Two charged following inquiries into alleged cannabis cultivation – Hunter Region

Two men have been charged with drug supply offences after a large amount of cannabis was located across the Hunter and Lake Macquarie areas yesterday.
In July this year, detectives from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District established Strike Force Jinker to investigate the commercial supply of cannabis in the Port Stephens and lower Hunter areas.
Following extensive inquiries, strike force detectives – with assistance from Lake Macquarie Police District – executed three search warrants at Beresfield, Vacy and Jewells yesterday (Monday 20 September 2021).
Investigators located and dismantled hydroponic setups in varying sizes at all three locations; seizing 162 plants and 5kg of cannabis bud.
Police also seized drug paraphernalia, nun chucks, ammunition and firearm parts.
A 67-year-old man was arrested at the Beresfield home. He was charged with take part enhanced indoor cultivate cannabis commercial.
He was granted conditional bail to appear at Maitland Local Court on Wednesday 13 October 2021.
A 48-year-old man was arrested during the Belmont search warrant. He was charged with supply prohibited drug and cultivate cannabis indictable quantity.
He was granted conditional bail to appear at Belmont Local Court on Wednesday 13 October 2021.
Investigations under Strike Force Jinker are continuing, with further arrests anticipated.

Further charge for woman over alleged Public Health Order Breaches – Tweed/Byron PD

A woman has been charged with an additional offence over alleged breaches of the Public Health Orders in the state’s north.
Officers from Tweed/Byron Police District commenced inquiries yesterday (Tuesday 21 September 2021), after receiving information a woman from Greater Sydney had travelled to the area and since tested positive for COVID-19.
Inquiries revealed the 31-year-old woman had been granted an exemption to travel to the area for work-related purposes only.
She allegedly attended several businesses and venues in Byron Bay and Kingscliff over the weekend, which was in breach of the conditions of her exemption.
Further, she failed to check-in at those locations using the QR codes.
The Rushcutters Bay woman was issued with a Court Attendance notice today (Wednesday 22 September 2021), for five counts of fail to comply with electronic registration directive.
Following further inquiries, the woman was charged with an additional offence for person relying on permit not comply with permit conditions.
She is due to appear before Tweed Heads Local Court on Monday 8 November 2021.

Free and unlimited mental health in Medicare

The Greens have today announced that in balance of power after the next election, they will push to
tackle the growing mental health crisis in Australia by making mental healthcare free and unlimited for
everyone who needs it as part of Medicare.
The plan, which will create universal, unlimited and available mental healthcare through Medicare, will
be funded by taxing billionaires and big corporations making big profits.
Our plan will ensure everyone can access mental healthcare, when they need it, not when they can
afford it.
On current polling, a power-sharing Parliament is the most likely outcome of the coming election. The
Greens have already announced their ‘tycoon tax’ plan that will be pushed in ‘balance of power’
negotiations to help raise revenue, but the free mental health care plan is the first key expenditure
policy announced by the party.
This plan is a priority for the party and will be a central election campaign focus for the Greens,
especially amongst young people, and a key element of post-election balance of power negotiations.
Greens Health Spokesperson, Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John said:
“Mental health services in Australia are out of reach for too many people. Hundreds of thousands of
people are being left behind because they can’t get the help they need. Two of the problems people are banging up against are the cost of services, and the limit on number of appointments.
“Over half of individual psychological therapy sessions had an average gap payment of $68, whilst two thirds of psychiatrist consultations had an average gap of payment of $93 (source).
“The lockdowns and pandemic have affected everyone’s mental health. Everyone’s stressed, worried,
and anxious about the future. But the urgent need for universal mental health services, funded by big
corporations making big profits, was urgent before the pandemic.
“We can tackle this crisis. By taxing the billionaires and big corporations we can make sure everyone
can afford to access mental health services for as long as they need them.
“When everyone can access free mental health support, our whole community will benefit through an
improved quality of life, improved relationships and better performance while studying or working.”
Greens Leader Adam Bandt said:
“The next election will be closer than people think. Scott Morrison is only 828 votes away from losing
majority government and on current polling, a power-sharing Parliament is the most likely outcome.
“In balance of power, the Greens will kick the Liberals out and push the next government to make
billionaire corporations pay their fair share of tax so we can get free and unlimited mental health care
into Medicare.
“Last time The Greens were in balance of power we got free dental for kids into Medicare, and this
time we will fight to get people the mental health care they deserve. In balance of power, the Greens
will push to get dental and mental health fully into Medicare.”
How the Greens’ plan will work
Expand the Better Access Initiative to unlimited psychology or psychiatric therapy sessions
and raise their Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebates for patients with a diagnosed
mental illness. The rebates would be offered at two levels to give mental health care providers
a real avenue to providing no-gap mental health care.
Details of amendments to the Medicare rebate:

  • For psychiatric therapy sessions, rebates for MBS items 291, 296, 297, and 299 would be raised to 100 percent of the schedule fees (currently 85 percent)
  • For psychology therapy sessions there are two levels:
    • the higher level, for providers who offer no-gap services to encourage bulk billing, MBS rebates for items 80000, 80005, 80010, 80015 would be increased to match the 2021-22 rates recommended by the Australian Psychology Society.
    • the lower level, for sessions charged at more than the Australian Psychology Society recommended rates, providers would receive the current, lower, rebates.
  • Within any 12-month period, people would be eligible for unlimited sessions. They would need a referral from their General Practitioner (GP) every 10 treatment sessions under their mental health treatment plan.
  • The Parliamentary Budget Office has calculated that this plan will decrease the fiscal balance by $1.123 billion over the estimates and $4.756 over the decade.
  • The Greens ‘tycoon tax’ plan on the super-profits of big corporations and mining companies, previously launched, will raise $338b over the decade.

Porter focus now on PM, Greens renew push for ICAC

Christian Porter’s resignation from the Ministry in the face of a Greens’ no confidence motion doesn’t end the mystery donation affair, with the Greens vowing to pursue the Prime Minister over his failure to act and to renew a push in Parliament to have the Greens’ federal ICAC bill – which has already passed the Senate – brought on for debate in the House of Representatives.
“Faced with a Greens no confidence motion and widespread community condemnation, Christian Porter has started to accept the reality that Ministers can’t take cash donations and refuse to say who they’re from,” said Greens Leader Adam Bandt.
“It should have been absolutely obvious from day one that Christian Porter’s actions were wrong, yet Scott Morrison refused to sack him.
“Transparency and integrity count for nothing for Scott Morrison, and both Christian Porter and the Prime Minister are still acting as if nothing wrong happened.
“The fish rots from the head down. It is clear Scott Morrison will not enforce standards of integrity the community expects, and we need a federal ICAC to hold politicians to account.”
“We need a federal corruption watchdog now more than ever. The Greens have got a bill to establish a federal ICAC through the Senate and it’s awaiting a vote in the house. When Parliament resumes, we will renew our push to make the corruption watchdog law. After this latest in a string of scandals, it will be a brave Liberal backbencher that stands in the way of establishing a federal corruption watchdog.”

Improving diagnosis for hepatitis C patients

To help improve the treatment times of those with hepatitis C, the Morrison Government will fund a new national point-of-care testing (POCT) program that can confirm active hepatitis C infections within an hour and allow treatment to begin immediately.
The Kirby Institute at the University of NSW and the International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing at Flinders University will be provided with $6.5 million combined to establish the program.
Being able to provide the testing and treatment all in one visit is a real game-changer for people who would normally have to wait several weeks for a test result.
This technology can test for active hepatitis C infection by taking a small amount of blood from a fingertip. This blood is analysed on site, with a result ready for the patient within an hour. If the result comes back positive, treatment can begin during that same visit.
Under the program, testing will be available nationally at 65 sites with a high prevalence of hepatitis C infection, including drug treatment clinics, needle and syringe programs, and prisons.
The program will also include the development of standard operating procedures, logistics, deployment, operator training, and external quality assurance.
At the end of 2018, an estimated 129,640 people were living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia. Hepatitis C rates have been declining in Australia since the country implemented wide access to direct acting antiviral treatments.
These treatments cure the virus in 95% of people. But many people living with hepatitis C are not aware they have it, so innovative methods are necessary to increase testing.
This major investment will increase access to hepatitis C testing, treatment, and cures across the country.
Australia is committed to achieving the global goal of reducing the burden of viral hepatitis and eliminating viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030. Indeed, we could be one of the first countries in the world to reach that goal.

$38.5 million to support senior Australians in Dementia Action Week

A new National Centre for Monitoring Dementia is to be established to improve the care for those suffering from the condition along with $25.5 million for new research.
Marking Dementia Australia week, the Morrison Government is providing $13 million in funding to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to establish the National Centre, to routinely monitor dementia care in Australia.
This will help address critical gaps to support national dementia policy and service provision.
A further $25.5 million is also being made available under the Government’s Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care (DAAC) Mission including the release of a comprehensive roadmap and implementation plan to chart the way forward.
The Mission is funded through the Medical Research Future Fund.
Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said it was a significant step forward.
“The research will improve the quality of life for Australians as they age, reduce stigma associated with dementia and enable better outcomes for older people,” Minister Hunt said.
The theme for Dementia Action Week is “A little support makes a big difference.”
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said it was a relevant message for all Australians.
“Many people with dementia can continue to live well for many years – but this remains a complex and often misunderstood condition,” Minister Colbeck said.
“Those living with dementia deserve our understanding, love and support. It’s about seeing the person behind the diagnosis – an individual with a life, passions and relationships.”
The week of awareness has also been marked by the release of the Dementia in Australia 2021 Report, a benchmark study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Dementia in Australia 2021 provides comprehensive, timely and accurate data that will inform our continuing work to improve the quality of life for Australians living with dementia – particularly senior Australians.
The report confirms that dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and the leading cause of death among Australian women.
The DAAC Mission Roadmap is a high-level strategic document that includes the aim, vision, goals and priorities for investment for the $185 million Mission.
The Implementation Plan outlines the priorities for investment, evaluation approaches and measures, supporting activities and collaborative approaches.
The Roadmap and Implementation Plan were developed by the DAAC Mission Expert Advisory Panel, led by the co-chairs, Professor Elizabeth Beattie and Professor Len Gray.
“We know that dementia is now the third leading cause of disease burden in Australia, and that as our population ages, the number of Australians with dementia is projected to more than double by 2058,” Minister Hunt said.
“Lifting the quality of dementia care is one of the key drivers of our $17.7 billion plan to reform aged care, which includes a $229.4 investment in reforms specific to improving the quality of life and care for people living with dementia.”
The Dementia in Australia 2021 report found up to 472,000 Australians are living with the condition and more than half of all people in residential aged care are also affected.
Minister Colbeck, said the report validated the prominence of dementia care in the Government’s aged care reform plan.
“Our vision for quality dementia care in aged care encompasses staff capability, regulation and appropriate design of residential facilities. Dementia research has given us guidelines on dementia friendly design, and as part of our five year plan a new accommodation framework will be implemented from 1 July 2024.”
Dementia Action Week also encourages healthcare professionals to find out how they can make their practice more dementia-friendly.
“The Government’s reform package provides a boost for training in dementia care including for more than 3,000 personal care workers to be trained as dementia leaders in their organisations and training places for an additional 1,000 GPs and GP registrars each year,” Minister Colbeck said.
He said the Dementia in Australia 2021 report also confirmed the trend of more senior Australians choosing to age in their homes, and the corresponding need to support carers.
“We know up to 337,200 Australians are providing care for a person with dementia, and that 1 in 3 of those carers feels worried or depressed due to that role,” Minister Colbeck said.
“Our aged care reform package includes additional support for dementia carers through the National Dementia Support Program, more respite care places and better dementia-specific models of respite care.
“This week is also an opportunity for people to find out some simple things they can do to support a person living with dementia, or a friend or family member who is a carer.”
Dementia Action Week runs from 20‑26 September 2021. People can find out about simple things they can do to help support those living with dementia by visiting the Dementia Action Week page on the Dementia Australia website,

Car park demolition to reveal first glimpse of stunning city to harbour view corridor

City of Newcastle will commence demolition of the 59-year-old Mall Car Park at 92 King Street, with works scheduled to be completed by late-January 2022.
A structural assessment of the seven-storey car park was conducted in March 2020 and subsequently closed due to public safety concerns.
City of Newcastle Director of Governance David Clarke said with demolition work now underway to remove the aging Mall Car Park, every effort will be made to ensure that disruption to nearby businesses and residents is minimised during the process.
“During demolition, there will be increased noise from machinery and frequent truck movements in and around the work zone. Demolition vehicle access will be via King Street, into Thorn and Laing Streets. Vehicle access to Laing Street will be maintained for most of the project duration with some road closures during strategic works,” Mr Clarke said.
“Pedestrian access around the site will be maintained with temporary fencing in place, to ensure community safety. Environmental monitoring and controls to manage dust, noise and vibration will be undertaken by the site contractor.
“With work now underway, it’s exciting to see a first glimpse of the stunning view corridor that brings to life a long-held strategic vision of City of Newcastle and the NSW Government to connect the city to the harbour by opening up the lines of sight.”
The vision proposes to link Christ Church Cathedral to the Harbour via a grand staircase. Accessibility for the community is a key consideration to ensure everyone can share and enjoy the proposed space, in addition to retaining 380 public car parking spaces for the community to utilise.
“Preserving the view corridor between the harbour and the Cathedral has the full support of The Property Council and Urban Design Review Panel, to turn a long-held concept into a landmark public space for the city,” Mr Clarke said.
Phase one of the City’s East End revitalisation is well underway, with Hunter Street currently closed to upgrade the streetscape, stormwater infrastructure and underground communication lines. Most of the work along Wolfe Street is complete and works have also started on Perkins Street.
The project is one of the City’s four Priority Projects and phase one is on track to be completed by February 2022.
Visit for the most up-to-date information.

Help shape public art in Newcastle

City of Newcastle is seeking community-minded art, design and architecture experts to help advise on the development of public art that reflects Newcastle’s history, culture and community.
Councillors voted to expand the expertise of the City’s Public Art Reference Group (PARG) by appointing five external members who are professionals in their fields, including an expert with Awabakal or Worimi Indigenous cultural knowledge and a specialist in heritage.
The PARG provides leadership on all aspects of public art, from advising on the commissioning of new art proposals to ensuring transparent commissioning processes.
Councillor and PARG Chair Carol Duncan said public art humanises urban spaces and the built environment and by expanding the PARG with external arts professionals, public art will continue to play a major role in the city’s transformation.
“Art contributes to our wellbeing in public spaces, reflects our values as a community, and gives our spaces meaning and the opportunity to be unique. It provides opportunities for artists to create, for visitors and residents to enjoy, and to build an even greater economic contribution to the city by way of the value of our arts and cultural organisations,” Cr Duncan said.
Since 2018, the PARG has considered a number of public art proposals for the private domain related to development applications in the Newcastle CBD including the Seed Pod and Lyrique Lane Light Chandelier on Hunter Street, and Indigenous murals and native artworks on Hannel Street in Wickham.
PARG member Councillor John MacKenzie said a key focus for the group is public art associated with development applications.
“Helping applicants meet the 1% public art contribution and ensuring those funds are spent on incorporating artwork reflective of Newcastle’s culture and heritage is an important role of the PARG,” Cr MacKenzie said.
“Ensuring we plan a healthy funding stream for the commissioning and maintenance of public art in the city is also a core focus in order to maintain these public investments.”
PARG member Councillor Peta Winney-Baartz said there is no shortage of artistic expertise in Newcastle to contribute to the advisory committee.
“Newcastle is home to more artists per capita than any other city in Australia, and boasts a thriving creative arts hub,” Cr Winney-Baartz said.
“I look forward to welcoming community-minded arts professionals and an Indigenous and heritage representative to the reference group and continuing to shape the future of public art for the enjoyment of the Newcastle community and visitors alike.”
Applications are now open and close 5pm, Sunday 17 October 2021.
To submit an Expressions of Interest form visit, City of Newcastle’s website.

City services and facilities COVID-19 lockdown update

Many of City of Newcastle’s publicly facing facilities will be closed to the public in line with the lockdown announced by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian for areas of the Hunter, including the Newcastle local government area.

The following City of Newcastle facilities are closed:

  • City of Newcastle libraries including the return chutes
  • City Administration Centre at 12 Stewart Avenue including the customer service centre and the digital library
  • City Hall
  • Civic Theatre
  • Community centres and halls
  • Fort Scratchley
  • Newcastle Art Gallery
  • Newcastle Museum
  • Tighes Hill Animal Facility
  • Visitor Information Centre

Essential services including kerbside waste collection and patrols of beaches, ocean baths and public areas by City of Newcastle lifeguards and rangers will continue, while Beresfield Childcare Centre will remain open.
City of Newcastle staff will continue to undertake essential construction and maintenance services in a COVID-19 safe manner and in accordance with relevant Public Health Orders.
Summerhill Waste Management Centre is open to all customers including domestic and commercial, and for kerbside collections in line with NSW Government advice. Customers will be required to check-in, wear a face mask and adhere to social distancing. Cashless payments are preferred. If you have a bulk waste self-haul voucher with an expiry date between 5 August and 10 September 2021, its expiry will automatically be extended by two months to give you sufficient time to use your voucher.
The gates at Blackbutt Reserve are open for outdoor recreation and exercise in line with the NSW Government advice. Blackbutt’s animal enclosures will remain closed until restrictions ease further.
On Sunday 19 September the NSW Government announced that public swimming pools can reopen from Monday 27 September. We are awaiting further information from the government regarding the COVID safety measures that will be required for opening and operation as part of the Public Health Order. When the pools reopen, we will have robust COVID safety plans in place to keep our community and staff safe. Further details will be available on our website as soon as possible.
City of Newcastle will continue to provide customer service via telephone and online web chat between 8.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday.
We encourage our community to follow the Public Health Order and the Stay at Home restrictions.
For information regarding the lockdown or Public Health Orders visit
Information regarding individuals or businesses who are or may be contravening the current NSW Health Order should be reported to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Environmental upgrades underway at Summerhill Waste Management Centre

City of Newcastle will deliver approximately $6 million in environmental upgrades at Summerhill Waste Management Centre, including new systems to prevent pollution of water and manage leachate.
The work includes upgrading an alarm system which failed in January 2021, leading to an overflow that City of Newcastle reported to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and ultimately saw it fined $15,000.
The work also includes connecting of storage tanks to Summerhill’s leachate system and increasing its capacity.
Manager Waste Services Troy Uren said that the leachate overflow incident occurred in January during a period of heavy rainfall with work now underway to improve environmental monitoring.
“Our leachate storage overflowed during heavy rain in January as a result of a fault in the telemetry system alarm, which triggers when the storage tank is nearing capacity, but did not activate,” Mr Uren said.
“City of Newcastle reported the incident to the EPA and accepts the $15,000 fine for the failure of the alarm, which ultimately led to the overflow of leachate into the surface water system, but caused negligible environmental harm.
“We’ve since been working with the EPA to address the matter and have initiated a robust environmental program that will improve the separation of leachate and surface water systems to prevent this from happening again.
The leachate overflow occurred in an area that predates the existing engineered, lined landfill and the measures we are taking aim to connect the older infrastructure to the site’s modern leachate system while upgrading the overall leachate capacity.”
This work is part of a broader investment into upgrading environmental controls at Summerhill which includes an increased capacity of storage tanks, upgraded capacity of stormwater systems on site and new vehicle wheel wash infrastructure to reduce sediment.
A significant program of environmental works, which will address immediate, interim and long-term environmental compliance of the site is underway at Summerhill Waste Management Centre following the recent awarding of two contracts to implement Stormwater and Leachate Management, Environmental Improvement and Public Amenity Programs.