Council alliance working group is formally recognised

By Lachlan Durling

AN ECHUCA Moama Alliance working group will be formally recognised as proposed in Campaspe Shire’s July 16 meeting despite a rescission motion from two councillors.

At the August 20 meeting councillors Leigh Wilson and Daniel Mackrell looked to overturn a notice of motion raised at the previous ordinary meeting.

The proposal was to formally recognise a working group to identify an acceptable management structure for the Port of Echuca as council looks to distance itself from the day-to-day running of the tourist hotspot.

However Crs Mackrell and Wilson voted against the motion as the pair felt the decision was rushed and lacked community consultation.

The pair instead proposed that the Campaspe Shire chief executive be authorised to develop terms of reference for the investigation of possible future models or options for the management.

“That intent of not stopping things seems the intent here. It is incredibly important, council’s role around openness and transparency and around our engagement of the community,” Cr Wilson said.

“And council’s policy 059 (relating to community consultation and engagement) is a very powerful community engagement policy that does not discriminate, it does not detract, only adds value to any discussion.

“I would be disappointed if this process were to proceed that the interest groups, the key stakeholders in the area, were not able to participate in the process.

“But equally, it’s the little person who doesn’t have a voice, needs to be able to have their opportunity to have their say.

“And with the more than 38,000 ratepayers around the shire and every single one of them having a point of view around the port, at this point in time we should not be measured by how low of a bar we set but how high that bar is set to ensure that we have the best possible process leading to the best possible outcome for the management of the multi-million dollars’ worth of infrastructure and assets.”

However when put to a vote the rescission motion lost and the original motion which was passed at the July 16 meeting remained.

Addressing council, Echuca Moama Alliance spokesperson Geoff Kelly said the alliance was not seeking to seize the Port from council.

“In the some 30 years that I have lived and worked in this area I can’t recall a time when so many community groups came together in support of a single issue,” he said.

“We want councillors to understand, we have no individual agendas here. We, the alliance, just want to see the best possible outcome for the port area and for the community to have input as to what this thing looks like.”

Mr Kelly said the rescission motion identified two areas of concern, allegedly disregarding council’s policy 059 community engagement and the previously adopted Port of Echuca Operational Review.

“This is not about the Alliance taking ownership of council assets, it’s about forming a working group of councils, councillors, council staff and community members to look at what other destinations with tourism assets are doing to maximise their operational efficiency and visitor appeal,” he said.

“The alliance suggests concerns in relation to the disregard of these two matters are misguided.

“We presume the mover and the seconder of the rescission motion are suggesting that there has been inadequate community engagement in this matter.

“We would have thought that some 500-600 members of the alliance’s combined memberships would be an adequate sample to gauge community appetite for this project. Not to mention many one-on-one meetings held with key stakeholders.

“The alliance is acutely aware of the obligation to the community and would expect community engagement to be a key function of our proposed working group.

“The operational review also suggested council’s role be as an infrastructure provider and not a service provider.

“We fail to see how the alliance proposal, as it was adopted on July 16, is at odds with that recommendation.”

The working group will move ahead as recognised and will be required to report back to council before December 31, 2019.