News - AM981 Hunter Valley

$1.2 million funding boost for major projects in Singleton

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Major projects in Singleton can now be completed after a funding boost from the NSW Government under the $200 million Stronger Country Communities Fund.

Singleton council was successful in their applications for three projects including $879,820 in funding to complete stages 6-11 of Rose Point Park. The park will now see the expansion of the all abilities playground, including new equipment and improvements to access in and around the existing playground.

The Singleton State Emergency Service received $260,000 for a facility upgrade and the Singleton Showground Facilities Upgrade Project received $125,482.

Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen made the announcement this week and said the investment will make sure there are upgraded facilities for the whole community to enjoy.

"Our Upper Hunter electorate has been calling out for upgrades to local facilities and I'm thrilled these can now be carried out."

Singleton Mayor Sue Moore said she is looking forward to seeing the works get underway.

"All three of these projects will make a considerable difference to the people of Singleton, but the Rose Point project is particularly special to expand what's on offer to everyone in our community - regardless of ability - and reinforce Singleton as an embracing and inclusive community."

Image credit: Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen 

$50-million cash splash to fix Upper Hunter road 'stuff-up'

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Above: The road closed sign at the start of the Merriwa to Willow Tree Road. 

A major funding commitment for Merriwa residents over the weekend to finally fix the Coulson’s Creek Road between the town and Willow Tree.

The coalition committing almost 50 million dollars to rebuild M-R-3-5-8, as it is also known, a critical livestock freight route.

The road has been closed to all vehicles since January last year after it collapsed following a landslip and inadequate council repairs.

State Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway says the bulk of the money for the project will come from Canberra.

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Above: Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Maurice Collison, Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway and Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzel. 

The Upper Hunter Shire Council says it has worked extremely hard to try to make it up to the Merriwa community after the Coulsen's Creek Road "stuff up".

Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Maurice Collision says he doesn't know how much economic loss has been suffered by locals as a result of the major cattle freight route being closed.

The work is not expected to be completed for at least two years.

Images: Darren Cutrupi

Bad news for the Hunter Valley wine industry

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Photo - F Delventhal (Flickr Hunter Valley Means Vineyards)

Bad news for the Hunter Valley wine industry with a significant drop in the amount of our product being exported overseas.

Australian wine exports fell by 26 per cent in value to $2.05 billion and 13 per cent in volume to 628 million litres in the year to March 2022.

Rachel Triggs from Wine Australia, who compile the stats, says there are several reasons for the downturn.

"The imposition of exceptionally high deposit tariffs by China,  the global freight crisis is causing supply chain issues where we can't get wine off our shores fast enough and in some markets there was some stockpiling in some markets because of the pandemic."

BHP to start work immediately on transition plan for Mt Arthur

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B-H-P says it will start work immediately on creating a transition plan for the 2000 people currently employed at their Mount Arthur coal mine here in the Hunter Valley.

The company announced yesterday it will look to extend the life of the open cut pit in Muswellbrook till 2030 then close it down.

The decision comes after a two year review into B-H-P's coal mining assets after deciding they would move away from the industry.

Mount Arthur Coal Mine Manager Adam Lancey said every effort was made to try to find a suitable buyer to take over the operation.

The mining and energy union says it feels for workers employed at Mount Arthur.

The union's Northern Mining Region President Robin Williams said the workforce were under the impression any possible closure would have been a lot further down the track.

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Muswellbrook Mayor Steve Reynolds said it's a sad time for the town especially those who rely on the mine.

The council will play a large role in helping to diversify the local economy in an attempt to offset the losses the mine closure will create.

He said it's now time for the state government to jump in to reshape the current restrictive planning laws.

Images: BHP and Darren Cutrupi

Boost to paramedic workforce but impact in Upper Hunter unknown

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The State Opposition said a boost to paramedic numbers in the Hunter Valley follows the worst response times in a decade.

The New South Wales Government has announced almost two-thousand new paramedic positions will be funded across the state over the next four years.

It follows a campaign of industrial action by our ambos including refusal to be moved to other stations while on shift to cover roster shortfalls.

Opposition Leader Chris Minns has welcome the funding and said this is a good first step to addressing the health crisis but it remains to be seen how many of the new resources will be assigned to the Upper Hunter.

Image: Australian Paramedics Association

By-Election date set for Singleton residents

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Singleton Council said they made every effort to encourage the Minister for Local Government to over rule a court decision forcing local residents to go pack to the polls for the third time in six months.

A by-election will now be held on Saturday the 30th of July after a Supreme Court judge decided the results from the poll in December last year were invalid after 34 people in the area couldn't vote because of a technical glitch.

Council general manager Jason Linnane said it's just a really unfortunate situation to find ourselves in.

Image: Storyblocks 

Concept plans released for $45-million Muswellbrook Hospital upgrade

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Draft concept plans (above) have been unveiled for Stage Three of the Muswellbrook Hospital Redevelopment.

The 45-million dollar project was a government commitment in the by-election for Upper Hunter last year.

Upper Hunter M-P Dave Layzell said an empty shell of space was left over from Stage Two work at the hospital.

A public information session will be conducted at Muswellbrook Workers Club on Friday afternoon from 12:30 till 2:00.

Image: Dave Layzell MP

 

Council defends user fee hike for sports in the Upper Hunter

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Upper Hunter Shire Council says it can no longer continue to wear the full cost of maintaining local sporting facilities.

The position comes as local sporting groups express outrage over a massive fee hike to play sport within the shire.

Local sporting groups have until 4:30 tomorrow afternoon to get in written objections to the proposal contained within the council's draft D-POP.

Council General Manager Greg McDonald said it's a big financial cost to maintain the facilities which are currently heavily subsidised by ratepayers.

"It doesn't mean all clubs will have to pay more," he said.

Image: Storyblocks

Council dismisses bid to overturn cafe closure decision

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A decision to shut down the Muswellbrook Art Gallery Cafe is set to go ahead after a motion to revisit the issue was defeated overnight six votes to four.

Mayor Steve Reynolds vacated the top seat at the Extraordinary Meeting to speak against the motion.

In response to questions General Manager Fiona Plessman revealed the cafe took in 20,000 income in May.

She told the meeting using that figure the council run business is projected to be 48-thousand dollars in the red in 12 months time.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Council rates to rise in Singleton, Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter

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The cost of owning a property in the Upper Hunter is set to increase from next month.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has given the go ahead to our local council to hike their rates over an above the standard zero-point-seven per cent rate pegging amount.

Muswellbrook Shire Council rates will rise the most after they asked for and were approved to charge and extra two-and-a-half per cent compared to last year.

Singleton and Upper Hunter shires will be permitted to increase their rates by a slightly more modest two per cent.

Image: Storyblocks

Council to review their own decision to close cafe

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A decision to close down the Muswellbrook Art Gallery cafe within days is set to be reviewed at an Extraordinary Meeting of Council tomorrow night.

Last week Councillors voted to stop using ratepayers money to operate the cafe, which is believed to be be running at a significant loss.

The decision leaving one permanent and five casual staff unemployed.

But now a revision motion will be put forward to reverse the decision.

Mayor Steve Reynolds said the cafe is running at a loss but will not reveal how much it is costing.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Date for the opening of the new Aquatic Centre confirmed

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Photo - Reg McKenna (Flickr)

The 2nd of July. That’s the date a completed Muswellbrook Aquatic Centre will open to the public.

It follows a long history of delays for the project which commenced back in 2019.

Councillor Steve Reynolds says the opening coincides with the start of school holidays.

Discounted family and annual passes are on the agenda for users.

“Muswellbrook Shire Council will be asked to endorse a recommendation to offer cheaper rates as compensation for the lengthy delays to the upgrade project,” Councillor Reynolds said.

The new facility includes a refurbished outdoor 50 metre pool, wet deck conversion, indoor pool hall and Water Play area, Learn to Swim pool, spa and sauna, 24 hour gym access and a commercial kitchen and cafeteria.

“The upgraded aquatic centre is designed for people of all ages and abilities,” he said.

Denman win the battle of the shire over Muswellbrook

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Denman has gotten their season back on track in Group 21 beating Muswellbrook 32-points-to-4.

The Devils put in a much improved performance at home after being smashed by competition front runners Scone the previous week.

Denman captain coach Liam Foran said a hard week at training working on defence and fitness really paid off.

In the other games....a second half points pile on has seen Scone run out easy 56-to-6 winners over Aberdeen in Group 21 rugby league action.

Despite being forced to field nine players who had gone around in reserve grade, the Tigers kept the competition leaders to 6-all through most of the first half.

A few tries in quick succession saw the Thoroughbreds lead 22-4 at the break.

Greta-Branxton defeated Singleton 26-14.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Feral pig disease detected in the Upper Hunter

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A warning has been issued this morning to anyone who comes into contact with feral pigs in the Upper Hunter.

Hunter Local Land Services has confirmed Brucellosis has been detected in the animals and dogs used to hunt them.

Hunter Local Land Services District Vet Dr Jim Kerr said the disease causes reproductive issues in pigs bur can also make humans and dogs sick.

"This disease has been in the feral pig population in Queensland and the Northern Territory for some and has now been detected in Cassalis and Merriwa," he said.

Image: NSW Local Land Services

Firefighters respond to multiple incidents in Muswellbrook

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Above: A fire crew from Aberdeen back up their Muswellbrook colleagues in responding to a fire yesterday afternoon.

A busy 24 hours for Muswellbrook fire crews.

Yesterday afternoon firefighters from Fire and Rescue New South Wales Station 392 were called to a bin fire near Muswellbrook High School.

Two hours later two units responded to reports of a house fire.

Crews arrived to find an occupant had left burning incense unattended which has started to spread.

The person had arrived home to discover the fire.

Firefighters quickly put out the blaze before it spread further.

Then just before five o'clock crews again received an Emergency triple zero call.

They arrived to find a yard fire burning.

It was quickly extinguished as fires are not allowed in the the town area under the Clean Air Act.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Health officials ask city nurses to fill shifts in the Upper Hunter

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Upper Hunter hospitals are so desperate for nursing staff management are asking staff in Newcastle to travel here to fill shifts.

That's the claim today from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association who want they government to immediately fund more nursing position in our region and implement a minimum nurse to patient ratio.

Association Secretary Brett Holmes says the action by Hunter New England Local Health District demonstrates how desperate the situation really is.

"That's a real indication that the local health service has acknowledged that we are in crisis," he said.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

High-ranking Finks gang member arrested in Maitland

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Strike Force Raptor has struck again in the Hunter Valley arresting and charging a high-ranking member of the 'Finks' outlaw motorcycle gang.

Strike Force officers stopped a vehicle in Chisolm near Maitland on Monday (February 19) and the 32-year-old male passenger was allegedly aggressive and threatening towards police. The man then resisted arrest and fled from the scene.

Yesterday (Wednesday 21 February) he attended Maitland Police Station where he was arrested and charged with assault police, resist arrest, intimidate police and offensive language.

Strike Force Raptor was established in 2009 and conducts proactive investigations and intelligence-based, high-impact policing operations to prevent and disrupt conflicts, and dismantle any network engaged in serious organised criminal activity.

Image credit: Grant Broadcasters

Hunter Valley police welcome trial of new search powers

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Hunter Valley police officers have  welcomed new laws which allow them to target serious drug dealers without the need for a warrant.

Under the provision to be trialed in our region...police can conduct a search without permission from the court if the person involved has been convicted of a serious drug supply charge in the last ten years.

Ian Allwood from the local branch of the police union said he expects it won't take long for these new laws to be utilised by local officers.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Hunter Valley train lines shut down

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Catching a train in the Upper Hunter will become a buss for the next four days.

All passenger and freight services have been halted north of Newcastle until Friday to allow major maintenance work to be undertaken.

A-R-T-C Group Executive for the Hunter Valley Wayne Johnson said they have planned to cause the least amount of disruption as possible.

"There will be an evening lane closure on the New England Highway at Bridge Street and a closure at Mangoola Road level crossing near Denman," he said.

"Temporary traffic controls will be put in place which motorists may want to take into account when planning your journey."

 Image: Australian Rail Track Corporation

Investigation into what we throw in the rubbish underway in Muswellbrook

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Above: Wilbur the Water Warrior with his friends, The Waste Wranglers: Gene the Gardener, Reece the Recycler and Max and Minimise.

In Hollywood dodgy reporters do it to celebrities and now the practice has come to the Hunter Valley.

Going through our bins.

Muswellbrook Shire Council has commenced a random survey of what residents are dumping in their different bins.

Council's Sustainability Officer Mick Brady said the 250 bins are being chosen at random to see what residents are throwing out into each bin..

The audit will run until Friday this week.

Image: Muswellbrook Shire Council

Labor holds Hunter in Federal Election

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Above: Dan Repacholi enters the the party with his supporters at Cessnock Leagues Club after claiming victory on Saturday night .

The Labor Party maintained its stranglehold on the Hunter Valley when it comes to our national parliament.

Dan Repacholi to be elected the new Federal Member for the seat of Hunter following the election on Saturday ahead of James Thomson from the Nationals.

Mr Thomson rang his opponent just before 10:30 on Saturday night to concede and congratulate him on the victory.

Mr Repacholi said he feels extremely fortunate to be given the honour of representing them as their voice in Canberra.

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Above: Dan Repacholi's wife Alex introduces the newly elected Federal Member for Hunter to supporters at Cessnock Leagues Club on Saturday night.

National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce was re-elected in New England.

Images: Darren Cutrupi

Labor promises cash to upgrade Muswellbrook Town Centre

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A boost for Muswellbrook with one of the major political parties splashing out some serious pre-election cash today.

The Labor Party is promising to provide 10-and-half-million dollars to upgrade the town centre based on a plan put forward by Muswellbrook Shire Council to all parties contesting the election here.

Labor's Hunter candidate Dan Repacholi said the money will flow if Anthony Albanese is Prime Minister after Saturday's election.

"As the town and district continues to grow, the cityscape needs to be upgraded and the community needs more open space," Mr Repacholi said.

 "That’s why an Albanese Labor Government will invest $10.5 million in the Muswellbrook Town Square," he said.

" When complete, this project will better link historic buildings and provide community open space ready to host community and cultural events, farmers markets, outdoor performances, screenings and create a new sense of identity and activity right in the middle of town.

 "Importantly, this project will act as a catalyst, encouraging private investment and driving the continued redevelopment of Muswellbrook."

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Land acquired for Merriwa billion dollar solar and battery hub

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The proponents of a billion-dollar renewable energy hub in the Upper Hunter say they expect to begin consultation with the local community within a few months.

Moaneng is planning to construct the large solar and battery hub in Merriwa by 2025, creating 500 equivalent full time jobs during the 18 months of construction.

Moaneng's Director of Development Alison Hawke said deals have already been done to use the land they need for the project.

"We have squired agreements with the land owners whether that be a long term lease or an option to purchase part of their land," she said.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Large tree smashes onto car trapping woman

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Above: Emergency services personnel rescued a woman trapped in her car after being struck by a large tree.

A motorist has been rescued after a large tree struck her car in Singleton.

A Fire and Rescue NSW crew from Singleton was called out to rescue the driver, trapped in her vehicle while on John Street.

Firefighters were joined by police, ambulance rescue and State Emergency Service personnel at the scene around.

She had suffered a sore shoulder and cuts and bruises in the incident, caused by a wild storm that struck the area.

The emergency crews, using a chainsaw, removed parts of the toppled tree to reach and free the driver, who was transported to hospital in a stable condition.

Image: Fire and Rescue NSW

Last orders today at Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery Cafe

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Last orders today at the Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery Cafe with council to shut the doors this afternoon on the tax payer funded establishment.

Muswellbrook Shire Council voted to put the space out to tender instead of continuing in the cafe business at the site because of concerns about long term financial losses and objections from other nearby eateries.

A so-call last ditch attempt by three Councillors earlier this week to reverse the decision failed at an extraordinary meeting.

The cafe's manager is being made redundant but Council General Manager Fiona Plesman said she hopes the business's five casual staff can be redeployed.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Local business and MP's react to the Mt Arthur Coal Mine closure

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 Muswellbrook businesses say the announcement about the closure of the Mount Arthur Coal Mine took them by complete surprise.

B-H-P revealed it will close down the mine by 2030 after failing to find a suitable buyer for the open cut mine over the last two years.

Muswellbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry thinks most people were expecting to be told a new owner would take over the operation for many years to come.

Chamber President Mike Kelly has been taking calls from members asking for more information.

Mr Kelly said he's been pointing out to them the opportunities that come from the announcement.

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The Federal Government believes the announcement about the future of B-H-P's Mount Arthur Coal Mine finally provides some certainty for the community.

Federal member elect for Hunter Dan Repacholi said we now need to focus on what needs to be done to look after the workers and the wider community.

The new Federal Government representative in the Upper Hunter has pledged to throw his full support behind B-H-P's bid to extend the life of their Muswellbrook coal mine by a further four years.

The company will seek to extend their current permit to mine the Mount Arthur Open Cut site from June 2026 till 2030 before closing it down.

Mr Repacholi said he'll be lobby his colleagues in Canberra to give the extension the tick of approval.

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Upper Hunter M-P Dave Layzell says he is looking at the positives to come out of B-H-P's announcement on the future of Mount Arthur Coal Mine.

He said the idea of handing over the site to another operator didn't sit well with him.

Mr Layzell said the key to Muswellbrook's financial security is quickly removing the red tape around being able to reuse buffer land around current mine sites.

Muswellbrook Coal will cease operations later this year and Mount Arthur in another eight years.

Mr Layzell said the land around the mines is needed to attract new businesses to town.

Images: Darren Cutrupi

Local MP criticises Upper Hunter public servants

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Upper Hunter M-P Dave Layzell has hit out at state government public servants for walking off the job yesterday in protest at current pay negotiations.

The staff from various government agencies including corrective services and Service New South Wales are asking for an immediate five-point-2 per cent increase but the government is only offer three.

Mr Layzell said all the strike has achieved is to cause disruption to local communities.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Local RFS official recognised by the Queen

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Recognition for a a long time member for the Rural Fire Service in the Hunter Valley.

Fred Turner was awarded an Australian Fire Service Medal in the annual Queens Birthday Honours announced yesterday.

He is currently a New South Wales R-F-S Group Captain.

Mr Turner said the award has come as a complete surprise.

"It's really not what a volunteer does to go out and look for recognition," he said.

"To get an award like this, given at this level, is certainly not expected."

 Image: Gary Hooker

M-P wants to put the brakes on wind farms in the Upper Hunter

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Upper Hunter M-P Dave Layzell has called for a halt to fast track wind farm projects in the Upper Hunter to ensure affected communities are listened to.

The local state government representative has made the call after meeting with a group of concerned residents of Timor near Murrurundi about the proposed Fields of Gold Wind Farm.

The proponent, Engie wants to erect up to 65 wind turbine generators and associated infrastructure in the area.

But Mr Layzell said governments need to put the brakes on rushing projects such as this.

Image: Supplied by Dave Lzyzell

Man injured in Mount Thorley fire

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A man is being treated for burns in hospital following a shed fire at Mount Thorley this afternoon.

Fire crews were called to the business premises on Piercefield Road at 1:35pm.

The NSW Ambulance Service confirmed a 41 year old man was treated by paramedics before he was taken to Singleton District Hospital in a stable condition.

The fire was quickly extinguished by NSW Rural Fire Service firefighters.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Mayor says Muswellbrook still shortchanged

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Muswellbrook Shire Council has welcomed funding promises by both of the major parties to pay for the upgrade of one of the towns significant sporting venues.

No matter who wins government at the national poll tomorrow....the bill for the five-and-a-half-million dollar project will be paid for by the bank of Canberra.

Despite this Mayor Steve Reynolds said in his eyes Muswellbrook has still come up short in this election campaign.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Minister commits to addressing Upper Hunter nursing crisis

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Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor says she will work day and night to help solve the nursing crisis at Muswellbrook and surrounding hospitals here in the Upper Hunter.

Management have been struggling to fill the nursing rosters for some time forcing staff to work double and split shifts which is leading to burnout and concerns about patient safety.

We revealed yesterday that six experienced nurses have resigned in recent weeks from Muswellbrook Hospital including one giving up her front-line health career for a job in the mines.

Ms Taylor said she is determined to address the situation as quickly as possible.

"I'm sad to hear those people are leaving. I'm sad to hear that they've gotten to that point but what I have to commit to and I am committing to you and all of  your listeners is there is not going to be any hour in any day that doesn't go past with me looking to find solutions to fix thing," she said.

"I'm not going to say I have all the solutions now but I am actively working on things."

Image: NSW Nationals

Minister invited to work a few nursing shifts at Muswellbrook Hospital

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An invitation this morning for the Regional Health Minister to come and work a few shifts on the wards at Muswellbrook Hospital to find out what is really happening on the front line.

Bronnie Taylor is an experienced registered nurse and recently told us she would work every waking hour to find a solution to the nursing crisis here in the Upper Hunter.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association is demanding more details about an announcement this week that ten-thousand extra health staff will be employed across the state over the next four years.

Muswellbrook Branch Vice President Peggy Smith said they seriously doubt there will be any more nurses for the Upper Hunter from this.

More nurses quit in Muswellbrook over burnout

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Experienced nurses at Muswellbrook Hospital are walking out to go and take on jobs outside healthcare such as in the mines.

That's the word from the local branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association with news that six of their members have resigned from the hospital in the past few weeks after suffering burnout.

It comes after we revealed recently that management is being forced to fill nursing shifts by bringing in staff from outside the Hunter Valley.

Association Muswellbrook branch Vice President Peggy Smith said the resignations will put even more pressure on our local nurses.

"It's leaving us cover a lot more vacant shifts, continuously doing double and split shifts, things like that," she said.

"This is just adding to the burnout. It can't continue like this." 

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Mt Arthur coal mine to close

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A bombshell announcement for Muswellbrook and the Upper Hunter today.

B-H-P set to close down their Mount Arthur Coal Mine in the town in 2030.

The company will seek government approval to extend operations for a further four years to add on to their existing permit which expires in 2026.

The decision will result in the loss of two-thousand jobs in the Upper Hunter.

B-H-P Vice President New South Wales Energy, Coal Adam Lancey said attempts to sell the site to another operator ultimately failed.

Image: BHP

Mt Pleasant Coal Mine expansion one step closer to reality

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The proposed expansion of the Mount Pleasant Coal Mine in Muswellbrook has moved one step closer to reality.

The State Government has recommended to the Independent Planning Commission that they approve the application by MACH Energy.

The mine north-west of Muswellbrook began operation in 2018 and is currently approved to extract ten-and-a-half million tonnes of ‘run of mine’ coal a year until 2026.

MACH Energy is proposing to extract an additional 247-million tonnes at the Mount Pleasant site.

This would extend the life of the mine by 22 years to 2048.

A spokesperson for MACH Energy said this is just another step in a long process to approval.

 Image: Mach Energy

Muswellbrook Aquatic Centre reopening delayed...again.

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Muswellbrook Shire Council is defending the latest in a string of delays in the aquatic centre upgrade project.

The upgrade has been the subject of multiple issues and is several years overdue.

Council previously made a big deal about the recreational facility finally opening to the public on the 2nd of July but this has been put back by another week at the eleventh hour.

But Muswellbrook Mayor Steve Reynolds said this latest delay, caused by power issues, is beyond council's control.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Muswellbrook signs up to new air quality project

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Muswellbrook Shire Council is set to be given access to more information about the quality of air in the town.

Council has signed up to a new partnership with several New South Wales universities for the the Operational Network of Air Quality Impact Resources or OPENAIR program.

Professor Ben Eggleton from the University of Sydney said the primary objective of the program is to develop informational resources that councils can use to solve their air quality issues.

Image: Storyblocks

No bail for man and woman connected to alleged shooting at Upper Hunter police

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 A man and woman have been remanded in custody in connection to a police pursuit from Scone in which shots were allegedly fired at police.

Police were investigating thefts from rural properties in the Upper Hunter when they identified a Toyota Landcruiser linked to other crimes late on Tuesday afternoon.

Officers attempted to stop it from exiting a fast food outlet car park on Kelly Street but the driver allegedly rammed a police car and took off.

The vehicle was pursued by numerous police including POLAIR until it made it to a property on Swinging Ridges Road in Willow Tree.

It’s then a one of the occupants of the vehicle climbed onto the rear tray and allegedly discharged several rounds from a firearm .

The Landcruiser then continued to a station on Merriwa Road, Little Jacks Creek, where  the three occupants left the vehicle before fleeing into nearby bushland.

All three were found several hours later. They were arrested and taken to Muswellbrook Police station.

A 26 year old man has been charged with numerous offences including fire firearm in or near public place.

A 23 year old woman, alleged to be the driver of the vehicle, was also charged with multiple offences including use offensive weapon in company to prevent detention and drive recklessly / furiously or speed / manner dangerous.

Both have fronted court and been refused bail by Magistrate Bree Chisholm. They’ll reappear on July 19.

A third person, a 27 year old woman, was also charged and granted strict conditional bail to face court on the same date.

Image: Google Maps

No power infrastructure to use CT scanner at Muswellbrook Hospital

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Senior health management say they'll investigate why patients have to travel down to Maitland to get a C-T scan after hours because Muswellbrook Hospital doesn't have adequate power infrastructure to perform them.

Staff were promised three phase power, required to operate a CT scanner, was promised in Stage Two of the hospital upgrade project several years ago but it never happened.

The Hunter Valley Newsroom has been told this is costing taxpayers a fortune in travel costs and or taking a valuable ambulance resource off the road for several hours.

Executive Director for Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability at Hunter New England Health, Dr Ramsey Awad said he expects this to be included as part of the Stage Three works.

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Above: Dr Ramsey Awad address a community consultation meeting at Muswellbrook Workers Club last Friday afternoon.

Images: Darren Cutrupi

One Nation dismisses Hunter polling result showing Labor win

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One Nation has dismissed polling that predicts a comfortable victory for Labor in the Hunter electorate at the Federal Election next weekend.

The YOU GOV data predicts Dan Repacholi retaining the seat for the A-L-P with 60 per cent of the vote after preferences over the National's James Thomson.

But One Nation Hunter candidate Dale McNamara said that's not what he's picking up as he travels around the pre-polling centres.

"There's just no way that the Labor Party is getting anywhere near those numbers," he said.

Image: One Nation 

Plan prepared for new council chambers in old supermarket site

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Muswellbrook Shire Council says plans are advancing to take over a section of the former I-G-A Supermarket in Campbell's Corner to construct a council chambers.

Mayor Steve Reynolds has listed a custom designed facility for council meetings as one of highest priorities following complaints from rate papers about not being able to hear proceedings.

The council has been without chambers since the former facility was sold off to a private school at a loss of over two-million dollars.

Council General Manager Fiona Plesman confirmed staff have been working on making it happen within the old supermarket site.

Image: Muswellbrook Shire Council

Planning body urged to reject Martindale greyhound project

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 Fresh concern this morning from Martindale residents over a proposed controversial greyhound retraining facility.

Greyhound Racing New South Wales, who want to establish the 33-million dollar facility in the quiet and tranquil village, only provided additional information to planning eleven days ago.

The extra documentation was missing from the original development application.

Local residents say the Hunter Regional Planning Panel should reject the application.

Vanessa Richards from Not In Martindale Community said a so-called a public consultation meeting in March this year was by invitation only.

"Many local residents didn't put in a submission because they didn't know about it," she said.

Image: Matt Duddy

Police deal with rise in thefts from motor vehicles in Muswellbrook

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Police said they have dealt with a group of criminals responsible for a big percentage of thefts from vehicles in Muswellbrook.

New stats for the crime show a 133 per cent rise over the two years to March 2022.

But acting Hunter Valley Police District Commander, Superintendent Jo Schultz said a small group of people responsible for the majority of these thefts have been arrested.

"Unfortunately in the Muswellbrook area we had quite a significant outbreak of property theft committed by a small group of young people," she said.

"Fortunately now most of those responsible have been caught and are now before the justice system."

 Image: Darren Cutrupi

Police defend response to life threatening calls

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Photo - Darren Cutrupi

The Hunter Valley's top cop has defended their response to life threatening calls in the last financial year.

New stats obtained by the State Opposition under F-O-I show 20 calls for urgent across the region in 2020/21 help were not responded to by police within the set benchmark of 12 minutes.

But Region Commander, Superintendent Tracey Chapman says it's not a significant number when you consider how many calls police in the Hunter Valley receive.

"In saying that it is not a significant number 20 out of well over 2000 just since July last year you know in the scheme of things may not seem significant but I understand and appreciate every call is important and we have police operating 24/7 across our district to ensure we respond to those jobs as quickly as possible."

Police to investigate Muswellbrook unit fire

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A fire has caused major damage to a unit in Muswellbrook overnight.

Fire and Rescue NSW was alerted to the incident on Tindale Street just before pm.

Station 392 from Muswellbrook responded with three fire trucks and arrived to find property alight and full of thick smoke.

A search found no one inside and the fire, located in a bedroom was extinguished.

The building has been declared a crime scene with police to investigate the cause.

Image: Fire and Rescue NSW Station 392 Muswellbrook

Police to investigate the cause of Muswellbrook fire

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 Above: NSW Police Chief Inspector Guy Giana at the scene of a shed fire in Muswellbrook.

Police will investigate the cause of a shed fire in Muswellbrook that led to the evacuation of a neighbouring primary school.

Emergency services were called to the property on Koombahla Street at a quarter three yesterday afternoon.

The nearby Muswellbrook Public School was safely evacuated.

Chief Inspector Guy Giana said there's it's unknown what caused the fire at this stage.

The blaze in the shed of a neighbouring property sent smoke billowing into the school premises.

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Teachers and staff directed everyone outside onto the oval as had been practised in previous exercise drills.

Year six student Sofia said she was outside playing with her friends when the fire started.

"We saw the smoke come over all of the houses and  everyone was scared and they were crying and stuff like that," she said.

"The teachers all came down to the oval and calmed everyone down so we were good."

Images: Darren Cutrupi

 

Praise for Upper Hunter first responders

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Praise can be heard from all across the Upper Hunter today for our emergency services personnel.

It's Thank A First Responder Day, which started several years ago to ensure our police, paramedics, fire fighters and S-E-S volunteer members know they are appreciated.

Local paramedic from New South Wales Ambulance Georgia said it's nice to be thought of so highly by the Upper Hunter community.

"I really appreciate it. We don't really do this job for any of this praise but I'm glad everyone appreciates us and what we do for the community."

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Public hearing to be held on Mt Pleasant mine extension bid

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A public hearing will be held into a bid by MACH Energy to extend the life of its Mount Pleasant coal mine just outside Muswellbrook.

The company is currently licenced to extract coal from the site until 20226 but are asking for this to be extended to 2048.

The Independent Planning Commission has issued a statement saying it now invites public submissions on the $950-million dollar extension, either in writing or verbally during a public hearing on Thursday 7 July 2022 and Friday 8 July 2022.

The Panel will conduct the public hearing wholly online with registered speakers participating via telephone or video conference.

They say key issues identified in the State Government's assessment will be examined including noise, air quality and greenhouse gas, water resources and bio-diversity.

Chair of the Commission panel, Professor Alice Clark, said hearing from the community is important to the decision-making process.

"The Commission has access to all previous submissions made to the Department of Planning and Environment but it is particularly helpful for the Panel, as the decision-makers, to hear directly from stakeholders about the Department’s assessment of the key issues and its proposed conditions of consent," he said.

"The Commission encourages anyone who wishes to have their say on the proposed mine extension to register to speak at the public hearing or make a written submission directly to the Commission."

Anyone wishing to have their say at the public hearing is required to pre-register via the Commission’s website using the ‘Speaker Registration Form’.

The deadline for speaker registrations is 12pm AEST, Monday 27 June 2022. Written submissions will be accepted until 5pm AEST on Friday 15 July 2022.

Written submission can be lodged via email, post or the ‘Have Your Say’ portal on the Commission’s website: www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/have-your-say

Image: MACH Energy 

Rate rise confirmed for Singleton residents

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Almost unanimous support overnight for council rates in Singleton to increase by two per cent from next month.

All but Councillor Val Scott endorsed the recommendation at the regular Singleton council meeting.

Deputy Mayor Tony Jarrett told the meeting they had an obligation to vote in favour of the rate rise.

Image: Storyblocks

Record crowd attends first few nights of the Firelight Festival

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A record turnout for the start of Singleton's Firelight Festival.

Firewalk awed local residents and visitors offering a unique lighting spectacular that combined hologram and immersive laser light displays celebrating the diversity and creativity of the Singleton area.

Singleton Council’s Director Organisation and Community Capacity Vicki Brereton said five-and-a-half thousand patrons took it all in over the two days and the number will only increase through this week.

"The annual event has created a great community atmosphere in the town and we expect the number of visitors to climb above 15-thousand by this weekend ," she said.

Image: Singleton Council

Reduced generation at Bayswater Power Station contribute's to lack of power

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Suggestions this morning that the Hunter Valley has contributed to the current power shortage on the east coast of Australia.

Energy companies have been directed to produce more electricity to cover the shortfall being experienced in New South Wales and Queensland.

Past Director of numerous energy companies and current Climate Council member Andrew Stock said having reduced capacity at Bayswater Power Station in Muswellbrook since last week hasn't helped the situation.

Three of the facility's power generators were out of action last week due to break downs or scheduled maintenance.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Rescue chopper volunteers singled out for praise

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The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service has acknowledged the valuable contribution of its dedicated volunteers in making the Upper Hunter ‘Better Together’.

That's the theme of National Volunteer Week, which started on Sunday.

The Service has 1500 loyal volunteers including many in the Hunter Valley.

Rescue chopper Chief Executive Richard Jones said volunteers have played a key role in the service they deliver since day one.

"My hat is off and on my chest. I pay tribute to you all that's given us some of your time, expertise and indeed your money.," he said.

"I say thank you to you all. You are the heartbeat of the organisation."

Image: Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service

Return and Earn scheme one step closer to Merriwa

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The Merriwa community will be invited to meet with the boss of the company that operates the Return and Earn bottle recycling service across New South Wales.

Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell has met with the head of TOMRA CLEANAWAY and handed over a petition signed by almost one-thousand local residents calling for the service to be set up in the town.

The community has been asking for the bottle recycling service for several years.

Mr Layzell said the C-E-O has accepted his invitation to visit Merriwa.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Scone drug supply ring busted by police

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Three men have been arrested and charged with multiple drug offences in relation to the alleged supply of cocaine in the Upper Hunter.

The men were nabbed by police in two separate raids in Sydney and Scone yesterday including at a licensed premises on Kelly Street and two nearby homes.

Hunter Valley Crime Manager Detective Inspector Matt Zimmer says the arrests follow extensive investigations which began in December last year.

"Strike Force Bunks was established in December 2021 by Hunter Valley Police District to investigate the alleged supply of prohibited drugs in the Scone area," he said.

All three will face Scone Local Court next month.

Image: Storyblocks

Scone remain undefeated in Group 21

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Above: Rival captain coaches and friends Adam Clydesdale (Scone) and Jayden Rosberg (Muswellbrook) catch up after the game at Olympic Park.

Scone has made another statement about their premiership credentials in the Group 21 rugby league competition.

The Thoroughbreds beating Muswellbrook 44-24 on Saturday night.

Singleton scored in the opening two minutes in their clash with Denman to take the early lead but that’s where their joy ended.

The Devils then piled on over half a century of points to run out easy 52-to-14 winners.

Greta Branxton defeated Aberdeen 22-16.

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Above: Singleton score a try under the posts off a kick during the second half of their clash with Denman at Pirtek Park.

Images: Darren Cutrupi

SES receives 45 calls for help in the Upper Hunter

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A busy night for our local SES volunteers in the Upper Hunter with 45 calls for help.

The jobs stretching from Murrurundi and Scone to Muswellbrook and Singleton.

Martin Grey from Singleton SES Unit said one call out involved removing a very large tree blocking a major access route into into the town, John Street.

Image: Singleton Disaster Dashboard

Shed fire causes nearby school evacuation

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Above: Firefighters at the scene of a shed fire in Muswellbrook this afternoon.

A fire in a backyard shed this afternoon has caused the evacuation of students and staff at a local primary school.

Fire and Rescue NSW was alerted to the incident on Koombahla Street in Muswellbrook at a quarter three by multiple emergency triple zero calls.

They responded with a fire crew from Muswellbrook Station 392 which was backed up by a second from  Aberdeen Station 208.

Police, Ambulance and NSW Rural Fire Service also attended.

The school backs onto Muswellbrook Public School.

Students and staff safely evacuated and no one was injured.

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Images: Darren Cutrupi

Shots allegedly fired at Upper Hunter police during chase

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 Three people have been arrested and two firearms seized following a pursuit between Muswellbrook and Scone on Tuesday in which shots were allegedly fired at police.

Officers from Hunter Valley Police District commenced investigations into alleged thefts of firearms from rural properties in the Upper Hunter Valley area.

Following ongoing inquiries, PolAir commenced following a Landcruiser about 5 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, which was seen driving through Muswellbrook and Scone.

It followed reports it had allegedly been previously used in a number of thefts.

Kathryn Perchinski from Police Media said the vehicle was tracked to the car park of a fast-food restaurant on Kelly Street, Scone, when officers attempted to stop the them.

"The Landcruiser allegedly rammed a police vehicle before driving from the scene," she said.

"PolAir continued to follow the vehicle to Swinging Ridges Road, Willow Tree, when one of the occupants of the vehicle climbed onto the rear tray of the Landcruiser and allegedly discharged several rounds from a firearm.

"The Landcruiser continued to a station on Merriwa Road, Little Jacks Creek, where it entered bushland and the three occupants left the vehicle before fleeing into nearby bushland," she said.

"With the assistance of PolAir, officers located and arrested a man and two women in nearby bushland about 2.30am."

Image: Storyblocks

Singleton child killer Kathleen Folbigg plea for a pardon rejected

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The lawyer of Singleton convicted child killer Kathleen Folbigg tells us her client is shattered the Attorney-General has chosen not to grant her a pardon despite new scientific evidence which proves her innocence.

Mark Speakman has announced a new inquiry has been ordered by the NEW SOUTH WALES Governor on his recommendation based on the new evidence presented to him by Folbigg's legal team.

She is currently serving a 40 year sentence after being convicted of murdering her children Patrick, Sarah and Laura, and for the manslaughter of her son Caleb.

Folbigg's lawyer Rhanee Rego said while the pardon was not given the new evidence will now at least come under close judicial scrutiny.

Image: University of Newcastle

Singleton coal miners wanted for research project

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A call is going out to Singleton residents who work in the coal mining industry.

University of Newcastle Honours Student Myles Egan wants to interview locals for a research project on people's concerns about the issue.

Mr Egan said any transition away from coal needs to be done on the back of good information from the people it effects most.

"The ultimate outcome for a project like this is will be help to inform, I hope, policy makers do with this research and how they consider policies that can help to transition the region."

To participate in this research project contact Myles via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Image: Supplied by Myles Egan

Singleton Councillors to vote on their own pay rise tonight

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A vote tonight in Singleton to give the Mayor and Councillors a pay rise.

A report will be considered at the regular council meeting which recommends a two per cent increase in salary.

Mayor Sue Moore's pay packet would rise to just over 67-thousand dollars a year if approved while Councillors would receive 21-thousand dollars annually to represent the communities best interests.

Image:  Storyblocks

Singleton mum wins over $1-million on Lotto

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A Singleton woman has woken up a lot heavier this morning.....but not because she ate too much for dinner or pigged out on snacks in front of the TV last night.

It's because she went to bed as our area's newest millionaire.

The married mum of two picked up just over one-million dollars in Wednesday night Lotto with her Systems Eight Quick Pick entry purchased online.

Anna Hobdell from the LOTT said understandably it took a while for the news to sink in.

“Oh my god. Oh my god! Are you joking?” she screamed.

“I’m about to fall over. I’m shaking, I can’t believe this. I need five minutes to decompress.

“To think I was almost not going to answer your call because I was in the middle of unpacking the groceries, looking after my daughter and phone alarms were going off. Wow, just wow!

“You called just at the right time because I had to drop off one of my children to school this morning and do the groceries. Imagine if you called at the shops, I’d be screaming!

“This changes absolutely everything. I’ve always said to my husband, if we were ever fortunate enough to win, we would still live life humbly.

“I have to give him a phone call straight away – he’ll be beside himself!

“It’s everyone’s wildest dreams to win the lottery and you never know how you’ll react. I’m extremely blessed and so grateful.”

"When I asked her how she planned to spend her newfound fortune, the winner said it would go towards her family’s future," Ms Hobdell said.

Image: Supplied by The Lott

Sports ground user fees capped at CPI after community outrage

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Proposed sky high increases to use Upper Hunter sports facilities from this Friday have been officially knocked on the head overnight.

Councillors have endorsed an updated recommendation from staff to lift user fees by C-P-I instead of adopting a controversial new charging system.

The decision comes after widespread community outrage over the proposal.

Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Maurice Collison said council will now use the next 12 months to discuss how it can fund ongoing maintenance to ensure facilities are safe to use.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Ungooroo Health and Wellbeing Community Expo

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An open invitation this morning for the public to attend the Ungooroo Health and Wellbeing Community Expo.

The event, to occur for four hours from 10 o'clock this morning at the Singleton Centre in John Street, will showcase the services the Ungooroo offers.

A collection of NRL stars  will be special guests at the Expo.

Ungooroo Chief Executive Tarsha Layer said there's something for everyone to get into at the expo.

Image: Wests Tigers

Union calls for Same Job Same Pay laws to be implemented for Hunter Valley coal miners

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The mining and energy union says it is ready to start negotiating implementation of new laws to deliver Same Work Same Pay for Hunter Valley Coal miners.

The coalition, with support from One Nation, previously changed work place legislation to allow mining companies to employ staff via contractors on up to 60-thousand dollars a year less than permanent employees.

The Union's Hunter Valley District President, Robin Williams, said the ball is now in the Albanese Government's court to deliver on their pre-election promise.

Image: Mining and Energy Union

Upper Hunter projects funded in State Budget

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The Upper Hunter is set to receive funding for a number of projects after the State Budget was handed down yesterday.

The list includes money to progress the Singleton and Muswellbrook bypasses, further upgrades at Muswellbrook Hospital, a new home for the Fire and Rescue New South Wales fire station in Muswellbrook, Muswellbrook South Public School and TAFE in Scone.

Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell said there are also some major policy shifts that are going to change everyone's lives for the better such as spending on the Health system and reforms to early childhood education.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Upper Hunter rate rise confirmed

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Rate increases on on the agenda again for two councils in the Upper Hunter this week.

Last week Singleton Council lifted rates by two per cent for the next financial year which starts this Friday.

Overnight Upper Hunter Shire Councillors rubber stamped a two per cent increase in rates as well.

Tonight Muswellbrook Shire Council is expected to endorse a two-and-a-half per cent rise.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Upper Hunter rural crime blitz leads to two arrests

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A crackdown on crimes in rural areas of the Upper Hunter has led to the discovery of seizure of firearms and two joeys.

Operation ‘Devil Ark’ was established by officers from the Rural Crime Prevention Team attached to Hunter Valley Police District and ran over four days.

"The operation ran from Thursday 2 June 2022 to Monday 6 June 2022 in various rural areas, including Ellerston, Barrington Tops, Nundle, Nowendoc, Murrurundi, Willow Tree and Timor, during which 27 livestock carrier inspections and 26 hunting vehicle stops were undertaken," a police spokesperson said.

"Incidents of note during Operation Devil Ark included at 4.30pm on Saturday 4 June 2022, officers stopped a 27-year-old man on Hunter Road, Gundy – north of Muswellbrook – after he was allegedly located with two young kangaroo joeys unlawfully obtained. Police searched the man’s vehicle and located ammunition and firearms, which were seized for forensic examination. The joeys were taken to a wildlife care centre, where they are receiving treatment. The man was arrested, and his firearm licence was suspended. He was released a short time later pending further inquiries.

"At 8.15pm on Sunday 5 June 2022, officers stopped a car in Mayne Street, Murrurndi – north of Scone. Police spoke to the driver before searching the vehicle when they located a machete and knuckle dusters, which were seized for forensic examination. A 19-year-old man from Westdale was issued with a Future Court Attendance Notice for custody of knife in public place and possess prohibited weapon. He will appear at Scone Local Court on Wednesday 13 July 2022."

"During the proactive operation, a number of unreported crimes were also reported to police, including livestock thefts, property thefts and ongoing incidents of illegal hunting, which continue to be investigated," the spokesperson said.

Image:  NSW Police Media 

Upper Hunter weekend sports results

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Above: Aberdeen's front row forward Adam Swadling getting tackled by the Muswellbrook defence at McKinnon Park on Saturday.

Aberdeen has finally returned to the winners list after a horror run in the Group 21 rugby league competition.

The victory coming at the expense of Muswellbrook 34-to-36 at McKinnon Oval.

Both teams went try for try until the break then the home team took the lead in the second half.

A 74-6 score line highlighted the difference between first and last with Scone over Singleton while Denman had a day out at Greta Branxton’s expense 46-10.

Dominic White has marked his 50th game for Muswellbrook with an emphatic win in the A-F-L Hunter Central Coast competition.

The game relocated to the Cats home, Weeraman Field, because of the wet weather in the lower Hunter.

Muswellbrook smashed the Saints by 94 points.

16.23.119 to 4.1.25.

The home ground advantage wasn’t enough for Scone to win in the Newcastle Inter-District Football Competition.

The Mustangs beaten 1-nil by the Edgeworth Eagles.

It was a nil-all draw between Muswellbrook and Fletcher.

The Singleton Strikers have recorded their third win of the year in the Northern League One competition.

The Strikers 2-1 over the Redbacks.

Image: Darren Cutrupi

Upper Hunter weekend sports results

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Above: Referee Jessie Rutter blows a penalty against Aberdeen for a high shot during their clash against Denman.

Denman has continued their assertion towards the top of the Group 21 competition ladder with another convincing win, this time 56-12 over Aberdeen.

Both teams took to the field down on troops with a number of players backing up from reserve grade on each side of the field.

The home side only up 16-12 at the break.

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In the other games Scone smashed Greta Branxton 48-nil and Muswellbrook came from behind and hung on to beat Singleton 26-22 at Pirtek Park.

The game was marred with controversy with a Greyhounds player accusing one of his Rams opponents of eye gouging. No action was taken on the field but the referee has referred it to the match review committee for consideration.

To football

Singleton went down to Kahibah FC in the Northern League One Match of the Round at Civic Park.

The Strikers lost 1-nil after a goal from a corner kick with the defence looking into the sun.

Scone's injury crisis has continued finishing their clash against Morriset with just ten men.

Despite this they managed to fight out for a 2-all draw.

The Muswellbrook Eagles were beaten 4-nil by Dudley.

In A-F-L Muswellbrook’s three game winning run unfortunately come to an end.

The Cats were outplayed by Newcastle 12 . 09 . 81 to 04 . 06 . 30

Singleton weren't any luckier.

Cardiff City were too good for the Roosters men's outfit 16.8.104 to 7.5.47

The Hawks were also victorious in the women’s game against Singleton 6.16.52 to 2.3.15.

Images: Darren Cutrupi

 

 

Windy cold snap wreaks havoc across the Upper Hunter

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Above: the roof of a veranda lands up on a neighbours front lawn in Merriwa.

Winds gusting up to 120 kilometres per hour have created havoc across the Hunter Valley overnight.

Power was lost to several thousand properties in the Upper Hunter around five o’clock, stretching from Barrington Tops north of Scone through to Singleton in the south.

Over 700 homes in Scone impacted and 600 in Muswellbrook’s south from the Showground through to the New England Highway Sydney Road intersection.

Other locations affected including Merriwa, Denman, Gungal, Manobalai, Wybong, Castle Rock, Bulga, Warkworth, Lemington, Camberwell, Ravensworth, Jerrys Plains, Singleton and Rothbury.

Ausgrid have been working overnight to restore services with extra crews bought to the region to assist. They said they hope to have most services restored today.

The SES received 45 calls for help last night including a large tree across  the main road through Singleton''s town centre, John Street.

Image:  Bill Edge (Facebook)