Friday, July 25, 2008

Report from the roundtable – 22 July

This is a regular entry I write after each council meeting, this time round I’m going to focus on two items from the meeting, construction of hail netting & public liability insurance costs of our Public Hall Committees.

Hail Nets in Green Wedge
At this week’s meeting council had to consider an application to construct Hail Netting. Hail netting looks a bit like shade cloth and is built on structures to completely cover crops. The location of this application was just near the intersection of the Melba and Maroondah Highways in Coldstream and is a key entry point to the Yarra Valley.

In this particular case the hail netting was black in colour. The land is zoned Green Wedge 4, this means the land should be protected for its agricultural opportunities, to encourage sustainable farming activities and provide for an opportunity for a variety of productive agricultural uses.

We must support our farming community. The use of hail netting means there is less use of chemicals, less water use, less use of bird/bat scaring devices, less hail damage, less contamination and less sun damage. Yarra Ranges is well placed to provide Melbourne with food and this will become more critical when peak oil becomes prominent and we are all concentrating on how many foodmiles our groceries have travelled.

These are difficult times for farmers, with climate change, less rainfall, increased oil prices and a plethora of other issues, we must support our farming communities as much as possible.

I was happy to vote in favour of hail netting and I’m pleased to say the application was approved by council.

Insurance costs fall for our public halls
Back in June I became very concerned when I was contacted by two local Public Hall Committees to say they could no longer manage their respective halls because of the enormous cost impost of public liability insurance. The burden of insurance costs led one committee to resign, the other desperate to try and find a resolution to the $1,800 problem.

This led me to move a motion to call for a report to look more closely at the issue (Council meeting 10/06/08).

The report came back to council this week and I was greatly pleased to move the motion that Council:
1. Cover Public Liability Insurance for Committees of Management for Public Halls owned by the Shire, contingent on the following non negotiable conditions:
a. The Committee of Management be an Incorporated Association.
b. The Committee of Management enter into a Licence Agreement with Council.
2. Assist with preparation and lodgement of documentation for the incorporation of the unincorporated Committees of Management as appropriate.
3. Endorse the Recreation Unit to undertake negotiations with relevant community organisations located close to Public Halls to assume management and responsibility for the Hall, in the event that the Hall Committee is either unable to meet the conditions outlined in Recommendation 1 or is considering folding.
4. Review the Public Halls and Community Centres Policy and Handbook as a matter of priority.

Even better news was that our insurer was able to include public liability insurance coverage of the public hall committees at no additional cost to council (and ratepayers). This is a terrific step forward in assisting those people who give freely of their time to run our halls. Public Hall Committees have enough on their plate running and managing the halls, anything we can do to help ease the administrative burden is a great step forward and lets them get on with what they want to do – manage the halls!

So to those committees in Lyster Ward who meet the criteria, your public liability costs will be met by the Shire of Yarra Ranges.
Belgrave Heights Progress Hall
Belgrave South Community Hall
Menzies Creek Hall
Narre Warren East Hall
St Martin’s Church and Hall

Other halls in the area are managed by the Shire, hopefully this move will encourage others to take up the opportunity to manage their community hall and start to rebuild the connection between local communities and their local halls.

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