A Tweed Shire councillor says Murwillumbah’s business chamber should not be rewarded with $5,500 in sponsorship for its annual gala awards event because of the leading role it took recently in criticising council and calling for the mayor’s sacking.
Murwillumbah District Business Chamber president Toni Zuschke was prominent among those at public events calling for mayor Barry Longland to step down after a majority of councillors voted to sack former general manager David Keenan, a move which was later vindicated by the state government.
Cr Gary Bagnall said that after copping all the criticism from the chamber over the GM’s sacking, the business chamber was ‘now coming to us with their hand out for money’.
Cr Bagnall and Cr Katie Milne opposed giving the $5,500 in sponsorship to the chamber for its business awards night on October 12, saying it was a bad move.
They said it was businesses doing it tough that should be supported by the shire and chamber, rather than those doing well.
Acting general manager Troy Green had recommended that council become a ‘silver’ sponsor for the awards involving $1,100 sponsorship, but Crs Warren Polglase and Phil Youngblutt moved for the $5,500 ‘platinum’ sponsorship instead, and for council to allow the Tweed Heads Civic Centre fee be waived for the gala cocktail and presentation night
Mr Green said that council’s support of the awards was good for council’s public relations.
But Cr Bagnall said ‘it’s not council that needs good public relations development, but the business chamber, in light of their outbursts at the rally (over the sacking of the former GM) and criticism of council over it’.
‘Taking this money out of our budget for economic development is a bad move, we have limited funding and that funding is supposed to help the whole of the Tweed by boosting new business and economic development, I feel that it’s just robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ he said.
Cr Bagnall said he would have supported the lower $1,100 amount for sponsorship but felt the higher amount was over the top.
‘We shouldn’t be rewarding those businesses doing well, many in this town are struggling and closing down.’
But Cr Youngblutt, a former president of the business chamber, said there was ‘no point helping those unable to continue, there’s very little we can do.
‘You must try and promote the area overall, I think it’s money well spent,’ he said.
Cr Milne said it was not the best use of the limited funds which had been set aside last year for economic development, but were now being ‘frittered away’.
‘We don’t need to attach a financial amount to our support, the chamber already has $55,000 in sponsorship.’
She also said it was not council policy to allow free use of the centre at Tweed Heads under which community groups had to pay 50 per cent of the fee and council should stick to that, as sponsorship support ‘should be enough’.
Cr Milne also proposed council set up its own awards with a focus on cultural and sustainable economic development, which was ‘not identified in these awards’.
A motion by Crs Milne and Bagnall to support $1,100 in sponsorship on condition that it ‘relates to contributions towards ecological sustainability, cultural development and community benefit’ was lost 2-5, while the higher amount move by Crs Polglase and Youngblutt was approved along the same voting pattern 5-2.