Heather Wellington announces exit from council

June 19, 2024 BY

Heather Wellington has served as a councillor at the Surf Coast Shire for 12 years. Photo: SURF COAST SHIRE

SURF Coast Shire councillor Heather Wellington has announced her intention to resign from her local government position in August.

She cites a variety of reasons for the decision to step down from the council, chief among them being frustrations with the job.

“I feel I’ve done as much as I can and as best as I can,” she said.

“It’s been quite difficult in there at times, and I’ve had to work harder than I probably should have in order to achieve the things that I wanted to do.

“I feel it’s time to move on.”

First elected in 2012, Cr Wellington has served 12 years as a councillor for the shire’s Winchelsea Ward, a period of time she believes is “long enough for any councillor”.

She also served for four years on the City of Greater Geelong council between 2000 and 2004.

“The politicisation of local government really makes it a very difficult environment in which to operate and there’s no doubt that our council is very politicised,” Cr Wellington said.

“I don’t think it’s compatible with really good local government.”

During her tenure, Cr Wellington said she faced several difficulties with the shire’s previous administration and accessing the information she felt necessary to do the job.

In several instances, she successfully resorted to applying for the information she had been refused under the Freedom of Information Act.

She said while the culture has changed significantly under the shire’s new chief executive officer, who has never refused Cr Wellington the information she had requested, the previously hostile environment had “put a real cloud” over her time as a councillor.

“The fact that you’re dependent on the CEO, as a councillor, for their interpretation of what you’re entitled to, it makes it really difficult to operate.

“I’ve always interpreted by role as being to work really actively with residents to help them communicate with the shire and engage in decision-making, and that means they need information.”

Cr Wellington now plans to cut back on her commitments and spend more time with her grandchildren.

She still hoped, however, to remain involved with the community and to offer assistance and her experience with local government to those who need it.

“I’m not just going to walk away from the community,” Cr Wellington said.

And for those interested in standing for election later this year, Cr Wellington has plenty of advice.

“Don’t go in thinking this is easy, because it’s not,” she said.

“I’d say to people, be transparent about your values, really look at what the job takes and whether you’ve got the time, the skills, the inclination to do it [and] be willing to stand up for what you believe in.”

While Cr Wellington will be the first to admit her time has a councillor “hasn’t been a bed of roses”, she said she will “never regret” undertaking the role and will walk away with “enormous satisfaction”.

“I’ve loved working with the community. It’s been absolutely fabulous.

“What I do regret is that it’s been so hard to achieve what I wanted to achieve and what I committed to do.

“You have to be really resilient to cope with it, and I’m a pretty resilient person, but it has been really tough.

“Honestly, you can go to community events, and you can cut a few ribbons and you can listen to what the [shire’s] officers tell you you should do, and you can do it – that’s one way of being a councillor.

“That’s not how I wanted to be a councillor and it’s not what I did.”

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