|| Mayoral Matters – July 2020 ||

Any thoughts I had that we would soon resume an unrestricted lifestyle disappeared over this past weekend when health authorities have decided to re-impose Stage 3 restrictions from this Thursday until 13 September. This is necessary to ensure that Yarriambiack Shire continues to remain virus-free.

I believe that our communities in the Wimmera-Southern Mallee are adhering en masse to the health measures in place. We have been social distancing, sanitising our hands when going into businesses, restricting how far we travelled and have been mindful of the number of people at gatherings.

On Monday it became mandatory to wear a face covering when venturing outside our homes. We know that we will take time to adjust to this measure, especially those of us who wear glasses, but we will eventually cope.

A safe and healthy community are key components of our Council Plan, we must be vigilant and follow these new guidelines. This means staying at home unless it is for one of the four listed reasons. We are so fortunate that we have not been placed in a lockdown situation like the residents of Melbourne.

Council will again move to Zoom for meetings this month. Our draft policies regarding Governance Procedures and Public Transparency are out for public comment. The new Local Government Act requires that these policies be passed by Council before September.

Our new library service has been modified to meet the Covid-19 situation. As no physical contact is permitted, borrowers will need to access the collection on-line. Books may be ordered through the Warracknabeal library (5398 1270) during normal operating hours. Orders will then be home-delivered.

From Thursday 6 August we will be closing our playgrounds, Senior Citizen buildings and the customer service offices and our caravan parks to new bookings.

Residents who are concerned with issues regarding how the state border closures are impacting their business need to contact our CEO who will assist with advice and advocacy.

This week we expect to receive a shipment of washable facemasks for distribution to all vulnerable residents. You will need to contact the office (5398 0100) to have your name included on this list.

Nominations for Council open on 17 September. Potential candidates must register and partake in a mandatory on-line training session prior to making an appointment for an in-person interview by the Returning Officer. Due to Covid-19 restrictions Council is unable to hold community meetings to explain and answer questions on the election process. Further information on Council elections will be provided by the VEC and LGV in coming days and we will publicise this when it is released to us.

On a positive note Stage 2 of the Murra Warra wind farm will go ahead and West Wind Energy is into the planning stages for their proposed wind farm to the west of Warracknabeal. All these turbines will be sited in Yarriambiack Shire.

I hope that in my next article I can also report that a decent amount of rain has fallen throughout the shire.

Cr Graeme Massey


|| Retirement of longstanding Councillor Helen Ballentine ||

Fifteen years ago Cr Ballentine found her much beloved ongoing job as social worker with DHS in Horsham becoming too difficult to balance with her family farm obligations so she decided to pursue other opportunities closer to home in which to contribute to the community. Helen ran for Council and was elected in the Hopetoun Ward.

Her community involvement had already been extensive to that point with multiple years with Rotary, Progress Associations and on the RNH Board. As a farmer she understood the impact the drought was having on the community as well as the need for strong support and governance oversight of key community service organisations.

After being appointed to Council in 2005, Helen was elected by her Council as Mayor in 2009 and during that time continued to care for her brother and parents. In 2010 Helen started to undertake relief social work with Wimmera Health Care Group.

In 2010, Helen was nominated for the Rural Women’s award and attended Parliament House for the ceremony before being invited annually to support other nominees. In 2014 Helen acknowledged the centenary of ladies on Council with a plaque for on behalf of Yarriambiack. In 2016 Helen successfully ran the Hopetoun Women on Farms Gathering with a great group of Women, and in 2017 was successful in joining the board of the Victorian Rural Women’s Network for two years.

Cr Ballentine’s interests on Council were always water, emergency management, tourism and economic development, alongside the critical roads, rates and rubbish roles. Being part of the changes in our great Yarriambiack towns has been her greatest experience and whilst the different projects are too numerous to list, Helen has maintained a great photograph album of the journey.

Helen has been a strong voice for Wimmera Mallee Tourism for some 13 years, and was one of the original steering group members and followed this commitment through to recent times. She has volunteered a lot of time to the promotion of the region. She has also chaired the Yarriambiack Tourism group over ten years which brought together at least two representatives from most towns in the shire to learn about the whole shire and its tourism products, produce brochures and discuss ideas.

In Cr Ballentine’s own words:

In the past I have juggled my personal and public roles well, but since losing my son to sudden death in April 2019, I have realised how unpredictable life is and how I need to spend more time on myself and my husband, and take a few more extended holidays. This has meant making the decision to step away from Council of which I have very much loved being a part of but for which I recognise I can no longer give all the time commitment it deserves to serve the community.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement on Council, and it has been a tough decision to retire from Council. I will miss the role and also miss the trips to Parliament and Canberra advocating on behalf of this incredible region, the unique and special occasions to be celebrated, and the people I have associated with, however, I am still in the region, and still available on Facebook or phone.

My passion in everything I have done has been to improve our quality of life, and my memories of everything rotate around this core principle. I am grateful to have served my community and will miss doing so and I hope that the next representatives of the Hopetoun Ward and Yarriambiack Council are committed to making the communities the best places they can be.

Mayor Graeme Massey said

“Helen’s record as a Yarriambiack Shire Councillor speaks for itself. Helen has made a major contribution to a wide range of organisations and committees during the past fifteen years.

I have great admiration for Helen’s many achievements especially her roles with Wimmera Mallee Tourism, Yarriambiack Tourism and the Women on Farms gathering at Hopetoun in 2016.

On behalf of council and staff we thank you and wish you well in coming years.”

End of press release.

To view press release please click here

In This Section