A tale of three cities

MAYOR Dennis Wellington and Albany’s 12 City councillors get paid more than their counterparts in the only other two cities in the State’s far south, but council supremo Andrew Sharpe says ratepayers are getting good value for money.

Figures provided by an eagle-eyed ratepayer, and corroborated by The Weekender, show Mr Wellington gets paid $135,910, the maximum allowable under the Local Government Act. Meanwhile, Busselton Mayor Grant Henley receives $120,709.50 and Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan $91,000.

Albany Deputy Mayor Greg Stocks receives the maximum allowable allowance for that position of $22,216, while his counterparts in Busselton and Bunbury get $19,834 and $15,250 respectively. On top of that, Cr Stocks gets paid the maximum meetings allowance of $31,364.
All other Albany councillors receive this allowance, while their counterparts in Busselton and Bunbury are respectively paid $29,613 and $25,000 each.

Each city is a ‘Band 1’ local authority for the purposes of remuneration. Populations are in the same ball-park, with Albany having 37,686 people, Busselton 38,300 and Bunbury 32,244.

At $760, Albany has the lowest weekly household mean income compared to Busselton’s $805 and Bunbury’s $789.

Asked why, given Albany’s lower mean income and the similarities in populations, the City’s elected officials are paid more than in Busselton and Bunbury, Mr Andrew Sharpe said “the salaries and allowances the City of Albany pays its elected members is within the limits prescribed by the Local Government Act for a Band 1 Local Government”.

“Albany’s mayor and elected members work very hard for their community,” he added.

The Weekender then asked Mr Sharpe if, for argument’s sake, it could be assumed the two other cities also observed legislated remuneration limits and had hard-working mayors and councillors, what then would be the reason for the higher pay in Albany.

A City spokesman said Mr Sharpe had nothing further to add.

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Quokka ’round the clock

TREKKING up Bluff Knoll for three hours in the dark in sub-zero temperatures last week was more than worthwhile for Plantagenet photographer Michael Dolphin and his dad Andy when they spotted an impossibly cute quokka sniffing around in the snow just before sunrise.

Mr Dolphin said the pair rose an hour after midnight last Thursday to have breakfast and get themselves organised before clambering into the car and making the 80km drive to the region’s highest ascent.

He said their efforts to keep warm with five layers of clothing were rendered unnecessary halfway up the hiking trail when their hefty backpacks and the mountain’s steep gradient got their temperatures rising to scorching levels.

“We were about halfway up when I stripped down to just my singlet and snow jacket,” he laughed.

“It felt like it was 50 degrees!

“My backpack was just deadweight, I took too much; I only ended up using my 600mm and 24mm lenses and I had three others with me.”

Mr Dolphin said the two men began to see snow approximately halfway up the hiking trail, and felt incredibly relieved that the snow prediction had been accurate.

“It’s the most snow we’ve seen up here,” he said.

“It was a bit thicker, more spread out and a lot lower down than last time.”

After spending 30 minutes admiring the snow and having a look around, Mr Dolphin spotted what he had been searching for at about 6.30am.

“I was pretty excited to see it,” he said of his quokka sighting.

“I was just ecstatic, but I had to wait for the sun to come up to take photos.”

Mr Dolphin and his dad passed the time by making a snowman and getting some signature Bluff Knoll landscape images before settling down on the ground for two hours from about 7am to capture the perfect snow quokka snap.

“There were about 15 people up there so we waited for them to clear out a bit, and then we were just slowly moving around to get the right angle,” he said.

“It was just luck I got the photo [of the quokka] with the icicle…it just came around the corner and was in the perfect spot.

“It made my day, no, my week, getting that quokka pic.

“It was just the cherry on top.”

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Port back in local hands

WESTERN Australia’s original port city has wrested significant control of its waterfront back, with a locally engaged general manager taking the helm for the first time since that position was canned in January last year.

The Weekender can reveal that 10-year veteran at the Port of Esperance Dale Lindkvist was on July 30 appointed interim general manager at the Port of Albany while recruitment is undertaken for the reinstated position.

Southern Ports interim CEO Alan Byers said the position was part of his organisation’s response to the Southern Ports Post-Amalgamation Review.

That review, completed in January, noted that the October 2014 amalgamation of the ports of Albany, Bunbury and Esperance under the Southern Ports banner had seen a “significant loss of connection” with Albany people.

“There is one [Bunbury-based] general manager for Albany and Bunbury ports, which in Albany contributes to the sense that there are no ‘local’ executives,” the review observed.

“A number of long-standing local initiatives in Albany, including publishing advertorials in the local paper and a regular radio segment with the CEO were discontinued.”

For six months from July 2016, when the incumbent port manager retired, to January 2017, the then-chief executive of Southern Ports acted in the Albany general manager position.

Since January 2017, there has been no general manager.

The appointment of Mr Lindkvist, who recently moved to Albany, is in line with a review recommendation that Southern Ports consider reinstating locally-based general managers at each port.

“Southern Ports operations in Albany, Bunbury and Esperance will [now] have a separate, locally-based general manager, all of whom will have a seat on the executive leadership team and will be empowered to make decisions to suit each individual port,” Mr Byers said.

“The creation of a General Manager – Albany role is an important strategic move to drive Southern Ports into the future.

“We are prepared to take the time required to find the right candidate and will not rush the appointment.”

On Monday, Mr Lindkvist gave The Weekender a tour of the port in his Ford Ranger, and said he was working to meet all Albany staff and would strive to reach out to the community.

“I think it’s of foremost importance that we get that transparency from the activities that we’re currently undertaking at the port, and rolling that through to the community,” he added.

In stark contrast to the might of his 4WD, Mr Lindkvist said he looked forward to his wife and two pups, Cavoodle Molly and Moodle Toby, moving from Esperance to Albany soon.

Also new to the port’s leadership team is Julie-Ann Gray who has lived in Albany since 2002 and was appointed to the Board of Directors on July 1.

Aside from the appointment of Ms Gray and Mr Lindkvist, Mr Byers said lots of work had been done to “rebuild” the “connection” with the people of Albany.

As examples, he nominated biannual meetings of the Board in Albany, recommencing a quarterly local newsletter, and helping to deliver the sea dragon mural on the CBH silos.

Southern Ports also recently donated old port timbers for a playground at Bremer Bay, and upgraded the area around Mass Rocks to support the upcoming 150th anniversary celebrations of Western Australia’s first Catholic mass there.

From 1826, Albany was the State’s only deep-water port until Fremantle’s inner harbour was built in 1897.

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Terrace attack charge

A 23-YEAR-OLD man has been remanded in custody charged with the first of two alleged attacks that fractured the skulls of two Albany men who had departed Studio 146 nightclub.

The men were both airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital, each having been allegedly punched in the head in seemingly unrelated attacks on Stirling Terrace.

Yesterday, Cody Nathan Lee Bennell, 23, appeared from the dock before Albany Magistrate Raelene Johnston.

Mr Bennell was not required to plea to one count of grievous bodily harm over an alleged attack in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Earlier from outside court, police alleged that at 3am on Saturday a 40-year-old man was struck to the face, fell and hit the back of his head on the road.

Police spokeswoman Alice Cockram said the 40-year-old was with a friend on Stirling Terrace when he became involved in a fight with a group of men.

“He was conveyed to Albany Hospital and later transferred to Royal Perth Hospital via Royal Flying Doctors Service for treatment for serious head injuries,” Sgt Cockram said.

Albany Police Acting Detective Senior Sgt Kris McDonald said the alleged attack occurred after the man exited Studio 146, having spent “time with family and friends and just celebrating some good times”.

“He is an Albany local and it is certainly a sad state of affairs when a gentleman is out with his family and friends to mark the occasion for his birthday and as a result he spends the rest of the weekend in RPH with a fracture to the skull,” he said.

Snr Sgt McDonald said the man did not know his alleged “attackers”.

Yesterday, as four of his associates looked on from the back of Courtroom 3, Mr Bennell made no bail application and was remanded in custody to again appear on August 9.

Magistrate Johnston anticipated a bail application might occur on that day.

In an eerily similar alleged attack police say is unlikely to be connected to the Saturday one, on Sunday at 3am another Albany man was punched in the face after leaving Studio 146.

The victim, 26, landed face-down on the pavement and received multiple head injuries.

Sgt Cockram said the victim was on Stirling Terrace when approached by a man unknown to him.

Snr Sgt McDonald said both men received fractured skulls from the “very serious” alleged assaults.

“[The Sunday morning victim] sustained significantly more serious injuries [than the 40-year-old], which include a fractured skull, fractured eye sockets and a fractured jaw,” he said.

He said the first alleged victim was likely to be discharged from hospital “soon”, while the second man was likely to stay in hospital some time longer.

Asked if the Sunday attacker had been affected by alcohol, Snr Sgt McDonald told The Weekender police were “exploring all options” and “maintaining an open mind with the investigation”.

“It’s an aspect of the investigation that we will cover off, yes,” he said.

Snr Sgt McDonald said police were also “keeping an open mind” on whether the Sunday attacker had earlier been in the night club.

Police have reviewed video footage from nearby CCTV cameras.

“We’re obviously going to increase our patrols through the licensed premises within the vicinity of Albany,” he said.

Late yesterday morning, Officer-in-charge of Albany Police Grant Pollard said nobody had been arrested for the Sunday morning attack.

Anyone with relevant information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Vandalism hits vulnerable

ALBANY’S most vulnerable families were dealt a blow this week when $500 worth of food was spoiled at the Salvation Army in an act of senseless vandalism.

The Albany corps of the charity organisation had its electrical meter box tampered with and mains power switched off sometime during the weekend.

Albany Corp Major Paul Beardsley said a volunteer was dropping off a donation on Monday night, when it was discovered the power was off and the fridge and freezer had thawed out.

“As a result, all of the bread, pies, pasties, sausage rolls and the like were spoiled and we had to throw it all away,” he said.

“It would have been around $500 worth of food which was enough to feed 100 people for two or three days.

“A jar of peanut butter and a few loaves of bread go a long way for a family that’s going hungry.”

He said the large freezer in their aid centre was usually full to the brim, but now lies completely empty.

“It’s demoralising to have this happen,” he said.

“Our staff and volunteers are trying to make a difference and support the Albany community. People have suffered because of this.”

It’s not all doom and gloom however, with the Lions Club of Albany offering to help restock until the large bread delivery that is expected for tomorrow evening.

“We got a call from Lions on Wednesday morning asking if they could help us fill the freezer from their own freezers,” he said.

“The Albany community is amazingly generous in times of need.”

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Alep steps down

KATANNING shire councillor Alep Mydie, who has gained national prominence building bridges of understanding across the Great Southern and beyond, has stepped
down after 15 unbroken years as a public official.

Mr Mydie, who handed in his resignation on July 10, said that on that day his wife was holidaying in Bunbury and he was sitting in his lounge room alone when it dawned upon him he’d achieved all he wanted to on the council.

“I texted my daughter and said: ‘Tell Mum I have resigned from the Shire Council’, and she texted me back and said: ‘Mum’s happy. Thank you very much!’” he told The Weekender.

“The situation at the moment is I cannot juggle my hours any more, I cannot budget the hours of my life because there’s so many workshops and meetings and seminars.

“Fifteen years of public service is a long time; you juggle along the way, as a husband, as a father, as a grandfather and as Imam of the mosque.”

Mr Mydie, who migrated from Christmas Island in 1974, said he was most proud of his efforts to “integrate” Muslim and non-Muslim peoples toward making Katanning a much more tolerant Shire.

“My father, two years before he died, told me you can’t change the world, you can’t change anything from outside the fence,” he said.

“You need to be inside the paddock, and I tried and it worked.”

Asked if he intended in some way to stay involved in politics, the mild-mannered Imam – who has occasionally critiqued statements by disciples of Pauline Hanson – quipped he was waiting for a call from One Nation.

“At the moment I will have a quiet moment to myself and concentrate on making the best beef rendang in Australia,” the 60-year-old West Coast Eagles fan added, more
seriously, from his cafe in Clive Street.

Mr Mydie said he could not have become, or stayed, a Shire councillor if relying on the votes of Muslim people alone.

“I’m very, very proud to live in Katanning and be part of the town, and what Katanning has given us is my main focus, not what I have given them.

“As John F. Kennedy said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but instead what you can do for your country’.

“And what the community here has given me is a chance, and I’m very grateful.”

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Tourist railway canned

KOJONUP’S tourist railway has ground to an indefinite halt because it does not meet the insurance demands of a Federal agency based in Adelaide.

In a briefing paper to Kojonup Shire councillors – some of whom have very hands-on roles with the railway – Shire regulatory services manager Mort Wignall this week
explained the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator had written to demand adequate public risk insurance be maintained to meet “reasonable potential accident liabilities”.

“Failure to address this matter within five days of the date of the letter (10 July 2018) would result in [the Adelaide-based regulator] requesting us to voluntarily suspend all rail operations until such time the situation is rectified,” Mr Wignall advised.

Yesterday, Shire CEO Rick Mitchell-Collins told The Weekender the railway had stopped operating.

“The railway will be closed until such time as we can ensure the railway committee becomes the accredited agency with the Authority,” he said.

Mr Mitchell-Collins said that might take anywhere between six and 10 months.

“Our hands are effectively tied,” he lamented ahead of the busy wildflower season.

“We’re dealing with the national regulator.

“We have got a tourist train that does 10kph, if that.”

Asked if he was confident Kojonup would get its train back on track, Mr Mitchell-Collins said: “We haven’t run out of steam yet”.

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Barnaby blows in for warm welcome

BARNABY Joyce’s dubbing opponents of live animal exports as “zealots” at a packed meeting of farmers in Katanning has been criticised by Animal Justice Party candidates in this weekend’s ‘Super Saturday’ by-elections in the Federal electorates of Perth and Fremantle.

On July 20, the one-time Federal agriculture minister told an estimated 1780 farming people that if calls to ban the export of live sheep succeeded, “zealots” would later target live cattle exports.

“They’re not gonna stop at the live sheep trade,” he said.

“Where will they go next? We all know where they’ll go next. Live cattle is where they’ll go next.”

Animal Justice Party candidate for Perth Nicole Arielli said she wanted to end live exports but her endeavours did not come from a place of zeal.

“We believe that in this day and age it is beyond belief to think we are still live exporting when we can look at other options here in Australia,” she told The Weekender.

“Calling us zealots is pretty arrogant, absurd.

“Obviously the Animal Justice Party is opposed to slaughter, but we’re more pragmatic than that.”

Ms Arielli said she wanted to work with farmers to “try and reach an agreeable point”.

“We do understand that, from the farmers’ point of view, it’s what they do, it is their livelihood,” she said.

“We’re not saying we want to stop live sheep exports right now.

“We want to stop them sending them in the peak of the heat, from April to October when they suffer the most, and look at working together on a transitional period.”

Also running for the Animal Justice Party – in the Division of Fremantle from where most of Australia’s live-shipped sheep are loaded – is Katrina Love, who says she hopes to pick up between four and eight per cent of available votes.

Ms Love said she’d take Mr Joyce’s “zealots” call with a grain of salt.

“I’m astounded that he got the accolades, applause and recognition that he did given he was the Minister at the time when the [Federal] Department of Agriculture was allowing all these regulation breaches to go unanswered,” she said.

“I think, essentially, Barnaby Joyce is to be held responsible for the way the industry has gone and the situation the sheep producers in WA find themselves in.”

President of WAFarmers’ Livestock Council David Slade said Mr Joyce’s presence was a show of support from a politician in the Federal sphere.

“There were 1780 people in Katanning, so it’s a massive statement, and shows just how concerned farmers are about the live exports issue,” said Mr Slade, who farms sheep in Mount Barker.

“It’s the biggest gathering of Western Australian farmers in 30 or 40 years.”

He said he would not go as far as calling opponents of live exports zealots.

“But their approach is an over-reaction to the situation,” he said.

“You don’t ban the ownership of dogs because you see two dogs fighting.

“You don’t ban the ownership of cats because someone has 50 cats inside a house.”

“If we do lose live export, we’re going to decimate the industry, particularly in WA.”

Mr Slade agreed with Mr Joyce that, if enacted, a live export ban would not stop at sheep but later extend to cattle.

While Mr Joyce was cheered several times during his address at the Katanning forum, State Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan was jeered in equal measures after telling assembled sheep farmers they needed a “Plan B” including exporting more chilled meat.

This weekend’s Super Saturday by elections, caused by resignations following the Federal MP citizenship fiasco, will occur in Perth, Fremantle and three other electorates interstate.

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The Goode, the bad and the ugly

ALL was quiet in the leafy enclave of Goode Beach on Tuesday night as 50 locals tripped into town to protest a luxury resort that Albany City councillors were later to endorse for State approval.

At an animated council meeting, 10 of 57 people in the gallery rose to slam a plan for 51 units, cafe, swimming pool and function centre between the squeaky white sand of the beach and the snake-infested banks of Lake Vancouver.

Goode Beach resident Roland Paver was rebuked by Mayor Dennis Wellington after saying a report on which elected officials were set to base their vote reflected “a level of bias that is unacceptable in quasi-judicial proceedings”.

“Mr Paver, Mr Paver, Mr Paver!” Mr Wellington interjected.

“You have two choices right now – to temper your words in a polite and reasonable manner … or I will shut you down.”

Asked by Mr Paver what words the mayor disliked, Mr Wellington nominated the charge of bias, which he said was “manifestly incorrect”.

“You are very sensitive about it,” Mr Paver retorted before continuing.

He said the report by City planners argued a coastal study prepared by the resort’s proponent had been accepted by the State planning department.

“This is a thoroughly misleading statement because it may encourage Councillors to believe the Department of Planning has approved proposals in the structure plan that the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has criticised and described as negligent,” he explained.

“Councillors need to be disabused.

“The Department of Planning has approved nothing.”

Mr Paver was referring to a striking submission by the State that asserted: ‘For the proponents … to dismiss State policies and instead state that they will plan and manage for a 50-year sea level rise is negligent to future owners and investors … as well as local and State Government authorities that may be expected to protect the infrastructure from erosion”.

The submission was later remarked upon by Cr Anthony Moir who moved, contrary to a recommendation put by the City’s planners, that the project not be supported.

Cr Moir’s motion was defeated 10 councillors to three, with only he and Vancouver Ward councillors John Shanhun and Tracy Sleeman in support.

Ultimately, the same three councillors were defeated when they voted to oppose and 10 of their colleagues supported the plan.

At the start of the meeting, project proponent, paediatrician Cherry Martin, spoke in support of her resort.

Dr Martin said she had been a tourism operator in Denmark for the past 22 years, and the Goode Beach development would create jobs long after construction finished.

She reprimanded “small minority groups” she said had misled with incorrect assertions, and the changing nature of their objections.

She said this would discourage investment in Albany, and that a 10-chalet project already endorsed for the site would have a “much larger” footprint than the one now she now proposed.

Her plans will now be considered by the Western Australian Planning Commission. If approved, the project may advance to detailed assessment by a State convened panel, meaning any resort could still be years away.

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ACCI fosters stability

THE Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry hopes the appointment of interim CEO Graham Foster will bring a period of stability after the turbulence surrounding its recent decision to part ways with former CEO Mark Forrest after just six weeks in the role.

Mr Foster was CEO with the City of Albany for three years before he left the post late in 2015 and is expected to fill the position at the Chamber for four to six months.

ACCI President Caroline Hayes said Mr Foster would be charged with finding a permanent replacement for the CEO role and to continue some of the projects that were underway at the Chamber.

She said the board shortlisted a group of local candidates for the interim position and then made an approach to Mr Foster.

“The board is excited and we welcome Graham’s input,” she said.

“With his expertise and history, the board looks forward to working closely with him.”

Mr Foster will take the helm on Monday, relieving Ms Hayes of the position she has filled since the departure of former CEO Russ Clark, except for the six weeks of Mr Forrest’s brief tenure.

Mr Foster said he hoped to bring a “bit of consolidation” to the Chamber and was confident of finding a permanent CEO.

“I won’t be riding in there on a white horse and shooting from the hip,” he quipped.

“Hopefully I can be the catalyst to settle things down and bring things back to basics.”

Mr Foster was optimistic the CEO role would be filled locally, but said the Chamber may have to look further afield.

“There’s certainly people in Albany who could undertake the role,” he said.

“If we can convince them that taking the role is a good move professionally, then that will be good for the Chamber.

“That’s not to say we won’t cast the net a bit further.”

Ms Hayes declined to comment specifically on the decision to part ways with Mr Forrest citing legal reasons, but said she was satisfied with the lengthy recruitment process that was undertaken prior to his appointment.

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