SVC’s first term winds up

Five councillors were bid farewell at the final Snowy Valleys Council meeting of the current term last Thursday.

Cor Smit, Cate Cross, Bruce Wright, Margaret Isselmann and Geoff Pritchard won’t be contesting the Local Government elections in December.

It has been a tumultuous inaugural term of the Snowy Valleys Council, with councillors having to negotiate the ire of the southern end of the region who were opposed to the merger.

The council took the reins from Administrator Paul Sullivan in 2017.

There were early hiccups as the council struggled to manage a hefty infrastructure building program, while bushfires and a pandemic had significant impacts in the later stages of the term.

While the council has been unable to balance the books, an end of term report highlighting some of the achievements over the past four years showed the  extraordinary amount of work that had been completed, departing councillor Cor Smit said, especially when considering the implications of natural disasters and the pandemic that have interrupted this term of the council.

“I believe what has been achieved in terms of establishing the Snowy Valley Council as an entity, as a merged entity from the previous shires, I think is extraordinary,” Cr Smit said.

“I’m actually very proud to have been part of this council. I hope that the work that has been achieved in establishing a unified council is continued in future councils, and we can look forward to more end of term reports as glowing as this one in the future.”

Cr Smit, who was elected to his first term as a councillor, said the council had “gone beyond” what it had initially hoped to achieve.

“Yes there’s been some disappointments, some negative comments, but I think in general terms we have got a really good council.

“It’s been a great experience.”

Cr Margaret Isselmann, who had been part of the previous Tumut Shire Council, said the Snowy Valleys Council had established itself as a respected and professional organisation. She had some advice for the incoming councillors.

“Do not be frightened or fearful of change, embrace it, because that’s what we have done as a council,” Cr Isselmann said.

She took pride that many of her visions for the council had been achieved, specifically around giving a greater voice to the smaller towns in the shire and improving those communities.

Cr Cross said she found the role both rewarding and challenging. As a first-term councillor, she’d learned a lot about local government and how it interacts with state and federal governments.

She encouraged the incoming councillors to be open-minded and critical, to be thoughtful and considered when making decisions, basing those decisions on the evidence of reports in front of them.

“Think carefully about the long term consequences of those decisions,” she said.

“There’s much work to be done – with the circular economy, Brindabella Road, and the Country Universities Centre, all are important to continue to fight for.”

Cr Cross encouraged those councillors hoping to be re-elected to “continue the journey”.

Tumbarumba’s Bruce Wright was another first-term councillor. He said he’d done his best for the entire council area, though some may not have thought so.

“I feel I’ve had a go,” Cr Wright said. “I’m pretty happy with what we’ve achieved.”

He looked forward to seeing the council get on with the job and encouraged councillors to get involved with the various committees.

Veteran councillor Geoff Pritchard, meantime, said he would look forward to retiring in Tumut. He warned of overdevelopment.

“We live in a beautiful part of the world and we’re privileged as councillors to have custodianship of it,” Cr Pritchard said. “So many places have been destroyed by overdevelopment, but this place is progressing well.”

The council is now in caretaker mode, with pre-poll and postal voting open for the upcoming elections.

There’s twenty-one candidates vying for the nine places on the council.