Stay alert to avoid a ‘roo interruption to your summer break in the bush

Motorists heading for a summer break in regional NSW are being reminded to be on high alert for wildlife and livestock straying onto country roads.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison said regional NSW was a great destination over the Christmas and New Year holidays but warned city motorists they could encounter unfamiliar hazards while driving.

“Wildlife and livestock might be an uncommon occurrence on busy city roads but can be familiar sight on roads, particularly at dawn and dusk when many animals are at their most active,” Ms Aitchison said.

“It’s simply a matter of being aware there could be animals around and remaining vigilant when driving on rural and regional roads, and knowing what to do if you come across a kangaroo, echidna or even an emu in your path.

“The first thing is to brake if it’s safe to do so and, most importantly, resist the urge to swerve to miss the animal.

“It’s safer to strike an animal than to swerve and risk losing control of the vehicle – twice as many people are killed and injured in crashes resulting from swerving.”

Between 2017 and 2021 there were 557 reported collisions with animals on western region roads that resulted in 165 serious injuries and, sadly, six deaths.

Kangaroos and wallabies pose the most common risk to drivers, but wild horses and livestock can also be regularly found on the road.

“Regional drivers are reporting an increase in the number of animals on western roads and also animals strikes, possibly attributed to drier weather conditions this year forcing animals to move about more seeking food and water,” Ms Aitchison said.   

“When animals do stray onto the road they will often move very quickly and their behaviour can be quite unpredictable, so it is important to give them plenty of room.

“And when you’re driving on country roads, always take note of warning signs alerting you to the presence of animals in the area. If you see these signs, slow down, stay alert and be prepared to stop if required.”

Safe driving on country roads:

  • Reduce your speed: Slow down and be on the lookout for wildlife on or near the road.
  • Stay alert: Animals can be more active near waterholes and creeks and harder to see at sunrise and sunset.
  • Brake safely: Apply your brakes in a careful, controlled manner.
  • Don’t swerve: You may lose control of your vehicle if you swerve too harshly.
  • Follow the signs: Take note of warning signs alerting you to the presence of animals in the area.
  • Report injured wildlife: Call WIRESlaunch on 1300 094 737 or use the IFAW Wildlife rescue applaunch to find a suitable wildlife rescue organisation for your location.

For more information, visit the Animals On Country Roadslaunch website.

Interim Regional Development Advisory Council announced

Interim members of the NSW Government Regional Development Advisory Council have been appointed by the Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty, with the council tasked with ensuring regional and rural communities are placed at the centre of government decision making.

The Regional Development Advisory Council will play an important role in modernising the Regional Development Act (2004), and provide independent advice to the Minister for Regional NSW to ensure projects are evidence-based and achieve real outcomes for communities.

The appointment of members for an interim of 12 months enables the council to be fast tracked into existence so progress can be made in reviewing the Act, and advise the minister on establishing a robust governance framework for the $350 million Regional Development Trust Fund.

The new chairperson appointed is Alison Sheridan, Professor Emeritus at the University of New England (UNE). Prof Sheridan was head of UNE’s Business School, leading the establishment of the UNE Smart Region Incubator and the Master of Economic and Regional Development course. (See below list of all members and short bio).

Appointees to the Regional Development Advisory Council were identified through a process managed by the Department of Regional NSW working with an independent talent search agency, in consultation with the Premier’s Department and NSW Treasury. 

A call for expression of interest for becoming an advisory council member with a 3-year tenure will get underway in mid-2024 with the new council established by the end of 2024.

The Regional Development Trust Fund will look to deliver its first tranche of funding investment in the first half of 2024. It will have 4 focus areas – sustainable regional industries, improving regional service delivery, supporting Aboriginal economic development, and developing community infrastructure and capacity building.

Find out more about the Regional Development Advisory Council,

Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty said:

“The appointment of these 7 interim members to the Regional Development Advisory Council is an important step towards the provision of independent and expert advice on what projects and programs should be funded in regional NSW,” Ms Moriarty said.

“The Regional Development Advisory Council and the Regional Development Trust Fund will ensure NSW Government investment goes where it is needed most in regional NSW.

“I congratulate all the members on their appointment and look forward to working with them over the next 12 months.”

Advisory Council Chairperson Professor Alison Sheridan said:

“This is a wonderful opportunity to ensure we create a robust and sustainable investment framework for regional and rural NSW. As someone who has undertaken substantial research on regional development I understand how important strategic investment is for delivering real outcomes for communities.”

Regional Development Advisory Council members

Alison Sheridan (Chairperson)

Alison Sheridan is a Professor Emeritus at the University of New England (UNE). Professor Sheridan has been based in regional NSW for 35 years and was previously head of UNE’s Business School. She led the establishment of the UNE Smart Region Incubator and co-led development of the Master of Economic and Regional Development course.

Danica Leys

Danica Leys is an admitted solicitor in New South Wales and current Chief Executive of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW, which has a base of 8,000 members. She is also an operator of a farming business in North West NSW. Ms Leys is a board member for Greater Sydney Local Land Services and is a member of the NSW Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Council.

Thomas McKeon

Thomas McKeon is an accomplished professional with over 40 years of experience in the agriculture, asset, and investment management industries. Based in southeast NSW, Mr McKeon has a strong background in senior and executive management roles within large-scale corporate agricultural companies, both in Australia and internationally.

Alison Stone

Alison Stone is based in the Hunter region and has a 40-year career in land and infrastructure management, commercial development, forestry, fire and emergency management, and primary industries at local, state and national levels in executive, board and advisory roles.

Carol Vale

Carol Vale, is a Dunghutti Woman from Armidale, NSW and has dedicated her career to improving outcomes for Indigenous Australians. She is the co-founder and CEO of Murawin, a national professional advisory service specialising in social research, evaluation, place strategy and sustainability. She has extensive experience in regional development and social planning and is a current member of the Planning Institute of Australia’s Cultural Knowledge Circle.

Rebecca Fox (ex-officio member)

Rebecca Fox is the Secretary of the Department of Regional NSW. Ms Fox has extensive experience in government and legal sectors and was the first female and non-technical lead of NSW Public Works in the history of the business.

Dianna Somerville (ex-officio member)

Dianna Somerville is the current chairperson of Regional Development Australia Riverina and was nominated by the Australian Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain MP. Dianna has lectured in entrepreneurship and been involved with economic development in regional communities.

Start planning for a free and safe New Year’s Eve around Sydney Harbour

The NSW Government is reminding everyone intending on celebrating New Year’s Eve around Sydney Harbour to start planning early, as spots around the foreshore will be in hot demand after the Minns government removed priced tickets on NSW Government-owned sites.

Most of these vantage points will operate on a first-come, first-served basis, with monitored capacity limits in place. Each vantage point will be closed once capacity is reached, so it is important visitors make their plans early, including transportation in and out of the site.

Fulfilling one of its early 2023 election commitments, the Minns government has removed paid tickets at Barangaroo Reserve, West Circular Quay (including First Fleet Park), Campbells Cove, Hickson Road Reserve and locations in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and The Domain, including Mrs Macquarie’s Point, for New Year’s Eve Sydney fireworks.

Other NSW Government public domain venues within Sydney Harbour will also be free, with access managed through a ticket system to ensure public safety. Tickets to these sites have been exhausted after being snapped up rapidly in the online ballot, and included the Cahill Expressway event, Bradleys Head, Strickland Estate, Clark Island, Me-Mel (Goat Island) and Shark Island.

City of Sydney will once again light up the harbour with its renowned dazzling fireworks display at midnight on 31 December. The night’s schedule also features an opening smoking ceremony, harbour bridge pylon projections and the 9pm Calling Country fireworks which are presented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists through music, dance and illustration.

A full list of Sydney Harbour vantage points, including ticketing information and availability, is available at the official Sydney New Year’s Eve websitelaunch.

Two charities are exempt from the no-cost requirement – Taronga Conservation Society of Australia and the Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation – as the ticket revenue at these events is an important support for the conservation and scientific work of both NSW public institutions. Tickets have already sold out at both these events.

Acting NSW Premier Prue Car said:

“We have the most beautiful harbour and the most beautiful city, and every person should have the opportunity to enjoy the fireworks for free.

“New Year’s Eve shouldn’t be about raising revenue, it should be about families and friends getting together to celebrate and reflect on a year past and look forward to the year to come.

“Every little bit helps at this time of year – that’s why we have made it free for thousands of families to see in the New Year”

Acting Minister for Jobs and Tourism Kate Washington said:

“There are 49 different vantage points to view the Sydney Harbour fireworks, so I encourage everyone to plan early – visit the website, think about how you’re going to get in and out of the city and be prepared for crowds.

“There are so many ways to celebrate no matter where you live. Remember there are fantastic events that might be closer to home, including those run by local councils.

“Thousands of extra public transport services will be running throughout the night and into the early morning on New Year’s Day. While our network will be busy, the best option is to leave the car at home.

“New Year’s Eve is the largest event of the year, and for NSW Police, the safety of our community is always the number 1 priority. Responsible behaviour from those with tickets to the busy foreshore sites will make for a safe and memorable New Year’s Eve.”

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said:

“Sydney is upbeat and ready for the biggest party of the year.

“More than a million people will make their way to the city and to the 49 vantage points around the harbour for Sydney’s free New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations.

“I’d encourage revellers to get to the city early, pack food, water and sun protection and wear good walking shoes! New Year’s Eve 2023 promises to be a night to remember.”

Man dies after drowning in Anna Bay – Port Stephens-Hunter PD

A man has died after being pulled from the water in Port Stephens.

Just after 2.40pm today (Wednesday 27 December 2023), emergency services were called to Stockton Beach, approximately 3km South of Birubi Beach, Anna Bay, following reports four people had been pulled from the water.

Bystanders assisted a 33-year-old man; however, he could not be revived and died at the scene.

A woman was treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition.

A second man was treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken same hospital in a stable condition.

A third man was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance Paramedics; however, he did not require any further treatment.

Officers attached to Port Stephens-Hunter Police District have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.

A report will be prepared for the information of Coroner.

It was the (slightly longer) night before Christmas: Pubs and Clubs get later trading over summer

Pubs, clubs and bars will be able to trade later over summer thanks to special event extended trading hours and the NSW Government’s vibrancy reforms which extend the standard liquor trading period on Sundays for venues that apply.

Christmas Eve festivities will be able to carry on a little later at a number of licensed venues that were granted permission to stay open until midnight.

The Minns Labor Government’s vibrancy reforms extended standard Sunday trading hours to midnight for all venues, bringing Sunday in line with other days of the week.

The reforms also offer two hours extra trading for venues that host live music.

Patrons attending the Parkes Elvis Festival, Tamworth Country Music Festival and those watching the Australian Open Men’s Final on 28 January will also enjoy special event extended trading hours at pubs, clubs and bars.

The vibrancy reforms broadened the types of venues which can be granted permission to remain open for longer with special event extended trading hours, including general bars, small bars and dedicated live music and performance venues.

The extended trading provides additional hours for those venues which have not yet applied for extended hours on a permanent basis.

Special events during summer for extended trading

EventExtensionEligible licence typesCondition
Christmas Eve10pm to midnight, Sunday 24 December 2023HotelGeneral barClubSmall barLive music and performance venueNil
Parkes Elvis FestivalMidnight to 2am, Friday/Saturday 13-14 January 2024HotelGeneral barClubSmall barLive music and performance venueMust be in the Parkes Shire local government area
Parkes Elvis Festival10pm to 12am, Sunday 14 January 2024HotelGeneral barClubSmall barLive music and performance venueMust be in the Parkes Shire local government area
Tamworth Country Music FestivalMidnight to 2am, Friday/Saturday 26 and 27 January 2024HotelGeneral barClubSmall barLive music and performance venueMust be in the Tamworth Regional local government area
Tamworth Country Music Festival10pm to 12am, Sunday 21 and 28 January 2024HotelGeneral barClubSmall barLive music and performance venueMust be in the Tamworth Regional local government area
Australian Open Tennis Men’s final10pm to 12am, Sunday 28 January 2024HotelGeneral barClubSmall barMust provide a live broadcast of the match during the extended trading period

The following additional conditions apply to this special event extended trading:

  • Extended trading does not apply to takeaway alcohol trading times, and individual trading restrictions and other special conditions on a venue’s liquor licence remain in force.
  • Venues already approved to trade during or beyond the extended hours can operate as usual. Special event extended trading overrides development consent trading hours. 
  • This extended trading does not authorise the use of electronic gaming machines during special event extended trading hours, if they wouldn’t have otherwise been authorised.

Acting Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy Jo Haylen said:

“It is going to be a fun summer whether you are in Sydney or regional NSW. Streamlining Sunday trading hours to the rest of the week is part of the Minns Labor Government’s agenda to bring back the vibrancy and give the businesses that help us get together to have the certainty they need to stay open.

“It’s great that venues in Parkes and Tamworth will be able to stay open later as those areas celebrate iconic music festivals.” 

Minister for Gaming and Racing David Harris said:

“Our commitment to building safer precincts and supporting access to more diverse services and entertainment will bring even more people out to enjoy what NSW has to offer at night.  

“I look forward to seeing even more improvements in the hospitality sector, so people can celebrate and enjoy these special events more often.”

For more information on special event extended tradinglaunch

For more information on the NSW Government’s 24-Hour Economy Legislation Amendment (Vibrancy Reforms) Bill 2023launch

Stay water safe as summer celebrations kick off

With NSW expecting its hottest summer in four years, our waterways will be busier than ever as boats, jet skis, swimmers, divers and kayakers and paddleboarders share limited space at the most popular spots to cool off.

Data from AUSPLAY shows more than 129,000 people are involved in kayaking and canoeing in NSW, more than any other state or territory in Australia.

Tragically, there have been 10 kayak fatalities in the last five years in our state and 35 kayaking incidents. People aged over 65 are over-represented in kayaking fatalities, making up 40% of total deaths over that time.

Social paddling is on the rise, with Sydney Harbour Kayaks, one of Australia’s largest kayak and surf ski centres, reporting their kayak tour bookings have tripled in the last year.

The advice from NSW Maritime for anyone picking up a paddle for the first time, or if you haven’t done it in a while, is to pay attention to the weather, paddle in groups, and bring a waterproof marine radio or mobile phone in a waterproof bag. If paddling in Sydney Harbour, kayakers are advised to stay close to the shore, well away from ferries and busy vessel thoroughfares.

NSW Maritime expects thousands of riders will be out over the summer months on Personal Watercraft (PWC) or jetskis on coastal and inland waterways. The number of PWC licenses has soared by 36% in the last three years to more than 89,000, with Gen Z the fastest growing demographic among riders.

Tragically, in NSW there have been four jet ski fatalities in the last five years and 58 incidents. The top jetski and PWC offences for 2023 have been for licence and registration breaches, followed closely by speeding and irregular riding – such as doing donut manoeuvres too close to the shore and swimmers.

For more information on waterways safety and rules for your vessel

For more information about major summer events on Sydney Harbour including exclusion zone maps and times.

Transport Minister Jo Haylen said:

“Holidaymakers are heading up and down the coast this summer to enjoy some on-water fun. Whether heading out on a boat, paddling in a kayak or jumping on a jetski, remember to put safety first and wear a lifejacket.

“It’s fantastic to see so many people exploring our beautiful waterways and keeping active this holiday season. A safe and enjoyable experience starts with knowing and sticking to the rules.

“If you’re giving someone a paddle board or kayak this Christmas, make sure you include what could be the most important gift – a lifejacket.

“Sydney Harbour is the hub of some of our state’s biggest summer celebrations, and being safe on the water is key to making sure this holiday season is a happy one.”

Transport for NSW Acting Co-Ordinator General Mark Hutchings said:

“Paddlers and kayakers don’t need a licence or registration, but they do need to know the rules. Wear a brightly coloured lifejacket, make sure you’re visible at night lit with bright white lights on the front and back and know your physical limits.

“The wash from a passing boat, especially something large like a ferry can be enough to seriously rock or even capsize a smaller vessel like a kayak or canoe so keep your distance and always be aware of your surroundings.

“Riding a jetski irresponsibly can create dangerous conditions for drivers, passengers and anyone else on or in the water so we urge people to think of other waterway users.”

Christmas 2023 PM STATEMENT

I’d like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas.

For so many Australians, this is a chance to rest.

To spend time with our family, catch-up with friends, and to cherish the memories of those no longer with us.

And for Christians, this is a holy time.

In this time of celebration and reflection, we express our gratitude to everyone who’s giving up their Christmas for the sake of others.

In particular, our emergency personnel and Australian Defence Force members, whether here or overseas. Our medical workers and our hospitality and those who give up for others through charities.

Of course, this isn’t an easy time for everyone.

I know many Australians are doing it tough at the moment, in particular those in Far North Queensland, dealing with the aftermath of the floods.

To them I say, you are all in our thoughts. May better times be ahead.

And may all Australians have a happy and joyous Christmas, and a safe one.

And please this festive season, drive safely.

Recovery support for fire-affected Narrabri community

Disaster assistance is now available in the Narrabri Local Government Area (LGA) following impacts of fires in the Pilliga State Forest that started on 8 December 2023.

The assistance measures are being provided by the Albanese and Minns Governments through the Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

Support includes:

  • assistance for eligible residents to help meet immediate needs like emergency accommodation or small cash payments to purchase essential items generally provided from evacuation or recovery centres
  • grants for eligible residents to replace lost essential household items to maintain basic standard of living
  • grants for eligible residents to undertake essential structural repairs to restore their homes to a safe and habitable condition
  • support for affected local councils to help with the costs of cleaning up and restoring damaged essential public assets
  • concessional interest rate loans for small businesses, primary producers, sporting and recreation clubs, and non-profit organisations to repair or replace damaged or destroyed property
  • freight subsidies for primary producers to help transport livestock and fodder. 

Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Senator the Hon. Murray Watt said the fires had burned through more than 130,000 hectares in the Pilliga State Forest. 

“This is a large bushfire that has been fuelling dangerous fire-generated thunderstorms with smoke visible from hundreds of kilometres away,” Minister Watt said. 

“I want to thank those who have worked hard to battle this blaze. The Minns Government and Rural Fire Service continue to monitor the situation and the Albanese Government stands ready to respond to any requests for assistance.” 

NSW Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said fire-impacted community members and primary producers would be supported in their clean up and recovery. 

“Work to assess the impact is being conducted as quickly as possible, and this is the first step in making assistance available to those in need,” Minister Dib said. 

“The scale and intensity of this fire is a reminder of the dangers we face over summer.

“Recent rain is a welcome change for firefighters as they work to contain the fire following threats to life and property over the past week.” 

NSW Member for Barwon Roy Butler thanked emergency services, particularly volunteers. 

“This fire could have been far more devastating had it not been for the efforts of emergency service staff and volunteers. 

“Even yesterday there were about 200 people out on the fire ground, and 60 people from various agencies in the Fire Control Centre.

“Without volunteers and community assistance none of this would have been possible. Well done to everyone involved.” 

For information relating to financial assistance, replacing lost documents, location of your nearest recovery centre and more, please contact Service NSWlaunch on 13 77 88launch or visit

To apply for a concessional loan or primary producer grant, contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authoritylaunch on 1800 678 593launch

Further information on disaster assistance can be found on the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist websitelaunch.

Green light for the return to racing at Western Sydney International Speedway

Speedway racing will make a long-awaited but welcome return to Eastern Creek in early 2024 following the appointment of a new Venue Manager and Operator for Western Sydney International Speedway.

Western Sydney International Dragway Ltd, which runs the neighbouring Sydney Dragway, has been appointed as Venue Manager with Sydney International Speedway Pty Ltd appointed as the new Operator.

Together with Government, the new management team is working hard to deliver a world-class experience for both fans and racers, with racing to commence back at the venue in early 2024.

The new Venue Manager and Operator are working on a program of race events so that fans can be trackside to see world-class racing in early 2024.

The motorsports precinct at Eastern Creek attracts around 700,000 visitors each year.

Motorsport is estimated to contribute $2.8 billion in direct and indirect value to the Australian economy including $270.1 million of value added to the New South Wales economy.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said:

“After the previous government bungled the establishment of the new speedway at Eastern Creek, I am pleased that racing will return in early 2024.

“The racing community was promised a world-class facility and we are delivering on that promise.

“After receiving a five-star safety rating the track is ready to race on and we are working with the new management to make Eastern Creek the number one motorsports precinct in Australia.

“I’m committed to the success of motorsports and its social, and economic value to the community.

“Motorsports have a long and proud history in Sydney dating back to 1926 at the Sydney Showground at Moore Park, four decades at Parramatta and now a bright future at Eastern Creek.”

Sydney Dragway Chairman Tony Beuk said:

“Western Sydney International Speedway is a state-of-the-art facility with amazing potential. We are excited by the two forms of motorsport working together to create a bright co-operative future, with the opportunity to share resources between two disciplines of motorsport that share similar passions.

“Sydney Dragway has 20 years of experience in event management, ticketing and logistics and we’re looking to work with Sydney International Speedway Pty Ltd who understands the speedway industry.  Together, we are committed to getting racing back at the venue early in the new year and making it a success for the racing community.

“We are looking to attract the best Australian and overseas racers to Australia’s premier motorsports precinct.

“The return of speedway racing to Eastern Creek ensures racing will not only survive but thrive in Sydney.”

Community encouraged to have their say on Clubgrants scheme

The NSW Government has released a discussion paper and begun community consultation into the effectiveness of the Clubgrants scheme, as part of a wider review to ensure the grants program is providing a social benefit to the people of NSW.

The consultation period will be open until 18 March 2024.

Clubgrants enables eligible registered clubs to contribute a portion of gaming machine profits to local community services, projects and infrastructure through grants, and receive a tax concession in return.

The discussion paper provides background on Clubgrants, the terms of reference and targeted questions to help guide submissions. There is also a survey for those who do not want to write a submission.

The public consultation will enable key stakeholders, participants, and members of the public to provide feedback and have their say as part of the review.

Liquor & Gaming NSW is seeking feedback from 23 December 2023 until 18 March 2024. Read the discussion paper and have your saylaunch

The Review into the ClubGrants Scheme was announced in tandem with the Independent Panel on Gaming Reform, which brings together representatives from industry, harm minimisation advocacy groups, law enforcement, unions and a person with lived experience to build consensus on a roadmap for reform.

It adds to a number of reforms already undertaken by the Minns Government to reduce gambling harm and prevent money laundering:

  • reduced the cash input limit from $5,000 to $500 for all new poker machines from 1 July 
  • reduced the statewide cap on gaming machine entitlements by more than 3,000 
  • banned political donations from clubs involved in gaming 
  • removed VIP gaming signage across NSW 
  • invested $100m into gambling harm minimisation over the next four years.

Minister for Gaming and Racing David Harris said:

“The NSW Government is committed to ensuring integrity and public trust in government grants.

“The Clubgrants scheme has not been formally reviewed by government since 2013, so this review will give the community and key stakeholders a chance to have their say on its effectiveness.

“Registered clubs are part of the social fabric in local communities across NSW, and the Clubgrants scheme helps to provide vital local services, projects and infrastructure.

“Feedback from a broad range of stakeholders and members of the public is critical to ensure their views are considered. 

“I encourage everyone to read the discussion paper and provide a submission or complete the survey before 18 March. Your feedback about the scheme will form an important part of our review.”