Special group formed to deal with pandemic

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council, with chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown, right, held a special meeting on Wednesday.
Camera IconThe Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council, with chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown, right, held a special meeting on Wednesday. Credit: Elements

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River held a special council meeting on Wednesday to form a Pandemic Response Liaison Group to co-ordinate the region’s COVID-19 crisis response.

In a meeting only attended by councillors, Shire staff and the Times — with new seating arrangements to ensure distancing — members voted unanimously to establish the group.

Shire president Ian Earl and deputy Pauline McLeod will sit in on the group, along with Cr Paula Cristoffanini.

The liaison group wil help communicate and put government directives in place.

“The nature of this pandemic is global and unprecedented, so the Shire must be proactive and ready to respond should government directives about travel, isolation, people being at work, the number of people allowed at public gatherings, and other community issues change,” the council report said.

“It is likely that there will need to be quick decisions made over the next two months.

“These may include decisions relating to any and all Shire operational units and the level of support the Shire can provide to the community.”

It was likely the crisis group would meet via teleconferencing and co-ordinate through emails, Shire chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said.

Wednesday’s decision endorsed emergency spending with the Shire president’s authorisation, plus variations to the chief executive’s delegated powers for contract expenditure if the council was unable to convene.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Cr Cristoffanini was added an extra member of the group to ensure continuity if staff or elected members withdrew because of illness.

“We need a back-up plan for how that would function,” Cr Naomi Godden said.

“It brings diverse voices into that space, and I think Cr Cristoffanini is particularly skilled in this area.

“She has such enormous expertise in running government departments and understanding how government works.”

Cr Kylie Kennaugh and Cr Earl opposed the bid for the sake of keeping membership numbers low as a health precaution.

Cr Earl reminded councillors the group members had no role in directing the operational side of Shire business.

“This is not a committee for councillors to have input other than what they’re hearing in the community,” he said.

“Part of their job will be to sit there and listen.

“We could let the CEO run this without any council input.”

Group members included the acting infrastructure and sustainable development directors, the Shire’s community emergency services manager, and new corporate and community services director James Shepherd who would act as chief executive if Ms Addison-Brown fell ill.

Ms Addison-Brown made the infrastructure and sustainable development director positions redundant last week, with managers acting in those roles until a combined directorship was recruited.

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