Tuesday February 25th saw a lackluster Council meeting that lasted twenty eight minutes. The agenda was devoid of any Questions On Notice or Notices of Motions from Councilors that once again indicate that they have nothing to raise on behalf of their community. There were no questions asked of the progress of the Council's Emergency Relief Fund or any indication offered of how the funds are to be distributed and who might qualify. There was no question asked as to what Council was proposing to do by way of engaging with its community to listen, learnt and collate the positives and negatives learnt from the recent fires so that these might form a Eurobodalla community submission to the NSW Bushfire Enquiry. There was no discussion as to why the refusal of any community engagement on the matter persisted, nor was there any Notice of Motion that Eurobodalla Council might rise above mediocrity and take example from Bega Valley Shire Council who were a golden star compared to its do-nothing neighbour. Nor was there a Notice of Motion to reinstate the live streaming of public forum presentations, a Question on Notice to receive a report on Council's continued waste of 3000 million litres of treated water that is discharged every year into rivers and the sea. There was no update on the infrastructure that was lost in the fires nor any discussion around the Level 4 water restrictions that remain and the current level of Deep Creek Dam. In fact there was little if any discussion at all in the twenty eight minute meeting other than Councilor Nathan equating the motion to 'note' sources of funding for the Mackay Park pool as being similar to buying a dress where one has $100 but knows they can borrow $100 more, thereby allowing you to consider buying a more expensive dress than you can afford. This is in the context of Council having $51 million and being advised that the proposed pool and art centre will cost $60 million at least. While Councillors are aware they can borrow the $10 million balance if a tenderer comes in at $61 million they have all been briefed of what can also be sold and moved around in accounts. Such $$$ as the sale of the Batemans Bay Community Centre, the public reserves such as Pretty Point that are 'surplus to use' and the Southern Phone pay out that should by rights be a windfall for the entire shire rather than what will be perceived as a benefit solely for the new Batemans Bay pool and theaterette. If you watch the replay of the meeting you will see a series of motions endorsed, one after another, with most councillors offering little challenge, asking few questions and raising hands like puppets to endorse previously discussed back room briefings that the community have no access to. Once again we saw Councillor Pat McGinlay, the voice in the wilderness, asking considered and prepared questions of staff and the General Manager, however today he was alone as Councillor Mayne was absent. Watch the replay and you will see the disdain that is held for this lone Councillor daring to question bureaucracy and to dare to reveal what might have been discussed in breifings. So were there questions asked at these briefings? What were the answers? No one knows as our Councillors are gagged from revealing. So for twenty eight minutes today we saw democracy at work, going through the motions of ticking boxes.
Had you arrived to listen to the Public Forum presentations you would have found just one member of the community in the public gallery, there to present for seven minutes. As there is no information offered by Council of any registrations received by speakers both Public Access and Public Forum sessions have become pot luck for those who show any interest in attending and listening to the issues raised by community members. Public Forum, once live streamed has become a farce and an embarrassment for democracy in the shire as we are now the only Council in NSW that does not live stream its public engagement. We used to but our Council axed it due to it being 'abused by those who might wish to grandstand and use it as a platform". So there we have it. Another Council meeting down as we now approach the final six months of the term of this Council. What can we expect in these last six months ? You might begin to see councillors attending local community meetings, you might see them put up Questions on Notice and Notices of Motion and you might actually see them contribute more in chamber discussions. But for those who have been watching council, this council, it will all be too little, too late.