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26 May Council Meeting – time to restore democracy to the Eurobodalla Council

The Beagle Editor,

The Eurobodalla Council normally runs an average of 18 Council meetings a year. Two meetings ago Mayor Liz Innes and her cluster of compliant councillors decided to cancel a number of scheduled meetings until the anticipated caretaker period in July before the scheduled NSW Local Government elections in September 2020. As a result, we have had a 7 week gap between Council meetings – despite the reality that the community and its local economy are reeling from the unprecedented impacts of the bushfire disaster and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nature Coast Alliance spokesperson Dr Brett Stevenson said “we have spoken to Councillor Pat McGinlay and he agrees that there needs to be more regular public debate and public decision-making by Councillors through formal council meetings over matters of concern to the community, such as the 2020/2021 Budget, which foreshadows a proposed 2.6% rate increase. For this reason, Councillor McGinlay has submitted a formal motion to be put to the 26 May Council meeting that the Council meetings cancelled at 24 March Council meeting be reinstated so that Councillors meet again more often via Zoom video conferencing. He also noted that at least two Public Access sessions had been cancelled, and believes that these should be reinstated. Councillor McGinlay said that he had previously tried to bring forward an urgent motion at the 7 April Council meeting to reinstate Council meetings that had been cancelled, but was unsuccessful in having his motion tabled for debate by the Mayor in contentious circumstances.”

Councillor McGinlay said “I am concerned that we are having fewer meetings and fewer opportunities for public access at a critical time when we have the budget consultation period closing just before the next Council meeting on 26 May and the possibility of key decisions having to be made in relation to the McKay Park tenders and whether this controversial project will get the go ahead”.

The Nature Coast Alliance is pleased that Councillor Anthony Mayne is putting forward a notice of motion that live streaming of public forums be reintroduced, noting the requirement for the 42 day public exhibition period and that the public forums would be held via Zoom during this period of social distancing. Councillor Mayne told the Nature Coast Alliance that “Transparency and engagement require that we televise presentations from our community members. Now more than ever, in this Covid-19 environment, we need to be doing all that we can to ensure that the voice of our community is both heard and shared”.

“Why are the majority of Eurobodalla Councillors making such an effort to silence the community - what are they trying to hide?” said Dr Stevenson. “Other Councils across NSW, including our neighbouring Bega Valley Shire Council, are having no trouble running virtual meetings to engage with their community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Is Eurobodalla Council a ‘Can't do’ or a ‘Won't do’ Council?” Nature Coast Alliance – protecting our landscape and heritage

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