Newcastle Herald Letters to the Editor: Monday, October 16, 2017

SPIRIT OF THE LAW: One resident is fed up with what he sees as a lack of commonsense in the application of local government law and process.
SPIRIT OF THE LAW: One resident is fed up with what he sees as a lack of commonsense in the application of local government law and process.

THIS is a story about a parking permit, or rather, no parking permit. About officiousness, following the letter of the law, not its spirit. When the process is more important than the result. Please note, I don't say the outcome.

It might have been the heat. People were sweltering, particularly after negotiating horrendous Supercars road closures. The council building was nice and cool, and the 15-minute wait was not unwelcome. I don't recall feeling unhappy before I lodged my request, but I can't speak for the desk officer.

The notice had come by mail. It invited me to check the details on the Residents Parking Permit form, make any changes and return it with payment. (Actually, reading it again, it did say … 'along with necessary documentation'. Such is the problem with bureau-speak. What would have been wrong with 'bring your rego papers?'. What is 'necessary documentation' anyway?)

So there I sat at the desk, with a form listing the number plates for our new car. It was signed by my wife. We've been living in the same house for 20 years and I had my photo ID at the same address.

You'll have to come back with the rego papers, she said. I'm not coming back, I said. She wouldn't budge. But how about accepting my form, and my payment, and let me send the rego papers in by email? No, they have to be sighted.

Oh, give me a break. We're applying for a parking permit, not trying to redirect Granny May's lifetime pension payments.

Ok, just issue the permit without a rego plate change, I said, we still have that car. No, she said. Your wife has signed a form asking us to change the number. You'll have to get her to sign another one. Open and transparent governance strategy, says the website. I think that means cash in brown paper bags is not accepted. But is it 'governance' that gives residents the run-around? It's probably not the desk officer’s call. I suspect she gets measured on compliance. I left without the permit, and I won't be going back. There isn't anywhere to park anyway.

Jonathan Silberberg, Newcastle

Take a bow, Newcastle

RECENTLY my wife and I were visiting Newcastle. We had just finished lunch and were driving through Merewether when our motor vehicle developed engine problems.

We contacted the NRMA and were rewarded with the services of their mechanic who turned out to be an absolute gem. His courtesy and knowledge were outstanding.

Unfortunately we had to wait for a tow truck. Whilst we were waiting we were spoken to by the neighbours who were living in the houses where our car was parked. They offered us water, use of their toilet facilities and one offered to put us up for the night.

The friendship and courtesy of the Newcastle people were exceptional – take a bow Newcastle – and if ever my car fails me again, I hope it is in Merewether.

John Kiely, Balgowlah Heights

Ignoring guidelines

A CONTRIBUTING factor to rising numbers of disputes between neighbouring property owners is the disposition of councils to green-light DAs that lie well outside the recommended guidelines. This can mean approval for a DA which is impossible to construct without the cooperation of neighbours, who must also bear the attendant risk of damage to their own homes and the threat of civil law action. This is generating a culture of entitlement and fear. It is always those less able to defend their best interests who are most vulnerable. How many people are crushed without having the confidence or understanding to use free mediation? What is the point of council guidelines if they are simply ignored?

Leanne Gulliver, Belmont

Not fit for purpose

THE editorial (‘Separating reality from hype with the nbn’, Herald 12/10) was, I thought, very gentle with the Communications Minister's claims about Australia's broadband network being "the envy of the world". It's far from that. I reckon the system we're currently getting is an object lesson in how not to construct and operate a piece of critical national infrastructure. 

I'm not the only one with this sort of story: I received a nbn connection in March 2016, three months later than promised. After months of momentary dropouts, and weeks of hours-long failures, the service failed completely in February 2017 – for 5 months. A bill would arrive, I'd phone and eventually get it cancelled, another bill would arrive – occasionally a technician would visit, and go away shaking his/her head, mumbling about failed "pairs". I started to think Franz Kafka's ghost was dwelling somewhere in the bowels of this arcane construction. He's the only one could make this stuff up.

But my woes are not important. The real importance is this; nbn was conceived as a real-time high capacity communications system for national purposes. In its current form it's not fit for those purposes; and all the Minister's hype won't make it so. 

Barnard (Barney) Ward, Edgeworth

A word on India

JOHN Williams (Short Takes, 11/10) needs to pay more attention to the statements of the Indian Energy Minister. He and his government have made two things clear; India intends to stop importing coal by 2020 and the provision of electricity to remote areas currently unserviced, will not be via large coal-fired power stations linked to a large grid, but by small standalone local grids powered by renewables or gas turbines.

The Indian government recently put out for tenders to provide over 10 gigawatts of electricity. It had been anticipated the energy would be provided by up to 14 new coal-fired power stations. In fact all the tenders were won by renewables on cost, and without subsidies. The Carmichael mine is not likely to play any role in improving the lot of underprivileged Indians.

Reg Howes, Valentine

Time for the bypass

REGARDING the chaos in Singleton. Singleton was lucky this time, only three or four cars and a truck, four people taken to the hospital and a lot of work for the clean-up crew. Not so lucky were the people of Waco in Texas, or the truck driver of the ammonia truck in Queensland, both accidents resulting in a town wiped out.

I spent 30 minutes some time ago waiting for my wife, and counted the best part of a dozen ammonium nitrate trucks trundling along George Street. Let us build the Singleton bypass ASAP, and hope we get it done before something real bad happens.

Erwin Zehentner, Singleton Heights