Letters to the editor

September 08, 2017

A club under challenge

My wife loves going to Benalla and taking daily walks into town from the airfield. The gliding club thinks of Benalla as ‘‘its’’ town.

Most club operations are run by volunteers including airfield mowing, supported by council subsidy, but with all big equipment club-owned and operated.

Most hangars are privately owned.

‘‘Young’’ members are typically 55 and are ordinary people with limited income.

They depend on the privately registered, council-endorsed Aeropark for cost-effective accommodation.

At present, the club is under an ultimatum to initially pay about $8 a square metre for the unserviced land under their hangars.

This includes a $2 ‘‘development fee’’ (?), fire services levy, GST and demanded insurance.

Serviced domestic housing rates are less than $2 per square metre, but are not leased.

An edict issued to the club, demands payment or removal of the hangers or the hangars to be confiscated by council.

The club wants to pay its share, but cannot pay all the costs of the airfield heavily used by others, including fire services, ambulance and ‘‘bank’’ planes.

A pall has surged through the club and members are losing heart.

The club provides a presence on the airfield that other councils envy.

The club is in limbo with respect to the Aeropark and clubhouse.

The airfield will be a barren, empty place when the club goes under.

And very sad for those of us who have come to love Benalla.

— Robert W Brown, 17 years coming to Benalla

Lease brouhaha continues

The incompetence of the Benalla Rural City over hangar rents at the airfield seems almost beyond belief.

It reeks of the lack of communication, or even the rules of good governance, which have marked Premier Daniel Andrew’s efforts, hopefully doomed in parliament, to merge municipal and country firefighters without proper input, certainly from the latter.

I suppose if the state government thinks it can get away with it, local government must think it can, too.

It is blatantly incompetent not only not to have increased hangar rents for glider operators steadily during the past few years, but also now to impose increases of more than 500 per cent.

It seems that once that is achieved, the council plans to strong-arm other airfield tenants into unconscionable rent rises.

The city CEO was quoted in this paper last week about needing to finance a $12million plan to upgrade the airfield. Why?

There is little wrong with it, as it meets Civil Aviation Safety Authority safe operating standards, to handle traffic at any hour of the day or night.

The CEO seems to be having delusions of grandeur when he talks about completing stage one of the upgrade to increase air freight and emergency flight capacity.

It is not hard to back a ute or ambulance up to the door of the sort of ambulance or freight aeroplane that will continue to use Benalla for the foreseeable future, and load or unload in a few minutes, maybe a couple of people or a hundred kilograms of vital materials.

The main runway is 18m wide tarmac 1043m long and again is more than adequate for the needs of the city.

If a bigger runway is needed, Wangaratta has one that is 1640m long.

As a powered light aeroplane pilot, I’ve flown in and out of Benalla for decades, even when there was no automatic runway lighting for night operations.

I can think of nothing else coming even close to increasing the viability of the Benalla airfield, as when wires and lights were installed.

And I can think of nothing that would come close to justifying $12 million being spent.

— David Palmer, Benalla

Honour $100 million

The Andrews Labor government has acknowledged, through its commitment of $100 million, that the CFA is in need of additional funding, which could be used to provide infrastructure, such as replacing old trucks, building new stations and providing appropriate training facilities for volunteers.

The Andrews Labor government must now honour the $100 million commitment to the CFA, ahead of the fire season, regardless of the outcomes of The Fire Services Bill.

The Fire Services Bill, which will split the CFA, looks likely to be voted down by the Legislative Council in its current form due to the lack of consultation with volunteers, the impact on surge capacity, the blatant power grab to the UFU, as well as the lack of detail in terms of how any proposed reform will be implemented.

Emergency Services Minister James Merlino has himself acknowledged that there has been a $100 million commitment made to the CFA mentioning in Parliament in June that the CFA was going to receive ‘‘the additional support of $100 million’’.

I would like to see the $100 million get delivered regardless of the likely failure of the Fire Services Bill.

There should be no conditions put on community safety.

For the Andrews Labor Government to acknowledge that the funds are there, but not deliver them will be a huge mistake and another in a string of broken promises to volunteers and the community by the Labor Government.

I urge the Andrews Labor Government to do the right thing and deliver these much-needed funds ahead of the fire season.

— Luke OSullivan MP, The Nationals Member for Northern Victoria

Let’s create safe environments

National Child Protection Week runs from September 3 to 9.

In this week we take the time to reflect on child protection issues and promote the wellbeing of our young people.

I am asking for a world without child abuse and we can only achieve that though creating safe environments for our kids.

Reports of child abuse are overwhelming and give witness to the lack of accountability for adults who abuse young people.

Sadly, some communities are looking the other way, ignoring the abuse of children because this is the easiest option.

People don’t want to get involved in notifying assaults on our young people because of the fear of the consequences from the perpetrators.

Nothing is more important than protecting our vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.

Child abuse goes beyond the tears and pain experienced in childhood.

Victims endure a lifetime of psychological and emotional distress, they often become drug users to kill the pain of abuse, attempt suicide, self-mutilate and have major trust issues.

We, as a society, must ensure that we provide our children with a safe and supportive environment, so that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

My organisation, Youth Off The Streets, is dedicated to helping victims of child abuse through extensive programs as well as our trained youth workers, case workers and psychologists.

We strive to offer a full curriculum of care that is provided on a case-by-case basis, ensuring our young people get the care they so desperately need.

We as a community need to listen to what is happening to our young people, speak up and get help when our children are in trouble.

Together we can protect some of Australias most vulnerable young people from experiencing this trauma.

— Father Chris Riley, CEO and founder at Youth Off The Streets

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