THE mayor and deputy mayor swapped roles in the election for new leadership at Mornington Peninsula Shire last week, ensuring continuity until elections on 22 October next year.
Cr Bev Colomb handed the gold mayoral chain to her deputy, Cr Graham Pittock, who received eight votes to defeat the other candidate, Cr Andrew Dixon. Cr Colomb was then voted in as deputy to Cr Pittock for the next 11 months.
Cr Pittock presented Cr Dixon with a bottle of wine given to him for his achievement in winning the mayoralty, to mark Cr Dixon’s contesting the position.
Cr Dixon, a Briars ward councillor was also proposed for deputy mayor. He declined the nomination, to concentrate on ward duties.
Others nominated for deputy were Tim Rodgers – who also withdrew (his good friend Cr Pittock: “Thank goodness for that.”) – and veteran councillor David Gibb.
In his acceptance speech Cr Pittock emphasised the shire’s size and complexity – “a budget of $200 million” – and the changes in organisational structure and management that have occurred since Carl Cowie was hired a year ago as CEO.
Cr Pittock presented an ambitious list containing many goals aimed at protecting and improving the environment.
The listed items would remain “paramount concerns”, he told the packed gallery.
He set out “the challenges we face this year”, including:
- Achieving the shire commitment to carbon neutrality “with practical policies designed to reduce our carbon footprint sooner rather than too late”.
- Achieving balanced economic, transport and port development.
- Protecting our “very special green wedge as prime, high-yielding agricultural land, together with the enhancement of the remaining native vegetation”.
- Better exploit the Class A [highest quality] recycled water, delivered in “purple pipes”.
- Protecting and enhancing the amenity of our built environment and townships “with quality zoning and land use outcomes consistently and properly administered”.
- Improving recreational parks, historic places and the shire’s marine and coastal environment.
- Protecting the health of Port Phillip and permitting it to form its own natural boundaries.
- Better recognition, conservation and integration of marine, heritage and flora and fauna and wetland environments.
- Reviewing council’s service, business, capital and financial functions.
- Adapting shire functions to the environment “rather than adapting our environment to the shire functions”.
- Continuing to aid East Timor, now in severe drought. “If we don’t help them, no one else seems to want to”.
A significant goal – “Reviewing and maintaining an equitable and effective rating strategy” – was briefly mentioned. Submissions are being sought from the public on how to go about this vital review of the shire budget in light of the rate cap to be imposed from next July.
The farming lobby is already preparing a campaign against any change to the current rating position, under which the shire’s farm properties pay 35 per cent of the residential rate. In Frankston farmers pay 80 per cent of the residential rate.
Cr Pittock spoke of the exacting role councillors’ spouses play and the additional burden on the mayor’s spouse. “Prue, you might have to step up a bit, mow the lawns,” he told his wife sitting in the gallery, amid laughter. “But remember, you can always text or email me.”
Cr Pittock previously served as mayor in 2010. He was later the subject of controversy when in 2012 he was investigated for, then charged with, a conflict of interest because of his ownership of squash courts and a gym in Dromana.
This should have precluded him from voting on the now abandoned proposal for an aquatic centre on the Rosebud foreshore, the Local Government Inspectorate claimed.
Cr Pittock was found guilty but no conviction was recorded. Ironically, he had never voted against the centre – only against the ill-conceived plan to build it on the foreshore, which is reserved for coastal-dependent activities.