Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association councillors this week lost a bid to immediately write to all ratepayers affected by the Eurobodalla’s interim sea-level rise policy, and an exchange of fire with opponents has spilled over into a post-meeting email stoush.
At Tuesday’s ordinary Eurobodalla Shire Council meeting, ERA councillor Milton Leslight moved that council convene a community sea-level workshop, preferably before mid-May, involving “experts” invited by the council.
He also moved that council update all affected ratepayers on the interim policy, as well as on reports being prepared on sea-level rise benchmarks, coastal hazards and management plans.
That letter would have also informed ratepayers about the planned workshop.
However, Greens councillor Gabi Harding
successfully moved to amend his motion, supporting the workshop, but preventing the mass mail-out until the benchmarks, due mid-year, were completed.
She argued a mail-out without the benchmarks would be premature and costly, winning the support of councillors Danielle Brice, Rob Pollock and mayor Lindsay Brown.
With Shoalhaven City Council, the shire has commissioned a joint study on coastal benchmarks, due in June or July.
The decision to wait until they were delivered “does not work for our community,” Cr Leslight told the meeting.
“We have been trying to bring this to their attention and knowledge for some time.
“It is important that we get them involved, the sooner the better.
“This area has suffered economic and social impacts and it is a blight on our community for this to go forward in its current format.”
He said he was disappointed and frustrated and said the amendment “reflects the politics that goes on this place”.
Cr Pollock rejected that view.
“I have looked long and hard and think the basic essence of this motion is well and truly worth supporting,” he said.
“But to write to people now – what are you going to tell them?”
Cr Pollock said he hoped the current policy would change, but a letter now, which did not outline a clear way forward, would look “stupid”.
“I don’t believe anyone is disadvantaged by not receiving correspondence from us at this point,” he said.
Cr Pollock also said “an awful lot” of ratepayers would not be aware of the current situation and a letter now “would create more anxiety”.
That, said Councillor Liz Innes, was the point.
“That point exactly is why we should be going out and communicating with these property owners,” she said.
“At the same time, we were also going to be advising them that we were going to put forward a forum for them to participate in. That is a sad, missed opportunity to connect with our community.”
Cr Innes feared the benchmark study would be delayed.
“If it drags on, like what has happened in the rural lands committee, we may be looking at another two or three months, so let’s just leave our community hanging out there a little longer, shall we?” she said.
“I am disappointed that we, as councillors, again stepped back from being open and honest.”
The amended motion was carried.