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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Huzzah : but what awaits

Interesting times ahead for Eurobodalla as we wave goodbye to one General Manager and welcome another. In March this year we learnt that Eurobodalla Council’s general manager Dr Catherine Dale had announced she was not going to seek re-appointment when her contract concludes on 30 September 2022. For those who have watched the very entertaining series "The Great", centred around Catherine The Great, the first word to come to mind was "Huzzah". While the two Catherines are hundreds of years and thousands of kilometres apart both represent, and in the end, stand responsible for the accomplishments and failures under their reign. Much like Catherine the Great's reign it hasn't been an easy road for the soon to be leaving General Manager who took up her position at Council in April 2013. The enigmatic Dr Dale has been answerable to several terms of Council and has worked with a wide cross section of councillors and senior staff. Her's will be a period of tenure ship remembered by many for a long time to come for the many controversial issues that came up, from the land sale of Dalmeny to the property purchase of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site. Most of all will be the legacy piece of the Bay Pavilion, now set to represent 3% of Council's annual budget spend. Councillors are now in the process of determining their recruitment options. Under Section 332 of the Local Government Act, Council must determine the senior staff positions within the organisation structure after consulting with the General Manager. Section 333 of the Local Government Act, further requires Council to review the organisation structure within 12 months of the ordinary election of Council. The process of recruitment will see applicants initially vetted by LGNSW who were awarded the tender to undertake the process. While this was not a 100% popular decision made by Councillors the direction stands, and the recruitment process has begun. As in the past, joining with outside applicants will be internal applicants. Local Government administration differs little from one council to the next, abiding by the NSW Local Government Act, Environmental Acts, Building and Planning Acts, plus the sundry other Acts, policies and guidelines. Anyone making application from within NSW that has a local government background stands a good chance of having their resume considered. Those from other states might have a greater difficulty in understanding protocols. Any applicant looking to be general manager of Eurobodalla might well look at the organisation structure. Looking in from the outside they would be hard pressed to learn anything other than the General Manager of Eurobodalla Council has three Directors, Infrastructure Services, Planning and Sustainability Services and Community, Arts and Recreation Services. There was a fourth: Director Corporate and Commercial Services that was part of the Executive Leadership Team responsible for full coverage of Council's finance functions (including Financial, Management and Revenue areas) Oddly, for a $120 million per year organisation it now has no Director of Finance. The previous Director of Finance resigned to take on a new position elsewhere in the State. This has left the General Manager in charge of finances with the assistance of a Chief Financial Officer (who will also be resigning to take up a new position in the private sector). Stepping in as a new General Manager will see either, the continuance of their being responsible for Council's corporate functions including finance, governance, organisational development, and communications, or reworking the organisation and establishing a new organisational chart that might address the many vacancies currently in play along with considering the burden of salaries that have now reached 36% of the total Eurobodalla annual budget. It is hoped that more than the following flowchart and these position descriptions are made available to the applicants.

The last major changes to Council’s organisation structure took place from August 2017 following a review that was said to "ensure the structure aligns with the priorities of the new Council and the community.

Council’s General Manager Dr Catherine Dale said at the time that Councils are required to regularly review their organisation structure.

“We have critically examined the way our teams are configured, who they work with, who they report to and how decisions are made. This has taken into account the priorities, services and projects in the revised Community Strategic Plan, and Council’s 4 year Delivery Program and annual Operational Plan which have been developed with extensive community involvement.

"Overall, our aim was to look at if the structure supported the most efficient way to deliver the services and we considered aspects such as the key priorities for our Councillors, the balance of work load between directorates and divisions, and what our community is telling us about their priorities and issues. "Service areas within Council that will see some changes include tourism, events, business development, recreation, communication and engagement, integrated planning and reporting, procurement, commercial services and property,” said Dr Dale in 2017.

"Council’s tourism, events and business services staff will become part of Lindsay Usher’s Directorate of Planning and Environment under Divisional Manager Strategic and Sustainable Growth Liz Rankin who has recently been appointed.

"The Communications and Engagement division headed by Cath Reilly and Property and Commercial Services headed by Andrew Greenway are also important priorities for Council and the changes will support a greater focus on delivering services in these areas as Cath and Andrew step away from delivering the tourism, business development and events services.

"Recreation, including open space, sport and leisure is an important service that significantly enhances well-being and health outcomes for many in our community. Engagement undertaken for our Community Strategic Plan and other consultation highlights how highly our community values formal sporting activity, informal recreation, open space and recreation facilities and associated infrastructure.

"A new Recreation Division will be created within the Community Arts and Recreation Services Directorate to provide a stronger focus and clarity around the delivery of all aspects of recreation management including infrastructure, community engagement, planning, clear lines of contact for community groups, organisations and individuals and a coordinated and integrated team with recreation as its priority. Procurement will also be moved to align with corporate functions."

The question to ask now will be: "Will the new Councillors consider continuing with the Dale model of an Organisation Chart that might suit her and the preferences of her Directors to ensure that the Good Ship Dale remains unchanged, or will they wait until a new General Manager is appointed and allow the new GM to trim fat, redirect focus, instil measurability by evidence of return on investment by ratepayers and whatever else is required to "turn the ship around", as was the mandate of most of the newly elected councillors. I wait with interest given that the last review was five years ago in August 2017 The Councillors now have a 12 month period from being elected to endorse a new Organisational Structure. That means they have until December 4th 2022. It is clear that the current organisational structure with responsibilities already sitting with the current General Manager and her Directors might benefit an internal applicant. The question has to be asked "Is the Dale model a good model?" "Might it be blinkered?" "Which internal applicant might benefit if nothing changes"? As per the August 2017 example the recommendation of an Organisational Structure is delivered to the Councillors by the General Manager. Hopefully any applicant looking at the General Manager position will delve into the Organisation Structure and identify the cracks, the detritus and the shortfalls, and deliver a fresh, open inclusive vision, as was hoped for, and promised, by most of our new councillors as they stood on their electioneering soapboxes during their December 2021 Local Government election campaign.


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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