By Michael Giles
CR DON Hill and Cr Andrew McEwen have been plotting the demise of the ‘majority voting block’ on the South Gippsland Shire Council for quite some time.
It’s no secret.
In their literature, they have highlighted the average 7% increase in rates over the past decade, the poor community satisfaction survey scores, the inequity in the distribution of works and services and claims that the majority block wants to build a new $32 million Taj Mahal for the shire’s administration; to support their claims.
And either directly or indirectly they have blamed Crs Brunt, Davies, Fawcett, Hutchinson-Brooks and Newton for the shire’s shortcomings.
Whether its $24 million or $32 million (including interest costs), and whether the funds pay for a civic centre, library and community centre or just council offices; it’s still a lot of money. We get that.
And their calls for genuine community involvement in the budget process and more open and transparent council processes are well made.
They have a right to raise those points and to take them to an election.
Goodness knows, the existing council of which they are a part, is not without fault and the caravan park fiasco is one issue that comes to mind.
Another matter of concern, which we have raised in these pages, is Cr Hutchison-Brooks continuing to work as a planning consultant for clients with applications before the South Gippsland Shire.
We highlighted that issue during the year, Cr Hutchinson-Brooks says he has always declared his pecuniary interest and absented himself from consideration of these matters, but the issue has been out there for the community to consider.
We’ll continue to highlight areas of concern about elected representatives and others when needed.
But what we do object to is candidates claiming to be independent when they are acting like a political party as Crs Hill and McEwen have done in this poll, especially via the joint ‘how to vote’ cards they have issued.
We have already been told by several of the Tarwin Valley candidates, approached by Cr Hill to be on his card, that it was a condition of entry into the card that he was to be their first preference.
No independent thinking there.
Apparently without collusion, all six candidates marked Meg Edwards 11th, Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks 12th and James Fawcett 13th; and because they have agreed to exchange preferences, worthy candidates like citizen of the year, Maxine Kiel, are left to languish at 7th, 8th or 9th preference when almost everyone agrees she would be an excellent representative.
One of Cr Hill’s own supporters, Di Todd apparently agrees.
In notes accompanying a ‘Letter to the Editor’ email to the Sentinel-Times last week, Ms Todd makes the following observation about the joint ‘how to vote’ card: “…but I do feel that you could have mixed up our preferences a little more, also, I did think you should have included a pamphlet explaining the issues with the how-to-vote card – then they would have had no excuse for these dummy allegations – never mind no good crying over spilt milk.”
The comments are clearly directed to Cr Don Hill who initiated, organised, authorised, and distributed the ticket.
Cr Andrew McEwen has done something very similar in Strzelecki although several of those on his ticket have acknowledged they have been “working together”.
They’ve acted like a political party in this election and while they may well go to the council table, if elected, with an independent mindset, the community will always consider that they are linked and will wonder about them considering the issues on their merits.
Other candidates in this election have developed looser alliances; groupings such as Mohya Davies, Allyson Skinner and Ray Argento or Jeanette Harding and Vincent Morfuni or Frank Oostermeyer, Jeremy Rich Matt Sherry and Jill Wilson but they haven’t taken it to the level of Hill and McEwen.
We will, however, be taking an interest to see that they consider the issues on their merits, rather than continue to be beholden to their groupings.
The problems associated with entrenched groupings are, after all, what Crs Hill and McEwen are hoping to avoid with the next council.