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Council meeting: a farce worthy of the stage

To the casual observer the Ordinary Council meeting of Tuesday April 30th, 2019 might appear to be quite boring. There were a few reports up for Councillors to acknowledge or rubberstamp requiring little more than a few hours of them lifting their hand to vote on things to keep the wheels of bureaucracy turning. But to any informed eye in the chamber or watching from the internet it was a day that once again reflects the absolute disdain that the Councillors and Senior staff have for the general public who dare to come and present at Public Forum. The speakers today where there to talk on the report before Council that revealed there was strong support for a 50m pool in Batemans Bay at the Mackay Park Aquatic Centre. One speaker after another presented their well prepared presentations to the councillors in the hope that they too might reiterate to the councillors that there was still time for them to reconsider the staff recommendation to replace the towns 50m pool with a 25m pool. Leading the presentations was John Mobbs who had prepared his presentation to be less than 5 minutes anticipating that Council, true to its new form, would want to close him down and not vote for any extension of time. You can read John's presentation HERE

Then came the presentation of Maureen Searson (HERE) that was delivered with the same insightful neutrality that simply asks the question of Councillors of their due diligence and their community representation. With only a few more lines of her presentation Maureen was bought to a halt at the end of five minutes with no extension of time given. While she challenged them to allow just 30 seconds more the Councillors vote had been cast with Nathan, Brown, Tait, Thompson and Innes voting against the extension. The next presentation was by Coral Anderson on behalf of an absent Peter Coggan (HERE). Coral too was not given an extension though it was noticed that Clr Nathan did vote with Mayne, Constable and McGinlay to give her the extra 20 seconds she needed. In this case however the Mayor used her casting vote to block the extension. By this stage the councillors, Mayor and General Manger were looking fairly shell shocked with the barrage of well informed and eloquent speakers challenging their processes around public consultation, transparency, fiscal responsibility and capacity to deliver on the $51m project. The final speaker, Joan Armstrong bought home the points in style as she was clear, succinct and did not require any extension of time to deliver the final thrust of the message (HERE) that the community of Batemans Bay was quite clear in wanting a 50m pool as a replacement for the one they were about to lose.

VIDEO: an after meeting round table regarding Council's meeting Of concern was the closing down of Councillor Mayne by Lindsay Brown and the Mayor... It was quite clear that Councillor Mayne was out on his own today. Normally supported by Councillors McGinlay and Constable he went solo most of the time and asked no questions of the presenters nor did he venture to ask any questions around the proposed increase in rates, fees and charges as he did this time last year. It was also clear he was not happy around the way the presenters had been closed down in regards to the survey results that indicated clearly that the council was not listening to the community when it came to the 50m pool issue. Taking notes Councillor Mayne waited until the pool survey agenda item came up to ask of Director of Planning, Lindsay Usher if he recognised any marked increase in the community feed back over the 50 m pool from the latest survey compared to the initial and now questioned community consultation. The most important part of the meeting saw Councillor Mayne attempting to put forward to his fellow councillors that, very shortly council will be voting on the the removal of webcast, video archived Public Forum that enables the community to present their concerns to councillors on Agenda items. Once that is removed there will no longer be any video, audio or minuted record of any presentation by the community and that presentations like they had just heard would be for councillors ears only.

Councillor Mayne began to call into question Councils commitment to their Delivery and Operational Strategies that sets out to: 8.1 Encourage an informed community 8.2 Provide opportunities for broad and meaningful engagement to occur 8.3 Work together to enhance trust, participation and community pride Councillor Mayne is not the only one to recognise that Council's intention to close down recording and webcasting of Public Forum, to demand written submissions 24 hours before hand to be accepted or denied by the General Manager and to not be minuted or recorded in any way for future public record flies in the face of council's Collaborative and Engaged Community mandate: "Our community works together and is actively involved. Our thoughts and ideas are valued, we are empowered with knowledge and have the opportunity to participate in decision making." He was not able to continue with his concerns because Councillor Brown called a point of order on him questioning the relevance. To the gallery and those watching at home it was more than relevant. This might just be the turning point and indeed was significant and relevant as this meeting was possibly the LAST time anyone challenging the Mackay Park Pool project would be able to do so under current webcast and archived Public Forum. While Lindsay Brown smugly indicated a 'victory' to Councillor Mayne in bringing a point of order to the General Manger and Mayor those in the gallery aware of what was happening could only look on with disgust. Dorothy Dix is alive and well. Much to the amusement of the gallery and probably those watching live streaming of the council meeting at home was the new trend of both Councillor Nathan and Councillor Thomson to ask Dorothy Dix questions of the General Manger or staff much like Question Time in Parliament house. While that might seem acceptable there was one Dorothy that revealed more than it was intended. Following considerable discussion around the word endorse in regards to whether the council puts on public display an endorsed Operational Plan, where it was stated that the councillors had poured themselves into the documents and co-authored them to the point where they were very much endorsed by councillors Maureen Nathan then asked the General Manager to explain a table within the document, "for those at home". This is not the first time we have seen these agreed pre-meeting Dorothy Dixer questions asked however to see so many presented today was less than subtle and completely needless.

Once again we saw no Questions on Notice asked, No Notices of Motion and certainly no debate other than the tussle of wordsmithing that sought to entertain the gallery who were becoming otherwise bored by the lack of any community representation from the floor as the councillors, under the command of the Mayor, kept raising their hands all but mimicking acquiescing marionettes.

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