THE person synonymous with the sacking of the South Gippsland Shire Council in June 2019, Don Hill, the serving mayor when the council went down, has declared his intention to return to the council table on the first day nominations opened on Thursday this week.
Described in damning terms in State Parliament in June 2019 by local MP Danny O’Brien, at the time of the council’s dismissal, for allegedly denying the problems that led to the council’s dismissal, he has nominated as a candidate in the Tarwin Valley ward.
Mr Hill was joined by three other candidates on the day; prominent South Gippsland Action Group official Lindsay Love, former councillor Rosemary Cousin, also a member of the dismissed group, and sports administrator John Schelling.
Leongatha mother-of-two Clare Williams, children’s welfare officer Adrian Darakai and Les Harmer have also joined the race in Tarwin Valley – 16 candidates in all across the shire by the end of the day last Friday.
There were initially three nominations received for Coastal Promontory Ward, Mohya Davies, a member of the next-to-last council regime, politically-savvy Toora resident Sue Plowright and young Greens candidate Mat Morgan, with Anda Banikos, Sarah Gilligan and David Liebeth also coming on board by Friday.
There were three nominations in Strzelecki; Jenni Keeri, Mick Felton and Jim Forbes.
A former educator in schools, TAFE and university, for 35 years, Sue Plowright, was among the first to complete her paperwork at the VEC’s South Gippsland Electoral Office in beautiful Bair Street.
With members of the local community out and about in the refurbished street, enjoying the sunshine, the new trees and street furniture, and the pleasures that come with release from lockdown, Ms Plowright joined them for lunch at a local café before heading back down the highway.
“I been living in the area for seven years, and have family living in the Foster area for longer, and with my background in governance and education, I thought I could make a useful contribution,” Ms Plowright said.
The Toora resident has a PhD in democracy, governance and education and believes she offers a level of expertise to the council and the local community that could prove useful as the council re-establishes its democratic processes.
With no political affiliations these days, she has nonetheless experienced the rough and tumble of political life and shapes as a likely local representative.
But Mr Hill’s bid for redemption is the interesting one.
Expected to be poll well again in the Mirboo North area, for his stance on the redevelopment of the iconic town swimming pool there, his return to council would provide an opportunity for him to answer allegations raised by Mr O’Brien and others at the time of his dismissal.
Here, in part, is what Mr O’Brien MP said in State Parliament on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.
“As the commission of inquiry has not, I do not want to make personal comments about any of the particular councillors, but I do want to comment on the mayor’s behaviour and approach to this over the last couple of months,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It has been rather Orwellian in his denials of there being any problem. He has constantly told the community through the press, through his own statements and through the mayoral statement in the local papers that the council is performing well and effectively.
“That was in the face of huge evidence publicly suggesting otherwise, but until we had the monitor’s report and the commission of inquiry report, we did not have official confirmation of that.
“For the mayor to be continually saying that there was not a problem brought to mind the man who was referred to as Comical Ali in the Iraq War who, as the allied forces were literally at the gates of Baghdad, was still saying a great victory was at hand.
“The mayor’s comments were totally implausible, and he was clearly in denial. I hope for everyone’s sake that he now accepts the monitor’s report and the commissioners’ report and the decision of this Parliament, apologises and moves on.
“I also understand this is not the end and that the local government inspectorate has a number of ongoing investigations, so I look forward to those being resolved. But once they are, and over the next couple of years, we have time to heal and move on, so now is the time to start doing that,” Mr O’Brien said.
Nominations to stand in the South Gippsland Shire Council election close at 12 noon on Tuesday, September 21.