Article from Peter McGlone in today's Mercury makes for interesting reading - he has pretty well nailed it!
I tried. I organised an open day, Council advertised for expressions of interest to lease but sadly not one response. Since the closure of the Drama Club the hall has barely been used. Even when the motion to sell was proposed we did not receive a single reaction from the public.
Costs far exceeded income and it does not make financial sense to sink money into an unused asset.
It is a lovely hall and I hope it will retain its character.
There is a silver lining..... I will be moving a motion at the May council meeting that "funds from the proceeds of the sale will only be used for community infrastructure projects" - so at least the value of our community assets is retained. Maybe the money will be used to improve another hall, or a sporting facility - who knows!
Sale of Rowella Hall deferred due to a sudden resurgence of interest from the community.
Council today decided to defer the sale of the hall on the proviso that a Special Committee of Council is set up to run the hall according to the rules. It is encouraging to see that there are now sufficient number of residents interested in forming this committee.
We’re looking forward to great things.
As the West Tamar Council representative for Taswater I am very close to the current situation and it is probably an appropriate time to recount some of the facts.
The most important fact is that there are 29 councils involved and we are all being hit with the same criticism - when, in fact. West Tamar Council was one of the best run and viable water and sewerage operations in the State. Just look at the minimal amount of maintenance required on the West Tamar infrastrucure and you see that we handed over a very good system.
In 2008 West Tamar Council owned a water and sewerage system worth $55m. It was profitable and returned a small return to council - less than 1.5% - but enough to keep the system up to date. The State government then persuaded councils to put all their assets into a central body. The main, and quite valid, reason was that some councils were NOT looking after their assets - and by putting them all under one organisation, they would be better maintained. Also, being a "peak" body they would be able to access "rivers of gold" from Federal Government. Initially this was Ben Lomond Water and later the 3 regional bodies were merged into Taswater.
In return for giving away our assets we would receive a dividend to replace the income we had received in the past.. We ended up owning around 3% of the company.
Taswater has many issues to fix - that is agreed. Some of these issues are as a result of poor maintenance by SOME councils, a lot are due to a tightening of standards. In a large number of cases the boil water alerts are due to more stringent rules - it isn't always a case of equipment failure.
Water that was fine to drink 10 years ago is not Ok today.
There are 113 plants that require fixing - it will take time and money. Councils have agreed to REDUCE their distributions in order to facilitate a 10 year plan.
So,we have a plan, there is no crisis. The existing boil water alerts will be fixed by August 2018 (13 will be fixed by August 2017). The sewerage plants require a large amount of work and, as an engineer, I appreciate that it takes time to fix this vast problem - from design to approval of a plant can take 2 1/2 years - and there are 113 to do!
However, the Tasmanian State Goverment thinks it can fix all these problem in 5-6 years - BUT only if the State OWNS Taswater. Hence the latest situation that "we are actively considering taking ownership of Taswater"
If the State were to refund the asset value to councils then I'm sure councils would be happy - the treasurer has given no indication that they would do this - in fact the feeling is that we may receive NOTHING. If that is the case, it is not a takeover - it is theft.
Not only would we lose an asset but would would also lose the distribution - currently equivalent to just under $50 for every resident of WT. We are already doing a lot to improve our already efficient operation ,we are resource sharing and we are fast using up our options to save costs. If we lose our distribution or our assets we either have to cut services or increase rates.
The situation is very uncertain at the moment, there is no indication of how the process will work - I assume it will require approval from the Upper House and this could be a stumbling block - who knows!
I will keep you informed.
Unfortunately this wonderful hall is seriously underutilised and costing council a lot in maintenance - and there are significant electricity standing charges. Council has only had one hiring in the past 2 years. We don't want to lose this asset so we are advertising for anyone to take it over - maybe as a cafe, wine centre - or anything the gets some use for the building - we will be very generous on any rental terms.
At the August council meeting I successfully put a motion to make Exeter an Recreational Vehicle friendly town.
There were 2 main reasons for this:
I do not propose we provide any overnight parking in Exeter – why would you want to when there’s Rose Bay 3.5km away. .
This will not have any negative effect on the existing caravan sites businesses – in fact it may have a benefit – RVs may be drawn to Exeter because of the facilities – and then carry on to camp sites further North. Campervans don’t always go to camp sites, but if they do it’s because they want a real shower, powered sites and to socialise – not to empty their tanks.
There are also health issues - campervans don’t always do the right thing - they have been known to just back into the bush and open the tap. If we provide a free and convenient option it will help to reduce that problem.
And whilst we're helping the campervans - why not assist electric vehicles - we could also include an electric vehicle charging station – very small cost. This would further encourage tourists to Tasmania as it would increase the range that electric cards could reach. Currently the Tesla provide free charging stations at strategic intervals – so you can get from Melbourne to Brisbane for example. There are a few in Tasmania – but there’s a great big gap between Devonport and Hobart that precludes tourists “doing the island”– this is a huge opportunity to get those cars to come through WT.
The charger could be solar powered using panels on the library roof - West Tamar Council can lead the state using this technology.
And then there's the cyclists. For a relatively small cost we can install a bike repair station - I saw this when I was on holiday in Canada recently.
With these facilities, plus a small playground, I hope that this will encourage visitors to stay a while in Exeter rather than just driving through.
'd appreciate comments.
Last week I attended a community meeting at the Gravelly Beach Fire Station which was very well attended. These meetings are a great opportunity for residents to meet councillors and bring up items of concern. I congratulate the organisors for putting this together - there's always a far better response when the community arranges this rather than a council facilitated meeting - they usually get poor attendances as everyone thinks that council is trying to sell something! So if your area wants to meet with some councilors - organise it and I will be there!
There's often lots of small issues - ones we weren't even aware of - and this type of forum can achieve a lot - very quickly. Generally the issues fall into one of these categories:
Of course I'm always available to meet over specific issues - just email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the next 3 months council will be working on the budget for 2016/17. This is complex balancing act to:
This was an issue that divided the council. It was narrowly passed (5/4). This is the type of development that challenges the Councillors - several had misgivings about it but if it complies with all the regulations then we're obliged to pass it. The decision can go two ways:
A. We pass it and then the representors will appeal and it will go to the Tribunal.
B. We decline it and then the developer will appeal and it will go to the Tribunal.
So either way, the Tribunal will decide - and they will apply the same rules that we work to.
I was one of the 5 to vote for it for one very important reason. Council can stipulate a whole raft of conditions on a development - I requested a condition to do with grey waste dispersal. If we go for option "A" then those conditions are likely to remain in place - whereas this is not guaranteed with option "B".
The appeal process
My initiative to have an energy audit has paid off handsomely! We have just received the report and it has shown up a whole range of issues that we can look at to reduce our carbon footprint. There are a number of "unusual" activities on electric meter readings of council properties that will require more investigation. We can also see where fuel is consumed and which vehicles are underperforming.
Most importantly we now have a basepoint so we can compare with future audits - our aim will be to reduce our footprint.
We will be discussing the energy audit at out next council meeting and deciding how to progress.
The August council meeting saw quite a contentious planning application. A sub-division off Nobelius Drive for 14 lots. The proposed blocks were reasonably large - but not as big as the adjacent Nobelius Drive. They were generally larger that the nearby culs-de-sac.
Council is sometimes seen as the "bad guy" in these processes but in fact we are very much restricted in what we can and can't do. In the past, council had their own planning scheme and were very flexible in what they could allow - now we have a statewide planning scheme that is highly regulated.
People may think that the actual council meeting is the first time the issue is discussed - and are dissappointed when it is all over in a matter of minutes. In fact the application (and representors' submissions are discussed at length in meetings before the council meeting. Sometimes obtain extras information on a technical issue and usually councilors will visit the site.
If no-one put their hand up to move the motion - then the Planning Rules stipulate that the item is PASSED! So even if no councilor is keen on a development , someone has to move a motion to start the discussion.
To refuse a development we have to have a valid reason - one that will stand up in court. "Spoiling the view" or "it doesn't look very nice" are not valid reasons. We also take on board numerous reports - we don't ignore comments by representors but it is hard to dismiss a qualified professional's report against subjective comments by a representor.
There is always an appeal process so the council decision can be reversed. If we refuse an item, the developer will often appeal and similarly any representors are able to appeal if we pass it. Council has be be on very firm ground when we make a decision - it we're wrong we might lose the appeal - and have to pay costs - which are your rates!
Recently a neighbouring council refused an application because it was horrible - but complied with all the rules - cost them $50,000
In brief - we rely on professional advice and we follow a set of rules. Sometimes the outcome is unpalatable to some ratepayers.