OWEN CARTLEDGE – 12th December speaking on Batemans Bay McKay Park Sunset Committee
Good morning, my name is Owen Cartledge, a resident of Malua Bay. Welcome to Everybody.
I wish to speak about community engagement particularly with reference to Batemans Bay McKay Park Sunset Committee.
On 29th April 2016 Mayor Brown unexpectedly announced the purchase of a strategically significant precinct, the Batemans Bay Bowling Club.
On the 22nd November 2016 Director Usher stated “the Batemans Bay McKay Park Sunset Committee will oversee community engagement at this site”.
In May this year I met a member of the Sunset Committee and said “What’s going on?” She/He said that “As part of the consultation process members were not allowed to talk, but I’ll let you into a little secret. The ESC consultants have delivered unacceptable plans, and now 12 months after the purchase, the ESC and Sunset Committee are back to square zero and are starting again”.
On 29th August 2017, Council considered Options 1 and 2. I assume Option 2 was the first failed attempt.
The community engagement policy of the ESC is well documented in the Annual Report and in Council papers in February 2017.
The words look wonderful but the actions of Council often seem at variance with the policies.
This Council often seems unable to distinguish between community signals and community noise.
Something seems terrible wrong.
1. In October 2015 a community meeting was held at the Soldiers Club on a Saturday afternoon. One of the usual suspects lodged 42 questions on behalf of himself and others. The wall of the Soldiers Club was lined with 42 ESC answers. There were actually very few answers, just bureaucratic and political responses.
2. The purchase of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club was conducted in secret with no community engagement. The same Mayor proposed to Sydney that improved Capital Value should be used for rate assessments again, no community engagement. This Mayor then tried to stall the removal of the Batemans Bay Parking Meters on the grounds that ESC had not consulted the community. HYPOCRISY AT IT’S BEST.
3. About 20% to 30% of land owners have Sea Level Certificates attached to their land titles. Council decided initially that it was easier not to communicate for fear of SPOOKING THESE PEOPLE.
The greatest jump in community engagement has evolved over the last year with a new on line fearless media replacing for more restricted presentations from traditional print media.
The recently tabled Annual Report, was highly commended to the community by our Mayor, as a good read, outlining the challenges and achievements of the ESC. I went looking for the answers to some of the above issues and found nothing.
My positive recommendation flowing from the above concerns is the ESC needs to appoint a professional change agent.
The appointee could look at the Council Culture and Community Engagement. The position could move the ESC from operating on a geology time scale to something faster. The person could encourage a future flow of Notices of Motion (NOMS) from Councillors. Elected members of Council would be assisted to govern in a proactive manner. Instead of contemplating efficiencies of scale through the MOU with the Bega Valley, a change agent could initiate action. Rather than talk about efficiency and effectiveness along the lines by Percy Allan , a change agent could encourage and implement such reforms.
Many of you would hesitate about an expensive new staff member. However with staff turnover at 9% p.a. funding for apples to replace oranges would be a sinecure. Indeed to fund the extra maintenance needed for a 50 meter pool would only cost 3-4 staff positions.
Council needs a long term future plan in order to respond to unexpected grant money (eg. Poles and Wire money). Quick responses on large projects may see expensive infrastructure mistakes.
To me, something seems wrong, I have watched the Vardon, Thomson, Brown and Innes Councils and in all cases community engagement was, and is, often inadequate and defensive.