There has been a succession of issues over the past month which highlight concerns large numbers of people have with the Bass Coast Shire Council. Amazingly, the council has achieved the remarkable outcome of having large sections of the communities of Inverloch, Wonthaggi and Phillip Island off side, all at the same time.
The council has claimed the recent abandonment of the long proposed retirement village at Inverloch as a good outcome.
Nothing could be further from the truth. A decade ago, one of Australia’s largest companies purchased land at Inverloch to establish what was to be a magnificent retirement village with more than 200 homes.
After years of frustration dealing with the council, they sold out at a massive loss to another company experienced in retirement villages.
After a lengthy period of frustration in dealing with the council, that company also abandoned the proposal.
The third owner of the site has recently announced the retirement village proposal is abandoned and the site will become another land subdivision of which Inverloch already has several.
With our aging population and demographic, Bass Coast needs high quality retirement villages and the abandonment of this proposal is a great loss to our community.
The council has also announced that the long awaited and urgently needed footpath along Surf Parade in Inverloch will finally go ahead with the Mayor describing it as a fabulous asset.
Last year, at the now Mayor’s request, the council deferred constructing this urgently needed asset and, as is absolutely typical of their style of operation, sent the proposal off to highly paid consultants.
As absolutely predicted by numerous people pressing for years to have this path established, all this achieved was to hold the process up for another year and at an extra cost approaching $100,000.
This council is totally driven by consultants. The next issue was the announcement by the council that they are closing the Visitor Information Centre at Wonthaggi.
This decision and announcement was made without any prior consultation with stakeholders who are now understandably livid with the outcome.
Who looked at the operation of this valued service in Wonthaggi and recommended its closure?
Yet again, of course, highly paid consultants.
The loss of this service for visitors will reverberate throughout our community in a highly adverse manner.
Business houses will lose trade and without doubt, Wonthaggi’s fabulous State Coal Mine tourist attraction will lose significant patronage.
Most tourists passing through Wonthaggi have never heard of the State Mine until advised by volunteers at the Visitor Information Centre.
The large loss of patronage to the State Mine will have a dramatic impact on its viability.
The council can run this vital tourist information centre on a shoestring with the dedicated group of volunteers doing most of the work yet they chose to close it.
Early in their term, current councillors insisted on pressing ahead using consultants and spending $250,000 preparing plans for a private street scheme which was a proposal clearly opposed by the majority of the effected residents at Cape Paterson.
The proposed scheme was finally abandoned in the face of fierce opposition from a majority of effected property owners.
As a result, the money was effectively squandered yet the councillors are now pressing ahead with a very similar proposal at the Sunset Strip estate on Phillip Island.
Large numbers of effected property owners have made their opposition well known yet the council is pressing ahead.
I predict this scheme will ultimately also be rejected by a clear majority of land owners and if so, hundreds of thousands of dollars will again have been wasted.
Cr Kimberley Brown will no doubt feel the full effect of the residents’ anger at the coming council election.
A major concern shire-wide is the continuing use of highly paid consultants when council’s own highly paid executives should be undertaking most of this work.
In the face of all this, I was amazed to read the following advertisement in Victoria’s highest circulating daily newspaper on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 and I quote: “Council is seeking to establish a panel of suitably qualified consultants to deliver organisation development programs to Councillors and Council staff. The tender is for a two year contract, with an extension option at the discretion of Council of up to one year.”
So there we have it, in print, clear as crystal. The councillors want not just one consultant, but a panel of consultants to wet nurse them and tell them what to do.
This council has wasted millions of dollars on highly paid consultants throughout their time in office and regardless of how they will duck for cover, they plan to do so for the remainder of their term and beyond if they are re-elected.
This tender closed only last week, on Friday, April 8 so there is no way they can truthfully deny that they are proposing to continue to use highly paid consultants over the next two years.
The next council election will be in six months’ time and for most people I know, this date can’t come quickly enough.
Alan Brown, Wattle Bank.