City farewells retiring long-term employees

After clocking decades of service to the community long-term City of Greater Geraldton employees Natale Iaria and Patrick ‘Jimmy’ Giles have retired.

Since joining Geraldton and Greenough Shires back in the 1970s and 1980s, Mr Iaria and Mr Giles have collectively served the community for more than 71 years.

Mr Iaria, who was hired by the Town of Geraldton in 1975 as a ‘kerb layer’ building roads, footpaths and drainage, said back then things were very different than they are today.

 “When I started, the works department employed about 90 people. There was one engineer, two supervisors and we fixed and built everything ourselves, we did it all by hand,” he said.

Mr Giles, who joined the Shire of Greenough in 1988 as an offsider and then moved into road maintenance driving a roller and later a gravel truck, said the biggest change he saw over the years was the amalgamation of the former Geraldton and Greenough shires.

“When I worked for the Shire of Greenough my job was sealing gravel roads. After the amalgamation, my job changed and I began repairing and resurfacing roads around the City region,” he said.

Over the years, both men have been involved in the maintenance and development of infrastructure the community uses and enjoys every day.

During Mr Giles’ 29 years of employment he sealed and maintained hundreds of kilometres of the City region’s road network.

Mr Iaria worked on a number of key infrastructure projects during his 42 years of service including the development of the Mount Scott subdivision in the mid 1970s, external works during the construction of Queens Park Theatre in the early 1980s and the removal of the former railway line and rocks, and construction of drainage for the Foreshore development in the mid 2000s.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said both men were highly thought of by fellow staff members and thanked them for their dedication.

“Mr Iaria has always been a happy man who loved his job, was kind and fair to his fellow co-workers and took pride in serving the community,” he said.

“Mr Giles was always ready to help out whenever he could, nothing was too much trouble for him.  In fact years ago, he planted an orange tree in the Greenough Shire yard, took care of it and made sure its produce was shared amongst all the staff.

“I’d like to thank both men for their service to our community and congratulate them on amazing careers they spent making our City a better place to live.  They will be missed by all.”

Although Mr Iaria said he had no plans of slowing down in retirement, Mr Giles said he would miss his work colleagues.

 “Even though I will no longer work at the City, I still plan to work a bit around town and will be helping my brother with his market garden because the day you stop, you die,” Mr Iaria said.

“I’m really going to miss the guys I worked with every day so I plan to visit them regularly and catch up on what’s going on,” Mr Giles said.

Mr Iaria is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Angie of 49 years, three children and three grandchildren whilst Mr Giles is pleased to have more time to be with his three children and six grandchildren, some of whom live interstate.

 Natale Iaria (left) and Jimmy Giles will miss driving ‘dozers’ and gravel trucks now that they’ve retired from the City of Greater Geraldton. 

Natale Iaria (left) and Jimmy Giles will miss driving ‘dozers’ and gravel trucks now that they’ve retired from the City of Greater Geraldton. 

Letter to editor regarding problematic youths at foreshore

Hello Everything Geraldton,

I would to raise a serious concern about a group of kids aged 10-12yo that is hanging around town probably bored during this summer school holidays.

My workplace (a coffee shop) had the glass door smashed beginning of last week. Last Monday, while I was trying to lock up by myself, 4/5 of them came in and stole items from the shop as I could not do anything about it as I was obviously outnumbered. And today, as the cherry on top of the cake, I was abused continuosly towards the end of an extremely busy shift, ending up with them stealing the coins from the tips jar and trashing and damaging the front of the shop right in front of the customers.

I went to the toilet and started crying because I feel like nobody hears the the struggle my colleagues and I have to go through the day. It is really getting out of control and the police has been contacted by myself and one of my customers but they never showed up.

I heard the same group is creating many problems to other businesses and people. What do we need to do to have the authorities to take proper action. This is an pngoig problem now but it keeps beeing ignored.

All I want to do is going to work, provide the best product and service to my customers and I have to deal with this almost every day recently.

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100 year-old trees victims of environmental vandals

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Two Tuart trees in Drummond Cove showing signs of having been tampered with may be the latest victims of environmental vandalism in Windward Park.

City of Greater Geraldton Chief Executive Officer Ken Diehm said he was saddened the trees may have been poisoned and that this wasn’t the first time trees in the Park had died under mysterious circumstances.

“Regrettably, one of these estimated 100 year-old trees has died and will need to be removed while the other is showing symptoms of poisoning which could be the result of what looks to be drill holes in both of their trunks,” he said.

“A couple of years ago, two other trees in Windward Park also died under mysterious circumstances and sadly, had to be removed,” he said.

Drummond Cove Progress Association President Gavin Hirschhausen agreed there has been an increase in community members taking matters into their own hands.

“There has been an escalation of people taking matters into their own hands,” he said.

“Its actions like this that causes fragmentation within the neighbourhood and doesn't help the wider community when we look to Council to support projects that will benefit all of Drummond Cove.”

According to Mr Diehm the trees will be replaced as they play an important role in the liveability of the City.

“All trees are important, especially in Geraldton’s semi-arid climate, and we need to do all we can to preserve the ones we have and plant more to increase the liveability of the City,” Mr Diehm said.

“I find it very disheartening that anyone would tamper with these beautiful old trees which will now need to be removed at rate payers expense.”

One of the trees was removed and the other pruned of its dead limbs on Wednesday 7 December 2016.  The cost to remove the trees and make the area safe again was approximately $5000.  The City will also spend additional funds to replace the trees.

 PICTURE: Drummond Cove Progress Association President Gavin Hirschhausen points to what appears to be a drill hole in the trunk of one of the dying trees in Windward Park.

A chat with our Mayor after one year in the job

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It's now been over 12 months since the people of Geraldton elected Shane Van Styn to the position of Mayor.

I had a chat with Mr Van Styn about the past year, the state of the union, as it were, and how he's finding the role of Mayor.

"One surprising thing for me has been the high regard that people hold for the office of the Mayor. It's extremely difficult to turn down attending an event or an opening."

"A casual thing that's changed is now having to get better dressed to go to Bunnings. Everyone likes to stop and have a chat about what's important to them in their city. Bunnings has gone from a 10 minute walk-in-walk-out to an hour or two job. Same as the supermarket. It's a small thing, but it's something that impacts you nearly every day."

So you shop online now?

"No! Shop local, buy local!" Shane bellowed cheerfully.

I was curious about the Mayor's background, and how he came to live in Geraldton and become Mayor. And I found the story rather surprising.

Shane is from the suburb of Gosnells in Perth's south east. He had just finished uni, and was heading north, past Geraldton, to visit some friends when his car broke down in Geraldton.

"I couldn't afford the tow truck at the time," said Shane. "So I swapped them for my car. I was forced to stay the night in Geraldton."

"In my last exam there was a guy from Geraldton, Christopher Quelch. And for some reason I wrote his phone number down on a pencil case. I had decided I was moving to Albany. I was moving to the country and had chosen Albany. And for whatever reason I took that pencil case with me (on the trip up north). So I had a phone number to ring. So he did a ring around for me. 'He's a good bloke, big fella, plays footy, does security, is an accountant, looking to move to the country.'"

"A couple of footy teams approached me and offered to sign me up. I got offered a job doing security work, and I got offered an accounting position in town. By the morning the real estate agent had come around to show me houses."

"I met some security guards that I knew, and got an accountant job in the now Town Towers."

So you have great memories of that place then?

"I remember very well getting stuck in the lift. It was the thing to do in Town Towers,"  Shane recalled, smiling.

"I was also there the day the toy store caught on fire. I came downstairs and they were surprised to see I was still there. They had forgotten to evacuate everyone upstairs."

Whoops.

"I said 'That's alright.'"

"As part of that trip to Geraldton, and this is why I'm so passionate about the verge pick up skip bins, I fitted out most of my utensils, furniture and appliances in my house by landing in Geraldton during the time of verge pickup. I went and scavenged. Got a chair, got a bed, toaster, vacuum, wok."

So you started at the bottom.

"On the bones of my ...."

"I originally said to Mum 'I'll be back in a year'. About a year after that I decided I'd hang around for a while. I don't think I ever made a conscious decision I'm staying here for good, it's just the way it's evolved. I certainly have no desire to leave, at all."

"Geraldton chose me, not the other way around."

From that humble beginning, albeit with an accounting degree in his pocket, Mr Van Styn became involved in a number of companies over the years, including Yamaji Mining and Civil, Westwood Accountants, Camel Bar, a night club, and has had roles in the community including president of the basketball association, Councillor, and of course now Mayor.

And for those paying attention, you'd know Mr Van Styn has tried entering state and federal politics also, as a candidate for the National Party.

Had politics always been an aspiration for Van Styn? In short, yes.

"Even as a young kid my Gran would tell me I should always be a politician the way I would debate issues. Her Father was a Labor upper house member in the Western Australian parliament."

So she had exposed you to the political world?

"Yeah. But she couldn't stand it. Ha."

But she still suggested you should be a politician?

"I don't think she was meaning it all positively," Shane says, smiling.

I laughed at the thought of an old lady sarcastically telling an argumentative little Shane he should be a politician, meant as a gentle criticism, but becoming a prophesy.

"Even in primary school and in early high school I used to go and visit the local member and have a chat."

Shane also spoke of being involved with 'guild tickets' at Curtin Uni, student clubs, and other activities that would lay the foundation for aspirations in the political world.

Once Shane was settled in Geraldton, he became one of the regular letter writers into the paper.

"So you had people like me vs Olly Wrenstead, Jack Simpson, Jim Du Boulay... they were some of the regular letter writer inners, and I became one of them. I started going to council meetings and challenging the status quo, as a member of the public."

Shane reflected on how he was similar to the folk who regularly appear now at Council meetings, challenging himself and Council.

"John Sewell, who was on council at the time, one day said to me 'Look Shane, you're showing up here all the time, giving us a hassle. Put your money where your mouth is, put up or shut up.' I can't remember the exact phrase, but something like that. 'A couple of us aren't standing, there's a couple of spots.' And I thought 'He's right there. He's extremely right. If you think you can do a better job, then stand.'"

"So I did."

Thus Shane Van Styn became a councillor.

So how did Shane Van Styn end up with the National Party and running for state and federal parliament?

"So I was sitting there in my offices at Yamaji Mining and Civil and Grant Woodhams came and knocked on the door, with my mate Gerry Gould from Geraldton Hydraulics. They asked to have a word, and said 'Would you mind running for the National Party in the upcoming state election?' They put forward their case. I thought about it. Brendan Grylls rang me. Few other people rang us. At the time I rang Ian Blayney to say "I'm actually thinking about this."

Previously Shane had been a member of the Liberal party. He says he had tried to engage them, but hadn't had any success getting to a conference or making it into the inner circle. "But the National Party was the exact opposite," says Shane. "They couldn't do enough for you. They invited me to all their conferences, gave me a chance to meet people and speak. So that was that. Had a run, obviously didn't make it. Then the Federal election came up. They said 'Would you run against Barry Haase? Shane, your posters are still up. You've just run an election. We've got no money. Haase is going to win. We just want a name on the ticket.'"

"Just a name on a ticket. Political parties do it all the time. They just want a name on the ticket, it helps them get electoral funding."

Shane said it was also close to the upcoming local government elections, thus he was able to quit his position at council without triggering a by-election.

I can remember at ABC on a Friday, Glenn asking me, 'Shane, really what would it take for you to win?' And I said 'Barry Haase would have to retire.'"

"Then Saturday morning, phone rang about 7:30 in the morning, it was Barnaby Joyce, and he says 'Shane, Barnaby! Have you heard Barry Haase has retired?' I went 'What?' I thought he was joking. But then why would Barnaby be ringing me at 7:30 in the morning? But if he's ringing my personal phone it's serious. Then Alex McKinnon from the Guardian rang, and then it was on."

"It was quite late in the election cycle, so at that point I was the only profile candidate announced in Durack."

There was a big swing toward the National Party at that election, but Van Styn would ultimately come up short, after Labor gave their preferences to the Liberals instead of the Nats.

Shane was pragmatic in reflecting on the two losses. "In terms of losing, I came second. If Palmer United hadn't spent so much money I would have won. If Labor hadn't given their preferences to Liberal, I would have won. But not with the State election. Ian Blayney won that fair and square."

Is Ian Blayney going to win the next State Election?

"The next state election is going to be incredibly tight. I honestly can't pick it. But I acknowledge that it will be harder for Paul (Brown, Nationals) to win it than it would be for Ian to lose it."

Shane was pretty dismissive of Labor's chances of winning however. "When you look at the last election, Liberal and Nationals primary vote was 70%. Labor can't win. Unless the National party decides to do a preference deal with Labor, and Labor getting ahead of the Nats. That's the only way I see Labor being with any reasonable prospect of winning."

Following the Federal election, Van Styn put his hat back in the ring for Councillor with the City of Greater Geraldton. This was the year 'City of Greater Geraldton Ratepayers Demand Change' endorsed a number of candidates, Shane being one of them.

"Not officially," said Shane, when questioned about the endorsement. "But I was one of three people that voted against it (the massive rate increase of 2012 that birthed CGG Ratepayers Demand Change). 

The other two councillors to vote against that now infamous rate hike were Jerry Clune and Bob Ramage.

Are you proud now that you voted against that 27% rate rise?

"It was more than just voting against 27% rate rise per se. The principle of what we were arguing about, particularly me and Bob, was the need for expenditure restraint. If we were running an incredibly lean and mean operation, skin and bones, it could be put forward that we needed a 27% rate rise to build infrastructure that everybody wants; if rates were at record lows (compared) to everybody else, you could make the argument. So it wasn't the 27% rate rise per se. The context of us having a woefully bloated administration, and THEN a 27% rate rise, was way too much. So we had two arguments. We thought we were too big and bloated ALREADY, even without the 27% rate rise. The two combined was utter madness. And rate payers... well, unfortunately Bob Ramage got chucked out in the election. That was the election where I was the only one that was returned."

Becoming Mayor

From talking to you, you seem to have a lot of regard for Mr Carpenter, (the former Mayor), even though you disagree on several things. How did you feel running against him?

"I used to discuss this occasionally with Neil (McIlwaine, Deputy Mayor at CGG). At the time I wasn't comfortable running against Ian. I have a lot of regard and respect for Ian. That being said, there were some significant disagreements... the size of the city operation, and the rate rise for one... and look, that was by and large all we ever really disagreed on."

"It wasn't an easy decision, but then I saw Rob Jefferies nominate, and start to get traction, you know, a bit of utilisation of social media and the like. Rob was also one of the former CEO's of the city, and we're still paying off those investments from back then. The administration grew under that as well, the financial structure deficits that we have... Everyone was telling me they want change, someone new. We saw Shane Hill stand. Again, he'd been elected as a Labor member, wasn't new, and Gavin Hirschhausen, who at the time I had no knowledge of. So as time went on people told me 'You should run, you should run.' In the end it wasn't easy. I chatted to Neil McIlwain about it, I asked if he was going to run, he elected not to, so, after enough people asking me to run, and that was a big part of it, I elected to run for Mayor."

Would you have run if Neil had run?

"Can't answer that. I don't know."

Shane spoke highly of Neil McIlwaine, the deputy Mayor. Neil is someone a lot of the Councillors go to for advice, and everyone holds in high regard.

So you won the Mayorship. There would have been a lot of sad faces as the person who was their boss for the last eight years was suddenly gone.

"I think there was a lot of sad faces in there, I think it's fair to say that we're fairly different characters. So there was probably an element of 'What have we got ourselves into?' when I came here, and I actually take great comfort that people would tell me that to my face. And not in any way derogatorily... I mean, I'm a pretty open guy and people seem to feel pretty comfortable telling me what they think, one way or the other."

"So I think the most important thing you can do after winning an election is winning over the naysayers, those who didn't vote for you... and look, we went straight to work into what ratepayers wanted. Within weeks we got rid of tip fees. That was the number one thing people spoke to me about."

Shane talked about what he wants as far as the City's fiscal position goes.

"I want to be breaking even as quickly as we can. I want to see the city in surplus, and currently our long term financial plan has that set for four years time. I think that quite comfortably we can beat that."

Does that fiscal conservatism come from your time in business or is that a philosophy you held prior to that?

"The initial part of my fiscal conservatism is probably that I grew up in a low income household. So we didn't have much, but yet we had plenty. Never went hungry, got to go on a holiday once a year. Lived in a small house, in the wrong suburb, in the wrong part of town, yet we had a great upbringing. So you learn to appreciate what you've got."

Shane reflected on how his upbringing trained him to live within his financial means, and how that translates into his role in local government.

"I think too often local government, because it's not your money, you don't apply the same level of rigour in the decision making process. So I treat every ratepayer dollar as if it was a dollar I paid, and if I didn't spend it, it's a dollar I don't have to pay."

Your differentiation when you were running for Mayor was 'We're the city, we shouldn't try to be everything. We shouldn't be trying to put a man on the moon, we're just the city of Geraldton.'

Do you feel like you've been able to execute some of that?

"That's a great analogy, because that's exactly how it was. Getting back to basics. Get back to the business of being government. We were putting a man on the moon, trying to do this and that... they're great aspirations to have, but how do you intend on attracting record tourist levels if your own residents don't think it's a nice place to go for a walk on the weekend?"

"If you can't keep the residents entertained from time to time, how do you intend on attracting people from other regions to come and spend time here? So you've got to get your house in order. The 'roads, rates and rubbish' argument for local government, and there's a couple of other r's these days; recreation, we're responsible for entertaining everyone these days, and of course regulation. We bust you for smoking and lock up your dog."

"The election result was so strong that it sent a message that this is actually what the community wanted."

"When you have a ward system, there's actually only one person who gets voted on by the whole of the city, and that's the Mayor."

"So, I reluctantly use the word 'mandate', Ken (Diehm, CGG CEO) hates me using that word, but if there was any mandate to be drawn it's just to get back to basics. People are tired of rate rises, for what they saw as frivolous things, stuff that we shouldn't be involved in, so I've been able to bring other councillors along, and collectively we've been able to achieve that."

Van Styn put the emphasis on collectively, as though to remind everyone he's not railroading changes through, but decisions are being made by the whole of council.

Let's talk about tourism.

"Tourism is incredibly important. We spent a little bit of money on the dump point at Francis St Jetty, and see how rampant that got overnight, RV's and caravans are everywhere."

"Now we've had to put Rangers down there so it's not full of people camping."

"Just that little investment showed us how fruitful it can be. A cruise ship was here today. Those little investments we've made with some shelters and some shade around the place is bringing them ashore. It's been phenomenal. What it will do is it will drive us to improve accommodation, Town Towers and the like."

"Tourism is also about your family members that might live in Perth coming to visit. Tourism is about people who might be 4 or 5 hundred kilometres away, might be in the Wheatbelt, coming here. We associate tourism with inbound foreign tourists, and that's good, but the overwhelming majority, over 80% of our tourists, are actually from Perth."

"So focusing on tourism will mean more cafes, more accommodation. One of the things about being a tourist town is you actually create more stuff for locals. As you beautify your town to attract tourists... you actually have a beautiful town to live in. Win-win."

Shane spoke a little of the branding issues we still have in Geraldton. "We don't know if we're the Batavia Coast, Coral Coast, Turquoise Coast, Sun City, Geraldton, Geraldton-Greenough, Greater Geraldton, Geraldton-Greenough-Mullewa, who knows? Golden Outback, Mid West, Mid West with two words, Midwest as one word. We can't even agree how to spell Midwest! This is how diabolical it is."

It's definately two words.

"One word," argued Shane, which only served to prove his point.

"As we've tried to work out how we're going to handle the branding we've engaged consultants, looked at reports, looked at migration reports, looked at visitor perception surveys, put some science behind it, how we're perceived in the market, and benchmark that against other places we either want to be like or consider ourselves on par with. It's all great to say 'We don't know what we call ourselves,' or 'we can't find crayfish,' or 'It's great because we've got some wind and sand.' Let's actually put some data behind it. Then you look at what that tells you and you relay that to the businesses and say 'How would you fix these issues?' They come up with the ideas, and only then do we start. And I see radical change coming in that space as we get tourists together under the banner of Progress Mid West, a soon-to-be-in-existence economic development unit, a stand alone enterprise that's not a lobbying or representative group per se, it's an economic development agency outside of council so it can move at the speed of business rather than the speed of government."

And tourism will be in its portfolio.

"We've spent a lot of time singing kumbaya at council, it's time to get down to implementation."

What else has happened in the Mayor's first year?

One Night Stand

One Night Stand was a massive coup for Geraldton. Thousands of visitors descended on our city for Triple J's annual massive regional concert event, the One Night Stand. 15,000 people were at the event. Apart from being a fantastic night out with performances from Boy and Bear, Urthboy, Alison Wonderland, Bernard Fanning, and locals Alex the Kid... plenty of money was raised for local charities and community groups.

"That came from the Mayor talking to a bloke on Facebook! Through my Mayor page."

Geraldton was originally nominated by a local resident who then reached out to the Mayor. "Never met the guy. Brad Gundlach. He contacted me through my Mayor page. So I'm the first Mayor on Facebook. And we communicated that way. And we got in touch with Triple J that way, and then had Ken and our city team get together and they went and put together the proposal and got it across the line. So that was social media working for good."

"We had to move fast. Decisions had to be made. Budgets had to be "interpreted". And you had to keep it all secret. But we got it done."

Shane spoke of the economic benefits in the community too. "Within an hour of the announcement from Triple J about One Night Stand, every hotel room was booked. The economic benefits of all of that were huge. Little Athletics had about 400 campsites. I think they raised about 40 or 50 thousand dollars for the night. Probably more money than they'd raised in three or four years. Towns football club made $6000 selling cans of drink. $20,000 for headspace. And it flows through (the local economy) massively."

Sport

"We've had the Wildcats playing a pre season game. And we're pitching for an AFL preseason game early next year."

Shane also mentioned the Stand Up Paddle Boarding event, Open Water Swimming Challenge, BMX state rounds, and polocrosse.

Improving people's opinion of Geraldton

"The best form of marketing is not TV ads. It's about getting them here and them taking a look around. 'Cause everyone's sort of been here once. 'I drove through once. Yeah I pulled in there for fuel and it was crap.' You know? You've got to get people here. And the way to get people here is to run events that drag people here. So attracting people with large concerts, large sporting events... all these events that bring people up and they see it. And that is how you boost tourism. You get the word on the street. 'Yeah I've been there for myself. I've seen it. I've tasted the food. I've walked down the street. I've been to the foreshore. I've been to the memorial. I've looked at the wildflowers.' That is how you improve the state's perception of the city. What Geraldton people need to do is lift their positive outlook of the City. Part of that is getting back to basics. And providing the footpaths and the trees, parks, and all the stuff that they need. Including putting playground equipment back."

Shane started recalling a conversation he had. "'GO AND FIND THE BUDGET AND PUT THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT BACK!'"

He was referring to the large number of parks that had their play equipment removed without being replaced, prior to him being Mayor.

"I think it's fair to say we're a lot more engaged with the community now than we have been. I think we're held in a lot higher regard. We've listened to the community and become community led, which is how we should be."

 Mayor Van Styn flanked by CGG CEO Ken Diehm.  

Mayor Van Styn flanked by CGG CEO Ken Diehm.  

Council and the future

What's your relationship like with the other councillors?

"Really good, I get along with all the councillors."

Even the Mullewa ones? There was bit of a thing earlier in the year.

"Look, Mullewa councillors are passionate about their community. I think when councillors are in disagreement with each other are often at their best."

If you were to ask anyone on the street what ward they're in they couldn't tell you. Except the Mullewa people. Do you support the Ward System broadly, or would you support changing that?

"I think we have too many councillors."

Why?

"Because we could save the city some money. If we halved the number of councillors we'd probably save a quarter million a year. But that's an issue for council to debate, the public to comment on. Part of that is 'Do we have wards, do we not have wards, do we have more wards, less wards?' I know that when people used to contact me they'd look up the phone number on the website and then they'd go to the ward that was relevant and go 'You're my ward councillor, etc.' Happens all the time. I think there's an appetite to review whether the ward system should happen or not."

"The complication is Mullewa. Under the current implementation, Mullewa ward councillors exist at the discretion of the Minister. It expires in 2019. Because wards are supposed to be 'one vote - one value'. But they get two councilllors for 500 electors. Tarcoola has two councillors for 5800 electors. It's not even close to 'one vote - one value'. So in 2019, applying the principles as it stands in the local government act, there will be no more Mullewa Councillors. So let's start getting our heads around what that looks like, what's going to happen."

"And this is why I want to have these conversations. As council we should be talking about what we're going to be doing next year, in two years, in five years. And not sitting there having round tables, you know, about old mate's driveway or old mate's shed. I mean issues will come up. But what we should be doing as council is working on policies or local laws that prevent these things from happening ever again. How do we set a policy strategy, how do we set a direction that will guide us into the future, so that whenever there's a lime sand mine again, it's dealt with here? We don't have to keep having public unrest, marches, petitions. Generally petitions and marches only ever happen when you haven't set your policy framework correct."

Do you think in the future in will make sense for Chapman Valley to join the City of Greater Geraldton?

Shane paused and chuckled. There's a bit of history over this now delicate topic.

"There are no plans at the moment..." Shane began to respond in a predictable, politically sensitive manner.

"I don't think there's an appetite for Geraldton residents to consume any of Chapman Valley, and vice versa."

I pressed him a little more.

But as a business man, on paper, do you think it make sense?

"On paper as a business man I would suggest west of the Moresby Ranges, particularly places like Park Falls and the like, would be better suited to being in Geraldton. I mean they're essentially an urban suburb. They live and work in Geraldton. They consume the City of Geraldton's resources. Is the rural part of Chapman Valley suitable for being in the City of Greater Geraldton? ... You'd view how successful the integration of Mullewa was with Geraldton. On paper there'd be an argument. But you'd need to look at what financial impact it had on the Shire if you took out the residential rate payers; would it make them unsustainable? So look, there's got to be discussions in that space going forward, but there's no timeframe at the moment. My focus at the moment is financial sustainability of our own city. Let's get our own house in order first, before we can even entertain the idea of taking on more."

What do you say to local businesses out there that are doing it tough?

"It's not a Geraldton thing. This is what happens too often, be it crime, economic downturn. Too many of the overly public social media types think we just live in this little silo, and the problems that we face in Geraldton are unique to us, and no one else has this."

"Nothing could be further from the truth. If you go to other towns, cities, around the state, they all claim to have the worst ice problem. They'll claim to have the worst crime. They'll have their own Facebook group that reckons it's hell on earth. Every suburb. Every town, has those."

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"So what I tell business people is... My job as Mayor is to try and be positive, a confident message and a confident vision, for our city... to never talk the place down. And I wouldn't talk it down because I love the place. Hence I'm the Mayor. But the way I talk about things is in practical examples. If Woolworths is building a Supermarket in Wandina, they don't invest that sort of money unless their demographers and their economists who do this nation wide, the best people in the land, say 'this is a good place to do it.'"

"And what is the key factor to determine where a good place is? Population growth. That's what they're looking for."

"You've got Aldi and Dan Murphy's trying to come to Geraldton... I know they're multi nationals, and I know it's about buying local. I get that, I do. But what you need to do is look at these enterprises using significant resources doing demographic studies before they decide to invest, and they're looking at coming here. The development approvals at the City are at I think the second highest on record for the last financial year. That's not building applications, that's dollar value. These are big numbers, these are big times. This year we're going to see Beresford Foreshore, Olive Street, Town Towers..."

In conclusion

So a year has now passed with Shane Van Styn in the chair. There are policy changes evident at the City of Greater Geraldton, which City staff and Geraldton residents have mixed feelings about. It will certainly be interesting to see how the next few years play out, and if CGG can balance the books while improving tourism and providing the services we all want.

Shane Van Styn sees the big outcome of his first year as Mayor as the delivery of the Growth Plan for the City of Greater Geraldton.

But we've all seen plans before. The next challenge will be executing said plan.

Watch this space.

A sad day: Geraldton's favourite bin man is retiring

As a little kid, there's nothing more exciting than the noise of the rubbish bin truck approaching your home. You rush to the front door, and go outside to watch a huge machine with its claw arm grab your wheelie bin and pour out the contents. It then lowers the bin, and you look at the driver thinking he must be the happiest person in the world. 

Then that driver smiles at you, and waves. This makes the moment even more special, and you look forward to repeating the ritual next week. 

This was my routine as a child, and it became all three of my sons' routine each week. And we were super fortunate to have one of the best drivers ever service our homes in Geraldton. 

You've probably seen him around too. 

Zatie. 

Perhaps you remember a very popular post on Everything Geraldton a year or so ago, thanking him for going the extra mile. 


Zatie's employers spotted all the comments, and made sure he had a small thank you. 

Everything Geraldton has just been informed that Zatie is retiring this week from ToxFree, who currently handle the waste management in Geraldton. 

On behalf of myself and my sons, and the Geraldton community, thank you for your years of service and being a great ambassador for our community. 

This mentorship program is having a very positive effect on kids

Kids from very different walks of life are being changed in positive ways through this innovative program, where students from a local private school work alongside students from a more disadvantaged area.

Greenough Pioneer Museum have a very cool "Women Through The Ages" exhibition at the moment

Get down to the Greenough Pioneer Museum and check out the Women Through the Ages exhibition. 

Thanks Michelle McKoy for these great shots.

Missing person - Simon Bennier

Missing person
Simon Bennier. Any information to Three Springs Police: (08) 9954 4111

An update on the Yellow Submarine

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Back in September 2015 CGG said:

The City of Greater Geraldton is advising the public that the ‘Yellow Submarine’ located beside the Geraldton Visitor Centre will be moved into a secure storage facility to safeguard it during the construction of the Multi User Facility and Youth Space in the West End of the CBD.

The submarine will be securely stored off site until funds have been sourced to complete its restoration and relocation.


When we originally shared the information about the Yellow Submarine, residents were concerned about whether or not it was actually coming back to the foreshore.

Here are some of the comments from that Facebook post:

But Mayor Van Styn was quick to reassure the doubters that it would indeed be back:

By February we were still getting swamped with enquiries from concerned locals wondering where their Yellow Submarine had gone.

Some were relieved to know it would be heading back soon, some still doubted. 

After hearing about the submarine for some time, EG asked the public if they still wanted it returned. The results were overwhelmingly in favour of it being returned to the foreshore, as promised. Click here to read some of the 279 comments. 

But Mayor Van Styn sure seemed to have changed his tune.

Everything Geraldton asked the City of Greater Geraldton what the current situation was with the much beloved Yellow Submarine.

 EG: What is the current status of the yellow submarine and what is the time frame for it being returned to foreshore?

CGG: The Yellow Submarine was removed from its former location to make way for the Youth Precinct Playground and has been stored at the City’s depot.

The submarine had suffered extensive corrosion damage because of its proximity to the ocean and will require substantial remediation works to make it safe.

The City is currently liaising with a community group who wish to remediate and incorporate the yellow submarine as an entry statement in a community rest area off of the highway.

No decision has been made in relation to its long term use. 

EG: Are you able to clarify which Highway is being referred to, and how far out of Geraldton this rest stop is, or is it in Geraldton?

 CGG: No response.

Update: Response from CGG: The highway being referred to is Northwest Coastal Highway north of Geraldton and it would be in an existing rest stop close to town.



 THE NOT SO YELLOW SUBMARINE - BELIEVED TO BE LATE 60'S / EARLY 70'S. SHARED BY CATHERINE BRADY ON LOST GERALDTON

THE NOT SO YELLOW SUBMARINE - BELIEVED TO BE LATE 60'S / EARLY 70'S. SHARED BY CATHERINE BRADY ON LOST GERALDTON

Some interesting facts about the Yellow Submarine, from the plaque that stood beside it:

The Yellow Submarine was made available to the City of Greater Geraldton by Geraldton local Max Cramer, and was restored in 2008 by Maicon Engineering with funding provided by Lotterywest.

This submarine was invented by another Geraldton local Severn Graham, who was commissioned to invent a prototype cray fishing submarine for the M G Kailis Fishing Group.
The vessel was submerged for its inaugural launch in Geraldton on September 6, 1969.
The submarine was designed to test the feasibility of establishing a fishery for green crayfish which abound in the tropical waters north of Learmouth. The submarine never entered operational service as it was discovered that gas emissions from the batteries caused major technical problems.

A 9cm thick laminated Perspex viewing port fitted into the box of the submarine was designed to enable the two-man crew to navigate and manipulate external fishing equipment.

The submarine became an icon in Geraldton and was painted yellow after the Beatles famous song. Severn Graham made two prototypes, one of which has been donated by the original owners to the Derby Museum.

Looking for family members who lived in Geraldton - Letter to editor

Hi there. I am currently located in South Wales, UK. I am trying to get back in contact with my family ... who lived in Rangeway, Geraldton in around 2007. The father of the family in question is named David Kerry Evans and is my great uncle. He and his family emigrated from South Wales, UK in 1974 and this was the last time they were seen by their family. We have had an enormous amount of help from a resident in WA who has managed to confirm the death of Simon John Evans (son) in Karratha in 1987 and that the family did indeed live in Geraldton. It would be very helpful if you could please ask your group members if anyone remembers the Evans family and if they have any idea where they are now. David Kerry Evans, his wife Gillian, his son Simon John (deceased) and daughter Elaine.

I am currently located in South Wales, UK. I am trying to get back in contact with my family. My email address is caddelllaura5@googlemail.com

Kind regards, Laura Caddell

 David Kerry Evans and Gill Evans on wedding day

David Kerry Evans and Gill Evans on wedding day

 David kerry evans, Gillian Evans and their daughter Elaine Evans

David kerry evans, Gillian Evans and their daughter Elaine Evans

 Gillian Evans with children Simon John Evans and Elaine Evans

Gillian Evans with children Simon John Evans and Elaine Evans

Town Towers' building site has been robbed 8 times already... $500 reward for your help

For the last eight weeks, SMF Projects have been underway doing the renovations works to the Town Towers. 

In that time, they are reporting that they have been broken into eight times. The offenders have caused damage to the property, and are adding cost and time to the building process. 

SMF Projects are offering a "$500 reward for information that will lead to an arrest."

If you can identify any of the individuals in the images below, please contact Geraldton Police on 9923 4555. 


Our recent video on the announcement of Town Towers renovations being underway. 

Please stop abusing staff who ask you for ID

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Everything Geraldton received a letter this week from a concerned parent. It essentially stated that a local deli has been selling cigarettes to minors, including their own daughter. The author allegedly sent her daughter in to buy cigarettes to test the deli out, and they them to her. It's been reported to the authorities, who hopefully are investigating. 

But the letter reminded me of my own experience working at a servo in Geraldton several years ago. I had the unenviable task of guessing people's age who wanted to purchase tobacco products. 

Almost every time someone who looked quite young was asked by myself for their ID, they would get abusive. I have no idea why, but it was almost always women. The guys seemed quite chill about it.  

On several occasions, the abusive female would reluctantly show her ID, flabbergasted that anyone could think she was potentially 17, only to show she was barely 18. I would point out how close to 18 she was, nevertheless she would remain offended that I didn't think she looked 25.  

One time the woman was 18 by 2 days. 2 DAYS! And STILL she was abusive towards me for daring to ask for her ID.  

Fortunately, I had a wonderful boss at the time, who basically said if anyone treats you that way, don't serve them at all. It gave me no end of pleasure to kick them out of the store empty handed. I just wasn't paid enough to deal with their crap. 

Another time a young woman who couldn't present her ID and left angry hurling insults at me came back with a man claiming to be her husband. He in turn started abusing me for not selling his wife cigarettes, presented his own ID, and demanded cigarettes. Of course, I kicked them both out. 

But I realised then what a difficult job selling tobacco products is. I'll be honest, many people I see selling cigarettes are young, and may not have the strength of character to want to square up with abusive teenagers and young adults all day long, who act incensed that you don't think they look like a retiree.

If ya'll could chill out and just take it as a compliment that you look young or something, that would be great.  

Regarding the "clowns" in Geraldton

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Everything Geraldton has received a number of questions from community members somewhat concerned as to whether or not the media hyped "clowns" are in Geraldton. Is there a group of people in Geraldton wandering around trying to scare the daylights out of people dressed as clowns? 

First, I agree clowns are quite creepy. Whoever thought they were an appropriate way to entertain children was on some decent acid.  

But, Geraldton folk predominantly aren't like our metro counterparts. We go fishing, camping... and hunting. 

Can you imagine what a Hilux full of Gero lads would do if they spotted someone lurking around in a clown costume trying to scare people? They certainly wouldn't run away scared. Let me tell you, I'd be more concerned for the wellbeing of the clown. They're more likely to hog tie them and leave them at the cop shop than run away scared (that's if the clown is lucky). 

In my opinion, there's very little chance anyone would be willing to risk their life at the moment by going outside in anything resembling a clown costume. Heck, if Maccas had Ronald McDonald visit for the day I'd suggest he get body guards. 

Some numbskull thought it would be funny to start a Geraldton clown page, and from this a few people have actually become concerned for their safety.  

But if the people who started the page had any idea about how the law actually works, they'd realise their anonymity is far from assured.

If you make a threat to break the law, or do something to cause people to fear for their well being, the Police are within their rights to get a court order for Facebook and your ISP to hand over identifying information. And Facebook are only all too willing to comply.  

Some people are treating this like a joke, some think it's a marketing stunt for the new Stephen King "IT" movie coming soon, some think it's serious and they need to hide their kids. 

But seriously, if you think you're being funny walking around in a scary clown costume now, you clearly have a death wish.   

 

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 There are two types of people. Guess which one Gero people are.  

There are two types of people. Guess which one Gero people are.  

Update. Geraldton Police say they've received reports of people driving around dressed as clowns intimidating other drivers. 

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Regarding the dismissal of Geraldton Councillor Renee Ellis

Renee Ellis was dismissed as a City of Greater Geraldton councillor this week. What follows are the reasons given, and the drama that has transpired since. 


To follow the story, it’s important to understand the difference between the following two terms for when a councillor misses a council meeting. 

They are “Leave of Absence” and “Apology”.

Leave of Absence: This is when a councillor has sought permission to be away, and permission has been granted by their peers. A motion is put forward at a meeting that the person is requesting a “leave of absence”, and all the councillors vote on it.  

Apology: This is when a councillor is simply away from the meeting, but has not formally been granted permission to be away. It’s not unusual, but is not desirable. If a councillor has three apologies at three consecutive meetings against their name, the CEO is required to issue a dismissal notice to that councillor. 


 Renee Ellis

Renee Ellis

On Monday of this week, City of Greater Geraldton Councillor Renee Ellis was issued a notice of disqualification by CGG CEO Ken Diehm. Mr Diehm was of the belief that Ms Ellis had three apologies earlier in the year, for the March, April and May meetings, and therefore issued the notice. 

But Ms Ellis is claiming that the matter is not as cut and dry as Mr Diehm and the CGG are making out. She did indeed miss all three of those meetings, but argues that at least one of them should have been counted as a “Leave of Absence” and not an “Apology”.

And this is where things get murky. 

Ms Ellis did in fact complete an application form for a “Leave of Absence” for the April meeting.  And she sent the completed form to the office of the CEO. 

That form was never presented to council to vote on. 

Why wasn't the form presented to Council?

The reason it wasn’t presented to council was due to the City of Greater Geraldton Guidelines that stipulate that a “leave of absence” must be approved at the meeting prior to the absence; that is to say, you cannot ask for a leave of absence at the meeting you plan on missing. The guideline states: “Any leave of absence approved by Council can only apply to subsequent meetings. Therefore, leave of absence cannot be granted for the ordinary Council meeting at which approval is given.”

But, according to the Local Government Act, you can apply for a leave of absence at the meeting you intend on missing. Thus it appears the CGG guidelines don’t line up with the Act

Section 2.25 of the act
Part: (3A) Leave is not to be granted in respect of — 
(a) a meeting that has concluded; or
(b) the part of a meeting before the granting of leave.

The act seems to imply that a Leave of Absence can be granted for the part of the meeting following the motion for a leave of absence being approved. 

Ms Ellis also completed a leave of application dated 25th of May to the 20th of June, while noting she would be an apology for the meeting on the 24th of May. This submission was not dated from the 24th of May due to the advice given Ms Ellis at the time from the CEO's office, based on the CGG Guidelines. It's arguable that had the city's guidelines matched the Act, Ms Ellis may have dated her application as being from the 24th.  

Notwithstanding the discrepancy between the CGG guidelines and the legislation, legal advice obtained by CGG CEO Mr Ken Diehm stated that if the motion for a “leave of absence” was never voted on and approved by councillors, then Ms Ellis did not have a “leave of absence”, ergo she has three “apologies” in a row and should be dismissed. 

It should be noted that Ms Ellis was also an "apology" for the preceding March meeting. 

 Extract of March Council meeting minutes. 

Extract of March Council meeting minutes. 

Unfortunately, it gets even murkier. 

Despite Ms Ellis’ application for a “leave of absence” never being presented to council at the April meeting, in the minutes of the meeting Ms Ellis was noted as a “Leave of Absence”, not as an “Apology”. 

 Extract of April Council meeting minutes.

Extract of April Council meeting minutes.

At the following meeting in May, those minutes were all voted on as a “true and correct record of proceedings”.

 Extract of May Council meeting minutes. 

Extract of May Council meeting minutes. 

So at the time it was not picked up on that Ms Ellis (then Cr Ellis) was an apology for three meetings in a row. 

Ms Ellis was an "apology" for the May CGG council meeting. 

 Extract of May Council minutes. 

Extract of May Council minutes. 


Fast forward to the September council meeting. Renee Ellis was also an “apology” for this meeting.

At the September meeting a motion was put forward concerning the performance of Cr Ellis. The discussion of the motion was held behind closed doors, so the press and the public were not able to hear what transpired, or even what the motion originally stated. We officially know what the final motion that passed states, although we have had several people inform Everything Geraldton that the motion that passed was somewhat diluted compared to the original motion that was tabled. 

The motion that was passed concerning Cr Ellis states as follows:

COUNCIL DECISION
MOVED REYMOND, SECONDED TANTI

That Council by Simple Majority RESOLVES to: 

1. EXPRESS that it is losing confidence in Cr Ellis due to her lack of attendance;

2. CALL on Cr Ellis to improve attendance and/or to reconsider her position on Council;

3. MAKES the determination on the following grounds:
    a. To ensure ratepayers are represented by Councillors in accordance with community expectations. 

The motion passed 10/0, voted for by all who were present: 

Mayor Van Styn
Cr Douglas
Cr Bylund
Cr Keemink
Cr Graham
Cr Tanti
Cr Reymond
Cr McIlwaine
Cr Freer
Cr Colliver

As you can see, Cr Michael Reymond moved a motion that expressed that council is “losing” confidence in Cr Ellis for the reasons of ratepayers not getting what they expected. 

Note that while the motion is certainly quite serious, it does not call for Cr Ellis to be dismissed. 

Following on from this motion, dialogue between Cr Ellis and the CEO’s office opened, looking into Cr Ellis’ absences. This led to the discovery of three “apologies” in a row from March, April and May 2016 and the ensuing dismissal of Renee Ellis. 

So while they are indirectly connected, there are two matters that have transpired: 

1. A motion of “losing confidence” toward Cr Ellis. 

2. The dismissal of Cr Ellis based on three apologies from earlier in the year. 


Regarding the issue of her dismissal, Ms Ellis believes she should not have had three strikes against her name, and that at least one of her “apologies” is because of an administrative error on the part of the CEO Ken Diehm. 

Regarding the motion of “Losing Confidence”, Ms Ellis is of the strong opinion that the motion was crafted and put forward in an attempt to undermine her for political reasons. This week it was announced at a gathering that Ms Ellis was a Labor candidate for the upper house (Legislative Council) in the upcoming WA state elections.

Unarguably, these are strong claims. So Everything Geraldton spoke with some of the parties involved in order to present their arguments to the wider public. Author comments are in bold, interviewee comments italicised. 


 Darren West MLC

Darren West MLC

Labor MLC (Member of the Legislative Council) Darren West expressed outrage at the news of Ms Ellis’ dismissal, calling it an “act of political bastardry”.

Darren West speaking:

The meetings in question were six months ago. During that time Renee was struggling with a very difficult time in her life. She sought leave for one meeting. On the second meeting she sought compassionate leave. I thought this might have given a few councillors a clue that something was going on. She was concerned about how she might perform at council meetings, and she sought leave in accordance with the local government act, as amended in 2009. Council guidelines don’t reflect this change in 2009. The council guidelines have not been updated since the changes. But the law’s the law. This administrative bungle lies with the CEO. The CEO did not present that leave request to council on behalf of Councillor Ellis. The act says you can do it, the guidelines say you can’t. 

Now it’s hypothetical whether council would have granted it, but I’ve done a search through past minutes. (A leave of absence request) has never been denied, I can’t find an example.

Presuming from that, had the leave request been presented to council, you could make a reasonable assumption that leave would have been granted.

The fault lies with the CEO. Rather than say “I’ve made a mistake and will refer this to SAT for a ruling”, he has served the notice on Councillor Ellis. I believe he has been pressured to take that course of action.

Who do you think has placed pressure on him?

I don’t know, but the week she pops up as Labor’s candidate this happens. The CEO finds himself in an unenviable situation, in a politically charged environment, in my view.

The legal advice we have seen that was provided to the CEO says he is obligated to serve the notice of dismissal if he has reason to believe Ms Ellis has three apologies in a row.   

The key words are “if he is of the belief”. I find it bemusing… that the CEO is the person at fault by his inaction to instruct the Mayor to table a leave request to council.

Further, Cr Ellis is listed as “Leave of Absence” in the minutes. Not an “Apology”. That’s significant. Because had she known she was actually an apology for the April meeting, that may have influenced her decision to attend the May meeting. 

We are very keen to clear her name, because she has done nothing wrong. The smear on her professional reputation is unwarranted, unfair, an unjust.

She now has to prove herself innocent through the appeals process. She’s guilty until proven innocent, as a result of the CEO’s bungling administration, and she will appeal. 

Have you read the press release from the City of Greater Geraldton regarding the matter?

They couldn’t even be gracious in that. It paints Cr Ellis as having done something wrong. It is purely 100% a political smear and a witch hunt. 

The Council has become extremely politicised. We believe this never would have happened in years past. It’s a disgrace. It’s outrageous. 

Regarding the motion of Losing Confidence at the September meeting:

A councillor moved a motion of no confidence. The CEO and 5 councillors were absent, and the motion was debated behind closed doors. What’s going on?

Cr Raymond moved the motion, and it was watered down to “losing” confidence, due to lack of attendance. It was supported by all 10 councillors. It’s outrageous that debate was held behind closed doors. 

This is the City of Perth all over again. It’s outrageous, unfair, and it lacks common decency. (Ms Ellis) had no voice. She had court (Ms Ellis is a lawyer)

(Debating the motion) without her having the right to respond is gutless. The Mayor, in my view, could have deferred that motion.

I think the council has a problem with women, it’s become a boys club, and it’s very, very conservative and targets those with progressive views.

In 2014 Cr Van Styn (now the Mayor) missed 4 meetings. In 2013 when he ran for parliament he missed 5 meetings. There were no votes of no confidence despite him missing more meetings than Cr Ellis.

But the point is, Cr Ellis has had to deal with a very difficult set of circumstances. She needed support, instead she’s been hung out to dry. And that is very sad. 


 City of Greater Geraldton CEO, Ken Diehm

City of Greater Geraldton CEO, Ken Diehm

Ken Diehm is the CEO for the City of Greater Geraldton. A CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is not elected by the public, but employed by the Councillors to run the City. He spoke to Everything Geraldton regarding the matter. 

Are you of the opinion that it was your own mistake that has caused this to be an issue?

The guidelines … have been practiced for many many years. Those guidelines reflect the mood of the council. 

The guidelines are more rigid than the legislation. I accept that. 

Mr Diehm explained that the application form includes the guidelines on it.

Those guidelines were brought to Renee’s attention.

Mr Diehm said Ms Ellis had confirmed that she knew her application for a "Leave of Absence" for the April meeting would not be presented to council. 

She acknowledged that it would not be presented to council.

We asked if he would continue to not present Leave of Absence requests to council if they applied for the upcoming meeting, as per existing council guidelines.

In the future when the leave application is received, I will provide it to council in the next meeting it applies to. 

Regarding the April meeting minutes that actually state Cr Ellis as a “Leave of Absence”, Mr Diehm said it only had the mistake in the “preamble to the minutes proper”.

Cr Ellis is well aware that consideration was not recorded in the meetings, (and that the) application was not considered by the council. There was no resolution. 

It was an administrative error, I’ll take responsibility for that. 

Is it fair to consider that Ms Ellis could have thought that she was recorded as a “Leave of Absence” rather than an “Apology”?

I don’t think so, because she was told it would be considered as an apology. 

Why did your press release not include information about Council Guidelines not matching the act, and the administration now retrospectively going back and changing the minutes?

If Ms Ellis had no understanding of the guidelines, and solely relied on the act I would agree with you. She had confirmed her understanding by email, that it wouldn’t be considered, and she’s had discussions with my office providing the same advice. 

Do I think it’s fair? It’s not a matter whether I think it’s fair or not. I have an obligation as CEO (to issue the notice of dismissal). This hasn’t come out of the blue with Renee. I’ve been liaising with Renee for the last few days

Renee’s options that are open to her are to advise me in writing if she is not disqualified and the reasons why, alternatively she can apply to SAT (State Administrative Tribunal).

Could you have referred the matter to SAT rather than dismiss Cr Ellis?

My legal advice said I had an obligation (to dismiss Ms Ellis). It was irrelevant with respect to my determination.

It’s being alleged that this is politically motivated. Has there been any pressure on you from third parties regarding this matter?

I can unequivocally say there’s been no pressure applied on me from any party to take any course of action. While these circumstances are unfortunate, I have no choice.

Renee’s options are to accept, or provide reasons why she believes she was not disqualified, or apply to SAT for a determination.

Why have you not acted sooner (regarding the dismissal)?

Council passed a resolution due to her lack of attendance.

As a result of that resolution, my office reviewed her attendance, and discovered she had missed 3 missed meetings in a row, and 5 of the last 7 ordinary council meetings. 

Once I was made aware of that, I was legally bound to provide a notice of disqualification of the Act.

I’ll take responsibility for failing to pick that up. We’ll make sure our staff are more vigilant in the future.

In terms of do I think it’s fair? I think it’s totally irrelevant. I'm required to act impartially. The local government Act requires me to act. 

It does not allow you any discretion to take into account extenuating circumstances, or Renee’s personal circumstances. 

That’s why the matter is best left to SAT should Renee disagree with the notice that has been provided.

Has this ever happened before, where a councillor is dismissed for lack of attendance?

To my knowledge, there has not been in recent history (an instance) where a councillor has had to be disqualified for consecutive absences at council meetings. 


We spoke to Renee Ellis about her dismissal as councillor. 

Mr Diehm claims you were aware you would be marked as an apology for the meeting in question, were advised of that by email, and responded to the effect that you understood this as well. If that’s the case, should you have been aware that the following apology was going to be a third strike?

The whole issue is that when I was asking for their support and advice, “How do I get through this, what do I do?”, they said “Do this form” and that’s basically that, even though I’ve applied for leave 3 weeks before the meeting.

In my time of need, they said "you’re all good Renee". I’ve done everything they’ve said. 

I’d been a councillor about three months at that stage. 

I said “I take my roll very seriously. I have to go through this process of grief. Can you help me, what can I do?”

They advised me “This is how you do it. And you do it in this way.” If they’d had said, “If you do this now, it will be three apologies” instead of putting it through as a request for leave as they should have... I’ve done everything in accordance with the way I’ve been told. In accordance with the act, they should have put my request in front of council.

Were Ken’s hands tied (in terms of issuing the dismissal notice)?

I think there’s a grey area there. I think that he knew I had got incorrect advice. Council, even though they haven’t marked me as being on leave, in the minutes they have endorsed it as a true and correct record.

Did you know you it (the April "Leave of Absence" request) wasn’t put as a motion ?

I went on the advice I was given at the time, from the office of the CEO. And the CEO failed to put it to council.

His alternative was to apply to SAT. He didn’t have to disqualify me. He could have gone to SAT.

Couldn’t you do that now?

It’s been recommended that the City (of Greater Geraldton) pay for my legal representation because they’ve made so many errors.

Do you plan on going to SAT?

At this stage, Yes.

Are you confident on a result in your favour?

(There’s been) no fault of my own, and with the mistake of the office of the CEO, I think it’s manifestly unfair.

Whether or not I’m successful, there will be a review of process by SAT, and a policy decision will come out of it. So it won’t be in vain.

And what we’re expecting is that there will be discussions with the Minister about this. There have been discussion with the Shadow Minister and the Dept of Local Government, and I have no doubt that this decision will come under intense scrutiny.

It is an administrative bungle.

You’ve been away a lot though.

I would have had leave appropriately for two meetings, and apologies for three.

In 2013 the mayor had missed as many meetings as me. I think he had leave, but he had a big chunk as well. 

When he took leave for federal parliament, that was ok, but when I took leave on compassionate grounds, I get raked over the coals.

They told the councillors that the Mayor had had a one on one. The Mayor never had a one on one with me. A true leader would have pulled me aside and had a discussion with me. But they’ve done it this way. But they didn’t do it to Shane. They did it to Renee, the Labor candidate. 

What’s your relationship like with other councillors?

I thought it was quite good. But I’m very disappointed to hear that the Mayor encouraged councillors to vote for the recent motion. I'm very disappointed. 

If you go to SAT, and you get reinstated, will you resume your duties with no love lost?

I would be honoured. That’s why I was elected by the people of Willcock.

I stand up for the underdog, and social issues. And I’m one the few that do. The council currently are very conservative. This motion came about, it’s sort of weird and uncanny, the same week I was announced as a labor candidate.

Are you asserting it was politically motivated?

Yes. No doubt. 

I can tell you that as soon as that motion became public, within half an hour Paul Brown tweeted it, and the mayor and Paul Brown were together that day.

(Note: Paul Brown is a current Nationals state upper house member (MLC) and running for the Lower House in the upcoming state election. The tweet incorrectly states the motion was one of "no confidence" when the motion was that of "losing confidence". The tweet appeared approximately 3 hours after the September council meeting minutes were made public.)

They were looking for an opportunity to attack me.

From what I’m told, the council was given incorrect information when they voted on that motion. Had they been given the correct information, it wouldn’t have succeeded.

There were 5 councillors away, it was out in Mullewa. Nobody gave me an opportunity to speak. I wasn’t at the meeting (but) they could have given me a right of reply.

Instead they’ve decided to publicly hang me out to dry. It’s affecting my business, it’s affecting my personal life. I reached out for compassion, and this is how they respond. 


 Cr Michael Reymond

Cr Michael Reymond

Councillor Michael Reymond was the councillor who moved the motion of “losing confidence” at the September meeting. We spoke with him about the reasons for the motion. 

Who put it to you about the problem with Ms Elllis?

It was a consensus. There was a feeling that we had to bring the matter to the head. 

Did anyone help you draft the motion?

It was done for me by the council officers.

Myself and the Mayor sat down and put the words together and had it typed up. 

Did the Mayor (Shane Van Styn) approach you?

Yes. The Mayor approached me. I said I think it’s an excellent idea. When I came back from leave, we discussed it then. 

Was it agreed between you and the Mayor that you would put forward the motion?

He asked me what I thought about the idea, I said I’d put a motion forward. He updated me on the situation, on approved leave. When I came back to have a chat with him, I was a little bit out of touch. He told me that Cr Ellis had put another apology in. I said I’d support a motion.

Why wasn’t he the one to put the motion forward?

He tries to keep a mutual position on things. He tries to manage things. He’s meant to be mutual and unbiased. It’s not appropriate. 

But it seems that it really did come from the Mayor?

It’s not new. Her absences have been a discussion among councillors for so long. She never turned up to the Reconciliation Committee meetings. I had to become chair. It’s a team effort. She gets paid a reasonable allowance. Would she do this if she got elected to state parliament? I don’t know. She needs to prioritise her issues.

Are you affiliated with any political party?

No.

Are you aware Renee Ellis was a Labor candidate?

It was pretty obvious.

Could (The Mayor’s) National Party membership have anything to do with this?

No. That’s conspiracy type stuff.

I’m only worried with the fact she’s not turning up. That’s a fact. Look, she’s got a whole lot of reasons for having leave. 

How did you react to the news she’d been dismissed?

I was surprised, as that was never the intention. 

The motion was just to let her know that we we’re not happy with her attendance. We were hoping… the idea of the motion was to encourage her to rectify the issues and get on with business. 

The fact that she was dismissed came as a surprise to me. That was never the intention.

Cr Reymond went on to speak about the motion being more than just about attendance, but about Ms Ellis’ participation in the wider council life.

The email traffic when we discuss matters with each other… I never see her name come up on email traffic on issues. For example, the sand dune issue. 

There’s about 10 emails a day coming out. You know by that correspondence traffic who’s participating and who’s not. 

I certainly haven’t been getting any emails from her at all. 

I can only conclude that she doesn’t spend a lot of time on matters. I might be wrong. It seems to me she has family, personal, work commitments that are very demanding. You go into this position (knowing what’s involved)

She’s going to pull out anyway if she gets elected (to State Government). Her ambitions seem more for state politics than local politics. 

But you need to keep on doing what you’re elected to do. 

Cr Reymond spoke about how he valued Ms Ellis’ contributions.

She was providing a balanced view and an alternative view occasionally. But she has to meet what she was elected for. 

I think to turn the blame on the Mayor and other councillors is unfair. Look at the attendance record. She’s the one not turning up to the meetings, we’re just the ones concerned about it. 

You can’t say she hasn’t been given natural justice. She knew the rules. It’s like running a stop sign. 

It’s inappropriate, and she’s been told many times about the consequences.

In conclusion:

It’s a storm in a tea cup, and it will sort itself out. 


It’s no secret that Mayor Shane Van Styn is affiliated with the National Party, having run for both the State seat of Geraldton and the Federal seat of Durack under the Nationals banner in recent years. We spoke with him about allegations that what has transpired might be politically motivated.

What do you say about the allegations this was politically motivated?

 CGG Mayor Shane Van Styn

CGG Mayor Shane Van Styn

Absolutely categorically denying it. 

There’s nothing political about counselling a councillor who has failed to show up for 5 of the last 7 meetings. 

We have in recent times placed great emphasis on keeping rates down and providing value, and councillors being remunerated around $30,000 a year have to be accountable to the ratepayers they serve. 

The city has embarked on staff cuts and efficiency drives, and councillors have to show value for money. 

I think councillors have a right to question whether seven and a half thousand dollars a meeting is good value for money. (Mr Van Styn based this on Ms Ellis’ annual remuneration vs meetings attended.)

Why did Cr Reymond put the motion forward?

A number of councillors have approached me and sought advice. A number of councillors asked if we can put forward no confidence. I held them back. 

After another apology, the budget meeting where she informed me she was going to be an apology, I contacted her and personally spoke with her. She came into the office, and I spoke with her in the offices, and counselled her on her attendance. 

She has denied that (you had a meeting with her about her attendance).

That is utterly outrageous. 

I had held off people wanting to move motions of no confidence. Since then Ken (Diehm, CEO) has also has spoken to her. 

Since that, not only has she failed to apply for a leave of absence, but failed to provide an apology, and has simply gone absent.

You say a “number” of councillors have approached you. Zero is a number. One is a number. 

Zero is not the number. More than a couple. A few.

Councillors confide in me directly.

Was there any intention to see her dismissed regarding the motion?

There was no intention. I was completely unaware of the three strikes. That only occurred when she requested the reasons for the absences, and that’s when the three strikes were discovered. 

Speaking on the question of the motion being politically motivated:

I have seen no official announcement that she’s the endorsed Labor candidate ticket. I’ve heard that claim, but never seen it official. Look on the website, it’s not there. 

The CEO is the person who has to disqualify the councillor. It is the CEO’s role. 

The motion was carried 10/0. Absolutely unanimous. Moved and seconded. She has missed 5 of the last 7. The last was just a no show, and the second last was an apology the day before. 

In terms of the politics of it, I note that by standing for state parliament, I expect she’ll seek leave of absence for January and February to conduct a campaign, and if successful, she’d resign in March. 

If there was anything political, it’s why is she choosing to be on council yet not attending, and now challenging her disqualification knowing full well that she may require a leave of absence in January and February and, if successful, resigning from council in March, some 15 months after first being elected to council for a four year term? 

What changes will there be, regarding council’s guidelines being inconsistent with the act?

That will be a matter for council to determine in the future. It’s been a long standing practice that application for leave is made at the meeting prior to which you seek leave. 

If matter goes to SAT, and they rule she’s to be reinstated, are you happy to welcome her back and get on with business?

Absolutely, and I encourage her to apply to SAT if she wants to remain on council.

Why weren’t you the one to move the motion?

It’s not common practice for the Mayor to move motions from the chair. 

Is it permissible?

Absolutely. 

Mayor Van Styn spoke of what transpired after the motion at September’s meeting.

She emailed councillors and apologised in writing, and said she’d work to improve it (her attendance). And if she fails to improve it she’ll offer her resignation.

The important thing to note is, the three strikes is set in law. 

If the councillor had attended meetings, the motion would not have occurred, simple. 

But there were a number of councillors, more than a couple, that have raised concerns.



Moving Forward

 

Everything Geraldton understands that CGG CEO Ken Diehm has advised the councillors that the CGG guidelines will be updated in accordance with the legal advice he has received. He also plans to implement measures to catch any future “three strikes” occurrences immediately. 

However, since issuing the dismissal notice and advising Ms Ellis to take the matter to SAT herself if she disagrees, the CGG is now offering to do a joint submission to SAT. 

In an email to councillors Mr Diehm wrote:

"Whilst I have been required by law to issue a Notice of Disqualification to Councillor Ellis, I am not unsympathetic to her circumstances. Since issuing the Notice I have personally contacted Ms Ellis to advise her that I will be referring the matter to the State Administrative Tribunal for final determination. We have agreed to work collaboratively on the submission to ensure that all the facts and circumstances are presented to the Tribunal.

"My obligations under the Act are not negotiable and I would have been breaking the law if I had not issued the Notice of Disqualification. Ms Ellis understands and appreciates the legal obligations that are placed upon me and we both believe that working collaboratively on a submission to the State Administrative Tribunal is the best course of action to bring finality to this matter."

Ken Diehm and Renee Ellis are expected to be meeting today (Thursday, October 6) to discuss the joint submission to SAT. 


The Department of Local Government and Communities is the State Government body that overseas the running of local councils. They have issued a statement on the matter. 

"All local governments in Western Australia must abide by the provisions of the Local Government Act 1995.  There are no penalties or consequences with regard to actions of the City of Greater Geraldton or its staff in this matter.

"Once the CEO issued a notification under this section the Local Government Act gives the elected member 28 days from the date of the CEO’s notification to either satisfy the CEO that they are not disqualified or apply to the State Administrative Tribunal asking for a declaration as to whether or not they are disqualified. 

"If the elected member does not respond to the CEO’s notification in the above manner they are taken to be disqualified.

"This is the only way to have the matter resolved."

The department’s statement doesn’t speak to whether or not it was the correct move to issue the dismissal notice, but restates what Ms Ellis’ options are once the notice has been issued. 

The statement clearly states that there are no penalties or consequences for any CGG staff in this matter.


Ms Renee Ellis spoke with Everything Geraldton again regarding the joint submission:

The city have acknowledged that they have acted outside of the act, I have acted within the act, and because of that anomaly the city are now funding my legal representation to SAT and we are preparing a joint submission together. 


Mr Darren West also spoke regarding the offer to do a joint submission to SAT. 

Do you stand behind the comments you have already made?

At the time that was the case. It has become clear to anyone in this case that those comments have been vindicated. We feel that councillors have recognised this, and the CEO has made the appropriate change in course. I stand by the comments I made re the notice of disqualification.

The City has had a change of heart. We're happy to work with the City in preparing the brief and evidence for SAT. We’ve asked the City to admit to publicly what they’ve admitted to privately, that the City’s guidelines sit outside the act and Cr Ellis’ submissions sit inside the act. 

We’d like a public apology, whether or not we’ll get that remains to be seen. She’s been vindicated in her actions. 

We are seeking legal advice regarding the power of the City to change the minutes (for the April meeting). 

All the councillors were of the view that they had given her a leave of absence. 

But the Leave of Absence request was never put as a motion.

But they (the councillors) were all privy to that leave request. And she was noted in the minutes as a leave of absence. Councillors considered her as being absent and not an apology. 

And they carried the minutes in the May meeting from the April meeting without amending. 

I don’t think the CEO has the capacity to say “those minutes are wrong, I don’t accept those minutes.” Because they’re not the CEO’s minutes, they’re the council’s minutes. I don’t think they can change the minutes without a resolution of council. 

The reason it wasn’t considered by council is because of a major bungle by the CEO.

Has Ms Ellis been officially named a Labor candidate? We haven’t found anything published to this effect. 

She was endorsed in April. At this time she had some difficult times in her life.  A decision was made to hold back publicly announcing her candidacy. 

We made a public announcement last week. We’ve announced it but we’re not shouting it at this stage. 

Do you think the average Joe on the street really cares about all this?

Not much. What they do care about is that their city has become highly politicised.

But isn’t it possible the average Joe might see your response to the matter as the very thing that has politicised the issue?

We’re responding to a political smear campaign. We don’t see any other way that we can respond.

Do you see the joint submission offer as an olive branch from the City?

I saw it as a concession that they’ve got this wrong, and have created a problem that needs to be fixed. 

What I do see as the olive branch is that they’re willing to work with Renee Ellis to prepare an application for SAT, and to fund the costs. But it was going to go to SAT anyway. 


The City of Greater Geraldton anticipates a submission to the State Administrative Tribunal to be ready by Friday, 7 October 2016.