Mayor slams senseless act of vandalism

Mayor Lyn McLaughlin has condemned the acts of vandals after a statue and shade sail in the heart of Ayr’s library and theatre precinct were damaged earlier this month.

The artwork, titled Walking Forward, was built from recycled materials and depicts the figures of a man and woman with a child holding a library book.

On Saturday 15 June, vandals detached the metal arm of the woman and child, while in the Theatre forecourt two holes were burnt in one of the shade sails.

The act of vandalism has been labelled as ‘another unnecessary expense’ by Cr McLaughlin.

“One of my greatest frustrations is when Council has to spend money on repairs due to vandalism, so I was extremely disappointed to hear about the recent acts of vandalism in our cultural precinct,” Cr McLaughlin.

“Why anyone would want to damage a piece of public artwork or a shade structure, which were both installed for the benefit of our entire community, is beyond me. This is another unnecessary expense for Council.”

Vandalism has cost Council nearly $16,000 so far this year.

“There is a lot Council could do with $16,000 but unfortunately it had to be spent replacing statues, fixing shade sails, and removing graffiti.

“Particularly saddening is that this is not the first time this particular artwork has been targeted. It was damaged in a similar attack only weeks after its official unveiling back in 2017.”

Cr McLaughlin said CCTV footage had been provided to local police, and that anyone with information was encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

More than $40,000 for environmental protection

The local environment has received a big boost in the 2019/20 Budget, with more than $40,000 budgeted for environmental protection initiatives.

Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said $25,000 had been allocated to develop a dune protection plan.

“Sand dunes are an integral part of our coastal environment, acting as the first line of defence against coastal storms and beach erosion. They are also the basis of many important ecosystems,” Cr McLaughlin said.

“Council recognises the important role our beach dunes play and has allocated $25,000 to develop a dune protection plan to outline the necessary actions for dune restoration and stabilisation.”

Council will also undertake an innovative 26 week aquatic weed control pilot trial, allocating nearly $16,000 to the project.

“Due to our coastal proximity, any water that flows through our lagoon systems eventually makes its way to the Great Barrier Reef.

“Our Council is committed to protecting and conserving the reef by improving the health of local waterways, which is why we are conducting an innovative pilot trial to explore the potential benefits of biological controls.”

Cr McLaughlin said the trial would use naturally occurring microorganisms to control invasive weeds in a local lagoon.

“We anticipate that these microorganisms – which grow at a rate approximately 100 times faster than aquatic weeds – will reduce the amount of nutrients available to be taken up by weeds, resulting in reduced growth or dieback.

“This biological control offers many benefits compared to traditional chemical or mechanical control measures. It is a lower-cost, more sustainable approach, which will enhance the local ecosystem and reduce the amount of chemicals flowing to the ocean.

“A successful trial will provide an alternative nutrient management system for the long-term health of the Burdekin’s lagoon systems.”

Cr McLaughlin said the two projects were funded through the Environmental Levy.

Council splashes out for Ayr and Home Hill swimming pool upgrades

Residents with disabilities will have improved access to the Ayr and Home Hill swimming pools with Burdekin Shire Council budgeting $90,000 to construct additional bathroom amenities at the two public facilities.

Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said the new unisex amenities – which will include an all-abilities accessible shower, toilet and hand basin, as well as a baby change table – will help make the swimming pools a more inclusive place.

“The current Ayr and Home Hill swimming pool bathroom amenities were built back in the late 1950s. Whilst adequate for their time, Council has identified the need to improve the bathroom facilities in order to open up the swimming pools to a greater part of the community,” Cr McLaughlin said.

“Swimming is a great way of staying fit, particularly for people with health issues that cannot take part in weight bearing activities.

“By providing these facilities, it’s hoped that people who previously could only stay for a short period of time can now extend their visit and increase their physical activity as well. This includes not only people with a disability, but also their family and carers, as well as parents with children of the opposite sex.”

Cr McLaughlin said the new additions would complement Council’s previous efforts to make the swimming pools more inclusive, including the recent installation of modern mobility chair lifts at each facility to improve access in to and out of the pools.

The funding allocation comes after Council was successful in receiving $48,000 under the Federal Government’s Community Sports Infrastructure Program to assist with construction costs.

Meanwhile, Council has budgeted a further $15,000 to undertake a preliminary design and investigate the cost to change the length of the Home Hill pool from the existing 55 yards to the Olympic sized 50 metres.

Cr McLaughlin said the potential change would make a splash with local competitive swimmers.

“Changing the pool length to the standardised 50 metres in the future would not only enable swimmers to train in a standardised swimming pool, it would also ensure times from local carnivals are recognised outside our region.”

Budget invests $9 million in roads to keep Shire moving

Burdekin Shire Council’s 2019/20 Budget will invest $9 million in 2019/20 to maintain and upgrade critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, footpaths, aerodrome and drainage to ensure residents and visitors have safer and smoother journeys.

Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said about a third of the $19.9 million capital works spend in the 2019/20 Budget would be allocated to transport and drainage infrastructure roads across the Shire, including $5.2 million for roads, $180,000 for drainage and $1.3 million for pathways.

“Council knows that the condition of our urban and rural roads, footpaths and drainage is really important to our community,” Cr McLaughlin said.

“Investing in these projects will ensure our Shire has the essential infrastructure needed to grow and keep moving forward.”

Cr McLaughlin said the expansion of the Shire’s pathways was a key feature of this year’s budget.

“Council is investing in a healthier future for the community with $450,000 funding allocated to the extension of the Be-Active Trail in Ayr.

“The trail will be extended along Clayton and Ross Streets from Cox Street to McIntyre Place.  A further $30,000 has been allocated to the planning and design of the Home Hill Be-Active Trail stage 1.

“We will also improve access to one of our Shire’s most popular sites – the Mount Inkerman lookout – with $100,000 budgeted to extend the nature trail at Mount Inkerman.”

More than $2.7 million will also be spent on rural road upgrades.

“Safety will be improved in Airville with the construction of a $1.3 million roundabout at the intersection of Fiveways and Ivory Road. This project will mean motorists travelling on this important connector road will get where they need to go safely.

“We have also budgeted $100,000 for part of the cost of sealing Jerona Road from the SS Star of Hope Avenue to the boat ramp car park, $600,000 on widening Brown Road between Ayr Dalbeg Road and Pelican Road and $150,000 to replace the floodway on Kilrie Road”

Other highlights include $800,000 for the rehabilitation of Shire bridges and $1 million on a Shire-wide bitumen reseal program.

$415,000 to revitalise Burdekin Shire parks

An outdoor fitness circuit in Home Hill, improved public toilets at Groper Creek and the design of Ayr’s Anzac Park Precinct are among the highlights of Burdekin Shire Council’s parks projects in this year’s Budget.

Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said $415,000 had been earmarked to revitalise parks and playgrounds throughout the Shire.

“Managing our parks, gardens and playgrounds is one of Council’s core duties, with 46 hectares of parks and reserves being maintained by Council employees” Cr McLaughlin said.

“Council recognises that maintaining and upgrading our open spaces is a key part of ensuring our Shire continues to be a great place to live.”

The Budget includes $160,000 to implement the first wave of priorities identified in the Anzac Park Master Plan.

Cr McLaughlin said the strategic document, which is currently under development, will guide future planning for the 17.5 hectare area.

“We have an active community here in the Burdekin, with more than 80 sporting and recreational clubs Shire-wide.”

“Last year, Council identified the need for a dedicated sport and recreation precinct plan that would bring together and link the existing sporting and recreational facilities in the Anzac Park vicinity.

“This key strategic document is nearing completion and will soon be released for community consultation, allowing locals to have their say on the future of sport and recreation in Ayr.

“Once the Master Plan is finalised, Council will be in a position to design and commence implementing the short-term priorities, which will enhance the area for years to come.”

In addition to the Anzac Park Precinct, Cr McLaughlin said parks from across the Shire were set to benefit under the 2019/20 Budget, with Council allocating $220,000 of Queensland Government Works for Queensland Funding towards upgrades and new installations.

“Projects receiving funding include the installation of a new picnic shelter and barbeque in Lloyd Mann Park, an outdoor fitness circuit in Home Hill and the update of the Groper Creek public amenities.

“The original play equipment in Coutts Park will also be replaced. This complements recent upgrades in the park including the installation of the Double Mega Tower play equipment and outdoor fitness circuit.

An additional $35,000 has been allocated to replace the seating in the Plantation Park Bush Chapel.

$5.1 million for waste services and infrastructure

Burdekin Shire Council will spend $5.1 million delivering and upgrading waste services and infrastructure in the 2019/20 financial year whilst continuing to keep charges to ratepayers to a minimum.

Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said Council had allocated significant funds in the 2018/19 Budget to improve Council’s compliance with existing licence conditions at the Kirknie Road Landfill and that 2019/20 should see the completion of the required capital compliance works.

“Council has budgeted $250,000 to construct and complete earthworks, levelling and drainage works at the Kirknie landfill site. These works will include filling low lying areas of the site to minimise water ponding and potential for leachate generation in the previously unlined trenches,” Cr McLaughlin said.

Funding has also been allocated for the construction of drainage structures and earth bunds to facilitate drainage in accordance with the Kirknie Stormwater Management Plan.

“Other minor projects that have received funding include the construction of two new ground water monitoring bores budgeted at $15,000 and the construction of a concrete sump for leachate ponds 1 and 2.

“The construction of these new bores is a win for the environment, as they will allow Council to monitor the quality of water in the underground and will give Council greater control in monitoring the risk of potential environmental degradations.”

The monitoring bores will complement the four current bores which were installed in the 2018/19 financial year.

Meanwhile, construction of the sump will improve Council’s ability to pump out and clean the ponds for ongoing maintenance and repairs. The new process will also be much more efficient and cost effective than the existing method.

Cr McLaughlin confirmed residents of Clare and surrounding areas will be able to continue visiting the Clare Transfer Station seven days a week on a permanent basis.

“Following Council’s decision to open the Clare Transfer Station as an unmanned facility in 2017/18, I am pleased to confirm residents will continue to benefit with Council budgeting $26,500 towards the annual operation of the facility.

“Residents should note however that incorrect use or abuse of the facility will cause the Council to review the services provided.”

Fiveways Road to remain closed until late 2019

Fiveways Road is expected to remain closed at Sheepstation Creek Bridge until late 2019 after sustaining damage in this year’s North and Far North Queensland Monsoon Trough event.

Burdekin Shire Council Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said Council was working to get the road open as quickly as possible.

“During the monsoon, there was wide-spread damage to Council infrastructure throughout the shire. This included structural damage to Sheepstation Creek Bridge,” she said.

“Unfortunately the extent of damage will require an entirely new bridge structure to be built.

“We’ve already engaged an engineering consultant to complete the designs, and the first replacement culverts have been delivered to site.

“Once the design is approved, we will release a tender for the construction of the new bridge.”

Cr McLaughlin said Council would seek disaster assistance for the construction costs.

“Eligible works will be jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).”

Cr McLaughlin said Council investigated the possibility of a side-track however it was deemed not possible due to safety concerns and site restrictions.

Gilbert family set Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships alight

The Gilbert boys have written themselves into the history books by winning three separate divisions at the Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships over the weekend, continuing a strong history for the Tully-based family.

In only his third year of competing, 18-year-old Stuart took out the Queensland Sugar Limited Under 35 Years division. His time of 10:06.25 to cut 60 metres of cane was enough to hold off uncle Adam Gilbert (11:34.41) and Burdekin local Chris Vass (11:48.92).

Whilst all three men secured a spot in the Queensland Sugar Limited Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships Final, it was ultimately Adam who had the last laugh, winning the 100-metre marathon in a time of 18:46:41 ahead of third-placed Stuart (21:31.21).

In the last competition of the day and with big crowds cheering them on, Scott, Adam, Stuart and Angus Gilbert rounded out the trifecta by winning the Swindley Memorial Cut, Top and Load competition in 11:34.88.

Youngster Angus (17) also competed in the Under 35 Years competition and was joined by patriarch Paul in the Cut, Top and Load.

Council welcomes launch of Pacific Bio’s ReefAsta

Burdekin Shire Council has welcomed the release of a new supplement by Pacific Bio (formerly known as MBD) which utilises fresh microalgae sustainably grown at the company’s Alva Beach facility.

ReefAsta uses astaxanthin – an antioxidant extracted from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae, produced by the first and only specialised cultivation facility in Australia.

The Alva Beach facility is currently producing 150,000 bottles of the supplement annum but has the capacity to double that output.

Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said the project was a welcome boost for the region.

“It’s exciting to see that less than two years after the launch of the ReefAsta project, not only is the facility fully operational but also that the end product is now available for purchase by consumers,” Cr McLaughlin.

“The ReefAsta project supported 30 jobs during the construction phase and created a further 20 ongoing jobs at the Alva Beach facility, providing a welcome boost to our local economy.”

Pacific Bio Senior Scientist Dr Nicolas von Alvensleben has been at the forefront of microalgal research for almost a decade.

“What makes astaxanthin especially unique is its structure. When it comes to cell protection from free radicals, which speed up ageing and disease – astaxanthin is superior to many other antioxidant compounds,” says Dr von Alvensleben.

For Pacific Bio business manager Mark Clayton, the launch of ReefAsta is a major milestone for the team and a great opportunity for Australians to get behind a local product.

“As more Australians learn about astaxanthin and its compelling health benefits, we’re proud to give them a naturally derived option, that supports local industry and has been grown under the Queensland sun,” he said.

“ReefAsta was developed by Pacific Bio in partnership with James Cook University and is the first consumer product to come out of that collaboration.

“We are continuing to work with JCU to develop a number of different products here in North Queensland, including a powerful biostimulant for sugar cane and horticultural products based on macroalgae.”

Pacific Bio CEO Sam Bastounas said the Burdekin’s tropical climate made it an ideal location for the company’s operations.

“With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, the Burdekin was the perfect location to establish our facility,” Mr Bastounas said.

Pacific Bio is the parent company behind Pacific Reef Fisheries which employs a further 40 full-time staff and a significant number of seasonal workers at the Alva Beach facility.

Rookies receive tips from cane cutting champ ahead of national titles

It’s normally the team at Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL) giving tips to cane farmer Mark Vass, but the roles have been reversed ahead of Saturday’s Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships.

QSL Burdekin’s Greg Watson and Kristen Paterson, joined by their QSL Brisbane teammates Barb Roberts and Ginette Barrett, will race to cut 60 metres of cane by hand when they compete in the inaugural Corporate Challenge.

Eager to get a leg up on the competition, Greg and Kristen visited Mark – a two-time Under 35 Years hand cane cutting champ – at his farm this week.

Mark took out the title when he first entered the back-breaking championships seven years ago and says he’s only ever missed one year due to a shoulder reconstruction.

“My three tips would be never grab more cane than you can cut in one swing; stack the butts right; and strap your hands.”

When asked if blisters were a risk, his answer was simple.

“Oh you’ll get blisters; you’ll get blisters everywhere.”

For Greg, the sugar cane industry is in his blood.

His father and uncle both worked as hand cane cutters in the Burdekin before mechanisation revolutionised the industry.

Greg’s father, now in his 70s, will be in the crowd cheering his son this Saturday as he brings to life the back-breaking work of a bygone era.

Meanwhile, former Charters Towers girl Kristen is a little newer to the industry – but that hasn’t held her back from getting her hands dirty.

“Before I started with Queensland Sugar Limited, I hadn’t even stepped foot on a cane farm. That was six months ago,” she said.

“As presenting sponsors of the Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships, it is important for us to show people we’re not simply putting the QSL name to the festival – we’re in there and we’re getting involved in the event as much as we can.”

The Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships presented by Queensland Sugar Limited gets underway from 11am on Saturday 1 June at the Home Hill Showgrounds, with the final commencing from 2:15pm.

Nominations are still open by emailing before Friday midday, or by nominating on the day before 11am.

The championships is one of three events making up this year’s Sweet Days, Hot Nights Festival between 30 May and 1 June.

For more information, visit

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