Council comes second in NSW for complaints

Shoalhaven City Council came second to North Sydney for having the most complaints lodged against it.

Shoalhaven City Council came second to North Sydney for having the most complaints lodged against it.

Shoalhaven City Council has received the second most code of conduct complaints in the state in the last year, according to a comparative report of NSW councils.

Local Government Minister Paul Toole released the report into 152 NSW councils, which had Shoalhaven second with 19 complaints, behind North Sydney with 26.

Code of conduct complaints can be about behaviour that is unethical, intimidating, verbally abusive or an abuse of power.

Shoalhaven was higher than neighbouring areas Wingecaribee and Eurobodalla, which both recorded 15 complaints.

The average number of complaints was eight.

It cost council $37,280 to deal with the 19 complaints.

Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash was disappointed by the number of complaints made against council and said her first two years on council had been a “baptism of fire”.

“There were 19 complaints but they are over 12 months old and most were made by unsuccessful candidates,” she said.

“They were pretty petty and pretty nasty in nature but the Local Government Department decided there was no action to be taken.

“We know the complaints have been received but we don’t actually know who they are individually.

“I can assure you, next year we will be better.”

Cr Gash said it had been a challenge bringing the council together.

“Every councillor has their own opinions, which they are entitled to, and I try to bring them all together,” she said.

“We can’t always agree and sometimes it is difficult to work with that but I think on a whole, as you travel around the area, you can see we are getting the job done.”

Cr Gash was annoyed vexatious complaints had to be investigated using ratepayers’ money.

And her message to those making complaints was simple.

“Try not to be self-centred or nasty about it. If you’ve got a complaint come see me. My door is open all the time and I’m happy to talk about it,” Cr Gash said.

“I’m happy to debate the issues, we may not always agree but we need to communicate rather than throw in another complaint to the Department of Local Government, which costs ratepayers.”

Comparing her 17 years as a federal member and her time on council, Cr Gash said it had been a challenge.

“My first year as a federal member was pretty heated, I learnt through a baptism of fire,” she said.

“I thought I had learnt it all. But coming into council as mayor it happened all over again. 

“But I think we’re settling down and starting to achieve what we want to achieve.

“None of the councillors are here for themselves, I’m certainly sure of that.

“I get accused of having a team and I make no apology for that. It’s not a secret, I do. I deliberately did that, as I wanted community people on council, not former councillors.

“They had no preconceived ideas, no bias, no conflict of interest and really want to work for the community.

“And it’s working.”

In better news for council in the report, it rated highly when it came to approving development applications, with 1395 determined last year, which was well above the average of 1142.

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