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Byron Shire
April 18, 2021

Byron GM responds to his critics

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In a story labelled ‘Steam weeding trial steamrolled, says operator’ (first published in Byron Shire Echo), you state that I had refused to explain why a chemical-free steam-weeding trial – operated by a contractor – is not being given the opportunity to produce the best outcomes.

This article is misleading on a number of levels. Firstly, I did not receive a request from The Echo. A request was made to Council’s communications officer who directed the request to the infrastructure director, the senior staff member responsible. Secondly, the steam-weeding trial was adopted by the council after Council’s budget had been adopted and the budget did not include any funding for the trial, so staff had to cobble a trial together utilising scarce resources – it was this factor which significantly limited Council’s ability to fund the ‘extra’ work requested by a local contractor.

Thirdly, the article expresses bewilderment that Council would seek to embed chemical-free weed control into its programs and train staff in steam weeding. Surely the recognition that environmentally friendly weed control is to be embedded by Council is a matter for celebration – not bewilderment.

In Letters of December 16 John Anderson alias ‘Fast Buck$’ waxes lyrical about how I have single handedly ‘removed nearly all mention of legal matters from the agenda’. I ‘the GM alone’ am also charged with removing public question time from the public access sessions that precede Council meetings. These allegations have been consistently plied by Mr A in a series of letters to The Echo. It seems the old adage ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story’ rings true.

While one could become a little light-headed at the exalted rank bestowed upon me, in fact both matters were determined following workshop discussions by councillors where Council was seeking to streamline Council meetings and adopt a new meeting procedure.

Question time was deleted from a new draft meeting procedure that was duly exhibited publicly for 28 days then resolved in open Council. The council also decided that in the less litigious environment that now prevails in Council it was no longer necessary to publicly report such matters at Council meetings. Instead staff were asked to prepare regular memorandums summarising the status of current legal issues for the information of councillors.

Council reports these legal matters in its annual report and non-confidential legal information is discoverable through the normal GIPA/FOI channels.

Ken Gainger, GM, Byron Shire Council

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