Going outside in many parts of southeastern Australia right now is like sucking on a stogie filled with smoldering grass and bark. The countryside is alive with flame from nearly 100 rampaging blazes, which are drawing strength from feverish weather to slam a dirty-black lid of smoke over Sydney. This breakout will go down as the worst regional fires in a decade. More than a third of the fires are out of control and behaving erratically thanks to screwy yet strong wind patterns. While the situation on the ground must be nerve-racking, from space it looks fairly terrible, too. The above image, taken on Thursday afternoon by NASA’s Aqua satellite, shows the earth spewing smoke like a titanic beater with a blown head gasket. The blazes are outlined in red; the largest in this shot is the State Mine fire at top left, a sower of destruction to more than 50,000 acres of land. “In addition to the threat posed by the fires, the image shows that smoke pollution was a problem in populated coastal communities,” says NASA
City of Cape Town authorities said on Sunday they would redouble efforts to track down and hold to account traffic offenders who owe the city nearly R6m in unpaid fines. Last week city traffic services arrested Sibusiso Funiselo — the man dubbed Cape Town’s worst traffic offender — during a roadblock under the auspices of Operation Reclaim, targeting the 100 worst traffic offenders. Mr Funiselo, a minibus-taxi owner from Philippi had a total of 238 outstanding warrants of arrest, totalling R155,600. According to the city, the 100 worst offenders account for 8,369 outstanding warrants totalling R6m. The top 10, including Mr Funiselo, account for nearly 20% of this total. The city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said on Sunday that one of the biggest frustrations is serving summonses on offenders with outstanding warrants. “As things stand, summonses have to be physically served on the person, but often the summons service is turned away and told the person is not home. The problem really is the law. We should just be able to serve the summons on your home and that should be sufficient. That is the proposal I have made to the provincial transport MEC — that he engage national government about that,” said Mr Smith.
Commuters here spent much of Friday scrambling for buses, ferries and car pools after transit workers for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system walked off the job for the second time in three months. Vast traffic jams clogged the Bay Bridge on Friday evening, and long lines of weary homeward-bound passengers waited at San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal. “I’m pretty livid,” said Teirra Chatman, 21, a home-care worker who was two hours into a four-hour commute from her job in South San Francisco to her home in the East Bay suburb of Antioch. “They’re already paid enough,” she said about the transit workers. The transit system, known as BART, is the area’s main commuter railroad, carrying 400,000 passengers daily between the East Bay and San Francisco.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Hong Kong to protest against what they see as a lack of government transparency and accountability. Police put the turnout at 20,000, while organisers said 120,000 were there. The controversy was sparked last week when the government declined to grant a free-to-air licence to Hong Kong Television Network. Critics of the government have urged officials to give a clear account of why the licence was refused. Organiser Kristine Chan, from Hong Kong Free TV Action, told the Associated Press: “People are feeling very angry about this event, that the government is not really giving us many choices of free TV and trying to monopolise the industry by limiting the licences.”
London’s booming housing market is rising at an unsustainable rate, the UK’s largest property website warned on Monday, with the average asking price of a home in the capital surging by more than £50,000 last month. Such is the acceleration in the capital’s property market, according to Rightmove, that many buyers will need help from deep-pocketed parents despite the expansion of George Osborne’s Help to Buy scheme. Rightmove said the average asking price in London rose to £544,232 in October from £493,748 the previous month – an increase of more than 10%. Across England and Wales, the rise over the month was a more modest 2.8% to £252,418. Describing the London increases as unsustainable, Rightmove said Help to Buy would mainly benefit buyers in the rest of England and Wales because many Londoners would not be able to afford mortgage repayments on a house costing double the national average.
The Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) has proposed the development of seven new rapid rail routes along identified “high-mobility corridors” in Gauteng, which will be promulgated under the province’s 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan (ITMP25). The proposed extensions, in order of priority, would include a link from the existing Sandton station to Randburg; a link from Ruimsig to the Samrand station; a link from the Samrand station to Tshwane East; a link from Rhodesfield to the East Rand Mall; a link from Naledi to Ruimsig; and a link from Mamelodi to Tshwane East. GMA CEO Jack van der Merwe emphasised at a media briefing on Thursday that the routes, which would require the construction of 140 km of railway line, would remain proposals until provincial and local authority approval, which the agency expected by the end of the year, was attained. “We must remind Gauteng residents that this is a process that is part of a far larger plan that first requires Cabinet approval, after which the process would then enter the design phase, followed by the feasibility studies. “If approved, construction of the lines will still be four or five years away, but construction of the stations will start earlier,” he commented.
Also in Johannesburg this week:
In a clean and complete break with the apartheid past, the City of Johannesburg is to embark on a massive transit-oriented development (TOD) initiative to redefine, redesign and re-stitch the city to create a new future in which residents will live closer to their workplaces, and “work, stay and play in the same place without have to travel long distances”. This new spatial development vision, which is in line with the City’s Growth and Development Strategy 2040 (GDS 2040), was unveiled by Johannesburg Executive Mayor Clr Mpho Parks Tau during his State of the City Address at the Linder Auditorium at the Wits University on Thursday last week. Clr Tau said the shape of the future city would involve the creation of well-planned transport arteries or “Corridors of Freedom” linked to interchanges where the focus would be on mixed-use development – high-density accommodation supported by office buildings, retail development and opportunities for leisure and recreation. The Executive Mayor said the “Corridors of Freedom”, as these developments are affectionately known, would transform entrenched settlement patterns, which had shunted the majority of residents to the outskirts of the city, away from economic opportunities and access to jobs and growth.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo has stopped the Harare City Council from jointly building a $145-million five-star hotel in the capital that would be run under the Hilton Hotel franchise, saying the city must concentrate on its core business of service delivery. The council partnered with local private investor Stream Walk Recreational Arcade to build the 96 000m2 hotel on a piece of municipal-owned land along Samora Machel Avenue in Eastlea suburb, which is a stone’s throw away from Harare’s famous Chapman Golf Club. Developers say the five-star hotel would be a 12-storey complex that would have 275 guest rooms, offices, a 6 000-seater conference centre, retail units and a basement car park that could hold up to 1 000 vehicles. Construction was expected to start next year and be completed in 2016.
Just when you thought Singapore’s Changi Airport couldn’t rub its global supremacy in any deeper, the “world’s best airport” announces plans to add another impressive facility that will improve passenger experiences and boost capacity. Code-named “Project Jewel,” the mixed-use architectural looker will take over a 3.5-hectare plot of land and will feature shops, restaurants and a huge indoor garden with its own waterfall when it opens in 2018. A statement from Changi says terminal 1, which will lose a car park in the redevelopment, will also be expanded to allow more space for the arrival hall, baggage claim areas and taxi bays. Project Jewel was designed by a consortium of architects led by Moshe Safdie, the man behind another Singapore icon — Marina Bay Sands. It will serve as a link to connect terminals 1, 2 and 3. “When completed, Project Jewel, together with terminal 4, will boost Changi Airport’s handling capacity to 85 million passenger movements a year, to cater for Changi’s growth into the next decade,” an airport spokesman said.