Saturday, 23rd January, 2016
By Erica Visser
A trio of concerned locals says Broken Hill’s elderly are being treated as “second class citizens” while the notion of the city as a great place to retire loses its lustre.
Steve Sliwka yesterday met with former mayor, Ron Page and his cohort, Wendy Pearce, to discuss an ongoing petition to re-establish the Shorty O’Neil Village (SOV) precinct as a retirement village.
One in 30 locals has signed the petition since it was launched late last year but Mr Page says Mayor Wincen Cuy had continued to dismiss it.
“We’re not trying to attack Wincen, we’re trying to do him a favour - the people are calling out for him to listen,” Mr Page said.
“The Broken Hill spirit has always been strong in all of us, we want to work together and help each other.”
Mayor Cuy had previously put Mr Page’s campaign to ‘save’ Shorty O’Neil Village down to a campaign stunt in the lead-up to September’s local election.
Mr Page yesterday ruled out running for mayor, but will likely contest for a position on council.
Mr Sliwka also stopped short of announcing he would run, however the publican has remained outspokenly invested in the viability of the city since returning two years ago.
He yesterday said the SOV issue had been exacerbated by a communication divide between Council and the public.
“The public always gets this feeling that Council has some sort of ulterior motive. What my concern for Broken Hill is, is that it once had a vision of being a retirement centre.
“I’m concerned we’ve moved away from the aged to basically treating the aged like second class citizens.
“Some of the decision-making has had an impact on that. The more services we lose, the more infrastructure the government will take away.”
Mr Sliwka admitted that he didn’t know whether the plan for SOV was viable, but urged Mr Page and Ms Pearce to follow the correct procedures in approaching Council to rescind a decision to find buyers for the site.
Ms Pearce said that Council had consistently blocked her efforts to seek relevant information to establish a business case for the site.
She claimed management had refused her request for a site tour while agreeing to provide her with Council’s overall costings for electricity and water but without the breakdown.
“I’m going to again attempt to meet with Wincen. He owes us that,” she said yesterday.
“This isn’t right. I’m not just going to go bull at a gate and go viral with it, but if he doesn’t start taking us seriously I will go to the national media - not local, national.”
Ms Pearce said that ideally Council would reverse its decision for the site and give her a trial period to manage it.
“I am saying just drop everything for two years and give us a go.”
Mr Page said his “20-odd years” experience with local government would help their plight, with plans to approach councillors in a group setting.
Mr Sliwka said there appeared to be a “lack of confidence” in the city from Council’s end, a sentiment backed up by fellow outspoken resident, Rod Angell.
“We all have a view of Council as being negative. Every time you make a suggestion to Council the replies that come back have been totally negative,” he said.
“Wincen Cuy is there with his ongoing commentary, ‘My door’s always open but no one comes and sees me’. Well, that may be true but it’s because everyone knows what the answer will be.”