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28th, 2015 - Rural lands strategy - Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association
Eurobodalla Shire Council
PO Box 99
Moruya NSW 2537
Dear Dr Dale
At their meeting
on 15 October 2015 Eurobodalla Shire councillors resolved to place
the Draft Rural Lands Strategy on public exhibition. This submission
is the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association’s (ERA) comment
on the strategy.
years ago ERA's campaign for the rejection of the draft rural
LEP led to council’s appointment of the Rural Land Steering
Committee with the task of providing the community with modern
planning regulation for rural land. This committee has worked
hard to reach realistic and workable solutions to the contentious
issues - E3 zoning, extensive and inaccurate environmental overlays
and unnecessary restrictions on farm sub-division and building
ERA congratulate the committee on the outcomes, in particular
the recommended non-use of the E3 zone, the sunset clause, the
removal of the requirement to have a tar sealed council maintained
road to be eligible for a building entitlement. These improvements
should benefit many in the shire’s rural communities.
We note that the council’s consultant estimates that the
committee's proposals agreed to date will allow approval of an
additional 100 new rural blocks and 300 extra building entitlements.
Comments on the draft strategy
However, it appears that the inclusion of a new vegetation overlay
is now proposed in the draft strategy. The ERA opposes the use
of overlays in the Local Environment Plan and is surprised that
this matter is addressed at all. We note that at its meeting on
22 July 2014 council resolved, on the motion of Councillors Brown
and Innes, that “1. The Rural Land Strategy recommends that
overlays not be included in the LEP………….”
Apparently, the council’s consultant failed to get the memo
advising him of this important client requirement!
In any event, ERA rejects the consultant’s argument that
dropping the earlier proposed use of an E3 zone strengthens the
need for a vegetation overlay as a helpful pointer to other legislated
environmental restrictions. It is ironic that one reason given
for this substitution is that it reduces the necessity for a higher
level of map accuracy required for an environmental zone.
Given the extensive legislated controls on farming operations
these days, farmers and buyers of rural land (and their advisers)
need to exercise ordinary due diligence in discovering all the
restrictions applying to rural land. This is best done by reference
to the evolving primary legislation rather than by relying on
inaccurate overlays forming part of prescriptive and rigid land
use planning regulations.
Guidelines and “helpful suggestions” from bureaucrats
have a habit of being turned into black letter law over time.
Overlays are not legally required and not used by many NSW rural
Additionally, the ERA recommends to council the removal from the
LEP of all E zones, all references to biobanking and voluntary
biodiversity agreements and rural landscape guidelines. We support
smaller lot sizes than are proposed, lot size averaging and further
housing entitlements on rural blocks. Councillor Liz Innes, a
member of the Rural Land Strategy Committee, is aware of the details
of ERA’s suggestions in regard to these matters.
Comments on the process
Given its extensive engagement with this process, ERA would like
to make some general comments on its experience.
First, it has been apparent for some time that the task of revising
a complex piece of government regulation is beyond the capabilities
of council’s planning department. Andrew Constance has drawn
attention to the long time, relative to other rural councils,
that ESC has taken to complete the task. Clearly, there are economies
of scale in legislative policy development. These should be identified
in the current sea level rise policy development process, before
it is too late.
Second, the community consultation has been excessive, repetitive
and inefficient. Land owners and others resent being asked the
same questions repeatedly, particularly when their answers are
Third, it is apparent that staff planners, planning consultants
and some councillors have an ideological bias against recognising
the foundations of productive, efficient and socially responsible
farming – viz private property rights, minimum government
interference in markets and incentives for private land owners
to protect the environment. And council staff’s failure
to recognise the impact of uncertainty in legislative frameworks
on the operations of rural land markets was particularly noticeable.
It was greatly disappointing that councillors with nominal liberal
political values did not stand up for individual land owners against
the insatiable, yet rarely properly specified, demands of the
state to interfere with their private property.
Finally, consistent with ERA’s long standing concern for
better governance and management at ESC, you are requested to
convene and chair a public post mortem on this project to consider
what went wrong and what you should do about it. Your predecessor,
Paul Anderson, contemplated holding a post mortem at the end of
the poorly managed Moruya-Deep Creek Dam pipeline project, but
left before it could be organised.
Such a meeting would allow those people closely involved to express
frank opinions on what went wrong and what was done well. It would
enable you to clear the air, draw a line under the project and,
hopefully, rebuild some of the public confidence you lost along
the way. At the same time, you could present the community with
the total costs of the project, including consultants’ fees,
staff costs and RLS committee members’ costs. We would expect
that final costs would also include an estimate of those costs,
particularly lost production by farmers, that community members
have borne in interacting with council.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment. We look forward to participating
in a post mortem meeting
For Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association.
31st 2015 - Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Fit for the Future
Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association
PO Box 444
BATEMANS BAY NSW 2536
Dr Peter Boxall AO
Local Government Team IPART
PO BOX K35
HAYMARKET POST SHOP NSW 1240
Re: Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Fit for the Future Submission
In IPART’s Terms of Reference (ToR) and its released Assessment
Methodology, considerable weight has been given to community consultation,
the methodology of that consultation and the outcome of that consultation
for Councils proposing to merge or otherwise change their structure.
Unfortunately no comparable weight has been given to ratepayers’
rights to say whether they want to stay the same.
IPART has defined robust and rigorous criteria for community consultation
for Councils who propose to change, but not so for stay-the-same
Councils. It is our view that a community’s response to a
Council decision to stay the same is equally as important as a community
response to a Council’s decision to change. In this once-in-a-generation
examination of Local Government, the imposition of a Council’s
will upon its community to stay the same without consultation is
equal to the imposition of amalgamation upon a community without
The Premier is unequivocally offering communities and their Councils
an opportunity to consider their future. Nowhere in the ILGRP report
or in IPART’s ToR is the IPART directed to ignore the outcome
of community consultation for Councils which choose to stay the
same. Nowhere is it directed that Councils in category G of the
report must not seek community approval for remaining the same.
It is an incomplete interpretation and application of the ToR, the
report of ILGRP and the LGActs Taskforce to apply less weight to
community input for stay-the-same Councils. In fact, we believe
it is discriminatory not to do so. The Premier’s clear intention
and the recommendations of the ILGRP and the Local Government Taskforce
are for communities to be involved in their future. In the absence
of any direction not to, the same rigorous criteria of community
consultation should apply to the “stay-the-same” process.
This is natural justice and democratic process. Eurobodalla Shire
Council has chosen not to engage in community consultation regarding
staying the same.
The ILGRP report observes:
“There cannot and should not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’
approach, and in later sections of this report the Panel suggests
a wider range of governance options to reflect that reality.”
“What NSW needs is a new process to enable the option of amalgamations
to be carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis within the context
of the broader range of structural options presented above.”
“... there is a widespread view that amalgamations could lead
to cost-savings and better services. In the case of amalgamations,
it appears that opposition is less firm than it may first appear:
there is scope to gain community support provided a sound business
case is established and the public can be fully and accurately informed.”
“the Panel has noted a number of recent studies in NSW and
elsewhere clearly demonstrate the potential for amalgamations –
properly managed – to generate both efficiencies and increased
strategic capacity (economies of scale and scope).”
It appears to undermine the process and intention when Councils
assume that the recommendations of ILGRP are set in stone before
the IPART completes its task. Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) has
pre-empted the outcome of the IPART’s examination by assuming
that by being in category G of the ILGRP report, they have already
bypassed the IPART’s examination and by assumption are already
deemed FFTF. As a result no community consultation has occurred.
How the IPART will deal with the lack of community consultation
by Councils that have opted to stay the same remains to be seen.
Happily, nothing prevents the Minister from taking a complete overview,
in particular with regard to the needs of ratepayers of communities.
Ramifications for Eurobodalla Shire Council Ratepayers
In the absence of a specific directive to Councils to demonstrate
a rigorous community consultation process when deciding to “stay-the-same”,
Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) has unilaterally decided the fate
of its ratepayers. The ratepayers of ESC have been locked out of
the discussion about their future. The ESC submission to the IPART
relies upon a five year-old Community Strategic Plan and a Micromex
Research Survey Report of November 2014 to hint at community consultation.
Neither document engaged any discussion regarding FFTF. The final
word goes to the GM who at a meeting in Council Chambers replied
when asked why ESC did not consult with the Community about FFTF
“We didn’t have to.”
How to Assess the Eurobodalla Community Opinion
The community wants change. The community will embrace change. The
relationship between ESC and the community is broken. Boundary changes
must be considered as a means of re-establishing trust and economic
vitality to the communities currently in the Eurobodalla Shire.
The long-standing local member the Hon. Andrew Constance can inform
you of the disproportionate complaints against ESC that he has received
over a long period of time.
The IPART can inform the Minister of the disproportionate response
from the ratepayers of Eurobodalla against the most recent SRV application
compared to other Councils. Apart from the number of submissions
there was a petition of 10,000 signatures from a pool of 28,000
Other State government departments can inform you of the disproportionate
complaints made about ESC. These departments can also inform you
of the high-handed disregard the ESC displays to them. One of our
members applied under the then new GIPA Act for some Council documentation.
After twelve months embattlement with ESC the Commissioner finally
ruled in favour of the applicant. ESC ignored his ruling going as
far as to pass a motion at Council to ignore the ruling.
Local business and rural groups have expressed no confidence in
council and local media regularly reports on poor council administration
and behaviour by councillors.
A most recent spontaneous community meeting at Batemans Bay RSL
attracted 500 people including our local member. Dissatisfaction
with numerous aspects of ESC was the theme. Several community meetings
just prior to the RSL meeting attracted packed rooms of ratepayers
also complaining about ESC.
The history of the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association (ERA) is a
clear indicator of where the community wants to go. ERA formed with
six members in April 2010 in response to overwhelming community
disquiet regarding ESC. By July there were 485 declared members
of ERA and the Association had received hundreds of complaints regarding
The Association’s first public venture secured over 4,000
petition signatures in under 3 weeks against ESC’s attitude
and procedure in applying for an SRV. In spite of this and other
strong community supported representations, it became impossible
to negotiate any change in culture or process with ESC, so ERA formed
a political party to participate in the most recent Local Government
In particular we went to the community on a platform of wanting
an external independent review and cultural change within ESC such
that “dictators are dead” and “a can-do council”
willing to listen and respond to the community. ERA went to the
polls after only six months preparation and with limited experience.
As a result six of the nine incumbents were removed from office
including the former popularly elected Mayor. Four of our candidates
were elected with 60% of the vote and we were 124 votes short of
electing our representative as Mayor and thus obtaining five new
Councillors. This result was not because of our prowess or luck.
This result was a direct result of the craving of this community
for change and they voted for it.
In spite of this upheaval at Councillor level, change remains unachieved.
The bureaucracy remains as set in its ways as ever. ERA receives
complaints to this day from builders and developers who are afraid
to complain openly to Council for fear of reprisals. Traffic lights
have been installed in Batemans Bay in spite of 60% of respondents
to Council’s own survey being against their installation.
The LEP remains unfinished after ten years because ESC insists on
including E3 classification against enormous public demand for it
to be removed. A major infrastructure benefit for Batemans Bay remains
incomplete “the spine road” in spite of money being
committed to it as far back as the initial Howard government and
most recently an offer from the current State government. There
are too many to list here but these controversies have gone well
beyond those which would naturally arise from council’s role
in resolving differences of view of particular issues in a diverse
and growing community. They focus on the competence and culture
of the council itself.
Real opportunities for Eurobodalla go unexplored. The opportunity
to bid for Batemans Bay as the South Coast’s regional centre
appears to be of little interest to council. The various departments
grind on petitioning for “low-hanging fruit” type grants
while demonstrating no ability to undertake or complete larger projects
e.g. the long awaited spine road, the completion of the LEP. Your
departments could advise you of the inability of ESC to avail itself
of the extraordinary financial offers being made by governments
to local councils during the GFC: virtually nothing from the first
tranche of offers and slightly more from the second. Eurobodalla
ratepayers fared badly.
The current GM readily acknowledges the current parlous state of
the relationship between ratepayers and her Council. She is on the
public record. Recently the GM has hired a public relations consultant.
The implication yet again is that the community has got it all wrong
and the deep seated resentment held by many to ESC is merely bad
publicity. The ESC is not looking inwardly for change it is going
to change us.
Eurobodalla Shire Council’s position
The GM’s position is unequivocal. In a letter published in
the local newspaper she stated that her Council is “super-fit
for the future”. It is clear that the staff at the top believe
that there is no need for change.
The suggested changes to the ESC modus operandi of recent decades
in the ESC submission to the IPART are cosmetic, recent and not
spontaneous. If it had not been for a recent meeting between the
local member Mr Constance and the Mayor and GM no talk of change
would have appeared. Any appearance of change has stemmed from that
Members of the ERA committee met with the GM and a senior manager
on the morning before the local member’s meeting and the staff
were adamant that they were relying upon the category G nomination
by the ILGRP to get them through the IPART’s examination.
No public consultation was required and business as usual would
be continued. It is clear that council’s position is such
that if there are no boundary changes it will be business as usual
for the ratepayers of Eurobodalla. Rather old practices, such as
the internal reviews of services and costs, which have yet to yield
significant savings, will grind on and life in Eurobodalla will
hardly change for anyone.
We are advising our members to consider that while any change in
boundaries for Eurobodalla may have potential difficulties this
must be weighed up against the position of remaining the same.
These are exciting times for Local Governance and the IPART determination
is but a part of an overview of Local Government. Our submission
urges the IPART to be aware of the inequality inherent in “stay
the same councils” submissions which have not demonstrated
rigorous public consultation. We urge the Minister to consider globally
the condition of Eurobodalla Shire and to make decisions which will
allow its citizens to be part of the economic prosperity and community
vitality that the rest of NSW will enjoy; to date we have been left
out of the discussion.
Submitted by Ron Gifford
Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association on behalf of ERA Inc.
The Hon Paul Toole MP
Minister for Local Government, Member for Bathurst
Via email: email@example.com
Hon Andrew Constance MP
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Member for Bega
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Much interest has been shown in our FFTF submission.
ERA members may wish to read a
submission from another council GM in NSW.
Sincerely the ERA team
for Change - 19th May, 2015
Over the last few weeks the ERA have attended various
public and council meetings. The public are demanding real change
within the ESC. The public view the ESC as responsible for preventing
the Eurobodalla from thriving.
Unless ESC responds immediately with specific actions to address
specific issues, in accordance with the demands of the ratepayers,
then surely this Council will cease to exist in its present form.
We need new management at a high level at the council and we need
it quickly. We insist that ALL the known blocks to economic growth
are removed. We need all the bureaucratic and political red tape
to stop. We need clear future direction and vision, driven by
the community, articulated by the Mayor, who must lead for the
community and cease being an apologist for the ESC.
The 10 key actions that we, the ratepayers of ESC require are:
1. Completion of the Rural Lands Review Strategy and an LEP within
3 months, amended to reflect the community demands ( “like
for like” zoning, NO E zones or Overlays, no minimum lot
sizes , no requirement for a council maintained sealed road and
no sun-setting clauses on rural dwelling entitlements )
2. That Council review its SLR policy to the satisfaction of the
those affected in the community
3. An immediate reduction in non –essential services that
we cannot afford and internal structural change / reduction in
ESC staff that improves efficiency, to ensure that core essential
services are provided. An external review of services is required.
4. Reform of the planning departments’ policies to attract
development and facilitate home building
5. Relaxation of blocks to developers and investors
6. Adopt strategies that attract funding for major developments
and aggressively pursue infrastructure grant monies, and use those
monies for their purposes WITHIN A DEFINED TIMEFRAME (e.g. The
7. A concerted effort to get the population / rateable base UP
in this Shire by attracting new business and people, and by making
the shire an affordable place to live
8. That ESC addresses infrastructure maintenance issues
9. That council releases its FFTF document for community discussion
before June 30th.
10. That all senior personnel are on performance contracts and
all other staff are on a productivity improvement scheme.
According to this information from IPART, ESC’s Full
Time Equivalent staffing cost is about $6MILLION above the
Group 4 average and about $7.5MILLION above the State average.
When Consultant / Contractor costs are added, ESC appears
to be about $4.5MILLION above both the Group 4 and State averages.
To implement this regime of change it is recommended that
the ESC finds a suitably qualified individual [number two to the
GM] to oversee this program. This person must advocate for the
community demands and drive effective change in almost all aspects
of council business.
We will strongly advocate for State Government intervention if
the ESC refuses or fails to comply.
Fit For the Future Update
Many Shires across NSW are verging on financial non sustainability
and the time has come to reckon with the facts.
For many years now, the ERA has been trying to get the
ESC to confront a reality that they continue to ignore.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART)
has been engaged by NSW Government to assess whether ESC is Fit
for the Future. IPART has written to the ERA inviting us to make
a submission, and we are now asking the Eurobodalla ratepayers and
residents for their views.
Some background beforehand:
On June 30th this year, the NSW government will be making a decision
on what form the future ESC local government will take. If you are
unaware of this, it is because our council has failed to engage
the community early enough to bring residents and ratepayers with
them on this important journey. Many other Shires, by contrast,
have engaged early and actively with their affected communities
to ensure that their residents are fully informed and involved in
By the 16th of October this year, the NSW Government, based on the
assessment of Eurobodalla Council by IPART, will have made a decision
about the financial viability and ongoing sustainability of the
Eurobodalla Council as a local government entity.
The conversation before June end, and October the 16th must NOT
be just between IPART and Council staff and Councilors behind closed
The ERA has been demanding a major external efficiency review for
some years. A review that is open, transparent and above all honest.
Council has lost the communities trust to honestly and critically
Currently, ESC has admitted that it will fail the long
term IPART criteria fitness tests that relate to operating performance
and own source revenue. IPART will propose in their report that
if these benchmarks are not met within five years, then the ESC
may not be viable.
Even if IPART grant approval of the 21% SRV application to the Council
this month, the next increase application in three years’
time will have to be considerably higher for the council to reach
its financial targets. That money will once again come from already
burdened ratepayers who can ill afford these rate rises. We are
nowhere near ‘Fit for the Future.’
Our ability to fund Infrastructure has been rated as poor. There
is a real problem when Council are given $11 million to finish the
Spine Road in early 2014 and the Council responds saying they may
be able to start the project in the latter half of 2016!
There are, however, other ways of meeting these benchmarks. Council
could dramatically reduce its 120 plus delivery operations to just
a core number of programmes – remember the good old days of
Rates, Roads, and Rubbish? This is what the Community told ESC via
the Micro-mex community surveys not so long ago.
On 16 October, there could be 4 possible verdicts that will change
our local government:
1. We remain a Shire in our own right but implement significant
structural changes to ensure that we meet the benchmarks for sustainability.
E.g.: We could reduce the number of service delivery programmes
that now stand at over 120.
(Should we really be showing people how to cook and walk, building
worm farms, and learning how to ride a motor bike?)
2. We could dramatically reduce indoor staff numbers.
3. We merge all / part of Eurobodalla Shire with either
/ both Shoalhaven or Bega Valley Shire
4. We enter into Joint Organization arrangements with neighboring
Shires in an attempt to reduce operating costs
-e.g. we could radically reduce costs by amalgamating many of our
backroom services with other councils e.g. IT services.
need Eurobodalla Shire Council to lead the discussion on this. The
ERA are listening, writing and organizing, but nobody at ESC seems
to be interested, unless you read a weak article about the subject
published by the Bay Post.
Surely, by now, the Mayor and Council should be organizing community
meetings. The three casual drop in sessions at local markets and
malls are not public consultation and Council is not taking any
public submissions on the matter.
There is to be a meeting on May the 9th in the Bay to discuss many
of these issues, organized by a group of concerned Batemans Bay
citizens. The ERA will be attending to listen to people’s
However let us have your comments on WHAT YOU WANT to happen to
your council ASAP and we will include them in our Submission to
IPART. This has to be completed by the third week of May.
Sincerely the ERA team
|April 20th, 2015
Eurobodalla – Not fit for the future?
Eurobodalla Shire currently fails 4/5 criteria set by IPART
for independent viability. Our Shire has an inadequate rate-able
base to sustain its infrastructure and even basic essential council
services, AND THIS SITUATION WILL WORSEN if jobs are lost and income
generating residents are forced to leave.
Analysis of current and projected ABS economic data reveal
that Eurobodalla fails the "Fit for the Future" fitness
test and the forecast is for a downward spiral into poverty, business
closures, forced relocations and community fragmentation.
Eurobodalla residents have little to no capacity to sustain
increased economic pressure:
Our economic profile:
55% of residents have an income < $1250 a fortnight
30% are retired, many are on fixed incomes
< 10% of the Shire population earns over $2000 a fortnight, compared
with the state average of almost 30% (2011 census).
40% youth unemployment above NSW state average
30% of residents are employed (13300 out of 37600)
The average yearly income comparison:
Bega Valley = $45000
Eurobodalla = $33000
in the Eurobodalla:
Despite a compromised capacity to pay, our charges are higher than
Bega and Shoalhaven. Councils’ debt projections are set to
increase by $40 million over the next ten years, unless they are
permitted to keep putting up the rates. This means repeated increases
of 26% plus every four years. On top of the base average $800 p.a.
rate are the other 43% of charges which include water and sewerage
We need to increase our rateable base:
As Council already subsidises thousands of dollars in rate subsidies
for those that cannot afford their rates, those that who can will
have to pay more, as will businesses. But what happens if those
people who can pay decide to leave the shire? Some commentators
believe that 100,000 people are now the minimum number of people
to sustain a local government area. With our reputation for obstructive
and unresponsive local government, it is unsurprising that prospective
investors and potential residents opt for the neighbouring shires.
Examples of the anti- development attitude include the attempts
by investors to open a retirement village and run the airport. The
Bunnings development took nearly eight years of negotiations sending
a message to other companies not to waste time, effort and money
considering Eurobodalla. Our shire is seen by others as lacking
in both foresight and economic development, and the requisite fiscal
responsibility to sustain our own communities and environment. A
risky place to commit to or invest in. Move on, nothing to see here.
Which brings us to the big question - are we Fit
for the Future?
T Corp, the government’s financial arm, told us in 2013 that
the economic outlook for the Eurobodalla Shire was rated as MODERATE,
versus SOUND for Bega and Shoalhaven. With the underlying financial
statement of long term losses, many councils have been told that
unless they improve, they will die. ESC tenuously meets only 1 of
the 5 criteria for viability.
Economic activity and sustainable jobs growth are the ONLY way to
ensure a viable future for the whole community - especially our
youth. Councils’ blatant misrepresentation that we are “forging
ahead” is starkly illustrated in the table below:
Residential Building approvals figures comparing the Eurobodalla
with Bega Valley and Shoalhaven shires since the turn of the century:
( ***Shoalhaven are about 2.4 x the size of our population, Bega
just slightly smaller)
This data begs the question...What happened to our Shire between
2007 -14? What was the planning departments’ agenda and
policy direction during this timeframe? Government cannot create
wealth - at best through sound policy, and allowing adequate growth,
they preserve the capacity for enterprising communities to realize
Ask yourself a few questions:
What happens to this equation if those who generate the wealth
Are you currently getting more or LESS service for your increased
outlay compared to 5 years ago?
What are the services we get actually worth? What do they COST?
what should they ACTUALLY COST?
Which services are essential and can only be, and should continue
to be, provided by the council?
Which services and operations should council axe? How many unnecessary
services are jobs for the boys?
What is the ERA position?
ERA assures you that there will be a scare campaign that unless
we stay ‘as we are’ things will only get worse - such
as the unproven claims by the mayor that we would have to pay
higher rates if we amalgamate.
Many in the ERA would like to see the council maintained, but
changed dramatically to become efficient. Good management is a
start. Others passionately believe that amalgamations are the
only way forward. The problem is there is NO debate.
Community debate on a sustainable future lacking:
Will council comply with the directive to engage with the community
towards a sustainable future? Perhaps like Victoria, the State
government will have to step in and force through change because
the local vested interests are too strong. Allowing the council
to solve the problem on their own will be a disaster, as they
cannot recognise there is a problem. It is a problem that may
require substantial staff reductions and the discontinuation of
a range of services and operations.
By now, Council should be in full discussion with its community
on how it sees the council in the future, if there is to be an
adequate debate by June 30th. However there has been an irresponsible
silence on the issue, despite Council having been instructed to
engage with the community, to discuss everything from mergers
of backroom services to amalgamations. This amounts to a failure
to recognize the gravity of the situation. So called efficiencies
in closing tourism offices and associated personnel will save
about 1% of the budget.
Why is trivia being discussed and not the big picture?
What is the solution?
We need more wealth generating people to come and live here, and
more wealthy people to visit, live and spend money here - at the
moment, both these groups are being diverted to shires north and
south by the policies and attitudes of our council.
Our local wealth generation is dependent upon tourism and hospitality,
building, manufacturing and primary production. We need council
to desist from stifling economic growth by withholding building
approvals and business development that create real, meaningful
sustainable jobs. We need council to facilitate the development
of local enterprises, value adding to existing resources, and
the building of local infrastructure. We need to be unencumbered
from developing existing markets, products and services that other
Perhaps the best result for the community would be for Eurobodalla
Shire Council to cease to exist, if it cannot respond to meet
the needs of the community, and chart a course for a sustainable
your say on our ERA Blog - "Eurobodalla – Not fit for
RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER
The ERA committee
wishes all ERA associate members and supporters a happy new year.
Last year turned out to be a very busy year at Eurobodalla Shire
Council and for the ERA. Much of the groundwork for much better
performance by council was done. This year promises further positive
change to the benefit of the community of Eurobodalla Shire.
This is the first newsletter for some time. The committee apologises
for this. To keep in better touch we will attempt to increase
newsletter frequency this year. Important changes in governance
and management at ESC are discussed below, as are other matters
currently concerning ratepayers.
are the mayor’s priorities?
Shortly after his election in September 2012 Mayor Brown told
the ERA that his priorities were recruiting a replacement for
Paul Anderson, reviewing the council’s administrative policies
and getting through to Xmas. When these housekeeping tasks were
completed in the middle of last year he announced that it was
now time for council to do “something strategic”.
Six months on, we have yet to see any elaboration of this suggestion.
Consequently, ERA councillors had to fill this leadership vacuum
by arranging a meeting with their colleagues to work out the council’s
direction. The outcomes of this meeting are discussed below.
It is mayor’s first responsibility to lead the council in
providing strategic direction to the council staff on the community’s
priorities. While he has thrown himself into his public civic
duties Councillor Brown appears little interested in this aspect
of his job. If the mayor is to gain community respect for his
leadership he needs to be much clearer, committed and energetic
in defining and pursuing the interests of the community and promoting
these in political forums outside the shire.
have ERA councillors achieved?
In September last year, council replaced Councillor Peter Schwarz
with Councillor Neil Burnside as deputy mayor.
Schwarz described his time as deputy mayor as follows:
“It has been a busy year for ERA councillors with major
results already achieved for the community. By working as a team,
we have succeeded in stopping the hemorrhaging of the community’s
rates, recruited a new general manager and realigned the priorities
of council to focus them on economic and infrastructure development.
I am particularly pleased that, following our insistence on closer
scrutiny of all expenditures, council’s actual operational
costs for FY2012/2013 were $3.5m less than were budgeted last
year. Moreover, capital grants received this year were greater
than the level expected. While council is still running an operational
deficit over the next few years, it is now planned to be about
half the size of that bequeathed to it by the previous council.
There has been equally pleasing progress on the management front.
All councillors have now agreed to a single set of priorities
for this term. These were proposed by ERA councillors in line
with its platform of getting the shire moving through much better
governance and management. They focus on increased infrastructure
development in Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma and management
improvements within council itself.”
Given the mayor’s
detachment and the hostility of some councillors to the ERA’s
place in council, the ERA committee is satisfied with the results
achieved to date and thanks all councillors for their hard work.
The introduction of zero based budgeting played a large part in
the improved budgetary position. For the first time in many years,
the community can be confident that some of their elected representatives
are closely directing council priorities and expenditures.
changes at council
After Paul Anderson walked out of his newly negotiated five year
contract in January 2012 he was temporarily replaced by Rob Noble,
a locum general manager from Queensland. Mr Noble, who had extensive
experience in local government but little knowledge of Eurobodalla,
kept the seat warm and collected a large salary and expenses.
During his time here he had to handle a sudden change of management
at the Batemans Bay Beach Resort. He commented that in his long
time in local government he had not seen anything like the problem
he had to resolve. Unfortunately, he neither provided ratepayers
with details of what was done at this publicly owned commercial
enterprise nor any forecast of the impact of the problem on the
Resort’s marginal financial prospects.
competitive recruitment process, Dr Catherine Dale was appointed
as new general manager and commenced work at Moruya in April.
She lost no time in consulting extensively with council staff
and community groups, including the ERA. While she arrived too
late to have much influence on council’s budget and operational
plans, she moved quickly to sort out her senior management team.
By letting Kerrie Foster go and having the next line of managers
(Kathy Arthur - Community, Arts and Recreation Services, Anthony
O’Reilly – Finance and Catherine Reilly – Communications
and Tourism) report directly to her she demolished the structure
proposed by Anderson and endorsed by Blackadder Consultants (four,
then three, directors). Importantly, she put the two remaining
directors (Warren Sharpe – Infrastructure Services and Lindsay
Usher – Planning and Infrastructure Services) on fixed term,
performance based contracts. This latter move, long resisted by
the previous general manager, brings ESC into line with most other
state agencies and implements a long standing ERA proposal to
increase senior management accountability.
ERA welcomes these senior staff changes, but notes that they were
made ahead of any comprehensive review of the type and level of
services council needs to deliver and the community can afford.
Dr Dale is conducting a review of services, but at a very slow
pace and with minimal community consultation so far. She needs
to advise the community of the principles she is bringing to the
review, particularly as they apply to the continuing provision
of non core services.
mayor, the general manager has spelled out the priority management
areas she intends to pursue. These are financial sustainability,
community relations and communications, organisation culture,
land use planning, economic development and risk management. ERA
welcomes her approach, which is aligned with ERA priorities. In
particular the community is crying out for a more focused and
professional approach to economic development.
A small group
of councillors is negotiating a performance agreement with her.
Let’s hope the outcome is a small number of practical objectives
which have associated measurable indicators which are made public.
No one wants a return to the unsatisfactory and secretive arrangements
between the mayor and general manager which characterised the
last two councils.
Review of Local Government
The independent panel’s final report has been provided to
the NSW Government. It can be accessed at this
Many of the management reforms advocated by the ERA have been
proposed and let’s hope they are adopted. The panel recognized
that the old local government model of general managers dominating
disengaged and submissive elected representatives no longer meets
We are particularly
pleased that the panel has recommended to the Government that
“contracts of General Managers should not be renewed
within 6 months of an election except by means of a full merit
You will recall that ERA publicly opposed the uncontested extension
of Paul Anderson’s contract by Fergus Thomson so close to
the September 2012 election. Ultimately Anderson’s early
departure and the strong field of candidates attracted to the
subsequent advertising of the position supported our stand on
this matter. To avoid such sweet heart arrangements in future
we urge the council to adopt immediately the panel’s proposal
public protest the panel has changed its earlier structural recommendation
that regional county councils should be formed to take over some
of the most important functions of councils. In Eurobodalla’s
case the Nowra based county council suggested covered Shoalhaven,
Eurobodalla and Bega Valley shires. This grouping of councils
was out of line with the existing South East Regional Organisation
of Councils (SEROC), which better reflects the economic and social
ties in the region.
The new proposal is that regional joint organizations are formed,
with similar core functions to those proposed for regional county
councils. The recommended joint organization comprises Shoalhaven,
Eurobodalla, Bega Valley, Bombala, Snowy River, Cooma-Monaro,
Palerang and Queanbeyan. There is no regional centre nominated.
This new grouping of councils is also out of line with SEROC and
ESC will need to evaluate its merits carefully. Moreover, some
of the proposed core functions of the regional organizations direct
conflictly the philosophy of the planning legislation reforms
currently before the NSW parliament. In particular the ability
of local communities to participate in local planning (ie development
of DCPs and LEPs) will be greatly diminished if this function
is taken over by a large and remote regional organization.
a forced amalgamation, Mayor Brown told ERA that he expected to
be the last mayor of Eurobodalla. While the threat of amalgamation
appears to have passed it is not apparent to the ERA that the
mayor is ready for the political argy bargy that will inevitably
accompany the formation of the legislated regional joint organizations.
He needs to discuss urgently the shire’s interests in any
new joint arrangements with the community so he can protect them
in these important negotiations.
ERA councillors and social issues
ERA councillors are required occasionally vote on social issues
when they are come up at council. Often these matters are raised
by small community groups with strongly held views. Sometimes
they are opposed by groups with equally strongly held views. Generally,
they are on subjects which are strictly outside the responsibilities
of local government. Recently same sex marriage, unhealthy soft
drinks and recreational hunting in state forests have arisen.
There has been some discussion in the community as to how ERA
should handle these types of issues.
ERA’s priorities are the reform of governance and management
at ESC. A key part of this is better responsiveness to community
concerns, whatever they may be. To achieve this we ran a diverse
group of people as candidates at the 2012 election to ensure that
the composition of council was representative of the community.
About 40% of the voting community elected four ERA councillors,
all competent and experienced people from a diverse range of occupations
and parts of the shire.
The ERA councillors and ERA committee members do not hold uniform
views on social issues and we have not developed social policies.
However, councillors have all demonstrated a willingness to listen
to the concerns raised by community members and to vote on what
they see as the merits of these concerns. Moreover, individual
ERA councillors may take a leadership position on a particular
social issue, as Councillor Schwarz did on the availability soft
drinks at council functions, and seek to persuade his colleagues
of the merits of his arguments. In all cases, the over-riding
consideration should be that community members are free to get
on with their lives without interference from council, provided
that the activity proposed is legal and not costly to other community
The way ahead
In the year ahead ERA councillors will continue to focus on getting
council’s financial position back into shape. The long term
financial plan needs particular attention to ensure it contains
realistic estimates of the costs of those major projects required
for the shire’s future prosperity. Additionally they will
focus on completing the rural aspects of ELEP 2012 completed,
producing a Coastal Zone Management Plan to manage sea level rise
cost effectively and getting business and government investment
moving again in the shire. Also, they will seek improvements to
grant application, contract management and building approval processes.
It is only
when council gets on top of these problems will ERA councillors
be satisfied they have demonstrated the improvements in trust
and competence the community elected them for.
For practical reasons the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association and
the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Action Party have been merged and all
ERA activities are now under the direction a single committee.
can be contacted as follows:
Liz Innes: Mobile 0418193518
Milton Leslight: Mobile 0418491264
motion re Batemans Bay Marina.
MEDIA RELEASE - 15 November 2013
Council's meeting last Tuesday descended to a new low when a motion
to establish a committee to explore the idea of a new deep water
marina in Batemans Bay was effectively killed by being amended to
require Clr Schwarz to arrange meetings with a range of state government
departments first. (see below)
yet another example of petty politics getting in the way of bringing
economic development to the shire" Clr Schwarz said. "
It would be fine if any of those who chose to vote down the motion
had any suggestions themselves, but, to a person, they have never
come up with one positive idea" he added.
the Council "Old Guard" of the Mayor Lindsay Brown and
his failed predecessor Clr Fergus Thomson, with the support of Clrs
Harding and Brice continue to frustrate and hamstring any vision
at all and, disappointingly, can't see that we have huge economic
and structural problems in the shire which require our active attention",
Deputy Mayor Neil Burnside said, in support of Clr Schwarz.
way of operating in the shire was for councillors to take on the
persona of a staff member acting as a rubber stamp for staff suggestions,
which suited the capacity of many of them," Clr Burnside said.
"But the lack of prosperity in our community calls for a much
more involved council -- something that's being actively resisted
at every turn by the reactionary attitude of the "old guard"
and some others", Clr Schwarz said.
see the motion
and amendment below.
NOM13/001 BATEMANS BAY DEEP WATER MARINA
File Ref: E13.7041; E86.3612
MOTION Councillor Schwarz/Councillor Burnside
THAT Council call for expressions of interest from community members
and industry representatives interested in forming a committee aimed
at investigating and advancing the idea of a deep water marina in
13/205 AMENDMENT Councillor Thomson/Councillor Harding
THAT prior to calling for expressions of interest from community
members and industry representatives interested in forming a committee
aimed at investigating and advancing the idea of a deep water marina
in Batemans Bay, Councillor Schwarz convene a meeting with relevant
and appropriate departments to ascertain what obstacles or opportunities
may exist in moving forward with this proposal.
(The Amendment on being put was declared CARRIED.
The Amendment then became the Motion and on being put was declared
COUNCIL MARKS TIME WHILE WAITING FOR NEW GENERAL MANAGER
Paul Anderson walked out of his new five year contract with ESC
in late January and was temporarily replaced by Rob Noble, a locum
general manager. Following a competitive recruitment process, Dr
Catherine Dale was appointed as new general manager and she commenced
work at Moruya last week. The ERA committee has requested a meeting
with Dr Dale.
This newsletter discusses these changes at council and some other
matters currently concerning ratepayers.
Anderson’s bitter departure
In media interviews given before his departure Paul Anderson claimed
that the success of ERAction candidates in last year’s election
was not a factor in his decision to leave Eurobodalla.
Nonetheless, on his final day at council he bitterly attacked the
ERA. On his official Facebook site he ridiculed Association committee
members Ron Gifford, Greg Malavey and Paul Bradstreet, accusing
them of peddling “crap and bullshit”. He claimed that
the ERA has “made this great place worse”.
The ERA committee deplores these intemperate comments. It is highly
unusual for senior public servants to single out individual community
members for such public criticism. It is particularly disappointing
that he made these criticisms at a time when he knew the new mayor
and most councillors were trying to improve public confidence in
council by working towards better cooperation and consultation with
Although he paid lip service to the need for cultural change in
council, Mr Anderson’s bureaucratic management style got in
its way. He had great difficulty in understanding the community,
notwithstanding the steady stream of consistent feedback about council’s
poor performance coming from the Twyford community consultations,
the Insync staff survey, Blackadder consultancy and Micromex research.
Ultimately, this simmering, but widely apparent, dissatisfaction
boiled over in the ERAction party’s remarkable success in
the September election.
It is for the best that Mr Anderson has moved on.
Independent review of local government proposes
ban on uncontested extensions of general manager contracts close
In its recently released report, Future Directions for Local Government,
the Independent Local Government Review Panel has proposed that:
“contracts of General Managers should not be renewed within
6 months of an election except by means of a full merit selection”.
The ERA committee strongly supports this proposal. Last year we
campaigned unsuccessfully against the uncontested extension of Paul
Anderson’s contract by Fergus Thomson so close to September’s
election. Anderson’s early departure and the strong field
of candidates attracted to the subsequent advertising of the position
supports our stand on this matter. To avoid such sweet heart arrangements
in future we urge the council to adopt immediately the panel’s
proposal as policy.
Catherine Dale’s appointment as General
Dr Catherine Dale’s appointment as general manager is welcomed
by the ERA committee. Her extensive experience in local government,
relevant academic qualifications and recent work in the not for
profit sector well qualify her for the position.
She has held
general manager positions in three Victorian councils –
the City of Boroondara, City of Bayside and Nillumbik Shire Council.
She holds degrees in Music, Education and Business Administration.
Her PhD thesis topic was “The Role of Local Government for
a Contemporary Victorian Community”.
to be seen whether she has the leadership skills to assist the
new council restore the council’s competence and reputation
in the community. She will have her hands full supporting the
mayor. We wish her well.
in the Shire’s economy
there has been a public debate about the depressed state of the
local economy and council’s role in restoring or promoting
some increased investment and activity. ERAction Councillors Leslight
and Burnside noted that the rate of new building approvals appears
to be lower in Eurobodalla than that in adjacent shires and that
there are currently at least 150 empty shops in the shire. They
suggested that to restore market confidence a greater sense of
urgency at council was required about the state of business activity.
and acting general manager responded to these observations by
having the planning department analyse differences in building
approval numbers held by council and those published by the Australian
Bureau of Statistics. The response was academic and yielded neither
an up to date assessment of the present state of the local economy
nor proposals to change council policies or programs to better
support local businesses during economic downturns.
and detached response reinforces ERA’s view that council’s
economic development and tourism support functions are ripe for
review. Additionally, the planning department needs to develop
a set of simple economic measures which can be used to inform
the council of fluctuations in the drivers of local economic activity.
level rise policy
Leslight unsuccessfully attempted to persuade council to abandon
its flawed interim sea level policy pending clearer directions
from the NSW Government. The old guard councillors, led by Fergus
Thomson, argued that to abandon the policy, despite its flaws
and faults, would be irresponsible because it would expose council
Subsequently, David Lambert, from the Long Beach Community Association,
raised serious doubts about the consistency of the policy with
council’s own legal advice concerning its obligation to
provide warnings to home owners from environmental hazards.
In view of
its very large economic and social consequences for the shire
of getting this policy wrong, ERA considers the new general manager
should quickly move to facilitate a realistic and honest discussion
with the community about how to best apply the NSW’s government’s
estimates and guidelines in a way which minimizes all the public
and private costs in Eurobodalla.
new delivery program and budget
The ERA committee
has been urging the mayor and councillors to make a statement
to the community on what this council proposes to achieve in its
four year term. They have yet to do so. Additionally, the results
of important internal discussions on such matters as the proposed
changes to the Code of Meeting Practice have yet to be made public.
Rather than focusing the new council’s priorities on those
matters concerning the community such as better and less congested
roads, completion of the LEP, more public and private investment
in infrastructure and businesses, sea level rise threats and potential
amalgamation with other councils Councillor Brown has retreated
to the comfortably familiar and unchallenging. His priorities
appear to be driven by little other than a fear of getting into
trouble with the Division of Local Government bureaucrats. At
the moment he is requiring senior staff to undertake time consuming
desk reviews, in alphabetical order, of over 250 council administrative
a new delivery program and budgets for the next four years have
been completed and put on public exhibition. Councillors have
been more diligent than in the past in supervising the development
of these plans and improvements are starting to emerge.
It is pleasing to see real costs savings of some $3m arising from
the line by line review of activities and an appropriate switch
in focus to the council’s operating position rather than
the cash bottom line. For the first time in years the domestic
price of a council service (waste collection) has been reduced.
Importantly, a commitment to some sort of services review is included.
And the plans
acknowledge for the first time that council needs to move towards
achieving an operating surplus in its budget. The projected operational
loss this year is $829,760.
On the other
hand there has been a change of tack in council’s water
pricing policy. This year residential water users are being asked
to pay a whopping 36.5% increase in the fixed water supply charge.
It appears that this increase has been levied to hold total revenue
levels up in a low consumption year. This increase will fall particularly
hard on local low income, low water users. However, it will also
increase the burden on non-resident rate payers. Council needs
to explain to ratepayers this significant change of policy, particularly
as it has the effect of punishing ratepayers for their reduced
use of water following council’s requests in recent years.
Moreover some explanation of the impact of this change on council’s
ability to reach “best practice” thresholds for dividends
is called for.
There is more work to do, particularly with the Long Term Financial
Plan which has yet to indicate a path to financial sustainability.
days but there are clear signs that the culture at Moruya is slowly
changing from the tax and spend attitudes of the last council.
to investigate feasibility of deep water marina in Batemans Bay.
have voted to support a motion by Deputy Mayor Peter Schwarz to
approach the NSW and Federal Governments with a proposal to investigate
the feasibility of a deep water marina in Batemans Bay.
Councillor Schwarz’s proposal is to extend the existing
Clyde River rock wall and to construct a small rock wall from
Observation Point to Snapper Island to form a safe and large boat
harbor in front of Corrigans Beach and away from the river bar
and channel . There would be plenty of space at this site for
a marina, individual boat moorings and onshore marine infrastructure.
Councillor Schwarz argued to council that Batemans Bay is conveniently
located for recreational boats traversing the east coast of Australia
seeking shelter. Additionally, he pointed out that boating is
a growing recreational activity and there is a serious shortage
of mooring sites in ports south of Sydney. The proposed facility
would also give visiting cruise ships real capacity to load and
He said that the proposed feasibility study would examine all
the economic, engineering and environmental factors relevant to
a decision to proceed. Importantly, the study would include an
examination of impact of the proposed structures and dredging
on sand movements elsewhere in the Bay. Order of cost estimates
for the facilities would be developed.
Councillor Schwarz said that while this project would not be cheap,
it could be financed by a mix of council, government and private
He said that the people of the shire were looking to council to
develop new tourism infrastructure proposals to revitalize the
depressed economy of Batemans Bay that would provide real jobs
and real industry for the benefit of all.
Councillors agreed that council will promote the project to the
NSW Premier, relevant Federal and State Ministers, local members
and opposition representatives. Also, it will commence discussion
with other interested parties.
The ERA welcomes this proposal. For the last few years council
has not developed any infrastructure project of a size capable
of attracting significant Regional Development Australia funding.
This project has a long way to go but, at the very least, Councillor
Schwarz’s proposal has got us to the starting line.
A GOOD YEAR FOR EUROBODALLA RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION
With 2012 fast coming to a close it is timely to review the highs
and lows in the Association’s year and to look forward to the
By a long margin the highlight of the year was the outstanding success
of ERAction party candidates in Eurobodalla Shire Council’s
elections in September. With about 40% of first preference votes,
ERAaction party was easily the most popular group to stand. This huge
support from the community resulted in the party winning four seats
in the nine seat council and coming within a whisker of winning the
mayoral race and an absolute majority in council.
Another highlight was Paul Anderson’s sudden resignation
from council shortly after the old council had extended his contract
and the new council was elected. His departure will allow the new
council to resume effective control of council’s affairs and
get on with the job of changing the culture of council’s organization
to make it more responsive to ratepayers.
But with the highs were some lows. After arguing the case
for two years, ERA failed to get the last council to undertake the
comprehensive independent, review of council’s operations
demanded by the community at the 2010 Twyford forum. Led by Fergus
Thomson, the last council preferred the advice of Mr Anderson over
the community and implemented instead a number of small reforms
which have had little impact. Additionally, the old council resisted
the public release to the community of a number of confidential
and unflattering documents. Undoubtedly , these factors contributed
to the poor results obtained by most old councillors in the election.
On Wednesday 28th November the founding father of the Association,
Frank Milner, passed away. It would be remiss not to acknowledge
and remind ourselves of Frank’s outstanding and pivotal contribution
to a better Eurobodalla.
In February 2010, Frank and his wife, Margaret, left the Twyford
“community consultation forum” commissioned by the Eurobodalla
Shire Council completely disgusted with the process. They smelt
more than one rat in the ranks. They were so disgusted, yet so energetic
and determined, that they boycotted later council meetings standing
outside handing out homemade flyers encouraging others to join their
brand new ratepayers’ organisation. Community discontent had
been simmering for years and it did not take long for a loose committee
to form around the fearless and determined couple. But then the
As more and more people signed up, Frank discovered they had created
a monster. Between the two of them they took calls from new members,
old members, the press, local and state members, they chased down
Council staff, set agendas for the group, researched documents,
oversaw a fledging web site, wrote document after document and generally
spent 24/7 devoted to the cause. It was exhausting and draining.
In particular they spoke of the huge “rollercoaster ride”
they were on.
With the support of others who were inspired by Frank and Margaret’s
work ethic and fearless determination, the community of Eurobodalla
began to get a voice in managing its own affairs. Petitions were
one example of how their inspired leadership brought pressure to
bear on the bureaucracy. The first obtained 3000 signatures and
Each of the petitions gained state Ministerial attention and comment.
But at the local level, most councillors and some managers managed
to convince themselves that all was as well as could be and that
the ERA were no more than a “noisy minority”. It became
obvious that in spite of every effort by the ratepayers group, the
powers that were had no intention or capability to respond to the
community’s demand for better governance.
When elections began to loom, the ERA committee decided that it
was now or never to support like-minded candidates to try to get
a seat at the table because the ratepayers group had gone as far
as it could to bring about the change needed in governance and culture.
Frank lived long enough to witness the election of four ERA candidates
and a change of general manager which he acknowledged gave him a
Frank’s decency, intellect, humour and determination are sadly
missed, but without doubt the inspiration remains.
Meeting with Mayor Brown
A number of ERA committee members met with Mayor Brown in November
to establish a working relationship with him and to inquire as to
his immediate priorities.
The mayor said that he wished to have a good relationship with all
community groups. He had commenced working four days a week (other
than Thursdays) and he had an open door policy on all issues. He
commented that the election results in Eurobodalla were not unique
- widespread change had occurred across NSW. He attributed this
to “generational change”. He said that he had not expected
to be elected as mayor and acknowledged he was still to get on top
of the job, particularly meeting management. Paul Anderson’s
resignation had thrown him an important early challenge.
The mayor said that he was impressed by the quality of all the new
councillors and was keen to get to know them better. He had concluded
that there were few political differences between the ERAction councillors
and himself and he welcomed their willingness to work with him.
He commented that “ there was no opposition in local government”
and said this suited his dislike of confrontation. He had yet to
sit down with them and discuss what changes they wanted and how
he would go about reaching a consensus on these.
The mayor said that Mr Anderson’s replacement was his first
priority and other matters would be delayed by the demands on his
time required for this.
ERA committee members said there was an expectation in the community
that the new council should be in a position to quickly demonstrate
real change and to explain its short term objectives.
The mayor said that for the moment, apart from new GM recruitment,
his objectives were to get council meetings running better (he mentioned
that he was taking a course in chairmanship) and get through to
Xmas. He explained he was the type of person who liked to “take
his time and get things right.” He said that council had to
review a large number of policy documents in the first year of its
term and it needs to get going on this.
In the longer run he said he saw the greatest risk to ESC as the
Local Government Independent Review. He feared that he would be
the last mayor of Eurobodalla, as forced amalgamation, without notice,
was likely. Council was participating in preparing SEROC’s
submission to Professor Sansum’s Review of Local Government.
He undertook to consult with the ERA and the wider community before
finalizing this submission.
Notwithstanding the mayor’s good intentions, the decision
making by councillors in meetings has yet to settle down. The old
guard of councillors continue to stay in the comfort zone of agreeing
with contestable staff recommendations with little discussion. Regrettably,
more often than not, the mayor aligns himself with this group. He
has made a number of wrong rulings to protect unclassified documents
and to silence public forum participants if they mention controversial
In this difficult environment the four ERAction party councillors
have been busy getting through the unnecessarily large amount of
work pushed at them by council staff, while quietly seeking support
for desirable change. We asked two of them to discuss their achievements
in their first three months:
Peter Schwarz, said:
learnt that Local Government is unlike private enterprise and it
is a slow ship to turn around. We ERA have, despite our minority,
made significant change and will continue to do so now that we have
our candidates in position.
We are pursuing
better governance and reform, to be a voice of the people who have
had enough. We are not there to rubber stamp staff agenda.
ERA Councilors achievements so far, and not limited to;
on appointment panel of new GM out of five.
ERA only Councillors
on Audit Committee
ERA only Councillors
on Coastal Committee
ERA Liz Innes
is Mayors Representative on Rural Lands Steering Committee.
ERA refusal to
get on board the junket train
ERA solving local problems for local business by dialogue with customer
and directing GM
ERA not afraid
to defer items for further consideration, not just rubber stamping
ERA votes for
meetings to be public; to end the secrecy.
In regards to
the Bingie case, we have been pressing the staff and the GM very
hard on the matter and we are determined to get to the bottom of
this unfortunate business that has been handled very badly by the
“We have concentrated on the core issues that saw us elected;
transparency and better governance and as Peter has said, our control
of the audit committee, the selection panel for the new GM and our
consistent questioning of council staff at briefings and committee
meetings has had some success.
As a result of intense questioning form ERA councillors (and no-one
else) we are having a second briefing on the Bingie affair next
week and we have already submitted questions requiring answers from
Each of us is also extremely busy dealing with issues raised by
individuals regarding council issues and, because of our standing
as people who are here to represent the local population, not the
council, we have been deluged with matters, some going back for
more than a decade, which have been festering for ages.”
Appointment of an Interim General Manager
Council has appointed Mr Rob Noble as interim general manager for
the next three to five months. Mr Noble, who commences work on January
9, is an experienced local government executive , having held past
senior management positions with Caboolture and Newcastle Councils.
ERA welcomes the mayor’s public comments that he expects Mr
Noble to do more than keep the seat warm while he is here. He needs
to lift the lid on the secrecy surrounding the unanswered problems
of poor staff morale and the under-utilisation of staff resources,
revealed (but not disclosed) in the Insync Staff Survey, together
with the managerial and cultural deficiencies described in the Blackadder
Given the large number of new councillors elected in the September,
it is important that Mr Noble sees his priority as the immediate
formulation and implementation of a renewed program of council governance
and management reform in line with the new council’s requirements.
The ERA committee sees the major elements of this reform program,
achievable during Mr Noble’s time here, as:
• A ten year financial plan which achieves and maintains an
operational budget surplus in the shortest possible time;
• A firm plan for the review of all council services, long
promised to the community;
• Major new project proposals, shovel ready and documented
in time to take advantage of funding opportunities certain to emerge
in the lead up to next year’s federal election;
• Commencement of a serious discussion with the community
about the sea level threat, including its implications for poor
past planning of the Bateman’s Bay Central Business District;
• A coordinated community (not a council or SEROC) response
to the Sansum Review of Local Government.
The ERA committee will seek to meet with Mr Noble and the mayor
in January to discuss these priorities.
ERA annual general meeting
A reminder that the association will be holding its AGM at the Moruya
Golf Club at 5:00pm on Monday 31st December 2012. Notice of the
meeting and its agenda has been sent to all members.
The ERA committee thanks all its associate members and supporters
for their help and encouragement throughout the year, particularly
in the lead up to the election. Have a good Xmas and holiday break.
We look forward to working with you in 2013 to achieve better government
in our beautiful shire.
ELECTION NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2012
MASSIVE WIN FOR EUROBODALLA RATEPAYERS ACTION PARTY IN SEPTEMBER
September 8 has come and gone, the votes have been counted (and
recounted) and the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Action Party (ERAction)
has had a stunning victory! With about 40% of first preference
votes, the ERA party was easily the most popular group to stand
in the Eurobodalla Shire Council election. This huge support from
the community resulted in the party winning four seats in the
nine seat council and coming within a whisker of winning the mayoral
race and an absolute majority in council.
The size of the victory provides the circuit breaker needed to
change the council’s culture. Thanks to your support of
the ERA there is now a real chance that councillors and senior
council staff will be much more responsive to the community’s
This newsletter reports and discusses briefly the election results
and provides information on the new ERA councillors.
The council election
ERA candidates Peter Schwarz and Milton Leslight, the leaders
of our Moruya and Batemans Bay teams, won sufficient votes in
the first count to gain a seat in council. Following the distribution
of preferences, Neil Burnside, the leader of our Narooma team,
and Liz Innes, second on our Moruya ticket, also won seats.
Having won the mayoral vote, Lindsay Brown was elected to council
as were Rob Pollock of Eurobodalla First, Gabi Harding of the
Greens and independents Danielle Brice and Fergus Thomson.
The mayoral election
In a remarkably close result, after the distribution of preferences
Lindsay Brown gained 104 more votes than Liz Innes. This lead
increased to 108 after a recount and Lindsay Brown was elected
Full details of the final vote are available on the NSW Electoral
Commission’s website at www.votensw.info/eurobodalla-shire-
The mayoral vote recount
There has been some public discussion about the reasons for ERAction’s
call for a vote recount in the mayoral election.
This decision was taken because, with a margin of only 104 in
some 22,500 votes cast, there was a high probability that a recount
would have changed the result. Had it done so then the ERA party
would have won a majority in the council election because Liz
Innes’ council vote preferences would have flowed to the
next ( fifth) ERA candidate. The party believed that, with such
a high level of demonstrated community support, it was important
that this opportunity was not passed up. In the event, Danielle
Brice, who attracted a strong personal vote, was elected on the
back of Lindsay Brown’s preferences.
ERA congratulates Lindsay Brown on his good luck in winning this
Why did the ERA party do so well?
It is unprecedented for a new political party to gain such a large
proportion of the vote at its first attempt. So why did so many
people in all parts of the shire vote for the ERA?
For the last two years the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association
has drawn public attention to the problems of governance and senior
management at the council. Our concerns resulted from the many
frustrations we were hearing from ordinary ratepayers about the
difficulties in dealing with councillors and council staff. It
appeared to us that these frustrations were strong evidence of
systemic problems, not just complaints from isolated groups of
complainants. It became apparent last year that the development
of the new LEP stretched the capabilities of the council. And
hard evidence of unprecedented levels of community dissatisfaction
with council’s performance emerged repeatedly from community
and staff surveys and consultants’ reports. So, as our representations
were not being listened to, we decided to take political action
by supporting the ERAction party, which was formed by ERA committee
members last year.
Clearly, the community has noticed that we have been an effective
force in exposing and opposing council mismanagement. Our push
for real change at council has been vindicated. And voters were
attracted to the choice of quality ERAction candidates they were
How did we do it?
ERAaction put together a team of competent and enthusiastic people
for the task. Ron Gifford, ably assisted by his wife Cathy, did
the lion’s share of the work to organize candidates, volunteers
and finance. Greg Malavey designed and implemented our marketing
campaign and successful preference strategy. Peter Schwarz, Gary
Smith, Joe Potts, Michael Beaschel and Tubby Harrison used their
ERA committee experience to advantage in their election campaigns.
The ERA committee thanks them all for their efforts and congratulates
Meet the new ERAction councillors
Milton is a Batemans Bay resident and small business owner. As
he has become aware of the failings of leadership at Council regarding
such matters as - the selling off of community land, bonuses and
bungled extra holidays for the GM, the still unfinished LEP, a
demoralised staff and a depressed community – he was motivated
to stand for the position of Mayor.
He believes the community needs and deserves true representation.
The staff requires improved leadership and motivation. As a Councillor
he will bring the two together.
Liz Innes was born in Batemans Bay and raised in a family renowned
for its strong community involvement. She is now a mother of two
beautiful girls and a rural producer and is absolutely committed
to helping to find solutions, through community consultation,
for the difficulties facing those living on the land in this shire,
as well as implementing the will of the people where it is in
the best interest of the whole of Eurobodalla Shire.
She is passionate about the future prosperity of Eurobodalla,
a shire that can not only provide opportunities for our youth
and businesses, but that can also care for the more vulnerable
in our community. She is committed to strong, common sense representation
for all who live in Eurobodalla.
Peter Schwarz (Note - no longer an ERA member
Neil Burnside (Note - no longer an ERA member
The new council and the future
The ERA congratulates all newly elected councillors. We are particularly
pleased to see a much improved representation of women and younger
The composition of the council means that Mayor Brown will have
to gain the confidence of councillors and the community to lead
the implementation of the governance and management changes required
to respond to the message sent by voters. ERAction councillors
have indicated that they will work as a team and are keen to cooperate
with the mayor and other councillors wherever possible.
The election result demonstrated that when pressures for change
build they cannot be resisted for long. Five councillors lost
their seats because they were seen to be out of touch with the
community and to have let down the hard working staff of the council
by poor leadership. The new council must avoid the mistakes of
the past by providing a clear and realistic vision of the future
of our beautiful shire and practical and credible plans to achieve
it. The community wants and deserves a smoothly operating local
government that is open, honest and not bogged down in continuous
controversy. And an improvement in staff morale is essential if
we are to have better service delivery.
The ERA committee looks forward to the future with greater
confidence and we will keep you informed of our view of the new
succeeds like success
We expect that more community members will wish to join the ERA
in the wake of this success. They can easily do so by pushing
the Join ERA button on the website. Please get your family and
friends to think about it. The more support we have the greater
will be our collective voice for positive change!
ISSUE NEWSLETTER AUGUST 2012
The council elections are well underway and, as expected, there
are record numbers of candidates for mayoral and councillor positions.
With 21 people standing for mayor and 54 seeking election for council
the Eurobodalla community has demonstrated spectacularly its dissatisfaction
with the current council and its appetite for real change.
This newsletter provides information about the election and some
suggestions on how to assess the suitability of the various groups
and candidates for the important public offices they seek.
The field of candidates
The Eurobodalla Ratepayers Action Party has fielded 9 candidates
for mayor and 16, in three teams (Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma),
Fergus Thomson and all existing councillors, other than Keith Dance,
are standing again. Chris Vardon and Rob Pollock are seeking election
under the Eurobodalla First party banner. Lindsay Brown has been
rejected by this party and is standing as an independent. All other
councillors are presenting as independents. Putting ambition well
ahead of demonstrated ability, all 8 councillors are standing for
mayor. To support Rob Pollock, Chris Vardon has reversed his previous
public position that “he would only stand for council this
Apart from the Greens, all other candidates are standing as independents,
although Alan Morton, Allan Brown, Lindsay Brown, Orit Karney-Winters
and Damien Rogers have formed “above the line groups”.
These groups’ are narrowly based. For example, the Lindsay
Brown group is Narooma oriented and Orit Karney-Winters has put
together an all woman team.
How should I decide who to vote for on September 8?
As explained in our last newsletter, a group from the ERA committee
has formed Eurobodalla Ratepayers Action, as an independent political
party, to contest this election. This action was taken as the most
appropriate means at the moment of achieving the ERA’s objectives
of better governance and management at Eurobodalla Shire Council.
We feared that those current councillors, who have successfully
resisted desirable change for the last two years, would band together
to cling to power and impose more of the same arrogant, anti-ratepayer
governance on the community. With almost all current councillors
standing again, these fears have been realized.
The ERA committee considers that, with the emergence of the ERA
party, for the first time in a long time Eurobodalla shire voters
have a realistic opportunity to change the council significantly
and in doing so root out the culture of contempt for the community
that has characterized the attitude of the insular, aging “bunyip
aristocracy’” group currently in power. A change to
this culture is the key to improved council performance.
So it is important that you cast your vote carefully.
We believe that openness,
responsiveness to real community needs, a focus on the core business
of council, less bureaucracy and waste and a restoration of effective
working relations with state and federal government are the policies
which candidates should be promoting. And, individuals seeking election
need to be able to personally demonstrate achievement in business,
jobs or community activities outside the insular world of local
government. Naturally, we support more competent women and enthusiastic
young people in council.
Eurobodalla Ratepayers Action Party
While some of the candidates standing have identified some of the
above policies, it is only the ERA party that embraces them all.
It is presenting the community with a comprehensive and coherent
approach to desirable change and a team of competent candidates
large enough to give voters real choice. Some incumbent councillors
standing are wisely keeping low profiles, hoping that name recognition,
rather than their reputations or policies will get them over the
line. Others are promoting policies which they actively opposed
while in office. It is a bit rich to see promises of “Can
do” and “How can we help you” emerging from councillors
who failed to attend any of the five LEP public meetings.
The ERA party teams have been put together carefully to ensure that
all major community interests are represented. Team leaders Milton
Leslight in Batemans Bay, Peter Schwarz in Moruya and Neil Burnside
in Narooma, are local businessmen . Peter is also a young farmer
and he is joined by Michael Beashel, John Clout , Tubby Harrison,
Jenny Shepeard and Liz Innes in representing the rural community.
Liz has long been active in voicing womens’ concerns in Batemans
Bay and she is joined by Michele Cameron, and April Creed. Gary
Smith, Ron Gifford and Joe Potts are active committee members of
the ERA and come from professional and government backgrounds. They
are acutely aware of the needs of the older members of our community.
Further details of the background and policies of all ERA party
candidates are available on our website here
When are too many mayors not enough?
Some people have expressed confusion about the number of mayoral
candidates on offer. The ERA party is offering nine candidates of
which three are number 1 women candidates. No other group or party
has put forward as many women candidates as number 1 for the top
job. Our nominees are not tokens, not cannon fodder (as the current
mayor described women candidates). Voters can with the stroke of
a pen make a woman mayor courtesy of ERA.
Basically, the choice is yours. Ultimately we have a preferred member
who we know and consider the best of the rest of us for the job.
Our mayoral candidates are sending their preferences in that direction.
You may wish to disagree. Whichever ERA party candidate you might
choose you will have the reassurance and knowledge that she or he
shares the same policies, aims and objectives as the whole group.
Not only can you change this council you can do it your way. ERA
party is not telling you who you will have as mayor - we are asking
you who do you want.
How to vote for the ERA party team
With a large number of candidates your vote for your preferred ERA
mayoral candidate and town team will not be wasted. By carefully
following the instructions on the How to Vote cards available at
your polling booth your preferences will be directed efficiently
to other ERA candidates.
Meanwhile back at the ranch
While your committee’s attention is directed at present to
the election we have not taken our eye off current important matters
before council. For example:
• ERA committee members will be attending the first meeting
of the Rural Lands Strategy Steering Committee this week; this important
committee, to be chaired by Ian Armstrong, has been set up to sort
out the E3 and overlay mess that council imposed on the community
in the flawed LEP; a future newsletter will report on this meeting
which, while open to the community, has not been advertised by council.
• The ERA committee will move quickly to ensure that the new
council gets off to a good start; we are working on having a letter
on the new mayor’s desk the day he starts seeking improved
access to controversial internal documents, such as the key details
of the general manager’s contract and the final report of
the organizational structure review (Blackadder).
RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION INC.
PRE-ELECTION ISSUE NEWSLETTER AUGUST 2012
TO ERA SUPPORTERS :
As you know, council elections will be held on Saturday 8th September.
A short history building up to this election -
ERA was formed following dissatisfaction expressed by 70 ratepayers
attending a Council Community Forum in March 2010. There was major
concern with Council's performance and indifferent attitude to the
residents attending the meeting. They had had enough.
In November 2011, ERA presented a petition with 3000 signatures
to the then Minister for Local Government - requesting an enquiry
into the affairs of ESC staff and councillors.
Over two years, ERA worked consistently to achieve some positive
change at council. We met with most councillors, the General Manager,
the new Minister for Local Govt., the new Minister for Planning,
the Local State Member for Parliament, we wrote letters to the press,
issued regular newsletters to keep you informed and put over 30
submissions to council , often receiving little response. It was
time to change tack.
A group from the ERA committee formed a new political party - The
Eurobodalla Ratepayers Action Party ( known as ERA Party ).
A majority of ERA committee members resolved in January 2012 to
support the ERA Party which has no political affiliations, it is
independent and has over 100 registered local members from all walks
of life - an ideal cross section of our community.
The ERA Party will be running three groups of candidates in the
election - north, central & south. The aim is to elect some
fresh, competent and strong new councillors to genuinely represent
the views of the community and to deliver a helpful can-do attitude
More detailed information will follow in the next newsletter regarding
candidates and policies, as well as a media campaign.
Meanwhile , to support our candidates and our campaign to achieve
an overdue change at council, we urgently request your support in
the form of assisting at a polling booth on election day and/or
providing a donation to help with costs.
TO DONATE - any amount
under $999 please to -
Eurobodalla Ratepayers Action Party
NAB Batemans Bay account 082432 - 140670399
TO ASSIST at POLLING
BOOTHS on 8th September, please contact -
B/ Bay area - Milton Leslight email email@example.com
Moruya area -
Tuross/Bodalla - Gary Smith email firstname.lastname@example.org
Narooma area -
(.authorised by Catherine Klippan 58 Beach Road Batemans Bay 2536
28th 2010 PETITION TO MINISTER
12, 2010 Public Engagement Workshop Notes
12th, 2010 Abridged version of the presentation made by Paul Bradstreet
on behalf of ERA
to the Eurobodalla Shire Community Forum Workshop
2010 Letters to the Editor