Transformation trail

IF YOU are someone who pays close attention to detail, you may have noticed pops of colour appearing around Albany on the odd electrical transformer box.

Don’t worry, you aren’t seeing things.

These new and colourful displays of art are part of the FORM PUBLIC Silo Trail, which has travelled throughout regional WA for the past three years and reached Albany earlier this week.

The PUBLIC Silo Trail has painted murals on grain silos, transformer boxes and infrastructure in Northam, Ravensthorpe, Merredin, Katanning and now Albany, in an attempt to put regional WA into the spotlight.

FORM project officer Kim Kirkman said the trail was the brainchild of the Perth art group and was aimed at making WA a more creative place.

“We want to celebrate regional WA and ultimately, boost cultural tourism,” she said.

“We’ve chosen quite noticeable and prominent places to paint.”

Perth artist Rachelle Dusting is one of the artists commissioned to paint Albany and was allocated a transformer box opposite Dog Rock on Middleton Road, and one near the UWA Albany Centre on Stirling Terrace.

The 26-year-old said her childhood memories of her Albany-based grandmother’s garden inspired her floral designs.

“My usual style is realism and portraiture, so it’s quite the contrast with this project,” she said.

Ms Dusting said one of the things she had to consider when creating her designs was the distance from which people would view the transformer boxes.

“I’ve broken apart the patterns so you can still get the full impact at a distance.

“I really just wanted to bring more dynamic to the sites, so I stayed true to the colours of the flowers [banksia and spider orchid].”

The PUBLIC Silo Trail will attack the Albany grain silos with colour at the end of the month, and move to another secret regional location in April, so keep an eye out on the website for further details –

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Albany shopping Dullsville

ALBANY has the most restrictive shopping hours of any place with a Woolworths, Coles or ALDI in the south-western corner of the continent, and there are no plans to change the status quo.

The Weekender called every leader of the 11 local government areas with a Woolies, Coles or ALDI in the Great Southern and South West regions to gauge their views on deregulated shopping.

Of the nine leaders who got back to us, only Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington was unable to speak from a position of first-hand experience with extended hours in his area.

“I don’t know anyone that would go to a town just because it’s got seven-day trading,” he said.

One tourist who does not let his dislike for Albany’s shopping hours get in the way of visiting is Dardanup Shire President Mick Bennett.

“When I go down to Albany, I can never get anything,” he lamented.

“I come down there regularly and when I try to go shopping, I can’t.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love the way Albany operates when there’s a tourist ship in; they are magnificent at that.”

In Dardanup (population 14,233), where big supermarkets have been allowed to trade 24/7 since 1994, Coles and Woolworths operate 7am to 9pm seven days a week, and Kmart opens around the clock.

“Before deregulation, we didn’t have much shopping, a bit of a dormitory suburb [of Bunbury], really, and we thought it was time we branched out and got our own deal going,” Cr Bennett said.

“When they decided to come in, Kmart said: ‘Oh, this might put a bit of pressure on Perth if we can open 24 hours in a sleepy little place like Dardy’.

“We would be hung, drawn and quartered if we said we were going to change back.”

From Cr Bennett’s neighbouring City of Bunbury (population 34,467), Mayor Gary Brennan said total deregulation of shopping hours in 2015 was a likely factor in ALDI recently opening a supermarket there.

“The longer hours give business people and the community choice, that’s the key thing,” he said.

Mr Wellington said that during his 17 years on Albany council he had always absented from voting on shopping hours because he was a co-owner of Leading Edge Hi Fi.

He confirmed the city (population 37,233) had no plans to revisit the shopping hours debate, which last occurred in July 2016.

At the time, six elected officials – including current councillors Paul Terry, Ray Hammond, Bill Hollingworth and Alison Goode – voted down a plan by city tourism development manager Matt Bird that in 2019 the council consider consulting the community on extended shopping hours.

Capel Shire President Murray Scott said his local IGA had not suffered since extended trading was introduced for larger supermarkets in 2015.

“Capel’s got an IGA that’s open seven days and there’s always people there,” he said.

In Capel (population 17,316), the Dalyellup Woolworths opens 8am to 9pm every day.

Cr Scott said extended trading may have been a factor in Coles’ recent decision to buy a block of land across the road from Woolworths.

Murray Shire President David Bolt said that since seven-day trading was introduced there in 2012, ratepayers had embraced it.

“Seven-day trading supports increased visitation, in line with the shire’s and its community’s awakened tourism focus for Pinjarra and the wider Murray district,” he said.

From Augusta/Margaret River, where Woolworths and Coles trade 8am to 8pm seven days a week, Shire President Pam Townshend said locals and visitors “loved” the longer hours.

“I think the IGA was the one that struggled the most, but there’s such a big ‘shop local’ campaign in Margaret River from people who want to support the IGA, and they’re doing okay,” she said.

From Busselton (population 26,355), Mayor Grant Henley said he had not noticed any impact on small businesses since trading hours were extended in February 2015.

“Interestingly, we just had an ALDI open last year and an additional Coles supermarket,” he said.

“When the ALDI opened, they chose not to go on the full hours available.

“They’re more interested in the customers coming to them when they’re open, rather than because they’re open.”

In Manjimup, with a population of 9404, Shire President Paul Omodei said extended trading had worked “extremely well” since being introduced in September 2014.

“It certainly was a big step for a community with a lot of small businesses, but I certainly think it is working,” he said.

Harvey Shire President Tania Jackson said extended trading had probably been a factor in ALDI deciding Australind would be its first location in south-western Australia.

“We have certainly had some benefits, but I do feel the local smaller shops have either had to come along for the ride or deal with stiff competition from the [bigger players] now,” she said.

The shire presidents of Katanning (Liz Guidera) and Collie (Sarah Stanley) – where extended trading also occurs – did not return calls.

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A balcony fit for Juliet

THE first balcony at the Albany Club on which a woman member is allowed to stand was officially launched on Monday.

And like the decision almost 30 years ago to open the then exclusively gentlemen’s club up to women, the opening of the balcony door to a gentle easterly was an understated but liberat- ing affair.

Optometrist Alison Steer, whose father Geoff is a long-term member, said that in 1990 when she became the club’s first woman member, there was no- where else in town appropriate for informal business meetings.

“This was a nice, secluded place to bring business people and reps,” she said.

“I guess I got a bit of inside knowledge about the club from Dad feeding me bits about what was going on.

“I knew all the members anyway; they were family friends.”

Graham Wroth and Alison Steer at the balcony launch.

In the lead-up to Ms Steer’s membership, renovations were hastily arranged for the 1887-built clubhouse, which had no women’s toilets.

“I’ve heard the story that in the club constitution, when it was first written, that because there was no dream that women would even be involved, it just listed ‘member’,” she said.

“So there was no constitutional change needed, and there was very little excuse for them not to let me in.”

Ms Steer said there were lots of behind-the-scenes whispers about her signing up that she heard “bits and pieces of”, but once members “got their heads around it, it really was a non- issue for me when I first rocked up”.

“At first they wanted me to stay in the front bar, but no-one else was there, so I said ‘that’s not going to happen’ , and quickly walked into the main billiard room, and everyone said ‘hello’,” she added.

She said the new balcony, overlooking Aberdeen Street, was “unbelievably fantastic”.

“There used to be a door up there that led nowhere, but now it leads on to the balcony, and the building looks complete,” she said.

Club President Daphne Cotton and Mayor Dennis Wellington at the balcony launch.

At the launch, Mayor Dennis Wellington unveiled a plaque.

He recalled that in the 1980s, when he was a real estate agent and club member, he tried to have a business meeting with a woman sales manager from Skywest Airlines at the venue, because it was the nicest spot in town.

“There were a few coronaries in the pool room, and I was told it was totally unacceptable,” he said.

There have now been three women club presidents, including current president Daphne Cotton. The club’s next project is to revive a spindly 110-year-old rose bush out the front that’s seen far better days.

Photos: Chris Thomson

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Weed warrior named Denmark’s top citizen

THERE was a lot of love at Denmark council chambers on Tuesday afternoon as weed warrior Diane Harwood was named citizen of the year.

Outside the chambers after receiving the shire’s top gong, Ms Harwood, a passionate member of the Denmark Weed Action Group, said she was “very surprised” to have been honoured.

“It means, to me, that people out in the community really care for the bush the way I do,” she said.

“There’s a lot of people out there who agree with the way the group works in the bush, which is a very gentle way.

“We don’t go in with a machine, but do hand-weeding and it looks as if nothing’s happened.”

Minutes earlier, from her shire president’s chair, Ceinwen Gearon had said Ms Harwood was well-known for doing “lots of work on the ground”.

“Diane is passionate about our bushland and we’re grateful to her for all the work she has done,” Cr Gearon said.

Denmark local Andrew Dickinson then stepped to a lectern and, in the direction of Cr Gearon and her dormant gavel, was moved to bush verse:

This town has a hero, the bush has a friend, a champion there to protect

our natural environment so rich and so wild, the places to which we connect.

One of a small band of women so strong, quietly chipping away,

tipping the balance to favour the bush, removing the weeds that held sway.

Releasing the natives has been her life’s work. Though comrades have fallen aside,

her focus stayed strong and she knew right from wrong. She’d carry this flame ‘til she died.

Now she has a band protecting this land from the beautiful escapees,

for her passion inspires, her strength we admire. What a gutsy woman is she!

Over so many years and in so many ways she has tried to educate us.

But despair she has known, for the bush that she loved faced a death of a thousand cuts.

In performing her tasks she has mastered her craft, refining bush re-gen techniques.

So pay attention you fellas and lend her your ear and listen whenever she speaks.

This town has a hero who has worked long and hard.

To her we should take off our hat.

She is truly a gem, a national treasure

and citizen of the year at that.

A spontaneous round of applause erupted from the packed public gallery.

Photo: Chris Thomson

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Have you tried the frogs’ legs?

EMU POINT resident Emily Elsasser came home from dinner on Friday night to a surprising encounter and may have inadvertently captured the first photographic record of a motorbike frog (litoria moorei) eating another.

With more than 40 years’ experience in studying zoology and the biology of frogs, Dr Dale Roberts from the University of Western Australia was surprised to see the behaviour of two motorbike frogs in a photo taken by Ms Elsasser on Friday.

“I’ve seen plenty of large frogs consuming smaller frogs, and frogs of similar size before,” he said.

“But this is the first photographic evidence I’ve seen of a litoria moorei, or motorbike frog, consuming another.”

Dr Roberts said he had heard previously from people that they had seen motorbike frogs eating each other, but had no actual proof.

“To my knowledge there aren’t any scientific papers in circulation that dissect the diet of these frogs,” he said.

Ms Elsasser had to grab her glasses to make sure she knew what she was looking at when she arrived home.

“We live near a big wetland area, so we’re used to sharing our backyard with frogs in the evening,” she said.

“After getting that little bit of rain the last few evenings, all kinds of frogs have been coming out to sit on the lawn or on our window sills.

“They love to sit there and eat the bugs attracted by our lights.”

Friday night was a first for Ms Elsasser though, after she spotted a small motorbike frog seemingly being devoured by a larger one.

“I didn’t have my glasses on, so all I saw was this strange two-headed frog on the window sill,” she said.

After racing back inside, Ms Elsasser was surprised to see the cannibalistic action.

“I had to be quick to take the photo before they noticed me,” she said.

“I went back a bit later and they were gone.

“I’m glad that I don’t know what happened to the poor thing.”

Photo: Emily Elsasser

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Arson squad probes yacht death

A YACHT gutted by a fire that killed a man and his dog at Little Grove last week has been moved to Emu Point for in-depth Arson Squad investigation, but police do not think the blaze was suspiciously lit – at this stage.

Great Southern Police Superintendent Dom Wood said the yacht Freelander had been taken to Emu Point and lifted from the water to be secured so Arson Squad could do a thorough investigation.

Earlier, police spokeswoman Susan Usher said the yacht had burst into flames about 8pm on February 15 at Princess Royal Sailing Club.

She said that after fire fighters extinguished the blaze, the yacht’s owner, a man in his 70s, was located on board.

Ms Usher said the cause of the fire was undetermined and police would prepare a report for the Coroner.

Arson Squad attended the yacht club on February 16 to undertake a preliminary investigation.

Inspector Wood said the man’s pet dog also perished in the fire.

Photo: Chris Thomson

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Shark gap averted

AFTER The Weekender revealed that works on the Middleton Beach jetty would require a month-long, one-metre hole in the Ellen Cove shark net, the City of Albany has abandoned plans to access the jetty by barge.

This week, acting city CEO Michael Cole said contractors would no longer need to lower the shark net to access the jetty.

Mr Cole said the jetty would instead now be accessed from the beach and boardwalk pathway.

As previously reported (Hole in the shark net, February 8), the jetty upgrade will occur from February 19 to March 23.

The original plan was to up- grade the jetty from a barge, which would have required the shark net to be lowered by a metre during the month-long project.

Mr Cole said those plans had changed “after the contractor decided it was more efficient to carry out the works from the beach due to tides and the sand levels around the jetty”.

“Swimmers will now be able to continue to use the swimming enclosure with peace of mind it is secure; however, a 10m exclusion zone around the jetty will still apply,” he assured.

“There will be minimal disruptions to beach access.”

Contractors closed 10 parking bays adjacent to Albany Surf Life Saving Club on Sunday night to allow access for a crane and sea container on the beach on Monday morning to prepare for the project.

The parking bays were re-opened after the sea container and first materials were delivered to the site.

Mr Cole said workers would close the pathway to the Ellen Cove boardwalk for short two-minute intervals about four times a day to facilitate delivery of materials.

“We urge visitors to the area to show patience and observe work site exclusion areas,” he said.

“Signs at Middleton Beach to inform the public of the work will be updated.”

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Kodja future in doubt

A MAJOR Great Southern tourist attraction is in the grip of an existential crisis as the Shire of Kojonup grapples to get it up to code amidst polarised views on how or if it should continue operating.

In a forthright report to councillors, shire CEO Rick Mitchell-Collins advises that Kodja Place requires urgent investment to bring it up to construction, health and safety, and disability access standards.

Occupying a prominent position on Albany Highway, Kodja Place draws travellers from around the world, mainly to experience the Noongar culture and history of Kojonup.

Yet, Mr Mitchell-Collins notes that strong disagreement among shire residents over how the attraction should be managed poses a risk to how outsiders view the shire as a whole.

“Since the inception of the project, the community appears to have polarised views of Kodja Place and, over the years, ongoing speculation and discussion regarding the costs associated with operating and maintaining the precinct,” he advises.

“To ignore this has reputational risks for Kojonup as it does not convey the message to incoming residents or new employees that Kojonup is a desirable place to live or work.”

The Noongar word ‘Kodja’, mean- ing ‘stone axe’, is imbedded in the very name ‘Kojonup’, which roughly means ‘place where the stone of the stone axe is found’.

The shire rates Kodja Place the fifth most important building of 91 it owns. It is the only accredited visitor information centre in the north of the Great Southern region.

“Research that I’ve done tends to show that some of the commu- nity was fully supportive of Kodja Place and the vision, whereas others weren’t,” Mr Mitchell-Collins told The Weekender.

“Hence, I’ve asked for a clear mandate on whether the community values it, because I do know that interstate, intrastate and overseas visitors are passionate about Kodja Place, and it’s more than dollars and cents.

“It’s about the cultural heritage interpretive centre, but that comes at a cost and whether those costs were properly identified from day one.”

Mr Mitchell-Collins has advised the shire’s councillors they have “a legal responsibility to ensure buildings, offices, workplaces (internal/external), plant and equipment, etc. complies with a myriad of regulations, standards, codes and acts”.

“Non-compliance can lead to closure of facilities, industrial/legal action, negative publicity, potential fines or worse case scenario injury or death to employees or the public,” his report states.

“Regardless of the immense value this facility provides to the Noongar community, Kojonup, Great Southern Region and Western Australia …, with Kojonup being promoted in key international markets such as Germany, UK, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and USA … legal compliance is essential and will not be compromised!

“If future funding for the vision for the Kodja Place Precinct as identified in [a recent] master plan is to achieve any traction, the community needs to give council a clear mandate on whether they value the precinct to keep the attraction open …”

The report says councillors need to carefully consider “potential options for repurposing the Kodja Place if the community as a whole is not prepared to support council in funding and re- sourcing the centre as it should have been when first envisaged”.

It stresses the shire must focus in the next two years on “preventing further degeneration of the build- ing structure, addressing identified extreme and high risks, [and] occupational health and safety/workplace standards [for] which the shire is legally bound”.

The report says imme- diate attention is needed for “defective rammed earth walls” to protect the centre “from further deterioration”, and ensuring car parks and entry points complied with disability inclusiveness standards.

Mr Mitchell-Collins told The Weekender that Kodja Place probably had a higher profile internationally than in its Great Southern backyard.

“It’s a bit like having an ocean view,” he said.

“After a while, you ignore it or you just take it for granted.”

He said there may be tourism operators that could partner with the shire to secure a broader role for the centre.

“Where are the bus tours where we can take tourists to Carrolup or Marribank and Gnowangerup and give them a total experience,” he posed.

“There isn’t a regional cultural heritage facility.

“I think Kodja Place was unique and forward thinking 17 years ago, but it’s remained stagnant and those opportunities have not been realised.”

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Denmark’s first small bar brews

DENMARK may soon enter the small bar era, with the town’s first one planned for its main street not far from two existing liquor dispensaries.

At a Denmark council meeting on Tuesday night, shire planner Annette Harbron said the venue, at 89 Strickland Street, would be a café by day, and small-cum- tapas bar by night.

“The applicant has confirmed he will apply for a small bar licence,” she added.

Ms Harbron said that despite marketing itself as a wine bar, the existing Stomp’d venue at 27 Strickland Street was not a small bar as it operated under a restaurant licence.

She said the only other existing establishment in town to resemble a small bar, Freehand Wines at 69 Strickland Street, operated on a satellite cellar door licence linked to a producer’s licence at a nearby winery.

Despite not being “all that excited” by the bar’s built form, Cr Kingsley Gibson said he looked forward to its eventual development.

“I think, in general terms, something like this is a really exciting and positive thing for the town,” he said.

Cr Ian Osborne said the shire had “no part to play” as an “arbiter of taste”, and that the architect, from Hillarys-based firm MJBA, was “very experienced”.

A document tabled by MJBA said the bar would “provide a bit of life, albeit low key, at the southern end of Strickland Street”, which is “rather quiet”.

“It is intended to be a social venue for local people to congregate, socialise and promote local culture,” the architects continued.

If eventually approved by the shire and Western Australia’s liquor licensing director, the bar will be part of a broader commercial and residential project.

The shire councillors unanimously agreed that the bar be advertised for public comment for a minimum 21 days.

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Community garden sows seeds

AS THE Mount Barker community garden bites the dust, another in Denmark is set to spring forth.

The Weekender recently revealed that Plantagenet shire would direct operators of the community garden on Albany Highway in Mt Barker to return it to its original state after it had, quite literally, gone to seed.

Now, Denmark councillors have agreed that another garden, to be operated by the shire’s Community Resource Centre, be advertised for public comment.

If eventually approved, the 800sqm garden planned for the rear of the historic Morgan Richards Community Centre on Strickland Street will provide fruit, veggies and fungus for its members, who will be drawn from the Denmark community at large.

Like the existing Mt Barker gar- den, the area of the planned Den- mark one is currently unkempt.

At a council meeting on Tuesday night, Denmark shire planner Annette Harbron said the garden idea had been “on the books for many a year”.

“But the difficulty has been to find a partner to take it on,” she said.

Cr Mark Allen said the garden would suit Denmark’s ageing population, but that the CRC and shire would need to ensure ad- equate physical access to the site.

“I just think this is a great community initiative,” he said, before councillors unanimously agreed to put the garden idea out for a minimum 30 days of public consultation.

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