I’m a community minded chartered accountant with family roots in Wonthaggi.
For over 20 years I’ve specialised in helping organisations combine financial performance with care for their communities and the environment. I moved back to Bass Coast 3 years ago for the very best of regional living and was quickly and generously welcomed by the local community.
In return I am contributing as co-founder of the Wonthaggi Food Collective and the Bass Coast Climate Action Network, on the committees of Cape Paterson Residents & Ratepayers and Save the Holden Bushlands, and as an active member of many other community groups, like the library’s ethics discussion group.
Bass Coast’s population is expected to grow by over 30% in the next 16 years putting financial pressure on our ability to meet community needs. The inevitable effects of climate change will put further pressure on our towns, coastline and farms. Through all of this Council must be on the front foot to ensure economic prosperity while avoiding overdevelopment and looking after our beautiful natural environment.
I share the Greens’ commitment to participatory democracy and promise to work with residents, local businesses, farmers, and sporting and community groups to make decisions that:
1. Build economic prosperity and public health as we recover from COVID-19;
2. Strengthen community voices and participation; and
3. Care for nature.
My priorities include:
• implementing Council’s climate emergency plan, for example securing state government • subsidies for home efficiency upgrades;
• moving quickly to make the McBride campus a thriving multi-purpose community hub;
• strongly resisting inappropriate development, like the Cape Paterson North proposal;
• establishing a Youth Congress; and
• increasing Council transparency.
Vote for Michael Nugent for an influential advocate for our community, our environment and our economy.
- Why do you believe the community should vote for you?
I think it’s essential for Council to consider the community, the economy and the environment in equal measure when making any significant decision, and believe I have the qualifications, background, capacity, maturity and attitude necessary to make that a reality:
- qualifications and background – I’m a chartered accountant with over20 years specialization in helping organisations combine financial performance with care for society and the environment, e.g., I was vice chair of the Global Sustainability Standards Board
- capacity – I’m recently retired and would treat being a Councillor as a full time job, and
- maturity and attitude, e.g., throughout my career I have developed a balance of professional skepticism, independent judgement and an acknowledgement of the need for honesty, cooperation and collaboration to achieve the best results.
- What are your strengths in working with people?
I am both amiable and strong willed when needed. I favour a collaborative approach which requires establishing and nurturing good relationships with all stakeholders. This in turn requires honesty and the courage to speak your mind and ask difficult questions when needed, plus the ability and willingness to listen and to change your mind if/when the circumstances, or your knowledge of them, change.
- If elected, how will you demonstrate that you stand at the front of the community rather than standing beside the bureaucracy?
I will strive to do both. I think it’s unhelpful to view local government as win-lose: the community versus the bureaucracy. As I mention above, I favour a collaborative approach and think this is most likely to get us to a position where the community (both as represented by Councillors and through ongoing engagement) and Council officers are on the same page. If Councillors start off with a combative posture it is unlikely to lead to optimal outcomes.
- What considerations, inclusions or deletions will you take when forming your new Council Plan?
Four key considerations come to mind, in no particular order:
(a) Community engagement: there will be, as is customary, a schedule of community engagement to develop the new Plan. I sincerely believe that this engagement must be the foundation of the new Plan; i.e., the Plan must be built around the community’s wishes.
(b) Climate: Council has declared a climate emergency and developed a climate emergency plan. That plan needs to be integrated with the Council Plan.
(c) COVID: recovery from the pandemic will have a pervasive impact on this term of Council – this will need to be recognised in the Plan.
(d) Minimising disruption: Notwithstanding the above, I do not favour change for change’s sake and would not like to see transition from the previous Plan to the new Plan cause unnecessary upheaval in Council operations (e.g., wasted resources to restructure departments etc. simply to fit with a new structure for the Plan).
- How will you demonstrate that you remain focused on financial discipline at Council
I am a chartered accountant and have strong financial credentials, however as mentioned above, I think it’s essential for Council to consider the community, the economy [including financial discipline] and the environment in equal measure when making any significant decision. If elected I intend to focus on all 3 and will hold myself accountable to the community on all 3. For example, I will hold local community forums at least monthly where anyone can raise issues with me directly.
- Is Council’s 4 year Strategic Resource Plan together with the 10 year financial plan appropriate to meet the future needs of The Bass Coast Shire Council and its Ratepayers?
The Strategic Resource Plan and 10 year financial plan are not grossly wide of the mark, but as with any plans, they need regular review and revision. (Aside: the wording of this question is interesting in that it implies a potential for difference between the needs of the Council and those of ratepayers – in my view, Council represent the interests of, and should be inseparable from, the ratepayers (and residents), i.e. the community. Although there will inevitably be differences between what some sections of the community want and the actions of Council (because we do not live in a perfect world where everybody is happy with every decision), it is not my sense that there is currently a significant difference between the actions of Council and the interests of the community as a whole.)
- Will you be prepared to challenge the system (council officers and fellow councillors) to keep your constituents well informed
Yes, of course. But equally, my hope would be that a collaborative approach will make that mostly unnecessary, i.e. I will strive to ensure “the system” is inclusive, transparent and accountable.
- Will you take action to investigate the 10 year Waste Contract details in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor? Will you review the contract model settings and make findings publicly available?
Yes. I understand the consternation on this issue and will act to fully inform myself of what happened with the contract and disclose anything untoward that I find which has not been previously disclosed. It is worth noting however, that while I will exercise the utmost professional skepticism, I will start with an open mind and objective attitude consistent with my professional training as an auditor, rather than a preconception that something is wrong and being hidden.
- Will you support continued live streaming of open Council Meetings and availability of a publicly available video archive?
- Will you take action to review the Governance Rules Policy in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor including community consultation?
- Will you take action to Review the Media Engagement Policy in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor including community consultation?
- If elected, what commitment will you make to improve Council engagement with the wider community and build community engagement with your local ward?
I think community engagement is, or should be, the lifeblood of any Council. In particular:
- I would hold local community forums at least monthly where anyone can raise issues with me directly.
- there is a problem at present with Council agenda papers and officer’s reports not being released till 3 working days before Council meetings. This allows very little time for community members to analyse reports, ask questions of officers and speak with Councillors. I would push for papers to be available earlier and to hold community forums between their release and the Council meeting.
- One of my priorities is to establish a regular forum for youth to speak directly to Council – see https://tinyurl.com/Bass-CoastYouth. I envisage setting up similar forums in other areas of community interest, e.g., the environment, and arts and culture. I know some advisory committees exist, but they are inaccessible for community members – I would push for forums with a much higher profile, including published agendas and minutes, meetings open to public observers, and a “direct line” to Council on all relevant issues.
- I would continue the in person Community Connections sessions (and introduce virtual ones), which are an excellent way for community members to raise issues.
- Council’s Community Engagement Policy acknowledges a “Spectrum of Public Participation” from inform, to consult, to involve, to collaborate, to empower. Unfortunately, much of Council’s engagement has been at the “inform” and “consult” end of the spectrum. I would advocate for moving up that spectrum on all significant issues.
- How will you ensure that the CEO and officers genuinely and respectfully answer all public questions with a sincere response that address the core of each question?
Can I “ensure” this? I recognise the importance of genuine and respectful answers and will do my best to make this a reality. The answer to public questions during meetings are necessarily fairly short with no opportunity for follow-up. If they are unsatisfactory I would consider how more substantive answers could be provided by other channels, e.g. through direct communication with questioners, through the media and/or at local community forums that allow for discussion and follow-up.
- Do you believe that keeping any increases to rates, fees and charges within the State Government Rate Cap or below the CPI increase is paramount for Council?
No, it is important but not paramount – to quote my answer to the first question, “I think it’s essential for Council to consider the community, the economy [including rates, fees and charges] and the environment in equal measure when making any significant decision”. An over-emphasis on any of these 3 would, I believe, be detrimental to the medium/long term vitality of our Shire. Needless to say, I do not see this as a license for overspending or inefficiency and my training and experience as a chartered accountant will help ensure this.
- Would you be in favour of regular virtual community connection sessions in lieu of the previous model used by Council?
I am very much in favour of regular virtual community connection sessions as well as (rather than in lieu of) in-person sessions when they again allowed.
Rather than reply individually to the remaining questions, Michael Nugent asks that residents and ratepayers call him direct to talk through issues that are important to them. They are also very welcome to look at his Facebook page via the link below to get a sense of what issues are important to him.
(You may download a copy of the questions here for your reference)
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