Recent criticisms of a community survey being run by Richmond Valley Council have clearly stung council and prompted what can only be described as an ‘overreaction‘ from Council’s General Manager John Walker.
Dr Richard Gates, President of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee was contacted by the Northern Star today about Walker’s Media Release “Scare tactics won’t stop Council surveys” which is shown on Council’s website (click on John Walker above).
Gates made the following comments to the Star reporter:
In order to put to bed any question about the survey Council should publish the survey on its website in its entirety including any preamble given by those giving the survey so that the public can make up its own mind.
It is false to claim that I am “intent on influencing the outcomes of Council’s genuine survey of residents” if in fact I am one of the “one or two” unnamed people he is referring to. Far from it. The gathering of information is important but it is critical that questions asked are neutral and not loaded so that information cannot be misinterpreted. It is in the ‘public interest’ to get it right.
Mr Walker makes the comment that I “chose just one [question?] in [my] attempt to divide the community”. So I make comment on one question which I believe to be loaded which is interpreted by the General Manager as an attempt to “divide the community” and causes issue of a media release. Wow! That I could be so powerful!!! Perhaps Mr Walker needs to stick to the issue and provide a copy of the questionnaire for the public to peruse.
The ‘divide the community’ comment is a typical strategy often used to discredit critics. No other question was chosen as fundamentally I had no problems with the other questions except for the issue of taking part in a focus group.
I notice my comments are now being described as “scare tactics” and “unjustified”.
It is my view that the General Manager appears to be overly sensitive about a single question on Coal Seam Gas but clearly there must be a reason for this sensitivity. Perhaps council doesn’t want any critics and appears to have difficulty managing criticism?
Perhaps the sensitivity relates to the sneaky way council introduced its fundamentally flawed “Positioning Statement” on Coal Seam Gas at its December Council meeting at Evans Head.
Council introduced it by way of a Mayoral Minute in the middle of a council meeting without notice in the business paper thus depriving the community of the opportunity to comment on it at the meeting.
Once council approved the Positioning Paper it virtually simultaneously released a prepared press release on the matter. Such an approach to dealing with a contentious issue suggests council is very sensitive about the matter and the matter is contentious.
Why otherwise would you go out of your way to avoid public scrutiny!
Overall I commend council for trying to obtain information to try and understand the needs of the community in an attempt to bring the fundamentally-flawed Community Strategic Plan to completion.
But the very fact that the General Manager has found it necessary to try and discredit a critic with a legitimate concern about a particular question while not dealing with the issue at hand by releasing the actual questionnaire to put the matter to bed tells us very clearly that Council has a problem with gas.
I have no doubt about the credentials of the survey company involved.
Editor’s Note: So when is Richmond Valley Council going to publish the whole questionnaire in its entirety and who is the ‘silent majority’ referred to by the GM?