July 2018 Presidents Report

Thanks to all businesses who have already renewed membership and a friendly reminder for those who have not paid yet that annual membership is now overdue. Your membership entitlements with NSWBusiness Chamber will cease on 1st August if not paid by 31st July 2018. Please contact our Treasurer Sky Han on SHan@royspagnolo.com.au if you have any queries regarding renewal invoices.

Our Quarterly Report for April - June is now available to view online. It's a snapshot of activity Chamber have understaken in the last 3 months to provide transparency and so members know our Executive work extremely hard on issues that face our business community. 

Many concerned ratepayers have asked me why they did not know when Council’s Housing Forum was on and I have advised them that for some unknown reason the so called community consultation on housing was invite only to selected people. Council have provided the power point presentation that was addressed on the night - View here.

Unfortunately the information on this does nothing to address the immediate and very serious Housing and Rental crisis that has been negatively affecting our entire community for some time. Most of the earmarked land for development is many years away.
Council can make a huge contribution to resolving “The Housing Crisis” by immediately developing themselves ratepayer owned DA approved and ready 1A Lake Wyangan 180 blocks.

This Council needs to show leadership and ownership of this problem and develop this land to be real estate sales ready themselves, as originally planned when they purchased it around 20 years ago. This should happen by Christmas 2018.
Council needs to pull out all stops to incentivise developments and get housing going immediately;

  • cutting red tape.
  • expediting DA approval times.
  • significantly reducing development contribution fees.
  • extension of 94A tax rebate.
  • immediate investment into arterial infrastructure.
  • assistance with improving timeliness of Essential energy.
  • low cost housing grant assistance.
  • Improved consultation / communication with Chamber and Developers.
  • more detailed planning and acknowledgement in short and long term strategic plans.
  • Council develop 1A Lake Wyangan -  180 master planned blocks to be ready for real estate sales immediately.
  • and much more.

We were pleased to see that Chamber’s submission to NSW Government water Inquiry has been adopted as a key recommendation;

Recommendation 35 139 That the NSW Government:
(a) conduct a feasibility study into the augmentation of Burrinjuck Dam, and 
b) subject to the findings of the feasibility study, construct a new dam wall or extend the existing dam wall for Burrinjuck Dam.
Read summary of key issues here
It is also heartening to see the Burrinjuck dam improvements listed in Water NSW 20 Year Infrastructure Options Study Rural Valleys; 

Long-term infrastructure options considered for further investigation to improve security and reliability of supply in the valley include: Burrinjuck Dam raising from 1000 GL  (up to 1,700 GL potentially) Preliminary Capital Cost $873 Million
The NSW Government is awash with funds from The Poles and Wires sell off and rather than spending on knocking down good stadiums and moving museums It is time a REAL Game changer Project for our future was invested in.
A VERY serious question is; What is the estimated life span of Burrinjuck Dam Wall?
"Burrinjuck Dam is 106 years old and one of the oldest masonry block dams in the world The majority of the concrete mix in the lower parts of wall is 5 parts crushed rock 3 parts sand 1 part cementIn the upper reaches of wall a weaker 6.75 parts rock 3 parts sand 1 part cement mix was used A stronger mix was used on the face of the wall"  More info here 
Burrinjuck at 47% of 1028 giglitres (4/3/18) A Case for Enlarging Burrinjuck Storage Reservoir – Brian Young. This deserves further investigation.

  • Burrinjuck dam wall (now 106 years old) is 93 metres high and 361 metres above sea level at its crest
  • Burrinjuck dam currently has a surface area of 5500 hectares when full and dam capacity is 1028 gigalitres
  • On a topographical map if the 380* metre above sea level contour is adopted the dam surface area would increase to an estimated *11,000 hectares and have no impact on any towns
  • A new dam wall could raise the level by up to twenty metres (380metres above sea level) and increase the potential storage volume to 3,000 gigalitres
  • At 113 metres high the proposed new wall would be relatively low compared to Dartmouth Dam which is 180 metres tall, the world’s tallest dam walls are 300 metres high
  • Several properties, portions of properties, recreational areas, eco resort and holiday houses would need to be resumed
  • The catchment area of Burrinjuck Dam is 12,953km2, which is larger than the catchment area of Dartmouth Dam (3,600 km2) and the whole of the Snowy Mountains scheme (9,070km2)
  • Burrinjuck catchment is 1,295,300 hectares (100 mm per hectare of runoff equates to 1 megalitre) and over Burrinjuck catchment area this totals 1295 gigalitres of water - more than the current dam can store
  • The average annual rainfall of the Burrinjuck catchment is 900 mm with snow areas as high as 1700mm
  • In 2010 1800 gigalitres flowed into Burrinjuck in a six month period
  • In 2012 and 2016 over 170 gigalitres per day were spilled from Burrinjuck for a short period exacerbating flooding to downstream areas
  • There may be a possibility to build a new dam wall downstream from the existing wall (106 years old) or even to build a new wall in situ incorporating the existing wall
  • There are many advantages in a much larger Burrinjuck storage being built
  • An extra 650 gigalitres could be stored for the environment and a new weir installed before the confluence with the Murray in order to flood the lower bidgee wetlands
  • Environmental flows could be held in a larger Burrinjuck and used in drier times
  • Hydro electric production could be increased significantly – clean energy
  • Flood Mitigation with climate variability increases.
  • Productive water to sell to farmers – latest high security sale in Murrumbidgee valley - $5100 per hs Megalitre.
  • Environmental flows constraints can be increased avoiding Barmah Choke using Murrumbidgee back into Murray near Balranald.

THE LAND: June 21 ‘Raise level of Burrinjuck, dam fine idea’ BY JOHN ELLICOTT
ALTHOUGH Water NSW has dismissed any plans to build or enlarge any dams in NSW, the Riverina has not given up hope that Burrinjuck Dam’s capacity could be lifted one day. Although the cost of a new dam wall is over $3.5 billion, councils along the Murrumbidgee and in the Riverina believe the project is worthy of serious consideration by all levels of government. At the NSW Ministerial level, such a concept has not been put aside despite departmental advice about future water capacities and savings not including new catchments. With the NSW Government brimming with money from the Federal buy-out of its share in Snowy Hydro, the NSW Government has indicated it wants to invest in southern NSW with a once-in-generation project. Raising Burrinjuck’s capacity could be one of those landmark projects. Griffith is one of many Murrumbidgee area towns, including Wagga Wagga, that has put forward a proposal for increasing Burrinjuck’s capacity. The proponents have put forward the following figures to support their case: “Burrinjuck dam wall (now 106 years’ old) is 93 metres high and 361m above sea level at its crest,” the proponents say. “Burrinjuck dam currently has a surface area of 5500 hectares when full and dam capacity is 1028 gigalitres. “On a topographical map, if the 380m above sea level contour is adopted, the dam surface area would increase to an estimated 11,000 ha and have no impact on any towns. A new dam wall could raise the level by up to 20m and increase the potential storage volume to 3000 gigalitres. Several properties, portions of properties, recreational areas, eco resort and holiday houses would need to be resumed. The catchment area of Burrinjuck Dam is 12,953 sqkm, which is larger than the whole of the Snowy Mountains scheme (9070sqkm) “Burrinjuck catchment is 1,295,300ha (100mm per ha of runoff equates to 1 megalitre) and over Burrinjuck catchment area this totals 1295 gigalitres of water - more than the current dam can store. The average annual rainfall of the Burrinjuck catchment is 900mm with snow areas as high as 1700mm. The proponents say there a new dam wall could be built downstream from the existing wall or even built in situ incorporating the existing wall. The project would give greater water security and reduce floods
THE AREA NEWS: March 2 2017 "Plan to build a dam to hold eight Sydney Harbours" BY STEPHEN MUDD. Read Article here

A radical proposal to quadruple the size of Burrinjuck Dam was floated at a NSW Upper House hearing on Wednesday.
The hearing, held in Griffith, is part of an investigation into the state’s handling of water resources and gave irrigators, businesses and public servants a chance to have their say on the matter.
Griffith Business Chamber president Paul Pierotti said raising the dam wall could protect the region from extreme climate events such as drought or last year’s floods and could be cost-neutral if it incorporated a hydro-electricity generator.
“We see this as a real triple-bottom line benefit for people, profit and planet,” Mr Pierotti said. 
“No-one would ever need more water after this.”
The comments come just weeks after a massive heatwave saw the state’s power grid stretched to its limits because gas-fired power plants failed to come online.
“This create enough baseload from hydroelectricity that it would eradicate the need for coal-fired power plants,” Mr Pierotti said.
“We believe it would be cost-neutral to the taxpayer because significant money would come in from power generation.
“It would create very little disruption to the environment and allow better water management for the future; when it was developed 100 years ago it suited that time but we need to look forward and the entire underpinning of the Australian economy will be locally-grown food and fibre.”
Griffith mayor John Dal Broi called on water sharing rules and regulations to be made clearer, while others spruiked the benefits of the Clarence River Scheme, a controversial plan to divert flows from the Northern Rivers that fired up people near Grafton.
“I really want the average irrigator to be able to understand the whole water issue,” Councillor Dal Broi said. “The water trading rules, carry over rules, supplementary water rules are all so complex, you nearly have to be a professor to understand them all.”
THE LAND: 21 June 2018 "Stripping services hurts us, says Chamber" BY JOHN ELLICOTT 
PAUL Pierotti is adamant Griffith deserves better, from education to health to technical and further education, and as head of the local business chamber often feels his pleas fall on deaf ears. He says there is even a line that leaves out Leeton and Griffith where public servants get government concessions to relocate that almost all towns south can offer. He feels over the years many services have been stripped. “Griffith is a regional capital to the Western Riverina and our region has the ability to reach a new age of economic boom but we are missing pieces of vital infrastructure that need to be rapidly addressed to unlock our region’s massive potential,” Mr Pierotti said. “Although we have recently built with a combination of community funds and St Vincent’s Private Hospital a new private facility, our Griffith Base Hospital is in a bad way, it has had 30 years of neglect and stripping of services.
There is exciting work happening in planning a new hospital that is said to cost $200m to $300m (it received $6m in NSW budget). “There was some more positive news recently with an impending Griffith Country University Centre soon to come. “Griffith TAFE is now the home of agriculture SkillsPoint
Headquarters for NSW and we look forward to taking training to agriculture and agribusiness to the next level. “This would be a welcome change as we have seen way too many haphazard toing and froing within TAFE. “Our two major high schools are currently being merged with some infrastructure upgrades in an attempt to address below state average performances but unless we have an effective way to encourage more quality, competent teachers many in the education system are not convinced.”
NSWFARMERS: July 2018 "Sky-high prices for regional flights" Published: by Claire Delahunty 
Read article here
Delays, cancellations, exorbitant airfares and even the sudden annihilation of an airline – there are many factors holding rural Australians back from becoming frequent flyers. With capital city dwellers able to make lengthy interstate journeys for the same price, or cheaper, than booking a last-minute regional flight, the sense of inequality is widely felt. And due to the unreliability of regional air travel, even long-made plans can come undone. 
The Campbell family farms cotton, chickpeas and wheat near Narrabri – a North West NSW town whose airport struggles to provide a consistent service to Sydney. In December 2013, the family members were planning a reunion at the farm to celebrate Christmas. “My two sisters and I were coming from Sydney, my brother was coming from Malaysia with his wife and their baby, so we were going to all fly from Sydney to Narrabri. We’d booked our flights well in advance for about $200 because we knew they were going to be expensive,” explains Bel Campbell. 
But their careful planning was soon undone. “In October we heard the carrier, Brindabella Airlines, was going into receivership and it closed in December,” Bel says. “We didn’t get our money back, and it was too late to find affordable alternative flights to Narrabri or Moree. My parents ended up driving to Sydney to leave a car for us – an eight-seater Landcruiser – so we drove home with five adults, my brother’s baby and our cat.” Stories like the Campbells’ – and graver tales of funerals and health appointments missed – have become everyday conversations in many communities.
A spike in cancellations last year, flight cuts by regional carriers and all the experiences of hassle and expense have now spilled into formal action. In November 2017, the Australian Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee launched an inquiry into the operation, regulation and funding of air route service delivery to rural, regional and remote communities. It is due to report in September.
Submissions have come from around Australia and hearings have been held to date in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. The inquiry has flagged hearings for NSW in July. Says committee member Senator Slade Brockman: “We’re hearing from people not being able to make business appointments, people not being able to get to events or medical appointments in the city, and people who are waiting for supplies or parts to arrive via an aircraft.”
According to the Australian government, 10,808 domestic flights were cancelled in 2017, comprising 1.9% of scheduled services – higher than the long-term average of 1.4%. Several carriers responded by paring back flights. In late 2017, QantasLink announced it was adjusting schedules to “deal with pilot resourcing issues and improve overall reliability”. It reduced flights but used larger aircraft on some regional routes to preserve capacity, with these schedules carrying over into 2018. 
The airline said routes using Turboprop engine planes and Boeing 717s in NSW and Queensland were the most affected, with an average capacity reduction of 8%. As a result of these adjustments, cancellations across regional NSW fell from an average of 5.7% in October 2017 to 0.8% in April 2018, QantasLink said.
Despite recent acute challenges, the problem isn’t new. Sarah Baglee and her husband Clinton live on a small farm just outside Coonabarabran in Central West NSW, while their two children serve in the army – Maddy at Townsville in northern Queensland and Alex at Puckapunyal in central Victoria. Such are the logistics for Alex of getting from Puckapunyal to Dubbo City Regional Airport via Sydney, then home to Coonabarabran, that he usually just drives. It’s a 10-hour journey.
When Maddy returned home at Easter, it cost close to $700, a standard price – or more – for the convoluted journey. “It’s impossible,” Sarah says. “Maddy always has to overnight in Sydney if she wants to fly via Dubbo, and then it’s a two-hour drive.”
Sarah has found that flights from Tamworth Regional Airport are significantly cheaper, to the point it is often worth driving to that airport, which is further away. “Price-wise it’s just what we need to do, it’s always at least $125 cheaper. You’re still flying Regional Express (Rex) or JETGO or Qantas, so I don’t really understand why it’s a different price,” she says.
In regional NSW, competition differs from airport to airport. For some, like Griffith Airport, Rex is the sole operator, although EastWest Airlines is poised to reinstate the Griffith-Melbourne route. 
For the Baglee family, it’s hard to discern why a range of carriers – Rex, QantasLink, JETGO and FlyPelican – at Dubbo doesn’t result in airfares competitive with those at Tamworth, serviced by Qantas, Virgin Australia and Fly Corporate. Other than a longer drive, there are additional challenges in flying in and out of Tamworth for Maddy. She needs to be in town at 6.30am in time to catch her connecting flight to Townsville, so the family drive her in the night before and stay overnight in a motel. Meanwhile, her home-bound flight to Tamworth arrives about 8pm. “Then you’ve got to beat the kangaroos and the wild goats on the road to get home,” Sarah says. “Last time we counted 43 roos from Tamworth to Coonabarabran.”
A NSW Farmers’ spokesperson for rural affairs agrees an expensive airfare is only the tip of the iceberg for those living in regional areas. “There’s a safety impact, and health and wellbeing issues. It’s easy to get on a plane and fly. It’s much harder to make an eight-hour drive to get on a plane, fly to Sydney, and then turn around the next day and do it in reverse,” the spokesperson says.
While innovations in telecommunications, remote education and e-health can connect people to resources: “We also recognise that people-to-people interactions are really important.” And getting user demand to make regional routes more competitive is often a ‘chicken and egg’ question. “If airlines were prepared to lower the cost of flights, that would stimulate travel and lead to an increase in the availability of service – it’s that requirement of demand,” the spokesperson says. “But in recognising that costs borne by airlines on rural routes can be particularly expensive, we don’t seem to coordinate our public transport infrastructure terribly well.”
Senator Slade Brockman says while it’s too early to discuss the inquiry’s recommendations, at the heart of the matter are solutions to an evident problem. “We’ll be discussing with regulators ideas to improve efficiency, lower costs and get better synergies between airports.” He notes access to regional airlines varies from region to region, with smaller centres facing greater challenges.
“There is no silver bullet for airfare costs for regional Australia. However, what the inquiry will endeavour to uncover are areas where we can make sure costs are minimised and driven down as much as possible. ”
Competition is one area the inquiry will explore, and a range of interest-focused reports have recently emerged. Airlines for Australia and New Zealand – a group representing Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas, Rex, Tigerair and Virgin Australia – published a report on alleged price gouging by privatised airports. The report, released in May, states: “Australian passengers and our economy are paying the price of airport privatisation in the absence of appropriate constraints on monopoly power.” It’s a refrain airlines have made before. In a February submission to the inquiry, Rex says: “While Sydney Airport pricing is declared, all other capital city airports are not similarly regulated, resulting in unbelievably high airport charges.”
The airline also refutes expectations that greater competition equals greater affordability. “Rex would like to state categorically for the record that, contrary to popular folklore, competition in regional aviation can be particularly detrimental for all the smaller routes of less than 100,000 passengers a year.”
Federal Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Mark Coulton offers a similar caution. “It’s not always the best result for a country airport to attract a cut-price carrier that has a bigger plane that might only fly once a day. At the moment in Dubbo we have Qantas and Rex on those busier routes, providing a choice of around eight to 10 flights a day at different times.”
To take the sting out of pricing, airlines recommend booking early, flying off-peak and watching for sales. To Sarah Baglee, however, knowing of special fare deals isn’t the same as nabbing one. “Airlines say they’ve got these great flights from Dubbo to Melbourne or Tamworth to Brisbane, but I’ve never been able to fluke one,” she says.
The Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association of Australia, in its submission to the inquiry, also points to the impracticality of being expected to book strategically. “There are rarely ‘inexpensive’ airfares available that coincide with school holidays,” the submission says. “As so many Australians travel during this period, it sees peak bookings and prices. However, this is the time that students who need to live away from home in order to access schooling must travel to and from school/home.” It asks that governments consider further subsidisation of rural and remote routes, satisfying a demonstrated need, not just commercial viability. Assistant Minister Coulton says subsidies have their place. “I believe the NSW government are looking at setting money aside to subsidise those smaller ‘milk runs’ that might go to places like Walgett, Bourke and Cobar,” he says. “They only work if they have some kind of subsidy – it’s very hard to keep the numbers up. “Narrabri is a particular concern, as they put a lot of money into their airstrip but they’re struggling to run a Sydney flight.”
While families like the Campbells may laugh about their Christmas journey, many struggle to get around the problem. Almost 200 submissions to the inquiry detail the social, health and business impacts of expensive airfares and limited schedules. While the inquiry’s report may not offer a “silver bullet”, it can only be hoped farmers will eventually notice a difference when they next book a ticket.
Paul Pierotti President, Griffith Business Chamber - “I was quite shocked. I would have thought it made sense to apply that support here in Griffith.”
In the May 2018 Federal Budget, the government announced a $294 million package for increased airport security – with $50.1 million earmarked over the next four years for upgrades to 64 regional airports.
Not all regional areas will benefit, however. Many in Griffith in the Riverina region of NSW are disappointed to discover that their airport will be missing out. “I was quite shocked actually, as I would have thought it made sense to apply that support here,” says Paul Pierotti, president of the Griffith Business Chamber.
Security is a prerequisite for airports that receive passenger aircraft exceeding 20 tonnes. Rex is currently the sole carrier operating from Griffith, flying an aircraft that is under the 20-tonne limit.
“We would like the state or federal government to fund security implementation into Griffith Airport,” Paul says, arguing that this will enable growth, competition and better access. He adds that annual passenger numbers, currently around 70,000, are projected to reach 120,000 by 2025.
“Our airport was upgraded only a couple of years ago, including the tarmac and the parking area for certain larger jets. It’s also security-ready,” he says.
The city of Griffith bills itself as the regional capital of the Western Riverina, the largest winemaking area in the state and a major growing district of rice, cotton, citrus, almonds, walnuts, chickens and more. As Griffith is a six-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney and five hours from Melbourne, transport is vitally important to the economy.
Paul says a Griffith Business Chamber poll revealed that 92% of local businesses would be prepared to pay a $10 ticket surcharge to support security implementation at the airport.
“We will need security at some point,” he says. “For all public passenger transport options that go into major metropolitan cities, it’s inevitable.” 

Regards Paul Pierotti | President Griffith Business Chamber