Goosegate GM opts for circuit breaker

IN a classic case of “who dunnit” the Derwent Valley Council general manager will take leave, effective today, while an independent review unravels the decision behind using chemically laced bait to cull 14 geese and two ducks at Tynwald Park.

DV Council general manager Greg Winton said he notified council staff late yesterday of his decision to take leave until the review reports back to the elected council. The report could take several weeks before it’s presented.

“In the last couple of days after my fact-finding discussions to find out what influenced going from exploring relocation options to resulting in a euthanised decision requires further examination,” Mr Winton said.

“I have authorised legal counsel to commission an appropriate independent person to undertake such a review and present findings to council.

“I have decided until the report is presented to the elected council it’s my intention to take leave in case of any anticipated suggestions of conflict of undue influence being made.

“My leave will act as a circuit breaker to the situation.”

Mr Winton said the Mayor Ben Shaw and councillors had no knowledge or were informed of the removal of the geese and ducks.

It was an operational decision made to cull introduced species at the park, Mr Winton said, and now the hunt is on to find where, when and who made that call to cull much-loved park geese and ducks.

“I apologise to the community for the distress caused putting the blame squarely at the foot of operational decisions. We will do a review of processes.”

Mr Winton said he acknowledges mistakes were made and the independent investigation will look at the decision-making and processes around the decision that resulted in the death and removal of the birds.

“An independent review will be transparent and with no assertions about the decision making. We need to be aware of the facts. A council officer spoke with the local veterinarian about possible solutions to cull the introduced species, but those options were deemed not viable,” Mr Winton said.

“Instead a decision was made for a licensed pest management company to effectively cull the species. It’s a decision I certainly would like to be aware of and that decision will be in the review.”

Plovers were found at Tynwald Park with indicators suggesting they had been poisoned. The plovers have been removed from the site so that no dogs or other animals can be affected.

“Those birds have gone off for toxicology reports,” Mr Winton said.

Cr Shaw said he was “shocked” by the cull and wanted answers.

“I want to make this statement so the public know myself and my elected member colleagues are taking what happened very seriously and will get to the bottom of this,” Cr Shaw said.

“We are all very upset that this has happened and that we were not consulted.”

Jess Whelan still a Liberal member, won’t rule out another tilt

FORMER Liberal Lyons candidate Jessica Whelan, who polled strongly in the New Norfolk area at the last Federal election,  has revealed she remains a member of the Liberal Party and won’t rule out seeking Liberal preselection again in the future.

Ms Whelan was sensationally disendorsed by the Liberal Party in the middle of the Federal election campaign, but still gained 44.8 per cent of the vote in Lyons as an independent.

“I’m a true Liberal at heart and I’ll continue to work hard so that hopefully I’ll get another shot at running as a Liberal candidate,” Ms Whelan said.

“I understand why in the heat of the election campaign it was necessary for me to resign as the Liberal candidate, and I hold no grudges or Ill-feeling to anyone in the Liberal Party,” Ms Whelan said.

However, Ms Whelan said she believed she had been punished enough for her past social media errors.

“Yes I did the crime but I also feel that I did the time,” Ms Whelan said.

“Most credible observers agree I could well have been the Federal member for Lyons right now if I hadn’t been disendorsed.

“So I suffered a pretty big punishment for some naive Facebook comments I made in the past.

“Not to mention the very nasty stuff I got on social media and on my phone, including the threats to myself and my family.

“But when things calmed down I realized that most of that nasty stuff was from people who didn’t even live in Tasmania, let alone Lyons.”

Ms Whelan said when she made those posts the thought of running for Parliament had never even entered her mind.

“If potential political candidates were prevented from running based on naive things said or done in the past, there would be nobody in Parliament.

“I now understand that the things I said during that period of my life were hurtful and wrong, so I apologise for that.”

Last week the Australian Federal Police announced that they would not be investigating the particularly distasteful post that Ms Whelan claimed was forged.

“An IT expert had told me that the post appeared to have been doctored, but I have moved on.

“I think we all agree the AFP have more important things to do than investigate who manipulated my social media posts.”

And are there more Jessica Whelan social media posts out there as yet undiscovered?

Jess is philosophical.

“Who knows, it was a long time ago. But if there are, it doesn’t change anything. I’ve learned, I’ve grown as an individual, and I hope people will judge me by who I am now, not who I was then,” Ms Whelan said.

The DVG contacted the Liberal Party for a response. State President Geoff Page confirmed that Ms Whelan remains a member of the Liberal Party and said that any hypothetical future endorsement of Ms Whelan would be a matter for party members.

Time for recovery

THE many community groups, who banded together working long hours during the height of the bushfire threat are now moving into recovery.

However, there is still a bushfire at Gell River in the southwest, but there is no immediate threat.

According the Tasmanian Fire Service people in Maydena, Tyenna, Mount Field and National Park should keep up to date by listening to ABC Local Radio or look at the TFS website at www.fire.tas.gov.au because fire under these conditions can be difficult to control.

Well prepared homes are defendable in these conditions. Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) urges visitors not to start bushwalks or four-wheel driving in remote areas until further notice.

Rural outreach workers from Rural Alive and Well (RAW) joined other community groups,  who dedicated many long hours working with the Derwent Valley community during the height of the recent bushfires.

RAW is a non-for-profit organisation to provide outreach support to rural Tasmania, as well as working with the community to undertake well-being initiatives. 

RAW helps individuals, families and the community through mental health issues with a focus on suicide prevention.

RAW outreach team leader – south Darren Thurlow said at the height of the bushfire threat team members manned the evacuation centres at Bothwell, which closed last Tuesday, and Hamilton, which closed almost two weeks ago.

“We got food from Loaves and Fishes Tasmania to provide hampers for the community in the Central Highlands,” Mr Thurlow said.

“We took food up to the command centre at Miena for the firies and the community, and we are still doing that.

“We are looking after the community checking around anxiety, mental health and wellbeing. We will continue to do our work in the community.”

Mr Thurlow said the district’s outreach worker Kristy Mayne took the job up with both hands right from the start of the bushfire threat.

RAW chief executive Liz Little said the Derwent Valley and the Highlands have been hit hard in the past year with natural events.

“The Derwent Valley took also real pounding when the floods hit Hobart last year, and now to top it off these bushfires,” Ms Little said.

“Kristy has been really effective in working with the community during these challenging times. She worked 11 straight days during the height of the bushfires, we had to make her take a day off. She is a good little trooper.”

Ms Little said now is the time is to focus on recovery work.

RAW has been announced as the official charity for Tasmania’s largest field days, Agfest.

Agfest chairman Owen Woolley said RAW aligned well with the agricultural event.A donation from ATM transactions fee collected will be given to RAW and  a main street site for RAW to  promote its work. Agfest will be at Quercus Park on May 2 to the 4th this year

RAW’s outreach program is available 24/7, our outreach workers will come to you, or alternatively talk on the phone. We offer a friendly ear in a difficult time, and provide information, support and strategies to help, as well as linking you to relevant services that can assist. 

The service is free and confidential. To talk to a RAW outreach worker now, call 1300 HELP MATE (1300 4357 6283) 

Valley cut from bus service

A BUS service, taking tourists and commuters through the Derwent Valley, along the route from Hobart to the West Coast will be cut from March 10 forcing travellers to do a circumnavigation of Tasmania.

Incredibly there will be no direct connection between the West Coast and Hobart. The current three day a week service connecting to Hobart to the West Coast through the Derwent Valley will cease.

A new seven day a week return service between the West Coast and Burnie, with onward connections to Devonport, Launceston and Hobart, is due to start on March 10.

Kim Valentine, who runs Jackson’s Emporium a café and accommodation business in Hamilton, said she is concerned about the tourism impact on the area

“What about people, such as backpackers, who want to go to Lake St Clair, or stop off along the way in the Derwent Valley,” Mrs Valentine said

“I’ve already heard people going from Queenstown to Hobart will go via Launceston. It’s crazy and it cuts us out.”

A spokeswoman from the Department of State Growth said over the next week State Growth will conduct a further review of the changes before any implementation.

“We will continue to listen to community about the new services and will make adjustments where necessary,” she said.

“A new Area Connect service has also been introduced to allow passengers from Hamilton and Ouse (including Ellendale and Glenora) to travel to Hobart and back in the same day, which was not possible under the previous service.

“The Department has consulted closely with the community on this Area Connect Service to ensure it will best meet community needs.”

However, Mrs Valentine said the new Area service will only run two days a week on Monday and Tuesday and won’t run on public holidays.

The new service leaves Ouse Roadhouse on Monday and Tuesday at 9am and New Norfolk bus station at 10am for transfer for connection services to Glenorchy and Hobart. The bus then leaves New Norfolk at 2.51pm heading back to Ouse via Rosegarland and Hamilton.

 “I won’t be using the new service because it doesn’t link to what I need,” Mrs Valentine said.

“We were told the change is based on statistics but have also been told those statistics are wrong and we can’t use our green bus card. It’s just not right, it’s not on.”

The spokeswoman said public forums had been held in Ellendale, Glenora and Hamilton.

“These services are based on the significant work undertaken by TasCoss with the community in this area,” the spokeswoman said.

Further information is available from http://areaconnect.org.au/

Return of a genuine express bus service on Monday from New Norfolk to Hobart has been welcomed.

New Norfolk gained an extra school bus service in the morning and afternoon from Monday,  while the 7.17am general access bus will become an Express service to improve travel times to the city. Consideration is also being given to an evening  express service during peak traffic.

These services are operated by O’Driscoll’s Coaches Derwent Valley Link.

Selina Daley of Magra, who initiated a public forum in New Norfolk so commuters could vent their concerns, said the return of the express service is a step in the right direction.

“I am glad we had our meeting. Jen Butler, Rebecca White, Craig Farrell  and David O’Byrne from Labor have been fantastic,” Mrs Daley said.

“However, there is still the issue for people with mobility and elderly issues who have to change buses and the new schedules.”

Mrs Daley said another meeting is still planned to finalise issues with the new bus timetables.

Ronee Wilson, who works in the disability and mental sector, said there hasn’t been any consideration for her clients or the elderly.

“The previous service was absolutely fine, but now the timetables for anyone with a disability or in a wheelchair is ridiculous,” Miss Wilson said.

Infrastructure Minister Jeremy Rockliff said they were making additional changes where needed.

“We are listening to communities, and we will continue to do so to ensure we get it right,” Mr Rockliff said.

New school bus route information: https://data.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/brmtrips/map.html?trip=49849476