Rex airfare hike

REX plans to raise the price of its $128.91 community fare between Albany and Perth by $10 from March 1 – 16 months earlier than it agreed it would.

The regional airline has approached the City of Albany requesting approval of a new $139 fare, and City governance and risk manager Stuart Jamieson has recommended his political masters approve the new fare.

Mr Jamieson’s recommendation comes after Rex told the City it could not sustain the current fare, set for three years on July 1, 2017.

Mr Jamieson advises that an alternative option would be for councillors to “reject” Rex’s request “noting the City … entered in to a three- year agreement …”.

“The City entered this agreement in good faith and in collaboration both parties agreed to include the requirement to provide a community fare on the Albany route at the set price,” Mr Jamieson continued.

“As part of the current agreement, the City also agreed to fix the Rex Airport fees and charges (with CPI indexation) for the duration of the contract period.”

In 2017/18, Rex transported 29,144 passengers from Perth to Albany, and carried 29,362 people the other way. The 58,506 passengers carried was up on the three financial years prior.

Rex’s planned fare rise will be considered by a City committee on February 12.

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Anzac butterfly story emerges

ANZAC-inspired arts installations keep rolling out in Albany, with a new exhibition now planned to tell the story of how two Australian generals and their troops saved the world’s best butterfly collection from almost certain destruction.

The Weekender can reveal that the Butterflies of Corbie exhibition is planned to emerge from its chrysalis at Mount Adelaide on November 1.

The exhibition, subject to a $20,000 funding application to the Federal Government, is slated to tell how at the French village of Corbie Eugene Boullet amassed the finest known butterfly collection in the world.

In April 1918, the collection faced devastation during some of the most pivotal battles of World War One.

But Australian commander Brigadier General Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott – passionate and headstrong but facing his own personal battles – became the collection’s unlikely saviour.

A City of Albany document seen by The Weekender explains that Lieutenant General Sir J.J. Talbot Hobbs and his division also helped save the collection.

The planned exhibition consists of letters and diaries, watercolours of the butterflies, and a selection of the butterflies themselves.

“These small objects – the butterflies and the letters – have a large story to tell about the strong and enduring relationship between the people of Australia and France and our collective history,” the City document promises.

The exhibition, planned to run until Anzac Day 2020, is expected to feature a short film documenting the story of Monsieur Boullet’s butterflies.

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City sends lime pit message

A COMMUNICATIONS strategy has been developed to sell the City of Albany’s response to the contentious approval by a powerful tribunal of a lime pit at Nullaki Peninsula.

A briefing note to City councillors seen by The Weekender says the strategy was developed ahead of a media statement released on January 14 by Acting Mayor Greg Stocks, and promotion of the City’s position on social media.

A letter was also sent to residents around the peninsula and the lime pit’s planned haulage route, people who made a submission on the pit, seven community groups and the Elleker General Store.

The letter, from City CEO Andrew Sharpe, says the City “is extremely surprised and disappointed” the State Administrative Tribunal decided to overturn the Council’s earlier unanimous refusal of the lime pit.

“… especially how an extractive industry was found to be consistent with orderly and proper planning, in particular meeting the objectives and provisions of the Conservation zoning,” the letter, dated January 21, continued.

The letter explains that the City separately progressed a scheme amendment that would have prohibited the lime pit, but the amendment was not endorsed by the Minister for Planning in time and so was given little weight in the Tribunal’s deliberations.

The briefing note, drafted by town planner Alex Bott, says all further correspondence with the public will accord with the communications strategy.

The lime pit approval was hailed by developer Graeme Robertson as a “win-win” for Great Southern farmers and for the environment with a maximum three hectares to be “temporarily” cleared instead of the 21 hectares he had originally planned.

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Division flagged

LESS than 24 hours after the Australia Day weekend, one councillor at a Great Southern shire called the Aboriginal flag “a minority group flag” and another argued that moves to fly it might “drive political leverage by stealth”.

In February last year, The Weekender revealed that Minang man Mark Colbung – who grew up near Mount Barker – had asked Shire of Plantagenet councillors why there was no Aboriginal flag flown outside their chambers, as there is in Albany where he now lives.

“Everywhere [else] you go, there’s an Aboriginal flag flown 24/7,” Mr Colbung told Plantagenet councillors at the time.

“Is there a problem?”

Fast forward 11 months and, at a Plantagenet council meeting on Tuesday afternoon, councillors voted 7-2 to fly the Aboriginal flag outside the chambers.

After Cr Len Handasyde moved that the flag be approved, Cr Brett Bell read from a prepared statement that said differential treatment of Aboriginal people had caused problems in the past.

“I know that this could be a sensitive issue,” he said, adding that differential treatment needed to stop.

He said he supported the Australian flag only outside the chambers because it represented “us all”, as opposed to a “minority group flag”.

He added that most Plantagenet ratepayers would not support the Shire hoisting the Aboriginal flag.

Cr Bell’s statements came one day after the Australia Day weekend when many Aboriginal people around the nation protested colonisation.

Also reading from prepared notes, Cr Jeff Moir said flying “an alternate flag” was “contrary to the values of our democracy”.

“The Australian flag is everybody’s flag and has been since Federation in 1901,” he said.

Cr Moir said that Australia’s first peoples needed to be acknowledged and respected but so too did every other Australian.

He said he suspected the “true motive” of seeking approval to fly the “alternate flag” was “to drive political leverage by stealth”.

“The result will be divisive,” he said.

Former Shire President Ken Clements said he was “neither one way or the other on this” but added he would prefer the Western Australian flag be flown out front rather than the Australian one.

“Technically [the Shire is] a product of the State, not the Federation,” he said.

The last word belonged to Cr Handasyde.

“Yes, we are a nation under one flag,” he summed up.

“And that will take precedence.

“Whilst we look back in the past, we can learn from that and we have to have our eyes firmly on the future.”

Two flag poles to carry the Aboriginal and Plantagenet flags will now be added to existing poles that support the Australian and Western Australian flags.

The Aboriginal, Australian, Western Australian and Plantagenet flags already co-exist inside the council chambers, behind the chair of Shire President Chris Pavlovich.

IMAGE: The Aboriginal flag will join the Australian and Western Australian ones outside the Plantagenet shire offices in Mount Barker. Photo: Chris Thomson

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‘And then there were three’

SOUTHWEST MLC Steve Thomas says a bid by Albany, Denmark and Plantagenet is probably the only one from the Great Southern or Southwest to have been shortlisted in the race to host an $18 million bushfire centre of excellence.

Dr Thomas said he understood Serpentine-Jarrahdale in metropolitan Perth and Pinjarra in the adjoining Peel Region were the only other places left in the running.

“When [Emergency Services] Minister [Fran Logan] is down in Albany next week would be a prime time to announce the successful proposal given it is now almost a year since the centre and Rural Fire Division were announced,” the Liberals’ Emergency Services spokesman said.

“The Minister has had long enough.

“He’s been back at work [after the Christmas break] for nearly a month.”

On April 13, Mr Logan announced the centre would be built – in line with a recommendation of the January 2016 Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry.

The deadline for proposals was October 24, and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services has forwarded a shortlist of contenders to the Government for determination.

Mr Logan told The Weekender the location of the centre was to be con- sidered by Cabinet and therefore confidential.

“I said previously that the announcement about the new centre, which will be a first of its kind, needs to be considered carefully and won’t be announced during the peak of this bushfire season,” he explained.

“This centre is about harnessing the best in bushfire management knowledge and experience, and has the potential to become an international centre of learning.

“I would hope that instead of continually making mischief around this important centre devised by the McGowan Labor Government, and bushfire management, Dr Thomas would get on board to support this record investment in bushfire management rather than continually attempt to detract from it.”

But, with most Cabinet Ministers set to hit Albany next week, Dr Thomas said now would be the best time to make the centre’s location public.

“This is an opportunity for the Minister to be courageous and make the courageous decision to announce the centre will be going into a regional area and not into metropolitan Perth,” he said.

The metropolitan municipality of Serpentine- Jarrahdale sits in the Darling Range electorate won by the Liberals after Labor’s Barry Urban resigned following the fake qualifications fiasco.

Pinjarra is in the Labor electorate of Robyn Clarke.

Albany has long been held by Labor’s Peter Watson, while Denmark and Plantagenet are in Warren-Blackwood held by the Nationals’ Terry Redman.

City of Albany CEO Andrew Sharpe said he had received “no formal response” from the State on whether the Albany/ Denmark/Plantagenet bid had been shortlisted.

“We understand submissions are still being considered via a comprehensive process…,” he added.

The $18 million centre of excellence will see volunteers show other volunteers how to fight bushfires, and help develop new bushfire management principles.

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Albany on the map for Cook’s tour

ALBANY is on the list of ports Captain Cook never visited to be on the itinerary of an anti-clockwise circumnavigation to commemorate the master navigator’s first voyage to the great southern land.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian National Maritime Museum would be given $6.7 million to take its replica of Cook’s Endeavour around Australia.

Mr Morrison said that as the 250th anniversary of Cook’s 1770 voyage to the east coast neared, the Government wanted “to help Australians better understand Captain Cook’s historic voyage and its legacy for exploration, science and reconciliation”.

“That voyage is the reason Australia is what it is today and it’s important we take the opportunity to reflect on it,” he said.

Last year, plans announced by Mr Morrison to erect a statue of Cook at Botany Bay drew a mixed reaction from Aboriginal people.

Pastor Ray Minniecon, an Aboriginal man, who has helped organise ‘Invasion Day’ protests on Australia Days past, told SBS the idea was upsetting. Meanwhile, La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council Chair Noeleen Timbery told SBS the project was more than just a single monument to Cook.

The Endeavour replica will sail from Sydney in March 2020, and head south to Hobart before turning north to start a circumnavigation of mainland Australia.

Mr Morrison said the ship was likely to stop at Albany, among dozens of other ports.

Photo of Endeavour replica: ‘Bahnfrend’, Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International licence.

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Plans downsized

RYDE BUILDING COMPANY is finalising plans for an apartment block much smaller than a six-floor one refused in 2005 for the former Retravision site on Earl Street.

In recent months, scaffolding and a ladder allowing a second- floor view over Princess Royal Harbour have been seen at the 2900sqm vacant site opposite Albany City Holden.

The scaffolding has been taken down. But a Ryde spokesperson has told The Weekender the firm is finalising plans for the project that will probably be submitted to the City next week.

The spokesperson said nearby residents had been consulted and, to Ryde’s knowledge, nobody had objected.

Retravision site plans Albany
The 2005 proposal rejected by Albany council and the State Administrative Tribunal. Render: L.Marchesani & Associates.

Ryde’s proposal is for 13 two- floor units – far smaller than a six-floor, 46-unit block proposed for the site in 2005 by Ridgecity Holdings.

Those plans attracted 271 public submissions, most of them objections.

The objections cited the apartment block’s height, appearance, and loss of views for residents occupying houses on sharply rising land to the north.

Concerns were also raised over the apartments’ impact on the Mount Clarence heritage area.

Some submissions supported the apartment block, arguing it would improve the site’s appearance, and energise the edge of Albany’s business district.

A scaled-down block of 39 apartments was later refused by the City. In 2006, Ridgecity Holdings lost its appeal of that decision in the powerful State Administrative Tribunal.

The grassy site, across and down the street from the Earl of Spencer Hotel, has remained vacant ever since.

Current render at top of page: Powerhouse Architectural Drafting

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‘Build it on a hill’

A BUDDHIST monk who was once a mechanical designer has drafted plans for a monastery overlooking the Porongurup Range at the leafy south coast locale of Elleker.

“What we want to do is have a smaller version of Bodhinyana monastery, that’s at Serpentine in the Perth Hills, here in Albany,” Venerable Mudu told The Weekender from a 65-hectare bush block atop Grasmere Hill where the monastery is planned.

“We’re gonna have four or five monks here, which means we’re gonna have four or five monk huts – they’re called kutis,” he said.

“We had a problem up in Serpentine, we’re trying to build six new huts because we’re overflowing with monks up there, and so the boss, Venerable Ajahn Brahm, told the monks to spread their wings and if they could find another monastery to go to, then off they go.

“But no-one left because, to be honest, it’s very comfortable at Ajahn Brahm’s monastery.”

With no push factor prompting him to take up the boss’s challenge, Venerable Mudu became the only monk motivated to do so after a family connection pulled him to the south coast.

“I wanted to come down here to see my brother,” he confessed.

“He’s down here with his wife and three girls.

“He said: ‘I know the Thais down here; they’ll want you to come down, won’t they?”

Later, from her Thai Angel Hand Massage service on Stirling Terrace, prominent Thai expatriate Wasana Poonwiset says she is 100 per cent behind Venerable Mudu’s blueprints.

“There are beautiful views, and it will be very good for Albany to have a monastery,” she tells The Weekender.

“It is difficult for us because we currently have to go to Perth.

“Lots of people around here, Katanning, Denmark can go there and bring the family, and the kids can see the culture.”

Ms Poonwiset, who also owns the landmark Joop Thai Restaurant on Lockyer Avenue, says about 30 Thai families call Albany home.

“The people are very good people,” she adds.

“To have something to hang on to will be great.

“Buddha’s message is universal – that’s karma, to do good, to give before you get.”

Earlier, back at the block, Venerable Mudu said Ms Poonwiset was “the big boss” of the Thai community in Albany, and had been a driving force behind establishing the south coast’s first monastery.

“It will become an Ajahn Brahm branch monastery because he’s so well known now,” he said.

“But it’s more than that.

“To build this monastery, I’ll be riding on his back because I would never be able to get the support on my own to pay however many couple of million it’s gonna cost to develop this and build it.”

The highest part of the monastery is planned to be 110 metres above sea level, but not visible from Elleker-Grasmere Road down on the plain.

“At the lowest part of the property is where our windmill is – at the time it was put in it was the largest Southern Cross windmill in the Great Southern,” Venerable Mudu said.

“We’ve still got it down there; it’s not working.

“But I’m a car guy, I like to swing the spanners, and when we get the opportunity we’ll put it in our workshop, and when I need a break from meditation I’ll be in there fixing it up.”

Venerable Mudu said the elevated block was chosen after an extensive site selection exercise.

“This is something that Buddha instructed us to do, to live close to nature, not to destroy nature, and to be as kind to nature as possible, to live close to the living beings,” he said.

“He said that when you build your monastery, don’t build it too close to the town, but don’t build it too far away that it’s a burden for the donors to come out and support you.

“Buddha said don’t build your monastery near a swamp, in the lowlands near where the water is – he said build up on a hill.”

Venerable Mudu said Buddha’s instruction to keep things simple was why the huts would be humble three-metre by four-metre structures.

“The idea is to use a lot of local companies, so once the development application is approved I’ll probably hand the details over to a local architect to see what we can do,” he said.

Venerable Mudu has discussed his self-drafted plans with senior City of Albany planners and said he would lodge a development application soon.

Photo: Venerable Mudu on site with the Porongurup Range perforating the horizon. Image: Chris Thomson

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Albany waterfront hotel gets City nod

A HOTEL planned for a block owned by Albany business identity Paul Lionetti across Toll Place from his Due South tavern has been recommended for State approval.

The City of Albany recommendation will be considered at a meeting of a State-convened panel in Perth on December 18.

In October, The Weekender revealed details of the 108-room, five-floor hotel that Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said Mr Lionetti wanted to build by Easter 2020 (‘Marina hotel ‘by 2020’’, 11 October).

The revelation followed a confession by State Lands Minister Rita Saffioti that not one developer had expressed interest in erecting a hotel at Middleton Beach where the Esplanade Hotel was demolished in 2007.

That means the new hotel, designed to the specifications of Hilton’s Garden Inn brand and overlooking Princess Royal Harbour, is Albany’s best chance of getting an international inn any time soon.

Southern Ports, which objected to an earlier bid to convert some of the hotel’s rooms to apartments, has supported many aspects of the cur- rent hotel-only plan, but argues the building must be attenuated against port noise.

Albany City Motors Director Scott Leary, one of 18 submitters on the plans, supports the hotel.

“It would appear that the development on the foreshore would be amenable to the area and provide a great windbreak to make the area immediately in from … the building more user friendly for the public,” he argues.

“The building has a style that complements the area and is progressive for Albany.”

One-time Albany resident Harmen Mulder “wholeheartedly” supports the project.

“In order to create a sense of atmosphere down at the waterfront, this hotel would be instrumental in forging a bustling social and commercial district,” he submits.

“I don’t know the guy personally, but Paul Lionetti should be applauded for his faith and commitment to this town.”

However, Penelope Moir of Gnowellen, northeast of Albany, considers the project “most inappropriate”.

“Tourists and port traffic should not be mixed,” she submits.

“World standard access to the Port of Albany is crucial for both Albany and the surrounding shires.”

Philip, Kathryn and Christina Rogerson, who operate the Albany Foreshore Guest House, submit the hotel’s scale will spoil harbour views for all heritage-listed buildings on Stirling Terrace.

“The development should be no more than two storeys, in keeping with all heritage-listed buildings on Stirling Terrace,” they assert.

The Rogersons also submit that if the hotel’s planned restaurant and bar reach licence application stage, they will lodge a complaint to State liquor licensing officials.

“Evidence can be provided to confirm the serious existing problem with noise from intoxicated patrons leaving the liquor outlets on Stirling Terrace and engaging in antisocial behaviour in the area late on Friday and Saturday nights,” they argue.

The only locally elected officials on the State-convened panel will be Mr Wellington and Councillor Paul Terry, slated to appear via teleconference.

Cr Terry previously disclosed a financial interest on a matter related to the project because one of his sons worked for a company associated with the proponent. But his son recently resigned, clearing the way for the Breaksea Ward councillor to vote on the plans.

Image: The planned hotel, by Hodge Collard Preston Architects from development application lodged by Planning Solutions.

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New Albany salmon fish cannery on the cards

AN INDUSTRY long lost to Albany is set to return, with a prominent fishing family patiently progressing a salmon, sardine and herring cannery to supply Australian and export markets.

From 1947 to the late 1980s, the now-defunct salmon cannery on the north-eastern side of Princess Royal Harbour was a big part of Albany’s industrial landscape.

Now, Rhonda and Tony Westerberg plan to open a new cannery on a block beside their fish processing plant at Robinson.

The salmon canning will start in Thailand, with a view to bringing it back home in 24 months.

“We sent some fish over there and met the canner,” Mr Westerberg said.

“We’ve got some marketing people in and we want to start in March.

“We’re going over again in January to make sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.”

Mr Westerberg said he would initially get Albany-based Bevans Seafood Processors to clean the salmon, because Bevans was approved to ex- port.

“It will be sent to Thailand, they’ll can it and the cans will come back to us with their own label,” he said.

“We got 12 flavours done, and we got Curtin University to do a blind taste test with all the different species, different products and ours came up trumps.”

Mr Westerberg said the salmon would be sourced from Western Australia’s south and west coasts.

“Then we’ll get export ap- proved and start cleaning our own fish here,” he said.

“We’ll start setting up our own cannery, with sardines first, and if that works we’ll introduce herring which we’ll fillet, and then the salmon.

“We’ll start with our own fish, and hopefully we’ll need more and more and as the market grows keep buying and buying and the sky’s the limit.”

Mr Westerberg said the new cannery could fill much of the void left by the crumbling portside facility.

“They used to do a couple of thousand ton here a year,” he said.

“It would be nice to think we could get to that [but] I don’t think Fisheries would let us catch that many.

“We have to make the money on a smaller volume these days, but certainly the aim is to help revamp the fishing industry in Western Australia on the south coast and the west coast.”

He said 12 to 15 new jobs could initially be created at the Robinson plant with more to come as things ramped up.

The Westerbergs have already ordered a filleting ma- chine slated to arrive from Sweden by March.

“It will butterfly-fillet the sardines, and we have a little crumbing line, so we will do that for 12 months, and if everything goes alright with the Department [of Fisheries], as long as we are permitted to catch the fish, we’ll be away,” Mr Westerberg said.

Ahead of the cannery, the filleting will start straight away with frozen sardines packed in 200 to 500 gram packs and sent around Australia.

“Once the factory gets export ap- proved, once we start canning, then we’ll start, hopefully, exporting the fillets,” Mr Westerberg said.

“Canning’s gone through a bit of a phase.

“It’s all been about price, but now people are prepared to pay a little bit more for a product canned in Australia, and local fish from the pristine waters of the south coast goes down well in the marketing.”

PHOTO: Tony Westerberg at his processing plant in Albany. Image: Chris Thomson

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