The Mirror News

Farewells, tributes and reflection at final council meeting

“SUSTAINABILITY and growth are two very different things… we must take action as a species, for ongoing growth is not sustainable.”

His fellow councillors, for the most part, confined themselves to paying tribute to the achievements of retiring colleagues, but when Mayor Warren Raabe gave his report at the final council meeting of the 2008-2012 South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday his was a much more sombre message.

Cr Raabe, who is retiring from Council, said that the challenge ahead for South Gippsland as he sees it “is not merely balancing finances or pleasing ratepayers but having strategies for managing our quality of life with our increasing population”.

“My view is that the human species is heading for disaster,” he said, quoting statistics indicating the world population is increasing exponentially. “The planet is not equal or fair, and oil and gas will run out within not so many years at the current rate of consumption, let alone if growth continues…There has already been a huge reduction in the amount of arable land…Crop failures will occur…It’s frightening…Our future needs to be not about growth but about coping with ourselves the way we are now.”

On a more positive note, Cr Raabe said that he felt comfortable leaving the shire in the hands of its present CEO and directors and a new council. He spoke highly of Cr James Fawcett, his predecessor as Mayor, who he said had led the change of guard in the shire executive, and thanked the deputy mayors – first Cr Mimmie Jackson and then Cr Mohya Davies – and the executive staff.

Cr Fawcett said that overall he was proud of the work he and his fellow councillors had achieved. “We’ve done well in some things, some less well, some I’m not proud of – but not many.” He said that he would miss all who are retiring, for each brought something of value to Council. Regarding the new councillors, “sometimes it’s a case of better the devil you know…!”

Cr Fawcett praised Cr Raabe for his ability to cut to the nub of an issue and swiftly – sometimes too swiftly – reach a decision. He praised Cr Mimmie Ng (formerly Jackson) for showing maturity beyond her years and a lawyer’s analytical mind, and he praised Cr Jennie Deane for her thoughtful and exemplary attendance to matters of governance.

“I hope to see the rest of you back on Council, carrying on a democratic approach. Bon voyage to those who are not coming back!” Cr Fawcett concluded.

Cr Jeanette Harding said she supported what Cr Fawcett had said. She added that she hoped she would be returned to Council. She said that the most exciting event in her term of office had been the sale of the Toora factory and she was proud of her involvement and very pleased that the new owner had promised to help out the Toora community, including the swimming pool. “A little town of 610 people is now getting round with smiles on their faces,” she said.

Cr Bob Newton thanked the other councillors, Chief Executive Officer Tim Tamlin and council staff and said he appreciated the help given to councillors by all the shire staff.

Cr Kieran Kennedy paid tribute to retiring councillors Deane and Ng (Jackson) and declared the Rural Land Use Strategy and the moratorium on coal seam gas exploration and mining the two greatest achievements of the past term of Council.

Cr Deane, retiring after seven years as a shire councillor, praised the Council for its composition of nine individuals with no party allegiances. She said there had been many robust debates in which councillors argued their cases strongly and it was a pity more people didn’t attend meetings and see how councillors argued on their behalf and that issues were not black and white. “I have enjoyed teasing out all the issues, finally coming up with a balanced view,” she said, adding that despite their differing viewpoints on some matters there was no personal antagonism among councillors. She also said that Council was well served, for the most part, by the local press.

Cr Ng said that she echoed the sentiments expressed by her fellow councillors and felt a debt of gratitude to the people of South Gippsland who had been so supportive of her, passing on their good wishes just as often as they chewed her ear over one issue or another.

“This is a good opportunity to acknowledge what we have achieved as a council,” said Cr Davies. She said that she had come to council with a passion for the community and found herself on a vertical learning curve. “It has been a privilege to serve the community,” she said, thanking shire staff for their help. “I’ve learnt I can’t be everything to everybody. I am part of a team. One of the hardest things is coming to council to represent my local community and then having to take a strategic shire-wide focus.”

Cr Davies closed by paying tribute to councillors Fawcett and Raabe who served as mayors during her term of office. She presented a gift to Cr Raabe and thanked him for the support he had given her in her role of deputy mayor.

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