The Brown family (l-r) Krystal and Ryan Brown with daughters Josslyn and Claudia in front of the sign for the newly tuned on Ulmarra speed camera.
The Brown family (l-r) Krystal and Ryan Brown with daughters Josslyn and Claudia in front of the sign for the newly tuned on Ulmarra speed camera. Adam Hourigan

2018 year of controversies as Valley keeps up scandal tally

CONTROVERSY is one of the first words that will come to mind when we look back on 2018.

Beginning with Change the Date and the Barnaby Joyce beetrooter affair, going through cricket's Sandpaper Gate and heading to the leadership spill that cost the country another Prime Minister there has barely been a month where we didn't see the word plastered across the front pages. The Clarence Valley was definitely not quarantined from the chaos and as we recall, there were times when the national scandals reached inside our borders.

JANUARY

As Australia Day approached, opinions raged over the appropriate day for our national day. News that some councils in Australia decided not to celebrate January 26, the date of the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788, did not sit well with many in the Clarence Valley.

But there were also plenty who found the continued celebration of the date of the start of the dispossession of Australia's first people repugnant.

Meanwhile, a national controversy involving a deputy Prime Minister and his new partner in the seaside village of Wooli, that would soon come to light.

 

FEBRUARY

News reports begin to appear that deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who had left his wife after his affair with staffer Vikki Campion led to her becoming pregnant, had holidayed in Wooli in January.

Mr Joyce and Ms Campion spent five days holidaying at the $4000 a week Pacific Dawn Luxury Apartments at Wooli, owned by wealthy New England businessman and Joyce friend, Greg Maguire.

 

EMBARGOED FOR PRINT - NOT FOR ONLINE TIL MARCH 3, 2018 Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his pregnant partner Vikki Campion pictured at Canberra airport. Picture: Kym Smith
EMBARGOED FOR PRINT - NOT FOR ONLINE TIL MARCH 3, 2018 Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his pregnant partner Vikki Campion pictured at Canberra airport. Picture: Kym Smith Kym Smith

The affair eventually led to the resignation of Mr Joyce as Nationals leader and deputy PM and Malcolm Turnbull's infamous Bonking Ban.

THE STATE Government's decision to restructure the National Parks and Wildlife Service, moving vital jobs to Coffs Harbour also came to light this month.

The union representing the workers said the NPWS should be recruiting more workers to provide better service in National Park, rather can cutting jobs.

ABOUT 20 residents of the Pinnacles near Grafton, who have been battling to stop a sawmill they say has been operating in their region without proper consent, turned up at the first Clarence Valley Council's first committee meeting of the year.

They claimed the council had allowed the mill owners to operate after the mill had reactivated after it had been out of operation for almost 20 years. The mill's owners also applied to install a wood chipper and a 5000-litre diesel tank on the site based on a development consent granted by Copmanhurst Shire Council in 1996.

Controversially, the council allowed the mill to continue operating, despite staff admitting there was no consent for them to do so.

Councillors argued successfully it was more important to keep millworkers in jobs than to force the mill to cease work.

 

MARCH

THE State Government's fishing industry reforms were a controversy a long time in the making.

Throughout the five years the government has battled to get the restructure through, the industry has warned it would have dire effects on individual fishers.

In March a veteran of 22 years in the industry Andrew Finn revealed in December 2017 he was forced to sell part of his business after the buy-out process failed him.

NYMBOIDA resident Brenden Stockdale this month revealed the "twisted words" and "lack of transparency" in his dealings with Telstra over the installation of a telecommunications tower, less than 10m from his property line.

 

Brenden Stockdale waits outside Clarence Valley Council to speak to them about the Telstra Tower proposed next to his house.
Brenden Stockdale waits outside Clarence Valley Council to speak to them about the Telstra Tower proposed next to his house. Adam Hourigan Photography

Mr Stockdale said he spent the previous six weeks fighting the location of a new tower designed to give Nymboida residents access to 4G coverage.

APRIL

The Wave 5 group of Pacific Highway contractors dudded out of $7.5million in payments when construction company Ostwald Bros went broke the previous year revealed their misgivings about how the State Government had handled their claims.

At a meeting on Anzac Day the contractors drew a line in the sand, demanding the State Government honour its promises and pay up.

THE CONTROVERSY around the council's attempts to sell off the visitor information centre at South Grafton took a new twist in April when it was passed in at auction without a bid.

The decision to close the award winning centre had provoked a furious response from some in the community who believed it could still be a valuable arm of the region's tourism promotion.

 

The pond at the Grafton Tourist Information Centre in South Grafton.
The pond at the Grafton Tourist Information Centre in South Grafton.

GRAFTON Show lost about $10,000 in gate takings because its timing conflicted with a couple of other big events on the same day, show organisers revealed.

Grafton Show president Rex Green said he was concerned two other events held on Saturday: Grafton's Day Out at the Grafton District Services Club and the AYA Festival at the racecourse, impacted on the show's most popular day and time slot.

MAY

Clarence ratepayers vented their fury this month when the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal allowed the council to impose a special rates variation of 26 per cent over three years.

The topic had been poison for several years as the council attempted to raise more revenue to pay down its infrastructure repair backlog.

Particularly galling for ratepayers was the change of mind from a number of councillors who had gone to polls in 2016 promising to never support an SRV.

THIS month was also the month The Daily Examiner took up the fight for the residents of Ulmarra to get an extension of the 50km/h speed zone outside their village.

 

The Brown family (l-r) Krystal and Ryan Brown with daughters Josslyn and Claudia in front of the sign for the newly tuned on Ulmarra speed camera.
Krystal and Ryan Brown and family at Ulmarra after the decision was made to extend the 50kmh speed zone. Adam Hourigan

"Let's Not Wait" was the slogan we put to authorities to put in place measure to stop speeding vehicle putting lives and property at risk.

FORMER Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson quizzed the SES for its apparent failure to have a local controller in place for more than a year.

Cr Williamson said having the Valley's disaster response coordinated from outside the region could be disastrous if quick responses were needed during an emergency, such as a major flood.

 

JUNE

CALLS from the local Aboriginal community for the town of Coutts Crossing to be renamed because the person it was named after poisoned Aboriginal people, creates a massive controversy in the Valley

Thomas Coutts was the owner of a large property in Kangaroo Creek in the 1800s and is believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 23 local Aboriginal people.

The residents of the village were against this and at the best attended meeting in the village's history, they voted to not support a name change for their home town.

OPPONENTS of a proposed sawmill development at the Pinnacles, north of Grafton, claim the council has backflipped completely in allowing the development.

In February council staff decided against allowing the mill to expand, but at the June meeting that recommendation had changed. Objectors said there was no adequate explanation for the change.

CONTROVERSIAL former Nationals Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell rejoins the political fray, but for a new party.

Mr Cansdell, who resigned in disgrace from parliament in 2011 after admitting to falsifying a statutory declaration to escape a speeding fine, stepped out in June for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

While the move is popular, there a many in the Clarence Valley ready to remind him of his indiscretions.

JULY

WORK on Maclean's IGA supermarket will begin on schedule on July 17, despite threats of a government crackdown on the company's supply chain.

Ritchies IGA Queensland manager Peter Lee said the issues were with Metcash and the Federal Government and would have no impact on the Maclean supermarket build.

The controversy is the latest in a long line that has dogged this proposal, which has been one of the longest running controversies in the Valley's history.

THE NSW Government guarantees to pay a group of Pacific Highway sub contractors the $7.5million owed to them after a company collapse. The ex-gratia payment brings to an end a year-long saga which has forced companies into liquidation, destroyed lives and ended relationships

A FORMER Clarence Valley mayor has publicly apologised for the removal of a culturally significant tree from a Grafton street, which has the potential to cost Clarence Valley Council $1.1million.

AUGUST

NSW Ambulance officials addressed the Iluka community at a meeting to discuss the possibility of an ambulance station in the isolated town.

CLARENCE Valley Council called an extraordinary meeting following one councillor lodging a motion to reverse the decision to put traffic lights at the intersection of Yamba Rd and Treelands Dr.

SEPTEMBER

The decision to rescind a resolution to install traffic lights at the Treelands Drive, Yamba Rd intersection has not ended debate on the matter with debate over safety considerations.

A WHISTLEBLOWER at the Aruma Community Health Centre said a mould infestation in the building has put staff health at risk.

A PROPOSED 141-lot subdivision in Iluka has community members concerned about the environmental impacts on the world heritage-listed rainforest near the development.

OCTOBER:

IT APPEARS the end is near for the Ulmarra Pool, with a motion for funding the demolition and removal going before Clarence Valley Council Committee meetings on Tuesday.

MACLEAN Hospital should know if it will get a new helipad for emergency helicopter services before the March State election. Residents are appalled the State Government has found it so difficult to fund the project.

THE ARREST of Grafton GP Russell Pridgeon on charges of child stealing shocks the Clarence Valley.

THE RMS goes back to the drawing board after residents complain about its plans to build an asphalt batching plant at Woombah.

NOVEMBER

THE infrastructure program in the Clarence Valley has created a shortage of affordable housing for the aged said a local aged care provider.

CHANGES to short-term rental regulations for coastal regions of the Clarence Valley are heavy-handed and unnecessary, says a real estate spokeswoman.

LEAKED letters reveal staff at the Aboriginal Legal Service in Grafton have been told their office will be moved to Coffs Harbour next year and they are not happy about it.

 

The Black Bean scarred tree after the 2013 'pruning'.
The Black Bean scarred tree after the 2013 'pruning'.

 

DECEMBER

CLARENCE Valley Council is hit with a $300,000 fine in the Land and Environment Court for destroying an Aboriginal scar tree in 2016.