Monday, December 9, 2013

Annual General Meeting 2013

THE council's annual general meeting will be held this Thursday, December 12, in the New Norfolk Courthouse at 5pm. I encourage all interested residents and ratepayers to download a copy of the annual report from the council website here, or to obtain a hardcopy from the council chambers.

The AGM is your opportunity to ask questions about the council's activities over the last financial year and to propose motions from the floor - which if carried by the members of the public present, must then be considered at the next council meeting.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Willow Court works update

Councillors have today been provided with the following update on the progress of works at Willow Court. Thanks to project officer Brett Noble for this information.

Willow Court works update

As many would have noticed, there is currently considerably activity at The Barracks.

Over the last couple of weeks, all the windows facing into The Barracks courtyard have been restored to working order.  The windows retain all the marks of their 180 years of life – patches, different paint layers, repairs, and breaks - but are now in working order.  Some very intriguing metal work, hand stamped with the ‘convict arrow’, was uncovered during this work.  The ‘convict arrow’ was also found on many of the window frames.

Work has also begun on a couple of the original doors, as a test of what this work will entail.

In addition, specialist renderers have been working on the verandah plinth, removing cement render and bits of loose render, ahead of applying a poultice.  The poultice will be on for a few weeks, to draw out the moisture and salts that had been trapped in the masonry, before a new lime render is applied.  Part of this work involved the removal of some of the brick pavers that were hard against the verandah plinth, and a little excavation along the face of the plinth.  This work has shown that along the southern side of the building the original ground level was much lower that at present.

Behind the scenes, the head contractor requests for tenders is nearing completion, which should see the selection of a head contractor in the next week.  As you will recall, part of the selection criteria for this work is the involvement of local sub-contractors.

Brett Noble
Senior Project Manager (Willow Court Project)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Zap Fitness approved

THE proposal to establish a Zap Fitness centre in New Norfolk required council approval and was the subject of much discussion in the community. There was a perception that approval might prove difficult to obtain, but in the end no councillor spoke against it at tonight's council meeting. Councillors Evans, Shaw and Shoobridge were absent and Cr Lester stepped out after declaring an interest. 

The following are my speech notes from tonight's meeting:

"Mr Acting Mayor, six months ago when we were discussing another development, I quoted from the planning scheme where it states the intent of preserving commercial activity in our central business district. That is what this application does.

"We have one of Tasmania’s leading businessmen wanting to expand his fitness centre operations to New Norfolk and while I do not think this is the best use for such a large shop, given the state of our economy I am pleased to see any business activity taking place there.

"This development is being proposed as a place of assembly and our planning scheme describes this as being for recreational, social, entertainment, cultural or religious purposes. The proposed fitness centre could well be described as meeting several of those criteria, not least 'recreational'.

"The problem area is parking but we are able to exercise some discretion. There is a Zap Fitness Centre near my workplace and I have seen its customers arrive on bicycles, skateboards, and on foot as well as by car. The use of these centres seems quite social and I have seen people sharing a car.

"The use of the proposed fitness centre will be spread throughout the day and I believe sufficient parking is available within a short walk in almost any direction. Charging the developer more than $10,000 in lieu of the missing parking spaces will not result in any extra parking spaces being created. I believe charging this fee could jeopardise the whole project. I believe we should waive the fee and approve this centre."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Spring newsletter

THE latest issue of the Derwent Valley Council newsletter (Spring 2013) is available for downloading from the council website here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Community grants on offer

THE council is seeking applications for this year's community grants program. Not-for-profit sporting, cultural and community groups within the Derwent Valley Municipal area are eligible to apply for assistance under this program.

The council will give preference to groups which have broad community benefit, seeking amounts in the range of $200 to $500.

The closing date for applications is September 26, 2013. Application packages can be collected from the Derwent Valley Council offices, Circle St, New Norfolk, or downloaded.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Councillor updates

HERE are my most recent councillor advertisements, including the one published in last week's Derwent Valley Gazette and the one from April which I negected to upload at the time.

August update - click image to enlarge

April update - click image to enlarge

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Winter newsletter

THE latest issue of the Derwent Valley Council newsletter (Winter 2013) is available for downloading from the council website here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Councillor questions

AN update on the questions I have asked at the last few council meetings. My apologies for taking so long to post these here.

March council meeting at Maydena
Could the mayor please advise who is the owner of the tunnel in Burnett Street?
The mayor advised that he would take this on notice.
Could the mayor advise why there is a boat moored in the Derwent River near Granton?
The mayor advised that he would pursue this matter and advise Councillors.
Could the mayor contact DIER to find out why large patches of the Lyell Highway are being repaired and what is the reason for the failures?
The mayor advised that he would take this matter up with the council's engineer and also DIER.
April council meeting at New Norfolk
What is the status of Mr Sadri's application to develop a major shopping centre at New Norfolk?
The mayor advised that this matter is currently the subject of an appeal at the tribunal, and he understand that they may be withdrawing their current application.
Can the general manager expand on what Mr Sadri had to say about instructing his solicitor to withdraw his development application?
The mayor advised that he understood the Sadri’s solicitor had written to the tribunal advising of their withdrawal but we do not have a copy of this letter at this stage. 
Can council staff review the No Standing zone outside the Bushy Park Pool with a view to extending the zone to cover the whole frontage of the pool property?
The mayor advised that he would ask the council's engineer to investigate this matter.
Are there any answers to my questions about the Willow Court Tunnel from last month's council meeting?
The mayor advised that he was of the view that as the tunnel is on private land Council would have minimal controls on its usage, but if it was utilised to access the tunnel in Crown or Council Land the situation may be different. 
What advice has been received from the anti-discrimination commissioners following their viewing of the paranormal documentary?
The mayor advised that he would ask the General Manager to forward a copy of the correspondence to all councillors. 
Did the council's decision to make the zoning of the Willow Court oval more "flexible" have any impact on the ability to consider Mr Rockefeller's proposal as a permitted use?
The general manager advised that the simple answer was yes. Also changes to the zoning and also to the Conservation Management plan were done to achieve more flexibility in regard to being able to consider a commercial development on site. 
May council meeting at New Norfolk
Mr Acting Mayor, will you convene a meeting between relevant council staff and the former operators of the New Norfolk Pool to resolve the current issues of concern to both parties?
The acting mayor advised that a meeting can be arranged. 
Mr Acting Mayor - What are the latest developments in the transfer of the Maydena school site to the council?
The general manager answered that he was awaiting receipt of the contract.
Mr Acting Mayor - What was this council's financial contribution to the Greater Hobart Trails website that was launched last week?
The general manager advised that this would be taken on notice.

Mr Acting Mayor - When it is next due for replacement can the street sign for Andrews Street be corrected to spell Andrews rather than Andrew?
The general manager answered yes.
Mr Acting Mayor - Can this council seek a contribution from the Tasmanian Bushfire Recovery Fund to assist with necessary works at the Molesworth Community Hall and Recreation Ground identified during its recent use as a bushfire evacuation centre and helicopter refuelling station?
The general manager answered yes. 
June council meeting at Lachlan
Mr Mayor, has the requested meeting been held between Mr Ian Lacey and relevant council staff to discuss their issues of concern?
The general manager answered that the meeting had not yet been held.
Mr Mayor, can the public be consulted on the nominating of suitable projects for the funding announced today by the Federal Members for Lyons?
The mayor answered that this could be done should time permit.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Willow Court update



July 2013

“Restoration work on Willow Court will be moving to a higher and more exciting level over the next few months”Chairman of the Derwent Valley Councils Willow Court Conservation Special Committee David Llewellyn said today. “The work on repairing the windows at Bronte has brought the building to life again, but there is much more to do.”

The Committee at its July meeting concluded an “Expressions of interest process”for work on the Barracks, Bronte and landscaping surroundings of the heritage precinct. The successful proponent was Xsquared Architects, incorporating Inspiring Place and the Centre for Heritage at Oatlands. Xsquared was selected after a rigorous assessment from a very competitive field of contenders and will lead a group of experienced specialists in oversighting the next restoration stage of works.

“Our focus now is to finalise works approvals with the various regulatory bodies and to invite comments from the New Norfolk community.” David Llewellyn said. “We want public input into the plans and we also want the public and local community to get involved in the current works.

David Llewellyn again emphasised that local contractors have already been used on current works and local contractors will be actively pursued for the new works once approvals secured.

Restoration works on the Barracks will start very soon, including repairs to exterior and interior elements of the building, and opening up other rooms.

Willow Court is a nationally recognised heritage precinct, of great importance to the region and nation. The most historic of the many buildings that make up the site is The Barracks, built around 1830. The Barracks was built as Tasmania’s first hospital for invalid convicts but soon was exclusively used as a ‘lunatic asylum’.

“The project is an excellent example of collaboration between local, State and Federal governments, and I am keen to build on that collaborative effort in order to see full use of the buildings at Willow Court”,David Llewellyn reiterated.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tunnel talk

YESTERDAY I was asked for an update on the exploration of the "tunnel" beneath New Norfolk and although there does not seem to have been much progress on that front I was able to advise that the mayor had told a recent council workshop that he believes there are two tunnels running roughly parallel to each other under Burnett St.

The theory is that one is the disused sewer and the other is the historical tunnel reputedly used by convicts, patients or soldiers to travel underground between Willow Court and the river. I do not know what evidence exists to support this view and look forward to further investigations being carried out.

Whatever we find will add to the story of Willow Court and its significance as a historic site of national importance. Needless to say, I have a hardhat and headlamp ready to go!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fair go Leo

COLUMNIST Leo Schofield's latest missive on the topic of Willow Court indicates that he is considerably out of touch with progress on that site. While Mr Schofield's earliest remarks about Willow Court quite rightly focused on the council's neglect of the historic site, he last year took aim at the people of New Norfolk and that is when the lost the support of many who had appreciated the light he was shining on the urgent need for action on Willow Court.

His attack on New Norfolk and its people continued in yesterday's issue of the Mercury newspaper's Saturday Magazine. This latest contribution highlights the need for Mr Schofield to better acquaint himself with the progress being made at Willow Court as he appears to be writing from an outdated and ill-informed perspective. Much of what he called for in Saturday's column has already been done.

The council took far too long to take effective action on the preservation and development of Willow Court and it was this decade of neglect that prompted me to seek election in 2009. Progress was not as rapid as I would have hoped in my first year or two on council, but great strides have been made in the last 18 months - and this year in particular.

It's my understanding that Mr Schofield has been invited to visit Willow Court on more than one occasion since he first wrote on the topic in 2008, but has not responded. I encourage the mayor to extend that offer again. Should Mr Schofield accept the offer, he will discover:
  • The Willow Court Conservation Special Committee making progress on the implementation of the MacDonald Report
  • Electricity supply installed and street lights operating
  • The start on the restoration of the Bronte building
  • The Frescati Community Garden
  • The multi-million dollar conversion of the "oval buildings" into apartments
  • Continued progress in the privately-owned sector of the site
Mr Schofield is entitled to continue to express his opinion but his readers will be better served by a factual account that does not unfairly and unnecessarily malign all residents of New Norfolk. His opinion should not be construed to be that of the newspaper itself. I am employed by the Mercury and I believe its opinion of the town is more accurately reflected by its selection of the stunning photo, left, as part of its latest marketing campaign.

So fair go, Leo. Why not put your passion to good use and offer your services to the Willow Court Conservation Special Committee rather than take potshots from the sidelines? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Council elections off until 2014

Local Government election arrangements

With the enactment on 20 June 2013 of the Local Government Amendment (Elections) Act 2013 and the making of the Local Government (Number of Councillors) Order 2013, the Local Government (Casual Vacancies) Order 2013, and the Local Government (Elections) Order 2013, the Tasmanian Electoral Commission can now provide the following advice concerning local government elections.

Ordinary elections for all 29 councils have been deferred until 2014, when all councillors and aldermen, and mayors and deputy mayors, will be elected for a 4 year term ending in 2018. The terms of office of councillors elected in both 2009 and 2011 will end in 2014.

The 2014 elections will be conducted by post and voting will remain voluntary. The timetable for the 2014 ordinary elections will be as follows:
• Publication of notice of election ......................................... Saturday 13 September 2014
• Electoral rolls close ................................................... 6 pm Thursday 18 September 2014
• Nominations close ................................................ 12 noon Monday 29 September 2014
• Announcement of nominations ............................. 12 noon Tuesday 30 September 2014
• Polling period .......................................... Tuesday 14 – 10 am Tuesday 28 October 2014
• Counting and announcement of results ......................... from Tuesday 28 October 2014

There has been a reduction in the number of councillors or aldermen to be elected to 6 councils in 2014. The reductions are as follows:
Council Current number Future number
Central Coast 12 9
Devonport City 12 9
Glamorgan – Spring Bay 9 8
Glenorchy City 12 10
Kingborough 12 10
Tasman 9 7

For the remaining 23 councils, vacancies occurring between now and 13 March 2014 will be filled by recount or by-election, as appropriate. For the 6 councils listed above, councillor or alderman vacancies will only be filled if the number of remaining councillors or aldermen has fallen below the future number.

Accordingly, the TEC will soon commence action to fill an existing vacancy on West Coast Council by recount, and will take no action to fill a vacancy on Tasman Council.

Vacancies occurring after 13 March 2014 will generally not be filled in any event.

A councillor or alderman who becomes a Member of the Tasmanian Parliament may now only hold both offices for 12 months. A Member of the Tasmanian Parliament who becomes a councillor or alderman may only hold both offices for 30 days.

The TEC expects that counting ballot papers will be a significantly more complex process under the new arrangements and is exploring options for fully computerised counting for larger councils.

ENDS — 12 noon Monday 24 June 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Council budget released



2013 – 2014 Rates Set for Derwent Valley
20th June 2013

Derwent Valley Council is pleased to announce that it has kept rate increases to a minimum again this year.

“Council voted to accept the draft budget presented to them with rate increases for the 2013–2014 year set to be 3.5%,” Mayor Martyn Evans said.

Derwent Valley Council was one of the first in Tasmania to introduce public budget submissions to its budgetary process.

“This gives members of the public the opportunity to submit projects to be funded in the budget, these may be community or infrastructure projects, and can be things that Council would sometimes overlook in day to day business.

Some of the projects funded this year include:
  • Derwent Valley Regional Arts inaugural art competition major prize,
  • Installation of guard rails on Backriver Road, in the vicinity of Fairview Primary to increase safety for both motorists and pedestrians.
  • Construction of a properly formed car park at the Molesworth Community Hall.  This was done as a joint venture between the Molesworth Hall Committee and Derwent Valley Council.  During recent bushfires the Hall was initially used as a community assembly point and emergency vehicles used the parking area, and
  • Financial support for the Tiger Trail Festival, an initiative of the Mt Field Tourism Group and community in the area.

Spending on capital works will continue this year with major items including:
  • Continuation of essential works including kerb and channel, stormwater works and sealing between Blackhills Road and Backriver Road,
  • Re-sealing of a portion of the Glenora Road,
  • Continuation of drainage replacement and upgrades across the municipal area, including Maydena, Molesworth and Third Avenue, and;
  • Erosion prevention along the Esplanade.

“Council is mindful of the financial pressures that household budgets face, and works to keep a balance between keeping rate increases to a minimum while still providing essential services to residents,” Martyn Evans said.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Willow Court latest



June 2013


“Progress continues to be made on restoration works at Willow Court” Chairman of the Derwent Valley Councils Willow Court Conservation Special Committee David Llewellyn said today.

“Expressions of interest for work on the Barracks, Bronte and landscaping surroundings were received by the Committee at its June 13th meeting and I’m very pleased to say that a high number of quality submissions were received”.

The installation of new underground electricity now completed to the site has resulted in new lighting down the length of the avenue and the start of works to repair the broken windows in Bronte is progressing.

Providing lights and electricity to the site and basic repair works are a few of the many current activities overseen by the Committee. 

David Llewellyn emphasised that the Committee is actively pursuing the use of local contractors for many aspects of the work, and has already used a number of local contractors. 

“We expect to award contracts shortly to prepare the necessary planning and heritage documentation to undertake the major restoration and redevelopment works at The Barracks and Bronte, including full landscaping of the heritage precinct”, Mr Llewellyn said.

Willow Court is a nationally recognised heritage precinct, of great importance to the region and nation.  The most historic of the many buildings that make up the site is The Barracks, built around 1830.  The Barracks was built as Tasmania’s first hospital for invalid convicts but soon was exclusively used as a ‘lunatic asylum’.

“The joint funding between local, State and Federal government for the heritage precinct project is an important collaboration”, David Llewellyn said. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Planning scheme consultation

EXPERT advice on the new Derwent Valley Planning Scheme will be available at two information sessions this week. Once approved, this new document will replace the New Norfolk Planning Scheme of 1993. The new planning scheme is intended to be consistent with those of all other councils in southern Tasmania. 

All 12 southern Tasmanian councils have approved their draft planning schemes for release for public consultation until July 12. Following the consultation period, the councils will review all comments received and then prepare final drafts for formal submission to the Minister for Planning. The draft Derwent Valley Planning Scheme and those of the 11 other southern councils can be viewed online at

Comments on the new schemes can be lodged electronically via the website, or in writing to the relevant council. The Derwent Valley Council will hold two drop-in sessions with planning officer Martin McCance on Tuesday and Friday this week, from 3-7pm in the council social rooms, Circle St.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Join us at Lachlan

THIS month's meeting of the Derwent Valley Council will be held at the Lachlan Community Hall this Thursday. A community forum will be held at 6.30pm, providing an informal opportunity for residents and ratepayers to ask questions or raise matters of concern. The council meeting will follow at 7pm. The agenda can be downloaded here.

The council meeting roster for the rest of the year is as follows:

  • 20 June 2013 - Lachlan 7pm (community forum at 6.30pm)
  • 18 July 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
  • 15 August 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
  • 19 September 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
  • 17 October 2013 - Molesworth 7pm (community forum at 6.30pm)
  • 21 November 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
  • 19 December 2013 New Norfolk 6.30pm

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Have your say on the new planning scheme

A SHORT but significant council meeting was held earlier tonight to approve the release of the draft Derwent Valley Council Interim Planning Scheme for public consultation. Once approved, this new document will replace the New Norfolk Planning Scheme of 1993. The new planning scheme is intended to be consistent with those of all other councils in southern Tasmania.

It is anticipated that all 12 southern Tasmanian councils will approve their new planning schemes for release this week, to be advertised in this Saturday's newspaper. Look out for it at the weekend, or check back here for the web link.

There will be six weeks of public consultation, during which time you can sign up to submit your comments online or alternatively send them in the old fashioned way. Two drop-in sessions with the council's planning officer will be held in June. This is an "informal" period of public consultation before the draft planning scheme is submitted to the Tasmanian Planning Commission for approval.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Council reforms passed - mostly

THE following media releases are reproduced here without alteration. The deputy premier's statement beats around the bush on the topic of compulsory voting at council elections, which was defeated in the Legislative Council.

Bryan Green
Deputy Premier

Thursday 23rd May 2013
Major Local Government Reforms Passed

The Deputy Premier Bryan Green tonight welcomed the passing of major local government reforms by the Legislative Council. “These are very important reforms that will help re-shape the future of local government in Tasmania,” Mr Green said. “We put the reforms forward in good faith and now we will deal with the amended legislation when it returns to the Lower House to give local government certainty.

“All-in, all-out council elections will enable councils to focus on delivering their policies over a fixed-term like all other levels of government. Rather than elections for half the council ever two years this will provide continuity for our leaders in local government and the communities they represent. These changes will help ensure councils are even more accountable and responsive to their communities, while also letting them get on with the job that voters have elected them to do.

Mr Green said preventing dual representation would ensure that elected representatives can focus all of their efforts on the interests of their local communities. “This will relieve elected representatives of conflicting demands on their time.

Mr Green said he recognised the move towards compulsory voting was not supported by all councils. “The aim of compulsory voting was to help lift participation and make local government more representative of the communities they represent,” Mr Green said.

Tim Morris MP
Greens Local Government spokesperson
Friday, 24 May 2013
But Failure on Compulsory Voting is Missed Opportunity

The Tasmanian Greens today welcomed the passage of major local government reforms through the Legislative Council saying they will strengthen Tasmania’s democracy, but said it is disappointing that the opportunity to introduce compulsory voting was not seized.

Greens Local Government spokesperson Tim Morris MP said that the Greens had long campaigned for these reforms including removing the dual representation capacity which allowed for an individual to be a local councillor and sit in the State Parliament at the same time.

“Abolishing dual representation delivers on long-held Greens’ policy, and is a win for the voter, and a win for a modern and accountable democracy,” Mr Morris said. “The voter deservers to have elected representatives prepared to provide that electorate their full time and energy, whether it is a local council seat or a state parliament electorate. Greens Member for Bass Kim Booth first tabled the Greens Bill to bring in this reform in 2002, and a decade later, we are finally seeing the rest of the Parliament catch-up and make this happen.”

“We also welcome the new all-in, all-out fixed terms provisions.  This reform will now assist providing greater certainty and accountability to local councillors and the community which they represent. This will also have the dual win of significantly reducing the cost of council elections which is a big win for the ratepayers, and should free up those funds to go into service delivery.”

“The Legislative Council’s refusal to accept compulsory voting is a missed opportunity. Local government is a very important tier with increased service delivery responsibilities, and the Greens believe that it needs to be treated as seriously as other government tiers through the adoption of compulsory voting.  This would also help to address declining community participation rates at local council elections.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

February question

AT the council's February meeting I asked the following question without notice:

Mr Mayor, can the council write to the Molesworth Recreation Reserve Committee thanking them for their support during the local bushfire?
The mayor advised that a letter will be forwarded to the Molesworth Recreation Reserve Committee.

January questions

THESE are the questions without notice I asked at the January council meeting, and the answers received.
Mr Mayor, how many disputes involving this council were resolved by confidential agreements in 2012?
The mayor advised that he would take this on notice. At a subsequent meeting the general manager advised that the answer was "one". No further details were provided.
Mr Mayor, can future agendas include a "business arising" section to enable progress to be detailed from the previous month's agenda?
The general manager answered "yes".
Mr Mayor, can the council make representation to the State and Federal Governments for all Derwent Valley and Central Highlands properties affected by the current bushfires to receive the same support and entitlements as those being made available to the Sorell, Tasman and Glamorgan-Spring Bay municipalities?
The mayor answered "yes".
Mr Mayor, can the council investigate whether a name is required for the laneway running off Pioneer Avenue and along behind St Matthew's Church?
The general manager said this would be investigated. 
Mr Mayor, may councillors have an up-to-date list of staff and their responsibilities?
The general manager answered "yes".

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Council reforms announced

THE following media releases, issued yesterday, are reproduced here without alteration. I wonder whether the Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister is aware of the irony in his proposal to strengthen democracy by deferring this year's council elections and reducing the number of future elections by half.

Bryan Green
Deputy Premier
Sunday 17th Mar 2013

Major Local Government Reforms Announced

The Deputy Premier, Bryan Green MP, today announced that Local Government elections will be deferred until next year and voting for all councils will be compulsory. Mr Green said the Government had also decided on all-in, all-out four year terms for councils and popularly elected Mayors and Deputy Mayors. The changes will take affect at council elections in October next year.

"Introducing these reforms will minimise confusion while giving voters time to adjust to the changes," Mr Green said. "The Government wants to give everyone the opportunity to participate in our democracy and ensure councils are even more responsive to their communities. Rather than elections for half the council every two years these reforms will provide continuity for our leaders in local government and the communities they represent. All-in, all-out council elections, compulsory postal voting and an end to dual representation are about ensuring our democracy is strong and works well.

Mr Green said the Government had decided to proceed with the reforms following further public consultation. "Over the last few weeks I have received feedback from the Local Government sector and the public regarding the proposed changes to the electoral system for Local Government. It makes sense to introduce the reforms as soon as possible, and that is next year.

Mr Green said Mayors overwhelmingly supported postponing the elections. "Compulsory voting for all councils was always the State Government's preferred option and this was reinforced by concerns expressed about the proposed opt-in system. I appreciate all the comments received on the proposed changes and now look forward to delivering these important reforms.

Mr Green said he expected to introduce Legislation to Parliament next month and urged the Liberal Party to support the changes. "The Liberals have been negative about the reforms but they should not be fearful of more people participating in local government elections. It is encouraging to see widespread support across local government for these changes and the Liberal Party should now play a more positive and constructive role," Mr Green said.

Tim Morris MP
Greens Local Government Spokesperson

Sunday, 17 March, 2013

Compulsory voting for Local Governments will strengthen democracy

The Tasmanian Greens today welcomed the Minister for Local Government, Bryan Green MP’s announcements on local government reform, saying they are significant planks in strengthening Tasmania’s democracy.

Greens Local Government spokesperson Tim Morris MP said that less elections, with all councillors facing the voters at once, and an end to dual-representation would increase accountability as well as lead to more accurate representation and was a win for the Tasmanian community.

“The Greens have long advocated an end to dual representation, where one person holds a seat in both local council and State Parliament, and we successfully established in 2011 a Parliamentary Committee inquiry into introducing compulsory voting for local government,” Mr Morris said.

“Since then these important democracy reforms have been put through a thorough stakeholder consultation process, undertaken to ensure that all council’s have had the opportunity to feed in at every step of the way.” The Greens will continue to support the cooperative policy formation process that has begun between local governments and the State Government, but we are keen to ensure these reforms are implemented before the next round of elections.”

“Ultimately compulsory voting will provide the public with representation that corresponds more closely with community interests as well as increase accountability of those holding public offices. It should also turn around the worrying  low voter participation rates that we have seen in recent local government elections which shows a lack of engagement with this vital tier of government which is taking on increasing responsibilities for their ratepayers. People need to have their say over who is managing the money they pay towards municipal services, and how they want those services prioritised.”

“The Greens also welcome extending the terms between council elections to four years, this will allow aldermen to worry less about campaigning for their seat and more about delivering services to ratepayers.”

“Dual representation has always been a matter that the Greens have campaigned to have reformed, to ensure that voters get value for their vote. Holding a seat at any level of government is a demanding role and I can’t see how someone can commit the time and effort necessary to meet the standard that the public deserves if they are sitting on two levels of Government,” Mr Morris said.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Happy 150th

TODAY was the Derwent Valley Council's 150th birthday. The date marks the anniversary of the first election and first meeting of the then Rural Municipality of New Norfolk, both of which were held on March 18, 1863.

Events like this remind me again of the rich history of our part of the world and how much has been achieved in the 205 years since the first European settlers made their way up the River Derwent to what is now New Norfolk. Our council is not perfect but it is ours, and we have the people of 1863 to thank for that.

By sheer coincidence, today's anniversary coincided with a special council meeting for the purpose of determining the council's position on the agenda items for the next meeting of the Local Government Association of Tasmania. This in itself is one of the improvements made by the present council. Three years ago the mayor of the day decided on these matters himself.

Special meetings have a fixed agenda that do not provide much scope for events like a council's 150th anniversary, but with councillors' support I moved to suspend so much of standing orders as was necessary to permit the mayor to acknowledge the day's special significance. A cake was cut and shared with the public gallery, photos were taken and then it was down to business.

Cr James Graham, general manager Stephen Mackey, Deputy Mayor Barry Lathey, Cr Wayne Shoobridge, Cr Tony Nicholson, Cr Chris Lester, Mayor Martyn Evans and yours truly at tonight's 150th anniversary council meeting.

Monday, February 25, 2013

More than a supermarket

THERE has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the council's approval of a major shopping complex on the former Royal Derwent Hospital site at New Norfolk. Most attention has been focused on the large supermarket that will anchor the shopping centre and the frustration that our existing supermarket has not kept pace with customer expectations in recent years.

The opening of the then Purity Supermarket in 1983 seems like light years ago. I took a keen interest in that development as the new supermarket was being built on the site of my grandmother's house. Purity had wanted to build a "food barn" on Hamilton Rd but the council and the then Town and Country Planning Commission acted to preserve High St as our commercial centre and insisted that the development occur in the central business district.

Thirty years later, that supermarket is now regarded as "small" despite being enlarged in the last decade. The number and range of product lines does not match that of supermarkets at Bridgewater and Claremont and elsewhere, and many people believe that a competitor is needed in the market. I agree, although I'm mindful that two small supermarkets at New Norfolk have failed in the last two years, including the original Purity site in High St.

The development proposal that went before last week's council meeting is more than a supermarket. It is a shopping complex with nearly 15,000 square metres of floorspace and I remain concerned about the impact it will have on businesses in the town centre, from the largest and longest-established, to the newest and smallest. An economic impact study commissioned by the developers says there will be a 21% drop in turnover across the town centre businesses. This, coupled with the New Norfolk Planning Scheme's stated intention of preserving the town centre, is why I voted against the development.

The following paragraphs are my speech notes from Thursday night's council meeting.

"Mr Mayor, it is exciting and pleasing to know that developers such as the Sadri brothers have such confidence in New Norfolk that they are prepared to spend millions of dollars on a shopping centre here.

"On the other hand there is understandable concern among some who fear that such a large development on the outskirts of town will fragment New Norfolk’s long established central business district as has occurred in similar towns around Australia.

"The report before us seeks to provide reassurance in the form of an economic impact assessment that says “the development is likely to reduce the average turnover of businesses in the CBD by 3%”. But is that really what it says?

"The impact study makes constant reference to what it calls "specialty shops" and the forecast 3% impact on those businesses. It does not discuss what a specialty shop is, and neither does our planning scheme. But the study goes on to say the impact across the whole town centre will be a 21% reduction in turnover.

"The impact study also refers to Woolworths as the only supermarket in the town centre and gives no consideration to the small supermarket that has been operated seven days a week by the same family for more than 30 years.

"Mr Mayor, I believe the economic impact statement is based on flawed assumptions. It states that specialty shops adjoining the new supermarket will cover an area of about 1000m2, when in fact that area would be occupied by just one of the proposed specialty shops. The total area for specialty shops in this development is more than twice that figure.

"This brings me to the question of what the council is being asked to approve. At a meeting with Mr Roostam Sadri on January 16 we were assured that this application was for a supermarket and “four or five” specialty shops including a petrol station and a takeaway that would open at night.

"According to the documents before us, this application is for a supermarket, seven specialty shops, and a petrol station and a takeaway. There is also a future building of 1250m2, and a further five warehouses or showrooms totalling 5600m2.

"So Mr Mayor, while the economic impact study is based on an assumed specialty shop floor space of 1000m2, this application is in fact for floor space of just under 10,000m2 of varying kinds, suggesting that the economic impact assessments are out by a factor of nearly 10. This does not include the 4200m2 supermarket with its own butcher and baker.

"Mr Mayor, it has been put to me that the council cannot refuse a development because it might be to the detriment of other businesses. If that is the case, why has the developer been put to the expense of commissioning an economic impact statement?

"What does our planning scheme say about all this? The introduction in Section 3.1 says the principal focus for retail, business, office and civic activities is within the existing town centre. Section 3.2 says the intention of the commercial zone, is 'to maintain the existing town centre of New Norfolk as the principal focus for retail, business, office and civic activities within the municipal area' and 'to consolidate commercial activity within the Zone through the efficient use of land and buildings.'

"The planning scheme also has a local business zone, with the intent to: 'limit the range of commercial activities to those that do not conflict with the intent of the Commercial Zone within the town of New Norfolk.' The planning scheme also has its special development zone for the former Royal Derwent Hospital site, but even this section says the council 'may impose conditions or restrictions to ensure compliance with the intent of the Scheme' and as we have heard, the intent of the scheme is to preserve the existing town centre.

"Mr Mayor, the application before us describes this proposal as a neighbourhood shopping centre that will be no threat to High St, but in fact at 14,135m2, the proposed shopping centre has nearly double the floorspace of the existing central business district, based on the figures provided in the impact study.

"In the early 1980s, Woolworths and the Savings Bank of Tasmania wished to build a new supermarket on Hamilton Rd. This council acted to preserve the central business district by insisting the supermarket be built here in the town centre – and it was.  It is time for the council to show the same determination again.

"Like many people, I would welcome a supermarket and takeaway on this site near the Gateway Estate, but not a major shopping centre with potential to devastate our existing town centre. The original plans for the Gateway Estate included just a local shop and a childcare centre on the opposite corner of Glebe Rd and, having changed the Gateway plan already, I respectfully ask the Sadris to think again."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Paranormal documentary

THERE has been a lot of online discussion about the council's decision to approve the release of a documentary about a paranormal investigation at Willow Court. The video has been produced with council permission by a group called the Australian Paranormal Investigation Unit which is keen to share its work with the viewing public. The similarly passionate Willow Court Advocacy Group opposes the release.

Some months ago the advocacy group approached the State Archivist with its concerns and as a result a lot of footage was removed from the film by the producers. This particularly related to historical images of children in care who might still be alive today. It's my understanding that the State Archivist's deliberations included consultation with the Mental Health Services division of the Department of Health and Human Services for its professional opinion.

One day prior to last week's council meeting, the council was contacted by the Australian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner who asked that the documentary be provided to the State Anti-Discrimination Commissioner prior to release. The council's general manager sought legal advice on the commissioner's call and following this the council subsequently voted to approve the release of the film after it had been viewed by the council's solicitor. The implication is that should the solicitor find anything of concern in the film, he will advise accordingly. Social media commentary that the council acted without legal advice is wrong.

The following paragraphs are my speech notes from Thursday night's council meeting.

"Mr Mayor, I believe a large part of a councillor’s role is to represent the various views of our constituents. I fear that role is not performed often enough. It is ironic that in a state with such a vast number of federal, state and local government representatives, so many people feel their views are not heard.

"I would like to place on record that some in our community do not agree with the release of the documentary film produced by the Australian Paranormal Investigation Unit. They believe that the film derides, dehumanises and belittles the sufferings of those afflicted with mental disorders.

"They believe that the recordings made in the Alonnah and Carlton Wards are brief, indecipherable background noises which do not constitute sufficient material for a documentary. They do not approve the intent and language of the commentators in the film.

"Those are the views of some in our community and I am representing them tonight. But I am also aware that another cohort is eagerly awaiting the release of the film - and there are still others who will be possibly bemused by the search for paranormal evidence, but fascinated by the historical content in the film. I am one of those.

"The producers of the film have offered to donate 100% of the proceeds of the film to the fund for the restoration of Willow Court. I believe this shows the calibre of the people involved in this project and my personal view is that it is not their intent to belittle the mentally ill. In fact, several of the team have personal or family involvement in that field.

"Mr Mayor, I believe the next stage will be for the Australian Classification Board to determine the appropriate rating for this film, and it is not our role to act as the official censor."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Council "reforms" proposed

THE Deputy Premier and Minister for Local Government, Bryan Green MHA, today informed the media of his intention to introduce a Bill to State Parliament for "major local government reforms". I'm not aware of any information being provided to councillors at this stage.

I've tracked down a copy of Mr Green's media release on the premier's website and have posted it below. The proposals appear to include:
  • Four-year terms for mayors and deputy mayors
  • All-in, all-out council elections every four years
  • Opt-in compulsory voting
  • Ending "dual representation" (councillors also serving in parliament)
With the possible exception of the issue of "dual representation", I'm not aware of there being any groundswell of public opinion seeking these changes, which do not address the major problems facing local government; those (in my opinion) being funding and the powers of general managers. The government would appear to have decided to implement the recommendations of its own discussion paper from late last year.

My own term on council reaches its end later this year, but I will be interested to know what will happen to councillors who will be only part-way though their terms when the proposed reforms are due to be implemented.

I'll look forward to seeing something more detailed than the minister's media release (below).

Major Local Government Reforms

Sun 17 February 2013
Bryan Green
Minister for Local Government

The Deputy Premier, Bryan Green, today announced a package of major local government reforms that include new set terms for Mayors and full council elections.

Mr Green said Mayors and Deputy Mayors will face electors every four years together with all elected local government representatives.

"Rather than elections for half the council ever two years this will provide continuity for our leaders in local government and the communities they represent," Mr Green said.

"All-in, all-out council elections will enable councils to focus on delivering their policies over a fixed-term like all other levels of government.

"Rather than being in constant election mode, these changes will help ensure councils are even more accountable and responsive to their communities, while also letting them get on with the job that voters have elected them to do.

"Communities can then make decisions on whether their elected representatives have performed well over that period.

"These reforms are about ensuring our democracy is strong and works well by engaging and involving local communities.

Mr Green also announced the introduction of opt-in compulsory voting for councils and an end to dual representation.

"We want to encourage greater community participation in the election of councils which provide many services directly to their local communities.

Mr Green said preventing dual representation would ensure that elected representatives can focus all of their efforts on the interests of their local communities.

"This will relieve elected representatives of conflicting demands on their time."

Mr Green said public consultation on the reforms would begin immediately before legislation is introduced in April to allow the changes to be in place for local government elections later this year.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Supermarket site plans

THERE is considerable interest in two supermarket proposals that have been lodged with the council this month. A third-party developer this morning told ABC local radio that be believed these projects were worth about $15 million each.

It's my understanding that the development proposed for the former Willow Court Oval consists of one large supermarket at the eastern end of the site, while the project proposed for a large tract of land bordered by Hobart Rd, Glebe Rd and Ring Rd on the former Royal Derwent Hospital site includes a supermarket, petrol station, fast food restaurant and specialty shops.

The public comment period on the Oval project closes this Wednesday (January 23) and there is a little longer for comments on the Sadri development. I encourage anyone interested in these proposals to visit the council chambers to inspect the plans.

For those who are unable to attend the council chambers in person, I am including the basic site plans for each project (below). I look forward to the day when all such documents are published online as some other councils are able to do.

The Oval Development (click for larger image)

The Sadri Proposal. Hobart Rd is on the right. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Get amongst it

THE council recently set its meeting schedule for 2013 and councillors have already attended several workshops in advance of the first monthly meeting of the year this Thursday at 6.30pm. The meeting will be held in the New Norfolk Courthouse and the agenda is available at the council office in Circle St, New Norfolk, and can be downloaded from the council website here.

The next scheduled workshop will be held at the Courthouse, Circle St, New Norfolk on Thursday, February 7, at 6.30pm. I regret that the format for council workshops limits public participation to the first 30 minutes only. The remainder of the workshop is closed to the public.

The council meeting roster for 2013 follows. Please get in touch if you would like any information or assistance regarding public participation at workshops and council meetings.

Council meeting roster
17 January 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
21 February 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
21 March 2013 - Maydena 7pm (community forum at 6.30pm)
18 April 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
16 May 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
20 June 2013 - Lachlan 7pm (community forum at 6.30pm)
18 July 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
15 August 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
19 September 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
17 October 2013 - Molesworth 7pm (community forum at 6.30pm)
21 November 2013 - New Norfolk 6.30pm
19 December 2013 New Norfolk 6.30pm

November questions

THESE are the questions without notice I asked at the November council meeting, and the answers received.

Mr Mayor, I read in the Mercury last week that this council was supporting a local student selected to travel to Los Angeles. In what way is the student (Miss Elyse Barnes) being supported?
The mayor said he was not aware.

Mr Mayor, with my agenda papers I received a letter requesting that the council consider supporting young opera singer Bryony Dwyer with the cost of her fundraising concert supporting her internship with the Vienna State Opera. Why was this not on the agenda for discussion at tonight's meeting?
The mayor said the council had donated $100 and he would be supporting the cause by attending the concert.

Mr Mayor, what answer have you received regarding the maintenance of the historic watch house at Granton?
The mayor said no answer had been received.

Mr Mayor, what update do you have on your search for tunnels beneath Willow Court?
The mayor said a little bit of work had been done and he was endeavouring to prove Cr Bester wrong.

Latest council newsletter

THE latest issue of the Derwent Valley Council newsletter (Spring 2012) was produced in December and is available for downloading from the council website here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Support for bushfire appeal

THE Derwent Valley Council will accept cash donations for the Tasmanian Bushfire Appeal being conducted by the Tasmanian division of the Australian Red Cross. Cash donations can be made at the Derwent Valley Council office at Circle St New Norfolk and all contributions will be sent directly to Red Cross.

The council is not able to accept donations of goods, clothing, perishables etc. Anyone wishing to contribute items like these should contact the Red Cross directly or place non perishable items in one of their Red Cross collection bins.

People wishing to make a donation to the Red Cross by phone can call 1800 811 700.