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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Developer ‘meddling in politics’

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Luis Feliu

In an extraordinary attack on Tweed Greens councillor Katie Milne at a recent public access meeting, Reg Van Rij, Leda’s project manager for the massive proposed townships of Cobaki and Kings Forest, detailed Cr Milne’s voting record over a 30-month period as ‘an example of how councillors are “serving their community”’.

Ironically, Mr Van Rij did not produce records for the other six councillors before detailing Cr Milne’s voting pattern, saying he wasn’t trying ‘to single out any one councillor’.

He claimed he used the example because ‘in Leda’s opinion, it would be of concern to the majority of constituents’.

But Cr Milne, who is facing a Supreme Court defamation suit brought by Leda’s billionaire owner Bob Ell, says she is proud of her record in support of the community and environment.

She has accused Leda, which has previously compiled a dossier on its dealings with Tweed Shire Council, of meddling in local politics and being obsessed with her.

Cr Milne told Echonetdaily she hoped ‘the community can see how hard I’ve worked proposing 105 motions in the last two years, more motions than all of the previous councillors combined, and how often I have been blocked’.

In the past four years, Cr Milne has been a fierce opponent of inappropriate or over-development. She opposed the developer’s Cobaki and Kings Forest proposals for a total of 10,000 homes, citing concerns over destruction of koala habitat and corridors and proposals to allow dogs at Kings Forest.

She has consistently championed environmental improvements for the shire, but was rarely supported in the last council term.

Cr Milne this week said she wanted to thank Leda Developments as ‘it must have taken many, many, long hours to collate all my motions’.

She said that on average, she had voted against 10 recommendations per meeting ‘in an effort to improve outcomes for the shire’.

Obsessed

‘I am a bit worried Leda may be a little obsessed with me though, and trying to influence Tweed politics. Why haven’t they collated how often Cr Polglase has gone out of his way to support Leda,’ she told Echonetdaily.

Leda’s owner, billionaire Bob Ell, donated $80,000 through a related company to a developer-backed group of candidates at the 2004 Tweed council election. An inquiry later found the ‘Tweed Directions’ group, which Mr Ell had backed, was involved in electoral fraud and the council was sacked.

Commissioner Maurie Daly said the ‘Tweed Directions’ team had represented themselves to be independents when they were pro-development candidates or ‘puppets’ funded largely by developers.

Cr Milne said she wished Leda ‘would spend their time more fruitfully in researching ways to make their developments more acceptable to the community and the koalas’.

Mr Ell is suing Cr Milne for defamation, with a Supreme Court case ongoing. The developer says he has been ‘gravely injured’ by Cr Milne as a result of a letter to the editor she emailed to media in March 2010 questioning Mr Ell’s links to murdered Sydney standover man Michael McGurk and the local political donation.

Cr Polglase admitted tipping off Mr Ell over the email, which Cr Milne said ‘clearly demonstrated’ that he was ‘serving the interests of Leda, whose owner gave the largest donation to the 2004 pro-development election campaign that caused the council to be sacked’.

Cr Milne’s predecessor as the sole Greens councillor, Henry James, also faced a defamation action from Mr Ell over comments he made in relation to the Kings Forest project, a case which was later dropped by Mr Ell.

Late last year, Mr Van Rij presented councillors with ‘secret’ dossiers Leda compiled, which complained about council planning staff and local ecologists over the handling of its Kings Forest and Cobaki projects.

 


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4 COMMENTS

  1. I hate to think where we’d be if the Tweed didn’t have Cr Milne fighting for important environmental issues. Leda’s ‘stand-over bully-boy’ tactics have gone on far too long and I applaud Katie’s stance. More importantly I’d like to know why Cr Polglase hasn’t been questioned over his blatant allegiance to Leda. Hasn’t he learned anything from ‘the sacking’. Of course it beggars belief that members of sacked councils are allowed to stand again anyway!!

  2. Dear Editor,

    Councillor Milne should be flattered by Reg Van Rijs singling out one councillor to play politics with. As Oscar Wilde observed, when one is a public figure, “It is better to be talked about, than not talked about.”

    Thanks, Reg for speaking you master’s voice, and acknowledging the Greens are causing Leda grief. Good on you Katie!

    Kind regards,
    Andy

  3. Not only Cr Milne but also 16,000 + of us are darn proud of her countless motions in council. She does more work to create sustainable outcomes for our environment and the community than the rest of the councillors put together.
    The reason why Leda is after her is because she is a threat to their unsustainable developments. At least we have a voice with her in council (and the other two progressive councillors).

  4. So these greedy developers can do what they like……..big money far more important than wildlife and if Koalas become extinct….too bad!

    The fact that Australians let these tossers get away with it is a massive stain on the National character!

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