Tweed Shire councillor Warren Polglase has defended his action in sending development firm Leda an email written by Cr Katie Milne, which led to the Greens councillor being sued for defamation.
The pro-development councillor stood by his decision to tip off Leda about Cr Milne’s email, which is currently the subject of defamation action in the Supreme Court in Sydney brought by Leda chief, billionaire developer Bob Ell.
Cr Milne used a freedom of information (FOI) application to discover it was Cr Polglase, then Tweed mayor, who forwarded her email to Leda, which is currently proposing two of the shire’s largest ever residential developments.
’Cr Polglase’s action clearly demonstrate that he was serving the interests of Leda, the developer who gave the largest donation of $80,000 to the 2004 pro-development election campaign that caused the council to be sacked,’ she said.
‘Cr Polglase has consistently voted against moves by other councillors to improve either the social outcomes, or the outcomes for koalas and the hundreds of species impacted by Leda’s developments.’
Mr Ell’s statement of claim in the Supreme Court states that an email circulated by Katie Milne to the Tweed Shire Echo, and other press outlets, implied Mr Ell was implicated in the murder of an an associate of his, Michael McGurk, and that he had a scandalous association with the murdered man.
Businessman Mr McGurk was slain outside his home in Sydney in September 2009.
Cr Milne is defending the defamation action.
Cr Polglase this week stood by his decision to forward Cr Milne’s email in March last year, saying the email became a public document once it had been circulated.
’This was not a confidential document at all, it was marked “letter to the editor” and I’m quite sure Leda would have known of its existence as soon as it was published,’ said Cr Polglase.
’I don’t see anything questionable about it. If someone was making accusations about me I would want to know about it.’
Another FOI request by Cr Milne found that in July last year Leda sought information on comments by ‘any councillors about the Kings Forest project’, dating back to January 2007.
The FOI request sought ‘all correspondence, notes of conversations, internal memos and deleted emails’.
Leda also sought all records related to council’s staff submission on the Kings Forest concept plan submission of October 2009.
Cr Milne said council staff chose not to advise councillors that Leda had made the FOI application.
Leda recently circulated two ‘dossiers’ critical of council planning staff’s dealings with its Kings Forest and Cobaki housing projects.
And earlier this month Leda called for the state government to order an independent inquiry into the council’s handling of both projects.
The NSW Planning Department is the consent authority for the massive housing estates, with Tweed planners acting largely in an advisory role.
Cr Milne said the Kings Forest and Cobaki developments ‘for up to 30,000 residents next to these vital habitats could be the nail in the coffin for Tweed koalas’.
‘Leda should have provided an adequate wildlife corridor along the Queensland border at Cobaki, and they should leave the Cudgen paddock and the eastern side of Kings Forest, if they really cared about Tweed Coast koalas.
‘I find it very disturbing that the general manager has refused to seek legal advice on Leda’s reports. We have a duty to ensure the public is aware of the truth in these matters. Dragging our feet in relation to this only serves Leda’s interests.’