Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bob Hawkins

Huon mayoral wannabe picks at an old scab

All pics of the destruction of the Franklin Football Club clubrooms are by Mike Peters …

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The two documents Mike Wilson sent to Huon Valley News on January 3.

First published Feb 15

Huon Valley Guessing Games

Some weeks ago, Mike Wilson — eternal valley mayoral aspirant — gave me a call, and, as is his wont, invited me to have a coffee. Having had a mug or two over the past decade, I agreed: although we might be at odds over many things about Huon Valley Council, I have always found him an affable, if not always credible, bloke with whom to chew the cud.

We met at DS Cafe, Huonville, and, two hours later, parted in Main Street, each of us doggedly holding to our positions: Wilson was saying there was no way he was going to be talked out of inflicting his political persona on the electors of the Huon Valley, at least not until October (when he would be standing for councillor and mayor); and I was still suggesting that the greatest favour he might do for the harmony of the valley would be to refrain from offering himself as a candidate.

At one stage, I had reasoned that he should abandon his political aspirations completely and concentrate on what his business card says he is —”developer”. No luck there: his response was that the card he had handed me was no longer current, and that he was now retired. His parting sentiment: “I hear what you’re suggesting, Bob — but no chance.”

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ON FEBRUARY 8, I received an intriguing email from Wilson. In it was a copy of an email he had sent to Huon Valley News on January 3. The email to HVN showed two documents (see above), one of which, undated, appears to be something that could have been a 2009 Wilson media release. It has four dot-point paragraphs, is signed ‘Mike Wilson‘, and appears to be an attempt at a justification for what happened to Franklin’s old football clubrooms on February 26, 2009.

The second document, with 11 dot points, and headed The Facts in Relation to the Consultancy Process Which has Taken Place Regarding Franklin Football Club Rooms, looks to be something that might have been authored by a council officer around the same period.

Wilson’s message in his email to me? “Your comments Bob.”

I don’t know why he wants me to comment, but it could be because Tasmanian Times gave the clubrooms’ destruction substantial critical coverage at the time that horror was visited upon Franklin …
http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/outrage-at-franklin/ and http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/deat-in-the-morning/.

Nearly a decade has gone by, yet many, especially local residents, vividly recall that awful dawn moment when a demolition fleet arrived (under protective police guard) and— bugger the asbestos possibility — proceeded to brutally trash the quaint structure that stood at the southern end of the football ground.

Surely council didn’t imagine the good citizens of Franklin — as justified as their anger might have been — would resort to violence to protect a fascinating icon on the boundary of their “village-green” football ground?

By sundown, there was not a sign of a structure having existed. Only freshly graded bare earth remained. Some locals still hint they know of an asbestos-contaminated site at a “pre-eminent location” in Franklin.

The destruction was superbly captured by Mike Peters, a highly talented photographer and musician, who, far too young, died a couple of weeks ago. Were he still with us, Peters would not be alone wondering what it is that has motivated Wilson to re-sift through the debris of a tragic moment in Franklin’s history.

Is harking back to the clubrooms’ destruction a strategic campaign move on the part of Wilson, a man who — though informally — has ceaselessly worked to present himself as a future mayor of the valley ever since he and the other eight elected councillors were sacked in October 2016 after an inquiry had found the whole council dysfunctional?

Only Wilson knows.

He still argues there was no reason to call the inquiry, and no reason to dismiss the council. He also questions the circumstances of the removal of the then general manager, Simone Watson, by the ministerially appointed commissioner, Adriana Taylor (formerly Glenorchy mayor and a member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council).

What many, including this writer, are feeling, is that Wilson is ignoring inconvenient truths, among the most important being that he almost always sided with the councillor group that — under the mayoral supervision of Robert Armstrong (now an MLC) — dictated council decisions for about 13 years.

In my view, over the years when Armstrong was mayor, the council consistently failed to produce much in the way of constructive vision or judgment, economically or environmentally. Add to that, excessive authority delegated to management resulted in council’s reputation for a culture of secrecy.

Those years were characterised by a series of less-than-desirable council happenings, such as:

— The loss of $4 million (plus the subsequent loss of at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest) discovered in late 2008 — a consequence of, at best, ill-advised investments in risky financial products. Those investments were made by management under “delegated authority”, and, to my recall, no councillor would say they knew they had been made until the shocking news was there to be read, in tiny blurry print, on a page of the financial statement for the year 2007-08 presented to the December 2008 annual general meeting.

— The failure of council for years to do adequate maintenance on the Grey Mountain water supply pipeline to Cygnet.

— An illegal and unapproved jetty being built at Franklin right under the noses of council staff.

— Two GM selection processes that some thought were highly questionable.

— Bullying allegations that came to public light and resulted in the departure of two members of senior management.

— The cutting of community services, a move that, it seemed, simultaneously helped to limit the rate rise and to conveniently make necessary the removal of a hardworking but offside senior manager. To my knowledge, no one in council has ever admitted that it cut back on community services; and it is pure surmise on my part that council’s management was restructured to dispose of a staff member. I’m sure the victim of that restructure would feel the same.

— Two apparent cases of inadequate handling by council of asbestos concerns that were brought to its attention.

— Allegations that a sitting councillor benefited from a council decision . . .

THE DESTRUCTION of the Franklin clubrooms, which was opposed by a huge section of the community, meant the township lost a pleasingly eye-catching structure as well as a potential dollar-earner. It could have become an olde-worlde revenue-raising venue for functions such as weddings, concerts and balls, or for lucrative letting as a period-set to film makers.

That the mode of its destruction could have been unlawful was, I think, obliquely hinted at by Commissioner Taylor when, recently, she said today’s council would not have handled the destruction in that manner.

At the time of the demolition, I wrote:

The destruction of this Franklin icon is seen by many as a mindless, irresponsible act of vandalism. And some sense it could have involved breaches of regulations at various levels.

More disturbing than the demolition, has been council’s contempt and disregard for community sentiment and the people’s desire to be consulted. The sequence of events last week looked suspiciously tinged with deceit and, possibly “porky-pies” . . . The Franklin incident is yet another piece of evidence that fuels a growing sense in the valley that the performance of the council is urgently in need of scrutiny . . .

Last Thursday’s act of heritage vandalism only reinforces the feeling that the people of the valley have a council that is out of touch with the communities it is supposed to be serving. Sadly, it took nearly another eight years for a higher authority to come to a similar conclusion about the council — and to get rid of it.

There are others in the Huon community who know much more about the background to the circumstances that led to that February 2009 day of council infamy at Franklin. I’m hoping some of them will be prepared to fill in the picture. At the time, I remember stories circulating about council going back on an assurance that it would not demolish the clubrooms if a use could be found for it; and I also remember someone saying that what council described as rotten trusses were in fact made of iron and in good nick; and that $150,000 would have brought the building up to scratch and ready to pay its way; and that a petition to save the clubrooms was building rapidly at the very moment the wreckers were ordered in . . .

In our world of knowns and unknowns, there is truth and there is half-truth, and, sometimes, there are several truths. The documents that Wilson sent to Huon Valley News on January 3 tell only part of the story about the demise of Franklin’s football clubrooms — as does this article.

It is to be hoped that the Huon Valley Council elected next October will not treat those it serves with the contempt that was shown for the voices of many Franklin residents nearly a decade ago.

*Bob Hawkins, in the final — liberatingly subjective — stages of a 63-year journalistic career, has been watching his local council since he arrived in the paradise that is the Huon Valley more than a decade ago. He is hoping none of the long-serving councillors who were sacked in October 2016 will present themselves as candidates at next October’s council election.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Geoffrey Swan

    February 24, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    #19 … It is now very apparent Ian, that our divergent views are worlds apart. I am however surprised that you do not appear to be reading my comments before passing your own comments to me.

    At #3 I clearly explained, by publishing parts of recent letters in the local Huon Valley News, that the now sacked former Councillor Mike Wilson made a public comment and it was/is an outright lie.

    No other word for it.

    This same wannabe Mayor has indicated he is again going to stand for Council while he continues to flood the airwaves of HuonFM with half truths (IMV) and IMV his outdated idealist views. For your reading pleasure I repeat what I said in my letter to the HVN February 7th 2018 …

    He is correct that I have never met him ( and I have no desire to do so) but I cannot see how my doing so would have any relevance. I haven’t met with Queen Elizabeth, nor has she invited me for tea, but I have a fair idea of her moral standpoint on a number of topics. I have observed Mr Wilson in action on no less than fifteen occasions at Council meetings.

    I firmly believe that the public forum is the best place to canvas any issues of public concern, and that private meetings lack the necessary transparency.

    All I have sought from Mr Wilson in the past (when he was a Councillor) – but to no avail, is a written response of substance to questions that I have posed in the public interest. I have only ever received an acknowledgement of receipt.

  2. Ian Lovell

    February 23, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    #18 … Mr Swan, do you really expect Mr Wilson to get into a slanging match with you in here? If it means that much then take a drive to Port Huon and see him, he is not hard to find. Seriously, grow up … using bold text and uppercase is in today’s age a common bullying tactic …

  3. Geoffrey Swan

    February 23, 2018 at 12:59 am

    #16 … yep … I did note that after I commented at #14 … and thought, oh s..t.

    Oh well … never said I was perfect … but in hindsight I felt the need to shout ’cause now sacked former Councilor Mike Wilson is not listening or accepting that he has told a porkie in the Huon Valley News …

  4. Ian Lovell

    February 22, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    #15 … Mr Johnson, maybe Council was desperate to pull this building down and remove massive costs of maintenance and removal of asbestos but it was unused, unloved and became derelict by the very community you speak of. Surely you aren’t suggesting council stopped the use of the building for a decade or whatever so the building could become so poor in condition. If this is so then why has the same council not removed the old disused Geeveston buildings.? The scout hall and old footy club rooms immediately come to mind.

    Sometimes people just develop a hatred for government bodies and it doesn’t matter what is done or said, it is never enough. The local council is the poorest of the government agencies charged with delivering more services than any other level of government, and with very little budgets. The councillors do the job willingly and get next to no compensation for it. No wonder it’s so hard to find good people to do the job.

  5. Ian Lovell

    February 22, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    #14 … Mr Swan, check post #9, last paragraph, word never …

  6. Shane Johnson

    February 22, 2018 at 12:29 am

    Ian #13 … please do not make the mistake of believing that this building was unloved and unwanted, that it could not be saved or that the motives for removing it were simple.
    Council were desperate to pull this building down despite reasoned arguments and heartfelt protests for it to be saved.
    Mike Wilson’s lists barely begin to tell the story.
    The community believed that it was protected and that it would be retained.
    It had no idea that it would become a asbestos dump site and a place for hooning drivers.
    Sadly, these are issues that a new Council still needs to resolve to try to clean up the past legacy.

  7. Geoffrey Swan

    February 22, 2018 at 12:20 am

    #13 … I can only presume our posts have crossed …

    I earlier explained in the “Taylor Made” post that bold text is used to highlight the topic … or in this case to elicit a response from Mr Wilson to accept that he has told lies and to man up and apologise. It did not work. Mr Wilson has simply gone to ground – as to be expected.

    To shout is to use CAPITAL LETTERS Ian … I am not shouting.

  8. Ian Lovell

    February 21, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    #9 … Mr Swan, you are SHOUTING in here too, I see … chortle chortle …

    On topic now … Clearly from the letter in the story every effort was explored over at least three years with the old derelict building. It’s a pity it took heavy machinery moving in to get a few interested.

    Now the Pallais … what a great example of how a community can come together and save something special. Clearly the community including the progress association never felt the same way for the fifty or so year old club rooms. Demolition of this obviously allowed the maintenance budget to be spent on the now current club rooms at the under-used sports oval.

  9. MjF

    February 19, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for those snippets, Shane

    Do as I say, not do as I do, hey ?

  10. Shane Johnson

    February 19, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    #6, Geoffrey. Yes, the floorboards were pretty special. Over 50 years of spilled grog and tears meant that they were probably well nourished. A small section still remains as on the night before the demolition I asked if the area containing the large Franklin FC lion could be cut out and saved. It was and it proved that the floor and joists were in terrific condition.

    #8, Martin. The lack of recycling of materials was a disgrace although someone in the know did manage to ‘recycle’ the meter board shortly after the electricity was disconnected.
    Council were so keen to get the old girl gone that they left the kitchen cupboards full of crockery, glassware and cutlery. In the ceiling space were several unopened bags of pink batts fibreglass insulation. These will all still be in the ground together with the smashed asbestos.

    I am unsure what future archaelogists will make of it all. Perhaps one day Council records will show us if there are any secrets buried with the asbestos.

    p.s. I did also manage to alert Council to the presence of an antique turned table and it received a reprieve from the excavator.

  11. Shane Johnson

    February 18, 2018 at 10:22 am

    The list and timeline provided by former councillor, deputy mayor and acting mayor of Huon Valley Council Mike Wilson makes for interesting reading.

    In my view, it is also noteworthy for what it omits.

    There is no mention that the community so valued the building that an application (from around 2006) was before the then Heritage Council for listing on the Tasmanian register.

    Nor is there any mention that the community petitioned council for a 30-day moratorium on demolition to enable federal stimulus funding to be obtained, and that the community undertook to take responsibility for the restoration costs.

    We are not told that the council ignored a separate costing from a registered builder for repairs obtained by the Franklin Progress Association of less than $150,000. (This quote would likely be reduced further as it assumed there would be no donated labour or materials.)

    There is no explanation of why the then Franklin Township Committee was told that there was no alternative to a hasty demolition because the roof trusses were rotten when an inspection found them to be made of steel and in good condition.

    The list doesn’t explain why council backtracked from its undertaking just days before demolition that the building would be safe if the community came up with a range of future uses. (Which, of course, it did.)

    There is no mention of the fact that Council overlooked the presence of asbestos in the building and that this asbestos is now buried just below the surface on the Franklin foreshore.

    We are also not told about the advanced discussions between the Franklin Bowls Club and Franklin Rowing Club and plans for a proposed 2-storey re-development of the bowls club just 50 metres from the former clubrooms.

    There is no mention that the building lay in the path of one of the proposed routes for the planned Huon Valley Regional Water Scheme (which was designed by Council) or that the actual site was later considered for the location of the controversial pump station.

    There is no explanation of why council had stored unsecured tin sheets and other materials on the roof right up to demolition, yet at the same time telling the community that loose roofing tin presented an imminent danger and that, for this reason, demolition could not be delayed.

    It is clear that council demolished this building with as much haste as it could muster, to the point that it did not even undertake an effective asbestos assessment.

    The sad legacy of this period of council governance in this example is twofold: the former clubrooms were demolished unnecessarily and a valued asset has been lost, and that this iconic location has been turned into a toxic dumpsite.

  12. Geoffrey Swan

    February 18, 2018 at 12:14 am

    #1 … you are being very quiet all of a sudden, Mr Wilson.

    I again draw your attention to my comments at #3.

    … perhaps he will now offer me a public apology for this porkie.

    I repeat … I have NEVER been invited by you for a coffee and chat – yet you proclaim you have previously done just that. Time to man up Mr Wilson, and confess you have uttered an outright lie.

  13. MjF

    February 15, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    $6
    Whoever in council authorised such an exercise in wasteage should have been sacked on the spot.

    Even a community cracker night with bonfire would’ve been more useful.

  14. Helen Walne

    February 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    From my understanding the BOI report deemed the entire Council was dysfunctional justifying the need to be sacked.
    We’ve had a Commissioner who was charged with the responsibility of calming the waters and sorting out the governance……restoring integrity.
    It would appear that one member of that dysfunctional team claims not to have been part of that dysfunctional team.
    Can’t have it both ways. Either he WAS a Councillor and therefore part of the problem. Or he wasn’t!
    Mr Wilson you need a reality check……and the ratepayers need to elect, and require, a future council with an unblemished administrative profile. Someone to lead the team with integrity to restore community confidence and pride.

  15. Geoffrey Swan

    February 15, 2018 at 11:46 am

    #5 Others like Bob will know more – but I am told the polished timber floor boards were to die for

  16. MjF

    February 15, 2018 at 9:57 am

    2 important observations from the photos:

    1) franklin were having a big win over the struggling visitors the day of the image with kids hanging out of the windows. Quintessential country footy. I wonder who the opposition was ?

    2) Hard to believe none of the building materials were salvaged/recycled ? It just appears to be totally smashed up.
    Such a waste of all those weather boards.

    Halton – interesting you say the former APM mill and wharf blended into the landscape beautifully, yet we’re now to believe from the protagonists a similar development further south will destroy the Esperance Bay vistas.

    Perception is very subjective, don’t you think ?

  17. Robin Charles Halton

    February 15, 2018 at 1:58 am

    I still cant get over that ugly building that looks like an oversize farm shed across the road from the Kermandie Hotel.

    At the time, who from council approved that obscene structure that onto what was once a lovely natural landscape alongside Kermandie Creek

    Even Spec Clark’s mud caked old log trucks parked opposite the Kermandie Hotel in the 1960/70’s were are far more acceptable part of the everyday working landscape.

    The former APM Mill and loading wharf, the rocket station as it was affectionately known by the locals blended in perfectly among the local landscape with the Hartz mountains as a backdrop which in fact was always a pretty sight around Hospital Bay environs where the yachts are moored.
    The approach to the Kermandie Creek environs deserves better by considering relocating the Sports Centre to a more suitable site not as prominent, perhaps to the Kermandie Football Grounds would fit the bill.

    I love the Huon landscapes, as most forestry operations fit in with the environment bar a few plantation developments which should have remained as farmland or as native forest.

    The Huon has a lot going for it apart from the wet and cold winters, many of its landscapes remain intact spared from ugly development, that bloody monsterous tin shed / Sports centre and also the Huonville tip on the main drag south of Huonville on the way to Franklin both require removal.

    I would hope that eventually when a new council is elected with a coordinated leadership, some respect is shown for the natural environment in what is potentially a spectacular region for its scenery, both for locals and attracting tourists to enjoy.

  18. Geoffrey Swan

    February 14, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Not that I for one moment consider myself in the same league as the infamous Bob Hawkins … but on reading your post Bob, it does appear as if your recent coffee mate, and once again aspiring Huon Valley Mayor, is just doing the rounds.

    But I must first off mention I just cannot get the published picture of this try hard but now sacked HVC councillor who took it upon himself to park his car in the HVC car parking bay reserved for Mayor Peter Coad http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/huon-waits-on-the-real-umpires-call/ out of my mind.

    In the Huon Valley News January 24th 2018, Mike Wilson offered an opinion letter which in part read:

    Dear Editor, It was very disappointing to read in last week’s Huon News that two people, both of whom have not lived in the valley for very many years, can sit in judgement of someone they have never met. I again invite both Ms Kyne and Mr Swan to meet with me and have a chat over a coffee, something that they have both refused to do in the past.

    For a wee moment I wondered – is this even worthy of a response? I wondered how to best inform the readers of the Huon Valley News that this person, who aspires to be the Mayor of the Huon Valley and who, despite trying for some 15 years, has not quite made it to the top job is simply telling porkies. Who would believe me after all? I have lived in the Huon Valley for only 10 years. I mean … a number of the now sacked former HVC Councillors famously decreed they do not like the changes these “newcomers” want in the Valley.

    The former Senior Sergeant of Huonville Police personally told my wife and I (following the incident when our 18 family-friendly geese were shot, wounded and slaughtered because they dared to cross Lonnavale Road from my 5 acre property onto my neighbours 3,000 acre property and who was apparently desperately concerned they would eat him out of house and home) … that the “locals do not like blow-ins like you”. Quote/unquote. (He also said “If you are considering relocating from Lonnavale … don’t move to Pelverata … it is much worse there”)

    But … because my values and principals are all about truth, transparency, and hopefully justice, I responded with my letter to the Editor of the Huon Valley News which was published February 7th, 2018:

    Dear Editor,

    Perhaps Mr Wilson’s comments in the HVN Jan 24 should have been verified before his letter was published, although you would expect that he was telling the truth.
    I have lived and worked in the Huon Valley for 10 years, and yes, I am a blow-in, but Mr Wilson has never invited me for coffee or a chat – never phoned me or spoken with me.
    Never.
    I find his observation, “that two people, both of whom have not lived in the valley for very many years, can sit in judgement of someone that they have never met”, quite ludicrous.
    He is correct that I have never met him, and I have no desire to do so, but I cannot see how me doing so would be of any relevance.
    I haven’t met with Queen Elizabeth, nor has she invited me for tea, but I have a fair idea of her moral standpoint on a number of topics. I have observed Mr Wilson in action on no less than fifteen occasions at the Huon Valley Council meetings.
    I firmly believe that the public forum is the best place to canvas any issues of public concern, and that private meetings lack the necessary transparency.
    All I have sought from Mr Wilson in the past, when he was a councillor, and to no avail, is a written response of substance to questions that I have posed in the public interest.
    I have only ever received an acknowledgement of receipt.
    I am not sitting in judgement of anyone. I am merely pointing out that a person who aspires to the role of Mayor of the Huon Valley is not telling the truth when he claims that he has invited me for coffee and a chat.
    This is a fact, and the length of time I have lived in the Huon Valley in no way changes that.
    Geoffrey Swan
    Lonnavale

    Given Mr Wilson at #1 is obviously a reader and contributor to TT … perhaps he will now offer me a public apology for this porkie. There was no such thing in this week’s edition of the HVN.

  19. Bob Hawkins

    February 14, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    #1. Mike, you know as well as I do that you are (as I am) a divisive member of the Huon Valley community. Each of us, in our way, is passionate about the welfare of the valley; and each of us is a source of provocation to one side or the other of the political argument. If we stood aside from the disruptive maelstrom of differences that I fear might lie ahead, I think we would both be making the best possible contribution towards getting a healing process under way — and to lessening tensions between reactionaries and progressives. Sadly, we both believe we are progressives, so I don’t suppose there’s much hope on that front.

  20. Mike Wilson

    February 14, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Interesting reading, Bob. I thank you for at least taken the time to sit down and have a chat over coffee.

    As you know I am like so many people in OUR valley, both passionate and committed to it, and I strongly believe we can bring people together.

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