Firies commended

THE City of Albany and Shire of Denmark have praised the efforts of volunteer fire brigades from last week after more than 20 fires sparked up due to severe weather conditions.

Dry and gusty northerly winds last Thursday mirrored conditions from 12 months ago when more than 50 fires swept across the Great Southern and caused devastating damage
to properties.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Superintendent of the Great Southern Wayne Green said emergency services responded to 13 fires in the City’s jurisdiction and 10 fires in the Shire’s jurisdiction last Thursday.

“Burning off is an important tool in mitigation and is an effective way to reduce bushfire risk,” he said.

“Private property owners are responsible for mitigating bushfire risk on their own land, in close consultation with their local government.”

City Manager of Rangers and Emergency Services Tony Ward said all fires were brought under control within a matter of hours.

“Fire fighters responded to 18 call-outs across Wednesday and Thursday last week and did a great job in containing and controlling all incidents,” he said.

“The first call on Thursday came in around 5am with a steady rate of call outs throughout the day.

“All bushfire brigades were back in station around 10pm that night.”

Shire President Ceinwen Gearon praised the efforts of newly appointed Chief Bushfire Control Officer Lez Baines and his quick reaction to the fires.

“We are very lucky to have an immensely dedicated group of individuals willing to volunteer their time to keep us all safe,” she said.

Earlier last week, both the Shire and City announced that due to the severe forecast conditions they would be enforcing Section 46 of the Bush Fire Act 1954 that prohibits the lighting of open-air fires and required any existing burns to be extinguished.

On the City website it states people in breach of similar bans could be issued with penalties of up to $5000.

Mr Green said during prohibited burning times it was an offence under the Act to light a fire in the open air.

“Local governments are responsible for issuing burning permits and following up any breaches,” he said.

Mr Ward said no penalties were issued to residents who were in the process of burning off during the ban, as “they were happy with the way the community responded” and most residents were quick to cooperate and extinguish their fires.

“Generally residents did the right thing and extinguished fires or held off from lighting new ones,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to reach everyone and some fires were lit well before the weather event forecast.

“Given the conditions were similar to 2018, I think residents had this in mind this year and were far more aware of their responsibility.”

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Shark fin sale ban bill tabled

GREENS MLC for South West Diane Evers did not consult with the government prior to tabling a bill to stop the sale of shark fin products in Western Australia last week, according to the
State Fisheries minister.

Ms Evers’ Bill is to amend the Food Act 2008 to prohibit the sale and supply of shark fin products for incidental and related purposes.

If endorsed, the Bill would introduce fines to people selling food that contains shark fin from $50,000 for an individual to $250,000 for a corporate body.

Ms Evers said shark finning, which involves a shark’s fins being removed while alive and returning it to the ocean to drown, was currently a federal offence.

“This Bill is a clear, measured and important step in our work towards ending the inhumane and wasteful practice of shark finning,” she said.

“The proposed amendments to the Food Act 2008 will improve food standards and ensure the practice of shark finning is prohibited at each stage of the supply chain.

“This Bill simply seeks to treat shark fin food products the same as others considered unsuitable for consumption and will mirror provisions for existing offences under the Act.”

Ms Evers said it had been reported that thousands of kilograms of shark fins are imported into Australia each year due to loopholes in existing regulations.

She said many jurisdictions have implemented their own specific bans on shark fishing and that she had been vocal in the past about the harmful effects of baited shark drumline trials.

“Even with bans in place, we know some fishers continue this cruel practice,” Ms Evers said.

“In 2015, a boat was apprehended in Queensland waters carrying over 3000 shark fins.

“The international community recognises that shark finning damages species and ecosystems, while shark fins have not been established to offer any scientific health benefits.

“Unfortunately, foods such as shark fin soup continue to be offered in restaurants as a delicacy.”

State Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said shark finning was illegal in WA.

“The international practice of shark finning, which involves cutting off the fins and discarding the rest of the shark, is awful and I can understand people’s disgust,” he said.

“Prior to tabling this bill, Ms Evers did not consult with the government.

“I have sought advice from the Department about Ms Evers’ Bill.”

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Sexual expression in aged care

A PERTH university student is looking to the Great Southern to conduct research on how residential aged care workers perceive and experience sexual behaviour from aged care facility residents.

Marie Smith, who is completing an Honours degree in Psychology at Edith Cowan University, worked in aged care when she first left high school and described the experience as “eye opening”.

She hopes her research project will give carers a voice as she believes no other scholarly literature does.

“After working in aged care and reading the literature, I realised how little focus there was on this,” Ms Smith said, regarding sexual expression in aged care.

“I was a bit shocked because studies look at aged care managers and nurses, but not at carers, who make up 70 per cent of the aged care workforce.”

For her project, Ms Smith defines sexual expression and behaviour as “any act that communicates sexual need or desire, such as suggestive comments and gestures, flirting, hugging, kissing, groping, viewing sexual material and solo or partnered sexual activities”.

“This can be sexual expression between a resident and a carer, between resident and resident, or a resident with themselves,” she further explained.

“And it’s not just physical – it might be verbal, or an elderly lady wanting to read 50 Shades of Grey, or a couple getting embarrassed even though they are married.”

Ms Smith is focusing on the Great Southern due to the high population of retirees and rural retirees, as she believes regional residents are often overlooked in scholarly research.

She feels it is a “no brainer” to ask carers in the Great Southern about their encounters with sexual expression.

“It’s tricky because there aren’t a lot of guidelines around how to deal with sexual expression,” Ms Smith said.

“So, I really want to ask questions and see how people can be helped in a constructive way.”

Only carers employed in the aged care sector are eligible to participate in Ms Smith’s study.

All interviews will be confidential, and a $20 Coles Myer voucher will be granted as thanks for participation.

Pseudonyms will be used when the interviews are included in Ms Smith’s final paper, which she hopes to finish in October and publish next year.

Those interested can contact Ms Smith on 0487 982 722.

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Cyclone memories

AN AUTHOR and historian who collated the stories of those affected by a devastating cyclone in the South West more than four decades ago will share his findings during a book tour in Albany and Denmark next week.

Roger Underwood spent two years interviewing more than a hundred people who were living in the region when tropical cyclone Alby swept through on April 4, 1978.

The freak weather event triggered flooding and hundreds of bushfires across the Great Southern and beyond and left a trail of fatalities and destruction in its wake.

One year after the 40th anniversary of the crisis, Mr Underwood spoke with the Weekender this week about his book Cyclone Alby: Memories of the 1978 Western Australian Storm and Bushfire Crisis and about what happened during those fateful days.

“The book has really two objectives,” he said.

“One was to record the personal stories of those involved and the second was to record history and try to see the parallels between what happened then and what might happen today.”

Mr Underwood was living in Manjimup and was the area’s Bushfire Controller when the first inklings of the coming disaster were felt.

He said in late March 1978, a low developed off the Pilbara coast, some 800 kilometres north northwest of Karratha before it moved south.

“When it reached not far north of Perth, it suddenly started interacting with a cold front and the resulting intermixture of the cyclone and the anticyclone produced gale force winds,” he recalled.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the tropical cyclone further built in intensity as it approached the South West and the Great Southern.

Mr Underwood said the extreme winds spurred on more than 500 fires in southern WA all on the same afternoon.

“You had a situation where almost the entire southern half of the state was being threatened by bushfires and storms and floods and at the same time there was no communications,” he said.

“They were paralysed because the power went out everywhere, there were no telephones and no radios and roads were blocked by fallen trees.

“Communities and farmers were all isolated and having to deal with the crisis by themselves.”

Mr Underwood spoke to a host of those who were tested by the “shocking conditions” of the crisis, from farmers and foresters to emergency service personnel and medical staff.

“Most rose to the occasion magnificently. The stories in the book demonstrate the tremendous courage and resilience of the people involved,” he said.

But the crisis was not without tragedy.

A total of five people were killed as the cyclone unfurled, including two Albany men who drowned when their dinghy overturned and a woman who died when she was struck by a falling tree in Kendenup.

The overall damage bill was estimated to have reached approximately $39 million at the time – 280 houses were burned, thousands of sheep and cattle were destroyed and the fires razed approximately 114,000 hectares of forest and farmland.

“The storm itself came and went in a period of about five or six hours, but it left behind a period of days, weeks and in some cases years of recovery work,” Mr Underwood said.

“It also left its psychological scars on many people. When I was doing the interviews I had people who rang me up and they just burst into sobbing tears because the memories were just so painful.”

Mr Underwood is an avid disaster historian and worked as a forester for around 35 years before retiring in the mid 1990s.

He said although the storm came as a surprise for many people since cyclones generally head inland, it was not unprecedented.

Two serious cyclones in 1937 and 1945 wreaked similar havoc.

“Most people had forgotten about those. There was a general feeling in 1978 as there probably is today that you don’t get tropical cyclones sweeping across the southwest,” Mr Underwood said.

“I think even today people don’t study history and often don’t learn from the past … it’s inevitable we will have another event like this sometime in the future.”

Mr Underwood will be giving his free talk at the Albany Public Library on June 21 and in Denmark on June 22.

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Service station site on the market

THE commercial site near Albany’s main roundabout currently housing the new Shell 5 Ways Albany fuel station and a vacant building initially proposed as a lunch bar or drive-thru service is up for sale.

Listed with Melbourne and Perth-based real estate agency CBRE, the 3220sqm Albany Highway site is for sale via a national public expressions of interest campaign closing July 4 at 3pm.

It has been described by CBRE as “the busiest corner in Albany”.

Agent Joseph Du Rieu said the purchaser of the site would have the benefit of an income from a 15-year net lease to Viva Energy, the licensee of Shell, and four five-year options for potential future tenancy of the adjoining drive-thru building.

“We have seen a number of our Victorian-based developer clients migrate west to take advantage of what is considered an ‘under-pumped’ market for petrol stations,” he said.

“This is creating many good buying opportunities for local and east coast investors.”

The initial development application for a service station on the block provided by Peter D. Webb & Associates on behalf of Victorian-based Procon Developments was knocked back by the City of Albany in February 2017 due to safety concerns, including safe entry from and exit to the main roundabout.

Peter D. Webb & Associates took the matter to the State Administrative Tribunal and the City’s refusal decision was overturned six months later.

The development application faced criticism after the roundabout the service station is situated near was ranked number one in the top 10 risky intersections in the 2018/2019 RAC Risky Road survey, and the sixth worst intersection in the state and second in regional WA in the 2016/2017 poll.

Within its city limits, Albany has five Shell, five Caltex, three BP, one Puma, one Gull and four United service stations, including four truck stop service stations.

A Liberty service station is currently under construction in McKail.

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Activity club launched

AN ALBANY man living with a severe physical and mental disability, epilepsy, scoliosis and dislocated hips has created an activity group so people of all abilities can have fun and be creative.

Alan Brenton, 34, is holding an information session for Al’s FlyinHi Activity Club on June 18 at Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre (ALAC) to give potential club members an insight into the club and a chance to sign up.

Mr Brenton’s mother Kathy Scott said the club’s values were “fulfilled, adaptive, inclusive, respectful and supportive”.

“Years ago, we’d go out with Alan and fly kites and he loved it,” she reflected.

“But no agency we were involved with was interested in starting any kind of social or activity club, so last year, we decided we’d do it ourselves.”

Al’s FlyinHi Activity Club will offer dance, kite flying and puppet theatre classes to people aged 15 years and older.

The club will mark Mr Brenton’s first step into the business world.

“It’s been really fun working with Alan to do this,” Ms Scott said.

“We’ve never done anything like this before – making our own kites and all the paperwork.

“But the main thing is creating something people of all abilities can be a part of; there was nothing for Alan to do before.”

Ms Scott said the club would not tolerate discrimination and was very adaptable to people’s suggestions.

She hopes the club can host a concert after 20 weeks of the program to show the community what skills club members had learned.

The June 18 information session at ALAC will commence at 12.30pm and wind up at 2.30pm.

Any enquiries about the group can be sent to alsflyinhiclub@gmail.com

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Church looks to higher authority for approval

THE pastor who last month had an application to build a church in Denmark rejected by Shire councillors has taken the case to the State Administrative Tribunal for review.

Baptist Pastor Graeme Ritchie submitted an appeal application to the independent dispute resolution body last Thursday after failing to find “alternative solutions” at a meeting with Shire staff earlier in the day.

“If we don’t go to SAT, we have to go through a new development application and the whole long process starts again, which is just ridiculous,” Mr Ritchie said.

“Council could then turn around and still say no.”

Mr Ritchie said of a number of sticking points that could not be reconciled at last week’s hour-long meeting, the most noteworthy revolved around the proposed building’s size and venue capacity.

Under the original plans, the church that would be built on Lot 166 at 987 South Coast Highway would be 560 square metres in size, reach a maximum height of 6.3 metres and feature an assembly hall with seating for 180 people (‘No faith in plans’, 30 May).

“I think they were really more concerned about the actual number of people, reducing it from a 180-seat capacity down to … 100, 120 or whatever,” he said.

“We could be open to looking at seating capacity, but to actually change the size of the building is another discussion altogether and the Denmark Baptist Community hasn’t come to any conclusion on that just yet.”

Mr Ritchie said the Shire was also concerned about parking and feared the 46 car bays required by planning guidelines would not meet demand if the venue were to be used for large events.

Mr Ritchie argued events that attracted a significant number of people to the venue would occur “infrequently” and would benefit the town.

“I’m sure we can get around that by negotiating with surrounding areas who can provide off street parking,” he said.

Denmark Shire Director of Assets and Sustainable Development David King was at last Thursday’s meeting alongside Senior Town Planner Jasmine Tothill.

“Given that the proponent has verbally advised they will be seeking a review of the decision at SAT, it would be inappropriate for me to relay any information relating to our informal discussions at this stage,” Mr King said.

“In the event of an SAT review, it would be hoped that a resolution can be found at formal mediation and [that the case wouldn’t have to] proceed to a full hearing.”

Under the Planning and Development Act 2005, an aggrieved applicant has the right to engage SAT to review a council’s decision within 28 days of it being made.

Mr Ritchie submitted his appeal application to SAT within 16 days of the Denmark Shire’s decision.

A directions hearing will determine the next course of action, which could include methods of alternative dispute resolution instead of a full hearing.

“I think there could be a bit of give and take, but I think also the councillors themselves need to realise [their decisions have consequences],” Mr Ritchie said.

SAT has overruled decisions made by local governments in the Great Southern before.

In January, the Tribunal overturned the City of Albany’s ruling to refuse landowner Graeme Robertson’s plans to build a lime pit on the Nullaki Peninsula (‘Nullaki concern’, 17 January).

Last year in August, the body overturned the City’s February 2017 refusal of a development application for a service station near the Chester Pass roundabout.

Spokespeople for the Minister for Local Government David Templeman and Minister for Planning Rita Saffioti each told the Weekender they were not responsible for or were unable to comment on matters relating to SAT and local government decisions.

A spokesperson for Attorney General John Quigley said Mr Quigley could not “comment on or intervene in a matter determined by the Tribunal.”

“The government and the judiciary are independent of one another,” the spokesperson said.

“The Tribunal operates in accordance with the main objectives set out in section nine of the SAT Act 2004 which includes resolving questions, complaints or disputes and making or reviewing decisions fairly and according to the substantial merits of each case.”

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Giving back

OYSTER Harbour Store owner Mark Cuzens is selling more than two tonnes of pumpkins he has grown on his property and donating all of the proceeds to Albany Community Hospice and Foodbank.

Mr Cuzens has been the owner of the convenience store and service station for the past 22 years and said he had been growing pumpkins on his property for around four years.

“I grow a few different varieties like jarrahdales and butternuts,” he said. “They’re really easy to grow; you just need to put them in the ground and that’s it.”

Mr Cuzens said a few years ago he gave Hospice a large amount of his pumpkin crop to sell on their open day and decided this year he would support the not-for-profit organisation again.

“At a guess I would say we have around two and a half tonne of pumpkins,” he said.

“This year we’re selling them for $1 per kilo with all money raised going to Hospice and Foodbank.”

Mr Cuzens said he began selling the pumpkins on Monday and on that first day of trade, sold $50 worth of pumpkin.

“The best thing to make with pumpkin is some good old pumpkin soup, especially in this weather,” he said.

“The pumpkins are just out the front of the shop so come by and just grab one, we’ll pop it on the scales and the money will go in a separate tin.”

The Oyster Harbour Store is located on the corner of Bayonet Head Road and Lower King Road and is open seven days from 6am to 7.30pm.

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Cannabis charges

THREE people who pleaded guilty to various cannabis related offences at Albany Magistrates Court last week cited medical issues as a factor in their offending.

Rosslyn Dawn Gowland, David Fredrick Maslen and Adam Fishwick all admitted to cultivating a prohibited plant and possessing a prohibited drug, in addition to other charges.

Ms Gowland and Mr Maslen, both in their 50s, were co-tenants at a property on Range Court Crescent in Bayonet Head when police executed a search warrant there on March 15.

Attending officers located three cannabis plants measuring at around 1.5 metres tall and various quantities of cannabis, cannabis seeds and cannabis products at the home.

Ms Gowland also pleaded guilty to possessing a brass pipe in which traces of cannabis oil were found, while Mr Maslen admitted to possessing cannabis butter and 1.7 kilograms of dry cannabis material.

His defence lawyer Graeme Payne said the material was in the form of dry plant stalks that “clearly couldn’t be used” or distributed into the community.

According to Mr Payne, both Ms Gowland and Mr Maslen used cannabis to manage the pain that arose from a number of medical issues.

He said Ms Gowland, a mother of two adult kids and grandmother to 11 grandchildren, suffered from arthritis and a painful ailment in her legs and also took anti-inflammatory medicine and anti-depressants.

Mr Maslen repeatedly rubbed his right knee during the court proceedings and was said to be in need of a full knee reconstruction, in addition to suffering from arthritis and “aches and pain”.

Magistrate Raelene Johnston fined Mr Maslen and Ms Gowland $1000 and $900 respectively on top of court costs.

“You need to find other ways to deal with your significant health issues,” she told Ms Gowland.

In a separate case, Mr Fishwick pleaded guilty to a list of offences that included cultivating and possessing a prohibited plant, possessing a prohibited drug and possessing drug paraphernalia.

The 59-year-old had been acting as a full-time carer for someone on his property for around 10 years when police searched the property at 2:50pm on April 11.

Prosecuting Sergeant Dave Loverock said the officers located two cannabis plants that were each around 40cm tall and 44 disturbed patches of dirt, as well as various sandwich bags filled with an overall large amount of cannabis.

Mr Payne said Mr Fishwick was born with only one kidney, regularly experiences both headache and migraines and suffers side-effects when he uses regular pharmaceuticals.

He said Mr Fishwick’s health issues had impacted on his employment prospects and relationships and that cannabis had been his only remedy.

According to Mr Payne, Mr Fishwick “doesn’t ever smoke the cannabis” and instead consumed it in the form of blended juices or with other oils, which he vaporised in a vaporiser.

“It is a large quantity … he has learned from the experience,” Mr Payne said.

Ms Johnston accepted that Mr Fishwick had “no nefarious purposes”.

“Obviously it’s very unfortunate you have these conditions but you are not permitted to possess cannabis,” she told him.

Mr Fishwick also pleaded guilty to possessing two laser pointers, which are considered a controlled weapon under Western Australian law, and failing to ensure safe-keeping of a firearm or ammunition.

A total of 47 .22 ammunition rounds were found unsecured and not held separate to a firearm, according to Sgt Loverock.

Mr Payne said his client used his .22 rifle for vermin control on his 215 acre property and that the laser pointers had been bought overseas for the “novelty patterns” that they made.

Mr Fishwick was sentenced with an eight month community based order and a $200 fine for each of three of the charges.

The Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 was amended by the Australian Government in February 2016.

According to the WA Department of Health, while the change allowed for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes under a national licensing scheme, they did not permit the personal or home cultivation of cannabis.

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Albany scores hockey nationals

HOCKEY players from across the nation will converge on Albany later next year when the town hosts the Australian Country Hockey Championships for the first time in its history.

The event will see the best players from regional areas of every state compete at multiple matches over an entire week and will coincide with the completed resurfacing of the Lower Great
Southern Hockey Association’s (LGSHA) hockey pitch.

LGSHA President Sam Brown said Albany was the perfect location for such a major tournament, especially with the new pitch.

“Albany is the biggest place down here for hockey,” he said.

“The fact we’re getting a new turf installed for next season, that’s probably one of the major reasons why we got to host the event. It will be of international standard and be great.

“In addition to the facility, I think it’s everything Albany has to offer in terms of a tourist destination … it’s the whole package.”

Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said the new turf would be jointly funded by the City and the Federal Government.

“Hockey in Albany attracts an incredible number of participants and some of our players, like Kathryn Slattery, have gone on to represent Australia,” he said.

“[The new turf] will provide a state-of-the-art facility for hockey in our region that will continue to support player development.”

The first Championships were held in 1982 as a men’s only competition.

Hockey Australia Country Convenor Michael Nelson said local players would benefit when Albany hosted next year’s round of the tournament.

“It is an exciting opportunity for the association to highlight our sport in the region,” he said.

“The Championships will provide locals with an opportunity to witness national hockey on their local turf and provide administrators and aspiring players a first-hand experience of such a standard.”

The Albany tournament will run next year from August 8 to 15.

This year’s Championships are set to take place in Shepparton, Victoria.

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