Member for Kiama Gareth Ward has written a scathing letter to Local Government Minister and South Coast MP Shelley Hancock about the state of affairs at Shoalhaven City Council.
We've enclosed a copy of the letter for your reference:
Friday, 26 June 2020
The Hon. Shelley Hancock MP
Minister for Local Government
GPO Box 5341
SYDNEY NSW 2001
I write to request that you reconsider the deferral of the local government elections for the City of Shoalhaven. I ask that elections take place at the earliest possible opportunity.
I wish to declare at the outset that my primary place of residence is the City of Shoalhaven and I am a ratepayer in the City of Shoalhaven.
It is my strong view that the elected Local Council in the City of Shoalhaven is dysfunctional and cannot work together for the betterment of our region.
The relationship between Councillors, particularly at Council meetings is toxic with lengthy debates often focused on issues not within the remit of local government.
Council has failed to properly apply for millions of dollars that have been set aside specifically for Shoalhaven residents’ with the Regional Growth Fund being a prime example.
The City of Shellharbour was admitted to the Regional Growth Fund at a much later date following corrections made to the catchment area for the fund.
Shellharbour City Council has worked closely with me and its program of works is well-progressed whilst more than $15 Million is sitting idle due to Shoalhaven City Council’s inability to property apply for vital jobgenerating funding.
Having served as a Councillor on the City of Shoalhaven Council for almost 9 years, I recall many challenging and politically charged debates; however, vitriol and abuse take precedence over sensible discussions on simply too many occasions.
This elected local council shows no interest in working together.
As a local resident and local MP, I want Council to be successful.
I have worked with all political stripes to achieve good outcomes across our region.
I believe our community deserve the right to revisit our elected leadership at the earliest available opportunity.
Obviously, for elections to occur this would need to be done in a COVID safe environment.
I therefore ask that you write to the Electoral Commissioner and request urgent advice on the earliest possible date for Council elections in the City of Shoalhaven to occur.
As a former chairperson of the NSW Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, I ask that the Electoral Commissioner consider using iVote, pre-polling with social distancing and postal balloting to guard against any possible COVID outbreak.
I note that other State’s only provide for postal voting for local government elections.
I also note that a by-election is currently underway for the Federal Division of Eden-Monaro.
I note that the Federal Electoral Commission has put appropriate measures in place for this to occur.
Thank you for your assistance.
I look forward to your reply.
GARETH WARD MP