Council explanation sought

A community lobby group has sent a lengthy “please explain” letter to Wattle Range Council which will be considered when it meets in Millicent tonight.

As required by the Local Government Act, the council is holding a special meeting to consider feedback on its draft 2022/23 budget.

The Riddoch Business and Community Association represents the Penola and Coonawarra towns and districts and it accepted the open invitation of the council to respond to the 89 page document.

The SE Voice understands other parties have also lodged submissions but the agenda for tonight’s special council meeting was not yet available when this edition went to press.

However, the RBCA submission has been published already online in the media and it runs to several pages.

In general, the submission seeks clarity on various matters, is highly critical of some budgeted projects and seeks a greater allocation of funds for Penola and Coonawarra.

“Having reviewed and considered the draft 2022/23 budget, it is pleasing to see that Wattle Range Council has put a focus on economic development, tourism and; updates to our road network through the significant priorities list,” stated the RBCA submission.

“The Riddoch Business and Community Association also support the recommendations for the improvement of the visual amenity of Penola.

“However, we have questions and concerns regarding most of these budget items that we wish to query.”

The lobby group queried outlays on such matters as wages, infrastructure and roads but it did endorse some measures.

“We thank Wattle Range Council for the ongoing work in prioritising Penola’s town drainage especially given Penola is one of the lowest-lying areas in the council area and most at risk of flooding,” the group said.

“We welcome council’s contribution of $55,000 to a new mobile phone tower at Maaoupe. Connectivity is imperative for our economy and the safety of our community.”

The Riddoch Business and Community Association also took the opportunity to express an opinion on a non-budget related matter.

“We would like to see Wattle Range Council advocate and lobby for the remediation and redevelopment of the closed fuel stations in Penola and Millicent,” the group said.

“We suggest combined lobbying with other councils in the Limestone Coast region and possibly the state.

“Additionally, we ask Wattle Range Council to develop a policy around fuel stations in the council region and actions that fuel station owners must undertake in the future if a station is decommissioned.

“We believe this is imperative given the advancement of electric vehicles and phasing out of diesel vehicles which is expected over the next 10-15 years.

“Fuel stations are strategically located in key entrance areas of our towns – boarded up and fenced off buildings are eyesores and detract from our economy.

“We appreciate that this is an extremely challenging and also a national issue, however, action must be taken.”

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