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  • Writer's pictureDave Layzell MP

State Matters - 30 October 2023


I BEGIN this week’s column with a vote of thanks and gratitude to all who have recently been involved in or supporting firefighting operations across the Upper Hunter Electorate.

The ongoing dry weather coupled with perilous fire conditions have unfortunately left the landscape around Scone, Baerami, Ravensworth and Bretti scorched.

In the past week, the NSW Rural Assistance Authority has announced financial support is now available for the Mid-Coast Local Government Area with a natural disaster declaration confirmed for severe bushfires from 17 October.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services are work together during bushfire emergencies as the Agriculture and Animal Services Functional Area (AASFA) to assist animal owners with assessment, veterinary advice and support.

Information about how AASFA can assist farmers and land managers affected by bushfire is available via DPI's BushfireHub:


After an adrenalin burning three weeks for many our Upper Hunter Electorate Higher School Certificate students are starting to celebrate the end of their exams.

The final written examinations will be conducted this week with Food Technology students to wrap-up this year’s HSC at lunchtime Friday.

Congratulations to all 2023 HSC candidates on your resilience over the past month to complete your secondary education and set the foundation for your future.

The HSC journey is complete on Thursday 14 December when results are released and I hope that will be another opportunity to celebrate your achievements.


Mental health has been in focus during October which is Mental Health Month.

The advice from NSW Health is that our mental health is just as important as our physical health and that we should not ignore our mental health when it calls.

Some easy things you can do to support your mental health are to get a good sleep, eat a healthy and balanced diet, drink enough water, go for a walk or spend time outdoors and, most importantly, open up and talk to someone.

For mental health advice or to connect with NSW Health mental health services, call the 24/7 free Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 or for more information visit:


Expressions of Interest have opened for the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA)

new Hunter Environment Advisory Group.

The group brings together and replaces the Upper Hunter Air Quality Advisory Committee and Newcastle Community Consultative Committee for the Environment.

It will advise the EPA on existing, new and emerging environmental matters such as air quality, the operation of the air quality monitoring networks, local industry, general environmental matters and provide expertise to guide education and communication.

Passionate local environmental champions with links to their community, who can represent their community or local industries, and be willing to share updates from the EPA back to the community are asked to nominate before 20 November at:


Fire and Rescue NSW has renewed its community warning to never leave Lithium-ion battery devices, especially e-scooters, on charge while they are unattended.

Lithium-ion batteries are the fastest growing fire risk in our state and its important users understand those risks and are prepared if things go wrong.

Make sure a smoke alarm or heat alarm is working in rooms where batteries are charged or stored, charge batteries on hard surfaces that can't catch on fire like concrete floors or tiles.

Large batteries like the ones used in e-scooters, e-bikes and power tools should only be charged in the garage, shed or carport, away from living spaces and exits.

Lithium-ion batteries cannot be placed into home garbage or recycling bins for disposal because they can cause fires during waste collection, transportation, handling and processing.


The Minns Labor Government has appointed educational advisor Tom Alegounarias to conduct a review of laws governing non-government schools in New South Wales.

Section 83C (s83C) of the Education Act 1990 requires all non-government schools that receive taxpayer funds to be not-for-profit, with the sector to be given greater clarity on the use of public funds ensuring it is spent appropriately to prevent unnecessary investigations and litigation.

Mr Alegounarias will also examine the effectiveness of s83C and its associated sections and assess the role of the Non-Government Schools Not-for-Profit Advisory Committee.

The review coincides with the publication of draft guidelines and a draft regulatory framework to help non-government schools comply with s83C.

Mr Alegounarias is expected to report to the state government by mid-next year.


NSW Health is urging us to be aware of the amount of people we have contact with as COVID-19 cases increase again in the community.

You may need to wear a mask in hospitals, aged and disability care settings to help protect staff and people at higher risk of severe illness.

The NSW Respiratory Surveillance Report for the two weeks ending 21 October indicates that based on emergency department presentations and sewage surveillance COVID-19 activity is increasing and is at moderate levels.

Latest Hunter New England Local Health District data reported 202 COVID-19 cases for the fortnight compared with Influenza figures of 110 for the two-week period.

Health advice for those who test positive to COVID-19 is that you may be infectious for up to ten days and should stay home until your acute symptoms have gone.

You should avoid large gatherings, indoor crowded places and avoid visiting anyone in hospital or an aged or disability care facility for at least seven days.

For further information:


The Mount Arthur open cut mine state significant development modification application is now on exhibition until 13 November.

The proposed changes to the Muswellbrook mine involve extending the approved mining operations by four years to 2030, extending the north-west disturbance footprint and revising the final landform configuration, including final voids, to allow for mine closure.

The application and accompanying documents, including the modification report, can be viewed online at

The Department of Planning and Environment encourages online submissions at the Mt Arthur Coal MOD 2 (Pathway to 2030) applications webpage and click on 'Make a submission'.

The exhibition process allows any individual or organisation to have their say about the proposed development.


Funding of $50,000 is available for the Upper Hunter Electorate through the Local Sport Grant Program to increase regular and on-going participation opportunities in sport.

Incorporated, not-for-profit grassroots sport clubs and associations whose primary focus is to organise sporting activities, deliver ongoing sporting programs and/or develop member’s skills, can request grants of between $2,000 and $20,000.

Applications may be considered from sports organisations or clubs associated with a school, or church providing they are a not-for-profit club incorporated in their own right.

Local Sport Grants applications close 27 November at:


Scholarship applications are open for first-year engineering students who will attend Charles Sturt University.

The Transgrid scholarships are for 25 commencing students undertaking a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) (Honours) or a Bachelor of Technology (Civil)/Master of Engineering (Civil) at CSU.

Transgrid’s Engineering Scholarship Fund provides $20,000 over four years to help meet the costs associated with study, living expenses and learning resources

Early bird round applications close November 26 with offers to go out on December 12.

Applications will remain open with a second round of offers to be made in January.


Information and findings gathered at a vaping roundtable will be used to inform future NSW Government policies and interventions into combatting the issue of vaping in schools.

The discussion on November 16 will hear from principals, students, health experts, and other key stakeholders about the community-wide issue of vaping.

Roundtable participants will include NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant, leaders from the NSW Department of Education, along with the NSW Teachers Federation, NSW Parent and Citizens Federation and the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People.

A number of NSW public, independent and Catholic primary and secondary school principals have also been invited to discuss their experiences of dealing with vaping and vape-related incidents in their schools.


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