Saturday, August 18, 2012

The importance of communication and Jonesy's Dairy

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” – Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)

A thought provoking quote that seems more valid today than when it was originally said by the English chemist who discovered oxygen and invented soda water in the 1700s.

Lack of communication or a breakdown in communication is the single biggest cause of conflict in the world today.

Regrettably for the ratepayers of the Wakool Shire, a recent lack of communication has cost the Wakool Shire Council a considerable amount of money following the court ruling on the Jonesy’s Dairy Fresh Development Application (DA). The court ruled that Council had failed to properly notify all persons likely to be affected by the development.

There have been no winners in this recent legal debacle except perhaps the legal advisors themselves.

While it is easy to be wise in hindsight, surely the local residents who launched the legal action against the Wakool Shire Council could have, at the very least, raised their concerns in person, directly with Wayne and Rhonda Somerville of Jonesy’s Dairy Fresh as well as the Council, before proceeding down the trail of litigation?

As Australians we can be grateful we live in a country that values freedom of speech and a legal system that allows us to have our voices heard, no matter how big or small we are. Let us not abuse these privileges.

I have always viewed legal action as a last resort; to be used when all other forms of mediation have failed. Not the first port of call.

There are at least two sides to every story and in this case, possibly three or four. People are entitled to ask questions and to have their concerns answered. Why didn’t Wakool Shire Council, the group of concerned residents and Jonesy’s Dairy Fresh get together and call for a public meeting?

Who are the residents who launched the legal action?

What are their concerns?

Are they anti the dairy development simply because they bought or built homes next to the town’s industrial zone? If this were the case, then it would be akin to people buying housing under flight-paths and then demanding the planes fly somewhere else.

Are they willing to discuss their concerns calmly and openly at a public meeting?

Barham needs industry to grow to attract working families. Barham needs industry to grow to attract and retain young people in our community.

If an industry wants to locate itself in the industrial area in Barham and meets the appropriate standards and regulations required, then I feel it should be encouraged and supported. (…unless of course it’s a nuclear power station, then my stance would be “No way in hell.”)

For the past two years our towns of Barham and Koondrook have been benefiting from a short-term artificial population increase courtesy of the Koondrook-Perricoota Forest Flood Enhancement Works Project (KPFFEWP).

Sometime in the next twelve months, the KPFFEWP will be completed (ironically the end date is rather vague thanks to the naturally occurring floods down the Murray River that keep delaying the construction of the project…). The 150+ employees and contractors for Fulton Hogan will move on to other projects, leaving a large economic hole in the towns of Barham and Koondrook.

Fulton Hogan’s arrival in town coincided with and is still cushioning the impact of, the New South Wales State Government’s decision to close the town’s main industry: sustainable red gum logging.

Jonesy’s Dairy Fresh were planning to run their office and set up a small boutique cheese and yogurt plant at Parkman Avenue, that they say could employ around thirty people. Does the community of Barham want this project dismissed on a technicality?

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