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Councillor Tom Haig gets to work
Two months after being re-elected, a Murray Bridge representative has set out to make some changes at the council.
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One of Murray Bridge’s newest councillors has wasted no time in getting to work in his second month on the job.
Tom Haig took a gung-ho approach into a meeting on Monday night, proposing numerous changes to the way the council does business.
He raised issues with:
COVID-19 vaccination mandates
Accessibility issues and the public toilets at Edwards Square
The council’s website
The location of a proposed wellbeing hub
The council’s customer service
He also spoke out in favour of Maurice Road residents who want the heaviest trucks shifted out of their neighbourhood, though it was Cr Clem Schubert who started that conversation.
Stoush over legal advice comes to a head
Let’s start with COVID-19 vaccinations – or, specifically, the legal advice the council relied on when it insisted that all of its volunteers be vaccinated.
At the council’s previous meeting, Cr Haig had demanded that CEO Michael Sedgman produce the lawyers' advice at the council's last meeting.
Mr Sedgman had declined, saying that the matter related to human resources, which was his job.
But on Monday night, Cr Haig insisted.
“This matter has nothing whatsoever to do with the right of the CEO to manage staff and human resources; it has everything to do ... with denying a duly elected councillor access to a document he is legally entitled to and has requested,” he said.
“This is, in my view, a clear contravention of (the Local Government Act).
“We know that that document exists, so why ... am I continued to be denied access to it?”
However, when he pushed the issue to a vote, he lost 5-4.
Cr Fred Toogood suggested that the vaccination policy had only affected one volunteer, that the volunteer had since returned to service, and that the council had better things to do.
Edwards Square public toilets need work
Next on Cr Haig’s agenda were the public toilets at Edwards Square, and accessibility issues for mobility-impaired residents.
He asked council staff to inspect the venue and outline options for improving it within six weeks.
The other councillors agreed, though they were told that a toilet upgrade had already been pencilled in for 2023-24.
Should councillors’ profiles be higher?
Next, Cr Haig took aim at the council’s website – specifically, the fact that senior executives had short profiles uploaded to the website, while councillors did not.
Councillors deserved to have their qualifications and experience noted, too, he said.
Staff will consult councillors further about that one.
Whatever happened to Our Wellbeing Place?
On the topic of a wellbeing hub the council planned to establish this year, in partnership with Wellbeing SA and Murray Bridge Community Centre, Cr Haig had a question.
Why couldn’t it be located at the building known as Our Wellbeing Place, on Swanport Road?
He suggested the council move away from an agreement with the community centre – which recently employed someone to coordinate the project – and seek federal funding instead.
However, it turned out that Cr Haig had based his thinking on outdated information on the Healthdirect website.
Our Wellbeing Place was transferred from community control to Country Health SA 10 years ago, and the building has more recently been used as Murray Bridge’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic, among other purposes.
In the end, councillors voted to seek more information about long-term funding options for the new wellbeing hub.
Complaint about complaint procedure
Finally, Cr Haig asked about the council’s complaints handling process – how did ratepayers know when an issue had been dealt with?
Staff said complainants were only contacted where further questions arose, or if they had asked to be kept in the loop.
Cr Haig made a number of suggestions about how things could be done better, and was asked to discuss them further with council staff.
Thumbs-up for multiculturalism
Cr Haig did have some praise for the council, though – for its support of multiculturalism.
Councillors approved a $12,500 grant to the Murraylands Migrant Network for the 2023 Yuntu-Walun Multicultural Festival, due to be held at Sturt Reserve on March 19.
“(Multiculturalism) has long been a feature of Murray Bridge,” Cr Haig said.
“The council’s support has been unwavering.
“Long may it continue.”
Cr Haig previously worked as a settlement coordinator with the Murraylands Migrant Resource Centre.