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When a hammered community becomes the victim of red tape and bureaucrat double speak

"Mogo recovery has been poorly managed and many have fallen through the gaps due to inaction, red tape or ineptitude and false promises" It seemed like a great idea at the time. But now the project is in doubt. As everyman and his dog is aware the village of Mogo was hammered in the bushfires with considerable loss. The impact was televised around the world with footage and images of the main street on fire. To us locals however Mogo is not just the main street with the businesses. In the back streets of Mogo, away from sight lives a strong and independent community. But their faces and their loss never made it to the cameras. After the recent floods that once again had the main street business house in the national evening news there was no recognition of the impact that the flooding had to the wider Mogo community. Over the past two years every time a politician ventures to Mogo to make an announcement of disaster funding or the provision of mental health services it is done in the main street to an audience of business people and tourists. What is missing every time is the 1000 faces of the forgotten: the many who live in, and around, the vibrant community of Mogo and call it home. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people make up 25% of the Mogo population which is relatively high in comparison to the region and state. For the past two years there has been a stream of politicians visiting Mogo to be delivered the same embarrassing message. "Mogo recovery has been poorly managed and many have fallen through the gaps due to inaction, red tape or ineptitude and false promises". Eurobodalla Council has continued to claim that they are doing things to turn Mogo around. They appear fixated that what the residents need is an Activation Plan for the Business District and that the residents will all dance joyfully again if a Mountain Bike track is built. The residents are told that they will have their joy restored when 45,000 mountain bikers come to the town every year and park behind the shops, to disrobe in the new toilet facility and don their lycra before setting off to ride the Forestry tracks. Council love the idea so much they have committed $3 million to it with more to come. They call it the Mogo Activation Plan (MAP) and say the Plan will enable Mogo to "Retain its unique local village character and charm; meet the needs of residents, businesses and visitors; and a place that offers opportunities for discovery, adventure and everyday enjoyable experiences." "Through aligning multiple projects underway and building upon the opportunities of transformative projects such as the Mogo Adventure Trails, the Plan establishes clear actions and projects that will activate the local economy, strengthen community resilience, and reinforce Mogo as a key destination." MAP The Mogo Activation Plan is town centric. Embarrassingly the plan says that it extends and includes the Mogo Recreation Park but for anyone who drills down into the draft plan you will find that the Mogo Recreation Park is mentioned only 18 times with Council saying they will provide a better footpath, plant some trees and "Investigate a new recreational facility to "Focus Mogo as a place for discovery and facilitate opportunities for experience and adventures that attract economic growth and investment." There is nothing at all in the plan that recognises the community needs and wishes for this area. It is a total embarrassment that Council have failed the Mogo community with their fixated business precinct visions and offered nothing to the Mogo residents other than a footpath and a maybe. As if noting some irrelevant, incidental fact Council's Draft Mogo Activation Plan only mentions the community, the residents, by saying the Plan "also includes a small surrounding residential population focused near Mogo Recreation Park to the south-west of the commercial Village with a supporting School and Preschool". Go for a stroll through the 67 page glossy Draft Mogo Activation Plan and see for yourself what Council propose for the actual residents of the town. Adding to the embarrassment of it all was the mealy mouthed excuses given up to visiting State and Federal Ministers and Leaders by our own local Council representatives when post bushfire inspections were made of the township and it was discovered little, or nothing had been done. What was revealed instead was that Council had directed Bushfire recovery money towards a "study". “The village deserves well-planned facilities for residents and visitors,” she said. “To that end, we’re spending bushfire recovery funding on town planning, collaborating with Mogo’s community to find the best results for the whole village, including infrastructure like toilets, parks, parking, picnic tables and barbecues,” the ex-mayor said in Feb 2021. But the Mogo community, the folks who live there have little interest in CBD toilets, a recreational park in the middle of town with a picnic tables and barbecue. Nor do they need additional parking, a wash down area for mountain bikes. What they need, and what they have said they need time and time over, is a community hall. Where? On their community oval that already has a community toilet, playground, picnic tables and a BBQ. The community applied for a grant to build such a facility on that site and have received $990,000 to go ahead. But now Eurobodalla Council is rolling out the red tape, the bureaucrat double speak and turning what could be a wonderful outcome for the residents into a nightmare that runs the risk of seeing the project fail and return the community with nothing at all. The community have said they would like a hall. They offered up that it might also serve as a safe place in future disasters. That seems pretty sensible. Mogo doesn't have a safe place. Following the bushfires SEARMS CEO Kim Sinclair said of Mogo, and of the impact that the residents suffered: "The systems in place for evacuation and recovery had no Aboriginal voice. Boomerang (Meeting Place) became a default recovery centre, for not only the Aboriginal people in the area, but everyone else in the area." The Boomerang Meeting Place Centre was saved and was utilised as a gathering place for community and distribution centre in response to bushfires. But that centre is in need of repairs and maintenance. Possibly in the vicinity of $700,000. While the Boomerang Meeting Place Centre stepped up during a time of disaster the community identified that they wanted more of their new community hall. Yes, it could be used as an immediate centralised point in the case of emergency. But Council, the managers of the Crown land are mudding the waters by saying that the "key activities and outcomes for the project are not related to public recreation". It turns out that the reserve was classified by Council as "park". So now they are saying to the Mogo community that the proposed hall, and room that could be used for training and workshops, or by a visiting agency to provide assistance or guidance, or a quality grad kitchen that might serve to prepare food for a community under siege are not allowed in a park. To be clear as to what you can do in a Crown Owned, Council Managed "park"

Apparently, according to Council, a hall that can be used to promote and facilitate recreational, cultural and educational activities is subject to a fulsome, and no doubt longwinded revue. A hall that serves to provide passive recreational activities or pastimes and facilitates a space for the casual playing of games just doesn't appear to tick the box for Council who need to know more from the community before offering any guidance and reducing what can only be called hinderance to date. It is apparently an audacity on the part of the community to consider a commercial standard kitchen be installed that ensures compliance with the rules of delivery of food so that local dinners can be held. What Council forgets is that 25% of the Mogo community are aboriginal. Families like to eat together and a quality kitchen able to be easily cleaned down and maintained is central to rebuilding a community that has been overlooked, displaced and basically forgotten. Instead of offering a helping hand to the community and celebrating the recent grant of $990,000 to build a community focused hall exactly where the community have long advised they want it Council wrote the following (in part) :

Council have claimed all too often that they have consulted with the community on their Draft Mogo Activation Plan but the reality is that they have only consulted with a subset of business owners. It is more than evident that the town planners have their own blinkered vision for the town and their own agenda. That vision does not include the residents. Maybe it is time for the new councillors to step in and rearrange the priorities. The time on the community grant is ticking and the community frustration around the back and forth, the hurdles, the fingers in ears and the bureaucrat double speak is coming to the boil.