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Public information too secret to be in the public domain

The Eurobodalla Council stands accused of perpetuating secrecy. Secrecy that has councillors huddled in briefings behind closed doors making determinations that only see the light of day when those determinations are tabled as an agenda item to be voted through, often with little resistance as only a few in the community might realise the significance. Look at the recent Eurobodalla Aquatic Strategy as an example. The secrecy device is well used and all too often applied under the veil of Confidentiality. Even when Council appears to go through the machinations of community consultation they do so with a formula of stealth by forming committees sworn to confidentiality agreements whilst they carry out pop-up drop in sessions orchestrated in such a way that ensures that issues raised and answers given to members of the community remain in isolation of each other. Open robust public meetings are a definite no-no. Two committees that presently have confidentiality agreements with their members are the Mackay Park Sunset Committee and the Batemans Bay foreshore committee. But why the need for all the secrecy and signatures of blood with threats made to anyone who dares speak? The committee members are selected as representatives of various groups. With Mackay Park there are members who represent thermal pool bobbers, thespians, artists, local businesses, community groups and some swimmers. A very selective group who are invited to have input yet continue to state publicly that they serve a token role as much of their input simply taken without resultant variations. Following the recent Mackay Park invitation-only meetings organised by Council with select forum groups the exit-poll response once again was that the questions asked were not being genuinely listened to by attending staff and that it was simply another tick box of token community consultation that would see whatever vision the Council had go ahead, irrespective of feedback. Those who the Beagle has talked to are quickly disillusioned by the limitations of their input yet feel threatened by strict confidentiality clauses to say anything. The same applies to the Batemans Bay foreshore committee. Again sworn to secrecy. Why? They too are members of various interest groups representing yachting, boating, fishing, the general community and local business. They too are hand picked and attend invite only meetings to be briefed on what is happening. These members also raise many issues around the bridge, access, consequences, design and concerns that are put to them by those they are meant to be representing however... are they allowed to say anything ... No. .. it is confidential. What is so confidential about discussions around 1. What is your preference for green space versus parking? Where would you like to see more or less of either around the foreshore? 2. What sort of facilities would you like to see included around foreshore? 3. What are your ideas on making various areas around foreshore more attractive and appealing to locals/and or visitors? There are also the questions around how the foreshore is used and who uses it including discussions around the possible removal of the T-Wharf that benefits two operators and replacement with a multi purpose pontoon. The same might be applied to the "Innes" public wharf that is presently seen to be benefiting one operator while it could provide practical access to the whole community. And why would information such as the intention to close the boatramp on the northern side of the bridge at Punt Road, with the removal of 10 trailer parking sites along with the decommissioning of the boatramp on the southern side that will also remove access to about 10 car spaces be so hush hush. It is understood that Council is proposing an interim boatramp at Korners Park with parking for an eighteen month period however the bridge project is scheduled to run for four years at the least. When will this temporary carpark go ahead? And if it is found to be a good solution, long sought after by various groups such as Sailability and other small craft clubs, will it remain a long term facility? In all two key primary tourism boatramps that are used in summer for access to the Clyde River will be out of service for four to five years. But that is all under the radar and the last to know of it will be holiday makers who book vacations only to discover they can't launch at their favourite ramps. No doubt Council will advise those boaters to go to either Nelligen or Hanging Rock to launch. But how will they advise them? And when will they advise them? Is this such a problem? Well yes, on two fronts. The first is the fact that both Hanging Rock and Nelligen are remote and that they are also limited in capacity. The Beagle can confirm another major issue around the Hanging Rock boatramp being that there is a very clear line that describes where Open Water begins and it begins at that boatramp.

Unlike smooth waters east of the line (red dash) from Hanging Rock Boat harbour to Pinnacle Point the Open Water boating requirements of additional equipment apply and heavy penalties are issued if you do not have the gear below on your vessel.

The bottom line on all of this is that committees such as the Batemans Bay Foreshore committee are very restricted in what they can discuss and are even required to stay within the brief of discussing those thing related to the bridge and its impact on the foreshore. Issues such as clearance heights, impacts to CBD traffic and the financial effect on local business are not part of the brief for the Foreshore Committee and any discussion of why there is no off ramp into the CBD to encourage visitors to visit the town foreshore are understood to not be part of the agenda. It is understood that there is an acquiescence in the air to see a modification that might allow an off ramp to Lions Park on the South Western foreshore from Vesper Street however this area is constrained by mangroves. On the opposite side of the road is the push to see an on-ramp from the CBD onto Vesper Street that would allow semitrailers to leave Clyde Street without having to trundle through the CBD. What is evident is that the ink has not set on the plans for the bridge other than the height of 12m clearance being locked in and even then there is talk of the four piers being bought back to three due to the possibility of creating as yet uncalculated hydrological turbulence that might, or might not, further erode the Surfside sand bar. But than that is all hearsay, Chinese whispers and conjecture because .... it is all secret, discussed only in confidential meetings, agreed to with secret handshakes and unable to be disclosed to the general public for fear they might dare have an opinion.

#Opinion #Council #LocalStateFederal #LeiParker

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