DOES SHIRE CARE SHIRE AT CARE?

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID RAK

FOR­MER Cam­paspe Shire coun­cil­lor Paul Jar­man is pretty sure the coun­cil is not re­ally in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing the lo­cal tourist in­dus­try.

Mr Jar­man said that was the only con­clu­sion he could draw af­ter Cam­paspe Shire Coun­cil chose to ‘note’ the Port Precinct vi­sion and strate­gic di­rec­tion.

The owner of the Star and Bridge hotels said he read the de­ci­sion in the River­ine Her­ald with “shock and hor­ror”.

And be­lieved it raised se­ri­ous con­cerns about governance of the Port.

“A key dis­tinc­tion to be made is I don’t think a lot of peo­ple un­der­stood was what it means to ‘note’ a doc­u­ment,” he said.

“Not­ing means the doc­u­ment was re­ceived and the project has con­cluded but the doc­u­ment has no le­gal stand­ing and can’t be used by coun­cil or any­one else.

“The doc­u­ment is essen­tially use­less in its cur­rent form.

“The coun­cil­lors who voted to ‘note’ this have essen­tially voted to not move for­ward on the Port.

“Af­ter mak­ing such a dras­tic step we still don’t have an adopted vi­sion and di­rec­tion – we’ve fallen over at the start­ing blocks.”

The fail­ure to make progress on the “once iconic” port has left Mr Jar­man ques­tion­ing the mo­tives of coun­cil­lors mak­ing de­ci­sions about the precinct’s fu­ture.

“Coun­cil­lors who have com­mer­cial in­ter­ests in the port vot­ing on this doc­u­ment is very strange and is wor­thy of fur­ther ques­tion­ing from the com­mu­nity,” he said.

“This coun­cil cam­paigned on xing the port, con­sul­ta­tion with the com­mu­nity and deal­ing with con ict of in­ter­est.

“The con­sul­ta­tion has been good but the han­dling of the port and the rel­e­vant con icts need to be ex­plored fur­ther.”

Star­ing at an empty Mur­ray Es­planade dur­ing a school hol­i­day, Mr Jar­man said not adopt­ing the port strat­egy doc­u­ment was un­be­liev­able with the state of de­cline in which the tourism mecca nds it­self.

“We’ve hit a new low with the Port of Echuca wood turn­ers clos­ing their doors,” he said.

“There is noth­ing left open on the eastern side of Mur­ray Es­planade,” he said.

“The nat­u­ral re­sponse is for peo­ple to look to the past for an­swers, but I don’t think that is nec­es­sar­ily the right an­swer.

“Our tourism in­dus­try has changed from 30 years ago.

“We must be re­spect­ful of our his­tory and cul­ture but we also have to re­ju­ve­nate the port and of­fer what peo­ple want.

“The next step is to in­ves­ti­gate what it should of­fer and this doc­u­ment gives a start­ing point to do that.

“Pol­i­tics has got in the way of mak­ing good de­ci­sions for the fu­ture of the port for far too long and it’s time the com­mu­nity started ask­ing ques­tions.”

Af­ter mak­ing such a dras­tic step we still don’t have an adopted vi­sion and di­rec­tion – we’ve fallen over at the start­ing blocks

“ROME is burn­ing and we’re fuss­ing over a word.”

Mur­ray River Pad­dlesteam­ers’ Ro­han Burgess (pic­tured) said he was still strug­gling to get his head around the “storm in a teacup” cre­ated over four let­ters.

Cam­paspe Shire Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to ‘note’ and not ‘en­dorse’ the port precinct vi­sion and strate­gic di­rec­tion has come un­der fire from peo­ple in the com­mu­nity, with some ar­gu­ing it was a waste of time and money.

But Mr Burgess be­lieved it was a step in the right di­rec­tion and it was time for ev­ery­one to calm down and get on with things.

“Coun­cil has put its money where its mouth is and agreed to take the next step in what is a great report,” he said.

“When more com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion has been com­pleted, then things will be locked in and en­dorsed.

“The next stage of the report was al­ways more com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion. Not­ing at this stage means coun­cil­lors have agreed they like what they saw and are will­ing to move for­ward.”

Mr Burgess said it was time for the com­mu­nity to band to­gether and get on with the port strat­egy as a com­mu­nity.

“We fi­nally have a plan. We haven’t had one of those for years,” he said.

“Our com­mu­nity des­per­ately needs to work to­gether in­stead of caus­ing trou­ble about a word.

“The de­ci­sion by coun­cil seems em­i­nently sen­si­ble. They loved what was in the report but didn’t want to lock them­selves into any­thing un­til they take the next steps.

“I hope ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity can look past word­ing and get ex­cited about the fu­ture of the port.”

Last week Mr Burgess de­scribed the coun­cil de­ci­sion as “great news” and said “it’s now time for the com­mu­nity to re­ally have its say in the next steps”.

He said it must be re­mem­bered th­ese same coun­cil­lors had the courage last year to force the re­view/report to be com­pleted in re­sponse to con­tin­u­ing com­mu­nity and busi­ness pres­sure that some- thing sim­ply has to be done to im­prove the precinct.

“Enough is enough is the catch cry,” Mr Burgess said.

“The on­go­ing lack of even a sim­ple plan was not what could be de­scribed as ‘ad­min­is­tra­tive best prac­tice’.

“Espe­cially when the com­mu­nity was re­quired to foot an ev­er­in­creas­ing multi-mil­lion dol­lar loss – year af­ter year.

“Let alone not be­ing told the whole story about other com­mer­cial busi­ness losses the shire op­er­ates, but that’s an­other story.

“The Hirst Report and the next steps the report lays out give the com­mu­nity the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in the dis­cus­sion and shape the fu­ture.”

Our com­mu­nity des­per­ately needs to work to­gether in­stead of caus­ing trou­ble about a word Ro­han Burgess

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