You ask, will our next Mayor be able to work ‘collaboratively’ to build effective partnerships with all Councillors, staff and community (Echo 17 July)?
Having been the acting Mayor on many occasions over the last year, i have a clear idea of the qualities needed of a collaborative Mayor. Determination and patience I have in equal measure and I am driven by a vision of our sustainable future as much as by respect for the views of others. During my time as Mayor and Councillor, I have worked to bring many voices to the table, while ensuring fair and transparent processes.
Actions do speak louder than ‘rhetoric’, so I provide the following examples of collaboration from some of the ‘issues’ raised in the editorial.
We need to do better on roads. I initiated the Roads and Asset Management Project Reference Group to get better information from staff to Councillors and find ways to get better value from our roads budget. In one example, potential savings of $250,000 have been identified by a review of just two upgrade projects on Council’s books. I was successful in working with local communities to provide an extra $160,000 in this year’s budget for urgently needed road repairs and transport upgrades.
The long time disengagement of Council with the ‘dominant economy’ of tourism has come to an end in the last four years. I championed the adoption of the Tourism Management Plan with objectives that include to ‘protect’ our ‘uniqueness…diversity and commitment to ecologically sustainable communities’. Subsequently as Chair of the Tourism Advisory Committee I have brought community, industry and Council to the table for the first time. The shared vision of sustainable tourism is grounded in community core values and guiding principles. Together we can put forward an alternative vision to challenge the negative promotion of ‘party town’. The measure of success is an increase in benefits and decrease of impacts from tourism. One example is to link the tourism sector with the food and creative parts of the economy through markets, trails and phone apps.
I have also been active working with communities to support local food production and supply through Farmers Markets. I initiated a (yet to be completed) review of ways to include smaller food growers in the ‘farmland’ rating category so that they can pay a reduced rate as larger producers currently do. Food producers in rural zones will need to be vigilant when the draft LEP is put on exhibition as it will substantially reduce the area of land available for food production in the future if adopted in its current form. On two occasions I have put forward successful notices of motion to protect water, food supplies, landowner rights and tourism from coal seam gas mining.
The Byron Shire Sporting and Cultural Complex needs rescuing from poor and expensive decision making with a renewed emphasis on the ‘cultural’. At every opportunity over the last three years, I have challenged Council to take a more responsible approach each time a proposal to increase the scope or budget of the project has been presented. There are opportunities to turn the complex into a benefit rather than a burden on the Shire’s finances, as a cultural precinct and ‘gateway’ that showcases the best of our community and economy. Continuing to see the complex merely as a problem to be dealt with, is likely to see the facility handed to an external manager that will restrict community access. To achieve this as Mayor, I will tap into the skills and experience of the many across the Shire.
Collaboration and representation go hand in hand for a Mayor. Recently, I was successful in moving a motion of support for the community position on the proposed cutbacks at Mullumbimby Hospital and having the hire fees for the Civic Hall waived for the public meeting. Local decision making, infrastructure support and public transport are also consistent issues that I represent the Shire on.
Two final ways where the bond with community could be strengthened by leadership from the next Mayor. First, good community consultation informs the best decisions. This doesn’t always happen. It’s time for a complete review of consultative procedures to make sure all views can be given proper consideration. Second, the best decisions of Council are reflected in the best policy. Too often policies have been poorly written and this has made the ‘tit for tat squabble’ worse. Councillors need to be more active in this stage of decision making. As Mayor, I will provide the leadership to ensure Councillors are given every opportunity to contribute to a more effective and representative Council..
Cr Basil Cameron
Our Sustainable FutureBasil Cameron