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Council's credibility is under fire - again

Eurobodalla Council is probably under the greatest fire it has seen for a decade or more. There is a massive spotlight on the new Councillors and how they are performing and an even greater focus on the reports and the way council staff are "conducting business". We could mention the codes of conduct over the last year against Council and the concerning findings of the Office of Local Government of Council staff acting outside of the Local Government Act. We could mention the new tendency of Council staff to write and lodge submissions on behalf of the community without actually (truely) engaging or consulting with them or of engaging with councillors who it appears are happy to retrospectively have submissions sent off and then retrospectively endorsed. We could mention the continued push by Council's planning section to always be the first in the state to press through strategies and policies that haven't even been endorsed or have only just had the ink dry. Beagle readers have been learning of mega-stuffups by Council for the last year however the most recent one is icing on and already over-iced cake. The ROSS Council calls it the Recreational Open Space Strategy however it is fast becoming referred to as a Riproaring Out Sourcing Stuffup. There are several technical errors in the draft ROSS concerning Council assets. It is evident that Council carried some information across from the ROSS 2010, including asset information. An example of this is Rotary Park in Batemans Bay which was decommissioned when the Batemans Bay Marina expanded (the town helipad was also decommissioned at this time) Council have "picked this up" (referring to Rotary Park) since the draft Riproaring Out Sourcing Stuffup (ROSS) went on exhibition having been publicaly bought to their attention. No doubt Council staff are planning to correct the many discovered errors in the final document however how many errors are there? The report was outsourced to a Queensland company (obviously Eurobodalla businesses are inept in providing such specialised expertise) who relied on the asset information given to them by Council staff. Council provided them with a lot of out of date data. " It was poor data" D.T An example: Incorrectly identifying that Rotary Park in Batemans Bay still existed. It doesn't and hasn't done so for some time. Council staff should have difficulty explaining the $30,000 they earmarked for councillor endorsement as "an action for Rotary Park". On page Page 155 Item M26 it states: Upgrade the play at Rotary Park (Batemans Bay) to a local recreation standard - indicative cost $30,000.00 Maybe Council staff might like to explain this : Was this park ever field tested? Did a staff member actually eyeball the park? When did a staff member go and establish what was required to bring it up "to an local recreation standard" and how did they establish it would cost exactly $30,000? Keep in mind that: in the ROSS Council state that they need $30,000 for a facilities upgrades in a park that doesn't exist. In the ROSS the Tuross Head Progress hall is still listed as standing? In the ROSS they haven't bothered to identify the Dalmeny Camping Reserve as a Recreational asset.

Above: Though they mention the Dalmeny campground they fail to itemise it in their community assets. The largest community asset in Dalmeny

Most alarming though is not the many glitches that are becoming more and more apparent as local communities have a close look at the 195 page document. The alarming bit is about what has been snuck into the document. Narooma, You are in the firing line of loosing a local park - Walker Park. It's all there - very clear on page 156 of a document you didn't read and most likely won't bother writing a formal submission to. And because you didn't they will see this as your agreeing with what they propose - otherwise you would have protested - Right?

Above: In the 2017 ROSS this reserve in Narooma (It is called WALKER RESERVE Council and NOT just Lot 588 Lot 752155) is described as having NO recreation or conservation value. OK Council - a question - in which staff member's opinion does this park have "no recreation or conservation value"?

It long had recreation value for those who lived in the area when they took their children to the swings or kicked a footy around or walked their dogs. Until Council came along and took the swings away and stopped mowing so frequently so that man, nor dog, wanted to go there. Nice move Council. In 2012, Council notified neighbouring residents by post of its intention to sell Walker Park after it was identified in the 2010 ROSS as superfluous to council's playground needs with Council withdrawing local playground equipment while they "consolidated" a play area at Rotary Park Narooma.

Above: Back in 2010 Council began their move; downgrade the playground and then begin to remove fencing and reduce mowing effectively making it a difficult reserve to recreate on. Locals noticed this and were NOT impressed

Back in 2012 as Councill moved to begin their intended process of selling Walker Park they provided an open and ethical forum for public comment. The locals said NO and as a result Council pulled its head in and desisted. Sadly in 2017, Council has chosen to ‘hide’ the sale in the ‘Draft Recreation and Open Space Strategy 2017’ by not identifying the parcel of land by its name, only by its Lot and DP numbers on page 156 of a document they know the community won't read. How do we know the community won't read it - because even the councillors who will have endorsed it to date haven't read it. A Council author to this draft ROSS (whoever that might be) says the community reserve known as Walker Park has NO conservation value. Walker Park has important historical significance within its neighbourhood. Many ‘older’ residents of the neighbourhood recall the days when Wally Walker grew fruit on this plot of land and sold it in the community. Many also recall his bequeathing of the land to the community which explain why it became known as Walker Park by the children of Narooma, as the children often helped Mr Walker with his fruit van. Bequeathing the land was his final act of appreciation to the children who helped him earn his living. Eurobodalla Shire Council are merely the caretakers. The land is classified as community and for Council to sell it they would have to change its classification to Operational. By including the land in the ROSS this becomes part of the process to make that transition. If no one notices and no one puts in a submission against then Stage one of the process is ticked off. A Council author to this draft ROSS (whoever that might be) says the community reserve known as Walker Park has NO recreation value. This area of Narooma flat has many units and apartments. In those we find the average Naroomaite. 58 years old, wanting a small holding, not wanting a large garden, content to walk a small distance to a community parkland as their own apartments are somewhat sparse.

A bench or two, a friendly chat, a passing family, neighbours, a chat - that is recreation and Walker Park was set aside in this community for that very purpose. Council - bring forth your officer who states that the park has no recreation value and have them explain why seats have been removed and mowing ceased. How did this officer establish the park had no recreation value. Might it not have value if the community had benches, a raised garden bed for vegies and flowers, a bbq, mown area for a ball to be thrown. Whilst those in Narooma with an appreciation of its history and those who contributed to its community know it as Walker Park Council to the DISGUST of those now discovering the subterfuge Council have been found to have buried their intention on page 156 and refered to the property by Lot and DP. Want to see what Walker Park is like?

Does the ROSS require the public to go through it with a fine tooth comb to see what other subterfuge lies within. It seems so and Cuncillors need to be aware that the document has major flaws that have been revealed here and continue to revealed on a daily basis. Submissions CLOSE Oct 24th. If you don't spot the shaft, the spin, the smoke, the mirrors, the subterfuge, the gross errors or the blown out budget items and lodge an objection/submission then .. they will get through. To question the actions, the suggested upgrades required and the suggested budgets to do so because... at the end of the day this document drives actions and budgets that Councillors will be endorsing and defines what we have as a community and what some faceless Council staff member considers we no longer need. Many local residents would prefer to see Walker park kept as valuable open space. Following the growing trend for community gardens and organic food some residents would like to add value to the park by planting low maintenance forage garden. If you would like to see Walker park kept in community hands the Narooma community encourages you to please sign this petition now. We the undersigned request that the Eurobodalla Shire Council maintain Walker Park as community parkland. We request that Eurobodalla shire council allow community consultation to re-design the park to benefit the community and consider the possibility of a community garden. .

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