Aviation, 2018


Many know that for around twenty years I had planned to gift my record setting Cessna (‘Solo Around The World, 1988’ and more) to go on permanent display in Murrurundi, provided suitable housing could be constructed.

Various ideas were talked about over time and in 2010 we, interested residents, and Upper Hunter Shire Council got serious about planning.

The site was to be on the west side of the Murrurundi Tourist Information Centre, a great spot to grab passing travellers – kids especially - to stop for a look. When people stop, they may also spend money in the town. Sound like a good idea?

Plans and costing were sought. Murrurundi and its art, and the Norvill Art Prize were brought into the picture as well. While it sounded good, including art sort of doubled the cost. This extra cost aspect worried me but I was reluctant not to go with it when all the others were in favour. Maybe try the idea at least.

It was decided the overall costing to house the aircraft as well as art space was going to be around $600,000. I agreed my contribution would be $335,000 made up of the aircraft and its associated display items plus $200,000 cash out of my own pocket.

The remaining approximately $300,000 was to be sought through grant(s). Council would not be contributing to this amount apart from an initial $10,000 for planning purposes.

No grant was forthcoming. I’m told council tried various sources, unsuccessfully.

More time went by and further funding attempts also failed. My financial backing of the Norvill Art Prize had to be withdrawn when over time it had been reduced to little more than a country town art prize – they already had one of those which I also funded the main prize money - and the committee would not listen to my suggestion for a new direction, one that to the best of my knowledge would have been unique, worldwide.          

With art no longer figuring I decided to try the ‘aircraft only display’ idea, as would have been the original plan. This time I approached the council that I would cover all costs now, and then no other outside funding would be required. In other words, I would pay all.

I raised some preliminary drawings for such.

It never occurred to me this idea might be rejected, not for one minute. No, I was informed the council still wanted art to be included. They said I was welcome to discuss it further with them but it was all or nothing.

Isn’t a bird in the hand worth two in the bush? I kept thinking, what part of ‘donation’ do these people not understand?

I guess it was asking too much to expect academics to understand philosophical logic.

I know no other way to see this than, to believe it a gross dereliction of duty when council and their residents’ representatives turn down a donation of such like. I was informed the mayor and councillors knew of my recent attempt but were only interested in the original plan.

Again I let more time pass. Surely they must change their minds on this?

Interestingly, while my offer was rejected, this council has been spending ratepayers money on some airy fairy items most people seem to reject the cost of and at the same time they apply for special increase to rates in a year of very serious drought - thankfully rejected by someone above them.

Eventually it was obvious. As the old saying goes, if you want something done and done properly, do it yourself. So I did.

My display construction is considerably bigger than would have been necessary in Murrurundi but it was still constructed for hugely less money than I had offered the council.

That’s the story. I’m sorry it has come to this. Some very good people did support the original idea and to them my thanks, but things could not go on without a resolution.

Wind the clock back, the old Murrurundi Shire Council would never have allowed this to happen. Councillors of the past may be rolling in their graves. My own grandfather, H G E Norvill, one time mayor of Murrurundi, may be one of them.

Council amalgamations are subtly destructive of the outer, lesser populated areas that are kidnapped – lambs to the slaughter.

What did Murrurundi get in the recent state budget? Nil to my knowledge. Scone, where Upper Hunter Shire Council have their $5M Taj mahal to rule from, got allocated $6M for aviation, and also are getting a bypass worth massive millions more. While both these projects are great news for them, all Murrurundi is supposed to be getting, one day in the future, is a pipeline meant to bring the town some water – as long as they don’t mind waiting for it - and in the meantime a water-cart going around town, door to door, for the thirsty.

And to add further insult, I was refused permission to ‘donate’ out of my own pocket to my own home town and district.

The photos here are a selection of the construction process through to completion, March to August, 2018. This display will now remain on Rock Dhu under our control.

A thought …
Why do ‘ideas and creative people’ allow academics stand over them telling them how and what to do with their ideas?

Old saying: Charity begins at home. I will add, maybe that is where it should stay


By the way, beware, from personal experience ‘giving’ has subtle, potential pitfalls. But that is another story