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Shepparton council's slap in the face for Slap

City of Greater Shepparton councillors have chosen not to provide support for the Slap Tomorrow forum on climate change to be held next month.

JOHN LEWIS AND DARREN LINTON May 23, 2013 4:57am

An organiser of a major forum on climate change in Shepparton is disappointed it will go ahead without the financial support of Greater Shepparton City Council.

Slap Tomorrow committee member Terry Court said it was unfortunate the council on Tuesday voted against contributing $2500 to next month’s event at Eastbank Centre.

‘‘I’m extremely disappointed. This is a fantastic opportunity to look forward and create opportunities for this area,’’ Mr Court said.

‘‘Unfortunately, the council don’t see fit to be part of it.’’

On June 6, the Slap Tomorrow forum will see three invited experts speak.

They are the director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at the University of NSW, Professor Veena Sahajwalla; Australian Youth Climate Coalition co-founder Anna Rose; and former television weatherman and environmental and communications consultant Rob Gell.

Victorian Sustainability Commissioner and former Goulburn Valley magistrate Kate Auty will chair the event.

Rather than being a debate on the science, the Slap Tomorrow forum is designed to generate ideas on how best to tackle challenges presented by climate change in the Goulburn Valley.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, City of Greater Shepparton councillor Michael Polan called on councillors to support the forum.

Cr Polan’s motion was met with silence and it appeared there would be no seconder.

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan then raised her hand after a quick check of the meeting rules.

‘‘This is not a debate about global warming, but the start of a conversation about living in a changing environment,’’ Cr Polan said.

He argued council provided sponsorship for community and sporting events and, leaving aside the climate debate, the 800 people expected at the event would make a significant economic contribution.

Cr Polan would later argue the council should be leading the discussion.

‘‘This is a conversation that should have started in these four walls, not outside,’’ he said.

While Cr Fern Summer opposed the $2500 sponsorship primarily because of the way the funding request had been handled, she also said global warming was still a ‘‘contentious issue’’.

The council has no formal stance on the issue of climate change, but has or is developing policies concerning sustainability.

Cr Kevin Ryan stuck to the issue of proper process.

He said the request only came to light when Cr Polan’s notice of motion was distributed on Friday last week and to approve it would open a ‘‘Pandora’s box’’.

‘‘It is the process that has fallen down,’’ he said.

While Cr Houlihan left the chair to argue passionately the council should be involved, the numbers fell to the no vote, with Cr Dennis Patterson also questioning the process and the cost.

‘‘It is a very noble cause and I’m looking forward to attending,’’ he said.

‘‘I think it will go ahead without our sponsorship anyway.’’

Councillors voted 3-2 to defeat the motion and deny sponsorship.

Event organisers have confirmed the event will go ahead and the council’s logo will still appear on promotional material despite the knock-back.

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