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Peter Cormick - 23 September 2014

Peter Cormick made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 23 September 2014.

Huntfest Licence Amendment

To councillors:

This is probably the last opportunity to speak to you, collectively, on this matter before you have read through the submissions, or have had a briefing from staff, prior to the meeting at which you will make your decision. I want to talk to you before those processes occur – in the hope that, as they do take place you might take into account what I have to say.

I have no wish to go over what has been gone over countless times already. That would not only be futile, it would be very irritating to all. Instead, I want to introduce considerations that may not be presented to you as you progress towards your decision. There are four headings I wish to raise.

1. Compliance with Legislation and policies

As we know, in addition to the Events Policy there is also the Eurobodalla Shire Events Guidelines that need to be considered in your deliberations. Both documents address the approval process. The Events Policy states that:

"Council will ensure the event approval process meets relevant legislative requirements [and that] The full process for assessing event applications is outlined in the Eurobodalla Shire Events Guidelines."

The Events Guidelines state that:

In considering the application Council will have regard to:

  • the likely impact on residents
  • the benefit to the community, economy, area and tourism
  • the number of events at a venue within a twelve (12) month period
  • the type of event/entertainment
  • the event organiser's experience and history
  • the associated approvals required

(emphases added)

The last 'Huntfest report' to council, dated 10 December 2013, recommended approval of the display of weapons. Under the heading of "Policy", you were advised that the "proposed variation ... does not breach any Council policy including the Events policy". And under the heading of "Social Impact", you were told of the applicant's vision of "generating economic benefit" but nothing at all of the social impact.

In my view, the 10 December 2013 report was inadequate and did not properly inform you of just what you must take into account in coming to your decision or of what discretionary powers you have available in this matter. For a start, the legislative requirements include compliance with section 8 of the LGA: Council's Charter. And that, inter alia, requires council "to promote and to provide and plan for the needs of children [and] to have regard to the long term and cumulative effects of its decisions." Those requirements are clearly highly relevant to a decision on whether or not to approve an Arms Fair in the shire. If approved it is more likely than not that it will remain and that its frequency will increase. It's all very well to not stand in the way of adults doing their 'lawful things'. But the welfare of impressionable children is another matter altogether. Keep in mind that the Huntfest event permits free entry to children under 16 years of age and that children are, under supervision, entitled to use firearms from the age of 12. There is a clear obligation to have this issue uppermost in your minds and to comply with section 8 of the LGA. And the Events Policy requires that you consider the "type of event" in coming to your decision. As the 10 December 2013 report stood, councillors were not informed of this; but, rather, were told that the proposed variation did not breach Council policy – as though you were then compelled to approve the application. That is clearly not so. You do have the discretion to consider the type of event in question and you must then weigh that consideration up with the requirements of section 8 of the LGA re the welfare of children and the long term effects of your decision.

2. Submissions – subject matter

The public exhibition notice re Huntfest on council's website states that:

"Please note that submissions are sought on this amendment only, not on the 5 year licence issued in 2013 which is not on public exhibition."

I ask that you please not exclude submissions simply because they make reference to the Huntfest event itself, provided, of course, that the reference is made in the context of the amendment. Very clearly, the amendment underpins the future of the event and so the two are inseparable.

3. The community – and the scope of submissions

The LGA is very clear about what constitutes the community to whom you are answerable. It is the local community and, of course, those ratepayers who reside elsewhere. Below are excerpts from the LGA which leave no doubt about this. Therefore, as you wade through the submissions, I ask that you please accord the weight to each that properly reflects the unique relationship you have with your constituents.

COMMUNITY CONSULTATION AND THE LGA – EXCERPTS

7 What are the purposes of this Act?

The purposes of this Act are as follows:

...

 (c) to encourage and assist the effective participation of local communities in the affairs of local government,

...

 8 The council's charter

(1) A council has the following charter:

...

* to engage in long-term strategic planning on behalf of the local community

...

14 Council polls

A council may take a poll of electors for its information and guidance on any matter.

232 What is the role of a councillor?

...

 (2) The role of a councillor is, as an elected person:

* to represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers

...

402 Community strategic plan

...

 (4) The council must establish and implement a strategy (its
"community engagement strategy" ), based on social justice principles, for engagement with the local community when developing the community strategic plan.

...

Further comment on submissions (late entry!):

I understand that staff will present you with a summary of the submissions as well as the submissions themselves. But if you don't get to see the submissions until the time you are presented with the summary – which will be after the exhibition period – you will have very little time to work through each and every one of them, before the meeting at which you will be making your decision. It makes perfect sense that you be provided with copies as they arrive. If that's not happening I suggest that it should – for your own sakes if for no other reason. Otherwise it is likely that you won't be able to do justice to the submissions.

(Note: Anthony O'Reilly advised me just prior to the meeting that, in response to Kathie Thackray's request to him, he would be ensuring that councillors receive the submissions as they arrive – so there was no need to take it up at the meeting.)

4. Economic benefits

The much-referred to $900,000 flow of money into the shire at the last Huntfest event needs a closer look. I have been told by staff that it is obtained by the following arithmetic: 2400 attendees x 3 night's stay x $127 per night = $914.400.

The 2,400 figure has been provided by the Huntfest organisers but, accepting that it is correct, I recall that one of the organisers said that approximately 80% of attendees were from outside the shire; which means that the 2400 becomes 1,920. Now, if those visitors are staying over 3 nights then we can expect that they will be attending on both Saturday and Sunday. So, we mustn't double count. That leaves us with a theoretical 1,920/2 attendees for each of the 2 days. That results in a theoretical 960 attendees x 3 nights x $127 per night = $365,760. And if only half stayed for 3 nights and the other half stayed for 2 nights, we get 480 x 5 x 127 = $304,800, and so on, down to 1 night, yielding a final figure of $122,000. Something to think about, at the very least.