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Editorial May 28th 2021

Welcome to this week’s editorial, Just 100 days to the September 4th 2021 Local Government elections. In the coming months we are going to hear all sorts of promises. There will be the “Old Guard” who will do their best to tell you that they have been visionaries and the masterminds behind the regional recovery that now benefits in nearly $900 million of State and Federal funding for bridges, bypasses and a hospital. They might also lay claim to being instrumental in gaining the $51 million dollars in grants for the Big Pav (The Batemans Pavilion; the newly agreed name for the Mackay Park pool and theatrette). Some might even lay claim to the recently announce $50 million for the Southern Dam. But in truth none of the above had much to do with any of them. In fact over the past four and a half years the current nine councillors have achieved very little, and of what they have achieved such as Cat Bibs, no helium balloons on Council reserves or waiving of paid parking in Batemans Bay, the rest is down to the vision of the staff. Oddly we don’t vote for the staff. We vote for councillors who, under delegations from the State Government, hand down the responsibilities vested in them to the General Manager who gives the duties to the relevant staff. The staff are professional, highly trained, and fully aware of all the Acts, Codes, Standards, Policies and Guidelines. They have seen councillors come and go and they know that there are few, if any, councillors who would dare challenge them. So the Eurobodalla we have is the vision of the staff. And just a handful of Senior Staff at that. Want to know what the priorities are for the shire in roads and bridges. That is all down to the staff. They write the budget, they write the recommendations and they present the reports for the councillors to read that describe their vision. The staff also write the briefs for the many consultants they employ. “We want you to write a report that agrees in principle with our vision”. Quite often Council will say it is proactive in public consultation but if you look under the veil you will see they already have made up their minds and will simply offer rhetoric. How often do they call for public submissions only to then discount them in their final reports that push their own recommendations. How many times in the past four years have the councillors said No to a staff recommendation. In 100 days you will encounter candidates, old and new, making promises. “Vote for me and I will… fill in the gap)”. In all honesty most of those promises will not be able to be kept. A new toilet, a new park bench, improved boat ramps. These are budget items in a climate of tightened belts. But watch for a candidate that promises organisational change. Openness, honesty, integrity, accountability, transparency, engagement, inclusiveness. None of those require any dollars but they require a strength of character to deliver them. Add to the above with visions of improvement to social structure, of environmental considerations and of living within our means and you might find a candidate worthy of voting for to bring to order the guileful staff you did not elect. Until next lei