For Batlow resident and businessman Cor Smit, the Tumut-Tumbarumba council merger is an opportunity.
He believes this whole region has enormous potential, especially for tourism, and that to work together to make that potential realised is a no-brainer.
“I’ve always felt that way about the whole area,” he said.
“I decided to run because I saw such a lot of negativity about the amalgamation, and I just felt that I needed to bring a voice of conciliation and reason to the whole picture. I think we have so much potential here, it really is such a wonderful area, and I think we should focus on that.”
Col has owned the Laurel Hill Berry Farm for nearly two decades. Prior to that he established the Revival Church in Wagga, which grew to over 200 members, and worked in the retail furnishing and wholesale trade in Canberra.
Locally, he is involved in the Snowy Valleys Way project and Tumbafest, and he used to own the Restawhile Cafe in Tumut. The common thread running through all of his community activities, it quickly becomes apparent, is encouraging others to come, see, and fall in love with the local district.
“Not just to see it, but so visitors can say ‘gee, this is a great place, I think I’d like to live here,’” he said.
“That happens! Councils have a role to encourage business, bring new businesses into the area, and that’s the sort of thing that I want to see happen. There’s a lot of opportunity in the whole shire for various kinds of rural businesses to be established. The truffle industry, the blueberry industry – these are examples of what I think the shire can and should be offering.
“Attracting investment and new interest in the area is very, very important. If we could all work together, it will benefit the whole shire to have people travel through. Say some major tourism facility is built in what was previously the Tumbarumba shire, the rest of us don’t need to feel that that’s their thing, and that we need to do something different.”
Cor’s also had a gutful of government employees acting like the public is lucky to access their services, rather than remembering that they are there to serve the public. He’d like to play a role in establishing a shire with a strong customer service focus from top to bottom.
“I think being people-oriented rather than process-oriented; that’s an important thing,” he said.
“At so many places you go to, including government facilities, the attitude is that they are there to do their job and the public go in there to get our services, but it’s at their pleasure. That’s the wrong approach. I’d like to see a switch in that whole picture. We are there for the benefit of the public; they aren’t there for our benefit.
“If I don’t get into Council I won’t be worried, but if I do get in I’ll be working towards improving the whole image of public service and tourism facilities.
“I’d like to see Council putting on customer service seminars for tourism operators and retailers, for example, so that people leave the area thinking that that was a nice experience.”
His fundamental vision for the Snowy Valleys shire is one that is a great place to live, as well as a great place to visit.