By Sharon Webb
THE MEANDER ratepayers association will go to the Supreme Court with their case for the return of the Meander school to the community.
The trigger for the move was an appeal loss last month at Tasmania’s planning appeals body RMPAT in their fight against Meander Valley Council to prevent a drug dependence rehabilitation program taking over the former Meander Primary School site.
MARRA secretary Karen Hillman said, ‘Our legal advice is that we have a good case.’
Meander Valley Council’s decision to hand over the school property for a peppercorn rent to Teen Challenge has already cost the council dearly in legal fees to RMPAT.
MARRA, which has 85 paid up members, says its fundraising through GoFundMe is going gangbusters.
At RMPAT, MARRA argued that Teen Challenge’s use of the property does not comply with the planning scheme’s standards for vulnerable use of the Bushfire Prone Areas Code.
Speaking about Teen Challenge’s appeal win, the organisation’s executive director Tania Cavanagh told ABC Radio’s Mornings program she believes the majority of the Meander community supports the proposal to take over the school property.
‘Our clients will consist of women with addiction issues – substance addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction etc. They must detox for six weeks before they move in to the centre and enter a oneyear program.
‘The women can bring their children, who will do schooling.’
Ms Cavanagh said Teen Challenge’s next step would be to gain a building permit.
Local resident Kevin Knowles told ABC listeners that Teen Challenge was a division of ‘the far right religious group Assembly of God’, and the school would be a religious conversion centre rather than a drug rehab centre.
Ms Hillman commented that Meander Valley Council was supposed to act in the best interests of the community but seemed to be operating in the best interests of Teen Challenge.
‘A drug facility is just the wrong thing for our community. MARRA members are adamant that the school can be put to better use.’
Meander Valley mayor Wayne Johnston, who lives in Meander, told ABC listeners, ‘We need a drug facility somewhere. It’s all right to say “not in my backyard” but someone’s got to help the women and children.’
Mr Johnston said the school buildings, now empty for several years, need maintenance.
‘At the end of the day we can’t lift the school up and take it somewhere else; it’s in the middle of Meander. There’s got to be some give and take on both sides,’ he said.
Ms Hillman described RMPAT’s rejection of the appeal as ‘a bump in the road’.
‘We will return the school to community ownership,’ she said.
By Sharon Webb
MEANDER VALLEY councillors have thrown out a rate rebate for landowners who maintain and conserve their private land for the public good.
The total rebate amounts to $11,641 in the 2019-20 financial year and the council had already decided to support the scheme until 2023. It will now be discontinued from 1 July 2020.
In a pre-organised ambush, several councillors supported Cllr Michael Kelly’s motion to ditch the scheme rather simply review the policy, as was proposed on the August meeting agenda.
Opposition to the scheme among anti-conservation councillors has been ongoing for several years. It has been a consistent issue for Cllr Tanya King and Cllr Kelly. The motion to discontinue the policy was seconded by Cllr Andrew Sherriff.
In Meander Valley about 80 landowners who establish a covenant under the State Government’s Private Land Conservation program claim the rebate in return for not developing their land and controlling weeds.
Reedy Marsh landowner Andrew Ricketts who has two covenants, said council supporting the rebate was an important part of the national reserve system and could not be replaced by public land.
‘There’s a public interest matter at stake here. Australia has signed an international agreement that binds Tasmania and local government to put in place incentive measures for ratepayers to protect their land.’
Cllr King said the issue had nothing to do with local government and should be between landowners and the State Government.
‘People purchase property for a multitude of reasons and to expect fellow ratepayers to subsidise it is unacceptable.’
Cllr Sherriff said he found it ‘hard to get excited’ about the scheme: ‘We have plenty of locked up land. If landowners want to keep their land the way it is, that’s up to them.’
But Cllr John Temple used the analogy of community sports facilities, to which all ratepayers compulsorily contribute financially but don’t necessarily use.
‘All the people I know with these covenants are proud of them – they feel they are providing a community good,’ he said. ‘
In the same way the amount we forgo for sporting grounds is a common good.’ Mayor Wayne Johnston said times and priorities change: ‘As a council we have other issues before us: feral cats, fallow deer. And a lot of these covenanted properties do house cats and deer.
‘We need environmental outcomes to benefit the whole community, not just a select few.’
The rebate level is calculated on the number of hectares that are covered by the conservation covenant: a base rate of $5.67 per ha of land area.
Cllrs Kelly, King, Sherriff, Bower and Johnston voted to end the rebate, outvoting Cllrs Synfield, Temple and Nott.
REPRESENTATIVES FROM the Meander Valley recently took part in an Extinction Rebellion ‘Die-In’ at Launceston Town Hall.
As reported in the Examiner on Friday 12 July, Extinction Rebellion Northern Tasmania (XR) held a peaceful protest in Civic Square outside Launceston Council Chambers.
XR’s Declaration of Rebellion, delivered to Mayor Van Zetten and councillors, states: ‘Humanity finds itself embroiled in an event unprecedented in its history. One which, unless immediately addressed, will catapult us further into the destruction of all we hold dear: this nation, its peoples, our ecosystems and the future of generations to come.’
A number of Meander Valley residents car-pooled into Launceston to support this protest and are in the process of establishing a local XR affinity group.
The United Nations gives the planet 10 years, so what can you do? XR Meander Valley is looking for members to be a part of the global movement.
Find information online at ausrebellion.earth. Extinction Rebellion Northern Tasmania can also be found on Facebook.
To make contact with a local, try Graeme at XRmeandervalley@protonmail.com. All are welcome.
MEANDER VALLEY residents now have access to a defibrillator in Woolworths Deloraine to assist in the event of sudden cardiac arrest.
The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was installed in Woolworths Deloraine on 21 June is part of a priority roll out program at Woolworths that ensures rural and regional communities, or areas where it may be hard to access a medical site get first access to the roll out.
The AED is designed to be used by anyone, with clear Woolworths with a heart step-by-step voice instructions that can guide members of the public through the process.
Woolworths Deloraine Store Manager, Steve Coppleman said, ‘You never know when a sudden cardiac arrest might strike and in the unfortunate event that it does, having the local community able to access this treatment, could help to save lives.
‘The best medical advice tells us that access to an AED early on can greatly increase the chance of survival.’
An estimated 20 000 Australians suffer a cardiac arrest outside a hospital every year. The survival rate if you have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital is approximately 10%.
LUCKILY IT was Friday the 14th and not the 13th when Bruce McNicol and Lisa Bartholomew received the news that their woodshed caught fire while they were away down south.
Vigilant neighbours and a quick response from the Deloraine Fire Brigade meant that the fire was quickly under control with no one hurt and only some damage to two properties in Beefeater Street.
The next morning, after a brief flare up, investigation into the cause of the fire found that ash from a fire had reignited, despite being left outside in the cold and damp.
Bruce explained that despite always carefully disposing of ash, in this instance the ash had been mistakenly put on top of older, damp boxes of ash.
The ash had started to smoulder, the boxes caught fire and spread to kindling and other flammable material in the wood shed, then to the fence and the next door property.
Deloraine Fire Brigade had responded immediately, thanks to numerous call-ins by neighbours.
Daniel Watson from the brigade noted that the fire truck was already being prepped for a joint training night and the fire was only a short distance away.
Bruce and his partner Lisa Bartholomew were lucky to only lose a woodshed and part of the adjoining fence, although the fire did burn most of the ivy off the brick walls of their house.
The property next door suffered damage to the back corner of the main weatherboard building, with damage and charring extending up to the rafters on their lean-to.
Bruce and Daniel both stressed that careful disposal of ash from fire places, stoves, fire pits or bonfires is of paramount importance on any property.
Even in the middle of a cold and wet winter, ash will retain its heat and can re-ignite if it is in contact with other combustible material.
Ashes can smoulder for days, so should be stored well away from any flammable material. Placing a metal container with a lid and pouring on water will help to douse any embers.
Cold moist ash can be added to your compost or placed in the garbage if necessary, but be very careful – wheelie bins catch fire!
And if you are planning to go away, check that any ashes are well and truly cold before you go. This might just save your property or your neighbour’s lives.
IF YOU have seen Adani protesters in Deloraine over the past few weeks, you may have wondered why Tasmanians are bothered by a proposed coal mine in Queensland.
You may also have seen this small group of concerned young locals, protesting on the Saturday of the Federal election. Too young to vote, but old enough to be concerned about how their elected representatives are going to manage their future.
By David Claridge
WESTBURY RECREATION Ground is a-buzz with activity since work started in April with parts of stage one being ticked off.
A 100-seat capacity function space is coming together as stage one with more works planned to be completed by July.
Following that, there will be new lighting installed, change room facilities, space for umpires, a medical room, eight showers and equipment storage space amongst many other upgrades.
The Meander Valley Council distributed a media release to explain that the upgrades have begun and are currently going to plan.
‘The development is being undertaken in two stages so that the existing clubrooms remain operational for as long as possible,’ Mayor Wayne Johnston said.
The Meander Valley Football Club has announced on their Facebook page their excitement for the $440,000 upgrade from the State Government’s Levelling the Playing Field Grant Program.
The upgrades to the ground and clubrooms will help them to a standard that will support the growing female participation at the club.
By Hayley Manning
THE ANZ, a well established bank on Deloraine’s bustling Emu Bay Road has closed and a popular retail shop is set to follow suit.
The Reject Shop will close its doors on 5th July 2019. A spokesperson from the Reject Shop Head Office (Vic) issued the following brief statement. ‘After taking lots of factors into consideration we have decided to close the store. Staff will be redeployed to other stores.’
ANZ Deloraine branch closed at short notice on 24th April, after many decades of service.
Guy Barnett, MP, has gathered a petition to be tabled in the House of Assembly, aiming to draw attention to the effect the sudden closure has had on residents and small businesses throughout the Meander Valley.
ANZ General Manager (Vic/Tas), Michael Wake, said ANZ is disappointed that leasing circumstances beyond their control led to the Deloraine branch closure.
‘We were recently notified of changes to our leasing arrangement and have now reached an impasse which will see us discontinue our lease. We are working with customers and staff to ensure we can make this difficult transition as smooth as possible,’ Mr Wake said.
Online banking saves a bank the most money per transaction, followed by use of an ATM. Face to face customer service within a branch is the most expensive transaction for a bank.
In 2017, the four major banks spent a combined 4.2 billion dollars on online and mobile banking technology; giving an insight into the future direction of banking.
Mr Wake acknowledged the inconvenience rural branch closure would cause to a rural community.
‘We understand our regional customers are often adversely affected by branch closures and we apologise for the inconvenience we know this will cause some of our customers,’ he said.
THE TASMANIAN Catholic Diocese has removed Father Nicholas Rynne from his position at the Deloraine and Westbury churches after an outcry from parishioners.
But after an incident on his final Saturday in the job, police have charged three parishioners with common assault.
Tasmania Police say they were called to attend a minor disturbance at Deloraine’s Holy Redeemer Catholic Church at 6:50pm on 30th March.
Father Rynne and a 77-year-old Deloraine woman were allegedly pushed and grabbed by three other people during a minor altercation. No one was injured.
A 76-year-old woman and a 75-year-old man, both from Elizabeth Town, were charged with common assault via summons and will appear in the Launceston Magistrates Court.
The Catholic Diocese has confirmed Father Rynne has ceased work in the Meander Valley parish and is on leave.
It was also confirmed that the Dean of the North, Father Mark Freeman, has agreed to act as a moderator of the parish for the immediate future.
Provision of masses for the community in the coming weeks has been arranged
By David Claridge
THERE HAS been a development with the process of a Telstra tower being built in Zenith Court, Blackstone
Heights. Since the Meander Valley Council rejected the proposal by Telstra it has been appealed and is now before the Resource Management and Appeals Tribunal.
In a media release from the Meander Valley Council, the council held a meeting and decided to support the approval of the tower being built.
Mayor of Meander Valley, Wayne Johnston spoke for the council to explain their decision change was due to new information coming available during the appeals process.
‘Council have decided not to be a part of the appeals process anymore, as a planning authority we can’t contest it.
‘The new information which we had been waiting for from Telstra since the beginning was about the community benefit of having the tower in Blackstone, now it has been produced our hands are tied.’
‘We all live in our own towns, the petition and the arguments of the neighbouring land owners were all relevant, but when we act as a planning authority you are not supposed to take certain things into account which is hard when you are trying to act on the good of everyone.’
The council stated that it was a ‘difficult decision’ and that some residents will be ‘extremely disappointed’.
Many residents have disapproved of the tower’s proposed location due its proximity to houses, possible health issues, affecting future sale prices and being an eye sore.
Council’s initial rejection was based on strong community feedback and lack of due diligence on Telstra’s part.
April 2019 | Sharon Webb
ONLY SIX weeks into his job, Tasmania’s Catholic Archdiocese has moved to mend a rift in the Meander Valley parish. According to some parishioners, Nicholas Rynne has already sacked the local board of the Westbury and Deloraine congregations and decreed that mass will be in Latin at Westbury.
One lifetime Catholic said, “People’s attitude is that he has taken our church and parish from us,” describing how Father Rynne had replaced the board with people who support his traditionalist views. The parishioner said congregations halved to about 30 people after the dispute. Two parish chairs and two sacristans (who prepare the church for mass) have also left. In late March, the archdiocese sent retired Melbourne bishop Peter Elliott to attempt to reconcile the antagonists.
Staying five days, appointments with him were booked out by distressed parishioners, well before he arrived. A spokesperson for the Hobart Archdiocese said Archbishop Julian Porteus was “aware of tension within the parish” since Father Rynne’s appointment. “Archbishop Porteous has instigated a process to clarify the situation. His primary responsibility in this situation is to ensure the pastoral care of all concerned in the Meander Valley Parish.” Father Rynne, aged 38, said he had been instructed by the archdiocese not to make media comment. Preferring to wear the very traditional soutane or cassock, Father Rynne has worked in several Sydney parishes and is now seconded to Meander Valley for a year.
One parishioner said that of 62 people attended a meeting on 3rd March to discuss the conflict, only one supported the changes. A second meeting on 17th March attracted 40 people at short notice. “The new priest is an ultra-conservative and most of the parish does not want to follow his line,” another parishioner said. “There is a lot of unrest; people say their health is being impacted by his changes. “For 50 years we were encouraged to participate in our parish but the laity is irrelevant in the church he is trying to impose on us.
And he is supported by Archbishop Julian Porteus.” Another parishioner branded Father Rynne’s actions divisive: “We seem to have gone back a few generations. The well-being of the community is at risk and it’s sad to see how upset everyone is.” Father Rynne was ordained a deacon in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 2012. He served at Pope Francis’ first Pontifical Mass in March 2013, the year he was ordained a priest in front of Cardinal George Pell at St Mary’s Cathedral. Using the 1570 Latin version, he celebrated his first mass that same afternoon.
LARGELY OUT of sight of the majority of residents, the Westbury Showgrounds can be found at the northern end of Westbury. The Showgrounds are under the ownership of the Westbury Agricultural Society Inc. – a volunteer committee dedicated to running the very successful Westbury Show (now in its 156th year) as well as providing a venue for many other events.
The Showgrounds are home to horse shows, dog shows, horse training, dog training and are a venue for various community group fundraisers. Five local community groups are also provided with storage facilities for their equipment.
As with all committees, W.A.S.I. is always looking for new people to join and bring fresh ideas. In particular, they are now looking for a new secretary, as the current secretary is looking to step down after five years of excellent administration.
With many new people moving to Westbury, the committee hopes to make them aware of W.A.S.I. and the benefit it is to the community. “It is a great feeling seeing the many smiling faces at the show, or a hundred horses using the arena, or hundreds of well-groomed dogs strut - ting around the dog arena, knowing you are part of the organisation of these events.”
If anyone would be inter - ested in joining the W.A.S.I. committee, please contact President Kevin Lattin on 0417 104 520, or Secretary Shan - non Barwick on 0438 636 149. They would be very pleased to hear from you.
April 2019 | Hayley Manning
ONLOOKERS DECLARE without a doubt that four fearless people had a close shave outside the Empire Hotel on the 22nd March. Friends, family and supporters all gathered around to spur on hairdresser Liz Walker, as she took to the three sponsored entrants and one passerby with her clippers.
The head-shaving event was for the Leukemia Foundation’s 21st World’s Greatest Shave campaign. Kim Lord, maintenance at Deloraine Primary School, was motivated by his own current cancer treatment to do the shave. “My hair was going to come out anyway!” Kim said. “I was walking down the street two days ago, when I saw a Greatest Shave sign and then decided to do it. It is the best thing I have done.” Kim has raised around $1,200, thanks largely to the staff at the School and Timber World.
Mole Creek cave guides Angela Enright and Shannon McMonagle were next in the chair. Angela credits Shannon for getting her involved in the campaign, which she decided to do because her dad suffered a blood condition and she had lost a good friend to leukemia.
“The aim of the annual campaign is to raise money for blood cancer research, so every little bit we do helps,” Angela said.
Shannon and Angela raised $1,300, not including donations on the night. All participants gave a heartfelt thank you to Liz, the Empire Hotel, and all their sponsors and supporters.
THIS MONTH, as part of their youth employment campaign, the Brotherhood of St Laurence has published a report ‘Smashing the avocado debate’, that looks at Australia’s youth unemployment hotspots. As at December 2018, the national youth unemployment rate is 11.2%, more than double the overall Australian unemployment rate of 5%.
Young people lacking in experience, training opportunities or higher educational qualifications are at significant risk of being left out of the work force altogether. Despite 28 years of continuous economic growth, youth hotspots across the country have unemployment figures ranging from 14.3% to 25.7%, with significantly more unemployment in regional than urban areas.
Three of the top 20 hotspots are in Tasmania — South East (17.8%), Hobart (16.9 %) and West and North East, including Meander Valley, (15.0%). The statistics quoted in the report are taken from the Department of Jobs and Small Business Labour Market Information Portal. But the ABS definition of unemployment is quite narrow.
Falling outside the narrow terms of reference, another group of people, who are not working and want to work are classed as ‘marginally attached’ to the work force. The report stresses that successful solutions to unemployment need strong local networks. The Brotherhood and other not-for-profits are working to develop innovative regional approaches to job creation for young people.
THE LAST steam traction engine manufactured by British company Marshall, Sons and Co. has been at Entally House since the early 1980s. With no buildings large enough to house it, Engine No 87964 has spent many years out in the weather and is in need of major conservation.
Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service in partnership with Redwater Creek Steam and Heritage Society have finalised an agreement for the long-term loan of the Marshall engine to RCSHS, ensuring that this significant piece of industrial heritage will be preserved and will remain in Tasmania.
With no direct links to Entally, it will now be housed at Sheffield Steam and Heritage Centre alongside other historic engines. “A conservation plan will be prepared and over time, works will be carried out with the intention of eventually returning it to an operational state,” PWS General Manager Jason Jacobi said.
Made for the Tasmanian Public Works Department in 1937, Engine No 87964 crushed rocks for road works in the state’s north until 1957 when all use of steam ceased in PWD quarries.
April 2019 | Sharon Webb
AROUND 50 pensioners and retirees attending a Mole Creek public meeting in March were hostile to Meander Valley Council’s proposed new rubbish and recyclables collection for rural areas. Mole Creek pensioner Keith Cole stated the majority view: he does not want to pay more for the privilege of having his rubbish collected. “In Queensland I paid $4,000 a year in rates,” he said.
“I came here to get away from that. Here I pay $400.” Another woman who lives on a rural road just outside Mole Creek said: “It doesn’t fit, I don’t want to pay for something I don’t need or want and haven’t asked for.” But a vote showed eight people attending would like the service.
Peter Sykes who lives in the town centre said he’d like the convenience of the rubbish collection because it’s a problem for him to go to the tip. Robyn Grace and Ellen Scott also supported the proposal. The public meeting was arranged by Mole Creek Ratepayers Association president Trudy Richards and addressed by council director of infrastructure, Dino De Paoli, who gave a run-down of current operations. Mr De Paoli explained that councillors had suggested the collection to give equity to rural residents and cut illegal rubbish dumping.
He said of 400 ratepayer responses to the collection proposal, 330 had been against it and only 60 in favour. Of 272 Mole Creek ratepayers, 50 (18 per cent) had voiced their response: 43 against it and seven in favour. Council’s general manager Martin Gill wrote to “rural households in accessible areas”, telling them the proposed service would begin July to September 2019. It would cost an extra $206 a year. Meeting attendees voiced their suspicions about the letter from the council.
Mr De Paoli replied that a decision needed to be made soon for budget reasons.
April 2019 | Sharon Webb
MEANDER VALLEY councillors have placed a condition on an application for a caravan park in Hagley to protect intrusion on a young family living across the road. Annette and Stephen Camino, who own a farming property at 62 Meander Valley Rd in Hagley applied for a permit to establish an RV homestay for 20 self-contained recreational vehicles.
It will operate seasonally at $10 a night for each RV and no facilities other than van space and a 3m high sign. The Caminos envisage setup to cost them $500–10,000.. Council officers had recommended the permit be approved but after councillors heard objections from Shaun and Danika Leatherbarrow they amended the permit. The amendment ensures RV locations directly opposite the Leatherbarrow residence will be filled only after all other spots had been filled. Mr Leatherbarrow told council at the March meeting that he and his wife were distressed by the proposed land use and its location.
“We stand to lose quite a considerable amount if this venture is to go ahead as planned. “The current plan has a caravan park directly opposite our house, with campers to be located no more than 30 meters from our toddler’s bedroom. Not only does this propose noise issues but also privacy and the risk of strangers almost on our doorstep on a regular basis.
“Whilst the caravans are planned to be behind a row of trees, to state that 20 RVs parked alongside of the road would not adversely impact the current charm of our little village is misguided. “I would never have bought this property if it was located opposite what is being proposed. We love this area, but have talked about selling up if our dream of a beautiful quiet home in the country is ruined.”
March 2019 | Hayley Manning
THE TASMANIAN Government, in association with Tasmanian Fire Service and local councils, opened evacuation centres for those areas impacted by fires or threatening embers.
Meander Valley Council’s Social Recovery Coordinator, Patrick Gambles, in response to guidance and direction from Tasmanian State Emergency Services (SES) and other emergency services, activated the Westbury Town Hall Supper Room as an evacuation centre several times during the recent bushfire threat.
“Our role is to help the community get back on its feet by providing access to personal support, shelter and information. It could be as simple as come in and let us know you are safe and we will register you. We can help with immediate needs and for more substantial support we will bring in services like Red Cross, financial or health services, and ultimately, if people need somewhere to sleep, we have contingency plans to turn a hall like this into an overnight evacuation centre,” Patrick said.
“Regrettably, Council does not always have the time or resources to door-knock during an emergency situation so we work in partnership with volunteers from our six local service clubs, who can provide low-risk support, check on people in their home, help with clean-ups and do minor repairs.”
Patrick says the Council emergency management team has a strong association with Red Cross, and they appreciate the support of agents with training in psychological first-aid, evacuation centre management and all forms of disaster impact experience.
Emergency Services Manager Tasmania, Howard Colvin, says Red Cross staff help people complete a ‘Register. Find. Reunite.’ national registration service that informs Tasmania Police, other emergency services and loved ones of evacuation details (according to permission indicated at the time of register) – in the event that communications are compromised.
“In my experience, Meander Valley Council is one of the most switched on councils in Tasmania when it comes to emergency management,” Mr Colvin said. “They have engaged with Red Cross in emergency management, adapted some of our emergency management operational practices, and worked with us to train a range of community organisations in the joint recovery effort that follows.
“We see the benefits every time they respond to an event and the community can take comfort from the hard work the Council has put in.”
Patrick says while it is heartening to receive offers of goods and volunteer assistance, it is not practical due to the unpredictable nature of events.
The best way people can help is by registering to volunteer. To do so, please visit www.volunteering tas.org.au.
March 2019 | Sharon Webb
TASMANIA’S THREATENED species manager will inspect Westbury Common this month before further permits are issued for grass mowing there. The Common has been slashed three times over summer after no mowing for a year. Environmentalists have voiced loud concerns about the effect on the threatened Green and Gold Frog as well as on skinks and bandicoots.
A DPIPWE spokesperson said that species mapping of the Common done before Christmas was not added to the State’s Natural Values Atlas in time for the information to be taken into account when the summer mowing permit was allocated. “All observations submitted for inclusion in the atlas go through a verification process. The accuracy of records - both in terms of location and species identification - is critical to good management outcomes,” he said.
“The permit issued to Meander Valley Council was based on the verified records contained in the atlas at the time the permit was being prepared, prior to new records for the Westbury Town Common being entered into the database and verified. “DPIPWE ensured the new records were swiftly verified and they will inform any future permitting and associated management planning.” Cllr Tanya King first brought Westbury residents’ rumbling discontent to public attention in the November 2018 council meeting when she asked what measures could be reasonably adopted to promote more harmonious use of the town common? “My question was in response to ratepayer enquiries as to why the grass on the Common had been allowed to grow so long, and to the unrest building about its use,” she said.
Cllr King, who lives in Westbury and said she supports the Common’s grass being baled for animal fodder, elaborated on the cause of Westbury residents’ “unrest” by claiming “long grass at the moment reportedly makes it dangerous for dog owners to use the common. “I am told that with the grass at the current length, the grass seed heads are proving hazardous for dogs. “The people that have contacted me are all seeking to enjoy this rare off lead environment for their well-behaved dogs, whose owners like to socialise and interact in a unique setting.” Cllr King told councillors: “There also seems to be some confusion in the community about the purpose of the Common, and I understand that there has been unnecessarily aggressive behaviour exhibited by a user of the common.”
Conservationists such as citizen scientist manager Craig Broadfield and Westbury Common supporter Di Robinson are concerned about the possibility of frogs being killed in their mating season and nocturnal bandicoots having their heads lopped by slashing equipment as they sleep in the grass. Council manager Martin Gill denied animals die by slashing.
He also indicated he believes only Ms Robinson and Mr Broadfield are the only people concerned about the effect of mowing on wildlife: “We’re really only servicing two people with this process.” While DPIPWE‘s policies on endangered species demand Meander Valley Council completes a Common management plan before DPIPWE issues further slashing permits, Cllr King believes such a plan is unwarranted.
“In my opinion the Common is no different to any other public spaced owned and managed by the council,” she said.