In the year since three Greens councillors and a Green mayor were elected, distinctive initiatives have been achieved in the Shoalhaven. These follow on from policy statements made during the campaign period and has included responding vigorously to events and crises as they have emerged throughout the year: homelessness, income from rates, marriage equality, climate change and foreshore protection.
Each of these issues received regular opposition from incumbents of the previous Council but through skilful management of meetings and determined debate from Greens and Labor, consensus was frequently reached by a majority that included Team Gash. It should be noted however, that a hard core of ‘independent’ councillors, wasted time with obstructive talk and rescission motions, all at considerable financial cost to the rate-payers.
The Greens introduced their core ideas as well as practical outcomes to Council business: divestment of Council investments from fossil fuels is now happening, joining in a pledge framework to attain 100% renewables in the city by 2030; brokering of safe-shelter services to homeless people with the local churches through a task force, together with strong representations to State government about the lack of affordable housing; beginning the process of a State-wide plastic bag replacement program and locally, the banning of gas-filled balloons, both causing long-term damage to the environment.
Other initiatives have been the healthy cities approach, embracing cycleways and an electric bus trial; the Bomaderry basketball complex was finally brokered and approved and a ‘beach wheels’ service for the physically disabled established. In residential areas, limiting the movement of quarry heavy trucks and the careless generation of woodsmoke were tackled and vandalism of foreshores by residents at Collingwood beach is finally to be resolved with a new code agreed by all parties, with enforcement to be vigorously pursued.
Our Greens councillors led the way in the Chamber with these initiatives and are to be congratulated on the many hours of work they have put in this year, a steep learning curve involving not only fronting up to far more experienced councillors in the Chamber, but also responding to rate-payers requests and attending to the many committees making decisions about planning and the many services Council provides to rate-payers and visitors to the region. The redesigned SCC website, the Facebook and email feeds, amplifies the message by supplying essential information and news about the management of the Shoalhaven environment by skilled Council staff working closely with our inspired Mayor, Amanda Findley and committed councillors, Kaye Gartner, Nina Cheyne and John Levett.
Greens led the way in Shoalhaven City Council by joining Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils in banning the release of balloons and on the use of helium to inflate balloons at Council events and in Council managed reserves.
Also resolved at the 28th March ordinary meeting of Council was to write to the State Members to inform them of the decision and urge the Members for Kiama and South Coast to introduce legislation to ban the use of helium to inflate balloons and to ban the release of balloons across New South Wales.
A submission to the Federal Government Draft Threat Abatement Plan would also be followed by Mayor Amanda Findley, SCC Voting Delegate at the Australian Local Government Association 2017 National General Assembly, to introduce a Notice of Motion urging Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to introduce similar bans at a National level.
At the Strategy and Assets meeting Mayor Amanda Findley proposed that Council support the Riversdale / Bundanon Trust Funding application to the Commonwealth ‘Building Better Regions’ ahead of the Councils project at the North Nowra basketball Stadium.
“It was a very difficult decision to come to in some ways but the economic benefits for the Riversdale project far outweigh the economics of the basketball Stadium. Partnering with Bundanon Trust for the Riversdale project will help to realise this $28.5 million project, if it is a successful application”.
Following a rescission motion, Councillors Guile, Watson and Pakes brought everyone back to debate again whether the Sports Complex should be put back to the top of the list. Council had offered assurances that the Sports Hall was funded already but that the Riversdale project would create 142 jobs during the construction phase and 59 ongoing jobs for our area thereafter and was the stronger contender for the highly competitive funding round. The tactic of repeatedly using rescission motions is becoming obstructive to getting things done on Council, costing a great deal to the ratepayers, who ‘The Independents’ claim to represent.
The South Coast Register, no supporter of the Greens, were slow in realising they had fallen victim to ‘false news’ from councillor Guile and produced a stinging editorial.
The SCC Climate Change Committee, closed down by the previous administration, was reinstated on 15th November 2016. On the 20th December Council voted in favour of a briefing by Bob Hayward a local scientist and resident, to present “Climate Change – A Concerned Citizens Understanding”. The motion was passed on condition a climate science denier – yet to be fielded – will be included in the session on 23rd March. It is unclear at this stage whether the public will be able to attend.
The next stage in the submission process that Council is undertaking to make a rate increase was Carried on Thursday 2nd February. The obstructive Rescission Motion mounted by the Independents following a long debate the previous evening was defeated after no fresh arguments were brought to the debate.
Flagged during the Greens campaign, the raising of the rates is now upon us, both as rate-payers and as Greens supporters. As rate-payers we hesitate; as supporters of the difficult decisions the three Greens councillors and our mayor have to advance, we are behind them. We have no choice. Previous Councils over the years have run down the quality of repairs and maintenance our local roads, the item at the top of most rate-payers list of criticism; following the increased seasonal influx of visitors, the strains on the system are too evident.
Unfortunately, in spite of indications after the elections that there was to be a willingness to find a consensus in Council, Shoalhaven Independents pursued a program of misinformation.
The Shoalhaven Independents continued their anti-rates-rise protest meetings that misinformed and misled. The Independents presented to Council a motion that they have been rolling up to their protest meetings to call for the rate rise to be abandoned, a Citizens Jury to be established, a waste committee and a working group of corporate citizens to be setup. All to frustrate what needs to happen as the next step, part of the submission process that Council is undertaking and reporting to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal as part of the consultation package.
The real purpose of this is quite clear – in 2020 the Independents want to make the statement that this Council failed to deliver services and they are attempting to achieve this through their current no rate-rise campaign. The Independents presented a one-sided presentation to their meetings and created a situation where people felt like the sky is falling in.
The Greens mayor, Amanda Findley has appealed to rate-payers: “I call on all residents to work together to improve the prosperity of the Shoalhaven and support the average $2.50 per week rate rise and get the facts on the issue rather than the pulp fiction being delivered by the Independents.”
At the Council meeting on 1st February, a majority of councillors voted to move to the next stage of setting a rate increase. The Independents, who had bought a cheer squad along and who debated crudely, not only voted against, but immediately submitted a Rescission Motion to frustrate the process further. Is this the beginning of a process of attempting to stymie the work of Council?
The Shoalhaven City Council has joined the growing numbers of councils that publicly support marriage equality in Australia. By a vote of 8 to 5, councillors last night agreed to a motion supporting marriage equality, after a debate described as deeply respectful and emotional.
Mayor Findley, and Greens councillors Nina Cheyne, John Levett and Kaye Gartner all voted in favour of the motion. Dawn Hawkins, organiser for Marriage Equality Gilmore, has moved to thank those who took part in the vote. “I was personally moved by the respect, which was pointed out by Mayor Findley, everyone in the room showed each other and the issue of Marriage Equality. … It means the Council is listening to their people and it means we can strengthen our support to talk to our MP; and it encourages our community to know it’s okay to be who we are.”
The vote watched by Greens members and members of Marriage Equality Gilmore, represents further evidence of support for Greens policy supporting social justice.
Nina Cheyne, Greens councillor for Ward 1, is Chair of the Shoalhaven Council Access Advisory Committee. One of her early successes in this role was a successful application to NSW Department of Family and Community Services FundAbility Program for funds to purchase ten beach wheelchairs, to provide improved access to the beach for children and young people living with disability. Full story…..