Councillors held a terse debate during last week’s meeting amid a last-minute effort by retiring member Naomi Godden to reinstate the Shire’s defunct Sustainability Advisory Committee. Councillors initially sought to defer a decision on changes to the Shire’s reference groups which would bring them in-house, concerning some members who value the longstanding advice of expert residents, which included groups for Sport and Recreation and the Sustainable Economy. Cr Godden said she could not finish her time on the council without reinstating the SAC, which was chopped as part of changes introduced in 2019. “When we found out we could not have councillors in the reference groups, it was very concerning,” she said. Debate on the other reference groups was deferred for the incoming new council to consider. While Cr Godden’s bid was successful, with four of seven members voting in favour, the debate unearthed longstanding tensions between councillors and touched on issues partly behind SAC’s original removal. Cr Godden noted the SAC “could get politicised unnecessarily”. Last decade, existing councillors noted concerns some non-elected SAC members were perceived to be pushing for greater influence on council decision-making, outside the scope of an advisory commi-ttee. Last week’s meeting heard those concerns extended to the latest review of the Community Strategic Plan, which first-term councillor Brian Daniel said was handed to consultants to avoid councillor involvement. The initial CSP “had councillors who were involved in shaping that strategic plan”, he said last week. Cr Daniel said ratepayers repeatedly said they wanted a balance between costs and adequate services. He said Cr Godden’s single focus on climate change ignored what ratepayers considered a priority. “We are not a Department of Climate Change. They want a balance,” he said. Shire corporate and community development director James Shepherd told the Times consultants Tunablue also worked on the 2016 version of the CSP.