If the mediation procedure recommended by Tweed Shire Council staff is supported at this July meeting, Council will have a mediation process for community members up and running as soon as staff get trained up.
This follows a motion I proposed at the March Council meeting for a mediation process, which was supported by councillors 4–3 in favour with Crs Byrne, Polglase and Youngblutt against.
There are a multitude of issues that come to Council that cause incredible stress and expense to both parties. Councillors are not trained in conflict resolution and all too often politics or personalities get in the way. Councillors are also restricted from involvement in operational matters, so the community can often be left with little if any recourse on Council decisions.
It was obvious that mediation is a process that was missing from Council, especially after I had experienced first hand the wasted time and harm to my reputation over the Chinderah subpoena fiasco.
It took six years and a court ruling for Council to understand they were in the wrong in my case. It was never about the money. Council were charging people inappropriately for subpoenas.
The Local Court upheld my defence that Council’s claim could only be determined by the court where the subpoena was issued as it must be judged appropriately in the context of the relevant case. Costs cannot be arbitrarily increased by either Council or the Local Court after a costs ruling has already been made.
I would have failed the community if I had relented and paid under the political and media pressure, and would have become complicit in allowing this unlawful charge to be imposed on future residents.
I hope this mediation process goes some way to help Council and community members if there are issues they are struggling to resolve and that we can move towards a more conciliatory approach.
Tweed councillor Katie Milne