Full disclosure: What’s happening in the council
BUNDABERG Regional Councillors kept to formalities in their monthly ordinary meeting last week, but although they did not elaborate through debate or arguments, they made many significant decisions.
The meeting remained closed to the public, physically, but there was a live video-feed which generally had about 10 people watching at the time it was happening.
If you missed it, or want it in writing, we give you the significant moments.
Conflicts of interests
COUNCILLORS first declared their potential conflicts of interest, although it took a second attempt and encouragement from Mayor Jack Dempsey to get everyone to lay it out on the table.
The routine is that a councillor declares a ‘perceived’ conflict, and decides to leave or stay during the discussion of a subject, and its vote. If they want to stay in the room, they are left to the judgement of their fellow councillors, but if they want to leave, it saves some time.
Examples from the last meeting included Division 1 councillor Jason Bartels saying had a perceived conflict of interest regarding the decision to lease the former Bargara Administration Building to Burnett Mary Regional Group, as his wife was a staff member. Division 7 councillor Vince Habermann said he was a representative in several sports groups, such as a life member of Brothers Sports Club, which might be a perceived conflict with the council’s $200,000 sports stimulus package. And on that same topic, Division 8 councillor May Mitchell said there may be a potential conflict due to her membership in the Coral Isle Cyclists. In each of these occasions, councillors believed the connections would not impact their objectivity, and so other councillors voted to determine if they could stay. And on each occasion they could.
But deputy mayor Bill Trevor bypassed the voting by saying he did have perceived conflicts for two subjects. He would leave the room during a vote to agree to a subdivision in CSR Depot Rd, Childers, because he was a shareholder in Isis Central Sugar Mill, which opposed it. He would also leave the room when the council discussed whether or not to join a legal battle against the State Government and Sunwater over the lowering of Paradise Dam. Cr Trevor recently owned a lease which received a Sunwater allocation, and although he no longer had legal or physical access to it, he wanted more time to separate himself from the issue. Division 3 Cr Wayne Honor had a Sunwater allocation, and so they would both leave the Civic Centre’s supper room together.
Parking tickets return
Cr Mitchell began to announce a motion to enforce parking in the central business district again, which happened as of yesterday. It had been halted in March as part of the COVID-19 package. But Mayor Jack Dempsey quickly cut in, reminding us all that Division 4 Cr Tracey McPhee had left the room. She had done so quietly. Earlier when councillors declared perceived conflicts of interests, she volunteered to leave the room because she had as a business owner signed a petition urging the council to reinstate parking. The councillors unanimously decided to bring back parking, without any further discussion, although Cr Dempsey asked to repeat the voting process. Cr McPhee had returned to the room within a minute.
IN THE previous council meeting, Division 5 Cr Greg Barnes proposed a planning committee be created. He urged the subject be delayed further to allow councillors time to be better informed by reading an independent development review. All the councillors agreed.
Cr Dempsey then read all the committees and the councillors who were appointed to them. It took some time for him to list the 20 committees. The Mayor is represented in five of the committees including the Local Disaster Management Group, and the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils (ROC).
The Sister Cities committee is absent from the list. Chief executive Stephen Johnston said recently the council was considering its structure.
Cr Steve Cooper said the council’s annual fees and charges for the new financial year would be adopted.
He said the fees and charges would generally increase by 2.5 per cent. “Some fees have been rounded up to promote administrative effectiveness and ease of application,” he said.
Cr Barnes asked; “if any time we want to revise any of these fees and charges, we can do that by resolution of council?”
Cr Dempsey said, “as we stated on a number of occasions, anything can be brought before council at any given time.”
The council then approved the monthly financial report, and a review of the council policies.
After this, councillors approved the subdivision of a lot at 50 CSR Depot Rd in Childers, to be split into seven.
Cr Habermann announced a $200,000 stimulus package for sporting groups that were suffering hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that more than 40 clubs had been identified to be eligible for the funding.
Councillors approved the package, but before they did, the proverbial can of worms opened as Cr Tanya McLoughlin realised she might have a perceived conflict as her husband is the secretary of the Diggers Football Club. Cr John Learmonth realised he might have a conflict due to his membership in the Bundaberg Sailing Club, and Cr Barnes then identified his patronage of Bargara Little Athletics. Cr Trevor identified a potential issue. “”Out of an abundance of caution … I wondered if it was pertinent for another councillor to vote on a councillor’s conflict,” he said.
But this did not impact the voting, and with the technicalities out of the way, the package was passed.
The council turned off the video-feed as it entered confidential discussions. This included the pursuit of the lease of part of the former Bargara administration building to Burnett Mary Regional Group. It also decided not to join a legal battle in the Supreme Court to fight against the lowering of Paradise Dam.