Embargoed until 0600hrs Monday 23 August 2021

All that is wrong with Eurobodalla Shire Council’s (ESC) so-called “community engagement” was recently on show when the Coila Cultural Heritage and Environment Group presented to council on behalf of local Tuross Heads residents concerned about a proposed subdivision.

The group’s representative, Simon Cox, addressed councillors in its latest public access forum about modifications to an old development (Lot 325 DP 244559) to which some residents are opposed.

“The background is similar to the case with the recent Dalmeny land decision, where council is relying on a development approval dating back to the 1980s — almost 40 years ago,” said Labor’s mayoral candidate David  Grace, “and in this case with Coila, local residents reasonably argue what is proposed for 2021 is very different to circumstances which prevailed in 1984.”

Mr Grace, of Broulee, heads a ticket for the 4 December elections which also includes councillor candidates Maureen Searson in Batehaven, Matthew Findlay in Batemans Bay, Claire McAsh in Moruya, Deirdre Russack in Narooma, and Jack Egan in Rosedale.

“The general manager’s intervention to override the mayor’s offer to councillors to question Mr Cox during the forum was unacceptable and inappropriate,” Mr Grace said. “The instruction was contrary to current code of meeting practices.”

Labor’s councillor candidates believe ESC meeting rules should make it clear that councillors are able, and are in fact encouraged to discuss issues raised by presenters at council meetings and related fora.

“Simon Cox should have had the opportunity to respond to councillors’ questions and queries, but they were shut down,” Mr Grace said. “We believe the area about which Mr Cox is concerned holds a rich cultural history for Indigenous Australians but it seems the council has no plan to consider a formal assessment.

“I would support the Tuross Head community’s call for a new development approval process to be undertaken for this Coila land to ensure the best possible outcome for the local community, the local indigenous people and for the environment.

“If elected as mayor and with the support of a majority of councillors, I would not agree to the dictum that ‘once approved, always approved’.

“The land is important because of its unique environment including its proximity to four endangered ecological communities,” he said.

Labor is campaigning on a range of integrity issues including restoring transparency to council decision-making processes; demonstrating full accountability by council staff, delegates and elected councillors; and ensuring full community engagement.

“It would not surprise me if  ‘code of conduct’ complaints are lodged following Simon Cox’s presentation to council,” Mr Grace said.

“After the December council elections, Labor councillors will move to bring our council’s meeting rules into the 21st century where public debate and full accountability go hand-in-hand,” he added.

Further information:    David Grace, Labor Mayoral candidate   M: 0466 487 844