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Welcome to our Newsletter page

The ERA publishes a newsletter periodically to keep its members up to date.

If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter simply send an email to: eurobodallaratepayers@gmail.com

and write "subscribe" in the email subject box

(the same applies if you ever wish to "unsubscribe")

Below are links to the latest ERA newsletters and reports and to our archive:

(WE SUGGEST THAT SUBSCRIBERS MAY LIKE TO PRINT OUT A HARD COPY AND
PASS ON THE NEWSLETTER TO FRIENDS.)

Nov 28th, 2015 - Rural lands strategy - Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association submission

General Manager
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.

Over three 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 entitlements.

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 councils.


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 ignored.


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


Yours sincerely

Paul Bradstreet
For Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association.


 

 

July 31st 2015 - Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Fit for the Future Submission

Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association
PO Box 444
BATEMANS BAY NSW 2536

July 31, 2015

Dr Peter Boxall AO
Chairman
Local Government Team IPART
PO BOX K35
HAYMARKET POST SHOP NSW 1240
VIA EMAIL

Dear Dr Boxall

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 consultation.

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 ratepayers.

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 ESC.

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 elections.

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 meeting.

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.

Yours sincerely
Submitted by Ron Gifford
PUBLIC OFFICER
Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association on behalf of ERA Inc.

Cc
The Hon Paul Toole MP
Minister for Local Government, Member for Bathurst
Via email: office@toole.minister.nsw.gov.au

The Hon Andrew Constance MP
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Member for Bega
Via email: bega@parliament.nsw.gov.au

 

 

NOTE: 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



Time 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 Spine Road)

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.

Sincerely the ERA Team

 

5/5/2015
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 the process.

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 doors.

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 review itself.

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.

The community 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 views.

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:
NSW =$68000
Bega Valley = $45000
Eurobodalla = $33000

Rates 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 availability.

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:

Year
ESC
Bega
Shoalhaven
13-14
174
168
524
12-13
122
136
499
11- 12
95
150
399
10-11
83
180
486
09-10
127
138
504
08-09
91
119
378
06-07
163
90
434
05-06
236
150
460
04-05
292
189
734
03-04
419
215
993
02-03
445
244
1065
01-02
407
270
1168


( ***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 their potential.

Ask yourself a few questions:
What happens to this equation if those who generate the wealth leave?
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 people value.

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 future.


Have your say on our ERA Blog - "Eurobodalla – Not fit for the future?"

 

EUROBODALLA RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER
FEBRUARY 2014

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.

What 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.

What have ERA councillors achieved?
In September last year, council replaced Councillor Peter Schwarz with Councillor Neil Burnside as deputy mayor.

Councillor 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.

Management 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.

Following a 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.

Unlike the 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.

Independent Review of Local Government
The independent panel’s final report has been provided to the NSW Government. It can be accessed at this link:

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 community needs.

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 selection process………”.

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 as policy.

After much 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.

Anticipating 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 members.

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.

Stay in touch
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.

ERA councillors can be contacted as follows:

Liz Innes: Mobile 0418193518
Email clrlizinnes@eurocoast.nsw.gov.au

Milton Leslight: Mobile 0418491264
Email clrmiltonleslight@eurocoast.nsw.gov.au

 

Amendment/lost motion re Batemans Bay Marina.

MEDIA RELEASE - 15 November 2013

The Eurobodalla 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)

"It was 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.

"Regrettably, 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.

"The old 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 Batemans Bay.

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 CARRIED.)

 

NEWSLETTER APRIL 2013

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 ratepayers.

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 to elections.

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 Manager

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”.

It remains 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.

Downturn in the Shire’s economy

Since Xmas 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.

The mayor 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.

This unsatisfactory 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.

Sea level rise policy

Councillor 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 to litigation.

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.

Council’s 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 policies.

Nevertheless, 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.

Its early days but there are clear signs that the culture at Moruya is slowly changing from the tax and spend attitudes of the last council.

Council to investigate feasibility of deep water marina in Batemans Bay.

Councillors 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 unload passengers.
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 funding.
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.



NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 2012
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 year ahead.

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.

Vale Frank Milner
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 work began.

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 another 5000.

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 lift.
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.

Council meetings
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 matters.

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:

Deputy Mayor, Peter Schwarz, said:

“We have 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;

Three Councillors 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 staff recommendation

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 organisation.”

Clr. Burnside agreed:
“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 the executive.

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 report.

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; and
• 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.

Seasons greetings
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.

 

 

POST ELECTION NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2012
MASSIVE WIN FOR EUROBODALLA RATEPAYERS ACTION PARTY IN SEPTEMBER 8 ELECTION


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 needs.
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 mayor.
Full details of the final vote are available on the NSW Electoral Commission’s website at www.votensw.info/eurobodalla-shire- council.

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 close vote.

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 given.

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 their success.

Meet the new ERAction councillors

Milton Leslight
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
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 or Councillor)


Neil Burnside (Note - no longer an ERA member or Councillor)
.

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 people.

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 council’s performance.

Nothing 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!

 

ELECTION 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), for council.

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 time”.

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).

 

EUROBODALLA 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 at council.


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 andrew@beachesandbush.com.au
Moruya area -
Tuross/Bodalla - Gary Smith email garys.home@bigpond.com
Narooma area -
(.authorised by Catherine Klippan 58 Beach Road Batemans Bay 2536 )

November 2012 Newsletter

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

January 2012

December Xmas 2011

December 2011

November 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

October 28th 2010 PETITION TO MINISTER

October 18th 2010

October 13th 2010

September 2010

August 12, 2010 Public Engagement Workshop Notes

Aug 12th, 2010 Abridged version of the presentation made by Paul Bradstreet on behalf of ERA
to the Eurobodalla Shire Community Forum Workshop

June 2010 Letters to the Editor

June 2010 #2

June 2010 #1

May 2010

April 2010

 

Work with us towards a better local government in our beautiful shire!