The Meander Valley region had a year of highs and lows.
The Examiner’s Meander Valley regional reporter Tarlia Jordan takes a look back on the year that was.
Westbury Recreation Ground upgrade concerns
The new facility would have included a sports pavilion, changerooms and a function centre
The meeting was attended by more than 200 Westbury residents, the council’s general manager Martin Gill said.
“The meeting was arranged following receipt of a petition which was signed by 487 people,” he said.
“At the meeting the local community respectfully let council know that it wanted council to reconsider a decision to spend $5 million on a multipurpose function centre.”
Four motions rallying against the size of the development were tabled at the meeting.
Following the meeting, the council did re-consider and re-evaluate the investment.
It decided to proceed with a facility that better reflected the aspirations of the local community.
Local government elections
The Meander Valley Council saw some big changes toward the end of 2018.
The local government elections saw five new faces get a seat at the council table.
Former Meander Valley mayor Craig Perkins announced in September he would not re-contest. He had been mayor for about eight years.
Quickly after, councillor Andrew Connor announced he would run for mayor. New councillors Susie Bower and Wayne Johnston also put their hand up for the role.
Mayor Johnston was elected after a close fight during the voting period with Cr Bower.
Stephanie Cameron, Frank Nott and Andrew Sherriff were also elected.
Councillor Bob Richardson did not re-contest for election after nearly 20 years on the council. Councillor Ian MacKenzie also did not re-contest for his spot. Councillors Deb White and Rodney Synfield did not get re-elected.
The council received a lot of criticism after it banned free camping in its municipality.
Camping was banned in late 2017 because of a breach in state-governed National Competition Policy.
However, the fight to allow camping in some of the region’s popular camping spots continued throughout much of 2018.
The issue was discussed at a Local Government Association of Tasmania meeting, where all the council areas agreed more clarity was needed about the regulation.
Bracknell was one of the most affected areas. The community spoke out about the banned practice and said it had more positive impacts on the region than negative.
The council’s June meeting got heated when Councillor Ian MacKenzie asked a number of questions without notice about the free camping after a bollard to stop the campers was installed. However, the Bracknell Fire Brigade needed access to the area.
In July, the council was able to allow camping along the Bracknell river banks after a motion to introduce a “honesty box” system was passed and campers were asked to pay a small fee.
Deloraine Districts feasibility study
A $25.8 million feasibility study for a new Deloraine recreation precinct was presented to the council at its January meeting.
The study was initiated by the community and was partly funded by the Deloraine and District’s Community Bank.
The recommendations of the report included expanding the Deloraine Community Complex to include additional indoor sports courts and other indoor facilities, the possible relocation of the football club, and the provision of pathways to the Deloraine Community Complex from neighbouring schools and the town centre.
More than 100 people attended a public meeting about the proposal, which the proponents said was “important”.
The next step remains up in the air, with a “significant” amount of funding required, but the council agreed it was a project worth looking at.
Honey farmers return funds
More than $100,000 in cash was returned to the council in March after it sold a property to recoup rates in 2017.
However, the property’s new owner Geoff Styles is now seeking part of the money from the council because he claims the previous owners “stripped the property bare” of about $50,000 of “fixtures and fittings”, and his insurance company refused to pay.
Rate rise proposals
The region was outraged when the council proposed to increase rates by nearly 5 per cent.
The rise was to balance a $278,000 loss of dividends from TasWater into its budget. In August 2016, the TasWater board determined it would reduce and freeze annual distributions to owner councils, which has reduced the amount the councils get from the organisation by about $300,000 each.
The council had the lowest residential rates of any northern council, and the second lowest business rates.
A rise of 4.46 per cent was eventually passed, increasing $34 to each residential property a year.