Welcome to this week’s editorial, Going Backwards has become the new direction for Eurobodalla Council “Going Forward, Going Forward”. The Eurobodalla Mayor, Liz Innes, is fond of preceding her Mayoral rhetoric with “Going Forward” and reminding us how “Excited” she is. And it is true that Eurobodalla is moving forward and there are exciting times ahead with a massive injection of funds from the State Government for projects such as a new regional hospital, new bridges for Batemans Bay and Nelligen, an artificial reef and a bypass proposed for Moruya along with a commitment of substantial funds to see improvements to the Princes Highway and to finally connecting the Link Road to the highway. All of the above including the securing of grants can be attributed to the hard work of the Member for Bega, Andrew Constance and to date there has actually be little accomplished by our “Going Forward” council other than vicariously. Now we are “Going Backwards”. This week the Mayor and her General Manager Catherine Dale were bought to task for their intention to remove Live Streaming webcast and video recording of the very popular Public Forum session that precedes Council meetings. The Public Forum session enables members of the public to come in a present on issues that are in the agenda of the day. They have a set time limit, have to stay on subject and have to comply with formal meeting rules. Following their presentation they are then asked questions by Councillors that might allow them to expand on their presentation for clarity. The webcasting and recording of the Public Forum session enables those in the community not able to attend a 10am Tuesday Council meeting in Moruya, for whatever reason, the opportunity to watch it live or at a later date. The Eurobodalla Council now plan to pull the plug on this. No recording, no streaming, no archive. And no reason given. Councillors Mayne and McGinlay both openly stated they believe this is a backwards step.
AUDIO: Ordinary Meeting of Eurobodalla Council Date: March 26th 2019
Extract of Discussion by Councillors McGinlay and Mayne on the Draft Code of Meeting Practice
Republished under Fair Dealing for the purpose of news - Copyright remains with Eurobodalla Shire Council
So why would Council resort to such a measure? Basically because the Public Forum sessions challenge the Council staff and the Councillors over their actions, intentions or their failures. And possibly because they are powerless to have these presentations re-published on line for the community to see. Speaker after speaker come in, very well informed and well versed in the Local Government Act, Council Policies and having read the agendas and they challenge Council on big issues like Huntfest, the removal of the 50m pool, the failure of Council to seek community input into their Aquatic Strategy, the Rural LEP, the proposed sale of the Batemans Bay Community Centre and of course the ongoing fiasco that is the Mackay park project. Council are justifiably under attack on many fronts. The Public Forum is the coalface for the community to present their concerns to their elected Councillors which has to date, been video recorded for all to hear, see and witness the question and replies. To remove this is to remove strip away democracy. To get rid of Public Forum would remove evidence of the challenge and there would be no account of what is said, what is asked and what is responded. All that would exist is a written submission, on file in the bowels of their website, devoid of its spoken passion and the emotion around the issue. The question is … IS this a manipulated move being played out with the General Manager knowing the Mayor has the votes of her "Gang of Six" being herself, Pollock, Tait, Nathan, Thomson and Brown. With that voting block the General Manager knows she can pass anything she wishes with the least resistance… so long as she can control the Public voicing an opinion. Control the content and you control the message. It does make you wonder who is actually in control. Is it the Councillors representing the community or the General Manager, under overly delegated authority, backed by the "Gang of Six", all working for bureaucratic order and control, and the “good name of Council”.
Until next Lei