Confusion as Shire of Augusta-Margaret River commits to new chief executive recruitment process

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillors pictured with former chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown, left.
Camera IconShire of Augusta-Margaret River councillors pictured with former chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown, left. Credit: PIETER NAESSENS

The hunt for a new Shire of Augusta-Margaret River chief executive is off to a rocky start with councillors almost botching the decision needed to kick-start the whole process.

Last Wednesday night’s council meeting saw the process come off the rails several times as shire president Julia Meldrum catered to an amendment to include “biodiversity loss” in the new role’s position description while fielding complaints from other members.

The original motion to confirm the committee overseeing the recruitment was split into multiple parts to incorporate different concerns, adding to the confusion.

Acting chief executive Arthur Kyron later forced elected members to revisit the overall item at the close of the meeting, voting on it again to make sure process was followed properly.

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Councillors including deputy shire president Paula Cristoffanini voiced confusion about the three-part votes, which included Cr Tracey Muir adding “biodiversity loss” to demands on the future chief executive’s expertise.

The position description already included a focus on climate change, but Cr Muir — whose amendment was added after the section was passed — said it was important.

“We are in a biodiversity hot spot,” the Nature Conservation Margaret River Region employee said.

“It is one of the most important elements that our community, in all of our consultation, has identified as important.

“I would be extremely disappointed if we’ve gone through a process and that’s not included.”

The position description previously said the shire was seeking someone with a “commitment to sustainability — balancing environmental, social, cultural and economic values — protecting the natural environment and an understanding of the realities of climate change and the need for urgent climate action at a local level”.

The point being amended was initially misidentified as well.

“It’s actually point nine, not point seven,” Ms Meldrum told her peers.

“Just to confirm so we know exactly what we’re talking about.”

While also criticising the handling of the item, Cowaramup-based councillor and former shire president Ian Earl warned colleagues the committee was at risk of designing a camel.

“I am concerned we are putting too much stuff into this that might limit the people we might get,” he said.

“This happened last time and I don’t want to see it happen again.”

Cr Kylie Kennaugh said too many changes risked scaring off applicants.

“There are a lot of things that are really important to our community and we know the environment is right up there,” she said.

“A good CEO will do them naturally. They will fall into the role.”

She also questioned why biodiversity loss was singled out, but not agriculture — the top issue at last month’s annual electors’ meeting.

Cr Earl was himself confused about Cr Muir’s amendment, saying councillors should have been notified in advance — but later learnt Mr Kyron had sent notice to all members the previous week while Cr Earl was on leave.

After the meeting, Mr Kyron told the Times the late vote was necessary.

“Good governance requires resolutions to be passed in their entirety, so the decision was revisited after the amendment was made to ensure proper process,” he said.

My Kyron took on the acting role for six months after Stephanie Addison-Brown’s shock resignation in December.

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