It pays not to shoot from the lip

June 14, 2017

CAMPASPE Shire councillor Leigh Wilson should reconsider his statements made at the council meeting last week.

Council adopted the Council Plan and budget at a special meeting on Tuesday when Cr Wilson took the opportunity to target the Riverine Herald.

‘‘I can’t help but feel there’s just one thing lacking in all of this, and as I sit here tonight and I look into the gallery, we have no members of the press,’’ he said.

‘‘Now I’ve taken a fair bit of flak over the years from the press, and so has council, but for one of the most significant documents that has an impact on the day-to-day lives of the constituents of Campaspe Shire and also this great town of Echuca, it is a real shame that our local paper, our media, can fire shots off and have a go but can’t be bothered to come along for such an important night.

‘‘I’m going to leave it at that before I get in trouble.’’

Cr Wilson was right on one thing – we weren’t in that room.

But we were watching – online and live – from our Hare St office as we have done for several other meetings in recent years.

This is the 21st century Cr Wilson.

Your fellow councillor, John Zobec, also chose to watch from the internet on Tuesday night because he was on leave.

So why was it such a foreign concept to you that we wouldn’t be doing the same?

The shots we can only assume Cr Wilson was referring to was our front page the day before, which read: STARING AT FINANCIAL BLACKHOLE.

It referred to Campaspe Shire Council going backwards financially. A significant portion of the comments in that story were from the organisation. We were telling your story Cr Wilson.

Surprisingly enough Cr Wilson highlighted the challenge council faced later on in the meeting.

He did not ‘‘leave it at that’’.

‘‘The only thing that I see is the ongoing challenge from our budget cycle year to year is the long-term financial plan and working towards reducing the un-funded gap which projects that 2026 we will still have around $30 million worth of assets unfunded,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a little bit surprising that apparently today — and I’ve already had a little bit of a crack/shot at the local media — but today the local media have only really just caught on that this is apparently something real.

‘‘Because we’ve got a little bit of validity from another organisation.

‘‘This is real. We get audited. We haven’t changed our story over many years, this is coming.’’

Yes, Cr Wilson, we are aware.

We – like you – have not changed our story on the pressure the Victorian Government’s rate cap is putting on council either.

How short is your memory?

In June 2015 the following was published: Rate capping for Campaspe Shire could have a devastating impact on its functions and ratepayers, according to mayor Leigh Wilson.

We have reported on the pressure of the rate cap, and the hard decisions council will have to make, from the get go.

You know that because we have interviewed you about it.

We have covered the aquatic services review and the rural roads review.

Even in January this year we reported: Handcuffed by rate capping Campaspe Shire is pulling no punches — it will keep cutting costs and hopefully not impact ‘‘too much’’ on services.

But when an organisation such as Committee for Echuca feels it needs to make a submission saying council’s services will be ‘‘seriously compromised’’ unless something is done, we as a newspaper have a responsibility to report on that submission.

It goes without saying Cr Wilson has made significant contribution to Rochester and the shire during his time on council.

I commend him for that but on Tuesday he did the organisation and council a disservice because his statements were simply wrong.

Cr Wilson did not attempt to contact the Riverine Herald to express his disappointment.

But by all means Leigh, give me a call before your next shot at us live on video.

Because I would happily prefer to set the record straight over the phone, or in person, than having to do so in writing and publicly.

As I have done today.

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