Representatives from six of the seven groups vying for council in the December 4 local elections were put to the test in a 'meet the candidates' forum in Batemans Bay on Wednesday night.
Alison Worthington from The Greens, David Grace from Labor, Karyn Starmer from The Mayne Team, Rob Pollock, Tubby Harrison from A Better Council, and Mat Hatcher from Advance Eurobodalla faced a series of questions in the event organised by the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Mogo Village Chamber of Commerce.
James Thomson was invited to participate in the event but declined, and Gary Smith did not participate as Tubby Harrison was the representative for A Better Council.
Candidates were asked questions about council's current culture, community lands, live streaming of council meetings, and the proposed establishment of various committees, among other things.
A full list of questions from the Business Chambers, and the candidates' answers, are as follows:
Do you support Council membership of the Local Government Association?
All six candidates were for membership.
Do you support a retention strategy primarily for Youth and Young Workers but also families within the Community Strategic Plan. The aim being to address the Aged Dependency Ratio and accelerating median age?
All six candidates were for a retention strategy.
Would you support any Special Rate Variation over the next term?
All six candidates abstained from answering this question.
Do you support retention of bequeathed and other recognised community properties?
All six candidates supported the retention of community properties.
While there is always some discontent with every Council, do you acknowledge there is a general disconnect between Council and the Community that needs to be addressed?
Alison Worthingon, David Grace, Karyn Starmer, Tubby Harrison, and Mat Hatcher agreed with the question. Rob Pollock abstained from answering.
Do you support an effort to change Council culture?
Alison Worthington, David Grace, Karyn Starmer, Tubby Harrison, and Matcher support change to council culture. Rob Pollock abstained from answering.
Councils Community Engagement Model informs Council of the importance of genuine dialogue. The perception that the increased disconnect and distrust experienced by the community indicates little value in the current model. Would you support a new model which ensures genuine dialogue?
All six candidates agreed with this question.
Would you move or support a motion to ensure genuine stakeholder engagement at the early stage of a planning strategy either as part of a new Community Engagement Model or separate mechanism?
All six candidates supported this question.
With current community concern about secrecy, transparency, and limitations of the current FOI mechanism, would you move or support a motion for expanded disclosure through a more accessible Freedom of Information or similar mechanism?
Alison Worthington, David Grace, Karyn Starmer, Tubby Harrison, and Mat Hatcher supported this question. Rob Pollock abstained from answering.
Do you support the re-establishment of the public access component of live streaming and importantly, changing the vetting system applied to speakers and their presentation content in order to allow more access?
All six candidates supported the live streaming of meetings and having more access to the public forum.
Do you support reinstatement of the Business Advisory Committee and Tourism Advisory Committee?
All six candidates supported the reinstatement of these two committees.
Do you support the outsourcing of Tourism and Events to an industry led body?
Alison Worthington, David Grace, Tubby Harrison, and Mat Hatcher supported the question. Karyn Starmer and Rob Pollock abstained from answering.
Would you prioritize the establishment of a Planning and Development Advisory Committee?
All six candidates supported a Planning Committee.
Do you support a New Events Strategy, with a view to be more inclusive?
All six candidates supported a New Events Strategy.
With concern about housing, urban sprawl and encroachment on natural amenities? Do you generally support infill strategies to better utilise infrastructure, services and provide denser accommodation options?
All six candidates supported this question.
Do you support each Councillor having the option to nominate a person on each committee to ensure ratepayer/voter driven decision making?
Alison Worthington, Tubby Harrison and Mat Hatcher supported council nominees to committees. David Grace, Rob Pollock, and Karyn Starmer abstained from answering.
Many candidates have expressed their support to a collaborative meeting to find commonality and strategy prior to official commencement at Council, would you be happy to be part of that meeting?
All six candidates supported a meeting prior to the official start of the new council.
Have you looked at comparisons and benchmarks of this Shire compared to other Shires of similar size on the Local Government Website?
All six candidates agreed they had compared the Eurobodalla Shire to other similar shires.
Do you have online policies and strategies that people can access?
All six candidates said their policies were available online.
Would you agree to hold off on any further decision making regarding Mogo activation plan and infrastructure development until Mogo residents and Mogo associations believe some semblance of genuine and reasonable dialogue has been achieved?
All six candidates supported more public dialogue in relation to the Mogo Activation Plan.