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8th May 2018
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY NEEDED
Council should not be subsidising a private mining company as per its intended Lease to CopperChem at 2 Gibbo Street, Benambra.
The Local Government Act states:” The primary objective of a Council is to endeavour to achieve the best outcomes for the local community having regard for long-term and cumulative effects of decisions.” Are councillors aware of the risks posed by the mining project with a toxic tailings dam at the headwaters of our Lakes system to be controlled for one thousand years. Its wall must be 45 metres above the valley with an area 8 to 32 hectares covered forever by 2 metres of water to prevent acid chain reaction. The previous smaller mine left a leaking dam of 700,000 tonnes of toxic heavy metals tailings.
The Lease appears lacking in detailed costings to long term financial responsibility and as an outlying area, Benambra will be expensive to service for tradespersons or equipment. Why should ratepayers be subsidising an international mining company! The terms of this lease would never be considered in normal business: an annual rent of only $5,500 – including GST – and this not to be reviewed for at least nine years! (Perhaps Council could set the CEO’s salary not to reviewed for nine years, or better still, freeze shire rates for nine years.)
“Council fixtures and fittings –lighting, heating and cooling; carpet and curtains as well as other equipment – details to be determined.” Council will be responsible for structural maintenance of the building, floors, walls, windows, roofing, doors; also electrical wiring; plumbing; guttering; downpipes; provision of hot water. The school building is old – of 1940s/50s style and over a 19 year period could end up very expensive to maintain. Other Council responsibilities include safety audits (These alone would cost more than the rent income.)
As per Schedule 4 , Council is responsible for “construction and repair of car parks including line marking and signage.” ( Councillors understood this would be CopperChem’s responsibility.) An approx. $10,000 contribution a year by the tenant towards maintenance overall is inadequate and only represents the outlay by Council of purchase of the property – for private use of the company for a period up to 19 years. The Lease appears against the interests of East Gippsland Shire when considered over this period.
The fundamental flaw is its formulation as a Retail Lease rather than a Commercial Lease. Retail Leases weigh in favour of small tenants against the power of big business: placing on the ‘landlord ‘ conditions beyond requirements in a Commercial Lease. Why is an international mining company being given favour over ratepayers in East Gippsland when our socio-economic demographic is one of the poorer in the State and our rates are among the highest?
While “outgoings” are referred to it is unclear what these are and who pays for them. However as a retail lease it would most likely be the responsibility of the shire.
I consider the proposed Lease to be disturbingly negligent and over a 19 year period would commit the shire to an open-ended level of costs. The Lease is for the benefit of a private company and should not be heavily subsidised by East Gippsland ratepayers.
Linette C. Treasure
6th May 2018
PRESSURE MOUNTS AS BIG DRY CONTINUES
Every evening, anxious farmers studying the weather simulations on tv, watch the cloud patterns gathering, but see them inevitably dropping away. From Griffiths to Swan Hill, the Riverina to Gippsland, South Eastern Australia is in drought. Now being described as of twenty year severity, the drought in East Gippsland has resulted in the driest April since records began.
Local farmers are under increasing workload, financial and psychological pressure as paddocks turn to dust and dams go dry. Exacerbating this, wild deer and kangaroos are moving into cleared land, a competing pressure for the finite resources remaining – leaves, bushes and even roots.
Hard decisions are being made – whether to sell off stock at low prices in an overloaded market or to continue feeding, spending more and more in a gamble that rain may come. Widespread feed purchasing during April has taken a heavy toll on supplies of hay, grain and pellets with costs escalating as this is sourced from further and further away. On the broader scale, demand and supply tension has been exacerbated by very dry conditions in Northern and Central NSW.
Now with weather projections indicating a dry winter, more farmers are trying to off load stock. At the last April store sale in Bairnsdale there was a record yarding of more than 4,000 cattle – and even with additional temporary yards and packed inner pens, some sellers had to be turned away. Farmers are stressed and working excessive hours as are agents and livestock carriers – some truck drivers often sleeping in their trucks.
Farmer, David Eagleson from Buchan said, “ This is the driest I’ve seen it here in 40 years. There are dams dry that have never been dry before. We’ve had other droughts but this one has come after years without soaking rain. Soil moisture has virtually disappeared. The farms having to buy in water are really doing it hard.”
Glenaladale vegetable farmer, John Hine whose property is beside the Mitchell River in the vicinity of a proposed mineral sand mine and the Bairnsdale town water storage said, “ This drought should be a wake up call. The proposed mine would need huge amounts of water for its processing, rehabilitation and suppression of toxic dust. In drought years water is a finite resource. With the ever growing needs of our expanding food industry and population growth of Bairnsdale, it would be madness to allow a big mine to be a major competitor for water in our already pressured system.”
(Linette Treasure and her husband have beef farming properties in the Buchan and Dargo districts.)
24th April 2018
THE PUBLIC HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HEARD IN EAST GIPPSLAND
22nd January 2018
CHANGING THE GOAL POSTS
East Gippsland Shire Council Proposed Change of Meeting Times – before December meeting of Council
1) Briefing Sessions
Following a successful Notice of Motion by Cr Roberts at the November meeting to have Council Briefing sessions begin at 3.00 pm so that as a working man he would be able to attend, this motion is now challenged by Cr Reeves who has lodged a Notice to Rescind.
2) Further to this the proposed 2018 timetable of Ordinary Council Meetings is for alternating 1.00 pm and 6.00 pm times.
At the time of Cr Roberts election there was great enthusiasm expressed that a young working person had been elected as for the first time this large group in our community felt they could be represented in local government.
As the youngest ever Councillor in East Gippsland it could expected that he would be encouraged and mentored by the older councillors rather rather than be discriminated against because of his work commitments.
At the time of standing for election, candidates understood they could manage the meeting times that had been in place for many years.
The proposal makes a mockery of Council’s supposed commitment to inclusiveness. While councillors with disabilities, councillors who need childcare allowance or overnight accommodation if they travel over 50 kms are catered for, it seems that working people in our community are not supported.
This is not simply a matter of discrimination against a particular councillor but is discrimination against the working people he represents. As well as this, by holding Ordinary meetings at 1.00 pm, other working
people are unable to attend or to stand for election.
In September the Council announced its intention to trial for six months the alternating Ordinary Meeting timetable but it now appears determined to forge ahead with the changed times. If it is not prepared to honour its statements as to trial and assessment how can the public believe in its rhetoric.
In 2008 the number of Councillors was increased from 8 to 9. This was recommended because in previous Councils of even numbers, very often a tied vote resulted in the casting vote of the mayor – with consequent
increase in that one councillor’s power. To go back to an even number of councillors for alternate meetings
would not be in the interest of democratic process. (In fact it could be argued that a mayor supporting this change has a direct conflict of interest.)
Further to this, contentious issues could be manipulated to meetings where the numbers of councillors could be critical. (And as a case in point deciding this issue most affecting Cr Roberts at a time he is usually unable to attend.)
Under the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 to exclude or isolate employees is defined as bullying, this includes “deliberately changed work rosters to inconvenience particular employees” and “undermining work performance by deliberately withholding information vital for effective work performance.”
Clearly by setting meeting times for briefings essential to a councillor’s full understanding of issues, and even more significantly, excluding him from decision-making for 50% of his term is seriously discriminating and could even be interpreted as pressure to have him resign.
This a serious matter that has implications for consideration beyond East Gippsland. It strikes at the heart of what Local Government purports to be. It should be reported to the Ombudsman.