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Bay Chamber in limbo

The Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber AGM, held at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club attracted twenty or so of its 80 members along with a handful of members of the public and media reps from the Bay Post and the Beagle hoping to hear Liz Rankin, the scheduled speaker from Council, present on the Vision strategy now being prepared for the Bay CBD. It is understood that the long overdue vision statement will address the rising concerns around the forecast traffic flow issues and will incorporate an “activation of the foreshore’ with a new committee nominated, much like that of the Mackay Park sunset committee and the now defunct Foreshore committee, to represent community input. Alas, and disappointingly, Ms Rankin along with the Director of Planning Lindsay Usher, and the Mayor, Liz Innes were among the many apologies offered. CORRECTION: The Beagle has been advised by a Council spokesperson of the following since publishing the above in regards to the Ms Rankin, Director Usher and the Mayor On Monday 5 August at 10.11am, Ms Rankin received an email from the Bay Chamber stating: As of today we do not have nominations for a full executive committee and so we will need time the AGM to ensure the executive committee’s functionality. We would like to postpone your talk this Wednesday until the following month.

Ms Rankin replied same day at 11.11am stating: Not a problem. Our engagement process for the project will have likely commenced prior to your next meeting however we will be contacting you to discuss and work with Bay businesses and chamber through this process.

As a result of this change of plan for Ms Rankin’s presentation, the Bay Chamber was advised that Lindsay Usher and the Mayor would also not attend the meeting.

I request an immediate correction of your story, and an apology at the end of the revised story for the incorrect information contained in the earlier version Editor: As the above information was privvy to the Executive and was not conveyed to the general meeting (including myself) who had expected the attendance of the three I stand by my disappointment in saying "Alas, and disappointingly, Ms Rankin along with the Director of Planning Lindsay Usher, and the Mayor, Liz Innes were among the many apologies offered." The meeting was NOT given any explanation of why they were not present and they were listed as.... apologies. For that .... should I apologise for information that was not conveyed? For an explanation not given? For a question on why they were not present from the floor that was not asked? NO. They were expected, they didn't come, their apology was offered. Everyone who expected them to come was disappointed.

Attending the meeting however were all the members of the outgoing committee. To oversee the proceedings of the night Councillor Phil Constable of Narooma was invited to perform the role of Returning Officer.

From the outset the room knew it was going to be a hard call to fill the critical three positions that would become vacant as soon as the current Executive stood down.

Before doing so however there was the mandatory AGM items to attend to that revealed that there are 80 or more financial members and the Chamber has a healthy bank balance of $57,000.

Out going Chamber President, David Maclachlan was open and frank around his President's report and, rather than reading it over, he decided to take questions from the floor instead over its contents and his comments.

In opening he asked “Where are we right now?’

"Presently we have no nominations for eight positions." "The Chamber is a pillar of this community and has grown over the last couple of years. We have just under $60,000 and the Chamber continues to improve its position as it goes along. And we have never done a membership drive”.

“We are unlike most chambers as we advocate creating evidence based strategic plans for the benefit of our members. If they want to join then … great”.

“Over the last three years we have had an exceptional executive. We have had a tough year but we have been a united executive. This executive is a great cross section of the community.”

“It has been disappointing for me that in the last year we have been undermined, ignored and marginalised by Council”.

“We have had no nominations (for the eight positions of the new executive) as it is damned hard to deal with Council”.

In regards to the possibility that no nominations were forthcoming from the floor Mr MacLachlan said

“What will happen to this Chamber?”

“We have good membership and we have an exceptional executive committee. It is a tremendous chamber. If however there is not a quorum of three nominated tonight then another meeting will have to be called."

Mr MacLachlan revealed that if no one comes forward then the Chamber would dissolve and the financial members would share the bank balance.

An immediate question from the floor was “Is the Council a financial member?” Continuing Mr MacLachlan said “It is important for me to step down. I have no doubt Council will have a different attitude to the new Chamber when I am gone. The fact that there are no nominations is a reflection of a situation of how Council has operated and treated the Chamber”.

On a positive Mr MacLachlan told the meeting that come February 2020 a new State Wide Business Chamber initiative would see a One Stop location for all Chambers to come under providing an opportunity for greater advocacy where membership would be free to avail advice not just to 15,000 members but to 250,000 offering an opportunity to be a stronger group to lobby government on behalf of businesses.

Out going executive member Paul Biddlestone said “It is time for a reset for the Chamber and an opportunity to get new ideas” adding “The issue with Council will go away when we go away. The last eight months have been taxing and brutal at times”.

"The Chamber has seen a lot of good things happening in the Bay. We endeavored to bring focus to the Bay and we had to rattle some cages. A new executive will not have the problems we have had. We wanted to create a vision for the Bay”.

Returning officer Phil Constable addressed the meeting saying “I owe you an apology”.

“I know I am one of nine councillors but this Chamber is an integral part of our Shire and I cannot let it lapse. The dysfunction is really upsetting.”

Clr Constable, in opening nominations from the floor, was able to secure two nominations of the three key roles nominated, being the Secretary and Treasurer.

However, with no nomination forthcoming for a new president it was agreed that the outcome of the meeting be conveyed to the members over the next two weeks and that a meeting be convened at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club in two weeks be scheduled at which either a president will be found or the consequences of having no quorum be realised.

Above: the outgoing Executive of the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce L to R : Clayton Birss, Allan Rutherford, David Maclachlan, Anne Brown and Paul Biddlestone

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