Is council operating on two levels?

I am told that despite how it looks to council watchers, our elected councillors are getting on with the job and getting on with each other.

Well I have to say they are giving a damn fine impression of precisely the opposite.

It is understood that councillors get elected on different platforms and those agendas may not always be in agreement by everyone; rigorous debate is healthy, but at what point does that debate become something else.

Councillors have taken to social media and what an excellent way to connect with many members of the community providing an unfiltered view of councillor’s thoughts.

At last week’s council meeting the invitation from the Climate Council to participate in the ‘Cities Power Partnership’ looked as though it should be a straightforward issue but almost two hours into the meeting and councillors were still debating it.

Councillor Robyn Bain’s call for someone to tell her who was chairman and who were the directors of the Climate Council “without googling” was just the start. During the following days as the story went online and across social media, councillors responded to many public comments.

On the Bega Valley Shire Council Facebook page the Mayor Kristy McBain pointed out that Cr Robyn Bain's notice of motion was passed unanimously that council write to NSW Crown Lands to insist that they consult with the community of Pambula over their intentions in dealing with Jack Martin Reserve and most importantly clarify the ownership of the land! 

“It’s hard to get all info in the summary but point taken this was an important one to get out there too,” Cr Kristy McBain said.

The post was in response to a comment made by Cr Robyn Bain that the matter had been missed in the mayor’s video round up of the council meeting.

But the Facebook discussion didn’t stop there:

Robyn Bain: Depends what you think is important. Really. Joining a climate group who you cant identify who is the chair or board or doing stuff for Pambula. I say priorities are important Kristy.

Kristy McBain: I don't have an issue with the governance of the Climate Council or how they are funded. You did and you didn't vote in favour which is your prerogative. That doesn't mean I think writing to Crown Lands is any less important.

Robyn Bain: You must have as it didn't rate a mention in your video summary.

Kristy McBain: Yep I got it, I missed it. I apologized and added comments to this and to the council website. It wasn't intentional or a subliminal message that one was more important than the other. Issue is that next time I include more rather than less.  👍

Now we’re told two councillors have been found in breach of the council Code of Conduct in not declaring substantial non-pecuniary interests and voting on a matter discussed during a council meeting.

Although I am being told there’s two levels of action: the highly visible one of formal meetings, heated debate and apparent messiness then the less visible but much more functional level, I am finding it increasingly difficult to believe in that functional level.

It may all make for great spectator sport but we’re not on the set of Gladiators.

This is a shire with, as yet, unfulfilled potential and a lot of big projects still to be undertaken.


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