Letters to the Editor

September 28, 2016

Unsealed road funding

The unattributed article in The Ensign on September 21 states, and I quote, ‘‘The council has made a bold and forward-thinking decision to invest strongly in our unsealed road network’’.

The word ‘contradiction’ springs to mind as this council has neither been ‘bold’ and without contradiction (and) anything but forward-thinking when it comes to the gravel roads in the municipality.

P Carter’s ‘‘advice to candidates’’ in letters to the editor, urges aspiring councillors to remove the law that installs the CEO as the sole person in control during the transition.

Ironic that the CEO is currently on three weeks holiday and councillors were unaware.

It is incumbent on the new council to get rid of the CEO at least, regardless of the cost, at the first meeting.

Agenda item 1. We then won’t have to pay the disgraceful two per cent performance bonus that the majority of councillors agreed to pay. This has added to the long list of bad decisions. There are at least three others in senior management positions who should have been sacked earlier this year for very poor performance, so councillors don’t think you only need to do one DCM. For those who don’t know what a DCM is, it is Don’t Come Monday.

— David MacKinnon, Benalla

Open letter to PM and parliamentarians

Dear Prime Minister Turnbull and all members and senators, With all our hearts, we implore you to release to safety in Australia the refugee children detained on Nauru.

We are a movement of 2000 grandmothers.

We beg you to do all in your power to stop the enormous damage being done to the over 150 asylum-seeker and refugee children in desperate and dangerous situations on Nauru.

The recently released ‘‘Nauru Files’’ document more than 2000 incident reports, outlining shocking details of physical and sexual assaults, self-harm attempts, poor living conditions and poor medical treatment. Alarmingly, 51.3 per cent of these reports relate to children.

Dr Peter Young, former director of mental health for offshore detention centres, has emphasised that children are particularly vulnerable in ‘‘a system designed to drain people of hope’’. We, as grandmothers, cannot be silent. We call on the Australian Government to stop being part of the child abuse of refugee and asylum-seeker children. You must act now to resettle the child refugees and their families held on Nauru into safe community settings on the Australian mainland.

— Freida Andrews, Chesney Vale on behalf of Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children

Homelessness on rise

We are told that the LNP is achieving great improvements on the jobs front. However, the number of homeless on the streets of Melbourne appears to be increasing. How many warm beds for the homeless could the cost of a plebiscite buy?

— Alan Cotterell, Benalla

Festival backflip raises ire

I’m almost indescribably disappointed at the Benalla Rural City turning its back on the proposed beer and cider festival. The Beer and Cider Festival set down for October 15 and 16 had all the relevant Liquor Licence approved, I have also spoken with council officers and councillors to advise on modifications to plans to address the concerns of objectors. Let’s address the objectors, and some quietly correct in their objections.

We spoke with the reasonable objections, addressed their concerns and overcame them to a satisfactory conclusion.

Others, were so completely stupid that if they really thought about what they put forward they would be totally embarrassed .

And what about the real estate agent trying to provoke me on facebook for running the event, or the person who called pretending to be a AFP officer (how dumb, I have his phone number, which came up on my phone.)

Support and advice for the event continued even after last week’s council committee meeting recommended that this week’s council meeting approve the permit, with a stunning 38 conditions appended to the permit approval.

Many, including myself were surprised at this but we were determined in persisting, even in the face of the obvious hurdles presented. I was, however, buoyed by one councillor giving me the chance to explain efforts to address objections.

This conversation ended with the councillor assuring me they understood and creating the impression they would support the application. Imagine my surprise when I found out that when the permit was put to the vote, council turned its back on the recommendation that the permit be approved, subject to the very onerous conditions, instead refusing the permit.

The hard work and dedication of the Benalla Rural City Planning staff is to be congratulated as it was their recommendation that the permit should be allowed.

It seems to me that council has no vision for what every other country town is doing.

Beer and cider festivals showcasing local produce. Bright, Beechworth, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong to name a few.

This event will bring hundreds of people into Benalla leading to jobs and a new future direction as a tourist destination.

It could have been the answer to people doing it tough and coming out of a quiet winter trade. Everyone benefits.

Thumbs down Benalla council.

Thank you to the eight craft breweries who signed up, thank you to the eight foodie trucks who signed up and thank you to the 500 people who shared on social media.

In closing let me say, the event will happen in 2017.

— Geoff Schwind, event director

Truth will set you free

Given Benalla Rural City’s CEO pay offer to his staff during those negotiations, it would seem a little self indulgent on his part if he did not apply the same standards on himself. Given the turbulence of the past 12 months and the economic results any CEO should expect that they would be held accountable.

However, the CEO normally doesn’t give himself a pay rise. Usually the mayor conducts the annual review of the CEO’s performance. Given, in this case, a pay rise was the result and apparently this pay rise was to be kept secret, as usual the ratepayers are hit by mixed messages. On one hand, the pay rise is an acknowledgement of a job considered well done.

On the other the secrecy is basically saying, ‘‘but don’t tell anybody we think so’’. For this reason a copy of the document, without the assessment, should be published as a matter of public interest. It would also be interesting to know what other management team members were subject to a review and the results.

The Greater Shepparton City Council meetings will be streamed live onto the internet. Given the perceived secrecy surrounding the operation of the Benalla Rural City Council, I would suggest that every effort should be made to install the same system in Benalla.

Benalla Councillors, not prepared to take responsibility for their actions, can find other ways to serve the community, if they so desired. What is so hard about the truth? Unless you are not telling it. Then you need a really good memory.

— Peter Carter, Benalla

Voters have a real choice

Of the three levels of government, local government is arguably the least understood and certainly the least appreciated. Although lacking the glamour and media attention of federal politics, one’s local council (and councillors) influence immensely our immediate quality of life.

Think for a moment about the quality of the roads we drive on, the footpaths we walk on, the tip where we dispose our rubbish; the parks, gardens, library, swimming pools and art gallery where we spend our recreation hours.

It was great then to see 20 local people, and a great cross-section of the local community, have nominated for the seven seats on the next Benalla Rural City Council. Unlike the farcical situation in 2012 when the nine candidates all ended up gaining a seat (because of the resignation of two of the elected councillors early on in 2013), voters have a real choice this time. There will be complaints from some about having to fill out 20 squares on the ballot paper, but preferences are going to be absolutely crucial in determining who ultimately gets elected. Let’s hope that there is sensible debate and discussion over the next month about the future of this beautiful part of Victoria.

The Ensign is to be commended for facilitating the candidates forum and let’s hope there are plenty of letters to the editor from candidates and voters.

We deserve a council after the election that is visionary, innovative, inspirational and can work with the paid employees of BRC, including the CEO.

— Vince Branigan, Benalla

Critical to work together

The large group of aspirants for the forthcoming council election indicates there are concerns in the municipality or a dramatic interest in providing better government for our community.

Whatever the reason for standing, it is critical the new council work together for the benefit of the whole of Benalla Rural City.

Infighting debacles and problems in adjourning municipalities show that havoc can occur when people with self interests are elected.

Wangaratta Council has been sacked and the positive impetus that community had, has disappeared. Shepparton Council is practically dysfunctional and Moira shackled by council disunity. Ensure your vote is not wasted on narrow vested interest candidates or troublemakers and vote for those who have genuine aspirations to improve our municipality, in a positive and sustainable manner.

— Margaret Richards, Candidate for the 2016 Election

Rail need is obvious

So we the Benalla ratepayers are going to contribute $19500 to ‘‘study’’ our rail service

To find out what? That it takes too long to get to and from Melbourne? That we need more frequent trains? That means more rolling stock, more ballast on the original standard gauge? Better drainage?

I take the point that combining resources will send a stronger message to the government.

If you read the article by Dr John Stone from Melbourne University on page 19 of Thursday’s Age (September 22) you will agree we have to get tough. And it is my strong belief that the whole rail system must be returned to public management. In this year’s state budget I understand money was allocated for the disused Somerton Upfield rail line.

Again I say with a third rail into Melbourne it would save 14km to Southern Cross. And when the new underground is built we could terminate the North East, Sydney and Goulburn Valley trains near one of the two underground stations (Parkville or Arden) near the Royal Melbourne Hospital. We do not want a very fast train, just a quick regular one.

— John Dennis, Benalla

Anger at VicForests deceit

We’ve been in discussion with VicForests for the past three years, ever since we found out about their plan to log 11 coupes (450ha) of some of the best forest left in the entire Strathbogies. VicForests’ consistent message to the community has been we have no immediate plans to log. Even in email correspondence this August, VicForests made no mention of the impending logging of the first coupe. So letting the community know, via a notice nailed to a tree in the forest, that logging was imminent no phone call, no email, no letter.

Come on, who are they kidding? From the outset VicForests has known that we are calling for a moratorium on native forest logging in the Strathbogies until there’s been a comprehensive assessment of all the values in the forest. The last time that was done was 30+ years ago. We want to know where logging will do the least damage and where it will do the most.

As it stands, VicForests is like a vulture, just picking the eyes out of what’s left, having already trashed large parts of the forests. And they don’t want anyone standing in their way.

— Bertram Lobert, Boho South. Strathbogie Sustainable Forests Group

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