Council’s open forum AGM hears community concerns

Council’s open forum AGM hears community concerns

Kingborough Council invited residents of the municipality to attend the open forum Annual General Meeting on Saturday, December 7.

The AGM provided a platform for the public to bring forward motions, questions and concerns to the Kingborough Council and was also livestreamed to the council’s Facebook page to accommodate those who could not attend in person.

Video of the event has since been viewed more than 1200 times.

Approximately 40 members of the public joined the gallery on the day including Member for Nelson, Meg Webb MLC and Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) CEO Dr Katrena Stephenson. 

After acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land with a welcome to country, the minutes from the previous meeting were moved and passed by council before Mayor of Kingborough, Cr Dean Winter welcomed those attending and officially opened the meeting.

A short summary of this year saw Mayor Winter thank his colleagues for their support and collaboration. 

Mayor Winter noted the major achievement by council to secure $20.8 million to build new infrastructure to help alleviate congestion. 

“Kingborough is thriving,” Mayor Winter said.

“We have a huge opportunity to set Kingborough up for decades of growth if we make some big decisions and deliver important projects now. 

“While 2018-19 was about getting Kingborough Council focussed on the basics, 2019-20 is about planning for future growth as we endorse a new planning scheme, plan for the future of central Kingston and building better public transport infrastructure,” said Mayor Winter.

Presentations were given by council staff on two key areas.

Council’s Senior Environmental Health Officer Aby McGuire spoke to the public about the recreational water quality in Kingborough, encouraging members of the public to contact council’s environmental health team with any questions or concerns about the processes or results.

Council’s new Urban Designer Paul Donnelly addressed the Draft Play Space and Playground Strategy, specifically addressing Kingston Park and the upcoming Silverwater Park project at Woodbridge.

Kingborough Council are currently seeking feedback from the public on the strategy and invite the community to review the document online and provide feedback.

Silverwater Park is currently still at the planning stage and council will be launching a community engagement process for this development in February 2020 before finalising the design and presenting it to the public.

After these two speakers, Mayor Winter then opened the floor and invited members of the gallery to bring forward any questions or motions.

Several questions were raised to council on matters including the Biodiversity Offset Fund, staff turnover within Kingborough Council, renumeration of Executive Managers and Special Area Plans.

All questions were addressed during the meeting by relevant personnel although some provoked lengthy discussion.

Three motions were raised at the meeting, the first by Ms Tricia Ramsay who expressed her view that the financial aspects of the Kingston Park Playground were not well articulated in the public arena and that the loan acquired had been fast tracked.

Ms Ramsey moved a four part motion requiring that a business case be required for all new facilities and services, that future draft budgets require dedicated line items specifying loans, that a revision be undertaken on the Community Communications Strategy and the Community Engagement Framework to ensure accountability, honesty, openness, best practice principals and ethical motivations when council is communicating with the public and lastly, that council be required to demonstrate a majority, 55 per cent support by rate payers for a project before making any future budget changes.

The motion generated a significant amount of debate amongst those present, with people speaking both for and against the motion as well as suggestions for amendments.

The original motion was eventually carried, 18 for and 6 against.

The second motion was raised by Mr Julian Punch who moved a vote of no confidence in the General Manager of the Kingborough Council, Mr Gary Arnold.

Mr Punch specifically mentioned his concerns about the upcoming bushfire season and also referenced a Kingborough Ratepayers Association report and an earlier submission by Mr John Maynard about the staffing culture and staff turnover at the council.

Meeting members enquired as to details and evidence from the report referenced by Mr Punch and Mr Maynard, however no further information was provided by either gentleman.

Mayor Winter was unaware of the existence of the report prior to the AGM and no other members of the public were able to speak to its existence.

Despite earlier reassurances from Mayor Winter about the General Manager’s exceptional performance and further explanations provided regarding the figures surrounding staff turnover, Mr Punch again spoke to these points, raising a connection to the LGAT Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report.

During the debate, LGAT CEO Dr Katrena Stephenson spoke to address the concerns raised by both Mr Maynard and Mr Punch surrounding the LGAT report with reference to Kingborough Council.

Dr Stephenson noted that the Local Government Workforce Skills Report 2018 was a high level, representative document used to inform sectoral policy and that it was inappropriate to use it to draw any conclusions about an individual council. 

“There are a range of factors which can influence staff turnover, including an aging workforce which has been a feature of data provided to LGAT by Kingborough over a number of years,” said Dr Stephenson.

This information corroborated earlier statements from Mr Arnold, that raw numbers were meaningless when compared between many different councils with different methods of operation.

The topic again raised substantial debate in the chamber but when put to a vote, the motion was lost, 6 for and 18 against.

The third motion was raised by Sarah Anderson, requesting that council make a commitment to further funding a resourcing with regards to the climate action plan.

Little discussion was required for this motion and it was carried with a vote of 17 for and 1 against.

The two motions that were carried at the meeting will be addressed by Kingborough Council at its 13 January 2020 meeting.

A full copy of the minutes and audio of the meeting are available on the Kingborough Council’s website.