August 23, 2017

THE man who wrote to the Local Government Minister requesting Murray Shire be suspended in 2016 says he is willing to do ‘‘what’s necessary’’ going forward.

John Pocklington was mayor for the final five months of the shire before he wrote to Paul O’Toole calling for his council’s suspension.

In his own words, he “lost control” of the council.

When asked whether he would write to the Minister again, Mr Pocklington — who is standing for the Greater Murray ward ahead of next month’s election — said he would follow procedure.

“If the procedure is not working I will do what’s necessary for my community,” he said.

“I think if it happened again the Minister would act more … severely … I would give it a great deal of thought because the action did not achieve the result I wanted.”

Mr Pocklington said his time as mayor was “extremely difficult”.

“I inherited a council with the general manager not at work. I had a couple of court cases pending that I had to manage myself on behalf of council because no-one else was in a position to do it,” he said.

“And it was quite a huge workload up front and the behaviour of councillors didn’t change. It kept spiralling down to the point the health of councillors was suffering. Staff that shouldn’t have been involved were dragged into it and they were under stress that was unnecessary.

“And I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the councillors … yes, it was a denial of democracy (to write to the Minister) but the way the council was behaving was not in the best interest of the community.

“I couldn’t think of any other options to protect my community.”

Mr Pocklington said he was standing again because he couldn’t bear the thought of history repeating itself.

“If I said ‘bugger it’ and let them have it I couldn’t live with myself when the same thing happened and people’s personal agendas were to the detriment of the community,” he said.

Mr Pocklington is standing alongside long-term councillor and former mayor Tom Weyrich and newcomers Nicole Stenhouse, Geoff Wise and Tony Aquino.

If he is successful on September 9 he said he would put his hand up as mayor but this time he is determined to create a cohesive council.

“A council with mutual respect,” he said.

The 58-year-old mixed farmer has lived in Bunnaloo all his life and also spends time volunteering, driving people to their hospital appointments.

Mr Pocklington has spent 30 years serving local government including four years as deputy mayor.

“I’ve got the experience and the local knowledge to make this new council work,” he said.

At the end of the next term of local government Mr Pocklington would like to see a project introduced to the new council allowing young people studying at universities to stay in the community, via correspondence, and be supported. Which could include an empty space where the young people could gather.

“If they study locally they are more likely to stay locally ... but I’m not going to define my term as that. I am going to define my term as how cohesive the new council is,” Mr Pocklington said.

Committee for Echuca Moama is hosting a Murray River Council forum tonight for the Greater Murray and Moama ward candidates.

It is at the Moama Bowling Club tonight from 6.30pm and is an opportunity for people to hear from the candidates before casting their vote.

From Greater Murray, Tom Weyrich and John Pocklington have confirmed while Tony Aquino, Geoff Wise and Nicole Stenhouse are an apology.

As for Moama, Nikki Cohen, Geoff Mackenzie and Chris Bilkey have confirmed while Gen Campbell will not be attending.

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