“Pack the Pool” floats 50 metre option for Batemans Bay

The option adopted by Eurobodalla Shire Council at their August 29 meeting. Photo
The option adopted by Eurobodalla Shire Council for the Mackay Park, Bay Pool, Old Bowlo site. Photo: ESC

Batemans Bay locals have laid claim to the town’s 50-metre swimming pool.

The future of the aging facility on the Princes Highway south of the Batemans Bay bridge has been a sore point since late August when Eurobodalla Shire Council adopted a draft concept plan for a new 25-metre, year-round, enclosed aquatic centre.

Aside from a 25-metre, eight-lane pool with ramp access, the full vision for the proposed aquatic centre includes a separate 10m warm-water therapy pool and spa, a freeform indoor leisure pool, that includes learn-to-swim and toddler areas, water-play splash pad, waterslides, gym, group fitness and wellness area.

The pool plan is coupled with a new 500 seat performance and cultural space taking in the current pool site, part of bigger plans that take in the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site and Mackay Park next door.

Both facilities would boast shared amenities, including a foyer, café, visitor information service and associated retail space, administration offices, as well as plant and support services.

Council is looking to take advantage of a ‘pot of gold’ on offer from the NSW and Australian Governments to turn the $46 million vision into a reality.

Around 120 people turned out over the weekend for the “Pack the Pool’ event, disappointed the draft concept plan adopted by Council doesn’t include a new or refurbished 50-metre pool.

https://www.facebook.com/fightforthe50/videos/168035247122884/

 

One of the organisers, Maureen Searson believes the decision is backward.

“We’ve already got the 50-metres which is catering to an existing group of swimmers,” Ms Searson says.

“It comes down to this idea of community, and bringing the community together, it makes no sense that Council would not build something for the whole community.”

According to the business case developed by planning consultants Otium, a 50-metre pool will cost approximately $6 million more to build and up to $300,000 a year more to operate – in comparison to a 25-metre facility.

Otium pointed to a “limited local market for a 50-metre pool” and suggested stronger demand for a recreation and program/therapy pool space, given the shire’s older and aging population and appeal to the family tourist market.

Ms Searson disagrees suggesting that an indoor 50-metre facility will be a drawcard for visiting representative squads and rebuild a competitive swimming club in the town.

“Families are traveling to Ulladulla for training at the moment because Council has allowed the Bay pool to deteriorate,” Ms Searson suggests.

At the Council meeting of August 29, Mayor Liz Innes rounded out a discussion on the length of the pool by saying, “Ultimately, we will only build what we can afford to maintain.”

To date, Council has ruled out a rate increase to cover the project.

The idea of an indoor, year-round, heated pool has been the long-held dream of the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee. Carolyn Harding is one of those who have been selling raffle tickets for the last 20 years raising funds, “The committee would like to see a 50-metre pool included in the new facility, however, if it is not affordable we will accept a 25-metre pool as long as the rest of the plan is retained,” she says.

“Rather than miss out [on the government funding] and be disadvantaged by that, we are happy to see the 25-metre pool funded along with everything else,” Ms Harding says.

As President of the Aquatic Centre Committee, Ms Harding attended “Pack the Pool” on Saturday.

“I think there are a lot of people who are not fully informed as to what the indoor aquatic centre is all about,” she says.

A closer look at the concept plan for a new aquatic centre at Batemans Bay. Photo: ESC
A closer look at the concept plan for a new aquatic centre at Batemans Bay. Photo: ESC

Earlier this month, Cr Innes called for unity around the idea.

“Arguing over detail and process at this point is only detracting from our goal, which is to achieve government funding to build the facility.”

“First we need to show the NSW and Australian Governments that we have a concept that is excellent and affordable. And we do,” she said.

“Let’s get the facility funded, then we can really start to drill down into the details.”

Simply getting a draft proposal in front of the NSW Government for consideration in this round of the Regional Cultural Fund and the Regional Sports and Infrastructure Fund seems to have been a driver, with speculation that the fund is already oversubscribed and might not advance to a second round.

Council’s across NSW are pitching the dreams of their various communities to Macquarie Street for funding, and everyone wanted to make sure they were there in the first round.

One of the NSW Government’s key selection criteria in considering applications is affordability and viability, a 25-metre pool seems to tick that box in the Eurobodalla’s case.

When asked about the possibility of a 50-metre pool, the State Member for Bega, Andrew Constance told Fairfax there would be no issues with altering the design if affordable.

“Ultimately, running costs will have to be evaluated against other interests in the shire,” he said.

Council says a 50-metre pool was presented as an option, however, “Given the additional construction and operational cost of a 50-metre pool, it is likely that the warm-water program pool or the learn-to-swim area would need to be sacrificed if a 50-metre pool was included,” Council’s website says.

“To include a 50-metre pool would have also weakened our business case, undermining the strength of our grant application and the likelihood of securing the NSW Government grant funds,” Council says.

Around 120 people turned out for Pack the Pool on Saturday. Photo: Facebook
Around 120 people turned out for Pack the Pool on Saturday. Photo: Facebook

Maureen Searson’s group, “Fight for Batemans Bay’s 50m Pool” doesn’t accept that a 50-metre pool is still an option given that Council has already adopted the 25-metre option.

The group is hoping to address Council tomorrow (November 28) suggesting that the figures Council is using to argue for a 25-metre pool are wrong.

“One of our supporters, Jeff de Jager has raised questions about the audited financial statements that suggest the total maintenance costs for all three of council’s swimming pools was $229,000 for the year,” Ms Searson says.

“The report also says the gross replacement cost for three pools is $5,134,000.

“We are keen for Council to explain how it is then that a new 50-metre pool would cost an extra $6 million in building costs compared to a 25-metre pool and an extra $300,000 for maintenance annually,” Ms Searson says. *See response that followed from Council below.

News about the dollars flowing from the Cultural Fund could come this week at the Artstate conference in Lismore, shortlisted applicants will be asked to provide further project details in early 2018.

Council’s application for additional funding from the Federal Government’s “Building Better Regions Fund” is being finalised now for submission before December 9.

*About Regional content is funded by members, thank you to 2pi Software, Tathra Beach House Apartments, Kelly Murray, Gabrielle Powell, Tim Holt, Robyn Amair, Wendy and Pete Gorton, Shan Watts, and Doug Reckord.

Rubbish resuscitated as art at the Eurobodalla’s ReVive Art Prize

Moruya's Susan Bomball with Bill, winner of ReVive2017. Photo: Eurobodalla Shire Council
Moruya’s Susan Bomball with Bill, winner of ReVive2017. Photo: Eurobodalla Shire Council

A tribute to an old friend, made of even older bits and pieces has won the Eurobodalla’s recycled art prize  – ReVive 2107.

Moruya’s Susan Bomball and her sculpture, “Bill” claimed the $4000 prize before a packed house at the Mechanic’s Institute.

“I was shocked, there is so much talent in there, I’ve never had people look at my work like this,” Susan says.

Made from reclaimed tools, chains, metal drill bits, and treasures from Council’s kerbside cleanups, Susan’s piece is a memorial to her favourite horse who was 17 years old when he passed away recently.

“Bill was a unique character,” Susan recalls.

“He didn’t like me very much, and he could be a bit of a grump but he was so good with special needs kids or anyone that needed a hug.

“Put a child in front of Bill, and he’d turn into mush,” she says.

Ben Floreani - Birth Engine. Photo: Ian Campbell
Ben Floreani – Birth Engine, using recycled glass bottles. Photo: Ian Campbell

Susan’s winning was one of 48 artworks on display at the Mechanics Institute in Moruya as part of National Recycling Week.

“Absolutely splendid” is how Council’s creative arts coordinator Indi Carmichael describes the exhibition.

Indi says the nature of the prize lends itself to playfulness, “The variety of works is impressive,” she says.

“The number of 3D works shows that more and more people are exploring that medium. Sculpture is definitely having a moment.”

Joy Macfarlane - What if. Photo: Ian Campbell
Joy Macfarlane – What if, using rubber, plastic, and polystyrene. Photo: Ian Campbell

Normally a painter, Bill was Susan’s first attempt at welding.

“I saw immediately that I could make art with welding, it’s a very forgiving way to work, you can just break things and reweld it,” Susan says.

Bill seems to have started with the large spanner that makes up his nose.

“In the last year and a half, I’ve really started getting into recycled materials in my art,” she says.

“I’ve got piles of recycled metal and wood – all sorts of things, materials that inspire me.”

Susan laughs that some of the bits and bobs she collects are fought over.

“My friend is always saying  – you cant weld that, that’s a great old tool that still works, you can’t buy that anymore,” Susan says.

Toby Whitelaw - Warning. Photo: Ian Campbell
Toby Whitelaw – Warning, using plastic bags collected from the roadside. Photo: Ian Campbell

Many of the works on display at ReVive are for sale but not Bill.

“He’ll have pride of place at home, he’ll sit at the top of the driveway,” Susan says.

“Thank you for the opportunity, this is a great way for people to have a go.”

Now in its sixth year, the ReVive Art Prize will continue as a biennial event in the alternate year to Eurobodalla’s prestigious Basil Sellers Art Prize.

The exhibition wrapped up on Friday (November 17) with the awarding of the $500 People’s Choice Award – Julie Brennan’s corkscrew inspired piece titled, “Threatened Species”.

*About Regional content is funded by members – thank you to 2pi Software, Sprout Eden – cafe and local produce, Therese and Denis Wheatley, Fiona Firth, Scott Halfpenny, Bruce and Julie Williamson,
Sue Hill, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison and Kerry Newlin.


Check out the gallery of other About Regional favourites…

Julie Brennan - Threatened Species. Photo: Ian Campbell
Winner of the People’s Choice Award – Julie Brennan’s, Threatened Species, the screwcap invasion is disaster for the cork. Photo: Ian Campbell
Merryn Sommervile - Childless Mothers. Photo: Ian Campbell
Merryn Sommervile – Childless Mothers, from a young age, girls are conditioned to perceive their purpose and value tied to motherhood. Photo: Ian Campbell
Kathleen McKenzie - Powerless, Battery Hen. Photo: Ian Campbell
Kathleen McKenzie – Powerless, Battery Hen, using batteries, ink cartridge components, packing beads, and kitchen shelving. Raising the plight of battery hens. Photo: Ian Campbell
Julia Mia Holmes - A Congress of Nudibranchs. Photo: Ian Campbell
Julia Mia Holmes – A Congress of Nudibranchs, using milk bottles to create a transparent discussion on the state of marine affairs. Photo: Ian Campbell
Linda Heald - There are memories in the glass...Photo: Ian Campbell
Linda Heald – There are memories in the glass. Doors from my childhood home, windows in my grandmothers house, colouring the landscape of my life. Photo: Ian Campbell 
Mark Ward - The Couple. Photo: Ian Campbell
Mark Ward – The Couple, using carpenters rulers, painted wood lattice. Having made the female initially, the little plastic penis turned up on a beach, so I made the man to keep her company.  Photo: Ian Campbell 

Podcast 19 – Eurobodalla Youth Forum

Some school holiday listening this time around.

During Local Government Week recently, Eurobodalla Shire Council made space for the youth of the shire.

Senior students from Carroll College and St Peter’s Anglican College at Broulee, and Batemans Bay High School were given time to address Council – including Mayor, Liz Innes and Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne.

One of the Shire’s Federal MP’s was also taking notes – Member for Gilmore, Anne Sudmalis.

Courtney Fryer from Carroll College used the opportunity to advocate for young people living with physical and mental disability.

Harrison O’Keefe from Batemans Bay High, made a great point around youth engagement –“show them what they are missing out on” and he has an idea to do just that.

While Pippi Sparrius from St Peter’s presented some surprising stats around teenage pregnancy in the Eurobodalla.

Keen to give the students a ‘real council meeting’ experience, Cr Innes was watching the clock, with Courtney, Harrison, and Pippi all given five minutes each.

Click play to listen here and now…

Or listen and subscribe via AudioBoom, Bitesz.com, or Apple Podcasts/iTunes.

For support or more info about the issues raised in this podcast check in with the Eurobodalla youth services directory or drop by one of the Shire’s popular youth cafes in Narooma and Batemans Bay.

About Regional is supported by the financial contributions of members, including Jill Howell, Max Wilson, Sue MacKinnon, Geoff Berry, and Four Winds at Bermagui – who have just released the program for next Easter’s festival, 60 artists, 10 ensembles, 26 performances, 10 stunning locations, over 5 days starting in late March 2018. Early bird tickets are on sale now.

Thanks for tuning in, see you out and about in South East NSW.
Cheers
Ian

Head garbos point to new opportunities in the local ‘war on waste’

Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
Recycling up close. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

‘Head garbos’ across the region have welcomed the supermarket ban on light weight plastic bags but are looking to new opportunities and challenges in their ever present ‘war on waste’.

Woolworths and Coles were tripping over themselves in announcing the news last week, both committing to a phase out of single use bags over the next 12 months.

Shoppers will be asked to bring their own bags or be charged 15 cents for a heavier weight, reusable plastic bag.

“This will significantly change the number of bags going to any landfill or transfer station,” says Mandy Thurling, Rescouse and Waste Manager for Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

In the Eurobodalla, Amanda Jones, Council’s Manager of Waste Services says, “This is great news, keeping problem waste from entering the environment.”

While also welcoming the action, Toby Browne, Waste Services Manager for Bega Valley Shire Council has signaled a need for further change, “It’s a move in the right direction but definitely more needs to be done to reduce packaging and other soft plastic waste.”

Environmental groups have been campaigning for a plastic bag ban for decades, and while some states and towns have imposed restrictions, the ABC TV series “War on Waste” seemed to inject new momentum into the national discussion.

Clean Up Australia estimates six billion plastic bags are handed out every year, with just 4% recycled.

Let loose in the environment they choke, smother, and tangle wildlife.

The supermarket ban doesn’t go far enough according to Clean Up Australia, who continue to lobby the Premiers of New South Walse, Victoria, and Western Australia for an out right ban.

“Hopefully more commercial premises will come on board and ban the bag,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

Given their ‘last for forever nature’ all three South East councils will have to continue to manage plastic bags and soft plastics into the future.

A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.
A new landfill cell at the Brou waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council.

Apart from taking up tip space, the Eurobodalla’s Amanda Jones says, “Plastic bags at landfill sites get caught by the wind and need to be managed by catching them in litter fences and manual litter picking.”

Toby Brown is frustrated by plastic bag contamination of other waste streams at his Bega Valley facilities.

“When they contaminate recycling and organic waste streams, they must be manually removed,” he says.

With that Amanda Jones jumps in.

“Please don’t put your recycling in plastic bags!” she says.

“The bags don’t always fall open to allow recyclables to be sorted.”

The recent introduction of  REDcyle bins at Coles supermarkets in Bega, Eden, Batemans Bay, Ulladulla, and Cooma is part of the equation Mandy Thurling is hoping locals might take up.

REDcycle bins not only take plastic bags but the soft plastic wrapping and packaging many products come smothered in.

REDcycle askes you to do the scrunch test, “If it’s soft plastic and can be crunched into a ball, it can be placed into a REDcycle drop off bin,” their website says.

The material collected is transformed into a range of products including street furniture, decking, and bollards by Replas.

“Council is always looking at the next step in reducing waste to landfill, this could be by reducing all soft plastics and finding alternate recycling avenues for this material,” Ms Thurling from Snowy Monaro says.

In the Eurobodalla, where Council runs their own recycling facility the ‘war on waste’ is reaching new heights.

Crushed waste glass is starting to be used instead of quarried sand in road construction projects.

The sand substitute has just been tested in Murray Street, Moruya where 63 tonnes of the local product was used to install new drainage culverts and reconstruct the road.

“The crushed glass has proven to be a viable product to replace sand in concrete mixes,” Council’s Works Manager, Tony Swallow says.

“It does need to be treated differently to bedding sand but our crews are happy with the performance,” he says.

Around 30 tonnes of sand like substance is produced each week at the Materials Recycling Facility in Moruya; glass represents 40% of the 5,200 tonnes of recyclables collected in the Eurobodalla each year.

“The savings to our environment and Council’s materials budget are significant,” Mr Swallow says.

Polystyrene is the other win in the Eurobodalla’s waste war.

Known for making a mighty mess, up until now polystyrene had taken up valuable landfill space at Surf Beach and Brou.

The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council
The polystyrene thermal compaction machine at the Surf Beach waste facility. Source: Eurobodalla Shire Council

With a $30,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Authority, Council has installed a thermal compaction machine at its Surf Beach facility.

“The process reduces the volume and turns polystyrene into a hard white substance,” Mr Swallow explains.

“Our contractor is shipping it to China where the material is made into items like picture frames.

“What has made this such a success is that we have supplied local businesses that have a lot of polystyrene packaging with metal frames and wool bales to easily collect the material,” Mr Swallow says.

Council estimates the move will save them $100,000 worth of landfill space each year, with other savings spinning off to local electronic businesses and supermarkets in reduced waste disposal fees.

Bega Valley Shire is looking to do more with waste and is currently developing a waste strategy.

“Our key areas are likely to be addressing food waste recycling and improving local economic opportunity in recycling and resource recovery,” Mr Browne says.

“It’s great to see business making meaningful change in response to community concern. Change creates opportunities.”

At the start of July, Snowy Monaro Regional Council introduced a fully commingled recycling service for the Cooma kerbside collection area

“This allows locals to place recyclable items in the yellow lidded recycling bin,” Mandy Thurling says.

“There is no longer a need to separate paper and cardboard into the black crate.”

Council is now considering giving households a larger capacity recycling bin – more room to recycle.

The action, appetite, and ideas that swirl in this discussion points us in the right direction and into a better position to win the ‘war on waste’ locally.

*Thank you to About Regional member Tim Holt for his contribution to local story telling.

Disclaimer: Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council

 

 

Batemans Bay pitches to a future as the State points to a pot of gold

Batemans Bay from above. Source Bay Chamber FB page taken by Geoff Payne
Batemans Bay from above. Source Bay Chamber FB page taken by Geoff Payne

Batemans Bay’s seaside location is guiding a vision for the town’s future, with the Business and Tourism Chamber inspiring a plan that includes floating pontoons in the CBD and a pier off Hanging Rock for cruise ships to pull up alongside.

Lead by newish president David Maclachlan, the Chamber is making the most of the State Government’s pitch for big ideas that need funding.

Spruiking on Facebook, the Member for Bega and NSW Transport Minister, Andrew Constance said, “We’ve got a $1.3 billion fund, the message to the community is get out, push your councils, push your mayors, push us, look for great projects.”

“One central piece of infrastructure required at Batemans Bay is floating pontoons to enable recreational boats, personal watercraft, and seaplanes to access our town centre and seaside boardwalk,” Mr Maclachlan says.

Floating pontoons seem more feasible at this stage compared to a fixed pier at Hanging Rock. Current pontoon planning still accommodates cruise ships in that it might cater for cruise ship tenders as opposed to ‘a mothership’ that perhaps needs a purpose built fixed structure to tie up to.

Access for all seems to be a driver in the Chamber’s pontoon push, inspired by what is being achieved by ‘The Bay Push’ an the inclusive playground at Batehaven.

“The proposal is to install a wheelchair hoist on the proposed pontoon and at the existing Hanging Rock boat ramp,” Mr Maclachlan says.

Primarily though stimulating the local economy and tourism industry is at the heart of the Chamber’s plan.

Flat white thanks! Source: Bay Chamber FB Page
Flat white thanks! Source: Bay Chamber FB Page

“Without floating pontoons, there is little practical recreational boating access to the CBD,” the Chamber chief says.

“There is no mooring point at which the boating public can get a coffee, groceries, or bait and fishing tackle.

“There are few public wharfs available to boat owners and what is there is of such a height that it is largely unusable by recreational craft,” Mr Maclachan explains.

In a report presented to those who can make this stuff happen (NSW Ports, NSW Roads and Maritime, Regional Development Australia, Eurobodalla Shire Council) the Chamber also points to seaplane movements.

“The seaplane operators are now licensed to land on the water adjacent to the CBD, yet do not have pontoon access,” Mr Maclachan says.

“The seaplanes feature in Eurobodalla and Tourism Australia’s national and international marketing for the region.”

According to the Chamber, the plan has been received positively by the NSW Government. About Regional sought comment from local member, Andrew Constance, and Maritime Minister Melinda Pavey.

“The proposal has been internally submitted within Roads and Maritime Services for funding,” Mr Maclachlan says.

Sailing off Batemans Bay. Source: Chamber FB Page
Sailing off Batemans Bay. Source: Chamber FB Page

Eurobodalla Mayor, Cr Liz Innes says Council is supporting the idea.

“When you look at these projects that deliver tourism infrastructure into our shire, the potential is fantastic, Cr Innes says.

“But we need to be realistic about the environmental constraints.”

The Mayor points to wave action within the bay that perhaps impedes pontoons, and that Council is seeking expert advice.

Council is really keen to look at these kind of projects that the Chamber is bringing forward, we really commend them for thinking outside the box and having the courage to step up, but we do need to have a look at those environmental concerns,” the Mayor says.

“There is a little bit more involved in the engineering to make sure that they [the pontoons] are stable and that long term the maintenance doesn’t become a huge burden and an issue for ratepayers.

“But in this day and age, the engineering solutions are just incredible, we’ve just gotta make sure we get it right,” Cr Innes says.

Batemans Bay Foreshore. Source Chamber FB page, by Geoff Payne
Batemans Bay Foreshore. Source Chamber FB page by Geoff Payne

The Mayor is clear that Council has no capacity for funding such a project and that environmental considerations need to be explored further, but she is keen to see the idea succeed if feasible.

“It’s important that we take the time to ensure what we do now doesn’t create issues in the future,” Cr Innes says.

“We have a really good working relationship with our local member [Andrew Constance] and he is very keen to see benefits from the State flow down to this region in particular.”

Chamber chief, David Maclachlan accepts those concerns but is confident a solution already exists.

“You see it in Sydney Harbour and up on the Hawkesbury,” Mr Maclachlan told About Regional.

“Our largest industry is tourism, we need to keep growing and always look to do better and provide more – everyone benefits.

“Private and public tourism infrastructure has been identified by various studies as a solution to local employment issues and increasing visitor spend,” he says.

Batemans Bay Marina. Source: Chamber FB page by Geoff Payne
Batemans Bay Marina. Source: Chamber FB page by Geoff Payne

The Chamber’s pitch is just part of the Batemans Bay buzz at the moment, which not only includes a new $300 million crossing of the Clyde River but plans for the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site, MacKay Park/Batemans Bay Pool precinct, the Bay Link Road project to the Princess Highway, and Council’s CBD streetscape makeover.

“There is massive momentum Ian, an indoor aquatic centre and an arts and cultural centre are extremely exciting possibilities,” Cr Innes says.

“Both Andrew Constance and myself have made very strong commitments that that is something we want to see delivered.

“All this will have flow on affects for the whole Shire because it is a gateway site,” Cr Innes says.

The new bridge is locked in, the Batemans Bay community waits to see what the NSW Government’s $1.3 billion booty might deliver next.

*Thanks to Rebecca Henshaw at Livefire Batemans Bay for video production

 

Eurobodalla Citizens Jury – $100,000, 86 recommendations. Worthwhile?

Is Council spending your money on the right things? If not, what should it change?

That was the question put to the Eurobodalla Citizens Jury, a group of 28 randomly selected residents.

Starting in June 2016, the Citizens Jury reported back to Council in December making a wide range of recommendations from business development to land use to the role of the arts in the community, including:

  • Ensure that the potential for a performing arts base is considered in the redevelopment of the MacKay Park precinct.
  • Investigate revenue opportunities through use of waste facilities to generate income and or energy source, e.g. incorporating methane collection; recycling of plastics into a viable resource.
  • Continue and further develop collaboration with Aboriginal people and use of traditional land care techniques.
  •  Council recognise that the Jury supports the consistent application of the LEP and other environmental strategies and plans, such that green belts and riparian zones are protected.

The Citizens Jury project cost around $100 000 but was it worth it?

Yes, but it was not without its problems, according to Moruya juror Kate Raymond.

“The Citizens Jury was definitely worthwhile, it gave us all a good sense of what Council did and what kind of decisions had to be made every day,” Kate says.

However, the Jury struggled with the complexity of the task and was heavily reliant on Council staff to provide them with information.

“We came to realise that the question was just too broad, and we really couldn’t answer it,” Kate explains.

“How are we supposed to know if Council is spending enough money on roads, rates, and rubbish? What do we have to measure it against?

“We were briefed, but we only got Council’s perspective, and they said, ‘We’re doing the best we can with the money we have’. We had to take their word for it,” Kate says.

The Jury members also struggled to achieve consensus on issues.

“Even if some of us thought Council was spending too much on something, we’d never be able to reach consensus on it because it’s a group of 28 people with different priorities,” Kate says.

“For instance, some people wanted much more paving and guttering in the Shire but others disagreed because they thought it was less important for a rural shire. That’s just one example!”

It’s a point Deputy Mayor Anthony Mayne isn’t surprised to hear.

“By definition, a jury is a group of people who consider information and then reach a binding decision about it,” Cr Mayne says.

“Although the Jury deeply engaged with the issues presented to them, they weren’t expected to come to a unanimous agreement about them.

“To call it a ‘Jury’ does little to advance or promote the positive benefits of this project,” he says

Kate Raymond also believes the jury struggled to understand the role of Council.

“There were some jurors with quite extreme views about what Council does [views that] were simply outside what we were meant to be talking about,” she says

“I think the New Democracy Foundation (the Jury facilitators) did a really good job though.”

“Overall, I still think it was worthwhile,” Kate says.

Critic of the Citizens Jury project, Paul Bradstreet, took a keen interest in the process and observed a couple of Jury meetings.

Paul represents the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association (ERA).

Not a juror himself, he argues that the Jury wasn’t able to consider new ideas for the Shire.

“The Shire needs new ideas, but Council remains stuck in the same old patterns because it’s easier than dealing with new things,” he says.

According to Paul, citizens with innovative ideas were directed to make a submission to the Jury, but the Jury couldn’t consider them.

“For instance, the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association had ideas that we wanted to put to Council, especially following the [Council] elections in September,” Paul says.

“The ERA had a couple of councilors elected on our platform issues, so we know our ideas are relevant, but we weren’t being given a chance to express them.

“The Citizens Jury was set up as a public relations, rubber stamping exercise, where Council gets to hear that they’re doing a great job,”  Paul says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council says that new ideas and submissions from the public were included in the Jury project.

A Council spokesperson says, there were 39 submissions from the community, and the Jury considered all of them carefully.

“Although the Jury project was primarily set up to look at how Council currently spends its money, it did consider new ideas, for instance, a community ‘think tank’ activity to run as part of Local Government Week and investigating a mobile library service,” the spokesperson explains.

Kate Raymond agrees that the Jury considered new ideas, but was somewhat ambivalent about Council’s response,

“For instance, our report recommended (p.9) having an agricultural officer in Council, to supercharge the outcomes from the Rural Lands Strategy,” Kate says.

Council’s response was, ‘We will look into this’ and if there is grant funding available (p.32) they’ve told us they will investigate options.

“Does this mean Council is actively looking for grant funding for this position? What does investigating options mean? That’s unclear,” Kate says.

Council’s spokesperson says the Citizens Jury worked well and achieved the goal of providing feedback on how Council spends its money.

The jury made 86 recommendations, 76 of which align with the Draft Delivery Program 2017-21 and the Operational Plan 2017-18. These two documents inform upcoming Council spending in the immediate future,” the spokesperson says.

“We [Council] also realised that there’s quite a lot of confusion in the community about the three tiers of government (local, state and federal) and their respective roles. So we’re working at getting some information about this out there.”

Eurobodalla Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne. Source: Facebook
Eurobodalla Deputy Mayor, Anthony Mayne. Source: Facebook

The Deputy Mayor believes it was a worthwhile process.

“In the modern world of social media, to see 28 people deeply engaged and enquiring of any number of issues over a sustained period of time is to be applauded,” Cr Mayne says.

“These were volunteers, paid a small allowance to give up seven nights and many hours of reading over several months to listen, wonder, seek, exchange, explore and debate a variety of matters before finally presenting their outcomes to the Councillors”.

So, will the Eurobodalla see another Citizens Jury?

“Council has developed a Community Engagement Framework and the Citizens Jury will remain something we can use when appropriate,” Council’s spokesperson explains.

“The jurors provided significant amounts of their own time and Council is appreciative of that.”

Words by Fiona Whitelaw, Moruya

*Fiona contacted a number of other jurors for this article but Kate Raymond was the only one to take up the opportunity.

*Featured videos produced by Eurobodalla Shire Council before and during the Jury process.

South East NSW makes its pitch for jobs from Canberra

Barnaby Joyce, pic from Sportsbet
Barnaby Joyce, pic from Sportsbet

South East NSW is pitching itself as a new home for a range of Federal Government departments.

Following the political and media stink around the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale, a Senate inquiry was established to investigate elements of the decision by Agriculture Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and local member for Armidale, the National’s Barnaby Joyce.

However, the work of the committee has been seen as bigger than just the issue of the APVMA as regional leaders look to fertilise a deeper discussion around moving public service jobs out of Canberra, all looking for a greater share of the $16.7 billion annual wages bill for their local economies.

Headed by Labor Senator Jenny McAllister, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration held hearings in Townsville last week. Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain was one of five local government officials from around New South Wales invited to phone in and take part in the discussion.

The invitation to speak came after the committee had considered written submissions.

Apart from Bega Valley Shire Council, Snowy Monaro and Eurobodalla councils also provided written advice to the committee, along with the Canberra Region Joint Organisation.

All of the local submissions declared the region as an ideal location for Commonwealth investment and backed the idea of decentralisation.

Kristy McBain, pic from Bega Valley Shire Council
Kristy McBain, pic from Bega Valley Shire Council

In his submission, Snowy Monaro Administrator Dean Lynch spoke of the boost such a move would be for the local economy and pointed to an available workforce.

Andrew Greenway, from Eurobodalla Shire, highlighted lifestyle advantages and the benefits that had for staff retention.

Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain pointed to the region’s proximity to Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne and the private investment that would follow.

Senator McAllister says the terms of reference of her committee are narrow and focused on the APVMA decision, none the less local government and regional business organisations from around the country have seized on the opportunity to put a stake in the ground.

Among the 200 written submissions were councils from the Mallee, Longreach, Manning Valley, Colac, and the Spencer Gulf along with groups like Australian Wool Growers, NSW Business Chamber, the Winemakers Federation and the Country Women’s Association.

Listening to the live stream on Friday morning as Cr McBain spoke, Senator McAllister and fellow committee member Senator Bridget McKenzie seemed to encourage that wider discussion, moving beyond the APVMA.

All those on the call were asked if their region had been considered along with Armidale as a new base from the APVMA, all answered, “Not as far as I know” and the conversation quickly moved on.

Both senators went on to point to the separate but related process underway within the Turnbull Cabinet, where the Minster for Regional Development, Senator Fiona Nash is developing the Government’s broader decentralisation policy which will be released later this year.

Speaking at the National Press Club in April, Senator Nash said regional Australians deserved the jobs and opportunities that come with government agencies.

“When government invests in community it breeds confidence,” Senator Nash said.

Fiona Nash, pic from ABC
Fiona Nash, pic from ABC

She went on to explain the process all Federal ministers are currently involved in, which asks them to detail the departments, entities or functions that might be suitable for relocation to a regional area.

“We are not going to leave any stone unturned in looking for those agencies that could be relocated to the regions for the benefit of the regions,” Senator Nash told the Press Club.

Danielle Mulholland, President of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils and Mayor of Kyogle, told Senator McAllister that she is keen for the government to better definition ‘the regions’.

At the moment a regional community is seen as being one that lives at least 150km from a capital city.

“That’s a really loose definition,” Cr Mulholland said.

She fears authentic regional communities might miss out with a 150km starting line.

It’s a point echoed in the written submission from Snowy Monaro Regional Council and the Canberra Region Joint Organisation in regards to Cooma, which is just 116km from Canberra.

Dean Lynch from Snowy Monaro, in fact contends that regional areas around the ACT should be “initial priorities” and that Cooma’s proximity would “facilitate an easier transition from existing to new workplaces” for Commonwealth staff.

Cooma to Canberra, 116km.
Cooma to Canberra, 116km.

As the phone panel’s assessment of decentralisation evolved on Friday, Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain said there also needed to be a synergy between the agency being relocated and the new host town for the process to be a win-win.

“From our point of view, it would have to be an agency or a department that had a natural fit with our area,” Cr McBain told the Senate committee.

From a Eurobodalla perspective, Business Development boss, Andrew Greenway believes that includes agencies responsible for regional communications, marine services, sciences and safety, regional development, regional transport, aged care, tourism, and education.

Both Snowy Monaro and Bega Valley also point to agriculture and environmental management services.

“We are going to have a big conversation around this over the next six months,” Senator McKenzie said.

All those on the call encouraged the two Senators in their suggestion that there should be a parliamentary committee formed with broader terms of reference than their own to fully develop a transparent and fair criteria and assessment process around decentralisation – the suggestion being, to avoid the allegation of political pork barrelling that has been leveled at Barnaby Joyce in the APVMA decision.

The findings of Senator McAllister’s committee will be delivered in June, it’s understood Turnbull Cabinet ministers have until August to complete their departmental reviews and report back to Senator Nash.

With 83% of Commonwealth employment located in Canberra or the five largest Australian cities, the potential of shifting some of that into regional areas is huge, hence the level of interest. In the Bega Valley’s submission, Cr McBain points to NSW Government data that estimates for each public sector job in a regional area, two jobs are created in the private sector.

However, “Government can’t fix everything,” warned Senator Nash at the Press Club, signaling that the Turnbull Government would be looking to partnerships with local government and the community more broadly as decentralisation rolls out.

It would appear that regional Australia is interested to know more and ready to play its part.

Disclaimer: Author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No threat to Anzac Day in South East NSW – marches will go on

WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll
WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll

Organisers of Anzac Day marches across South East NSW say they will take any new security arrangements “in their stride“.

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council told About Regional that there was no way Anzac Day marches through the high country would be stopped.

Concern was sparked this week following the cancellation of marches in the Blue Mountains after the local council refused to cover costs associated with new anti-terrorist requirements.

David White, a spokesman for ex-services organisations at Katoomba, Springwood, Blackheath and Glenbrook told the ‘Blue Mountains Gazette‘ that he was devasted by the decision.

“It’s such a long, unbroken tradition and something which we believe is cherished by the local communities,” he told the paper.

“The terrorists are winning. I say that because the reaction to events overseas continues to provoke overreactions here, in our view, which require mitigation actions that are beyond our means.”

The new anti-terrorist measures are said to include the need for solid barriers across roadways to prevent a truck or other vehicles being driven through crowds, similar to what the world witnessed in the French city of Nice in July last year.

Blue Mountains Mayor, Mark Greenhill told the ABC he was appalled that the State Government was forcing these changes on to communities and expecting local government to pick up the cost.

“What other government in a country around the world would say ‘you need these measures to keep you safe but we won’t fund them’? It’s completely outrageous,” Cr Greenhill told the ABC.

Australian soldiers with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment march on Anzac Day. From wikimedia commons
Australian soldiers with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment march on Anzac Day. From wikimedia commons

The State Liberal Member for Bega and NSW Transport Minister, Andrew Constance says the security requirements for commemorations in the South East will be guided by local police with measures put in place on a case by case basis.

“Unfortunately this is the way of the world,” he says.

“Governments everywhere need to take these steps, especially at high profile events, to protect people.”

While acknowledging the need for extra security, Mr Constance says it is important that people go about their business.

“We can’t live in fear, we need to stand together and be strong as a community and not let terrorists dictate our way of life,” he says.

Mr Constance suggests the cancelling of events in the Blue Mountains was politically motivated.

“The Labor Mayor for the Blue Mountains has behaved disgracefully,” Mr Constance says.

The Member for Bega says the NSW Government will ensure Anzac Day will continue around New South Walse as planned and any extra costs will be shared, which is now the case in the Blue Mountains.

Snowy Monaro Council chief Dean Lynch says an assessment will be made and if there are extra expenses locally, all involved will work together and find a way to cover them.

Eurobodalla Shire Council believes the terrorist risk is low and will liaise with NSW Police.

WW1 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll
WW1 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll

Director of Infrastructure Services, Warren Sharpe told About Regional he sees no reason why the marches wouldn’t proceed with the usual sensible traffic control measures in place.

“We absolutely support the wonderful traditions and symbolism of our local Anzac marches,” he says.

“They mean a great deal to all of us and Council will do everything possible to make them a success this year, just as we do every year.”

In the Bega Valley, Tathra ex-serviceman Allen Collins says the Bega RSL Sub-branch is conscious of the need for security but is confident it’s close relationship with Bega Valley Shire Council and local Police will ensure a positive outcome.

“Anzac Day does cost money, but Council and groups like Tathra Lions and the RSL Club have always looked after us,” he says.

“I don’t think there will be any problems,” he says.

Summer hijacked by bindiis. Advice to slow their advance!

 

Bindiis! Quick gettem now before they flower. Supplied by Eurobodalla Shire Council
Bindiis! Quick get them now before they flower. Pic supplied by Eurobodalla Shire Council

Bindiis are the curse of summer 2016/17 in South East New South Wales.

Barefoot cricket is not an option and running under the sprinkler ends in tears. My dog Duke has even worked out a path around the bindiis when fetching a ball – smart fella!

Spread easily by foot traffic and in the fur of animals, bindiis AKA Soliva sessilis are a native of South America, but are now well established around the globe. Backyards in New Zealand, France, Hawaii, and California have also become no-go zones.

In 2016 it seems these little ‘pricks’ have made the most of a good growing season.

A spokesperson from the parks and gardens team at Eurobodalla Shire Council says bindiis generally flourish in spring, but especially so after a wet winter.

And a wet winter we have had.

Checking the rainfall stats, South East NSW received an average of 364mm of rain over the three months of winter. Bega was the top with 808mm, then came Batemans Bay with at least 400mm, Eden 236mm, Bombala 235mm, Jindabyne 258mm.

As a bonus, most backyards also had a good dump in early spring.

Boots - an unwilling accomplice to the spread of Bindii's
Boots – an unwilling accomplice to the spread of Bindii’s

Friends of About Regional are despairing.

Jan Southcott writes, ‘This is the first year they have invaded our lawn – grandkids won’t be happy.”

“I think they are worse this year,” Robyn Calhoun says on Facebook.

Ahoy Jenni writes, “I was ambushed by a whole cluster of bindiis.”

From Meagan O’Halloran, “They are much worse at my place too this year.”

Robyn Broughton was forced to take action, “Just finished digging mine out of the backyard.”

There is more at play here though then just our wet winter.

About Regional garden Jedi, Kathleen McCann says, “When weeds appear there is a story to look for, often a story of repair and rejuvenation.”

“What the bindii is telling you is – Stop treading here, I am repairing your lawn!”

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann

The Bega Valley based permaculturist says bindiis are a sign that your lawn has become compacted, stressed and worn.

“Bindiis often appear as the first part of a healing process – a successional process of plants that move in to repair the soil,” she says.

“Next to appear will be long tap rooted weeds like flat-weed, thistle, dock, and plantain.

“After that, the native grasses have a chance to appear and repair,” Kathleen says.

For a land manager like Eurobodalla Shire Council, controlling bindiis is a key part of their annual maintenance program for local parks, sporting fields and reserves.

High profile grassy areas like Moruya’s Riverside Park, the Batemans Bay Foreshore Reserve, and the turfed areas around public pools come in for particular attention.

To stay ahead of the spiky invaders Council sprays a herbicide during the winter months called ‘Spearhead’.

“If the bindiis have flowered it’s too late to spray for summer,” a Council spokesperson says.

“The maintenance must be done annually and we are finding each year there is less infestation than the previous year.”

Bike tyres too! Helping the Bindii spread
Bike tyres too! Helping the Bindii spread

No sprays for Kathleen McCann, her approach is to work with the natural healing process and restore the health of your lawn – reducing those bare, compacted spots where bindiis can take hold.

“Next time it rains, or after a good watering, fork holes into the lawn, feed up with fertiliser, worm juice, dolomite, potash and give it another good watering,” Kathleen advises.

“You will still have some bindiis popping up but they will soon disappear as the repair starts to happen.”

On Facebook, Russell Jennings adds, “Learn to recognise the distinctive leaves and just keep ripping them out before they seed.

“It takes a while, with regular pulling out sessions, eventually you can win,” Russell writes.

Good luck comrades in the battle against bindiis, may luscious lawns be yours in the summer of 2017/18.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional strives to capture the colour, wisdom, and issues of South East NSW, in episode two of the podcast…

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

* Long time Eurobodalla Council watcher Keith Dance wants to change the way Local Government is elected in NSW.

Having served two terms on Council and contested every election between 2000 and 2010, Keith believes the system encourages too many candidates to stand, which makes it impossible for voters to make an informed choice.

Keith reckons part of the solution comes from Victoria.

John Alcock and Howard Charles
John Alcock and Howard Charles

* The small Monaro town of Nimmitabel, south-east of Cooma is heading into summer with more water security than every before. A new dam has just opened on the outskirts of town.

Howard Charles and John Alcock are two of the fathers of the Lake Wallace Dam, both were keen to jump the fence and show me around.

* The Archibald Prize has just wrapped up for another year at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

But these famous faces aren’t being put away, they are hitting the road for a tour of regional NSW and Victoria – including the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

Gallery Director, Iain Dawson gives us a preview.

And a bush dance to finish with, the Kameruka Bush Orchestra in full flight.

Listening and streaming options:

Click here to listen via AudioBoom

Click here to listen via Stitcher

Coming soon to iTunes!