FROM various discussions it would appear that Oberon will soon have some form of ratepayers’ or residents’ association. This is not surprising in view of the vast number of people who are not happy with the council.
If I understand correctly, the major concern is not so much about what council does, but how it does it. There is no doubt that this council got off to a bad start with the fluoride issue, which was not helped by the way council handled it. I do not wish to comment further only to say that if they think it will go away then they are seriously underestimating the intelligence, knowledge and determination of the opponents.
Although this is a separate issue being pursued by a specialist organisation, it appears unfortunately that council is operating under a siege mentality which has resulted in the development of new conflicts with other sections of the community.
If a new community association is formed, it will not be the first due to a similar preceding organisation having been established about 20 to 25 years ago - which, if I recall correctly, was wound up after several years as the issues, which were similar to today, were solved and everybody was on the harmony train, just ensuring that it ran to schedule.
A significant amount of credit as to why this occurred, in my opinion, has to go to the then elected members of council, who, after a short combative period, learnt to not view issues raised as criticisms or problems, but as community concerns and issues that required some solution or agreed understanding. This was also the time of the introduction of the new Local Government Act, which increased the role and authority of the general manager and the new directorships that it created.
I also think that after an initial induction period of the new Local Government Act, greater attention was given by the then council as to how the general manager and staff exercised this new authority and liaised with the community.
There was also, from that time, an unwritten principle carried forward by subsequent councils that the Oberon Council's primary purpose was to represent the interest of the Oberon community and not the interest or plans of the state or any government department. This philosophy is not apparent with the current council, with an impression being developed within the community that council reacts to the whim of government bureaucrats.
I hope the rumours are right and we do get a new community organisation and also that it can be wound up due to its own success in a short period of time. For this to occur it will require a significant change of attitude within some of the executive group and elected members of council in regards to transparency, democratic process, and consideration and greater respect for the opinion of the community.
It will also be important for those involved in the new association to understand that they cannot and will not win every debate. In some cases, once open and transparent discussion process is established, they may even find that the perception held within the community was not correct.
I wish those involved all the best and encourage all community members to attend the meeting if and when it occurs. Also, encourage a friend to go with them.
I am a firm believer that harmony in the community is at its highest level when all members are keen to have a say and take every opportunity to do so and at the same time give respect to others to hold a contrary opinion.