The Greens on Council – a year of progressive changes

In the year since three Greens councillors and a Green mayor were elected, distinctive initiatives have been achieved in the Shoalhaven. These follow on from policy statements made during the campaign period and has included responding vigorously to events and crises as they have emerged throughout the year: homelessness, income from rates, marriage equality, climate change and foreshore protection.

Each of these issues received regular opposition from incumbents of the previous Council but through skilful management of meetings and determined debate from Greens and Labor, consensus was frequently reached by a majority that included Team Gash. It should be noted however, that a hard core of ‘independent’ councillors, wasted time with obstructive talk and rescission motions, all at considerable financial cost to the rate-payers.

The Greens introduced their core ideas as well as practical outcomes to Council business: divestment of Council investments from fossil fuels is now happening, joining in a pledge framework to attain 100% renewables in the city by 2030; brokering of safe-shelter services to homeless people with the local churches through a task force, together with strong representations to State government about the lack of affordable housing; beginning the process of a State-wide plastic bag replacement program and locally, the banning of gas-filled balloons, both causing long-term damage to the environment.

Other initiatives have been the healthy cities approach, embracing cycleways and an electric bus trial; the Bomaderry basketball complex was finally brokered and approved and a ‘beach wheels’ service for the physically disabled established. In residential areas, limiting the movement of quarry heavy trucks and the careless generation of woodsmoke were tackled and vandalism of foreshores by residents at Collingwood beach is finally to be resolved with a new code agreed by all parties, with enforcement to be vigorously pursued.

Our Greens councillors led the way in the Chamber with these initiatives and are to be congratulated on the many hours of work they have put in this year, a steep learning curve involving not only fronting up to far more experienced councillors in the Chamber, but also responding to rate-payers requests and attending to the many committees making decisions about planning and the many services Council provides to rate-payers and visitors to the region. The redesigned SCC website, the Facebook and email feeds, amplifies the message by supplying essential information and news about the management of the Shoalhaven environment by skilled Council staff working closely with our inspired Mayor, Amanda Findley and committed councillors, Kaye Gartner, Nina Cheyne and John Levett.

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