WATER? CLEAR AS MUD
SOME very senior staff at Dubbo Regional Council (DRC) like to have their ratepayer funded staff putting in all sorts of submissions, at ratepayer cost, so they win some glory at in-house local government awards that do little for the very ratepayers who fund these exercises.
Yet we see only the bare minimum of communication from council when the story isn’t so bright, like how the hell, in 2016, can a large part of the city have E coli in our water supply.
I didn’t always agree with former mayor Mathew Dickerson, but I’m sure he would have set up daily press conferences so the community would know there’d be a council face to the crisis on a regular basis, instead of the current hiding behind press releases written by PR staff.
Former Dubbo mayor Mathew Dickerson told me the Boil Water Alert would have been handled far differently if he was still in office.
“It was known about the water on Thursday, but we didn’t find out until Monday,” Mr Dickerson said.
“Something that important, I would have told the community straight away, as soon as we’d received the first text - you don’t muck around with people’s’ health.
“The credo is we should tell the bad news quicker than we tell the good, just like we did when the Apex Oval project was delayed,” he said.
Mr Dickerson said people didn’t know what was going on and said he would have scheduled daily press conferences to update everyone with the latest progress on finding and eliminating the source of the problem.
Added to that, he believes the senior person, in this case administrator Michael Kneipp, should have been the front person instead of going missing in action.
Former deputy mayor Ben Shields has called for the water access charges to be dropped for this quarter, and council has to more than consider this, that is the least that could be done.
I’d hate to add up the extra cost to ratepayers this has been, but all supermarkets had multiple pallets of large water containers sitting out the front on prominent display.
Back of envelope, let’s say 3000 homes were affected and these homes averaged $100 in direct and indirect on-costs from this emergency, that adds up to $300,000, and that’s a direct impost on people who already pay too much in rates and charges to featherbed an organization which has so many inefficiencies already embedded in its culture.
That’s not including the cost to local business such as KFC, who shut up shop while the alert was in place, that would be a very costly exercise.
This latest outbreak suggests a failing on so many levels, and there should be more faces going public to shoulder the blame, there should have been a daily press conference for updates, but that’s not the way it works around here.
Probably the biggest frustration I’m hearing as feedback is that the people responsible, the ones with whom the buck stops, don’t have their public pay docked – it costs the council, ie ratepayers, plenty of dollars to fix this problem as well as having to pay for safe water out of their own pockets, yet those responsible for the mess don’t suffer any financial consequences – there are no performance payments in the top levels of this secure and cosseted sector.
Another cause of angst is the drawn out time before the first E coli positive test and the time it took to inform the community, even given that many complexities surround this part of the issue.
I see the new councillors at Narromine (that’s right, they have elected councilors) wasted no time in running a broom through that town, with long serving general manager Greg Lamont shown the door – it’s fair to say there was a big and long term split in the town between detractors and supporters of the GM.
I don’t think it’s a great thing when senior staff in local government bed in for a lifetime job, and that’s not just me, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and crime fighting agencies across the globe understand that endless ongoing relationships, which can be beneficial, can also lead to corruption down the track.
Brexit, Trump, the Orange by-election, Narromine Shire Council – it’ll be interesting to see if the winds of change sweep through the long term bosses in this city at next year’s council elections, I for one can’t wait.
After a long and drawn out process, we’re now being told all is good and the water is okay, but I for one will only ever drink town water that goes through a very good filter I’ve had installed, it doesn’t just taste better, it better insulates me from the loss of trust I’ve experienced since the first contamination notice went out all too late.
Feeling flushed: Council in hot water over boiled water alert.
The week’s top stories from around the region by John Ryan