A protest by people believed to be linked to a group Renew Narrandera was held yesterday in Narrandera on East Street. A small contingent of people made their way along East Street holding signs, which contained slogans such as ‘corruption is not ok’, ‘support the local businesses’ and ‘stop misusing grant money’.
According to the group’s spokesman Sebastian Papa, who spoke to Prime News at the event, the protest was against the Narrandera Shire Council.
“We would like the Mayor and the Council to support us in a public enquiry with what’s going on in the Narrandera Council,” Mr Papa said. “The residents of Narrandera, the real residents that work here, have had enough.”
While the protesters carried signs arguing for support of Narrandera businesses, a local business owner said that there was little to no awareness of the protests among the community. Mr Papa accused the Narrandera Council of a number of offences. When asked what his issues were with the Narrandera Shire Council, he responded:
“For me, it was falsifying documents. Destroying evidence and I’d just had enough. When they do investigations, they cover the investigations up. There needs to be investigations done by the government, not internally. I believe when they do a proper investigation, they will be found guilty, not innocent like they claim,” Mr Papa said.
Narrandera Mayor Neville Kschenka said that the Narrandera Council was happy to listen to the concerns of the protesters.
“I’d certainly invite the protesters to present their concerns to Council. Because we’re always open to deal with any issues that they might have. If they want to bring them to me formally, either in writing or in a proper manner, then we’ll certainly listen to them.
“Until we know what the concerns are, they’re very hard to deal with,” Cr Kschenka said.
While there have been no formal declarations from the protesters or Mr Papa, they are believed to be linked with a community organisation calling themselves Renew Narrandera.
According to a spokesperson from the Council, the Narrandera Council has received one letter from Renew Narrandera in the last 12 months and it arrived at the Council Chambers two weeks ago. The letter was signed by Renew Narrandera Chairperson Vicki Reed.
Cr Kschenka said he wrote back to Ms Reed, inviting her to come forward with any concerns. Council did not receive a response. Mr Papa also stated that he had been in contact with the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The EPA has been back in contact, I believe they wrote a letter to the Council in 2016 about a falsified document that Council produced to Councillors for their process of voting. They kept that letter hidden,” he said. “I believe they received that letter before the enquiry against Judy Charlton. The letter, had it came [sic] out then, the outcome might have been a lot different.”
Ms Charlton is a former Narrandera Council Chief Executive Officer. Mr Papa did not elaborate on the contents of the letter.
“This is what we’re going on about – the hiding of evidence and the altering of documents. It’s all out there in the Council, but how do we get our hands on that information?” Mr Papa said. “We’ve pulled GIPAs [Government Information (Public Access)], but they don’t give us the stuff we ask for. I’ve pulled seven GIPAs myself and didn’t receive the proper documents and it just goes on and on. The Council – I call them rogue. They’re rogue. They do what they want. They’ve got protocol to follow it and they don’t follow it.”
When asked what action Mr Papa would like to see from Cr Kschenka, he stated “I want him to do what’s lawfully required of him”.
“I gave him and all the councillors – through Stuart Davies – evidence. They’ve failed, refused to act on it. Neville keeps asking for more information. We gave him information. They’ve got it there, they got it first hand through the EPA,” Mr Papa said.
Mr Papa did not elaborate what evidence was given, or what the nature of the information might be.
“We’re going to ask him to report this matter to the State government. My matter is one of them, but there’s many matters,” Mr Papa said. Mr Papa did not elaborate on what his “matter” was.
“The town’s diminishing; I believe there’s only 3,700 people here in Narrandera. The sign says 5000. They’re not honest and open. They need to be honest and open with the public. That’s why I’m part of the group,” Mr Papa said.
The subject of Narrandera’s population has been disputed before and was the subject of a clarification by the Narrandera Shire Council in April of this year. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, using data from the 2016 census the Narrandera local government area (LGA) contains 5,853 people, which includes the townships of Barellan and Grong Grong.
The Narrandera State Suburb has a population of 4,375, although it must be noted that this does not include Gillenbah and some surrounding areas. The Narrandera Urban Centre/Locality has a population of 3,746, which has possibly given rise to the oft repeated statement that Narrandera’s population is so low.
However, the Urban Centre data is strictly limited to urban areas; it does not take into account the population living on Narrandera’s fringes on larger blocks of land or on farms. The Urban Centre data also completely excludes Gillenbah, Pine Hill Road and Manderlay Road.