Dear Mayor, You may have noticed that your shire is burning. You are no doubt aware that the Kings Highway is closed and that the continued Princes Highway closures have had an impact on visitor numbers. You might notice today while you are being dunked at Mogo that many there will be coughing and wheezing by young and old. Some of the community might not attend due to the high health risks of smoke exposure. Today the smoke in your shire is recorded at 1051. While that is half the figure experienced in Sydney it is 5 times higher than is humanely acceptable.
While you might cheer on the wonderful RFS fundraising events and efforts that have been undertaken by your community there are many more in the shire who will also need support as we now approach a financial crisis. With poor visitation comes poor retail sales, too few visitors in accommodation beds and too few bums on cafe seats. The Eurobodalla community acknowledges that we are living in a time of climate emergency that requires focused and strategic actions at the local government level, for the benefit of our whole community, in both the immediate and longer term. In August this year you, and your councillors, were urged to consider your roles as leaders within our community and asked to accept the responsibility of taking action to respond positively to the difficult reality that we all face together, not just in the immediate, but longer term as a community in regard to climate change. You however, refused to recognise 'Climate Change', instead preferring to identify it as 'variable and changing' weather. The fact is that your 'variable and changing weather' has brought on a situation across the region that leaves our forests, towns and villages bone dry, our community dangerously exposed, and, as a consequence of fires and road closures, a community already suffering financially put under even further pressure. Clr Pat McGinlay attempted to gain the support of his fellow councillors, at that August 2019 meeting, to recognise a Climate Emergency that would also lead to acknowledgement of the financial, emotional and environmental impacts as well. He said "This is an issue that needs, at our local level, to be beyond partisan politics, regardless of whatever happens at a State or Federal level. We as elected leaders of our community have to take a long view and the opportunity to step up and therefore, I commend these Motions." Sadly Mayor, what you and your councillors voted to do instead was: THAT Council acknowledges and consequently recognises that we are living in a time that requires focussed and strategic actions at the local government level, for the benefit of our whole community, in both the immediate and longer term to address variable and changing climate. This resolution to acknowledge and recognise requires no further action or effort by Council. One positive action you might have endorsed was that Council staff provide Councillors with a range of options for practical, effective ongoing community consultation mechanisms in relation to climate change with the objective to develop initiatives for either Council, Community or joint consideration/action to mitigate the process of climate change or adapt to its impacts within our community. Now a resolution such as that would have been proactive and given Council a role to play and would have indicated to the community that Council was proactive and committed. But instead you, as the Mayor, and Clrs P Constable, R Pollock, J Tait and J Thomson voted NO to any such action, defeating the two lonely votes of Clrs A Mayne and P McGinlay. Now your shire is under a shroud of smoke and the general message being delivered to those thinking of coming into the area is delay travel or don't come at all. Those looking for the Eurobodalla Bushfire Plan found the one on Council's website long out of date, as was its Emergency Plan. In fact to any outsider the council showed that it was not prepared at all for the situation that we are now facing. Hopefully, in 2020, you and your voting block of councillors might reconsider that a climate emergency MUST be recognised as the current climate conditions we are experiencing are having a massive impact on our ability to harvest drinking water from rivers, keep the cost of supplies affordable by having our road networks functioning and keeping the safety, the health,emotional and financial well being of our community at the forefront of our efforts. Next year will require Council to do more. Maybe you and your councillors might rethink your decision to refute any Climate Emergency and to prove civic leadership to assist your community face the hardships ahead that will eventuate and are yet to be measured. There is no doubt the NSW State Government's role in the funding of the Rural Fire Service will come under the spotlight, as will their own policies on National Park and Forestry management. We can leave that for another time. Lei Parker Editor of The Beagle