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Byron Shire
October 20, 2021

Editorial: Shielded in secrecy

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One piece of good news for the embattled Greens councillors is that a $230,000 ratepayer-funded Multi-Use Rail Corridor Study has been completed, which indicates the condition of the Shire’s railways aren’t as bad as previously thought.

While the public will soon get to see that expensive report, it was cloaked in confidentiality at last Thursday’s meeting.

Like almost everything Council does around confidentiality, it is largely unnecessary and diminishes public trust.

Confidentiality in any staff report should only be afforded to tender costings and perhaps the names of those who make public submissions on DAs. That’s about it.

It was brought up as an election issue then promptly forgotten as the Greens were willingly swallowed inside the belly of bureaucracy.

Another issue around secrecy tabled at Thursday’s meeting was a remarkable claim by John Anderson, aka Fast Buck$, over staff recommending a construction company to undertake Jonson Street protection works in Byron. It’s essentially a job of throwing more rocks along the foreshore at Main Beach.

A late confidential supplementary 4-page staff report recommends a construction company as their preferred tender, yet staff then claim that tender couldn’t be accepted, because selecting a late tender breaches the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 clause 173(2)(b) and 177(2) 40 and (3).

So why, John Anderson asked, would staff try to openly break the law? No councillor at the meeting appeared that interested.

Council’s legal counsel Ralph James helpfully replied to that question later, and told The Echo that the confidential staff report advises the company submitted their proposal 15 minutes past closing time, and that the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 ‘also provides that if a council resolves to enter into negotiations, the resolution must state the following:

‘(a) the council’s reasons for declining to invite fresh tenders, and, (b) the council’s reasons for determining to enter into negotiations.’

‘In recommending as they did,’ he said, ‘staff did not invite any breach of the law’.

Fair enough – we have now learned more about how bureaucrats bend rules to get things done while making a mockery of process.

Yet there were no reasonable grounds for secrecy on this matter. If we are to avoid more costly public-relations exercises that attempt to paint councillors in a better light, this is just one aspect that could be improved.

Unfortunately the Greens councillors appear well past the bureaucratic belly and are heading for the large intestine.

There are only 435 days to go until the September 12, 2020, Council election!

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