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Sydney news: Police raid on Blockade Australia group leads to arrests, alleged assault

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Circular Quay to be transformed

The vision to renew Circular Quay.(Supplied: NSW Government)

A New York-style “High Line” would be built at Circular Quay under a planned transformation of the Cahill Expressway by the NSW government.

New public green space and ferry wharves are also included in the government’s vision, which will receive a $216 million investment in the 2022-23 Budget.

The funding will enable further design work including planning approvals, an environmental impact statement and community consultation to help get shovel-ready.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the project would create up to 1,000 jobs during construction and one of the world’s most iconic walks and viewing platforms.

“The scar of the Cahill Expressway splits our amazing city from its best asset and while we cannot get rid of it right now, I’m delighted we can enhance it in the meantime and create one of the world’s truly great walks,” Mr Perrottet said.

“This investment is a critical step in reinvigorating Circular Quay, which will ultimately see millions of tourism dollars flowing back into local businesses as we build our way forward to a brighter economic future for NSW.”

The fate of Circular Quay has been the subject of contention between the government and City of Sydney Council, with Lord Mayor Clover Moore advocating for Cahill Expressway and above-ground train station to be demolished.

Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport Minister Rob Stokes said the community would be consulted throughout the process.

“For too long Circular Quay has not lived up to its potential, but this plan will see Sydney have the front door it deserves and better reflect the spectacular city we live in,” Mr Stokes said.

Housing scheme welcomed but more needs to be done

a house being constructed
Police are among the groups eligible for the government’s shared equity scheme.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

Also in tomorrow’s budget will be $500 million to help speed up the planning process, with the aim of increasing the state’s supply of affordable housing.

It is in addition to a $780 million allocation that will see the state government contribute an equity share of up to 40 per cent for the purchase of a property for some people.

The money for the planning process includes:

  • $300 million to co-fund “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects for new homes in Sydney and key regional areas
  • $89 million to speed up planning assessments
  • $69.8 million to accelerate the rezoning of key housing precincts in Sydney and regional areas to make more land development-ready
  • $33.8 million to address housing supply in regional NSW and create a 10-year regional housing supply pipeline to make housing and infrastructure delivery more certain
  • $3.8 million for “call-in” team for accelerated council led rezonings

Fast-tracking elective surgery

A woman sits on a hospital gurney holding a surgical hairnet
The money will be used to open theaters on evenings and weekends.(Unsplash: Sharon McCutcheon)

NSW public hospitals will get more than $400 million to fast-track elective surgeries delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding, to be included in tomorrow’s budget will be used to employ an extra 267 full-time staff, and open extra hospital theater lists on evenings and weekends.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean says the additional staff will include doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

Extra shifts will also be offered to existing staff.

Police raid climate change group

a group of people sitting on the floor after a police operation
Police say they acted preemptively in their raid of the Colo Valley property.(Supplied: NSW Police)

Police conducted a large raid yesterday morning on a property in the Colo Valley, where a group of about 40 people from Blockade Australia were gathered.

The group has been behind several protests, including stopping freight in and out of Port Botany earlier this year.

Police said they were acting preemptively ahead of another protest planned later this month.

Several arrests were made after a police car was allegedly damaged and officers attacked, authorities said.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Paul Dunstan said officers were “pushed, shoved and jostled” as they walked back to their car, saying they feared for their lives.

This morning, police said seven men had been charged with offenses including affray, assaulting or hindering police and destroying or damaging property.

They have all been refused bail to front Penrith Local Court.

However, the actions of police have been criticized by activist groups as an overreach.

Anastasia Radievska from Legal Observers NSW said while she can’t comment on allegations of violence by protesters, it’s not known exactly what triggered the raid.

“We haven’t been given any details about whether what the protesters were doing was illegal, whether there was any preparation for actual illegal activity,” she said.

Also of concern for Ms Radievska was the presence of about “100 officers for 30 or 40 individuals” in what she says was an overuse of police resources “for non-violent offenders”.

Bushfire funding for Fire and Rescue

Raging flames in a bushfire setting.
The state government has completed its response to the Black Summer bushfires.(AAP: Dean Lewis )

The NSW government has committed $9 million to buy 16 bushfire tankers as it completes its response to the deadly fire season of 2019-2020.

It’s the final installation of an $80 million package designed to modernize Fire and Rescue NSW’s fleet and resources, as recommended by a the government’s Bushfire Inquiry.

The new tankers will enable crews to access difficult terrain during fires and other emergencies, offering greater protection to firefighters.

Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said one of the inquiry’s key recommendations was to replace FRNSW’s 22-year-old fleet of bushfire tankers.

The government had already funded an additional 18 new tankers before today’s budget announcement.

“The additional funding for 16 more tankers means FRNSW will be armed with an entirely new fleet of modern, advanced and environmentally-friendly fire trucks to better respond to whatever bush fire threats emerge,” Ms Cooke said.

Other FRNSW funded projects include:

  • A complete $30.7 million upgrade of personal protective clothing which includes ‘structural gear’ and bush fire jackets;
  • $18.4 million for an overhaul of the emergency service call-taking and dispatch software systems at the FRNSW Communications Centers located in Alexandria and Newcastle;
  • A $5.2 million expansion of the state-of-the-art Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) drone program which consists of new aviation staff, training costs and equipment; and
  • The development of mental health programs, psychologists and wellbeing officers to assist firefighters in coping with frontline duty.

Rural GP shortage needs temporary fixes

a main street in a town
The town of Trangie is set to lose its only doctor after 22 years of working in the area.(Supplied: NSW government)

There are calls for the state government to do more in the short term to keep doctors in country towns while NSW waits for medical staff to be recruited.

Narromine Shire Council Mayor Craig Davies, says the nearby town of Trangie’s only doctor will have to leave after 22 years due to cuts to his payments as a Visiting Medical Officer.

A Western Area Local Health District spokesperson said the doctor’s contract ends this month and discussions are continuing.

Rural and Remote Medical Services chief executive officer Mark Burdack said small towns can’t afford to lose their GPs while waiting for the thousands of new staff.

“Look at a rural health JobKeeper package that addresses some of the shortfalls experienced in rural towns,” Mr Burdack says.

“Twenty-nine GP practices have gone into administration across Victoria and New South Wales in rural areas.”

A recent parliamentary inquiry heard damning evidence from over 700 people and organizations worried about rural health services.

Charges after man allegedly set on fire

an ambulance
A man was rushed to at Royal North Shore Hospital with serious burns.(AAP: Tim Pascoe )

A man is due in court today charged with allegedly setting another man on fire in the Illawarra region at the weekend.

About 4:20pm on Saturday, emergency services found a man with serious burns at a property on Fountaindale Road at Saddleback Mountain, west of Kiama.

Police officers located a vehicle engulfed in flames and a 51-year-old man nearby with serious burns to his head, chest and face.

The man was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being flown to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he remains in a critical condition.

About 9:30am yesterday, a 42-year-old man was arrested at Saddleback Mountain.

He was charged with throw/lay explosive other substance with intent to burn/maim/disable/do grievous bodily harm, and cause grievous bodily harm to person with intent.

The man was refused bail and will appear at Wollongong Local Court today.

DNA database helps find missing persons

a man stands in a suit and tie in front of the 'pop up familial dna centre' sign
Detective Inspector Glen Browne is leading the Missing Persons Registry.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

Family members of missing persons across NSW are being encouraged to provide a DNA sample to a police database established to crack cold cases.

The program aims to assist detectives with ongoing investigations into historical missing persons by collecting familial DNA samples from their relatives.

In 2021, more than 100 biological relatives of missing people visited pop-up collection centers at Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Nowra and Merimbula to provide DNA samples.

Those samples were compared against profiles of all unidentified bodies and human remains on hand in NSW.

Missing Persons Registry Commander, Detective Inspector Glen Browne, said the program had been impacted by the pandemic but it would restart with renewed vigour.

“The success of the program relies on collecting as many familial DNA samples as possible so they can be matched against DNA profiles obtained from unidentified bodies and human remains,” he said.

The program will visit Bourke today, Broken Hill on Wednesday and Dubbo on Friday.

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