South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
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A community meeting was held at the Regent Theatre, Yarram, 13 October 2004, at the initiative of a steering committee established to consider the problems being experienced by the Yarram and district community as a result of lack of performanc by the Wellington Shire, based in Sale. Some 240 residents and ratepayers attended. The geographic area under concern and consideration is that covered by the old Alberton Shire. This is (approximately) to the west, just before Hedley, to the north, into part of Gormandale, to the east includes Woodside, and to the south Port Albert. As a result of the public meeting, an inaugural Ratepayers and Residents Association was formed, with twelve sitting members. Membership to the association is open to all ratepayers and residents of "the old Alberton Shire" area. Cost is $10.00.
Payment may be made at the offices of David Phelan, stock agent, Commercial Road, Yarram. 

The following Discussion Paper was distributed at the meeting and is in the public domain.


The Rosedale, Alberton, Maffra, Avon, and the City of Sale Councils were amalgamated in June 1994 into the Wellington Shire based on the City of Sale, the Municipality is not subdivided into Wards with single or multiple councillors, the Electors do not have access to their councillors but must access the Wellington Shire by addressing the Chief Executive Officer. Of the 9 councillors on the Wellington Shire Council 6 of the councillors live within 20km of Sale, one councillor lives at Yarram 70km; another at Gormandale 50km; and one at Heyfield 30km from Sale. The Wellington Shire is not an Incorporated Company under the Companies Act and does not have Company Directors. The title director was given by Jeff Kennett, the Wellington Shire appointed 3 directors initially and now has 4 directors and several departmental managers. 

The compulsory Representation Review by the Victorian Electoral Commission, the V.E.C., of the Wellington Shire in its preliminary report and preferred option is 9 Councillors and an unsubdivided Shire. The status-quo is maintained despite the divided result of 5/5 sub- missions, 2 pro-council electors and 3 councillors are against Wards, 5 electors are for subdiv- ision into Wards; 6 submissions were ambiguous. 

In an unsubdivided municipality Proportional Representation applies now. The method of compulsory voting is by Proportional Representa- tion, there are 41,658 electors on the Roll, of whom 12,662 reside in the City of Sale, two thirds of the electors reside in the four former rural Shires surrounding Sale, totalling 28,996 electors. This skews the election of councillors, even with Proportional Representation, particularly when 7 of the 9 councillors issue a "How to Vote Card" as a unity ticket, which is allowed under the Electoral Act of the State Parliament of Victoria! 

A final round of submissions by the 8th October, with a Public Hearing on the 13th October (tonight), is still to be reviewed by the VE.C. who will make its final decision on the 25th October 2004 on the Representation Review of the Wellington Shire. Currently the AEC is in favour of NO wards. 

Key Points:
* Rural Shire Councils were conned by the State Liberal Government Agenda in 1994, the Cain Government five years earlier abandoned its attempt to rationalise Local Government in the face of the strong Liberal Opposition! . 
* The amalgamated Councils were allowed, in council, to decide on whether to subdivide into Wards or to remain unsubdivided Municipalities, the Electors were not pennitted a vote, Wellington Shire councillors did not want Wards.
* Queenscliff Shire Council with 4,077 electors went it alone resisting the Gee!ong .Greater Regional Council. There is no minimum number of electors requIred. 
* The Rural City Council of Benalla with 11,768 electors seceded from the Shire of Delatite two years ago.
* Yarram and District residents are totally dissatisfied with the attitude and inaction of the Wellington Shire.
* The locally very important Yarram Aerodrome is on the verge of being lost because of the inaction of council to act on 2 reports commissioned by the shire. These reports that cost $4000 each have been ignored by the shire and now council wants to waste more money by calling for another report.
* Wellington Shire has ignored the needs of our local youth by delaying action and then providing the area surrounding the local youth club (the old station) to a commercial enterprise. This happened even though youth club negotiations were underway to use the land for expansion..
* Council persists in re-building single lane bridges in areas that need two lane bridges.
* Council neglects the urgency of upgrading school bus roads which puts children at risk.
* Council procrastinates on main street crossing for the elderly.
* Council neglects to address the Commercial Road drainage problem.
* All the above concerns remain while council pays off excessive debt incurred by Sale centric projects.
* Lack of communication access to council. A Petition was posted at the Wellington Shire Office after hours mail box at the entrance to the Office in individual envelopes to the Mayor, all of the councillors and to the Chief Executive Officer, except one which was hand delivered personally to one councillor who tabled the Petition at the Council Business Meeting all of the other copies had not been received by the persons named on the envelopes two working days after the mail drop. 
* All mail, e-mail, and faxes are censored before being electronically scanned by a central computer processing unit and then distributed to the computer visual display units of the C.E.O., directors, and managers.
* Correspondence by mail, e-mail, and inward phone calls are not returned or responded to, some correspondents are persona-non-gratia. 

Key Notes:

* The perception by most if not all of the Residents of Yarram and District of the performance of the Wellington Shire is that the executive management and senior staff are pro-active and that the passive councillors rubber stamp decisions made for them.
* There is a lack of transparency. 
* A lack of communication. 
* No consultation or that which is undertaken is ignored. 
* A lack of accountability. 
* The Minister for Local Government directed the Wellington Shire two years ago to reduce their debt of $23,000,000 which council reduced to $13,000,000. 
* The Rate increases of 6.5% to finance an expenditure of $24,000,000 to cover inflation of3.5% and unspecified targeted community priorities! 
* The salary and benefit packages of the C.E.O. and four directors is approximately $1,000,000 paid out of the Rate Income. 
* The council has not paid off its debt for the Cultural Centre; it continues with the construction of the Port of Sale with increasing debt and has announced that the new Net Ball Stadium and Centre will be built on the Cobains Road which the council has no funds for or how it will obtain them - but will proceed with the development and construction of the facility. 
* The Wellington Shire in a Financial Report to the Community recently confused the rate income with grant moneys, total value $43,000,000 and stated that this is what council will spend of the rate income for 2004-2005!
* The Wellington Shire does not publish the ratio of debt to rate income, at 26% the Minister for Local Government sounds a warning to the council and at 35% the Minister places Commissioners in to Administrate the council. This happened to the Surf Coast Shire two . . years ago which prompted the former "Winchel sea Shire" to secede from the Surf Coast Shire - their Petition is before the present sitting of the State Parliament. 

Aim of Ratepayers Victoria, Inc. 
To facilitate a membership network of ratepayer groups and individuals across Victoria for mutual support, sharing of information, lobbying strength, and input to development of policies and planning ?f local government, all tiers of government, and other relevant bodies.

Statement of Purpose for new ratepayers association.

The following statement of purpose has been extracted from the RATEPAYERS VICTORIA Inc. Constitution. 

*To function as an educational body to disseminate information on issues - agreed - and processes of local government - agreed.
* To work for equity for ratepayers and residents - agreed . 
* To work for improved democratic process and participation in local government - agreed . 
* To work for accountability and good governance in local government, all tiers of government, and other relevant bodies - agreed . 
* To promote the return of local government to local control - agreed .


PROPOSAL: The "New Shire Model" (proposed as "McMillan Model").

*  Petitions to secede, from present amalgamated Shire Councils by original "Shire Councils" prior to amalgamation ten years ago are before the present Spring Session of the Victorian State Parliament, they are from "Ararat", "St Arnaud", and "Winchel sea", some other municipalities considering secession are "Bellarine" and "Phillip Island". 

In October 1840 the explorer of Gippsland, Angus McMillan, employed by James Macarthur went overland from the Monaro through East Gippsland. McMillan with 500 head of cattle arrived in the vicinity of Rosedale and crossing over the Latrobe River he succeeded in reaching Port Albert on the 9th February 1841 becoming the first explorer to journey over the Rosedale - Alberton region. The Atberton Shire was proclaimed in 1856, the Rosedale Shire was proclaimed in 1871. 

The two Historic Shires may combine to create a new single (proposed) "McMillan Shire" of 3 Wards with 3 Councillors each, a total of nine Councillors, 5 to 12 councillors inclusive are allowed. The Councillors must be pro-active and the Executive Management responsive to the Councillors for excellence in Local Governance and representation of the Electors of a new, combined, "McMillan Shire". The Wards may be "Rosedale", "ALberton" and the "Ninety Mile Beach Ward". 

* The Rosedale Shire Council accepted the recommendation of its Shire Secretary to go with the amalgamation of councils, the Rosedale Shire paid in full all of its unfunded liabilities. 
* The Rosedale Shire went into amalgamation with the lowest ratio of debt to rate income, the total expenditure in Rosedale and District is . the lowest by the Wellington Shire. 
* This study for the proclamation of a new "Shire" seeks the co-operation of the "ALberton Shire" in regards to the intentions of the Yarram and District electors as to their future in Local Government. 
* "Rosedale Shire" cannot secede from the Wellington Shire if the "ALberton Shire" remains with the Wellington Shire. 
* "Rosedale Shire" can stand alone economically . 
* "Rosedale Shire" will consider incorporation with the" Alberton Shire".
*  "Rosedale Shire" will consider the responsibility of not seceding from the Wellington Shire.

The necessary situation to be considered is the West Sale Aerodrome. The northern boundary of the "Rosedale Shire" is the Thomson River to the Latrobe River and the southern bank of the Gippsland Lakes to Lakes Entrance, and the Ninety Mile Beach to Seaspray, Merrimans Creek, Monkey Creek, and to Gormandale. 

Key Points: 
* "Alberton Shire" may go it alone.
* "Alberton Shire" may amalgamate with the South Gippsland Shire 
* "Atberton Shire" may amalgamate with the "Rosedale Shire" .
* "Alberton Shire" may remain with the Wellington Shire. 
* Yarram has called a Public Meeting to form a Ratepayers Association. 
* Rosedale called an A.G.M. of the Rosedale Ratepayers Association to appoint new Office Bearers and to consider the lack of representation, the rate increase by the Wellington Shire, the future of the former "Rosedale Shire" and a merger with the former "Alberton Shire" to form a proposed new "McMillan Shire". 

The McMillan Shire may be centred on Yarram with Service Centres in both Rosedale and Yarram, Council Meetings may be held alternatively in Yarram and Rosedale using present day electronic transfer Information Technology. Council Depots may be located in Rosedale and in Yarram. The original Shire Offices at Rosedale will become vacant when the Preschool Centre meves to the new Community Centre soon to be built. The original Shire Offices may be renovated and upgraded for use by the McMillan Shire. 

=== End Discussion Paper.

The following 
LETTER TO THE EDITOR was submitted to the YARRAM STANDARD NEWS on 15 October 2004

Dear Editor,
The greatest endorsement of the objectives of the "anti-shire" public meeting last Wednesday night at the Regent Theatre was the Wellington Shire Council itself. Whereas issues such as high rates and lack of services were not insignificant, the highest  grievance and one which evoked the most emotion from the gallery was the complete lack of interest in the progress and development of the "old Alberton shire" region by Wellington Shire Council. The fact that no CEO, no council employees, and no elected councillors were present endorses the fact that these people are simply not interested in Yarram and district, and in their ignorant and arrogant manner no doubt perceive that such a large meeting of disappointed ratepayers is of no concern to them, and nothing will come of it. By not attending the meeting they have proved the justification of the very reason that the meeting was called. With the formation of a Residents and Ratepayers Association, the Wellington Council will need to address the matters brought before them, or face the consequences of being formally charged with incompetence and arrogance, and thus losing their right to represent the people of Yarram and district. 

I came from Melbourne to Yarram in 1990 simply because of the people. I had travelled the world as a writer and chose Yarram to settle. Little did I know that one day I would be raising a family here - wonderful things do happen. I took an immediate interest in the local administration through the Alberton Shire Council, and whereas I cannot remember such an idyllic council as painted by Peter Boadle at the meeting, I do recall several very important factors. The men and women involved in council, both employed and elected, were in the  main passionate about the area, where they lived, worked and raised their families. They may have made controversial decisions at times but - and this is the most important consideration - they were all approachable. There was no problem in having dialogue with the Shire Secretary Garry Stephens, still a most approachable man, and other shire staff. A conversation with any of the local councillors could always be arranged, be it formally or a quick chat in the street. The outcome of such discussions is immaterial - the fact that we had local representation from competent local men and women was, and still is, vital in the development of a safe and prosperous community. 

To this end, we as a community must be fully supportive of the new Residents and Ratepayers Association, and I take the opportunity to thank those responsible for initiating its formation. 

Peter Stone, Yarram and Devon North. 

Yarram means 'swamp' in the local indiginous language, and Yarram Yarram, the original name for the area, means a bloody big swamp. It is on this swamp that opur delightful town was built, due in most part to the location of the first pub around which the town grew. Unfortunately, the town centre has a few problems with drainage during a downpour, with water overlapping onto the footpath, and occassionally, coming very close to entering premises. In 1995, when the Wellington Shire was established after Premier Kennett destroyed many local shires, the new CEO, Humphries, decided to woo the locals with a plan to improve drainage in Commercial Road. Drainage was put on the five-year plan, but, like so many political promises, nothing was done during the next five years - then the next five years - then the next five years. Even for the Wellington Shire, this has gone on long enough, so without further consultation with the locals, the council decided to dig a large hole on the outskirts of the town centre, for water 're-use' into which the townwater will be drained, and thence allowing it to flow to the Albert River. 
A public meeting was held in Yarram on 24 February to which some eighty people attended to listen to the shire's proposal. It appears that we have the right to vote whether the project goes ahead or not because - we will be paying in part for it - that is, the property owners within the CBD of Yarram. Our proportion of the cost will be $477,000 at a stated average of around $6,000 per landowner. This 'average' is a meaningless figure as the charges will be based on a rate of $7 per square metre of titled property, and thus will vary from $4,000 to $20,000 per title - a considerable sum - which may be paid off over five years - with interest of course.
The lively, well conducted meeting (by local elected Councillor Jeff Amos), raised a number of concerns from the public:
1. Was the proposal necessary, considering the relatively infrequent flooding over the footpath.
2. The council has not maintained the existing outfall drainage, especially from the James Street corner heading west and south toward the Albert River, with restictions in drainage size due to poor design and lack of maintenance. Fix the existing system, attend to regular maintenance of the drains then see what else is required. 
3. The low flat land does not appear to have the capability to allow a sufficient fall for effective drainage. The question of the level of the natural water table was raised but not discussed - this will affect effect drainage, or more strictly, the outflow from the drainage away from the town. But 'expert engineers' have said that the proposal will work. 
4. Why should any individual be required to pay for the scheme when it is a public works project for the benefit of the wider community.
5. If a general purpose charge is to be levied on the community, why is the charge levied against just the landholders who have titled property fronting Commercial Road, and some adjoining roads, rather than the whole Yarram district community, when it is recognised that the whole community would, allegedly, benefit from the drainage proposal.
6. There is concern for the health and safety of the community with respect to the 'pond' being constructed off Lawler Street. Dubbed variously 'the Pond', Mosquito Lake, and Lake Amos by the community, it is adjacent to a BMX track and youth centre. Questions have been asked whether it will be fenced. The answer from council is no, with the comment that it will be shallow, and after all, the magnificent lake at Sale is not fenced. 
7. There is concern that if the proposal is outvoted, any consideration for the drainage of Yarram that may be raised in years to come will be ignored. "You had your chance", could be the response from the Sale-based shire. 
8. Wellington shire is questioned as to why the full amount of the works was not budgeted for, particularly considering that they have had fifteen years to do so. 
9. Questions arose as to how long the works will take, and what disruption there will be to traffic, to disruption of trade, and to access to premises. 
10. Concerns were raised about the co-ordination of efforts between the Shire, Vic Roads, and the South Gippsland Water Board should the project proceed.

The consultation process with the community will extend to the end of 2011, with defined expectation dates for various stages of the process. Although no reporter from the Yarram Standard News attended the meeting (why not?), it is hoped that the lcoal paper will keep us informed of the stages of the consultative process. The general feeling expressed at the meeting, and in 'foot-path consultations' in town, is that there is a hesitation to adopt the proposal, with concern for the competency of the council with respect to engineering aspects, and to the funding method propossed.  Clearly, there will be much debate before a definitive decision is made. 

And a word to the council members present: it is common courtesy to stand up when you speak without a microphone to a large audience; speak clearly, and leave your emotions behind. Nobody is interested in your retirement in six months time and that you don't care what the outcome may be.