Bass Coast Mayor Cr Michael Whelan said there wasn’t enough time to deal with the questions at last week’s council meeting which ultimately ran for 75 minutes.

 

THERE were so many questions, according Mayor Cr Michael Whelan, at last week’s Bass Coast Shire Council meeting that the council had opted to take them all “on notice”, that is, not to read them out or answer them at the meeting.

Cr Whelan gave an assurance, however, that the questions would be responded to in the published Minutes on Friday, March 18.

In fact, 14 questions were published and responded to in the Minutes, but at least one other question didn’t appear.

It was a question from Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association President Kevin Griffin.

He wanted to hold Cr Whelan to account for allegedly saying in August 2016, that there was no reason why council’s waste contracts, their cost and performance, could not be made public.

Mr Griffin said it was disappointing the questions had not been addressed at the council meeting but was also interested to know how many other questions were ruled out.

“It was an outrageous and appalling decision by Cr Whelan and will not be allowed to go by without challenge,” Mr Griffin said.

“It’s a pretty feeble excuse to say there wasn’t enough time, especially given that there were supposedly only 14 questions put to council by the community.

“It’s not up to par in our opinion and we’ll certainly be making a formal complaint.

“The questions are an important opportunity for the public to get answers from council, part of the democratic process we’d say, and I’d be very concerned if the approach taken by the Mayor was an indication of what they think about question time,” he said.

“It’s all about how council remains accountable, and it was a pretty glib excuse to take all of those questions on notice especially when the meeting only ran for an hours and 15 minutes.

“I’ve had a lot of people contact me and say ‘what’s the point of going to the trouble of submitting a question when they don’t even read it out’. They say it’s part of council’s contract with the community to take these questions and answer them in a public setting.

“It’s just not good enough and we’d like to see that be the last time they are put on notice. The public questions are an important part of the monthly council meeting, possibly the most important part, and they need to be respected as such,” Mr Griffin said.

So, 14 questions “on notice” were responded to last Friday, but how many questions were ruled out and for what reason?

The questions

Former Mayor, Neil Rankine, wanted to know if council had completed its investigation into “the clearing of approximately 5ha of mature native vegetation by the Barro Group at their 115 McGrady Rd Grantville property last year?”

He’d asked a similar question in December 2021.

The council responded that, upon investigation, it was revealed that “the vegetation removal was undertaken for fire prevention purposes” and therefore exempt under the planning scheme.

One of the ratepayers’ group’s questions did get through: “Will Council assure the community that it will not seek any increase to the 1.75% rate cap announced by the Minister.”

To which council replied that the issue would be considered when council considered the 2022-23 budget in April.

There were other questions about the Phillip Island bins, Graham Jolly wanted to know how much of the budgeted $69 million in rates had so far been banked ($50.5m still outstanding) and another local resident wanted to know what the latest population figures were for Cape Paterson and Inverloch, also whether there was a Township Strategy Plan for Inverloch.

Others wanted an update about beach erosion, another wanted to know the individual cost of a special charge scheme in Pioneer Bay and someone else called for the rock wall on the Inverloch inlet side to be extended along the Esplanade towards Cuttriss Street to deal with erosion.

It was all good stuff from local ratepayers but has ultimately only appeared in the Minutes from the meeting.