THE Campaspe Shire Echuca ward election descended into farce on Monday night when some of the eight candidates decided to take off the gloves.
About 30 people attended the Committee for Echuca Moama forum at the Mercure Port of Echuca to hear candidates before questions were taken from the floor.
When Echuca’s Harley Nicholls asked, with all the ‘cheap shots’ being thrown, could any of them work together once elected?
Most agreed they could.
The ‘cheap shots’ started with former Campaspe mayor Peter Williams targeting former Murray Shire mayor Tom Weyrich.
‘‘I have prepared a few words unlike Tom because I take this seriously,’’ Mr Williams said.
‘‘I haven’t wandered across the river hoping to find a place on local government having lost one over there,” he said.
“Tom says he lives in Echuca although when you inspect the electoral role for Farrer as of October 3 it shows he is still a resident of Livingstone St in Mathoura, so perhaps he just hasn’t changed his address yet.’’
Mr Williams said you do not run for council to make friends or to be friends with the other councillors.
‘‘You are there to get an outcome and deliver good things for the community,’’ he said.
Annie Vickers said she signed up for council aware one of the conditions was not to make it personal.
‘‘Don’t be rude about other people. Obviously a couple of them didn’t read that paragraph because they are being personal and vindictive,’’ she said.
Then proceeded to take aim at Paul Jarman.
‘‘Paul you had said you had 30 employees, that’s really great. Oscar W’s had 45 employees, the Bridge Hotel 10 . . . I’m pleased you got that but the shire didn’t think about those employees (when they made decisions about the former Oscar W’s building or Bridge Hotel) .th.th. that’s 55 jobs walked out of our area . . . you didn’t seem to worry about that?’’
Eventually a question from the floor was thrown to the candidates surrounding the former Oscar W’s building — soon to be Jarman’s Wharfside Echuca — having been empty since 2014, and the rent that has not been paid since then.
‘‘How many swimming pools might that have financed?’’
Mr Jarman said the building had remained closed for a long time because the tenant walked away, there was an anomaly in the process and that process was investigated.
“Is it acceptable to our community? No and you have a right to say no because that’s a lost opportunity for our community,” he said.
When answering Mr Nicholls’ question, Mr Weyrich said given Mr Jarman had preferenced him last, it would be difficult to work together.
“I wanted to speak about preference voting. Now across the river it’s mandatory — you have to do it — here you do not. I haven’t put in any preferences and I’ve deliberately not done that. Paul’s put me down as number eight and that’s fine, but if he gets elected and I get elected it’s going to make it a little bit difficult.
“Can we work together? As far as I’m concerned for the betterment of the community, yes.”
Mr Jarman said when an individual thought their point of view was more important than another councillor, it broke down.
“I personally think everyone should be able to work together,” he said.
Later Annie Vickers asked Mr Jarman whether he would put his staff at risk if a council building did not meet the health act.
Mr Jarman said he was not sure of the detail of Ms Vickers’ statement. “So on a podium night like this to make a statement without the right evidence to respond, is quite difficult. I also don’t see it as unreasonable but I’m also not aware they are the facts,” he said.
When Ms Vickers’ continued her criticism of Mr Jarman, C4EM chair Geoff Kelly abruptly closed the meeting.
Echuca eight take the stand
All eight Campaspe Shire Echuca ward candidates were given the microphone to talk on Monday night.
About 30 people filled the Mercure Port of Echuca to listen to each of the candidates before questions were taken from the floor.
The forum was hosted by Committee for Echuca Moama in time for the election. Voting closes on October 21 before it is declared on October 31.
Here is some of what the candidates said on Monday night.
Council needs strong leadership now more than ever. Recent turmoil in council and increasing pressure on the economic security of the entire shire has shown a need for fresh blood to represent the region ... with five candidates bringing a fresh perspective to how we live and work together, the time for change is now ... we have seen our council questioned for its legitimacy. The question I ask is when did this become appropriate behaviour? When did this become acceptable?
These actions are not representative of the people of Shire of Campaspe.
I’ve had quite a career as a local government councillor across the river. There’s no secret of that.
I bring to the table of Campaspe Shire 17 years of experience ... Were there some mistakes made? There certainly were. Did I make some? Yes I did.
Will I make mistakes in the future?
Yes I will ... I am not going to stand here for seven minutes and tell you how great I am because most of you know who I am and you know how I operate ... but I know how it works, I know how it operates.
Election times are always interesting because what we find is we get everyone getting up promising to deliver things of which they have almost no capacity to do at all ... one person on their own can do nothing.
Campaspe Shire in the past I think can be very proud and even in the recent term ... One of the things you have to work out is which councillors are going to do the real work as opposed to those who just have all the fluff and nonsense ... taking what people say and turning that into action and actually being brave enough to tell people that why they’re asking for is not reasonable ... It’s easy to say council is crook ... you don’t need a fresh voice, you need sensible sound people.
Peter says you don’t need change, well if nothing changed and people didn’t make a change you would have nothing. You would go around in circles and you would be the same as what you were ... you do need change, you do need fresh ideas ... The port area, Peter goes on to say it’s doing a marvellous job ... you can certainly make a change.
Why would you do something like this (stand for council)? And the answer for me is I care about it. This is the community I now live in and I think I can make a contribution ... I do criticise and I’m not the sort of man that would criticise from a far and not try and be part of that solution.
From that point of view, I think I have something to add.
I don’t know all the ins and outs of local government but I’m a thinker and a learner and I can contribute to that conversation ... I am respectful to the past while I do criticise some of the things I do see today. I am particularly focused on efficiency and accountability.
Last time 66 per cent of our councillors changed. I’m the one and only Echuca councillor standing again. I consider that an absolute privilege ... My philosophy in my business and I use this on our staff all the time for my business to grow, our staff must grow. And that’s a very good philosophy for our community.
For our community to grow, our people must grow.
The highlight for me over the past four years is the people you meet.
I love my town and I believe we are starting to lose the feeling of the community. We haven’t got that feeling of community ... and I think the shire has lost that feeling of community.
We have all sorts of residents and we have to think of those residents, like the pool situation, Paul just told me it costs $28 a swim in Locky, well I think they deserve that $28 a swim. Maybe we should take something out of the $5 million we’re going to spend on Riverboat dock and put it towards our pools.
Everyone in this shire counts — it’s not just the big end of town ... Paul you talk about business coming into town ... Byford’s is a perfect example of turning you back on someone and we lost them to Moama.
I am heavily involved with the community ... which clearly demonstrates my passion for achieving outcomes not only in Lockington but across the shire.
During my nomination period a lot of people have asked me why am I standing for the Echuca ward?
Echuca is the heartbeat of the Shire of Campaspe ... I have no vested interest in the Port of Echuca or any other area for that matter and therefore no foreseeable conflicts of interests in any future matters ... I would like to see the Shire of Campaspe step up about our social issues that impact our entire communities. Increase in domestic violence, drug use and disengaged youths is a massive issue.
OPINION: Are you informed enough to vote?
Voters in Campaspe Shire have a tough job ahead of them.
In the next week they have to choose three out of eight candidates to lead the Echuca ward.
This is serious stuff.
These three people will make decisions that will impact ratepayers and the town for the next four years – possibly longer.
Together we have to choose the three people we think will make this town (and the Campaspe Shire) a better place in which to live.
There’s nothing funny about that.
So why, on Monday night at the Mercure Port of Echuca forum, did I find myself laughing?
Probably because — honestly — some of the candidates were laughable.
Not in the good way either.
I was laughing at them, not with them.
I went to listen to what each candidate could do for me, and report to you on what I saw and heard.
I didn’t go for personal attacks between the candidates but that’s what I, and the small audience, heard.
I’m not saying every candidate should drop their head in shame, there were some exceptions, but there were also some bad examples too.
Yes — there were some statements that needed to be said — but the rest was rubbish.
And that’s not all that annoyed me about this forum.
I receive complaints about Campaspe Shire every week.
Why is the former Oscar W’s still closed? What’s going on with the Port of Echuca? How much does Echuca’s swimming pool make? Why isn’t my road being graded when X’s is?
So why, when finally we as ratepayers are given the opportunity to find out who to vote for, does no-one turn up?
It was a cold Monday night so you could be forgiven for wanting to stay in.
But you shouldn’t have.
A forum such as Monday night’s was critical to attend, which is why I was also disappointed so many seats were empty.
I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. That’s up to you.
But I do hope Monday night’s attendance was not a reflection of the informed votes this election will attract because that would be the biggest shame of all.