Presentation: Lei Parker June 11th 2019

GMR19/010 – Eurobodalla Council meeting June 11th 2019 Councillors, The General Managers report before you today recommends that you cease Public Access all together and that you remove the webcasting and video recording of Public Forum. I have witnessed first hand, for more than thirty years, the many initiatives and innovations of Eurobodalla Council that has seen it gain accolades and win awards across the country. On many occasions Eurobodalla has been considered a leader in Local Government in the fields of engineering, community services and environment. The Eurobodalla Council I know has never set out to be mediocre. The staff of Eurobodalla Council are exceptional. They are dedicated, committed, professional and strive to serve ours, and their, community well. Councillors, the good citizens in the gallery and those watching at home voted you into the Council so that you might best represent them. In 2016 you electioneered on a range of promises that included openness and transparency. The Chance for Change ticket said the council was an “intimidating, unapproachable bureaucracy” and they wanted to “restore faith; providing a council that is approachable and transparent.

Community Voice Eurobodalla formed saying “it’s time to be heard. Our community needs a council prepared to listen, engage and act transparently”

Those on the Your Team Your Future ticket said they stood for council to be accountable, have a high level of integrity and be fully transparent while the Community Action Alliance group offered a mandate “To build a Council you can rely on. A Council you can trust. A Council which is your friend not your enemy.” Sadly the open inclusive transparent Eurobodalla Council you all promised has become anything but. The community, and yourselves, have in fact been progressively left in the dark. Open transparent community engagement has been dismantled under your watch. Now you will decide on removing one more layer. The Business Advisory Committee and the Tourism Advisory Committee have been disbanded with Council instead seeking inputs of external consultants. New community committees such as the Foreshore Committee and the Mackay Park Sunset Committee were formed however these came with confidentiality agreements. A veil of secrecy now spreads over this Council. Removing webcasting of Public Forum will only add to that divide. The HuntFest issue has long been a topic in these chambers during Public Access and Public Forum with much revealed that Council would prefer not to have on video. Revealed this weekend was the ‘breaking news’ that “the owners of the licence to conduct the Huntfest event have handed back their licence for this and future years and it is now open for other parties to apply to run events in future years at the venue in question, should they seek a licence to do so by the usual process”. This in fact is not breaking news as it happened six weeks ago and this Council has kept it a secret from the community and only now has reluctantly released it under pressure. Without Public Forum and Public Access the community would be none the wiser of the ongoing details around this issue. The General Manager today offers that the Public Access session can be justifiably removed because Councillors now have phones and emails should the public wish to engage with them on an issue. Such a statement is both laughable and insulting to the many community members who still await return calls or emails. The GM also offers a justification of removing webcasting and video archiving Public Forum, as has been the norm since 2015, by saying that the OLG does not require it. Councillors, there is much that this Council does not have to do however Eurobodalla has prided itself on stepping up to the bar and then lifting it. Are you aware that the General Manager’s recommendation before you today will see Eurobodalla become the only Council in South East NSW not to video record Public Forum. It is interesting to consider that the General Managers, the Councillors, the Mayors and the communities of Wollongong, Shoalhaven, Bega, Snowy Cooma and Queanbeyan Pallerang have got it so wrong. Councillors, with the exception of just a few of you, your general contempt of Public Access and Public Forum presentations and speakers has been more than evident these last two years.

Your leaving the chambers, your turning your back on presenters you do not care for, your distraction to your devices as speakers present, your unwillingness to allow extension of time to those who speak against Council and your granting extensions to those favoured are more than evident in the video archives. If there is any justifiable reason to cease videoing Public Forum it should be because you, as councillors, have so disrespected the institution by your own actions that it has become an embarrassment to this Council. Coming before you today will be a host of speakers that you most likely have already discounted. Might I suggest that you listen to them and consider their argument and wisdom.

Lei Parker shire resident