Friday, May 30, 2008

Newcastle Post Office - Our Queen Victoria Building

Newcastle Post Office is one of many heritage significant buildings in Newcastle CBD that have been the subject of development approval and subsequently left to rot by their owners.

Other examples include the Terminus Hotel-Castlemaine Bondstore group (Scott/Bolton Sts), former ES &A Drive-in Bank (Scott/Bolton Sts), Great Northern Hotel and Empire Hotel group (Hunter St west). Others have left to decay without approval, such as the Theatre Royal, Coutts Sailors Home complex and former Victoria Theatre.

While Council is often unfairly judged to be inadequate in its endeavours to protect and encourage sympathetic redevelopment of these buildings, we have little power to prevent such occurrences.

In reality the CBD has much of its building stock in the ownership of people and companies (often absentee landlords) who are content to see their buildings lie vacant and in decay.

Others seek and gain Council development approval, simply to on-sell to other speculators at a higher price. Newcastle CBD is an attractive target for property development industry “carpet baggers”.

In the case of Newcastle Post Office, the building should have been listed in the State Heritage Register before now, to recognise its high status and to be under the heritage planning controls of the State Government who (theoretically) have greater powers to act to protect the building.

I believe most of the community is in dismay and appalled at the willful neglect of and lack of action regarding this much-loved and favourite heritage icon.


1. Council notes that the former Newcastle Post Office building is listed as “State significant” in schedule 6 (Heritage) of Newcastle Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and that the State government made a commitment to Council, about 2 years ago to urgently assess all of Newcastle LEP’s state significant heritage items for listing on the State Heritage Register.

2. Council calls on the NSW Heritage Council to urgently recommend to the Minister for Planning, the listing of the former Newcastle Post Office, 96-100 Hunter St, Newcastle, on the State Heritage Register, using s.32(2) of the NSW Heritage Act.

3. Council calls on the Minister, on receipt of any such request, to urgently direct the listing of the former Newcastle Post Office building on the State Heritage Register, and to direct the owners (using Division 5 of the Act) to take immediate steps to secure the building from further damage by vandalism.


Council urgently write to the owners of the building to express its dissatisfaction on behalf of the community, about the lack of action with respect to any redevelopment of the building since approval was given in 2006; and our strong concerns about the continuing and accelerating degradation to the building’s fabric.


Council regards it disgraceful that the owners’ have failed to implement a regime of high level security and maintenance; and failed to act to sympathetically adaptively recycle Newcastle Post Office which,
(i) is regarded by the community as one Newcastle’s heritage icons, and
(ii) has been empty since it was sold by the Commonwealth in 2002.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Minister affirms Nobbys Lighthouse decision

I have today informed the applicants for a proposed development next to the historic Nobbys
Lighthouse in Newcastle of my decision not to allow this particular project because of the
impacts it would have on the heritage values of the lighthouse.

My decision is made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
1999 and follows wide consultation with the developers, business groups, heritage experts
and the community, as well as a visit to the site earlier this year.

I have given full and thorough consideration to all of the information I have received through
this process as well as the more than 450 written submissions made by the Newcastle
community during a recent public consultation period.

On balance, I believe this particular development proposal would significantly damage the
heritage values of this Newcastle icon and the oldest surviving lighthouse in New South

Sensitive developments around historic places can and do draw thousands of tourists to
heritage sites around Australia.

However, it is important that any such development does not compromise what is so special
about these historic and iconic places.

My decision is therefore based on the concerns I have for this particular proposal to impact
on the heritage values of the lighthouse.

This decision does not mean there cannot be development of the site in the future.
I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this process and note that a common
theme of the public submissions on the proposal was the desire of the people of Newcastle
to have to access to Nobbys Lighthouse.

I support this sentiment but it is important in finding a way for the site to be more accessible
that we do not do it in a way that damages the precious historical and heritage values of the
lighthouse itself.

My Department will therefore be available to provide advice to ensure the heritage values of
the lighthouse are fully considered in any future application or proposal to improve access to
the site.

The Hon Peter Garrett MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
19 May 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008


A new NASA-led study shows that human-caused climate change has impacted a wide range of Earth's natural systems, from permafrost thawing to plants blooming earlier across Europe to lakes declining in productivity in Africa.

Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York and scientists at 10 other institutions have linked physical and biological impacts since 1970 with rises in temperatures during that period. The study, published May 15 in the journal Nature, concludes that human-caused warming is resulting in a broad range of impacts across the globe.

"This is the first study to link global temperature data sets, climate model results, and observed changes in a broad range of physical and biological systems to show the link between humans, climate, and impacts," said Rosenzweig, lead author of the study.

Rosenzweig and colleagues also found that the link between human-caused climate change and observed impacts on Earth holds true at the scale of individual continents, particularly in North America, Europe, and Asia.

To arrive at the link, the authors built and analyzed a database of more than 29,000 data series pertaining to observed impacts on Earth's natural systems, collected from about 80 studies each with at least 20 years of records between 1970 and 2004. Observed impacts included changes to physical systems, such as glaciers shrinking, permafrost melting, and lakes and rivers warming. Impacts also included changes to biological systems, such as leaves unfolding and flowers blooming earlier in the spring, birds arriving earlier during migration periods, and ranges of plant and animal species moving toward the poles and higher in elevation. In aquatic environments such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, plankton and fish are shifting from cold-adapted to warm-adapted communities.

The team conducted a "joint attribution" study in which they showed, first, that at the global scale, about 90 percent of observed changes in diverse physical and biological systems are consistent with warming. Other driving forces, such as land use change from forest to agriculture, were ruled out as having significant influence on the observed impacts.

Next, the scientists conducted statistical tests and found that the spatial patterns of observed impacts closely match temperature trends across the globe, to a degree beyond what can be attributed to natural variability. So, the team concluded that observed global-scale impacts are very likely due to human-caused warming.

"Humans are influencing climate through increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the warming is causing impacts on physical and biological systems that are now attributable at the global scale and in North America, Europe, and Asia," said Rosenzweig.

On other continents, including Africa, South America, and Australia, documentation of observed changes in physical and biological systems is still sparse despite warming trends attributable to human causes. The authors concluded that environmental systems on these continents need additional research, especially in tropical and subtropical areas where there is a lack of impact data and published studies.


Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington

Leslie McCarthy
Goddard Institute for Space Studies, N.Y.

This text is derived from:


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Letter from one of the "Kooragang 16"

The Newcastle Gerald has found this letter sent by Paula Morrow, one of the Kooragang 16, to a newspaper which calls itself "The Newcastle Herald". Paula is a mother and grandmother and very concerned that she is living in Australia's biggest "infrastructure bottleneck", otherwise known as the world's biggest coal export port and Australia's biggest contribution to climate change, currently undergoing a massive expansion.
The "Herald" declined to print Paula's letter despite a foreword from Paula which said she understood if the "Herald" had to cut the letter down for space reasons. The Newcastle Gerald has decided to publish Paula's letter in full.

Dear Editor,
If you want to sell more papers, can we please open up the debate on coal?
I am one of the 'Kooragang 16'. We trespassed on the construction site of the third coal loader very deliberately, to get everyone’s attention.
Newcastle is the world's biggest coal port. The state government under Iemma, Costa and Sartor is trying to greatly increase the mining and selling of coal.
We are evaporating our coal mines into our atmosphere and therefore, we believe, greatly hastening the onset of climate change.
We have been given a mix of community service directions and fines by the court, those most committed to the environment movement getting the biggest punishments. These were reasonable penalties given the laws. I know that the rule of law is extremely important.
The thing is we already give up a lot of time, of our precious lives, doing community service.
Only about fifty of us went on the original walk-in and only about an extra fifteen came to support us in a vigil outside the courthouse. This is not enough people to save the planet.
It was great to see 3 or 4 ministers and 3 or 4 quakers in a vigil outside the court, people representing god; or at least the human reach for the spiritual.
When I think of the actual activists, I think that we represent conscience, and the ability to see what's coming. Those that walked in and got arrested, are mostly young, in their twenties and thirties. There were only a couple of us older ones. Those young people are all very smart and could be focusing on career.
Our main attributes are that we can add up, that we can see humanity is destroying its nest. We don't want one more bit of our beautiful planet or its creatures destroyed.
If we put the brakes on and are proved wrong, it doesn't matter that lots of energy is saved and pollution prevented. If we don't put the brakes on and we are right about the gravity of the situation, then our children and grandchildren face a terrifying future as our eco-system is de-stabilised; climate will become more erratic, and agriculture unworkable.
Messrs Iemma, Costa and Sartor have a huge responsibility to the people of NSW to curb dramatically the use of coal and to greatly increase the use of renewable energy such as solar, wave, wind, and perhaps, geo-thermal. Or are they going to fiddle while Rome burns, as the the generals are doing in Burma? Do they have other loyalties?
We choose to spend our precious time trying to alert our fellow-citizens while there is still time, in order to try and make a big difference to what happens.
It is not enough. It needs big numbers of people to wake up and step up and make the politicians do what needs to be done, because those in charge of our state government don't, or won't, get it.

Paula Morrow, Tighes Hill

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Exclusive: Kooragang 16 tried after successful vigil

Quakers, Buddhists, atheists and members of the Uniting Church were among those holding a climate change vigil in front of Newcastle Local Court this morning ahead of the trial of the Kooragang 16. Seven women and nine men were arrested at a peaceful protest on the construction site of Newcastle's third coal loader on April 19, where close to 50 people successfully stopped work for 90 minutes.
All sixteen pleaded guilty to trespass. Magistrate Michael Morahan sentenced eleven of the arrestees, who had no prior convictions, to community service to be determined at a later date. The other five were fined $200 each and ordered to pay costs of $70 each.
Outside, the group's supporters, young and old, held banners in a festive atmosphere.
Tonight's budget is expected to feature an $18 billion budget surplus, to be invested in reducing "infrastructure bottlenecks", including the massive expansion of Australia's coal export capacity. Australia is already the world's biggest coal exporter, exporting 18% of the world's coal.
In Rangoon, aid organisations are already moving in to help the victims of a recent cyclone which killed over 100,000 people. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that such natural disasters will become more and more frequent as we continue to increase our greenhouse gas emissions.
More nonviolent direct action is expected at the Camp for Climate Action, to be held in Newcastle in July.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Vigil Support for the Kooragang 16

A reminder about the Vigil this coming Tuesday 13th, from 9.15 am - hope you can come:

Support nonviolent direct action against climate change
Support the Kooragang 16
a. A vigil to support the "Kooragang 16", who appear in court facing trespass charges following a positive community nonviolent direct action against coal exports.
b. 9:15 onwards, Tuesday 13th May.
c. Newcastle Local Court, Church Street Newcastle.

On Saturday 19th April close to 50 people walked into the construction site of the proposed new Coal Export Terminal for Newcastle. The new terminal would increase Newcastle's coal export capacity by over 60 million tonnes per year - the equivalent of doubling NSW's domestic greenhouse pollution from all sources. The protest succeeded in stopping work on the coal terminal for around 90 minutes. 16 people were arrested and charged with trespass after refusing to leave the site.

The world is in the grip of a climate crisis. The fossil fuel industries at the heart of this crisis must start being phased out as soon as possible. Instead, the coal industry is rapidly expanding with full bipartisan support. After trying all other avenues to prevent the construction of a third coal terminal in Newcastle, it is clear that civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action is needed.

If you can make it to Newcastle Local Court on 13th May, please come along and show your support for the continuing community campaign of nonviolent direction against the causes of climate change. It will be a quiet and peaceful vigil, but feel free to bring banners, placards, etc.

For further information contact:


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rising Sea Level and Compensation

In 2006 the Lowy Institute's report Heating Up the Planet: Climate Change and Security report predicted dire consequences across the Asia Pacific Region.

If , as one of its authors Alan Dupont stated the worst case scenario of a 4-6m increase in sea levels is predicted,then according to the risk maps published in the Herald (‘Risk mapped out’ 7/5 p.7) much of Newcastle and its western suburbs will be under water.

We would like to know whether the Australian Coal Industry and Frank Sartor’s Ministerial Office will compensate the thousands of people whose homes in the Newcastle and Hunter Region that will be affected by sea level rises due to climate change? Or will try to initially shirk their responsibilities as James Hardie Industries did over the asbestos cases?

They are responsible for exacerbating this dire future for us all every time they approve another mine.

The very least they can do is ensure that our drainage infrastructure is repaired and up to the task for the climate change collision course they have set us upon.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ploughshares activists receive bail

The three Ploughshares peace activists who entered the Waihopai spy base in New Zealand have finally been released on strict bail conditions after five days of detention.
Adrian Leason, Peter Murnane and Sam Land entered the ECHELON military base last Wednesday and deflated one of the protective domes covering the espionage satellites with sickles. Today they were ordered not to contact each other, not to go to the region where they were arrested or near any other military facility and they were given strict reporting conditions.
The New Zealand government was embarrassed by the breach by the Catholic group, including a Dominican friar, which highlighted New Zealand's collaboration in the Australia-Canada-NZ-UK-US ECHELON intelligence network.
Most international satellite data, including internet, phone, and fax transmissions are collected by these satellites, filtered through a computer system and shared between the English-speaking countries for military, diplomatic and industrial intelligence as well as monitoring domestic communication.
The Ploughshares activists declared that they were taking their action to demonstrate their total opposition to war. About 60 people held a demonstration in Wellington last Saturday to support the activists.
Earlier this year a group known as the Pine Gap 6, or Christians Against All Terrorism, were cleared of all charges for breaking into an ECHELON satellite facility at Pine Gap, in Australia's Northern Territory.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Iemma sidelined on privatisation bid

Photo republished under the Creative Commons License from bsolah (http:// Some rights reserved (Attribution non-commercial 2.0 Generic).Over 85% of the NSW Labor Party conference voted to reject a bid to privatise the state's electricity industry yesterday, in a major upset for Premier Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa.
In the lead up to the 702-107 vote against the sell-off, the Premier was heckled and booed by members of his own party.
Unions and the Greens argue that privatising the electricity industry would push up costs, lower workplace standards and make it a lot more difficult to deal with climate change.
However, the Premier maintains that rising energy consumption has forced the Government to sell-off the industry in order to build a new coal-fired power station.
Michael Costa, who has previously denied in Parliament that climate change was caused by human activities, is expected to defy the ALP resolution and introduce the legislation into Parliament regardless. Although Costa has announced that he is prepared to be sacked for his support of the sell-off, a significant minority of the ALP caucus has declared that they cannot vote against a conference resolution in Parliament. If the legislation is tabled in Parliament, it is likely to pass with the support of the Labor Right and the Liberal Party, despite opposition from Labor Left and the Greens.
Iemma and Costa won the backing of former NSW Premier Bob Carr, who has accused the ALP rank and file of being backward-looking and supporting a Soviet-style model of public ownership. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also supported the sell-off.
Michael Costa now has to make a decision between supporting the privatisation, borrowing money to create a new coal-fired power station, and promoting a combination of renewable baseload power and energy efficiency. The Federal Liberal party, which long shared the ALP position that only coal could provide baseload power, announced last week that it now accepts that solar thermal energy can provide baseload power for Australia.

America's War on Puppies

The video Richard Neville is referring to has been posted here:

Please be aware that it is a disturbing video. It is equally very disturbing that Coalition Forces are behaving in the way, and not being held to account by the media.

Read Gore Vidal Interview on ABC Lateline's Program Broadcast: 03/05/2008
- Gore Vidal says Bush has let loose a war machine

Friday, May 2, 2008

Peaceful action camp opens registrations

The organising collective of the Camp for Climate Action, to be held in Newcastle this July, has announced that online registrations have now opened. According to its website, the camp will involve "five days of inspiring workshops & direct action aimed a shutting down the world's largest coal port in Newcastle".
The camp is one of seven climate camps being organised in Europe, Australia and North America and aims to shift attention away from voluntary lifestyle changes, and "false solutions" such as clean coal, nuclear power, carbon offsets and carbon trading to the "cause of the climate crisis - fossil fuels".
The organising collective is expecting hundreds of participants and is being supported by Rising Tide, the Australian Students' Environment Network and Friends of the Earth.