Council’s hardship policy questioned by single mum

Karen Graham of Metford has been told she can’t pay her rates on her own fortnightly schedule, despite Maitland Council having a hardship policy. Picture Dean Osland​Maitland, Cessnock, Singleton to get hefty rate rises
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A METFORD single mother has questioned Maitland City Council’s desire to help ratepayers experiencing financial hardship after she was not allowed to pay her rates fortnightly.

Karen Graham says she has repeatedly contacted the council to try to pay her rates every two weeks, but was told by staff that she could not pay on the fortnight she wanted.

Ms Graham said she explained to the staff that her energy and water providers quickly adapted her payment schedule.

Council corporate services executive manager Graeme Tolhurst said the finance system was limited to accepting fortnightly payments every second Friday – an issue that would be fixed when a new finance system was installed in July 2015.

He said ratepayers could use BPAY through their bank to set up periodic payments for council rates on whatever cycle they chose.

Ms Graham has dismissed this response, saying it was another example of council fobbing her off.

She said she was entitled to a discount on her rates under the hardship policy because she received a Centrelink payment, but the council was also refusing to accept her eligibility.

The Metford mother of two is critical of the council’s rate rise.

Her rates are $1386 a year, which is similar to what her mother pays for a block overlooking the water at Lake Macquarie.

‘‘How are people in Metford, which is traditionally a low income area, going to afford that?’’ she said.

‘‘Metford is a place where young families can get into the housing market, but this rate rise will force them out.

‘‘I know I won’t be able to afford it.’’

Mr Tolhurst said the council’s hardship policy was available online and it existed to help ratepayers in need.

‘‘Council encourages anyone wishing to set up periodic payment of rates to speak to Council’s rates department about the different options available to them,’’ he said.

‘‘Council’s rates staff can also have a confidential discussion about the hardship policy and a ratepayers individual circumstances.’’

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Maitland, Cessnock, Singleton to get hefty rate rises

MAITLAND – one of the council areas that has been approved to ask a hefty rate rise. Council’s hardship policy questioned by single mum
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THREE Hunter councils have won approval for bigger than normal rate increases – with Maitland City Council securing a massive seven-year rise.

Maitland, Cessnock and Singleton councils will introduce their new rates from June this year.

Maitland ratepayers will be hit with seven consecutive increases of 7.25 per cent a year from 2014-15 to 2020-21.

A 9.6 per cent rate rise will occur in Cessnock and a 7.3 per cent increase in Singleton in 2014-15.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal approved the rate rises, which include the rate cap, as permanent.

Some residents opposed the increases, amid concern about councils wasting money and anger that rates would rise above the rate of wage and pension rises.

Tribunal chairman Peter Boxall said the councils had demonstrated ‘‘a clear need for the additional revenue’’ and ‘‘steps to improve productivity and contain costs’’.

Dr Boxall said the tribunal had considered ‘‘the capacity and willingness of ratepayers to pay the requested increases’’.

Maitland will gain an extra $61.2 million above the rate peg over seven years.

The money will be used for capital works, including improvements to roads and community assets.

Extra costs for Maitland residents over seven years would range from $671 to $1080, the tribunal said.

Woodberry’s Jim Crethary, one of 27 residents to make a submission to the tribunal, said he was surprised the council received such a big rise.

‘‘That’s a noose around a lot of people’s necks,’’ Mr Crethary said.

Dr Boxall said the council had ‘‘the discretion not to apply the full increase in any of the next seven years’’ to reduce the effect on ratepayers.

Only four residents sent submissions to the tribunal for Cessnock council’s rate application, with concerns including the ability of pensioners and the unemployed to afford the rise.

‘‘Most incomes in our area would only have increased at the inflation rate, so that should be the rate increase for the council as well,’’ one submission said.

Cessnock will secure an extra $24.8 million over 10 years for road upgrades, Dr Boxall said.

Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said the effect on Cessnock ratepayers, with an average rise of $39 for residents, would be modest because it would replace an increase charged previously for roads.

Singleton council will receive an extra $8 million above the rate peg over the next decade for road improvements, with extra costs for residents ranging from $3 to $79 a year.

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‘Paleo’ running: the athlete’s foot?

Photo: Geber86Do our ancestors know best when it comes to our footwear as well as our food?A new study provides compelling evidence that going back to the way our ancestors ran – barefoot – can be beneficial.Called the Barefoot Running Project, the study is a collaboration between Osteopathy Australia, sport’s performance consultants BAT Logic, ISEAL and the Victoria University. It explores the effect of footwear and foot-strike on our bodies.”This has never been done before and we have a large testing population which includes an AFL team [and] a number of track and field athletes as well,” says Ed Wittich, an elite performance consultant involved with the study.He says whilst the research is still preliminary, the results are proving positive for the barefoot running/minimalist movement.Using sensors to test stability and impact on the athletes’ bodies while running in various shoes, they have found that “controlling the centre of mass (COM) is critical”.Barefoot running, it seems, has the least impact on COM. When we are barefoot or wearing lightweight shoes, we are more likely to land at the middle or front of the foot.”Forefoot strikers are better at controlling the COM and likely better at agility movements in running due to the COM but we are studying this further with relation to barefoot training effects as well,” Wittich says.Additionally, he says barefoot athletes had more natural shoulder motion when they ran.”This could be a positive for shoulder rehab.”While the results suggest barefoot or minimalist running might be considered a form of treatment and/or rehab, he cautions that those who have not attempted it before show “higher ground-reaction forces”. Cushioned shoes less ‘natural’?Cushioned running shoes are a fairly recent phenomenon, and have only become popular in the past 40 years. When people run in them they tend to strike the ground with their heel first. The impact from the heel reverberates up through the knee.It has been argued that the heel-strike is unnatural and that our shoes, which are there to be a buffer and protect us, may be causing one of the most common sport’s injuries, the aptly named runner’s knee.Unsurprisingly, then, along with the return of the “Paleo” diet has been a move towards a more “natural” way with our footwear too.Hitting the ground at the front of the foot sends the echo of impact sharply back through the ankle, but has long been considered the more natural style.Certainly, when we are in full flight, our whole bodies driving forward, we come onto the ball of the foot. The world’s top sprinters run on their toes.”The role of the foot changes in jogging versus sprinting and so do the muscles and forces involved, even down to the microscopic ways muscles may fire,” Wittich says.To test it is more “natural”, researchers looked to long-distance athletes; athletes who are running rather than necessarily sprinting. They studied the techniques of various African villagers who are renowned as being world-class runners or who come from a culture of running long distances on a daily basis.Some ran with a mid or forefoot strike. Others led with their heel.It was concluded that both styles were “natural”. The running shoes couldn’t be blamed. Necessarily.Shoes: style over substanceThe shoes helping to prevent injury in one person could well create them in the next.Recent studies have found that the forefoot strike, while less likely to lead to knee injuries, increased the likelihood of ankle and Achilles problems.Those who suffer ankle or foot issues might find something more supportive helpful. “There are certainly times where a transition to barefoot or minimalist running may not be advised,” Wittich says.Shoes that provide cushioning for shock absorption and extra support for stability, however, may not help those with a tendency to knee trouble. They may increase the likelihood of injury.This research came with the caveat that if you were changing, particularly to minimal, you should do so slowly to give the new muscles, creating support where the shoe once had, a chance to build up.You may still have to work on the strike of your foot too.This back-to-basics approach, therefore, may not just be about the substance of your footwear, but your style too.In the meantime, the Barefoot Running Project continues.They intend to publish two separate articles on the basis of their research: the lumbo-pelvic effects of barefoot running, and the thoracic spine effects of barefoot running. “We want to link these findings to posture and breathing mechanics which may further influence performance and injury,” Wittich says.According to the research they are conducting, Wittich says running injury is related to: 1) The position of the limb during foot strike.2) How the limb responds following foot strike.3) The state of the biological tissue (muscles/tendons etc) and its ability to respond toloading stresses.4) The body needs to be good at making subtle variations to minimise fatigue and overuse. “There will not be a definitive conclusion until all of the above four issues can be linked to one particular shoe,” Wittich says. “Barefoot running has support because in the long-term, it seems to encourage a foot-strike pattern that will eventually facilitate a desirable set of movement solutions that optimise running performance, but also promote long-term health of the lower-limb – and possibly upper body – structures.”However, in the short-term transition period, the bone structures of the foot will experience unfamiliar stressors, compounded upon by their frequency because of a limited set of adaptable movement solutions that have yet to be learnt by the athlete. The question is: can a shoe protect the foot and also provide desirable movement solutions?”
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Ben Te’o to leave South Sydney at end of NRL season

South Sydney forward Ben Te’o has confirmed he won’t be at the Rabbitohs next year, telling his teammates of his decision to leave the club at the end of this season.
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There has been speculation about Te’o’s future in recent months, linking the Queensland Origin representative to a potential code switch to play rugby union. While it’s unclear where the former Brisbane back-rower will end up next year, he finally admitted he won’t be at the Bunnies.

Following his side’s 29-10 win against the Dragons on Monday night, Te’o admitted his teammates are aware that he won’t be at the club beyond the end of this season. “They know,” he said.

“I didn’t make an announcement or anything like that but they know [I won’t be here]. I’m just going through some things with my manager. I’m pretty close with most of the boys, but that’s just the way it is. It’s always business.”

Te’o had an option in his contract to remain at Souths next year, but has decided against taking up a third season. He’s been linked to European rugby, as well as other clubs in the NRL, but wouldn’t reveal the details of his plans, adamant he wanted negotiations to remain private.

“All the stuff that has come out is not from me,” Te’o said. “My management hasn’t released anything, I haven’t released anything, so everything out there is a rumour. I’ve heard so many different things tossed up. I’m just trying to go through my negotiations privately. I’m not trying to make a big deal out of it. I’m not trying to string anyone along.

“I do enjoy [rugby league]. I’m getting older now [27], so I’m just trying to figure out what’s best for me and which direction I want to go. There are still some good clubs out there that are still interested.”

It is understood Te’o might wait until after the Origin series before announcing a new deal, insisting there was no rush to finalise his future.

“You’d love to get it done early but it’s just not the way things work,” Te’o said. “I can’t control those things. All I can do is play footy and let my manager sort it out. I’d love to get it sorted out soon but it just doesn’t work like that.”

It comes as Te’o’s South Sydney teammate Dylan Walker has been floated as a potential bolter for the Blues centre position vacated by Josh Morris (knee injury) in game one. If Walker was to earn a surprise call-up, he’d likely mark up against Rabbitohs teammate and mentor Greg Inglis.

“Up at the cafe sitting next to him last year I was a bit tentative,” Walker said. “But it’s been pretty awesome now that I can speak to him and he can speak to me with respect. He really gets involved with the young players in the squad. I just left school [last year] and was training with the big boys. Obviously when you’re at school and watching players like Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess and John Sutton, they’re superstars of the game and it’s pretty daunting.

“When we sit down and talk he always talks about backing myself and backing my ability. I take on board how he is as a person off the field. I take it on board. He is very kind, good with the fans and people in general. He treats everyone with respect. That would be pretty hard [tackling him]. He’s a big boy. Just that big right fend. He is a great player. He has done it all before for Queensland and Australia. He is a great player and he will be around for a long time.”

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Lithgow GP Leonie Geldenhuys victim of suspected murder-suicide

Full coverage: Shine a Light
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A respected Lithgow doctor who was found dead in her home by her teenage sons was killed by her husband in a suspected murder-suicide, police believe.

Leonie Geldenhuys’ two sons, aged 13 and 18, woke on Tuesday morning to find their 46 year-old mother fatally stabbed in their Wrights Road home.

The body of her 54-year-old husband, also a doctor, was found on Tuesday afternoon at a property on Wolgan Valley Road, Wolgan Valley.

Police said they were not treating his death as suspicious.

Lithgow Valley Medical Practice manager Nikki Baraz said Dr Geldenhuys was “the most beautiful person you could ever wish to meet”.

The 46 year-old GP migrated from South Africa with her family six years ago in search of a better life.

Dr Geldenhuys had become a well-known and respected doctor in the community and her two sons are high-achievers at a local high school.

Tragically, she came to the regional NSW town believing it would be more secure than her homeland, Ms Baraz said.

“She was, I believe, the best mother and the most compassionate doctor,” Ms Baraz said. “She was the whole package – lovely, smiley, always happy. She was always punctual, always pleasant. She will be irreplaceable.”

She said her colleagues were in disbelief “to see her go in the way she did”.

“It is tragic and so unexpected,” she said.

Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the death and will prepare a report for the coroner.

Detective Inspector Luke Rankin said the couple’s teenage sons were being looked after and were “obviously traumatised and I suppose unimaginably traumatised finding their mother deceased”.

“Then as the day’s gone on we’ve had to inform them that their father’s also been found dead,” Inspector Rankin said.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Mensline 1300 78 99 78

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