Report card: grades for the other councils

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TODAY is part two of The Advocate’s reporters’ local government ratings.
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The councils have been rated on six measures.

Those have been averaged to produce overall ratings for the councils.

Ratings for the other five councils appeared in Saturday’s issue.

Have your own say by rating your own council at this page.

The Kentish Council is looking to further its existing mural attraction with a $60,000 Mural Wall of Honour. This would complement the successful Mural Fest. Picture: Jason Hollister.

KENTISH

Finances: A $509,000 operating loss for 2013-14, due to the timing of government grants rather than poor council performance. It has budgeted for a $714,000 profit this financial year and has projected surpluses for the next three. Debt levels not a worry, rate levels are.

Rating: 6.5/10

Rates: Has gone from cheap to expensive in the last decade. It was very restrained this year, with gross income from rates budgeted to increase by a below-inflation 2 per cent (including income from new properties) and no property to get a rates rise of more than 3 per cent. Sadly, it is projecting higher rates increases in future years.

Rating: 4.5/10

Community projects: Furthering its existing mural attractions but also innovating. A proposed world-class mountain bike trail could draw more visitors, and the council has called for expressions of interest to form a project master plan. It’s paid the Kentish Arts Festival $60,000 to build a Mural Wall of Honour, another future attraction for thearea. Expensive repairs to Spellmans Road, Wilmot after heavy rain in August 2013 arefinished, however Browns Road will remaintemporarilyclosed until repairs in summer.

Rating: 8/10

Development: BCD Resources’ gold mining project at Moina, touted as providing 55 jobs, won the council’s approval. It is positive news. State economic conditions are out of the council’s control but it is trying to draw business by developing tourism. Considering the circumstances, the council is doing well to help builda new economic base.

Rating: 8/10

Advocacy: Securing government assistance to repair rain-damaged Spellmans Road. The council reopened Sheffield’s cemetery when non-resident fees spiked at Devonport’s Mersey Vale Lawn Cemetery. Kentish Council continues to position the area as a creative community drawing tourists with its art and culture.

Rating: 7.5/10

Teamwork: A largely functional team of motivated councillors led with calm authority by Mayor Don Thwaites. Mavericks Bart Wisse and Annie Willock bring a different ideology to the table but have worked with other councillors. Debates have not been gratuitous or petty.

Rating: 7.5/10

Overall: 7/10

WARATAH-WYNYARD

Finances: Has produced a balanced budget for 2014-15, but only because of grants money. It expects an operating deficit of $394,000; worse than the $202,000 operating deficit for 2013-14. Low debt. The council’s financial position is sound, but it will need to do some work on the expenses (preferably) or revenue side.

Rating: 6/10.

Community Projects: The council has placed their focus firmly on projects that provide a win-win result for the council and the community. For example the free wi-fi in Civic Square is great for a digitally focused community. However, it is also a tourism boost for the municipality and it is a progressive step other councils in our region have yet to take. The work on the Bloomin’ Tulips Festival has been strong and ongoing. The council has committed to making it different this year, eager to continue attracting different people and keeping those who come every year interested. While the community projects the council has launched have been on-point, they are few and far between. This could be attributed to a tough financial year.

Rating: 6/10.

Development: There have been significantdevelopments that are large enoughto impact the municipality’s economy, leaving it steady for the year. Although the council is working on expanding its resource-sharing agreement with the Circular Head Council to include the Burnie City Council.

Rating: 5/10.

Rates: A 2.63 per cent increase in the general rate was not excessive. Rates levels overall are competitive by regional standards.

Rating: 6.5/10.

Advocacy: The council has kept largely to itself, preferring to focus on issues it can deal with on a local level. However, the council has stepped up with some of the more significant issues, sending letters to the state government and federal government following NBN issues for example.

Rating: 4/10.

Teamwork: The mayor, deputy mayor and general manager set a strong standard of teamwork that is otherwise ignored by some other councillors. Political affiliations have resulted in significant tension between a number of councillors and often results inpetty bickering in the monthly council meetings.

Rating: 5/10.

Overall: 5.4/10.

CIRCULAR HEAD

Finances: Made the right call in bringing down a careful budget, concentrating on existing assets. Is expecting a $296,000 deficit anyway, following on from a $405,000 deficit in 2013-14. Needs to make improvements, although its overall position is decent.

Rating: 5.5/10

Community Projects: The Circular Head Council has been diligent with community projects, ensuring each demographic group is catered for. The council and its various sub-groups have instigated and supported projects on road safety, mental health and well being, physical health and many more. The latest community projects that have recently been launched by the council is the documentary and forum to combat the growing ice issue in the municipality and the literacy plan, which has outlined recommendations to lift the literacy rates and promote the importance of education and training.

Rating:9/10.

Development: The council has done well despite being short on funds, supporting the mines in its region and getting a start on the beautification of the Smithton foreshore. The Smithton wharf was opened recently as well. However, the council has had problems getting the aquatic centre off the ground, with the community unable to agree to the original plans. However, that is an issue the council is looking at with the the current public pool on the fast track to deterioration.

Rating: 6/10.

Rates: Hiked the general rate by 2.63 per cent, which was a little below inflation. Competitive on rates compared to regional councils.

Rating: 6.5/10.

Advocacy: Advocacy is something the council takes seriously as a small community that has worked hard to get where it is. The council is always lobbying the government to fix issues within the community it is responsible for or looking at issues of social justice or public health and safety.

Rating:6/10.

Teamwork: The Circular Head Council works effectively as a team, and is led by Daryl Quilliam fairly and honestly. Each councillor can air their concerns and opinions peacefully and are often respected by fellow councillors.

Rating: 8/10.

Overall: 6.8/10.

CENTRAL COAST

Finances: Excellent. If this council was a company, it would be considering takeover bids for a rival or two. Has had a very long run of good management and ratepayers are better off because of it. Getting full dividends from TasWater at last will help, while debt levels are very low for a council this size.

Rating: 8.5/10.

Community Projects: Upgrades to the impressive Penguin Regional Athletics Centre have been completed, and stage two of works to the Central Coast Mountain Bike Park have been completed. A $9.13 million capital works program will focus on upgrading the crumbling Leven River seawall, extending the Turners Beach walking track and rural and urban road upgrades.

Rating: 8/10.

Development: The Dial Blythe Irrigation Scheme has been delayed due to a late start and poor weather but is due to be completed in March 2015. Refrigeration giant Degree C moved into its new premises in the region this year. The council remains focused on making it easier for businesses to invest in the region, and for it to capitalise on tourism opportunities.

Rating: 7.5/10

Rates: Not especially cheap, but puts the cities on either side to shame. Below-CPI increases in the general rate and in waste management charges this year.

Rating: 7/10.

Advocacy: The council regularly lobbies both state and federal government on a number of issues. Has fearlessly held both TasWater and the Cradle Coast Authority to account and is constantly expanding its reach to be more than just rates, roads and rubbish.

Rating: 8/10.

Teamwork: The council seamlessly filled the hole created by the departure of Deputy Mayor Cheryl Fuller and is a well oiled machine. A few councillors shy away from engaging in debate and raising motions, but with an election looming a few of the quieter members have made their voices heard more regularly.

Rating: 8/10.

Overall: 7.8/10.

Ratings for the other five councils appeared in Saturday’s issue.

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Pay pause bill

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WE ARE continually hearing that the Legislative Council did not pass the government’s pay pause bill, and effectively killed it.
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That is not the case.

To clarify, the legislative council neither passed nor rejected this bill.

The bill, still alive, was laid on the table to allow time, if they so chose, for the government and unions to have meaningful dialogue and hopefully reach a resolution without the need for legislation.

During briefings last week the unions indicated they were prepared to work quickly with the government to find a resolution if at all possible.

If at the return ofparliament on October 28, there had been no satisfactory progress or resolution, the intent was to deal with the bill, and either pass, possibly with amendment, or reject.

I disagree that time had run out as the first of the agreements up for review do not occur until December 4, while other agreements don’t have increases due till March or July 2015.

While I accept unions, with the exception of the ANF, may not have approached the government during previous discussions, with possible solutions to the budget woes, that is no reason not to take this final opportunity to seek a successful outcome.

_ ROSEMARY ARMITAGE, MLC,Independent Member for Launceston,Legislative Council.

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Community must have say in how to protect forests

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I feel that writer misses the whole point of establishing a Mixed Use Park which would be to safeguard the natural values of this great asset for the city and all future generations.
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I don’t live next to Canadian Forest but I see the same threats at Nerrina, Invermay, Enfield and other forests around Ballarat all pointing to an obvious need for proper forest care and management.

Because the current managing agents are so poorly staffed, the only way to ensure future health of local forests is for communities to become involved in their sound management.

The serious degradation of our valuable local forests results from misuse by parts of the public, who show no care, understanding or respect for these forests or their hydrology.

A few examples of damage caused by unregulated public forest users are:

Erosion gullies caused by four-wheel drivers in wet seasons, next to Ballarat’s main water storage ;

Sections of the Great Dividing Trail destroyed for walking by trail bike mis use in wet season ;

Invasion of forest by weeds from dumping of garden rubbish by public members who couldn’t care less;

Poor forest health resulting from low water infiltration, caused by an explosion of new trail bike tracks;

Loss of species and carbon sequestration caused by constant firewood cutting by public members who feel they have a right to take free fuel wherever they choose.

Ballarat’s precious forest remnants took 120 years to recover from devastation by mining, but are now degrading again through public misuse.

Climate change has reduced rainfall by more than 20 per cent and runoff by 40 to 50 per cent over the past 40 years so to survive our forests need every bit of care we can provide.

Are we going to support communities that want to work with agencies and all caring forest users to protect our natural areas, or should we encourage free reign to all groups to do as they please and ruin our forest for all?

I believe that trail bikes and four-wheel drives could use our forests responsibly, but that the only way for those users to ensure their future use and the health of our forests, is to become involved in sound planning for responsible local forest management.

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Road tunnel a good idea but is it a priority?

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The project itself is actually not a bad idea.
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It gives Melbourne motorists a second crossing under the city, which in theory will ease congestion on a number of roads in and around the central business district.

But is it Victoria’s biggest transport priority?

Melbourne is a city that has grown enormously over the past 30 years, yet infrastructure has not kept pace under successive governments.

Train services to many Melbourne suburbs are so overcrowded it’s downright dangerous. Freeways and major roads into the city are clogged from morning to night and, in many parts of the metropolitan area and country Victoria, public transport is inadequate or non-existent.

The East West tunnel is one of a number of good ideas for Melbourne, but it isn’t the only good idea.

Eliminating level crossings, linking the Western Ring Road to Eastlink, building a third train track on the busy Dandenong corridor, extending rail to places like Mernda and Doncaster, extending the Western Freeway to the South Australian border, more city and country train services and transporting more freight by rail are also initiatives that have enormous promise.

In a perfect world, the government would have the funds to do all of these things.

But in an environment where money is scarce, is it a good idea to spend the vast majority of your transport budget on the one project?

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Privacy laws

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I’MBECOMING more and more convinced that privacy laws are an impediment to efficient business operation and something that firms love hiding behind.
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Privacy laws make it impossible for a person to undertake activities for someone else.

Quite often such actions are the best way to progress some endeavour, but, I suspect business efficiency was far from the mind of whoever drafted these restrictive laws.

It all boils down to trust, which seems to be a scarce commodity in today’s business world, or so the laws would lead us to believe.

I guess I suffer the same problem as many old people,I can remember the days when we were each responsible for our own best interests but also respected those pursued by others.

Now we have laws to guide (and restrict) our every move.

_ DICK JAMES, Launceston.

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We need to use clean energy alternatives

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There is a lot of strong opinion about what this means, and most of us get into a lather defending one side or another or throw up our hands and don’t want to know.
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But we have to reach a solution. It became apparent long ago that fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) are not reliable they’re going to run out.

They are also costing the Earth their emissions are messing with the balance of the atmosphere that sustains us.

Obviously fossil fuels aren’t the answer. What about clean, renewable energy? Wind power isn’t the answer the wind fluctuates when we don’t want our power supply to fluctuate.

Solar power isn’t the answer the strength of the sun fluctuates and is especially poor at night.

Geothermal power (from heat deep down in the earth) isn’t the answer because many of the best sources are well away from where we live and work.

Wave power isn’t the answer because it fluctuates.

Tidal power isn’t the answer because it is strongest in the tropics, which are far from most of our energy use.

The answer isn’t any one of these sources, it’s all of them.

Studies have shown that we can combine all these clean energy sources in an intelligent national grid that includes energy storage (static and mobile).

Such a system can produce more energy than we need, and certainly no less than we need at any one time.

Since the cost to the Earth is rising, we need to develop our clean energy alternatives and overcome our addiction to dirty fossil fuels.

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Watson calls on health minister to reinstate beds

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Shellharbour MP Anna Watson met with Health Services Union’s Andrew Gorman last month to discuss a lack of high-dependency mental health facility’s in the Illawarra/Shoalhaven region. Picture Eliza WinklerMEMBER for Shellharbour Anna Watson has called for the immediate re-instatement of three observation beds at Shellharbour Hospital’s Eloura West mental health unit.
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Ms Watson’s call follows a briefing yesterday by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (LSLHD) after community concerns were raised over the adequacy of mental health services, and patient and staff safety at the Shellharbour Hospital’s facility.

Ms Watson said after a fatal incident at the hospital three of the nine beds in the facility are currently notavailable.

“I’m calling on the Minister for Mental Health to immediately instruct the ISLHD to re-instate those three beds as a matter of urgency”, she said.

Ms Watson has also called for the provision of new inpatient mental health beds to be provided for the Shoalhaven region.

“There is a growing demand for mental health services across the Illawarra region.It’s illogical and unacceptable for there not to be inpatient mental health services available to people in the Shoalhaven region.

“I am more than happy to work with my southern Parliamentary colleagues, Gareth Ward MP and Shelley Hancock MP, to lobby theirgovernment to fund inpatient mental health beds in Shoalhaven.

“Mental health services are beyond politics and I have offered both of them my bipartisan support”, she said.

Ms Watson said that she would discuss the issues raised at the briefing with the Health Services Union (HSU) after ISLHD officials conceded there had not been consultations with HSU members since the alleged murder incident on 31 July.

“I want to be absolutely satisfied that patient and staff safety at Shellharbour Hospital’s mental health unit is a paramount priority.

“I want to be satisfied that the HSU is involved in any discussions about staff safety and that staff concerns are addressed immediately”, she said.

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Gojan: Amalgamation will leave ‘‘bitter taste’’

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Merrylands Chamber of Commerce president Mariya Gojan is the latest face in Holroyd council’s anti-amalgamation campaign.
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Amalgamation will leave Holroyd business owners with a ‘‘bitter taste’’ when the city’s town centres are ‘‘left behind Parramatta’s’’, said Merrylands Chamber of Commerce president Mariya Gojan.

Mrs Gojan, the latest face in the council’s anti-amalgamation campaign – which has so far cost ratepayers $10, 620.61 – fears amalgamation would put plans to revitalise the Merrylands and Wentworthville town centres on the backburner.

‘‘The current amalgamation proposal indicates there is a lot of debt that has to be absorbed, and it’s a dire outcome for Holroyd’s local business owners who will be forced to wait their turn in a long queue behind Parramatta, Ryde and Auburn,’’ Mrs Gojan said.

‘‘Amalgamation is going to slow down the improvements we’ve seen to our town centres in recent years and the plans Holroyd has for its growing population.’’

Mrs Gojan said it was time for owners to contribute to the amalgamation debate ‘‘before it’s too late’’.

‘‘I think it’s important that the business point of view is heard because amalgamation is going to affect who comes in and back to Holroyd for their shopping. For some business owners, staying neutral is a safe way to play but I’d encourage them to think again and speak up.’’

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Tough men tell their story on The Ride

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An inspiring documentary about four men with disabilities who travel across outback Australia is screening across the Fleurieu in October. Pictured are one of the stars, Jim Cairns, and film producer Sandra Cook.Aninspirational film about four wheelchair-bound men riding across the Australian outback on quad bikes will show on the Fleurieu next month.
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The Ride follows four Aussie blokes, Jim, Anton, Terry and Craig, who trade their wheelchairs for quad bikes and ride 5000 kilometres across Australia to visit the crash sites where they were injured as young men.

It shows the group’s race against time and the elements as they travelled from Perth to Birdsville via Uluru and The Simpson Desert to arrive at the final crash site.

They battle through exhaustion, mud, deserts and floods to complete the ride.

Producer Sandra Cook said the film was about dispelling the stigma of what it means to be disabled and to raise awareness about road safety.

The executive producer and one of the film’s stars, Jim Cairns, said the story was about resilience and rising up over adversity.

He said the camaraderie shown reveals a hilarious insight into the subculture of disability, as the men openly discuss sex, marriage and catheters.

“As a group, we wanted to make a documentary to highlight the potential impact of motor vehicle accidents to your body, family, employment and future potential,” he said.

“We thought this was important because all of us, at one time, had to completely rebuild our lives.”

The film will be screened in Victor Harbor, Goolwa and Strathalbyn.

Each screening will be followed by a question and answer session with one of the men featured in the film, as well as Jim and Sandra.

The film will be screened at the following times;

Victor Harbor: Friday, October 3, Victor Harbor RSL Sub-Branch clubrooms, Coral Street, 2pm and 7pm screenings.

Strathalbyn: Saturday, October 4, Senior Citizens Hall, Parker Ave, 7pm.

Goolwa: Sunday, October 5, Goolwa Uniting Church hall, Collingwood St, 7pm.

Cost is $5 adults, gold coin for students. Tickets can be purchased on 8536 5800 or bought at the door.

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Sydney man killed by Taliban because he was Australian: report

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Sayed Habib Musawi, 56, was killed by Taliban militants while he was visiting family in Afghanistan. Photo: SuppliedA Sydney man visiting family in Afghanistan was pulled off a bus and murdered by Taliban militants just because he was Australian, local authorities say.
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The ABC is reporting that Sayed Habib Musawi, 56, who came to Australia from Afghanistan by boat in 2000, was killed while travelling on a bus to Kabul after visiting relatives in Ghazni province.

He was the only person pulled off the bus by Taliban militants on September 20. His beaten body was found on the side of the road, the report said.

Ghazni’s deputy governor, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, told the ABC’s AM program that Mr Musawi, who held an Australian passport, was killed because he was an Australian citizen.

“Of course the reason is that he was an Afghan-Australian,” he said.

“He didn’t do anything besides that – he didn’t do anything wrong, he wasn’t a criminal, he wasn’t involved in government activities.

“The reason of his murder was very clear – that he was a dual citizen, he came from a country that Taliban think is an infidel country.

“When the Taliban arrested him, he said to them, ‘I came from Australia to see my family.’ And then the Taliban… issued an order for his murder.”

Mr Ahmadi said Mr Musawi’s hands were tied behind his back and there were signs of beating.

“The bullet wounds were clearly visible on his dead body. The murderers beat and tortured him. People in the area contacted us, so we ordered the district security chief to investigate.

“After an investigation it became clear that the dead body belongs to Sayed Habib, an Afghan Australian who came to visit his family.”

One of Mr Musawi’s four children, his 23-year-old son Nemat, said the shocked family was trying to find out what happened.

“The whole family is devastated. We can’t believe it. I just spoke to my dad a week-and-a-half ago and he was with family members and he said he was going to call me back.

“I was waiting for his call and then the next thing I hear he’s been shot dead by Taliban three times.”

“It seems like it was all set up, because they just stopped the bus on the way to Ghazni and then they just went straight to my dad … called him and pulled him out of the bus,” he said.

“What my family is going through, I don’t want any other family to go through. We want justice for us, for my mum, for my family.”

The Musawi family have asked for assistance from the Australian Government.

In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian embassy in Kabul was trying to confirm reports of the death.

“The area where these events reportedly occurred is contested by the Taliban and it will be difficult to obtain definitive and official confirmation of the man’s death from the Afghanistan Government,” the statement said.

“Consular officials are providing assistance to the man’s family.”

Fairfax Media

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