JUST as councillors and media thought the dust had settled after a tense and emotional meeting on Wednesday, one final question seemed to come out of left field.
With a by now empty gallery and Bega Valley Shire staff and councillors preparing to wind up general business matters, Cr Kristy McBain threw a curveball by raising the prospect of rebranding the shire as the Sapphire Coast Shire Council.
She asked the council’s finance manager and communications coordinator to look into the potential cost, procedure and ramifications of rebranding the Bega Valley electorate.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Cr McBain clarified her idea was not a new one and in fact had been explored by the council almost 10 years ago.
“In 2003 I think they looked into it, but I’m not sure how far it got or what has happened since,” she told the BDN.
“I’d like to see the new council start afresh and this is one of the ways we could do that.
“However, we all want to be financially responsible as well as find out what community sentiment is out there [for such a change].”
BVSC group manager of community and relationships Leanne Barnes confirmed the matter had been investigated in mid-2003 after a request initiated by the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
“There was consideration given to a poll, but council didn’t resolve to hold one,” Ms Barnes said.
“Tathra and Bermagui didn’t support the idea and council received feedback from many in the community against it.
“One of the feelings in Bega at the time was of the unique association with Bega cheese.”
Ms Barnes said she had already been in touch with the Division of Local Government in the wake of Cr McBain’s question.
She said it advised her it wouldn’t be likely to progress with any name changes at this time, as several taskforces are currently looking into Local Government areas with regards to developing up-to-date legislation – and perhaps boundary changes.
Ms Barnes said name changes to Local Government areas had occurred mainly through the process of council amalgamations and there were no precedents set in recent times for such a rebranding.
She also outlined the potential financial implications, but emphasised no firm costing would be investigated “until there’s a resolution from council” to proceed along those lines.
“In terms of signage alone it would be close to a quarter of a million dollars,” Ms Barnes said.
“Then there’s soft copy like websites, letterheads, staff uniforms and the decals on cars.”
As for the cost of a poll – held at a time other than in conjunction with a council election - she said quotes would need to be sought from a body such as the NSW Electoral Commission.
“It’s in the $200,000s for a council election – a poll won’t be that much, but it’s right up there.
“And that’s if it’s even needed.”
Cr McBain said one impetus behind the rebranding proposal is to do away with the “us and them” mentality of ratepayers.
“There seems to be a lot of ‘us and them’ – ratepayers and residents not interacting with the council,” she said.
“We should be working together for common goals, and I think rebranding the council could be an idea people get behind.
“We don’t want any division in the shire and the aim is to get the community’s input.”
Cr McBain said she hoped answers to her query would be forthcoming at the next council meeting, on February 6, but conceded a firm estimate of the cost involved might take longer.