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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Council budget night - rates up 4%

DERWENT Valley Council rates have been increased by four per cent in the first council budget since the State Government took control of water and sewerage services previously provided by local government.

Addressing tonight's budget meeting, mayor Tony Nicholson said municipal rates levied on "normal residential properties" would increase by $35, bringing the average rates bill to $830. Overall, rates will drop, as the cost of water and sewerage will be charged by the water corporation created under state treasurer Michael Aird's reforms.

By way of comparison, Councillor Nicholson said this year's average council rates bill would have been $1540 if water and sewerage were still included. But the news is not all good, as the State Government has already flagged that water bills will increase by 10 per cent every year for three years.

Reading from a budget overview that was circulated among councillors but not provided to the public at tonight's meeting, Cr Nicholson commented on the council's debt reduction strategy and said the council was now only $1.5 million in the red, compared with $4.5 million 10 years ago. He said this was a "credible performance" achieved through a lot of work by the general manager and accountant. Cr Barry Lathey later agreed that this was a "pretty good effort".

Council queries online news report

AN online news report about Tasmanian water reform was largely incorrect, general manager Stephen Mackey told tonight's Derwent Valley Council budget meeting. Speaking up just as mayor Tony Nicholson moved to close what would have been a 10-minute meeting, Mr Mackey said an article on the ninemsn site would be of interest to councillors.

Mr Mackey read the article to the meeting, in case any councillors were questioned about it. He said he did not know the name of the author of the report, which he said contained several factual errors including:

* That Tasmanians would move to user-pays water and sewerage billing from tomorrow (July 1). He said there was no provision for user-pays billing under the legislation used by the State Government to seize what had been council-owned water and sewerage assets.

* That water and sewerage services would be taken over by three State Government corporations. Mr Mackey said the new water corporations were in fact owned by local councils.

* That opponents of the reforms said councils would not reduce their rates bills despite no longer providing water and sewerage services. Mr Mackey said this was incorrect.

The report in question was published on June 28 and sourced from Australian Associated Press. The same article was published by the Brisbane Times, Sydney Morning Herald online, Telstra Bigpond News, countless other online news sites and the social networking site Twitter.

Mr Mackey's reading of this article prompted a 15-minute extension of the council meeting despite there being no business on the table.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Public speaking club proposed

A MEETING will be held at New Norfolk next month to consider the prospects of forming a Rostrum club in the Derwent Valley. Hosted by the New Norfolk Lions Club at its rooms at Willow Court, the gathering will be an "expression of interest" meeting with no obligation to join. Rostrum spokesperson Linley Grant said the meeting would demonstrate some of the skill, benefit and enjoyment which comes from being able to speak fluently and engage with listeners. A secondary aim of forming a local Rostrum club would be to assist local students who wish to learn public speaking and possibly participate in competitions.

There are more than 150 Rostrum clubs in Australia, including nine in Tasmania. The local meeting will be held at the New Norfolk Lions Clubrooms at Willow Court at 7pm on July 15. For more information contact Vic Cardwell on 6286 1191.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Willow Court backflip averted... now for the new committee

ANY new committee formed to oversee the development of the Willow Court historic site should be nothing like the old committee, Councillor Narelle Molan told last week's Derwent Valley Council meeting.

General manager Stephen Mackey and Valley Vision project manager Ian Brown had recommended that Mr Brown be appointed to liaise directly with the council on Willow Court matters, but this was rejected by the majority of councillors, who reminded the meeting of a previous discussion that forming a new committee was the best way forward. Despite this being the overwhelming opinion of a recent special meeting on the subject, this detail had not made its way into the official decision.

At the monthly meeting last Thursday night, Mr Brown was instead appointed on an interim basis, but no timeframe was given. The council will hold a community forum with an independent facilitator, and members for a new committee will be drawn from those present at the forum. No indication was given as to when the forum will be held.

Towards the end of the debate, Cr Molan expressed the view that she did not want to see a committee anything like the last one. In particular, she did not agree with confidentiality agreements drawing a curtain over the committee. "I wouldn't like to stop anyone from being part of this committee because of fears over confidentiality," Cr Molan said.

But Mayor Tony Nicholson said the confidentiality issue could not be put aside. "It will be raised and the committee will have it on its head when it sets its terms of reference," he said. Mr Mackey agreed, saying the matter must be raised at the community forum. "People must know what they are getting themselves into if they put up their hand," Mr Mackey said.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Early start to race for mayor

RETIRED real estate agent Jim Elliott is the first candidate to publicly state their intention to contest the position of mayor of the Derwent Valley at this year's local government elections. Mr Elliott, 62, first arrived in the municipality in 1980 and operated several successful businesses before being elected to the Derwent Valley Council in 2007. Deputy Mayor Scott Shaw is also expected to throw his hat into the ring but the incumbent, Tony Nicholson, has not yet made his intentions known.

Mr Elliott told the NNNews that he was now retired from full-time work and was available to serve the community that he had supported over the years and which had supported him. He describes himself as street smart and business savvy. With myriad business and organisational achievements, he highlights the founding of Derwent Real Estate in 2002, his presidency of the Derwent Valley Chamber of Commerce and Industry, chairmanship of the New Norfolk Business Alliance and leadership of the New Norfolk Tourism Association as some of his major accomplishments.

Mr Elliott is a qualified Reiki master teacher and has travelled widely to places including New Zealand, Fiji, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia. With his wife Ally, he lives in his new home near Bridgewater but still has commercial and residential interests in New Norfolk including his Isle Store Self Storage business.

An invitation is extended to all intending candidates for any position on the Derwent Valley Council to email their details and a photo to

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Willow Court backflip in the wind

A REPORT to this week's Derwent Valley Council makes no reference to establishing a new body to replace the failed Willow Court Committee. When the former committee was disbanded two months ago, most members of the council spoke strongly in favour of a restructured and expanded body to replace it.

But after two "workshops" and an unseen "discussion paper" on the subject, general manager Stephen Mackey has recommended empowering Valley Vision project officer Ian Brown to report directly to council for decisions on development matters at Willow Court. Mr Brown was previously the conduit between the committee and the council.

The report, co-written by Mr Mackey and Mr Brown, also recommends:

* Informing the community of "current land and building ownership and related matters" via the Derwent Valley Gazette.
* Establishing an email facility to keep the community informed and
encourage two-way communication.
* Conducting a community forum to review the council’s principles and outcomes for the site.

When the old committee was disbanded during a special meeting on April 30, councillors Judy Bromfield, Richard Parker, Craig Farrell, Barry Lathey, Jim Elliott and deputy mayor Scott Shaw spoke in favour of an expanded committee. Councillors Martyn Evans and Narelle Molan said they agreed with the opinions expressed, and mayor Tony Nicholson said the expanded committee would have to abide by a confidentiality agreement.

The matter will be up for debate at the council meeting at 6.30pm this Thursday in the New Norfolk Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public, but any questions must be handed to the deputy general manager before the start of the meeting.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More money for local schools

SEVERAL more Derwent Valley schools have received funding allocations under the Federal Government's education revolution. Visiting Tasmania to announce the latest successful applicants, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard said the government was undertaking the largest school modernisation program in Australia’s history to support local jobs, stimulate every local economy and invest in important long term infrastructure.

The second round of the "National School Pride" project was announced late last month, including more than half a million dollars for Derwent Valley schools, including:

Collinsvale Primary School - $50,000 to refurbish and extend its multi-purpose hall.
Glenora District High School - $125,000 to upgrade student toilet and outdoor facilities.
Molesworth Primary School - $75,000 to extend its library.
New Norfolk High School - $150,000 to refurbish the school oval, outdoor learning areas and kitchen.
New Norfolk Primary School - $125,000 to upgrade external play areas and replace boundary fencing.

Last week saw Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard in Hobart to announce the successful applicants under round two of "Primary Schools for the 21st Century", which she described as one of three elements of the Rudd Government’s $14.7 billion 'Education Revolution'. The $12.4 billion P21 program would deliver funding to every primary school for major infrastructure projects, including libraries, multi-purpose halls and classrooms, Ms Gillard said.

New Norfolk's Fairview Primary School will receive $2 milion from the "P21" fund, to extend some of its classrooms. Other beneficiaries are:

Collinsvale Primary School - $250,000 to extend its multi-purpose hall to provide a community facility.
Glenora District High School - $750,000 to extend the school hall.
Maydena Primary School - $250,000 - to build a multi-purpose hall.
Molesworth Primary School - $850,000 - to build a multi-purpose hall.
Ouse District High School - $250,000 - to build a new multi-purpose hall.
Westerway Prmary School - $250,000 to refurbish the school library.
St Brigid's School (New Norfolk) - $1.422 million to build a multi-purpose hall.
St Brigid’s School (New Norfolk) - $998,000 to refurbish the school library.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Community service recognised

DROMEDARY resident Wendy Garwood was one of several people whose service to St John Ambulance was recognised during a recent investiture at Government House, Hobart. The Governor, Peter Underwood, presented Mrs Garwood with the first bar to the Service Medal of the Order of St John, in recognition of 17 years' service to the New Norfolk division of St John Ambulance.

Mrs Garwood is well known for her voluntary service at countless community and sporting events in the Derwent Valley over the last two decades. For a long period during that time, she was also a volunteer with the Tasmanian Ambulance Service at New Norfolk.

Queen's Birthday Honour for Dr Sweet

LONG-SERVING general practitioner Micheil Sweet is the only Derwent Valley recipient of a Queen's Birthday Honour this year. Dr Sweet was today named as one of several Tasmanians who will receive the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Dr Sweet has been a doctor at New Norfolk for 50 years and his Queen's Birthday Honour is in recognition of his service to medicine as a general practitioner, and to the community of the Derwent Valley. Dr Sweet has also been a successful sportsman, playing several seasons with the New Norfolk District Football Club and on several occasions winning the Queen's Prize as a sporting shooter.

Read more about Dr Sweet in this recent article from the Mercury newspaper

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Digital TV boost in the Valley

DIGITAL television has recently become available to some parts of the Derwent Valley for the first time. While many parts of the Valley have been receiving digital TV transmissions from Mt Wellington for several years, those areas relying on the Shepherds Hill translator at New Norfolk have had to wait for that facility to be upgraded. This work now appears to have been completed, meaning most households now have access to the full range of standard free-to-air networks via both digital and analog broadcasts.

Throughout Australia, analog broadcasts are expected to be phased out between 2010 and 2013. Additional free-to-air television channels are gradually being introduced by existing broadcasters. The ABC has already introduced a second channel and SBS will do so next week. Channel 10 has created a sports-only channel which is not net available in Tasmania. It is not necessary to buy a new TV to watch these new channels. All that is needed is a set-top box (available from most electrical retailers) and in some cases a new antenna might be required.

Valley Vision money questions continue

DESPITE a further attempt by Michael Whitehead for some answers, little light has been shed on the funding arrangements for the Valley Vision group. Mr Whitehead attended this month's Derwent Valley Council meeting to follow-up his recent question about how much ratepayer money went into the economic development organisation. Mayor Tony Nicholson took Mr Whitehead's question on notice.

At the April council meeting, Mr Whitehead was told the council contributed only $24,000 to Valley Vision each year. Mr Whitehead said the group was more likely to cost ratepayers at least $100,000 and questioned whether Valley Vision was worth the expense. It is understood he is now awaiting the mayor's promised written response.