Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address Council this morning regarding GMR22/073 Organization Structure – Senior Staff and PSR22/021 Draft Climate Action Plan.
I am presenting today as the Co-convenor of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum working to achieve open, accountable and responsive government in Eurobodalla.
ABE has applied our principles of good governance to today’s agenda items GMR22/073 and PSR22/021.
GMR22/073 Organization Structure – Senior Staff
ABE notes that this agenda item recommends continuation of the current organizational arrangements for Council’s Senior Staff while the recruitment process for a new Council GM is under way, which is anticipated to be finalised by mid-October 2022. It is also relevant that section 333 of the Local Government Act requires Council’s organization and structure to be reviewed by the new Council before the first anniversary of last year’s local government elections (i.e. 4th December 2022).
It is unfortunate that there has not been a better alignment in timing between the arrival of the new GM (who may recommend a revised structure following a review of Council’s priorities and strategies) and the post-election review of the Council’s organizational structure. ABE notes that acceptance of today’s agenda paper would maintain the omission of an Executive Level Director Corporate & Commercial Services within Council’s organizational structure, the position having been eliminated in 2019 following the resignation of the incumbent.
ABE proposes that a suitable mechanism to assist the incoming GM in her or his assessment of Council operations, activities and structural organization would be via an operational review as put in a proposal to the Mayoral Candidates Forum held at Kyla Hall on 15th November 2021. The proposal to commission ‘an external local government consultant answering to Councillors to review Council’s strategic environment and its operational practices’ was endorsed by all the Mayoral candidates (except Councillor Harrison) on behalf of their tickets. Their responses were taken to represent the position of the other Councillor candidates on their group tickets including Councillors Diskon, Schutz, Dannock and Mayne.
ABE considers that any endorsement of the existing structure at today’s meeting should be understood in the context of an incoming GM working with Councillors to undertake a thorough and fully informed review of Council’s priorities and strategies following their appointment, and making any changes to senior staff necessary to reflect the outcomes of this review.
PSR22/021 Draft Climate Action Plan
ABE supports the endorsement and adoption of the draft Climate Action Plan (CAP) as outlined in the agenda. The draft Eurobodalla CAP provides a good overview of current climate change issues, as well as a sound background and compelling reasons why this is an urgent and important problem. This information is well laid out in sections 1-3, incorporating a useful set of principles. The CAP reflects the benefits arising from extensive public consultation in its preparation, and provides a good template for Council’s future public consultation processes.
ABE welcomes the expanded scope of the updated CAP, which now covers both Council activities as well as the broader Eurobodalla community. The plan identifies actions that Council can take to further reduce its own carbon footprint and make its operations and service delivery more resilient to the impacts of climate change. It also identifies how Council can support households and businesses across the Eurobodalla to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience. There are significant economic benefits which can accrue from these outcomes.
The CAP is a necessarily ambitious program, which requires both adequate resourcing and a transparent implementation plan to ensure that it can achieve real progress on its significant work. It provides an ideal vehicle to deliver the proposal unanimously endorsed by all candidates at the Tuross Head Mayoral Candidates Forum held at Kyla Hall on 15th November 2021, which stated :
Given community concerns about development in the shire, will you support Council developing a shire wide plan for sustainable development?
While advice and expertise via means of the foreshadowed Climate Advisory Group and external grant funding can provide significant resources towards implementing the CAP, the urgency and importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation needs to be reflected in the allocation of Council’s own recurrent internal funding. It would only take a very modest rebalancing of Council’s budget (in the order of 1%) to adequately resource the CAP. Council’s budget needs to reflect contemporary concerns and issues, and not be locked into a backward vision which views existing budget allocations as an optimal allocation of funds. Real progress in delivering the CAP should not be stymied by a lack of Council resourcing. In addition, Council should continue its positive engagement with the community in this area. In this way, Council can supplement its constrained resources by accessing the relevant expertise and experience held within the Eurobodalla community.
The CAP provides a useful vehicle to provide meaningful engagement with the Eurobodalla community, deliver an undertaking given by all candidates at the last election, as well as assist Council in evaluating and adjusting its own service delivery to reflect key issues of this century. Effective resourcing, delivery and reporting of the CAP will be an important element of informed and forward-looking governance which will benefit the wider Eurobodalla community and its businesses. Council resourcing should therefore be commensurate with this degree of significance.
Thank you for your attention
Dr Brett Stevenson
A Better Eurobodalla