Council amalgamation is just not working

I READ the comments by MLA for Bendigo West Bob Cameron that the Labor Party has fixed another of Mr Kennett’s closures by reopening of the Kangaroo Flat Railway Station.Well, Mr Cameron – how about getting rid of the amalgamated councils and going back to small shires where things really got done? Bendigo council is a prime example – anything further than 10 kilometres from the CBD doesn’t exist in its view.It wastes millions in and around the CBD, then when it is time to help the small country towns the councillors go on about how good they are at giving all this money to them, when in fact it is only a very small amount of their rates being returned to assist with things that should have, and would have been done under their own shire.So what do you think, Mr Cameron?ROBERT K. SMALLPAGE,Huntly
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Retailers hoping for some Christmas cheer

TOUGH TIMES: Marlii Stubbs (left) and Elizabeth Wilkinson, of Devonport’s Elizabeth Matthews Gifts, with some of the Christmas gifts available in the store. Picture: Katie McDougall.WHEN Devonport teenager Marlii Stubbs opens her pay packet she is quick to pay it forward, spending almost every cent locally. When the 15-year-old knocks off school she heads straight to her after-school job as a part-time retail assistant at Elizabeth Matthews Gifts in the Four Ways, Devonport. “It is good for me to work, that way I get to socialise with people who are not just my peer group,” Marlii said. “I get to save a bit of money to spend, which is quite handy for family and friends especially with Christmas and birthdays plus I get to have more training working with stock.” Store owner Elizabeth Wilkinson has been servicing Devonport’s giftware needs for 38 years. Mrs Wilkinson said while retailers were doing it tough in the face of rising costs and decreased consumer spending, the money spent in town kept youngsters like Marlii employed. “It is certainly getting tougher,” Mrs Wilkinson said. “Our costs are rising staff wages, we have to pay GST, insurances are rising and with jobs being lost I think there will be a lot less under the Christmas tree this year.” As the strong Australian dollar drives many shoppers to look for a bargain on the Internet, local retailers are asking us to think about the consequences before clicking the buy now button. Mrs Wilkinson said she believed the key to her success in retail in Devonport had been the friendly, personal service given to each and every customer, something lacking should you choose to purchase online. The greeting card business was one industry doing it really tough this festive season, Mrs Wilkinson said. “With Facebook now so many people just leave you a message there, they don’t buy a card anymore,” she said. “Which is a shame because to get a card is so much more personal,” Marlii said. Keeping an optimistic outlook, Mrs Wilkinson said each year the dash for last-minute gifts was happening later and later so there is still a chance things will pick up throughout December and Santa will put a little something extra in his sack for the retailers. “We will just hope for the best, we have to,” she said. EDITORIAL, Page 20.
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Second recycle bins are available now

IN The Advertiser on Friday, May 23, the City of Greater Bendigo was reported as saying it would consider making second recycling bins available for households that need them.I would like to point out that this option has been available for some time.The information on the City of Greater Bendigo website lists the following schedule of the charges applicable to a residential property for the 2007-2008.Service: 240 litre mobile garbage bin – $120; Service: 120/140 litre mobile garbage bin – $105;Service: 240 litre recyclable bin – $50;Service: Additional bin collection – $120 or $50 as appropriate.This means households that require a second recycle bin can pick one up today for $50 per annum.RICHARD YOUNG,Long Gully
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Young driverdies after Bass Hwy collision

DAMAGE: Ambulance Tasmania North West superintendent Paul Templar said one person was critically injured and trapped, after an unladen b-double truck and a car collided. DESTROYED: As a consequence of the collision at Cowrie Pt this morning, the unlade b-double truck caught fire and was destroyed.
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A full report, along with additional photos captured by the second person on the scene, will be in tomorrow’s Advocate.A Milabena man in his 20s who was taken to hospital in a critical condition after a collision between a car and a b-double truck this morning has died.This morning Ambulance Tasmania North West superintendent Paul Templar said one person was critically injured and trapped, after an unladen b-double truck and a sedan collided.The driver of the sedan, received serious head injuries before he was taken to hospital, while the truck driver was not seiously hurt.As a consequence the truck caught fire and was totally destroyed.The truck, driven by a Burnie man was heading west towards Smithon, while the car was heading east. The Bass Hwy remains closed at Cowrie Point. Police accident investigators remain at the scene.Cowrie Point is about 5kms east of Stanley. Motorists are being diverted via Mawbanna Rd and Loosemores Rd. Updates to follow.

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Praise for the man in white in junior match

I WAS at the under-16 football game on Sunday between Castlemaine and Kangaroo Flat at Castlemaine and would like to make mention of and umpiring exhibition.I do not know his name, but I would think he may have been from the Castlemaine Umpires League as he was in white and the other umpire in orange.I myself have played years of football and have always said that the best umpire is one that interacts with the players and explains his decisions and that is what this umpire did.Weather you thought his decision was wrong or right it was made clear to the players and also to spectators in that area why he made that decision so at no time did a player run off confused as to why he gave away a free.He also encouraged fair play and commented on things done, such as good mark, clean shepherd etc.One can only hope this sort of interaction is encouraged by the umpire’s league as it can only take the game and umpires forward in a positive manner.Great job, man in white.ALAN MILLARD,Bendigo
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That pitch is too green and a frog ought to know

GOOGLY SAYS: That cricket pitch sure is green enough to get the batsmen hopping.FOLLOWING yesterday’s revelation in The Advocate Burnie’s pitch for Saturday’s interstate one-day cricket match was as green as Kermit the Frog’s rump, we called in our own expert.Googly the Frog will be across this issue like slime on a lily pad.He will hop to it each day before the game to bring you the latest on the pitch and the weather outlook for the big day.THAT cricket pitch sure is green enough to get the batsmen hopping.I’m Googly the Frog and I’m no toadie.I heard the West Park pitch for the one-dayer at West Park on Saturday between New South Wales and Tasmania was as green as the behind of a very famous frog indeed.So I decided to put the tadpoles into childcare and leave my pad to keep you up to date with pitch preparations and the weather outlook.I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about good cricket.I’m no puppet and I have no intention to gild the lily.The pitch was being rolled yesterday and the outfield was being cut.The pitch was looking a little lighter in colour yesterday than on Monday and progress is being made.The pitch is due for a “haircut” later in the week.We will see what that changes.As of now, the fast bowlers will be loving the look of it.The batsmen, well, less so.A pitch this green so close to an interstate game is rare indeed.As for the weather, it looks like there will be enough rain to keep a frog comfortably slimy, but not enough to threaten the game.The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a fine day today, showers tomorrow and Friday and a shower or two on Saturday.As told to SEAN FORD
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Votes stolen

Operations manager of Central Victorian Football Trevor Arnel.BENDIGO’S sports world is reeling following the theft of league best and fairest vote cards from QEO House on Sunday night.Vote cards from all rounds to date in this season’s Bendigo Junior Football League and the Bendigo Netball League were stolen.The last round of best and fairest vote cards from the Bendigo Senior Football League and the Loddon Valley Football League were also taken.Central Victorian Football chief executive officer Steven Oliver said the theft was shocking.”At this stage we just don’t know what do to,” he admitted.Duplicate cards are never made, and there is no copy of players who received the umpires’ votes.QEO House has been broken into four times in the past six months.Mr Oliver acknowledged additional security was on its way.He has contacted the City of Greater Bendigo, which is working with the league to increase security.Mr Oliver yesterday made a desperate plea for the sealed envelopes to be returned.”Our job is to collate that information for all the volunteers in the area,” he said.”We are just asking for them to be returned.”Bendigo Junior Football League secretary John Hewitt said the loss was immense.With 23 clubs, 90 teams, 1700 players and about 36 matches played each weekend, the junior league faces an enormous challenge in determining how to fix the loss of almost 200 sets of voting cards.Only the under 10s are not given votes.”Obviously we’ll have to try and consider what we might do,” Mr Hewitt said.”We can’t go back to umpires because they won’t be able to remember… it’s really disappointing.” The secretary said the league was faced with abandoning the best and fairest this year, or awarding the medal based on votes from the remainder of the season.”That’s obviously a really hard thing too for the players who have had good games in the matches already played,” he said.Mr Hewitt urged for the envelopes to be returned.”Just please hand them back to some central point, with no questions asked,” he said.CVF operations manager Trevor Arnel said the sealed envelopes were in a drawer waiting to be entered into a spreadsheet.”We’re not sure why they took them, whether or not they thought there was money in them, but we really need them back,” he said.Anybody with information about the theft is urged to contact Bendigo police on 5448 1300.
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Council annual report delayed by mistakes

QUESTIONS RAISED: Former Devonport City Council employee Tricia Alford, who has highlighted several errors in the council’s annual report. Picture: Katie McDougall.THE Devonport City Council’s annual report has been delayed until a number of errors are addressed. An ex-employee highlighted several mistakes in the report as it was being tabled for approval at the council’s annual meeting last week. In response to questions raised by the council’s former organisational development officer, Tricia Alford, the council deferred adopting the report, removed it from its website and has sought an explanation from general manager Ian McCallum. Mr McCallum said a further report would be compiled and taken to a December meeting for approval. Mr McCallum said he would be happy to sit down after the council adopted the amended report to answer any questions but could not comment beforehand. “Council at the annual general meeting on Monday, November 22, 2010 resolved to defer adoption of the annual report for 2009-10. The annual report has now been withdrawn in light of this and the fact that Mrs Alford has raised some obvious errors in the report that need addressing,” Mr McCallum said in an email response to The Advocate. “I am not at liberty to discuss the annual report or Mrs Alford’s questions until I have worked through them with aldermen (at their request) and they have been reported back to council at a council meeting.” Mrs Alford, who is one of several council staff to be made redundant earlier this year as a cost-cutting measure to cover a shock $2.3 million budget blowout, described herself as a concerned resident seeking answers on who is accountable for a report that included typing mistakes and appeared to have reprinted a page from last year’s report that incorrectly referred to the Devonport Homemaker Centre as an unapproved development. Mrs Alford successfully called on the aldermen to put off adopting the annual report until it was proof read and any errors corrected. “Is the general manager responsible, as the head of the organisation, to ensure the accuracy of the annual report? I have not read the entire report, word for word, as I’m not paid the $225,000-$245,000 that the GM is paid to ensure the accuracy of this document – but I have noted, as I am sure other members of the community have, a number of typos throughout the pages I read,” Mrs Alford said in a typed document to the council. Mrs Alford asked the council why the budgeted deficit of $353,000 had been doubled by resolution on February 15 to a deficit of $760,000 and after a further six months of operation it doubled again with the deficit now reported to be $1,630,000. Mrs Alford said an explanation was offered of $1.4 million of internal overhead expenses written back because of incomplete capital works but on page 85 of the report she said an amount of $650,000 was noted as an overestimation of capitalisation of employee costs. Mrs Alford asked the council to explain why the discrepancy of $750,000 and she asked where did the $1.4 million come from. Mrs Alford said the community should be presented with information in the annual report that allowed it to understand the financials of the council and compare them to previous years, but as a result of restructures and organisational changes that was not the case for the last four years. “Admittedly, the council’s financials are complex but they should not be presented to be so complicated that the community cannot clearly see if the council is on track in the provision of services according to a budget and allow the aldermen to make informed decisions,” Mrs Alford said in written questions she has put to the council.
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Key quartet to miss VCFL country championships

THE Bendigo Football League’s country championship campaign has been dealt a further blow with four key players to miss this weekend’s carnival.ps8.3One week after classy Kyneton forward Cameron Tate withdrew, star Golden Square duo Nick Carter and Jason Griffin, Kyneton coach Brett Cook and in-form South Bendigo full-forward Dayne Frew have also been forced to make themselves unavailable for the trip to Sale.Carter strained his groin and Griffin broke his finger in Square’s win over Maryborough last Saturday, while Cook and Frew are out because of work commitments.‘‘It’s disappointing because all four of those players would have been in our starting 18,’’ BFL coach Brett Fitzpatrick said.‘‘Up until last week we hadn’t had an injury concern. Unfortunately, Cook and Frew couldn’t do anything about work.‘‘Even without those players I’m sure the final squad we put together will give it their best this weekend.’’ Fitzpatrick and his co-selectors, Derrick Filo and Marcus Barham, are weighing up whether to add more players to the squad before tomorrow night’s final training session.However, Fitzpatrick said the one-sided nature of last Saturday’s BFL round made it hard to judge which players were in form for their respective clubs.‘‘I had a look at three of the games on Saturday and they didn’t really prove anything to me,’’ he said.
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Gunns sawmills are ‘remaining open’

FAR FROM CERTAIN: The Gunns Veneer sawmill at Somerset. Workers received information about retrenchment and Centrelink payments yesterday.GUNNS Ltd sawmills will be “remaining open” despite sawmill workers at Somerset and Deloraine receiving information sheets about retrenchment and how to claim Centrelink payments yesterday. The Advocate believes the last shipment of logs to be processed at the Smithton sawmill will be on December 18. A Gunns Ltd spokesman said he was unable to “make comment” when asked if this was true or false. However, he did say Gunns has yet to make an announcement in regards to its sawmills and that they are “remaining open”. Asked if they will be remaining open long term, the spokesman said the sawmills were “still operational” and would be “remaining open”. Liberal deputy leader Jeremy Rockliff said the fact Gunns “haven’t ruled out” December 18 as the last shipment of logs is of “considerable concern for me and more so those it affects directly”. “It highlights the fact what is needed in the forestry industry is more certainty,” he said. “The State Government has got to step up and provide clear steps for the community and for those involved in the native harvest industry.” Union representatives were unable to attend yesterday’s meeting with workers at Deloraine, but did attend the meeting at Somerset. The union and superannuation representatives are expected to meet with Smithton workers today. The meetings come just days after Gunns announced it would close its Northern woodchip mills. Deloraine sawmill manager Tommy Donohue said workers were “in limbo”. “Why would they send in the paperwork if it isn’t going to happen?” Mr Donohue said. “We would sooner rather know now when it is going to happen. “We need to know so we can plan our lives.” Mr Donohue said while some workers at the meeting were angry, many just wanted answers. Somerset’s Gunns Veneer sawmill manager Andrew Kerrison said his workers weren’t expecting to meet with Gunns management yesterday, but had the opportunity to ask questions about their future financial situations.
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