The Border Watch : April 11th 2014
8 opinion EDITORIAL THE conservative draft budget released by Mount Gambier City Council today demonstrates the local government body has listened to the cries of ratepayers. The budget - which flags only one major new project - will see rate revenue increase by around 4.8pc for next financial year. This is a far cry from the 6.9pc foreshadowed in council’s 2013/14 initial draft budget, which triggered a major ratepayer backlash. While council’s long-term financial plan initially predicted a 6.9pc recurrent increase in general rate revenue, this figure has now been downgraded to 5pc. This will be welcomed by the city’s thousands of ratepayers who are already struggling with the rising cost of living, including soaring utility prices. Given the council has handed down a financial blueprint that could be classified as cautious, there should be no repeat of the community uproar last year that plagued the budget process. Council must also be congratulated for attracting around $3m in grant funding from the State Government, which means projects such as the rail lands can proceed without heavily impacting on the budget. But while the council is likely to gain widespread support for this fiscally-restrained budget, it cannot continue to ignore the growing backlash from Commercial Street East traders over carparking. While it is understandable the council wants to push ahead with its inner-city revitalisation project, many traders are bewildered over council’s community consultation efforts during this dispute. Traders and property owners - who pay thousands of dollars in rates - have every right to express their concerns and the council must now try to reach a compromise with these retailers. Given the plans for the redevelopment of the vacant Fidlers building have yet to be publicly released, maybe council should put on hold works until this major development comes to fruition. ViSiT US onLinE borderwatch.com.au COMMENT Forest owner put ‘on notice’ after export logs probe ROM THE FRONT PORCH REENWOOD R GRAHAM R ESTABLISHED 1861 Published by The Border Watch Pty Ltd ABN: 78 007 828 819 Registered office: 81 Commercial Street East, Mount Gambier, SA 5290 Postal address: Box 309, Mount Gambier, SA 5290 Telephone: 08 8724 1555; Fax: 08 8724 1551 Website: www.borderwatch.com.au SMS: 0427 135 114 Proud member of the SCOTT GROUP OF COMPANIES The Border Watch Management: General Manager: Robin Reid Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Editor: Jason Wallace Email: email@example.com Sports Editor: Rod Morris Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sales Manager: Dennis Jackson Email: email@example.com Pre-Press Manager: Jamie Croker Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Administration Manager: Demi Hammond Email: email@example.com The Border Watch Audited by Audit Bureau of Circulations Telephone 8724 1555, Fax 8724 1551 Responsibility for editorial comment is taken by Jason Wallace, 81 Commercial Street East, Mt Gambier The Border Watch proudly uses 100% recycled paper 538600 8 - The Border Watch, Friday, April 11, 2014 ADELAIDE gleefully celebrated the opening of the $550m revamp of Adelaide Oval recently, there was little concern or comment about how the State Labor Government came to get their grubby hands on the money to pay for the redevelopment. While the silver-spooners were having a good time sipping their chardonnay as their favourite AFL teams played on the new-look oval for the first time, the mood in the South East was sombre, to say the least, as concerns of the forward forest sale reached a new level. When the deal was signed, minister after minister stepped forward to claim the strict conditions of the sale to OneFortyOne Plantations would protect the long-term supply to regional processors. It was understood that current log contracts held by local saw mills with ForestrySA would be honoured, but little was said about when future contracts expired. One question remained. Would OneFortyOne continue to negotiate with local saw mills on a oneon-one basis or put logs up for tender? This would mean being exposed to overseas interests, notably China coming in over the top with a higher priced bid, resulting in more and more logs going off shore. STREET SWEEPER What are you looking forward to in the school holidays? TAJ MUNRO Mount Gambier I cannot wait to play my Xbox. HAYLEY PUDNEY Mount Gambier I’m looking forward to going to my nanna’s and spending Easter with my cousins. Mum and dad are also planning on taking me somewhere I have never been before. LUCY BIGGINS Mount Gambier It’s my sisters birthday tomorrow, so we will be celebrating that. I also can’t wait to spend some time with my cousin. The jury is still out on this question. One of the most prevalent concerns raised by local processors or mill operators with the SA Forestry Industry Advisory Board was whether the local industry would continue to have access to adequate timber resources to enable them to plan for their future with confidence. The number of log trucks travelling to Portland has escalated dramatically in the past 12 months and this is supported by the fact that exported volumes are expected to reach 1.2m tonnes this year. Two years ago, exported volumes were about 300,000t, last year it doubled to 600,000t, and if the 1.2m tonne figure is reached it will have doubled again this year. Understandably, this has produced an uneasy feeling among local saw millers. In the past year, many have invested heavily in new milling equipment and have won new contracts, but not only do they need consistent supply, they need guarantees of future supplies so they can grow their business. The escalation of log exports is a serious threat to the local economy and local member Troy Bell raised fears of a short-term cash grab by plantation owners, adding that it was his belief that all types and grades of logs were finding their way out of Portland, not just low grade logs as claimed by the new forest owner. Last week, Mr Bell was supported by numerous timber industry chiefs in demanding the government step in to ensure the conditions of the sale are met, that local mills get priority and that only “excess wood”, not wanted by the local industry, be permitted to be exported. Local Labor candidate at the March election Jim Maher made the comment during the campaign that following the forward sale “the sky had not fallen in”, indicating it was business as usual and there was little to worry about. While the sky has not fallen in, the concern is that the dark clouds are gathering and unless the Labor government steps in and ensures the strict conditions of the sale are adhered to, local mills will suffer. As we all know, if the mills suffer it has a flow-on effect through every sector of the local economy. Local saw mills must have priority of supply. OneFortyOne Plantations (The Campbell Group) came to this region as a highly respected operator, which had a history of working closely with local processors. This week OneFortyOne reiterated that it was complying with the conditions of the sale and export logs were “surplus wood” not required by local mills. However, what this export issue has successfully done is put the OneFortyOne Plantations operation on notice, in that it is now being heavily scrutinised by the media, community and hopefully the State Government. What OneFortyOne does from here, in regard to how well it meets the supply demands of local mills, will determine whether it maintains credibility.
April 10th 2014
April 15th 2014