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Drivers cheer inquiry plans

The price of fuel has fallen consistently at Caltex Wodonga, on Melbourne Road. Pictures: JOHN RUSSELLBORDER drivers seeking an end to the disparity between rural and city petrol prices yesterday welcomed an inquiry by the prices watchdog.
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Albury, Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla and Wagga are among 180 regional centres already being monitored by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The commission will next month publish its first quarterly report on petrol price movements.

It will focus on three regional markets to find what drives petrol prices.

An analysis of bowser prices in regional areas in July showed the average retail price of petrol was 5.7cents a litre higher than in the five largest cities.

This gap had blown out to 17.6cents by December.

Wodonga driver Paul Rowe said that although fuel prices had fallen, he wanted an inquiry.

“Apart from a bit of freight, we should be paying what they pay in Melbourne,” Mr Rowe said.

“Carting freight from Melbourne to the Border is a minimal cost. That’s not the problem. There lies a problem somewhere in between.

“There seems to be a bit of price gouging going on and I think they should keep a close watch on prices because we are being ripped off in the country big time.”

Wodonga’s new APCO station on Moorefield Park Drive has helped lower the city’s price.

The price gap has not gone unnoticed by regular traveller Matthew Fagence.

“An investigation is a good idea. Regional people shouldn’t get hit more than the people in the city,” he said.

“I do a lot of travelling to Melbourne and, usually, it is cheaper there than it is here.”

The commission will be able to call on its compulsory information-gathering powers, activated under ministerial direction, in an effort to explain the pricing anomalies.

The powers give the commission the right to sensitive pricing information from companies, along every level of the fuel chain, in specifically targeted markets.

The three regional areas to be studied in this way will remain secret until after the compulsory notices have been issued to avoid market players altering behaviour before the probe begins.

The first market to be targeted will be announced in March.

The studies will look at the cost of fuel in the nearest port, transport and storage costs, as well as wholesale, distribution, and retail costs to fully explain prices and where money is being made in the petrol price value chain.

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Change of venue but the opera must go on

Albury’s Peter Ludorf helps to set up the stage for Opera in the Alps at the Beechworth Golf Club yesterday. Picture: JOHN RUSSELLTHE night won’t be complete until 150 performers sing at tomorrow night’s Opera in the Alps, which will be held on the 18th fairway of the Beechworth Golf Course.
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A change of venue was decided on Wednesday, after concerns heavy rainfall this week could cause the stage to sink into Baarmutha Park.

Despite the last minute move next door, Director of Opera in the Alps Graeme Wall said the event was shaping up to be a great night.

“We have already sold more than 3000 tickets,” Mr Wall said.

“We have been really pleased to have so many pre-sold and there is still room for people to roll up, but it is better to book ahead because you get a better position.

“The weather is also looking perfect, you might even need a cardigan.”

This year the performers include David Hobson, Silvie Paladino and the Opera Scholars Australia.

The 100-voice choir will return alongside the Alpha Sinfonia Orchestra, led by conductor Guy Noble.

Mr Wall said organisers were also keen to try something new this year.

“Guy Noble himself is a very big drawcard, he is well known and a favourite with the audience,” he said.

“There will also be a lovely surprise ending, I won’t say what it is but it might involve the audience.

“We haven’t done this before, so it will be interesting.”

World-renowned soprano Yvonne Kenny won’t be performing but she has spent the past week providing guidance and inspiration for 30 young opera singers.

Among the musical talent on the night, a feast of local produce and wine will be on offer.

Mr Wall said the golfers had been “very accommodating”.

For tickets, go to the Beechworth visitor information centre or visit beechworthonline南京夜网.au.

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Thief as low as you can get

I’M a victim of recent thefts in the Lavington area — a few weeks ago, somebody walked into my office at night, and took my handbag.
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I have sucked up the fact I was an idiot for leaving the door unlocked.

But I’ve never been so grateful for not having credit cards.

It’s ridiculous that you can’t leave clothes at the Wagga Road laundromat without having them swiped.

On a recent rainy day, I left some clothes at the laundromat and nipped home while they dried to watch a DVD with my granddaughter.

I returned to find a lovely blue dress and black top my husband bought me for Christmas had been taken.

This is a bit of a first-world problem — some people have no clothes to wear — but I’m over the whole Lavington “The world owes me and I can take what I like” thing.

And I suspect other decent, bill-paying Lavingtonians who treat others with kindness and respect know what I mean.

I am not a mean person — I try be generous whenever possible.

If the thief had asked me for those clothes I would, in all likelihood, have given them to her.

I just feel very angry at the meanness inherent in the thief’s actions.

These people care absolutely nothing for other people’s needs.

Have fun with that attitude, whoever you are.

I hope your self respect is holding up — just don’t let me catch you in my clothes.

If they don’t fit, perhaps you can sell them and use the money to pay for a few lessons in basic integrity.

I am fed up with people like you.

— LOUISE McORMOND-PLUMMER,

Lavington

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Youth guilty of bashing elderly man

A NORTH Albury youth who attacked an elderly man he believed was a paedophile, broke two of his ribs and fractured his skull near his right eye, has been convicted and fined after failing to attend court.
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The youth, 17, appeared in Albury Children’s Court last September on a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Magistrate Tony Murray ordered a Juvenile Justice report after the youth pleaded guilty and sentencing was adjourned until October.

But when he failed to attend court in October, the youth was convicted in his absence and a warrant issued.

An application was later made to have the conviction annulled, which was granted and a hearing date was set for this week.

Magistrate John Favretto imposed a conviction and $550 fine when the offender, now 18, failed to attend court.

The attack happened on August 12, 2013, when the victim was waiting at a bus stop in Griffith Road, Lavington, at the front of Centro Shopping Centre about 9.30am.

He had known the youth for about two years because they lived in the same street.

The victim was approached by the youth, who began abusing him.

The youth used his left hand to punch the man twice on the right side of his face and forced him backwards.

He inflicted a further blow to the victim’s nose breaking his glasses, while the youth continued holding the man’s jacket.

He released his grip on the jacket and punched the victim to the left side of his chest.

The youth left the location and the victim went home seeking assistance from an ambulance.

He was taken to the Albury hospital where his injuries were assessed which revealed two broken left ribs and the facial fracture.

The following day the victim went to the Albury police station, made a statement and photographs of his injuries were taken.

Police tried several times to arrange an interview with the youth, but they were unable to find a support person and the youth was aggressive.

He told police on one occasion: “I hate that paedophile. I’m gonna stab him for what he did to my sister.”

The youth declined to be interviewed by police on October 17.

But he made partial admissions about the assault, claiming he was acting in self- defence.

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Army at war with weeds

Green Army supervisor Greg Wippell in a blackberry infestation. Picture: KYLIE ESLERTHE Green Army is out to recruit more troops to march on Mount Beauty.
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Young people aged 17 to 24 are required for a six-month Upper Kiewa River restoration project, that supervisor Greg Wippell said provided a rare opportunity.

“As an ex-farmer, I’ve been keen to get into this field for a long time, to work with young people and the environment,” Mr Wippell said.

“This first program is a great opportunity for me — you have to get the experience otherwise it’s hard to get in the door.”

“Troops”, who are paid $10.14 to $16.45 an hour for 30 hours a week to work on such activities as weed management, revegetation, fencing, surveys, building nest boxs and track maintenance.

The North East Catchment Management Authority program starts on Tuesday week.

Participants can apply at conservationvolunteers/green-army.

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Pregnant mother remanded

LAVINGTON mother Karen Elizabeth Ezzy has been remanded in custody despite having a child aged one and being eight months’ pregnant with another.
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Ezzy appeared in Albury Local Court earlier this week, pleaded guilty to a break, enter and steal offence in North Albury last October and her sentencing was deferred until February 24 for the preparation of a pre-sentence report.

But she was arrested on Tuesday night and charged with two more break, enter and steal matters, having goods in custody and possession of a prohibited drug.

The latest offences happened between 5.50pm and 8pm on Tuesday at houses in central Albury including one in Stanley Street where Ezzy allegedly stole a jewellery box.

Solicitor Jason Hanke said when making a release application that Ezzy, 35, of Greyfern Court, intended pleading not guilty to the latest charges.

Mr Hanke said a curfew already imposed on Ezzy could be made more stringent.

Magistrate John Favretto asked whether Ezzy had a drug problem, but Mr Hanke denied that was the case after speaking to her.

“I have my significant misgivings,” he responded.

Police prosecutor Sgt Chris Toole opposed bail saying Ezzy was an unacceptable risk and likely to commit more offences.

Ezzy was refused bail with a police brief of evidence for the latest charges to be prepared by February 10.

Police facts tendered to the court outlined the offence committed by Ezzy in Kooba Street at North Albury on October 9.

The house was locked about 8.20am by the owner and Ezzy went there about 1pm attempting to remove a flywire screen from a window near the front door.

She went through a side gate and tried to jemmy open a rear glass sliding door.

Ezzy managed to get the door off its tracks, squeezed through and ransacked each room in the house, collecting items in a bag.

When the victim returned home and parked in the carport, Ezzy ran across the backyard with the bag.

She jumped a fence, but a neighbour heard noise, went outside and saw Ezzy.

Ezzy dropped the bag, jumped a side fence and the victim recovered $1400 of property which included a video camera, two bracelets and a necklace.

She declined to comment about the break-in when she attended the police station on October 17.

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Ettamogah Rail Hub furious about silence on Logic deal

Terminal operator Bryden Power drives a stacker to move containers around. Picture: DAVID THORPETHE operators of the privately run Ettamogah Rail Hub have slammed the secrecy surrounding Wodonga Council’s plans for a freight centre at its Logic industrial estate.
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They have questioned the feasibility of a rail freight business at Logic and whether Wodonga ratepayers will “end up footing the bill for this behind-closed-doors decision by the council”.

Wodonga Council is considering selling land to Blanalko Pty Ltd, the property arm of SCT Logistics, with a view to setting up a freight terminal at Logic.

A decision on the sale is set for a council meeting on January 28 with councillors to hear those who have made submissions on the deal at a special meeting next Monday.

The concerns of those at the Ettamogah Rail Hub have been outlined in its submission, which was formally lodged with the council this week.

The hub’s strategy and business development manager Robert Perkins said “we’re appealing to commonsense”.

“Why would the citizens of Wodonga support a deal when they’re not entitled to know the details of that deal,” Mr Perkins said.

In its submission the hub operators claims “the extent of the financial benefits to SCT Logistics in the terms of the sale mean the land is being sold at substantially less than valuation, with no transparency about exactly how much less”.

At a meeting in November, Wodonga mayor Rodney Wangman declined to say how much SCT had offered for the site and the council has rejected a freedom of information request on the matter by the Ettamogah Rail Hub.

The deal involves a terms of agreement ending in 2023 with possession to occur after a planning permit for a rail terminal is issued and government funding secured.

Wodonga ratepayers will also partially fund agreed infrastructure and the council will enter into a rates concession deed.

“Our objection to the proposal comes down to the substantial secret subsidies involved which will distort competition and lead to higher costs for rail users,” the hub’s submission argues.

The rail hub submission also contrasts Wodonga Council’s approach to that of Gippsland’s Latrobe Council which “undertook a transparent business case to determine (the) commercial viability” of its plan for a rail freight terminal.

“Ettamogah Rail Hub meets all the criteria outlined by Latrobe City Council; the proposed SCT Logistics terminal at Logic would not,” the submission stated.

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Don’t waste recyclables

Wodonga councillor John Watson and Jason Perna are out to promote the fact that the council is offering recycling facilities at several of the popular places at the lake. Picture: JOHN RUSSELLTHE dumping of 40 boxes of empty stubbies in rubbish bins on the Lake Hume foreshore on Australia Day last year has inspired Wodonga Council to install distinctive yellow recycling bins at its lakeside reserves.
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The council has received $30,000 from a Sustainability Victoria Public Place Recycling grant program, enabling new bins to be installed at Kookaburra Point, Ludlow’s Reserve, Ebden Reserve and Jackson Point.

The addition of the 30 new recycling bins brings the city’s total to almost 100 bins in public places.

Waste management co-ordinator Jason Perna said the council’s most recent audits showed at least 75per cent of the contents of bins out at the lake could be recycled.

“Last year on Australia Day we found there were about 40 boxes of stubbies that people had put beside the bin, they didn’t want to put it in the bin, they wanted them recycled but there was no option for recycling at that stage, so that’s what drove this campaign,” Mr Perna said.

“We want every community corner store, and public places like parks, to have a recycle bin next to the waste bin.

“At the moment we have 90 to 100 public place recycle bins but we really want to push that out to about 200 this year if we can.”

The biggest site — Kookaburra Point — had 15 new bins installed before Christmas while the other 15 bins are split between three sites.

A post installation audit revealed there was less than 5per cent contamination in the recycling bins.

Cr John Watson said the bins would be emptied fortnightly and signage would help to ensure people were recycling properly.

“We’ve got signage and we are getting the message across that we are doing recycling on our foreshores at Lake Hume,” Cr Watson said.

“We hope people come out here and put rubbish in a rubbish bin and recycling in recycling bin, which is clearly labelled, to help the environment and reduce landfill.”

The bins come after signs enforcing a no-glass policy were also installed.

The council cracked down on patrons having glass along the foreshore after a three-year-old boy cut his foot in 2013.

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Land values in Albury drop

Albury City general manager Frank Zaknich, pictured with mayor Kevin Mack, says land values have dropped slightly in the city. Picture: DAVID THORPELAND values in Albury have fallen but don’t expect council rates to follow.
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Figures from the NSW Valuer-General’s office show the median residential land value in Albury dropped by 1.19per cent this past year, from $101,000 to $99,800.

However, the city’s median commercial land values increased from $254,000 to $259,000, while rural median land values are up $2000 to $262,000.

Landowners will receive notification next week of their land values, which will be used in the coming months as Albury prepares its next budget including rates for 2015-16.

The drop in land values does not automatically correlate with lower rates, which last year rose in line with the state government pegged figure of 2.3 per cent.

Albury City general manager Frank Zaknich said the correlation between the two was a common misconception, and land values were just one component of the council’s calculations.

“There are a whole range of processes council goes through in terms of formulating rates and putting it out for public comment,” he said.

“If landowners aren’t satisfied with their land value, they’ve got the opportunity to review or reject that (through the Valuer-General’s office).”

Mr Zaknich said although residential values declined slightly this year, Albury had seen an overall 2.34per cent increase over the past three years.

Ray White real estate agent James Brown said the land values did not represent a huge drop in house prices overall, with the local market still “very attractive” given current interest rates.

“I don’t think it will deter the market, if anything I think it should drive a bit more activity,” he said.

Scott Mann, at commercial and industrial agents LJ Colquhoun Dixon, said the rise in commercial land values was “a natural progression”.

“As a general rule Albury is going very, very well,” he said

“A lot of national players are tenants and that’s really earmarking Albury as a place for expansion.”

Industrial land values dropped $3000 to $203,000, a fact Mr Mann attributed to the surplus of industrial land.

“It’s not that occupiers have dropped off, as a general rule industrial land development has a slower uptake.”

Residential land values in Deniliquin increased by 4.94per cent, from $46,600 to $48,900, while rural land increased $5000 to $95,400.

Residential values in Corowa and Greater Hume remained steady at $68,000 and $131,000 respectively.

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Aplin prepared to table petition

ALBURY MP Greg Aplin says he will table Rights to Privacy Albury’s petition on exclusion zones around women’s health clinics if it gains enough signatures.
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In a statement released yesterday afternoon, Mr Aplin outlined the action he had assisted privacy campaigners with — one of the most detailed public comments so far on the ongoing debate around medical privacy and the Englehardt Street clinic.

Mr Aplin did not attend this week’s medical privacy forum as he was in Sydney on parliamentary matters, but did send a representative from his office.

“I have refrained from making detailed public comment on the Englehardt Street Clinic due to the sensitivity of the issue and out of respect for the clients accessing the services,” he said.

“I have met and discussed this issue with the Rights to Privacy organisers on many occasions.

“I have provided advice, made representations on their behalf to ministers and provided the ministerial responses.

“I have … advised I would table the petition in Parliament once presented to me. To date, the petition has not been presented.

“I am aware of suggestions to increase the level of privacy for clients by allowing vehicle access to the facility.

“People have also been advised to report any incidents to the police. This is the mechanism for achieving change when one public right faces another public right.”

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