‘Be the change’

Peta Betts.

Peta Betts wants to be mayor of Edward River Council.

Not for the prestige, but to bring to fruition one of the key areas seen as important to the future of Deniliquin — generational change.

Officially re-elected to Edward River Council on Monday evening, Cr Betts wasted no time in confirming her intentions to the Pastoral Times on Tuesday morning.

And by her side as deputy mayor she wants Paul Fellows, who has been elected to his first ever term of local government.

Fellow returned councillor Pat Fogarty has also flagged an intention to stand as mayor, spurred on by her result at the polls.

Cr Fogarty garnered the most votes of any candidate, with Cr Fellows polling second highest and Cr Betts third highest.

Other councillors formally elected to council on Monday night are Shirlee Burge, Linda Fawns, Harold Clapham, Peter Connell, Tarria Moore and Marc Petersen.

Shannon Sampson and Narelle Whitham were unsuccessful.

Cr Betts tried to push the generational change agenda in September, when the council was required to hold a mayoral vote despite the local government elections being held just three months later.

But instead of following the guidelines set out for them in the ‘Our Region, Your Say’ consultation report compiled by Robbie Sefton, the majority elected to retain the leadership of Norm Brennan as mayor and Cr Fogarty as deputy mayor.

While not disputing the experience or leadership capabilities of either, Cr Betts said council missed an opportunity to show the findings of the report had resonated.

‘‘I have taken on board Robbie Sefton’s report; it has really been fantastic for me — I have said to Robbie and everyone it is probably the best and most relevant report to have come across council’s desk,’’ Cr Betts said.

‘‘As early on as page six it talks about generational change — younger faces, new blood, fresh eyes.

‘‘My crack at mayor then was the perfect opportunity.

‘‘Council had an opportunity to help someone leverage up in to that position, and now everyone I could have learned so much more from in that role is gone (having chosen not to re-stand).

‘‘If we were going to sit there after reading Robbie’s report and say ‘yes we need young ones on board, yes we have to do something’, why not then?

‘‘Three months would have led me to the next stage, and would have shown council genuinely meant what it was saying. It obviously wasn’t meant to be at that time.

‘‘You want young ones, you have to give them chances and the experience.’’

In her opening remarks in the Sefton report, written based on feedback from the local community, Ms Sefton said ‘‘the prospects for the next generation are of great concern to many’’.

‘‘There are fears of a dwindling population as people leave town for better health care, better education, and more interesting employment,’’ she said in the report.

‘‘The community is calling for courageous leadership and a clear way forward.’’

Cr Betts said if given the chance by her fellow councillors, she wants to be the beacon for that way forward.

‘‘I am keen, and I am excited,’’ she said.

‘‘If I can get that position, I want to try and be what hasn’t been — let change be the change.

‘‘We’ve done the amalgamation, we’ve done the pretties around town and in the villages, now let’s get serious.

‘‘Let’s get serious about progressing the town, about starting to look at population growth.

‘‘Tourism is important, but it’s not our bread and butter. We need to consider economic development, future growth, and we need to start clawing back some of those services we have lost.

‘‘Health is not a council thing, it’s state, but no reason we can’t add our voice to the mix.

‘‘What we have been doing is clearly not working, because they keep overlooking us. Let’s try a different tact, get these people to look at us, listen to us and see what else we can do.

‘‘We have nothing to lose, so we have to try.’’

Cr Betts said she’s heard the community when it has said it wants to see more ‘‘substance’’ from Edward River Council, and she says the new-look council could provide just the right mix to see progress on that front.

‘‘We do have it (substance); we’ve got it in our strategies, and in our masterplans, we just have to find a way to implement it all.

‘‘We’re not Moama — we’re not selling 200 blocks of land in 50 minutes or whatever it was the other day — and we never will be, but we have got to get bigger than what we are.

‘‘Any town under a certain population is going to continue to drown, so we have to give them (investors) a reason to build factories and their businesses here.

‘‘As a conveyancer working in both New South Wales and Victoria, I am seeing why people are leaving, where they are going and why. I am also seeing when they are buying here, and why.

‘‘With my experience we can hopefully get a grasp on that and see what we can capture.

‘‘But to do any of this we need to all help each other. Council needs to help the community, and the community needs to help us.’’

Cr Betts said also vital in driving this future growth is a collaboration between the councillors themselves, and council staff, and she’s confident the skills mix in those elected will form a strong team.

‘‘I love our councillors — the diversity right there. Just listening to them, listening to their views and opinions already, and what they want to bring forward is exciting.

‘‘A lot of people commented ‘Oh, all that experience (lost, with so many sitting councillors standing down)’, but each of the new councillors has something to offer — life and business experience. We are filling so many voids and gaps.

‘‘It’s about new ways of doing things — new councillors with a whole new mindset and no preconceived ideas. It is a whole new focus, a whole new concentration on the issues.

‘‘The councillors offer a bit of everything, and what we’ve got is really good. Let’s get results and get them happening.’’

The newly elected Edward River Council will not meet until January 11.

The internal mayoral election will be one of the first items on the agenda after the councillors are formally inducted.