Tweed Shire Council has been left red-faced and out of pocket for around $4,000 after an economic development conference featuring high-powered speakers, including a cabinet minister, which was due to be held this week at an upmarket resort was cancelled.
Council had agreed to underwrite the Economic Development Australia’s (EDA) state conference, which was to be held yesterday and today at Peppers Resort just south of Kingscliff, to the tune of $9,000 but the resort discounted the fee by half after cancellation at the last minute by EDA organisers.
Council as a result recently wrote to the EDA executive expressing disappointment with the way in which the event was managed and advertised.
At the time of going to press, it was not clear why the EDA called the event off.
Staff had to notify keynote speakers including federal cabinet minister Anthony Albanese, the coalition’s Barnaby Joyce and various executives from film and infrastructure companies.
The staging of the event in the Tweed is believed to have been driven by council’s former general manager David Keenan, whose sacking earlier this year sparked a backlash by conservative groups and politicians.
The agreement to underwrite the private event was apparently not decided by councillors.
Mr Keenan had, before his sacking, begun to engage speakers thereby implicitly committing council to help stage the event.
Cr Gary Bagnall told Echonetdaily the cancellation of such a much-lauded event was embarrassing for council having ‘to tell people not to bother coming’.
‘Pulling the pin at the last minute also meant ratepayers have to bear the cost,’ Cr Bagnall said.
He said the failure of the event taking place meant any future similar undertaking to back them should have to be decided by all councillors, including any money to be spent.
The EDA had originally approached council for financial and administrative support earlier this year.
But two months ago, senior staff and some councillors met and decided to go ahead with the event due to time constraints, without presenting a report to council, as some of the keynote speakers had already been booked by the former GM.
Council incurred labour costs as well as the venue cancellation fee for having committed to the event thus far and was to also be involved in marketing and promotion, speaker liaison and day-to-day management of the event.