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  1. Last week
  2. With the advent of the Covid2019 pandemic, the state government authorised the introduction of virtual council meetings in an effort to minimise the spread of the virus amongst councillors, officials & members of the public attending council meetings. In announcing an extension of the arrangements to March, 2021, Ms Hancock also stated that one of its aims was to help increase the diversity of people who run for local council & to attract more women. The association believes that the justification offered by Ms Hancock for the changes are superficial & simply do not stand up to scrutiny. To suggest that community members, in particular women, would find it easier to abandon their “family & carer responsibilities” if they could attend meetings electronically is fanciful & indeed offensive. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---down-the-rabbit-hole---25.09.2020.pdf
  3. Commenting in response to his election as Mayor of the Bega valley Shire, Cr Russell Fitzpatrick made it clear that the number one priority of council during his term would be to address the council’s financial situation, including resolving questions around the historic management of council’s cash reserves. The association welcomes Cr Fitzpatrick’s commitment, in particular as it has long campaigned for action by the elected council to rectify the ongoing failure by council management to properly manage the shire’s finances. While the association believes that Cr Fitzpatrick is genuinely committed to improving council’s performance, it also believes that he & his colleagues will need to do a whole lot more than simply mouth such claims, given the longstanding refusal of council management to accept accountability for its consistent under-performance. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-openness---transparency---23.09.2020.pdf
  4. Earlier
  5. The association is a resolute supporter of equal opportunity. At the same time, the association believes that to achieve the best possible outcomes for residents & ratepayers through local government, our communities should encourage the most capable candidates to seek election as councillors. In what the association believes to be one of the worst decisions taken by the current NSW Government, the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, & the Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth & Women, Bronnie Taylor, last week issued a joint Media Release announcing a $100,000 publicly funded campaign to encourage more women to stand for election as councillors at the next Local Government Elections in September, 2021. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---fractured-fairy-tales---21.09.2020.pdf
  6. Toward the end of this week’s council meeting, Cr Dodds reminded her colleagues that it was the 2nd anniversary of the Yankees Gap bushfire that ravaged property & destroyed three homes between Bemboka & Numbugga over a two month period in August/September, 2018. The association believes that the victims of the Yankees Gap bushfire have every reason to be angry & disgusted by the failure of council to respond to their plight in a meaningful way. The association also believes that council has once again demonstrated that its alleged concern for the wellbeing of the community usually only extends to keeping-up appearances, while manufacturing opportunities to congratulate itself for doing little or nothing of substance when the need arises. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---too-little,-too-late---18.09.2020.pdf
  7. According to Facebook, Cr Russell - “Rusty” - Fitzpatrick enjoyed a Birthday last Saturday. Whether one of life’s little anniversaries will tempt the Deputy Mayor to chance his luck & pursue the top job at council at this week’s Mayoral Election remains to be seen. The association believes that if the former bank clerk, publican & member of everything is willing to pursue the role of Mayor, the performance of council is bound to improve in the short term under his leadership. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---a-matter-of-capability---14.09.2020.pdf
  8. In its devastating assessment of the impact of bushfires & the Covid19 pandemic on the Bega Valley Shire economy, this week’s ID Report reportedly forecast a fall in Gross Regional Product (GRP) of $52M or 13.9% for the June Quarter, 2020, compared to the previous year, rendering it the 6th worst impacted of the 95 regional Local Government Areas (LGAs) in NSW. According to ID, the shire’s capacity to pursue economic recovery is hindered by the fact that there has been zero growth in the local economy, including jobs, in the three years to December, 2019. Coupled with a low rate of building approvals in the same period & a high reliance on impacted industries, such as tourism, & a high level of part-time work, the risk to the shire’s economic recovery is even greater. Given our shire’s comparative economic standing with the rest of NSW, the association believes that the state & federal governments should be making a major practical investment in the shire by committing to the relocation of government agencies to the area. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---road-to-recovery---11.09.2020.pdf
  9. According to the Merimbula News Weekly (MNW), Cr Sharon Tapscott believes that the failure of the federal government to afford direct representation of local government in the National Cabinet is an “absolute travesty”. Cr Tapscott is reported to have claimed that “there should be at least one of the local government national executives on the cabinet, or at least there as an advisor”. The association believes that in expressing those views, Cr Tapscott demonstrates that she simply doesn’t appear to understand the role of the National Cabinet, any better than she & most of her colleagues appear to understand council’s finances. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---just-another-moment-in-time---09.09.2020.pdf
  10. In keeping with its Purpose, the association is determined to play an active part in the next Council election, by publicly endorsing & supporting candidates that it believes will strengthen & enhance the standards & quality of local government in the Bega Valley Shire. To be very clear to everyone, the association does not aspire to be a political party, so the candidates that we might choose to support will not be representing the association, but rather the residents/ratepayers who elect them. Having said that, the association is committed to improving the performance of Local Government, in particular with a view to ensuring that the best interests of residents & ratepayers are at the forefront of all council decisions; that best practice standards are pursued in the delivery of all council services & that such services are delivered in the most efficient & cost-effective manner possible. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---2021-Council-Election---04.09.2020.pdf
  11. Word has it that as Bega prepared for the arrival of the “movers & shakers” for council’s grand Roundtable Event to sort-out the Shire’s economic future, preparations were also underway to close Merimbula Airport to allow for necessary survey work to be carried-out ahead of the planned runway extension works. As it turns out, the inconvenience visited on business operators at the airport was entirely unnecessary as the surveyors weren’t able to make it & the airport wasn’t closed. Apparently, the reason the surveyors had to cancel their visit is the fact that they are from Queensland & by travelling to Merimbula they would have apparently fallen foul of the Covid2019 restrictions. Now some residents might wonder why council had gone to the trouble of trying to import surveyors from Queensland to work on the Merimbula Airport runway extension project, given that the south coast of NSW proudly boasts a strong cohort of very well qualified professionals in that regard. Just another of many inexplicable mysteries that seem to accompany just about everything that council does. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---taking-care-of-business---02.09.2020.pdf
  12. The association was somewhat surprised to be contacted by ABC Radio South East last week, seeking its opinion as to whether Cr Kristy McBain, the new Member for Eden-Monaro, should resign from her position as a councillor. While wishing Cr McBain well in her new role representing the people of Eden-Monaro, the President of the association, Fraser Buchanan, suggested that she should resign from council given its view that she cannot satisfy the demands of both positions. Needless to say, Cr McBain has also acknowledged the difficulty of trying to serve masters, confirming that she would miss last week’s council meeting due to her having to attend Parliament in Canberra, while also acknowledging the possibility that she may not be able to remain on council. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---double-trouble---31.08.2020.pdf
  13. The association was delighted with the decision taken by council to initiate a four year baseline audit review of its 2016–2020 financial accounts. Speaking to her motion, Cr Bain said that completion of the audit review would provide certainty as to the status of council’s financial position, while providing a sound base for council’s future financial planning, help create trust & confidence in council in the minds of residents & ratepayers & lend confidence as to the financial standing of council for the incoming council in 2021. The association believes that the decision taken by Crs Bain, Nadin, Allen & Fitzpatrick will have an immediate positive effect on the level of trust felt by residents & ratepayers towards council & open the way to council adopting a more open & transparent approach to the management of the shire’s affairs. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-building-trust---28.08.2020.pdf
  14. The recommendation to close the Waste Transfer Stations at Wallagoot, Bemboka & Merimbula to be considered by council is at its ordinary meeting today, is a lazy & careless proposal that lacks sound justification & is a poke in the eye to the communities who will lose their current waste disposal services. The association believes that council should reject the inferior report being tabled in support of management’s recommendation, treating it with the contempt it deserves. The association also believes that no change to existing services should even be considered by council until such time as the proposed expansion of the CWF has been approved, in particular as there can be no guarantee that such approval will be forthcoming. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---rubbish---26.08.2020.pdf
  15. Word has it that the Member for Bega, Andrew Constance, the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, & the Office of Local Government (OLG) are reluctant to support a review of council’s finances for the period 2018-2019, made by the council itself at its Extraordinary General Meeting on July 13th, 2020. The association believes that in the absence of any information to the contrary, the OLG has no alternative but to intervene & conduct a full & transparent review of council’s financial activities from 2017 to-date. The association also believes that if the OLG does not initiate that review, it will have failed the residents & ratepayers of the Bega Valley & will not be deserving of their ongoing confidence. The association also believes that unless confidence in council’s financial management is restored, there may be a reluctance on the part of some quality candidates to contest next year’s council elections. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-cover-ups---21.08.2020.pdf
  16. In the view of the association, the reason that the Roundtable will make little difference to our future was best summed-up by the Executive Chairman of Bega Cheese, Barry Irvin, who reminded all those in attendance that the challenges confronting the Bega Valley existed long before the recent bushfires & Covid2019 pandemic came-along. While the ideas ventured by members of the association may not appeal to everyone, the fact is that our community will only succeed in building a successful future if those anointed as its leaders are serious about consulting the community about that future & listening to their suggestions & ideas as to how best to make it happen. Otherwise we will all just continue to howl at the Moon. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---howling-at-the-Moon---19.08.2020.pdf
  17. The association believes that constructing White Elephants takes a particular talent: a capacity to ignore facts, a blind philosophical commitment to the belief that “if you build it, they’ll come”, a willingness to deceive the public & to pursue projects without public consultation, unfettered access to the pockets & wallets of the unsuspecting public & a total lack of accountability for the outcome. The association also believes that the expansion of Merimbula Airport is a classic example of such a project that has been in the making for more than a decade. The airport expansion project cost, originally approved by council as $7.62M, with ratepayers expected to fund $1.2M of that, has now blown out by $4.83M to $12.45M with ratepayers being expected to meet $6.0M of that, plus any further overruns, such as the cost of the baggage handling& terminal security screening equipment still to be installed at the terminal. Given the major disruptive impact of the Covid 2019 pandemic & the recent concern voiced over the state of council’s finances, there are those in our community who are wondering why the balance of the airport expansion project has not been put on hold. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-White-Elephants---17.08.2020.pdf
  18. The association believes that one of the biggest financial disasters visited on unsuspecting ratepayers by council in recent years stemmed from its decision to purchase Eden’s Hotel Australasia in February, 2016. Having burnt $700K on this financial debacle with nothing to show for it, ratepayers still have to repay the $1M borrowed to fund the misadventure. No wonder the council’s competence is constantly under question. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-incompetence---14.08.2020.pdf
  19. The NSW Information & Privacy Commission (IPC) has announced that it intends to carry out an Audit to identify which NSW councils are not complying with their legal responsibility to maintain a public record of the pecuniary interests of elected councillors & senior council management. The IPC’s action appears to have been prompted by moves by some councils to do-away with their Registers of Interests or restrict public access to same, contrary to the provisions of the GIPA Act & Model Code of Conduct. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-transparency---12.08.2020.pdf
  20. Former Deputy Mayor, Labor Party apparatchik & intellectual giant, Cr Liz Seckold was a vocal supporter of a motion moved by fellow councillor, Cathy Griff, at an ordinary meeting of council last month, calling-on the federal government to formulate & fund a policy to support regional media & restore $783M in funding allegedly cut from the ABC since 1996. Speaking in favour of the motion, the champion of open minds & independent thinking boasted: “I’m speaking as a very biased, very biased listener. I listened to the BBC for many years & now I listen to the ABC. I have never, ever, listened to anything commercial. I don’t like being told what will make me happy in life by advertising at me all the time. That is a very important point to me as an individual listener, but also I realised just how very important they are to a local, particularly regional area. That’s all.” Says it all really. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-open-minds---10.08.2020.pdf
  21. The last minute funding hiccup with the universally popular $1M Merimbula Basketball Courts Upgrade Project took centre stage at this week’s council meeting with councillors agreeing to put the “hard word” on the Member for Bega, Andrew Constance, to find the $200K shortfall in funding. While council officers appear content to suggest the possibility of cutting back or deferring other community projects to find the required $200K in funding, it apparently didn’t occur to them, or the councillors, to ask the general manager to find $200K in savings from the council’s almost $50M in operating expenses, including more than $37M in remuneration costs. It seems that the majority of councillors remain in denial as far as acknowledging & accepting that council cannot continue to operate with a “cargo-cult” mentality, expecting to be able to endlessly spend more than it earns on the one hand, while only ever expecting the consequences to be borne by residents & ratepayers, but never by council bureaucrats. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---from-Fantasy-Land---07.08.2020.pdf
  22. One of the more dubious “benefits” enjoyed by residents & ratepayers of the Bega Valley Shire last year came through a Marketing Agreement between council & About Regional, an online news, marketing & public relations outfit created by Ian Campbell; these days council’s Manager – Communications & Events. Amongst the services provided by About Regional was the provision of feature articles, editorial coverage & marketing assistance. While some residents & ratepayers might wonder why a local council requires such paid services, given the mundane nature of its activities, a quick glimpse at some of its published council-related articles quickly reveals how councillors in particular have successfully used the service as a vehicle to spin their views. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-performance---05.08.2020.pdf
  23. At the commencement of last week’s ordinary meeting, Cr Bain unsuccessfully attempted to raise an item of Urgent Business relating to council’s Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP), Operational Plan & Budget 2021, in particular her stated concern that councillors had been made aware of errors in the LTFP by a member of the community, Mr Lucas Scarpin, at the Public Forum held two hours earlier. While the association shares Cr Bain’s concerns about the importance of timely communications, it is also concerned about the accuracy of what is communicated, particularly after being publicly attacked by councillors for sharing information from council’s approved & published Annual Report which, as it turned-out, was wrong. The facts of the matter are that Mr Scarpin did not advise councillors that there were errors contained in the LTFP during his address to the Public Forum earlier that day. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---just-more-dysfunction---02.08.2020.pdf
  24. While the association believes that Cr Dodds is as entitled to her views on issues as anyone-else, it rejects entirely the notion that she has a right to try & impose her views on the community she & her colleagues were supposedly elected to serve. The association also believes that if some councillors, including Cr Dodds, had spent less time trying to use council as a platform to pursue their pet hobby horses & had focused more on the issues confronting the council & the community, perhaps council & our community would be less financially challenged than currently appears to be the case. While posing as a bushfire victim outside Parliament House in an over-sized Driza-Bone might thrill the easily led, others might see such behaviour as no more than shallow self-promotion. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---all-the-world-s-a-stage---31.07.2020.pdf
  25. Last week the association spoke to the poor quality of broadcasts of current council meetings which, coupled with slapdash administrative arrangements, make it all but impossible for residents & ratepayers to follow proceedings. With the above in-mind, the association believes that it is time for council to resume its previous meeting arrangements in the shire’s $10M “Palace of Dreams”, thereby helping to restore meaningful access for residents & ratepayers to the functions & activities of those who claim to represent them. According to Circular 20-28 published by the Office of Local Government (OLG) on July 3rd, 2020, there are now no reasons why the holding of such meetings cannot be reinstated, subject to a 4 square metre space requirement being met for each member of the public attending the meetings. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---on-Democracy---29_8nq292oo.07.2020.pdf
  26. In recent weeks, the association has voiced criticisms of the Charter & Rules adopted to govern the operation of the new Bega Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund, in particular as they discriminated against those whose losses did not arise from an officially declared Natural Disaster, such as the victims of the Yankees Gap bushfires. The association acknowledged the outstanding efforts being made by the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast (SJA) in jointly managing the fund with council, but nevertheless made it clear that it could not support the fund until & unless the discriminatory nature its Charter & Rules were amended. The association is delighted to note that the fund’s Charter & Rules have now been amended to correctly reflect its original purpose. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---Well-Done---27.07.2020.pdf
  27. Residents & ratepayers trying to follow the broadcast of this week’s meeting of council would doubtless have found it extremely frustrating. Following the further serious concerns about council’s financial position raised by its former Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Lucas Scarpin, at the Public Forum earlier in the day, the situation could best be described as confused & at times panicked, with no evidence of unanimity amongst councillors as to the best way to proceed in respect of council’s financial plans. How can residents & ratepayers have any confidence in the current council? In the view of the association, the answer to that question is also simple: they can’t. Read more … www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association--BVSRRA----Media-Release---a-recipe-for-disaster---24.07.2020.pdf
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