THE Upper Hunter Shire Council met last night and key decisions included Council passing a motion to donate money from the water fund to truck water to farmers to a maximum of $3,000 per month to farmers until more than 50 percent of the Shire is not in drought. When the amount of money being spent on the hanger at the airport was raised, the general manager said that “all capital projects are undergoing review to see if they will proceed or not.”
All Councillors were in attendance, except for Cr Joshua Brown.
Matters discussed in Council included:
Aberdeen Revitalisation Committee: Cr Sue Abbott raised that there was no quorum of the Committee, therefore there were no minutes. The general manager agreed and a ‘report’ to Council from the Committee was passed. Cr Sue Abbott also questioned what ‘business’ was discussed between Cr Fisher and Bill Rose regarding Jefferson Park in Aberdeen worth an estimated $7,500,000. Cr Abbott was told by the Mayor a report would be prepared.
Upper Hunter Shire Traffic Committee: Cr Lee Watts noted the traffic refuge in Hill Street was being installed and while she supported the move, Cr Watts was critical that it had been “three years in the making and we should move faster on these items in future.”
Upper Hunter Library Services: Cr Abbott questioned if there was an additional technical services librarian being appointed and if the virtual reality facilities would be supervised. Matthew Pringle, director of environmental services, said the position would be full time and was being backfilled by Muswellbrook Council. Mr Pringle further confirmed there would be full time supervision of the virtual reality machines.
Merriwa Aged Hostel Committee: Cr Abbott questioned Council’s recommendation to used voluntary registered nurses and said locum registered nurses should be used instead. The Mayor said he thought that would be the case, but would check.
Airport Management Committee: Cr Abbott noted the minutes identified insufficient helicopter parking areas and asked if it would be rectified in the new airport plan. Her question was taken on notice.
Scone and Upper Hunter Saleyards: Cr Abbott asked why Council was proposing to provide Forbes Council with support in a legal matter. Mayor Bedggood said that there were flaws in the new sale yards policy from state government and “unfortunately someone would need to be the first to challenge it so as a group of Councils who have saleyards we are banding together as support.” The Mayor described the new policy as “almost inoperable as it stands”. Cr Ron Campbell added that New South Wales was the only state which did not allow volumetric loading, instead weighing each axel and that it was almost impossible to have equal weight over each axel when transporting livestock. Cr Abbott further asked why cattle are not fed on Tuesdays and it was explained the cattle once weighted for sale are not fed. Cr Abbott also asked why the safety standards at the saleyards were being relaxed to allow children in the yards. Mayor Bedggood explained as it stands the policy is very restrictive and it could preclude children from going the sales with their parents or grandparents and also to be on site during the Beef Bonanza and other school cattle events. The change will allow for these activities to occur and the children will need to be in the presence of someone who has been inducted on site.
St Joseph’s Outward Bound Program: Cr Watts asked that the motion be amended to donate $800 instead of $250 to the outward bound program, stating that during the drought a lot of families were doing it tough and the donation would help more local children attend. The amendment was made and passed.
Cessnock Archers Donation: Cr Watts said she supported a donation to the Archers considering there were many local residents who were members of the Club and because archery attracted people to the Shire for tournaments, however she asked that the criteria for Council donations be reviewed to ensure that donations were only going to benefit the local community.
Merriwa Central School Variety Night: Cr Campbell said the hall for the variety night was packed and it was a very worthwhile cause. The motion to donate $312 was passed.
Murrurundi Pool: The Council voted to keep the Murrurundi pool closed until there is rain as it was estimated to cost $50,000 to transport water to the pool during the current drought.
Waste Hours at Murrurundi: Council passed a motion to change the hours at the waste management facility in Murrurundi. Cr Campbell asked that Council send out communications to residents to explain the changes and the prices. The new hours are:
- Friday: 00am to 2.00pm
- Saturday: 00am to 4.00pm
- Sunday: 00am to 1.00pm
- Monday: 00am to 3.00pm
Water Source for Murrurundi: Council voted to spend an additional $105,000 from the Water Fund Restricted Asset to complete construction of an emergency water supply bore and to give the General Manager the discretion to spend up to $200,000 from the Water Fund for emergency works associated with the current drought.
Questions from Councillors:
On-site Septic Fees: Cr Abbott asked why Council was charging for on-site septic services when there seemed to be no inspections. Matthew Pringle, director of environmental services said there were more than 2,500 systems in the Shire, which an officer spends most of their time inspecting and issuing appropriate certification for and that is what the fees were spent on.
Demolishing the Airport Terminal Building: Cr Abbott questioned Joanne McCarthy’s (Council employee) assertion to the Heritage committee that the current airport building had to be demolished because it was too close to the current wind sock at the airport. Cr Abbott pointed out that the windsock is 115 metres from the building, yet at Gunnedah airport it is 57 metres and at Narrabri it is 88 metres. “Neither Narrabri nor Gunnedah have a problem with their windsocks’ proximity to their nearest buildings.” Cr Abbott also outlined the manual standards for windsocks and drew to the Council’s attention that there were no such distance restrictions. The Mayor said he would take her question on notice.
Warbirds Attraction: Cr Abbott raised concerns that since Council was spending millions of dollars on a hanger for the War Birds what guarantee there was that the planes, which are privately owned, would remain at the proposed museum. “It was intimated last week at the Heritage Advisory committee meeting that planes may be in situ for 6-12 months at a time. Will there be a standing exhibition? Are we spending a considerable amount of ratepayers’ money on a glorified hanger for private business when we have an affordable housing crisis that is sorely in need of funding and a fully-funded building program?” The General Manager responded that all capital projects are going through a review to assess which will proceed.
Wood Smoke: Mayor Bedggood said he had received a letter from Mr McGuirk regarding wood smoke concerns in the area and proposed that a person who had been employed by other surrounding councils be consulted on the matter. He further said he would direct the letter to the Sustainability Committee.