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A not so ordinary meeting

A very interesting day at the Council meeting even though it was quite an ordinary agenda. Public Access that starts at 9:30 is an opportunity for anyone to address Council on any matter not on the agenda. First off today we had a business man who was asking very pointedly why Council have a non-disclosure policy for procurements of road base products when the RMS openly discloses unit rates. He offered that while Council advises it legal for them to choose NOT to disclose they are not leaglly bound to do so and that the RMS does disclose for transparency. He advised that once Council did disclose prices and this gave a business an opportunity to establish if they were competitive and to work a possible business model to effectively tender. The most recent policy changes have seen this openess and disclosure removed with questions now being asked of "Which groups stand to benefit from such a change?" As a result of his presentation an invitation now stands to meet with the Mayor and the Director of Finances and look very closely at the procedures, the changes and the negative effects they have bought to local tenderers. The next speaker during public access started her allocated 5 minutes with a 3 minute extension if granted approval by Council with a question to the Mayor. "is it correct that I ony have 5 minutes and a possible extension of three minutes to present?" The mayor responded "YES, That is correct. Before we move on to that presenters presentation lets have a close look at the Code of Meeting Practice. It appears that THE MAYOR might be WRONG ! In the Code of Meeting Practice under PUBLIC FORUM it states: Subject to subclause (17), members of the public will be permitted a maximum of five minutes to address the Council. A three minute extension of time may be granted if deemed necessary by Council. HOWEVER under 5.11 PUBLIC ACCESS sessions there is NO such time constraint other than that Public Access will last 30 minutes. (Public Access is from 9:30 to 10am - it is not live streamed and does not form part of the official Council meeting and is not minuted) While it might be the opinion of the Mayor, the general Manager and the Public Officer that the same time constraints apply to speakers in both forums because it is NOT clearly stated in the procedures the time constraint for PUBLIC ACCESS does NOT apply.

This is an example once again of making it up as you go along. As too was the case during PUBLIC FORUM where a speaker registered to present her own statement and also registered to present a statement on behalf of a member of the pubic unable to attend the meeting. She was given five minutes with a possible extension of three for BOTH presentations. Having sought clarification from staff the day before she was advised by Council's Public Officer: Thank you for your enquiry. The General Manager has asked me to respond to your enquiry. I refer to Council’s Code of Meeting Practice Section part 5. 10(6) “members of the public will be permitted a maximum of five minutes to address the Council. A three minute extension of time may be granted if deemed necessary by Council”. For this reason you are allowed five minutes and a possible three minute extension for all presentations you are making. Today, knowing she had only five minutes and a possible three minute extension she made sure to publicly state: I’ll now read out David Hockey’s presentation. Councillors should be aware that I am reading this at David’s request. I have been informed by the general manager that I am only allowed 5 minutes with a possible further 3 minutes for both presentations. Had David been here or had he asked someone else to read this out, he or that other person would have been afforded a full 5 minutes with a further 3 minutes but this courtesy unfortunately is not extended to me. While she was able to read both presentations in the time allowed it showcased the lack of empathy Council has to offer any variation of its rules and most unfortunate is that within the hard and fast rules there are no guidelines at all to cover the case when one person can present on behalf of another. It has not gone unnoticed that the presenter is one of those identified as being a Usual Suspect. Back to Public Access. The second speaker drew attention to the requirement that Council ensure the privately owned road that is being prepared for public ownership is of a construction standard that can be expected and accepted by the ratepayers without risk of financial burden. The presentation was noted. Then to the stage came Peter Bernard, another Usual Suspect and he bought with him a dictionary and a flotation buoy. Obviously the dictionary was in case the Mayor used words such as vexatious or querulous and the buoy was simply evidence that the system they had at bar beach to keep the shark net afloat was a failure. What Peter did ask was for consideration of the PUBLIC ACCESS sessions to be live streamed as is the PUBLIC FORUM presentations to which the Mayor responded that she would be very reticent to allow live streaming of public Access as there may be those out there in the community who would use Public Access as a soapbox and abuse the process. She did finish this by saying it was her personal view. Two speakers presented on the community off-leash dog park at Corrigans Beach and these presentations will be offered in another Beagle Article. Also today we heard from Laurelle Pacey in Public Forum speaking on behalf of the Narooma School of Arts & Soldiers War Memorial Hall Inc (SoA) requesting a 50% subsidy for the next four years, as per the invitation from Council. The previous agreement (50%) had ended so they no longer had a 50% subsidy (they had already paid the full first installment) and they have had to reapply.Council's current policy only allows for a 50% rates subsidy, hence that was all they could ask for at this point in time and that was all that was asked for, however Ms Pacey, on behalf of the Narooma School of Arts & Soldiers War Memorial Hall Inc (SoA) also asked Council to consider reviewing that policy at some time to allow for possibly 100% subsidy, particularly in situations like theirs where they are providing community facilities that would normally be provided by local government. This too is in a separate article. When it came to discussion Narooma Councillor Phil Constable congratulated the Narooma community for its continued fortitude in doing things off its own back in regards to the extensive renovation and preservation that has been carried out to the School of Arts buildings. Councillor Mayne asked what impact a saving of 50% would make and was told by Ms Pacey that it would "put more into maintaining and developing the precinct". While Councillor Thomson and Councillor Brown also paid tribute to the efforts of the Narooma School of Arts & Soldiers War Memorial Hall Inc (SoA) the bottom line came down to the statement that Council had budgeted to receive those rates and as such it would not provide any further discount. Narooma Councillor Brown said that everyone would enjoy discounted rates however Council needed to work within budgetary constraints.

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