Editorial October 6th, 2017

Welcome to this week’s editorial, It is with great disappointment that I advise that Eurobodalla Council has lost even more face this week with its glossed over announcement in the Council Noticeboard that staff had approved a procedure that would effectively block serial complainants. The Ex-Mayor has a term for them—The Usual Suspects, and it is those usual suspects that you will find standing up to Council in Public Forum and Public Access at Council meetings. Rather than coming clean and being open and transparent the Council staff (not the councillors) have approved a procedure to close serial complainants down. So who are these complainants and why would staff want to close them down? The complainants are local residents wanting to hear the truth: Viv Sethi wants to know about dumping of sand at Surfside. Ignored by Council and State authorities he is now talking with State Ministers. Ian Hitchcock is passionate about Coastal Inundation and is relentlessly looking at the procedures adopted by Eurobodalla Council that he claims (with support) are in conflict with procedures and planning policies. Peter Bernard has been tenaciously looking at the financial reports and statements that were publicly presented by Council as justification for a Special Rate Variation and is pressing for an internal audit overseen by the Auditor General. Damien Rogers has identified several occurrences of illegal dumping by Council and continues to pursue the illegal dumping at Dalmeny Industrial area and the possible leaching of toxins at Brou Tip into adjacent waterways. He also has continued concerns of Council staff stepping outside of their authority in regards to private property access. The Huntfest Folk (several) continue to question the legal procedure of granting a licence by tender to Huntfest. This has now escalated to a State Government level with Council standing in defiance. Jeff de Jager continues to pursue the facts around the purchase of the Batemans Bay Bowling club site and its compliance with Councils procurement policy and the transparency of financial reporting of the purchase. Paul Bradstreet representing the ERA had the temerity to advise (with others) the Council's GM that going into a confidential council session in relation to her own salary review and contract renewal was NOT ON. He and others very clearly quoted a whole lot of sections of the Act and were dismissed as being Usual Suspects. Their advice to the deaf-eared councillors was ignored however Paul and the others were in fact correct as revealed when the OLG itself found that Council was actually in breach and maybe their advice should have been noted and acted on. As yet there has been no apology. Paul watches Council closely. Coral Anderson representing anyone with an issue that she can help take to Council. Coral is tenacious and simply wants answers to questions such as Council how Council came to quote fencing an area at Corrigans of 100 x 40 x 100 x 40 to be $77,000 to build yet a actual quote obtained by Coral from a local fencer indicated the job could be done for $26,700. Coral has also successfully raised Codes of Conduct against councillors and staff (the General Manager is staff) for their actions contrary to the Local Government Act and being well informed of her rights has become a fearless campaigner for those who have a fear in standing up against the Council bureaucracy. Another staunch defender of the community is Trish Hellier and along with Trish Gardiner they both qualify as Usual Suspects in that they continue to write and question what Council is doing. In addition to writing to the General Manager the Usual Suspects, to ensure openness and transparency, also write to the Councillors. The need to respond to all of these questions might well be a burden on Council resources and it is now there in the fine print of the “procedure” that, as such the Usual Suspects can be deemed Unreasonable and closed down. “inundate Council’s offices with unnecessary and excessive phone calls and emails, make inappropriate demands on Council’s time and resources and/ or refuse to accept Council’s decisions and recommendations in relation to their matter. When customers behave in these ways, Council considers their conduct to be ‘unreasonable’. “ But is it unreasonable to ask: How was it that Council's formal Batemans Bay Bridge submission to the State Government was submitted unseen and not even endorsed by our Councillors or the community? How was it that the rushed Aquatic Centre/performing ArtsSpace grant application and the documentation that referenced an unseen and non-endorsed Aquatic Strategy was rushed through without open public consultation? Then there are the many smaller issues such as Council's botched proposal to sell Albert Ryan Park, in defiance to the will of the community only to find that they didn’t own it. The standoff between staff and the community over an off-leash fenced dog park, the specific questions around the Batemans Bay Marina development and the subsequent removal of the towns emergency helipad, the subterfuge to reclassify an Area of Cultural significance in Tuross Head while blatantly ignoring the wishes of the community and the public hearing process that is required by legislation. The Council appears to prefer to stand in defiance and remain a THEM vs Us rather than simply coming clean, opening up the doors, letting the community be part of the process rather than being continually closed out. The recent debacle of the Sunset Committee for the Batemans Bay Bowling Club is a perfect example of where Council failed once again in public inclusion. They told the volunteer members that everything was confidential and to say NOTHING at all.When it became clear to the community members of that committee that the Council had no intention of continuing to provide Batemans Bay with a 50m pool they were unable to say anything. This causes major divisions. It was only during the final days before a grant application for $46 million was made that Council admitted it had no intention of including a 50m pool in its submission.It is unfortunate that we have a Council that continues to hide behind closed doors and resists the very accountability, openness and transparency that the new Councillors promised that they would bring. What has become very clear this week is that the Councillors are becoming aware that they are now being taken for a ride and that the delegations they have passed down to the General Manager and to staff have now left them flaccid and ineffective and to the most part token and meaningless other than simply being rubber stamps to anything the staff want to do. Fortunately we have the band of Usual Suspects and the new procedure designed to control them has simply added vim to their vigour. Until next, lei

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