by Michael Giles

THE trouble with the South Gippsland Shire Council is expected to escalate over the next four to five weeks but it seems unlikely that the State Government will sack the council before its Saturday, November 24 election.
However, that’s the only thing that appears to be saving them at this stage.
How these elected councillors can get away with tearing down what is effectively an agency of the government is beyond me and election or no election, Daniel Andrews and his Local Government Minister, Marlene Kairouz, should be prepared to act if that’s the right thing to do, election or not.
This week we have Cr Jeremy Rich’s family company Ansevata Nominees taking the council to VCAT in an attempt to resolve the impasse over the Walkerville retarding basin.
It’s a lawyers’ picnic at the moment featuring both sides’ choice of experts and seemingly no common ground in their assessments of contamination or otherwise and where it might be coming from.
One thing for sure, it’s costing us the ratepayers.
As a consequence, the owners of the adjoining farm to the retarding basin, the Rich family, say they have been unable to use the water for stock and irrigation purposes, seeking a huge figure in compensation.
What Cr Rich and his family hope to achieve by taking the shire to VCAT and sullying its reputation further is unclear but to date the shire council has been unequivocal, apart from the $60,000 they stupidly handed over earlier to sort out one of the Rich family’s claims.
Also, in the past few weeks we have seen the unedifying spectacle of Cr Don Hill at another VCAT hearing, supporting the opposing view to his own council on the issue of subdividing a farming property at Mirboo North.
Surely he should simply stay away and await the outcome.
Cr Hill appears to be hoping the Trease case might set a new precedent, forcing a policy change in South Gippsland and clearing the way to more hobby farms and rural residential allotments at the expense of agriculture.
We also have the case of alleged wrong-doing by Cr Andrew McEwen which will begin to reach a crescendo after Tarwin Lower resident John Zakula faces the Supreme Court, on September 25, in relation to an investigation by the Local Government Inspectorate into the release of unauthorized information from South Gippsland Shire Council.
There’s reportedly other charges being investigated by the Inspectorate and talk of at least one bullied councillor considering resigning later this year.
It’s an unholy mess with some of our elected representatives making matters worse, not better.
What should they do? Call out the damaging impact of their colleagues’ actions and refocus on making a difference for the community while there’s still time.