Upper Hunter Shire Council (UHSC) 2008 – 2012

Upper Hunter Shire Council (UHSC) 2008 – 2012

Featured image: UHSC & Senior Staff 2008 – 2012


David Casson Bede Spanagle Cr Cottle Cr Bates Cr Johnsen Steve Pryor Cr Howey GM Daryl Dutton

Cr Peebles        Cr Carter            Mayor Watts     Cr Seccombe    Cr Driscoll

My foray into Local Government 2008 – 2012 was ‘interesting’. I thought I could make a difference, but I was deluded. I was elected with the second highest primary vote in the September 2008 elections. Popular sitting Mayor Barry Rose easily topped the pole but attended only one meeting. He was suffering the ravages of aggressive prostate cancer and passed away in April 2009. This was a bad start. Deputy Mayor Lee Watts assumed leadership until the by-election following Barry’s passing. To complicate matters further two other elected Councillors decided to resign. They were long standing Cr Peter Hodges (health) and only recently elected Cr Claire Pfister-Paradice (time). The three ‘new’ Councillors chosen by the electorate were Lea Carter, Pam Seccombe and former Merriwa Councillor and Mayor Ean Cottle.

I think this was one of the first Councils where women Councillors outnumbered men? Cr Driscoll was the longest standing Councillor having represented Aberdeen for over 20 years. Ideally, we were not elected in ‘ridings’ or wards but inevitably parochial nepotism crept in. I think the electorate viewed it this way. One could claim that the municipality and township of Scone were underrepresented. I think this was a hangover from the days of ridings in the old Scone Shire Council. I did not shine as a Councillor. I realised very early that my ideal image of local governance was sullied. Pragmatism ruled the chamber dictated by the General Manager and his cohort. It was a mini-series of ‘Yes Minister’ if couched at a lower legion.

This was the Council which was awarded the Arthur Bluitt Award in 2010 for the best performing Rural Council in the State of NSW. This probably surprised a number of us. GM Daryl Dutton had prepared all the supporting information and submitted the application. He was an able administrator.

The Scone Shire Council had won the same award on at least two previous occasions. It’s a proud record for the district.

I represented on the Finance and Works and Technical Services Committees. Although I was not on the Development & Environmental Services Committee, I attended most of the meetings. I was also the UHSC Delegate to the Hunter Councils Environment Committee in Thornton. Hunter Councils was a loose amalgam of eleven Councils in the Hunter Valley plus Great Lakes and Port Stephens making a grand total of thirteen. It is probably portentous of things to come.

The job of Mayor is equivalent full time. If you attend most of the meetings and sub-committees, it is also just about full time for an ordinary Councillor. This disenfranchises some. Reading the official papers and preparation are time consuming. I was chairman of at least two sub-committees including Heritage. This is an emotional drain and can be very frustrating with deeply entrenched bureaucracy. It’s difficult in one term to know all the ropes and comprehend all the rules. Employed professional staff conducts the show with the GM almost omnipotent. This plenipotentiary position carries unique power within the NSW Local Government Act & Regulations.