4pm: Taree mayor asks Lyne MP to 'please explain'

PAUL Hogan is angry and today at 4pm the mayor of Greater Taree City Council will request a 'please explain' from federal member for Lyne, David Gillespie about his recent Lyne Report.

Thousands of glossy colour reports from Dr Gillespie recently flooded mailboxes in the Manning Valley and the editorial content of the double-page, centre spread in the eight-page document focused on the controversial survey developed and distributed in January by his office about council's use of taxpayer funds and management of roads.

Cr Hogan will not be alone as he seeks answers from Dr Gillespie. Senior staff and councillors will also attend the meeting at council's administration centre in Pulteney Street, Taree.

In an open letter to the Manning Valley community, Cr Hogan speaks to the content of the Lyne Report:

"Dr David Gillespie MP, Federal Member for Lyne, has released the Lyne report to all Lyne electorate constituents declaring in a centre spread that 2362 Manning households are dissatisfied with the way council conducts road works. This is in the wake of Dr Gillespie's government ripping out $11.4m in funding for local roads and bridges.

In support of his argument is a survey with no credibility, conducted by his office with no controls, and purporting to be from 2362 Manning households when he has no proof of where they came from. Combined with staged photos over preprinted placards, poses over potholes and concerned looks with fellow politicians, the survey is political spin at its worst.

In comparison, a petition has been signed by almost 21,000 people in the Manning demanding the return of the $11.4 million. In declaring "the Community has spoken" Dr Gillespie puts his spurious survey results from 2362 people up against a petition with almost 10 times that number of responses.

There is no doubt Greater Taree City Council does not have the resources to maintain the roads and bridges under its control but what is Dr Gillespie doing to assist council and his constituents? Carrying out a vendetta against council is not responsible representation, nor is ripping $11.4m in committed funds from the community and even denying the funds were there.

We do not refute that we cannot maintain our roads to the level expected by the community but that is not because of how we do things. For example, nearly all of our major road and bridge works are undertaken by reputable civil works contractors as a result of robust tender processes.

The newsletter identifies the community opinion on the quality of our roads but Dr Gillespie is not saying what he can do to assist. If you can't assist council you can't assist the community. Federal Assistance Grants and Roads to Recovery have not solved the problem. We should talk about reallocating Federal grant funds from metropolitan councils that have little road and bridge infrastructure and lots of population and rates income, to regional councils where communities will never have the resources to maintain their basic transport network.

The Member for Lyne states that "the community want council to start listening" when he is not prepared to listen. He states "There have been numerous examples raised about inefficiency both within council and the delivery of outside services" yet he has failed to raise one example with council.

Over the past two years councillors have met with the community in various locations every two months, council's monthly meetings are open to the community, councillors deal with residents on a daily basis and the staff at council are open and transparent in all that they do. By comparison we get taxpayer funded newsletters from the federal member that is far more spin than fact.

Council and ratepayers of the Manning Valley deserve much better than the approach provided by Dr Gillespie and his office in his first six months.

The administration of local government and the review of standards of individual councils is a matter for the NSW Local Government Minister not a federal member.

It is not appropriate for Dr Gillespie to criticise Greater Taree City Council's management and processes without first having a discussion with council about the facts. Passing on random community messages about council not implementing best practice has no integrity unless the member has informed himself through discussions with council staff."

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