Welcome to this week’s editorial,
Most of us know the term corrupt. When it is used in relation to data, to a broken CD or a damaged hard drive we are informed that the Data is Corrupt. The term has been widely used to clearly describe that something is broken.
One has to be careful when using the word corrupt in other circles as the word has different connotations. Take for example the various meanings offered by our trusty Oxford dictionary.
Up until this week the defamation laws didn’t allow you to call someone corrupt without have a case filed against you to provide evidence of the allegation.
July 1st, 2021 saw that turned on its head where a person claiming they have been defamed must prove to a judge that they have before it is accepted as a case in the court. The onus is on the plaintiff. The change in legislation, based on the UK model, is designed to "unclog" the court system, which is needed as NSW's rate of defamation litigation is about 10 times more than London.
Up until now journalist have been cautious to use the word “corrupt”. I have been cautious to use the word in regards to the Eurobodalla Council as the immediate response would be Council bringing a law suit, funded by the ratepayer, claiming defamation.
But what if I am correct? What if the Council is corrupt under the definition that it is broken. What if, like a CDROM, it has corruption that has caused it to fail in its program.
This week we saw evidence of the corruption of process in Council. A small glitch in computer data, a missing code, that saw the clear felling of Community Land in Broulee.
In 1997 Council had coded two parcels of natural bushland in Broulee as NRES (Natural Reserve). The parcels of land had Lot and DP numbers and they also had unique Property Identification Numbers. The PIN number was represented in Council’s Geographical Information System by a colour. A colour that described it as a Natural Reserve. In 2006 it was still correctly coded and, as such, safe from any activity unless full community consultation was carried out before hand.
But in 2006 the Council decided they didn’t like the old data and decided they would build a brand new data set. It would have new PINs, new codes and be on a new GIS. Terrific. However, they failed to import the old data about the two Natural Reserves in Broulee. As a result they assumed the land was Operational and because of that they could do as they please, without any community consultation.
Last week the proverbial hit the fan when it was revealed their processes were corrupt. They were broken. So where is all this heading in regards to corruption?
What we are seeing is a corrupted system. In regards to the Broulee community land, the Council swore black and blue that the land was Operational. When told by the community that it wasn’t, the Council told the community they were wrong because their data said it was Operational. A week later, after the Broulee community proved Council wrong, using Council’s own hardcopy information of Plans and Agendas, that Council advised the community they were right. No apology at all. They agreed their data was wrong.
But there is a greater corruption under the surface. The corruption is the broken relationship between the community, the Council, and the Truth.
The data may have been corrupted however, while the conversations were happening in February 2021 between Council staff and the Broulee community around Council's declaration that it intended to sell the blocks of land, what was not being revealed was that they had already committed to relocating a water main that passed through the area, gifted a tract of Community land to the developer for an asset protection zone, and agreed to a variation of the subdivision plan road layout that would cross community land. Council sat at the table knowing all of this yet said nothing, knowing the corridor would be clear felled in the weeks ahead. With that we can only deduce that their Communication skills are corrupted because, to knowingly not inform the community at the time might raise questions of possible collusion with the developer at the cost to the community.
Mayor Liz Innes once told us all that “The community knows what the community knows”.
The Broulee Clearing debacle has revealed that the Council management choose to keep the community in the dark. It also chooses to keep Councillors in the dark. The Councillors had no idea of what was planned. This is because Council management would say “It is an Operational matter that need not concern Councillors”.
The corruption we are witnessing is in the core of our systems. We no longer can access the Truth which is hidden behind closed doors and known only to a few.
This Council has been caught out several times for their manipulation of The Truth. Our Council, serving us, yet instead, also serving themselves. There isn’t a week goes by that this Council doesn’t come under scrutiny for its actions. Codes of Conduct complaints are lodged yet, by legislations cannot be revealed. Complaints to the Ombudsmans Office and the Information Commissioner go unreported in the general media.
To those on the outside, with Council’s spin machine attempting to control the narrative, everything looks rosy. But beneath the surface there is a dislocate.
This week the community of Dalmeny assembled to learn of the three major subdivisions proposed. Council ran an information kiosk thus enabling them to control the narrative. Council gave the same response to all comers. “The land was identified in 2003 for Urban Development. We put a notice in the paper back then seeking submissions. No one responded so there it is. It is Operational land and we don’t even need to justify ourselves to you.” This is correct. They don’t.
This week Donald Rumsfeld died. Donald was best known for saying “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know.”
There is a great divide between what Council knows and what we are told. The narrative is controlled by Council via their newsletters and media releases. Those who read them expect the Truth. In the latest newsletter Council tells us “Unlike private enterprise Council’s are highly restricted in how they can use funds” Fact. They then add “For example, income from water and sewer charges can only be spent on water and sewer operations.” That too is a FACT yet Council knowingly charges the maximum allowed and skims off what they call a dividend that IS NOT spent on water and sewer operations. So is the statement below Fact or Fiction? Council management has overcharged ratepayers to take advantage of a loophole for over a decade. Likewise the General Manager tells us that the $19 million shortfall for the new Batemans Bay Pool and Theatrette will be funded, in part, by using "$4 million of loan funds, along with s94 developer contributions and some cash reserves from infrastructure renewal, real estate disposal, and crown reserves funds, as well as some proceeds from the sale of Moruya Racecourse and Southern Phone." Hopefully the list of developer contributions will be available to the public to determine if they were sourced from "the area being developed". Is this their plan for the adjacent Old Batemans Bay Bowling highrise planned. To be a cash cow for the pool?
To Council that is a KNOWN and for us it is an UNKNOWN (unless we discover it). The fact is that there is so much more that they know that we don’t. And that is exactly how “they” like it. Either via intended deceit, flagrant disregard, arse covering or nest building we continue to see revealed the corruption of a system that we believed was meant to work for us.
At a local government level, a State government level and even at a Federal level we are seeing the very fabric of Truth rotting before our eyes where there remains little we can believe in. The world is filled with untruths and the world we live in, including Eurobodalla, is corrupted to its core.
It is little wonder that the public are disengaging from news. And as they do so the watchdogs die out and the scrutiny disappears enabling the corruption to continue unchecked. Until next—lei