COMMUNITY COMES TOGETHER FOR BUSHFIRE STATE MEMORIAL

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons are encouraging members of the public to attend this Sunday’s NSW State Memorial for the recent bushfires.

Ms Berejiklian said the Memorial will recognise the lives lost and the sacrifices made, and show support for those directly impacted by the fires.

“This Memorial will allow the community to come together to reflect on the bushfire season, recognise the incredible efforts of all our volunteers and emergency services personnel and remember our fallen heroes, as we begin the rebuilding process,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Delta Goodrem will perform “Let It Rain”, which she penned after watching the devastation from the bushfires across Australia. All proceeds of the song are going to aid the bushfire crisis & relief efforts.

“I am honoured to be asked to perform at the State Memorial. “Let It Rain” is a message of gratitude to all the fire fighters, volunteers and everyone affected by the bushfires,” Ms Goodrem said.

The Sydney Children’s Choir and Aboriginal cultural group, Koomurri will also perform.

The State Memorial will pay tribute to the three NSW RFS firefighters, the three American firefighting aircrew, and community members who lost their lives in NSW as a result of the recent bushfires.

It will also recognise the valued contribution of firefighters from all Australian states and territories, as well as the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

“This memorial will give everyone an opportunity to reflect on one of the most devastating bushfire seasons this state has seen,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

“It is a chance to reflect on the impact on the community, the lives lost and recognise the resilience of the many towns and villages that are now starting the recovery process.”

The State Memorial is open to all members of the public and will take place on Sunday, 23 February, at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney Olympic Park starting at 11.30am.

Travel on public transport services to and from Olympic Park will be free for emergency services personnel in uniform as well as accompanying family members or friends. For more information visit the Memorial website.

REGIONAL SENIORS TO GET MOVING WITH TRAVEL CARD

More than 100,000 rural and regional seniors have successfully signed up for the NSW Government’s new $250 Regional Seniors Travel Card since applications opened on 29 January.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said eligible seniors would soon receive their cards, easing the burden of travel costs and injecting more than $25 million into regional economies.

“This is the first time we are rolling out a program like this. This card puts $250 in the pocket of regional seniors, which can mean an extra few trips to visit grandkids living in other parts of the state, the ease of staying connected locally or the ability to volunteer in local community groups,” Mr Toole said.

Mr Toole said thousands of rural and regional seniors were applying for the card each day, with the eligibility requirements widened to include pension-aged veterans collecting a Service Pension or recipients of a War Widow Pension through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We’ve heard the feedback from the community, which is why we are now including more seniors in the program. Veterans who are now eligible will be able to apply in the coming months, once we have made the necessary updates to our application system,” Mr Toole said.

Mr Toole said the rollout of the card followed a pilot in Coffs Harbour, where about 80 seniors have been trialling the pre-loaded Visa card.

“Our Coffs Harbour pilot provided valuable feedback and we responded by adding more information to the website and making minor changes to the application form,” Mr Toole said.

“These seniors also told us how easy the card is to use, with participants predominately purchasing fuel, followed by taxi rides, but can also be used to purchase pre-booked TrainLink services.”

Eligible seniors have until 30 November to apply for a card in 2020 and 12 months to use their card from activation. Seniors can apply online at service.nsw.gov.au, in person at a Service NSW Service Centre or over the phone on 13 77 88.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR AT THE NSW SENIORS FESTIVAL

‘Love to Celebrate’ is the theme which hundreds of thousands of NSW seniors will embrace for the 2020 NSW Seniors Festival.

Acting Minister for Seniors Geoff Lee helped officially launch the state-wide festival today with the first of four Premier’s Gala Concerts at the ICC Sydney.

“Our seniors are the heart and soul of our communities and we love putting on these free concerts to see their smiles and hear them sing along with some of Australia’s greatest talent,” Mr Lee said.

“The theme ‘Love to Celebrate’ captures the spirit of our older generation perfectly because they can all celebrate the wonderful contributions they have made to help NSW become what it is today.”

Australian music legend John Paul Young is joining a star-studded line up of talent including Vanessa Amorosi and Paulini at the Premier’s Gala Concerts, which are a highlight of the 12-day festival.

“The Premier’s Gala Concerts enjoy packed houses every year with free world class entertainment and this year the ultimate headline act is John Paul Young, singing ‘Love is in the Air’ on Valentine’s Day,” Mr Lee added.

After tapping their feet to the tunes at the concerts, seniors can learn from dozens of exhibitors at the NSW Seniors Festival Expo, at the ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre.

“The Expo is bigger and better than ever with seniors getting the chance to practice chair yoga, strengthen and tone with Curves gym Balance classes, try out speed friendship sessions,  or sharpen up on their gardening skills with Bunnings.”

More than 500,000 seniors are expected to take part in events across the state over the course of the festival from 12-23 February.

For more information on events in greater Sydney and regional NSW go to: https://www.seniorsfestival.nsw.gov.au

PARK’NPAY PUTTING MORE POWER IN DRIVERS’ HANDS

Sydney drivers have given the NSW Government’s new Park’nPay app the thumbs up, with 9,500 app downloads and more than 7,823 transactions since it went live in October 2019 in Liverpool City Council, The Rocks and parts of Darling Harbour and Pyrmont.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said drivers will receive a significant boost, with commercial parking giants Wilson Parking and Secure Parking coming on board in the next few weeks, by supplying data on their parking stock via the app. Central Coast Council will also trial the app.

“The app is convenient and makes life easier for drivers by putting the power of parking in their hands,” Mr Dominello said.

“The technology eliminates the need for drivers to walk to a parking meter by allowing them to pay and top up via the app. It also helps drivers avoid parking fines, by sending a notification when their meter is running low or their park is about to turn into a no stopping zone.”

Mr Dominello said having Wilson Parking and Secure Parking come on board is a game changer for drivers, with tens of thousands more parking bays across Sydney soon to be available on the app.

“Wilson Parking and Secure Parking collectively operate about 250 commercial car parks across metro Sydney, comprising of more than 125,000 parking bays, accessed by millions of drivers each year,” Mr Dominello said.

“This is a big win for drivers. Whether you’re visiting family and friends or doing some shopping, there will be more opportunities to use the app to find that ideal spot and reduce congestion.”

Both commercial parking operators will continue to manage payments through their own platforms. The app has a 92 per cent customer satisfaction rating. It is free and available on iPhone and Android phones. Drivers simply download the Park’nPay app, create an account with their licence plate and payment details. Users have the option of paying with Visa, Mastercard, Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Parking inspectors will check to see if a meter has been paid by searching licence plate details using an app on their phone. Parking meters will continue to accept coins and credit cards. For more information visit www.parknpay.nsw.gov.au

BUSHFIRE CLEAN-UP UNDERWAY AS EXCAVATORS MOBILISE ACROSS THE STATE

The operation to clean-up homes and businesses destroyed and damaged by bushfires across NSW took a major step forward today with debris being cleared from Rainbow Flat properties on the North Coast.

Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Disaster Recovery John Barilaro and NSW Police Assistant Commissioner and State Recovery Coordinator Mick Willing joined Laing O’Rourke Managing Director Cathal O’Rourke in Rainbow Flat to oversee the start of clean-up operations.

Mr Barilaro said excavators will clear approximately 40 destroyed properties at Rainbow Flat in the coming days, as part of the NSW Government’s commitment to cover the cost of the clean-up on a 50:50 basis with the Federal Government, so insured and uninsured owners will have more money in their pockets to rebuild their homes.

“The sooner we can safely clear the 2,400 plus houses and thousands of other buildings that have been destroyed across the State, the sooner people can rebuild,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Initial building assessments have already been done for over 41,000 properties. Now the clean-up resources are rolling out across the State.

“Having excavators in place and working so quickly is a testament to Laing O’Rourke’s expertise. I thank them and Public Works Advisory for making this happen, especially given the challenges caused by the weekend downpours.”

Assistant Commissioner Willing said co-ordinating a safe, efficient and timely clean-up effort across the State will be challenging.

“The clean-up includes managing hazardous materials such as asbestos, dangerous trees that are near homes or commercial buildings, along with damaged driveways that could impact on the safety of the clean-up or impede the rebuilding process. We will also be ensuring the huge volume of waste is disposed of correctly,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.

“This is a mammoth task and I ask people to please be patient for a little while longer, we are coming to your town as soon as possible.”

Mr O’Rourke said Laing O’Rourke will work with qualified local subcontractors and suppliers where possible to take advantage of local knowledge and expertise.

“Laing O’Rourke has pulled together a team of experts in their field from across the industry, and now we are ready to mobilise and get on with the task of helping people recover as soon as possible,” Mr O’Rourke said.

To opt-in to the free property clean-up service, bushfire-impacted owners must register online at www.service.nsw.gov.au or call 13 77 88.

BUY REGIONAL FOR LAST-MINUTE VALENTINE’S DAY GIFTS

Shoppers looking for the perfect last-minute present for their loved one this Valentine’s Day can find great gift ideas that will directly support businesses in towns impacted by bushfire or drought via the NSW Government’s Buy Regional webpage.

Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Disaster Recovery John Barilaro and Minister for Small Business Damien Tudehope encouraged shoppers to share the flavour of regional NSW with their loved one on the 14th February this year.

Mr Barilaro said the Buy Regional webpage and campaign had significantly boosted trade for regional retailers doing it tough in the lead up to Christmas, however retailers in the bush still need the support of their city cousins to keep towns and local economies alive.

“We know the Buy Regional success stories, of the hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing directly to small businesses across towns like Uralla and Tamworth and I commend shoppers who backed these communities, but now is not the time to stop spending,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Valentine’s Day is a fantastic opportunity to discover last-minute gift ideas from the ever-expanding list of gourmet food retailers and experience providers listed with Buy Regional.

Last-minute Buy Regional gift ideas include;

  • Chocolate on Purpose – gourmet chocolate varieties peppered with native Australian fruit and nuts, send with next day delivery or choose an online voucher
  • Hunter Belle Dairy – delicious cheese hampers with delivery to Hunter and Sydney
  • Terragong House 1858 – book a stay at the heritage property on the South Coast, receive an online gift certificate in time to give your loved one for Valentine’s Day.

Mr Tudehope said that regional NSW’s small businesses are brimming with high quality, unique products which are designed, handmade, carefully curated or prepared with love.

“So many of regional NSW’s small businesses are run by thoughtful teams who put a lot of time and effort into making sure customers have the best possible experience, from the second they click to purchase an item until well after it is received,” Mr Tudehope said.

“For those who can’t Go Regional and visit regional communities in the immediate future, a way to show your love is to purchase your next gift from Buy Regional, whether that’s for Valentine’s Day or an upcoming birthday.”

To buy a regional product or register your business, visit: www.nsw.gov.au/buyregional

WWII MEMORIALS RESTORED FOR 75th ANNIVERSARY

War memorials across NSW have secured vital funding for restoration works ahead of this year’s 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

Acting Minister for Veterans Geoff Lee said more than $120,000 in grants have been awarded for war memorial conservation projects, under the NSW Government’s Community War Memorials Fund.

“Our war memorials are precious monuments we need to cherish and protect as they give us a place to reflect and pay our respects to those brave soldiers who fought for the freedom we enjoy today,” said Mr Lee.

“World War Two memorials are significant in this round of grants because this year we will be remembering 75 years since Victory in the Pacific was declared, effectively ending the war.

“On August 15, communities across NSW will remember the courage and sacrifice of our World War Two soldiers and the NSW Government is ensuring local community memorials remain a true testament to the sacrifice made by our soldiers.”

Richmond Park War Memorial will receive $10,000 towards restoration of two 32 pound muzzle loaded cannons and their timber carriages. The cannons form an integral part of the war memorial and its connection to the local community, veterans and the Richmond RAAF base.

Sutton Public School will receive funds to preserve its memorial gates, in particular the Second World War plaque which records the names of 19 local veterans who served.

Other successful projects include the restoration of the Attunga War Memorial Gates and protective works to the Bathurst War Memorial Carillon, one of only three carillons in Australia.

The successful applicants for the Anzac Community Grants Program have also been announced with more than $50,000 to assist with projects which support activities and services, or promote appreciation and understanding, of military service personnel.

Round 2 of the Community War Memorials Fund is now open and closes 25 April 2020.

For more information, go to: www.veterans.nsw.gov.au/heritage/community-war-memorials-fund

DELIVERING SAFER ROADS FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Safety barriers, rumble strips and wide centrelines will be rolled out across NSW’s road network as part of a record $822 million investment into road safety infrastructure upgrades through the Safer Roads Program.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said round three of the program would see $258 million invested into 383 projects next financial year.

“These are projects designed to save lives. We are committed to reducing the state’s road toll and the measures we are investing in will prevent the loss of more than 1500 lives and serious injuries on our roads over 15 years,” Mr Toole said.

“We know targeted projects can make a real difference to local communities in both the city and the bush.

“This investment will see $217 million injected into 285 regional projects through Saving Lives on Country Roads, and $41 million into 98 projects through Liveable and Safe Urban Communities for metropolitan NSW.”

Round three of the Safer Roads Program will deliver:
o   More than 230 kilometres of safety barriers, which absorb impact forces and protect vehicle occupants, reducing the severity of head-on and run-off-road crashes by up to 95 per cent.
o   2,150 kilometres of rumble strips to alert motorists they are departing from their lane, reducing the likelihood of this crash type by up to 25 per cent.
o   Almost 1,000 kilometres of wide centreline providing a greater distance for drivers to recover from lane departure, reducing the likelihood of head-on crashes by up to 50 per cent and run-off-road crashes by up to 25 per cent.
o   Almost 1,500 high-risk rural curve improvements including shoulder sealing, safety barriers, rumble strips, signage upgrades and line-marking upgrades.
o   More than 100 urban intersection improvement projects including roundabouts and traffic signal upgrades.

Mr Toole said the Safer Roads Program was a five-year program, with more than $300 million already spent over the last two years to deliver 113 kilometres of barriers, 3,000 kilometres of rumble strips and 2,800 kilometres of wide centreline across the state.

HALFWAY TO CLEARING THE NSW SCHOOL MAINTENANCE BACKLOG

More than half of the school maintenance backlog has been cleared, with local trades putting the finishing touches on school maintenance projects at NSW public schools.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said the NSW Government is on track to deliver the $1.3 billion election commitment to wipe the school maintenance backlog to zero by July 2020.

“More than $200 million has been spent on 968 maintenance projects at public schools across metro and regional NSW during the summer holidays, leaving only 47 percent of the backlog left to clear,” Ms Mitchell said.

“The effort made by tradespeople, builders and department staff across the state has been incredible, handling both the task of bushfire recovery for day one and pushing on with our maintenance commitment.

“We have completed projects at NSW public schools across the state; sprucing classrooms, fixing rooves and tidying up grounds.

With more than 2200 schools in the NSW public education system, these maintenance works are vital to providing world-class facilities for students and staff across the State.

“We have used enough paint to fill nine backyard pools and laid enough floor to cover 40 football fields,” Ms Mitchell said.

“I want to reassure families that schools impacted by bushfires over the holiday period will not miss out, all planned maintenance work will still be carried out at these schools.”

The NSW Government has made the largest investment into public school infrastructure by any State government in Australian history. For more information about the NSW Government school maintenance commitment visit: https://www.schoolinfrastructure.nsw.gov.au/programs/planned-maintenance.html

NOW’S THE TIME TO LOVE NSW – $10 MILLION TOURISM RECOVERY PACKAGE TO REBUILD NSW

NSW tourism will receive a welcome boost through a Tourism Recovery package to encourage visitation to NSW, fund new local events and assist tourism businesses to develop, promote and sell their tourism products.

The first phase of the plan launches with a new community-driven campaign – Now’s The Time To Love NSW – urging travellers to book a getaway which gives back.

Minister for Jobs, Investment and Tourism Stuart Ayres said the new campaign, developed by the state’s tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, taps into the outpouring of public support in the wake of the bushfires.

“The prolonged drought and unprecedented bushfires have broken our hearts and had a devastating impact on thousands of tourism operators in our beautiful state,” Mr Ayres said.

“That’s why now’s the time to love NSW – we need to show the world that our many spectacular sights and experiences are in great shape, and they’re welcoming visitors right now.”

To kickstart the campaign, people are being invited to take a #RecoveryWeekend in NSW, stay and spend locally, take photos showcasing NSW’s beauty featuring hands in the shape of a heart and share them on social media with the tag #LoveNSW generating authentic, real-time imagery of NSW’s many holiday destinations.

The recovery package was informed by input from the tourism industry, tourism associations and the Destination Networks and will target domestic and international markets.

“Recovery will take time and the NSW Government is here for the long haul. This $10 million will provide immediate help and set up long-term support for the industry to help businesses get back on their feet,” Minister Ayres said.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said with one in 13 Australians relying on tourism and hospitality for their jobs, it was important to holiday here this year and help the industry get back on its feet.

“Australia’s tourism industry has taken a massive hit. Right across Australia tourism businesses, including in NSW are feeling the pressure as tourists delay or cancel their travel plans, even in many areas that haven’t been affected,” Minister Birmingham said.

“That’s why we’re backing this campaign through our $20 million domestic tourism commitment to get Aussies into fire-affected communities as they open up again, as well into unaffected tourism towns that are also feeling the pinch.

“I urge Australians to support our tourism businesses and save local jobs by booking a trip in NSW this year.”

In addition to Now’s The Time To Love NSW marketing campaign, the package includes trade partner conversion campaigns with Qantas Airways, Accor, Webjet, TripAdvisor and Tigerair and a $1 million regional events program to support flagship events and a new stream of micro events.

Now’s The Time To Love NSW builds on and complements Tourism Australia’s recently launched Holiday Here This Year domestic tourism campaign and is funded by both State and Federal investments.