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Byron Shire
February 5, 2023

Good planning charter an exercise in self-delusion

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The mayor at last week’s Byron Shire Council meeting put forward a Charter for Good Planning for council to endorse. This well-intentioned feelgood document was designed by a number of community groups but is so vague that Eddie Obeid would have happily signed it.

I note that one of the objectives stated in the document is to achieve an ‘open, accessible, transparent’ and ‘corruption-free planning system’. The mayor in his summary of the document however leaves out the phrase ‘corruption-free’, Byron Council in his mind evidently being so straight that the idea of favouritism, arm-twisting or misdirection is too ridiculous to even consider. Staff reports that don’t tell the whole story? Support for a bypass without a cost-benefit analysis? Sportsgrounds that should have cost a third of what they did? Annual accounts seriously challenged by the Department of Local Government? Nah; that’s just Fast Buck$ and his conspiracy theories. Just smile and all is well, eh, Simon.

Every single councillor has repressed the fact that in terms of transparency and accountability this council has gone backwards. The abolition of Public Questions – which I’m still trying to get over, a year down the track – is the most obvious retrograde step. Public Questions were introduced locally by Tom Wilson after I made him aware that Max Eastcott had it on the agenda in Margaret River. Yes, I’m comparing Simon Richardson unfavourably with Wilson and Eastcott, in this respect at least.

The ability to ask questions of councillors or Council staff is essential to democracy, improved performance, probity, public awareness, good planning, etc.

This is especially true, Simon, where the questions might embarrass or humiliate the person at whom they are directed; that is the whole purpose, you chump. The day you abolished Public Questions was the day the senior staff and the Ross Tucker end of politics had quiet celebrations and laughter all round. Yes, of course they smile at you, Simon; it’s because you’re so harmless, so gullible.

The other very serious retrograde step is that the GM has removed nearly all mention of legal matters from the agenda. Up till about a year ago there was always either the legal services committee to consider cases as they progressed through the courts, or there were fairly comprehensive three-monthly reports published in the agenda for Council deliberation.

Now it is the GM alone who makes the decisions. If anything this particular regression is more serious than the Public Questions issue because of the potential for compliance matters to become heavy-handed and political once more and because of the potential for out-of-court settlements and cost agreements to become selective and inconsistent.

I’ve asked the GM to explain the legislative basis of his unilateral decision to so drastically change the agenda but he seems to have ignored me. None of the councillors would have a clue as to how and why, either – nor would they care; less work for them.

Under the circumstances Simon’s move to subscribe to the Charter for Good Planning is an exercise in self-delusion; indeed it is quite offensive.

Fast Buck$, Coorabell


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