Thursday, March 1, 2018

Back to the public gallery

AFTER more than eight years as one of your councillors I have reached the difficult decision to resign from the Derwent Valley Council. This is due to changes in my employment which will make it difficult to effectively carry out council duties, as well as presenting actual or potential conflicts of interest.

My letter of resignation has been sent to the council's general manager today and I believe that a recount will be conducted of the votes cast in my favour at the last election, in order to determine who will fill the vacancy.

Some will be aware that I had already decided not to contest this year's council elections but I very much regret that I am unable to complete the remaining seven months of my term and I apologise to anyone who may feel let down by my decision. I value the trust placed in me at the 2009 and 2014 council elections and hope I have lived up to the expectations of those who voted for me.

There is certainly a feeling of unfinished business, particularly in regard to Willow Court. I am impatient by nature and the rate of progress has been just as frustrating (if not more) for me as it has been for many of you. But progress has been made, despite the almost complete lack of support from state and federal governments of all colours in the last five years. The present State Government told councillors this was because Willow Court was "on the nose". The previous government promised to return Willow Court to Crown ownership but then reneged on the undertaking.

This has forced the council to make some hard choices. In principle I'm opposed to asset sales at Willow Court, but selling the former recreation ground to Woolworths provided our community with a large new supermarket and money to fund the restoration of substantial parts of the Barracks and Bronte House at Willow Court. This in turn led to the opening of the world-renowned Agrarian Kitchen Eatery in Bronte House, and further expressions of interest are now being sought for future uses of the remainder of the council-owned section of the site. It's also been my great pleasure to be closely associated with the Flinders University archaeology field schools conducted at Willow Court for the last few summers.

Of course, being an elected member of the Derwent Valley Council isn't all about Willow Court and there have been many other issues keeping councillors busy. I fought to save the Maydena Primary School from demolition when the school closed, and now it is an integral part of the new Maydena Bike Park. If the council maintains its present course, it will soon be in a position to deliver a new community centre for the people of Maydena. I have argued for public toilets at Bushy Park and these should be provided this year. I stayed on the case of the decades-overdue construction of the corner of George and Stephen Streets in New Norfolk and completing the Trevor Terrace retaining walls that mysteriously stopped about 15 years ago.

A councillor can achieve very little on their own and all of the above, and more, were only gained by working with other councillors and staff. I thank all the councillors and staff I have worked with over the last eight years. Sadly the task of present and future councillors has been made very much harder due to State Parliament's decision that councillors must have the general manager's permission before talking to council staff.

It has been my privilege to work with many of the council's Special Committees and I hope to maintain this connection with several of them as a volunteer.  I place on record that the members of committees like the Friends of Frescati, Boyer Oval Management, Derwent Valley Tidy Towns, Molesworth Recreation Ground, Bushy Park Pool, Gleeson Park, New Norfolk Business Alliance and the Historical Information Centre, to name just a few, are some of the hardest-working and most community-minded people you will meet.

My resignation as an elected member does not signal a reduction in my interest in the council's activities. Why don't you come and join me in the council's public gallery sometime?

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