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a cautionary tale …

The Beagle Editor,

Your readers might be interested in our latest media release titled: a cautionary tale …

As most residents & ratepayers are only too aware, trying to obtain state government assistance to improve local infrastructure is always a challenging task, unless, of course, an election is in the offing or the project has the support of a vocal or influential community group or group of party members.

Calls for better classrooms, more nurses, better health services & facilities, more police, better roads & footpaths, improved public transport etc routinely pass unheeded, while projects of more dubious value made by the ‘right’ people are waved through.

Very occasionally, the state or federal government will ride into town offering something that the community never asked for, never thought of asking for & has no need for & the entire world is turned on its head trying to work-out how to appear suitably grateful.

The most recent example is the now notorious so-called "Smart" Shark Drumline Trial initiated by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries branch on a trial basis at Tathra, Merimbula & Pambula, allegedly to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology, in particular to better understand how the technology works in different coastal areas & operating environments along the NSW coast.

The “Trial” will be conducted over a two month period, at the end of which the findings will be evaluated & the results reported back to the community.

One of the biggest problem that the BVSRRA has with the trial is that the use of baited lines will inevitably attract sharks to the area that may not otherwise have bothered to visit, thereby creating a risk to beach users that may not otherwise have arisen.

In addition, the BVSRRA once again has a major problem with the inadequacies of the processes followed by the various parties involved, including DPI & Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC), & the abuse of the community consultation process, the results of which were effectively ignored.

When the DPI rode into town late last year, calling for council to support its proposed Drumline Trial, it advised council that unless it supported the trial, it would not proceed.

Unlike the elected councillors, it would seem that council officials were not over-awed by this behaviour & so when the matter went to council for resolution on November 21st, 2018, they recommended that council should make it clear to Fisheries that council did not wish to be involved in any way, while recommending to Fisheries that it should consult with the community on whether the trial should proceed.

True to form, the councillors proceeded to bungle their handling of the matter, on the one hand confirming that council wanted no part in the decision-making process & supported a community survey being conducted but, on the other … wait for it … they supported the trial. The vote was supported by all councillors other than Cr Griff, who voted against it, while Cr Bain was absent.

For its part, Fisheries set-about organising the appearance of a community survey, which they proudly announced drew 237 responses (from a population of 26,000 people over the age of 16): a response rate of less than 1%, while an acceptable response rate is usually judged to be between 10%-15%.

Notwithstanding its survey response, which Fisheries acknowledged showed that 57% of respondents opposed the trial, it decided to go-ahead anyway, which only aroused even more vocal opposition. In other words, Fisheries have imposed a trial on the community, in spite of the community opposing it & in spite of the fact that the community never asked for it & didn’t need it.

So much for due process.

Of course, as usual, when councillors got wind of the community reaction, they went to ground: not hard as most of them have never been sighted near a beach anyway, let alone in the water.

When contacted by About Regional about the trial, our Mayor Kristy McBain acknowledged public opposition to the trial but then asserted that the decision to pursue the trial had nothing to do with council, ignoring the fact that council had resolved to support the trial & also ignoring the fact that the DPI had previously confirmed that the trial would not proceed unless council supported it.

The arrogant imposition of the Drumline Trial on the local community has succeeded only in building greater opposition to any future proposal to support the permanent introduction of the technology, while once again highlighting the fundamental incompetence of the elected council.

Of course, all of this was completely avoidable if someone had demonstrated the wit to work out that the best place to conduct trials would be where there was actually a recognised problem, rather than upsetting the local populace, including beachgoers by putting-on an elaborate display that arguably achieves nothing. John Richardson Secretary/Treasurer Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

#Opinion #Bega

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