Richmond Valley Council last night voted to quit NOROC (the Northern NSW Region of Councils grouping) within 12 months, following the lead taken by its southern neighbour Clarence Valley Council last month.
But a last-minute amendment put by Cr Daniel Simpson to Cr Ernie Bennett’s mayoral minute requires the matter to come back to Council before any final decision is made to actually leave the organisation.
The amended motion was passed with councillors Sullivan, Hayes, Morrisey and Bennett voting in support.
The use of a mayoral minute means that a motion does not have to be circulated or publicised ahead of the meeting.
A prominent Richmond Valley Council watcher, Dr Richard Gates, used public access to demand why Mayor Bennett seemed focused on following Clarence Valley mayor and National Party colleague Richie Williamson out of the local organisation.
He also wanted to know why ‘substantial slabs’ of the council’s report justifying the decision appeared to be directly lifted from the Clarence Valley Council’s position paper prepared on the subject prior to its voting on the matter.
‘Naturally you would expect there to be some similarity but there is too much of a similarity here for the reports to be independent of each other,’ he told the meeting.
‘Both draw the same conclusion: 12 months notice of intention to cease being a member of NOROC. It is quite remarkable that two adjacent councils produce very similar reports with many of the words and subheadings being identical yet the Richmond Valley Council report fails to mention that it has used much of the material from the Clarence report,’ he added.
Dr Gates then went on to question why Council would want to leave the organisation.
‘[Possible reasons] include easy access to the Port of Yamba, owned by the Sydney Ports Corporation, which according to some material I have read is being prepared for sale to foreign interests associated with the mining industry.’
He also speculated that the council may be looking to join together with other pro-CSG councils in an alternative grouping or amalgamated entity.
‘Perhaps Council sees a useful alliance here for export of CSG and other products should mining proceed following the federal election later this year; after all Metgasco is only on hold.
‘The short timetable being given to a community strategic plan and other plans in this business paper is worrying as it will give little time to the community to obtain information and formulate its own views.
‘Where is the strategic thinking and analysis and adherence to Council’s charter in the material we have before us today?’