The Tussock Times
is an A4 Newsletter circulating in the
Anembo-Jerangle-Peak View area in
New South Wales, Australia.
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December Meeting of the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council
There are always a range of people present at council meetings. There is the Mayor and the Councillors, the General Manager and other members of council staff and there are the Ladies of the Press. Often there will be a greater or lesser number of people present who have an interest in a particular item on the business paper.
Then there is a smaller group of people who attend council meetings, either on a regular or an irregular basis, with the purpose of, as Don Chipp put it, keeping the ladies and gentlemen honest.
Sometimes these people have had their interest in council affairs initiated by their own bad experience in dealing with Council.
At the December meeting of Council we were saddened to hear that one member of this group had recently ended his life by hanging himself.
This person had struggled with the Council for many years to get a Building Permit for his planned home in Nimmitabel and we thought that he had achieved that end.
Much of Council obstruction seems to have been due to an over-zealous desire to conserve council finances and to avoid extending the sewerage pipes past two unoccupied blocks of land.
It is very sad to see that a friend has had to go in such a hard way.
Other item of interest at the meeting was an application for approval to extension of a sub-division on the outskirts of Cooma.
This item drew quite a few people to speak against the proposal in Open Forum. In response, Council deferred a decision upon a technicality.
This is an ongoing problem for Council: many of the speakers were residents of the earlier stages of the sub-division and did not want any other persons living nearby because that would detract from what they liked about the location.
I wonder did that concept enter their minds before buying their sites in the original sub-division. That others living nearby did not want the sub-division to begin.
Even out in the back blocks of Jerangle we are having to accept that as part of the mad rush to stock Australia to maximum carrying capacity with humans, we are going to have more and more neighbours.
Meeting of the Jerangle Progress Association and Land Care Group
The Annual General Meeting and the General Meeting of the Association were held on Friday 23 of November at the CWA rooms in Jerangle.
At the AGM, elections were held and the existing office holders were returned for another year. President is John Phillips, Secretary is Lisa Hopkins and Treasurer is Lynette Tozer.
The entire membership, acting as a Committee of the Whole, is the Cemetery Committee.
The General Meeting followed and the matter of the cemetery was raised. The account for mowing was passed for payment and mention was made of the damage being done to headstones by wombats burrowing underneath them. There was also discussion about the difficulty of deciding if some boulders in the cemetery are naturally occurring objects or if they might represent markers on graves from the distant past.
Most interesting item was the expenditure of the $9,000 grant made by the retiring Councilor to be spent on community assets.
The Jerangle Progress Association has elected to spend this money on the road access to the Jerangle Cemetery.
For almost 200 years access to the cemetery has been along a track across private land and traditionally the Council has graded the track from time to time. A few years ago, Council decided that it would no longer grade the track because although it provided the only access to a Council controlled cemetery, it was not a Council Road. A rather bizarre decision.
So the special grant of $9,000 is to be spent on paying a contractor to do the work that in any other Shire or Council area would have been paid for out of council funds.
Cooma-Monaro Shire Council Elections
“Meet the Candidates” Night at Nimmitabel
The Nimmitabel Advancement Group, generally referred to as nag, organised the opportunity for local ratepayers to meet and inspect candidates at the Community Centre on the evening of Thursday, 30th of August.
Unfortunately very few residents took advantage of the event and the candidates present outnumbered the residents by a considerable margin.
The procedure for the evening was interesting with the candidates ushered into a windowless room and invited out, one at a time, to speak to the residents for three minute and to then answer questions for the same length of time.
It is becoming clear that country people and urban people have differing expectations of the Council.
To country people, the role of Council is to provide services; roads, rubbish and by sub-contract from the state government, weeds, in return for the payment of Rates.
But urban people see the role of the Council as being far greater and most seem to regard it as the responsibility of the council to guarantee the economic health of the towns.
This is a great difference in expectations and does not look promising for country people as it seems likely that urban people will hold a majority on the council and will see it as reasonable to commit most of Councils income to propping up the failing economy of Cooma.
The best illustration of this is the Cooma business person, standing as a candidate, and promising to freeze rate while at the same time building new roads around Cooma and to reinstate the recently ceased commuter bus service to Canberra.
In the weeks before closure, Deanes Bus Lines made an appeal to Council for a subsidy but it was declined, it would seem that this candidate would favour a subsidy.
Because he is promising the world, this candidate just might get elected if people can forget that he had been elected some years ago but resigned mid-term.
Cooma Chamber of Commerce 'Meet the Candidates' Dinner
We were at the dinner with about fifty others, mostly members of the Chamber of Commerce and Candidates for election.
Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Norman Marshall and he did the job very well.
Candidates were invited to speak to the diners for three minutes each and to then participate in a Question and Answer session afterwards.
Three of the candidates were existing Councilors: the Mayor, Dean Lynch and Councilors Winston Phillips and Martin Hughes.
There was a big difference between the presentations by the councilors and the other candidates.
The councilors made no promises whereas some of the candidates made some very big commitments.
The Cooma based candidates all seemed to agree that if elected, they would be able to re-invigorate Cooma by organising an influx of small businesses into the town, mostly to operate from the industrial area at Polo Flat.
So unbelievable were these promises that the MC saw fit to remind the candidates that 95% of new businesses fail within the first two years.
Another candidate committed himself to organising for every parcel of land outside of Cooma, regardless of the size, to be given a building permit.
This unavailability of building permits has been a sore point for many years, Council being unwilling to grant a building permit where such might lead to a demand for services from the council.
But the candidate proposing this change did not seem to be aware that the greatest obstacle to getting a building permit in the rural areas was a prohibition by the State Government on the building of homes on land that was served by a Crown Road.
The Old Cocky was there as we have come to expect and he seemed a bit uncertain about what he wanted to say.
Perhaps his main point was that with the looming loss of the snow traffic due to climate change, Cooma was going to do what every other country town has done in the past 50 years and that was to suffer a decline in population which Council would be unable to prevent.
During the Q and A period which followed, Norman Marshall again showed his interest in the business by asking candidates to respond to the question “How would they counter the negativity which would develop if they were elected and then proved to be unable to fulfill their promises”. He had no takers.
The dinner itself? Well the expression 'Plain Fare' comes to mind.
All in all it was a good night but the promises made were the seeds for community disquiet in the years to come if the candidates making the commitments do get elected.
The outcome of the election saw Dean Lynch and Bronnie Taylor re-elected to Council by the voters then re-elected to their positions of Mayor and Deputy-Mayor by the councillors at their first meeting.
Councillors Martin Hughes, Tony Kaltoum and Winston Phillips were re-elected to Council.
Election candidates Angela Ingram, Rogan Corbett, Craig Mitchell and Ignazio Mondello were successful and were elected to the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council.
Cooma-Monaro Council Meeting for July
Monday 9th of July saw the regular monthly meeting of the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council.
The meeting opened with Open Forum as usual, beginning with a very sad report from Deanes Bus Lines that due to a lack of patronage the Commuter bus service to Canberra would be closing in August. Maybe the service was a bit ahead of its time.
Certainly anyone driving from Canberra to Cooma on a weekday morning about 8 a.m. sees on the other side of the road a great number of cars, each holding a lone female driver.
We have always thought them to be married women from Cooma and the surrounding farms, on their way to work in Canberra. Prime candidates for a commuter bus service.
Also in Open Forum was a regular speaker who, in the opinion of this observer, has a very legitimate complaint about his treatment by the Council.
This person was told he could speak if he first apologised to the Mayor for having accused him of corruption on another occasion.
The speaker declined to do this, the Mayor ordered him to leave the meeting which he also declined to do, so the Minute Secretary was sent to call the police. The speaker left before they could arrive.
It is our opinion that he should have apologised because an apology given under those circumstances carries no weight.
It has been reported in the print media that the Council which has no money to spend on roads, was contemplating the expenditure of $160,00 to get one game of football played in Cooma. So we will not report on that squandering of ratepayers money.
There was nothing on the Business Papers that posed a threat to local residents but the final item of business might be of interest to some.
Seems that a long term employee of the Council and one-time Building Inspector is to retire soon.
Praise was heaped upon him and he was lauded as a great employee of the Council.
There are some who had dealings with him in his various roles within Council many years ago who would have a different opinion of that person.
Some might be inclined to describe him as an ill-mannered fellow who allowed delegated authority to go to his head.
Little has Changed in Thirtytwo years
Oldtimers will remember the late 1970's when the then State Government announced that they planned to amalgamate various rural Shire Councils with town Councils.
It was generally understood that the Monaro Shire was seen by the urban Councils as a very desirable revenue-raising district. The Cooma Council was the successful applicant and against the loudly expressed wishes of the ratepayers in the Monaro Shire, the shotgun wedding took place.
It was called an amalgamation but the truth was otherwise. For the first twenty years the rural ratepayers were taxed to the maximum and the barest minimum of services provided.
Then came the ten year drought that ended only a couple of years ago and during that drought, the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council could not even come up with an easy supply of drinking water for farmers who had none. Many had to go to facilities provided by neighbouring Shires.
Somewhere along the line we lost the concept of Ridings (or Wards or Electorates, choose your word) so that now the ratepayers of the town of Cooma have total control over the election of Councillors due to their greater numbers.
This year under instruction from the state government, the Council has released details of their plans for the next ten years and it does not make for happy reading for country people.
Of great concern to farmers must be the decision to increase the collection of Rates from farmers in order to allow a reduction in Rates for Cooma shopkeepers.
The reason given for this is that the shopkeepers are experiencing a decline in profitability as the flow of traffic to the snowfields each winter becomes less and less of a gold mine.
We did take an interest in the detailed budget papers and thought it an opportunity to discover how much money the Council does spend on rural roads.
It was hard to find a set of figures that corresponded to our expectation of what the Council might reasonably spend on roads in a year.
Eventually it was pointed out that the figures given in Page 17 of the draft Detailed Budget were the totals of expenditure and therefore an explanation for the deplorable state of the Jerangle Road.
For the benefit of our overseas readers: Jerangle Road is a 70 kilometre long road that connects the farming districts to the state government maintained highway system. The Jerangle Road is maintained by the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council and is the major benefit provided in return for the taxes, known as Rates, levied on farming properties each year.
Looking at the published budget figures it would appear that out of an income from Rates, and other sources, rural and urban, of about ten million dollars, Council spent less than one million dollars on roads. Hardly the Social Contract we thought we were committed to.
But we must admit that Council is clearly trying to economise.
In the Roads budget the cost of electricity and heating is given as $118,566 and in the budget for Yallambee Lodge old folks home the expenditure on electricity and heating is only $89,433.
Salaries and wages for both departments are similar so the staff numbers must be similar. When one takes into consideration that at Yallambee that figure also covers the support for the residents, it is clear that there is a plan to toughen up the princesses at Yallambee.
It was described as a Public Information Session but the public almost did not get to hear about it.
Although the date of 27th June was posted on the Dept of Environment website more than a month earlier, the public was told to “watch this site” in order to learn where and when in Cooma the Public Information Session would take place.
It was only the day before the proposed meeting that time and venue were posted. So little wonder that less than 50 locals turned up at the Ex-services club for a 9.30 a.m. start.
Some of those present found it hard to accept the fact that they have been reduced to the status of second class citizens in the land that their fathers and grandfathers fought and died for.
The Public Information Session was designed to provide an opportunity for farmers and other landholders to learn about the proposed changes to the regulations which define how the Native Vegetation Act 2003 will be administered.
The meeting was organised by the Southern Rivers Catchment Authority on behalf of the NSW Department of the Environment.
As we said earlier, a lot of people attending were very unhappy about the effect that the Native Vegetation Act has upon their farming operations and very early in the meeting one of their number moved a formal Motion, calling upon the O'Farrell government to repeal the Act in its entirety.
Quite a number of speakers then stood to speak in favour of the Motion and when they had finished the Chairman put the Motion to the meeting and it was passed unanimously. That indicated the feeling of those present.
The meeting was conducted as a Power Point Presentation with the usual spoken interpretation for those who cannot read. Well why else does the presenter repeat the words that are up on the screen?
The presenter was from the Dept of Environment in Sydney and some of her statements did not tally with the printed matter that was distributed at the meeting.
Among the printed items was a “Regulatory Impact Statement” prepared by a consulting group in Sydney which claimed to show the financial benefits to farmers and to the wider community of the proposed changes to the Native Vegetation Regulations.
The claimed benefits seemed to be rather illusionary and that impression was not helped by the fact that the consulting company had based some calculations on a mis-interpretation of some changes.
Where the meeting did achieve some good progress was in the discussion on the proposed changes to the regulations on “Managing Native Grasslands”.
The farmers present tried very hard to convince the public servants from Sydney that African Lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula)was a far greater threat to native vegetation than was the sowing of improved pastures in grazing paddocks.
African Lovegrass is a highly invasive weed that forms dense stands that choke out all other plants, native or not.
It was hard to tell if the Sydneysiders could believe that a weed could be so big a problem. But then not many farmers could see how big a problem it was until it appeared in their paddocks.
The Anonymous Survey
That Is Not
We have sitting on the kitchen table another one of those surveys that occasionally turn up in the mail box.
This one is bigger than the usual effort being 16 pages in an A4 format.
The survey is being conducted by some very clever Scottish people on behalf of Rural Press Agricultural Publishing and contains 67 categories of questions with a varying number of questions in each category.
They want to know how big the farm is, how much money we make and what we spend the money on.
A lot of the questions are about our use of the internet and whether we still buy newspapers.
That is hardly surprising given that the survey is being conducted to benefit the Rural Press group.
The last four pages are given over to questions about the four major titles published by Rural Press.
They are Stock & Land, The Land, Weekly Times and Queensland Country Life.
There is even an offer of a chance to participate in a Rural Research Panel and to get paid for it.
If we want to apply for one of those positions, we are required to fill out a form requesting name and address details.
On the front cover of the survey we are told that our anonymity is assured. I guess if we wanted to remain anonymous we could skip the job application page.
But it is not as simple as that. The survey form came in the post in a sealed envelope with our name and address printed on a label which is then stuck to the envelope.
So if we do not fill out the job application page and simply fold the survey as directed to expose the Reply Paid address page, our responses will be anonymous?
Not quite. On the label that has our address, in small print, is a number that reads 4321Q Cattle. So they knew in advance that we had cattle.
On the top left hand corner of the front page of the survey we again find the number 4321Q.
It would seem that who ever reads the survey once it is returned can check that number against the data file of names and addresses and easily connect the completed survey to the name on the envelope. Not my idea on an anonymous survey.
Wild Dogs Coming to a Paddock Near You, Possibly with Help from the Government.
It is often hard to know where the idea for Government programmes comes from and that is the case with the concept of Wildlife Corridors.
Here in the Southern Tablelands we have been aware of moves to establish corridors of bush and unfenced country linking Namadgi National Park in the A.C.T. to the Coastal Forests.
This plan goes under the name of “Kosciusko to the Coast” or K2C. Their website is www.k2c.org.au/
A visit to the website does not tell one much about their plans or just how they will actually implement their planned corridors.
A few years ago, the then Cooma Rural Land Protection Board became aware of the threat that these corridors represented to local farmers and challenged the K2C group over their apparent willingness to allow dingoes to travel the wildlife corridors.
It is since that challenge that the K2C website has become so vague about their plans.
Recently the Commonwealth Government has decided to get in on the act and has released a “Draft National Wildlife Corridors Plan” for consideration and has requested submissions on the topic. Submissions closed on Friday 20th April.
A large number on submissions were received, covering every conceivable point of view. These submissions can be read at www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/wildlife-corridors/consultation
In the Draft National Wildlife Corridors Plan, no mention is made of how dingoes would be managed and prevented from consuming every other life-form along or near the Corridor.
Indeed, many of the submissions clearly support the concept of dingoes being encouraged as “apex predators” while others, such as the submission from the World Wildlife Fund point out that “connectivity” can be a disaster for some species and that the proposed corridors would need to be fenced and that endangered native species are much more likely to survive in a fenced dingo and fox free area.
Unfortunately the history of National Park and Reserve management in this country tells us that the corridors will be proclaimed, their is even a hint of compulsory acquisition, but little or no money will be provided for management and that they will become areas where weeds and animal pests will proliferate and where dingoes will rest during the daylight hours before resuming their nocturnal raiding on the surrounding farmland.
A Small Concession to Country People
The December 2011 Business Paper for the Coma Monaro Shire Council Meeting included as a simple administrative act, the endorsement and acceptance of the existing policy on cattle grids. The existing policy had been adopted in 2004 and most of the Councillors, having been elected since that year, had no idea of what the policy entailed.
There was in the gallery, one old Cocky who apparently does not have enough work on his plate because he is at the Council meetings every month, offering free advice to the Councillors.
He spoke against adoption of the policy on the grounds that the policy included the charging of a massive application fee for any person proposing to install a cattle grid on a Council road.
According to this speaker, gates across public roads were an abomination and rather than imposing an application fee, Council should contribute $1,000 towards the cost of any grid that would contribute to the amenity of rural life.
This was something new to Councillors who were surprised to learn from the Director of Engineering that there was indeed an application fee of $1,100 to be paid by any person proposing a cattle grid for a Council road.
The Mayor, Cr Dean Lynch, was also unaware of this fee and admitted that he could see no purpose for it and committed Council to have another look at the policy and to bring it back to the January meeting.
The Tussock Times did not report on December's meeting, deciding to wait for the final outcome.
At the January meeting the Mayor was able to inform the old Cocky that the policy on cattle grids would be interpreted to meant that the application fee would apply only where an applicant wanted to put an additional obstruction on a road and that where the proposal was to replace an existing gate across a public road, no fee would be charged.
We know from feedback we get that The Tussock Times has a number of readers around the world, thanks to Google. G'day to Russia, Germany and South Africa.
It has been requested that we should explain those idiosyncrasies of Australian life that might not be clear to our overseas readers.
We wonder if other countries have the problem with roads and gates that we have in rural Australia.
Because New South Wales was set up as a penal colony by the English and administered by soldiers who main skills were in flogging and hanging prisoners, the actual planning of the state left a lot to be desired.
The rural districts ended up with a lot of the roads running inside the farms on a narrow strip of land owned by the Government. The farmer was allowed to put gates across the road as part of his fencing program and all persons wanting to travel the road had to stop and alight from their vehicle, open then drive through the gate, alight from the vehicle again, close the gate, remount the vehicle, travel to the next gate and then repeat the procedure. A very aggravating business and any farmer with any sense of civilised behaviour would have replaced his gates with cattle grids.
Since replacing a gate with a grid is an act of consideration towards the travelling public, charging an application fee of $1,100 for the permit to make the change is counter productive.
The Invasion Continues With a Fifth Column In Our Midst.
It has long been said that it was the English who invented racism and with two English migrants competing for the position of Prime Minister of Australia, it is hard not to see their attitudes as being racist.
Both the present Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Leader of the Opposition who wants to be Prime Minister, agree that people arriving in Australia without consent should be stopped.
They offer minor differences in the reasons given for wanting to stop the boat people and in the methods they propose to use but generally they agree that something should be done to discourage this steady trickle of mostly dark skinned people.
Most people, whether Australians or New Australians, tend to agree with that idea.
What is curious is the deafening silence from Gillard and Abbott about the almost 300,000 other people flocking to Australia, mostly from Europe. Could it be that these two migrants hope to fill Australia to maximum capacity with their fellow Englanders?
We often hear comments of surprise that recent migrant families living in the western suburbs of Sydney are now opposed to the open-door immigration policy that allowed them into the country in the first place.
I think that migrants to the country do not take long to realise that the Australians are no smarter than the migrants and they most certainly do not work harder. Having noticed this they start to wonder how it is that Australians are so wealthy.
Most Australian wage earners cannot explain how it is that their wages are so much higher than they would getting in another country.
One of the popular explanations is that “Australia is a wealthy country and can afford to pay high wages”. That piece of illogical thinking simply indicates that wages here have been high for so long that we have forgotten the mechanism that makes the high wages possible.
The wage system is Australia dates back to the years around 1900 when the population was only a few million people, a very large national sheep flock and high prices for wool on the world markets.
The Government of the day came up with the idea of sharing that wool income around by introducing the concept of minimum wages. Something that most of the world still has not embraced.
This way the wool income was used to guarantee a wage level throughout the country that would enable all wage earners to live in “modest comfort”. All migrants quickly learned to recite “Australia rides on the sheep's back” when asking for a pay rise.
For more than a hundred years since then the Australian economy has staggered along without collapsing, giving inspiration to one Donald Horne in the 1950's, to write a book named The Lucky Country.
Unfortunately few people read the book and even fewer understood his argument. Most assume that the book was simply a celebration of their good fortune in having been born into a country where wages were set at a level that was often higher than the economic value of their labour.
Horne's argument was that the Australian economy had been totally mis-managed and was unsustainable and should have collapsed on numerous occasions due to the incompetence of our politicians but on each occasion had been saved from collapse by the “Good Luck” that had rescued the economy without the politicians needing to understand what was happening.
The present mining boom is yet another in a long list of fortuitous happenings that have saved our bacon. Just imagine Australia today without the mining boom.
Even with the mining boom, many people not directly involved, are finding it difficult to maintain their established lifestyle.
This is the reason why the Gillard Government has sought to increase the level of taxation on the mining companies. In the true Australian tradition. Even their stated intention to squander the proceeds of that taxation by enabling more Australians to retire from work indicates a level of mis-management that is exceeded only by the Abbott led Oppositions rejection of the idea of increasing taxation on the foreign companies that are ripping out and exporting our irreplaceable mineral resources. Trying to get them all sold before any world shortage develops and causes a rise in price for those minerals.
The Fifth Column to which I refer? That is the religious people who think that they will earn for themselves a better seat in heaven by badgering the Government into maintaining the open-door immigration policy, the Lawyers who make a fortune by representing in Court those people who do get refused admission, I hear that the Government has so far paid out sixty million dollars for legal representation for persons denied entry.
Also included are the members of national groups that work together to increase their groups size in Australia. Saw an interesting article about Chinese manipulation of our immigration laws on the ABC website on 15 March. The most understandable group of fifth columnists is those persons who, having made it into Australia themselves, want to gain admission not for millions but just for the members of their own family.
These are the Pupils at Jerangle Public School in 2012
And this is the Playground Equipment that their parents and friends bought for them.
Although the equipment had been in use for some weeks, the official opening of the playground took place on Thursday 5th of April. The teacher at our nominally “one teacher” school, Pam Anderson, spoke to those present and expressed admiration for the Parents and Friends of the school in having raised the money for this equipment.
Only seven families are represented among the students and over the past couple of years the parents have engaged in a large number of money making activities ranging from the conventional cake stalls in nearby towns to catering for sporting events and dealing in recycled metals.
There is a rumour around that some of the cost was contributed by the Department of Education and Training but we would advise our readers to ignore rumours unless they originate from this site.
The culmination of the opening ceremony was a fine piece of synchronised scissor work as the five senior students simultaneously cut the ribbon into numerous pieces.
The ceremony was followed by a spaghetti luncheon served by the students to the parents and visitors. Well done, Jerangle Public School.