Councillor’s fears for community connectedness

Cr Julie Triffett.

A COUNCILLOR has expressed grave concern for the Derwent Valley community following fallout from the poisoning of birds at a New Norfolk playground. Cr Julie Triffett told Thursday night’s Derwent Valley Council meeting that she feared whether or not the local community would still rally together in the event of a natural disaster.

“I have grave concerns for this community after the reaction following the geese event,” Cr Triffett said. “If we unfortunately had a major disaster, loss of life, loss of property, would this community rally together, or would it turn on itself and each other? Do we have the connectedness now to be able to sustain us through a disaster?”

While successfully proposing that the council develop a resilience policy for its staff, Cr Triffett said outside distractions had prevented the current council members from working together as a team.

“One of the distractions and disappointments is when items are passed on to the media before the relevant people or person get to see it, and when councillors are reported having made comments to the media when the mayor is the spokesperson for the council,” she said.

Cr Triffett said the council had received a “relentless battering” since the poisoning of birdlife at Tynwald Park in June. The impact had been felt by both staff and councillors.

Council general manager Greg Winton stood aside while the incident was investigated but the findings have not yet been made public, due to similar inquiries taking place at the State Government level. Mr Winton returned to work but is now on personal leave.

Cr Julie Triffett, standing, addressing her motion for a council
staff resilience policy.

Cr Triffett she said her motion for a resilience policy had come from her “frustration, anger and disappointment at what has happened and what is still happening. These are my thoughts and feelings alone. I have not spoken about any of the things that have happened recently.”

Cr Triffett said she could have had a lot to say as an individual, but as a councillor she must to use words that were respectful, non-judgmental, non-confrontational, and could not be misconstrued.

“Social media storm after social media storm has not helped any situation,” Cr Triffett said.  “Yes, there have been mistakes from inside and outside council, but it is easy to become a keyboard warrior with no consequence.”

She said mayor Ben Shaw had apologised for “distress and hurt” caused by comments in leaked messages, but she asked who was going to apologise for suffering and distress to the council organisation caused through social media.

“From the mayor, councillors and the general manager down through to council officers, we all live in this community with our families and friends, so when one person is hurting it has a ripple effect. We all breathe and bleed the same way.”

Cr Triffett said her motion, which was carried unanimously, aimed to give council staff the strategies and tools to better deal with highly emotional people in a stressful environment.

Cr Rachel Power speaking at the meeting.

Cr Rachel Power commended Cr Triffett. “I think that is a perfect motion. I think that what you have expressed certainly resounds with me and my feelings and things that are going through in my life at this point as well,” Cr Power said.

“And I think people don’t quite understand that we are people and we’re here to do a job but that doesn’t mean that we’re as resilient as the politicians that are paid the big bucks and are there to ignore this sort of thing. I think that we are part of the organization and we are responsible for the organization in the same breath, and I think that that having a resilience policy is a really good way of expressing that, so well done.”

No other councillors spoke on the topic and the motion was carried unanimously when put to the vote. Mayor Ben Shaw and Councillor Paul Belcher were absent from the meeting, which was held in the hall at the Bushy Park War Memorial Swimming Pool.

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