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Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Council accountability

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There’s been a lot of debate over whether Rose Wanchap betrayed the people who voted for her – and indeed whether she misrepresented herself when she nominated for election. Most of the commentary has centred around how she voted on particular developments, but that certainly isn’t the only criterion for evaluating performance. What about transparency and accountability? Here Simon Richardson has far more to answer for than Rose, given it’s his second term.

Take the recent vote in favour of Cr Hunter’s Myocum development. There were no public submissions in favour and quite a few against. The proposed land use was intrusive and inconsistent with surrounding land-use patterns and the assessment process was a joke. The conservatives dutifully trotted out a number of rather embarrassing arguments in favour of their mate, but Richardson and Wanchap raised their hands in favour without uttering a single word.

Simon’s most notorious act of betrayal was getting rid of Public Questions, thereby saving his buddies on the staff the discomfort of being grilled by me and potentially others concerned by staff antics. Rose has been compared to Tom Wilson, but I point out to Simon that it was Tom Wilson who introduced Public Questions, as well as the right to ask general questions on matters not on the Council agenda. That’s right; I’m comparing Simon unfavourably with Tom Wilson!

More recently the GM Ken Gainger has quietly given transparency and accountability a further kick in the guts. The agenda used to contain quarterly updates on court cases in which Council is involved and also quarterly updates on compliance cases Council is pursuing. Ken has unilaterally voted for confidentiality in relation to both areas and deleted them from the agenda, opting instead to merely send memos to councillors. As I was the only member of the public who ever addressed these matters in Council and challenged what Council was up to I have little doubt that the measure was largely aimed at me.

I don’t know whether Ken had the legal power to make these changes without a Council resolution, but certainly he would be aware that none of the councillors will in any way challenge him. Indeed the Man of Destiny is probably grateful that Council meetings are that much shorter; he seems to have less and less time and patience to expend on what we thought we elected him for. Presumably his activities behind the scenes are far more important to him.

Fast Buck$, Coorabell



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