Panel takes little heed of shire budget, plan submissions
South Gippsland Shire’s administration panel acting as the council seems to have taken little heed of submissions made by community members and groups on the municipality’s draft budget for 2020/2021 and its proposed council plan for 2020/2024.
A special council committee meeting to consider the 23 written documents the shire received from 16 different sources was held at Leongatha on Wednesday June 27, 2020.
Of the submissions tendered, 21 related to the draft budget and six to the proposed council plan.
Four of the 16 submitters had lodged more than one point of view on the budget and the plan by the May 28, 2020 deadline, and the panel decided to combine such multiple submissions and regard them as a single item from the submitter concerned.
Of the resulting 16 submissions, the administration panel consisting of chair Julie Esienbise, Rick Brown, and Christian Zahra, unanimously voted “that no changes be made to the proposed annual budget / proposed council plan” in 13 cases.
One of these 13 submissions, from the Agnes River Landcare Group, asked the shire to consider upgrading the Agnes River Road Walk between the South Gippsland Highway and the Agnes Falls Road at Hazel Park as part of the Group’s Agnes Gorge Project.
While no changes would be made to the budget or council plan, the panel directed that the Landcare Group “note that [the] council has an existing paths and trails strategy and this project will be considered as part of the strategy.”
Minor amendments were made to the draft budget and plan in response to another three of the 16 submissions.
Eight people or groups had asked to speak to the panel on their submissions however one, Gus Blaauw, cancelled, leaving seven submitters who addressed the three-member panel via a telephone link as the panel sat appropriately distanced in the meeting chamber at Leongatha, along with four council officers, last Wednesday.
Mr Blaauw’s 14-page submission on what he thought to be a lack of specific detail in the draft budget among other issues, was given one of the three responses from the panel.
The administrators voted “that an amendment be made to the proposed annual budget 2020/2021 to include a breakdown of the materials and services allocated grouped similarly to that provided in each council annual report in order to provide greater clarity for the reader”.
Leongatha Basketball Association committee members Dan Monaghan and Cara Carter spoke to the panel and they were successful in their bid to have the $2 entry fee at the South Gippsland SPLASH sporting complex in Leongatha removed.
A submission by Chris Lobb resulted in the panel voting “that an amendment be made to commit to the following activities in 2020/21 using existing resources within the Infrastructure Directorate [to] monitor the traffic movements around the vicinity of the Mirboo North Pool.”
Other speakers were heard last Wednesday but no action was taken on either their submission or their oral presentation.
These included Ralph Gallagher of Foster who addressed the panel on the draft budget, noting that the panel had called for the shire’s final budget document to be included in the June 24, 2020 ordinary meeting agenda instead of taking advantage of the Victorian Government’s offer to local governments to extend the budget and council plan reporting deadline because of COVID-19.
Mr Gallagher also observed that the budget document was difficult to read and to understand, and that the panel had appeared to have taken on providing services in the shire’s new COVID-19 support package, such as flu vaccinations and mental health initiatives that were already the province of other levels of government.
Michael Borgas of Just Transition, and Lynn Atkinson and Michael Nugent of Extinction, spoke separately about the need for and the urgency of climate change and environmental sustainability policies in the South Gippsland Shire.
Peter Western spoke in support of Lyric Theatre’s campaign to upgrade the Leongatha Memorial Hall as the group’s main performance venue.
South Gippsland Action Group representative Lindsay Love spoke on both the draft budget and the proposed council plan, claiming that the budget included expenditure on projects that didn’t necessarily have the support of the community, and that not much community consultation had taken place in the drafting of the council plan.
Don Hill spoke on the municipality’s rates, the shire’s capital works program and requested that all future public presentations to the council be livestreamed, in the same way as ordinary council and special committee meetings are now.
A late addition to the submitters was Garry Knox who spoke via telephone to the panel after the special committee meeting had concluded, who lobbied for the council to reconsider allowing homes to be built on farm zone blocks under 40 hectares in area and become contributing smaller-scale agricultural enterprises.
All of the submissions provided to the administration panel and the minutes of the special committee meeting are available on the South Gippsland Shire Council’s website under the Council Meetings and then the Meetings and Agendas buttons at www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au
The amended 2020/2021 budget and 2020/2024 council plan will be considered for adoption at the ordinary meeting to be held in the Leongatha chamber on Wednesday June 24, 2020 starting at 2 pm.
Watch the meeting remotely via the Council Meetings livestream button on the shire’s website.