The first Council meeting for 2019 got off to a flying start that sent waves through the chambers as Councillors, the Mayor and attending staff heard one eloquent speaker after another address the chamber. The first presentation was from the folks at Pretty Point who capably presented to Council a solid justification for immediate removal of their Pretty Point Public Reserve from council's list of public reserves it wishes to sell off in order to prop up its recreation asset account. Reminded of the long history of commitment by Council to NOT sell the land that was gifted to the community in 1960 community representative Brett Norton said "We should not be having this conversation AGAIN" What was revealed from all of this was that the community had not been advised. When asked by Clr Mayne when the community had first heard of the proposed reclassification and sale the reply was "four weeks ago". While the General Manager chirruped in to advise that the property was clearly listed on page 119 of the Ross Report it was clear that this was not an acceptable means to inform a community and that something like a notice on a stick placed on the land would have been far more effective than expecting the community to read a 198 page document to discover what Council might be intending. From the facts ably presented it was inevitable that the Mayor had little option but to draft a Mayoral Minute there and then to have the issue bought to a full briefing of councillors to consider the Pretty Bay submission and the history of previous councils and formal written advice provided by staff. While she was given accolades by her councillors the reality is that she had no choice as it was more than evident that Council had failed the community in both consideration and communication and failed to show any respect to previous determinations NOT to sell. This will undoubtedly see a win for a Pretty Point community that stood up and challenged Council on its continued intent to sell of community land and will open the doors for the Broulee and Sth Durras communities to also mount their own challenge. Unfortunately it is too late for the Tuross Head community who lost a foreshore reserve that was recently reclassified and sold. The second presentation by John Mobbs raised considerable questions around the removal of asbestos at the Batemans Bay Bowling Club. This presentation was then followed by Maureen Searson raising the issue of conflicts of interest and reminding the Mayor in particular but the councillors in general of the Model Code of Conduct. Joan Armstrong then addressed Council on the blowout in costs associated with the redevelopment of the entire Mackay Park Precinct. If the above presentations didn't make the Mayor and her councillors feel both somewhat informed yet left somewhat bruised the next presentation will be enough to bring the Rural Land Strategy under the microscope once again as evidence that, while Council gives grand assurances that it will manage the proposed 250 subdivisions in reality it has no capacity to even oversee a single property being cleared under simple DA compliance. The very fears that the community have held that clearing would lead to sedimentation of waterways was shown by absolute example in a presentation by Linda Chapman
As the Public Access session finished the more formal, live streamed Public Forum session began with a presentation by David McLaughlin in regards to the Sculpture on Clyde. From the outset his presentation was clear, absolute, logical and gave clarity to those councillors who had not heard his views on the Sculpture on Clyde. Mr McLaughlin carefully and insightfully informed the Councillors that the motion drafted by staff before them was not achievable. He advised that Sculpture on Clyde was supportive of Council seeking to place its own constraints on any acquisition that will be placed on Public Land and that if it chooses to do so and require additional engineering compliances for wind force etc then they should consider acquiring the piece. He reiterated that the Sculpture on Clyde would not compromise itself with such constraints and that there were many privately owned spaces where legacy pieces could be installed throughout Batemans Bay and in time, the rest of the Bay area and the Shire. It has become obvious to those who have been watching the deteriorating relationship between the Council and the chamber over this matter. This has primarily been because the council has been adamant that it should be the controller of what should be acquired and where it should be placed. Today enabled the councillors a chance to listen to Mr McLaughlin and to learn firsthand the details of the event and to also learn of the capacity of the Sculpture on Clyde to deliver what Councillor Rob Pollock recognised as having "the potential to be the leading cultural event of the Shire". The excellent presentation also dismissed the council staff recommendation of merging the Sculpture on Clyde event with the River of Art which would enable Council's Events team to gain the foothold they would enjoy into the prestigious Sculpture event. During debate over the issue Councillor Pollock offered "If you try to combine it you will end up with an omelette that leaks down a drain" Mr McLaughlin offered, in his presentation to the councillors, a vision of the Sculpture on Clyde event well beyond anything that could be delivered by a bureaucratically constrained council arts committee. His vision and his capacity to deliver certainly gained the respect of those councillors who had only been given second hand accounts of the often contentious meetings that had reportedly taken place between select staff members and chamber members. As a result of Mr McLaughlin's presentation Council agreed to defer the recommendations before them until they had time to further consider the relationship Council has with the Batemans Bay Chamber in regards to the conditions that they wished to apply recognising that they have neither skin in the game nor the judging vote they insist on. In all a great day for the community.