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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

Lismore Council’s omnishambles July meeting

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During Lismore’s election, the shire was plastered with the slogan ‘We are the change’. No one expected what that might actually mean. Photo Facebook.

Steve Krieg’s campaign slogan was We are the change, but many in the Lismore community are wondering what the ‘change’ actually means. People are at a loss to know what is happening in council – are they not getting what they bargained for?

Apart from the confusion of protocol and crisscrossing private agendas, what the public witnessed last night, from their elected officials in the chamber, was downright scary.

During the much-inflamed debate at the July meeting, the process or the apparent lack thereof wound around itself so many times that everyone lost track.

Is the motion urgent enough?

Cr Adam Guise.

The meeting had not long begun when Cr Adam Guise said that he had an urgency motion. Anyone who used social media yesterday knew what the motion was about, but certain councillors seemed determined not to have the subject of the motion on public record.

Cr Guise’s motion was in part prompted by Sunday evening’s Four Corners program Washed Away: The planning failures deepening Australia’s flood crisis on the ABC.

Viewers of the show would have heard Lismore City Mayor Steve Krieg say he understood the frustration and the anger of Lismore residents after the floods. ‘I feel it myself. I’m living through it myself. I don’t have answers for it. I can’t make things go faster than what they already are.’

But it was Cr Krieg’s next comments that set Cr Guise’s motion in motion. In regards to the recovery process, the mayor said council wasn’t up to the job.

‘We cannot do it. We need the state and the federal government to help us. This is a very personal opinion, this is not a council statement, but really you can’t do the work that needs to be done in Lismore through the council.

The Four Corners bombshell

On Four Corners: ‘You actually need an autocratic approach and if you want me to be totally honest, and I hope you probably will put this to air, but you actually need to sack the council to make this happen.’ Image ABC.

Then the bombshell: ‘You actually need an autocratic approach and if you want me to be totally honest, and I hope you probably will put this to air, but you actually need to sack the council to make this happen.’

Many commenters say they were shocked by Cr Krieg’s point of view. Cr Guise wanted to put up an urgency motion that: Based on the Mayor’s comments on 4 Corners calling for an autocratic regime and that the democratically elected Council be sacked, that Council expresses no confidence in the Mayor and calls on the Mayor to resign.

Then the fun began…

Lismore City’s Councillors, mostly made up of Team Krieg – in the back row: Peter Colby, Big Rob, Andrew Bing, Vanessa Ekins, Andrew Gordon and Adam Guise, and in the front row: Elly Bird, Jeri Hall, Mayor Steve Krieg, Cr Electra Jensen and Darlene Cook. Photo Lismore City Council.

Cr Guise asked for the motion to be posted on the screen in the room for all councillors to read. ‘May I have an urgency motion which I just circulated and I asked about to be put up on the screen and I will speak to its urgency?’

The motion appeared.

The mayor said council needed to vote on whether they considered it urgent.

Cr Guise said he was entitled to an opportunity to speak to it and then a ruling could be made.

‘It’s not up to me,’ said the mayor. ‘Sorry, Cr Guise, it’s up to the forum to make a ruling – to vote on whether it’s urgent or not. So we need to first consider the matter – is the ruling. So all those in favour of…’

Cr Guise raised a point of order. ‘Mr Mayor, I have moved the motion – I’m given the opportunity to speak to the motion, and then you can vote as to whether you’ll consider the business, or not, but I do get to speak to the motion which I have moved.’

Cr Krieg said that was not the advice that council had been given and then both he and John Walker looked to their right for support from Governance Officer Christine Cotterill and two members of the Office of Local Government who were ‘observing’ proceedings.

Then, another pause while Mr Walker rose and spoke to Governance Officer Christine Cotterill and the two members of the Office of Local Government.

Confusion reigned in the chambers

The next ten minutes were spent ‘debating’ about whether Cr Guise had the right to outline his motion before council voted on its merit as urgent.

Arguments included several points of order and comments from Cr Gordon who was absolutely passionate that the motion not appear on the screen. At one point Cr Krieg rose to speak about Sunday night on the ABC. ‘As everybody here is no doubt aware, a comment was on last night’s Four Corners program…’ This was not what they were debating but rather Cr Guise’s right to speak to the motion.

Not for the first, or last time during the meeting, Ms Cotterill threw her hat into the ring. ‘What’s happened in the past has not necessarily been in line with the Code of Meeting Practice.’

She then went on to outline the protocol.

Cr Guise was finally allowed to speak to the motion. ‘Thank you, Mr Mayor. I will speak to this urgency motion and I thank you for making a ruling for us to exercise our democratic right in this chamber.

Steve Krieg on Four Corners. He has told media that he was interviewed for 90 minutes. Image ABC.

A heavy heart

‘It is with a heavy heart that I bring this urgency motion and I bring it off the back of Four Corners where you [Steve Krieg] made some rather shocking and untoward statements, that quite frankly myself and the community are affronted by.

‘On this Four Corners episode in response to the flood crisis, the rebuild crisis and recovery crisis were in, you said, that we should all be sacked, the council should be sacked and that we need to appoint an autocratic regime to deal with the current crisis we’re in.

‘Well, I find that totally untoward and totally against your role and our role as representatives and councillors speaking on behalf of our community, hence why I’m bringing this motion tonight, to recognise that you cannot continue to perform your leadership and your mayoral duties by being the figurehead and the leader for our council, if all you want to do is give away your leadership to an autocratic leader and have us sacked.

‘That goes completely against our role as councillors, it goes completely against you being elected on the platform of “be the change”, and it flies in the face of the crisis our community faces in their time of need.’

A benevolent dictator

Cr Guise continued, ‘I’ve come to this point, because in the past on 60 Minutes, you said we need a benevolent dictator – here it is – a reference to a single unilateral person that’s not us, not the elected councillors not the governing body that’s meant to represent our community.

‘It calls for leadership, but I ask Mr Mayor, have you looked in the mirror? You are our elected leader, you’re meant to be leading us out of this crisis.

‘You’ve said in response to these floods that we need sunshine, that we need hugs, that we need cardboard, that we need to mow our lawns – but you haven’t called for buybacks, for land swaps for government support that pays back the rates of flooding impacted properties.

‘You’ve squibbed that leadership role. You’ve given it away and you’ve said someone else needs to do it. We are asking you, Mr Mayor, to honour your commitment tonight, and other councillors honour your commitment tonight, and step down from your roles if you’re not prepared to lead.’

Krieg and his ‘We are the change’ supporters on election day. Photo Facebook.

A loss of democracy and community voice

Cr Guise said that if we go down the path of administration, the path of an autocrat or a dictator, that means a loss of democracy and a loss of voice for this community. ‘It is a backward step. It would turn our backs on our community that cares so much and has fought so hard to get us to where we are now. And it would betray the trust that voters put in you and your councillors, to lead us through this mess.

‘And it’s urgent, Mr Mayor, because we can’t have a mayor going around throwing councillors under a bus and calling for our sacking. It causes division. It doesn’t get on with the job of the things that you’re elected for – roads rates and rubbish, getting our council financially back on track. It does a disservice to our community and it leaves real leadership begging when we’ve got so many good people in this council who have led us before who can lead us now and are up for the job.

‘So please resign and let someone do the job.’

The Mayor said he appreciated Cr Guise’s passion. ‘Very good Councillor.’

Cr Cook asked if it was appropriate for the mayor to consider whether it is urgent to have a motion of no confidence in himself.

Appropriate for the mayor to vote about himself?

Before Cr Krieg had a chance to put it to the vote, Cr Darlene Cook raised a point of order asking if it was appropriate for the mayor to consider whether it is urgent to have a motion of no confidence in himself.

Ms Cotterill said there was no conflict because this is the mayor’s public office. ‘You’re the chairperson. You have that right.’

Before the vote began, Cr Andrew Gordon also had his say. ‘Please! Mr Mayor. We’re going over this again. The motion that was put first was to be considered an emergency motion. We then allowed the motion to continue to be presented as it is in front of him. I’m sorry, I’m just distracted by this and I’m finding it very difficult to speak, but it’s done.

Blah, blah, blaaaah

‘We’ve now reached the point where we need to vote on the motion that’s put before us. Whether the motion is urgent? We’re way past that point. We’ve now got to this point, so we’re now voting on, basically the Mayor’s comments. Blah, blah, blaaaah,’ said Cr Gordon.

Skipping a few points in procedure, council then voted on the motion, not on whether it was urgent or not.

In a not unexpected outcome, (on the motion, not the urgency) the mayor asked who was in favour of supporting the no-confidence motion. ‘Councillors, Ekins, Cook, Rob and Guise. All those against the motion? We’ve got Councillors Gordon, Colby, Hall, Jensen, Bing and Krieg – so that motion is defeated.’

A lone voice yelled from the gallery: ‘It was supposed to vote on whether it was urgent, not the motion.

‘They’ve got it wrong.’

If you want to relive the fun for yourself, the video is available on the Lismore Council Facebook page.

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  1. Wonderful reporting David Lowe of events to demonstrate that the urgency issue was not even addressed, albeit despite the Mayors public comments on National TV and the many realistic and current public interest concerns as raised for the community and the council by Cr.Guise’s motion.

  2. The current council is a bigger disaster for Lismore than were the floods of February and March. More than half the current mob is a bunch of clowns with NO effing idea! And between Krieg and the GM, who’s pulling whose strings, mewonders? There’s a fishy aroma about that pair.

  3. Pandemonium upon us. Adam nailed it down – good on you, Adam. Those who not long ago denied that ‘man-made’ climate change was happening, and railed for more fracked gas, now throw up their hands and can’t offer solutions because there are no ideal ones: only very expensive ones or bandaids. We’ve left it too late.
    What a bunch of miserable ‘leaders’ in LCC. Good for wrecking the planet and filling their pockets and egos, nothing else. Just like the federal governments of the last 10 years.

  4. The meeting was mind bogglingly chaotic. So obvious the Mayor was trying to gag the motion. The rest of the meeting wasnt much better. Excruciating to watch.

    From the Cambridge dictionary
    AUTOCRATIC – demanding that people obey completely, without asking or caring about anyone else’s opinions:
    : related words and phrases
    dictators, authoritarian, autocrat, big beast, Big Brother, despot, establishment, figurehead, grey eminence, heavy hitter, idiom, kleptocrat, Manchurian candidate, plutocrat, potentate, power broker, puissance, puissant, tinpot, tyrant, voiceless warlord, éminence grise.

    Nice one voters…

    • Kay – I see where you are coming from, but in a dire emergency such as this nomination of an overall commander is often the best solution. History has many successful examples.
      The present LCC brouhaha instigated by the Greens is a very good example of why the Greens are presently in minority – all the others were voted out by us ratepayers.
      This meeting is a fine example of the creation more rate-payer frustration due to real-world experience being thwarted by dreamers & schemers.
      So please – no more grandstanding, futile points of order, filibustering, pretty rivalries and vindictiveness.
      But if this childishness continues, we may indeed get an Administrator appointed – as overall commander !

  6. Anybody who has had dealings with the Lismore City Council, or even bothered to take note of it’s bizarre deliberations, is totally aware of it’s breath-taking incompetence , cronyism and total inability to responsibly deal with financial matters. It is in the process of gifting a large holding of flood-free real-estate, on a ‘feel good’ whim and “democracy ” has never been a concern.
    The Mayor is totally correct, council is incapable of dealing with the mundane, ‘roads , rates and rubbish ‘ or even following protocol in it’s meetings. You would have to be insane to believe them able to deal with existential treats and the massive task of dealing with, what is essentially, their historical shortcomings, in order to put Lismore on a sustainable footing.
    Cheers, G”)

  7. Significant really… for the Northern Rivers Community. Well reported, thank you💚 And well presented Adam Guise.

  8. When did The Echo put Adam Guise on their payroll. Your reporting is becoming so biased in his favour it is embarrassing, lacks objectivity and smacks of election campaigning

  9. Andrew Gordon and Paul Deegan were the red lights for me that this team is no good. I have a gut feeling Deborah Benhayon is helping captain this ship. It seems Universal Medicine own Lismore city council 🤬🤬🤬

  10. I can see exactly where mayor kreig was coming from when you look at moronic village idiots like Guise an absolute disgrace to LCC

    • +1 Phil,
      This is not a case of “If you want to relive the fun for yourself” -type case.
      It is deadly serious sabotage of our Council by Cr Giuse et al.

  11. Lismore don’t have the culture to effectively manage infrastructure. The roads, water and sewage etc should be taken off Lismore and managed by professional body. The Council can deal with the remaining issues. Lismore is way beyond the embarrassing pathetic joke it has been for the last 20 years and is now and just a sad and expensive spectacle. And Lismore have no one but themselves to blame for the disaster they have become.

    Lismore’s incompetence also takes the heat off other Councils, e.g. Rous – the water and Flood Mitigation authority. Their attempt at water supply was so pathetic the CSIRO were drafted in to do their job for them, yet Rous are apparently bumbling ahead with the Alstonville bores scheme which will be a waste of $50-60million. As for Rous’s role in Flood Mitigation, they should be sacked from that role immediately for obvious reasons.

  12. The current council was inept from it’s very first meeting.
    The transcripts of that meeting are very disturbing also.
    Approving controversial DA’s whilst the waters were rising,re Skimmos Corner?

    Total incompetency from “Team Krieg”.
    Resign now!

  13. This Mayor’s response to the disaster of the floods constrasts sharply with that of the Mayor (Smith) in 2017. Apart from the problem the current Mayor has with the intracies of mmeting procedure, evident from the very first meeting he tried to chair, he simply has been ‘done in’ by the job.
    For his own health, he should resign( along with a couple of his clueless lackeys).
    He is correct to say the council needs help from both state and federal governments but he is the one who has to do the advocacy and negotiation. Janelle Saffin has been doing her best ( a mighty job), but the Council( elected just a short time ago) needs to advocate on our behalf.


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