Ordinary Council Meeting – 26 November 2019

At tonight’s meeting (my first with 4 newly elected Councillors, all of whom I’ve now met with for good discussions on our future work together), I learnt an important lesson, and had some more disappointments on positive improvements I hoped to make. However, the new Council seems to be working effectively, and I am hopeful that improvements to process and responding to our community’s needs are possible.

Tree Removal – this is where I learnt a valuable lesson, now regretting my vote to simply resolve a matter ongoing for 18 months: a tree removal request made to Council in early 2018, that has not progressed far at all. It’s latest return to Council seemed only to bring up further, fresh issues, complicating it further, and without (in my view) Council being provided with information actually needed under our Street Tree Policy (whether it is “uneconomic” to remedy damage caused by the tree) – despite our last resolution in July 2019 actually clearly asking for that in detail. Without that information, Council could only decide to remove the tree by overriding our Policy, which we have only recently updated. I keenly felt the requesting resident’s distress at it all seeming to go nowhere, and getting more confused. Despite my preference to transplant (rather than cut down), I voted in favour of removal, in line with all but one other Councillor. I now regret this. My decision was based on wanting to see a resolution for the resident, and knowing that an attempt to defer (which should have allowed “uneconomic” info to be provided, and the “transplant” option to be considered in comparison) would have failed. However, in doing so I abandoned what I believe in – that not only should Council only cut down trees as a last resort, but that Council itself should be willing to do the ‘hard work’ to get a better, more optimum outcomes. Whilst my decision to support a ‘middle ground’ of cutting the tree down was based on a desire to address the ongoing and legitimate concerns of a resident, I can see that I should have voted in favour of deferral (albiet that it would have been defeated), for 1 month, to properly explore transplanting, and to ensure Council was given the proper information on “uneconomic”.

This is a salient lesson for me, as I have been recently outspoken on the Shark Barrier by urging Council to ‘do better’ in working to find smarter, more optimum decisions. I failed to stay true to that in my desire to finally see a result for a very patient resident after 18 months of Council “action”. I also need to do better.

I believe strongly in following process, and working to find an optimum solution taking account of as many relevant considerations as possible. But, rather than let the frustrations of delay and lack of information get the better of that, I should myself be willing to work harder to improve our processes, overcome delays and gain information. I’m not serving the community to the best of my ability if I don’t do that work myself first.

Shark Fishing – I was surprised to see the new Shark Barrier now being used as a rationale not to do more to stop dangerous shark fishing off the Groyne at night. The assumption the Barrier now ‘solves the problem’ is flawed logic, in my opinion. In debate, I spoke about the people outside the Barrier area – surfers at Cove, ocean swimmers up to North Cott and the *actually* quite large numbers of people who choose to swim outside the Barrier at Cott Beach – and how not doing more to stop shark fishing at Cott Beach ignores them and puts them at risk. Clearly, any sharks attracted to the Groyne by the (illegal) use of berley or offal by shark-fishers, will not be thinking “well, a shark barrier, I’ll swim out to sea, not 150m to the north or south”. We should solve the shark fishing problem, not hide in our Barrier.

Additionally, it now seems self-serving to say the Shark Barrier is necessary because we aren’t doing more to stop shark fishing. It’s clearly the wrong way around – I fear we may now start hearing how important the Barrier is to protect people from shark-fishers’ activities. No – we should first do more to stop dangerous shark-fishing.

Depot – I spoke emphatically against agreeing to $64,000 in variations to a “fixed price” works contract to construct the new Town Depot. Whilst it was unfortunately “water under the bridge” (and I accept one supervening factor out of our control), my fundamental point remains the same as when I voted against the award of the Depot Tender itself – our procurement processes need improvement, to ensure the Town gets better “value for money” and we can deliver more to our community. I’m saddened to think of what at least some of that $64,000 could have delivered elsewhere across the Town. I’m hopeful of seeing improvements in this area in 2020.

Creativity – lastly, Council was faced with a relatively simple decision on naming 2 laneways after a well-loved local. In my view, the final resolution missed an opportunity to seek a better result for residents keen to honour him in their own way. I did propose a solution I thought could do this, but it went unmet by a willingness to explore it. I am hopeful I can work with other councillors to continually improve our processes to create room for more collaborative, creative discussions, and find better or more effective solutions to issues – and deliver on our core goal to serve our residents.

Michael

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