Reshuffle an opportunity to move forward

Christine Ferguson

Christine Ferguson

It has been more than a week since the shock resignation of now former Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council administrator Christine Ferguson.

It was never going to be an easy task for the former Nationals president to bring together what is largely seen as a forced marriage when the former Cootamundra and Harden Shires had taken proactive steps to join forces only to have the rug pulled under them by the state government.

At the time, residents were calling it an attack on democracy and complained they were losing their voice in the decision-making process for their towns.

An advisory board consisting of former councillors hasn’t seemed to fix the issue.

It will be a while until we see what Ms Ferguson’s departure will mean for the region, if anything, but in the meantime it seems to be business as usual for the new administrator Stephen Sykes.

One of the issues Mr Sykes wants to tackle early in his 20-week stint is restoring community faith by increasing engagement with residents.

He has a task ahead of him.

Anti-merger sentiment seems to be the modus operandi of Gundagai residents – at the very least a vocal minority – so convincing the Gundagai Council in Exile to fall into line would surely be a prominent task on Mr Syke’s to-do list.

Mr Sykes says he wants to put the community at the forefront of the operations side of the council with the aim of setting up a workable and cohesive set-up by the time residents go to the polls in September.

A vision of engaging with communities directly through social media and a “digital community panel” might just do the trick.

The biggest complaint from those against the merger is the one of ratepayers losing their voice – well here’s our chance to be heard.

When the council sends out a survey in a “couple of weeks”, do your bit and fill it out. This is your chance to get your voice back. The feedback will be used to set up this digital panel to allow council to ask residents directly about operational issues.

Mr Sykes also plans to address the community weekly via Facebook to keep residents informed.

All these initiatives are a positive step in the right direction, but Mr Sykes is still toeing the state government line of insisting the merger is here to stay. If you disagree with that, you’ll now get a more direct chance to let the new administrator know.