OPINION: Councillors deserve more respect

A COUPLE of weeks ago we ran a story suggesting our councillors were not paid particularly well for the demanding job they do.

The response from readers was largely they were paid too much as it was, particularly the mayors of Ballina, Byron and Lismore, who receive wages of close to $60,000 per year.

There is a strong argument that the role of councillor should essentially be a volunteer position. Indeed, it's this philosophy that largely underpins the current system in much of New South Wales, under which councillors and mayors are paid a stipend intended to compensate them for expenses and a relatively limited amount of time on the job.

That might be fine if this was the way the community regarded councillors - as volunteers giving up their own time for the good of their communities and little financial reward. However, the practical reality is this is not how we regard or treat our councillors and hasn't been for many years.

Instead, councillors in general and mayors in particular are regarded by the community in much the same way we regard our state and Federal MPs, yet without the generous financial compensation received by members of parliament.

If we, as a community, expect to continue paying our councillors the tiny rates of pay we currently do - as low as $10,737 - then we should be treating them with the same respect and have of them the same expectations we would have of an SES or Rural Fire Service volunteer.

We certainly shouldn't be abusing them or, as is now alleged against one woman, physically attacking them.

Some say councillors stand for election to advance their own careers and interests and I'm not suggesting that's not sometimes the case. However, overwhelmingly they come from all sorts of backgrounds and hold all sorts of political beliefs but are united by a desire to help their communities.

You may not agree with all their decisions, but they deserve respect for the work they do and their desire to serve.