Eurobodalla Coast Alliance (ECA) President Russell Schneider has attacked Council’s coastal management consultations as “a sham” aimed at “cherry picking” opinions which suit its own objectives.
Mr Schneider told The Beagle that ECA strongly objected to Council arranging meetings with individuals and small groups rather than having a “totally transparent” discussion with the community via public meetings where options, problems and possibilities were laid on the table in a way which allowed everyone to understand and comment on proposals. "The current arrangement was “deliberately manipulative”" he said
"I believe Council’s first priority in dealing with the issue of possible sea level rise and associated coastal problems was “do no harm”.
In a recent meeting with Council staff and its consultants, Mr Schneider said ECA was anxious to work with Council to achieve a “genuinely equitable, rational and pragmatic plan to deal with possible, though yet to be confirmed, coastal issues based on genuine community consultation and a realistic commitment to the concept of defence when necessary rather than surrender.
“ECA also believes any decisions Council makes should be based on facts rather than assumptions. It should be noted that any decisions Council may make can have far reaching consequences on individuals and communities. This issue directly affects more than 4000 people but has profound flow effects on businesses, employment, development and tourism. Its first commitment should be “do no harm.”
“ECA regards the current consultation process as fundamentally flawed. It appears deliberately manipulative.
“The concept of “private” or individual consultations can only be seen as being aimed at achieving a pre-determined outcome, in which staff and consultants can put whatever “spin” they wish on the input from individual residents, none of whom know what others may have said.
“Good ideas, identification of real problems, possible solutions, are kept from general public gaze by this bizarre “consultation” process.
“ It is more like a police state interrogation than genuine community consultation. Residents may be “verballed” rather than having their views clearly assessed in an open environment in which all views can be discussed and debated.
“If officials wished to provide elected Councillors with a genuine assessment of community views they would have organised public community meetings at which all interested parties, including elected Councillors, could hear the management plans, comment on them, and reject those they found unacceptable, and hear alternative viewpoints from their fellow residents, including unpaid experts as distinct from employed “consultants” who may well have been briefed to provide the “right” results.
“Expert engineers have queried the basis of the assumptions which determine the “vulnerability” of various areas. There are strong grounds to review and revise these assumptions before policy decisions affecting people’s lives and livelihoods are made.
“It is significant that no engineers have been included on the consultative panel!
“The current system can only be interpreted as making it possible for unelected officials to produce their views on what should be done and claim this has community support.
“This is neither democratic, equitable or responsible. If Council management genuinely wanted to assess community views it would do so in a much more transparent way in which its proposals could be subjected to reasoned analysis and comment, including that of people with equal or greater expertise than its own staff or “hired gun” consultants.
“The only conclusion one can reach from this process is that it is designed to minimise genuine community input based on a transparent and fully informed discussion on the merits of various proposals. It is open to the charge that it is aimed at fulfilling an agenda devised to destroy individual property rights and assist a long term agenda to seize private properties and give Council management or the State Government’s bureaucrats control.
“The community is entitled to a much broader consultation process allowing all parties to share their views. “ Mr Schneider concluded