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Editorial - November 20th 2020

Welcome to this week’s editorial,

As the Mayor recently said during a council debate on whether the community have been fully informed of the financial facts around the $70m Mackay Park project “The community knows what the community knows”.

We then learnt that not only did the community not know some critical and material information passed on to Council by the Office of Local Government but that the Mayor and Councillors also didn’t know it. Now we segue to the wonderful statement (in part) “as we know, 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”

This week we, as a Nation, learnt of the unknowns of Afghanistan, that were in fact Known, but just not by us. At a Federal level we are learning of what happens in the corridors of Parliament House. Information Known to some but not by us. At a State Level it appears there is also a plethora of information that is only Known to a few but not by us. We only learn of these things after the fact.

The same applies at a local level. Every fortnight the councillors are briefed by staff of the “vision” that staff have that they intend to recommend that councillors endorse. Councillors learn, by drip feed, on a needs to know basis, of intended “visions” such as the Gateway to The Bay, the acquisition of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club, the intended demolition of the Batemans Bay Pool, the removal of the Mini Golf, the intention to sell the Batemans Bay Community Centre and Information Centre. They learn of these things behind closed doors, are told they will be asked to vote, and are also told to say nothing to the community ensuring that the “The community knows what the community knows”.

What is becoming more and more evident is that Council staff are desperately trying to keep control of the message and have even become paranoid of councillors revealing what happens behind closed doors. Information is filtered and dispensed only to trusted councillors. Knowing this our more vocal councillors sit under threat of being ostracised and deemed an untrustworthy outsider if they do not toe the general consensus of staff and the dominant, and often bullying voting block. “Either you are with Us or against”.

But the recent revelation that the General Manger and her staff were privy to a letter containing material importance to a $19 million vote, and that they did not pass this information on, reveals that “Our Councillors only know what our councillors know” and may well be in the dark over a host of other matters.

It would not be surprising to hear a councillor say “as we know, 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 recent announcements of $8.5 million for two, as yet unendorsed projects in the Shire, came as a surprise to the community and to councillors. It appears that Planning staff are happy to bypass public consultation and due process and allow the Minister to endorse projects such as the Coastal Walk and Mogo Mountain Bike track long before the councillors are called to vote. It becomes clear that councillors have become rubber stamps to anything put before them in fear of the wrath of staff if they do not comply.

So what do the councillors know? It appears to be very little. Will an election of new councillors change that? No.

So next week don’t be surprised if the councillors vote to lease the Community Centre SEARMS and don’t be surprised an urgent matter comes up suggesting Council buys Old Mogo Town for $1.5m.

Until next— lei

Just how many unknowns do our mushroom councillors not know about

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