Tweed shire councillors have adopted a revised code of conduct aimed at avoiding criticism such as was levelled at a former council sacked after an inquiry found some councillors had acted as ‘puppets of developers’.
The new code means councillors now have to complete a file note of any meetings with developers or their consultants relating to development decisions likely to come before council.
Mayor Barry Longland, who introduced the amendment, said he wanted a stronger statement in order to deter perception of any close or clandestine links between them and developers.
Veteran pro-development councillor Warren Polglase was at the helm of council in 2005 when the state government sacked it after the Daly Inquiry found a group of councillors bankrolled by developer interests were acting on the developers’ behalf in council.
Administrators were then appointed for three years, before an election was held. Cr Polglase successfully returned as councillor and was elected by his colleagues as mayor for a year in 2010.
Cr Longland said that Professor Daly’s findings were damning of the links between councillors and developers and he wanted to avoid any criticism of council if those meetings between them were not recorded.
He said the model code of conduct for councillors included recommended changes put forward by the Division of Local Government after wide consultation across the state and taken on board by many councils.
Councils were also allowed to enhance their own code at their discretion.
Cr Longland said a previous motion included a provision for mandatory drug and alcohol testing for council staff and councillors, along with a condition on public comment by council officials.
The mayor said those were removed as they were unnecessary.
He said there were already protocols in place for dealing with such issues as drinking on council premises, and that an enhancement to the code to deal with the issue was not required.
During debate at council’s meeting last week, Cr Carolyn Byrne said she was ‘offended’ at the removal of the mandatory drug and alcohol testing provision she had previously moved to include.
Cr Byrne said councillors should approach their work ‘with a clear and open mind’ and not affected by drugs or alcohol.
‘I would be the first to put up my hand for drug and alcohol testing,’ she said.
Cr Byrne said councillors should be subjected to the testing ‘like any other employees’.
The vote for the new code of conduct was 6-1 (Cr Byrne against).