IT WAS very much back to the basics of “roads, rates and rubbish” for the new South Gippsland Shire Council Mayor, Cr Mohya Davies, when she was appointed to lead the district’s first elected council since the dramatic dismissal of 2019.
And she wasted no time in putting everyone on notice that she believed the shire’s rates were already high enough… “that we need to be realistic about what is possible”.
In her address to the eight other councillors – who had just elected her as Mayor – and the community, Cr Davies said the first aim of council was “the restoration of a council that can be trusted and respected by the community”.
“The eyes of the community, our region and the state will be upon us,” Cr Davies said.
“I would like to thank you… sorry, I’m a little emotional, it’s been a big lead up to this.
“The election is a challenging process, and I believe the voters have made their choice and have chosen very, very well. I’m feeling the weight of responsibility, and I’m humbled by the experience of becoming Mayor.
“This is an opportunity to work with the CEO and the organisation at a new level. Thank you to all of the councillors for their very genuine support and the confidence they’ve shown in me.
“I see a bright future for South Gippsland and I’m excited and energised. We are embarking on a new era.”
But Cr Davies was quick to return to the basics of local government: rates, roads – especially the 1200km of unmade roads – and rubbish.
“As South Gippsland continues to grow, we need to manage the pressure of planning for the future of our community and what that will look like.”
She congratulated her new colleagues on their election, thanked the other candidates, acknowledged the high turnout to vote and the role of the administrators, especially chair Julie Eisenbise, in keeping the council going until democracy was restored.
Cr Davies finished on a light-hearted note, saying her children thought she was crazy for re-entering the local government arena and that “we will visit you in councillor rehab”.
But she also made it clear what she expects from a council she leads: “From the beginning, the team has shown a collegiate response. I like to go to gym at the Foster Football Clubrooms in the mornings and up on the wall there’s a sign that says ‘TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More’. And I believe that we as a group will be able to work as a great team, so yay, let’s go.”
Speaking to the Sentinel-Times afterwards, Cr Davies said there would be differences of opinion along the way but insisted it would be very respectful.
Cr Davies said there were a lot of challenges ahead of the council, particularly the impacts of growth, assuring the community they would be kept informed.
“We will be working on a vision, a council plan and our financial plan. We need to explain our decisions so that there are no surprises for our community.
We will be judged by our decisions and the strategic direction we create for South Gippsland.”
Cr Nathan Hersey was elected Deputy Mayor. Both appointments are for one year.
The councillors will get down to the business of council this Wednesday, November 24, at their first ordinary council meeting.