north to the Myall Lakes (as well as most of Newcastle). Exploration and production wells would threaten the precious Tomago sandbed water supply, with a range of other environmental and potential health risks. This area is simply not suitable for CSG activity, which in any case is an unwanted and unnecessary industry anywhere in NSW.
The Greens have called on the State Government to buy back the CSG exploration licence PEL458, as it has in many other areas of NSW, to remove this threat from the local community once and for all.
Port Stephens Greens are focussing in the second half of 2015 on building capacity in the area to present a Greens alternative at all levels of government.
Greens members in the State and Federal Parliaments have been able to stop some of the excesses of the major parties. Greens are the only party to stand firm on principles across the board of issues from a responsible approach to the environment and climate change, through protection of education health and welfare to compassionate treatment to asylum seekers. We also stand against the corruption in politics and for greater transparency, accountability and community participation.
Join us in offering Port Stephens a better vision for a clean, green future.
Port Stephens Greens candidate Rochelle Flood polled over 6% of the vote in Port Stephens in the State election on 28 March 2015. Greens preferences helped Kate Washington, a progressive Labor candidate, win the seat from the Liberals.