Letter to the Editor

September 28, 2016

Chesney Vale residents opposed to the dirt bike track.

No justification provided

As an adjacent resident to a proposed motorbike racing track at Chesney Vale, we have consistently opposed the development on a number of grounds, and observe that twice now the Benalla Rural City Council planning department have recommended to the full council that the planning application be rejected.

There seems to be some discussion that this development would be economically ‘‘good for Benalla’’ in some sections of the city.

While there may be some economic benefit to the proponents of the racing track, the wider community is unlikely to see increased tourism levels or significant economic benefits to the community.

No justification seems to have been provided that backs up these broad statements.

Indeed, VCAT in a recent seminal decision have indicated now that this: ‘‘Clearly puts the significant social and economic effects of a planning decision on an equal footing with environmental effects”.

And they further comment on the data supporting consequences, as being: “objective, specific, concrete, observable”.

Simply put, this means that social, economic and environmental effects all have the same footing and any significant effect must be well documented.

If this application is approved, even with conditions, the development is likely to be hampered economically as the site has a number of planning constraints that cannot be overcome, as indicated in the recommendation to not approve the planning permit.

The correct decision of the full council should be to accept the opinion and reports of the professionals that have commented on the negative effects of this development and led to the recommendation to reject the application.

A far better and much more satisfactory business case for Benalla can be easily developed for incorporating a facility such as this at the Winton motor racing precinct, which already has facilities, planning approval and national media branding for motor sports.

Here there are no environmental or amenity issues that cannot be addressed adequately as opposed to the current proposed location.

As we understand the application is only to lease the land, (which currently is spread over two separate adjoining properties) it would seem only to be logical that the full council reject the current planning application, and offer every assistance on establishing this proposed business at the existing Winton MX club where we are sure the development would be warmly welcomed.

— Steve and Nell O’Brien, Chesney Vale

Neglect leads to blockage

In the Ensign of September 14, the council asked ratepayers to report any drains and gutters in need of cleaning.

May I bring to their attention the culverts and table drain along the north end of Knight Rd, White Gate — an important connecting road.

After many years of neglect, they are largely blocked and do not perform at all well in an ordinary wet season, let alone this winter.

It is just possible there are other rural roads in the Benalla Shire in a similar state of neglect?

— Andrea Stevenson, White Gate

Advice to candidates

Benalla Rural City Council Governance Local Law 2016.

I would urge candidates for the forthcoming council elections to read this law.

In particular section 4. They should become very familiar with it.

My interpretation of this law suggests that the present council has handed over control of of the new council to the chief executive officer.

Thus ensuring the present direction of council will be continue and it will be difficult for incoming councillors to alter this direction.

It is important the incoming council modify this law and remove the CEO’s control over them.

To do this it is critical that councillors elect a mayor who is willing to deliver that outcome.

Mayor Justin King’s decision not to contest the election has a been a surprise.

Cr Vale’s campaigning and his proposed new direction would strike a positive note with voters and perhaps he would make an excellent mayor.

I am looking forward to the upcoming Ensign’s council election forum.

I am sure that present councillors are looking forward to attending and advising the public how wonderful they really are and how the ratepayers have got them all so horribly wrong.

I am looking forward to being able to question them.

— P Carter, Benalla

Save our Vale

About 30 objectors feel that a tranquil and pristine pocket of the north east will be at risk if Benalla Rural City Council approves a planning application for a motorcycle circuit at 144 Bowcher Rd, Chesney Vale, this evening.

The site adjoins Mount Meg Nature Conservation Reserve part of the Chesney Landscape Zone covering 84740ha and home to a significant number of threatened and endangered species.

One can only hope that sense will prevail among our councillors and that we shall not be faced with the prospect of this picture-postcard landscape being ‘‘awfulised’’, its residents being subjected to noise, dust, fire and traffic accident risk and its flora and fauna face destruction of habitat.

There are already far more suitable venues for motorcycle training in the north east: at Winton, Peechelba, Bonnie Doon, Cobram and Myrtleford.

There could be a golden opportunity for Winton to include a dirt bike circuit of world class at its well-established facility.

It is a truism that we take for granted so much that has been handed down to us intact for our benefit and that we do not appreciate its value until it is lost.

Let this not be the fate of our beautiful Vale.

As an aside, it is unfortunate that there is no truly rural representation on Benalla Rural City Council, which covers 2352 square kilometres of mostly countryside.

It ought to be made imperative that there is representation from people in the ‘‘shire’’ on council.

Perhaps the forthcoming council elections could redress the balance.

— Edwina McFarland, Chesney Vale

Harvesting decimates forest

With your help in publishing a previous letter, we have managed to achieve a rethink on planned burns in the Strathbogie forest, and for that we are grateful to our regional press.

Our forest is now under threat from an equally bad monster.

VicForests are about to start harvesting the first of several planned coups in this forest.

Their ‘‘harvesting’’ usually results in total decimation of forest structure, loss of old habitat trees, and endangered species.

This forest is inhabited by greater gliders, powerful owls, and koalas. Bandicoots and quolls are also thought to be present, but are very hard to track.

VicForests has done only minimal assessments as to the presence of these and other threatened species and no-one has looked properly for more than 30 years.

A professional survey should be at least a minimum requirement before any further harvesting is done.

To get some feel as to the result of VicForests’ harvesting, I recommend that you have a drive along Barjarg Rd, which joins the Midland Hwy, south of Swanpool and Lima South. Drive towards Strathbogie.

Along that road you will see the result of the last ‘‘harvesting’’ in our Strathbogies.

It is called a ‘‘failed’’ coup.

They have tried three times to regenerate it after logging about 10 years ago.

If you go to ‘‘google earth’’ it is quite visible as a big scar in the forest.

I think that it is wrong to tear down beautiful forest unsustainably, for a paltry $4000 return per hectare (not counting overheads) — our precious forests are worth much more than that.

This forest is technically a remnant, following clearing and planting with thousands of acres of pines in the 1980s, and clearing for farming in earlier times.

If VicForests have their way, the forest as we know it will be destroyed.

— Marilyn Bakker, Lima East, Sustainable Strathbogie Forest Group

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