Burney calls for work to start on hospital

Acting Opposition Leader Linda Burney has one question for the NSW government: Where is the new Maitland Hospital?
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Ms Burney commented on the government’s lack of action on the city’s second public hospital as she launched a petition yesterday to bring more health resources into the Hunter.

She said the Hunter’s health facilities needed a significant funding boost and the government should pay more attention to Maitland’s needs because it was one of the fastest growing places in the state.

“Prior to the state election, Robyn Parker promised $20 million towards a new hospital and there has been very little spent on this,” she said.

“I want the people of Maitland to join this campaign the NSW opposition has launched to get more health resources into the Hunter.

“We are taking this matter very seriously.”

The government allocated less than $1 million to the project in the 2012-2013 state budget and remains tight-lipped about possible sites for the new hospital.

A Hunter New England Health spokesperson said the the government had committed $20 million to planning for a new hospital in the Lower Hunter.

“To date, funding has assisted Hunter New England Local Health District to begin clinical services planning while also assessing the ability of current

facilities to meet future service delivery demands,” the spokesperson said.

“The overall planning process for the hospital will involve extensive consultation with Hunter communities and clinicians as well as key internal and external stakeholders.”

The spokesperson said a site had not been chosen for the hospital and Hunter New England Health, in partnership with Health Infrastructure and the Ministry of Health, were working together to decide on the most appropriate place for the new hospital.

“The first steering committee meeting, which is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Health, Health Infrastructure and Hunter New England Local Health District, met on 13 July,” the spokesperson said.

They said the 2012-13 state budget saw an increase of $57 million injected into the Hunter New England Local Health District.

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Labor wants more cops

Acting Opposition Leader Linda Burney has challenged the state government to increase police in Maitland but the station is already operating at 104 per cent.
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During her visit to Maitland yesterday, Ms Burney said there was a police shortage and spoke to police about the lack of resources available to fight crime.

But a spokeswoman for Police Minister Michael Gallacher said the government had promised to increase all police stations to a 90 per cent

operational capacity and had extended Maitland’s capacity to 104 per cent.

Maitland was authorised to have 164 police, but it actually has 186, the spokeswoman told the Mercury.

She said all Hunter Valley commands were above authorised strength.

The Hunter Valley command was authorised for 96 officers, which it has, but runs at 95 per cent capacity.

Newcastle City was authorised for 281, has 302 and operates at 99 per cent capacity.

Port Stephens was authorised for 106, has 116, and operates at 97 per cent.

The spokeswoman said the government was committed to providing police resources and 70 per cent of the 500 police graduates from December 2011 went to regional areas.

Ms Burney said the city’s crime statistics during the past 12 months was evidence that more police were needed.

“The police shortage is especially serious in Maitland which represents the largest growing inland local

government area in NSW,” she said.

“Under the O’Farrell government crime has risen in Maitland in major categories including sexual assault, motor vehicle theft, robbery without a weapon and malicious damage to property.

“If [Maitland MP] Robyn Parker won’t stand up for public safety in Maitland then Labor will.”

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Create a future for foster kids

Maitland children growing up in foster, residential or kinship care can move houses and schools up to 50 times.
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About 35 per cent will be homeless within their first year of leaving care; 46 per cent of boys end up in trouble with the law; only 35 per cent finish schools and 29 per cent are unemployed.

The Create Foundation wants to improve prospects for young people in care across the Hunter region with a Create Your Future program.

The program provides essential life skills training to equip young people for successful transition out of care.

This includes job readiness skills, managing money and problem-solving skills.

Workshops are held in Newcastle every Tuesday from 4pm until 7pm.

Food is provided and attendance two weeks in a row is rewarded with a free movie voucher.

Anyone aged 15 to 25 who has experienced care and lives in the Hunter region is welcome to attend.

A Create Your Future camp will be held in the September-October school holidays at the Aussie Bush Camp where all food and fun is provided.

For registration or inquiries phone Nicole Molyneux on 4979 1392 or 1800 655 105.

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Man guilty of intimidation

A Cessnock man has been found guilty of intimidating a woman while drinking with friends five days after his discharge from a detoxification unit.
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Benjamin Stephen Lewis, of Maitland Road, was drinking with friends at his former Weston home on February 11 when his ex-girlfriend and her friend entered the property uninvited.

During a part-heard hearing yesterday, the court was told Lewis’ former partner became angry at seeing him drinking so soon after being discharged from detox.

Witnesses told the court the woman was hitting Lewis as he tried to remove her from the house.

The woman and her friend told the court Lewis threw a table at them and missed, but Lewis said he tripped over the table, moving it.

The woman alleged Lewis pushed her on the front verandah during an argument.

But he said he had used his arm to move her to the side.

The prosecution alleged Lewis called the woman’s friend a dirty whore and slut and threatened: “I know where you live.”

Lewis said he did not remember using abusive language, but said it was possible.

Magistrate Darryl Pearce said it was a difficult situation because Lewis was in his own home at the time, attempting to remove the women, who were there uninvited.

Mr Pearce dismissed the assault charge on Lewis’ former partner but found Lewis guilty of intimidation of the second woman.

He was ordered to be on good behaviour for 12 months and to participate in alcohol and anger

management counselling.

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Woman told to repay $13,000 to Centrelink

A Maitland woman has been ordered to complete 200 hours community service and repay $13,000 she defrauded from Centrelink.
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Cheryl Pankhurst, 42, pleaded guilty to two charges of obtaining financial advantage in Kurri Kurri Local Court yesterday.

Court documents said Pankhurst, also known by two other aliases, was only partially eligible for the Newstart program because she had work.

Between 2008 and 2009 and for a few months in 2010, Pankhurst claimed $13,739.40 in payments while living in Sydney.

The overpayments were triggered by the Australian Taxation Office’s data matching system.

Pankhurst under declared her income by $38,000.

In court yesterday Pankhurst’s solicitor said his client had tried to repay the money, but because she had declared bankruptcy Centrelink would not accept her money until 2013.

Magistrate Darryl Pearce said millions of dollars were stolen from the welfare agency annually and jail for the fraudsters was not uncommon.

He fined Pankhurst $1000 and ordered her to complete 200 hours community service and repay $13,739.40 to Centrelink.

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Ground closures leave Red Dogs cash strapped

TOO MANY WASHOUTS: West Maitland Red Dogs players Brendan Threadgate (front), Luke Davies, Kai Wybrow, Daniel McDonald and Mick Smith say the club needs to play home games to generate an income. The West Maitland Red Dogs Senior Rugby League Club is facing financial annihilation because of the recent wet weather that has seen several of its home games at Coronation Oval abandoned with ground closures.
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With so many games cancelled in recent weeks, the club is now thousands of dollars in debt and unable to pay bills that could see it kicked out of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League D-grade competition, regardless of whether or not the team makes the finals.

Lauren Threadgate from West Maitland said the club was in dire straits.

“Basically, we’ve had so many games called off that we haven’t been able to have a normal run of games,” Ms Threadgate said.

“If we don’t have any home games then we can’t generate any money.

“Having no income from home games, like canteen revenue and losing the bulk of our fund-raising, which is done on game days with things like raffles, makes it tough.

“Player registrations and other costs associated with the game, like buying playing gear and footballs and paying fees, makes it difficult.”

Threadgate said there were provisions to replay the abandoned games, but the downside was fixture congestion.

“We are a senior rugby league football club, most of our players are in their 30s and one bloke in his 40s,” Threadgate said.

“We have a double-header with Saturday and Sunday games coming up; for them to be expected to play two games in a weekend is very tough.

“Our team has five games to make up in three weeks and we’ve been told if we can’t repay our debts to the Country Rugby League they will pull the club out.

“Part of our fees cover insurance and if the players aren’t insured obviously they can’t play.”

Threadgate described the club’s finances as grim, with the club in debt several thousands of dollars.

But the Red Dogs’ tough times have brought out the best in the community, with two teenage buskers recently donating more than $60 to the club after playing for the crowd at West Maitland’s last home game.

“Sixty dollars is a lot of money to two teenagers and every little bit helps at the moment,” Threadgate said.

“We’re crossing our fingers and hoping for no more washouts so we can run our games and make some money.

“We definitely want people to come out and watch our team and support the club if they can.”

Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League administrator Phil Brown said it was a requirement that all clubs were financial unless they had an agreed payment plan in place.

“It’s a catch-22 situation for them,” Brown said.

“Obviously if they can’t play games they can’t generate funds.”

West Maitland will host Thornton Beresfield at Coronation Oval on Saturday before welcoming Belmont Souths on Sunday.

Kick-off on Saturday is at 4pm and 3pm on Sunday.

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Weston’s mentoring program a success

The Weston Bears held their annual mentor program coaching session at Thomas and Coffey Park on Friday night, with club president Duncan Nisbet hailing it as a great success.
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Players from the clubs under 14s, 15s and 16s trained with the Bears senior squads under the guidance of head coach Darren Elkin, first grade assistant coach Steve McIntosh and under 23s coach Graham Kaiser.

Nisbet believes the mentor program is an essential part of the club’s ability to build for the future.

“Our mentor program is the formalisation of a process that has been ongoing at Weston for a long, long time now,” Nisbet said.

“It’s about the senior players learning more about their own club and their club mates.

“And for the junior players, for them it’s about having the door opened I suppose to show them what it’s like and what kind of expectations and commitment the first grade players need to have to play at this level.”

Almost 50 junior players took part alongside the senior squad and although the club doesn’t expect to gain immediate results, Nisbet said there would be great rewards for Weston in the future.

“It’s not something we want to gain out of now, it’s purely for the players and the young ones coming through,” Nisbet said.

“The feedback I’ve been getting has been immense and next year we already have plans in place to take it to another level again.”

Nisbet said the community initiative was designed to develop links between youth players and the first team, showing the pathway for players to reach the next level.

Nisbet was also delighted with the way the whole club had taken to the concept.

“I am really very proud of the way the whole club has embraced the mentor program,” Nisbet said.

“From the committee to the officials and the participants, everyone has pulled together and made it what it is.”

In a further coup for Weston, the club will host an A-League pre-season friendly between the Newcastle Jets and the Wellington Phoenix at Thomas and Coffey Park on August 18.

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Combat 8 ready to rumble

It’s not everyday a new sport is invented but come September 1, Combat 8 will debut with a world first main event at Newcastle Panthers.
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Combat 8 has been in development for more than two years, with a style of fighting and rules that brings together boxers and mixed martial artists.

Fighting inside “The Cube” for five three minute rounds, combatants are allowed only 30 seconds per round to wrestle on the ground before being made to stand.

Kicking and kneeing has been eliminated in an effort to bring fighters closer together.

Rutherford local Kirk “The Newcastle Nightmare” Lawton has been hand picked to make his Combat 8 debut at the event, taking on Anton Tuilotolava.

Both men stand 188cm tall and weigh in at 127 kilograms.

Tuilotolava has a professional boxing record of five wins from as many bouts, all coming by way of knock out.

Beresfield amateur boxing champion Matt Stapleford will also

be in action, taking on former Commonwealth Games competitor “King” Dane Mulivai.

Combat 8 CEO Nathan Swadling said the concept had come about to eliminate debate over which fighting discipline produced the best pugilists.

“I spent two years developing a style of combat that could stand as a platform in the middle to bring both boxers and MMA fighters together,” Swadling said.

“I am and always have been a fight fanatic and I have often wondered who would win a fight between two fighters from different styles (MMA & Boxing) but without ever really knowing for sure because it didn’t happen.”

The Combat Sports Authority have taken 12 months to approve the sport and Swadling said he was looking forward to seeing Combat 8 get off the ground.

“Definitely, we’re very excited by the launch and the support given to us by local businesses and Fox Sports as well,” Swadling said.

The night will also be broadcast world wide as a pay per view event.

Tickets for the launch of Combat 8 at Newcastle Panthers on September 1 are on sale now.

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Future of Civic Hall debated since 1973

IT’S one of Ballarat's longest running public debates, but just how long has the controversial Civic Hall redevelopment been controversial?
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A chance discovery in The Courier archive might provide a clue. In November 1973, a news report detailed a special meeting to discuss the future of the Mair Street landmark.

The report ran with the sub-headline: “A special Ballarat City Council hall committee meeting will be convened on Monday afternoon to discuss the future of the Civic Hall.”

"Cr Sir Arthur Nicholson, chairman of the committee, said from Point Lonsdale yesterday the meeting had been called to discuss the future of the hall and a suggestion by Cr M. E. Foo that it be converted for multi-purpose use in line with the policy of Youth, Sport and Recreation Minister, Mr Dixon," the report said.

The minister had suggested Civic Hall be redeveloped for community use and praised the forward thinking attitude of the Ballarat community.

In what could be considered a sign of things to come, Cr Nicholson said careful consideration was needed before "interfering" with the set up of the day.

"It is important to have a hall with facilities for civic functions - if sport would not interfere with civic uses we would certainly discuss the matter with Mr Dixon," Sir Arthur said.

Ballarat Mayor Cr Rizzoli called for an investigation and Ballarat YMCA director John Mitchell expressed "little enthusiasm" for the change.

With the most recent redevelopment plans for the 1956 building blocked by Ballarat City Council last year, the rest is history.

A report in The Courier from 1973 shows just how long the future of Civic Hall has been debated.

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Your mission, if you accept it: find Pippa Middleton

Pippa Middleton.Before I left the land of postcode 2320 my auntie set me a bit of a challenge for my time abroad in London and it involves Pippa the “royal in waiting”.
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This challenge, or test if you will, could be classified as a form of request, but it was cleverly weaved into general conversation as we said our fare-thee-wells.

Be careful, stay safe and enjoy yourself ... went the run of the mill message of the protective family member, but it was the grand finale that really caught my attention.

“And bring home a nice overseas girl with you,” she said barely wavering in tone or expression.

The delivery was clinical and had me on the back foot quicker than a Brett Lee bouncer sent down at the WACA.

After getting over the initial shock of the statement I had to quickly decipher the fair dinkum factor at play here.

Was she for real? Was I hearing things? Or was it one of those subtle hints to get a move on and spread the Callinan family further across Maitland than it already was?

I still wasn’t 100 per cent sure of what shot to play but, rather than act flustered or simply letting it go through to the keeper, I decided there was only one way to deal with it.

“I’ve got this covered,” was my reply.

“Pippa Middleton will be waiting for me in London.”

This suggestion, basically the first and most high-profile gorgeous and available Englishwoman who came to mind, was met with a laugh and we continued on our merry ways.

But the seed had been planted and, consequently, challenge accepted from my end.

Now comes the hard part.

Not so much the dating bit – clean shave, chit chat and like Hugh Grant finding a common middle ground between a celebrity and an average Joe – but more so the location part.

Where is Pippa Middleton?

I mean, London is a big place with a lot of people in it at the best of times, but during an Olympic period it is simply off the Richter scale.

I started my search the other day outside the walls of Kensington Palace, apparent resident of Pippa’s sister Kate and another bloke called Will, but to no avail.

So I’ll throw it out there Pippa, like any good single, Aussie bloke would when in old London town, if you are around over the next couple of weeks and would like to catch up for a pint, fish and chips, a West End show, a stroll in Hyde Park or any form of Olympic event, I’m available when you are.

As a frequent reader of the Maitland Mercury and listener of 1233 ABC Newcastle, I’m sure Pippa will have no trouble finding this message, but if anyone does happen to see her in the near future please pass on the invitation.

And finally to my auntie, it’s OK to maintain a faint glimmer of hope about Pippa coming home to the Bolwarra version of Kensington at some stage, but please don’t hold your breath. Let the Games begin.

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