Presentation to Public Access Session February 1st 2022 by Lei Parker Good morning Councillors, First let me congratulate you on your success in winning a seat in these chambers. Such a win comes with the recognition that those who voted for you most likely voted for your policies, promises or election winning handshake. Whichever way, each vote was made with an expectation of delivery. Residents and ratepayers cannot all attend these chambers with their issues, nor can they stand watch over decisions made in these chambers on their behalf. Via the democratic process you stood to represent them in these chambers and hopefully you will follow through and meet their expectations. It would be good to start this term off with a clean slate and move forward but alas there is baggage, dirty laundry and a stack of unwashed items in the kitchen sink left behind by the previous Council that will need to be dealt with at some time. Many of you might be familiar with The Beagle. The last mayor referred to it as a “rag of a blog” and, along with some of her other voting bloc, proudly declared she didn’t read it. I would however encourage you to read The Beagle as it often publishes additional information that isn’t communicated to you in briefings. Had the last batch of Councillors read The Beagle they would have been well aware of the issues and factors around the Coopers Island Road issue and might well have nipped it in the bud before it blew up and became an embarrassment of mismanagement. The decision of a councillor is only as good as the information provided to them. Briefings from staff are exactly that: Brief. It is essential that you be fully informed on an issue before it goes to the vote. Alas there were several instances in the previous where they were not FULLY informed, and had they been their vote might have been otherwise. One issue that continues into this term of Council is the Congo Road saga. What will come to light is that “Councillors are not included in Operational Matters”. Your delegations on matters such as roads, bridges, boatramps etc allows staff to get on with maintenance, repair and renewal without your involvement. The tedium of day to day responsibilities. For any of you who read The Beagle you should be up to running speed on the Congo Road issue. Certainly up to speed enough to ask more questions of staff. Had you read The Beagle, and read the articles around the Congo Road, you would discover that the information gleaned and presented comes from your community, obtained under GIPA requests with the intention of establishing the WHOLE TRUTH that includes all of the history, the meetings, the reports, the recommendations and the subsequent actions and inactions. Piece by piece the history is still being uncovered, and revealed. In the gallery today you will have members of your community who actively participate in Council matters. They know the rules of play, they have expectations that Council abides by those rules, Acts, policies and guidelines. They go by the name given to them by a former mayor as The Usual Suspects. His term was intended to denigrate these good citizens of the shire. He used the term to devalue their opinion and their contribution. A ploy that backfired on him more often than not. The Usual Suspects contribute to our council by way of being watchdogs, overseeing agenda papers, reading between the lines and rising up to represent the community when required on matters as diverse as inadequate toilet block maintenance to failures of Council to comply with legislation. If you go back through the Council website archives, you will find, buried many levels deep, their presentations to both Public Access and Public Forum. Their intention was always to have an issue on the record and to ensure that councillors were aware of the additional facts that might not have been conveyed during “briefings”. Their hope was that councillors then actually did something. By this point an ex-mayor would have been wildly gesticulating to the chair and the general manager asking for a Point of Order on relevance given that Public Access is “for members of the public to raise any Council related issues with Councillors, which have not been previously determined by Council.” The issue I am raising, with my preamble, is that of inclusion and the need to recognise that your whole community is not present here in the chambers for this session, nor the Public Forum sessions, and that no record is kept of what is actually said and discussed. The council before you was only tolerant of these Public sessions because they feared the backlash that would come from their complete removal. Instead their support of the staff’s recommendations devalued the Public Access sessions to once per month and absolutely devalued the inclusivity of Public Forum presentations, relevant to the Council agenda of the day, by removing live streaming it and by not recording it for replay. As I speak there is no record of what I actually say other than this transcript. Theoretically I am meant to give this to you 24 hours ahead or sitting here and reading it to you word for word like a child’s bedtime story. Possibly at the end of my presentation you might have some intelligent questions to which hopefully I will provide intelligent answers. None of those will be recorded. The public is none the wiser. Only what I report in The Beagle will become the history. In fact what we have here is a waste of your time, given that the General Manager has provided you all with phones, email addresses, devices and free internet and phone plans. And by the way it isn’t mandatory for you to attend or even provide an apology if you don’t. Staff advised at the time of the decision to devalue these sessions, by way of background, that Public Access was developed to enable the community to connect with Councillors saying: “Since its implementation, the way we communicate has evolved and Councillors are now more connected with their community. Councillors can be contacted via email or mobile with all contact details published on Council’s website.”
The problem we had was that only one or two councillors bothered to return phone calls or respond to emails.
The issue at hand is the fact that we have lost the meaning of what Local Government is and why it is. It is you, it is me, it is us, all in pursuit of one goal: A better place to live.
Those who present to you may not be wordsmiths. But what they present will be done so with a passion. It takes courage for many to sit here and present. It also comes at the sacrifice of time. Most importantly many of the presentations you hear are not the first time the issue has been raised, and is most likely brought to these chambers as a last resort.
You were elected to listen, to represent, to question, to challenge, to engage, to include, and to answer.
I wish you well in this term of Council and I hope that you rise to my, and the communities’, reasonable expectations.
resident of Tuross Head
editor of The Beagle