Councillors meet in the far east

Councillors meet in the far east

For the first time in 22 years, and the first time since the amalgamation of shires, East Gippsland Shire councillors headed east to Mallacoota for their ordinary monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 5.

While there were no matters directly related to Mallacoota on the agenda, the guidelines for the opening of the Mallacoota estuary, the delay of which is causing angst for the community with significant flooding and resultant damage, was raised in urgent business by Councillor Marianne Pelz. With the waterway managed by State Government authorities, council will request of Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, a review of the guidelines.

Other issues raised in urgent business were rate relief for drought affected farmers and support for the timber industry affected by the proposed Sea to Summit 120-kilometre hiking trail between Errinundra and Cape Conran National Park.

Mayor, Cr Natalie O’Connell, will write to the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, and Premier, Daniel Andrews, seeking urgent assistance with rate support for the East Gippsland farming community due to severe drought conditions. This request comes after further feedback from the farming community that this type of assistance is the most equitable assistance council can provide at this time. The farming rate consideration at this time should cover the 2018/19 and 2019/20 rating/fiscal years. Continued dialogue with her department will also be requested as further assistance will be required as drought conditions are monitored and responded to.

Council determined that the mayor will also write to Ms Symes as the Victorian State Government Minister for Resources seeking an urgent assurance of certainty of the hardwood timber supply provided through the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) or equivalent to maintain sawmill supply volumes and ensure employment security of hardwood timber workers and their families in the East Gippsland Region.

A number of residents in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting took the opportunity to ask councillors questions relating to Mallacoota and surrounds, including household, green, recycling and hazardous waste collection, community engagement and law officers and town safety planning.

The council meeting followed a well attended meet and greet on Monday night with around 40 people chatting with councillors and senior staff members, a public breakfast gathering on Tuesday with around 30 in attendance, and a planning consultation meeting for council to hear a number of submissions relating to the search for a suitable site for future community clubrooms, a $1.3 million Federal Government project that was due to start in February last year but was pushed back after site investigations uncovered a high number of artefacts and charcoal confirmed to be 3399 years old.

Councillors also met with members of the Genoa Town committee on Monday to discuss issues including ongoing wayside stop improvements, kerb and channelling, historic bridge maintenance and river health, some of which are the responsibility of other agencies, and toured the Mallacoota Medical Centre to witness progress of the new $600,000 facility’ s construction.

Cr O’Connell said the visit was very well received and provided residents and ratepayers the opportunity to speak directly with councillors and senior staff on issues important to them and their community.

“It was great to see many people participate in our visit,” Cr O’ Connell said.

“The meet and greets with the Genoa Town Committee and Mallacoota community on Monday provided many opportunities for councillors to get a feel for the current issues and opportunities. Tuesday’ s business breakfast gave everyone a sense of pride and inspiration after hearing of the local success story that is Sailors Grave Brewing, courtesy of Gab and Chris Moore. The update on the Wild Harvest Seafood Festival also whet the appetite for more great things to come, starting on April 12.”

The mayor said Mallacoota embraced the opportunity to participate in the democratic process of local government through the very well attended planning consultation meeting for the proposed recreation facility in Greer Street, and then later at the council meeting – the first in the town for 22 years.

“It was great to have residents representing a broad section of the community in attendance, especially students from Mallacoota P-12 College’s legal studies class,” Cr O’ Connell said.

“One of the decisions council made was in response to difficulties businesses, community members and visitors are having with high water levels in the lake. Council moved to advocate more strongly for the community for a review of the 1.5-metre trigger for entrance reopening.

“Although such a decision to re-open the entrance does not sit with council, I will now personally deliver a letter to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Honorable Lily D’Ambrosio MP, ‘in regard to reviewing the Catchment Management Authority guidelines for Mallacoota estuary opening that are currently triggered when the water level reaches 1.5 metres’ .

“We will also have our officers work with the relevant authorities to seek a review of the current estuary opening guidelines in East Gippsland.”

PICTURED:  Councillors Jackson Roberts, Ben Buckley, John White, Joe Rettino, Marianne Pelz, Colin Toohey and Mark Reeves with shire chief executive officer, Anthony Basford, and mayor, Natalie O’Connell, were at East Gippsland Shire Council’s monthly council meeting at Mallacoota last week – the first time a council meeting has been in the far east for 22 years and the first time since amalgamation. Absent: Cr Dick Ellis.