Vote ‘yes’ in the coming referendum on constitutional recognition of local government or definitely face increased rates in the future and risk loss of direct funding from the Commonwealth, such as money for local roads through Roads to Recovery and other community infrastructure grants. This is the message that Mayor Damien Ryan wants his fellow councillors to take to the electorate. With apparently more than 30% of voters making up their minds on polling day, he urged them, at last night’s end of month council meeting, to all be present at the booths on September 14.
Mayor Ryan, together with CEO Rex Mooney and Councillor Brendan Heenan, attended last week’s National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra, where the referendum was at the top of the agenda. He said constitutional recognition would not infringe state or territory rights: councils would still be formed and operate under state or territory legislation.
The ‘yes’ case has bipartisan support and the clear preference for it at the federal level is reflected in the funding of the ‘yes’ campaign: the Commonwealth is putting $10m towards it in contrast to only $500,000 for the ‘no’ case. Mayor Ryan thought the support for the ‘no’ case was “generous” given that only two members voted against the relevant Bill, compared to 134 in favour.
Solar lighting along the river
As if by way of reminder, a slice of the Commonwealth pie was being handed out in a hurry. Councillors had to quickly decide last night on what small local project they would like to see funded by a grant of $74,000, the maximum they can apply for out of $105m on offer from the Commonwealth to regional and rural councils.
Unfortunately toilets are specifically excluded; otherwise toilets for the skatepark would have got the tick. Councillors supported instead an application for solar-powered lighting along the Todd River.
Ask the locals first
Council looked set last night to approve the installation of a 1.8m high chain mesh fence along Winnecke Avenue, for a cost of $20,000, with community consultation on the plan to follow. Councillor Jade Kudrenko took issue with the process: shouldn’t the consultation happen first?
She accepted there is a safety issue, with balls and children coming onto the road, but said residents and the Soccer Association may have alternative ideas about how to deal with it. Councillors supported her logic. (The proposed fence will not restrict access – there will be two gates about one third of the way from each end.)
More and better ‘big brother’
Cr Kudrenko also did a double take when Craig Catchlove, Director of Corporate and Community Services, announced with some delight that council has been successful in obtaining money for two relocatable, high-tech CCTV cameras. It was the first she’d heard of it.
They record in high definition and can be programmed to look for activity in specific areas, said Mr Catchlove. For example, they could target rock-throwing from Anzac Hill, delivering low res images to a smart phone, allowing authorities to immediately initiate a response.
Who would be monitoring? Cr Kudrenko wanted to know. Either council or the police, depending on the targeted activity, said Mayor Ryan.
Have issues to do with privacy and surveillance been explored? asked Cr Kudrenko. Irrelevant in a public place, said Mr Catchlove. And residents may not know it but they are already subject to surveillance by this type of CCTV every time they move up and down Hartley Street. Who’s doing that surveillance? asked Cr Kudrenko. Private landlords.
Will councillors hear more about how these new cameras are going to be used? asked Cr Kudrenko. Sure, replied the Mayor. Just as soon as the funding agreement is concluded.
– KIERAN FINNANE