FACING serious drugs charges after a police raid on his family’s Walkerville farming property on Monday, April 15, South Gippsland Councillor Jeremy Rich has tendered his resignation, effective May 9.
He will be the fifth councillor from the strife-torn South Gippsland Shire Council to do so in the past six months.
However, while his colleagues departed the scene citing bullying and poor governance, Cr Rich has left with a lecture for the Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek urging him to “do the right thing”.
The following statement was issued by Cr Rich, after the Mayor Cr Don Hill announced Cr Rich had tendered his resignation.
“As most people would be aware, there is a great deal of noise around South Gippsland at present with numerous allegations being made that are yet to be substantiated.
“I have been charged after a recent search on my family property in Walkerville and will be defending the charges vigorously knowing that justice will prevail.
“Although it is a Councillor’s privilege to seek a leave of absence during this time my mandate since volunteering for the post of Councillor has been quite simple. Help the shire become the best it can be. Be simple, be honest and be decisive. For this reason, I have decided not to take a leave of absence.
“Rather, I have decided to resign as a councillor in the best interest of the region; council and the community.
“My resignation is a call on the Minister, The Hon Adem Somyurek MLC, to also do the right thing and not to be distracted.
“The Minister currently has a great responsibility ahead in responding to his appointed Monitor’s, Peter Stephenson, final report.
“Fundamental questions of how best to protect democracy and the voices in South Gippsland whilst delivering the essential public services that our region requires now and into the future are at stake.
“Our region and those elected to represent us deserve the appropriate chance to respond to the report without distraction.
“My commitment to run for council was to improve outcomes for the community.
“Whilst I have always been an advocate of robust debate, it is when the debate runs the risk of causing dissent that a call must be made.
“And I will not take the risk that the allegations made against me will divide our community when we need unity now more than ever.
“Given the proper opportunity, I believe the current council will be vindicated when the report and council’s response to it is tabled in parliament.
“If the democratically elected progressive element of our council is removed, we will end up with a council that is only focussed on preserving the status quo. Without a council comprising of members of the community that are prepared to look ahead, engage with the community, have genuine discussions and formulate plans for change if necessary, Gippsland will be left vulnerable to the changing environmental and economic pressures we currently face.
“I hope to be a part of the future in which a ‘Self Sustainable South Gippsland’ emerges as [a] national benchmark of how well a regional community can work collaboratively and constructively together.
“A sustainable future that takes account of the environmental, economic, social and cultural aspects required to create a bright future for all current and future generations that are fortunate to live in our beautiful South Gippsland and Australia.
“It is with great sadness and deep regret that I resign as a councillor for the Coastal Ward of South Gippsland Shire. It has been an honour and a privilege to meet and serve as many members of the South Gippsland Community as I have during my time on council.
“I have witnessed the resilience and strength of so many members of our community that I can only hope to have learned something from you all along the way.
“I hope that I may have made some small difference in my service to the region.”
He closed his statement with: “Thank you and God bless.”
Thanks from the Mayor
The Mayor Cr Hill has issued his own statement at the departure of Cr Rich, thanking him for his service.
“At Wednesday’s Council meeting Cr Jeremy Rich tendered his resignation from South Gippsland Shire Council,” said Cr Hill.
“Cr Rich chose to step down from his Councillor role to give the Council a chance to respond to the Municipal Monitor’s report without any distractions caused by Cr Rich’s current private matters. “We thank Cr Rich for his work done as a Councillor.
“The resignation takes effect on May 9th,” said Cr Hill.
The Local Government Minister has been asked for his response.