The shire elections are again looming with the largest field of candidates in this correspondent’s memory. On reflection this is not surprising. There is a mood of disquiet in the community about the shire and its performance, so people have responded in the most profound way possible –offering themselves for service.
Being in conflict with the shire, over the proposed rubbish tip across the road from our property in Merivale, has given me an insight into how the shire operates and what the community is thinking about the shire.
People are quick to engage in conversation, divulging how they feel, while hoping to gain more knowledge from the exchange. During those conversations a theme has emerged. It is concern regarding the blurred line between our elected representatives, the councillors and the shire paid workers, the staff.
Over a decade ago I served on a board for 6 years as an elected representative, and for 4 of those years I was the chair. It became evident during that time that the people who we, the board members, were employing needed to be kept at arm’s-length because we were responsible for hiring and firing the senior staff. Every year we needed to scrutinise their performance and ultimately if it was not good enough, be prepared to take action.
It is not possible for an analytical approach to be undertaken if the board members and staff are buddies and that is the perception in the community at present. The shire president has been quick to point out to the EMTAG (Esperance Merivale Tip Action Group) that the councillors and staff are “a team” and therefore staff members need to be constantly present. There have been times when EMTAG has asked to meet with our elected representatives alone and this has been resisted.
Other areas of concern emanate from a shire councillor’s wife being the Executive Assistant to the shire CEO and councillors and staff socialising together. These actions further add to a perception about the blurring of lines between the elected representatives and the shire staff, and whether or not we as the rate payers are being properly represented.
As someone whose world was turned upside down in January this year when we were advised that the shire was well on the way to placing the shire rubbish tip near our property, I can say that I am despairing of the whole process. It is not that the councillors have not, on a whole, been dedicated to the process. It is the fact that the process is so heavily weighted against the rate-payer who constantly comes up against “the team”.
This is not a NIMBY (not in my backyard) complaint. Those with businesses, both farming and aquaculture, living around the tip site have legitimate concerns with regard to our sole water source being contaminated and we have expert advice to back up our concerns. However, the shire staff are resistant to expert advice and some councillors, whilst in a minority, have backed the staff in pushing through the project to the point it is at today.
I urge the community of Esperance to take this opportunity to rectify the situation by voting in the upcoming election with these facts in mind.
Bah humbug to all commercial channels and not many kudos to the ABC either. The Invictus Games showcases injured or maimed military men and women once again representing their country. These people have answered the call of duty and paid a high price for the privilege. Now once again they are representing their country but this time in sport. I am disgusted at the amount of television coverage.the Olympic Games are shown on every channel 24/7 showing fit healthy men and women that have never known adversity. Don't these physically and mentally challenged athletes deserve more? Me thinks someone has got their priorities wrong! Hopefully next year when they are in Sydney it will improve. hmmm
Ref. Esperance Express, Friday 08/09/2017 “Councillor column with Victoria Brown”, “Lowest rate increase in the last 10 years.”
I would like to give the Esperance Shire Council the opportunity to show that they can be open, transparent and accountable to the people of Esperance before the Shire election by answering publicly some burning issues which are running through the community.
It is the case that despite the Gross Rental Valuations (GRVs) having remained the same as last year, the shire has still increased the GRV rates by 4.5%. This Shire only 3 years ago slugged ratepayers an enormous 12% rates increase 460% greater than the CPI rate of only 2.6%.
What the Shire President failed to mention was the spitting of the "Domestic Rubbish & Recycling” rate into two separate rubbish rating systems. Last year the “Domestic Rubbish and Recycling” combined was $303.75. This year we have been hit with a “240 Litre Recycling Service” levy at $165-00. We also have been hit with a “240 Litre Waste Service” levy at $255-00. This equates to an increase of a $117-00 slug which is a massive 38% increase. The question is why?
Did the Shire Council forfeit a non-refundable deposit on land for a proposed tip site at Dalyup? If so, how much have ratepayers lost? Was the tip site at Kirwin road purchased at a professional and independent market value, or was it purchased at above market value? If so, what premium was added onto the valuation price to secure the property? “There is a reduction in the rates for commercial properties down to 2.5% to support these businesses through these challenging economic times.” Should Esperance Ratepayers be subsidising local businesses by giving them a 2% cash discount on their rates?