Letters to the Editor

October 12, 2016

Letter complaining about council's reduction in slashing public areas

Putting locals first

Being a local resident and an employee of a local business, I would like to congratulate North East Podiatry on the use of local tradesmen and businesses for the refurbishment of the building previously known as Pettifers Fine Fashions.

Kim has made a significant investment in the town and her decision to employ locals is to be commended.

She truly does put locals first.

The catch phrase above ‘‘putting locals first’’ is used by our local sitting state MP Steph Ryan, whom I approached regarding the lack of locals used in the fit out of her new office on the corner of Nunn and Bridge Sts.

Her response was (verbatim):

‘‘Thank you popping in today regarding local contractors being tendered to do work on Parliamentary properties. I have contacted Parliament today to reiterate the need to source locals wherever possible.

‘‘As I understand the current policy, a board of architects has been appointed via a tender, which occurs every two years. The board puts out a private tender for the entire build. A fit-out contractor (builder) is then selected for that work based on their capacity to complete all works involved and price point. That fit-out contractor then sub-contracts the required works.

‘‘By the end of the process Parliament is at quite an arms-length from the acquisition of sub-contractors to do works. This is obviously intentional, however, it does not excuse Parliament from not requiring builders to source sub-contractors directly from the local electorate.’’

As a tax and ratepayer I believe that it is incumbent on all levels of government, federal, state and local, that when money is to be spent in an area such as Steph Ryan’s office, it should be spent employing locals who elect these officials

The current Parliament Policy needs to change.

— Lindsay Vaughan, Benalla

Interpretation incorrect

Council bylaws are regularly changed and updated.

Changes and the opportunity for public comment are regularly advertised in the local papers.

I suggest, that the majority of people are not aware, or even interested in the proposed changes, until something rises up, such as clause 36 Sub-Section (3) of Community Local Law 2009 and bites them on the backside.

The Editorial, Benalla Ensign October 5, describes such a case.

If you take a drive around and look at council land, there is a lot of grass and weeds in excess of 200mm on that land.

Any fair-minded ratepayer, given the weather and ground conditions we have had during the winter period, wouldn’t expect the council to be cutting grass and maintaining the 200mm grass height.

Apparently the reverse isn’t the case.

In this particular case anyway.

People expect laws to be interpreted in the same way that they interpret them.

Again this is not necessarily the case.

For example, the government’s 2.5 per cent rate rise cap, didn’t necessarily translate into an actual 2.5 per cent dollar rise on the previous years assessment for the ratepayers of Benalla, as was the expectation of some.

Benalla Rural City acting chief executive officer Veronica Schilling’s letter to the editor, Benalla Ensign October 5, assures readers that as far as Governance Local Law 2016 goes, I have got it wrong.

I doubt it. Too much water’s ‘‘gone under the bridge’’.

But I was chuffed that the acting CEO replied to my letter to the editor and I thank her for her input.

— P Carter, Benalla

No such claim made by me

Last week the acting (Benalla Rural City Council) chief executive officer Ms Schilling falsely claimed that I had claimed that section 55D, ‘‘installs the CEO as the sole person in control during the transition period’’.

No such claim was made by me.

I did mention P Carter’s ‘‘advice to candidates’’ and went on to say that the CEO was on leave.

Having taken Ms Schilling’s advice I have read the ‘‘Election Period Caretaker Policy’’.

I am not a solicitor, but I can’t get away from the fact that the powers the CEO has throughout this document exceeds any a current councillor or a committee of council has.

Section 55D states it is, ‘‘to ensure transparency, good governance and accountability are adhered to by councillors and officers.’’

What about extending this to the remaining 47 months of the council term without the CEO as the being the judge, jury and executioner.

— David MacKinnon, Benalla

Long grass, time to grass on the council

The unbelievable has actually occurred. The Ensign’s publication of a letter requesting a ratepayer to cut grass has lazily urged me to put pen to paper, or more technologically inspired, tap the keyboard.

This is a request that just shows the difference between being in power and yielding power.

I agree that 200mm-high weeds are unacceptable in a front yard or nature strip.

But could the council please address the same issues on council land?

A prime example is the height of weeds on the drainage ditch along the back of the houses on Witt St.

I would entertain The Ensign to actually do an expose on this issue around the town, council-controlled land and neglect.

These weeds are approaching half a metre in height, not only spreading into homes along the length of the drainage ditch, but given the local rains, could cause a flooding hazard by clogging water flow.

The drain has not been cleaned out since, a question the council should answer, because I can’t remember.

The other aspect is that when we first moved to the locality, some 20 years ago, the area in concern was slashed at least four times a year, keeping the grass level well below 200mm, by the council.

So, the reality of today is that it is slashed once a year, the tractor getting bogged because the driver can’t see where he is driving because of the length of the grass and the seasonal time of slashing.

Go figure, I guess that is outsourcing.

Ten to one gives me great odds that if I decide to clean up the area behind my back fence, utilise the area neglected by the council and build a vegetable garden to keep the area weed free, I will lose the bet and the council will force me to dismantle it.

Giving me some lame, supposedly educated excuse as to why it shouldn’t be there.

That excuse given by a civil engineer who is limited in capacity by his incredible university background and lack of fundamental basic skills in basic land management and land use.

Shakespeare probably could probably have written a 10-act parody about this issue, complete with references to things the current council could never have comprehended, but I am a gentleman and therefore will not pursue this chain of thought.

I just wish this council would give up on the double standards and do the job right, slash and control the weeds.

— Peter Booth, Benalla

Tick of approval for what?

Your regular correspondent, P Carter, has given the ‘‘tick of approval’’ to a list of seven candidates, whom he believes meet a very narrow criteria of ‘‘toughness... to handle Benalla Rural City management’’.

P Carter needs to be reminded what happened in Wangaratta in the last council term, when a particular councillor went on a witch hunt of council officers, and caused untold damage to the democratic process in that Rural City, and caused enormous personal stress to individuals.

Councillors must approach their responsibilities with a view to working with council officers, and guiding them to a position that reflects the wishes of the community.

I heard a few of the current councillors say at the forum that council has made some mistakes in the past, that responsibility does not rest solely on the shoulders of the CEO or other officers, as a number of candidates were implying, but needs to be accepted by all involved in decision making.

Councillors need to be responsive to community concerns.

If P Carter would like to check out the Benalla Sustainable Future Group (BSFG) website, it will reveal that four of the ‘‘tick of approval’’ candidates have not responded to the three survey questions (after two weeks, only half the candidates have responded) about climate change, pollution and renewable energy.

P Carter, you may have gathered from my own letter in last week’s Ensign, that my wish is for councillors to have a vision for the future, not just of Benalla, but for the planet.

I do not wish to be represented by councillors intent on dwelling largely on the “sins” of the past, or who engage in witch hunts towards council officers.

— Peter Holmes, Lima East

Our society is too sinful

In response to ‘‘Homelessness on rise’’, Ensign, September 28, I also noted the increase of seeming homeless people appearing on the streets of Melbourne.

But I would also add there is also an increase in many other areas of our society that are not good.

For example domestic violence, assaults, vandalism, alcohol and drug addiction, gambling, mental health issues, suicide, road rage; where does it stop?

Even though the cost of the plebiscite might seem expensive, can we really expect our federal member to vote according to the majority of her constitutes or her own?

We all learn our core values within our family unit, but growing up in a balanced family is not the norm any more, many family units need support and help so kids can grow up feeling nurtured and cared for.

They don’t need more confusion, they need support and direction in the early stages before problems escalate into bigger problems.

Which sadly for some means ending up without a home to live in.

What is happening in our communities is a result of our sinful society, we are a society without God.

No-one is denying people to a legal, loving relationship, but the marriage act should stay as is.

— Joanne Henderson, Benalla

Open letter to Benalla council,

Thank you for sending material to assist my vote in the upcoming council elections.

My father was a soldier who fought for democracy in World War II.

For that reason I would never refuse to vote in an election of my representatives at any level of government.

However, before I vote I would like to become aware of their political preferences, whether they be for a particular political party or independent.

Recent events at Wangaratta council and in the CFA dispute seem to indicate that our system of government has become politicised along federal lines from the top, right down to grass-roots level.

When I vote, I like to know what I am voting for apart from normal council activities.

In short — candidates should declare themselves, so ratepayers know what to expect.

— Alan Cotterell, Benalla

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