Fires, plagues and the collapse of civilisations.
Makes great news copy, but it’s not exactly an ideal situation. Unless you happen to want that, as those who believe in Revelations seem to.
Many who control the unwashed masses across this small blue dot seem to be revelling in the current chaos.
Australia’s predicament is that its leader’s religious faith appears to support Revelations and glorifies selfishness and greed.
His cabinet is captured by the coal mining industry, which leads to more fires and an unstable climate.
Will we look back at the end of this year and think fondly of these times?
Meanwhile, in a little northern NSW coastal town last Thursday, local governance persevered.
Nine elected councillors and executive Council staff held court in the Mullum chambers. So what did they say, and what was approved?
During public access, former Greens mayor and NSW MLC Jan Barham asked if a recording of public access could be made publicly available.
The community would benefit from that, she said.
She also asked if public questions and answers could be included in the meeting minutes.
Echonetdaily asked Greens Mayor, Simon Richardson, if he will ask staff to do this, but is yet to receive a reply.
On the other hand, councillors later in the day approved a draft policy – written by staff – to manage unreasonable customer conduct. Should no submissions be made, it will be adopted.
Fish kill PR exercise
A significant meeting highlight was how councillors managed the recent debacle around a 12 tonne fish kill at Tallow Creek in June last year.
They were presented with a staff report that couldn’t be ignored; Council was slapped with a wet lettuce $1,000 fine for breaching its licence by artificially opening the creek’s entrance, which was also too wide.
A press release from staff was released subsequently, and it seemed reasonable – admit the mistake and demonstrate what procedures will improve future management of the creek. As staff said, the whole episode was, ‘significant and extremely distressing for everyone, including Council staff’.
Yet to get to that point, councillors (mainly Greens) subjected the chamber to debate that could be described as less than magnanimous.
Perhaps they need training in how to minimise public relations disasters.
Didn’t they learn anything after the Disco Dong fiasco? Or the bypass? Or all the masterplanning fiascos that occurred early on in their term under the previous general manager?
It all started in morning access after environmentalist, Dalian Pugh, challenged Council’s lack of transparency around his freedom of information request.
He explained how his requests for monitoring reports, correspondence and meeting minutes were rejected for being ‘unreasonable’ by staff. A figure of $3,000 was mentioned for the info.
Pugh then launched at staff, claiming, ‘Council chose to open [the creek] on June 14 in a dry period, against expert advice… there were warnings. It was reckless. No staff were held to account… I’ve only observed fish kills when it is open. If you open it without a rainfall, you kill fish’.
Responses to this outburst gave an insight into how much councillors understand their temporary role within Council.
Does every attack upon staff need to be met with aggression? Why would you defend well paid bureaucrats who know way more than you do? Surely they can defend themselves (and they do).
Alas, we are faced with a current Greens majority that appear to have emerged from a viper’s nest, and are easily triggered if they, or staff, are critiqued.
Greens Cr Michael Lyon’s voice rose in anger and frustration as he tried to cross-examine Pugh and defend staff. He explained how Pugh didn’t know the inner workings of the Council tent.
Later, when Cr Lyon moved to adopt the staff recommendation on the fiasco, he lavished praise on staff and said it was only a ‘few in our community who seek retribution and blame’. [See Mr Pugh’s response in letters]
‘Blaming people when they are not to blame is out of order’, he chided.
There was no hint of irony here – last year he publicly accused Butler Street resident Paul Jones of defacing his precious election posters.
Independent Cr Cate Coorey, meanwhile, moved an amendment to make the creek monitoring reports publicly available and apologise to the community.
‘Blaming doesn’t help, but acknowledgment does’, she said.
But apologies, as we just found out with the federal government’s Robodebt fiasco, are not generally forthcoming from most political actors.
Cr Richardson spoke at length against Cr Coorey’s amendment, yet didn’t really make a convincing argument either way.
At one point he said, ‘Do apologies only go one way? Will Friends of Tallow Creek offer an apology [to us] for their emotive outbursts? …For saying staff don’t care or don’t give a damn?’ [See Mr Pugh’s response in letters]
Moving on from this rather detailed essay on how councillors are eroding public trust – other stuff happened.
Perhaps the largest corporation on the planet, which doesn’t pay taxes, has offered Council $1.3m for some of the former Mullum Hospital site. Councillors resolved to ‘defer consideration of the sale’ to Catholic Healthcare until a workshop is held, ‘outlining potential activities on the whole site’.
As part of approval conditions for the Byron Bay bypass project, Butler and Burns Street homes and businesses will soon have ‘noise abatement private works’ carried out on their properties.
A draft Arts and Culture policy will go on public exhibition. Part of that policy aims to ‘recruit a fully qualified arts administrator to facilitate, plan, coordinate and manage the arts and culture sector’.
Funding will be identified from ‘appropriate funding sources to be included in the 2020/21 budget’.
Regarding the COVID-19 crisis, Council have waived ‘all rent and licence fees to businesses affected and identified in the report from March 15 to June 30, 2020.’
These are by no means the only items voted on by councillors last week. For more info visit Byron Shire Council’s website.