Here’s what you need to know this morning.
Rejuvenation of the Parramatta River underway
The Parramatta River is undergoing transformation, with construction of a new pedestrian bridge beginning today, expected to create tens of thousands of new homes and jobs.
The Alfred St Bridge is just one of many improvements to revitalize the river, as well as a bike path, riverside amphitheater, and upgrades to Charles Street.
The bridge will connect the north and south sides of Parramatta, making it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to travel around the city.
With Parramatta one of the state’s fastest-growing cities, with a population expected to grow more than 200,000 over the next two decades, Planning and Housing Secretary Anthony Roberts said a $60 million investment would support infrastructure and transportation networks.
“Investing in vital infrastructure now will pave the way for the construction of more than 72,000 homes and the creation of at least 113,000 jobs to meet demand,” Roberts said.
“This has already begun with the recent construction of nearly 500 homes along Morton Street.”
Protest in South Sydney causes massive delays
A man has hanged himself from a pole as part of a larger protest that caused major traffic delays in Sydney’s south Port Botany this morning.
Just before 6:30 a.m., the police were called to the unauthorized demonstration.
Heavy vehicles can continue on Bunnerong Road, but police are asking other motorists to avoid the area.
Covid death of toddler unusual
The death of a Sydney toddler from COVID-19 has been described as “very rare” by an infectious disease expert.
NSW health authorities said the two-year-old boy from Western Sydney was “previously healthy”.
He died at Westmead Children’s Hospital after being diagnosed with the disease, and was one of four people with COVID whose deaths were recorded in the state yesterday.
The others were between 70 and 90 years old.
Infectious disease pediatrician Robert Booy said most children under five who got COVID-19 had mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Professor Booy reassured parents that deaths were unusual in this cohort.
“So this is the disease of older people, of people with chronic medical problems,” he said.
“It’s not a disease that often kills children. It’s very rare.”
Nurses vote on strike
NSW Health Secretary Brad Hazzard says efforts are being made to resolve issues raised by the nurses’ union, which has threatened another strike next week.
It would be the second in as many months, with nurses voting this week on whether or not to take action next Thursday.
Brett Holmes of the union said little progress had been made since the last strike in February and there was no indication that the government was listening.
The union is calling for better wages and conditions, and changes in understaffing.
However, a spokesman for Mr Hazzard said he had been communicating with the union boss – including over the weekend.
“Each of the areas raised by the Association of Nurses and Midwives has been discussed and work continues to resolve the issues,” they said.
Increase in COVID cases a concern
The growing number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals in New South Wales is worrying, says the Australian Medical Association (AMA).
Yesterday, 1,163 people were hospitalized, 34 of whom were in intensive care.
That compares to just over 1,000 people in the hospital system more than a week ago.
Michael Bonning of the NSW AMA said the hospital system was under pressure while intensive care rates remained low.
“Due to ongoing staff leave, some of these cases are within the family, so either the children or partners of health professionals, or health professionals themselves,” he said.
“That – with increasing hospital numbers – means we will eventually get some stretch on our hospital system.”
School cars in the spotlight
Concerns have been raised about the number of newly built public schools in New South Wales that rely on demountable classrooms.
The state federation of parent and citizen associations raised the issue in its submission to an upper house inquiry into school infrastructure.
It said new schools in western Sydney, as well as those in Armidale and Ballina, depended on demountables within a few years of opening.
It calls for an urgent review of how the NSW Department of Education predicts population change.
The state auditor-general has also submitted a submission, saying that assessments of school infrastructure planning and delivery were conducted in 2017 and 2021.
The study received more than 100 submissions and the final report is expected in October.
‘Missed opportunity’ to reform social security
The federal government is urged to review social security and the private rental sector to address the national housing and rental crises.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) have released a report showing regional rents have risen 18 percent during the pandemic, driven in part by people’s desire for homes rather than apartments.
The report also blames government subsidies to build housing.
UNSW Professor Hal Pawson said the withdrawal of additional income support has also played a big role.
“To come back to that after the pandemic, I think it’s a lost opportunity politically,” he said.
“Introducing the coronavirus surcharge and doubling Job Seekers’ payments for a period of time was a very enlightening response.
“That’s an overdue reform that many economists agree is something Australia should consider anyway.”
He said Australia had one of the lowest social security benefits of the OECD countries.