Editorial November 18th 2022
Welcome to this week’s editorial, Spring is the time when things bloom. Days warm, Summer approaches and we rejoice as we leave the dreary, cold and gloomy days of winter behind. In now having met the new Council General Manager I saw the parallels of Spring and Summer versus Winter. His was a genuine handshake, the first I have received from a General Manager in nine years. Rather than look to the ground to inspect a small rock, an odd blade of grass or a surprisingly interesting carpet stain the new General Manager, Warwick Winn, looked those he met in the eye, with a broad smile and a genuine interest in their conversation. He spoke well. His manner was firm, his approach warm, and he spoke with a voice of experience and capacity. There appeared to be a fresh, Springlike dynamic in the air. A perfume akin to a pine scented cleansing. One that hopefully heralds the end of what has been a damp, lacklustre and insipid era that did little but undermined any remaining respect and trust for the Council, and instead fuelled the community with a loathing as the divide broadened. Last night at the Kyla Hall, Tuross Head, it felt like Spring as sixty residents of Congo attended a two and a half hour community consultation workshop to discuss six suggested options for the Northern Congo access.
From the outset it felt different. There were staff and councillors genuinely welcoming people as they arrived. There was something in the air that we haven’t felt for sometime as a community. The smell of genuine engagement. And that is exactly what happened as the workshop progressed, with clear evidence that this workshop was not another token, rhetorical, box ticking exercise. The new council, under the leadership of Mayor Hatcher, committed in May 2022 to an open engagement with the Congo community that would bring options to the table after their northern access was closed. True to his word that engagement process was set in motion and last night saw a very well run, hands on approach to moving forward where the community was included and their feed back acknowledged and respected. It will take some time for the feedback to be collated and for the current investigations being undertaken by other agencies to be finalised and revealed. While this delay might continue as a major concern for the majority of attendees at the workshop who remain fearful of being trapped in the village during a bushfire with no northern escape option, it was evident that they understood, and appreciated, that it takes time to look at the legal and compliance considerations that must be attended to as part of the investigations. While the workshop was underway I wondered if the openness, the engagement, the inclusion and the educative approach of finding a solution for the Congo community regarding their northern access might translate to a whole-of-community approach when it is revealed that we, Eurobodalla ratepayers, don’t really have enough in the Council’s bank account to achieve our ever demanding expectations. The Annual Report 2021-2022 reveals Council delivered a $89.2 million capital program across all Council services with 39% spent on renewing existing assets and 61% on new assets.
Since the bushfires, and then the endless rain, there have been countless complaints about dead trees on road reserves and in parks that need attention from Council. The bottom line is that Council doesn’t have the money to deal with them all. Then comes the endless complaints that our verges, parks and reserves are overgrown and in need of mowing. The reality is that we all have lawns that are sodden, then lush in growth at the merest hint of sun. Council, like us, are doing the best they can with the same workforce difficulties that the whole region is experiencing. An then there are the potholes. Like grass, these breed exponentially at the slightest hint of rain. But still we demand they be repaired NOW. Mow NOW, cut trees down NOW. It all takes money. On top of that we have roads and buildings, footpaths, bridges, reserves and playgrounds that all require maintenance and repair and prices are going up. Fuel, materials, overheads, and soon wages. To our south the Bega Shire is currently considering a 90% increase in their rates. The amount of money they need to keep on top of things and address the backlog. If we continue with our expectations of new and better, and everything done NOW, we are heading down the same path as Bega. Possibly with a new General Manager the financial perils Eurobodalla also faces might finally be revealed with the release of the more revealing financial reports that we deserve. Then we might be able to assess our position. At some point the whole community is going to have to sit down at a workshop and look at our bank balance and make some tough decisions on where we can make savings and how much more we need to collectively contribute to meet our insatiable expectations. In the meantime let’s enjoy the Spring. until next—lei
Above: can we afford a non-performer? Do we prop up a water park or fix a library? Do we let sealed roads return to unsealed? Do we mow less? Or do we just keep digging deeper as rates increase to cover our insatiable need for new or at a standard we can't afford?