Showing posts sorted by date for query amalgamation. Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query amalgamation. Sort by relevance Show all posts

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

NSW Minister for Education & Nationals MLC Sarah Mitchell accused of selling out Murwillumbah's children


Echo NetDaily, 31 May 2021:

The NSW Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell’s social media last week was full of posts about an upgrade for one school and officially opening another new school and ‘A fabulous day opening NSW’s newest school’, and even an ‘Absolute pleasure to spend some time this morning with a group of principals from South Western Sydney. A really informative discussion with a group of incredibly passionate and talented educators’.

Yet there is no mention of a meeting, which wasn’t an ‘absolute pleasure’ that took place with a group of incredibly passionate parents and talented educators, that will impact not one but four schools in the Murwillumbah area.

Last Wednesday the Department of Education sent out a handful of emails to members of the school communities in Murwillumbah, inviting them to a meeting, with no explanation of what that meeting was about, to be held last Friday.

They were advised again by the Department late Thursday evening that the Minister for Education would be in attendance.

The media were not invited to attend.

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said that from the day Minister Mitchell made the announcement, Murwillumbah’s school communities had called for her to come and meet them to explain the educational rationale behind her decision.

The Minister needed to explain why a mega school campus will be in the best interests of local children,’ said Ms Saffin. ‘On their behalf, I requested her to visit in person and she did, meeting P&C presidents, principals and Departmental representatives, beyond infrastructure officials.

Last Friday’s meeting was low key to allow P&C reps to directly outline their concerns.’

Wollumbin High School P&C President Soenke Biermann. ‘the Murwillumbah community treasures its small and beautiful country schools. Don’t close them, minister! Bigger is not better!’

A closed-door meeting

Wollumbin High School P&C President Soenke Biermann said that while they were glad that the minister finally found the time to come up to the area after first being invited six months ago, it was still only to tell a handful of people in a closed-door meeting that the forced school closures and amalgamation into a radical mega-school will go ahead as planned. ‘So much for consultation!’

Mr Biermann said it’s hugely frustrating and disillusioning for parents to have both their valid concerns and alternative suggestions and proposals ignored in this manner. ‘We have been asking for genuine input, dialogue and a seat at the decision-making table since the moment this project was dropped on us like a bombshell without any community consultation whatsoever in November last year.

It’s very personal for us – it’s our children’s future that is at stake here and, like parents everywhere, many of us have poured countless volunteer hours into P&C meetings, fundraisers and community participation because we value and support quality public education.’

A dismissive and paternalistic government

To then be treated in such a dismissive and paternalistic, government-knows-best fashion is simply infuriating. Imagine not even talking to the community before making such a radical decision and now saying we are being consulted because we might get to pick the colour of the carpet in the new building – this was an actual example the minister used today,’ Mr Biermann said.

This is not good enough – we need a genuine say with all options on the table!’……

Selling out our children

Local MP Justine Elliot strongly condemned the NSW Liberal-National Government for their forced closure of the four schools in Murwillumbah. ‘These school closures are a shameful act by the Liberal-National Government. They are selling out our children and selling out our community.

Nationals Education Minister Sarah Mitchell, along with North Coast Nationals MPs Geoff Provest and Ben Franklin were caught out having an invitation-only, closed-door meeting in Murwillumbah about the school closures, but they continue to refuse to meet with the wider community, parents and students.’

Ms Elliot said that North Coast MPs Geoff Provest and Ben Franklin have imposed cruel and unfair school closures on the Murwillumbah community. ‘They have no shame.’

These closures will result in severe job losses and worse educational outcomes for local children. This shows yet again that in regional and rural areas – the Nationals just can’t be trusted,’ she said.

In total contrast to the North Coast Nationals – whose school closures show that they treat country areas with absolute contempt – I stand with the community in opposing these school closures,’ said Ms Eliot.

Kylie Rose with Anthony Albanese, Justine Elliot and Janelle Saffin when the amalgamation was announced last year. Photo supplied.

Less than 24 hours notice

Ms Mitchell clearly knew well in advance that she would be in the area as at least one other local school was prepared for her visit. She chose not to let the Murwillumbah community know.

President of the Murwillumbah East P&C Kylie Rose says that she only knew the minister would be at the meeting less that 24 hours before it happened. ‘I was advised at around 7.30pm on Thursday evening that the meeting on Friday morning would be with the minister.’

Ms Rose says she and her P&C have been calling on the minister to meet with the community for more than six months. ‘There is a very strong feeling out there that parents, teachers, students and community members should have been consulted before a decision of this magnitude was forced upon us.

That lack of consultation makes it very hard to move forward.’

Ms Rose says that while she was appreciative of the opportunity to put the views of the Murwillumbah East P&C directly to the minister, it quickly became apparent that Ms Mitchell had no intention of consulting on her original decision.

Personally, I remain unconvinced that closing four public schools and cramming all the students together in one mega school could be good for our children, our community or for public education more broadly,’ said Ms Rose……

Soenke Biermann said the Murwillumbah community treasures its small and beautiful country schools. ‘Don’t close them, minister! Bigger is not better!’

Friday, 30 October 2020

Just what one would expect from a Lib-Nats government - a decision with minimum community consultation to herd at least 1,500 regional kindergarten to high school students in the one campus with likely teacher losses

Doesn’t this sound grand? A $100 million mega campus for all of the Murwillumbah area, merging students from kindergarten to high school……

Echo NetDaily, 28 October 2020:

Murwillumbah’s four public schools will be amalgamated into a single Kindergarten to Year 12 campus at Murwillumbah High, the state government has annouced.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Education Minister Sarah Mitchell announced today that Murwillumbah Public School, Murwillumbah East Public School, Murwillumbah High School and Wollumbin High School will be combined to form a single $100 million Murwillumbah Education Campus.

Ms Mitchell said the new mega school would cater to up to 1,500 students, and follow a four-year rebuilding project.

She pledged that no permanent teaching jobs would be lost, and spruiked the ‘community benefits’ of the plan, including the possible joint use of sporting, arts and health facilities.

The new Murwillumbah Education Campus will truly be at the heart of the community, and I look forward to seeing it take shape over the next few years,’ Ms Mitchell said…..

This announcement of a major school merger in the Northern Rivers took the local community by surprise and this appears to have been the plan all along according to the government's own time table which had the two primary school communities only informed by email on the day of the announcement. 

Possibly the lack of early warning was intended to mute the initial response of the teacher's union to the fact that this merger will inevitably see a reduction in teacher numbers once the school merger is completed. 

NSW Labor MP for Lismore Janelle Saffin, Shadow Minister for the North Coast Adam Searle and Shadow Minister for Education Pru Car are concerned with aspects of this merger, which probably consume more of the Berejiklian Government’s time than the creation of a new campus - the chance to sell off state property assets and the chance to reduce public education staffing levels.

Excerpt for a NSW Labor joint media release, 28 October 2020:

Without warning, the Liberals and Nationals will force Murwillumbah Public School, Murwillumbah East Public School and Wollumbin High School to close and move into a single campus at Murwillumbah High School.

Department of Education documents obtained through the Upper House reveals that the amalgamation of four schools in 2024 will change the staffing allocation and potentially displace teaching and support staff.

The Liberals and Nationals promised an upgrade of Murwillumbah East Public School before the last election. Instead, they will now abandon their promise and close the school completely.

Closing schools is the last thing the Liberals and Nationals should be doing. This is a betrayal of the community. They are robbing future generations of quality public schools in their communities,” Ms Car said.

This announcement will rob the North Coast of three public school campuses, with a mega-school increasing school travel times for residents and reducing green space.”

Shadow Minister for the North Coast Adam Searle MLC said: “Now we know why the Premier and the National Party have been stalling on replacing the library and classrooms lost at Murwillumbah East Public School in the floods.

Despite all their hollow promises, it seems that yet more privatisation is their true agenda, not delivering for students and families in Murwillumbah.

This decision has been made without consultation. It has all the signs of a dirty land deal, and is not about improving educational outcomes.”

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said: “I am seeking a guarantee from the NSW Government that all current teaching and support staff jobs will be retained.

This cannot be a cruel cost-cutting exercise,” Ms Saffin said.

I am also seeking a guarantee that public land stays in public hands and is not flogged off to private developers.”

Ms. Saffin also expanded on her views in another media release on the same day: was a shame Mr Barilaro, as Leader of the NSW Nationals, did not take the opportunity while visiting Murwillumbah to make the following announcements for the town and our region:

A $45-million local business support fund for those impacted by the border closures, as he did for the NSW southern border businesses impacted by border closures.

The Nationals’ election promise to provide 280 more nurses, 32 doctors, 38 allied health staff and 50 more hospital workers with some for Murwillumbah Hospital.

The restoration of major contracts to our local businesses, who recently lost their contracts under Mr Barilaro’s big city-big company procurement policy, to remove waste from our Health, TAFE and caravan parks on Crown reserves.

The upgrade of the Voluntary Buyback House scheme to help with flood protection.

The upgrade to a 24/7 police presence in Murwillumbah.

The reopening of the Murwillumbah Women’s Refuge closed by the Nationals.

The restoration of the Murwillumbah Court services closed by the Nationals.

The announcement of our region’s share of the unspent $1.7 billion Restart NSW Fund, as promised by the Nationals.

Reversing the new practice of Essential Energy ‘gifting’ power poles to farmers and private landholders, which they must pay to maintain if deemed unsafe. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

And now for some good news......

Gayini* (formerly Nimmie-Caira), a property totalling 88,000 hectares of NSW wetland on the Murrumbidgee floodplain was handed back to the Nari Nari people on 20 March 2020. 

Gayini is now legally owned by the Nari Nari people who have been its spiritual custodians for at least 50,000 years. 

Gayini is an amalgamation of 19 parcels of land that were purchased in 2013 for $180 million under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan water buyback scheme. 

This property has been co-managed by the Nari Nari Tribal Council since May 2018 as part of a consortium including The Nature Conservancy, the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group and the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW. 

The handback was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and made possible through co-funding from the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation and The Wyss Foundation Campaign for Nature.

There are around 2,000 cultural sites on the property including burial sites, middens and camp sites.

* Gayini is the Nari Nari word for water.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Employer groups put pressure on Turnbull Government to stifle union mergers

In 2017 members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) considered a proposal to amalgamate into one union or alternatively to amalgamate only the CFMEU and the MUA.

The ballot was conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and results declared on 28 November 2017. There appears to have been no irregularities affecting the ballot outcome.

The Fair Work Commission handed down a decision giving effect to the CFMEU and MUA amalgamation on 27 March 2018.

Employer groups Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) and Master Builders Australia (MBA) are now appealing the Commission’s decision.

The Australian, 9 March 2018, p.2.

Employers have taken legal ­action to try to overturn the Fair Work Commission decision ­approving the merger of the construction and maritime unions.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association and Master Builders Australia yesterday ­appealed the decision to a ­commission full bench.

The employers are also seeking a stay of the decision, which, if granted, would mean the merger would not proceed from its scheduled date of March 27.

The AMMA and MBA say the commission decision contained errors of laws and should not have approved the amalgamation.

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the unions would vigorously oppose the appeal and defend the rights of workers to have freedom of association.

“Our members have overwhelmingly supported this amalgamation (with the CFMEU) and it should be up to them to decide whether they merge,” he said.

Former employment minister Eric Abetz welcomed the ­appeal, saying the government should intervene in the proceedings in support of the employer application. He said the government should move urgently to pass laws subjecting union ­mergers to a public interest test.

Workplace Relations Minister Craig Laundy said the government would resume talks with Senate crossbenchers in a bid to win support for the bill, which has yet to be put to a vote.

AMMA is lobbying for an amendment to the bill designed to have the public interest test take affect before March 27 but Mr Laundy declined to express a view on the proposed amendment.

The Australian, 8 March 2018:

Employers have accused the Turnbull government of being missing in action after the Coalition failed to pass laws subjecting union mergers to a public interest test.

Workplace Relations Minister Craig Laundy said today the government would resume talks with Senate crossbenchers in a bid to win support for the bill, which has yet to be put to a Senate vote.

 “The Ensuring Integrity Bill remains a priority for the Government, but because of Labor’s opposition we need the support of the crossbench,’’ he said.

“Despite what has been said in recent days, the Government simply didn’t have the numbers to pass the Bill. I am reaching out to the crossbench to see if that has changed.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The NSW Government’s Latest Attack On The Environment

How important is protection of the natural environment to the NSW Government? 
Many in the community believe that the Government gives it a very low priority.   There are even some who would assert that the NSW Coalition Government is conducting a war on the environment.
Concern about the Government’s environmental attitudes is the inevitable result of a series of its policies and legislation over recent years.  A few examples are its original very strong support for CSG and unconventional gas mining[1], its weakening of land-clearing and biodiversity protection laws[2], its strong support of coal mine expansions despite community opposition[3], and more recently, its plan to change the law to enable Lithgow’s Springvale Mine to stay open despite its threat to Sydney’s water catchment[4].
The latest major threat to the natural environment in NSW is the re-structure of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).  The National Parks and Wildlife Service, a part of the Office of Environment and Heritage,  manages more than 870 national parks and reserves covering over 7 million hectares of land  which is more than 9% of the state’s land area.
The restructure which is currently under way involves the amalgamation of administrative areas, and either the loss of experienced officers or their demotion to what will be little more than clerical roles with substantially reduced salaries.  In addition there are serious concerns about the effect of the changes on fire-fighting capacity as well as on pest management.
The changes resulting from this restructure will have serious effects throughout the state.
Grafton on the NSW North Coast, for years an administrative centre for NPWS, will lose that function. Despite Grafton’s location in the geographical centre of the new region, the administrative headquarters is being transferred to Coffs Harbour. 
Clarence Valley locals, having seen over recent years the steady transfer of state government jobs from Grafton to Coffs Harbour, are angry about this.  What makes this decision even more nonsensical to some Clarence residents is that the Clarence Valley LGA (Local Government Area) contains one of the biggest areas of national parks on the North Coast.  Clarence Valley Mayor, Cr Jim Simmons, pointed out recently that the Clarence had 2,262 sq km of national parks, 22% of the Council area, while Coffs Harbour, has only 42 sq km – a mere 4% of the Coffs council area.
While there is concern about job losses, the loss of expertise in the Service and the impact of this drawn-out and unfair process on the Service officers, there is another major concern – the long-term effect on our very important national parks estate.  Despite the claims by politicians, including the Nationals Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis, this is a cost-cutting exercise at a time when the Government has boasted about a record budget surplus of $4.5 billion.  Any claim that it is not cost-cutting when the NPWS budget has been reduced by $121 million is obviously ludicrous.
However, it is probably more than just a cost-cutting exercise.  It is almost certain that it is at least partly driven by the ideology of the Coalition Government a core part of which, according to John Menadue[5], is commercializing and privatising public assets.
With reference to this, Menadue said: “A clear case at the moment is the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. It is being deliberately underfunded and forced to seek private funding and promoting commercial access to public parks.
“Yet this is happening when, with growing population density, we have a greatly increased need for public parks, gardens and open space. Furthermore, we were able to fund our public parks for decades in the past when we were much poorer than we are today. We need to protect our parks more than ever and we have more money to do so. Yet state governments are screwing national parks with funds to force commercialization and privatization.”
In the same post Menadue quoted figures from John Benson about the downgrading of the NPWS[6]. The number of rangers has been reduced by more than 90 over seven years. Only two of 14 regional managers have been appointed after a restructure and a similar threat faces critical staff at the area management level. Staff is so reduced in some regions that basic amenities cannot be maintained and a lack of field staff presence disappoints public visitor expectations.”
Despite all the spin from politicians and bureaucrats, it is obvious that the government intends to downgrade our national parks and is setting up the National Parks and Wildlife Service for failure. If the community, including that in our local area, does not protest vehemently enough, we will be stuck with this vandalism until this arrogant government is removed.
Northern Rivers

[1] In particular for Metgasco in the Northern Rivers – until the very strong community opposition forced a buy-back of the Metgasco licence.
[2] The 2016 Biodiversity Conservation Act and Local Land Services Amendment Act. There are strong concerns that this legislation will lead to huge biodiversity loss and allow broadscale land clearing.
[6] John Benson’s post on Menadue’s blog -  provides an interesting view of the former world class quality of the NSW national parks estate and its current decline.

GuestSpeak is a feature of North Coast Voices allowing Northern Rivers residents to make satirical or serious comment on issues that concern them. Posts of 250-300 words or less can be submitted to ncvguestspeak AT for consideration. Longer posts will be considered on topical subjects.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Clarence Valley councillors bite the bullet in order to save the local government area from threat of a state government-imposed administrator

Mayor: Jim Simmons    
A/General Manager: Ashley Lindsay                                                                                                                           
Telephone: (02) 6643 0200
Fax: (02) 6642 7647


April 19, 2017

Making the Clarence Valley Council financially sustainable

CLARENCE Valley Council has voted to introduce a range of measures to improve its long-term financial position and help it meet the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future benchmarks.

The measures include applying for a special rates variation of 8% each year for three years, including an estimated rate pegged limit of 2%. The cumulative impact would be a rise in the  general rate of 25.9%, which would be retained permanently in council’s rate base. Council will also implement a host of savings measures totalling more than $8 million over four years.

Acting general manager, Ashley Lindsay, said a special rates variation, if approved, would raise an additional $7.08 million over three years.

“These measures will improve our financial position by more than $15 million over four years,” he said.

“None of this will be easy. No-one wants to pay more rates and we don’t want to charge them, but the harsh reality is the only alternative to a special rates variation is deep cuts to, or the elimination of, many of the services council provides and the community expects.

“We have been told by the Office of Local Government we need to have a balanced operating result by 2021.

“The cost-cutting measures we will introduce result in the loss of the equivalent of 24.5 full time staff positions, cuts to a range of services and better cost recovery on others. We have done everything possible to keep rate rises to a minimum.”

At the council meeting on Tuesday night, Cr Andrew Baker said that in 2012 the NSW Government’s TCorp identified the need for council to make efficiency savings and introduce a special rates variation.

He said that since then he and fellow councillors had tried to find ways to make the council financially sustainable without the need for a rates variation.

“I’m certain that each councillor that is here today was elected with an ambition to not increase the rates, to not cut services, to not cut employment, to not reduce facilities and amenities, to not increase debt and to provide responsible governance,” he said.

“Council has individually and collectively examined, debated, challenged and examined again every suggestion in every possible way to deliver on those noble aspirations of no rates increases, no service cuts, no employment reductions, no reduced facilities and amenities, and no more debt.

“While I can’t see how we can avoid a rates increase, I can say we have all made a big attempt to do just that.

“We’ve exhausted the discovery of all options and examined the possibilities and variations; we’ve called for and listened to expert advice, numerous reports and finance models. Some advice we have accepted and some we haven’t.

“We’ve looked for the best outcomes and least pain for our residents and ratepayers.”

Cr Peter Ellem said councillors had no choice but to put their hard hats on and make unpopular decisions to meet the State Government's Fit for The Future benchmarks to become financially sustainable by the end of the current four-year term, and indeed, for the decade thereafter.

“It is the shared responsibility of the nine duly-elected councillors, and not that of a financial controller or administrator, to adopt a draft package of job cuts, to be made in full consultation with the United Services Union, efficiency savings, and regrettably rate increases, to be put up for community consultation,” he said.

Mr Lindsay said council would seek the views of the community before reaching a final decision on a special rates variation application and some of the efficiency measures, and would consider a report at its May meeting on a schedule for community engagement.

Release ends. 

The Daily Examiner, 20 April 2017:

A pre-election survey by The DEX pinned four councillors against the SRV and only two, Cr Debrah Novak and Cr Greg Clancy, remained true to their word……

Cr Toms said voting for the SRV was a hard pill to swallow.

"I made declarations that I wanted better financial management and I wouldn't support the SRV and I wouldn't support excessive rate increase," she said.

"But I've had to change that position.

"When I had that position, I truly meant it... but now I have a lot more information and after a full day with the Office of Local Government (I have changed my mind)."

Cr Toms said despite the community backlash, the councillors had to make the decision.

"It's easy to criticise, people think we do the wrong thing, but the reality is that the councillors make the best decisions they can," Cr Toms said.

"I did change my mind over the SRV and that was also a very difficult decision to make, but I have to make it and I do believe I didn't have a choice."

The adopted recommendation included a detailed report which outlined that from 2017/18 to 2019/20, the council would make $15,566,987, which is more than the council's total debt of $15,343,127. The rates rise is to be rolled out 8% each year over three years which will amount to an expected total of $7.8million in revenue to come from the SRV.

Seven of the nine councillors voted for the SRV recommendation.
It will go to community consultation at the May council meeting……..

Cr Peter Ellem said the council had no choice but to make the unpopular decision.
"I believe that it is the shared responsibility of the nine duly-elected councillors, and not that of a financial controller or administrator, to adopt a draft package of job cuts, to be made in full consultation with the United Services Union, efficiency savings, and regrettably rate increases, to be put up for community consultation," Cr Ellem said.

"As a new councillor I am wiser because we have demanded and recently received more detailed information on the operational side of things, and greater clarity from the Office of Local Government."

Cr Ellem said fixing the $15million "black hole" which the new council has inherited from a "clunky forced amalgamation" needed addressing.

"My personal preference would be for the SRV component of this suite of measures to be lower than the 8% per year, but when we consult with ratepayers and residents in coming months it will become clear that a lower SRV will mean deeper cuts to local jobs and valued, if not cherished, services," he said.

Echoes of the unfortunate term of a contentious general manager linger

On 22 May 2014 North Coast Voices posted mention of Clarence Valley Council's refusal to follow the Information Commissioner's recommendation to allow a staff member access to information in a report on his conduct (which found no corrupt conduct), when in February 2014 at Item 14.005/14 they unanimously agreed to change the wording of the existing April 2013 Privacy Management Plan so that it appears to significantly depart from the Model Plan supplied by the NSW Division of Local Government.

This week the NSW Court List contained mention of this case before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on 3 May 2017:

Yes, the allegedly destabilizing element may have been removed from Clarence Valley Council but the ripple effect flows on.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Editor asks are "Councils being set up to fail?"

The Daily Examiner, editorial, 6 December 2016, p. 12:

These are interesting times inside the walls of Clarence Valley Council, with Wednesday's meeting regarding the Fit for the Future response exposing the fault lines.

There are differences between the elected councillors and also between some of those councillors and the council staff.

As a result, the proposed plan of action to become fit for the future was torn up and a new set of guidelines put forward.

Questions will be asked as to whether the councillors and staff can join forces to make the new approach work, but the real people who should be questioned regarding problems in local government throughout the state are Premier Mike Baird and his ruling Coalition.

Their attitude towards councils is nothing short of antagonistic.

There has been the series of forced amalgamations that have produced plenty of angst. Part of the amalgamation push was the Fit for the Future process, and to require councils like Clarence Valley's to submit their Fit for the Future response just a couple of days after the announcement of a miserly rate-pegging rise is harsh. Such decisions are being made by councils elected less than three months ago.

It begs the question: are councils being set up to fail to make further amalgamations easier?

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Well, you did open that particular door Mr. Editor.....

This is what happens when an editor opens his mouth about a subject about which he knows very little……

The Daily Examiner, letter to the editor, p. 9:

Diverse communities of interest

Your reference in your editorial (9/9), "The divisions and jealousies between the different area's - particularly the up river/down river divide have to be dealt with decisively" by the new Council, is dripping with hypocrisy.

Many people may have been justified in believing there was a "division" when the DEX received the CVC's block advertising at the expense of the Independent.

You may find it "stunning" that rates balance between different area's still lingers after a dozen years, but it demonstrates profound ignorance of the diverse economies and different communities of interests that exist within the shire that demand contrasting services and facilities.

The driver of the lower Clarence Airport Shuttle will tell you the services to the Ballina Airport are far greater than to Grafton Airport. The market therefore suggests the lower Clarence is paying for a Grafton Airport it does not require.

In fact the Grafton Airport was in the Ulmarra Shire and it too saw no need for it. It was Grafton and its business economy that needed it, so it took over its costs. However, since amalgamation, it has been able to offload these costs onto communities that have no need for it.

Similar arguments can be put for the expensive services provided by the Grafton Regional Gallery and Library from which Grafton enjoys the direct benefit. Are our kids really expected to skateboard down the Pacific Highway, enjoy these services and then ride back for tea?

The then State Government forced four councils of rural, urban and coastal communities, each with their differing economies and communities of interests, into one council to cover a massive 10,440sqm, under the delusion there would be tremendous savings from economies of scale. In fact the only one that gained savings was the State Government in its allocation of Financial Assistant Grants.

Having spent a day at a Yamba polling booth, I experienced first hand the white hot anger directed at the CVC and it's up river centric governance. And they have every right to be angry. The Maclean Shire Council lived modestly within its means, paying rates 200% lower than the "City" of Grafton which had no bridges and only 180km of roads to maintain in its tiny 80sqkm area. For the past decade this rate burden has progressively been transferred down river to pay for questionable services it does not need.

With great respect, these services are not "jealousies" as you refer to them, they are economical facts.

As is the fact that the DEX received the CVC's lucrative block advertising at the expense of the Independent, suggesting the DEX is no more than an instrument of CVC propaganda to influence public opinion.

Ray Hunt

Friday, 2 September 2016

Policy Platforms of Candidates in the Clarence Valley Local Government Elections, Saturday 10 September 2016 - Part Three

North Coast Voices contacted as many Clarence local government election candidates as was possible and issued an invitation to supply their policy positions for our readers.

Here are the third post in this series.


Sue Hughes

I have been a Councillor since 2008 and my vision for the next term of Council is for unity and financial sustainability. I want to see Councillors work together for the betterment of our community, for the entire Clarence Valley and not just in their own backyard.   I have lived in Yamba, Grafton and on the banks of the Mann River and I currently work in Maclean, Gulmarrad, Lawrence and all over the Clarence Coast. I believe I am a true representative of the Clarence Valley. I feel privileged to represent you the ratepayers and residents and treat my role seriously and with a professional manner and always with the highest integrity.

Being a Councillor isn’t just about attending Council Meetings, it’s about working within our community, representing our community and being a leader in the community.  Councillors should be advocates for the broader community and make decisions based on what the majority of the community want and not what the minority want.  It’s about keeping the community’s best interests in mind and listening, engaging and being active with our residents and ratepayers.

During the past term of Council, we have had to make some very tough decisions around rates and budgets etc. And our role can be very difficult as we try and balance the expectation from the community with the financial and budgetary constraints that we are faced with.  It is very much an ongoing challenge. All the financial indicators demonstrate that Council needs to increase the level of funding it has committed, to the renewal and maintenance of its building and infrastructure assets.

I want to continue with the hard work that has been undertaken in the past term of Council, continue to make those challenging decisions whilst listening to our community AND finding that balance I mentioned earlier.

I strongly believe that Council is heading in the right direction for long term sustainability, we just need to ensure that those decisions we make have an impact on our long term not just the short term. 

During my term on Council over the past 8 years I been involved with the following committees, the Saleyards Committee, the Tourism Advisory Committee, Clarence Roundtable, Clarence Valley Business Advisory Committee, the Gallery Advisory Committee, the Sports Marketing Australia Committee, Australia Day Committee and have Chaired the Environment, Economic and Community Committee of Council.

I may be the least outspoken Councillor on Council but I sure as heck have the community’s best interest at heart.  I demonstrate this daily by my involvement with voluntary roles such as President, Yamba Chamber of Commerce, President, Light up the Darkness (Mental Health Advocacy Group), and I, MC at events and festivals when invited to do so. I also have volunteered with the Gallery Foundation for the Grafton Regional Gallery, Art in the Paddock and Gate to Plate events. In addition I’m an inaugural member of the Surfing the Coldstream Festival and inaugural member of the CV Business Excellence Awards.  I also created and manage five different Facebook pages dedicated to promoting our lifestyle and showcasing our natural beauty around Yamba, Maclean and Lawrence.

I am passionate about the Clarence Valley, passionate about business and economic growth, passionate about tourism, arts and culture and I’m passionate about making a difference where I live.

The next 4-5 years are critical in the Clarence Valley, with the Pacific Highway upgrade, the Grafton Gaol, the Bridges and the Blueberry Industry we need to not only take advantage of the economic boom but put strategies in place for when the projects are completed and there is a nose dive in activity.

We need to continue to foster existing businesses and help grow and encourage new businesses to our region and most importantly keep them here.

Should you vote for me on 10th September, I promise to continue to work hard and represent you the ratepayers and residents of the Clarence Valley to the best of my ability, it is indeed a privilege. 

Text and photograph supplied by Sue Hughes



Flyer supplied by Keith Bates



                                                                     Ursula Tunks

We are facing a dire financial situation, the new council needs to face this issue head on; with integrity. If elected I will advocate for the new council team to immediately contract an independent Auditor to undertake a thorough internal audit of the Council’s finances. Should that auditor recommend that the new council be removed and replaced by an administrator I will support this recommendation. My aim is purely to ensure that the CVC survives the current fiscal crisis without inflicting the absurd SRV on our community.
Should an auditor find that the new council can continue operating my priorities are:
 Approaching the State Government for support in rectifying their ill thought out amalgamation process and establish their liability to our community for the resulting chaos, seeking their commitment to contributing to the recovery of the CVC to a functional and viable local government body.
 Work with the CVC Management, as part of the team, to rein in spending and to include all staff in an urgent analysis of areas where cost savings can be achieved.
 Work with the newly elected council to establish a strategy and subsequent plan to achieve a positive cultural change in the CVC’s organisational identity. CVC staff and ratepayers MUST insist on an organisational culture which focuses on the support of the staff and community and immediately removes the fear and control management style that has been permitted to flourish without check for the past few years.
There will be a need to focus the CVC on the ‘core’ service delivery over the term, an obligation that it MUST meet. I will advocate for cuts, which will be unpopular, however popularity isn’t our answer. If we are truly committed as a community to improving our local government governance and service delivery then we must brace for a four year period of reigning in spending. To this end I will be advocating that a process be established to support those groups which may be subject to funding cuts, to identify new income streams, private and government funding. My commitment will be to ensuring that where CVC is unable to continue to support groups that we assist those groups in identifying new support and funding sources.

My voting preferences are:
1. Ursula Tunks
2. Ian Saunders
3. Margaret McKenna
4. Brett Tibbett
5. Peta Rogers
6. Andrew Baker
7. Joy de Roos 

Text and photograph supplied by Ursula Tunks

Ian Saunders                                        
Ian Saunders

To build a fairer, more equitable, more inclusive and more humane Council that is a part of our community rather than behaving like its ruler. 
  • ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor of Engineering; Master of Engineering Science; Graduate Diploma in Management - electives in Project Management, Contract Law, Public Finance.
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: 40 years of professional experience in Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, and The Seychelles including 14 years of Local Government experience with Brisbane City, Logan City and 4 years with The Clarence Valley Council
  • EMPLOYER & CLIENT ORGANIZATIONS: Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp., AusAid, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Queensland Electricity Commission, Water Resources Commission, Queensland Alumina Ltd., Munro Johnson & Assoc (later Parsons Brinkerhoff).
  • TASKS FOR THE NEW COUNCIL: Independent internal audit of Council, particularly the Trust funds; Review the role and authority of the GM and HR Manager; Public disclosure of employment contracts for executive staff and amounts paid in out of court non-disclosure agreements; Mandatory project review for all CVC projects that over run budget and completion dates.
Changes to the Local Government Act to bring it into line with State and Federal governments regarding issues such as Council meeting procedures and the protocols and conventions observed in Westminster Democracies; The pre-election "caretaker mode" to prevent the awarding of contracts like the Tyson St Depot contract, immediately prior to elections; An immediate moratorium on public assets sales. No SRV, in fact rates reductions should be possible after a complete overhaul of Council operational strategies; Finally, a reconstitution and restructure of the Tourism Advisory Committee and its funding.
I'm not into election time motherhood statements and I’m not trying to be an apologist for the last Council, particular the majority five Councillors who so frustrated the minority four. But trying to do one full time job guarding the chickens from the foxes as well as working another to earn a living is “Mission Impossible”!  That said, Root Cause analyses of almost ANY of the issues confronting Clarence Valley Council keep returning the same result: Clarence Valley Council is the product of a hopelessly bungled amalgamation. It’s one thing to merge a bunch of little country Councils into a multi-million dollar public corporation, but to then walk away leaving them floundering under the Legislation designed for the little country shire is reprehensible. The State Government caused the problems and it’s the State Government that needs to sort them out starting with the $127M debt. The Minister will need to bring out the cheque book he used for the recent bout of forced amalgamations; the one that CVC didn’t see in 2004.  Successive Ministers sat back in Sydney for 12 years and watched this disaster unfold and they did absolutely nothing! It’s time to “pay the piper”. Then there needs to be a new Local Government Act Mk 2 that will fit the needs of the big amalgamated Councils. We don’t want another 9 elected mushrooms and a despotic CEO with a watering can and a bucket of manure running the entire circus. A skills audit to identify the glaring gap between what we need and what we have now in Councils executive, management and staff, and a strategy to fill that gap would also be helpful. Maybe then, a new debt free Council might have a slightly better than even chance at delivering some stability, economic sustainability, some semblance of a representative democracy, and the prosperous future the Valley people deserve. 

Text and photograph supplied by Ian Saunders

Previous posts in the 2016 Clarence Valley local government election candidate profile series: