Critics putting people off, says Wayne Gregson

UNJUSTIFIED vitriol and hatemongering shown to local councillors may be turning people away from local politics, according to former Bendigo councillor Wayne Gregson.

Mr Gregson served at the City of Greater Bendigo from 2004 to 2008 and said he was targeted with demeaning and threatening comments from a hateful group of council critics. 

“Because that carping and trolling is constant, it becomes hard for councillors to act with confidence and they can be trapped into making smaller decisions,” he said. 

“They think if they do the right things then they’ll be slammed. 

“They get a hammering from emails, bloggers and letters and in any other walk of life it would constitute harassment.”

Mr Gregson, a former journalist and current electorate officer for Member for Northern Victoria Damian Drum, said he understood why only 21 people nominated for upcoming elections, the lowest figure in at least a decade. 

“A lot of people are discouraged from standing considering what they cop in public and in private,” he said. 

“There’s a lot of pointlessly negative stuff that gets flooded into the community and that becomes perception after a while.

“I was used to living in public life as the editor of the Advertiser, I thought you’d cop a lot of criticism in that role, but it’s nothing compared to council.

“My family was certainly grateful when that period came to an end.”

Mr Gregson said while it was impossible to stamp out abuse, he said people should think before blasting council decisions. 

“There are about six to eight council critics who never say anything positive about the council and take it upon themselves to demean any effort to make Bendigo better,” he said. 

“Some of the names you see on blog sites four or five times a day, you’ve got to ask why they don’t get a day job or put their hands up to make a difference rather than throwing rocks from the side.” 

Mr Gregson said Bendigo was one of the most “astonishing” cities in the nation and was excelling with economic activity and population growth. 

“That didn’t happen by accident, a lot of people and councillors have worked hard to make that happen, but there’s no credit for that,” he said.

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