Michael McDonald, Bairnsdale VIC
I sympathise with Ballina councillor Ben Smith’s outburst at the NSW government, as repᵒrted by David Lowe in last week’s Echo. Cr Smith described the relationship between councils and the government as ‘abusive’, with councils expected to absorb growing financial shortfalls without being able to charge appropriate levies.
It has been ever thus. In my 20-plus years as a journalist and editor for The Echo, I often observed the Macquarie Street MPs, the Department of Local Government and the state planners treat country councillors as yokels who needed to be placated, abused or lied to.
Countless planning ‘strategies’ have been dished up, peppered with buzzwords such as ‘sustainable growth’, but rarely adhered to, especially when a minister finds him/herself at lunch with a prominent developer. Councils have been admonished to rein in their financial profligacy because, heaven knows, the state government never played fast and loose with the public purse.
The only defence against the hubris of the state seems to be when citizens who have attracted the attention of the news media rise up with firebrands and pitchforks to protect their region. (In case the AFP is reading this, the last sentence contains a mildly amusing allusion to Frankenstein movie tropes, not an actual call to arms.)