In these uncertain times, I believe there is a strong need for experience and continuity on the Council.
I am pleased with what we have managed to achieve during my first term as a community based representative, but there a number of key projects and issues that are vital to the future of Phillip Island that will benefit greatly by my continued involvement.
These projects include the:
• Cowes East erosion plan,
• New Transit Centre,
• Jetty Triangle redevelopment,
• Smith’s Beach Masterplan; and
• Support the Bass Coast Climate Emergency Plan.
I also pledge to continue to work to address the climate emergency; preparation of the plans for the new recreation precinct at the Carnival site; to have projects shovel ready so that we can pursue government grant money for a new aquatic centre; highball stadium and playing fields as well as a fresh focus on pathways and active transport.
The Cowes Cultural Centre is underway and when finished will revitalise the centre of town. We have the money, we have quality architects and we will soon contract the builder. This will provide first class performance spaces, conference facilities, exhibition space and a new modern library and museum space. The grounds will be inviting and provide inviting outdoor gathering spots for locals and visitors.
This $20 million investment will inject a strong stimulus into the local economy at a time when many businesses are suffering the worst economic shock of our lifetime. Local building will bring in money and spending at a time when we need it more than ever.
The Phillip Island Transfer station is underway, we have the land and it is important that this facility becomes a model of sustainability and a link in the circular economy. There will be a masterplan prepared and I will work to ensure that the additional land is used for community purposes for example a community farm and food hub, community energy project, wetlands and work with Council partners such as Westernport Water who own the adjacent land.
I am proud of the performance of the Island Ward councillors who have worked together effectively to get these issues on the agenda and into budget.
There has been a marked improvement in the way Councillors work together over the past four years. Working cooperatively and as an Island team has delivered substantial benefits across the board for Phillip Island.
And I particularly want to express my heartfelt gratitude and thanks to long-serving and Island resident, Pamela Rothfield for her leadership as Mayor for two years and the representation she has provided to the wider Phillip Island community.
Michael Whelan has elected not to reply individually to questions in our Election Candidate Questionnaire. He has provided the following statement as his response.
(You may download a copy of the questions here for reference)
Statement in response to BCRRA Questions:
I am seeking re-election to continue the work on a new cultural Centre for Cowes, the Aquatics and Recreation precinct and of course the implementation of a comprehensive climate emergency plan. During this term I have worked closely with several community groups to achieve priority for coastal erosion work, exhibition space in Cowes and assistance for local sporting clubs. This work has been achieved within the rate cap – I supported the Rates Cap in 2016 and continue to support it.
I have no political affiliation. have had a house on Phillip Island since the mid 90’s and have lived here permanently since 2009 firstly at Surf Beach and now at Cowes. I have a degree in economics and a master’s in environmental science. My career included senior government roles with the Cain Labor and the Kennett Liberal Governments. I also worked as a fire officer with operational, technical and research management roles.
Programs: Active transport requires greater attention from Council. Many people would cycle if it were safe to do so. The cycle path in Thompson Avenue is not safe and the recommendation of putting the cycle path in front of the parked cars is urgent to avoid further accidents. I would like to see a shift in focus to completing footpaths and safe cycle to school programs. The big ticket item is the Cowes to Summerlands shared pathway.
It is important to continue the work toward making Bass Coast an inclusive and accessible place to work and live and that Council plays its role in consultation with all minority groups in the community to ensure their voices are heard. I am very happy to work with first nations, disability and LGBTIQ groups to ensure inclusion.
Bureaucracy: I note the question about standing in ‘front of the community rather than standing beside the bureaucracy.’ I do not adopt an ‘us or them’ perspective, is not necessary or helpful.
I respect the expertise of the Council officers and could achieve little without them. My role as a councillor is governance not management and the Local Government Act is clear on this. It should be clear that I have led issues on the environment, climate and the arts, and anyone who has observed my performance at Council would not see a person who is brow beaten by the bureaucracy.
Financial: Council’s financial position has improved greatly in recent years with restructure allowing for a greater allocation of budget to capital improving Council’s performance in receiving grants from government. I am confident in Council’s financial team of highly qualified people under the scrutiny of senior independent financial and risk management specialists that form the Audit Committee. In addition it is worth noting that the external audit is managed by the Victorian Auditor General. I have personally been reassured by this arrangement and more recently have served on the Audit Committee. I am impressed by the rigor and knowledge applied by these experts.
The borrowings of Council are set to rise to cover projects such as the Cowes Cultural Centre. $10 million funding for this project is from a State Government subsidised loan whereby Council will pay a very low rate of interest. This project is intergenerational providing modern facilities for arts and events and will attract visitor dollars. It is appropriate that it is paid back over time. The State Government has also contributed a further $2.5 million grant and further support is expected for the new Library.
Economic reality demands that government step in when the economy is flat, this investment is timely given the devastating impact to the local economy from the pandemic. Governments at both levels are investing heavily in stimulus projects and Council must do its part during this stressful time.
Transparency: Confidentiality can clearly be a barrier to trust, it is however not generally within a councillor’s power to determine what is confidential as it is determined in legislation and rests with others. There is very little that is done in camera, confined to personnel and commercial in confidence matters i.e. matters that if disclosed would prejudice the outcome – an example may be the purchase of land on the market.
The recent Transparency policy was prepared to achieve compliance with the new Local Government Act 2020. There was very little change from the previous policy. The problem I believe arose because of the timeframe to adopt it and the appearance of it being rushed. It will be reviewed in 12 months as determined at Council’s last meeting.
Contracting: I favour public disclosure of contracts allowing for commercial in confidence redaction eg to protect IP. The Waste contract is a 10 year contract entered into by the previous council. The implementation whilst not without its teething problems has gone well achieving a 77% diversion of food and garden organics from landfill with just a 1% contamination. Ongoing issues with the contract can be addressed during the transition to the State Government’s planned 4 bin system that has recently undergone consultation.
BCCRA and Council: I believe that there is now scope to improve the relationship between BCCRA and Council. I value the contribution that the association can bring to the scrutiny of council decisions.
I agree that the standard of answers to public questions at Council needs to improve and I have received that feedback from other sources also. More productive dialogue between BCCRA and Council outside of the narrow slot of question time at a Council meeting would improve the information exchange.
Council Meetings: The pandemic has answered the questions around live streaming of council meetings and it only remains to improve the service to be inclusive e.g. subtitles. The interruption to Community Connections is unfortunate and if the restrictions on contact remain then a virtual alternative is necessary.
Visit my website: https://michaelwhelanforislandward.weebly.com/ to find out more
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