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18th Apr Update:

Hi All,

April Newsletter:

  1. Firstly – Can I ask all Carer Groups who have responded to this program to please print the attached Newsletter in Word format and forward the Newsletter to their charges with a copy of the PETITION form.

Link to Newsletter and Petition Form:

It has been an interesting few weeks – we formed a sort of  ‘Steering Committee’ earlier this month – there were two meetings and the small group (5) dissolved due to personal obligations and agenda conflicts – it was just too early to go the committee route given the workload, still unstructured agenda – and the still very broad concept of the program.

I have to wear the responsibility for this – the programs concept that was a part of the build up to gather the community interest  had outside influences.  Initially I listened to views about backing off Council and the need to form a Committee to agree to Council’s wishes.  Council did a good job in mis-direction and confusing the agenda – from the steering committee perspective others had their own agenda’s and nobody had any real vision or understanding about what this program was really trying to achieve.

The workload was daunting and to want to break down the program to smaller programs may well be a way to start – but from my perspective and vision – and how this program has been promoted to the community – I was not ready to roll over and be dictated to by a mis-direction campaign by a bunch of what seems like weak Councillors – who would rather choose to stay ignorant as opposed to at least wanting to know about the program and what they can do to assist.

The Committee will be important but it is still a ways off – it needs Local Business and community involvement – the immediate issue is to show Council they need to review their negative attitude – and be exposed for their reluctance to embrace this demographic within their community.

This current merged Council has division and what some would call ‘petty’ and self-serving agenda’s – not just on this matter but on several basic needs of the community.  I have not spoken to any individual in the forming of this program who has a good word about any of the Councillors or the Council as a group.  Given their response to this single issue – this is not surprising.   There is one Councillor I have been speaking with on a regular basis – and she was on this steering committee as an advisor – I know she supports the program –

I have head from several people who lodged Interest Notifications who said they spoke to Councillors they knew and they all indicated they support the program – I have the names of five – six Councillors who have given these comments to people they have spoken to.  My question is why have they not responded to my letters of invitation for them to become more familiar with the program?  There can only be one answer to that – as to give the appearance of a united Council – they have been told not to have contact – and that then leads us back to the Mayor – what a petty and small man he must be and what a weak bunch of Councillors to follow in such shallow footsteps.

In an answer to this position – I believe them to be ‘gun-shy’ and frozen in a searchlight glare – they are too scared to make a decision because they are scared it will be a wrong decision – or a too little too late committment – a Council cannot be allowed to behave like that –

Leadership is what is needed and sadly – it is lacking here and all over this Country and elsewhere around the globe.  Leaders want the title – but none of the responsibility that comes with the job description – for too long they rely on self-promoting bureaucrats doing all the hard work of running the Council – Government who all have their own agenda’s working to boost their own pay packets.

An example of this is that the most pressured job in the world POTUS – (President of the United States) – earns US$400k – the Prime Minister of Australia earns $350K – and the CEO of Fraser Coast Council is paid $260K plus Super and other perks – there is no comparison in responsibilities – the USA has a US$14 trillion year GDP – the Australian economy a A$500 billion GDP – and the FCRC has a $200 million LGA budget – how can they demand such overpaid salaries at the Local Government level for the responsibilities they endure?

I am told the Mayor ‘boozes’ away his Saturday afternoons at a well known pub on the Hervey Bay Esplanade – and is picked up late afternoon by his limo driver when he is ready to go home – is that how he views his roll as the Mayor and to the extent of his community awareness involvement?

For the Council to express their want to deal with an Association before they address what should be already available is the Mayor’s way of turning a blind eye. If he had any moral compass to his community and the needs of this demographic group – he would have acted some years ago.  This is an Administration hangover from previous Administrations and even whilst the previous Mayor – Ted Sorensen and now State Member for Hervey Bay – had the same ‘no discount’ policy toward pool entrance fees for the disabled and elderly – his efforts to date in challenging the current Council on this matter suggest he is also not convinced.

In a personally meeting with him earlier this year – he did offer support and encouragement – yet when I later asked if his office could do some photo copying of Interest Notification forms – they refused because we were not an ‘Association’.  The same offer was put to Mr Foley – the State Member for Maryborough – in an e-mail and no reply was received either.

We are underdogs in this battle – and the real question is why?

Are they that ashamed of the little noise we make that might rankle their moral compass?  – or is it that they believe we should stay silent and not be heard – really it is a dark day when those who are in a position to help look away and not want to acknowledge and give help when it is asked for.

It as been over a month now since anybody connected with Council have returned a call or answered an e-mail.  I think that deplorable from a LGA when they set the pool price policy.

Last Friday I sent another E-mail to All-Councillors asking that they take the time to find out about the program – rather then let them be led by a weak man in the Mayor – a man who gives undertakings and then wimps out when he seems to have stepped over this authority – a man who listens to Council employees rather than trust his own judgement.

That E-Mail is posted below –

_______________________________

Dear Councillor,

My name is Ian Bleys and I am the proposer of the new Aqua Therapy program for the Fraser Coast region – I write to you requesting an opportunity to present to you and your fellow Councillors the full understanding of the proposed aqua-therapy program.

You will recall your own part in this two year campaign to have the FCRC address the ‘pensioner’ access to the FCRC pools and the fact there is no discount afforded.  You all voted in agreement with a Council motion last July as follows:

_______________________________

Minutes of the FCRC Ordinary Meeting No. 12 held on Wednesday 28 July 2010 Page 11

#1892087

ORD 14 GENERAL BUSINESS

ORD 14.6 Aquatic Centre – Disability Pension Holder Concession

Councillor MucKan said that he had received approaches from members of the community enquiring as to why Council did not have a discounted seasonal ticket to the Aquatic Centre for disability pension holders, and he requested a report be presented to Council regarding this matter and possible implications.

The meeting was advised that at the present time only people undertaking a rehabilitation program received a discount.

RESOLUTION ( MucKan / Harris )

That a report be brought to Council outlining the budget implications of implementing a concession seasonal pass at the Aquatic Centre for people with a disability pension.

Carried Unanimously Ord 12/241/07/10  

____________________________________________

Yet – when it came to review the report produced by Council employees – there was no ‘budget impact’ implications included in the report.  Yet All Councillors voted to accept the report and its recommendations. (see below) – (I sent you a copy of the Council produced report and my own research in Sept last year)

_____________________________________________

Minutes of Community & Development Committee Meeting No 4 held on Wednesday, 25 August, 2010 Page 4

#1942868

Councillors in attendance:

Councillor Hovard, Councillor Arthur, Councillor McNeven, Councillor Brooks, Councillor MucKan, Councillor Dalgleish, Councillor Nioa, Councillor Kruger, Councillor Hawes, Councillor O’Connell, Councillor Harris

C&D 6 OFFICERS’ REPORTS – COMMUNITY & CULTURE C&D 6.3 Fees at the Hervey Bay Aquatic Centre RECOMMENDATION ( Brooks / Nioa )

That the Council recommend that the enquirer be advised that the current Fees and Charges offer a substantially discounted fee for regular users.

Carried Unanimously C&D 4/64/08/10

_______________________________________

You were made aware that the information in the Council produced report was both erroneous – and mis-represented the facts about ‘pensioner’ discounts at Council pools in other LGA’s.

The Mayor contacted me after receiving this researched and conflicting report sent to ‘All-Councillors’ – his request was for a meeting to discuss pensioner’s discounts.  This meeting was held late September – it was also attended by Peter Smith and Andy Gaze – both Council employees.

During the meeting Mr Smith proposed that any ‘pensioner’ discounts be addressed in the next years budget – to which the Mayor responded with a slam of his hand on the desk – ‘no, we’ll do something now’.  I took him at his word and again later when he shook my hand as I exited he re-affirmed his commitment to ‘do something now’.  The ‘now’ in my understanding was not waiting for next year’s budget which is what he ended up doing.

Two weeks later Peter Smith responded in a letter – in part suggested I could pay the annual subscriptions on a monthly basis – see text below …

________________________________________

REFERENCE: PENSIONER DISCOUNT – HERVEY BAY AQUATIC CENTRE

I refer to your recent emails and to discussions held on 27 September 2010 between yourself, the Mayor, Cllr Mick Kruger, Councils Director Community & Development, Peter Smith and Executive Manager Environmental Health & Regulation, Andy Gaze in relation to the above matter.

Council acknowledges your comments in relation to the fee structure at the Hervey Bay Aquatic Centre and will undertake a review of the entry fees for the Centre as part of its annual review of fees and charges.

Given that this review will take some time to complete, and in recognition of your concerns in being able to pay the yearly pass amount of $293 in one amount, Council is willing to enter into a monthly payment plan based on a pro rata basis for the year.

Should you take up this offer from say November 2010, this would equate to a monthly payment of $24.40 per month.

Should you wish to enter into the progress payment plan, please contact Carole Bye on 4197 4345 to make the necessary arrangements.

_______________________________________

If the ‘gesture’ in this letter was in fact that I personally could pay the annual fees on a month basis – something that has been available to all the general public for some years according to the Pool Manager – the ‘gesture’ was both insultive and demeaning in that my representation to Council was on behalf of all ‘pensioners’ and not of a personal nature.

Since this time – there has only been three Councillors who have had any contact with me on this matter and in relation to the Aqua Therapy Program – they being Cr- Brooks, Hawes and Hovard – Cr Muckan did attend a meeting with Lisa Desmond and other parties on the 21st February to discuss the program …

In the period since January-Current – I have been promoting the Aqua Therapy program – indications of interest up to the 31st Mar indicated 679 persons of varying disabilities and pensioner age indicated their interest in the program via Carer and Respite groups and by individual notifications.

Nobody can argue against this program and its intent – you know that as things stand currently – you stand on the wrong side of the fence in not offering Pensioners a pool entry discount across the pool’s ticketing structures –

You also know that your Council offers ‘pensioner’ discounts in many other Council manager activities – not only is the ‘no discount’ policy for pool access for this group discriminatory – it is just an insult to the large demographic of disability and aged pensioner group living in your community who would like to use the pool and cannot afford to do so.

By example – your operational pool budget for Hervey Bay pool offers a budgeted Council subsidy for 2010 of $258k and for 2011 of $267k –  from this it can be said that the Council subsidises ‘general admission’ entry to the pool to the value of this budget subsidy.  My question to you as a Councillor – what discount does the Pool offer disability and aged pensioners … it is the same as the general public discount.

In Sept ’10 when I had the meeting with the Mayor – what was being asked for was a 50% discount on the general admission season tickets.  At the time that would have cost the Council perhaps $1500 for all the season tickets sold to persons with disabilities.  At the time your Mayor said ‘no’ to this $1500 – do you think he made an error of judgement – do you think the ‘budget impact’ of this amount would still have been voted down at a full Council meeting?  I think not.

The ‘budget impact’ was asked for and you and your fellow Councillors ignored the fact that the report did not even cover your own request.  How could you of all voted on that report when it did not fulfil its obligation?

The matter has now become a bigger issue on account of the research undertaken to refute the Council employee report – and despite numerous attempts to contact your staff in recent weeks and months – Messes Smith, Moore, and the Acting CEO Lisa Desmond – and even the Mayor – refuse to responded to the numerous phone messages and e-mails sent.

This invitation will be the only opportunity you have to give yourself a full appreciation of what the Aqua Therapy program is about and seeks – if you choose not to respond – I can assure you that further action will be taken to bring this Council to account.  My intention is not to intimidate – but purely state to you the obvious course when something so wrong and that which impacts on so many – cannot be altered because of ego – and an unwillingness to face facts and accede to a greater good.

My options are many – Discrimination Act – Disabilities Act – State Minister Local Government – Federal Government Minister – Media – campaign infection at the next election – the issue is that at the moment – you have failed in your charter as Administrators and Councillors to fully address the needs of your community –

You are aware of the high number of disability pensioners living in your community – some 5,500 as at 2009 – you also know that 14,000 aged pensioners live in your region and that more than 30,000 are aged 55+.  You know that the disability and health care for these residents drives 35-40% employment in the region – yet when someone ask’s you for support – your representative in the Mayor says ‘no’ – and your Council staff say ‘no’.

You will not be campaign against this program in upcoming elections – yet who of you will campaign for it?

This invitation has no quick pro-quo – Ms Desmond has confirmed the Hervey Bay Pool has available access times for the program – the Maryborough pool is uncertain in relation to what – if any pool will be available post Sept 2011 due to the planned refurbishment – but all attempts to have the Council yield a cost for the program’s access has been met with – ‘form an association’ – ‘we’ll talk to someone else or a group’.

This is pure deflection and mis-direction on the part of the Mayor’s response – the Mayor is exposed as is the Council on their flawed ‘no discount’ policy for pool access for pensioners –

What the Mayor is presenting as a defence debate to not acting on this matter does not inspire or show leadership or character –

Surely if a policy is deemed a good policy and is something all agree about – and even the Mayor has acknowledged this – it is right and therefore Council should act in the capacity of providing Council assets and resources to see it done – and not have to wait for associations to be formed etc –  these are elderly and disabled persons and who are their advocates that will help bring this about?  In that scenario – if it was going to happen it would have already happened – this FCATA is that advocacy group and Council should accept their roll and play their part –

One of the main reasons an ‘Association’ will be needed at some point in the future and its need to be incorporated – is to provide for public funding applications – and public funding will be required as this program expands.  The funds will be predominately for TIER 1 participants and the training of staff and volunteers to take care of them in the pool environment and transport cost.

Before this Tier 1 program can progress down that path – Council need to upgrade the heated pool facilities and the amenities – something they are not even aware of or bothered to asked about.

If in the interim the Council were to allow ‘free’ access – as Gladstone Council does – to disability and aged pensioners between 7:30 and 9:00am Monday to Friday for those who are capable of doing their own exercise and therapy sessions – what cost would that be to the Council?

It would be a minute fraction of the $260k+ it already subsides the general public pricing.  In fact – without the free access – the council would not even get any more of these persons to the pool –

That is the whole point!

Council needs to create the incentive for these persons to self-help via exercise in the only environment that suits their disability and aged issues … pool/aqua therapy and exercise.

By not addressing this issue for the value it will bring to your community – and by bringing it down to a Council budget issue – is not the way you should be looking at this matter –

Nothing from nothing gets you nothing – i.e. there is ‘no’ budget impact for those who are not using the pool if they decide to use it if the admission was free – the pool is not being used and it is people who would not be going unless it was free.  Therefore the only real cost to the pool revenue stream would be the give-up on the persons in this disability and aged pensioner group who are currently using the pool and paying the general public price –

So I ask you to please seek to find out more about this program from the person who has championed its cause for two years now –

I await your response.

Regards … Ian Bleys.

_____________________________________

As I write this post – only one Councillor has responded to this message – and not the one who has always responded in the past.

I think that just about sums up the level of interest all the other Councillors have for this matter – its a pathetic response.

Letters to the State and Federal Ministers for Local Government – Communities – Disabilities – and Discrimination are being drafted – also letters to Mr Neville and  Mr Truss – Federal Members for the local area – and to Messes Foley and Sorensen – State Members for the region on this matter – let us just see what shaming this LGA  and exposing the inaction of the so called community Leaders will do in other arena’s – these letters will also be sent to National Media outlets – both print and vision – current affairs and talk back radio – it is intended to bring the inaction into clear focus as to why this demographic grouping is so marginalised and disadvantaged.

The members of this grouping have life experience – they have a want to self-help and to help others in the same position – just the social opportunity this will present will create great benefit to those participating  and that is just as important as the exercise program.  All it needs is for able persons who control the funding and hold the prejudicial attitudes to turn over and help this group and realise what this group can do to help themselves.

A program like this has to potential to address so many issues facing our aging population and relieve future pressures on an already floundering health system.

Where to Now:

As a group all we have is the strength in numbers that represents.  The Carer groups servicing this community are stretched and they have rules about becoming vocal advocates dare they risk their existing funding grants – the only thing we can do as a group is to let  our voices be heard.

To that aim I have attached a ‘PETITION’ form that can be downloaded as a Word file and printed out below –

Only a matter of a few weeks ago – 1500 odd signatures was enough local voice to stop a ring-road along the Pt Vernon foreshore – that venture was to cost ‘millions’ – how many signatures do you think it would take to convince Council to review their current ‘no discount’ policy pool admission for elderly and disabled – into a free access for disability and elderly to the pool during a limited time frame that the Council have already acknowledged as being idle and not used?

s a demographic group we number more that 20,000 in this region – that is a voice worth exploiting and hearing – let it be heard.

So I ask you to take the time to download the Word file here – DOWNLOAD PETITION – please print the file and have as many of your friends and fellow ‘want-to-be pool’ uses sign and return same to the address included on the bottom of the Petition form.

This battle is escalating – and as a demographic group we number more that 20,000 in this community – that is a voice worth hearing and exploiting – let it be heard – and to think that this is now where this matter sits because the Mayor – nor the Council staff advising him would not roll over on an asked for and estimated annual $1,500 subsidy for disability,  and aged pensioners back in Aug-Sept 2010.

Personal Observation:

It has been said to me that the Council do not want to deal with me – I felt some reluctance in pushing my agenda in response to this – some self conscious that I may have been damaging whatever chance there was to advance this program might have been held up because of my persistence in challenging Council.  This wet-nose view has now gone.  This Council needs to be thrown out if this is what they think is local community awareness and governance – and the staff needed to be given direction as opposed to running their own agenda’s – Councillors set policy – council staff implement – that is the way it should work and this Council and council Administrators act like chooks with their heads chopped off .

Whenever you let people try to do the right think by backing off – you get much less than you asked for the first time – this Council played politics on this matter when no politics needed to be played

It is time to force this issue and I call on all who support this program to step up and be heard –

To the left you will find a link to e-mail addresses and phone numbers for all FCRC Councillors and the State and Federal Members for the area – please contact them to voice your views on this Council’s inaction.  

Let us see if the democracy in Australia works and that these Members can be responsive to genuine constituent input.

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