Green at last

THE LAND has at last turned green and banished any fears that this year’s winter rains might never come.
The mighty Avon River is again flowing fast, just in time – as always – for the annual whitewater river race that means so much to local traders struggling to weather  tough financial times.
Relieved farmers are nevertheless casting a wary eye forward because they know that late-developing crops still have to run the double gauntlet of cruel spring frosts and a hot dry summer that may come too soon.
Weather is never predictable, but local records suggest that declining rainfall  may alter the course of how we adapt to living in the Avon Valley.
For the present we can rejoice in the proliferation of this season’s early wildflowers – blooming everywhere on reserves and bush blocks with the promise of more spectacular displays to come.
This is Toodyay – jewel of the Avon Valley and traditional home of the Ballardong people, who have seen nature reveal its bounty on these green slopes and lush valleys for tens of thousands of years.
Take a moment to dip your fingers in the  flowing waters, breathe the crisp morning air and – as Stirling Hamilton writes in his excellent Ol’ Blind Joe column on Page 2 this month – treat each moment as a pearl to be picked.
How to explain?
OUR HAPLESS shire council appears to have foisted yet another public relations disaster upon itself, this time with only two months to go until the next elections.
Shire rates are set to rise astronomically for hundreds of residents on Toodyay’s popular rural ‘lifestyle’ bush blocks.
Yet there have been no public meetings or council forums to explain why.
Shire CEO Stan Scott warned councillors last month that the “substantial” increases would cause “considerable angst”.
However, his suggestion that “these properties have been getting a very good deal for a long time” will be cold comfort to those ratepayers facing huge increases.
Instead of being prepared with well-reasoned public arguments to support its case, our shire appears to have been blind-sided by an inability to see beyond the myopic bubble inside which it operates.
Openness, transparency and public accountability are the hallmarks of all democratic public institutions.
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Those who ignore it do so at their own peril.
Michael Sinclair-Jones

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