PICTURED on Anzac Day in 2005 at the Woodburn Cenotaph are Evans Head residents (from left) Basil Young, Tom Payne and Pat Kemp
PICTURED on Anzac Day in 2005 at the Woodburn Cenotaph are Evans Head residents (from left) Basil Young, Tom Payne and Pat Kemp

War over Anzac Day march heating up

By ALEX EASTON alex.easton@northernstar.com.au

THE battle for Woodburn's Anzac Day service has hotted up with radio star John Laws lashing Richmond Valley Council over a decision to charge diggers $10,000 to mark the day.

Mr Laws yesterday described the council and its mayor, Charlie Cox, as naive and accused them of failing to understand the importance of Anzac Day.

Mr Laws and the Australian Workers Union have put up the $10,000 demanded by the council, ensuring that, this year at least, the Woodburn march and service will go ahead.

"I think there's a certain amount of naivete involved in it," Mr Laws said. "It's obvious (Mr Cox and the council) don't understand the importance of Anzac Day."

Mr Laws described Cr Cox as 'a reasonable sort of bloke who is maybe just shut-in' by the council process.

Cr Cox rejected the attack, saying five of his uncles served in World War II, that two Richmond Valley councillors were RSL members and that he, personally, never missed an Anzac Day.

Mr Cox said he and the council had spent nearly a year trying in good faith to address the issue of Anzac Day at Woodburn.

As Mr Laws and Cr Cox grappled over the issue, the Evans Head-Woodburn RSL sub-branch stepped up its own attack on the council and residents said there was a growing sense of anger in the community about the situation.

The plan to charge the diggers, unveiled at Richmond Valley Council's February meeting, follows a year of negotiations between the council, the sub-branch and the Roads and Traffic Authority.

A report presented to the council in February noted that the sub-branch wanted the highway closed for an hour this year, up from 10 minutes last year, and predicted the combination of message boards, detour signs, and staff to install and remove the signs on a public holiday could cost $10,000, with wear and tear on roads costing up to another $10,000.

Councillors voted to back the hour-long closure only if the subbranch wore the associated cost. They also suggested holding services in another part of town until Woodburn was bypassed by the highway.

Sub-branch president Darryl Pobje was having none of that.

"Where else are they going to hold it? That's what the (cenotaph) is there for," Mr Pobje said.

"This sub-branch formed in Woodburn, long before I was born. Why should things change because some grubby council wants money?"

Mr Cox said broad media attention on the issue, including on Mr Laws' radio show, meant he had received plenty of feedback from elsewhere in NSW, but there had been very little comment from within the Richmond Valley Council area.

One of the few local comments he had received was from a resident who said she would prefer the $20,000 needed for the road closure spent improving the road outside her house than on an Anzac Day march at Woodburn.

However, Woodburn and Evans Head residents told The Star yesterday they thought the council should pay for the road closure.

Evans Head and District Ratepayers Association acting president Richard Gates said he had fielded many calls from angry res- idents who wanted the council to cover any costs associated with the march.

"Feeling is running pretty high about what's going on here," Dr Gates said.

Cr Cox said he was trying to find a way to settle the issue with the sub-branch amicably.

"I want a resolution to it and if people are prepared to talk reasonably about the matter, we should be able to come to some satisfactory agreement," Cr Cox said.

"It's not our intention to have a war with them."

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