If the number of phone calls I've been fielding, and the visitors reading this Blog page covering the proposed club amalgamation (58 alone yesterday...) are any indication, I would have expected the place to be packed. Instead, I was the only one who showed up, and we spent a pleasant 90 minutes discussing the proposal. They provided answers to all the questions I had.
I didn't necessarily like some of the answers, but the discussions that followed were still good.
If the lack of comments or observations on this blog page, and the lack of interest in the information sessions are any guide, then as I've already mentioned, this amalgamation is a forgone conclusion, because while there may be a lot of smoke, there's just no fire, and insufficient meaningful public discussion by those holding strong views to try to get any healthy debate going.
Fair enough... so it looks like the proposal is a timely one, because the majority appear to accept that this is going to happen.
That said, start getting used to belonging to a NSWGFA affiliated club, new name to be decided.
Notwithstanding, let me comment of just a few of the things discussed at last night's session..
Firstly, both clubs are in reasonable financial health, which is surprising given the low numbers of members who actually signed up this year, but that's balanced by the lack of expenditure on any major activities. That may change if the SIGFC's upcoming Heavy Tackle Challenge tournament doesn't get the numbers it needs to at least break even, but at the moment the CHGFC has about $17,000 in the bank, and the SIGFC has about $13,000. There will be consideration given to try to keep the two clubs' finances in some sort of parallel health during the months before amalgamation.
I asked if the SIGFC's VHF repeater equipment was being considered as a tangible asset when comparing and merging the two clubs' finances, but the less-than-satisfactory answer was that it was all salvaged equipment of little ore no value, so it wasn't on the books. Given the approximate $50,000 replacement cost (hardware and labour) of this fantastic system, and its immense intrinsic value to all anglers on the north coast, I think this is a serious omission. However, in fairness, I simply don't think either committee has considered this... yet.
Membership fees at the CHGFC are currently $80 per year, and so SIGFC members can expect to pay (at least) this for the new season in the amalgamated club, plus possibly an ANSA fee - all subject to further committee consideration.
The SIGFC present and intending members based in northern ports other than Coffs Harbour are going to be shafted - this is a real hot button issue with me. They will not be able to compete with other club members for 90% of club pointscore trophies unless they bring their boats to Coffs Harbour and fish out of here for every competition day. And even fishing with us for the remaining 10% of trophies from their home ports is contentious given the non-negotiable nature of this particular issue. This is both a NSWGFA rule, and also a strongly held sentiment in the CHGFC. While the numbers of game fishermen in ports north of Coffs Harbour is arguably negligibly small, they are still there, they still want to fish with a strong regional club that cares about them, and as a matter of principle, the SIGFC made a promise to them. While commitments to attempt to change the NSWGFA and CHGFC mindset on this matter after the amalgamation are fair enough, if past history is any guide, this is unlikely at best, and these blokes to our north are going to be dudded. This is not really the fault of the SIGFC committee, but is an anachronistic NSWGFA rule that takes no account whatsoever for the unique north coast geographic and demographic situation faced by game fishermen here.
In simple terms, the process subsequent to a "yes" vote at the SIGFC SGM, is that NSW Fair Trading will be formally advised that the two clubs will be "amalgamating" (a different circumstance under Fair Trading law from "merging" - readers can check the difference themselves). Fair Trading will then de-register both club's names, a new club name (yet to be decided) will be registered under an unamended Fair Trading model constitution, and the new club will hold an inaugural AGM. At this AGM, a combined committee will be elected, proposed changes to the basic constitution will be voted on, Fishing Rules, tournament schedules, and competition formats will be discussed and voted on, as will any other matter that has been submitted as a formal proposal in the appropriate manner.
The point was eloquently made during this information session that in reality, this is not just a 2-way vote as some may think. While there will only be the one yes/no vote, there are essentially up to 3 options that will follow... Voting "yes" will bring on the amalgamation, while voting "no" will leave the SIGFC in its present form. There will then be two likely paths for the SIGFC in the event of a "no" vote. Firstly, the SIGFC could continue it's steady downward spiral (probably losing some strong advocates of the amalgamation in the process), degenerating into a rudimentary pub fishing club of sorts. Or secondly, the alternate path would be for members committed to the future of the club to do more than just sit on their hands as they have for the past several years, elect a capable and energetic committee (not that the old one wasn't necessarily, but some on it will almost certainly resign), and drive the club forward with renewed vigour and significantly better support, remembering in the process that the club will always remain a non-affiliated entity whose success or failure will be entirely of its own making without help from the rest of the organised game fishing community...
The last question I asked was about the SGM itself. There will be a fairly detailed presentation during which the committee will pass on all the information that it has relating to this matter. For obvious reasons, the vote will be a proper secret ballot, not a show of hands.
Anglers getting hot under the collar about this whole amalgamation matter should not forget that both clubs are now at this crossroads because of the motion passed by a unanimous vote at the previous SIGFC AGM to explore this matter. This is exactly what's been done - it has been explored as instructed by the membership, and the upcoming SGM and the associated agenda items are all the result of this AGM initiative. This was not something the SIGFC committee did on its own, and members should not be treating this matter as something that's been thrust upon them, but in fact as something they initiated.
As a closing aside... Speaking of the HTC, it's been disappointing to see just how that tournament has been allowed to atrophy in recent years, due largely to lack of dedicated tournament management and planning at critical times in its history. Tournament and sponsorship funds (and goodwill) have been egregiously wasted in recent years, and all the things that help to boost a successful event (year round care and feeding of sponsors, broad coverage long range PR, a separate tournament sub-committee, etc) have been missing at times. And here we are just four weeks from the tournament, and there is still no publicity, no entry forms or tournament paperwork available to would-be competitors, and absolutely no buzz...