Warning as council panel takes shape
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.
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