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Local ‘representation’ except when it’s not

Eight former councillors from the former Queanbeyan City and Palerang councils have been appointed to the Queanbeyan-Palerang Local Representation Committee (LRC).

The Committee will be chaired by former Palerang Mayor Pete Harrison and includes four each from the former council areas. Besides Harrison they are Peter Bray (Deputy Chair); Paul Cockram; Jamie Cregan; Trevor Hicks; Mark Schweikert; Trudy Taylor; Sue Whelan.

For those inclined to detect a party political flavour to the forced amalgamations this hand-picked committee will not change their minds. According to several reliable sources at least half of the committee are known for Liberal/National Party affiliations (but no Labor or Greens), and none might be expected to rock the boat, for their own reasons.

It was also noted that state representative John Barilaro of the National Party had a chance to approve the choices of the QPRC administration and it was reported that the Minister for Local Government subsequently fine-tuned to increase the party political majority, ie substituted one or two people in place of those on the original list.

Committee members will be paid what Queanbeyan councillors were formerly paid: $18,400 and the chair double that amount. The question remains open on exactly what they will be doing for their remuneration.

Lest it be assumed that ‘local representation’ means taking community concerns to the Administrator, it appears from what little people have been told that the opposite may be the intent of this structure designed by the state government. It appears their brief is to provide some levels of experienced advice on matters before the Administrator and to relay the administration’s decisions back to the community but not to the media. Controlled messaging has been highlighted as important.

The Bulletin has been told the LRC will have a role to play in updating the Community Strategic Plan(s), and this will presumably involve community meetings where it may be possible to raise significant issues at least in a ‘vision’ sense.

We’re told LRC members have no more weight than any other member of the public when it comes to development or finance or policy or any other issue on the monthly council agenda. However the ex-councillors will retain their roles with S355 committees (eg hall committees) and to that extent provide a link to the public.

QPRC advice to those who want to question council activities or policies is to go through the public forum system that has been the case for Queanbeyan residents until now. Questions can be lodged via e-mail to public.forum@qprc.nsw.gov.au or via the on-line form on council’s website.  Residents receive a written response also published on the council’s website.  Check council for any fine print.

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