Rail trails and fees and charges were the most passionately debated topics at Wednesday night’s ‘Meet the Candidates’ meeting in Tumbarumba.
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 on 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.