The last Lismore City Council meeting was a pretty short one, by Lismore standards, but they still managed to argue about quite a few issues, and agree on a few more.
After members of the public made depositions, there was a minute’s silence to remember Queen Elizabeth II, who famously visited Lismore in 1954.
A debate followed about increasing Lismore’s Council’s green investments and use of renewable power. Despite some passionate words from Cr Adam Guise, this motion went down.
Digging into the quarry
The next motion was also from Cr Guise, requesting a briefing to councillors regarding Blakebrook Quarry, including any proposals to sell or lease the quarry.
A number of neighbours told the meeting that their issues with the quarry, including noise and damage to houses, were increasingly going unaddressed.
Cr Guise described Blakebrook Quarry as ‘a bit of a black box’ in terms of discovering details about the quarry’s operation and financials.
He also articulated a concern about the quarry being privatised, given its importance in providing materials for Lismore’s roads and flood recovery. ‘We need this important asset going forward,’ he said.
Cr Elly Bird supported the motion. Cr Big Rob said it was important to make the quarry profitable again, for the ratepayers of Lismore.
In response, Cr Guise said he had been calling for a ‘robust business plan’ for the quarry for years. He reminded councillors of the substantial public interest associated with the quarry, but his motion was then defeated, only finding the support of Crs Bird, Cook and Guise (Cr Vanessa Ekins was not in attendance).
Cr Guise had more luck with his next motion, for a post-flood recovery roundtable, which finally passed, after being opposed by Crs Gordon and Jensen.
Cr Elly Bird’s motion to advance the Magpie Centre, for the community and youth of Goonellabah, cleared another hurdle, supported by a passionate speech from Bradley Walker.
A motion for a new public phone and pop-up library for Lismore also passed, despite the opposition of Cr Big Rob, who also failed to find a seconder for his plan to disband the Koala Implementation Group.
Cycleways live to fight another day
Cr Rob managed to find a seconder (in Cr Gordon) for another motion, to abandon the Lismore Cycleways Plan, but that was as far as that idea got, getting only one more vote from the enigmatic Cr Bing.
Cr Rob’s next motion, to establish a Disaster Management Committee, found no seconder. He pushed on with a series of questions with notice to the General Manager, John Walker, who batted most of them away.
Cr Guise and Cr Rob found common cause in objections to the minutes of previous meetings on factual grounds, but were over-ruled by other councillors.
With Deputy Mayor Peter Colby’s position up for grabs early (due to the odd timing of the last election), only Crs Elly Bird and Cr Jeri Hall contested the position.
Cr Hall was then elected the new deputy mayor of Lismore City Council by her fellow supporters from Team Krieg, despite the fact that she rarely speaks at meetings, or contributes motions.
Cr Rob was then on his feet again, introducing an urgency motion about impacts on local businesses from Lismore Council.
In another stoush with the GM about procedure, he told Mr Walker, ‘I have a few law degrees and you don’t’, but it was all to no avail, with most councillors refusing to agree there was anything urgent about the motion.
The price of waste
Late in the meeting, there was an alarming debate about potential flood waste disposal costs for Lismore ratepayers, if council were to take over the contract for this waste disposal from NSW Public Works Advisory (PWA).
A report prepared for Lismore Council said, ‘Current spend on these activities fluctuates from week to week but is currently varying between $150,000 per week to $300,000 per week.
‘It is unclear how long these services will be required, but a minimum of six months is anticipated. As such, expenditure of this nature would trigger the need for a tender on Council’s part.’
In response to a question from Cr Darlene Cook, GM John Walker said, ‘I do not favour taking over the contract and we are doing everything we can to not do so… it’s a significant sum of money. It’s potentially a million dollars a month.’
Mr Walker said negotiations with the NSW PWA were continuing.
Cr Adam Guise said the GM’s words were ‘slightly comforting’, but there had to be checks and balances if Lismore ended up footing the bill. ‘This can’t be a blank check to keep paying these operators to be carting waste to a hole in Queensland…
‘We are setting ourselves up for a budget black hole if we sign off on this motion, so I can’t support it.’
In the end, the staff suggestion to maintain existing contractual relationships for flood waste disposal (and possibly transfer management of these services to Lismore Council) was approved by majority vote.
Late in the meeting, Cr Big Rob was formally censured for multiple code of conduct breaches relating to harassment and bullying.