Edwards quits South Gippsland council

Michelle Slater

Another South Gippsland Shire councillor has resigned claiming bullying and harassment, making her the second councillor to quit within a week.

Tarwin Valley ward Cr Meg Edwards announced on Thursday morning that she will step down as of October 30 to allow her replacement to vote in the November mayoral elections.

Cr Edwards’ decision follows former South Gippsland Cr Maxine Kiel, who had announced her immediate resignation the previous week, also citing bullying and harassment.

The Victorian Electoral Commission will hold a countback on October 22 to find Ms Kiel’s replacement. There has not yet been an official countback date for Cr Edwards’ seat.

“I don’t hold hope for this term of council. I’m not prepared to stand by in a dysfunctional council, if I had any hope for it, then I wouldn’t have resigned,” Cr Edwards said.

“Have we got a functional council? Not in my mind. I was not prepared for another two years of my life going through this crap and not achieving a damned thing.”

The Fish Creek resident was elected to the South Gippsland council in 2016 and said acts of intimidation began during her campaign phase.

“Some of the stuff going on was crazy – phone calls in the middle of the night, people shining lights in my window at night trying to intimidate me,” she said.

“This has not changed my vote on any issue.”

Cr Edwards is on the Liberal’s Eastern Victoria ticket in the November state election but has not ruled out having a crack at the 2020 local government elections if she is not elected to Spring Street.

“If anything, this has better prepared me for state parliament,” Cr Edwards said.

“I’ve been through the worst of it. There is nothing that anyone has thrown at me that I haven’t heard before. There is nothing more they can do to hurt me.”

Cr Edwards said she encouraged “good people” to step into the role of local council.

“We need people with a variety of views who can articulate why they are voting the way they are and have a robust debate and not denigrate people,” she said.

South Gippsland mayor Lorraine Brunt said she respected Cr Edwards’ decision and said “the challenges for this council have not been easy to deal with for anyone”.

“Meg is a strong community advocate and brought her passion to the table at every opportunity,” Cr Brunt said.

“I hope Meg can look back at her achievements with pride and know that her support for the community and her fellow councillors will not go unnoticed.”