Merimbula resident, Peter Hill, has been unblocked from the Bega Valley Shire Council’s Facebook page after discussions with mayor, Bill Taylor and community relationships manager, Leanne Barnes.
The Facebook row flared after Mr Hill, a founding member of the Bega Valley Shire Ratepayers Association Inc, posted a number of comments relating to council’s rates, its proposal to increase rates above rate pegging by a special rate variation and also about the ratepayers association.
Council responded during the thread several times to rebutt comments about rates and customer service but after several people appeared to be having a conversation about the ratepayers association on the council’s Facebook page, interceded to say that if those posting wanted to partake in an online discussion between BVSRAI members they should do so on a BVSRAI Facebook page.
Further comments by Mr Hill about council rates and the donation of $10,000 to the Queensland Flood Appeal provoked a strong response from council who blocked Mr Hill from posting on the council’s page.
The action provoked a furious response from Mr Hill who called it “discrimination at a level that is totally unacceptable”.
However there has now been a successful resolution of the matter following discussion between Mr Hill, Cr Taylor and Ms Barnes which has resulted in Mr Hill no longer being blocked.
Mr Hill said: “I have to admit that there was one particular incident that I had raised, that involved rates, that was not of the accuracy needed. I need to publicly declare that was a point I was certainly incorrect about.”
Mr Hill said that he could see the dangers of issues becoming a slanging match and a free for all.
“I certainly support the great efforts our new mayor and Leanne Barnes are making to improve community wide the image and relationship that council has with its ratepayers,” Mr Hill said.
Resolution of the issue was also welcomed by councillor Sharon Tapscott who said: “I cannot tell how pleased I am to hear of this outcome. I hope the spirit of that particular meeting is translated into all future interactions between council, its staff and the residents of this shire.
“We may not always get the outcome wanted by all parties (that is near impossible) but the process can always be of advantage to all stakeholders, if used properly.”
Mr Hill said that while council acknowledged the relationship between it and ratepayers had not always been wonderful, he believed there was a genuine desire to see change.
Mr Hill thanked Peter Rogers the president of the BVRA(inc) and Jeff Smith of Wolumla Residents Action Group, for their support and attendance at the meeting with Cr Taylor and Ms Barnes.