By Michael Sinclair-Jones
NUNILE farmer Des Driessen (left) is fed up with stray dogs killing his sheep.
He blames local hobby farmers who he says let their city pets roam onto his property at night and warns that he is laying poison baits to protect his flock.
“The owners come with their grandkids and pets on weekends and none of their dogs are properly trained,” Mr Driessen said.
“This has been going on for years.
“The owners don’t work the land for a living.
“Some keep their dogs tied up all day while they work elsewhere and when they return home at night, they untie their dogs to give them a run.
“The dogs get excited and run onto my property to attack my sheep.
“Others are allowed to roam loose at night when their owners visit on weekends.
“You can’t blame the dogs because it’s their natural instinct to chase and kill prey.
“It’s the owners’ fault.Read more
“Also, some grain growers don’t see a need to control their dogs because they don’t have sheep.”
Mr Driessen – who featured in a similar Herald Page 1 story in May 2016 – said a stray dog killed a $140 hogget last month in a night attack near his machinery shed.
“Dogs bite them on the hind leg to bring them down and eat them alive.”
“Others die when they stumble and fall when chased and the dogs tear them apart.”
Mr Driessen said he has lost seven sheep “torn up” by stray dogs in the past three months.
Dogs also killed 47 sheep on his property in a single month three years ago.
“I greatly appreciate the shire rangers’ immediate response but they can’t do much because by the time they get here the dogs have gone,” Mr Driessen said.
“You can’t shoot them because they mostly come at night and can’t be seen.
“I lay 1080 poison baits to control foxes but dogs prefer to kill something that moves.
“Those mongrels frighten the hell out of me – they’re worse than foxes.
“I’d like the shire to increase the penalty for dog attacks.
“I’m also ready to pay half the cost of a saliva test to show which dogs are killing my sheep.”
Mr Driessen has about 1200 merinos and 100 lambs and plans to complain to the shire about his latest losses.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
A DRAFT report on a long-running WA Government inquiry into the Shire of Toodyay has been sent to all councillors for comment before the findings are released in State Parliament.
The draft excludes any formal recommendations or matters the State Solicitor’s Office may seek to prosecute.
New Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst received the 44-page draft on July 21 and released it to all councillors and senior staff for a workshop discussion immediately prior to last month’s council meeting.Read more
“In a broad sense, the council has formulated its position,” Ms Haslehurst said.
It would go to a special council meeting for final approval on Tuesday August 11.
A 21-day State Government deadline was to expire on Monday August 10 but the shire sought an extension to Friday August 14 to accommodate the special council meeting.
The draft was also likely to be discussed on Wednesday August 5 when WA Local Government Minister David Templeman was due to visit Toodyay to meet councillors and senior staff at the invitation of Shire President Rosemary Madacsi.
It is understood former shire CEO Stan Scott – who moved to York last year – was also sent a copy of the inquiry draft report and is expected to respond independently.
The latest move follows a year-long inquiry by three Perth investigators into shire operations and affairs over seven years.
The inquiry was called to investigate “reasonable suspicion” that the shire may have breached local government laws.
It followed departmental criticism of Mr Scott in an official letter that he sought to withhold from councillors, prompting the heated resignation of newly elected councillor Di Granger in March 2018 amid allegations of bullying.
That incident – including a scathing email Mr Scott sent to former Cr Granger on a Saturday afternoon – is part of the inquiry.
Other matters investigated included the loss of more than $550,000 in a failed legal action against two former civic leaders, other botched shire prosecutions that cost ratepayers tens of thousands of dollars, declarations of interest by elected members, unlawful rates that had to be quashed by a State tribunal, “the culture within the shire” and “any other matter that comes to the person’s attention during the inquiry”.
The three investigators spent most of last year interviewing Toodyay ratepayers, examining shire records and questioning staff and councillors.
Ms Haslehurst said local government officials would examine the shire’s response to the draft report to decide if any changes should be made before sending it to the department’s Director General.
A final report would then go to the Minister to table in State Parliament.
Parliament is due to sit for three weeks next month, two weeks in October and three weeks in November.
Ms Haslehurst said it was likely that the final public report would also be placed on the shire website.
“My approach is to be as open and transparent as possible,” she said.
Traditional dancers perform at a new Noongar cultural display at Redbank Pool ‒ a significant meeting place for local Aboriginal families 200 years ago.
A NEW interpretive display showing how traditional Aboriginal people used a permanent waterhole near Toodyay as an important cultural site for food and family gatherings was officially launched at Redbank Pool earlier this month.
The Noongar Kaartdijin Aboriginal Corporation (NKAC) project celebrates how local Noongar families, especially Ballardong and Yued members, congregated at Redbank Pool 200 years ago.Read more
Noongar cultural adviser Rodney Garlett (above) led a traditional smoking ceremony to cleanse spirit, body and soul after traditional custodians and ancestors were respected in a traditional Welcome To Country in local language by Toodyay’s Sharmaine Miles.
A State-funded permanent display of Gnulla Moort (our family) interpretive art was unveiled by Noongar Elder Aunty Pat Davis and local Labor MP Darren West after an address by WA Planning, Land and Heritage Department Director General Gail McGowan.
Redbank Pool is about 900m downstream from Extracts Weir and is overlooked by the John Masters Bird Hide on the Bilya Walk Track which follows the Avon River from Toodyay Caravan Park to Nardie Cemetery.
The waterhole is registered as an Aboriginal heritage site.
At this month’s Redbank Pool cultural display unveiling ceremony (from left) Aunty Pat Davis, local MP Darren West, Iris Guilmartin, Rodney Garlett and Robert Miles. The permanent display was designed by Herald volunteer Sandra Harms.
“I feel proud that this Noongar site interpretative art can now be enjoyed by all visitors,” NKAC Chairperson Robert Miles (above) said.
“It will be a lovely surprise for people walking along the Bilya Walk Track.”
Traditional Noongar families were regular visitors to the permanent waterhole in pre-colonial times according to the availability of local bush food that could be gathered and hunted across the Avon Valley’s six bonar (annual seasons).
Their diet included kangaroos, possums, ducks, turtles, fish, frogs and jilgies (small freshwater crayfish), and grasses and seeds for grinding into flour and medicinal use.
After food gathering, cooking and daytime cultural activities, small extended family groups would move back to a main camp a safe distance from the pool.
Redbank is also a significant Waugal (serpent snake) mythological site.
The Toodyay Valley has spiritual importance as a course travelled by the Waugal when making its way from Bolgart along various waterways, including Toodyay Brook and Redbank Pool, to Northam’s Burlong Pool during the hottest seasons of Birak and Bunuru.
The Gya Ngoop Keeninyara Dancers (pronounced Jaa-ngoop, meaning one or first blood) performed a cultural dance for invited guests after the opening speeches.
The Kobori (or Keeninyarra) is part of an ancient dance authentic to this area and was led by Trevor Stack.
NKAC Heritage Project Coordinator, Helen Shanks said the group was planning its next Noongar interpretive project “Gnulla Boodja, our country” at Pelham Reserve, overlooking the Toodyay townsite.
TOODYAY Central Bush Fire Brigade Captain Mick McKeown (left) has been elected to the Toodyay Shire Council.
He fills a three-month vacancy on the nine-member council after the resignation of former shire president Bill Manning, who moved to Tasmania last April.
Cr McKeown received 662 votes in last month’s postal ballot of all Toodyay voters, Keith Boase 355 and April Ashley 270.
The election was conducted by the WA Electoral Commission which reported a voter turn-out of about 26 per cent.
This is significantly less than the 45 per cent turn-out last October when four new councillors were elected to the council and two others retained their seats.
Cr McKeown was elected to serve out the remainder of former Cr Manning’s term, which expires in October next year.Read more
His election is likely to break a run of deadlocked 4:4 votes on key council decisions, including a secret ballot for a shire president and the council’s initial failure to get an absolute majority of five votes to enable new Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst to start last month.
Cr McKeown helped lead opposition to plans to demolish the “Appian Way” walkway at Toodyay’s heritage-listed Catholic Precinct but has stepped down as co-organiser of the Friends of the Toodyay Catholic Precinct.
One of his first tasks as a new shire councillor will be to attend a meeting on Wednesday August 5 with WA Local Government Minister David Templeman, who was due to meet councillors and senior staff at the invitation of Shire President Rosemary Madacsi.
ALLEGATIONS of secrecy and collusion have been raised over plans to demolish part of a heritage-listed Appian Way walkway in Toodyay’s historic Catholic Church Precinct (left).
Complaints of alleged planning irregularities and lack of public consultation have prompted intervention by WA Local Government and Heritage Minister David Templeman.Read more
Toodyay councillors voted 5-3 last month (Crs Susan Pearce, Therese Chitty and Ben Bell against) to accept Mr Templeman’s request to defer a shire recommendation to approve the demolition to enable the Minister to inspect the site on Wednesday August 5.
The WA Planning Commission has approved plans by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Perth to subdivide the heritage-listed former convent site to enable the sale of five separate commercial lots.
The Archdiocese is currently exempt from paying shire rates on the land because it is owned by a church body.
However, the property will start generating annual rates revenue for the shire when the subdivision is finalised and sold for mixed business use.
The Appian Way walkway – named after an ancient Roman road – straddles separate titles for Toodyay’s St John the Baptist Church and the historic St Aloysius Convent of Mercy, which is no longer in use.
The Friends of the Toodyay Catholic Precinct and Toodyay Historical Society oppose the planned demolition.
Parishioners say they were not consulted by the Archdiocese or the council, and that a shire call for public comment on the planned demolition in the June Herald contained “misleading and incorrect” information.
Toodyay ratepayer Margaret McKeown told last month’s council meeting that there was no justification to demolish the walkway.
“The Toodyay community has nothing to gain from this proposed vandalism,” she said.
“You are being asked to permanently damage a heritage-listed property so that a property developer can maximise its returns.
“The community of Toodyay expects you to act in their best interests and put the heritage interests of the town before the profits of a developer.”
Parishioners claim the shire administration failed in 2017 to follow local heritage protection policies by approving the Archdiocese subdivision plan without putting it to the council for a vote.
In a private submission, ratepayer Larry Graham told the council last month that “its own policies, strategies and plans have all been circumvented and this appears to result from collusion with the developers”.
“In my view, the handling of this entire issue exceeds the threshold required for referral to either or both the CCC (WA Crime and Corruption Commission) or the LG (WA Local Government) Department,” he said.
New Toodyay Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst said she was surprised by Mr Graham’s claims.
“It’s obviously an issue of great sensitivity to the community and the file is very thick,” she said in a post-meeting Herald briefing.
“I will be having a look at it and expect it will be one of the matters we will talk about when the Minister visits Toodyay.”
Mr Templeman was invited to Toodyay last month by Shire President Rosemary Madacsi to meet the new council.
Councillors received an “Avondown Presentation” behind closed doors at a July 2017 council forum at which a “Mr D Barnao” was listed as a visitor.
It was not revealed publicly that David Barnao was an Osborne Park property developer representing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Perth or that “Avondown” referred to plans for a new commercial subdivision in the shire’s heritage-listed Catholic Precinct.
The presentation was not made public and its purpose was not stated in published minutes of the council forum.
The WA Planning Commission approved the subdivision in August 2018 after former shire CEO Stan Scott used his delegated authority to endorse the new subdivision without referring it to the council for a vote.
Local parishioners say they were not consulted about the proposed subdivision.
A new plan this year to demolish the entire Appian Way walkway was later modified to remove only a two-metre section in the middle where the two land titles meet.
Shire planning policy says “heritage buildings shall be retained and conserved wherever possible as these places, in combination with the streetscape, are the main determinants of the character of the Central Toodyay Heritage Area”.
“Demolition of a heritage site should be avoided wherever possible.
“Council is unlikely to support the demolition of a heritage place based solely on the economic viability of redeveloping a site or because a building has been neglected.
“An application to demolish a heritage place must include clear justifications for the demolition …”
Former Friends of the Toodyay Catholic Precinct co-organiser Mick McKeown – who was elected to the council on July 31 – said the demolition proposal submitted to the shire showed that the Perth Archdiocese had never provided any justification for demolishing the walkway.
He sent a submission to the shire on June 30 that included an email four days earlier from State Land Use Planning Manager Rachel Riley advising that if the walkway was not demolished, the proposed boundary could be negotiated to keep it on a single title.
This conflicted with a July 2 letter to the shire from Planning Department Heritage Development Director Adelyn Siew that “the walkway is required to be demolished”.
An Archdiocese spokesperson said the subdivision was not a profit-making exercise but a genuine attempt to preserve the heritage values of the precinct.
“All appropriate approval processes were followed in the course of preparation for and completion of the subdivision works,” the spokesperson said.
TOODYAY Road (pictured left after serious traffic accident in February) will be further upgraded with another $5.6 million in Federal funds.
Two sections will be widened and a new passing lane completed by early next year.
Toodyay Shire President Rosemary Madacsi thanked the Federal Government for its contribution to the project.
“The Toodyay Road upgrade project has been in development for about five years and it is fantastic to see some substantial funding allocated to continue addressing one of the most dangerous roads in the Wheatbelt,” she said.
“The $7 million allocated, of which $5.6 million is from the Federal Government, will enable the construction of 2.5km of Toodyay Road from Jingaling Brook heading east towards Toodyay.Read more
“A key component of this work will be a westbound overtaking lane which has been identified as a key safety improvement along this stretch of road.
“The Shire of Toodyay is delighted that this funding allocation demonstrates the State and Federal governments’ ongoing commitment to making this road safer for the Toodyay community, visitors and all road users,” Mrs Madacsi said.
Between January 2014 and December 2018 Toodyay Road had the highest rate of fatal and serious-injury crashes within the Wheatbelt region.
THE SHIRE of Toodyay has been awarded a $462,600 State grant to help further reduce the risk of bushfire.
A total of 62 risk-mitigation activities will be carried out in the shire.
Tenders closed on August 4 and work is due to start next month on shire-managed Crown land, including road verges.
It follows State-funded fire mitigation work worth $1.1 million on 115 treatments last financial year.Read more
The new work will reduce fuel loads in reserves, remove invasive grasses and weeds, and build and improve fire access tracks.
Toodyay Shire President Rosemary Madacsi said the shire would do as much as possible to avoid creating disturbance to residents.
“The end result will make living in Toodyay not only safer but provide our community with enhanced access to enjoy the reserves and their surrounds,” she said.
“Private landholders are reminded to be prepared for the upcoming fire season.”
Shire of Toodyay’s new $14 million recreation precinct – many ratepayers wanted only a pool.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
TOODYAY ratepayers face years of rising costs and economic hardship caused by a 2017 council decision to build a new $14 million recreation centre and pool without the means to pay for it.
The shire’s new 2020-21 budget shows that this financial year’s operating costs will exceed regular income by $2.6 million despite drastic new cost-cutting measures.
The biggest cost burden will be repaying a $4.5 million loan and operating costs for the new recreation centre which the former council approved soon after the 2017 election despite public calls for just a $1 million pool.Read more
The deficit will be offset this year by more than $3.6 million in external grants, subsidies and financial contributions.
However, the shire’s underlying operating surplus ratio is still well below State Government audit standards.
The ratio measures the shire’s ability to pay for its operations out of regular revenue and have money left over to fund new projects.
The council’s long-standing practice of increasing revenue by charging higher rates was postponed this year after an April decision to freeze rates, fees and charges to help relieve local economic hardship caused by the Covid-19 health crisis.
Shire budget papers show that rates revenue raised this financial year will fall about two per cent short of last year’s total.
But the total cost of shire borrowings has more than doubled to $5.9 million – mostly due to additional recreation centre costs.
Loan repayments for all shire borrowings this year will total $600,000, of which more than half will be for the recreation centre.
Ongoing annual shortfalls prompted auditors Moore Stephens to warn the council in June last year of a “significant adverse trend” in shire finances since 2016.
This year’s ratio shows a three-fold worsening of that trend with a budgeted operating surplus ratio of minus 34 per cent.
Last month’s council meeting adopted eight recomendations concerning various parts of the shire’s 2020-21 budget with a mostly unanimous 7-0 vote (Cr Ben Bell absent and one seat vacant).
The only dissenter was Cr Paula Greenway (pictured left at last year’s ground-breaking ceremnony for Toodyay’s new $14 recreation precinct) , who raised her hand against the final motion when Shire President Rosemary Madacsi asked councillors if there were any objections to adopt the budget as a whole, including financial statements, notes, supporting documents and schedules.
The recommendation was moved by Cr Phil Hart, who spoke briefly in favour of it and praised shire staff for putting a “huge amount of work” into preparing this year’s budget for adoption.
His motion was seconded by Cr Therese Chitty, who chose not to speak.
Cr Greenway remained silent when President Madacsi asked if there were any speakers against Cr Hart’s motion.
When her name was called by President Madacsi, Cr Greenway said “I don’t wish to speak”.
The motion was carried 6-1 with Cr Greenway voting against it.
She declined next day to respond to a Herald email when asked to explain publicly why she voted against the budget.
New Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst was not involved in preparing this year’s budget, which the council adopted last month on only her second day at work.
She said it was a near break-even budget with virtually no surplus – “there’s no fat in it”.
“This will be the case for the next few years,” she said.
“We won’t have any ‘play money’ for big new things.
“Staff have been told to be vigilant about costs and we have to be very cautious about how we approach things.”
Ms Haslehurst said shire service levels had been reviewed and four positions were made redundant for a cost saving of about $600,000.
Budget papers show planned rates revenue of $6.3 million and a nominal surplus of $1.1 million, which includes grants, subsidies and contributions from external sources.
However, operating costs will exceed regular shire income by $2.6 million, largely due to recreation centre costs and large annual loan repayments that are set to continue for the next 20 years.
“We need to be very pro-active about obtaining new grant funding but don’t have sufficient financial reserves to provide matching funds,” she said.
“Our priorities this financial year will be roads, maintenance and upgrades, drainage and footpaths, and paying down loans.”
Ms Haslehurst said she expected construction work on Toodyay’s new recreation centre to be completed by the end of September and the new public swimming pool open in time for the coming summer season.
The shire has advertised for a “suitably qualified operator” to manage part or all of the new recreation precinct including the swimming pool, sports grounds and other facilities.
Tenders close at 2pm on Wednesday July 8.