By Michael Giles
Members of the South Gippsland Community Action Group, who attended last week’s public presentation session, claimed it was the best behaved they’d seen their South Gippsland Shire councillors in the past two years.
Spokesperson for the group, Otto Ippel was commenting on the fact that the State Government appointed municipal monitor, Peter Stephenson, was attending his first meeting and that councillors appeared to be on their best behaviour.
That may or may not have been the case but if it’s true, that it takes a ‘suit’ from Melbourne to get them to lift their game, it’s an absolute indictment on their disgraceful performance to date.
What better motivation could they possibly have for working together in a respectful and productive manner, in an effort to get the most out of the shire’s scarce resources, than being accorded the privilege of representing the good folk of the South Gippsland Shire?
If that’s not enough motivation to do your best, they shouldn’t need to be sacked. They should simply resign.
But when was the last time we heard our councillors, for example, driving efficiencies in the shire’s operations so that they could deliver much needed programs and services for the community?
When was the last time councillors were prepared to set aside parochial interest to deliver infrastructure and services where they can have the most impact?
It’s budget time for goodness sake and they’re preoccupied with poor governance, conflicts of interest and bad behaviour instead of reshaping the budget to best advantage.
And they didn’t have to look far for inspiration last Wednesday.
At the same meeting as our councillors were sitting up straight in class, trying to ask their most intelligent questions and looking as engaged in the subject matter as possible, came a cry for help from the community.
There simply isn’t enough room, we’re told, to meet demand for kinder and day care services at Foster, according to the Prom Coast Centres for Children, committee members of which made a compelling submission on the day.
They need another room to expand and improve services.
While this council is wasting money on legal advice and consultants’ reports to defend itself against the legal action being taken by the family company of one of its own councillors, kids in the Corner Inlet area are missing out.
While this council is wasting its time and energy, and our money on sorting out its own governance and behaviour problems, unsealed local roads are being left in a dangerous state.
That’s the real price of poor governance and a dysfunctional council… deserving people and causes in the community miss out.
Our councillors ought to be ashamed of themselves, that they’ve allowed this debilitating situation to drag on to the point where the Minister for Local Government needed to intervene.
If our councillors are to remain in the privileged position of being our representatives, we want an explanation, a public statement about what has occurred, an apology and reaffirmation about their commitment to delivering what’s best for the community.