Council gets a fortnight to decide on distillery

Part of the audience at Thursday’s council meeting.

THE Derwent Valley Council has been granted a two week extension to deal with the development application for a rum distillery at Willow Court in New Norfolk.

The application was to have been decided on at last Thursday night’s council meeting but there were insufficient councillors present to hear the matter.

New Norfolk Distillery director Tarrant Derksen yesterday said it was unfortunate that the council was unable to vote on the matter due to the lack of a quorum. With two councillors absent and two out of the room after declaring a conflict of interest, there were only four elected members at the table, one short of the required five.

General manager Greg Winton told the meeting that council officers would contact the developers to seek an extension of time. In a statement yesterday, Mr Derksen said the extension had been granted.

“To ensure transparency and full community confidence in our proposal, we have granted the council a two week extension to allow them to hold a special meeting to vote on the New Norfolk Distillery DA,” Mr Derksen said. “We look forward to council further considering our Development Application at the special meeting.”

Mr Derksen said the proposed distillery and cellar door would provide a significant boost to the local economy, job creation and tourism in the Derwent Valley, including Tasmania’s first rum-focused distillery in over 150 years.

“The buildings located in the Willow Court precinct are in desperate need of revitalisation and we are working with local award-winning architect studio Room 11 to ensure the plant respects the significance of the site,” he said.

“It is our hope that the adaptive re-use of these buildings will ensure they are a beacon of light in the community and one that attracts more visitors and jobs, while showcasing all the region has to offer. The local community is really rallying around what we have proposed, and we are grateful for the support. It’s our wish for the New Norfolk Distillery to be a part of the fabric of the town like Willow Court was in the past and to be synonymous with New Norfolk and the Derwent Valley.

“The plans we have presented to council have been through a rigorous process with the Tasmanian Heritage Council, the Derwent Valley Council’s heritage adviser and our own heritage adviser all contributing and assessing the first stage of our proposal. We are very happy with the outcome and input from each party.”

Posting on Facebook yesterday, Derwent Valley mayor Ben Shaw said the council’s inability to vote on the development application should not be construed as a failing of the council. He said the temporary lack of a quorum was an “unfortunate circumstance that all interested parties would be disappointed in. However any suggestions that this was a failing of our council is just wrong and scaremongering from people who have other reasons to bag council out.”

Cr Shaw’s Facebook post was shared by deputy mayor Jessica Cosgrove and Cr Rachel Power on their own councillor Facebook pages. After adding a comment to Cr Shaw’s post, Cr Power was asked about her decision to exclude herself from voting on the distillery. Cr Power replied that she had sent a private message to the questioner. “I’m also happy to answer anyone else as to my process of thought behind my well considered actions. I would rather not post it here, as if comment is needed for media I will provide direct, rather than the current practice of Facebook journalism.”

An hour later, Cr Power posted that comments on her Facebook page were her personal opinion unless otherwise stated and she permitted their sharing “in their entirety within Facebook” but “for all other use, quotes or comment for media please contact me via email for consent prior to use,” citing what she described as the law of Creative Commons.

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