Ballarat mayor’s plan to drain Civic Hall funds

BALLARAT’S mayor is holding secret meetings in a bid to siphon millions of dollars promised to redevelop the Civic Hall site into other projects.


A senior council insider has revealed mayor John Philips outlined plans to extract a significant portion of the $8 million allocated in the council’s budget to repair the derelict hall.

It is believed Cr Philips is seeking the support of his fellow councillors to drain up to $5 million to pump into other projects he considers more important.

The Courier understands a meeting was held between councillors and the mayor at the Town Hall on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the proposal.

In a document seen by The Courier, Cr Philips put forward his own alternative budget, which outlined that millions of dollars should be used for other projects including repairing rural roads, revamping the Sebastopol Library, the Black Hill lookout, Ballarat Botanical Gardens’ ferneries and improving lighting at Lake Wendouree.

Save Civic Hall vie-president Paul Gordon-Smith is disturbed by the revelation.

The alternative budget also outlined that no funding would be allocated to other areas, including the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

The source said Cr Philips told councillors during the meeting there were “no concrete plans in place” to do anything with funding allocated, so it would be more beneficial to the community to pump the money into other projects that were “ready to go”.

The insider said councillors were divided on the concept, with some vehemently opposed to the idea and others calling for a smaller portion of Civic Hall funding to be used for projects that were in urgent need.

The source said other councillors said the public had voted them in, under the precedent that after decades of inaction a resolution would finally be found for the Civic Hall site.

Cr Philips told The Courier he would not comment on information discussed in a “confidential meeting” held between councillors.

He said that when a council budget was in the process of being created, all avenues were “always explored”.

On Thursday, the City of Ballarat unveiled a $4.5m Priority Project Fund, on which it said it wanted to seek community feedback.

The project fund was strikingly similar to the alternative budget put forward by Cr Philips, with the exception of $100,000 being allocated to the art gallery.

It also earmarked $250,000 to reopen the Black Hill lookout.

When The Courier asked the City of Ballarat where the

$4.5 million for the project fund would be taken from, it released a statement which said the money was set aside in the council’s “overall 2015-16 budget”.

The Courier sought further comment but repeated calls to the council were not returned before deadline.

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SAVE Civic Hall campaigners have condemned an idea put forward by Ballarat’s mayor which would see money drained from a multimillion-dollar fund dedicated to the hall and pumped into other projects.

Their concerns come in the wake of a revelation from a senior council insider that Ballarat mayor John Philips has outlined plans to extract a significant portion of the $8 million allocated in the council’s budget to repair the derelict hall.

The Courier understands Cr Philips was seeking the support of his fellow councillors to funnel up to $5 million into other projects he considered more important.

Save Civic Hall group member and vice-president of the Ballarat Ratepayers Association Paul Gordon-Smith said he was “disturbed” by the claims.

“The whole idea of the participatory design process was to look at a formula that could be used in the future,” Mr Gordon-Smith said.

“The mayor knows there is community support for the continual usage of the hall and we expect that money will be available from November to go towards whatever is determined for the future of the site.”

Mr Gordon-Smith said many residents had “completely lost faith” in the transparency of the council’s leadership.

His sentiment was echoed by Save Civic Hall campaigner and president of the Ballarat Ratepayers Association Jonathan Halls.

Mr Halls said the idea of removing millions from the funding already allocated to the site was “deeply concerning”, particularly because Cr Philips was in partnership with the Civic Hall group steering committee overseeing the current community design process.

“I’m very disappointed that if he has had these thoughts, he hasn’t seen it fit to share with the group,” Mr Halls said. “It suggests he is not fully committed to an outcome for the Civic Hall which would require the use of that money allocated in the near future.”

The revelation comes as public consultation continues at the Civic Hall site as part of a$2 million Participatory Community Design Process.

The City of Ballarat initially proposed that the $8 million allocated to the hall would be used to bring to life the design most favoured by the public after the consultation was complete.

The latest round of consultation is seeking community feedback on adaptive re-uses of the site, with the public assisting in designing the future of the site.

But the source revealed that if money was extracted from the Civic Hall funding, any plans canvassed for the site could become redundant.

Mr Halls said he would discuss the issue with the other members of the steering committee at a meeting in the coming days.

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Second Queensland banana farm tests positive to tropical disease

“Our focus remains on controlling and containing the disease while we determine the extent of the outbreak.” Photo: Andrew QuiltyA second Far North Queensland banana farm has tested positive for Panama Disease Tropical Race 4, a disease that wiped out the Northern Territory’s banana industry in the 1990s.

Biosecurity Queensland has received a positive test for the disease at a farm near Mareeba, inland of Cairns, as the destruction of trees at the first farm, further south near Tully, comes to an end.

The highly infectious disease, which attacks banana trees but not the fruit, could have a devastating impact on Queensland’s $600 million industry if not contained.

Biosecurity Queensland has moved quickly to quarantine the Mareeba property.

Chief Biosecurity Officer Jim Thompson said it would remain under quarantine while surveillance was undertaken and further samples taken to confirm the extent of the disease.

“The entire farm will be surveyed and any infected plants that are detected will be destroyed,” Dr Thompson said.

“We will also be undertaking investigations to identify how this property may have become infected, including if there are any links between this property and the first infected property in the Tully Valley.

“Tropical Race 4 remains a real threat to the state’s banana industry with the potential to impact all plant varieties including Cavendish.”

He said the disease was originally identified in the Northern Territory in 1997.

Its first detection in Queensland came at the Tully property on March 3.

“While this latest development is understandably disappointing, it is an outcome which we have been preparing for,” Dr Thompson said.

“Our focus remains on controlling and containing the disease while we determine the extent of the outbreak.

“Over the past five weeks we have progressively ramped up our surveillance, tracing, sampling and testing efforts with more than 70 people now working on the response.”

A Panama disease Taskforce has also been established to help support North Queensland farmers in working through the economic and social impacts of this disease.”

Australian Banana Growers’ Council chief executive Jim Pekin said council was working closely with Biosecurity Queensland to safeguard one of Queensland’s major agricultural industries.

“This second detection is in a separate North Queensland banana growing area and further emphasises the need for all banana growers to remain vigilant and to continue to check for signs of unhealthy plants,” Mr Pekin said.

“It also highlights the need for strong on-farm biosecurity measures.”

Destruction of 60,000 diseased banana plants on the Tully Farm started at the end of March and is reaching its concluding stages.

Dr Thompson said the plants were injected with chemicals to reduce the risk of disease spread.

“We will continue to monitor the farm and surrounding area for any further signs of the disease in the weeks and months ahead.”

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‘Devastated’: communities mourning murdered bride-to-be Stephanie Scott

CANOWINDRA’S Stephanie Scott was supposed to be walking down the aisle on Saturday.

But two days out from the happiest day of her life, a 24-year-old Leeton man has been charged with her murder.

His arrest followed a massive social media campaign to find the high school teacher after she failed to come home on Easter Sunday.

Helping to spread the word was Leeton’s Michelle Tweedale, who said her family was devastated by the news of her murder.

She said it was difficult to watch people speculate on social media about the reasons behind her disappearance.

Absolutely gutted and heartbroken for the Scott and Woolley families from Canowindra. Been a very rough year for my little home town. RIP

— Michael Earsman (@mickearsman) April 8, 2015A Go Fund Me page has been set up to assist the family in their search for Ms Scott and to bring her body home when it’s found.

The page, created by Mr Leeson-Woolley’s mate and co-worker Brad McKinnon, is hoping to raise $5000.

“The fund will help with the search, the helicopter expenses and any various support needed for the family,” Mr McKinnon said

“We have a set a target for $5000 but any donation would be great.”

To help Ms Scott’s family, click here.

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Candelo-Bemboka anniversary match previews

A Candelo-Bemboka Panther puts on an inspired run during the Nines Tournament. The Panthers will play host to a special anniversary round at Candelo on Saturday.

First Grade4pm

The ladder leading Merimbula-Pambula Bulldogs will look to continue keep their unbeaten run when they take on the Batemans Bay Tigers in the first Group 16 fixture at the Candelo Sportsground in 32 years.

The young Bulldogs outfit have been ultra impressive in convincing wins over Eden and last year’s Premiers Bega. They will look to more strong performances from big-boppers Trent Skeers and Vic Halfpenny, whilst crafty hooker James McMillan has been creating havoc from dummy half.

Since taking out the recent Group 16 Nines, the Tigers are one from two, after a roadtrip loss to Cooma and then a good win over last year’s Group 16 Grand Finalists Narooma. Captain coach Matt Cross made a return off the bench last week with immediate impact, whilst fullback Mick Tadich has been showing flair in attack.

Should be a great match, with the clash between the Bay’s big experienced pack up against the younger, more mobile Bulldogs forwards going a long way to deciding the outcome.

Reserve Grade2.30pm

This game will recreate the 1965 Group 16 First Grade Grand Final, where Candelo defeated Bemboka 17-9. CBU will wear the green and gold jumpers of Candelo, whilst the Bay will don the black and white butcher’s stripe of Bemboka.

Last year’s Group 16 Reserve Grade Premiers CBU have made a slow start to the season, with big losses against strong Eden and Bega outfits. CBU will be without hard-working captain-coach Jake McDonald who is out injured. However with the return of a few more players from last year’s team, including backs Ben O’Reilly and Brock Ringland, as well as damaging prop Tas Neil, they will be a much tougher proposition.

The Bay are also anchored to the bottom of the Group 16 Reserve Grade ladder, with narrow losses against the Stallions and Narooma, but also have a few players returning and have named a virtual full-strength line up to go up against the Panthers. Look to big Tigers prop Marcus Neal to once again lead the way, whilst the Panthers backs really need to click this week if they are to get their first win of the season.

Ladies Tag1.30pm

Both the CBU Pink Panthers and Merimbula-Pambula Hot Doggies will be looking to register their first win of the season, in what should be an entertaining clash with plenty of ball movement.

The Hot Doggies were pipped on the bell against Eden, but suffered a heavy loss against the strong Bega Chicks which they will look to bounce back from. Watch for speedy backs Lauren Kidd and Stephanie Wallace to rack up four-pointers, whilst Kayla Jordan has been tireless this year in defence.

The Pink Panthers have yet to register any points this season so far, but after some strong training sessions this week, and the return of several players including Sam Moon and Michelle Dixon, they are confident of an improved showing. Coach Pat Coman has been greatly impressed with how the girls have developed, with many in their first season of Tag, and points to improved handling and more cohesion in defence as keytomorrow.

A huge crowd is expectedtomorrow, with the Candelo club reunion at the Candelo Hall from11 am, gates will then open at 12.30 with kick-off of the Ladies Tag match at1.30pm. There will be plenty of parking available at either end of the ground, with entry $7 for adults, $5 for pensioners and U/16’s free. Full bar, BBQ and canteen facilities will be available, and CBU merchandise will also be available for purchase.

After the game all are invited to the heritage jumper auction at the Candelo Hotel, where both sets will be auctioned off from6.30pm.

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Shocking domestic violence stats revealed at public meeting

LOCAL police attend 900 domestic violence calls a year within the Great Lakes area – an average of more than two a day.

Related:Forster a domestic violence hotspot but no funding…click here

Speaking at a forum on the issue this morning, acting Manning Great Lakes Local Area Command superintendent, detective inspector Peter McKenna, said domestic violence was rated as the number one problem within the command.

“It is talked about every morning, at every briefing. We are constantly reviewing all actions on it,” he said.

Speaking at a forum on the issue this morning, acting Manning Great Lakes Local Area Command superintendent, detective inspector Peter McKenna, said domestic violence was rated as the number one problem within the command.

“We know, if we don’t do our job right, people get killed. If we don’t put in the right resources, the outcome can be catastrophic.”

Detective Inspector McKenna told a group of 120 people gathered at Club Forster that the last four homicides in the Great Lakes were domestic violence related. That is one of the reasons why the police have thrown their support behind a move to have a domestic violence shelter built in the Great Lakes.

Currently, the closest shelter for people fleeing from violence is in Taree. It is often full.

The meeting heard from Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) CEO Annabelle Daniel about the possibilities of creating a shelter locally. The crowd was told it would require a huge amount of local support, as well as fundraising efforts to see it succeed.

Ms Daniel said, judging by the enthusiasm of those in attendance, it could be achieved. She told a cheering crowd she would like to see a centre operational by the end of this year.

Detective Inspector McKenna said the lack of a local shelter for people, primarily women, who were the victims of abuse, meant many stayed with the perpetrator.

“Without a refuge, a place in Forster, it is extraordinarily difficult to break the cycle,” he said.

Well over 100 people attended the forum this morning (April 9) at Club Forster.

“Victims need respite, to get away, to tap into the other services that are available.”

Going to Taree for shelter poses too many problems for many victims, the Forster Neighbourhood Centre’s Trish Wallace said, when there were children enrolled in school, employment and others factors to consider.

The emergency accommodation currently on offer was also problematic, with some based at hotels that offered limited cooking or laundry facilities for families.

Ms Wallace said she was very pleased with the roll-up to the event. There were no seats to be had as people listened to presentations from the police, WCS and the Neighbourhood Centre.

See next week’s Great Lakes Advocate for more.

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Loss inspires Colbinabbin

FRESH START: Colbinabbin’s Jessica Geary.LAST season’s grand final loss to North Bendigo is one of the factors spurring on Colbinabbin in 2015.

The Grasshoppers’ A-grade side are now ready to make amends after falling agonisingly short in the Heathcote and District Netball Association decider.

“Last year’s grand final loss is always in the back of our minds,” new coach Louise Dupuy said.

“It will be motivation for us, but 2015 is a new year and we have a fresh start.”

Colbinabbin will play against White Hills in its opening match and Dupuy is expecting a hard-fought tussle.

“The first round is always difficult, you don’t know what other teams have got up there sleeve,” she said.

“White Hills will be tough, they have an experienced team, so we can never underestimate them.”

“It is important to start the season off positively.

“Hopefully it can spur us on for the rest of the season and give us some confidence heading into round two when we play North Bendigo.”

Former Golden Square player Carly Geary as well as new recruits Kate Chirnside and Jane Kasby are expected to line-up for Colbinabbin in the round one match at MJ Morgan Reserve.

In other games Huntly play against Heathcote, Lockington Bamawm United host North Bendigo and Leitchville will play Mount Pleasant.

Elmore has the bye.

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Dallas Buyers Club wants to shut down Aussie pirates’ internet connections

The Hollywood studio chasing Australian pirates has suggested punishing infringers by shutting down their internet connections. Asking for trouble: Pirates are downloading top-grossing film Furious 7 in the millions.

Web pirates might pay just $20 per movieWitch hunt could send Aussie pirates undergroundDallas Buyers Club slays iiNet in court

The US company behind the Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club has indicated it could push to have the internet connections of Australian alleged pirates shut down.

Voltage Studios vice-president of royalties Michael Wickstrom told ABC Radio on Wednesday night that the company would not always seek financial compensation when pursuing alleged copyright infringers.

“What has to be done is a public notice, a notice to stop any infringement, and if it continues there will be action — like their ISP connection will be shut down,” Mr Wickstrom told Triple J’s Hack program.

“It’s not always going to be a financial settlement,” he said.

Voltage Studios subsidiary Dallas Buyers Club LLC won a landmark federal court case on Tuesday against several Australian internet service providers including iiNet, giving it the right to obtain the names and addresses of nearly 5000 Australians it identified as having downloaded the film without authorisation using the torrenting software BitTorrent.

Separately, Australian ISPs submitted a finalised industry code to the federal government on Wednesday, in which they agreed to a “three strikes rule” which would see them issue alleged pirates three written warnings before rights holders could apply to obtain the customers’ identities and contact details through the courts.

Neither Tuesday’s court verdict nor the telecommunications industry code mentioned shutting off customers’ internet connections, or slowing them down, as potential punitive measures for copyright infringement.

Other industry stakeholders have previously rejected disconnecting alleged pirates from the internet, including the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association, representing the $1 billion Australian film and TV home entertainment industry, and Music Rights Australia.

Both bodies have also rejected fining individuals in response to copyright infringement, but have expressed some support for slowing down offenders’ internet speeds and a graduated response scheme such as the one outlined in Wednesday’s industry code.

Mr Wickstrom’s comments reinforce those made to Fairfax Media on Wednesday by the company’s legal representative in Australia, Marque Lawyers’ Michael Bradley. Mr Bradley said the studio would be unlikely to issue so-called “speculative invoices” to Australian pirates demanding thousands of dollars in compensation to avoid being sued, as it has done in the US.

“We are working with our Australian attorneys to come up with an Australian solution for an Australian problem,” Mr Wickstrom said.

“What works in the US may not work in Australia, but we’re developing a system that will become a deterrent.”

He said cases in the US where Dallas Buyers Club LLC had invoiced pirates for thousands of dollars had involved individuals with “a network of hundreds of films”, who were intentionally distributing them without authorisation.

“I don’t feel the penalty should be so aggressive with the first-time offender who has downloaded one film,” Mr Wickstrom said.

However, he defended the studio’s aggressive stance on copyright infringement, saying it was “the first filmmaker to say enough is enough” because unlike larger studios it didn’t have “theme parks or cable shows” to offset losses from unauthorised downloading.

Shelston IP Lawyers partner Mark Vincent said there was little evidence to show pursuing individual pirates actually reduced instances of piracy.

“If you look at all of the data available from jurisdictions around the world, when they bring in rights holders to sue infringers it’s very difficult to show any impact at all on rates of BitTorrent use and downloading,” Mr Vincent said.

Giving consumers easier, more affordable and timely access to content through platforms such as Netflix or Spotify had a more profound impact, he said.

“One in a million brought before a tribunal is not going to cause seismic shifts in the popularity of piracy,” Mr Vincent said, adding that backlash from readers commenting on Australian news sites in recent days indicated quite the opposite, with “a lot of people quite prepared to say ‘I resent being called a pirate'”.

“There seems to be much more of a willingness to criticise the rights holders than to back them,” Mr Vincent said.

Data from copyright intelligence firm Excipio show pirated versions of the box-office smashing film Furious 7 were downloaded 2.59 million times worldwide in less than a week since its cinema release, despite these being poor quality recordings made with handheld devices in cinemas, Variety reports.

The data shows some 352,000 of these unauthorised downloads occurred in the US and UK, despite studios issuing customers with hefty penalties in these countries.

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World Heritage-listed Coral Bay to increase visitor population

Coral Bay, known for its picture-perfect snorkelling conditions, is set to see a significant visitor population boost.The WA Government says plans to significantly increase visitor numbers to the World Heritage-listed town of Coral Bay won’t have a negative environmental impact.

The state government has approved plans to increase Coral Bay’s visitor population by up to 800 people, or almost 20 per cent.

Planning Minister John Day said the Coral Bay Settlement Structure Plan 2014 provided a 25-year planning framework for future development and expansion of tourism within Coral Bay.

A spokeswoman for Mr Day said increasing the population cap from 4,500 to 5,300 people would be environmentally sustainable.

“The increase is in line with what the environment can handle,” she said.

“Everything can be managed. We’re looking after the environment over normalisation.

“Extensive modelling has been undertaken by the CSIRO.”

Mr Day said the increase of the population cap would allow a new camping ground and caravan park on Banksia Drive and strata-titled short stay accommodation on Lot 308.

“Permanent residential development will not be allowed, however the workers’ accommodation precinct on Lot 308 will remain for people who need to reside in Coral Bay as a result of their business or employment,” he said.

Shire of Carnarvon president Karl Brandenburg welcomed the plan.

“The Shire and the community of Coral Bay have worked tirelessly to ensure that Coral Bay remains the premier tourist area on the Ningaloo coast,” he said.

“I’m very happy because Coral Bay is a tourist node.

“It’s an environmentally sensitive area.”

Mr Brandenburg also said the planning involved consideration of environmental issues.  Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Tough Sydney Cup a test for Big Memory

Tough ask: Big Memory’s trainer Tony McEvoy. Photo: Supplied

Tough ask: Big Memory’s trainer Tony McEvoy. Photo: Supplied

Tough ask: Big Memory’s trainer Tony McEvoy. Photo: Supplied

Tough ask: Big Memory’s trainer Tony McEvoy. Photo: Supplied

Tony McEvoy thinks Big Memory is “a group 1 horse” but doubts him in his goal for the autumn, the Sydney Cup at Randwick on Saturday.

“This is the race we have targeted but I don’t think I have seen a tougher Sydney Cup,” McEvoy said. “You have the Melbourne Cup winner [Protectionist] and the third placegetter [Who Shot Thebarman] and then there is a horse like Hartnell, which won the BMW and has got in very well at the weights. He looks a star. It makes it tough for my bloke, even though he is a very good stayer.”

Big Memory was part of a group of French imports McEvoy bought to Australia looking a top-class stayer and in the spring he showed he was up there with the best in this country.

He won the Herbert Power Handicap, was runner-up in the Lexus Stakes and third in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, won by stablemate Le Roi, another of the foreign team.

“That was a good preparation and I thought he would come back a bit stronger, which he has,” McEvoy said. “The program we mapped out was to get to this race, thinking he would be well in at the weights, and it would give us a good guide for the rest of the year. I have been very happy with the preparation and he gets here at his peak but it is like a Melbourne Cup field.”

Big Memory has had a four-run campaign in Victoria with the only disappointment his effort in the Australian Cup where he got back, against his usual pattern, and could not make up ground.

He went to the Mornington Cup last time to try and get the exemption from the ballot for the Caulfield Cup, which comes with winning it. He went back to racing on the speed but got stuck three-wide outside the leader and was gunned down by Banca Mo in the final 100 metres when his tough run told.

McEvoy said the Sydney Cup would define where his career goes in the future.

“He is a group 1 horse, I’m sure of that. He is getting to test himself against the best stayers in the land on Saturday,” McEvoy said. “I have a couple of question marks on him at the two miles and at the class but he could be better. This will decide whether he is a Caulfield Cup or Melbourne Cup horse for the spring.”

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MX Nationals Junior Cup qualifier

Highlander Michael Driscoll is all smiles after finishing second in the opening round of the MX Nationals Junior Cup. Photo supplied

HIGHLANDER Michael Driscoll recently competed in the opening round of the MX Nationals Junior Cup.

The cup was held as part of the Australian MX National Championships.

Driscoll competed on his Yamaha YZ205F at the event in Horsham, Victoria.

He qualified in fifth place after having a tough trot in practise.

Driscoll had an ordinary start to the race, getting shut out in the first corner which took him back to sixth or eighth place.

However, he fought his way through to second on a track which Driscoll described as one of the toughest he had seen in racing.

“I am so happy to come away with a second overall and to get through the moto (event) in one piece,” Driscoll said.

“I had a bad qualifying and practise as it did not go to plan at all in most spots, but to qualify fifth was a great way to start the day.”

Driscoll said he was happy to secure a second place finish.

“I put in a little charge to give myself a little gap and settled in to second as I knew I was not going to catch first,” he said.

“I was so happy to come away with this result in the first round, not only for myself but for my sponsors, family and people around me.

“I have learnt a lot from this race and will go back to the training track to work on what I need to do for round two at Appin Motorcycle Complex in two weeks time.”

Driscoll thanked his sponsors for the ongoing support.

“I would like to thank Power Sports Central Yamaha Racing, Yamaha Australia, GYTR Australia, The Realty Group Macarthur, BIKTEK, Pirelli Tyres Australia, i Pone Oils, Vortex Ignitions, Funnel Webb Filters, Tee N Cee Graphics, my family and all of the good people around me,” he said.

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