Icing on the Cake

Comments (0) Susie Dunn

susie dunn

“The Fortunes of the House Stand Firm …”

Was long the motto of the Armidale Council. Currently things in the region are changing, underlining Charles Darwin’s words: “the fittest win out … because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment”.

Since the formation of the Armidale Regional Council, the Administrator, Dr. Ian Tiley, has presided over a rapid and – to many –  overdue raft of changes and general redirection and streamlining of Council’s responsibilities in the region, following on Fit for the Future recommendations.

There’s a buzz of targeted activity across the board, and I admit to being fired up by the enthusiasm at a range of meetings. It‘s great to hear people energised by possibilities, rather than lamenting perceived failings. Time to organise and act!

It’s long been evident – and said – we need growth and planning, and work to realise that. We need to attract residents and need jobs for them – what we have been doing ‘til now simply hasn’t been working. Chicken and egg. We need to show people the lifestyle available here and demonstrate the tangible benefits in starting or relocating businesses. It‘s up to us.

The Ratepayers Association held a public meeting, where Dr. Tiley introduced the new highly-qualified Council Executive Team: Peter Dennis (CEO), Mark Piorkowski (Service Delivery) and Lindsay Woodland (Organisational Services). They all expressed excitement at the tasks ahead.

The Guyra Chamber of Commerce’s Aileen MacDonald hosted a meeting with the Armidale Chamber and Locals for Locals, to hear from a very positive Marcus Westbury, who turned a depressed city centre in Newcastle around and has been helping other areas re-vitalise themselves. The meeting was packed with an extraordinary range of citizens, and the mood helped focus determination on the need for change and action in our region. Now, as ABGA, the three groups are joining forces to “raise a collective voice on business issues”. L4L President Greg Jackson said, “The group formed from the observation that Armidale Region, in 2017, has unprecedented opportunities for growth”. Ideas and plans are coming thick and fast – first project launched February.

Congratulations to our State MP, Adam Marshall, promoted to Minister for Tourism and Events. I’m sure he’ll inject some life into that portfolio for us.

Sadly, a farewell – Susanne James, NECOM Director here for a packed six years, is leaving for family reasons together with her husband, Malcolm McClintock – who injected a new vitality into the Armidale Art Gallery. I’ll miss them both.

Every contribution counts, and the Renewable Energy Industry is particularly active. At an Armidale Business Chamber breakfast with Sandra Royal from the $400 million White Rock Wind Farm and the  $45 million White Rock Solar Farm being developed near Glen Innes, she asked, “Could New England become a sustainable energy powerhouse?” My Inbox is full of invitations to events and launches in this growing industry.

Among many happenings, I went to the Armidale Aboriginal Cultural Centre with exhibitions from Brian Irving, Ron Green, Tyler Stackman and local elders. Packed with community people, we were serenaded by music from Dennis Pitt – also a talented artist – and daughter Leetona. A good night.

UNE Graduate Rachel Chant won Best Director in the BroadwayWorld Sydney Awards. Another good story concerns UNE’s Austin College’s terrific Chamber Ensemble programme, which appealed to student Felicity McKellar. Encouraged by Arts Educators Head of Austin Andrea Gledhill and the celebrated musician Deidre Rickards, Felicity received Honours for her Trinity College flute exam. Her story shows marvellous local support for students. Armidale’s Hannah Fraser is currently auditioning for operatic roles in Europe.

I talked with the first speaker of the year for ADFAS, renowned award-winning architect and very nice man Michael Dysart. Later he was asked how he felt that the Heritage listed Robb College buildings he’d designed had been closed down. Very emotional, he couldn’t speak for a moment, but had harsh words for the university, saying it had presided over a no-maintenance policy of demolition by neglect and he’d offered low-cost alternatives which had been ignored. The audience was sad and angry.

Susie Dunn.

P.s. And Tatt’s Hotel renovations are on the move!

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