The South Gippsland Shire Council is proposing a change to Council Policy C65 – Presentations to Council, which result in an attack on your rights to take part in civic life.
That is a right included in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Charter – a Charter which Council has adopted and included in the Council Plan.
Under the proposed changes there are two insidious changes.
Firstly, for groups or individuals, you can only present to Council up to a maximum of three times per 12-month period.
Over a 12-month period there may well be a large array of topics that a group representing the broader ratepayer base may need to tackle on behalf of its membership base – this is an attack on the likes of the South Gippsland Action Group (SGAG).
SGAG does not represent a single interest group as does say a sporting club or a small geographical area. It looks at issues affecting any residents or groups within the shire.
Over the last 12 months, SGAG has canvassed a wide range of issues to Council including: Growth for Reduced Rates, the budget, Rates Hardship Policy, community engagement and transparency, the Equestrian Centre, the tourist steam rail and Rail Trail, tourism, Coal Creek, Yanakie Water Supply, sewer and water to Venus Bay/Tarwin Lower, Promontory Bike Path, Leongatha Railway Yards, Bair Street Parking, Coastal Growth, Linear Sculpture Trail, Leongatha Botanic Gardens and the Local Law Amendments.
If SGAG was limited to three presentations per year then it could not have responded to requests from residents to help restore local roads cut by landslips. Surely the Council needs to hear the views of the community to inform its decision making!
The second issue is with questions to Council. You can only ask three questions at a meeting and the total word count of the questions is limited to a total of 100 words.
Often a question is more understandable if it contains some small amount of text which helps quantify or qualify the question. This prevents you from asking a detailed question.
Please note that all this is from a Council which has a satisfaction rating of just 35% (state average 55%), a community satisfaction rating of 40% (average 56%), and where 17.39% (average 9.55%) of all meeting decisions are made in closed meetings.
We urge ratepayers to safeguard your rights by advising Council to not adopt this change to C65 – please write and email your opposition.
Lindsay Love, Leongatha.