By Michael Giles
NOT everything about the South Gippsland Shire Council is bad.
Importantly the shire’s ratepayers are well served by one of the most committed and motivated staff you’d hope see in local government, with a liberal sprinkling of local people who love this area and see their roles as a chance serve the community and to make it better.
The shire is also financially strong, so much so that it could afford to provide rate relief for the farmers while still delivering the services and infrastructure improvements we’d like to see.
But the Council, as we know, is a dud.
They’ve spent too much of their first two years in office bogged down by in-fighting, political struggles, bullying of their fellow councillors especially via streams of hideous emails, self-interest, and damaging personal agendas.
As a result, they’ve missed the chance to get-together as one to drive hard important projects like the redevelopment of Bair Street and the Leongatha railway yards, the Korumburra streetscape, station and railway yards plan and the extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail, to name a few. There’s also the opportunity for efficiency gains and reforms within the shire’s operations that could have done with a more collegiate approach to policy change than personal point scoring.
The Bair Street and Korumburra CBD projects required the implementation of a careful and relentless political campaign by the council that sought to engage both the Federal and State governments, and a commitment of serious funding by the council, extending to a borrowing strategy if necessary.
Instead we see no action in
Leongatha and a half-cocked implementation in Korumburra.
Why, for example, is the council spending money on the development of a master plan for the Korumburra railway yards and detailed plans for a community hub on Victrack land when it is yet to get a commitment in writing that it has the land, either on long-term lease or freehold.
How can you design a building when you’ve got no commitment to the land?
It’s crunch time for the notoriously recalcitrant authority to finally make decision about this centrally located land and for the shire to get on with this important work in Leongatha and Korumburra.
If our councillors had their minds on the job and not on self-interest the community could have expected some serious progress by now.