Casting vote sinks sea level opponents

A new councillor’s attempt to dump Eurobodalla Shire Council’s controversial sea level rise policy was sunk yesterday, when the mayor used his casting vote to settle the heated debate.

Cr Milton Leslight called for council’s interim sea level rise policy to be abolished following the State Government’s withdrawal from current planning benchmarks.

At yesterday’s combined committee meeting, Cr Leslight said it was a “contradiction” that council was enforcing an interim sea level rise policy when the State Government had withdrawn the planning benchmark for sea level rise because of “confused scientific information”.

However his claims were met with strong opposition from some fellow councillors.

Cr Thomson also subtly questioned Cr Leslight’s motives, referring to his role as a real estate agent.

“I’m not really interested whether someone is involved in real estate…” Cr Thomson said.

However Cr Leslight hit back.

“My personal interest in real estate is not really relevant,” he said.

Cr Leslight raised concerns about the impact the policy had on property-owners, especially those on the coastline.

However Coastwatchers’ Reina Hill addressed councillors, urging them to oppose Cr Leslight’s motion.

“Otherwise the council could be seen as renouncing its responsibilities to current and future inhabitants of the shire,” she said.

“It is clearly in the public interest for council to manage its most important asset, its coastline…”

Ms Hill said the State Government’s recent uncertainty about sea level rise “…does not mean that sea level rise projections should be put on hold indefinitely – governments simply cannot afford to keep moving the goal posts…”

Cr Gabi Harding spoke against the motion. She said Batemans Bay experienced inundation earlier this year when a storm surge caused water to break over the promenade and flood roads in June.

“I don’t see if we can do anything but continue [with the policy],” she said.

Cr Thomson said council had a responsibility to the community and that the policy acted as protection.

“I think not to have a policy is not responsible,” he said.

When it came time to vote, the four ERA councillors - Cr Leslight, Liz Innes, Peter Schwarz and Neil Burnside - voted for the motion while the other four councillors – Cr Harding, Cr Thomson, Cr Danielle Brice and Cr Lindsay Brown voted against it.

With Cr Rob Pollock absent, Cr Brown used his mayoral casting vote to shut the motion down.

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