What I actually said to Michael Giles when he rang last week and included a statement that “there hasn’t been a strong Council in South Gippsland for years…”. His (unsigned) article p11 of Sentinel Times 25th February, misquoted me. Care is needed, especially when journalists have strong views on an issue as Michael very clearly has on this one.
South Gippsland’s last Council was riven with factions and friction and was tossed out by the Minister after too many of the Councillors, mostly first timers, resigned. The one before that had most of its members tossed out at the last Council election, mostly (speaking from memory), I think, because they were seen to be too focused on one area of the shire.
Ones before that often seemed to me to be too inclined to be party-political lapdogs instead of strong advocates for our community. But each one had some individuals who seemed OK; and being a Councillor can be such a thankless, unsupported task. So mostly I choose to not pick on them in public.
I have convened a public gathering on Tuesday, March 31 in Leongatha to discuss ‘What makes a good Council?’. I don’t think we’ve had many good Councils in this area, although we do get a few good Councillors.
When we eventually get a Council back, I’d hope ratepayers will have thought more about what they want. We are going to need a better Council next time.
This forum on March 31 is for any ratepayer, for all those who will vote for that new Council. It’s not just aimed at people who think they might one day stand for election. Before ratepayers go looking for potential Councillors, I think our community needs to consider what makes for a good Council (as a group of individuals who’ll have to make decisions together, and speak up on our behalf) and what makes for a good Councillor (i.e. each one of those individuals). This is only a first discussion. The draft of characteristics we come up with I hope will then be discussed more broadly.
South Gippsland isn’t short of community leaders. We have community leaders in every little corner of our shire, people who work together within the myriad of community groups and organisations which give our region its quality of life. It’s maybe just that not enough of those community leaders have been able or prepared to think enough about what we need in a Council, and then how to get it.
So I am, with Allan and our other speakers, inviting you to come to Leongatha on March 31 and begin the conversation. If you ring to RSVP, it’ll help me know how much supper to provide!
Susan Davies, Outtrim.

Sentinel-Times comment:
What, no thanks for the free publicity? And typical of a former MP to say they were misquoted. You did bag the previous to last council and said South Gippsland doesn’t have a good record electing strong councils. Are you going to tell us how to do it now at your forum on the 31st? I don’t remember you ever being a local government councillor, but I do remember Cr Andrew McEwen’s involvement in your Energy Innovation Co-operative. Surely now a conflict of interest for you as well as an undeclared conflict for your co-op colleague when voting to fund your organisation while on council. Cr McEwen’s vendetta against his previous boss, shire CEO Tim Tamlin, poisoned the last regime. No, Ms Davies there was a toxic culture on the last council, and we are in this mess because of them. If you think I have strong opinions about it, you are absolutely right. It’s been a disgraceful waste of time, money and effort, caused damage to our democracy and been a total betrayal of the community’s trust. (Written by Michael Giles).