Newcastle Herald Letters to the Editor: Tuesday, June 20, 2017

TEAM: Former mayor Jodie Harrison with Lake Macquarie City Council general manager Brian Bell. Ms Harrison has paid tribute to Mr Bell on the eve of his retirement.

TEAM: Former mayor Jodie Harrison with Lake Macquarie City Council general manager Brian Bell. Ms Harrison has paid tribute to Mr Bell on the eve of his retirement.

THIS week marks the last working week of a man who has been quietly working away to improve the lives and living spaces of the people of the City of Lake Macquarie.

That man is Brian Bell, the general manager of Lake Macquarie City Council. As mayor of Lake Macquarie between 2012 and 2016, and a councillor for four years before that, I was honoured to work with Brian who I believe is one of the best local government general managers in NSW, if not Australia. Let me tell you a few of the notable achievements of the council under Brian Bell’s watch.

Lake Macquarie City Council led the way in the development of 10-year community plans, developing the 2020 vision, then the 2030 vision, and now the 2050 vision well before it was done by many other councils. These plans drive the land use planning and organisational goals of Lake Macquarie. Land use planning controls limit but also engender what a place looks like. They provide for the water quality of the lake to be improved. They allow the building of creative, exciting, inviting places such as the well loved and visited Speers Point Playground. Australia hosted its first International Childrens’ Games here in Lake Macquarie in 2014. The president of the International Childrens’ Games, Torsten Rausch, declared them to be the “best Games ever”.

This could not have happened without the support of Brian Bell. Of course Lake Macquarie also stared down the barrel of the threat of amalgamation a couple of years ago, under the Liberal/National state government’s supposed “Fit for the Future” reforms. Lake Macquarie City Council, with Brian’s leadership, was the first of the councils to remain a stand alone council. This did not happen by luck – it happened as a result of the blood, sweat and tears of Brian Bell, the elected council, the council staff and the very big voices of the community. 

Brian Bell is a firm believer in local government, and how the vision and passion of a community can be reflected and enhanced by what a council does. The communities of Lake Macquarie deserved a great general manager for their council, and they certainly got one with Brian Bell.

I wish Brian the best in his retirement. Safe travels, Brian.

Jodie Harrison MP and former mayor of Lake Macquarie

If you care, back us

I’D like to congratulate Narelle Chesterfield (Letters, 6/6) and Albert Cordner (Letters, 16/6) for their contributions on Men’s Sheds. I have heard of the many obstacles with the council that two Men’s Sheds in their area have had to negotiate.

This brings me to the frustration of Newcastle Men’s Shed, which was open for around two-and-a-half years, going from 15 to 75 members within 18 months. In November 2016 we were told we had to leave our shed, in the basement of the old BHP admin building at Mayfield. Due to the toxic soils the remediation of the land surrounding the heritage-listed building was to begin, power was to be cut and drainage was to be added.  

Work (which was a fence around the entire site) did not begin until April, 2017. Luckily we had the support of a local business to store our equipment. We also have to thank the St John Ambulance at Hamilton for the use of their hall for meetings.

We have now been notified from the state government that the BHP site is heavily contaminated, work has now commenced with no time frame and we are unable to enter into any future lease agreements.

We desperately want to keep our guys (73 at last count) engaged. Our priority is men’s health and giving the members a facility to work, talk, join in activities or just have a cuppa with mates is imperative. 

The search for a workshop space always ends in disappointment with the apparent glut of spaces available in Newcastle for lease at commercial rates. We at Newcastle Shed agree with Albert Cordner’s challenge that if politicians local, state and federal are sincere about men’s heath then they should make an effort to support the Men’s Sheds.

Wayne Grant, Newcastle

Move took supporters

ON Saturday the Newcastle Blues AFL club hosted a charity event to raise funds for Motor Neuron Disease, a nationally-recognised cause. It was a really well run event but the City of Newcastle parks department scuttled the event before it even started by closing the No1. playing surface.

The scheduled AFL games were moved and with the games went hundreds of supporters who could have joined in the atmosphere and fund raising activities. Surely the senior game could have been accommodated and if the surface got a bit of wear and tear next week’s game could have moved to show support for this cause.

The lord mayor was an integral part of the day and must have noticed this. I certainly hope she ensures this sort of lack of big picture vision is not repeated.

Andrew Macpherson, Chelsea Heights

Court ‘roll over’

I WAS shocked when reading that the Family Court has decided not to hold hearings during the Newcastle 500, on November 24, as there will be "likely disruption and noise levels” (‘Trading by the track’, Herald, 17/6). This must be cold comfort for those many citizens who have waited months and years to get their matters heard. How is it that even a Federal Court will "roll over" to a financially struggling company running an environmentally unfriendly event?

Cecily Grace, Newcastle

Call it correctly

THE proposed recycling of David Jones (ex-Scotts) hopefully will be a very good news story. However, the devil will be in the detail. When will Sydney-based spin doctors show some respect for and knowledge of Newcastle’s history and stop calling it the “East End”? For the past 150 years the East End (aka Newcastle East and The Sandhills) has been the residential suburb now under siege from the Supercars. What’s wrong with calling it The Mall?

Keith Parsons, Newcastle

Working for free

IT has been quoted that 300 locals will be employed in the running of the V8 race. What is not mentioned is that most car race meetings, including the V8 series, use volunteer labour. Everyone works but no one gets paid, it's considered an honorary position where people apply and hope they are selected, even though most need to be trained at their own expense. Newcastle council is working for nothing, and paying for the privilege.

Carl Stevenson, Dora Creek

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