Upper Lachlan Shire Mayor Cr. John Shaw used his casting vote at last week’s meeting to commit the Council to a plebiscite on windfarms in association with Council elections next September.
The Council had decided at the previous month’s meeting to democratically assess the feeling of Upper Lachlan residents to ascertain what the general feeling towards windfarms is in the Shire.
The method considered then was a questionnaire to accompany the rate notices in July.
At last Thursday’s meeting General Manager Mr. John Bell tabled information from the NSW Electoral Commission on the conduct of referenda in association with the elections.
Mr. Bell said the Commission indicated that the cost to Council of such a poll would equate to about 10 per cent of the total election cost.
“This total cost is estimated by the Commission to be $38,800, and thus the poll cost to Council would be $3,880,” Mr. Bell said.
Cr. James Wheelwright moved that Council conduct such a poll, which was seconded by Cr. Bill Martin.
Cr. Wheelwright commented: “The dollars and cents add up. The only way to get a full cross section is at election time.”
Cr. Charlie Prell opposed the motion.
“This could dominate the election, leading to other important matters being overshadowed.
“I still support a fairly simple survey to accompany the rate notices.
“That is much more preferable to allow candidates to be able to support or oppose windfarms as a result of the survey.”
Cr. Martin: “The point I would make is that we said we would democratically survey the ratepayers.
“I don’t know where you’d get a better way than the election when 99 per cent of ratepayers will vote.
“The incoming Council will then know which way to go. This is the way to go to get the majority of people to voice an opinion.”
Cr. Sandra Bill also opposed the motion.
“We’ve spent four years in Council battling this question. I would like to see an answer to the survey before the elections.
“I believe it will take away from the fact that we are running an election.”
Mr. Brian Moloney favoured the idea.
“The trouble I’ve got with these surveys is the democratic result.
“We all know the result can depend on the questions and how they are worded.
“Some ratepayers get two or three notices, and would have extra votes.
“Many husbands and wives get only one notice, and therefore would have only one vote.
“And those who have lived her all their lives but are not ratepayers don’t get a vote at all.
“Put a simple question to get an answer. This has been dragging down on our other duties to the ratepayers.”
Cr. John Coombs joined those opposed to the idea.
“The real issue is the question of timing,” he said.
“No-one can be opposed to a Shire wide vote, but this could well be the issue of the election.
“You will be asked to state what your position is, and I wouldn’t like to see people dumped out over it. There are other issues.
“There wouldn’t have been too many Councils in the past better than this one, and I would like to see everyone on this Council returned.
“I don’t want to see a dogfight over one issue. It will cost some people around this table their position, and that is not fair.
“You all resisted my move to have public meetings, now you are going to all the ratepayers.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we have to advertise to try and get people to stand for Council. We’ll wind up in Goulburn Mulwaree if that happens.
“Money for roads and a new Council building are more important than this.”
Cr. Wheelwright: “We have not had and will never get a better opportunity to have a poll with an outside referee. This is only a poll to find our where windfarms stand in people’s minds.”
Put to the vote, Crs Wheelwright, Martin, Moloney and Shaw were in favour, Crs Prell, Coombs, Bill and McCormack opposed.
Cr. Shaw, in using his casting vote to carry the motion, commented: “I think this is democratically the best way to do it. A ratepayer survey is not the way.”
30 January 2008
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