Monday, December 28, 2009

Midlands continues to show us how to do it

TOWNS through the midlands continue to show us how we could do things better in the Derwent Valley. Campbell Town is going ahead in leaps and bounds, with a new cafe/fish bar opening there recently. Creatively named "Hooked" (pictured) the new business is in a converted garage. The coffee is great (far better than the bakery chain over the road) and a small portion of chips will keep you fortified for the rest of the journey.

Rightly or wrongly, Campbell Town is famous for having the best public toilets in Tasmania. Now there's a challenge - why can't New Norfolk have the best in Tasmania (or at least the best on the Lyell Highway). The flash flushers have been credited with creating a tourist boom in Campbell Town. Business people know that the biggest problem for Norfolk's CBD is its location, off the highway. If it takes a top-notch set of loos to bring visitors up the hill into town, let's build them.

Another great innovation on the Midland Highway is the burgeoning spread of steel cut-outs of bushrangers, convicts and more. Without blatantly copying the idea, surely the Lyell Highway could have something similar? After all, it's the oldest highway in Tasmania, dating to 1818 and built by an ex-convict. There's a plaque commemmorating this fact along the route, but it hardly jumps out at you.

Well, that's Damo's thought for the day. What do you reckon? Why not leave some feedback below, or email

Thursday, December 24, 2009

This month's press advertisement

AT the last couple of council meetings I have copped a little bit of good-natured ribbing about my newspaper ads. One councillor said he would like to see the council running similar ads, possibly instead of mine. One of my election platforms was that the council should produce a newsletter or I would do it myself. My newspaper ads are a major part of my communicating with the community, and every ad prompts people to send me an email or give me a call. This is as it should be.

So yes, the council needs to get cracking with a communications strategy, but no, my advertisements will not be stopping until I run out of money. My first month's advertising cost me more than I received from my councillor allowance. I wonder what other councillors do with their allowance?

I can tell you this much...

IT took two and a half hours but we finally developed an appropriate process for the proposed sale of the Willow Court oval and adjacent buildings during our closed council meeting on Monday night. And, in a first, I was able to convince fellow councillors to legally reveal at least a little of what went on. My motion "That the council make public the decision of this closed meeting" was apparently too much to take and failed for want of a seconder, but kudos to Councillor Jim Elliott who successfully moved a watered-down motion "that the council put out to the public the decision to put the oval precinct out to tender". This was seconded by Cr Craig Farrell, and was supported by all councillors but me (I abstained because the motion did not reveal as much as I wanted to).

Anyhow, what this means is that an earlier, secret, decision to sell the oval to a supermarket developer has now been withdrawn. Next month the council will call for tenders for the sale of the oval and the building complex known as Derwent, Esperance, Glenora and Franklin Houses. Personally I am not in favour of selling any part of Willow Court, but it is clear that the funds raised from any sale will help to preserve and promote the real gem of that site, our barrack square. This is a convict site second to none in Tasmania, and yet it is neglected by both the council and the state government, both of which stand condemned for their neglect.

I could be charged with breaching the Local Government Act if I told you too much of what went on at the meeting. However, I said something along these lines:

  • The shoddy process followed so far by the council in the proposed sale of the council showed that nothing had been learned since the council's original (botched) subdivision of the Willow Court site
  • Once again the council had rushed to sell property without having a long-term, strategic and holistic plan for the whole site
  • Once again a sale had been proposed without an appropriate property title or even a clear picture of what the council was selling
  • Inappropriate buildlings had been sold in past and the council will most likely have to buy them back once Willow Court gets going as a tourist attraction
  • The council's ill-considered sale of other parts of the site (including roads and footpaths) had left only one possible car parking area, and now this area could be lost
  • I successfully gained agreement that the car park on The Avenue not be offered for sale
  • The Willow Court conservation management plan says the buildings known as Derwent, Esperance, Glenora and Franklin Houses cannot be demolished (some councillors thought they could be pulled down).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Questions remain over Willow Court oval sale

IT'S pretty exciting to think that three major developers, including representatives of Australia's largest supermarket chains and one of the biggest hardware retailers, are interested in building on the old sportsground at Willow Court. But it is worrying to think that the council has botched the sale process to such an extent that there have been threats of legal action from several sources.

At this point I am largely in the dark about the matter, because the sale was approved by the council before my election. I have asked for minutes of meetings which would include this topic, but my requests have been refused by the general manager because I will not agree to a confidentiality agreement. I believe my undertaking to respect all necessary confidences is covered by the oath of office I declared and signed at my first meeting.

Here's what I want to know, on your behalf:

  • What changes have been made in the Heritage Council's overview of the oval and its redevelopment?
  • How does the council propose to conduct an open sale that will restore public and corporate confidence in the process?
  • Whether or not the buildings known as Derwent, Esperance, Franklin and Glenora are included in the land parcel being offered
  • Whether or not the car parking area adjacent those buildings will be sold or preserved
  • What provisions will be made for visitor car parking if that area is sold
  • How will the proceeds of any sale be sold
  • What else does the council propose to sell?
  • What are the plans for the section of George St located between Woolworths and the Willow Court oval?
Tomorrow night and on Monday night the council is holding closed meetings where I expect to be briefed on all aspects of this sale process and a legal matter relating to Willow Court. Once I enter those meetings I will be legally bound not to publicly reveal what is discussed there. This secrecy does not sit well with me and I will be encouraging my colleagues to decide on an appropriate communication strategy so you can be kept informed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Two-for-one offer

WHY not come along to this week's council meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) night. This month only, there are two meetings for your entertainment and edification. At 6pm the council will hold its annual general meeting. You can download a copy of the annual report from the council website (click here) or collect a copy from the council chambers in Circle St. Councillors were advised this meeting will be held in the council social rooms, but the agenda lists the courthouse as the venue, so if you are coming along please try the social rooms first and then the council chambers. This is your opportunity to question the council on its performance and the public can move motions which must be considered by the council at next month's meeting.

At 6.30pm the monthly meeting for December will be held in the courthouse. I promise this one will end well before 11.30pm. There is a light agenda, but I have three motions on notice and a handful of questions. My motions ask the council to investigate options for an indoor swimming pool at New Norfolk; to set aside a room for councillors to use as a shared office; and that the council offer to formalise the Willow Court Working Party. This last one is pretty important. One councillor got it into his head that I was trying to abolish that group. Far from it. It has served a valuable purpose so far and I hope it will continue to do so. My only problem is that it meets in secret and everyone knows how much that type of thing grates with me.

I hope to see you tomorrow night at one or both of our meetings. Let me know what you think of my ideas. I won't be offended if you tell me I'm dreamin'.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Secret squirrel

I MUST admit to misplacing my cool for just a little while at the end of tonight's closed council meeting. I am prohibited by law from saying what the meeting was for, but believe me, it was more than a little pointless and could have been dealt with in open session.

It's what happened after the meeting that got my dander up. After declaring the meeting closed, Mayor Martyn Evans advised that if councillors were contacted by a certain party in connection with legal action against the council and certain individuals, we were to advise the gentleman in question to contact the general manager or the council lawyer.

I immediately asked for a full briefing on the matter, as I am in effect one of the council's "board of directors" and should be aware of matters affecting the council. Mayor Evans advised that as I not a councillor when the legal matter arose, and as I had refused to sign a confidentiality agreement, I could not be briefed on the matter. Some would say that this is where I hit the roof.

As a lawfully elected councillor and having signed a declaration of office, I am obliged by law to keep confidential any matters from a closed council meeting, I said. I demanded a full briefing and also the details of who had been named in the legal action. General manager Stephen Mackey invited me to visit his office for a personal apprisal of the matter. I refused this offer because I will not be party to backroom briefings. All councillors should be provided with exactly the same information at the same time.

Cr Judy Bromfield objected to my making notes of the exchange, and left the courthouse. Cr James Graham advised that he too knew nothing of the legal matter. Cr Jim Elliott supported my stance and said all councillors should be brought up-to-date with the matter.

After much posturing (mostly by me) and a funny little exchange where the general manager and I repeated ourselves for a while, I demanded that a closed meeting be held next week for a full briefing. The mayor agreed to this and undertook to make the necessary arrangements.

So in the next few days you will see a notice in the daily newspaper, advising that you are not allowed to attend a meeting that will be held next week. I regret that a closed meeting appears to be the only way to deal with this matter. However, the truth will eventually see the light.

As I prepared to leave the chamber the general manager reminded those present that the meeting was still "closed" and no details could be made public. I replied that the meeting was indeed "closed" in the sense that the mayor had long since declared it finished, and the last half-hour or so had been a post-meeting discussion.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Taking care of business

IT was a pleasure to slip back into the cut and thrust of local business promotions at the monthly meeting of the New Norfolk Business Association tonight. I helped to establish this group about 10 years ago and having had a few years' rest from the committee, I was pleased to be elected as the council representative and chairman. This committee is responsible for the management and expenditure of a promotional levy raised among businesses in New Norfolk's central business district, plus a council contribution. The participating businesses will be able to see some of their money at work when the 11th annual New Norfolk Christmas Parade takes to High St this Saturday at noon. See you there!

Sorry, Maydena

DUE to work commitments I was unable to attend what should have been my first meeting as the council delegate to the Maydena Community Association last night. I am already aware of the good work of this group and look forward to attending its next meeting in the new year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dipping a toe into the water at Bushy Park

I LOVE driving in to Bushy Park (and Glenora :-) This agricultural district is one of the Derwent Valley's real gems. At this time of year, the hops are half-way up the strings, and the raspberries are being picked. Christmas must be around the corner. The purpose of the trip was to attend my first meeting of the Bushy Park Swimming Pool Committee. Because this committee's meetings clash with the council's "workshops" councillors have been reluctant to put up their hand, instead opting for a rotational roster of sorts. It was my pleasure to volunteer for this committee and if it means missing workshops, so be it.

The Bushy Park Swimming Pool (it's actually located at Glenora but who's arguing?) was built in the late 1950s as the district's war memorial. As well as providing welcome summer recreation and relief, the facility has a comfortable hall which hosts the local Anzac Day observances.

The facility is managed by a dedicated local committee, under the auspices of the Derwent Valley Council. I was already aware of the committee's great work and this was reinforced when deputy general manager (and fellow committee member) Robert McCrossen gave me a tour just prior to the meeting. This is a facility the district, and our whole municipality, can be proud of. Set in a scenic location, surrounded by lush lawns and under the shade of well-established trees, it is the ideal place for a swim.

After the meeting I enjoyed a Christmas drink with the committee and was brought up-to-date on local issues. The discussion reminded me that we are a close-nit community - especially when I was asked for my opinion on New Norfolk's famous planter pots. My position on that subject remains unchanged. The existing pots are dangerous and should be removed. I'll have more to say on that at the next council meeting on December 15. Why don't you come along?

Congratulations to committee president Janice Gittus and her team. I am really looking forward to working with this group and helping it to achieve its aims.


WITH a choice of two meetings to attend tonight, I opted for the Bushy Park Swimming Pool Committee, to which I am the council representative. This meant I missed the first of the new-style "open and advertised" council workshops. I look forward to hearing how it went. Did you go? Why not post a comment (below)?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chamber's good work continues

TONIGHT was the annual general meeting of the Derwent Valley Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which I attended as the council representative. As a former secretary of the chamber, I was pleased to hear of this organisation's continued good work as the peak representative body of businesses in our region.

One of the chamber's major initiatives in the last year was the negotiating of a security contract for the New Norfolk central business district. By working co-operatively, businesses have been able to obtain overnight security at a cheaper rate than if they obtained security individually. Management of this process has been handed over to an independent committee, which makes good sense in itself.

The Derwent Valley Business and Services Directory is another great initiative of the chamber. Some years ago the chamber enlisted the Derwent Valley Online Access Centre to produce the directory on its behalf. I was pleased to hear that this successful partnership continues to this day. I understand the next edition is almost ready for printing. In the new year I will represent the chamber in discussions with the online centre about further enhancing the usefulness of this valuable publication.

Congratulations to Laurelle Grimley who was returned as president of the chamber, and Faye Windsor who was elected vice-president and will be acting president Mrs Grimley's absence over the next few months. Mark Bennett and Janet Biggar were returned as secretary and treasurer respectively. Elected to the general committee were Greg Hudson and Ray Williams, and myself as the council representative. Solictor Steve Dixon continues as public officer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Council report

THERE is much to report from last week's council meeting so I'll start with my 16 motions on notice. These took about two hours to deal with, so I'll try to limit myself in future. There is still much I want to bring before the council... not least a review of the pink planter pots.

Below are my 16 motions tabled at the council meeting. I have also included my speech notes, which will shed some light on my reasoning. I welcome any comments on these motions.

I have included the votes as recorded by me at the meeting, but I will compare these with the minutes (once published) and make any necessary corrections.

1.      That the details of Public Questions, and the answer given, be recorded in the minutes of that meeting.
•       A simple matter of openness and accountability
•       Will assure the public that its questions are taken seriously

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr James Graham
CARRIED unanimously

2.      That the answers to Public Questions taken on notice be recorded in the minutes of the subsequent meeting.
•       Under the previous administration questions taken on notice frequently went unanswered. This will ensure accountability

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr Scott Shaw
CARRIED unanimously

3.      That the details of councillor Questions Without Notice, and the answer given, be recorded in the minutes of the meeting
•       Councillor questions have appeared to go unanswered in the past, often repeated at subsequent council meetings
•       Will ensure all interested persons have access to the answers

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr James Graham
CARRIED unanimously

4.      That all attachments referred to in council agendas be made available online with the agenda to the meeting
•       A way to improve the sharing of information

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr James Elliott
Those in favour: Mayor Martyn Evans, Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell and Councillors Damian Bester, James Graham and Scott Shaw
Those against: Councillors Judy Bromfield, Jim Elliott, Barry Lathey and Narelle Molan

5.      That the minutes of all council committees and special committees be made available online
•       Some minutes are included in the monthly information bulletin but not all
•       An important innovation to improve the flow of information from the council and its committees and the public
•       Hardcopies should also be made available at the council chambers

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr Scott Shaw
Those in favour: Mayor Martyn Evans, Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell and Councillors Damian Bester, Jim Elliott, James Graham, Barry Lathey and Scott Shaw
Those against: Councillors Judy Bromfield and Narelle Molan

6.      That the monthly financial reports be made available online
•       Will show that the council is open and accountable in financial matters
•       Improve the public’s perception of the council

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr James Graham
Those in favour: Mayor Martyn Evans, Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell and Councillors Damian Bester, Jim Elliott, James Graham, Barry Lathey and Scott Shaw
Those against: Councillors Judy Bromfield and Narelle Molan

7.      That the council allocate the necessary staffing resources for the redevelopment and frequent updating of the council website
•       Cr Shaw has spoken previously about making more effective use of the council website and my previous motions seek to do the same, but proper resources will be required.
•       Perhaps funding could be received for a pilot project
•       Could be an example to other councils

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr James Elliott
CARRIED unanimously

8.      That the salary range of all staff earning a package in excess of  $75,000 be listed in the annual report
•       Local Government Act provides for this to occur.
•       General Mananger advised me at last AGM that the council was able to determine which positions were listed. This is an opportunity to do so

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr Scott Shaw

Those in favour: Mayor Martyn Evans, Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell and Councillors Damian Bester, James Graham and Scott Shaw
Those against:  Councillors Jim Elliott and Barry Lathey
Abstained: Cr Judy Bromfield 

9.      That council no longer avail itself of the services of Mr James Crotty

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
No Seconder
MOTION LAPSED for want of a seconder (Why not ask them all why?)

10.     That the council advertise all workshops and open them to the public
•       Council is well aware of my position on workshops
•       Despite assurances it is plainly obvious that decisions have been made in workshops. This is hidden by the use of terms such as “reaching an understanding”. Whatever you call it, it is against the law and it must stop now
•       The Local Government Act does provide for workshops to be held, but it is silent on the subject of participation. So there is no legal reason why the public must continue to be excluded

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr James Graham
Those in favour: Mayor Martyn Evans, Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell and Councillors Damian Bester, Judy Bromfield, Jim Elliott, James Graham, Narelle Molan and Scott Shaw
Abstained: Cr Barry Lathey

11.     That all correspondence addressed to “the mayor and councillors” be opened, duplicated and forwarded to all councilors
•       An obvious thing, but appears not to occur in all cases
•       Increase flow of information and improve public confidence in the council

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr Craig Farrell (deputy mayor)
Those in favour: Mayor Martyn Evans, Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell and Councillors Damian Bester, Jim Elliott, James Graham, Barry Lathey, Narelle Molan and Scott Shaw
Those against: Cr Judy Bromfield

12.     That all mail addressed to the mayor, deputy mayor, or individual councillors be forwarded to the named addressee, unopened, and that each councillor keep a record of such mail received
•       This should not need to be stated
•       A federal offence to interfere in the delivery of mail
•       Famous example of a private letter about a legal matter being opened, copied and simply popped into a councillors pigeon hole, where it sat for a week until the councillor was notified of the existence of the letter by the press

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr Craig Farrell (deputy mayor)
CARRIED (votes to come)

13.     That a review be conducted of the process followed in the recent review of the general manager’s performance
•       Not about a new review of the general manager
•       Aim is to ensure a proper process was followed
•       Any interested councillor should take part so long as they have no perceived interests, such as common membership of a fraternal organisation, for example

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr Scott Shaw
LOST 8-1 (why not ask them all why?)

14.     That a special meeting be held to conduct a line-by-line analysis of the Royal Derwent Hospital Development Reserve financial report and that the general manager, accountant, Valley Vision project officer and Valley Vision chairman be requested to attend and prepared to answer questions about the contents of the report
•       I will not go so far as to say money has been misappropriated, but there have been some very poor decisions made in the management of millions of dollars of Willow Court funding
•       Some people believe we must put the past behind us and move on
•       I say we cannot move on until we know what happened.
•       Those who do not learn from their history are condemned to repeat it.
•       Want to determine the full extent of the mismanagement of the Willow Court funds
•       It seems anything and everything connected with Valley Vision has been charged to the Willow Court account. This includes window washing at the Valley Vision office, doctors bills, $200,000 of office
refurbishment, and accommodation in Spain.
•       Will seek to have inappropriate billings and transfers refunded, whether it is from the council’s consolidated revenue if appropriate, or from Valley Vision

Cr Barry Lathey declared an interest in this matter and left the room
Valley Vision project officer Ian Brown also left the room

AMENDMENT: Moved by Cr Jim Elliott and Seconded by Cr Craig Farrell that the words "line-by-line" be deleted from the motion. The amendment was put to the vote and carried, and thus became the motion.

The motion was then put and Carried (votes to follow).

15.     That the council resume direct authority for Willow Court and its redevelopment and that the project officer provide a written update at each monthly council meeting, in open session
•       Time to make a move
•       Valley Vision has had about 10 years and has failed dismally
•       Bring it right into council
•       It appears that the Valley Vision project officer is also the council’s economic development officer, so there will be no loss of momentum or corporate memory
•       Must work with the community. Need to formalise the status of the Willow Court working party and open it to the public as was originally promised

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr Craig Farrell (deputy mayor)
CARRIED (votes to come)

16.     That council develops a plan to open Willow Court to visitors as soon as possible
•       The council and Valley Vision have clearly failed in their “big bang” approach to redeveloping the site
•       Council and Valley Vision constantly make reference to Port Arthur but have clearly learned nothing from the experience of that historic site
•       No part of the Port Arthur site would ever be sold, yet the council continues to seek to dispose of more sections at Willow Court
•       I call for the building known as Allonah to be removed from the list of properties up for sale
•       I do not support the desire to sell the buildings known as Derwent, Esperance, Bronte and Glenora, but if I lose that argument we must ensure that the associated car parks are not sold. We must not get ourselves into a repeat of the ridiculous sale of roads and footpaths on the site.
•       Must start small. Make the site safe and open it up.
•       From little things, big things grow

MOVED by Cr Damian Bester
SECONDED by Cr Scott Shaw
CARRIED (votes to come)

And at 8.40pm, after two hours of intensive debate, the council moved on to the next item on the agenda.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My committees

AT last week's council meeting I was elected to represent the council on the following committees:

Bushy Park Swimming Pool Special Committee
Environmental Management Special Committee
New Norfolk Business Alliance Special Committee
Derwent Valley Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Maydena Community Association
Land Sale Committee
Lyell Highway Committee
Community Grants Committee

I am looking forward to meeting the other members of these committees and working with them to achieve their goals. It will also be my ambition to better promote the good work done by these committees.

I was also elected as a proxy to Cr James Graham on the Lachlan Reserve Special Committee.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Oh what a night

I MUST admit that I never expected my first council meeting to last more than five hours, but it was great! As Councillor Bromfield said, it was just like old times. She was right. The level of debate had not been seen since the days of mayor Tim Morris and earlier. Under the last couple of mayors, a long meeting was one that lasted more than an hour.

My putting up 16 motions-on-notice was probably a little excessive in retrospect, but I appreciate the support of my council colleagues in endorsing 14 of them. I was disappointed that two items failed to win their support and will have more to say about that in coming days.

In truth, most of my motions were hardly rocket science. They were simple common sense motions about the way the council provides information to the public. They were not about providing additional information, just providing it in a more effective way - online. Some councillors were rightly concerned about the extra burden this will place on council staff, so I have volunteered to assist in this process until the council can allocate the necessary staffing resources.

A closed meeting was held after the open session. I objected to this, and expressed my concern that the agenda for the closed meeting was withheld until the last minute, leaving councillors no time to consider its contents. I voted against the two items on the closed agenda.

This week's ad

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's a start

I HAVE tabled 16 "motions on notice" for this week's council meeting. All relate to my stated objectives of bringing openness, accountability and transparency to the council. I welcome any comments and will report back on my success or otherwise. I have emailed the full list to all councillors (with the exception of Cr Lathey who does not have email) and invited their comments too. Only Cr Elliott has responded so far, and while he does not agree with all of my motions, his comments were thoughtful and considered.

1. That the detail of Public Questions, and the answer given, be recorded in the minutes of that council meeting.

2. That the answers to Public Questions taken on notice be recorded in the minutes of the subsequent council meeting.

3. That the detail of councillor Questions Without Notice, and the answer given, be recorded in the minutes of that meeting.

4. That all attachments referred to in council agendas be made available online with the agenda prior to the meeting.

5. That the minutes of all council committees and Special Committees be made available online.

6. That the monthly financial reports be made available online.

7. That the council allocate the necessary staffing resources for the redevelopment and frequent updating of the council website.

8. That the salary range of all staff earning a package in excess of $75,000 be listed in the annual report.

9. That council no longer avail itself of the services of Mr James Crotty.

10. That council advertise all workshops and open them to the public.

11. That all correspondence addressed to "the mayor and councillors" be opened, duplicated and forwarded to all councillors.

12. That all mail addressed to the mayor, deputy mayor or individual councillors be forwarded to the named addressee, unopened, and that each councillor keep a record of such mail received.

13. That a review be conducted of the process followed in the recent review of the general manager's performance.

14. That a special meeting be held to conduct a line-by-line analysis of the Royal Derwent Hospital Development Reserve financial report and that the general manager, accountant, Valley Vision project officer and Valley Vision chairman be requested to attend and prepared to answer questions about the contents of the report.

15. That council resume direct authority for Willow Court and its redevelopment and that the project officer provide a written update at each monthly council meeting, in open session.

16. That council develops a plan to open Willow Court to visitors as soon as possible.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not crazy, just a little unwell

AT long last the chickenpox spots are starting to disappear. I have no idea where they came from but I'm hearing that the illness is rife in local schools, and considering my education role at work, that could be a likely source of infection. My commiserations to those parents who are coping with sick children at home. Anyhow, the lethargy has now largely left me and it's time to get on with things. For anyone who missed it, here's my last newspaper advertisement. It appeared in the Derwent Valley Gazette on November 4, and what a cracker that issue was! Reporter Blair Richards did an excellent job wrapping up the council election. If you missed it, I'm sure there are still copies at their office in Burnett St, although you'd be wise to phone ahead. I've just drafted my advertising for this week's Gazette. PS: You need to click on the advertisement to see the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beam me up, spotty

A THANK-YOU and an apology to all those people who have responded to my community survey published in last week's Derwent Valley Gazette. The day before last week's Gazette hit the streets, I awoke to find myself covered in spots from head to toe. This was soon diagnosed as chickenpox, with the prize of two weeks off work. This has knocked me for six, and today is the first time I've been able to drag myself off the couch to respond to some emails and acknowledge the many responses I have received to the little survey form published last week.

So, thanks to everyone who has responded so far. Please keep them coming. I will publish the results here, as well as in the Gazette and at the next council meeting. For those who have sent their response as emails, I'm sorry for not responding to date, but I will do so this illness subsides.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A pleasant surprise... and a mystery

WHILE passing the reception desk at work this morning, I wondered who might be the recipient of this lovely gift (right). So it was an unexpected surprise when our chief receptionist Ros told me it was mine. The attached card simply said "congratulations councillor" and did not name the sender. So, my thanks to whoever it was, sincere thanks indeed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Migloo makes it at last

AFTER several attempts, our friend James "Migloo" Graham has at long last won a seat on the Derwent Valley Council. Councillor-elect Graham will bring an important new perspective to the council table and I look forward to working with him, and our new mayor and deputy, to bring about many of our common ideals.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A new beginning for our Valley

A QUICK note to thank all those friends who entrusted me with their number one vote in today's Derwent Valley Council election. I am humbled by the level of support, which at present appears more than sufficient to see me elected in second spot, just after Scott Shaw. Scott was not successful in his attempt to be elected mayor, but he and I are equally excited by the boundless prospects ahead of us all, under the leadership team led by new mayor Martyn Evans and new deputy mayor Craig Farrell. There will be more to say in the days and weeks ahead, but for now, my sincere thanks once again. I will not let you down.

Martyn, Craig and I posed for this photo as we were leaving the tally room at Elwick an hour or so ago.

Monday, October 26, 2009

There's still time to vote (if you're quick)

WHILE the time has now passed for popping your council ballot papers into the post, there is still a chance to have your say by dropping your papers into the ballot box at the  Derwent Valley Council Chambers in Circle St, New Norfolk by 10am tomorrow (Tuesday).

At the time of writing, just over 55% of eligible voters have returned their voting slips by post. This puts the Derwent Valley in 9th place out of the 27 councils participating in the year's election, and just ahead of the state average of 49.75% participation in the election.

Counting of the votes will start later tomorrow at the tally room at the Elwick Racecourse and early results should be available mid-evening. Members of the public can join in the fun at the public area in the racecourse bar, where you might even see me later in the evening. Results will also be available online at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fifth and final ad

Here's the moment you've all been waiting for - the last of those annoying election ads with the bright yellow backgrounds :-)

I've saved my main theme for last. We need more information from the council. On all topics. The council must also become more transparent in its dealings. If elected I will have the council issue a regular newsletter, or do it myself.

Fourth newspaper ad

Climate change can't be ignored. It's the elephant in the room. I'm no expert on this topic, but the climate is changing. I don't know whether we caused it or if it's naturally occurring, but we can all contribute to a greener and healthier way of life. Our council could lead the way, reducing its power usage, buying greener vehicles and planting climate-friendly gardens. Who knows... maybe we could have a municipal wind farm or solar scheme.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Willow Court group makes good progress, but...

THE members of the recently-established Willow Court working party held a productive meeting this evening, well structured and kept in order by convener Graham McLean who even came equipped with a whistle to blow when I made too much noise on one occasion. It certainly stopped me in my tracks for a moment. The working party presented the outcomes of its first three meetings and provided a 24-page report at the end of the meeting. The group has made good progress in a short time, much more progress than the council has made in nine years. Its main recommendation is to proceed with security measures without delay. After a little encouragement, the council agreed to add this as a late agenda item at next week's council meeting.

My only misgiving, which I expressed to the meeting, is that the working party has decided to meet in private and seems content to keep doing so. This is contrary to the spirit in which the working party was established. Several members of the group defended this decision and none expressed a contrary view. One member wanted to know why I had not volunteered to join the group if I was so interested in its workings. Once he permitted me to answer, I told the meeting the same thing I've told the other people who have asked the same question: Quite simply, my presence on the working party would hinder its progress while the council remains under its present administration.

Curiously, the working group's meetings appear to have had several uninvited guests, with one member expressing frustration that there was no way to prevent the interlopers from attending. I wonder who they could be? And for once, it's not me :-)

A humble thank you

MANY thanks to those who put their names to a message of support in last week's Derwent Valley Gazette. I value your support and will send my personal thanks to each, in addition to this public acknowledgement. I have been overwhelmed by the many kind messages of support received, and I hope that I may be able to return the favour by providing you with effective representation on the council after the election results are known next week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where is the mayor?

THE town seems to be abuzz with scuttlebutt about the absence of the mayor from key events in the last week. A couple of our councillors attended the Federal Government's "community cabinet" at New Town on Tuesday night, but our mayor was nowhere to be seen. Given the council's fractured relationship with the Federal Government (people do get cranky when you sue them), it might have been an opportunity to mend some bridges and perhaps invite the Prime Minister to visit Willow Court.

On Saturday morning there was no mayor at the unveiling of the municipality's first "Liberty Swing", a terrific initiative of the Variety Club, New Norfolk Lions Club and the Derwent Valley Council, to provide an opportunity for children in wheelchairs to experience the fun and recreation of having a swing.

On Saturday afternoon, all candidates but one were assembled at the Lions Club to address an enthusiastic group of about 30 voters on topics relating to this month's election. The mayor had sent his apologies, as he had an extra-ordinary general meeting to attend. The organisers had extended an invitation to the mayor to call in at any time to address the voters, but by the time the event concluded at about 4pm, he had not arrived.

The organisers of a function at the Bush Inn at 3pm on Saturday are said to have been more fortunate in winning the mayor's patronage. I cannot speak to this myself, as I was at the "meet the candidates" forum.

A question for your preferred mayoral candidate

NEARLY everyone I speak with asks me who I prefer for the office of mayor. I'm quite open with the fact that I could work happily and productively with any of the three challengers for the position. Sadly, the incumbent has made his attitude towards me quite clear at the last 12 or so council meetings.

A question that should be asked of every mayoral candidate is: how much time are they prepared to dedicate to the role? The mayor of the Derwent Valley receives untied allowances totalling about $30,000 as well as reimbursement for phone calls, travel, etc. For $30,000 we deserve a mayor who is available to us all at the council chambers several days each week, on a scheduled basis.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Help me win election brochure bingo

AFTER collecting four more leaftlets at today's candidate forum, I am two flyers short of winning Election Brochure Bingo. All I need are the flyers from The Engine Driver and The Deputy Mayor. If you can help, please drop the appropriate brochure in my letterbox :-)

Address to today's "meet the candidates" function

All this week I’ve been unsure about exactly what to say to you today. But just this morning, as I drove over pot-holed streets and dodged the giant planter boxes, it occurred to me that despite it all, I really do love this town. I love the valley that surrounds it. I love the drive to Strathgordon at the far end of our municipality. I love to visit Mt Field, and I love taking visitors to the snow at the top of the Lake Dobson Road.

I love being able to do business where I know the shopkeepers and they know me.  Our business people are not anonymous folk seeking to make a quick buck. They are local people like us, with a long-term commitment. They are Tony and Michelle, Susan and Graham, Leigh and Pauline, Joanne, Shane, Jill, Ray and Lesley, to name a few.

I love our place in the nation’s history as one of the oldest settlements in Australia. I love knowing that Ikey Solomon and other convicts walked the same streets as I do. And I love the fact that we have Australia’s oldest hospital right here on this site, but that’s where the love affair ends.

As a community we have been let down by our council. We have been embarrassed by our council, and the responsibility lies with some of my fellow candidates here today, as well as those who are not here.

Developing Willow Court is not beyond the abilities of our community. But the council has not wanted the community to help. And what a mess the council has made on its own. Money has been lost, wasted and worse.

I am ashamed of the state of our streets, roads and footpaths. We must rebuild our roads in the proper fashion, and not the lick and a promise they have received over the last decade.

We must take pride in our town and rebuild our infrastructure so it matches the beauty of our natural surroundings. We must stop the removal of trees that enhance the natural beauty of our district, and we must plant more trees.

Every day should be Clean-Up Australia Day in the Derwent Valley. Council vehicles travel the Lyell Highway every day, but for more than a week a mattress has been lying in a culvert near the motor yacht club. Give us the tools and we can all help keep our valley beautiful.

As a journalist, I have an inbuilt hatred of secrecy.  I am seeking election to the council in order to open it up. If elected I will encourage the council to issue a regular newsletter. If it does not, I will do it myself. I will also communicate via my own website and through advertisements in the Gazette that I will pay for myself.

Many of you here today already know my story. Some of you know me as the baby born at the New Norfolk Hospital; or the student of our local schools; or the member of Mrs Butterworth's drama club; or the keen watcher of movies at the Plaza Cinema; as the young customer of Hunter’s Shop, returning Coke bottles to raise 20c for a bag of mixed lollies; as the cub scout; as the St John Ambulance man; as the amateur historian; or as the writer of your story in the Gazette or the Mercury.

You know that I am an honest person who will do my best to represent you on our council. I will not let you down and it will be my honour to be of service should you choose to elect me.

I thank Ngaire Glover for her great initiative in organising this event and I thank you for listening.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feedback on my planter pot stance

NEW NORFOLK'S Graham Chapman has been in touch with a response to my comments about the Burnett St planter pots and he has agreed to share his comments online. He writes:

I believe from an article in the Gazette that the main motivation for the Burnett St pots was traffic calming rather than beautification. Granted they may be too high for the purpose, they should probably be round instead of square, and many people have a problem with the colour. Nevertheless I think you have overlooked the fact of the traffic calming objective, and the benefits to be had from traffic calming in Burnett St.

Traffic calming helps reduce the extent of hooning. I suspect it is because hoons don't like having to drive slowly and will pick another street. If they do this is a good thing for the pedestrian users of the street. The higher the pedestrian use, the more the benefit from traffic calming. Since New Norfolk has a proud history of hooning up and down High and Burnett Sts, I think traffic calming this is a good thing, to be applauded, explained and promoted by our civic leaders, not condemned because everybody else does.

One final point - traffic calming devices take many forms. Road humps annoy people (they get the hump?!), so widening the median strip and narrowing the road to one lane persuades drivers to slow down and drive more carefully, so the whole point of the devices is to make them large and to get in the way!

It would be useful and constructive if Council could provide statistics on traffic accident rates before and after the changes. Hopefully when you get elected you will do that for us :-)

Graham Chapman

Third newspaper ad

THE Lyell Highway and Bridgewater Bridge have been big topics for many years now. The council has dropped the ball on the issue of a four-lane highway to Granton and gave its support to the recent (pointless) effort on the highway. When I asked about this, the council it admitted it had not asked about overtaking lanes until the roadworks had started. Not everyone agrees with the need for a dual highway, but at the very least we must resume the fight for more overtaking lanes.

Meanwhile we are back where we started on the Bridgewater Bridge, despite the Federal Government once allocating more than  $100 million for a new bridge. We must renew our efforts with vigor, to make sure we get the tallest bridge possible. The council has not been loud enough on this topic, and the bridge remains broken. Instead of suing the Federal Government over the council's own mistakes, it should pursue a co-operative approach for everyone's benefit.

Second newspaper ad

LAST week there was some suggestion that my family must have shares in the Derwent Valley Gazette, with me smiling happily from my bright yellow advertisement on the front page, and dad looking altogether too cheerful in the ad for Millingtons. I can't speak for the funeral mob, but I'm certainly being charged full price for my election advertising - and they even wanted the money upfront, 20 years service to the company or not ;-)    Anyhow, I can assure everyone that it's still the Murdoch family which owns the Gazette, and not the Besters.

I've run several more ads in today's Gazette, and while the Willow Court topic doesn't really need much of an introduction, here's what I think:

The Willow Court historic site has massive potential and could be developed, with due sensitivity, to the great benefit of both our history and our economy. The council must open Willow Court to visitors as soon as possible.

The council frequently compares the site with Port Arthur, but has failed to learn the lessons of Port Arthur. Willow Court is at the same point Port Arthur was a few years after it closed in 1877. At that time all the famous buildings there were completely intact. It was neglect, vandalism and ignorance that turned them into ruins. We are going down the same road.

Several members of the council have acknowledged that the money for Willow Court has been mismanaged. Some, quite notably, have not. One in particular has said he has not thoroughly inspected the books, despite $2 million being spent with no obvious result.

The council has spent a fortune on expert advice but has not attended to basic matters such as electricity supply and site security. Precious historic items have been stolen or destroyed. The council must also explain why hundreds of thousands of dollars of Willow Court money has been used to fund Valley Vision.

The way forward need not be complicated. Until funding is found for a big redevelopment, the council could provide basic visitor services on the site, produce a brochure, erect some information panels, and invite people to visit and perhaps enjoy a picnic on the lawn. Isn’t that the way we used to visit Port Arthur, before it received its own multi-million dollar makeover?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meet the candidates

CONGRATULATIONS to Ngaire Glover for her initiative in organising the upcoming  "Meet the Candidates" afternoon for this Saturday. I'll make a few brief remarks and then listen to what the other candidates have to say. I'm particularly looking forward to hearing what questions the public has to ask. The forum will start at 1pm, in the Lions Club rooms at Willow Court. Since the closure of the internal roads at Willow Court (which council could possibly have done that?) the only access to the Lions Club is via the  George St entrance, opposite the RSL Club.

Entry will be by  gold coin donation to cover the venue hire. The name of each candidate will be drawn from a box to determine the order of speaking. Each candidate will have five minutes to speak, followed by five minutes for questions from the audience. Time limits will be maintained by the chairman,  Geoff Dodge JP, retired general manager of the Brighton Council. Tea and coffee will be provided by the Lions Club. I understand all candidates but one will be there.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Election brochure bingo

ELECTION brochures are starting to land in local letterboxes, and many Derwent Valley residents will receive mine over the next few days. I decided not to litter the landscape with election posters, but I've put a bit of effort into producing a brochure which I hope will provide voters with a clear picture of what I'm standing for.

For a bit of fun, I'm going to play "election brochure bingo", and I'll list each candidate's brochure here as they arrive at my home in New Norfolk. I've got several already, and I notice one of the mayoral candidates has issued his second flyer today. The Electoral Act prohibits me from naming candidates here without their permission, so I'll invent a nom-de-plume for each one.

Received so far are brochures from:
  1. The Journalist (me :-)
  2. The Real Estate Agent/Reiki Master (x2)
  3. The Farmer/Public Servant/Quarry Owner
  4. The Firefighter/Electrician/Court Attendant
  5. The Drycleaner/Fisherman
  6. The Buckmeister
  7. The Health Inspector
  8. The Friend of David Bartlett
  9. The Canadian
  10. The Former Councillor
  11. The Engine Driver
If anyone receives brochures from all nine councillor candidates, three deputy mayoral candidates and four mayoral candidates before I do, please call out BINGO, and send me an email. The Electoral Act also prohibits me from offering a prize, but you will receive my hearty congratulations or commiserations, depending on how you feel about electoral material ;-)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Planter boxes obscure drivers' valley vision

I'VE been asked about my position on those controversial planter boxes in Burnett St, New Norfolk, after my "declaration of war" in my advertisement on the front page of last week's Derwent Valley Gazette. Like many people, I have no problem with the concept of beautifying our streets. The idea of placing mature trees in pots was a good one, but something went wrong along the way. The expected circular pots ended up being the large pink pillboxes we are all now familiar with. The trees weren't quite as mature as some might have anticipated.

As they stand, the planter boxes are a hazard to traffic and to pedestrian safety. Nearly all of the boxes have battle scars providing evidence of the poor execution of the original idea. Their placement was ill-considered as several of the boxes block the sight-lines of most motorists. The height of the boxes is another problem as they are just the right size to hide a child from view.

The common-sense solution is to remove the boxes and replace them with the smaller, rounder, POTS we were expecting. The cost should be borne by those responsible for the current debarcle.

In this age of recycling we might even be able to find a new use for those pink boxes. Perhaps they could be used for a sewerage plant at Westerway!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First newspaper ad

THOSE planter boxes in Burnett St, New Norfolk, have certainly been the talk of the town over the last year or so, which made them a good topic for my first election advertisement in the Derwent Valley Gazette today. In many ways, the planter boxes are symbolic of the council's misplaced priorities. The expensive pink boxes are in stark contrast to the poorly maintained street itself. For a long time I've said that the role of councillors is to set policies and not worry about potholes, but the state of our roads, streets and footpaths is beyond a joke and now cannot be ignored.

Whether I'm elected or not, the council must allocate a larger share of its budget to roadworks and it must explore all opportunities for state and federal funding, including low-interest loans if possible. Those councillors seeking re-election should explain what they have been doing while our roads have been going to ruin.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A short thank-you note

A QUICK post to acknowledge the messages of goodwill received since announcing my candidature for the Derwent Valley Council, in particular the offers of places for posters to be erected. I've long been of the opinion that election billboards are a blot on the landscape, so I will gratefully decline those offers. However, I have been told about a small poster seen in the window of a gold coloured Rover. Who could that be?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And they're off

HERE is the list of candidates for the 2009 Derwent Valley Council election. Councillors are elected for four year terms, with half of each council facing the voters every two years. This year nine candidates are vying for the four positions available. The positions of mayor and deputy mayor are elected every two years. The candidates are, in the order named by the Tasmanian Electoral Commission:
Councillor (nine candidates - four to be elected)     
BESTER, Damian Rodney, of New Norfolk     
BINGLEY, Phillip, of New Norfolk     
GRAHAM, James, of New Norfolk     
LATHEY, Barry, of New Norfolk     
MOORES, Alexander, of Molesworth     
NICHOLSON, Tony, of Lachlan     
SHAW, Scott Darrell, of New Norfolk     
SHOOBRIDGE, Wayne Anthony, of New Norfolk     
SMITH, Raymond Allan, of Lachlan     

Mayor (four candidates)     
ELLIOTT, Jim, of Bridgewater     
EVANS, Martyn, of Magra     
NICHOLSON, Tony, of Lachlan     
SHAW, Scott Darrell, of New Norfolk

Deputy Mayor (three candidates)         
FARRELL, Craig, of New Norfolk     
LATHEY, Barry, of New Norfolk     
SHOOBRIDGE, Wayne Anthony, of New Norfolk

Local council elections are conducted by postal ballot. Election material (including the ballot paper) mailed directly to each elector. This process is due to start on October 13 and every elector should have their ballot packs by October 16. All ballots are returned to the Tasmanian Electoral Commission in the post (as a postal vote) and must be received by 10am on October 27 in order to be counted.

Here is the news

Thanks for visiting my campaign website for the 2009 Derwent Valley Council election. I'll be using this blog to let the community know a bit more about me; about some of my views on local issues; and to comment on matters relating to the municipal elections. I welcome your comments, questions and feedback, and hope that you will decide to Vote 1 Damian Bester.