Showing posts with label Clarence Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clarence Valley. Show all posts

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Vandals wreck the enjoyment of others and damage can lead to public park closures - as occurred in the Clarence Valley this month


What mindless vandalism removed from the Clarence Valley this month - two free camping sites.




The Daily Telegraph, 19 October 2020


Free camping at Copmanhurst and Lilydale will soon come to an end after multiple complaints were made to Crown Lands.


Residents have discovered several makeshift campsites with high volumes of rubbish left behind In recent months.


It’s understood some individuals and groups have also trespassed onto private property to set up campsites.


The department has been made aware of complaints about inappropriate vehicle camping and other anti-social behaviour including littering and rubbish dumping at the reserve,” a Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Crown Lands representative said.


We will work with Clarence Valley Council to undertake compliance action to deal with any unauthorised camping.” Illegal dumping has been an issue that has contributed to camping being banned at reserves at Lilydale and Copmanhurst.


In the meantime, Clarence Valley councillor Debrah Novak said in a social media post that Crown Lands “intend to decommission the camping reserve at Lilydale and Copmanhurst and return it back to a public recreation reserve”.


They have identified they don’t have the available resources to monitor or enforce the compliance matters related to the toilets (no disability access) or the camping,” she said….

The Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2020:


A popularpiece of playground equipment at Grafton’s Jacaranda Park will be off limits for some time after an alleged vandalism attack.


Clarence Valley Council announced on Facebook that they’ve had to close the tower at Jacaranda Park.


It’s really sad for everyone that a community playground that brings so much happiness and laughter – to so many local people – would be a target for this kind of mindless behaviour,” a council spokesman said.


If anyone has any information please report it to Grafton Police on 6642 0222 or call Crime Stoppers NSW on 1800 333 000. “If you see something – say something.”


Sunday, 18 October 2020

CLARENCE RIVER CATCHMENT 2020: a culturally, economically, environmentally & socially harmful number of mining applications are in the process of getting the nod from the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government


Caring for the Clarence from Nathan Oldfield on Vimeo.



Of particular concern to council and the wider valley community is the yet to be completed Mole River dam in Tenterfield shire which has previously been mooted as a holding dam for the diversion of Clarence River catchment water elsewhere by Clarence water first being sent into the Upper Mole River.


That brings to three the number of companies currently undertaking exploration mining in the Clarence Valley. 


Given that the number of exploration licenses applied for or granted in the Clarence River catchment area have grown rapidly in 2020, the level of concern for the headwaters of so many rivers and creeks in also rising in Clarence Valley communities.

 IMAGE: Clarence Catchment Alliance

Needless to say the NSW Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, former surveyor, property developer and operations manager with a Qld resources/mining consultancy firm, thinks this map is just fine and dandy - nothing to see hear, move along.

BACKGROUND

Clarence Valley Council submission to Inquiry into the rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure in NSW, dated 22 September 2020 at:

Ms. Debrah Novak (Clarence Valley councillor) submission to Inquiry into the rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure in NSW, dated 21 September 2020 at:

Clarence Environment Centre submission to Inquiry into the rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure in NSW, dated 12 September 2020 at:


Sunday, 11 October 2020

Feral chickens running wild at Lookout Hill, Maclean


Let's not make a habit of this in the Clarence Valley.....


The Daily Telegraph, 1 October 2020:


A wild population of feral chickens that have been dumped on Lookout Hill are causing havoc in Maclean, with Clarence Valley Council urging residents not to dump unwanted pets in bushland.


The population of fowls on Lookout Hill are hampering the efforts of the Maclean Landcare Group who have worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the area by scratching out the native vegetation and exposing the fragile soil to the elements.


Council’s manager of environment, development and strategic planning, Adam Cameron, said there had been a recent spate of poultry dumping in the Clarence Valley.


Anyone who has unwanted poultry also has a responsibility to deal with them. If you are unsure what your options are, the RSPCA will be able to help you,” he said.


Mr Cameron emphasised that letting birds go into the wild was not the ethical choice.


Not only do they become a potential problem for other members of the community and the environment, but domesticated birds will also face a cruel end when left to fend for themselves,” he said…..



Monday, 5 October 2020

Nationals MP for Clarence is jumping up and down about the Clarence Valley being left out of the NSW-Qld border bubble. Well the fact of the matter is that the O'Farrell-Baird-Berejilkian Government has had 9 years to reverse the error that led to the current problem & neither he, his party or the government have addressed the issue

 

Sometime in the 21st Century the New South Wales Government invited a bee into its bonnet concerning a need to amalgamate regional local government areas with a view to eventually creating mega-councils and, when that policy was not greeted with enthusiasm (indeed sometimes with open rebellion) it decided to create communities of interest containing clusters of local government areas 'sharing' resources.

Down in Sydney - somewhere between Macquarie Street and Macquarie Towers - the state government decided to overturn the genuine Northern Rivers community of interest built up over the last 179 years and reclassify the Clarence Valley as "Mid-North Coast"

Although many in the Clarence Valley fought back against being lumped in with 'southerners' who did not share a good many of our values, aspirations or concerns, the state government kept insisting.

By 2006 only the Australian Bureau of Meteorology consistently referred to the Clarence Valley as being in the Northern Rivers region and much later the valley was included with the other historical Northern Rivers areas in the one state health district.

When it came to NSW Government agencies generally, they tended to gather data about the Clarence Valley, its communities and residents as part of the newly defined "Mid-North Coast".

We were frequently merged with Coffs Harbour when it came to recording crime, unemployment  levels, transport infrastructure and, at a regional planning level we were lumped with Coffs Harbour, Belligen, Nambucca, Kempsey, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Greater Taree and Great Lakes local government areas. 

Now the National Party members of the O'Farrel-Baird-Berejiklian Government were well aware of the fact that Clarence Valley communities never considered the reclassification was anything but a political move by a city-centric government and were instinctively refusing to turn their eyes south.

However, I do not recall any individual or combined push by Chris Gulapatis, Geoff Provest or Ben Franklin to reverse that "Mid-North Coast" label before the global pandemic intruded into the state.

So it should not come as a surprise that when the Queensland Government began to look for information about where the Clarence Valley was both geographically and socially when considering its response to COVID-19, it found us in what appeared to be a large population cluster which was too close for comfort to the outer fringes of heavily populated areas like the Hunter-Newcastle and Central Coast.

Former surveyor Chris Gulaptis can go to the newspapers calling the Clarence Valley's exclusion from the Northern Rivers border bubble "ridiculous", "bizarre, perplexing and unnecessary" but he has sat on his hands for almost nine years happily ignoring what locals had been telling him during those years - that the time would come when we would all rue the day that the NSW Government on paper ejected us from the Northern Rivers.

Cartography based solely on political ideology is a b*tch, Mr. Gulaptis. 

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Illegal land clearing and rubbish dumping still plagues parts of the Clarence Coast


This must be so disheartening for Wooloweyah Community Landcare and Angourie Community Coastcare volunteers.......

The Daily Telegraph, 9 September 2020:

The next time you amble past Wooloweyah’s Foreshore Reserve, someone might be taking note. 

Late last month, residents received a letter from Clarence Valley Council alerting them to alleged illegal activity affecting the reserve. 

“A recent inspection of the Lake Wooloweyah Foreshore Reserve by Council Officers has identified vegetation clearing that has been undertaken illegally,” the letter states. 

“Council is investigating these breaches for possible legal action.” Rumours have also circulated about the possible installation of spy cameras to catch people in the act. However, council has yet to confirm this claim. 

“The problem is widespread,” Athena Batcheldor posted on a Wooloweyah social media page in response to the letter. 

“Wooloweyah is just the latest that has come to the attention of CVC. “The reserve is only 30 meters wide. Surely we can give the wildlife half a chance. If the people of the Clarence don’t stand up and jump up and down, nothing happens.” This is not the first time the Wooloweyah and Angourie community’s bushland has been impacted. After a bushfire swept along the native vegetation in September last year, the aftermath of the fires revealed a significant amount of rubbish dumped into the bushland over the years.


IMAGE: The Daily Examiner


Sunday, 30 August 2020

PACIFIC HIGHWAY UPGRADE: flooding fears surface in the Clarence Valley in 2020


ClarenceValley Independent, 26 August 2020:

As the new highway nears completion across the Lower Clarence, fears have been raised about what happens during a flood, due to the highway apparently acting as a dam at various locations.

The areas around Ferry Park to Shark Creek (where rising floodwater first breaks the river’s banks) and Chatsworth Island (where long sections of the highway “act like a dam wall”) are locations where floodwater behaviour will be affected.

And, with the Bureau of Meteorology announcing that there is a 70 per cent chance of La Nina developing (“roughly three times the average likelihood”), which “typically increases the chance of above average rainfall across much of Australia during spring”, the flood modelling in Pacific Complete’s Hydrological Mitigation Report,Glenugie to Devils Pulpit could be put to the test sooner, rather than later.

In general terms, according to a letter from Transport NSW, in answer to an enquiry by Chatsworth Island resident Shane Williams, changes to flood behaviour across the Clarence River regional catchment are as follows:
  • A minor increase in flood level to the west of the highway;
  • A minor decrease in flood level to the east;
  • A minor increase in flood duration to the west and also to the east in some areas; and,
  • No perceptible change in flood velocity or direction.
The mitigation report states in the overall flood impact assessment that resultant increases in flood levels across the floodplain are“considered minor and generally meet the limits set by the flood management objectives”.

On flood duration, the report states that, overall, any changes in duration “meet the limits set by the flood management objectives (less than five percent increase)”, however, at “some small localised areas … between Maclean and Iluka Road … the flood duration is predicted to be affected by more than five percent”.

Under existing conditions, most of the land within the Clarence River regional floodplain is flooded for more than 72 hours for the 20, 50 and 100-year ARI (average recurrence interval) events,” the report states.

For the 5-year ARI event, areas around the fringe of the floodplain are flooded for a range of durations from less than six hours up to 72 hours.”

The report states that “there are small increases in flood level between five millimetres to 15 millimetres in the Clarence River main channel” and that “there are no impacts to the township of Maclean in the 5 and 20-year ARI flood events, as the Maclean levee is not overtopped”.

While the levee “is overtopped under both existing and future conditions for the 50-year ARI event … and a large part of Maclean is flooded”, the report notes that “further analysis” of the 50-year ARI event is incomplete and that “mitigation measures are under investigation”.

At Harwood “a minor increase in flood levels upstream due to the bridge piers” is an expectation……

Read the full article here.

BACKGROUND


Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Many Clarence Valley residents are not holding their breath over this NSW Berejiklian Government 2019 election promise


The Daily Telegraph, 31 July 2020, p.15:

Grafton Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis has told the Grafton Chamber of Commerce he expected to see his Grafton Base Hospital election promise granted when planning money was allocated in the 2020/21 NSW Budget. 


Executive officer Annmarie Henderson said the chamber had received written commitments from Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and the Member for Clarence to start the $263.8 million upgrade in this term of government. 

The chamber said the Minister for Health advised “Health Infrastructure will work with the Northern NSW Local Health District and clinical staff to progress the project through the planning stages”.

BACKGROUND

NSW Nationals website, 19 June 2019:

“The Budget confirms key local election promises namely progressing planning for the $263 million Grafton Base Hospital redevelopment on top of the $17.5 million already invested in the current upgrade of the hospital,” Mr Gulaptis said.


Banner erected by Grafton Base Hospital Community Committee
Weileys Hotel, Grafton NSW
IMAGE:  The Daily Mercury, 31 July 2020


Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Forestry Corporation of NSW ordered to cease tree harvesting at Wild Cattle Creek State Forest



The EPA says this is one of two 'giant' trees felled in the Wild Cattle Creek State Forest.(Supplied: EPA) - ABC News, 19 July 2020

NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), media release, 18 July 2020:

EPA orders Stop Work on forestry operations in Wild Cattle Creek State 


Forest The NSW Environment Protection Authority has today issued Forestry Corporation of NSW with a Stop Work Order to cease tree harvesting at Wild Cattle Creek State Forest inland from Coffs Harbour. 

 The NSW Environment Protection Authority has today issued Forestry Corporation of NSW with a Stop Work Order to cease tree harvesting at Wild Cattle Creek State Forest inland from Coffs Harbour. 

EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Carmen Dwyer said EPA investigations into operations in Compartments 32, 33 and 34 of the forest had revealed serious alleged breaches of the rules that govern native forestry operations, set out in the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA), in relation to the protection of trees that must not be felled. 

“To maintain biodiversity in the forest, the Coastal IFOA rules require loggers to identify giant trees (over 140cm stump diameter) and ensure they are protected and not logged. The EPA alleges that during an inspection on 9 July 2020 EPA officers observed two giant trees which had been felled. 

“Any trees except Blackbutt and Alpine Ash with a diameter of more than 140cm are defined as giant trees and must be retained under the Coastal IFOA,” Ms Dwyer said. 

“As a result, the EPA has issued a Stop Work Order under the Biodiversity Conservation Act to stop Forestry Corporation logging in the forest. The order ensures that no further tree harvesting takes place in the area where the trees were felled for 40 days, or until the EPA is confident that Forestry Corporation can meet its obligations to comply with the Coastal IFOA conditions to protect giant trees.” 

This is the first time the EPA has issued Forestry Corporation with a Stop Work Order under new laws which came into effect in 2018. 

“These two old, giant trees have provided significant habitat and biodiversity value and are irreplaceable. Their removal points to serious failures in the planning and identification of trees that must be retained in the forest. 

“These are serious allegations and strong action is required to prevent any further harm to giant or other protected trees which help maintain biodiversity and provide habitat for threatened species like koalas.” 

This action follows the recent issue of two Penalty Notices totalling $2,200 to Forestry Corporation for non-compliances associated with an alleged failure to correctly identify protection zones for trees around streams and for felling four trees within those protected zones in Orara East State Forest near Coffs Harbour. The penalties were issued under previous rules when the penalties were lower. 

“The EPA continues to closely monitor forestry operations despite the current COVID-19 restrictions, to ensure compliance with the regulations,” Ms Dwyer said.  

“The community can be confident that any alleged non-compliance during forestry operations will be investigated by the EPA and action taken if the evidence confirms a breach.” 

Stop Work Orders and penalty notices are examples of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions. A recipient can appeal and elect to have the matter determined by a court. 

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm

ABC News, 19 July 2020:

The Gumbaynggirr Conservation Group's Zianna Fuad said the group wanted the forest protected and she was extremely relieved the stop work order was in place. 

"It's devastating that we have lost these old-growth trees that we can never get back," she said. 

"Wild Cattle Creek is especially important — it's the second largest koala hotspot in NSW. 

"We have amazing koala forests up here that we would love to see protected as The Great Koala National Park."

BACKGROUND

BuzzFeed, 1 July 2020:

Sandy Greenwood, a Gumbaynggirr custodian and spokesperson, is in the process of taking Forestry Corporation to court. 

Her statement about the events reads: “We have given our notice of Trespass to the Forestry Corporation and demanded they stop the logging of all Gumbaynggirr Country for lack of jurisdiction and no conciliation or consent. 

The NSW Government and Forestry Corp are breaching international and domestic law under the international declaration of Indigenous Peoples' rights. 

"We are the Gumbaynggirr people, sovereign custodians of Gumbaynggirr Country, land and waters and we demand an end to logging in these irreplaceable and incredibly ancient publicly-owned forests. 

Logging must be stopped immediately and they must be conserved for all beings to enjoy.” 

The sections of the forest that were scheduled to be logged at Wild Cattle Creek are critically important. Not only are they unceded Gumbaynggirr Country, but the forest remains a piece of unburnt refuge for koalas in the area, as it was narrowly missed by the Liberation Trail bushfire last November.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 3 July 2020:

The anti-logging campaign the Gumbaynggirr Conservation Group has recently launched in northern NSW is doing exceedingly well. And the word is that the model it’s using to gain all the traction may soon be mirrored across the continent. 

Back in April, by cover of COVID, the construction of roads into the Nambucca State Forest commenced, with a view to opening up the area for logging. 

This native forest escaped the wrath of last summer’s unprecedented bushfires, but evidently not that of the Berejiklian government. 

The Forestry Corporation of NSW then moved in to commence logging in May. The state-owned company has said it’s only conducting “low intensity thinning” of “regrowth” forest, however local custodians, the Gumbaynggirr people, assert that this isn’t the case. 

But, despite loggers having moved in with machinery, the traditional owners and their allies have had them on the run. A series of lock-ons in Nambucca last week saw them scamper over to the Wild Cattle Creek State Forest this week, where further lock-ons have seen operations halted there. 

Sign of the times 

The Gumbaynggirr people were handed back their land through the native title process in 2014. And today, it’s the native title holders and conservation organisations that have joined together to form the Gumbaynggirr Conservation Group (GCG). And it’s been running quite a campaign of firsts. 

NSW Forestry announced it was pausing operations in Nambucca State Forest on 5 June for five days, to allow the GCG to undertake an independent cultural heritage survey. 

This was the first time logging had ever been halted since the NSW regional forestry agreement came into play 20 years ago. 

And further, the Gumbaynggirr people are taking the NSW Forestry Corporation to the state Land and Environment Court, which is the first time it has been taken to court by an individual organisation in decades. 

Then there’s the Gumbaynggirr Conservation Group itself. Having established the Gumbaynggirr Tent Embassy in Nambucca in mid-May, the GCG is an alliance that’s forging a new type of activism, which organisers maintain will soon be replicated at other sites nationwide. 

GCG spokesperson Sandy Greenwood has said that if NSW Forestry isn’t stopped “deeply significant cultural heritage will be desecrated, our beautiful old growth trees will be logged, rare flora will become extinct and our koalas and endangered species will literally have nowhere else to go”....

Wild Cattle Creek State Forest. Image: Dean Tresize 

Monday, 13 July 2020

Fewer people using Clarence Coast beaches in the wake of bushfires and COVID-19 travel restrictions


Clarence Valley Independent, 10 July 2020:

Bushfires and the COVID-19 lockdown have caused a 33% decline in visitors using Clarence Valley beaches. 

This significant decrease is consistent with other areas of New South Wales and is a result of severe bushfires in the spring and summer months affecting both tourist and local attendance which was then followed by COVID-19 travel restrictions and limitations on public gatherings. General manager, Ashley Lindsay explained, 

“Australian Lifeguard Service figures show that during the 2019/20 season there was a total of 119,034 visitors to Clarence Valley beaches this was a decrease of 60,838 compared with the previous season.” .....

During this lifeguard season there have been 14 rescues and 8758 preventative actions which demonstrates the importance of the service,” he said. 

Patrolled beaches include Bluff Beach (Iluka), Turners Beach, Main Beach and Pippi Beach in Yamba, as well as beaches in Brooms Head, Minnie Water and Wooli. In addition, a drone service has continued at Yamba providing critical data for the Department of Primary Industries regarding marine activity and surf conditions.

However, up and down the coast while bathers may be fewer in number surfers are still enjoying the waves.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sadly, just before 2.30pm on Saturday 11 July 2020, a young surfer was repeatedly attacked by what was believed to be a large white pointer shark at Wilsons Headland, Wooli Beach. Although his friends and other surfers pulled him from the water, the local boy died on the beach.

Clarence Valley Council, 12 July 20202:

A Sad Loss for Our Community 

JOINT STATEMENT FROM CR JIM SIMMONS AND GENERAL MANAGER ASHLEY LINDSAY REGARDING THE TRAGIC DEATH OF MANI HART-DEVILLE 

We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the tragic death of this young man, Mani Hart-Deville. 

Minnie Water is a small close-knit village and the communities of Minnie Water and Wooli will be hurting. 

Those that came to Mani’s aid were local surfers who witnessed the attack and friends from the local community, with experienced lifesavers responding as well. We believe one was a life member of Yamba Surf Life Saving Club. 

Mani attended school at South Grafton High, so the impact of this tragic event will reach across the Clarence Valley. 

We will be doing all we can to support the community through the shock and grief. The beach was not patrolled at this time of year, but it and all beaches in the Clarence Valley Council area from Iluka to Wooli have been closed and attempts will be made, by the Surf Life Saving Service, to locate the shark over the coming days. 

On behalf of council we wish to express our deepest condolences to his family, friends and the community.

STATEMENT ENDS.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, 26 June 2020

Clarence Valley Rural Fire Service boosts firefighting numbers ahead of 2020-21 bushfire season


Clarence Valley Independent, 19 June 2020:


The Clarence Valley Rural Fire Service (RFS) have been inundated with new members, with an increased number signing up since the start of last year’s horrendous fire season.
Since January 2019, approximately 303 volunteers have signed up (240 of those have joined since September 2019).
Clarence Valley Region RFS operations manager Ian Smith said that to get over 200 (new members) in a season, is unprecedented.
“Across the Clarence Valley we have a total of 1237 members. An increase of 240 is approx. 24 percent increase in numbers since September 2019,” Mr Smith said.
“In 2016 our total new members were 67, in 2017 it was 74 and in 2018 there were 86,” he said.
Mr Smith said that among the top numbers of brigades to receive new members were: Trenayr Brigade 32, Southhampton 27 and Woombah 26 and 23 new members in the Clarence Valley Catering.
“The breakdown of our new members consists of 206 male and 102 females. Our youngest new members are two 14-year-olds from Copmanhurst and Tyringham brigades and our oldest (new) member is 80 years old, in the Catering Brigade,” he said.....

Friday, 19 June 2020

Clarence Valley gun ownership remains relatively low to date in 2020


From 1 January to 31 March 2020 an est. 6% of the Clarence Valley population owned at least one registered firearm.

Clarence Valley firearm licence holders by postcode (excluding businesses, clubs, dealers & collectors) as of March Quarter 2020:  

2460 -  2,202 people with 8,675 firearms (one person holding 158 individual firearms)

2462 - 277 people with 1,019 firearms

2463 - 496 people with 2,091 firearms

2464 - 146 people with 580 firearms

2465 - 26 people with 122 firearms 

2466 - 74 people with 312 firearms 

2469 - 600 people with 2,092 firearms 

Total - 3,821 people*

NOTES

*Out of this total 680 individuals holding a firearm licence currently have no firearm in their possession. 

Data can be found at 
https://www.police.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/685350/NSW_Firearms_Licensing_and_Ownership_Information_Mar20.pdf

Serco-managed Clarence Correctional Centre to open on 1 July 2020


Image: Tweed Daily News

The est. $700 million purpose-built 1,700 bed Clarence Correctional Centre will open in thirteen days time and will hold both men and women.

This NSW prison at Lavadia in the Clarence Valley will be managed by the U.K. based multinational Serco Group.

Serco's contract has an estimated total value to the corporation over a 20-year term of approximately AUD$2.6 billion.

North Coast Voices readers may recall that the Serco Group has on numerous occasions been the subject of allegations concerning corruption, mismanagement, privacy violations and human rights abuses at its facilities and by its staff.

There will likely be more than a few fingers being crossed in the Clarence Valley that Serco through its subsidiary Serco Australia Pty Limited will not behave improperly or unlawfully when prisoners begin to fill what is being touted as the newest and largest correctional facility in Australia.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Rex Express walks away from its Clarence Valley airline route trying to blame others for its decision


Rex will stand by all regional communities that have stood by Rex during this global and national crisis” [Rex Express Holdings Deputy Chairman and former Nationals MP for Hume, the Hon John Sharp AM, company media release, 29 April 2020]

Stirring words in that quote at the top of this post.

The facts on the ground are somewhat different.

It appears that Rex Express Holdings* directors Kim Hai Lim, John Sharp, Neville George Howell, Christopher Hine, Thian Soo Lee, Ronald Bartsch, James Davis and at least one senior company executive David Brooksby are so offended by having their company's begging letters actually answered with increased funding/concessions from Clarence Valley Council that they have decided to remove the Clarence Valley’s only commercial air link with the outside world.


According to Rex Express on 20 April 2020 the RANS program is to ensure regional airline carriers will be provided assistance to maintain a minimal weekly schedule to regional and remote ports”. The COVID-19 Regional Airlines Funding Assistance Program is intended to assist airlines "to remain financially viable through the unprecedented downturn in aviationdue to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic".

Under revised RANS guidelines, Rex was eligible to receive funding to operate 2-3 return services a week to all destinations on the Rex Express network for up to six months. Rex’s application for the ports it wishes to provide services to has been approved and was signed off on 23 April 2020.

So it seems that the airline had a government funding offer to fly the Clarence Valley route until at least late September 2020.

So why did Rex Express spit the dummy and pull its Clarence Valley route commencing 3 July?

Admittedly Rex Express as airlines go is only a sprat in the aviation ocean, however it did turn a $17.5 million profit after tax in the 2018-2019 financial year and the board recommended an 8 cents dividend to shareholders.

Perhaps dropping Grafton Airport was because having a leg in again at Ballina Airport since early May 2020, the company board finds that market is more attractive.

Or perhaps it has more to do with the changed financial landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the likelihood that the profit & loss statement it will present shareholders at this November’s annual general meeting - given it stated an expectation of a $10 million a month loss due to reduced flights - will not be welcome.

Total passenger numbers and revenue had been falling in 2019 but the fall was quite marked in January-February 2020 – numbers fell by -4 % in January & -3% in February and revenue fell by -6% in January & -5% in February.

By 17 March 2020 it was reported that Rex Express was anticipating bankruptcy and on 26 March its ASX share price had dropped to 0.400. Share price has since recovered to 1.100 as of Friday 5 June.

The regional airline is also now facing increased competition on some routes from Qantas which is expecting competition from Regional Express in 2021. Rex wants to expand its own operations on competitive/commercially viable routes.

It is possible that Rex Express abandoning its flights into the Clarence Valley will not be the only route it is either jettisoning or downgrading and other low volume regional areas are in the firing line – they just don’t know it yet.

It may be that the fig leaf Rex is hiding behind – alleged hostility during one Clarence Valley Council debate of a motion – is meant to forestall panic in other regions this airline services.

Either way, I have lost count of the times Rex Express has threatened to withdraw or did withdraw its passenger services from airports in the NSW Northern Rivers region. In my personal opinion it is an airline that fails to impress.

Note
* Rex Express is reportedly 58% owned by shareholders in Singapore.

BACKGROUND

The Daily Examiner, 8 June 2020:

Seven-line email to council over ‘hostility’ the reason Grafton stunned by Rex king hit

The words used in a Clarence Valley Council meeting last week are the reason Regional Express airlines will cease flying into Grafton from July 3.

The airline made the announcement to cease flying via a letter to Clarence Valley Council general manager Ashley Lindsay on Thursday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for the airline confirmed to The Daily Examiner that the reason for the cancellation of the route was due to the comments made by councillors in a debate over whether they would provide a credit note for the airline.

When pushed on other reasons for the closure of the route, and whether Rex’s Lismore and Ballina routes would continue, the spokeswoman declined to comment, and said that further questions from The Daily Examiner had been forwarded for consideration.

The motion for providing Rex a credit note of $8908, which was to be used in January 2021, was passed by Clarence Valley Council 7-2 after a debate ensued on whether councillors questioned council supporting the airline.

However in the letter, the company has stated it has rejected the offer, despite asking for it in earlier correspondence.

Written by Rex airports manager David Brooksby, it opens by thanking Clarence Valley Council for offering Rex a rebate of $8908.

Please note however that given the hostility of the councillors in relation to this matter, and following the call for Rex to ‘pull their finger out’, Rex will reject council’s offer. Full settlement has already been made last week,” the letter reads.

It concludes: “Please also be aware that Rex will cease all services to Grafton with effect from 3 July 2020.” Clarence Valley Council general manager Ashley Lindsay said the decision was “really surprising and disappointing”, and was seeking to talk to Mr Brooksby about the matter.

Council received correspondence from Rex on March 19 and requested that council provide a 50 per cent reduction of the head tax from April 1 to December 31, 2020,” he said.

Council in March resolved to give a reduction of 100 per cent unanimously. “We then received further correspondence on April 23 seeking a credit note over landing fees … that could used in January 2021 for their first lot of invoices.

This was passed 7-2 … and it seems the ‘pull your finger out’ (comment from the debate), that’s what has offended them…..