Last week’s Echonetdaily was full of articles and letters confirming disconnects between Council and Councillors, Councillors and Councillors, residents and Council, residents and residents.
For a start it would be useful to know how many of Council’s senior management live in and/or love our Shire and its shared values. As someone who regularly attends Council meetings and many of our Shire’s arts, cultural, community and political events, it’s very rare to see these senior Council managers in attendance. It begs the question do they have a sense of our “beat of the street”? Yet outside office hours many lower level Council staff are engaged in our Shire.
We now have a magnificent new Sports Complex – and if you haven’t checked it out, do so. But how can its sports fields have a major drainage problem? If you talk to anyone who has lived here for a lifetime they will tell you the land is lower than it’s surrounding neighbours and sits on a peat bog. Senior Council officers can bandy terms like “due diligence” till blue in the face but local common sense tells you the fields needed to be higher or somewhere else. Engineering can overcome most problems but the jury is still out on whether necessary standards have been met.
Dysfunctionality abounds. Our tourism industry provides local employment, and income generation for many and very handsome profits to a small number. Tourism provides little income and huge costs to Council due to Council reflecting our shared values by banning multi-story developments that bring in high Council rates. There are solutions, but these are either opposed by the State Government or by local special interests.
How about major events? We have two entrepreneurs unable to work together so our little Shire has two major event sites, both encroaching on wildlife areas.
At the state level we have two short-sighted adversarial political parties who take turns in determining how the Local Government Act will override our Council’s ability to be its own master.
We have a Council and a State government elected every four years with powers to act, and media space to comment on same, but no meeting ground or bridge between them.
Are we destined to be prisoners of self-serving interest groups? Perhaps. But if Budda is unavailable, then I think we need an ongoing forum space (physical or online) where Councillors, all Council staff and all sections of our community can come together as equals in discussion, facilitated and minuted, to create a series of long term, liveability strategies that reflect our documented core values (see www.byron.nsw.gov.au and in search type ‘core values’).