HOSPITAL PRECINCT STRUCTURE PLAN - Paul to MD, 1 May 2015

Warringah Council has again deferred public consultation on their ideas for the area around the proposed new hospital at Frenchs Forest, as they “continue to work with relevant State Agencies”.

It sounds like pretty major changes are envisaged. Surely that is all the more reason for consulting affected ratepayers NOW. If we approve of Council’s plans, then Council will have the leverage of public support to help get whatever is needed from Government.

If, on the other hand, we reject Council’s proposals, as is more likely, then everyone can stop wasting their time, and residents will know where they stand. Council’s Vision includes the phrase "protecting our environment”. That does not mean more people, more buildings, more cars, more pollution and fewer trees.

Council have already let us down by acquiescing in the Government’s actions regarding the hospital and associated roadworks. Don’t make the footprint of destruction even greater.


PROPOSED NORTHERN BEACHES HOSPITAL - Paul to SMH 4/5/2015  

​Sean Nicholls (Revealed: The real $2 billion cost of privatised Northern Beaches hospital) and Bryan Hayes (Letters, 4 May) are only scratching the surface.

The fundamental problem with the hospital relates to its location, mainly to do with road access and the existing residential environment. According to NSW Health’s planning application documentation, the 2006 choice of Frenchs Forest resulted from “a robust qualitative analysis”. But according to the “Development Options Business Case” which I obtained under the provisions of the GIPA Act (but not from NSW Health - Nicholls is right to emphasise the secrecy of their approach), and which was referred to in Parliament as being the basis for the decision, Frenchs Forest came only third out of three potential locations on qualitative and operational grounds. It came equal second on “risk assessment"

What tilted the decision in Frenchs Forest’s favour was supposedly cost. Traffic congestion has always been a major objection to this site. The report stated that “investigations of potential improvements to the road infrastructure at Frenchs Forest suggest that there is a range of solutions that would cost up to $21.3 million”. But in June 2014 the government allocated $400 million for roading and a further $125 million for a bus rapid transit system to connect the hospital with key centres. Why did NSW Planning not demand updated costings before giving concept approval to the project?

Despite the promised funding, RMS still don’t have an approved solution. Furthermore, all the attention is being focussed on the East/West axis - Warringah Road, for example, is to become a 12-lane, dual-level highway coming within 4 metres of residential homes, at the cost of the bulldozing of compulsorily-acquired homes and businesses, and hundreds of trees. Nothing is being or can be done to alleviate the problems on the North/South axis via Wakehurst Parkway.

Nevertheless, NSW Planning appears on the verge of approving construction of the hospital without waiting for an acceptable solution to the transport problem.

NSW Health have also claimed that Frenchs Forest is central to the catchment area, which is palpably false both geographically and demographically.

And to make matters even worse for local residents, Warringah Council now seems to consider that the hospital gives it carte blanche to redevelop the surrounding area, although here again secrecy predominates, with the Council refusing to undertake community consultation on their plans.

Given that the hospital concept approval has been based on false and out-dated information, it should be rescinded. It’s time to go back to the drawing board. The overall impact on the existing suburb, not to mention the tax-payers’ purse, is excessive. 


TO MERGE OR NOT TO MERGE - Paul to SMH, 16 May 2015

Anne Davies (“To merge or not to merge”, 16 May) mentions the suggestion that Manly and Pittwater may divide up Warringah between them. This proposal would have at least one massive benefit - the planned new Northern Beaches Hospital could go where it was supposed to go, in the vacated Warringah Council land in Dee Why.

Although NSW Health claimed in its planning application for the hospital that the choice of Frenchs Forest was based on “robust qualitative analysis”, in fact it was the Dee Why site which ranked top in the qualitative/operational assessment, according to the “Development Options Business Case” which I have obtained under the provisions of the GIPA Act. Frenchs Forest came last of the three sites remaining in contention, and equal second on risk assessment. The selection of Frenchs Forest was based on cost, largely because solutions to the roading and access problems there were calculated as $21.3 million, whereas the current estimate is $400 million (plus $125 million for public transport upgrades), and an acceptable roading solution has still not been devised, far less costed.

If there is a possibility of Warringah Council ceasing to exist, the hospital location should be immediately reviewed, preferably using current rather than 10-year-old data.


ANOTHER MISSED OPPORTUNITY - Paul to SMH, 19 May 2015

​The Irish Times reports that “one of the world’s largest infrastructure investment banks, Sydney-based Macquarie” is to invest Euro 180 million to finance solar energy company Amarenco in the development of Ireland’s first solar energy farms.

Perhaps Messrs Abbott and Hockey might ask themselves why that money is not being invested in Australia, a country infinitely more suited to solar power than Ireland.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOUNDARY RE-ALIGNMENT - Paul to MD, 19 May 2015

​I understand there is a suggestion that Manly and Pittwater Councils should divide up Warringah between them. This proposal would have at least one massive benefit - the planned new Northern Beaches Hospital could go where it was supposed to go, in the vacated Warringah Council land in Dee Why.

Although NSW Health claimed in its planning application for the hospital that the choice of Frenchs Forest was based on “robust qualitative analysis”, in fact it was the Dee Why site which ranked top in the qualitative/operational assessment, according to the “Development Options Business Case” which I have obtained under the provisions of the GIPA Act. Frenchs Forest came last of the three sites remaining in contention, and equal second on risk assessment. The selection of Frenchs Forest was based on cost, largely because solutions to the roading and access problems there were calculated as $21.3 million, whereas the current estimate is $400 million (plus $125 million for public transport upgrades), and an acceptable roading solution has still not been devised, far less costed.

If there is a possibility of Warringah Council ceasing to exist, the hospital location should be immediately reviewed, preferably using current rather than 10-year-old data.


SWAP HOMES? - Paul to MD 11/6/2015 ​

Alison Horrell (Your Say, 11 June) is both very right and very wrong.

She's wrong if she thinks the residents of Frenchs Concrete are happy to have the Brad Hazzard Memorial Folly plonked in their midst. It's not just the hospital, it's the 12-lane dual-level highway, the compulsory purchase and bulldozing of homes, businesses and trees, and then Warringah Council's plans to "develop" (ie destroy) the wider area around the hospital precinct. So much for our pleasant leafy residential suburb.

Perhaps if Ms Horrell thinks that's all so wonderful, we should discuss swapping homes.

Where she is absolutely right, of course, is in pointing out the stupidity of the chosen location. That's because the planning permission has been based on false information given to NSW Planning by NSW Health, as follows:

- that the chosen site is central to the catchment area of the Manly, Warringah and Pittwater local government areas. This is palpably false both geographically, as Ms Horrell points out, and also demographically

- a study has determined Cromer to be the demographic centre; - that "a robust qualitative analysis" formed the basis for the choice of site. In fact, according to the Health Ministry's own study, Frenchs Forest came a poor third on qualitative/operational criteria among the sites considered, behind the Warringah Council land in Dee Why and the Warringah golf course;

- that solutions to the roading/access problems associated with the Frenchs Forest site would cost a maximum of $21.3 million. The current budget is $400 million, plus $125 million for public transport upgrades, and an acceptable solution has still not been devised, far less costed.

And Ms Horrell is again right to stress that nothing is being done about the North/South corridor of Wakehurst Parkway, the budget all going on East/West traffic.

Thankfully people on the peninsula seem finally to be waking up to the travesty that is being perpetrated on them. Not to mention over a billion dollars of taxpayers' money being mis-spent.


LACK OF STATE GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY - Paul to SMH, 19 June 2015

​The NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal has today announced that it accepts NSW Health’s assertion that it is unable to find the study on which it based the choice of Frenchs Forest as the location for the new Northern Beaches Hospital.

Perhaps NSW Health’s inability to find the final document may have something to do with the fact that a Draft version of the same report (Development Options Business Case) reveals that from the three locations under final consideration for the hospital the Frenchs Forest site: - ranked a poor third on qualitative/operational criteria, - came equal second on 'risk analysis’ - was cheapest in the short term, on the basis that roading/access upgrades would cost $21.3 million, whereas they are currently estimated at $400 million plus $125 million for public transport upgrades. ​

So much for for the 2013 NSW Planning White Paper's prescription that "Planning authorities are to make decisions in an open and transparent way and provide the community with reasons for their decisions.” NSW Health either can’t or won’t justify a decision which channels upwards of two billion dollars of tax-payer money into private sector pockets, and devastates a pleasant residential suburb in the process.


A PLAGUE ON ALL THEIR HOUSES - Anne to SMH, 20 June 2016

​I’d like to suggest that the Australian Electoral Commission consider amending the voting papers for all future elections by adding under the list of candidates a box labelled “None of the Above”.

It would be so much more meaningful than having to vote informally.


POPULATION GROWTH - Paul to MD 21/6/2015 ​

Ralph Bennett (Your Say, 20 June) correctly identifies population growth as the source of most of this country’s problems.

But he will be waiting a long time for his hero “strong leaders”, Messrs Abbott and Baird, to change things. Doesn’t he realise that it is their governments which are promulgating the “growth at all costs” policy? Until recently, Mr Abbott was even advocating that we should to pay women to have more babies. And he’d rather we continued to breathe carbon emissions because he doesn’t like the look of wind turbines, or presumably solar panels, despite the moral arguments expressed by his spiritual leader, the Pope.

And Mr Baird has just announced that a Greater Sydney Commission will deliver 664,000 additional houses by 2031.

They clearly haven’t got the message, Mr Bennett. Messrs Abbott and Baird don’t know the meaning of the phrase “quality of life”. If it doesn’t have a dollar sign in front of it, it can’t be of any importance. But population growth does have plenty of dollar signs, all of them red for minus.


THE IRISH CONNECTION - Paul to SMH 21/6/2015

​Australia used to follow the lead of our enlightened neighbour, New Zealand - women's suffrage and GST, to name but two examples. New Zealand allowed same-sex marriage two years ago, but for some reason it is Ireland’s recent referendum which has caught the popular imagination.

Apart from the need to mend bridges after Mr Abbott’s last St Patrick’s Day message which so offended his Irish counterpart, Mr Kenny, there are a lot of other things we could learn from Ireland, so I’d like to suggest that the Prime Minister urgently undertake a fact-finding mission.

As background Irish history reading on the plane, Mr Abbott could study the Congested Districts Board, set up in 1879 “for the improvement of those areas where the resources available were not sufficient to support the population” (Sydney, anybody?).

Once in Ireland, he should not only find out all about the marriage debate, but also investigate:

- why the number of Irish wanting to come to Australia has dropped significantly since he became Prime Minister;

- the pros and cons of being a republic vis-à-vis a British colony, and how to transition from the latter to the former (the 1916 Easter Rising centenary is coming up);

- the haunting, majestic beauty of wind farms;

- why an Australian bank, Macquarie, is funding Ireland’s first solar energy farm; whether it is worth having a national airline;

- the potential for surplus Irish housing (post the demise of the Celtic Tiger) to accommodate our unwanted asylum seekers;

- how to manage sovereign bankruptcy;

- cronyism in high places;

- ways of transferring public assets to the private sector at below market value;

- why ‘affordable housing’ is so ugly;

- the importance of preserving cultural heritage.

Does any of that sound familiar, and relevant to Australia? Well worth a visit, I’d say. And perhaps Mr Abbott should pop in to the Vatican en route for a chat with his spiritual leader about renewable energy.

[While Mr Abbott is overseas, Peter Dutton should revoke his Australian citizenship, as being a serious threat to the future well-being of Australia, and prevent his re-entry.]


"NEW TOKYO" - Paul to MD 26/6/2015​

The first step towards preventing the development of "New Tokyo" (Ross James' excellent letter of 26 June) is to remind our Councillors that they are elected to represent the wishes and best interests of ratepayers, rather than to be "but an instrument of the State, a delivery arm of the State", to quote Warringah Mayor Michael Regan.

Clarifying or re-aligning the fundamental rôle or function of local government is more important than discussing how many councils we should have.

Secondly, we have the two main proponents of "growth at any cost", the Prime Minister and Premier, as local MPs. Surely as their electors we have some influence?


LOSS OF CITIZENSHIP - Paul to SMH, 7 July 2015

​"75 per cent of voters support the proposal" (James Massola, 7 July). What proposal, exactly?

Did the poll explain how "terrorist" is to be defined, and whether guilt is to be determined by due process and the rigorous evidential standards of a court of law, or by the whim of a Minister?

It is dangerous to misrepresent public opinion by such superficial reporting.


RECIPE FOR DISASTER - Paul to SMH, 10 July 2015

​The Committee for Economic Development of Australia recently issued a report entitled 'Australia's Future Workforce' which predicts that "more than five million jobs, almost 40% of all Australian jobs that exist today, have a moderate to high likelihood of disappearing within the next 10 - 15 years".

Meanwhile, the Treasury's 2015 Intergenerational Report forecasts that "based on patterns of migration, fertility and life expectancy (mortality), Australia’s population is projected to grow at 1.3 per cent per year".

That would give us a population increase of 5.09 million over the same 15 years. Upwards of five million lost jobs, and five million more people, in the short space of 15 years.

To paraphrase Kevin Rudd, the biggest moral challenge of our lifetime, even more than climate change, is population growth, yet our politicians seem oblivious to the disaster that isn't just waiting to happen, it's already with us.


RUDD FOR FIFA - Paul to SMH, 11 July 2015

Dear Kevin ​

I'm writing to let you know about a job vacancy coming up in Zurich which might appeal to you.

It's far more powerful and high-profile than that UN position you've been hankering after - more affiliated nations, millions of passionate supporters, and so much money they don't quite know how to spend it all. Best of all, there will be no women after your job, they're purely for decoration.

They'll probably be looking to appoint another arrogant autocrat, but I'm sure your other talents (particularly your multi-lingual skills) will outweigh any shortfall you may have on that score.

The job description isn't too onerous. All the outgoing incumbent did was a lot of globe-trotting, rubbing shoulders with kings and presidents, watching a few games of football, making some speeches, playing the fool. You'd really enjoy it.

In the short term you'd have to pretend to be interested in football, of course, but you could soon drop that like you did your concern about climate change.

Why don't you give Frank Lowy a ring? I'm sure he could help muster enough votes to get you elected, and then you could repay him by awarding Australia the World Cup finals he so badly wants.

That's how it all works, you see.

Good luck!


MATILDAS - Paul to SMH, 11 July 2015

​Why do we have to commercialise everything, especially where sport is concerned?

The Matildas are a fine team of young athletes who have done themselves and their country proud. Let's congratulate them, admire them, enjoy them, thank them, even take vicarious pleasure in what they have achieved on the world stage. And yes, the FFA should reward them.

But Tim Kay (Letters, 30 June) thinks of them as a "product", to be marketed and promoted. What is he trying to do - turn them into clones of Daly Cherry-Evans?


LETTER - Paul to SMH, 13 July 2015

There used to be an argument as part of the climate change debate that we would damage ourselves economically if we moved too fast ahead of the rest of the world.

What about the moral and reputational damage we are now doing to ourselves by lagging so far behind the rest of the world, thanks to the Prime Minister's antediluvian head-in-the-sand personal prejudices?

And that's not just on renewable energy - the same goes for gender equality and the status of public broadcasting, to name but two.

He seems to have hypnotised his caucus into silent complicity. Can someone please break the spell, and soon, before even more harm is done?


HAPPINESS? NOT IN NSW! - Paul to SMH , 16 July 2015  

​Chris Moon's "Formula for Happiness" (Letters, 16 July) has one major flaw, in this State at any rate. Having found your "quiet, leafy, uncrowded part of town", how do you preserve it?

Take Frenchs Forest as an example. By its very name it clearly qualifies, or rather it did until our local MP, Brad Hazzard, became Planning Minister and initiated the process to give us a new hospital which the government's own 'Development Options Business Case' demonstrates is in the WRONG LOCATION.

Then the State planners invoke compulsory purchase to bulldoze homes, businesses and trees to make room for a 12-lane dual-level highway to support the hospital.

Finally State government adopts a Strategic Plan which requires Warringah Council to rezone and redevelop the wider precinct around the hospital.

So much for our 'quiet, leafy, uncrowded' suburb. Yet this same Brad Hazzard has the effrontery to claim in his latest newsletter "I can work with you to make democracy work for us all". Yeah, right!


PERROTTET - Paul to SMH, 17 July 2015

​Does Dominic Perrottet cite any doctrinal or scriptural authority in support of his precept that we should impose on our children the obligation to support us?

If not, perhaps we could paraphrase his eminent co-religionist, John F Kennedy: 'Ask not what your family can do for you, but ask what you can do for your family'.

Surely such altruism is more in accordance with fundamental Christian principles?

The State Finance Minister seems to think that life, both private and public, is one big Ponzi scheme - spend today, and some poor bugger will pick up the tab down the track. Hence we need lots of them.

Unfortunately, some of his Federal counterparts seem to have attended the same economic seminary.


NATIONAL TREE DAY, Paul to MD, 23 JULY 2015

​I see that Warringah Council is marking national Tree Day on Sun 26 July with an event at Freshwater Beach.

Surely it would be more appropriate to meet in Frenchs Forest, while there are some trees still left standing. It may be our last chance, before the hospital road works remove them.


RECIPE FOR DISASTER - Paul to SMH 27/7/2015

Dr Garrity (Letters, 27 July) advances the prevalent supply-side argument in the matter of hospital beds.

But dealing with the demand side of the equation, ie population growth, would benefit not just hospitals, but also housing, schools, roads, transport, unemployment, and so on.

Virtually every "not enough ... " problem can be re-stated as "too many people". Yet federal Treasury's Intergenerational Report blithely tells us Australia can expect an additional 5 million people over the next 15 years, whilst an analysis last month from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia predicts that more than 5 million of today's jobs may disappear in a similar time span.

If that's not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is.


OPPOSING VIEWS GET LEFT OUT OF PROJECT - Paul to MD, 29 July 2015


POPULATION - Paul to MD, 16 Aug 2015

​23,000 additional homes on the peninsula within the next 15 years! (MD Front Page, 11 Aug). When is this insanity going to stop? Have our politicians and planners never heard of ‘quality of life’?

It’s little wonder that for the first time in 30 years the traditional flow of migrants into Australia from New Zealand has been reversed.


LETTER - Paul to SMH 18/8/2015

Kath Logan (Letters, 18 Aug) talks about "Labor voters who find Turnbull eminently electable”. What short memories!

What about the Gordon Grech affair? Or the fact that as Communications Minister he presided over the attack on free public broadcasting? Or his procrastinating support for a plebiscite on ‘gay marriage’, rather than an early conscience-vote decision of parliament. So much for his purported credentials as a ‘true liberal’. Even Coalition voters don’t want him.

So given Penelope Smith’s astute prediction (Letters, 18 Aug) that “the next federal election will be won by whichever party changes its leader first”, we need to look at Andrew Smith’s shortlist of three potential Labor leaders (Letters, 18 Aug).

And the winner is … To replace a climate-change-denying, homophobic misogynist as Prime Minister, the best choice, someone who ticks all three of those boxes, has to be Penny Wong.


WE NEED TO SET A NEW POLITICAL AGENDA - Paul to SMH 24/8/2015

​In the hope that we’ll soon have a new Prime Minister, I’d like to get in early with a suggestion for her/him - please expunge the words “business” and “growth” from the political vocabulary.

We’ve had Tony Abbott’s notorious election-night “Australia is open for business”. NSW brands itself as “The new state of business”. All our politicians are obsessed with “economic growth”. Everything has to be measured in dollars.

Business exists to make profit for its shareholders. Rightly or wrongly, growth is seen as the primary criterion of success.

Surely government has a different rôle? Surely the focus of government should be on the quality of life of its citizens, where intangibles such as education, health and environment are at least as important as material wealth; where society takes care of those who can’t (not won’t) take care of themselves; where the arts, libraries, and free independent public broadcasting (Malcolm Turnbull, please note) are valued as essential components of a civilised nation; where the public service is respected and independent of political interference; where important social issues like climate change and gender equality are addressed constructively by all sides; and above all where more people and more building are seen not to be the panacea for all ills?

It’s a pretty sick society that can pay sportsmen millions of dollars a year yet do next to nothing about youth unemployment, urban congestion, or global warming, while at the same time making tertiary education less accessible, and replacing precious flora and fauna with concrete or coal mines. Our parliaments set an example of conflict and self-interest, not community. And so on ….

Of course we need good economic management, to provide satisfying employment and a revenue base to pay for government services, and to ensure we live within our means. But as a means to an end, not the holy grail itself.

Hopefully Penny Wong’s acceptance speech will reflect these ideals.


SAD NEW YEAR - Paul to MD, 31 Dec 2015​

New Year is usually a time for optimism and positivity, but perhaps it would also be salutary to reflect on what won’t be with us this time next year.

Although Stage 2 of the Northern Beaches Hospital roading proposals has not yet been approved, within a fortnight the little community hub of Bantry Bay shops will be empty, soon to be demolished, its businesses effectively evicted by a State government intent on destroying the suburb of Frenchs Forest by building a hospital in what the Department of Health's own “Development Options Business Case” acknowledges is the wrong location.

Across the road from the shops is the Brick Pit Reserve, a pretty and historic recreation area, also doomed.

Does no-one care any more?


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