Warn­ing as coun­cil panel takes shape

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

The Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River’s in­dus­try lead­ers group is set to be dis­banded as its new Sus­tain­able Econ­omy Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee takes form, with coun­cil­lors adding a who’s who of lo­cal groups to the grow­ing panel.

How­ever, the com­mit­tee’s for­ma­tion comes with a stark warn­ing about politi­ci­sa­tion of coun­cil ad­vi­sory groups.

De­bat­ing one of sev­eral amend­ments to in­crease the pro­posed mem­ber­ship, Cr Ian Earl said adding three coun­cil­lors risked tak­ing the same path as the Sus­tain­abil­ity Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, which has faced crit­i­cism for com­pet­ing with the coun­cil’s quasi-ju­di­cial role de­spite con­sist­ing of mostly non­elected mem­bers.

The pro­posal from Cr Naomi God­den to add three coun­cil­lors to the SEAC was de­feated af­ter Shire pres­i­dent Pam Town­shend used her cast­ing vote.

Cr Earl said any com­mit­tee with three coun­cil­lors would com­pro­mise mem­bers when it came to mak­ing fi­nal de­ci­sions.

The SEAC de­bate also saw Cr Earl win his amend­ment for the Shire to im­me­di­ately re­cruit the des­ig­nated “sus­tain­able econ­omy of­fi­cer”, cut­ting through a back­room stale­mate, say­ing strug­gling traders needed more help than vol­un­teer groups such as the Au­gusta and Mar­garet River cham­bers of com­merce could pro­vide.

“I do be­lieve it’s im­per­a­tive for us to get on with the job,” he said.

“We have to show as a coun­cil we are very strong sup­port­ers of the busi­nesses out there.

“My def­i­ni­tion of ‘sus­tain­able’ — if you’re a busi­ness — is that you are mak­ing a profit, be­cause if you’re not, you’re un­sus­tain­able.” Cr Pauline McLeod added: “I can’t think of a more im­por­tant time . . . we need to take ac­tion on this now.”

The re­port noted the fu­ture staff po­si­tion would sup­port “eco­nomic vi­brancy” and “fos­ter the tran­si­tion from the lin­ear econ­omy (take, make, dis­pose) to a re­gen­er­a­tive cir­cu­lar econ­omy (re­duce, re-use, re­cy­cle)”.

Cr McLeod moved her own pro­posal to add an ex­tra mem­ber each from a new lo­cal “cre­ative in­dus­tries” group and a del­e­gate from the “dig­i­tal econ­omy”.

Cr God­den had a win with her amend­ment to add del­e­gates from the Mar­garet River Re­gional En­vi­ron­ment Cen­tre, Tran­si­tion Mar­garet River, and two uniden­ti­fied “so­cial jus­tice groups”.

“The cur­rent mem­ber­ship of the com­mit­tee is heav­ily weighted to­wards in­dus­try,” she said.

She said an ex­tra en­vi­ron­ment group “will help the fo­cus and over­sight on the en­vi­ron­ment”.

“Cli­mate change is the great­est threat we have to our com­mu­nity,” Cr God­den said.

Be­fore last week’s de­ci­sion, SEAC in­cluded del­e­gates from the South West De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion, lo­cal wine, tourism and busi­ness groups, the Cowaramup Re­tail­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and the Scott River Grow­ers Group.

What do you think? Email let­ters to edi­tor@am­r­times.com.au.

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