Three per cent of the Shire’s residents gave formal feedback and just five people sat in the gallery for the Extraordinary Council meeting held earlier this month.
Yes, a few hundred turned up to the Special Rate Variation (SRV) community feedback sessions, but seriously – this was a six per cent rate rise, an impost many argued would burden their everyday life.
Where was everyone?
The modern equivalent of witch-burning, Facebook, has led to the perception that throwing ubiquitous one-liners (or more onerously, longer-form rants) is a form of meaningful action.
It is not.
Powder-keg remarks and petitions are not useful, insofar as standalone activities. If they have a place, it is as another tool in the rucksack – next to the devices that will actually proffer results. In this case: turn up and engage with council and councillors.
If you were genuinely concerned that the rate hike will impact greatly on your budget, it surely would have been in your interest to spend a few minutes stating this fact to those who make the decisions.
It’s an overused quote, but nevertheless ex-MP Tony Windsor aptly said the “world is run by those who turn up”.
For what it’s worth, the SRV council meeting was a remarkable affair in terms of both honesty and integrity.
Councillors all spoke with passion and were very mindful of the impact this decision would have on the community.
Let’s be clear, there will be no winners.
Ratepayers are the poorer, and, taking money out of people’s pockets has sealed the fate of many an elected leader.
Yet overwhelmingly councillors spoke of being responsible.
Hamstrung by a moment in time, whereby successive councils, in combination with state and federal government funding flaws, have left the Shire’s infrastructure worse for wear, they are faced with a difficult decision; increase revenue or cut expenditure.
Hacking into services, council wages, community projects, everything bar the primary function of local government (roads and bridges, rubbish, sewage and the like) was deemed no magic bullet.
Community would notice these gaping holes. The invisible network that binds together the three towns and the surrounding districts will unmesh.
The Shire will no longer be the community we hold dear.
So it’s a rate increase folks, next year there'll be another one on the agenda. That gives everyone a fair whack of time to think about how to respond, but in the meantime, hats off to the councillors – those for and those against.