Neville Jaensch wants to end the infighting at the Coorong council
The former mayor hopes to win another term in office at the 2022 local government election, and stave off “huge” threats to the district.
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The Coorong council chamber has been a “toxic” environment for the past four years, and ratepayers have suffered as a result, one of the district’s three mayoral candidates says.
The council had achieved good things, Neville Jaensch said, but had also wasted more than $75,000 of ratepayers’ money on infighting.
The only way to end it, he suggested, would be to vote him back in as mayor at the upcoming election.
As a local government veteran of more than 30 years, and a former mayor from 2014-18, Cr Jaensch hoped he could bring stability and respect back to the council chamber.
Each of the current councillors had a genuine interest in serving the community, he said, but people’s egos had too often got in the way.
It was time to draw a line in the sand.
“I believe I have the strength and the experience to stand for all, and to resolve the current situation in the chamber,” he said.
“The independent councillors and the Team members elected must be inclusive and respectful of each other so they’re adequately able to represent the community.
“If the mayor is a Team member, it’ll be Team business as usual … the war in the chamber against the independent councillors will continue.”
Yes, some councillors would be “bitterly unhappy” if he replaced Paul Simmons in the big chair, he acknowledged; but he would work to resolve any grievances and get on with the job.
Each of the Coorong’s communities was important, he said, and each deserved the kind of reliable representation that could help them secure a sustainable future.
Plenty of work would be needed on that front, he predicted.
There were encouraging signs for the district: the solar farm, motor sport park and grain depot at Tailem Bend, chickens at Yumali and the feed lot at Tintinara.
But COVID-era government grants were drying up, inflation was rising fast and the cost of basic council services – like road repairs – was likely to rise by 30 per cent or more.
The fact that the state government had put council amalgamations back on the agenda only raised the stakes higher.
“If this (next) council is dysfunctional, we’ll be one of the first potentially on the list to be looked at,” Cr Jaensch said.
A future boundary change might not be as simple as amalgamating the Coorong and a neighbouring council, either, he said – the district could be split in two or three directions.
Either outcome would be a disaster for the smaller communities in the district, much like the ongoing uncertainty about the future of the Mallee Football League.
Between that, the tension in the chamber and the removal of the wards which had served as reminders of the old Meningie, Peake and Coonalpyn Downs councils for the past 25 years, and Cr Jaensch predicted 2022 would be “an election like no other”.
He hoped he would be the one to lead the district out of it.
Shape Murray Bridge News’ election coverage
We want to hear about the issues that matter to you in Murray Bridge and the Coorong at these elections.
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How to vote in the council elections
Coorong residents and registered voters should receive their ballot papers between October 14 and 20, and will be due to return them by November 10.
Votes will be counted and a winner declared on November 12.
More information: www.ecsa.sa.gov.au.
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