LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Let me make it clear that I am not against a new council chambers. Staff need a better workplace. I am against a council that has been making important project decisions in secrecy. The council has never involved their most important customers, the community.
What has happened to the council’s 10 principles for community engagement, as detailed in the council’s own Community Strategic Plan 2013-2023?
At the council’s meeting on February 16, when Cr Opie and I moved a motion to stop the application being submitted in this first round of the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) grants, it was tabled because we had no information on the project and the community had not been consulted.
We were looking to review the total project, explore alternatives and ensure the project was inclusive of the community. If the council builds the new council chambers on the site adjoining Viewhaven, they are going to sterilise a site that has a great development, business and employment potential.
As a current councillor, how did I find out what this new application to the BBRF consisted of? It was via a media release from the Mayor, one week after the council meeting, information which would have taken months to prepare and at great expense to the community and surely should have been available at the council meeting.
The media release is not only inflammatory, but also misleading. The Mayor states that the council is going to receive total funding of $10,252,451 for the project by applying for an exceptional circumstances co-funding exemption to the BBRF. In the BBRF Infrastructure Projects Stream Program Guidelines, it is made clear that exemptions will only be granted in very limited circumstances and councils who are financially sound and councils that cannot show evidence of community support will not meet the criteria for exceptional circumstances.
If the application proves to be ineligible, all that money spent on preparing the application will have been wasted.
At the next council meeting, I will be asking the general manager and the mayor to explain why councillors and the community of the Shire have been shut out from the consideration of this project. Come and be informed.