Thursday, May 20, 2010

Willow Court handback

HERE'S what I had to say at tonight's council meeting in reference to Cr Elliott's motion to hand back parts of the Willow Court historic site. In the end I was ultimately unsuccessful, being one of only three councillors opposed to the band-back. It was a vigorous debate while still showing due respect to the varying opinions around the table.

Six councillors ultimately supported an amended motion put forward by Cr Bromfield which will see the council enter discussions to negotiate the transfer of the whole of the Willow Court site on terms and conditions that are in the best interest of our community. Councillors Farrell, Lathey and I opposed the motion.

Mr Mayor, councillors already know my position on this. In fact Cr Elliott in his supporting documentation proves what great strides we have made in just the last few months and why we should continue on our current path instead of admitting defeat.

* We have resumed direct authority for the site and its redevelopment
* We have a plan to have the site open to visitors by the end of May
* We have formed the Friends of Willow Court
* We have appointed a consultant for the consolidation of existing plans and the creation of a development strategy.

So my respectful question is: Why stop now?

We can do this ourselves and it will be for the long-term benefit of our community.

My second question is whether those in favour of returning the site to the State Government believe the government will be able to move any faster on this development. The state’s record in the final decades of its ownership does not inspire confidence.

What will happen to the site in the months or perhaps years that may pass before the State Government takes any action?

Cr Elliott suggests in his motion that we transfer the site to a State Government Entity. Which entity would that be? Who will decide? and when will they decide? And what will happen to the site in the meantime?

With due respect to Cr Elliott, his motion is deficient as it does not make clear what he proposes to hand back to the State Government. Does it include the oval and surrounding buildings? If not, why not? Does it include the river flats? Does it include the building the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have promised as an arts centre?

If the does council decide to throw in the towel, it must preserve the integrity of what remains of the site and hand it all back to the State Government, rather than pick and chose what it wants to keep for possible financial gain.

Sadly, the council has already damaged the historical integrity of the site through ill-advised asset sales and, if it is decided to give it all away, the council must return all parts of Willow Court that it still owns.

Perhaps the most important and neglected area is, as always, community consultation. The public was never asked whether it wanted the council to take ownership of Willow Court and Cr Elliott's motion makes no mention of a plan to ask whether the public wants us to give it back.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Statement on proposed sale of the Willow Court oval

AT a closed council meeting held last night, six councillors voted to sell the Willow Court oval. I was not one of them. To their credit, councillors endorsed my motion to make their decision public.
This council does more backflips than an Olympic diving team. First the oval was secretly sold but that decision was overturned. Tenders were then called for, but the council decided not to accept any of them. Now the council intends to decide what it wants to see built on the oval and then ask four of the previous tenderers whether they would like to build it.
As well as being unable to make a decision and stick to it, the council has once again shown its complete lack of a strategic vision for Willow Court.
In recent weeks the council has formed a new advisory committee and engaged a consultant to review and consolidate all previous planning for the Willow Court. These were positive steps, but at the same time we have a motion on the table to return the site to the State Government, and now this decision to sell another chunk before a decision has been made on handing the rest back to the state.
Having already sold off parts of Willow Court without proper consideration, the council seems hell-bent on destroying what remains of the historical integrity of this site. Perhaps it is time for the newly commissioned ministers for Local Government and Heritage to intervene.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bushy Park pool committee's annual meeting

THE Bushy Park War Memorial Swimming Pool committee held its annual general meeting on Wednesday night and it was my pleasure to chair the meeting during the election of office-bearers. Lisa Fraser was elected president, Janice Gittus is the new secretary and Robert McCrossen continues as treasurer. I cannot speak too highly of this committee and all its members. They voluntarily provide an excellent service to their community. This summer saw more than 2000 visitors to the pool. Next summer there will be a campaign to encourage more people to take advantage of the generous savings available by taking out a season pass.

Retiring president Janice Gittus reported on the great progress made at the pool since over the last year. A Federal Government $20,000 grant was received for the complete upgrading of the change-rooms. This included swapping over the male and female rooms; new toilets; an outdoor shower; new roofing; repainted floors; and new footpaths leading to the change-rooms. The pool itself was repainted; a new pump was installed; and a new lawnmower was purchased.

The pool filter was completely overhauled, involving the replacement of two tonnes of sand. The operators of the Maydena swimming pool generously donated $400 worth of new sand for the filter. Mrs Gittus thanked everyone involved in these projects.

This season also saw caretaker/lifeguard Brian Gittus conduct a bronze medallion courses and learn-to-swim lessons. Westerway, Glenora, Maydena and Ouse schools also used the pool this season.

About 40 people attended this year's Anzac Day service at the swimming pool hall. A highlight was the presentation of a framed print of the Menin Gate to hang in the hall, which was gratefully received. Janice Gittus obtained some information about the Menin Gate which will be laminated and hung alongside the picture.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Friends at last

IT was my pleasure to move the motion to appoint the inaugural members of the Friends of Willow Court Special Committee at the April council meeting. I look forward to good things from this committee.

In light of the appointment of the committee and its members, I have relinquished my role in the organising of the open days at Willow Court on May 29 and 30 but have offered my assistance to the acting chairman.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Maydena tourist hub goes bush

THERE was some spirited discussion at tonight's meeting of the Maydena Community Association - most of it surrounding the decision of Forestry Tasmania to close its still-new tourist centre for the next six months. The Maydena Adventure Hub was the lower-cost replacement for the multi-million dollar Maydena Hauler, offering a range of adventure-based activities in the superb natural environment of the upper Derwent Valley.

The community association tonight heard that the Hub had closed on May 1 and would remain shut until November 1. Tickets for the various activities could still be purchased online and experienced to the full in Maydena, but the "Hub" (offering on-site ticket sales, coffee and petrol) is closed until summer. This is despite the facility being promoted on Forestry Tasmania's Going Bush program on Southern Cross Television last weekend.

After a lengthy discussion the association voted to seek further information from Forestry Tasmania about ways the community could help to run the Hub or offer a similar service over the winter months. Congratulations to this self-help community and good luck. To any readers, please head over to the Forestry Tasmania website and make a booking for one or more of the activities on offer this winter.