The Wagaitear; NewspaperNT
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Wagait Beach (N.T.) -- Periodicals; Cox Peninsula (N.T.) -- Periodicals
v. 6 no. 14
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The Wagaitear - August 20147 W h a t s t a r t e d a s a request by Fred Gillis for community consultation back in June ended up as a heated, community meeting on July 8. Of the t h ree i nv i t ed speakers, Richard Munt the Act ing D i rector o f the department of local government spoke first. His opening comment where he stated he wasnt sure why he had been asked to attend the meeting followed by talking to the group as though they were children didnt get him off to a very good start. Offence aside, Mr Munt said there was no political pressure for Wagait Beach to amalgamate but in the same breath gave reasons why Wagait Beach Shire can no longer exist on its own. Mr Munt described the current business model of Wagait Beach Shire as being flawed because it is too small, rates payers are too few and the administration costs are too high. He explained that in order for Wagait Beach Shire to receive money that falls from the sky it must merge with Coomalie and Belyuen. I f you want to have a discussion with your neighbours about how you can access this money for nothing the government would support you to do that. Belyuen and Coomalie are having a neighbourly discussion about how they can improve service delivery and if Wagait Beach Shire wants to participate, you need to get mayor and CEO to have chat to talk about possibilities. If you are not interested then I have no idea what I am doing here. Then the threats began. If you are here by yourself in five years time and you dont want to look to the future, you might not have a future to consider. You are surrounded by a much much larger council and if you choose to remain by yourself the government will think what is the point of all this why are we spending all this money on two and a half employees. Munt concluded by saying there isnt much point to our little tiny shire with a very small revenue base and a council just so we can have council meetings. I suspect you can imagine how well that was received! Tony Tapsell the CEO of LGANT spoke second and if any of the community group wanted Tony to highlight the benefits of a small, well-run shire, they were disappointed. Tony explained that super shires are a national trend and the Northern Territory will follow suit because it is the financial model the federal government wants. He offered the group two options for the future: 1. Stay as you are but your financial sustainability will drive you to the wall and you wont survive long term because you cant meet your long term commitments. 2. Go in with other shires but hurry because Coomal ie and Be lyuen are the only shires left to merge with. Bob Beadman, the chair of NT grants commission was the final speaker and began by saying he thought it was a terrible mistake when the Top End Shire was taken off the table, citing political weakness as the reason why Wagait Beach Shire still remains today. A s w i t h t h e o t h e r speakers Bob reiterated there was no imperative to do anything but told community members to remember the trend is to bigger and fewer councils. Bob said that while the current government was spooked into letting go of the Top End Shire, he felt sure subsequent governments wouldnt be so weak. He went on to say the current arrangement was unfair and that Wagait Beach was not paying its way, and we needed to be part of a larger shire and pay higher rates paying your way and make a fair contribution. The obvious answer that stares Bob in the face is Belyuen, Wagait Beach, Coomalie and Dundee all form a Top End Shire call it what you like. Shires from local council should be changed to form local boards to keep the local voice but community government councils are folded into shires and the local voice is kept. B o b e x p l a i n e d t h e government has spent $400 , 000 t o d a t e on negotiating this and the time for consultation is over. I dont know what we are doing here tonight asking you over and over again what you want. Belyuen and Coomalie are talking and eyeing off the unincorporated areas. If you sit pat while this goes on around you will be sitting there very vulnerable and conspicuous and alone. W h e n t h e s p e a k e r s finished there was time for community members to ask questions. Issues such as the political and financial reliability of Belyuen, the use of the term amalgamation (we are not being told to amalgamate but to merge), the poor financial record of super shires to date and the option for extending the Wagait Beach boundary to include the Kenbi land claim were raised. Community consultation meeting reduced to threats and accusations We got the grant money... now how to spend it? Decisions on how to spend the $55,000 sports grant have been made. Aussie rules and soccer goals are already on order and plans to get a tennis wall put up are also on the table. If there is money left over, the cricket pitch could get an upgrade and also new items for under the shaded area. The $20,000 emergency service grant application was successful too and the funds will be spent on a generator for the cyclone shelter and a satellite phone for the emergency services. Bookings Essential 1300 065 022 www.seadarwin.com Turtle Trips Eco Tours Frontline Tour Harbour Sunsets