Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Burnett Street - the way forward

THOSE planter boxes in Burnett St, New Norfolk, have been the talk of the town (and beyond) for nearly 18 months now. Other than one anonymous comment on this blog, I have not heard one person express their satisfaction with the Burnett St makeover. This is not an invitation for a flurry of anonymous posts supporting the planter boxes. If you do support them and want the street left as it is, I'll gladly report this to the next council meeting as your elected representative - provided you email your remarks to me at, including your actual name and address for verification on the Electoral Roll. Anonymous posts to my blog will not be considered.

The following is the text of my written report to last week's council meeting:


The purpose of this report is to obtain approval from Council for an investigation into the feasibility of relocating and replacing the Burnett Street planter boxes during the forthcoming Burnett St resurfacing works.

In late August and early September 2008, Council implemented the Burnett Street component of the “Main Street Makeover Project” managed by Valley Vision. This saw the construction of cement plinths at intervals along the length of the street and the subsequent installation of large square planter boxes, into which were planted ornamental pear trees.

The intent of the project was to beautify the street by a continuation of the existing tree-lined The Avenue. Unforeseen issues with the project have turned an apparently large section of the community against the planter boxes.

These issues have included:
•    Reduced sight-lines for turning/entering vehicles
•    Traffic hazards
•    Damage to vehicles and the boxes themselves
•    Graffiti
•    Pedestrian safety due to the height of the boxes
•    Patches in the road where planter boxes have been removed
•    Damage to the roadway due to traffic being shifted onto the side surfaces which had been constructed for parking (not heavy traffic)
•    Twice-daily watering required due to the boxes having a solid foundation.

The planter boxes were a major issue during the recent council election campaign, with frequent calls for their removal.  The main issue of concern appears to have been the placement of the boxes (and their large stature) into the middle of the road rather than at the edges of the carriageway.

I suggest the following for councillors’ consideration:
That the appropriate council staff investigate:
•    the incorporating of the relocation and replacement of the planter boxes into the forthcoming resurfacing of Burnett St.
•    the removal and storage of the planter boxes for re-use.
•    The replanting of the trees into circular pots (such as an up-ended concrete pipe of suitable diameter).
•    The installation of the circular pots in the ground if it can be shown this will not result in future root-damage to the road surface.
•    The installation of the circular pots at the edge of the road, straddling the footpath and the carriageway.
•    The cost of the above proposals.
•    The total number of trees available for planting/replanting.
•    The impact of this proposal on the grant funds originally received for the project.

There merit in the original proposal to beautify the streetscape in Burnett Street and there is much to be gained from modifying the work already done, rather than disposing of it altogether or maintaining its current unpopular configuration.

If you would like to read what other councillors had to say about this idea, head over to the New Norfolk News.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Willow Court - the future

I SINCERELY thank my council colleagues for their support of three motions I put forward at this week's monthly meeting. I'll report on each of those motions in the next few days, and will start with Willow Court.

Now three months into my four-year term on council, I brought forward this suggestion after spending quite some time trying to adapt an earlier Willow Court grant application in order to make it suitable for a now-closed Federal funding scheme. Unfortunately, many of the documents required for a such a grant were simply not available to us as a council. This included a Business Plan for Willow Court, which is an essential component of almost any grant application.

As council staff are already fully engaged in their daily duties, I proposed that the Council engage someone for three months to consolidate the existing plans, update them where necessary, and to fill the gaps by developing the plans which are lacking. I respect that some will disagree with this type of expenditure, perhaps in the vicinity of $20,000, but I cannot see any alternative, and it is our stated intention to move ahead with Willow Court without delay.

The following is the text of my report to the council meeting.

Willow Court Project Management Consolidation
The purpose of this report is to obtain approval from Council for the engagement of a consultant or contractor on a three-month term to consolidate all plans, reports and documents relating to the Willow Court Barracks Precinct; to develop a business plan for the Barracks Precinct; and to create a development strategy for the precinct.

The recent resignation of the council’s economic development staff at Valley Vision has created a need for the temporary employment of a consultant or contractor to consolidate the many studies, plans and reports relating to the Willow Court site.

In particular, a comprehensive Business Plan is required. This document would improve Council’s chances of obtaining suitable grant funds for the development of the historic site.

The essential duties would include:
•    consolidating all plans, reports, studies and documents relating to the Willow Court Barracks Precinct
•    developing a comprehensive business plan for the Barracks Precinct
•    creating a step-by-step development strategy to have the Barracks open to visitors as soon as possible; and the ongoing development of the remainder of the precinct (Frescati, Bronte, Carlton and Alonnah Houses)
•    making a recommendation about the future employment requirements of the precinct
•    making a start on the development strategy, once approved by Council, in any time remaining

A comprehensive Business Plan and Development Strategy are essential components of any future grant application or request for government or corporate support. An updated Development Strategy will also provide Council with the necessary directions to undertake a step-by-step development of the site in the event major funding is not immediately forthcoming.

Applicants for the position should have:
•    A passion for the site
•    A proven track record
•    Excellent time-management skills
•    An ability to quickly but thoroughly review and prioritise existing plans and reports etc
•    A demonstrated ability to produce Business Plans and Development Strategies
•    A commitment to the Derwent Valley

The three-month contract could be funded from the Royal Derwent Hospital (Willow Court) Reserve Fund.

So, that was my report. Again, I thank my fellow councillors for offering their unanimous support. I look forward to seeing the position filled as soon as possible.

If you would like to read what other councillors had to say about this idea, head over to the New Norfolk News.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Cup Of Tea, A Bex and A Good Lie Down

MY planned friendly jibe at Councillor Elliott's "dress code" remarks fell flat when Jim turned out to be an apology for tonight's council meeting. All councilmen wore ties with the exception of Deputy Mayor Farrell who dispensed with his when he noticed Cr Elliott's empty seat, and Cr Graham was again wearing his kilt, sporran and dinner-shirt ensemble.

It was a most productive meeting, with all councillors (and a gallery of 11 onlookers) in good humour. This was especially evident when all present kindly forgave my confusion over which item I was debating at one stage. This was particularly embarrassing because I had got myself into a muddle over one of my own motions. It reminded me that the same thing occasionally happened to my friend and former councillor Richard Parker, so it can't be all bad.

So, instead of giving you a council report tonight, I'm going to get myself a "Cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down"... and perhaps watch what looks like an interesting Canadian movie on SBS, or perhaps another episode of Battlestar Gallactica on DVD :-)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bester backflip?

READER Pauline asks whether I have done a backflip on the issue of the sale of the buildings arround the oval at Willow Court.

1. I am informed that at the November Council Meeting you called for the buildings around the oval not to be sold. In a recent addition of the Gazette you are quoted as saying something like let's sell the buildings for community benefit. Is the quote correct and secondly how do you justify this backflip in such a short space of time? Please specify the Community benefits which apparently are now available however were not available in November?
2. You have made several statements about the importance of community consultation. I can only assume that you consulted with local residents when you called for not selling the buildings.
Please describe how you consulted with those same people when you did your backflip?

Please explain..
In your first paragraph of Free Speech you claim that you have published all blogs without fear or favour. Given the conversations on your site this afternoon and your backflip on the buildings around the oval how are we to believe that you have published all postings in the past? 

Firstly, welcome Pauline and thanks for your question. As a general remark to all readers, don't rely on what others tell you I have said (or even what it says in the Gazette), come along to a council meeting or workshop and hear it first-hand for yourself. As my colleague Cr James Graham used to say, "Get amongst it". Most of my remarks at council meetings are considered and prepared in advance, and are posted afterwards on this blog, so there is no need to depend on hearsay.

On to the answers to Pauline's questions.

1. At my first council meeting, in late November, I had this to say about the buildings next to the Oval (or read the whole thing here):  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.

1a. I do not have the relevant issue of the Gazette handy, but it quoted me from my blog where I commented on the decision to seek tenders for the sale of the oval, with or without the buildings: 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.   Further on I wrote: "I successfully gained agreement that the car park on The Avenue not be offered for sale"   and "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)."

2. I have not performed a backflip. My position on the sale of the buildings has not changed and I continue to speak in exactly the same way. The problem is that I have not been successful in convincing enough councillors to vote my way in this matter. Even so, at this stage the council has not decided to sell the buildings, only to seek tenders. When the council meets to consider any offers, I will continue to say that I do not wish to see those buildings sold.

2a. I consider myself to be in a constant state of community consultation, whether it be through my advertising in the Derwent Valley Gazette, this blog, via email, by telephone, in the street, in a shop or cafe or anywhere else. I believe I can safely say that I consult more widely than almost any other councillor with the probable exception of Cr Scott Shaw. Indeed, which other councillors have provided an opportunity for comment or questions in the way I have?

To address your final point, I am not obliged to publish any person's comments on my blog, but I do so in nearly every circumstance. This has been adequately discussed already. My comments policy is far broader than that employed by the Mercury and the Gazette, and on the subject of the Gazette, how many Letters to the Editor have you seen published in it lately?

I say in all sincerity that I value your comments and questions, even more so because you have been prepared to at least provide your given name in this case. If you see me around I hope that you will make yourself known to me, so I can say: "I'm pleased to make your acquaintance Pauline." If there are any matters I can assist you with, please email me on

Cheers to all readers,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I love free speech

LIKE George W. Bush, I love free speech. It is an integral part of our democracy. My recent post "Council starts making Friends" has drawn a diverse range of opinions and I have delighted in reading and posting them all. And I have published them without fear or favour, without alteration or editing of any kind, and I have refrained from commenting on people's personal opinions.

Unfortunately several anonymous respondents have today commenced making reference to my mother. I can assure all readers that the writer "E.F.B." is not my mother, nor even a relative, which is unusual in the Derwent Valley. My mother's initials are J.M.B. and while she once purchased an overlocker on eBay, I do not believe she is a blogger.

My mother has committed no offence other than giving birth to an opinionated son and I will not tolerate nor publish any further derogatory references to her.

The intemperate remarks of many of the anonymous posters reflects my view that the past failures of the council and Valley Vision have driven a wedge between many in the Derwent Valley and caused good people to trade insults with one another.

I am looking forward to working with any person wanting to develop Willow Court and advance the Derwent Valley. What say you?

You are warmly invited...

THE monthly Derwent Valley Council meeting will be held this Thursday (January 21) at 6.30pm in the New Norfolk Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public and I look forward to seeing you there. At the start of each monthly meeting there is time for members of the public to ask questions of the council and I encourage everyone to take up this opportunity. If I can be of any assistance, please don't hesitate to send me an email at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Council starts making Friends

THE first steps towards establishing a Friends of Willow Court group were taken tonight when the Derwent Valley Council sat down with the Willow Court working party for fruitful discussions. The meeting was a result of a motion I put to last month's council meeting, calling on the council to formalise its relationship with the working party by recognising it as a special advisory committee.

My colleague Councillor Judy Bromfield suggested the alternative of asking the working party to become a Friends group, and Mayor Martyn Evans made the necessary arrangements for tonight's meeting to discuss the matter.

Members of the working party will meet on Monday night to discuss terms of reference for the proposed Friends of Willow Court and I wish them well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Staff quit Valley Vision


Derwent Valley Council

January 11, 2010

Derwent Valley Mayor Martyn Evans today thanked Ian Brown and Katrina Higgins for their efforts over the years working as project manager and project administrator of Valley Vision.

"Mr Brown and Mrs Higgins resigned from their positions following Council's decision to take direct control of the Willow Court precinct, which accounted for the majority of their workload, and the understanding that current employment contracts would end during 2010."

"Valley Vision was originally set up as a means for the community to have greater input into the development and progress of the region" Mayor Evans said, "but now with a new Council and a motion passed at the November 2009 for Council to take control of the area the role of Valley Vision has changed."

"Valley Vision can be proud of its achievement in developing the Spatial Plan with the installation of the roundabout in High Street and the wonderful job in developing TYGA FM community radio" The Mayor stated.

"It is envisaged that Council will take an active role in community development and work with all organisations in the Valley to ensure that the future development of the Valley is well planned and practical."

"The original ideas behind Valley Vision will be retained but updated to better fit with the Derwent Valley area as it is today and this will ensure that Council and the community will work together for the best outcome" said the Mayor. "I believe that Ian and Katrina have other employment and I wish them both well in the future."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Councillors on the town

SEVERAL members of the Derwent Valley Council undertook a site inspection at Willow Court today. Mayor Martyn Evans, Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell and Councillors Barry Lathey, James Graham, Scott Shaw and myself had a good look around the oval precinct - which includes the sportsground and four major adjacent buildings.

One or two of my councillor colleagues mentioned that this should have been done a long time ago, and I certainly don't disagree. It also served as an impromptu brainstorming session and the ideas came thick and fast. I believe that Mayor Evans will set aside most of a future council workshop to document those ideas we came up with today - and more. I will let you know when that session is held, so you can join in and share your ideas for the site.

What did we talk about? Heaps. A men's shed. A community arts centre. A home for the Derwent Valley Players. A "middle school". Cheap rooms for artists, potters, weavers, anyone arty. A gallery space. Restaurants and cafes. A man in a van selling chips and handing out leaflets. Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And the biggie: Regular open days at the barracks sooner rather than later; not wishing our lives away while waiting for a multi-million dollar development. What are your ideas? Share them here as feedback or send me an email.

After our look around Willow Court we reconvened at the courthouse for a working bee to establish a councillor's room there. While there we chatted with two members of the Derwent Valley Regional Arts about their ideas for Willow Court.

From there, Crs Evans, Farrell and myself went for a look at the nearly completed performance stage at Tynwald Park (Cr Shaw had been there earlier in the day). It's not the sound shell we were promised, but it's a bigger and more useful stage which will be enclosed at a later date.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Open doors at council workshop

TWO meetings at the council tonight brought this week's tally to four. At 5.30 I attended a committee meeting to discuss the council's future relationship with Valley Vision - more on this later. At 6.30pm we moved on to the monthly council workshop. This was my first attendance at a workshop so I'm not in a position to compare it to previous sessions, but tonight's was a relaxed but productive workshop, made all the better by the presence of three members of the public.

Mayor Martyn Evans led us through an informal agenda which included discussions of the following topics:
  • A proposed date for a meeting with the Willow Court working party to discuss its future. At last month's council meeting we discussed the options of inviting the working party to become an advisory committee to the council, or perhaps becoming a "Friends of Willow Court" group and we would like to discuss all the options with the good people of that committee.
  • Councillors will have a working bee this weekend to tidy a room in the New Norfolk Courthouse which has been set aside as the "Councillors Room".
  • Councillor Judy Bromfield objected to leaflets being distributed which said "Derwent Valley residents" invited the recepient to a community day in the Florentine Forest. Cr Bromfield said she was a Derwent Valley resident and had made no such invitation.
  • Councillor Jim Elliott followed up a matter relating to a dress code for male councillors, and said there did not appear to be any such dress code, but he believed councillors should dress smartly for monthly council meetings. Mayor Evans agreed.
  • A lack of seating in High St was discussed and at my suggestion it was agreed to refer this to the Access Advisory Committee for its consideration. It was reported that there were spare bench seats in storage.
  • Councillor Scott Shaw suggested that a trial run be conducted of the planter pots proposed for High St. He said that wooden replicas of the boxes, which will be about 900mm square, should be placed in the street for public comment. This is a good idea and I will be moving for the removal of the Burnett St planter boxes when the formal council meeting is held later this month.
  • A draft cost/benefit analysis was provided regarding the opening of the council offices between Christmas and the New Year. I look forward to hearing this debated at a future council meeting so a decision can be made about the viability of continuing the practice.
  • I advised my colleagues of a Chamber of Commerce dinner function coming up next month and invited councillors to attend. Guest speaker will be Mario Cortez, who is redeveloping the former administration building at Willow Court.
  • Mayor Evans reported on the naming of streets at the Gateway estate, a matter which had been raised by Cr Bromfield last month. He advised that Leila St was named after the mother of the property developer Raiph Saadri, and Fowler Court was named after the in-laws of the previous developer, Vic Ernst. General manager Stephen Mackey advised that in future all proposed street names will come before the full council for consideration, as there is an approved list of pioneer settler names for use on local streets.
  • Mayor Martyn Evans and Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell reported on planning for Australia Day and remarked that it was hoped to have an official opening of the new performance stage at Tynwald Park on the same day.
  • We had a general discussion about council mergers and generally agreed that it was important for our council to take an active position and explore all options rather than waiting to have a government decision forced upon us. I commented that I would like the council to consider the option for forming a joint authority with neighbouring councils, so that we could retain our own council and our own identity, while gaining the benefits of a close working relationship and sharing resources with our neighbours, particularly the Central Highlands.
  • Responding to a question from Councillor Jim Elliott, general manager Stephen Mackey said the Southern Tasmanian Councils Authority's proposed merger with the Southern Waste Strategy Authority had not occurred.
  • We discussed providing a green waste collection day and a bulky items collection day in future. A matter for consideration in next year's budget.
  • We looked at plans for a proposed turning lane outside Tynwald Park. I remarked that I would prefer to see a roundabout built, as the single turning lane would only fix half of the problem there. Councillors agreed with my sentiments and Mr Mackey undertook to report this to the State Government.
  • Mr Mackey presented a report on compulsory voting in council elections, a matter which the State Government has proposed and has sought our opinion on. I asked for a report to be presented to the February council meeting so we can debate the matter and make a decision on the council's official position.
  • Councillor James Elliott asked whether it was true that 11 units were proposed to be built on a double-block at Lower Rd, New Norfolk, which was flood prone land. Cr Elliott is correct. The land in question is most certainly a flood plain and becomes soggy most winters. Mr Mackey said he would investigate.
  • A member of the public asked why the Peppermint Hill tip did not open until 10.30am daily. Mr Mackey advised that this was due to operational matters at the site. 
Thanks to everyone for their participation, including the members of the public who attended.

Chamber of Commerce thinking about Christmas

LAST night I represented the council at the monthly committee meeting of the Derwent Valley Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This is a go-ahead committee with good ideas for the future. First-up is a social dinner and guest speaker at the Star and Garter Hotel next month. I had not heard that the Star and Garter had started offering meals, so this was great news and I wish the hotel well.

Responding to comments from local businesses, the Chamber will approach the Derwent Valley Council about the lack of Christmas decorations in the central business district. I was able to report that there seemed to have been some trouble accessing the light poles which had previously been used to support our traditional Christmas decorations. I have also undertaken to make further inquiries.

In a similar vein, I asked whether the Chamber would consider sponsoring a visit by Father Christmas this year, as he had not been seen in the CBD for several years now. This was raised with me by a local resident, who mentioned that there was no longer an opportunity for children to be photographed with Santa. I am pleased to report that it now looks like the Chamber and the good people at the New Norfolk Newsagency will invite Santa to visit High St next Christmas.