“Rather than standing alone, we’ll be standing together,” Cr Bradley Drew, right, seated next to Cr Andrew Phillips, proclaimed proudly at last week’s council meeting as councillors agreed in unison to support and partially fund a review which could end up being the first major step in Phillip Island breaking away from Bass Coast Shire. G054214
JUST a few short months ago, the campaign for Phillip Island’s secession from Bass Coast Shire seemed dead in the water.
Now, with the state election merely weeks away, a detailed review of Bass Coast Shire’s service provision, infrastructure and investment on Phillip Island looks set to go ahead, with the council agreeing to chip in up to $35,000 to make it happen.
In what was described by Cr Phil Wright as a landmark decision at last week’s council meeting, all councillors voting on the matter agreed unanimously to support a recent State Government proposal, which asked the council to fund the balance of a review after the government agreed to pay for two-thirds of it.
The review, due to be completed by February, is expected to cost somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000.
Speaking at the council meeting, Cr Wright said history may look back at last week’s decision as “a turning point for Phillip Island”, but he also touched on feeling “compromised” by the way the Minister for Local Government, Tim Bull, first announced the review.
“Initially I was delighted, but it was so politicised that the press release that went with (the announcement) didn’t say this was a review for the people of Phillip Island or Bass Coast Shire, it was principally about the Liberal candidate,” he said.
Cr Wright said he’d thought the matter through, however, and decided to “take a chance” and support the request for council to help fund the review.
“There is a risk here, this could be seen as a political stunt based around the state election, but it might be something much more significant,” he continued.
Cr Jordan Crugnale said the review’s evidence-based document will provide councillors with the opportunity to have “a really good discussion in February to find out which way we’re going to go”.
“I think as councillors we need to be open and bring the shire with us, for the benefit of the whole shire,” she noted.
Cr Andrew Phillips also threw his support behind the review, stating that it will provide “some outcomes and a good way forward.”
Cr Kimberley Brown approved of council keeping what it was willing to contribute to the review capped at $35,000.
“It feels like we’re engaged but not totally married to the project,” she said.
“We’re very lucky to have been given this offer.”
Cr Bradley Drew described the State Government’s proposal and the pending council decision as “a fantastic result for both the community and this council.”
“$35,000 is a big chunk of council money but I believe it is money well spent,” he said.
“I believe the results we get out of this review will enhance our community and make us stronger.
“Rather than standing alone, we’ll be standing together.”
Following contact with Mr Bull’s office last Tuesday, council’s CEO, Paul Buckley, confirmed a steering group would be established to support the review, consisting of himself, Local Government Victoria’s executive director as chair, a representative from PIPA and the president of the Municipal Association of Victoria or his delegate.
Where the council will find the additional $35,000 for its contribution to the review is expected to be sorted at the next quarterly budget review.
A Phillip Island Progress Association (PIPA) spokesperson said the group was very pleased the council had decided to embrace the service review.
“We are also pleased to secure a seat on the steering committee and we look forward to cooperating in every way possible,” the spokesperson said.