Strong opinions at candidate’s forum

Candidates and community members at the candidates forum at Batlow.

There was overwhelming support for the proposed Batlow-Tumut Rail Trail project at the Snowy Valley Council Candidates Forum at Batlow RSL Club on Wednesday night.

Ray Billing, chair of the Batlow Community and Cultural Association which put the forum on, said that 15 of the 17 candidates present expressed strong support for the project.

“Fifteen of them said it should go ahead, and none said no,” Mr Billing said.

“Most of them said it was a no-brainer. A couple of existing councillors talked about the necessity of a trail masterplan.”

About 50 members of the public and 17 of the 21 candidates were present.

“The meeting went very well,” Mr Billing said.

The candidates were asked what their intentions and skills were, about current topics affecting the local government area and what would they do for Batlow considering the difficult times it has been through.

There was an open Q and A session after this, and then an opportunity for people to mingle and speak with the candidates.

“There were very strong opinions expressed about the direction the shire should take,” Mr Billing said.

Candidate Jamie Metcalfe of Tumbarumba found much of the criticism of the current council unjustifiably harsh.

“I’m a positive kind of person and I like taking what you’ve got and moving forward rather than tearing apart what’s there and starting again,” he said.

“People need to be very, very careful what they want and who they want to represent them.”

Mr Metcalf concedes that there is always room for improvement, but believes a total rebuild of council would set things back.

“Council has got a lot of good things done and we need to build on that,” he said.  

“I am from Tumbarumba so I have a soft spot for it, but people have got to realise that the whole Snowy Valleys needs to work together, that all parts of the community need to be looked after, from Khancoban to Brungle.

“The council has already done many positive things for Tumbarumba and I hope this continues and improves.”

He believes that now the demerger issue is “dead in the water”, this is not the agenda a newly elected group of councillors should be focusing on.

“They will need to run with what is,” he said.

He has a clear message for critics of council.

“Don’t be critical unless you are prepared to get in and have a go,” he said.

Candidate Colin Agate from Batlow said the forum was “very good” because it gave the wider community the opportunity to know who’s running and what they stand for.

“My hope is that whoever is elected, they are the nine best people,” he said.

“If it is not me, that’s okay; as long as it is the nine best.”

At the forum, Mr Agate described the current council as “a disgrace.”

“They are not working for the community, but the nine best people will,” he said.