Ursula Tunks - Fighting For Our Future
Candidate for the Clarence Valley Council elections 8th September 2012
PCYC & Youth Services
Lack of accessible and affordable Youth Services in the Clarence Valley
Continuing to work towards securing a PCYC for the Clarence Valley and continuing to advocate for the establishment of a holistic Valley wide Youth Service. My advocacy will centre on these services being accessible to all young people in the Clarence Valley through a single referral point and I will continue to advocate for the long term needs of the Youth of the Valley regardless of whether I’m elected to Council or not.
Increase in Pensioner Rebate on Council Rates
Clarence Valley Pensioners have not had an increase in their pensioner rebate for almost five years, despite the extensive increase in the cost of living for those on fixed incomes.
Providing a minimum increase of $20 per annum to the Pensioner Rebate on Land Rates, with a possible increase of $50 depending on the outcome of the following costs savings proposal;
ü This rebate will be achieved through cutting the postage, stationery and administration costs of the current Council billing system. By incorporating the Land & Water Rates into one billing system, an immediate savings of approximately $60,000 p.a. on postage alone is achieved (a figure based on the number of rateable properties in the CVC region as detailed in the CVC’s latest on-line reports). Further calculations based on savings from administration and stationery costs will enable a definitive figure for the rebate increase.
ü After the initial rebate increase as detailed above ensure that the Rebate is increased annually at a minimum rate equivalent to that of the CPI.
Protecting the Clarence River
Organisations and entities outside the Clarence Valley seeking to divert the waters of the Clarence River inland.Solution:
Development of a strong Clarence River management plan with a focuses on its’ protection and the benefit it provides our Community.
Community Mental Health including Drug & Alcohol Counsellors
Our current Mental Health Facilities & Services falling far short of meeting the community need for those services.
ü Continue the work established by Councillor Hughes and her lower river committee in relation to advocacy for Mental Health Services for the whole of Clarence Valley.
ü Continue to lobby all relevant stakeholders and State & Federal Departments for the establishment of an overnight Mental Health facility based in the Clarence Valley.
ü Use the recent suicide statistics released by the ABS which strongly indicate that the Clarence Valley presents a significant anomaly in terms of NSW suicide rates, which are reported by the ABS as being 8.6 suicides per 100,000 population over a five year period. The major town centre of Grafton has had 8 suicides with a population of 20,000 in a one year period. I’m confident that with a detailed analysis of the whole of Clarence Valley Suicide rates and other related Mental Health statistics we can present an extremely strong case for immediate urgent action on the overnight facility and other desperately needed mental health services.
The immediate creation of a working party to establish a Major Transport Hub in the Clarence Region
Urgently needed Regional Economic Development Strategies to ensure a viable future for the Clarence Valley.
At a recent meeting Chris Gulaptis informed me that the rumour that Casino had secured the ‘Major Transport Hub’ for the region was in fact false. However, it would seem that the rumour is being perpetuated by the Casino-ites themselves as part of their lobbying to get the hub.
The reality is that the Clarence Valley is actually the ideal location for a ‘Major Transport Hub’. This ideal is based upon the following factors:
ü It presents the only B Double Access to the West between Brisbane and Newcastle via the Gwydir Highway.
ü It offers the combination of Rail, Air & Road access with South Pacific Port access from the Goodwood Island Port and the possibility of increased Port capacity in the future, pending a viable solution to a number of environmental and cultural challenges posed by the current port site. There is a possibility of pursuing alternate Port locations along the Clarence Coast.
ü Both the South Grafton Rail location and the Grafton Airport location offer ample opportunities for co-location of a ‘Logistics Terminal’. Previously the old Grafton Rail Yards were proposed to be redeveloped for logistic purposes however the increased heavy vehicle traffic in the area meant the proposal was unsuccessful. However the area in the vicinity of the former Disco Marine site in South Grafton offers an ideal staging point for a logistics distribution centre and is immediately accessible to the existing heavy vehicle corridor. A further option for a Logistics Terminal site is the ‘old rail siding’ near the turn off to the back road to Coffs Harbour.
ü Our Airport location offers an excellent opportunity in that it is already underutilised and would therefore not present with competing challenges for its’ use. The unrealised potential includes the vacant land surrounding its location and its’ proximity to the intended Pacific Highway by-pass of the Grafton area. Utilising the Airport region as a major staging point in the overall Transport Hub Infrastructure offers a huge opportunity to the Region.
ü Supporting the second bridge crossing at Grafton (see policy below) will also enhance our Regional Capacity as a Transport Hub. The actually number of bridge crossings by heavy vehicles is well within the ‘normal’ range for a single bridge crossing, based on the statistics of approximately 800 heavy
vehicle movements per day, this equates too one heavy vehicle crossing just under every two minutes well below what is normally considered high level traffic. However the physical nature of our current bridge amplifies the impact of those crossings. For example the narrow nature of the current bridge slows the traffic; the bends at either end of the bridge make safe negotiation of the bridge within the confines of the marked lanes impossible for larger heavy vehicles such as B-Doubles, which at the moment cannot achieve maximum cost and productivity efficiency for the local businesses they service due to the travel restrictions between 7am-9am and 3pm to 6pm every weekday. Achieving a second bridge crossing of the Clarence in the proximity of the township of Grafton will support the capacity of the proposed transport hub as well as providing other benefits to the area. (See policy statement below).
ü The increase in on-line shopping which has had a massive detrimental effect on our local retail economy also presents a huge opportunity for our economy from the transport and distribution position. By including a number of the major on-line retailers in the working group, Harvey Norman, Kogan etc. etc. and major stakeholders such as Australia Post, Australian Air Express and TNT there’s an excellent likelihood of realising immediate benefits from this proposal than some other economic development options whose required lead time is much greater. Ensuring that all existing Clarence Valley based Transport & Distribution businesses are involved in the Working Group, and including the major manufacturers participate, Timber & Sugar Industries for example, will enable the group to harness the expertise already existing in the Community.
ü Actively engage the manufacturing peak bodies and individual companies promoting the benefits of the Clarence Valley as a base for their operations and promoting the Councillor Howe’s motion to offer incentives to support the relocation of businesses to the Clarence Valley.
Proactive Council Involvement in Planning for the Pacific Highway Upgrade
Ensuring the impact of the eventual Pacific Highway By-Pass of the Grafton Township area has a minimal impact on the economy and that the maximum benefit of possible opportunities presented are achieved.
Ensure Council is involved in planning of:
ü off ramps to access the town centres
ü off ramps to access the Regional Airport
ü location of Service Centres
Council leading CSG Risk Management
The Threat posed to our pristine natural environment as a result of the looming CSG Mining activity in the region and the fact that Council is almost powerless to influence this activity.
ü Where at all possible oppose CSG Mining in the Clarence Valley, and any regions east of the Great Dividing Range.
ü Council to continue to take all steps available to it to reduce the impact of any CSG mining that ultimately may take place and to ensure that all council requirements in regards to any Development Applications submitted by these mining companies are rigorous and ensure the maximum protection of our environment.
ü Council ensures that every condition on any Development Application approved by Council for CSG Mining Activities are met to the required standard by the applicants.
Establishment of Clarence Valley Development Group
No community based organisation with cohesive approach to Clarence Valley Regional Economic Development.
Facilitate the establishment of a body to drive Economic Development from a community vantage point. This may take the form of a completely new body or a revamped ‘Clarence Ahead’ group with a modified vision, that is a vision which is looking at the overall Economic Development of the Region and acting as the regions peak body for the development of community initiated growth strategies.
Grafton’s Second River Crossing (Bridge)
The existing Grafton Bridge Crossing is completely inadequate for the current traffic use and hinders long term economic development.
The issue of a second bridge crossing needs to be resolved, now, not at some indefinable point in the future.
The Cowan Street Option is the cheapest option as all the land is vacant and would only require purchase from the owners, and does not require the relocation of families or businesses. There's a clean run from the Ryan Street/Skinner Street Roundabout, through behind St Patrick’s church and the library to the paddock between Cowan and Abbott Streets to right up to the riverbank.
The only concerns I have in relation to the Cowan Street option is the impact of the 'aqua theatre' that the space between Susan Island and the current bridge provides for aquatic events, and also the planned contact point with the Grafton River bank which is between the convent and the old Catholic primary school, the start of Villiers Street.
Please note that this option goes right past my front door in Cowan Street and my delightful, peaceful little hideaway in the middle of South Grafton will never be the same, however the number residents and businesses impacted upon by this option appears to be minimal compared to other 'in town' bridge crossing options.
There are options further down river which appear to offer a good solution too, however they pose a very real risk of the loss of a significant percentage of passing trade. This risk at this point time would seem to be the nail in the coffin for the immediate Grafton/South Grafton CBD’s, and have a flow on effect to the Valley economy generally. I would need to explore the down river options more fully in terms of the likely 'economic' impact on the area before I can take a fully informed decision on those; however they do not present any immediate economic advantages.
I’m also concerned that all the money spent on consultation and new plans and more consultation could either have been put to a budget to build another bridge or into something completely different - like an upgrade of the Grafton Gaol for instance! At some point you simply must bite the bullet and say enough consultation, and be brave enough to take a decision knowing that you will never please everyone.
Note that if the eventual decision is that a down river option is taken then I would be lobbying for a decent pedestrian bridge across the river in the town area that encourages safe pedestrian movements.
Safeguarding Community Assets
‘Constitutional’ Risk Management – Harm Minimisation
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia poses a major risk to the ‘institutions’ that have become known as Local Government. This risk is twofold;
1. Local Government is not a level of government recognised in the Constitution and the attempt to have Local Government recognised in the Constitution via referenda failed in 1988.
2. In NSW the Government responding to the failed referenda by enacting the NSW Local Government Act 1993. This Statute exceeds the power of the State under the Constitution and poses a major risk to local government if challenged in the High Court.
The Australian Local Government Association has been actively pursuing a solution to the ‘unconstitutional nature’ of local government since the failure of the 1988 referenda. Recent discussions indicate that the Australian Local Government Association is preparing to instigate a referendum at the next Federal Election seeking a change to the Constitution to allow direct Federal Funding of Local Government, thereby removing the State Government Control over Local Government funding.
Concerns about the proposed referenda are:
ü It will not address the lack of Constitutional Recognition of Local Government leaving Local Government still exposed to the threat of a High Court challenge.
ü It will reduce the power base of State Governments and therefore it is unlikely to be supported by them and they are likely to use their considerable power base and networks to undermine the referenda rendering it a huge financial risk by the Local Government Association.
Proposed solutions, or harm minimisation strategies, are:
· Researching the viability of alternate organisational structures, for instance Incorporation as a not-for-profit body with a ‘co-operative’ type model as its’ basis.
· A full audit of all Clarence Valley Council/Community owned assets and the development of strategies to protect our assets from further attempts to amalgamate Councils by the NSW Government. Moving to an alternate organisation structure would be a major first step in securing our assets. Displaying a full list of Community owned assets on the Clarence Valley Council website.
Sound Financial Governance Practices
Limit risk exposure of Clarence Valley Council investments resulting from poor investment advice and decisions, particularly in light of the forecast ‘Second Global Financial Crisis’.
Conduct a review of Council’s Financial Governance, particularly issues surrounding its’ investment strategies over the past decade and lessons learned from the Black Rock Investments debacle. I would also seek to have all Council ‘investments’ and their related transactions fully disclosed on the Council website ensuring complete transparency of all council’s dealings with rate payer monies.
Abolish DMU Charge
Current DMU Charge is a deterrent to new development queries and applications.
Abolish the DMU Charge.
What I bring to council and why I am running as a Candidate:
My experience includes a decade in Banking & Finance, a decade in Australian Law Enforcement & a decade working in Recruitment, owning & operating my own company. In 1996 I received a Commendation from the AFP Commissioner & was awarded the 2004 National Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships, Small Business category for my partnership with BABI Youth & Family Support. Over the five years I was in business in Brisbane I developed three additional community partnerships with local not for profit organisations; Bayside Domestic Violence Initiative, Community Childcare Inc. & the Wynnum Manly Seagulls Rugby League Football Club Inc, these resulted in my being awarded the Community Wizard Award 2 years running at the Business Achievers Awards.
In 2007 I took the decision to relocate to the Clarence Valley where I have owned & operated a Café/Convenience Store & continue to work as a consultant. I was part of the team that set up the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Op Shop, I established the Clarence Valley Youth Initiative, served on the Clarence River Women's Refuge & Clarence Valley Women Inc. Boards.
I believe that if your community prospers then so will you & that everyone in the community have a role to play in community development. I believe charity begins at home, & the Clarence Valley is our home, we need to make it a strong, safe, harmonious & nurturing home.
My strengths are strategic planning, research & analytical skills & my ability to bring disparate groups together to work towards common goals, & to develop those 'partnerships' into mutually beneficial & harmonious ones. My qualifications include a Grad Cert in Business, Diploma in Employments Services, Operational & Strategic Intelligence and a broad range of other law enforcement related training programs.
Our community desperately requires economic development, while ensuring that our unique heritage & pristine natural environment are protected.
My Great, Great Grandfather Jeremiah Donoghue arrived in Ulmarra in 1858 & my Great, Great Grandfather Dickson was an engineer during the construction of the McFarlane & Tabulam Bridges. Great Grandfather McGregor was Grafton’s 1st Station master & drove the train across the bridge at its opening. My Grandparents operated a Dairy farm in Seelands where my Mum was raised along with her six siblings. My home in South Grafton has a view of the church in which both my parents & grandparents were married. I love the Clarence Valley and am committed to fighting for its’ future.
© 2012 Ursula Tunks Fighting For Our Future Candidate for the Clarence Valley Council Elections 18 Edward Street South Grafton NSW 2460 Mobile 0402 024 209