Our Council in focus – The Bloated Beast of Pelican Street

Locals and tourists are familiar with the ‘Big Pelican’ in the foreshore park at Noosaville, but there is a much bigger, bloated beast five minutes’ drive away at 9 Pelican Street, Tewantin. 

Our Pelican Street Council is puffing up with an unprecedented explosion in staff numbers and inefficiency we’ve never seen before.  

Houston/Noosa, we have a problem.

Maintaining efficient operations during serious covid disruption while adding so many new employees would test Australia’s best management. Here, alarms are ringing.

The problem has been caused by unrealistic expectations – too many new initiatives at a time when the organisation is least able to deliver. The inevitable result has taken a toll, causing the resignation of many experienced staff, and making the situation far worse. 

Recent budget decisions mean that the current Council has agreed to 21 new permanent positions and almost double that number of new ‘temporary’ positions since they were elected in 2020,

Some of the additions were necessary because of covid. Examples include delivering temporary projects funded by State and Federal Governments, and to meet legislated deadlines for dealing with development applications.

But most of the additional staff were appointed for new initiatives put forward by senior staff and elected members. Many of them were not time critical or so important they couldn’t be put on hold.

The council is obviously incapable of reading the signs all around them. Did they think the covid storm was little more than a passing shower? They could not have missed the disruption caused by illness and absenteeism. Or the ‘working from home’ which is still ongoing. 

Most organisations pulled back to basic operations during covid for obvious reasons. Very good management is required at any time to cope with rapid expansion. To do so during covid is madness, a classic example of failure of leadership. 

Our elected members and executive team had an opportunity at budget time in June this year to begin the recovery from their mistake, but instead repeated the folly of the previous budget. 

What did we get this time? More ‘new initiatives’ requiring more staff – again!

Approval was given for 9 more permanent positions, extensions to 15 existing ‘temporary’ positions, and another 14 ‘temporary’ positions listed as ‘new’ in the budget papers. 

If all these positions can be filled, there will be 56 long term ‘temporary’ positions, i.e. those with more than 12 months of appointment term remaining. That would be a doubling in the last 2 years. 

Including both short and long term, the Budget papers tell us there are now 80 approved (full and part time) ‘temporary’ positions. 

Is anyone at Pelican Street able to take a ‘helicopter view’ of the trajectory of the organisation? Or about how those positions can be filled with competent staff in the current tight jobs market? 

Insiders tell us the organisation is already operating inefficiently because of overload. Adding more staff will simply increase the inefficiency. Sadly, the exodus of experienced staff and the demoralisation of those remaining is set to continue. The negative outcomes will be with us for a long time. 

One thing we do know is that this folly has been expensive for ratepayers. We’ve seen Council’s rate revenue rise by 10% each year in the last two budgets to pay for all the new staff. 

Almost half of all ratepayers have seen their general rates increase by an average of 15% this year alone. And that increased level will be baked in forever.  (No, you didn’t see that in the Council media statements)

What a crazy time to agree to more, overly ambitious, new initiatives. The outcomes from previous ones have been patchy at best, some have been disasters or are going nowhere. No value for money here.

What we do know is that the hollowing out of the increasingly inexperienced, bloated and ‘temporary’ Council organisation will continue in the absence of some competent leadership. 

Noosa Matters attempts to offer solutions to our local challenges, and that’s what my next Council In Focus will be all about.


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