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. 

More CGG cutbacks- this time it affects life savers

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More CGG cutbacks - This time there's no lifeguard for Back Beach, one of Gero's most notorious beaches, during the school holidays.


"Very disappointed that after many years of having a paid lifeguard at the Back Beach during the Summer holidays, the CGG have decided not to have one this year.  The weekends and Public holidays  will still be patrolled by the Geraldton Surf Life Saving Club but week days there will be no one there.  I hope the cost cutting doesn't impact on someone's life." - Lisa Mardon


Response from the City of Greater Geraldton:


“The Council made it very clear to the City of Greater Geraldton Executive that large rate rises are unacceptable and continuing to the run the City in a deficit position is also not acceptable. As a result, the City has taken measures to reduce its annual operating expenses and reduce rate increases. The Council also wanted to ensure that there was equity between different sporting clubs and noted that the Champion Bay Surf Life Saving Club operates without any support from the City.

"Last year the Geraldton Surf Life Saving Club received $20,000 from the City and we will be working with them to apply for grant funding to assist with operating costs.

"The club also has the option of presenting a business case to City Council for the decision to be changed and they have been notified of this.  The business case will need to demonstrate the quantified impact the Council not paying the grant will have on the club, project financial statements and a demonstration of attempts to apply for alternate funding solutions.

"The City will be installing signage at Back Beach and Tarcoola Beach areas to communicate with beach goers about potential risks in the area.”

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.

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.

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. 

A City of Greater Geraldton Councillor has been disqualified

NB: This press release was provided by the City of Greater Geraldton. A follow up story included a response from Ms Ellis will be published shortly. 


City of Greater Geraldton Chief Executive Officer Ken Diehm has served notice on Ms Renee Ellis advising her that she has been disqualified from continuing as a Councillor.

The notice was given today due to the former Councillor’s unapproved absence at three consecutive ordinary Meetings of Council.

Mr Diehm said he had no discretion in the matter and was obligated to issue a notice of disqualification under sections of the Local Government Act.

“Ms Ellis failed to obtain leave of absence from the Council for the meetings held on 22 March, 26 April and 24 May 2016, which under Section 2.25 (4) of the Local Government Act disqualifies her from continuing her membership of the Council,” he said.

“Under Section 2.27 (3) of the Local Government Act I am obligated to issue a notice of disqualification.”

Ms Ellis’ consecutive absences were identified as a result of a review undertaken by the CEO’s office after Council resolved at its meeting on 27 September to express that it is losing confidence in her due to a lack of attendance.

“Council resolved that Ms Ellis must improve her attendance or reconsider her position as a Councillor,” Mr Diehm said.

“While Ms Ellis had submitted a leave application for the period covering the April Council Meeting, it was not in accordance with the City’s guidelines which requires advance notice and therefore this application for leave was not considered by Council.

“Unfortunately, the Local Government Act does not provide me with any discretion to consider this or any other personal reasons for her continued absence and I am obligated by law to issue the notice of disqualification.”

Under the Local Government Act Ms Ellis is now required to provide the CEO with written advice within 14 days as to whether she believes that she is not disqualified and the reasons why.

Other options available to Ms Ellis include making an application to the State Administrative Tribunal for them to determine the matter.

The Notice of Disqualification is effective immediately and prevents Ms Ellis representing the Council or herself as a Councillor in any capacity unless she applies to the State Administrative Tribunal asking for a declaration that she is not disqualified.

Failure to comply with the notice may result in a penalty of $5,000 or imprisonment for one year.

 Ms Renee Ellis

Ms Renee Ellis

Temporary closure of the Foreshore toddler play area

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9 September 2016

The City of Greater Geraldton wishes to advise the Foreshore toddler play area will be temporarily closed from Tuesday 13 September to Thursday 15 September 2016 to undertake maintenance work to the soft fall.

The toddler sand playground is not affected and will remain open to the public.

Members of the community are requested to exercise caution and obey all warning signs and directions from authorised City personnel and contractors.

The City apologises for any inconvenience these works may cause.

If you have any queries please contact Jeremy Henderson, Project Supervisor on 08 9956 6600 or email council@cgg.wa.gov.au.

Governor of Western Australia visits Geraldton

Geraldton was honoured to have Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AC pay a visit this week. 

Following visits to numerous community organisations over the last two days, a civic reception for the Governor was held this evening at the new Multi Purpose Centre on Geraldton's foreshore, which included a traditional dance (see video below), and was attended by many community leaders. 

In a short speech to those in attendance, Her Excellency shared that she had come in a community role, to learn more about what is happening in the region. 

She will be visiting Mullewa and Mt Magnet tomorrow. 


The Governor of Western Australia is the representative of the Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II. 

The Governor performs constitutional, ceremonial and community functions, including:

  • presiding over the Executive Council;
  • proroguing and dissolving the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council;
  • issuing writs for elections; and
  • appointing Ministers, Judges, Magistrates and Justices of the Peace.

Furthermore, all Bills passed by the Parliament of Western Australia require the Governor's signature before they become Acts and pass into law. (Wikipedia)

Kerry Sanderson succeeded Malcolm McCusker in October 2014.

Greys Beach potentially contaminated from dumping

Following a question at the recent council meeting regarding Geraldton's Beaches, the CGG provided this response, mentioning a potential contamination at a small section of Greys Beach: 

 "The City has received advice from the Department of Environment & Regulation (DER) that a small section at the Greys beach area has some potentially contaminated materials (due to legacy dumping of old building materials). The City is following the DER process and has commissioned a preliminary site investigation for the area, the City is currently in the middle of that process with its consultants. The process needs to meet DER requirements and the extent of any potential clean-up will be determined after those investigations have been completed in conjunction with DER."

 

5 reasons you should keep getting the Geraldton Guardian

Newspaper sales have fallen dramatically around Australia in recent years, and our local Guardian has not been immune to the changes in how we all consume content. 

Even though Everything Geraldton may compete in some ways with the Geraldton Guardian, I honestly believe Geraldton is better served if said newspaper continues does well. 

Here are some of the reasons I believe you will benefit from buying our local paper.  


1. Public notices

They may be the most boring part of the paper, but I think they're the most important.

Why?

When a local government WANTS to get the word out about something, they will send a press release or public notice to all media, usually including Everything Geraldton. 

I'm grateful for this. EG wants to help locals stay informed about what's happening in their community. Many people who never read the paper, including young people, are now far more connected and informed.

Sometimes the City will even pay Everything Geraldton to promote or publish something. This too is very helpful for us in terms of paying our staff and continuing operating. We think we're pretty good at getting information out to the Geraldton public. And we're super grateful for support from the CGG. 

But when the council HAS to put something out to the public, but doesn't necessarily WANT a lot of feedback, I've noticed they just purchase an ad in the public notices section of a paper. 

They are legally obligated to do this much of the time.

While I'm sure there's nothing malicious happening behind the scenes, I do believe that for much of the general public, only putting a public notice in a newspaper essentially makes it invisible. I don't think I know anyone under the age of 35 who even buys the paper with any regularity. 

Here's a recent example. I've seen no hoo-ha or press release about it, despite it potentially having a massive impact on our city. 

There were a number of complaints when the Jaffle Shack opened on the foreshore, saying that others weren't given the opportunity to put a business on the most prime piece of real estate in Geraldton. Now the city can technically say they have given everyone the opportunity. All you had to do was be one of the few people that buy the Guardian twice a week and always checked the public notices section. 

In fact, each time there's a public outcry about a decision the city makes, I have heard: "We published a public notice in a newspaper and very few people responded."

So until the laws change to better reflect how people actually get information in 2016, it's incumbent upon us, the general public, to keep an eye on the public notices in our local papers. 


2. Journalists.

The Geraldton Guardian employs a small team of journalists who put effort into chasing up stories. 

It's no secret that journalism isn't exactly a growing industry, but it will probably survive for the foreseeable future. Even though it's not the highest paying career, it can lead to other fulfilling professions. 

The Geraldton Guardian has a good track record of giving young journalists a start and helping them get their uni degree. I personally know a couple of people who are doing well in other careers now, who started off at the Guardian. Had they not had the support of the local paper in their youth, they may have struggled somewhat more. 


3. Geraldton needs multiple media voices

I admit I'm extremely inconsistent when it comes to reading the paper. Or rather, I'm consistently terrible at it. 

I will try harder after writing this article.

Three years ago I knew I wanted local content in a digital format, but no-one was going to do it in Geraldton. So instead of complaining, I started a business doing just that. But The goal of Everything Geraldton was not to replace other the media completely, but to be another voice.

I don't think a community is well served if there is only one media voice. If you piss off the wrong person, you can essentially be cut off from having your say. 

Fortunately, this isn't the case in Geraldton.

We have Everything Geraldton, which is independant and I'm obviously an advocate for. There's the Geraldton Guardian/Mid West Times, who have been around for 100+ years and are backed by Seven West. There's a talented and creative team over at the ABC, who publish great stuff. And there's a few radio stations. 

Having more media publications means a more diverse voice, and fewer newsworthy items are likely to slip through the cracks. It also gives advertisers more choices and opportunities to promote their products and services. 


4. Responsible people at the helm

I know a couple of people who work at the Geraldton Guardian in the editorial team, and from what I know of them, I do believe that they care about the people of Geraldton. 

It's not very common to have people who care so much about the community in charge of local media. Often the agenda to simply sell more papers at the cost of sensationalising everything wins out over the mandate to serve the community by printing the facts. 

Anita Kirkbright is the current editor, and I've dealt with her in other capacities in the past. I've read several of her articles over the last year or two, and she certainly seems to have a desire to surface encouraging stories from the Mid West. It's a refreshing change from the usual negativity that seems to fill our Twitter and Facebook feeds. 

That's not to say I agree with every publishing decision the Guardian makes, but for the time being I think it's well above par. 


5. It's not too big

I'm pressed for time. I don't sit down and read the paper to alleviate boredom. I know reading the paper was a favourite pastime for our Granddads. But I have a million things to occupy me that are more interesting than a newspaper. And when something big happens I will probably hear about it well before the paper comes out anyway. 

So when I do read the local paper, I want to get through it as quickly as possible. 

I have listened to complaints for about 8 years now about how thin the Guardian is. But looking at it as someone who mostly reads content online, I consider thinness a positive. 

When someone "reads" the paper, they don't actually read very much. You scan through the headlines until something stands out, and you end up reading about 1 and a half articles. 

What you leave with is the knowledge that you haven't missed anything important that may affect you, your business, or your family.

And with a world of information now accessible through our smartphones, we don't need our local papers to try and be all things to all people, publishing all manner of lifestyle articles that we may or may not be interested in. They can just give us important local content, and we can follow our particular interests through apps, social media, websites, podcasts, YouTube etc. 


In conclusion, my vision of the future of media in Geraldton doesn't involve a winner take all outcome as was the case in the past, but a diverse range of voices, each serving the community and playing a part in our daily lives. I hope the Geraldton Guardian is a part of that future. 


Note: No one from the Geraldton Guardian had any involvement with this article.

 

 

Emergency sand nourishment to slow Drummond Cove coastal erosion

In an effort to slow down the rate of coastal erosion, save trees and protect at risk state government infrastructure sand nourishment works will begin today along Whitehill Road in Drummond Cove.

The works expected to take five days to complete will see approximately 5,000m3 of sand placed along the shoreline.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said that although Council recognises sand nourishment is only a temporary solution, it aligns with the community’s preferred option to combat the erosion of Whitehill Road.

“Council understands sand nourishment is only a stop gap measure but we are faced with an imminent threat and understand the sand could wash away quickly,” he said.

“However, it is better than no action at all and has the support of the Drummond Cove Progress Association and was also identified by the local community as the preferred temporary solution during the Whitehill Road Community Workshop held in May.

“At this point, $50,000 in emergency funds for sand nourishment will hopefully buy us some time to continue discussions with Western Power, Telstra and Watercorp regarding at risk infrastructure and medium term solutions such as sand bags, rock revetments or concrete squares on matting can be investigated.

“Permanent solutions to coastal erosion at Drummond Cove cannot be considered by Council until data collection and modelling of the ocean currents in the area are undertaken and Coastal Adaptation Planning for the entire Geraldton coast has been completed,” Mayor Van Styn said.

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This woman's Spalding house has been destroyed by neighbouring vandals

What follows is a letter sent to several government bodies and departments by a home owner at her wits' end. Natalie's home in Spalding has been damaged extensively, and as you will read, she has become caught between a rock and a hard place.  

We have included responses sent to Natalie as provided. 

We have also spoken to Natalie in person, and she tells us that despite the responses from various departments, she's still without a clue as to what to do, and has been advised personally by many of the officials she spoke with that there is no point in fixing the property as it will likely be damaged again. 

There is also a letter from another home owner on Strickland Street to the Housing Authority regarding one of their properties. 


I am writing to you all about my property at 70 Strickland Street Spalding, Geraldton. I bought this house off dad after my nanna died in approx. 2000. It is the only home I have ever had – will have.

It has been rented out mostly as I had to move from Geraldton for work. It was a great little house, great little suburb. 

Now it is overrun by ferals. It is now the Bronx of Gero, is it not? 

The DoHW built units next door. It was okay for the few first years. The units were promoted as accommodation for the elderly, given they a 1-2 bedrooms, 'we will choose good tenants, it will all be okay' the residents of the area where told. 

Things have changed. My last tenant at 70 Strickland had been there for about 2-3 years. Beginning of 2015 the tenant did not renew her lease due to the anti-social behaviour by the tenants living [in the] units and ‘gangs’ of feral youth, children and adults who move in and out of these units and across the suburb of Spalding. 

After the property had been vacated on the 08/04/15 I advised by my real estate agent (who had taken a potential tenant to view the place) that the house had been vandalised. I mean totally ruined. Stole the air con, smashed window, ripped out the light fittings, ripped out the blinds, holes in the walls, front door removed now missing, fence pushed over, they stole the rain water tank for Christ sakes. $10,000 worth of damage not to mention the loss of rent …..and this was just the start.

Got the house up to speed. Nearly ready to be rented gain – not that I am confident someone will rent it as its now in the middle of a war zone. 18th June – more damage, broken windows, entry screen door busted, more light fittings pulled out.

End of June 2015 they have now stolen the fake security alarms, ripped out and damaged all the new security screens, broken more windows. More damaged walls and fittings. The house is now boarded up and the graffiti is out of control. Started to get it fixed…again. (oh yes another report to useless police).

August 2015 – more damage lighting has been pulled out, bedroom walls and window frames kicked out, lots of wiring damage, cloth lines vandalized. They are making holes in the roof – this is letting moisture in! It’s just not stopping, no sooner than it gets fixed it’s another thing. Christ they are ripping through boarded up windows, they are ripping out security screens. 

12th august 2015 the real estate [agent] said they did not want to manage the property anymore – too much work, too hard. I am reeling, I am actually physically sick and come Christmas time I am despairing as to what I am going to do. I am now working just to keep my head above water to pay my mortgage and deal with the costs of repairs that insurance will not cover, the insurance excess. 

This was always going to be the home where I retired to, where I would die. Wondered if maybe I could build out the back. Mum needs somewhere to live, she is getting on in years. It’s not much, but I am a single middle age woman with little future prospects. But I just don’t know how this is ever going to happen now. I keep breathing and keep going.  The work is done again. 

I need a tenant in there to make the house more secure, but no real estate wants to manage the property. Regardless of the ongoing work the place is looking very sad and sorry. I can’t get a tenant until this stuff stops. It won’t stop until I get a tenant who can defend the house and themselves (as if they should have to). It is a vicious circle.

By the end of the year 2015 I am paralyzed numb and words cannot convey how distressed I am. Every email and phone call makes me want to vomit. I need to get the house up to speed again. I am desperately trying to find work in Gero just so I can go live in the house and try to do something about this even if I am at physical risk. But there is no work in Geraldton – I am stuck here working to try to pay the costs.

22/01/16 informed again the house had been trashed, that this time the damage is the worst it has ever been bad. All that repair work is meaningless….again. They even pulled out the plumbing and electrical power box. What hope have I got of any protection for my sad trashed little house. I feel so let down by the Geraldton authorities. This year insurance company very nearly declined to renew my insurance.

I note in March 2016 that the police are dealing with riots in Spalding.  The local gossip is that the police are even scared of the ferals. People report that they are living next door, across the road from drug dealers, the area is out of control.

The house and its surroundings is trashed with syringes all the garden and house which is now the new injecting room in Gero. When confronted they just walk next door into the units.

Residents in the area and the street are saying they can’t say or won’t report or do anything as they are too fearful of retribution. I cant ‘substantiate’ as I am not there – there is no one in the house to ‘substantiate’. What is even the point of reporting.

Police and DoHW shrug it off, say yeh its all too bad but they can’t do anything without evidence. Get the evidence, press charges, prosecute then they can help. Right – how the hell do I do that?  And I can guarantee the court will not take into account the history of my vandalised house for the fist offender charged. No one will ever be made accountable for the house.

I have worked in the NFP sector for the past 20 years. Do not talk to me about support programs, community responses, counseling, for these people. Do not talk to me about how disadvantaged these people are. Do not talk to me about the fact that “it’s just a few bad people’, most are good. I do not care anymore. Never again, will I work with these people, helping to build families,  support them to work through their grief, try to keep them out of prison, help in any way I can, work on their drug use, their perpetration of violence and sex abuse, their apathy and their dismal lives. 

I am not a violent person but all I want to do is make them feel the hurt I feel. Even though I know that this is illogical and wrong. What sort of person am I turning into?

And of course it has not stopped. In March 2016 there was more damage – to the floors, and someone has thrown plaster around. 

And of course and then there is more…….now to top it offthey have actually put a hole through the brick wall ….and done more damage. I am so scared – this hole in the ceiling is bad structural damage. Winter is coming.

A fence is not going to stop this. Security alarms are not going to stop this. Security screens are not going to stop this. Repairing the house is not going to stop this. Nothing is going to stop this.  I have had no choice but to stop all actions to affect repairs and make the house safe and livable. I have no choice but to do what I am doing now – writing to you.

Please can someone tell me what to do. The house is now so unsafe. What happens when the council tells me I have to pull it down or I have to do something about the state of the house? What do I tell them? What can I do? I have a mortgage for house that effectively does not exist. I am so trapped. Why do I have to have my human rights breached like this? 

I challenge you to go have a look at the house. Do not judge me for being a bad homeowner – look at it and realize who is responsible for this. I challenge you to go do this when the ferals are roaming the streets.  

This is not just me. Have a look at the house next door at 68 Strickland – it’s pretty much going down the same way. 

God knows who the ferals are. Some are living next door in the DoHW units. Some are ‘visiting’ people in the units. Some of them are just roaming in packs across Spalding and Gero,

I would like you to ask the DOHW (Housing Authority)

  • What have they done [if] anything over the past 2 years to manage their tenants?
  • How many people are living in the units?
  • Where are the dynamic and static security measures they have put in place that can monitor what is going on at the units and the surrounding homes that are been attacked and violated
  • How residents can and should make complaints – regardless of your more “streamlined complaints” mechanisms, when they live literally in fear of doing so?
  • How can incidents of disruptive behaviour be “substantiated” as dangerous when there is no one person who is holding residents by the hand to make reports as they are too fearful to do so?
  • Do I have to go on the dole, move to Geraldton, live in a house that would be considered unfit for human accommodation,  but risk my physical and safety of my property to “substantiated”, get evidence, prosecute and lay charges?
  • How do I identify individuals and a group of feral and rabid drug users when I am stuck here in Kalgoorlie unable to relocate because I have to spend the majority of my wages on paying a mortgage for a house that I can’t rent out and have to deal with the constant vandalism?
  • How are you adhering to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 so Members of can be entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their own homes?
  • What level of case management is given to the residents of the units?

 

I would like you to ask the Police

  • What are they doing to in terms of investigating and responding to the break-ins and damage at 70 Strickland street over the course of the year?
  • How many times have undertaken forensic procedures at 70 Strickland street?
  • What are they doing to in terms of investigating and responding to the drug use not only at 70 Strickland but also at the DoHW units and in the suburb generally?
  • What have they done about the stolen motorbikes and other items that have been left at 70 Strickland and in the surrounding area?
  • What have done about the anti-social behaviour in the area?
  • On what level do the police think it is appropriate to tell me there is nothing the police service can do? That the community needs to respond (and be responsible) when the majority of the ‘community’ are the perpetrators and offenders, and the rest of the community are the victims who live in fear of retribution, who have no capacity, interpersonal or legal power and authority to effect change?
  • If telling homeowners that there is nothing they can do and to sell their homes is useful, proactive or practical given I could not give away the land, the house is trashed and if someone were going to purchase I would have to sell at a loss and still owe the bank?

Can you please ask the City of Geraldton

  • What is the council’s response to this matter, how they view and do they care about the fact that Spalding / Strickland street has become essentially war zone?
  • Why I / homeowners in the areas should pay rates for the privilege of been abused and victimised?
  • Why the council does not recognise that not addressing such issues does not in any way assist with falling property prices, that people increasingly need to move out, and will not move into the area this situation only reinforces bad reputations, and increases the stress already existing upon a economically depressed city?
  • What breaches of local government by-laws have been activated by this situation and what are they doing about them?

What is going to give here?

 My name is Natalie


Response from Ian Blayney's office:

Dear Natalie,

Ian has just been contacted by Minister Harvey’s office to advise that the Minister has personally responded to you, following his representation on your behalf.

He hopes the Minister has addressed your concerns and that the strategies being put in place go some way to resolving the problems you are having. However, he also hopes that if these fail that you will contact him to advise.

Ian has asked me to thank you for bringing this matter to his attention. Please don’t hesitate to contact his office for any further assistance.

Kind regards

Isabelle Scott
Electorate Officer to:
Ian Blayney MLA
Member for Geraldton
Shop 2, 5 Chapman Road
GeraldtonWA6530
Tel: 08 9964 1640
Fax: 08 9964 2982
Email: Isabelle.scott@mp.wa.gov.au


Response from Mayor

Good afternoon Ms XXXX

Your personal circumstances have been discussed with the Police at my regular meetings as well as with local members of Parliament. As a City we can only take action to remedy graffiti and damage to City property. On a more macro level we are working with Police to develop strategies to reduce youth crime and antisocial behaviour including the recruitment of a youth crime prevention officer, who it is hoped can target the known trouble causers and divert them to more positive activities.

Regards 

Mayor Shane Van Styn FCP


 

Further update from Natalie:

I spoke to the ranger at the council this week who suggested that that the report speaking to the above strategies in the council's domain will at a minimum take 6-7 mths to budget and/or implement. Mostly likely years to see any result. I heard that from her that they are also looking at using prison programs to assist in matters such as graffiti clean-up given the council states it is unable to assist with private landowners. I don’t feel that the time frame will assist. Given I have also worked with prisoner re-entry I am also uncertain how they are going to fund and get this program off the ground. This is all nice in theory. 

I know this is not about ME – they don’t know me – I am sure that if they did they might care. I would be more than willing to speak to the perpetrators and provide a victim impact statement – if they gave a shit - something they cannot do because they are so emotionally scared from their own abuse they do not have the capacity to empathise. 

Anyway...

Verbally both the police and the council staff are expressing deepest sympathy but also strongly recommending that I do not undertake any form of repair as they feel it will just be trashed again. I have not asked, yet feel that getting this in writing would not occur.

I need to stress that there is so much kindness out there – people are horrified and appreciative of the issue.

However also some relief that it is not them.

I have not heard back from the MP’s other than the whatever email from Ian. I have never had any feedback from DoHW.


Dear Ms XXXX

Please find attached response on behalf of Minister Harvey MLA in regard to your correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

Office of the Deputy Premier; Minister for Police; Road Safety; Training and Workforce Development; Women’s Interests 11th Floor, Dumas House, 2 Havelock Street, West Perth, WA 6005

T: (08) 6552 5900 | F: (08) 6552 5901

minister.harvey@dpc.wa.gov.au | www.premier.wa.gov.au


Response by Natalie to Liza Harvey

Dear Liza Harvey

Thank you for the written reply from your office about the damage to my property at 70 Spalding Street (as attached).

It is appropriate that a response to the anti-social behaviour in Spalding is now been considered. 

Yes, I was “appreciative of the information provided” by Senior Sergeant Bird and his contact. 

However, no matter the genuine sympathy expressed the situation is still what it is – dire.

Given: 

1. The strategies proposed, particularly any beautification of the suburb and other community based responses are going to take time, that is months to implement, 

2. Such strategies will not necessarily equate to an immediate and/or future cessation of the problem, 

3. None of the strategies mention specifically assist in my resolving the problem at 70 Strickland,

4. None of the proposed actions alleviates the fact that I am still living in fear every day, still sick to the stomach with worry over this problem.

As my house is not CGG property I take it to presume that the:

· “Graffiti on CGG property is to be treated as a priority task and removed immediately” – will not apply to my home?

· “Deployment of maintenance crews to immediately repair any damage to city infrastructure and property” – will not apply to my home?

Clearly while paying the mortgage, water rates, land rates, insurance and the other cost associated with the house I am still left with the need to have some sort of resolution to my immediate problem of addressing the vandalisation of the home.

1. Even if I had sufficient funds to repair the current damage what sort of assistance or guarantees is there that the house will be safe from further damage?

2. Even if I managed to get it repaired where am I going to find a real estate agent willing to manage the property ?

3. Even if both of these issues are addressed how am I going to find a tenant who will be willing to rent the property?

I am still yet to put in claim in for the last lot of damage to the insurance company because I am petrified that they will cancel my policy. 

I have CC’d in other authorities in this letter as I have not had a response from either the CGG or the Department of Housing to my initial email stating the damage. 

A copy of this email I sent is attached ……just in case anyone lost it.

As it now appears that state and local departments are communicating with one another, at one of your next meetings if a mutual discussion around ways of how my current circumstance can be addressed it would be appreciated.

I am not trying to be difficult (I am in desperate circumstances), I do appreciate the fact that some sort of action has been taken to address the macro issues.

I am glad that the people living the area and the suburb itself might have some sort of reprieve in the future.

However - I need some assistance as I just do not have the social support, interpersonal resources and/or the financial capacity to deal with this on my own.

For your consideration

Kind Regards, 

Natalie


Dear Ms XXX

The City acknowledges and thanks you for your correspondence in regard to the above matter.  

Please find attached the City’s response to your email of 15 May 2016.

Should you require any further information or clarification on this matter, please contact Neryl Beer at the City on (08) 9956 6720.

Kind regards
Amy Zinetti
Personal Assistant to the Director Development & Community Services


Everything Geraldton obtained a copy of a letter written to the Housing Authority by another resident on Strickland Street, regarding number 72, the property next door to the destroyed home. 

16-05-2016
Housing Authority
201 Marine Tce
Geraldton WA 6530

Attention: Geraldton Regional Manager of Housing Services, XXXX

RE:  72 Strickland St, Spalding, City of Greater Geraldton

I am writing you to bring your attention to the state of the above Homeswest property.

As the owner of XX Strickland St, I have witnessed firsthand the antisocial behavior from the tenants of this property. The drinking and drug use at the front of the property has become a daily & nightly norm that has resulted in the demise of the adjoining properties as well as the Homeswest property itself.

I will not go into all the details of this antisocial behavior as I know the local police have that information on file. Please don’t tell me that the police should or are going to fix this as it’s a pattern behavior that they can’t stop. I also now realize that it’s nearly impossible to get any Homeswest tenants removed, despite a genuine need for it.

My question is:  Why has the property been left in such a poor state for so long? I have been witnessing vandalism and graffiti for many months now with nothing being repaired (these are architecturally designed homes, surely they deserve at the very least to be maintained.) 

The properties next to and around 72 Strickland are also being destroyed. Graffiti is everywhere in the area, evidence of drug use, property damage including house brick walls being ripped out!? (It closely resembles a 3rd world war zone!) This is directly due to the behavior of some of the H.W. tenants and along with degeneration of this particular property. I am trying very hard not to go on and on but it is all so very unacceptable and SHOCKING! Please see attached pictures.

On Wed, 4th May, I made a complaint to DHW with ‘xxxx’ (Perth) who took my details and told me I would be contacted by a representative, no one phoned back. I made another attempt one week later Wed, 11th May, and spoke to xxxx (Geraldton) who referred me to the housing authorities ‘Housing Manager’  [Redacted - not current person looking after this property], I have phoned her and left call back messages, still to this day….waiting for her reply.

We expect the graffiti covering the front walls and driveway of 72 Strickland be removed and all damaged fences, reticulation boxes, landscape, letterboxes, etc… to be repaired. We are forced to put up with your tenants unacceptable antisocial behavior but we don’t have to put up with the complete demise of government property along with our neighborhood.

I request the housing authorities ‘Housing Manager’ [Redacted - not current person looking after this property]  who I’m told is responsible for this property, fulfill her job responsibilities. If she can’t then get someone who can.

[Name Withheld] 

Owners of: X Strickland Street, Spalding WA 

 

Francis Street Jetty puts emphasis on access and inclusion

The community will now be able to enjoy the Francis Street Jetty as it re-opens to the public this Friday 17 June.

Boasting some great new features, the recently constructed jetty is 39 metres long and 1.3 metres wide with the addition of a stepped deck configuration that allows people with mobility impairments to board and disembark vessels more easily.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the jetty was another element within the City that promoted access and inclusion.

“Both access and inclusion are a high priority for the City and we are dedicated to putting an emphasis on this with all of our projects,” he said.

“We want our facilities to promote inclusion for all people so everyone is able to enjoy a variety of different activities that may not have been previously available to them.

“A great deal of planning has taken place as well as consultation with sector representatives to ensure we are improving disability access and we can see that with our outstanding changing facility at the Youth Precinct as well as the newly opened beach access ramp.”

Timber from the original jetty that was stored for potential reuse was able to be repurposed by local company Saw Doctors and used as chafers in the new construction.

The project was co-funded by the Department of Transport Recreational Boating Facilities Scheme, Royalties for Regions and the City of Greater Geraldton.

The Francis Street Jetty will be officially opened by WA Premier Colin Barnett on Friday 24 June.

Response from city regarding ‘Geraldton may have to pay back $9 million’

Letter to the Editor

In response to your article today ‘Geraldton may have to pay back $9 million to the federal government’, I would like the opportunity to provide some clarity around the commentary. 

The Karloo Wandina Project involved building Verita Road, Abraham St Bridge, the Ackland Street to Abraham Street connection, the extension of Columbus Boulevard, as well as water, electricity and sewerage infrastructure to enable the further residential and commercial development of the area.

At the time this project was approved Geraldton was experiencing strong growth but there was a shortage of available residential land, and house prices were becoming unaffordable for the average resident. 

The Federal Government’s contribution of $9 million was made on the condition that 400 affordable housing lots would be sold by the Department of Housing by June 2016, this date was later extended to June 2017. 

At the time, the Department of Housing were selling 80 affordable housing lots a year and there were no indications that this demand would wane. Put simply, selling 400 lots was not seen as a difficult target to reach as the residential housing market was booming and all indications were that it would continue to boom for some time.

The City of Greater Geraldton’s predicament is that we have spent the funding to build the required infrastructure but the Department of Housing will not be able to sell the required lots because of the significant downturn in the local residential property market.

The Federal Government has recently advised us that they are considering policy changes that may require the City to return the funding if 400 affordable housing lots are not sold by the Department of Housing by December 2017.

The City and our community does not have the capacity to repay the funds and have asked the Federal Government to provide a reasonable extension of time to suit our local market conditions. To date we have not had a response.

We have also had a number of discussions with the Department of Housing and have called upon Melissa Price, the Member of Durack to provide assistance on our community’s behalf. 

This is a ridiculous situation for our City to be put in. We have spent the money building the infrastructure that was required but because the residential housing market has collapsed and the State Government can’t sell the lots – the Federal Government wants us to pay it back.

We have a good relationship with Melissa Price and will continue to work closely with her to convince the Federal Government Policy makers to reconsider their position.

 

-Ken Diehm, City of Greater Geraldton CEO

(click here to read original article)

Geraldton may have to pay back $9 million to the federal government

9 million dollars to be returned to federal government

"Financial Millstones"

As I scanned Hansard earlier this week (as one does) I noticed a mention of $9 million that the federal government is requesting back from the City of Greater Geraldton for funding of a particular project. (Hansard is the formal record of what was spoken in parliament.)

Another $9 million bill when funds are already tight, staff have been cut, and services reduced, would not be great news for the people of Geraldton. 

You'll notice the reference to Royalties for Regions projects now being "financial millstones". Millstones are quite handy when you're running a mill, but we think Blayney is using the term in the biblical "millstone around your neck" context.


We haven't had confirmation of which project is being referred to, but... 

A quick search reveals that $9 million is the exact amount granted to the City of Greater Geraldton for the Karloo-Wandina project, which was meant to produce 800 affordable blocks of land, as well as the construction of Verita Road and the accompanying bridge. The grant came from the "Building Better Regional Cities" program created under the Gillard government back in 2010. 

The project has been beset by cost blow outs, with the original figure to be contributed by ratepayers expected to be around 4 or 5 million, but that seems to have grown somewhat higher. (In last year's budget, $18 million was allocated to finalise the project.) Money also came from Royalties for Regions and other government departments for the project.

The project also turned out to be a major ongoing financial burden to the people of Geraldton. This is a statement from Mark Atkinson, who was the Manager of Infrastructure Planning & Design with the City of Greater Geraldton:

"Whilst higher levels of government have provided the majority of the upfront capital, this represents only about 20% of the whole of life costs of the asset. The CGG will ultimately inherit the ongoing maintenance of the road infrastructure and will now need to budget for in the order of an additional $1M/year for depreciation if it intends to maintain the same level of service."

The purpose of the Building Better Regional Cities grants was to increase the number of homes for sale and rent that were affordable for working families on ordinary incomes, in communities that are experiencing positive jobs and population growth that need more homes to be built. The program was largely unsuccessful and poorly run according to an audit in 2014, resulting in projections that the program would be lucky to result in helping 2000 homes be built across Australia, instead of the original goal of 15,000.

According to the 2014 audit done on the project, Geraldton suffered the most delays of any of the BBRC projects, with the expected completion being 30 June 2017. The BBRC projects were originally given until the deadline of 30 June 2016 to complete their residential works. 

The BBRC program stated in the funding agreement that is it a "performance-based, legally enforceable agreement between the Australian Government and the Successful Applicant."

Interestingly, according to an article from Darcy Hay of the Geraldton Guardian in 2013, Ian Blayney and Shane Van Styn were at odds with each other over the project, with Van Styn, who was at the time a National Party candidate and is now Geraldton's Mayor, strongly supporting the project, but MLA Ian Blayney, (our state government representative in the Legislative Assembly) opposed to the project. (link). Comments on the Facebook post embedded below are worth a read too (or click here).

We have emailed the City of Greater Geraldton for comment, and to confirm for which project the federal government is asking the funds be returned. 

Update: 5:00pm - CGG CEO Ken Diehm has sent a response. Click here to read.

Mayor exercises discretionary powers for emergency works at St Georges

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn has exercised his discretionary powers under the Local Government Act to begin emergency works to mitigate erosion at St Georges Beach.

On Tuesday Mayor Van Styn approved immediate works which include the construction of a low level sandbag groyne and sand nourishment works.

Mayor Van Styn said it was with careful consultation with City staff that he decided to make the executive decision.

“I understand how rare it is to utilise this power but this is an extremely important issue that demanded immediate attention,” he said.

“Without me exercising my rights under the Local Government Act, this process could have potentially taken months which is time we just don’t have.

“We have very important community infrastructure at risk and that’s why I took immediate action.”

CEO Ken Diehm said the City asked the Mayor to consider the urgency of the matter and move this forward as erosion posed imminent threat to essential community infrastructure.

“We regularly review and monitor coastal erosion and it is vital we take the necessary steps to protect our essential community and public infrastructure,” Mr Diehm said.

“With damage that occurred over the weekend, we can see that the toilet block at Rundle Park and the road near St Georges Beach is under great threat.

“We have to act fast and look at our options, hence why the Mayor has used his discretionary powers to ensure an interim solution can be implemented before any further damage occurs.”

The City have engaged specialist consultants Royal HaskoningDHV to develop a foreshore protection scheme for St Georges Beach. A report from the company showed that erosion was the result of short period wind generated waves coinciding with high water levels.

The City are now working off Haskoning’s recommendation for a low-crested sandbag groyne and sand replenishment works.

“We believe the groyne will help to capture the sand that is getting washed away and it will give us more time to work on a long-term solution not just for St Georges but for the rest of our coast including Sunset Beach and Drummond Cove,” Mr Diehm said.

Whitehill Road in Drummond Cove has also been under scrutiny following damaging storms over the weekend.

Mayor Van Styn said the process being undertaken to combat erosion could not be rushed.

“We are not trying to jump the gun and we are going through all appropriate processes. A long term solution is something that cannot be rushed,” he said.

“Sand is moving from the south to the north and we are working with specialists on the Beresford Foreshore and are following the Department of Planning’s coastal hazard risk management and adaptation planning guidelines (CHRMAP) process.

“We know this is a sensitive issue and we have engaged with the community to ensure we get the best outcome for our residents.”

Works at St Georges Beach are estimated to cost $650,000 and there is money in the 2015/16 budget to undertake the project.

The groyne and sand works will begin in the coming weeks and may take up to two weeks for completion.

Traffic management will be in place during this time. Motorists and pedestrians are advised to exercise caution and obey all warning signs and direction from authorised City personnel and contractors.

Last chance to have your say on the Beresford Foreshore

9 May, 2016

If you love the Beresford Foreshore and are between the ages of 15 and 45 it’s not too late to have your say on the facilities or amenities that would improve this popular stretch of Geraldton coastline.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said registrations for the Beresford Foreshore Community Workshop have been steady over the past three weeks with only a few spots remaining to be filled.

“The response from the community to take part in this workshop has been really great with more than 30 residents aged between 10-85 years already registered to attend,” he said.

“However, we still have a few spots open for teenagers of all ages and members of the community under the age of 45.

“The workshop is an important opportunity for people of all ages to share their thoughts and ideas on the Beresford Foreshore and I would encourage residents to register before it’s too late.”

If you would like to attend the workshop call 9956 6945 or email janellk@cgg.wa.gov.au. Registrations close Thursday 12 May at 5pm.

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Geraldton is the first place in WA with a certified adult change facility for people with a disability

Council’s ongoing commitment to improve access and inclusion throughout the City has resulted in Geraldton being the first City in the state to receive accreditation for a Type 2 Changing Place facility.

The recently refurbished Town Beach toilet block located in the Youth Precinct offers a clean and secure Changing Place for people with disability who need space and assistance to use the bathroom when they are away from home.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the Town Beach toilet block is one of very few certified Changing Place facilities in the nation.

“Every day there are thousands of Australians with disability are confined to their homes due to inappropriate toilet facilities as they require assistance to use the bathroom,” he said.

“Across the country there are only a handful of facilities that meet the Changing Place’s requirements for certification and we are very proud to be the first Local Government one in WA.”

The City received $100,000 in grant funding from the Disability Services Commission, administered by the Western Australian Local Government Association for the refurbishment of the toilet block.

Geraldton is not only the first local government to receive accreditation, the Town Beach toilet block is also the first facility in a network of Changing Places whose construction has been joint funded.


The video below is from the launch in January of the Youth Precinct and new change facilities.

Youth Precinct

Introducing the new City of Greater Geraldton "Youth Precinct". It opens this Australia Day. We headed down there this afternoon to have a look and speak with a few folk from CGG about the new foreshore addition. It looks like a lot of fun for all age groups. There's a rage cage, some very fun looking electronic games, foosball tables, table tennis, and more. It will be open each day from 6:30am until 10:30pm. Sports equipment is available from the Visitor Centre with a $5 deposit. There is a new "Changing Places" toilet facility, that provides unprecedented facilities for restricted mobility members of our community, a first for WA. A beach access ramp for wheelchairs is also on its way. Stay tuned later in the year when the rest of the multi user facility is finished. CGG have called the multi user facility and Youth Precinct the "jewell in the crown" for our foreshore. It certainly is a welcome addition to our city.

Posted by Everything Geraldton on Sunday, January 24, 2016