Our say | Inertia and change: Council’s great paradox

LOCAL government elections cannot come soon enough for Bathurst.

The five years that have passed since we last went to the polls have strangely been a time of both great change and great inertia.

Bathurst Regional Council has achieved considerable progress in the past five years, as shown by the new infrastructure we’ve seen around the city.

From an international-standard BMX track to a new velodrome and trotting track, plans that make Velocity Park finally look a reality rather than a pipe dream and a pioneering deal with Penrith Panthers to bring top-line rugby to Carrington Park each year until 2018, the wheels have certainly kept turning.

But five years between elections has proved to be 12 months too long for some.

Two resignations in the past year have seen the number of councillors reduced to just seven representing a population of more than 40,000 people.

Those seven councillors will next week be given the responsibility of signing off on a $200 million budget for the Bathurst region.

That alone could be of some concern, but circumstances surrounding the budget preparation have also been less than ideal.

As reported previously by the Western Advocate, two of council’s senior staff positions are currently filled by acting directors following the resignations of David Shaw and Doug Patterson, while corporate services and finance director Bob Roach has been splitting his time between Bathurst and a new home in Queensland.

That’s not to say the acting directors do not have talent and experience, but they do not have permanent ownership of their departments and that must impact the budget planning.

The fact the budget will be approved on Wednesday night and the region will continue ticking along for the next 12 months is a credit to all involved but we should not have found ourselves in this position.

The underlying sense of inertia on council, though, is best illustrated by the lost opportunity to restructure operations following the vacancies in key roles.

Council has now advertised to replace both Mr Shaw and Mr Patterson in roles reflecting the jobs they left rather than updating the way things are done.

Rather than if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it we would like to see council constantly looking to reinvent itself. We are in a good position, but we should not take it for granted.