The Council Meeting: 8 August 2017

The Council Meeting: 8 August 2017
Councillors stay awake: shock

I have now voluntarily attended my third Council Meeting. You may think that I am into some very peculiar forms of entertainment and that may well be so. But we are all peculiar in one way or another; after all, who on earth would want to be normal? And after three Council Meetings you begin to see the personalities of the great and the good who sit around the wooden table of power. There are as many egos as you could wish and each has its good and - well - not so good points. But they are human beings so that is what we expect. The highlight for me of this particular meeting was the item that considered the 2016-17 Natural Resource Management Status Report. Councillor Brown was very (perhaps overly) enthusiastic saying that “if anyone were to read a Council agenda paper then this is the one.” If he was referring to all Council agenda papers ever written, then I suspect this may be dubious advice. But his point was that 27 Landcare groups involving 2,000 people volunteer to support Council in its natural resource management program. And this is A Good Thing.

I am also amused by the apologies. We know that Councillors Nathan and McGinlay are absent but apologies for them are moved and seconded. I should like to see what would happen were the motion to accept the apologies to be voted down.

These meetings open with a Public Forum where concerned citizens hold forth on matters that exercise them. After the first Council meeting I attended (on 1 July 2017) I commented that “not all of these citizens were as effective as they could have been in making their points” and I referred to “the glazed looks on the faces of some of the Councillors”. Such was the case today. I am in no way an apologist for the Council; it is as flawed a body as any large organisation. It is just possible that there is malicious intent to pull one over the voters but it is pretty unlikely. There are matters that need to be raised and the Public Forum is good place to raise them. I remember a presentation I went to once where the presenter said “My job is to tell you about such-and-such. Your job is to stay awake. My aim is to finish before you do.” Keep it snappy and to the point. Having said that the Mayor clearly stayed awake and was assiduous in ensuring that matters raised were dealt with where they could be, though I always worry about taking a question “on notice”. Just how long is that, exactly?

The rest of the business was pretty mundane. You will be overjoyed to know that the General Manager’s delegations were all revoked but immediately replaced with new ones. This is probably of more immediate consequence to her than it is to you though you would have eventually felt the effect of her being unable to do her job. The administration has decided to reorganise itself so that it aligns better with the objectives of the Operational Plan (the document that says what they’re going do). As a student of organisational change and design I am always sceptical of reorganising as it is so often just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Clear job goals and good management is often a better approach to organisational inefficiency or ineffectiveness. The process of management is what makes things happen; not the structure. But perhaps it needed to be done and Council accepted it.

The new organisation structure; it is all, I think, in the colours

Council discussed a new (and draft) policy on the collection of litter bins, or more precisely it didn’t. Councillor Brown took the opportunity to introduce other environmental matters which earned him a mild rebuke from the Mayor for stepping outside the scope of the agenda item. But some of you would have seen the Four Corners’ program last night on the ABC about certain questionable practices relating to landfill. The administration assured the Council that its approach to waste recycling was sound. All our waste for recycling is treated in the Shire and “the majority” of the treated waste is used here. The devil, of course, is in the detail and the phrase “the majority” is, in this case, the detail.

I emerged at the end of this meeting into a glorious winter’s day, with a clear blue sky and a temperature that in northern Europe would be considered high summer. And I kind of realised, whatever the Council does or doesn’t do, this is a great place to live.

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