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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

The One Community Plan has a few cracks

Eurobodalla Council are now calling for submissions to their Community One strategic plan. The Community Strategic Plan is the highest level plan that a council and its community will prepare. Its purpose is to identify the community's main priorities and aspirations for the future and to plan strategies for achieving these goals. In doing this, the planning process considers the issues and pressures that may affect the community and the level of resources that will realistically be available to achieve its aspirations. The Council endorsed the draft Community Strategic Plan – One Community for public exhibition from 12 April until 9 May 2017. The following submission was made to Council by SAFE (Stop Arms Fairs in Eurobodalla Inc.) and has been passed on to The Beagle for the wider community to read. RESPONSE TO ‘COMMUNITY ONE’


SAFE (Stop Arms Fairs in Eurobodalla Inc.) is pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the ‘One Community – Eurobodalla Community Strategic Plan 2017.’ As a community group with members throughout Eurobodalla Shire, SAFE takes a keen interest in the future direction of our community, particularly given that this plan proposes to set a roadmap for the next twenty years.

Our comments follow.

Page 11 - Our Vision

Friendly – SAFE believes that the feeling of safety and security in Eurobodalla Shire has been compromised by the promotion of the sale of firearms and ammunition in Narooma as part of the annual Huntfest event. For safety and security to be part of our vision the future of this event needs to be debated in an open, informed and transparent manner.

Responsible – SAFE’s view is that appreciation of our natural surroundings (ie, the environment) and minimising our impact is undermined by the Huntfest event and the promotion of amateur hunting. According to RSPCA Australia,[1] “recreational hunters have interfered with the effective control of pest animals in some areas, especially in state forests”. This is not responsible management. Is it also not responsible to give free admission and special activities to children and then encourage them to shoot (with bow and arrow) at an animal, thereby running the risk that they could lose respect for other forms of life.

Thriving – SAFE believes that a community with as many natural assets as Eurobodalla can thrive economically, socially and culturally. We must, however, be clear about where investment in the community comes from and how much actually benefits us at a local level. To accept unsubstantiated claims of economic benefit about controversial events such as Huntfest, is not a sound approach to economic development. Beyond that, there are ethical issues associated with the linking of Eurobodalla Shire with the proliferation of firearms.

Proud – The decisions which have led to an annual arms fair in Narooma have not been collaborative, did not engage the community and could not be called responsible decision making. For that reason, many residents are not proud to live in the shire, which is the only local government body in NSW to have given permission for gun sales on public land.

Page 13

  1. – Work in partnership to ensure safety at home and within the community.

In January 2017, the Australian Medical Association released a paper entitled, “Firearms 2017”, in which it pointed out that:

  • “Possession of firearms in the community represents a public health issue.” And

  • “The AMA supports a reduction in firearms in the community.”

SAFE believes that by allowing firearms and ammunition to be sold in facilities under its control in Narooma, the NSW Government along with the Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) are obviously complicit, along with the festival's organisers, in heightening the current level of public health and safety risk that is associated with gun ownership in the general community.

3.2 – Value, protect and enhance our natural environment and assets.

Despite the claims of recreational hunters about their conservation contribution, the RSPCA’s paper, previously mentioned, gives a detailed explanation of why amateur hunting is labour intensive, expensive and not effective in reducing populations of pest animals over large areas for the long term. The paper in fact shows that recreational hunting can actually hinder the management of pest animals. The annual Huntfest event promotes recreational hunting and thereby works against efforts to value, protect and enhance our natural environment and assets.

Page 14

5.3 Focus on the development of sustainable tourism, and quality events and visitor experiences.

Whether or not Huntfest could be judged objectively as a quality event, given its focus on killing, skinning, safari hunting and weapons sales, the question arises as to why the Council’s promotion of the event is so opaque. The description of Huntfest in the most recent edition of “Living in Eurobodalla”, leading off with words such as “camping, 4WD, clothing,” and going on to talk about “bushwalking and fishing stalls” tends to give a distorted picture of what actually occurs, particularly given the emphasis on the fact that under 16s are admitted free of charge. This raises questions about whether the Council believes such doctoring of the description is necessary because the actual nature of the event is so unappealing, and so opposed to the concept of a quality event and a positive visitor experience. If so, this highlights the fact that Huntfest does not fit the vision of the future outlined in this document.

6.3 Ensure development is sustainable and reflects community values and the desired local setting.

With reference to Community Values, as outlined on page 4 of this document, dot point 5, Responsible, decisions around Huntfest have not been to the benefit of all current and future communities. By facilitating the proliferation of firearms, such decisions have not taken into account current research and community engagement. Again, if this outcome is to be achieved, based on the community values described in this plan, then major changes are required to approval of all developments and events.

Pages 14 and 29

8. Collaborative and engaged community.

At no stage throughout the approval process of the event, Huntfest, was there any appropriate collaboration or engagement with the community. SAFE finds this extraordinary given the controversial nature of the event. When community opinion was sought prior to approval of the sale of guns, the overwhelming view of responding local residents and ratepayers was subsequently ignored. This included representatives of the local indigenous community. To reach the outcome of a collaborative and engaged community, significant changes must be made to the decision-making processes of council.

Pages 14 and 31

9. Innovative and Proactive Leadership

The Council has not conducted business in relation to decisions around Huntfest in an open and transparent manner. For example, the most recent decision, to extend the licence for the event until 2022, two years before the expiry of the current licence, was undertaken in secret because of a failure by the senior council staff to follow correct legislative procedures and guidelines. Moreover, there has been no demonstration of a willingness to be responsive to new information when these failures were brought to their attention. Council’s behaviour over this matter has highlighted deficiencies in governance and leadership. If the outcome of innovative and proactive leadership is to be achieved, the council needs to overhaul its governance and adherence to legislative requirements. It also needs to become genuinely open, accountable and representative of all of its constituents.

Page 6


“90% of people feel safe at home”. Where do these statistics come from? In a document such as this the source of this data needs to be identified. What are the causes of people feeling unsafe? Has the question been asked whether people feel less safe due to firearms in the community, and what effect on feelings of safety does the presence of an arm fair contribute?

We note also that in the document, Our Story, a Snapshot of Eurobodalla 2016, page 9, advises that Eurobodalla has a high overall health risk profile, including:

  • 21.1% more alcohol attributable hospitalisations than NSW generally; and

  • significantly higher rates of risk drinking (31.2%).

SAFE is extremely concerned that into this environment, the Council sees fit to allow an event, which encourages the proliferation of firearms.

Thank you

Heather Irwin

SAFE Inc President

09 May 2017

[1] Recreational Hunting and Animal Welfare – RSPCA Australia June 2016

If you were a Councillor reading the above submission would you think that maybe Humpty is beginning to topple?

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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