City walks from servo appeal

THE City of Albany has not appealed the approval of a contentious fuel station at a roundabout named Western Australia’s worst because it does not consider action in the Supreme Court to be in the public interest.

A building permit is yet to be submitted for the site on the corner of Albany Highway and Chester Pass Road in Orana.

But a demolition permit was issued in January, and the site’s former buildings have since been razed.

Paul Camins, the city’s development services executive director, confirmed “ongoing hearings of a procedural nature” were continuing between the city and project applicant in the State Administrative Tribunal about implementation of approved planning conditions.

“The city did not consider that it was in the public interest to appeal to the Supreme Court, given the expense and risk associated,” Mr Camins said.

The Weekender can reveal the service station will be a Shell/Coles Express branded outlet, as pictured (page 2).

The project will include six bowsers and a lunch bar with an al fresco area.

The roundabout was named the worst in the state in the RAC’s 2016/2017 Risky Roads report, which presented results of a statewide survey of RAC members.

The service station was approved in August when tribunal member Rosetta Petrucci overturned the city’s refusal.

Ahead of the council’s earlier rejection of the fuel station in March, Councillor Alison Goode asked her colleagues to reject the plans due to a “possible risk to human health or safety”.

Cr Goode argued the plans’ access and egress arrangements were inadequate.

“In relation to traffic flow and safety of motorists exiting the development, it would be very difficult to put in place controls whereby vehicles exiting … could only exit on to the left lane of Albany Highway and thereby not be able to exit the roundabout at Albany Highway south, Hanrahan Road or Albany Highway north,” she stressed.

At the recommendation of Main Roads WA, which had earlier opposed the plans, Ms Petrucci ordered that an extra left-turn lane be built at the service station’s entrance on Albany Highway.

The exit on to Albany Highway will be about five car lengths from the roundabout’s entrance.

TRG Retail Design & Construction Management lodged the plans on behalf of Procon Developments.

IMAGE: The fuel station planned for the Albany Highway entry to the city’s largest roundabout. Source: Development application lodged by TRG Retail Design & Construction Management.

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Reverse house flip

A DENMARK holiday house has been emptied of much of its furniture by burglars who police think are trying to furnish their own house.

Officer-in-charge of the town’s police station, Matt Hartfield, said two televisions, a DVD player, DVDs, side tables, drawers, bedding and the telephone were stolen from the Bimbimbi Way house.

“It happened in one of the holiday homes on October 26,” he said.

“It happened overnight. They went in, grabbed everything and disappeared.”

Sgt Hartfield said the burglars stole just over $2000 of furniture from the house, which was empty at the time.

“It looks like they took all the householder’s items so they could set up their own house,” he said.

“How it came across to us is that they’ve just picked up a rental house with a table and a sofa, and nothing else, so they just went and took someone else’s furniture.

“If anyone notices anyone with a whole lot of new furniture that doesn’t look like theirs, we’d ask them to call us.”

Sgt Hartfield said the victims had owned the home for more than 15 years and never been burgled before.

“It’s shaken them up a little bit and they’re planning to lock things up and secure things a bit better from now on,” he said.

Police will run a community forum at Denmark’s St John Ambulance Centre, 10 Price Street, on Wednesday from 5pm to 7pm.

Tea and coffee will be provided, and Sgt Hartfield said his budget would probably extend to a few bickies.

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Budding journo takes top prize

STORYTELLING has been a part of Albany-born Molly Schmidt’s life since she could talk.

She recently graduated from Curtin University with a creative writing and journalism degree, and received the Outstanding Journalism Student Award at Saturday night’s West Australian Media Awards.

The 22-year-old won the prestigious award for three pieces of original writing; her stories on the orphans of Shanghai, a sufferer of Lyme Disease, and a Perth soccer club.

Her humble nature and kind manner make her more than deserving of the accomplishment.

“I was really not expecting it. It’s made me really happy,” she said, during a visit to her hometown this week.

“It’s been quite mind blowing. I’m super overwhelmed! I’ve had people approaching me about my work already, so this award is really helping me get my name out there and creating new contacts.”

One of Ms Schmidt’s university lecturers, Dr Bonita Mason, said the young graduate’s work was always full of rich and investigative material.

“As a student, she was a dream,” Dr Mason said.

“She puts in a great deal of effort and thinks deeply. She is so bright.”

Ms Schmidt’s award-winning Shanghai orphan feature involved a 10-day trip to the overseas city with her fellow university scholars.

“I wanted to look into the one-child policy in China because I found out a lot of kids are abandoned.

“About 90 per cent of the abandoned children were classified as disabled, so it’s not about gender now.

“I found it really devastating.”

Ms Schmidt’s investigative work involved talking to foster homes which look after children and find parents for them.

“It’s a story they are really desperate to tell,” she said.

Ms Schmidt’s story on a sufferer of the controversial Lyme Disease was sparked by working at WA Today.

“I was approached by a lady whose friend was sick and wasn’t being treated,” she said.

“I met with her several times over a month and spoke with doctors, to create an unbiased piece.

“The main angle of my story was to question why doctors weren’t treating a dying lady.”

Ms Schmidt is currently freelancing and has plans to visit Nepal next year to learn yoga teaching and write about her overseas experience.

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Surcharge sting for fuel cards

AN ALBANY pensioner is not happy at being zapped with a surcharge for using his State Government-issued fuel card while in Perth recently to attend a hospital appointment.

Disability pensioner John May, of Bayonet Head, gets $575 a year to spend on petrol.

On October 10 at BP Kelmscott on Albany Highway he was charged a $2.08 surcharge on a $69.36 purchase of unleaded petrol, while returning to Bayonet Head from an appointment with an endocrinologist at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

“Over a period of time, it adds up,” Mr May told The Weekender.

“Money’s pretty tight.”

He said he saw no sign advising the fee would be charged.

However, the servo’s owner, Richard Wheeler, said there was a sign on every bowser as well as at the cash register.

“I understand where the pensioners are coming from,” said Mr Wheeler, who has owned the fuel station since 1978.

He said he did not charge a surcharge on credit cards, but started passing the surcharge on three years ago when a fee charged by card management company Motorpass was jacked up from one per cent to three per cent of each transaction.

“I wish I didn’t have to charge it, but that’s what they charge us,” the owner-dealer said.

“Three percent’s a bit heavy on us when you consider sometimes we’re only making three or four cents a litre.

“And then you have to rent the machine off them for $50 a month. It’s just pay, pay, pay.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport, which administers Motorpass’s management of the fuel card, said the department had received a “very low volume” of complaints about the extraction of surcharges from pensioners.

“In terms of surcharges, there is a cost to install and operate on-line technology related to any card payments including the Fuel Card, and some service stations choose to apply a surcharge to recover these costs,” the spokesperson said.

“The surcharge, which is designed to help businesses cover the cost of accepting card payments, can cost up to three per cent of the transaction value.

“The Reserve Bank of Australia determines the policy in regard to surcharging, and their standard emphasises the right of merchants to recover card acceptance costs through a surcharge.”

The spokesperson refused to comment on whether they believed a transaction fee on pensioners was ethical and in the spirit of the regional pensioner fuel card program.

Asked if the department would increase the amount available under the program to lessen the impact of any surcharge on pensioners, the spokesperson said the amount available was determined by the Department of Regional Development and subject to ministerial approval.

A Weekender ring-round to all 10 fuel stations in Albany that take the fuel cards confirmed that none passed on the surcharge.

Caltex Central on York Street once did, but stopped the practice about a year ago.

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Fatal plane crash

INVESTIGATORS from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau face the difficult task of piecing together the final moments before a light plane crashed 15 minutes into its flight in Mount Lindesay National Park near Redmond on Tuesday morning, killing the sole occupant, a 40-year-old Albany man.

The crash site, in the Sheepwash locality, about 40km north-east of Albany, is covered in dense bushland, making retrieval and investigation efforts difficult.

Before investigators arrived at the scene on Wednesday, authorities were required to bulldoze a 3km track from a firebreak off Centre Break Road to gain access to the site, with a spotter plane providing guidance towards the wreckage.

Local farmer Pieter Mostert witnessed the Cessna 210B spiral downwards into thick forest around 10.45am on Tuesday.

“I heard this plane in the sky and it caught our attention because it was high revving, then the revving went up a bit higher and we heard a bang and a bit of an explosion,” he said.

Mr Mostert, a Fire Control Officer for the Redmond Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, immediately contacted emergency services and provided vital map coordinates of the crash site to police.

“My co-worker stayed at the spot we saw it from to keep the bearing, and I called it in to our superiors over the fire radio,” he said.

“We saw a plume of smoke over the ridgeline, a dark black column of smoke for about 15 minutes, then it subsided to a lighter brown, indicating the bush may have caught alight.”

When police received reports the plane had crashed around 11.15am, a plane from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions flew over the area and located the wreckage.

The RAC Rescue helicopter was then used to winch paramedics down to the scene, where the sole occupant of the plane was confirmed deceased.

Great Southern District Police Inspector Derek Staats said accurate information was critical in emergency situations and was thankful for Mr Mostert’s efforts.

“Pieter’s accuracy was very beneficial for emergency services and re- sponding,” Insp Staats said.

“Thankfully, he gave really good coordinates to emergency responders and a definitive location of the crash was given.”

Police reached the crash site before sunset on Tuesday evening and recovered the pilot’s body.

They began a forensic examination of the scene once they reached the site and will prepare a report on the pilot’s death for the Coroner.

An ATSB spokesperson has confirmed a team of two investigators from Perth will prepare a preliminary report which will be released in a month’s time.

Some of the aircraft’s components may be taken back to the ATSB’s laboratories in Canberra for further examination and analysis.

A full report will be presented in 12 months.

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Denmark Shire president to turn tide on toxicity

AN AIR of reconciliation pervaded Denmark’s council chambers on Tuesday as Ceinwen Gearon took the chair in the wake of a feral social media campaign that saw her Town Ward colleague David Morrell ousted as councillor and shire president.

At a meeting that started 10 minutes late because returned councillor Mark Allen was tardy, Cr Gearon took the president’s chair at 4.19pm after being elected unopposed.

She noted the election had been an “interesting time” and thanked Mr Morrell – who lost to former Denmark councillor Ian Osborne by 57 votes – for encouraging an “inclusive atmosphere”.

Cr Gearon said outgoing councillor Clem Wright, who lost Kent/Nornalup Ward to former councillor Roger Seeney, also by 57 votes, had been “always very diligent”.

She said the make-up of the new council was a “balanced representation of the shire as a whole”, and the re-election of Cr Allen and Cr Caron offered “continuity”.

Cr Gearon said Crs Seeney and Osborne – the two candidates who won from the five-person ‘Get Denmark back on track’ group of former councillors – offered “huge experience”.

She quipped that first-term councillor Kingsley Gibson was “brand new, never been touched by Denmark Shire”.

“I can only believe he will be a great addition to council,” she said.

Before the meeting, Cr Seeney nominated continuing councillor Peter Caron for deputy mayor.

Rob Whooley nominated his fellow continuing councillor Jan Lewis.

Cr Caron was sworn in, unopposed, at 4.25pm after Cr Lewis declined the nomination.

“The last few weeks have impacted greatly on my family,” Cr Lewis confided, saying they’d been “extremely supportive” and she’d promised them she would not volunteer for higher office.

Despite the tones of three mobile phones chirping mid-meeting, including Cr Osborne’s, the 34 people in the gallery listened intently as Cr Lewis said she’d been impressed by Cr Gearon’s “intelligence and communication skills”.

“I think she’ll do extremely well in that role,” she said of the woman she’d earlier nominated as shire president.

Following Weekender revelations (The Weekender, October 5) that social media campaigning for the election had turned toxic, one member of the gallery, Fiona Ross, asked Cr Gearon how she planned to return harmony to the troubled shire.

“I’m certainly not going to make an attempt to control social media,” Cr Gearon said.

“It did get unpleasant.

“I do think it got very overpowering at the time.”

She said there were lessons to be learned, and it was “possible for us to take control of our own actions”.

At last there was a feeling this was how a country shire should be getting along.

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Year 12s stand the tests of time

YEAR 12 students across the Great Southern are closing in on the finale of their secondary education, with ATAR examinations due to commence on November 1.

Achieving an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) can be a stressful time for students, but Department of Education Regional Executive Director of the South West Neil Milligan says a few tell-tale signs might help parents alleviate their children’s worries and concerns.

“Escapism is one of the things we see in students stressed about study,” Mr Milligan said.

“Panic at the disco is another one, where we see kids plunging into long, late-night study campaigns at silly hours, trying to cover a year’s work in a short time.”

A change in eating habits and temperament is also commonly seen in stressed students.

“It’s not surprising they’ll feel stressed at this important time, but it’s about managing that stress, not disregarding it,” Mr Milligan said.

Schools can provide support and study tips for tackling exam questions and objectives, but added support at home is a major factor in giving students an ideal study space.

“The main thing parents can do to help their kids is to give them plenty of support,” Mr Milligan said.

“A structured study timetable that includes breaks is something important to have.

“A good plan is 30 to 45 minutes of study, then a break, and having a focus for the study time.”

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Cancer machine resolve

THE determination to see a radiation machine for cancer sufferers in the Great Southern is driving a Denmark resident to raise an ambitious $15 million for the cause.

Mary Williams began the Albany Radiation Machine Project with the support of the Denmark Community Foundation 15 months ago.

She said she decided enough was enough for cancer patients having to travel hundreds of kilometres for radiation therapy.

“There is enormmous travel involved for treatment in Perth or Bunbury,” Ms Williams said.

“Families are split, businesses are affected, and this shows how desperately we are in need of a radiation machine in the Great Southern.”

Large signs have been erected by the project along Albany Highway and South Coast Highway, with the aim of alerting people to the cause.

Despite Ms Williams’ efforts, WA Country Health Service (WACHS) Regional Director David Naughton said a radiation machine was not on the cards for the region.

“A comprehensive cancer service is available in the Great Southern including visiting specialists, specialist cancer nursing services, a day chemotherapy unit, and a complimentary therapies unit at the Albany hospital,” he said.

“If a patient requires specialist radiation oncology treatment, they are referred to a tertiary hospital in Perth or to the radiation oncology unit in Bunbury for treatment and can access help through the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme.”

“WACHS Great Southern acknowledges and welcomes the fundraising efforts of the Denmark Community Foundation and would encourage it to support the current WACHS Great Southern cancer services with any donations.”

But Ms Williams will maintain her drive to raise funds.

“The response from Great Southern communities has been overwhelming,” she said.

“This will be the people’s machine, not a money-making machine.

“I will make sure this happens.”

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Albany roads ‘go to pot’

POTHOLES have surfaced as an issue in the Albany election, votes for which close on Saturday at 6pm.

Candidate for Frederickstown Ward Graeme McBeath said ratepayer dissatisfaction with the city’s roads, revealed during his ward-wide door-knocking, were reflected in a council report released last week.

The community perception survey commissioned by the City of Albany shows ratepayer satisfaction with the maintenance of sealed roads is at a four-year low, at 41 out of 100.

This compared to a score of 51 in 2015 and 47 in 2013.

“The potholes in roads like Middleton Road, which is the showcase drive to a major tourism asset in Middleton Beach, doesn’t augur that well in terms of demonstrating a community that’s on top of its service obligations to ratepayers,” Mr McBeath said.

Ratepayer satisfaction with the maintenance of unsealed roads was even worse, at 38, down from 45 in 2015 and 42 in 2013.

“One guy I spoke to said Middleton Road was ‘like the bloody Gibb River Road, mate!’,” Mr McBeath recalled.

“A lot of it has been allowed to get down so bad that it is going to require fairly major constructive work.

“Even some of the normal streets are getting to be pretty worn down, and while the city has an audit program, one wonders how roads have managed to decline to such a degree that they will need fairly major resurfacing work.”

Mr McBeath said that would mean more ratepayer money down the drain than if the roads were serviced in a timely way.

“We’ve all gotten used to there being the odd pothole around because it’s very difficult to get a good road-base in Albany,” he said.

“But they’ve slowly, slowly got worse.”

Results for road maintenance were among the worst in the survey.

Overall, Albany scored 83 as a place to live, up from 72 in 2015.

The city administration received a 69 for overall performance, the best result of 11 regional councils surveyed across the state.

Mr McBeath said this showed the city was on the right track.

He added the survey results should be used to help focus the council’s priorities.

Two candidates for Breaksea Ward this week urged a ‘back to basics’ approach for road maintenance.

Tony Demarteau said Golf Links Road was sub par, while his opponent Luke Pilkington said Albany had a “terrible” road network that needed to be fixed “from the ground up”.

The City of Albany was contacted for comment.

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‘Goode plan, wrong place’

A GOODE BEACH lobby group says the defunct Frenchman Bay Caravan Park site would be better for a five-star resort than Lot 660 La Perouse Road where the 51-unit project is controversially envisaged.

Frenchman Bay Association President Tony Kinlay said a strategic view of both the van park site and Lot 660 would confirm the former as the best for tourism development.

“The caravan park site would be ideal for the resort,” he said of the block at Whalers Beach that has languished with no tourists for more than a decade.

About two years ago, an application for a 30-unit resort at the van park was shelved after the association opposed its inclusion of 10 residential lots on the tourism-zoned site, sewerage plans and proposed sinking of bore holes.

“The owners of Lot 660 tick all those boxes,” Mr Kinlay said.

“They have 100 per cent tourism, a secondary sewer treatment works, and are prepared to fund the cost of a new reservoir with the Water Corporation.

“If only they owned that caravan park site, the association would be supportive of that being a resort.”

Mr Kinlay acknowledged the van park idea was “hypothetical” but said “it’s been quoted around Goode Beach”.

“It’s got fantastic views which they wouldn’t have from Lot 660,” he said.

“They wouldn’t disrupt our subdivision with traffic, and there’s a beach right there.”

Council candidate for Vancouver Ward Matt Benson-Lidholm said “the ducks would need to line up” for the idea to proceed.

“I don’t think it will be easy because both sites are obviously owned by different people,” he said.

He added the Lot 660 option was “not necessarily progress”, and “very much a retrograde step that’s fraught with dangers”.

“Over many, many years the tea rooms and the caravan park out there were very much an iconic part of tourism delivery in Albany,” the former state MP said.

“It was always a favourite spot to go on the weekend.

“It wasn’t lavish, it wasn’t five-star, it wasn’t anything more than a great place to go with family and friends to the waterfront and a great place for kids.”

Nicolette Mulcahy, vying to retain her Vancouver Ward seat, said she understood a “strong minority in excess of 40” Goode Beach residents supported a resort at Lot 660.

“I guess the greatest benefit of the caravan park site is that it would not impact on the local residents as much,”she said of the alternative.

“It would reduce the impact of through traffic, noise and use of the smaller residential precinct at Goode Beach.”

The third Vancouver Ward candidate, Tracy Sleeman, said the van park option was all well and good “but it’s not what’s on the table”.

“Not everyone out at Goode Beach is against this development,” she said, adding that a resort at Lot 660 would need to be environmentally sound to gain her support.

Vancouver Ward councillor John Shanhun did not return calls.

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