THE absence of three councillors including the mayor and deputy mayor resulted in former mayor Martyn Evans (pictured above) being selected to chair last night’s meeting of the Derwent Valley Council. The council has struggled to attract its full complement of councillors to its last few meetings.
Three councillors were absent from the February 25 meeting, three missed the March 11 annual general meeting, and three were not present for a special closed meeting later on March 11. At the start of last night’s monthly meeting for March, general manager Dean Griggs called for nominations from councillors to chair the meeting and Cr Evans was elected to do the job.
The lack of numbers at last night’s meeting meant a number of items of business could not be dealt with, making it likely that a special meeting will be held to attend to some of those. Cr Evans, who stepped down as mayor two years ago but was returned as a councillor, made several references to another meeting being required.
“It’s been a while and I might be a bit rusty, so bear with me,” Cr Evans said as he opened the meeting. There were six members of staff and six members of the public in attendance. Absent were councillors Ben Shaw, Jessica Cosgrove and Luke Browning.
Public question time saw five questions put to the meeting. Colin Hutchison asked a seven-part question in writing about The former Gateway Estate development, now known as The Mills. He asked how the developers’ proposed private hospital would funded, staffed, run and kept profitable, and what its relationship would be with the New Norfolk District Hospital; how the proposed medical centre and “village” would work with the “hub” proposed by Corumbene Care, and the existing local medical centre; the effect the proposed hotel would have on local accommodation providers; who would buy and sell at the proposed “Farmers Market” and how it would compete with existing local markets; how much were the developers spending and how soon would they want a return on investment; and where would the people of the Derwent Valley be able get a tradesman. In a written response, Mr Griggs said: “The Mills’ proposals for the inclusion of a hospital, market place and hotel are yet to be approved by council. The current agenda contains a report to initiate the planning scheme amendment relevant to these questions. Management suggests that these questions, at this early stage, be referred to Noble Ventures.”
In the second question-on-notice, Philip Bingley asked when it was expected that the final Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy would be presented to a council meeting for its consideration, and he asked for the cost to date of using waste management consultants for the preparation of the strategy. Infrastructure executive manager Amanda McCall said the draft final strategy report would be provided to a council meeting in May and the total cost so far was $29,050.
Trish Roy-Smith asked how the mayor would be able to differentiate his travel between that done for local council business and that done for Legislative Council election campaigning. “If you are on council business and then you campaign at the same place, is he still going to claim a council allowance?” Cr Evans thanked Mrs Roy-Smith for the question in the absence of the mayor and said he would take it on notice and forward it to the mayor for a response.
James Graham asked whether website and Facebook advertising would be sufficient to encourage participation and engagement with the council’s proposed community consultation program, and whether the council would listen to any comments received about the process. Cr Evans said community radio and the council’s network of Special Committees could also be used. “We know community radio touches many people in outlying areas,” he said.
In a second question, Mr Graham asked about a reference to a proposed expansion of the New Norfolk Business Alliance at a recent council meeting, and pointed out that general ratepayers contributed half of the group’s budget. “Is the council involved in a review of the New Norfolk Business Alliance being conducted by Fiona Wilson … and is there any communication plan to inform the ratepayers of a whole-of-valley engagement in any expansion if it were to go forward? Do we have somebody around the table on behalf of council in the review?” Mr Griggs said the council was represented at Business Alliance meetings and explained that the review was mostly in reference to the group’s status as a Special Committee of council. “There were also some discussions around the broader idea of the future over the longer term, and I can’t see any problem as a Special Committee to bring back some information about what that might look like.”
A recommendation from Mr Griggs to add a late agenda item for consideration was unsuccessful when Cr Paul Belcher declared a conflict of interest. With the other councillor absences, this left the council with insufficient numbers to add the late item, which was a report from infrastructure executive manager Ms McCall recommending the construction of two car parks at Willow Court despite local opposition, including one on the lawn in front of Frescati House. Cr Evans said the report would be held over until the next available meeting.
Three further Planning Authority items were then withdrawn from the agenda under similar circumstances. These were a draft planning scheme amendment relating to the former Royal Derwent Hospital site; the council’s proposed subdivision of the land it owns at Willow Court; and a planning scheme amendment related to the council’s proposal to sell land in Link Rd, Warner Ave and Turriff Lodge Drive at New Norfolk, and at Back River Rd, Magra. Cr Evans said these too would be held over.
The monthly report on planning permits issued by staff members noted that 23 permits had been approved under delegated authority during February, to a total value of $4,327,726. Included were 15 new dwellings; several outbuildings; public toilets at Westerway; and additions to the Bushy Park Roadhouse.
Minutes were received from the Boyer Oval Management Committee’s annual general meeting, Derwent Valley Youth Future Action Team (DFAT), New Norfolk Historical Information Centre, and New Norfolk Business Alliance. Cr Julie Triffett pointed out two errors in the Boyer Oval committee minutes, noting that the word “draft” had been spelled incorrectly, and a reference to a $100 grant should have been $100,000. She said the committee was very keen to improve facilities for female footballers.
Councillors voted in favour of installing a traffic mirror at the junction of Molesworth Rd and Douglas Rd at Molesworth, but did not support the request of 30 petitioners seeking to have the speed limit on Douglas Rd reduced to 40km/h. Infrastructure executive manager Ms McCall said 80km/h was the default speed limit for an unsealed road in a non-built up area. “By implementing a posted speed limit on Douglas Rd against the guidance of the Australian Standards there is the risk the motorists will have a false sense of what is a safe speed during poor weather conditions and try and target that speed rather than drive to conditions,” she said.
Another item that was eventually deferred to another meeting was the voting on the council’s preferred candidate for the position of president of the Local Government Association of Tasmania’s general management committee, and for the small councils division of the general management committee’s southern district. Cr Evans said Cr Shaw was keen to continue in his role on the committee and as vice-president of the LGAT. Cr Frank Pearce proposed nominating Cr Shaw for both positions, subject to his agreement. Cr Belcher said he would like to nominate Cr Pearce for both roles. Cr Natasha Woods nominated Cr Shaw for the presidency and Cr Pearce for the southern district. Cr Triffett’s comments could not be heard. Cr Evans said he was considering his next term on council and was not putting up his hand for the LGAT. After three minutes of discussion, Cr Evans pointed out that the meeting did not have a motion before it, and he called on a councillor to move to suspend standing orders. Councillors Belcher and Pearce obliged. After a further two minutes of discussion around the nomination, and what would happen if Cr Shaw wins the seat of Derwent on May 1, and what would happen if councillors lost their seats in November next year, it was unanimously agreed to defer the item to a special meeting. Nominations close on April 21.
History was made when – possibly for the first time ever – a ratepayer resolution from a Derwent Valley Council annual general meeting was endorsed by elected members at a council meeting. On the suggestion of James Graham, the council will develop a business case for the reintroduction of glass-recycling bins as part of its Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy. Cr Woods, who moved that the council note the resolution from the AGM and proceed to develop the business case, said the idea was “fantastic.” Mr Graham’s second resolution – proposing a budget request of $20,000 to fund a health needs study – received the traditional treatment and lapsed for want of a seconder.
The next item on the agenda was removed from consideration due to the absence of councillors and the declaration of a conflict of interest by Cr Belcher. The New Norfolk Community and Sports Precinct Draft Master Plan will be held over until a future meeting.
With only five councillors at the meeting, a review of the New Norfolk High St Market and recommendation to award a new contract to the current operator, was narrowly approved by a margin of three votes to two. The agenda item, which coyly referred to the operator as “Miss J. Cosgrove,” included a recommendation from the general manager that the draft terms of a new agreement should be presented to a “future 2021 council meeting,” and noted that the market was presently operating on a month-to-month basis while a new agreement was negotiated. Mr Griggs said the report had identified the need for a permanent and fit-for-purpose site for the market but the regular High St site was not likely to change in the short- to medium-term.
Moving that the general manager’s market recommendation be adopted, Cr Pearce’s brief remarks were inaudible. The seconder, Cr Triffett, said the market review was a “fantastic body of work” and the High St market had taken on a life of its own. “So, yeah, I’d love to see it continue, we’ve hopefully got all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed now and it can continue.” Speaking from the chair, Cr Evans said the proposed new agreement should have been considered in a closed meeting before this point. “The assessment was fantastic, I like that, it was well done, but I can’t support this motion tonight without the draft terms and the new licence agreement this evening,” he said.
Councillors voted unanimously to restart the council’s schedule of community forums and “listening posts” which have not been held since January last year. These will be held at Maydena on a date in May to be specified; Granton on July 20; Molesworth on September 21; and Glenora on November 23.
A funding request of $25,000 for a beer festival at New Norfolk next month did not win support. The request from Tarrant Derksen of Drinkmasters Australia, was in support of the Fresh Hop Beer Festival to be held at the New Norfolk Distillery’s premises on Humphrey St on April 17-18. In a report to councillors, general manager Griggs said it was not uncommon for local government to sponsor business or commercial events if economic and tourism impact could be measured. He cited examples of funding programs available to commercial entities in the City of Launceston, City of Onkaparinga, City of Hobart, City of Ballarat and Hepburn Shire.
Councillors were not convinced of the merits of funding the festival and voted as one against the recommendation. Cr Triffett said she was “quite ambivalent” about it. “The letter that we received actually stated that they needed money for marketing, advertising, infrastructure and logistics and stuff. We are three weeks out from this event – surely all that stuff would be done?” Cr Triffett said after moving the item for discussion. “My ambivalence comes with the 2030 strategic plan, that we need to encourage events, to get people in the valley and stuff, but we got fantastic traction with $10,000 from Ten Days on the Island,” she said.
Cr Belcher said he thought the festival would be a great event but he did not think the ratepayers of the Derwent Valley should be footing the bill. “We do pay money towards the Autumn Festival but that is a free event for ratepayers and visitors,” he said. He said he understood the beer festival was not a free event but a ticketed one. “I think asking for $25,000, three weeks out, might be too much to ask.” Cr Natasha Woods said she liked the general manager’s concept of a funding support program, but the current request did not sit right with her.
The open section of the meeting concluded with councillor questions:
- Cr Triffett asked about the demolition of the Pioneers Wall on Arthur Square. Noting that the wall had been Federally-funded, she asked whether future Federal Government funding might now be jeopardised. Infrastructure executive manager Amanda McCall said the answer was no, and the council was still actively engaged in grants.
- Cr Belcher asked what had happened to the lights on the soccer fields at Tynwald Park. Ms McCall said the lights had been assessed by a qualified person some weeks ago and were found to be unsuitable to train under. “We have actually installed some temporary lights ensure that the soccer club can still train two nights a week while we fund and get grant funding for future lights,” Ms McCall said.
- Cr Belcher asked about the timeframe for new public toilets at Westerway and what form they would take. McMcCall said kit-form toilets similar to those at the Esplanade had been ordered and were on the way.
- Cr Belcher asked whether the council was considering installing cameras at the Molesworth Recycling Centre following social media photos of an animal carcass being dumped there. Mr Griggs said options were being considered.
- Cr Belcher asked the general manager when he would allow the New Norfolk Visitor Information Centre to reopen. Mr Griggs said he was trying to contact the centre co-ordinator to have a discussion.
- Cr Belcher asked whether the general manager maintained a database of staff conflicts of interest, and said he would like a copy of it. Mr Griggs took the question on notice.
- Cr Belcher asked who had paid for the repair of a broken water pipe at the Peter Hudson statue. Mr Griggs took the question on notice, saying he was not aware of the breakage.
- Cr Belcher said food vans were presently operating in High St on Friday and Saturday nights, and asked whether they paid a fee. The general manager answered “no.”
- Cr Belcher asked whether the general manager had given advice to the mayor about motor vehicle mileage. The question was taken on notice.
- Finally, Cr Belcher asked the general manager whether he and his management team were “out of touch” with the Derwent Valley community. Cr Evans said Cr Belcher was out of order and instructed Mr Griggs not to answer the question.
- Cr Evans asked about the delay in the repair to Burnett St following water damage some months ago. “Ratepayers shouldn’t be footing the bill nor risking their cars or risking injury crossing the road over that section.,” Cr Evans said, noting that the damage now extended across two-thirds of the road. In response Ms McCall said: “At of 4 o’clock this afternoon, TasWater is still waiting on the investigation of what the council has requested. We have assisted to try to find an extra consultant to be able to undertake the work and at this point because we don’t have the engineering assessment report that we requested, the work is yet to be scheduled.”
With no further questions, councillors then voted to exclude the public and go into closed session to discuss the minutes of the council’s audit panel; the Closed Senior Management Report; and requests for leave of absence.
NOTE: Once again, hearing was very hard at the council meeting. “Speak up” was the frequent plea from the public gallery. This report will be checked for accuracy against the official recording when it becomes available. Anyone who feels their comments have been misheard is welcome to email email@example.com.