Rail trails and fees debated at Tumbarumba meeting
Residents also wanted to know where the candidates stood on the viability of 355 committees, (community organisations that are affiliated with council and are covered by council’s insurance), and how they felt about council owning and running businesses.
It was in these sorts of issues that the differences between Tumbarumba and Tumut councils really stood out.
In Tumbarumba, council-run businesses have been the norm. Council took on responsibility for the Carcoola Childcare Centre, the Tumbarumba retirement village, and the community centre.
They also joint-own affordable subsidised units Rotary Place with the NSW government, and they have previously invested in developing housing themselves before selling it off, at Snowview Estate.
Tumut Council, in the words of former councillor Margaret Isselmann, hasn’t had “the appetite” for those sorts of initiatives, and the candidates were asked where the new entity would stand on council taking on those sorts of services.
Julia Ham was strongly in favour: “It’s the difference between a visionary council and a reactive council,” she said.
John Larter said he would support it, “As long as it didn’t stifle private enterprise.” He favours council encouraging businesses through grants, and suggested council setting up a Grants Officer to help community organisations and businesses navigate the complex web of accessible government funding.
Cate Cross also spoke in favour of council playing in role in helping business navigate red tape in order to flourish.
Bruce Wright said the best way of supporting small businesses is to promote the region: “I don’t think we should be supporting small businesses financially, “I think we should support them by encouraging tourism and bring more people spending money to town,” he said.
When it comes to the rail trail, Bruce Wright and Cor Smit are strongly in favour.
John Larter and Geoff Pritchard side with the anti-rail trail Gilmore farmers.
The rest are undecided, and waiting for the result of the Tumbarumba-Rosewood rail trail before proceeding with the controversial Tumut-Batlow proposal.
Other topics included:
• James Hayes’ proposal to lobby for the rail line between Tumut and Wagga to be become active again, with the idea being to take trucks off the road. Currently 80 vehicles a day leave Visy for Wagga where stock is then loaded onto the train, with other businesses also clogging the roads with B-Doubles.
• Criticism of John Larter’s comment that travelling to Khancoban at 6pm in winter for a Meet the Candidates meeting was a poor idea on behalf of the council.
• Whether or not the candidates support free camping. James Hayes and John Larter do; Bruce Wright, Margaret Isselmann and Julia Ham were not against but stressed the need to be mindful of the caravan park, and the rest were undecided.
Candidates emphasise importance of unity
If you had to pick one word to sum up the messaging from Wednesday night’s Meet the Candidates meeting in Tumbarumba, it would be unity.
All candidates emphasised the importance of working as a team and listening to small communities, in introductory speeches aimed at winning over a not-entirely-friendly crowd at the Tumbarumba Memorial Hall.
“Probably the most important thing is to have a unified council with a can-do attitude,” said Bruce Wright.
“My priorities are to have fair representation for all communities, and a long-term strategic plan.”
James Hayes spoke favourably about the former Tumbarumba Council: “I always saw Tumbarumba Council as a can-do council,” he said.
“My problem with the old [Tumut] council was that you’d take an idea to them, and you’d find out all the reasons why you couldn’t do it. In Tumbarumba, they’d say okay, how can we do it?”
Julia Ham shared her first interaction with the Tumbarumba shire council. After she was involved in a car accident with her two young children in the vehicle, she wrote a letter to Tumbarumba Council complaining about the section of road. Much to her surprise, the section of road was fixed within six months, and a councillor personally approached her to discuss the matter.
Margaret Isselmann highlighted her position as a “starving mule between two hay bales,” being a representative for Batlow. She’s a former Tumut councillor, but also has had a lot of involvement in the town of Tumbarumba.
“I’d like to recognise that there are former Tumbarumba councillors here, and LRC members here, and I’d like to personally thank you for coming,” she said.
“Tumbarumba Council had some really cutting edge ideas, that were not necessarily taken up in Tumut.”
Cate Cross drew listeners’ attention to her long history of working with disadvantaged members of the community, and her core values of compassion and respect.
“I’ve learned the value and the power of working as a team, the ability to listen, and the importance of taking on different points of view,” she said.
“I’m really heartened by the fact that my values are matched by my fellow candidates.”
John Larter is looking forward to capitalising on the recent uptick in industry investment in the region.
“I see opportunities like Snowy 2.0 and Visy as being fantastic for our region, and they need to be harnessed to make the most of these opportunities,” he said.
“There’s a lot to learn from Tumbarumba Council, and I think we need to listen to how you did it so well.”
Geoff Pritchard shared with the audience his history living in Tumut as a child, and his experiences working as a surgeon.
“Health issues have become more of a problem now,” he said.
“We used to have three anaesthetists in the region, and now we’re struggling to get one. So we need to raise the question with the politicians, with Snowy Hydro, and Visy: how do we get procedural GPs in this area?”
Cor Smit said he had always seen the Tumut and Tumbarumba regions as a singular district, and that he thought there was a lot of good that could come from making that conceptualisation official.
“I am not a stranger here,” he said.
“You may think that there are only two people representing you, but I’ve been within this shire for 17 and a half years. As part of my experiences I’ve come to really love the shire; it’s all come together now and I’m really happy about that. We all love the place we’re in, it’s just that now we’ve got a bigger place, more neighbours, and more opportunities to work together.”
Candidates Andrianna Benjamin and Audrey McKenzie did not attend the meeting.