Bega Valley councillors debate benefit of Coffs Harbour trip

Bega Valley councillors are divided over the benefits, or otherwise, of sending more than two representatives to a local government conference in Coffs Harbour.

Bega Valley councillors are divided over the benefits, or otherwise, of sending more than two representatives to a local government conference in Coffs Harbour.

IT MAY have had a thin business paper, but the Bega Valley Shire Council’s meeting agenda last week had several intriguing items.

Councillors debated the future management of the under-construction Bega Civic Centre, environmental grants for multiple community groups and the date for an upcoming mayoral election (see related articles below).

However, the topic that led to the most debate – by councillors, not the public gallery, which was completely empty – was about who, if anyone, would be attending the Local Government annual conference in Coffs Harbour later this year.

The motion put forward on Wednesday was for the mayor and general manager to represent the Bega Valley Shire at the three-day conference, with “necessary travel and accommodation costs to be defrayed by council”.

However, Cr Michael Britten proposed amending the motion so that any councillor who wished to go could nominate for the trip.

That raised the ire of Crs Russell Fitzpatrick and Tony Allen, who both referred to the council needing to show leadership when it came to being financially prudent.

Cr Fitzpatrick argued such conferences were of questionable benefit and wondered why money would be spent on sending more than two representatives while services and facilities, such as public toilets, were being “rationalised”.

His referring to the Local Government NSW’s inaugural conference at Coffs Harbour as “a junket” was immediately condemned by Crs Britten and Ann Mawhinney.

Other councillors discussed benefits of conferences such as these would include networking opportunities and the gathering of ideas potentially worthy of discussion for the Bega Valley Shire.

The motion to allow any councillor to nominate to attend passed 6-2, with Crs Fitzpatrick and Allen against. Cr Keith Hughes was absent.

Cr Britten immediately nominated himself to be among those to attend in late October.

Meanwhile, a second part to the agenda item saw three issues endorsed as the BVSC’s contribution to debate at the conference.

They were:

* The ability for councils to access resources and participate in providing affordable housing;

* The issue of the relationship between the mayor, general manager and councillors to be fleshed out, so as to establish greater detail on various models councils can consider to educate and delegate responsibilities for councillors generally; and

* That the NSW Government be made aware of the Bega Valley community’s concerns over recent funding outcomes for Family and Community Services and Specialist Homelessness Services.

This item also passed 6-2 with the same breakdown of councillor votes.

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