Walsh calls for council inquiry

MEMBER for Murray Plains Peter Walsh has called on the state government to appoint a commission of inquiry into the performance of the Gannawarra Shire Council and its chief executive officer.

In his adjournment matter before parliament on Tuesday night, Mr Walsh said he wrote to the Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek, on October 4 requesting his urgent intervention in and investigation of a shire “bullying case”.

“Tonight I will go a step further, and I ask the minister to actually appoint a commission of inquiry into the performance of the Gannawarra council and particularly its CEO,” he said.

Tom O’Reilly joined the shire in March 2016 as director of corporate services before assuming the CEO position almost two years ago.

“The communities of the Gannawarra shire deserve and expect better leadership from their council than they are currently receiving,” Mr Walsh told parliament.

“Despite the problems at the highest level of the council, the staff delivering council services to the community continue to do their best for the community, but council appears to be unable to take the actions that are required to lead that council because they will not take the systematic bullying of some of the councillors there seriously.

“This is placing at risk decision-making by council, and the community will lose investment and jobs coming into this region unless that is corrected.”

Mr Walsh highlighted the “investment that is at risk” is the upgrade to the Cohuna airport.

“Earlier this year, the Deputy Prime Minister announced a $2.57 million grant to upgrade the Cohuna airport,” he said.

“This upgrade would create the opportunity for a pilot training academy to be based at Cohuna with a minimum of 50 students.

“We have all seen the economic activity and the jobs that have been generated by the training academy that is currently being set up in Mildura.

“This training academy in Cohuna would generate an additional $9.8 million investment to upgrade the motel to accommodate—feed and house—those students, so there would be a significant investment by private enterprise as well into that community.

“The estimations are that it would generate $4.6 million per annum of additional economic activity for the Cohuna community, including nearly $1 million per year in fuel to fuel the aircraft for this training academy.”

“The reason I am asking the minister to appoint a commission of inquiry is that, because of the internal conflicts within council and the continual accusations of bullying, I believe that council decision-making is putting at risk investments like this in this community.”