Whatever happened to listening?

The Beagle Editor,

The antics of the current Council, egged on no doubt by the misguided and frequently inappropriate antics of its senior administrative officers, might offer even the most modest of scriptwriters material for a comedy series. Unfortunately, the antics of Eurobodalla Council are not funny. They will be costing each and every one of us that pays rates. Their mistakes are many and varied and we can only hope that the elections to be held on 4 December 2021 will be the first step in fixing things.

Today there was a Public Access Forum. A Public Access Forum is an occasion where community members can express their views and raise questions about matters. Today Mr Simon Cox, a concerned member of the public registered to speak to Councillors for seven uninterrupted minutes, raising some questions about the proposed development on Coila Lake, Tuross Head. This development is a zombie development - which means that it was first proposed decades ago, then went into hibernation and has now been resurrected. I am not writing specifically about the Coila development. It is one of several that have been handled with flagrant disregard for the community and its views and needs. Dalmeny and Broulee are two others and, if left to their own devices, there would be more as Council tries to balance its books to cater for the $19m millstone that is the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre.

Simon has been poorly treated and disrespected by your Councillors. This begins with the Mayor who was once again absent from today’s Public Access Forum. Her continued absence from these Public Forums is an indication of the degree to which the current Council considers the community’s views to be useful and worth listening to. There was worse to come. The Deputy Mayor, his name by the way is Pollock, was in the chair and his behaviour toward Simon was at best peremptory and at worst downright rude. Unfortunately, this behaviour was a mild improvement on last month’s public forum where Simon was cut off by the General Manager and Mayor and the session promptly ended before Councillors could ask questions.

There is no need to go into the detail of Simon’s presentation which consisted of a series

of questions relating to the Coila development and why Council claims they don’t need

modern environmental impact assessments… with one exception. Simon had received a letter from an officer of the Council saying that:

“further correspondence regarding this issue will be read and filed, but not responded to”.

The letter then says that:

“If you still wish to send emails to Council for registration purposes, please send all

correspondence to council@esc.nsw.gov.au and not directly to staff, to ensure that they are

electronically registered in Council’s document management system.”

What can this mean? It can only mean that you can send any emails you like, and we will log them in the document management systems and then … well, we won’t do anything. A document management system is an electronic filing system. The words are clear. Any matters raised would be read and then filed. It’s not unreasonable to interpret that as meaning that they would be ignored. In government-speak “filing something” means ignoring it.

Simon asked whether this was an appropriate position for a representative administration to take, indeed he asked whether it was even legal. Can you just file stuff? As he finished his presentation the Deputy Mayor invited his fellow Councillors whether they had any questions for Simon. Councillor Anthony Mayne asked for clarification on the “no response” question. Before Simon could open his mouth, the Deputy Mayor attempted to shut down the Councillor’s question and attempted to prevent Simon from answering. It was not a good look.

Had the Deputy Mayor been a more representative Councillor he would have recalled the lessons he learned from the negotiating skills courses that he clearly has not been on. It seems that what the letter sent to Simon should have said was that submissions to Council should not be sent to desk officers but should be submitted through the council@esc.nsw.gov.au email channel. This would allow Council to allocate the task of responding in a way that did not adversely affect the job of the desk officer concerned. The Deputy Mayor would have conceded that the letter sent to Simon was poorly worded and assured him that an email sent to the council@esc.nsw.gov.au would be responded to. He would have committed on behalf of the administration that this would be done. (Now is not the time to comment on the “we will respond in 10 days” commitment: a commitment that is very 20th century).

And of course, there was no commitment by the Deputy Mayor that any of the other questions that Simon raised in his presentation would be answered … at all, if ever.

In the end, Councillor Mayne was shut down and Simon Cox was almost certainly appalled and dispirited at behaviour that would be almost unheard of in his corporate world. At the end of the presentation and the “discussion” that followed those watching the ZOOM link were appalled. The Deputy Mayor does not deserve to continue to be a Councillor. The senior ranks of the administration should all be replaced. You can make that happen on 4 December 2021. Name and address supplied

The Tuross Head community are asking Council to reassess what they consider to be a zombie development application. "Say no to Zombies". Editors Note: You can read the presentation made by Simon Cox HERE

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