Mornington Peninsula councillors were divided on Shire’s debt level at the Council meeting on Monday.

At the meeting, Cr Hugh Fraser moved a motion to reduce the Shire’s current debt over the next four years.

The Mornington Peninsula Shire’s is estimated to be $37.5 million in debt for 2013/2014.

Cr Fraser put forward a deadline of 30 June, 2017 to reach a debt level of $23.25 million, and eventually becoming debt free in 2026.

Cr Rodgers was the first to reply to the motion, supporting Cr Fraser’s intentions.

“We speak of sustainability,” he said.

“We have it on our banner.

“I believe this council debt is unsustainable.”

Cr Anne Shaw said planning for debt reduction is a matter for council to put forward as a whole, not the job of a single councillor.

“I totally reject not only the content of this notice of motion, but the way in which it was brought to council which is not good governance.”

Cr Bev Colomb also felt that councillors had not been given the opportunity to consider the information.

She refuted the debt problem highlighted by Cr Rodgers, but agreed with the call for modest borrowing.

“We’re in a good position right now, and have the opportunity of staying in that position by not borrowing any more.”

Many councillors suggested the savings would come at the expense of the Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre (SPA) proposed for Rosebud.

Cr Fraser’s debt reduction plan largely rests on $12 million of borrowing scheduled to take place from 2015-2017, which numerous councillors claimed to be designated to the construction of the proposed complex.

“There’s no question to say this is designed to kill off SPA,” said Cr Frank Martin. “It’s got nothing to do with debt.”

“The funding of SPA was proposed in part with modest borrowings,” said CR David Gibb. “Why remove options of modest borrowings?”

Both Cr Martin and Cr David Garnock called the motion “premature”.

Like Cr Shaw and Cr Colomb, they felt the issue needed more discussion.

“We have not even had the chance to debate this let alone make a decision,” said Cr Martin.

But that’s exactly what council meetings are meant for, Cr Fraser responded.

“What occurs in the chamber is debate. It doesn’t occur behind closed doors.”

Part one of the motion, to decrease Shire’s debt, was defeated.

Councillors passed additional resolutions to amend and review the Shire’s current 2013-2017 Strategic Resources Plan.

AuthorToni Brient