WA­TER? CLEAR AS MUD

Dubbo Photo News - - News & Analysis. -

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.

DUBBO WEEKENDER PHOTO:

Feel­ing flushed: Coun­cil in hot wa­ter over boiled wa­ter alert.

The week’s top sto­ries from around the re­gion by John Ryan

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