Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Candidate comments on Willow Court

AT the beginning of this final week of the current State Election campaign I wrote to all those candidates for Lyons (and a couple of extras) with publicly available email addresses. I was concerned about the almost complete lack of interest and/or commitment to this region by candidates seeking election to Parliament. In particular, I wanted to know what commitment each candidate and their party was prepared to make towards the cost of completing the restoration of Willow Court, which is now well under way. Included with my email were an update on the recent progress at Willow Court and a few photos showing the work now in progress.

I am grateful to those candidates who have been able to find time to respond in this very busy week. A basic outline of their responses follows, in the order received.

Craig Davey, leader of the Tasmanian Nationals and candidate for Lyons, phoned to say he supported the preservation of heritage sites like Willow Court and their important role as economic drivers.

Wayne Shoobridge, Palmer United Party candidate for Lyons, said Willow Court has been high on his agenda for many years and he gave a commitment to attract as much funding for Willow Court that he can. "If elected, that is a priority for our municipality," he said. 

Kevin Morgan, Tasmanian leader of the Palmer United Party, sent a lengthy email broadly describing the party's approach to policy development and explained that the party was not making financial commitments as the true picture of the state's finances was not yet known. Referring specifically to Willow Court, Mr Morgan said built heritage was seen by the party as one of the keys to the future of tourism in Tasmania. "Our party fully supports your [council's] vision and ideas for the Willow Court project," he said. "Once we understand the state's financial position we will show commitment to all Tasmania’s regions and look at how we can assist in the future of the development of your lovely valley." 

Rebecca White MHA, Minister for Human Services and Australian Labor Party candidate for Lyons, said she appreciated the update on Willow Court and would speak with her colleagues about what level of financial support might be possible in the future based on the evidence of improvements and work that has started on the site. 

Jessey Dillon, ALP candidate for Lyons, said that if elected, Labor would work with the council to develop a funding submission for the 2014-15 State Budget to help restore Willow Court to its full potential. "[We] recognise the potential of the Willow Court site and we support the long term vision to create a multi-purpose heritage and interpretational centre utilising the historically significant buildings. This project will assist in bringing an iconic asset into adaptive reuse, and help create a tourism precinct in the area as well as developing skills and supporting the community in many ways," Mr Dillon said. 

Craig Farrell MLC, Member for Derwent, Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Council, Minister for Corrections and Consumer Affairs and Minister for Sustainable Transport, is not a candidate in the election but as our former deputy mayor and with his senior position in the State Government he has a key role to play in conserving and developing Willow Court. He forwarded my email for comment but said as the government is in caretaker mode it may be difficult get the information before the election. 

A staff member from the office of Lara Giddings MHA, Premier of Tasmania, wrote that the premier had received a similar request to mine from the Derwent Valley Council's general manager and had "responded directly to the General Manager on behalf of Tasmanian Labor detailing Labor’s position on the issues raised." 

Tim Morris MHA, deputy leader of the Tasmanian Greens and candidate for Lyons, emailed the following statement with express permission to publish it:  "No one  from the Council, or Willow Court committee (or whatever it is), has shown the slightest inclination, until your email, to brief or update me on progress with Willow Court. That said, I trust that the erection of the scaffolding is a good indicator that some progress is being made. As you know I am vitally interested with what happens there and have been very disappointed with the lack of co-operation (between various parties),  community consultation and public disclosure on all things Willow Court and Royal Derwent. That disappointment remains. Whilst I have given consideration to your request for funding in the lead-up to the election, I have concluded that it would be irresponsible for me to do so at such a late stage. Whilst Malcom McDonald's report provides overall guidance for the protection of the heritage of Willow Court, it does not provide anywhere enough detail on which to be able to commit to specific levels of funding; more detailed documentation would be required. However I do give a commitment to advocating for further funding from the State Government if I am re-elected and I am provided with adequate documentation to demonstrate that funds allocated to date have been appropriately allocated."

David Llewellyn, ALP candidate for Lyons, has been volunteering for nearly two years as chairman of the Willow Court Conservation Committee and while unable to make promises on behalf of the Labor Party he said: "On a personal level I believe additional State and Federal Government support is and will be necessary to create the self-funding arrangements needed to sustain the on-going care needed for particularly the Barracks and Frescati buildings. I also agree that the financial commitment to develop the precinct appropriately is beyond the capacity of the Derwent Valley Council without the support of the State or Federal Government or a government authority." Mr Llewellyn has previously served as Deputy Premier and a minister in many portfolios, during which time he was instrumental in rebuilding the Mt Field National Park interpretation facility and the Salmon Ponds facilities. "There are a number of other exciting opportunities possible and I commit myself to pursuing their development," he said. 

The chief of staff to Liberal leader and State Opposition Leader Will Hodgman MHA, forwarded a copy of a letter from Mr Hodgman to the Derwent Valley Council's general manager, which said in part: "The Tasmanian Liberals are aware of the history of [the Willow Court] site and the challenges that face the council in the ownership of it. We look forward to working closely with the Derwent Valley Council on addressing the challenges and opportunities of Willow Court as well as other issues within the Derwent Valley," Mr Hodgman wrote.
I still hope to hear from: Lara Giddings MHA (ALP), Bob Gordon (ALP), Darren Clark (ALP), Rene Hidding MHA (Liberal), Mark Shelton MHA (Liberal), Martyn Evans (Liberal), Bertrand Cadart (Liberal), Nick McKim MHA (Greens), Pip Brinklow (Greens), Hannah Rubenach (Greens), Mark Grewar (Palmer United), Quentin von Stieglitz (Palmer United), Anne Salt (Nationals), Brett Hall (Nationals), Leo Perotti (Nationals), and independent candidate Paul Belcher. I was unable to find email addresses for the other independent candidate and two other Tasmanian Greens candidates.

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