Unify or resign
RE: Time for the grandstanding to stop
I have, like many people, been watching the grandstanding and arguments around our council for long enough and now I call on the councillors to unify or resign.
The last council election was for the Cootamundra Gundagai Regional Council and those who now sit in the council chamber were elected to represent the whole of the shire not parts of it.
I am tired of the finger pointing, blaming and they got more than us attitudes as well.
It's no wonder the council is dysfunctional when their governance is as well, leadership is from the top and if the councillors who have the head leadership role are acting the way they are, it just continues down the line. Create some certainty, provide some leadership and the rest will follow.
The blaming previous staff has to stop, the councillors employ the general manager and oversee them in their role providing them guidelines and boundaries to act within.
On two occasions councillors voted to give the past general manager the power of the council to do as he saw fit within the Local Government Act and this was unlimited in the policy.
It's a bit late after the fact to complain when you gave them these powers in the first place. That is not to say if the Local Government Act is breached that they should not answer to that.
Let's have a functional council with good leadership that is shaping all of our futures in a positive way moving forward and if you're a councillor that can't do this in a unified way, time to resign.
Allan Young, Cootamundra
I write in response to Jim Slattery's letter, Arts Centre Funding, 5 July.
Firstly, Mr Slattery completely misunderstood the point that was being made by me citing the numbers of people at The Arts Centre's (TACC) funding raising event, Big Stuff, on 15 June. Yes, there were over 70 paying guests but there were also 11 volunteers in the kitchen and working the bar; there were 6 school students waiting on tables to hone their hospitality skills; there was an orchestra, Coota Strings, comprising of children from 8 to 12 years performing and developing their performance skills and the produce of 16 local producers was showcased as part of TACC's Local Unlimited Creative Enterprises project.
The people involved in the evening ranged in age from 8 to 91 and included both the able bodied and people with a disability. Many came from cities and towns far away from Cootamundra. In addition, the guest speaker, Eamon Flack, is a nationally and internationally acclaimed director, who had spent some of his childhood in Cootamundra, and who freely gave his time to support The Arts Centre. The comparison with sporting events is an inappropriate one.
Secondly, Mr Slattery states that Council has given well over $200,000 to The Arts Centre over time (15 years). This is true but a large part of that amount included the purchase of the building which Council still owns.
Following are some facts that the community, particularly Mr Slattery, needs to know.
Around NSW, it is common for Councils to provide the majority of operational funding for cultural institutions, such as performing arts centres, galleries and museums. In fact, Cootamundra Council (pre CGRC) is one of the few Councils which has not historically done so.
The contribution Council (CGRC) has committed to is similar to those provided to other similar sized cultural institutions. A 2017 survey of performing arts centres conducted by Performing Arts Connections Australia found that for venues of similar size to TACC, 26% of their revenue comes from local government. $50,000 represents 26% of TACC's budget for FY19/20. In fact, considering that TACC is a multi-arts venue, that contribution is likely on the low side. For regional galleries (which TACC includes), 71% of revenue comes from local councils (based on statistics from Create NSW).
I am not just talking about large LGAs or those in urban areas. A recent report on TACC's governance model, paid for by the NSW government, illustrated four examples of regional local government areas of similar population to Cootamundra-Gundagai, where councils' expenditure on cultural facilities similar to TACC ranged from $150,000 - $826,000 per annum. At these rates, $50,000 - or around 0.15%* of Council's overall budget - is excellent value.
The same report surveyed 71 cultural facilities around NSW and found that 69 of them were primarily funded by local councils, either by operating them in-house or outsourcing their management. Create NSW's recent report into regional cultural infrastructure showed that 87% of community members think it is very important to have cultural activity in their local area, and the majority of local government authorities in NSW recognise that they have a role in funding this infrastructure.
This will be the second year that Cootamundra Gundagai Regional Council has made a financial contribution to TACC's ongoing operations and in doing so, it is moving our Council from being the exception to the norm among councils in NSW. Councils around NSW and Australia have long recognised the community benefits of maintaining cultural spaces, in exactly the same way as they fund sporting and community spaces. It is not, and need not be, an either/or situation.
Very few cultural organisations in Australia operate without government funding to a greater or lesser extent; it is part of their ongoing business model. The same can be said for libraries, swimming pools, football grounds and community halls. Creative facilities provide not just entertainment and leisure options, but career training for young people, economic activity, social engagement and connections for community members. The benefits are many and the cost is low.
By making modest and considered financial contributions to the institutions which can enrich the cultural life of Cootamundra-Gundagai, Council helps our town and region become a more vibrant and rewarding place in which to live. It helps retain and attract residents and provides valuable cultural and economic activity. It should be commended, not criticised, for doing so.
All community members are invited to attend the TACC AGM at The Arts Centre at 6.00pm on Thursday, 18 July.
*50,000/31,777,000 (Total Council revenue 17/18 from the Annual Report)
Councillor Leigh Bowden
Arts Centre a fantastic facility
Re Cootamundra Creative Arts Centre
What a fantastic facility The Arts Centre is for Cootamundra.
What people should realise is that the Council, as part of its charter with the State Government, who provides funding to the council, there needs to be within the council's budget funds set aside to support Art & Culture - local ratepayers and the Fed's also provide funding to council.
The council does not fund any particular person in its employment to do this task.
This is also the case for Youth.
The $50,000 that council recently voted to provide to the Arts Centre ticks the Arts & Culture and to a lesser extent the Youth roles for council.T
his funding goes part of the way to allow the Art Centre to employ two people and one of their main roles is to source further grants from the State & Fed's - something they do very successfully.
Secondly in the last census 50% of Cootamundra residents were 50 or older.
By 2050 I expect that for Cootamundra this statistic will be closer to 60%.
So the council needs to cater for All citizens.I expect that most over 50's do not participate in contact sport.
I would think that golf and swimming would be their main sporting activity.
The over 50's need other facilities.
The library is one but from feedback I have observed is that the Arts Centre not only caters for all age groups but is a major attraction to retirees moving to Coota.
Since the initial seed capital loan provided by council, the supporters of the Art Centre have sourced well over $1,000,000 in State and Federal grants for building upgrades and cultural activities (for All generations).
All the State and Federal building grants have needed to be matched in $'s and kind (very little extra needed from council) and all the money has been spent within the town particularly with local tradies.
The cultural activities have catered for All generations and many have brought people (performers and visitors) who spend their $'s locally.
Finally, a few years ago Cootamundra council was awarded the prestigious A R Bluett award. The jewel in the crown for council in receiving that award was no doubt the Arts Centre.
Michael Twomey, Cootamundra
Mergers not working
It looks like that the forced merger between Cootamundra and Gundaga1 (CGRC) is starting to crack at the seams.
Disharmony has reached the stage where the six Cootamundra based councillors are now referring to their three Gundagai counterparts as "them and us".
The latest fiasco concerns the newly erected kiosk next to Stan Crowe Oval in Gundagai.
It is rumoured that three quotes were received for the roof.
And guess what, it is also rumoured the tenderer who submitted the highest quote secured the contract.
And we wondered why the entire kiosk project finished up $70,000 over budget?
Well, wonder no longer.
This latest blunder, on top of all the other past blunders, has got to wake the government up to the fact that the merger between the two towns is simply not working.
Australia is supposed to be one of the best democratic countries in the world.
And a democracy means that the majority rules.
The combined residents in both Cootamundra and Gundagai, according to the 2016 census, was 10,632.
So, we have the situation where about five know-all, stuff shirt politicians from Macquarie Street, are dictating to over 10,000 residents and telling them what's best for them.
Some democracy. The Government has got to reverse this train wreck merger ASAP. The will of the people must be respected.
Geoff Field, Gundagai