Hartwig v Curran: it's in the public's best interest
Letter to the Editor
I REFER to the letter by Michael Jeffries under the heading "Bickering Schoolboys” (The Gympie Times, Saturday, December 2).
While Mr Jeffries' heart is in the right place when he pleads with Councillors Curran and Hartwig to "bury the hatchet” (it is after all the season for Peace on Earth and Goodwill...) the analogy of the "bickering schoolboys” is problematical.
Basically it diminishes the status of the antagonists and the significance of their conflict.
If one accepts the school analogy it is obvious that Councillors Curran and Hartwig are not quarrelling schoolboys. They are elected members of the school's governing body.
So it is more like a stand-off between the deputy principal and a fellow staff member over the style of governance being practised by the school board.
Cr Hartwig has consistently advocated full disclosure and transparency in council deliberations and decision-making and lamented their absence in significant decisions of which the Rattler project is one. (It should be noted that he has been supported on several occasions by Cr Smerdon.) This is the core of the conflict as it affects the ratepayers.
And to suggest that this problem could be resolved by a personal reconciliation or a punch-up is plainly fanciful.
And to imply that the antagonism between Crs Curran and Hartwig is somehow delaying... "the business of starting the train running” is rather a long stretch.
The delays and cost blow-outs are no doubt the result of problems that were not identified in the initial feasibility study - if there was one.
In his advocacy of the Rattler project Mr Jeffries points out that there are "many pieces of council infrastructure that are not commercially successful.” This may well be true.
But to lump the aquatic centre in with the Rattler in this context is, to say the least, inappropriate.
The aquatic centre is a community asset - a facility available now and hopefully for decades to come for the benefit of the whole community.
The Rattler project is a high-risk, major investment in a tourism venture that, it is hoped, will benefit a comparatively small section of the community. Arguably those same benefits could be delivered much more cheaply.
And the "...bit in ongoings " that Mr Jeffries suggests may cost the ratepayers is a serious discounting of the yearly maintenance costs for similar tourist railways (approximately $200,000) quoted by Cr Smerdon in this newspaper a couple of weeks ago.
But to return to the school board and the principles of full disclosure and transparency, it is clearly in the public interest to have at least two councillors prepared to argue their importance.
Especially in light of the recent highly-publicised problems in some other local government jurisdictions and, coincidentally, the governance of a cluster of prestigious private schools.