By Mitch Guy
CONCERNED Inverloch resident Kevin Griffin’s vision to form the Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association has come to fruition, with unanimous support at a public meeting on Saturday.
The meeting, which was initiated and subsidised by Mr Griffin, drew a strong crowd of about 130 ratepayers.
Those present supported the proposal and unanimously endorsed the formation of a new shire-wide body, the Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association, whose general aim is to seek to raise the standard of accountability, transparency, community engagement, and fiscal discipline at the Bass Coast Shire Council.
A cross-section of the municipality was present at the meeting, with residents from across the shire voicing their concerns.
Mr Griffin did not hold back in his criticism of the BCSC and encouraged guests to take a stand.
“A shire-wide association would give the community a good vehicle by which we could ask pertinent questions of the people standing for council to find out what their views are and what commitments and pledges they would make to our community over the next few years,” he said.
“I believe that Bass Coast Shire Council has developed a very poor culture, this culture has caused a severe disconnect between the council and the community.
“This council has a lack of respect for other people’s money, and it’s our money.
“I believe it’s high time that Bass Coast Shire Council started living within ratepayers’ means.
“I have no objection to paying fair rates and fair taxes. It’s a cornerstone of the modern civilised democracy, however I do have an objection to paying unfair taxes and rates and I am particularly upset when I see my hard-earned money being wasted.”
There wasn’t a hand in the
room that wasn’t raised when Mr Griffin moved a motion to start the association.
A management committee was formed with Mr Griffin elected president, Rhyll’s Judy Lawrence the secretary and Cowes’ Gary Simmons the treasurer, along with general committee members including Wonthaggi’s Jamie Moresco, Cowes’ Pago Sampson and Rhyll’s John Swarbrick.
Membership of the association will be just $1 for singles and $2 for families.
Mr Griffin said he is tremendously pleased with the calibre of community members who have stepped forward to serve on the committee.
“All of these people are highly skilled and qualified, and they are all passionate about improving our Bass Coast community,” he said.
“The community can have every confidence that this association will represent the broader interests of ratepayers and residents across the width and breadth of the shire.
“From what community members had to say at the public meeting, taken together with the results of the recent State Government community satisfaction survey, I am in no doubt that Bass Coast Shire Council has lost the confidence of a substantial majority of the community.”
For someone so passionate about holding the council accountable, Mr Griffin was asked why he isn’t running for council at the upcoming election himself.
“I would dearly love to nominate myself to serve the community as a councillor, but the reality of it at the moment is my employment conditions do not permit me to do that,” he responded.
“If my employment circumstances were different, I would happily step forward and offer myself to serve the community.”
The salary of Bass Coast Shire CEO Paul Buckley was a key discussion at the meeting.
Mr Griffin quoted an article from the Sydney Morning Herald in May 2016, which showed data compiled by the Australian Taxation Office of the average salaries for occupations throughout Australia.
“In Victoria, the top earners are surgeons who are on salaries of $368,863 a year, which in my opinion that is quite fair,” Mr Griffin said.
“Moving down the list we get to number eight – chief executives and managing directors. The average salary is $164,008.
“Our CEO at the Bass Coast Shire Council, last year his salary was around $320,000. The average is half that. Included in his $320,000 was a $20,000 bonus. For some people in our community, $20,000 would represent three, four, maybe five months of their annual income.
“CEOs on obscene salaries can merely shrug off cost of living increases and excessive rate rises. It doesn’t impact them but it’s not so easy for others in the community.”
We need to work together
ALTHOUGH Saturday’s meeting about the new Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association was civil, many attendees took the opportunity to voice their opinions during question time.
One speaker was Inverloch’s Ed Kosciuk, who suggested that Bass Coast residents can address their issues by writing to the Minister for Local Government, the ombudsman and the State Government’s officer of integrity.
The new association could be used to organise lobbying through these channels, according to Mr Kosciuk.
“If enough of us write about this, write to the ombudsman, write to the minister for local government, and the officer of integrity, then somebody’s got to listen,” he said.
“We could all wait for the new councillors but that’s happening in September. There are things that we can do now to wake up potential councillors.”