Former Murray Shire councillors want a 'new' go

June 30, 2017

Chris Bilkey.

Tom Weyrich.

John Pocklington.

Gen Campbell

THE former Murray Shire Council is not dead yet.

At least four former councillors — including two mayors and two deputy mayors— from the embattled shire have declared their intentions to contest seats on merged entity Murray River Council at the September election.

Previous mayors John Pocklington and Tom Weyrich, and deputy mayors Gen Campbell and Chris Bilkey, are all expected to be on the ballot paper.

Geoff Mackenzie said he was still deciding but is likely to throw his hat into the ring.

Murray Shire’s council was suspended on February 10, 2016, when then Local Government Minister Paul Toole cited ‘‘dysfunctional relationships’’ having affected the ability of council to function.

A few months later Murray Shire was forced to merge with Wakool Shire as part of the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future vision, and the new council was placed into administration.

That’s until September when MRC’s first nine councillors — this time representing a much larger area — will take over.

Outgoing mayor John Pocklington, who wrote to Mr Toole requesting his council’s suspension, said he wanted to see good governance in the new council.

‘‘Where councillors are not at war with each other and the council actually works towards projects and gets them done,’’ he said.

‘‘Nothing was achieved last term, nothing — for the whole three years we were in charge.’’

Mr Pocklington said he was concerned the same issues that plagued the old shire would plague the new council.

‘‘When people get fooled, shame on the people that fool them,’’ he said.

‘‘The second time, shame on them. So the people who go to the election this time need to have a really good think about who they are electing and why.’’

Mr Weyrich, who was on Murray Shire Council for 17 years, said over the years he had worked with very proactive councils — and if elected he looked forward to getting back to that.

‘‘I don’t think we could replicate what happened in 100 years,’’ he said.

‘‘And I certainly look forward to some harmony and some forward-thinking colleagues.’’

Mr Weyrich said he believed a ‘‘gigantic personality clash’’ was the undoing of the previous council.

‘‘Let me tell you it was a personality clash … there are eight other councillors and whether we like it or not we have to work together,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t make decisions, the council makes decisions, collectively we are the community.’’

Ms Campbell said she was standing because she had unfinished business.

She also encouraged the Independent Commission into Corruption to investigate the entire process and what costs have been spent from go to whoa — including the amalgamation.

‘‘The whole lot is a sham, it’s a total sham,’’ she said.

Ms Campbell said she did not believe the ghosts of the previous shire would haunt the new one.

‘‘(Because of the amalgamation and the new representation from across that area) I am hopeful that cartel will finally be broken up, and I think a lot of those players will not be back in and I am very, very pleased.’’

Mr Bilkey said he didn’t want to spend a lot of time “talking about where we’ve been”.

“It’s no secret that there were significant differences between members of that council that ultimately resulted in being irreconcilable,” he said.

Mr Bilkey said there was a “possibility” the same issues would carry over to the new council, depending on who was elected.

But he did make clear he thought the new management of the merged council was doing a “fantastic” job.

“Any objective measure of how the new shire has progressed following the decision to amalgamate the two parts of the shire … would indicate they have done a fantastic job. The interim CEO (Margot Stork) was awarded the best female administrator of NSW,” Mr Bilkey said.

“My understanding … is that the new Murray River Council has exceeded every other rural based amalgamated shire in ticking all the boxes for the amalgamation process to be completed … and that’s a great reflection of the management.”

The elections will be held on Saturday, September 9, when councillors will be elected for a three-year term.

Candidate information sessions will be at Moama Bowling Club from 6pm-9pm on Monday, July 3, and from 6pm-9pm at Barham Riverside Reception Centre on Tuesday, July 4. Three wards will be contested — Moama, Greater Murray and Greater Wakool.

Nominations open on Monday, July 31, and close at noon on Wednesday, August 9. The Riverine Herald did not hear back from Bill Anderson in time for publication.

Betty Murphy and Ian Moon both said they would be sitting out this year’s race and we were unable to contact Gavin Burke, who resigned during the last term.

■The Riv will be following the council elections and will publish extended interviews with each candidate in the lead up to the election.

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