Dubbo Regional Council will no longer hold meetings in Wellington.
The meetings will instead be replaced with three community forums with the councillors and senior staff organised by the Wellington Town Assembly. The meet-ups will be held in March, July and November each year.
Councillors were evenly split over the decision to end meetings. It was the mayor’s deciding vote which rejected the plan to keep official meetings in Wellington.
Councillors Dayne Gumley, Stephen Lawrence, David Grant, Jane Diffey and Anne Jones were in favour of keeping the official meetings in Wellington. Cr Grant proposed keeping two meetings a year in the town.
However, councillors John Ryan, Greg Mohr, Kevin Parker, Vicki Etheridge and mayor Ben Shields voted against it.
Cr Mohr said the informal meetings would allow members of the public to ask questions of the councillors and find out where they stood on issues.
“We’re not taking anything away from Wellington, I do believe that. We’re giving Wellington more than what Dubbo’s got with three informal meetings. Dubbo don’t have that,” he said.
Deputy mayor Anne Jones said she was disappointed in the decision.
“I don’t think have two meetings, formal meetings, in Wellington is such a big deal. We travel all over the place to attend meetings yet it seems to hard to go to Wellington twice a year? Out of 11 meetings we’re only asking for two,” she said.
Cr Jones said she had no reason as to why they wouldn’t be held in Wellington. Initially concerns had been raised about the cost, but that was dismissed, she said.
“I can’t really give you an answer other than certain councillors don’t want to travel to Wellington for council meetings,” Cr Jones said.
Cr Ryan said he knew of Wellington residents who wanted to speak to councillors but were too intimidated to speak at formal meetings. The community forum would be more relaxed and accessible, he said.
“While I understand the perception and that is very real.. at the end of the day of you take the emotion out of it we’re going to achieve far more for the people of Wellington if we actual decide to do the right thing by them and fully engage with them rather than sit up there in a council chamber… and have it where the community can’t interact with us,” he said.
The deputy mayor also raised concerns about the Wellington Town Assembly meetings going from four times a year to as needed.
Cr Shields said the Wellington Town Assembly – comprised of the mayor, two councillors and five representatives from the community – needed a lot of work.
“It was my first mayoral minute and I don’t see it as being a success so far because of two things: I don’t think council is engaging this committee as much as it could do and also the enthusiasm from the Wellington community for this assembly is not there,” he said.
Council will look at a video link for residents to speak at meetings from the Wellington council chambers.