Fears Ararat will return to grim days

Ararat Regional Business Association president Robert Bates and business development officer Faith Warner are concerned that the stalling of the prison expansion project could have a detrimental effect on the Ararat community. Picture: PETER PICKERINGARARAT – Ararat Regional Business Association has called on the State Government to intervene in the Hopkins Correctional Centre crisis before Ararat is plunged into an economic situation similar to that experienced during the early 1990s.
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The work site at the prison was shut down last week after Aegis Consortium member St Hilliers Ararat Pty Ltd went into liquidation, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to contractors.

ARBA members and a number of high profile business people, along with Ararat Rural City Council, met with the Minister for Corrections Andrew McIntosh last Thursday and also with Opposition leader Daniel Andrews.

Those at the meeting made it clear that when the prison project was first announced, assurances were made by the government.

“There was a commitment initially from the government when council had public meetings and meetings with Business Association businesses and they guaranteed this wasn’t going to happen,” ARBA president Robert Bates said.

“There was an assurance this wasn’t going to happen from the very first meeting.”

Mr Bates said after the meeting with the Minister, he understood the complications of the situation, but pointed out that the contractors and sub contractors needed to be paid immediately.

“The money’s been held back for months now and so the suggestion I put up to the Minister is that the State government pay these people immediately and retrieve that money from the consortium.

“They’re saying the government is working through this legally, I accept all that, but that’s not helping our local sub contractors at all, and I see that the rub off here is that some of those could be in financial trouble and that rubs off on to the rest of the business community and we fall over like a deck of cards.

“I pointed out to the Minister we’ve ‘been there done that’ years ago when the government closed the railways, Aradale and Telecom was transferred to Ballarat. I pointed that out to the Minister that we’ve been there, we know what it’s like, other communities may not have experienced what we’ve experienced back in the late 80s and 90s.

“The Minister is telling us they will be paid eventually, but when, the question we asked is when, and there was no answer. There was no answer to anything.”

ARBA publicity officer Phil Clark said what the Minister was really saying was that it wasn’t the Government’s responsibility, it was the responsibility of the contractors.

“The Mayor, the CEO, the councillors that spoke and Robert on behalf of the business community, all said the government needs to step up and do something,” Mr Clark said.

According to the ARBA members one businessman flagged a solution they believe the Government should consider.

“The government has no commitment to release any money until stage one is completed, but because it is about 70 percent completed, (he) came up with the idea that maybe the government should release some of that money in order for our contractors to be paid,” Mr Clark said.

“That was a brilliant idea and that was something that was stressed to the Minister, hopefully with acknowledgement that with some of the project complete, that some of the funds can come through to fund the local contractors that have committed a lot of money to it.”

Mr Bates said the situation was urgent and that no business could go without cash flow for very long and he believed unemployment would be a consequence if the situation wasn’t resolved quickly.

Last month ARBA participated in the Regional Living Expo in Melbourne, a State Government funded initiative to promote the ideals of living and working in regional Victoria.

“Two weeks later we’ve got what’s happening at the prison, we’ve got the DPI (closing) and ARBA is concerned about the impact that will have on the community,” Mr Clark said.

Ironically, prison officers attended the expo promoting the job and lifestyle Ararat has to offer, with many people expressing interest in applying for the jobs which are expected to increase as a result of the completion of the prison expansion, the completion date of which is now unknown.

“There are people who have committed to come here and work at the prison, some may be in training now, preparing to shift families – where are these people, left in limbo?” Mr Bates said.

The prison crisis will be far reaching, with Mr Clark saying that people have already tendered their notice to vacate properties, despite being in the middle of leases.

“They’ve just had to pack up and go and get work to feed their families,” he said.

“And there’s going to be more of them I imagine. There’s other businesses in town that are going to be affected like that I’m sure.”

Mr Bates said the emphasis must be on getting the money flowing immediately and that the ‘government is the only one that can do that’.

“I know they’re going to say it’s setting a precedent and we can’t do this, but they’re going to have to change a few things, because Ararat will suffer and will go back where we were and it’s unfair because we’ve all worked hard,” he said.

“There was a definite assurance that this sort of stuff wasn’t going to happen, because it’s happened before.

“These people just walk away, it’s so wrong.”

Mr Bates is now urging the business community to get behind ARBA and offer their support.

“If there was ever a time we needed them to sign up and get with us it is now, and the more strength we’ve got the more power we’ve got.

“Our mission statement is that we get out there and we work for Ararat and sit beside Ararat Rural City through their Economic Development Unit to work for businesses no matter who they are, and if they’ve got a problem, we can either take it to the Council for them or take it to the government.

“A lot of them still think we’re just a group of retailers, that’s all we are. And it’s wrong.

“Our membership now is 103 I believe, but there’s a lot more out there, some of them are negative, it’s time they became positive and got involved, even just become members, it’s all we’re asking.

“If they want to sit back and think this isn’t going to affect them, well, they’re in for a big shock because if this doesn’t come back (the prison job), all of them, even retailers, are going to be affected.”

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New Grampians Carriage and Driving Club formed

Margie Bowen is pictured driving Roblea Darcy and Roblea Coppelia, with Ian and Michelle Fricker riding on the back of the carriage during the successful rally in Great Western to form a new club.GREAT WESTERN – A Grampians Carriage Driving Club has been formed.
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Officials and members of the Australian Carriage Driving Society (ACDS) attended the neeting in Great Western to form the club.

These members came from South Australia, Mornington, Nyah, Woodend, Kyneton and Heathcote.

One potential member got lost coming from the Melbourne airport, took a wrong turn and arrived via Heidelberg, several hours late.

The weekend gasthering opened with ACDS members showing the safe way to harness a horse, fitting the harness correctly, and also the different types harness available.

Margie Bowen made her ponies available for members to learn to harness up and then they went out for a short drive, taking the reins under instruction.

Margie brought two ponies and three carriages for members to use, one being a pair vehicle imported from Poland, to be used in the sport of Carriage Driving.

Madeline Bentley and Jan Paull assisted helping with long reining and advice when needed.

More than 30 people attended the inaugural meeting on the Saturday night which was chaired by Sue Waters, assisted by Margie Morgan.

Positions within the club were quickly filled and the club formed. The club is to be known as the Grampians Carriage Drivers Inc.

The future looks bright for driving in the area and once the club is established, it will meet on the first weekend of every month at the Great Western Racecourse Reserve.

The aim of the club will be to educate drivers on safety, teaching the correct safe way to harness a horse or pony and to have fun doing pleasure drives, learning about the growing sport of combined driving (carriage driving) which is based on 3DE, dressage marathon and cones.

ACDS members generally camp over at club rallies, arriving Friday or Saturday and camping the weekend making the social side is a lot of fun and friendships made over the years still stand.

For further information call 0438 272 861.

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Bulldogs must bite in last rounds: Byrne

COOTAMUNDRA captain-coach Aaron Byrne will not be looking for a safety net when the Bulldogs play Southcity at Harris Park on Sunday.
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With Cootamundra in a desperate three-way scramble for the last two places in the Group Nine finals, Byrne is adamant the team cannot afford to rely on outside forces.

“We’re approaching this week, like, if we don’t win we might as well say goodbye to our finals chance,” Byrne said yesterday.

“This is a game we don’t want to lose.”

Fifth on the Group Nine table, Cootamundra is jostling with Southcity (fourth) and Kangaroos (sixth) for the bottom two spots in the Group Nine final five.

Albury, Young and Gundagai are locked into the top three positions, but it is a dogfight for the last two places.

And Byrne wants the Bulldogs to latch on and not let go by beating Southcity and Tumbarumba in the remaining games.

Although Cootamundra is limping away from a horror 72-14 shellacking from Albury on the border at the weekend, Byrne has definitely not lost faith in a team that beat Southcity earlier in the season.

“Even last week we were on top (of Albury) at times,” he said.

“We had some good patches, but we also had some really bad patches.

“It’s been a bit like that all year.

“Even when we’ve won games we’ve had low points.

“We haven’t strung 80 minutes together yet.”

Searching for a remedy for Cootamundra’s rabid inconsistency, Byrne said mindset was a critical element.

“It’s not so much about faces (players), but attitude,” he said.

“We really need to concentrate for the entire game.”

In a plus for the team, winger Matthew Forsyth, second-rower Dave Edwards and fullback Liam Duffy are back after missing the Albury slaughter.

Taking time to catch Southcity smash Junee last Saturday, Byrne is fully attuned to the task confronting Cootamundra against the Bulls.

“I stopped in at Harris Park on Saturday on the way to Albury,” he said.

“I thought they (Southcity) looked a bit more like the team of last year.”

The Bulldogs coach was impressed by the sizzling return to form of Bulls hooker Pani Manawatu and has him earmarked as a danger on Sunday.

“Pani looked confident again and we’ll definitely have to watch him,” Byrne said.

“Our markers won’t be able to be lazy or they’ll be caught out.”

Manawatu and halfback Kyle McCarthy are dynamic dummy-half runners and will strive to exploit the trait against the Bulldogs.

Cootamundra’s Aaron Byrne

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Bendigo council approves old gaol theatre

CITY of Greater Bendigo civic leaders have endorsed a planning permit for a $25.8 million theatre development in the city’s old gaol.
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City of Greater Bendigo councillors voted seven votes to two to approve a planning permit for the development.

Councillors Rod Fyffe, Rod Campbell, James Reade, Keith Reynard, Barry Lyons and Bruce Phillips backed the proposal.

Cr Reynard described the plan as visionary, while Cr Reade said it was an example of the council working well with other governments.

“We deserve the best because we have the ability to deliver,” Cr Fyffe said.

“This is exciting, this is terrific, this is great for encouraging arts in Bendigo.”

Councillors Peter Cox and Lisa Ruffell were against the planning permit.

Cr Cox said he supported the benefits the project would offer youths, arts and heritage.

But he said he expected the project would cost at least $1.5 million more than expected and questioned the car parking provisions.

Cr Cox also said it was time for a long-term vision for Rosalind Park to prevent future development spoiling the iconic precinct.

The project has attracted $12.3 million in federal government funds, $11 million from the state government and $3 million from the council.

Councillor Rod Campbell said he supported the project, even if it cost the council more than forecasted.

He said the council would never get a better deal to build a theatre.

“The cost of this building is in the order of $25.8 million, maybe it will be $27 million or a little more (but) it is the cheapest theatre of this type you will ever get,” Cr Campbell said.

“When you think council (is paying) $4, $4.5, maybe $5 million, it is the very cheapest… option for our ratepayers.”

The federal contribution came from the Regional Development Australia Fund and includes a six-month “shovel-ready” clause that requires construction to start this year.

It is unclear if the opponents will appeal the planning permit to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Heritage Victoria earlier this month endorsed plans to redevelop the gaol. The state government will manage the tender, contract and construction phases of the development.

The two-tier theatre will include a large stage, fly tower, dressing rooms, orchestra pit, music, dance and drama studios, learning areas and a kitchen for learning.

HAPPY MAN: The Capital manager David Lloyd with the plans for the gaol theatre. Picture: PETER WEAVING

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Basics first, says Jackson

EAST Wagga-Kooringal coach Chris Jackson says he will not set out to blow Coleambally off the park on Saturday to make up for a 107-point loss to Temora at the weekend.
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Triple figures separated the Hawks and Kangaroos when the latter scored its second massive win over a Farrer League finals-bound team at Nixon Park.

It was put to Jackson his team would need a similar win over the Blues this weekend to restore confidence, but he denied that’s what he will aim to do.

“You can try to do that, but that’s just a quick fix,” Jackson explained.

“We would rather use the game to work on the basics and get them right.

“We want to work on getting a game plan in place for when we take on the top three sides Marrar, The Rock and Temora.

“We want to make sure we are playing right for finals.”

EWK was without Jackson and a handful of other important players for Saturday’s clash with Temora.

Jackson said it was not a case of his team underperforming but a case of Temora unleashing its class in another clinical display from the new premiership favourite.

“They are a form side,” Jackson said.

“They make the right decisions and their fitness is good.

“We came up against them when they were on fire and we worked our legs off but they were too good.”

Jackson sat the game out to rest an ongoing injury and says a number of players could miss Saturday’s date with the Blues to make sure they are 100 per cent for the following week.

The Hawks will finish in third place unless they lose to Coleambally on Saturday and Marrar beats CSU.

If the ladder does not change following this week’s games EWK will take on TRYC in the first qualifying final.

LOOK OUT: Coleambally star Tony Pound (right) will be a danger against East Wagga-Kooringal at Gumly Oval on Saturday.

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