THE first meeting of the Friends of Littleton Gardens on Wednesday attracted over 40 participants.
The group is the brainchild of Jo Dodds who said they want to “encourage community consultation with Bega Valley Shire Council”.
Ms Dodds, like many who attended the meeting at the CWA Hall in Bega, is upset of the recent removal of gum trees from Littleton Gardens (BDN, 6/8).
Other members of Friends of Littleton Gardens are Katrina Walsh and Zoe Hope Zanelli, who have started a Facebook page called Bega District Community Council.
“The cause for me to want to bring a group together was set off by the way the trees came down, but since then I’ve heard so many stories from so many people about dissatisfaction with the way council consults,” Ms Dodds said.
“The idea for this group, whatever comes out of tonight, is we want more consultation with the community in the decisions the BVSC makes that affect us.”
The meeting attracted a cross-section of people, including local Indigenous spokesperson David Dixon.
Mr Dixon said the Djiringanj elders were upset by the removal of the trees and proposed a traditional smoking ceremony to begin the healing of Littleton Gardens.
Also in attendance were John Richardson and Peter Rogers from the Bega Valley Ratepayers and Residents Association who at times hijacked the mostly constructive meeting.
Mr Richardson and Mr Rogers presented a negative view of their dealings with the council, including Mayor Bill Taylor and outgoing general manager Peter Tegart, and did not believe Ms Dodds would fare much better.
“I’m excited for you, but the trouble is nothing comes out the other end,” Mr Richardson said.
He also talked over the top of landscape architect and Littleton Gardens masterplan designer Ted Dexter when he tried to discuss the trees’ removal.
Ms Dodds, Ms Walsh and Ms Zanelli had a meeting with Bill Taylor planned for late yesterday and asked for audience feedback on the agenda for that meeting.
Chief among their concerns was a wish for “tree eight”, the last remaining gum tree, to stay.
The group also wants a BVSC staff member appointed to liaise with them and a review of communication procedures.
“At the end of the day we can’t bring the trees back, but there is a huge communication problem and we need to fix it,” Ms Zanelli said.