Chalk rainbows a no-go for McCloy 

GAY and lesbian equality supporters can ‘‘get naked and walk backward up Hunter Street if they want to’’, according to Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy.
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Just don’t chalk pretty rainbows on council property.

As a Facebook campaign against Cr McCloy gathered strength yesterday, and chalk rainbows rained down on the Hunter, the city’s leading anti-rainbow warrior said protesters ‘‘should send me a big cheque’’.

‘‘I’ve made an insignificant protest into a big one just because I want to keep the city clean,’’ Cr McCloy said.

His request to protesters to ‘‘stop this nonsense’’ as they chalked a rainbow outside City Hall on Wednesday made Newcastle a major focus of the DIY Rainbow Crossings movement’s Facebook page, for the wrong reasons.

The movement started after a rainbow crossing in Sydney’s Oxford Street was removed by the council.

Cr McCloy was unrepentant, and said if a chalked rainbow appeared outside City Hall again, ‘‘we’d clean it off’’’.

‘‘There are a lot of important things to talk about rather than being caught up in this rubbish,’’ he said.

He had ‘‘very good friends who are in gay relationships’’, but people should ‘‘have some civic responsibility’’.

The council argued the rainbow was removed because it did not support ‘‘graffiti of a public place’’.

But a complaint to the council has questioned whether chalk is graffiti under the Graffiti Control Act.

It defines graffiti as a mark ‘‘not readily removable by wiping or by use of water’’.

Lake Macquarie mayor Jodie Harrison said her council would not remove chalk art on council property unless it was offensive, somehow unsafe, or advertised a business.

‘‘As a child I used to play hopscotch on the footpath, marked out in coloured chalk. What’s the difference between a rainbow and a game of hopscotch in coloured chalk?’’ Cr Harrison said.

Cr McCloy said Cr Harrison should ‘‘look after her own backyard’’.

‘‘I can arrange for her council chamber to be chalked with half a ton of chalk if she wants,’’ he said.

He also advised Cessnock Councillor Cordelia Burcham to ‘‘stick to your own business because Cessnock’s in a bloody mess’’.

Cr Burcham had quipped that the chalked rainbows on the street were ‘‘a feel-good story, Jeff’’.

NOT ON: Rainbow crossings. Picture: Phil Hearne

NOT ON: Rainbow crossings. Picture: Phil Hearne

EDITORIAL: Huntlee project progress

APPROVAL for the first stage of the Huntlee residential development at Branxton has been a long time coming for the developer, Perth-based LWP Property Group, and for those who believe that the potential satellite city of up to 20,000 people will eventually prove successful.
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But even the state government’s Planning Assessment Commission, which has approved the project under delegated authority from the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, recognises the long list of varied objections from a range of quarters.

Agreeing with a recommendation for approval delivered late last year by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, the commission notes the project’s “long and difficult history” but says the site has been zoned for residential and commercial purposes.

Pointing to “significant dissatisfaction” from Cessnock and Singleton councils – Huntlee straddles their common border – the commission’s prescription is for “further discussion” between the council planners and the department.

Eight years have elapsed since Huntlee was first proposed – under the name Sweetwater – by former owner Hardie Holdings.

The battle lines are as entrenched as they ever were, and Huntlee’s opponents insist it would never have made it past first base of the planning process were it not for the discredited practices of the former Labor government.

One of the biggest changes to the circumstances surrounding Huntlee is the imminent arrival of the Hunter Expressway, which will make the direct trip between Branxton and Newcastle substantially quicker.

Supporters see this as an obvious advantage. Critics decry it as another example of poor planning through unavoidable reliance on the motor vehicle. Branxton has a railway station, but nobody is expecting an increase beyond the handful of trains a day while the coal industry needs the track space it does.

Opponents such as Cessnock Greens councillor James Ryan are correct when they say that poor planning decisions can have expensive ramifications lasting for generations.

But at the end of the day, the free market, and public opinion about the desirability of Huntlee as a place as to live, will determine its success or failure.

The Hunter’s population will continue to rise, and not everyone will necessarily want to live on the coast. If Huntlee’s owners can provide an attractive housing option at the right price, then Branxton may find itself an old town transformed by new opportunity.

IAN KIRKWOOD: All smoke and mirrors

A FEW weeks ago I was out at a picnic when a smoking friend pulled out a strange device and began puffing away. Seeing my perplexed look, she told me she wasn’t smoking, she was “vaping”, and that the electronic cigarette she held in her hand had finally weaned her off cigarettes.
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She’d tried all of the usual ways of giving up and none had worked, but since buying her vaping kit online, she had thrown the cigarettes to the four winds.

I must say I felt a bit strange about the whole affair. As a former smoker, I know the lure of tobacco only too well, and I sympathise with anyone trying to stop. It’s not the nicotine that causes health problems in smoking, it’s various other chemicals, many of them created by the burning of the cigarette itself.

But the whole idea of a plastic, electrically charged device making mail-order steam looked a bit too out-there for me.

But if vaping had the potential to accelerate the already steep decline in Australian smoking rates, that could only be a good thing, couldn’t it? Or not.

As I watched the nicotine steam pour out of her mouth and nostrils, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something slightly hypocritical about proclaiming to have given up smoking, while at the same time sucking in lungfuls of nicotine in a vapour of unknown chemical composition.

But I have to confess that what surprised me more than anything was that vaping existed at all, and that I knew absolutely nothing about it.

My friend was the first person I had seen, to my knowledge, anyway, vaping in public, and I would have thought that something as potentially polarising as vaping would have fomented a bit of public debate.

Well it might not have here yet, but it has in America, the spiritual home of weird inventions like this.

And when I went online – where Australian vapers must apparently go to buy their paraphernalia – I was reminded once again that the internet is a whole new world.

I googled “vaping”, and the first things that came up were a series of columns – a bit like this one, really – debating the pros and cons of vaping.

A few clicks later as I shifted through some of the pictorial images, and I found myself watching a young Aussie woman, who was running various blogs and a YouTube page, in which she expounded the virtues of various types of vaping equipment.

After asking a few people closer to the digital world than me, I was told that pages such as these are usually paid for by the equipment sellers, who kit up willing participants to put out online spiels that are little more than undisclosed ads.

You would never get away with this in mainstream media. Remember the hullabaloo – and rightly so – over the “cash for comment” scandal with John Laws and Alan Jones?

There are no such rules out there in Internet World.

And as I watched this young woman vape a blue liquid called “Northern Lights”, I got the horrible feeling that vaping might be less of a healthy alternative to smoking than a new slo-mo health problem in the making.

My friend insists that the liquid nicotine she imports is safe and free from nasties, but most apparently use some form of anti-freeze in their mixtures, although the propylene glycol apparently used in most is described as “non-toxic”. Well it is on Wikipedia, anyway.

A recent Economist article estimated that e-cigarettes had less than 1 per cent of the smoking market but tobacco companies have already started buying up the e-cig makers.

I could find little evidence that Canberra or any of the state governments were turning their attentions to vaping, but the US Food and Drug Administration is keeping a close eye on developments.

After all, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. Or in this case, nicotine steam. And antifreeze.

Governor to return home on big weekend

WITH a massive birthday party, chariot races, a celebration of the changing seasons and even a model aircraft competition, there’s bound to be plenty of commotion across the Riverina this weekend.
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Narrandera-born Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir, will return to the town tomorrow to help the shire celebrate its sesquicentenary with a packed program of events.

Professor Bashir will unveil a plaque at the Sturt Memorial at 11am, which will be followed by a ceremonial tree planting at Narrandera Park, where member for Riverina Michael McCormack will be guest of honour.

After a luncheon and old movie screenings, a twilight picnic, games and concert will be held in the park.

The proclamation ceremony concludes with a fireworks spectacular from 6.45pm.

The Anzac weekend military scale event, hosted by the Wagga Model Aero Club. is also celebrating an anniversary this weekend.

Competition kicks into gear at 9am today with perfect flying weather forecast.

More than 60 models expected to take part in the 40th annual event, according to club treasurer and co-ordinator Mike McDonnell.

He said flying the models was a rewarding, but challenging task.

“It’s just a darn good hobby,” he said.

Entries are still being taken this morning and members of the public are invited to head out and experience all the action.

For those looking for the perfect way to celebrate the changing seasons and immerse yourself in the colourful autumn leaves, the Festival of the Falling Leaf returns to Tumut this weekend.

The event, which began last night with a cocktail party at the Tumut Bowling Club, continues today with plenty of entertainment at Bila Park, a parade down Wynyard Street and a fireworks display.

There’s plenty of fun to be had by those of all ages, with pony rides and a jumping castle for the kids and more than 100 market stalls for those slightly older.

And, while Tumut celebrates into the night, it will be a far more sombre occasion for the Wagga business leaders taking part in the Sleep Rough event.

The new initiative, organised by St Vincent de Paul and the Wagga Business Chamber (WBC), will highlight the plight of homeless people across the region and raise funds for charity. It will be held tonight at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club, with a soup kitchen-style meal.

HIGH FLYER: John Tennant, who has been a member of the Wagga Model Aero Club for 40 years, shows Wagga mayor Rod Kendall his 14-year-old Piper Cub at the club’s Anzac weekend military scale event. The event celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Picture: Alastair Brook

What’s on this weekend

SATURDAY

Wagga Model Aero Club

Anzac weekend military scale event

Competition flying from 9am

“Connorton” Field, Olympic Way

Festival of the Falling Leaf

Street parade 12.30pm

Bila Park and Wynyard St, Tumut

Wagga Health Expo

9am to 4pm

Bolton Park Stadium

Entry by gold coin donation

Sleep Rough

From 6.30pm

Murrumbidgee Turf Club

‘Light it Up Blue’ for Autism Cocktail Ball

Garden Court Restaurant

SUNDAY

Lions Gold Cup Chariots for Charities race day

Races start at 10.30am

Baylis Street, outside the Marketplace

Narrandera 150th anniversary celebrations

Proclamation festivities from 11am

Various locations in Narrandera

Terrier Races

Commences at 11.30am, registrations between 10.30am and 11.15am

Carberry Park, Gundagai

Entry $2 per dog, small dogs only

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Green light for new town

THE first stage of the controversial Huntlee housing estate at Branxton has been approved by the state government, but opponents say the fight is not over.
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A three-person Planning Assessment Commission panel on Fridaypublished its approval of the project, and its more than 1700 housing lots in a first stage valued by its West Australian owners at $230million.

LWP Property Group managing director Danny Murphy said Huntlee would be the Hunter’s first new town in more than half a century.

With an overall value of $1.5billion, the project may eventually run to about 7500 housing lots for an estimated population of about 20,000 people.

Stage one included land set aside for a new primary school.

“We are very pleased with the decision, which follows many months of consultation with local residents, business groups, the Cessnock and Singleton councils and the state government,’’ Mr Murphy said.

A spokesman for LWP said the company would want to get moving on Huntlee as soon as possible.

But leading opponents Chris Parker of the Sweetwater Action Group and Cessnock Greens councillor James Ryan both said the fight against Huntlee would continue.

Cr Ryan said the planning commission had effectively ignored concerns raised repeatedly by Cessnock and Singleton councils, which would be left footing the bill for most of the services into Huntlee.

He said two approvals for Huntlee had been subsequently overturned and opponents of the project would be seeking legal advice.

‘‘This is a satellite city built at the end of a freeway, an outdated planning idea that can only further entrench the use of the motor car,’’ Cr Ryan said, referring to the almost complete Hunter Expressway.

Mr Parker, who opposed the project during his term as a Cessnock Greens councillor, said Huntlee was ranked at the bottom of a list of 90 Hunter sites by Department of Planning staff in 2005.

‘‘After talking to council planners it is obvious that there’s more than enough available land in Cessnock, closer to infrastructure and existing communities, to satisfy decades of big population growth,’’ Mr Parker said.

In a six-page determination, the planning commission noted Huntlee’s ‘‘long and difficult history’’ but said the land had been rezoned for residential and commercial use.

The commission had not been asked to give advice on a draft development control plan for Huntlee but opposition from the two councils and ‘‘some members of the community’’ was ‘‘evident’’.

The commission said it generally agreed with the department’s recommendation to approve Huntlee but said conditions including those relating to land contamination, mine subsidence and the threatened Persoonia pauciflora plants needed to be fine-tuned.

A 2009 photograph of the Huntlee area.

Tamworth’s booze battleline 

Tamworth councillors have found some solid support in the first days of what they say could be a long battle of the booze to reclaim civic safety and peace.
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Less than two days after first flagging a united front to take on the fight against alcohol-related crime, councillors have reported a public response that suggests they have a big battle force behind them.

The council has recommended that its newly created crime prevention working group investigate whether earlier closing times for licensed premises, particularly packaged alcohol sales outlets, could be a solution to driving down crime rates.

Former mayor James Treloar provoked the council into a unanimous vote to tell the working group to consider issues that directly attacked why crime was occurring rather than just some bandaid solutions to tackle the effects of it.

“They were a bit nervous about it, and this is a populist thing, but I reckon while we might have a crime rate where over 80 per cent of crime is alcohol-related, then we might have 80 per cent of the community who might back these plans, I don’t know,” Cr Treloar said yesterday.

“It might well be a great solution or it might be like taking a sledgehammer to killing a fly. But let’s have some comment and start it off and see where we end up. If we are looking to close everything down at midnight, well, I don’t know what the solution is but we have to do something.

“The issues are complex, it’s not just as simple as closing everything down at midnight, and that’s why I suggested the crime prevention group start there.”

Mr Treloar said the council needed to discuss and discover all the issues involved with the city’s liquor accord and operators of its licensed outlets.

But he said it was ironic that in the Tamworth CBD the bulk of alcohol-related crime tended to be around late-night opening venues.

This week’s tactical move came after the council was told by the city’s top cop that Tamworth had more liquor outlets than comparable cities like Bathurst and Dubbo, and about one alcohol sales point for every 5000

people.

Worse, Inspector Jeff Budd told them, for every 10 crime incidents police were called to, eight of them were alcohol-related, such as domestic violence, assaults and drivers under the influence.

Mayor Col Murray said yesterday initial responses to the first hard line action being outlined by council had been solid in support.

“The response so far from the community has been good, it seems to me they think it is a pretty good idea and that gives me some comfort that there’s a strong desire from the community for us to act,” he said.

“I think we really need to have this debate but also we can’t just keep talking about the issues.”

Cr Warren Woodley said he was excited by the strength shown by the councillors in taking action.

Cr Juanita Wilson said the nine councillors had decided that the situation in Tamworth was critical and it would be irresponsible not to act over the issues of alcohol and crime.

“Not responding to the alcohol issues is like bandaging your elbow when you have broken your foot,” she said yesterday.

She said Tamworth had to reclaim the city so people felt safer at home and out on the streets.

“If the tradeoff is shorter hours for a safer city we have got no option but to do something about it,” he said.

The chairman of the crime prevention working group, councillor Russell Webb said the council was wary of getting licensed venues offside before they even started the discussions because they were united in wanting a consultation process that worked through solutions and at least came up with some sort of

starting point.

TALKING TOUGH: From left, councillors Tim Coates, Warren Woodley, Juanita Wilson, Mark Rodda, Helen Tickle, James Treloar, Phil Betts, deputy mayor and Crime Prevention Working Group chairman Russell Webb are taking a stand. Maor Col Murray was absent at time of the shoot. 240413GOG02

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‘Crunch time’ for drivers

TWO incidents of Anzac Day drunken behaviour have marred otherwise pleasing results for New England North West drivers on the second day of Operation Go Slow.
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A 24-year-old P-plate driver from Armidale was charged with mid-range drink-driving after he was pulled over on the New England Highway at Moonbi on Thursday just before 11pm.

The P2 licence holder blew a reading of 0.108 and will face court later this month.

Meanwhile a Tamworth man who crashed his car into a South Tamworth kerb and flipped the vehicle on it’s side about noon later blew a reading of 0.175 at Tamworth Police Station.

Although he was uninjured in the accident, police charged him with high-range drink-driving.

Operation Go Slow is a joint Anzac Day and school holiday road blitz across NSW that began at midnight on Tuesday.

Western region traffic tactician Jeff Boon said despite a few isolated incidents, New England North West drivers had been better behaved than their Western region counterparts.

“There’s been a few incidents of stupidity,” he said.

“But in comparison to recent years, the statistics have been pretty pleasing so far, particularly in the Tamworth, Moree and New England areas.

“Major crashes are down too, with 10 crashes resulting in injuries to two people.

“Let’s hope the good behaviour continues.”

Inspector Boon said police particularly targeted drink-driving on Anzac Day, conducting more than 5000 RBTs across the Western region and finding just six drivers over the limit.

On day two, police also issued 77 speeding fines and eight for seatbelt offences.

Inspector Boon said the weekend was “crunch time” for the operation, with police expecting a high volume of traffic coinciding with the end of school holidays.

He said all motorists should be aware of NSW road rules, but had a word of advice for road users travelling across the weekend.

“Be extra vigilant, take breaks and stay under the speed limit and don’t even think about drinking the night before driving,” he said.

Across the state, more than 72,000 breath tests were conducted over the first two days of the operation, with 1455 drivers booked for speeding and 67 for driving.

Operation Go Slow ends at midnight tomorrow.

slow down: Senior Constable Richard Hooley tests driver speed along Scott Rd during day three of Operation Go Slow. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 260413GOC01

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Artist’s legacy home to go under the hammer

THE last ‘‘bricks and mortar’’ link between celebrated Australian artist Margaret Olley and the city she loved will be lost in four weeks when her last remaining Newcastle property goes under the hammer.
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The three-storey inner-city terrace was bought by the Sydney-based painter in the late 1960s. She lived in the modest basement flat during her many visits while renting out the main house.

A who’s who of the Australian art world enjoyed Olley’s hospitality at 70 Church Street, including William Dobell, Russell ‘‘Tas’’ Drysdale and various members of the Boyd and Perceval families.

Olley died in 2011 aged 88 from emphysema.

Proceeds from the sale of the property will be ‘‘returned to the city’’ through a generous bequest to Newcastle Art Gallery specifically for its redevelopment, said longtime friend and co-executor of Olley’s estate Christine France.

‘‘Hopefully, the redevelopment will go ahead,’’ Ms France said. ‘‘Margaret was a passionate supporter of the gallery and was excited about its future.’’

Over the years, Olley owned as many as eight houses on The Hill and it was her affection for Newcastle and her savvy property investment that provided her with the financial independence she needed to paint full-time and fund her donations to arts institutions.

Real estate agent Sonia Walkom helped Olley buy, sell and lease a number of properties in the past four decades and became a friend.

‘‘I miss Margaret,’’ said Ms Walkom while showing the Newcastle Herald through the empty house, which is in need of renovation. ‘‘She was a straight shooter and I think that’s why we became friends from the moment we met.’’

The one-bedroom basement flat has been renovated since Olley’s visits, which became less frequent as her health deteriorated.

Where once there were tribal masks from her trips to Papua New Guinea, along with art work by friends such as Ray Crooke lining the walls, colourful scarves looped over the staircase banister and objets d’art, there is now conventional tidiness and a flat-screen TV.

The brick floor, which Olley installed herself, has been replaced with tiles.

‘‘She set up easels, entertained guests,’’ remembered France. ‘‘She liked living here because she could wander up to the Obelisk where she used to paint [she painted Walkom’s own home on The Hill from there]. She would get up at night to use the outside loo and hear the sounds of industry. She enjoyed that it was a masculine city, that people worked hard.’’

The Olley property will be auctioned through Walkom Real Estate on May 25. Inspections from May 4, by appointment only.

DOWN TO EARTH: Margaret Olley in her Church Street home about 2006. Picture: Simone De Peak

Sporting Declaration: State of upheaval

WARRIORS: Samoan players perform the haka before last week’s Test match against Tonga. Picture: Getty ImagesLIKE Sporting Declaration, NRL boss David Smith is someone who clearly takes pride in thinking outside the square.
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Not great with names, admittedly, but an ideas man nonetheless.

So when Smithy declared in an interview last week that his grand plan to revolutionise rugby league revolved around bouncy castles, I couldn’t help thinking: “Well, Dave, I guess that’s why you’re on the big bucks.”

Still, it would be nice to think such a masterstroke is only the tip of the iceberg.

What the game’s new supremo really needs is a legacy that will last a lifetime and beyond.

And from one genius to another, this columnist has just the concept.

State of Origin is regarded as the jewel in rugby league’s crown.

The pinnacle.

But I’m over it. It’s become boring . . . and this has nothing to do with those dirty rotten Cane Toads winning the past 100 series in a row.

I’m tired of the way Origin simultaneously undermines and overshadows the club competition, which deadset dies in the arse for two months mid-season.

I’m tired of the way it handicaps the strong clubs, leaving them depleted with injured and/or weary players, and provides the strugglers with an unwarranted advantage.

I’m tired of the mind-numbing Origin hype. How many times do we have to relive big Artie belting Mick Cronin, Greg Dowling’s 1984 try in the SCG slop, or Tommy Raudonikis and his “cattle dog” war cry?

I still enjoy the actual Origin games, even though at times they resemble wrestlemania.

But after 30-odd years, it’s time for an Origin makeover, something that revitalises it and justifies its existence.

It’s time to add a third team to the mix – Oceania.

Oceania would give Origin a whole new dimension.

Players would be eligible if they have Pacific Island heritage, regardless of whether they had already represented NSW or Queensland.

Playing for Oceania would not affect a player’s national allegiance.

Oceania would have first option on eligible players, but if anyone was subsequently dropped or not required, they would be able to play for either the Cockroaches or Cane Toads.

Instead of a three-game series between two states, each team would play two games – NSW v Queensland, Oceania v NSW and Queensland v Oceania – with the top two qualifiers to meet in a final.

Oceania’s home games would be played in venues such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, giving New Zealand a slice of Origin action, and possibly Fiji and Port Moresby if facilities are up to scratch.

And if you were wondering how competitive an Oceania team would be, run your eye over this possible line-up.

Fullback: Jarryd Hayne.

Wingers: Akuila Uate and Manu Vatuvei.

Centres: Steve Matai and Michael Jennings.

Five-eighth: John Sutton.

Halfback: Benji Marshall.

Lock: Jeremy Smith.

Second-rowers: Sonny Bill Williams and Frank Pritchard.

Props: James Tamou and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Hooker: Issac Luke.

Bench: Tony Williams, Willie Mason, Brent Kite, Feleti Mateo.

I reckon they would be more than a match for the all-conquering Maroons . . . and as for NSW, they would be doing well not to get lapped.

Trouble is, for the past 105 years the powers-that-be in rugby league have subscribed to the theory that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Origin may not be damaged beyond all repair, but it is starting to fray around the edges.

It would take a man of vision to dare tinker with one of rugby league’s great traditions.

Over to you, Smithy.

Widower loses right to support girlfriend

A LAKE Macquarie man wants an inquiry into the guardianship system after losing control of his finances during a stay at Belmont Hospital.
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Although the man, a widower and aged pensioner, wants the details of his case made public, the NSW Guardianship Act has wide restrictions on the publication of details of its activities.

On legal advice, the Newcastle Herald has agreed to withhold his identity.

The man told the Herald this week that he had a girlfriend in south-east Asia and had been sending ‘‘$500 or $600 a month’’ to help support her and some children.

His only child, an adult daughter, and her partner objected to this.

In February this year he had a stroke and was taken to hospital.

‘‘While I was in Belmont Hospital my daughter got the Guardianship Tribunal involved, and they set up a hearing in this room in the hospital that has a video link straight to the tribunal’s rooms at Balmain,’’ the man said.

‘‘There were three women on the tribunal panel and they listened to my daughter and her partner.

‘‘They decided I was not capable of looking after my own finances and they put a three-month ban on me using my own accounts.’’

He said the NSW Trustee and Guardian had control of his affairs until June 22 and would only give him $50 every few days.

‘‘I told them I will fight this down to the wire. I will stand up for what I believe in,’’ the man said.

‘‘I don’t smoke, and I’m not much of a drinker, so if I want to spend my money this way, I should be able to.’’

Asked what he wanted to happen, the man said: ‘‘I want them to give me back the power over my finances and to admit they made a mistake and let me get on with my life.

‘‘While I was in the hospital I saw an old guy bawling his eyes out and he said you won’t believe what my family have done to me. I said I do, because that’s what’s just happened to me.

‘‘I think it’s time someone looked into the whole thing.’’

The man’s de facto son-in-law confirmed the basics of the account, but said the man ‘‘might appear to be speaking fairly normally [but] he’s just not rational’’.

‘‘He’s had a massive brain-stem stroke,’’ the son-in-law said.

‘‘He won’t ever improve, the central part of his brain has been so badly damaged.’’

The son-in-law initially denied that the south-east Asian spending was the reason for their action, although he later said: ‘‘If it was … money [from his superannuation] that he had worked for and was sending it overseas I wouldn’t mind but I would hate to see him drawing a pension from Centrelink and sending that overseas.’’

Questioned on this, the man said he had used his saved money, not his pension.

Hunter New England Health confirmed it provided video conference links and private meeting rooms for patients ‘‘not well enough to travel and appear in person at the guardianship tribunal’’.

The health service and the NSW Trustee and Guardian referred the Herald to the tribunal.

A spokesperson for the tribunal said it did not comment on ‘‘individual matters’’ or ‘‘matters before the tribunal’’ and advised the Herald of Section 57 of the Guardianship Act, which relates to publication restrictions.