COMMENT: Phil's quiet resolve undoes secretive council

It could be called the triumph of the little man, but Phil Chadwick is no little man in either demeanour or stature.

His quiet resolve as he addressed the council firmly but respectfully clearly made several councillors question what they had done in voting to dispose of Johnson Creek Bridge, hand over Hanscombes Creek Bridge to Mr Chadwick to maintain and discontinue maintenance of part of Garfield Rd, Numbugga.

Mr Chadwick had to use a solicitor to find out the actual resolution of council by a GIPA (freedom of information) request.

After consulting with neighbours Barry and Nola Hergenhan they sent a response to council staff. They suggested that wider community engagement was needed before council washed its hands of the two bridges and part of the road.

This is particularly relevant given the access the bridges provided during the Numbugga fires and given the high tension transmission lines for which Essential Energy needs access, on Mr Chadwick's land.

And yet he says council officers rebuffed every attempt that was made to suggest wider consultation was needed.

Under the heading of 'community engagement' the council business paper states that community engagement has been undertaken with the affected landholders.

Despite a response outlining their concerns from the affected landholders having been sent to council, the matter popped up, unannounced to those landholders, on the council agenda.

If it had not been for a friend reading the agenda and informing Mr Chadwick, the matter would have been done and dusted at the council meeting with the directly affected landholders none the wiser.

Under no circumstances does any of this unhappy saga meet council's obligations for communication and engagement with residents.

Behind this lies the sorry story of a council that is trying to cut costs at every turn to the extent that it thought it might be acceptable to offload a couple of bridges and a bit of road on to some local residents.

There will always be a difference between what residents would like and what council can afford.

This council has chosen to a path of economic stringency with a focus on roads, rates and rubbish, it also vowed to improve its communications. In this particular case it failed miserably on two counts.

This story COMMENT: Phil's quiet resolve undoes secretive council first appeared on Bega District News.


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