Finding a home for Visy’s cash

Visy’s Anthony Pratt.

Most people, if offered a million dollars, wouldn’t have to think for too long before finding a way to spend it.

But an offer of a million dollars by Visy’s Pratt Foundation more than seven years ago proved to be somewhat confounding for the previous Tumut Shire Council.

Now, Snowy Valleys Council will form a steering committee with the intention of fast-tracking a decision on how to spend the money promised by Visy.

Anthony Pratt first announced the funding back in 2011 when he opened Stage II of the pulp and paper mill, pledging the company would provide a “million dollars over 10 years” to the community.

The promise followed a decade of the Pratt Foundation handing out annual donations of $100,000, via a range of small grants, to community groups over a 10 year period.

This time around, the company wanted to donate the contribution in one large chunk.

However, Tumut council couldn’t come up with a suitable project, and so far, neither has Snowy Valleys Council.

The council last year flagged a project for a community hub at the old council chambers near the library, but that was soon deemed unfeasible and was quietly dropped.

It’s expected the money will be spent in either Adelong or Tumut.

Cr Cross initially wanted a steering group of two councillors – herself and mayor James Hayes – two staff members and a member from the Visy consultative committee to form a steering group to “expedite the partnership with the Pratt Foundation for the construction of a community asset to service the Tumut community”.

However, the steering group was later expanded to include “any interested councillor.”

“I thought it was time we addressed the elephant in the room,” Cr Cross said. “We’ve been talking around and around about what we could do with this money.

“If we have a steering committee, we could focus on the things we want to do and if we involve Visy, it shows we’re serious about doing something. It might not just be about a pool or a multi-purpose centre – we might settle on something different.

Cr Margaret Isselman agreed.

“A focus from this group on the matter of Visy funding is needed,” Cr Isselman said.

Not all councillors were in favour of setting up the group, with deputy mayor John Larter concerned it might send the wrong message to Visy and the community.

“The fact the money hasn’t been spent is a failure on council’s part,” Cr Larter said. “We haven’t been able to get anything shovel ready for Visy to fund.

“It’s not Visy’s fault – we just don’t have anything ready to go.”

“I feel it’s a matter that should be addressed by the council as a whole.” That was a sentiment shared by Cr Pritchard.

There was widespread agreement around the table that the council should “get on with it”, although the mayor, James Hayes, said it was important the council didn’t rush into any decision.

Meanwhile, others in the community want the money to be used for a timber museum.

Brian Rosetta penned the following letter to the Times.

Sir, – Re your lead article in Friday’s edition regarding Anthony Pratt’s announcement some years ago he would make $1 million available to be spent in the local community for worthwhile projects is interesting, especially as in recent weeks there has been much discussion through social media sites (especially Facebook) for the setting up of a timber industry museum.

The proposal was first mooted by Reg Hawkins as a tribute wall for the timber industry. However, since then it has grown into a full-blown museum housing the local timber industry’s history through static displays, photos, videos etc.

Given the number of people who have been touched by the timber industry throughout the district, this proposal has much merit. For it to get off the ground, however, it would need a lot of money, planning, expertise in setting it up and government assistance, both local and state.

Supposing Mr Pratt made the full amount of his $1 million available and the state government and council also weighed in it would be a good start to get the project off the ground. Then if it does go, perhaps the big players in the local industry, including the local factories, transport people, suppliers that keep the industry going would come on board and help set up what could in time be a wonderful drawcard and tourist attraction.

With the whole Snowy Rivers Council area embracing the timber industry, it is something the shire has in common, with Tumbarumba, Batlow, Adelong and Tumut all having strong ties to the industry.

This proposal is for the betterment of the community and it is hoped it can generate discussion in the right places as to its merits and hopefully get favourable interest for a decision to be made to investigate the value of such a project.

Looking forward to seeing if more people add their voice to this idea.

Yours etc.,

Brian Rosetta