More backflips, Premier? Here are a few Illawarra possibilities

COMMENT

Wollongong has always felt hard done by when it comes to the Baird government.

On Monday, Mike Baird will set foot in the city for one of his first official engagements since he became Premier.

Welcome to Wollongong, Premier. 

The visit, which coincides with the Local Government NSW conference at the WIN Entertainment Centre, comes after a week of remarkable backflips on controversial policies.

First it was the greyhound ban, then the installation of shark nets on the state’s North Coast and now mooted changes to Sydney’s lockout laws.

While you’re in the mood to backflip, Premier, the Wollongong community would like you to rethink the following:

Wollongong-Shellharbour council merger

Shellharbour City Council’s ongoing legal challenge – worth $216,000 and growing – shows its determination to fight the government’s planned amalgamation.

What makes the merger plan even harder to swallow for the council is how its southern neighbour, Kiama Municipal Council (in the electorate held by Liberal MP Gareth Ward), was spared from being swallowed up by Shoalhaven City Council (in Liberal MP Shelley Hancock’s patch).

Shellharbour Hospital privatisation

Original artist's impression of the $251 million redevelopment of Shellharbour Hospital.

Original artist's impression of the $251 million redevelopment of Shellharbour Hospital.

The government’s decision for non-government operators to “design, build, operate and maintain” an upgraded Shellharbour Hospital has staff concerned.

“The workers at Shellharbour are worried about losing their entitlements, their job security,” registered nurse, and NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association member, Laura Valenzuela told the Mercury last month.

An online Mercury poll following the September 15 announcement asked if regional hospitals should be redeveloped under a public-private partnership. Of the 582 respondents, 90 per cent were against the move.

Commercial fishing reform

Fisherman Paul Heron with his son Tyson, 3. Mr Heron has fished Lake Illawarra for 20 years, but fears for the future. Picture: Adam McLean

Fisherman Paul Heron with his son Tyson, 3. Mr Heron has fished Lake Illawarra for 20 years, but fears for the future. Picture: Adam McLean

Illawarra fishers also fear for their futures. 

Take Dapto’s Paul Heron, who has the oldest commercial fishing boat on Lake Illawarra, for example. 

Reform of the state’s commercial fishing industry means Mr Heron will need to pay more to keep his business, and its current entitlements, afloat. “If the reform goes through, I’ll be stuffed,” he said.

Wollongong byelection candidate

Wollongong byelection candidates who have nominated themselves to date - Gordon Bradbery (left), Paul Scully and Cath Blakey.

Wollongong byelection candidates who have nominated themselves to date - Gordon Bradbery (left), Paul Scully and Cath Blakey.

The Liberal Party still has time to put forward a candidate to contest the seat of Wollongong. Nominations close on October 27.

And, while you’re at it, please consider: 

WIN Entertainment Centre upgrade

WEC: The WIN Entertainment Centre becoming an events and convention hub has long been on the agenda. About $60m is needed for the upgrade (incl. $20m for parking).

WEC: The WIN Entertainment Centre becoming an events and convention hub has long been on the agenda. About $60m is needed for the upgrade (incl. $20m for parking).

A revamp of the very venue hosting the Local Government NSW conference has long been on the agenda.Turning the WIN Entertainment Centre into a convention and events hub is vital for tourism and Wollongong’s future economy, an influential new Illawarra alliance says.

About $60 million is needed to transform the 18-year-old building.

Wollongong Harbour masterplan

HARBOUR: Wollongong lord mayor Gordon Bradbery describes the city's harbour precinct as "an eyesore" and heads a push for a state government upgrade of the area.

HARBOUR: Wollongong lord mayor Gordon Bradbery describes the city's harbour precinct as "an eyesore" and heads a push for a state government upgrade of the area.

Earlier this week, Wollongong councillors voted to resurrect seemingly stalled plans to develop Wollongong Harbour precinct.

Development plans were first floated in 2008 and the council is  lobbying the NSW Department of Industry for an upgrade “as a matter of priority”.

Australian-made steel use

Illawarra steel campaigners welcomed the government’s payroll tax concessions to help keep BlueScope’s Port Kembla steelworks open. 

What they want, and continue to fight for, is a government commitment to mandate the use of Australian-made steel in its infrastructure projects. 

The Greens/Labor Steel Industry Protection Bill 2016 successfully navigated the Upper House recently and campaigners urge the government to seriously consider it when it’s debated in the Legislative Assembly. 

Unanderra station lifts

Unanderra Access Group's Bec Schmidt. Picture: Adam McLean

Unanderra Access Group's Bec Schmidt. Picture: Adam McLean

Disability access at Unanderra railway station remains a distant hope. 

With a byelection looming, Labor has said it would fund lifts at the station. 

Will the government make the same commitment?

WELCOME: Premier Mike Baird outside the Port Kembla steelworks in a digitally-altered image and how the Mercury covered the 2016 NSW budget, which delivered cash for ongoing projects but nothing in terms of new infrastructure.

WELCOME: Premier Mike Baird outside the Port Kembla steelworks in a digitally-altered image and how the Mercury covered the 2016 NSW budget, which delivered cash for ongoing projects but nothing in terms of new infrastructure.

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