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Councillor Column – 20 June 2023 – Matthew Stadtmiller

Jun 27, 2023

For Immediate Release 20 June 2023
Authorised by Councillor Matthew Stadtmiller

I don’t often write Councillor Columns, I don’t try and get in photos at ribbon cutting ceremonies. The last term of Council, which spanned 5 years, would provide a handful of photos of me promoting Hilltops opening a new piece of infrastructure. That doesn’t mean I don’t think we deserved that infrastructure.

Why? There’s one main reason for this. Hilltops is a term forced upon us. I’m only here to serve the people of the area of which I was elected to. Hilltops Council as an entity has not worked, and I doubt after nearly 7 years it will be able to function as a proper Council.

Hilltops was a name given to an area of land where a former government failed to live up to expectations when it came to properly fund the forced merger. We got lots of ‘shiny new things’, and they were long overdue. These ‘shiny new things’, depreciate though and need maintenance. At the end of their life they will need to be replaced. Replaced by what is in your wallet, it won’t be a State government. The ‘shiny new things’ were just to placate and distract us during the forced merger.

The ‘shiny new things’ don’t hide the approximate $45 million deficit we have under Hilltops Council, the crumbling roads, the dozens of staff who have left over the last few years and the staff who continually do their best under the most difficult of circumstances.

Hilltops doesn’t mention Young, Harden or Boorowa and all of the surrounding villages that made up the previous Council areas. I went to the last election stating that I won’t vote for a special rate variation. And, I won’t under Hilltops. It was announced this week a forcibly merged Council, Queanbeyan Palerang have been approved for a 64.3% rate rise over three years. Ouch!

Each of the former Shire areas should be allowed to return to their former Shire boundaries and determine their own futures in their own communities and elect Councillors who live in those communities to decide if a rate rise is needed and by how much if any.

Thanks to current inflation figures, a rate rise is likely on the cards for Hilltops. At 50% the standard town block may go from $2,000 to $3,000 a year. If you own farmland and you are paying tens of thousands of dollars already, this could be a much larger jump. At 75% the town block goes from $2,000 to $3,500 a year. When you add water and then the proposed impending 20 to 25% increase in electricity prices come June 30, it’s becoming harder to exist, some of us will be eating off the floor or better still a dog bowl.

When I feel the need to speak up, I will and I do. Council meetings are the main place for this to happen. They are places to let the community and your fellow Councillors know your opinion and point of view on the various subjects that we must discuss each month. Each Council meeting varies greatly in the number of items on the agenda, the impact on residents and the implications and costs.

Now to the Elephant in the room or more to the point the animal. The Draft Hilltops Council Keeping of Domestic Animals Policy.

I spoke strongly against even putting this policy on display for the general public because Council already has mechanisms in place and at their disposal to deal with issues around ‘domestic’ animals.

They have the Companion Animals Act 1998 which provides them with the framework to do so when those issues arise. In my opinion this policy is overreach, intrusive and damaging.

Several of my fellow Councillors expressed a desire to hear from the public on the issues around this policy and were hopeful submissions would come in that would help them make their decision. They haven’t afforded the same luxury to the residents of the area when it comes to asking them a much more important question. Do you want to be part of Hilltops Council or return to your own Council areas? Some may think this position to be hypocritical.

The proposed animal policy is deeply flawed. I don’t believe there will be a large number of submissions as residents have told me that if they write a submission they will just inform Council of what their operation is. If the policy goes through it will push issues around registration and compliance underground.

It won’t stop dog bites or attacks. Common sense tells me that unfortunately they have been happening since wolves were first around camp fires, near caves, thousands of years ago. But it’s not just dogs this policy comes after. It goes after all things bright and beautiful all creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

I can’t, in this short column, detail all those who will be affected other than to say that if this policy does go through, there will be a severely detrimental effect to hundreds and hundreds of residents of the area for doing nothing other than owning and caring for their pets and animals. It’s bad enough when government intrudes in any aspect of our lives, but when local government has the hide to attempt to intrude further into our homes, backyards, paddocks, cages, crates, stables and pens. It’s time to stand up and say NO. I’ve been told that if the policy gets up there will be a campaign to remove those Councillors from Council who vote for it next week by directly campaigning against them at the next election. I don’t expect it to be pretty.

When our furry friends come under attack, people make it clear where they stand, like they have to me over the last few weeks. When man’s best friend is in the Council’s cross hairs, the response will be swift, forceful and relentless. Elections are less than 18 months away.

Matthew Stadtmiller