Let’s talk mobile speed cameras

Let’s talk mobile speed cameras

At the time of writing, a mobile speed camera has been situated on Woodward Street outside Elephant Park, every day for about 8-10 days straight. The reason I know this is because I live up that way and drive past it every time it’s there...

I want better!

I want better!

The Orange by-election has finally been decided and although the last thing I want to do is dwell on it, I believe something important needs to be said.

Comment: Anything but Noble!

Media interview

Bob Holland

Sometimes I feel that all I ever write about is negative stuff but sadly, there’s so much rot going on around us, one just feels that if you don’t at least say something, nothing will change.

Take politics, surely the day will come when our politicians and the candidates in an election will decide to play the game differently. It’s all become horribly predictable and downright annoying, not forgetting embarrassing to watch as well. Watching and listening to our politicians in action, at all levels of government, is like watching trained animals in a Circus. Watching how the candidates are performing in the upcoming by election is also predictable and tiresome to say the least. And then we’re confronted with what’s going on in the US election and that’s an even bigger Circus, but again, no different to what’s gone on during every US election since time began other than the calibre of the candidates. Nuff said!

I just wish candidates and politicians would be themselves, speak their mind truthfully and not simply say what their party wants them to say or what they think people want to hear. What they do now is anything but noble. But I reckon there’s a bigger issue and this one could be killing us as a nation.

All the political shenanigans have brought us to a point where whoever is in government virtually can’t govern. The result is that very little is getting done, most worthwhile progress is almost at a standstill and this in turn has caused many of us to become apathetic towards almost everything. In other words, too many people don’t feel good about things generally and that’s impacting on our nation in all manner of ways. For example, happy people spend money more freely than unhappy people. If enough people are unhappy and don’t spend as freely as they might otherwise, the impact on our nation’s economy will be significant and in my view, extremely damaging. I think this is happening now but we just don’t know it’s happening and my feeling is that our politicians simply aren’t savvy enough to realise that it’s them who are causing the problem.

Many people may disagree with me but I’m 110% certain that if we as a nation, felt better about things in general, it would show itself in increased spending right across the spectrum. If or when that happens, many other issues such as unemployment and business profitability would not be the troublesome issues they’ve become now. While ever our businesses are making money, there’ll be jobs to have and growth generally.

We simply need to get the wheels of spending rolling again at a good rate and the only way that’s going to happen is when our pollies start to work together for the greater good and not simply for any personal agendas. It’s not rocket science and people aren’t stupid. It’s time for our politicians to stand up and start to show us their more noble side.

 

 

 

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Just plain ridiculous!

Bob Holland

There's one sure way to make yourself unpopular and that's to question a system that has been in place for yonks. Still, I'll take my chances.

The system I'm talking about on this occasion is having a local Council made up of elected people to represent the community in Council matters. Lord knows this has been the system for as long as one can remember and for the life of me, I still can't fathom the value of having such a system.

The way candidates nominate for Council, the way group tickets can be manipulated to influence a certain outcome, the way some candidates appear to buy their way into office through heavy advertising spends, the method the votes are counted and distributed and the fact that several who stand have no intention of serving in the first place, all leave me wondering.

All those feelings were added to last week after I saw a local news report about the Dubbo Council's situation following the amalgamations in that area.

Consider this if you will, then tell me the current system is not just plain ridiculous.

Last weekend, local Council elections were held in a number of areas where amalgamations were not an issue. Here in Orange for example, the dispute involving Cabonne, Blayney and Orange Councils meant there was no election here. In Dubbo also, and despite now having an amalgamated Council there, their next election in is not scheduled for about 12 months. That means amalgamated Councils like Dubbo, will have no Councillors or Mayor for another 12 months or so. They will also not have a General Manager but in the meantime an Administrator or some similar person will run the show. Imagine that, no Councillors and no Mayor to do whatever it is they're supposed to do for 12 months?

Say that again! Dubbo Council will function, presumably as normal, for the next 12 months or so without the need for Councillors or a Mayor.

Surely, that notion alone begs the question "why do we need them in the first place?"

My purpose here is not to evaluate exactly what a hard working and dedicated Councillor may or may not do for their community during their time of service, but rather to ask that obvious question, given what's happening in Dubbo and other places like that.

To add further weight to what I'm saying, this or similar is what the Administrator indicated in the interview when asked about how Dubbo Council would function without Councillors. He virtually said that nothing would change nor would the area be disadvantaged in any way. He said he had people around him where he could get advice etc. if needed.

Put all that together, and I for one think it's time to do away with the Councillors altogether. I think they serve little or no real purpose and at the end of the day, Council staff ultimately dictate what will or will not happen in the management or development of our City. And why shouldn't they, after all, they're the ones who are supposed to have the credentials and training in such matters.

Community input is crucial however and I think a credible, dedicated, forward thinking and appropriately resourced ratepayers association would achieve far better outcomes for our city than any group of Councillors who get elected and operate under the present system.

Life's a gamble!

Life's a gamble!

Bob Holland

What do you think would happen if we all woke up a year or so from now, only to discoverthat the value of our home had dropped by 40 - 70%?

That's almost unthinkable isn't it but believe it or not that's exactly what one fairly prominent industry expert is predicting. He predicts a financial crash, possibly within 12 months, where one of the casualties will be the value of the family home.

I certainly don't want to be a doom and gloomer, but given all the signs, that's a bit hard to do. Speaking for myself, I'd have to say that even without any expert knowledge, such an occurrence wouldn't surprise me. After all, it's not as if we haven't seen such things happen in the past, just think back a few years to what happened in the US when people were walking away from their homes because they simply couldn't afford to keep them.

Add to this the fact that for a long time now, we've all been encouraged to buy, buy, buy, even when we haven't had the money to do so and now, as I understand it, Australians generally are in more debt than ever before. In business, they consider a business that owes more money than it has in assets, to be trading insolvent and when this happens, it's often a sign that the end is near. I wonder how many Australians owe more money than they have in assets? That's where this industry expert's house value prediction gets a bit scary. If the value a home drops in value by 40 - 70%, my guess is that an unthinkable number of homeowners with a mortgage would find themself owing more than their house is worth. It's not hard to imagine that US situation happening here is it?

I've headed this comment "Life's a gamble!" because that's exactly what people who think like me are faced with. My biggest problem is getting accurate or reliable information, in other words who do you believe or trust when you hear information or predictions from so called "experts".

Take the expert I referred to. If I had a massive mortgage to contend with, heard what he predicted and had absolutely no doubt about his genuineness, knowledge or ability, I'd be extremely foolish if I didn't take steps to make sure that if such a crash occurred that I was in the safest possible position. That could mean selling my house now before any possible crash, putting the money in the bank and renting another home until the predicted crash occurred. After the crash dust had settled, I'd then use the money I had in the bank to buy another home 40-70% cheaper than it was valued at before the crash.

If on the other hand, I viewed this expert's opinion as just another typical prediction, similar to those we hear every other day and basically took no notice of it, what if he's right? I'd hate to even think about that scenario if I had a huge mortgage.

You see what I'm saying? Very few people would sell their home and rent etc. simply "in case" that expert was right. Most would do nothing, even if they thought he could be right, it'd be an extreme, massive and brave step for anyone to take. My guess is that most people would choose to take the "gamble", believing it could never happen here or, if it did, we'd all be in the same boat anyway, or things will soon get better.

If only we didn't have to gamble on such things.

Council can do better

Council can do better

Bob Holland
Councils everywhere are fair game for the media and ratepayers and sometimes they deserve to be held to account, other times not.

Here in Orange, and generally speaking, I think our Council does a pretty good job. I know some will dispute that but more often than not when people are complaining about the state of our roads, rate hikes or something else, there's usually more than one side to every story and it's very easy for the media or people to hone in on just one aspect. For example, I have no doubt our Council could fix all our roads fairly quickly, simply by upping the rates we pay by 100 or 200% a year or more. That's the simple answer but of course, if you said that to someone who was screaming long and loud about the state of the roads, it still wouldn't satisfy them, the massive hike in the rates would then become the target of their disdain, and so on it goes.

Having said that, and speaking from several personal experiences, I must say thatI feel there are times when our Council could do a lot better when responding to community concerns etc.
Just this week, we've heard that Council has suspended the Mobile Speed Camerabecause of some sort of flaw. Some people will be very happy about that but for me, I wonder if Council is about to set out to solve a technical problem that's impacting on their revenue potential from fines, rather thanaddressing a bigger issue for many of us - the spirit behind having parking limits in the first place?

I could cite a number of situations in the CBD where either drivers or businesses have battled with Council over issues of fairness or good sense in relation to the parking restrictions, but I won't. For this exercise I'll just mention one observation that I feel shows how the "rules" and the "spirit of the rules" can clash.
Whether a Parking officer on foot or a mobile speed camera, if a driver parks in Lords Place near Robertson Park for more than an hour, chances are they'll get fined. That's the law, or the "rules".

The hour parking limit has been in place in this area of Lords Place for many years. Until the Council car park was built behind the Council Chambers a few years back, it was pretty impossible to find a parking space in this area. Maintaining an hour limit at that time made very good sense and no one could argue against the "spirit" of that.

Since the Council car park opened however, there are always numerous car parking spaces available and to be honest, for about 95% of the year, finding a parking space is not a problem.
So, what we have now are drivers being booked constantly for parking in a one hour zone, while there is ample space available up and down both sides of the street. To be booked under the current circumstances may be according to the "rules" but hardly in the "spirit of the rules".
When I see a parking officer booking a car for overstaying while there are 10 or more vacant spaces nearby, I simply can't swallow that that is fair or in the "spirit" of what is trying to be achieved. Councils vehemently deny they fine people for revenue raising but what else can it be called if the fine isn't going to make any difference for someone looking for a parking space? If the street was full of parked cars and there was little or no spacesavailable, fine away! But not if there's ample spaces available.

My point is this.
The circumstances for applying a one hour time limit in Lords Place near Robertson Park changed years ago when the Council car park opened. I, among others, have put a number of requests to Council asking that they review the current situation and make some adjustments, such as extending the limit to 2 hours. Council has not budged, but more than that, their arguments, in my view, are quite lame and suggest that they haven't given the matter any real thought or simply don't want the hassle or cost to change anything.

There are without doubt many situations like this, where Council has dismissed concerns from ratepayers without giving the subject adequate or reasonable consideration. I have no doubt that if Council staff took the time to "think through" or "work the problem" more in many of these cases, Orange would progress more rapidly as a result.

One other area where Council can also do betteris in the time it takes them to respond to concerns or queries. In my cases I have waited months only to receive a very long winded letter trying to justify their decision. Reading between the lines generally suggests to me, the person writing the letter either hasn't thought it through adequately, is not interested or simply hasn't got a clue.

Like I said Council can do better, they just need to want to!

 

 

What are they thinking?

What are they thinking?

Bob Holland

In this day and age, and at my stage in life, I must admit that I find many of the decisions made by our leaders to be somewhat bewildering. A gentler way of saying that could be to say they lack wisdom, a word and characteristic I have a real passion for.

One of the hottest issues at the moment is the Baird Government's decision to ban greyhound racing from July next year, supposedly on animal cruelty grounds. Personally, I don't care if they ban greyhound racing or not but I have to say, based on what I've heard so far, I can't see the justification for completely banning the sport.

Of course any issue that involves animals will generate a whole range of emotions and opinions, and those will be based on what your view of animals or wildlife is generally. If cute and cuddly animals melt your heart and their welfare is important to you, you'll be all for banning greyhound racing.

 If on the other hand, you regard all creatures simply as dumb animals and have no problems with swatting flies, killing rats, eating slaughtered meat and accepting that wild animals tear each other apart as part of nature, you probably couldn't care less if they ban greyhound racing or not on animal cruelty issues.

Without taking sides, this issue is set to be as hotly debated among greyhound racing enthusiasts and animal welfare lovers as the gay marriage issue is already among homosexuals and church goers. Sad to say and in both cases, there will be very unhappy people on one side, whatever the decisions.

Still on animal racing, I'm also aware of recent rules whereby jockeys in races, are only allowed to strike a horse with their whip so many times during a race. I think similar rules may also apply for drivers in harness racing. If that's the case, I really wonder how that can possibly work in practical terms? It's hard for me to imagine how a jockey or a driver, in the heat of battle towards the end of a race, can have the presence of mind to know how many times they've hit their horse between two points. I'm told that every week numerous jockeys get fined for hitting a horse more times than they should in the last 100 metres of a race or that they raised their whip hand too high above their shoulder. Really? I can't help also wonder, how that may or may not impact on the outcome of the race. If a jockey hits a horse more times than is legal and wins the race for example, shouldn’t that disqualify the horse, just as if the jockey weighed in light or something similar?

I find such rules a bit hard to swallow? I liken this thinking to the police officer who shoots and kills a criminal who's pointing a gun at them in a rage, only to find themself having to justify that they could have done something different during the split second they had to make a decision.

I have to ask, what are our decision makers thinking when they make unrealistic rules like these?

Wisdom, it's a great word with wonderful meaning and I can't help but think, if more people showed more wisdom in the decisions they make each day, in all manner of things, the better off we'd all be. Take some people's attitude to "rules" for example, I like the saying that says "rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of fools". That's wisdom.

Feedback? Send to bob@oclife.com.au

 

 

Homelessness epidemic in Orange

Homelessness epidemic in Orange


This the story that appeared in OCL August 4, 2016 -

Bob Holland


For a few weeks now I have been wanting to find out a bit more about the Orange Homeless Shelter and as chance has it, this week is Homelessness Week across Australia. If you're wondering why we need a Homelessness Week, maybe the reason is the fact that currently there are 105,000 people experiencing homelessness every night in Australia, and many more living in insecure housing, one step away from being homeless.
For this exercise however, let's concentrate on homelessness here in Orange which is described by those in the local industry as 'an epidemic'. My hope is that after reading this story, a few more of us will want to do something to help those who find themselves in this predicament.
First up, let me tell you a bit about our local homeless shelter facility and about some of the services it provides for people who need them.
The crisis accommodation facility (Orange Homeless Shelter) is called Wirree, it's staffed by the Housing Plus Homelessness Team and funded by Family and Community Services. It's one of seven transitional properties managed by Housing Plus. The staff at Wirree provide a whole range of services, generally tailored to the individual's needs, and can include such things as helping them re-connect with family and friends, helping with addiction issues, arranging professional help for trauma or mental health issues, or helping them transition into permanent accommodation through training on how to budget or care for a property etc. A community outreach worker is often allocated to help them with the transition after they move out of Wirree and into long term accommodation.
Wirree has nine rooms which are full most times and with long waiting lists. Wirree has accommodated 864 people for various lengths of time since opening in November 2014, and for those they can't accommodate at any particular time, they have access to other services and refuges that can often help.
So what type of people can find themself homeless, couch searching or sleeping in their car? According to Raelene Hopkins, Team Leader - Homelessness Services at Housing Plus "We see people of all ages and backgrounds enter the facility. Relationship breakdown is a contributing factor for many of our clients; if a man or woman has to leave the family home very suddenly, there is often nowhere else for them to go."
Wirree provides a marvellous service for those who need it, and apart from the Housing Plus team, other help is also needed. Currently this is provided by a number of local businesses and organisations including Housing NSW, Veritas, local real estate agencies, the Salvos, Vinnie's, the Police, Wangarang Industries and Ashcroft's Supa IGA and their customers.
Wirree welcomes donations from the community and there are various ways we can help. You can donate money through Ashcroft's Community Chest program or through Housing Plus in Byng Street, food and toiletry items through the donation baskets in Ashcroft's two Supa IGA stores, second hand furniture items to Housing Plus and anything else you feel they need through Housing Plus.

If you'd like to help but not sure how, call Housing Plus on 1800 603 300 to ask about your options.

This information from Housing Plus provides further information for those interested -
Wirree: More than just a bed for the night
Wirree is the crisis accommodation refuge in Orange for adults without children who are experiencing homelessness and is funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services under the Going Home Staying Home Reform. Housing Plus commenced both property management and operational service delivery of Wirree in November 2014 and since then has undertaken significant upgrades to the building.

Wirree, which is a Wiradjuri word meaning ‘to lie down’, has provided crisis accommodation for more than xx people since November 2014, helping to alleviate the homelessness epidemic in Orange and the surrounding area.

The facility is staffed by the Orange Homelessness and Housing Support Service, which aims to help vulnerable people to participate fully in social and economic life. This is achieved through early intervention programs, rapid re-housing response, crisis and transition housing response, and intensive support provisions for clients with complex needs.

The service works intensively with the residents of Wirree to ensure they transition smoothly into long term housing and that long term housing is sustained. This is achieved by working with other services that can provide the range of social and legal welfare assistance that a client may need, as well as helping the client re-connect with family and friends.
Raelene Hopkins, Team Leader - Homelessness Services at Housing Plus, says, “It is with this ‘wrap around’ support that clients are provided with the means to move in to secure, safe homes, often with prospects for work and education on the horizon.”
“Providing a roof over somebody’s head is a just a small part of what we do at Wirree If a client is struggling with addiction, we get them the professional help they need to overcome it; the same if a client is suffering from trauma or a mental illness.”
When a client leaves the facility to move into long term accommodation, support continues in the form of outreach. Hopkins says, “Clients are allocated a community outreach worker to help them maintain a tenancy; commonly, this can mean helping with budgeting or how to care for a property.”
“A lot of the time, people lack the basic life skills that we all take for granted. This is where Housing Plus can help out.Our approach is aimed at empowering and working in partnership with clients to effectively meet their individual needs.”
The Wirree crisis accommodation refuge is one of seven transitional properties managed by Housing Plus. There are nine rooms at the facility and these are full the majority of the time with long waiting lists. The length of stay is dependent on individual circumstances but the average stay is around two months.

Residents enter the facility as a referral from Housing NSW or via Link2home, thestate-wide homelessness information and referral telephone service. Before entering Wirree, residents are usually couch surfing or sleeping in their car.Hopkins says, “We see people of all ages and backgrounds enter the facility. Relationship breakdown is a contributing factor for many of our clients; if a man or woman has to leave the family home very suddenly, there is often nowhere else for them to go.”

Helping people into long term housing is very much the aim of the Orange Homelessness and Housing Support Service and Housing Plus works closely with Housing NSW and Veritas House, the Orange youth homelessness service, to get clients into their own homes quicker. These organisations meet once a month to share client information and find suitable housing solutions for these clients.Hopkins says, “Wirree is a last resort for many people but that’s what makes it such a valuable service for the town. When all other options have been exhausted, we give people a place to go.”

Housing Plus is generously supported in its work at Wirree by Ashcroft IGA in Orange, which regularly provides cash, food and toiletry donations.

These were further questions we asked Housing Plus during ourresearch for this story -
How many people has Wirree accommodated since 2014, the report says xx?
846 clients have been serviced by the homelessness team since Nov 2014 (housed in Wirree, transitional properties, temporary accommodation etc). This function under the going home staying home program funded by FACS.
Where is Wirree located? What is it? A house, flats, something else?
Wirree is a refuge complex in Orange. We prefer not to give the actual address due to client confidentiality/privacy. Residents are given a private room with ensuite bathroom but there is a communal kitchen, lounge room and other shared spaces to build a sense of community.
Other than Ashcrofts, who else supports, volunteers, gives or contributes in some way to the facility voluntarily?
Ashcroft’s SUPA IGA is our biggest supporter and, for this reason, we always like to mention them in any promotional material. We also partner with other businesses/organisations in Orangeto service clients – Housing NSW, Veritas, real estate agencies, Salvo’s, Vinnie’s, Police. Wangarang Industries services the apartment weekly for cleaning.
Is there anything the community can do to help?
Absolutely. We rely on donations. We get donations of second hand furniture and furnishings for Wirree but, unfortunately, we only have limited storage space so we cannot accept all donations.
 What happens to those others on the “long waiting lists”?
If we are unable to provide a room at Wirree, we usually refer the client to Housing NSW or Link2home. Alternatively, we try to find them a room in another refuge. Sometimes we are able to provide temporary accommodation e.g. in a motel room. When a room becomes available at Wirree, we refer to the waiting list and contact the client to see if they are still requiring accommodation.
What other functions do the other “transitional properties” fulfil?
Just to clarify, there is a difference between crisis accommodation (Wirree) and transitional accommodation, which we also provide (we have seven transitional properties). Apologies, but there was a discrepancy in the original report supplied. The main difference is the amount of time a client can stay in the property. Crisis accommodation (Wirree) is short term accommodation (generally no longer than three months but this can be extended in special circumstances). The aim is to support the client with the immediate crisis and prioritise their needs e.g. a trauma-informed response, legal/court support, financial assistance, mental health/drug and alcohol counselling, advocacy etc. Transitional accommodation is medium term accommodation (3-6 months but, again, can be extended – 12 months is the max). As in crisis accommodation, we aim to give clients in transitional accommodationthe skills they need to exit transitional accommodation, and gain and maintain a long term tenancy.  For example, we facilitate access to education and employment/vocational opportunities, support them to develop living skills, provide support to deal with trauma etc.