Last night’s Lismore City Council meeting was again, as always, full of contentious issues, and also again, long and arduous with Team Krieg winning the day on most of the big issues.
One would imagine that after events earlier this year, the membership of the Floodplain Risk Management Committee would be crucial to Lismore’s survival and that councillors would think long and hard about the welfare of all members of the Lismore LGA.
In Matters Arising the subject of this committee’s membership was debated with agendas and politics clear from the outset.
The Executive Summary concluded with a list of names chosen after the expression of interest process was complete. The names put forward for the committee were Ian McPherson, Graham Askey, Graeme Saal, Art Beavis and Annie Kia.
Cr Andrew Gordon was quick to stand and make an amendment to that list – all he needed was a seconder and Cr Jensen obliged.
Cr Gordon’s top picks
Cr Gordon’s proposed committee comprised Ian McPherson and Graham Askey from the list with the addition of Col Baker, Leisa Blok and Bill Moorhouse and the exclusion of Graeme Saal, Art Beavis and Annie Kia.
Cr Gordon reserved the right to speak to his amendment at the end of the debate but then immediately added that after 50 years of living in Lismore and getting to know a wide section of the community, those 50 years of lived experience dictated to him that he thinks that ‘we’ve made a better selection for this committee’.
It was not clear who ‘we’ is.
Cr Adam Guise compromise
Cr Adam Guise also had an amendment, with a proposed list of names including the recommendation’s members Ian McPherson, Graham Askey, Graeme Saal, Art Beavis, as well as reinstating Cr Gordon’s removed Annie Kia and adding two additional members, Crystal Lenane and Jeremy Stewart.
Cr Adam Guise said he recognised that there were a lot of very worthy people who applied for the committee. ’It’s great to see how many enthusiastic people want to have a say in how we manage and deal with our floodplain and the risks associated with it.
‘I, in comparison to Cr Gordon, have a different view of some of the people who I’d like to see on this, and while I can appreciate Cr Gordon might have particular interests, I think what staff have recommended is a good basis to go with, but I wanted to include the extra representatives.’
Cr Ekins’ inclusiveness
Cr Vanessa Ekins said that her experience on the Floodplain Committee has taught her a lot and that more members would be of value. ‘Not everybody is available at every meeting, but rather than us excluding some people and put other people up, I’d like to suggest that Cr Gordon’s people be included and the additional people that Cr Guise is suggesting as well,’ she said.
Cr Guise was happy to agree to Cr Ekins’ proposal and that was put to a vote. It was no surprise that those in favour were Crs Bird, Ekins, Cook and Guise – with team Krieg opposed.
Cr Elly Bird proposed that at least Annie Kia be included in the list, considering her knowledge and expertise. The mayor asked Cr Gordon if he would take that idea on, but Cr Gordon was steadfast.
‘No, thank you, Mr Mayor,’ was his response.
Cr Bird’s voice of reason
Cr Bird urged all of the councillors to put politics aside. ‘There’s no secret that there are people that have been put forward that are pro-Dunoon Dam and that my suggested amendment with the inclusion of Annie Kia includes someone who is very anti-Dunoon Dam, but I really encourage you to put that matter to the side and think about the expertise that we’re appointing to the floodplain management committee.
‘The reason I encourage you to include Annie Kia is that she is a very skilled researcher and a very skilled community engagement person,’ said Cr Bird.
‘Since the floods, she has been researching in depth the network of our gauges out in the hills and engaging very deeply with the numerous people who send in reports of what happens when the rain falls, which then informs what happens in Lismore. She’s incredibly dedicated, and determined to see meaningful change to that system that will impact and inform what happens with future flooding.
Who is Annie Kia?
‘She is also part of a very active community Citizens Radio Network project that is being run across multiple communities and she is very deeply involved in a research project that has been run by the Australian National University, which is 100 per cent around amplifying and increasing local knowledge and the way that local knowledge informs flood warnings and flood information.’
Cr Bird said there was no harm in including Ms Kia on the Floodplain Management Committee. ‘There is already a majority of people on there that are of a particular opinion around the issue, that I have encouraged us all to put aside in this decision. I really ask you to respect the expertise that is being developed and the commitment and connection to community that is being displayed.
‘We talk so often about the importance of local knowledge, well, I would suggest that Annie and the network of people that she is working with are really, really working hard to make sure that that local knowledge is well understood and well communicated in future flooding events. So I encourage you to include her in the floodplain management committee.’
Cr Cook’s good question
Cr Darlene Cook asked Cr Gordon if his personal expertise was greater than the panel of who went through all the applications.
Cr Gordon said he had no expertise in anything. ‘But I have 50 years of lived experience. It’s just led me down that path and I know these people, I know they will fulfil the role admirably, and they will be honest and reliable.’
Cr Ekins very disappointed
Cr Ekins said she was very disappointed by Cr Gordon and the other councillors who voted not to include additional members of the committee. ‘Some of you have sat on a couple of committee meetings and others haven’t. I’ve had a lot of experience with the Floodplain Committee. And it’s really invaluable to have different views in that room and expertise in that room.
’It’s just really disappointing that you’ve chosen to limit the number of people – they’re mostly older men – when you could have added quite a bit of diversity to that,’ said Cr Ekins.
‘I thought that the option I put up of just adding all the people you wanted, and the other suggestions from the floor, would have made a very interesting and workable committee with a diverse number of views.
‘This is a really important committee. We need to get our floodplain risk management plan in place. Some of those people had some real expertise and some of them particularly had a very thorough working understanding of the very heavy technical documentation associated with that meeting,’ she said.
‘I’m just really disappointed – this is an opportunity for us to have a wealth of input from our community. And you’ve just blown it.’
Did they blow it?
Blow it they did.
Team Krieg voted for Cr Gordon’s brand of committee and the evening moved on.