PUBLIC question time once again provided a lively start to the monthly Derwent Valley Council meeting last Thursday night, despite the provision of 30 minutes of open discussion time before the start of formal proceedings.
The open session, replacing public participation at the regular councillor workshops, included questions about illegal dumping of rubbish at the top of Kensington St, the need for disability parking spots outside the New Norfolk post office, a reported decline in the relationship between the council and many of its committees, road repairs since the recent floods, and the partial collapse of Molesworth Rd in the area known as the Bridle Track.
When the meeting-proper got under way at 6.30pm, mayor Martyn Evans announced that general manager Greg Winton was sick and corporate and community services manager Mark Eady would be standing in for him during the meeting. Councillors Anne Salt and Julie Triffitt and infrastructure and development services manager Richard Blackwell declared conflicts of interest in items before the council that night.
Cr Paul Belcher took issue with a written answer provided to a local resident following questions to recent council meetings about a mooted economic impact survey of the High St market. After several months of questioning by former councillor Wayne Shoobridge about the survey, general manager Greg Winton wrote to him to say the council "has not endorsed or requested an economic impact study of the trial market to be undertaken." Cr Belcher asked why the general manager would have made such at statement, when his own report to the November 2017 council meeting said: "A survey of the economic and social impacts of the market will be conducted at the four week mark of the trial (following the 25 November market)." Mayor Evans said he would ask the general manager about this.
Public question time kicked off with New Norfolk's Len Butterworth asking if the council was aware TasWater wanted to buy six local properties in order to expand it water treatment plant at Bryn Estyn outside New Norfolk. He was surprised that the council, as a part-owner of the water corporation, did not know about those plans.
Mr Butterworth also asked why the council continued to allow the building of houses along a flood-prone stretch of riverbank alongside the Lachlan Creek at New Norfolk, despite it being declared flood-prone on at last four occasions. In his third question Mr Butterworth asked how he could oppose the recent finding that deputy mayor Ben Shaw had no case to answer in a recent Code of Conduct complaint; and in his fourth question he asked whether the council had the power to invoke a heritage listing on a property.
Anne Stephenson from Molesworth followed-up her recent question about signage on Tubbs Rd. Manager Richard Blackwell said options for signage were being discussed and works to improve visibility were being investigated.
Alby Stephenson from Molesworth repeated his statement from the earlier open session, advising that the partial collapse of Molesworth Rd was having an impact on traffic and any worsening of the damage would potentially force motorists to travel via unsealed Collins Cap Rd.
Former councillor Chris Lester asked about the public being excluded from workshops and drew attention to the council's Strategic Plan having expired. Mayor Evans said public consultation on a new "community strategic plan" would start on July 31. Mr Lester also spoke about the lack of funding being made available for properties affected by last month's flooding and asked why the council did not do something practical such as allowing free use of the tip for as long as required.
Jeanette Kaiser asked for a third time about the deteriorating relationship between the council and its youth advisory committee, D'FAT, and asked why the group had been excluded from recent consultations on a youth strategy and the local International Women's Day event. The manager responsible, Mark Eady, said it was within his prerogative to meet with whomever he chose.
With the time nearing 7pm, the meeting moved on to two notices of motion. In the first, Cr Julie Triffett proposed acknowledging the hurt experienced by people affected by last months floods, and make a donation to assist with flood relief. Cr Triffett acknowledged that the methodology had not yet been worked out, and the amount of the donation would be discussed during the budget deliberations. The motion as written did not win a lot of support from other councillors, with Cr Ben Shaw describing it as a "nice thought ... but not really formed up." Cr Paul Belcher said the eighth community working bee had been completed that day, and he felt people were looking for a "hand up, not a handout." After 10 minutes of discussion Cr Shaw provided Cr Triffett with an alteration to her motion, which added words to the effect of "consider a methodology through the budget process" and this resulted in the motion being carried.
Manager Richard Blackwell left the room for the second notice of motion, in which Cr Ben Shaw proposed that the council ask the Minister for Planning to remove the house at 16 George St, New Norfolk, from the council's heritage register. He said the property was presently up for sale but potential buyers were not prepared to take it on because of the local heritage listing. He said the house had been heritage listed in error and the homeowner had not been informed at the time. He said the estimated cost of up to $4000 to remove the heritage status should be borne by the council. Several councillors questioned whether this would "open the floodgates" to other property owners who would like the council to pay for the heritage listings to be removed, but the motion passed with only three councillors opposing it.
Cr Shaw then proposed a motion without notice, to the obvious consternation of mayor Evans. Cr Shaw moved that the council consider cleaning up illegally dumped rubbish in Kensington St; provide council trucks to collect large items; allow free entry to the tip for people delivering smaller items; and for cameras to be installed to catch future offenders. This motion was seconded by Cr Triffett and was carried unanimously. Cr Belcher mentioned other illegal dumping sites on the Lyell Hwy, Cockerills Rd and Glen Dhu Rd, and Cr Pearce named Black Hills Rd, but these were not added to the motion.
MORE TO COME