More than 500 people have signed a petition urging Shoalhaven City Council to reinstate two disbanded committees tasked with sustainably managing the region’s environment.
At the September 25 ordinary meeting, Councillor Mitchell Pakes moved an amended motion, which disbanded the Sustainable Futures Committee, Children’s Services Reference Group and the Shoalhaven Natural Resources and Floodplain Management Committee.
Crs Joanna Gash, John Wells, Greg Watson, Patricia White, Mark Kitchener, Bob Proudfoot and Pakes carried the amended motion, which noted that the functions of the natural resources and floodplain management committee be absorbed into the strategy and assets committee. Crs Kaye Gartner, Amanda Findley, Nina Cheyne, Annette Alldrick and John Levett voted against.
Cr Gartner, who chaired the Sustainable Futures Committee, said it was an appalling decision to remove both committees focussed on protecting and sustainably developing the Shoalhaven’s natural environment.
Disbanding both committees did not align with council’s community strategic plan, she said.
“The Sustainable Futures Committee and the Natural Resource and Floodplain Management Committee were the two avenues where the community and cross-groupings of staff could come together and discuss issues arising in the community,” Cr Gartner said.
“A major focus of the community strategic plan has no longer got any space in council other than just staff time, which we all know is highly limited and deals with a huge range of issues.”
A concerned Mollymook resident, Judy Hamilton wrote to Fairfax Media last week. Ms Hamilton said she believed councillors had a duty of care to protect residents, business interests and the environment.
“The decision to disband the committees, reflects a failure of council's responsibilities to sustainably manage our environment, or the region they have been elected to represent,” she said.
On Monday, Cr Gartner argued for the retention of the committees at the Ulladulla and Districts Community Forum. The Ulladulla forum voted 19 for, one against, to support a rescission motion, and reinstate each committee.
Huskisson Woollamia Community Voice, Hyams Beach Village Association and the Berry Forum have each voted to support the rescission motion over the past week, Cr Gartner said.
During the council meeting general manager Russ Pigg said council will lose “skills, knowledge and different perspectives” that those committees offer.