ABOUT 30 people attended yesterday's "Meet the Candidates" forum at the New Norfolk District Football Clubrooms. Organiser Ngaire Glover introduced former Glenorchy City Council general manager Frank Pearce as the moderator and thanked Elaine Dwyer and Jacky Whitehead for providing afternoon tea. Mr Pearce kept the proceedings running smoothly throughout the afternoon. A draw was conducted to determine the order in which the candidates would speak. Each candidate was given five minutes to state their case, followed by five minutes for questions.
Dane Cowley, of New Norfolk, was the first speaker. He said it was his desire to contribute and make a difference in the community. He attended New Norfolk Primary School, New Norfolk High School and Guilford Young College prior to completing a bachelor of computing at the University of Tasmania. He has had a long association with the Salvation Army and the Derwent Valley Youth Future Action Team (D'FAT). He welcomed the council's involvement in the development of the former business enterprise centre as an education park. He saw this as a positive activity he would like to be involved in as a councillor. He was particularly concerned about the state of local roads and would like to be involved in improving council communications. He welcomed the recent introduction of a council newsletter and said the council website must be kept up-to-date. In response to questions, Mr Cowley said improving council communications would be his top priority; he did not have a position on council amalgamations; he had never been a member of a political party; as a father of two he supported the Child and Family Centre to be built on Ellis Dean Reserve; and he believed in the potential for tourism development at Willow Court.
Phil Bingley, of New Norfolk, said he had lived in the town for 30 years and was passionate about New Norfolk and the Derwent Valley. As an endorsed Tasmanian Greens candidate he wanted to bring Greens values to the council. He proposed a rates strategy to prevent the big increases some ratepayers had experienced this year; an economic development plan; and a financial management plan. His priority would be to adequately fund the core responsibility of maintaining council infrastructure such as roads and footpaths. He described the current state of Burnett St as a barometer showing how badly the council had lost its focus on the maintenance of essential infrastructure. In response to questions Mr Bingley said roads and basic infrastructure would be his top priority; he suggested planting poplars to screen the Gateway Estate; and he spoke of the need to bring in experts to deal with issues such as the state of our roads.
Simon Rolfe, of New Norfolk, said he had lived in the Derwent Valley for 10 years. He believed the council must become more open and accountable. He saw a role for the council in pushing for the National Broadband Network being extended to New Norfolk earlier than was proposed as this would greatly improve educational opportunities for students in all parts of the municipality. He believed the council should be more involved in the training of apprentices and office trainees. Mr Rolfe said he was probably best known for his opposition to the location of the McDonald's Restaurant now being built in New Norfolk. He said he was not opposed to the development as a whole but believed far better locations had been available. In response to questions he said he was frustrated by the lack of action on developing Willow Court; he thought the Gateway Estate developer should pay for tree-planting to screen the housing estate; he would like to see the council combine services with other councils; and he was not a member of a political party.
Wayne Shoobridge, of New Norfolk, said he had lived in the municipality since 1997 and had spent about 18 months as a councillor in 2001-02 after being elected on a recount following the resignation of Cr Robbie Wall. He decried the council's lack of action and said Burnett St had been an eyesore for the last three to four years. He said there had been plans for the development of Willow Court on the table in 2002 and they were still there, waiting. Mr Shoobridge said it was time for some new blood on the council. At present it seemed there was much talking but not much action. He was concerned about the state of roads, footpaths and public toilets. He said it was an outrage that there were no police in New Norfolk overnight and if elected he would visit the police minister and commissioner on a weekly basis until a 24-hour police presence was achieved. In response to questions Mr Shoobridge said roads were his top priority; he was now semi-retired and able to dedicate more time to council business; he believed council amalgamations were a foregone conclusion but was not happy about it; he had not attended the Willow Court Working Party meetings for about three months due to illness, work commitments and the committee's lack of action and decision; he had previously been a member of the Liberal Party; and he hated closed council meetings.
Martyn Evans, of Magra, said he had been a councillor for four years and mayor for two. He had stood for election four years ago at the suggestion of his friend Cr Scott Shaw. He said being a councillor was not as easy as it seemed. It was often a challenging environment, with council infrastructure being more than 60 years old in some places. Other projects, such as the reconstruction of Burnett St, had to be funded over several years. Cr Evans said he was working with the state and federal government to achieve a skills centre for the Derwent Valley. At present there were no post-Year 10 opportunities in the Derwent Valley, he said. He had spoken to the premier on Friday to confirm that x-ray facilities would be restored to the New Norfolk Hospital in January and this was the case. He congratulated the many voluntary groups working in our community and said we would be in a far worse situation without them. In response to questions, Cr Evans said he supported Option 4 of the current amalgamation proposals; he called on the public to report all instances of criminal activity to ensure police statistics were correct; he would like to see a community development officer and a tourism officer appointed by the council; education, health and infrastructure were his priorities; and he had never been a member of a political party.
Chris Lester, of Magra, congratulated all candidates and introduced himself as a local resident who had returned to New Norfolk about 12 years ago. He works as manager of the Derwent Valley Sport and Recreation Centre, is involved in martial arts and teaches boxing. Mr Lester said he liked to encourage a positive way of looking at things and looking at what can be done to make things better. He saw a many opportunities in tourism and was concerned about what had been lost in recent years including the tourist railway and hop museum. In response to questions Mr Lester said the best way to encourage children to become more involved in physical activity was to start in schools; tourism was his top priority; he believed the council had a role to play in engaging with organisations providing services for children; he believed that council amalgamations will happen and the council must be involved in the process; and he was independent politically but sometimes Liberal-leaning.
Tony Nicholson, of Lachlan, thanked the organisers for the opportunity to speak. He said he had been a lifetime resident. He had worked in a senior role in mental health for 37 years but was now retired. Be believed mental health services had been an important part of the make-up of the Derwent Valley and the remnants could be seen at Willow Court. Mr Nicholson said the council seemed to have lost its focus at Willow Court and must pull that back into line. He said the council had come under criticism for a lack of transparency, accountability and independence. He said he was independent of thinking of any political party. Mr Nicholson said local government was the first voice of local people. Councils were a service to the community, had a social conscience and were about more than just roads, rates and rubbish. In response to questions, Mr Nicholson said the advent of a Child and Family Centre was a great innovation and teenagers were catered for by D'FAT but 5-12 year-olds were a missing part of the core of our social responsibility; he said any council amalgamations must be planned very carefully; he did not believe 24-hour policing for New Norfolk would be achieved in the short term; and infrastructure was his first priority as it did not present a very good image at present.
Judy Bromfield, of New Norfolk, said she had stood for hard work and honesty at the start of her local government career and she had not deviated from that. She said it was important for councillors to have an ability to work with people. It was quite often the case that the view of the one lone voice eventually became the right one. It was also important to be able to work with the state and federal governments. Cr Bromfield said she would save the majority of her comments for the later remarks by deputy mayoral candidates. In response to questions Cr Bromfield said the council amalgamation situation was frustrating as three people from outside the state had been pulled in to tell us what we need; investigating solar and wind power was a priority; and a lack of funding was the biggest frustration after two decades as a councillor.
Mark McDiarmid, of Magra, introduced himself as the husband of the late Helen McDiarmid who had been involved and well regarded in many aspects of the community. He has served as a police officer and teacher and believes in the importance of early learning. He described how he thought "intellectual potholes" should be fixed before the roads and remarked that he had moved to the Derwent Valley because of its people, not its roads. Mr McDiarmid said he would like to see an information centre and a centre for artists at Willow Court. He saw litter as a problem and would like to see a litter officer appointed, with an educational role as well as an enforcement role. He would like to see better use made of the esplanade. In response to questions Mr McDiarmid said he was not a member of any political party but he liked the idea of a green society; and he supported council amalgamations if New Norfolk was at the centre of it.
Afternoon tea was served and then the candidates for the positions of mayor and deputy mayor were invited to speak.
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