Local government minister Wendy Tuckerman has refused to guarantee Lismore City Council ratepayers their council won’t be sacked under her government or the next, should the coalition retain power.
Mrs Tuckerman was on the Northern Rivers last week, announcing a $50,000 grant towards the Ballina Shire Council’s Coastal Management Plan [CMP] for Shaws Bay.
The Echo asked whether she agreed with Lismore City Mayor Steve Krieg’s recent remark on ABC’s Four Corners that he thought the council should be sacked.
Councilor Krieg was speaking largely in response to the local government’s ability or otherwise to manage since February and March’s devastating floods but the comment was seen by many as an act of betrayal.
‘No, obviously under the Local Government Act there’s certain provisions in that act to look at Council and how they’re working and how effective they are,’ Mrs Tuckerman said, ‘and I’ll continue to work with Council if there are any issues that arise’.
‘I appreciate the mayor has come in at a difficult time,’ Mrs Tuckerman said, ‘I mean, he’s first-time mayor, and certainly put in a position where he is under enormous pressure, not only personally but also trying to help a community that’s been devastated by floods’.
‘So, I appreciate the frustration but we are doing what we can as a state government to work with the council, providing $20 million to assist in their planning, and to ensure that we’ve got a way forward to make sure that they’re sustainable and doing the job that they need to do for the community,’ Mrs Tuckerman said.
The minister was asked if she could assure the people of Lismore they’re not going to lose their council anytime soon, whether in this term of the state government or the next if her government retains power.
‘Look, as I said to you, we’re working with them,’ Mrs Tuckerman said, ‘they have obligations under the Act and we’ll continue to help, to ensure that we’re improving the services that have been delivered and that they’re [a] sustainable council going forward’.
Tuckerman promises to advocate for council planning consideration
The local government minister also said she supported councils more generally across the Northern Rivers raising concerns about the state’s planning department.
Mrs Tuckerman said she continued to advocate for the right of local governments to at least be involved in planning decisions.
‘I see my role as the Minister for Local Government to continue to advocate for local councils,’ Mrs Tuckerman said, ‘and certainly planning is a big part of what local councils do’.
Mrs Tuckerman said it was ‘important’ the government ‘always work with councils, considering their opinions and thoughts on different projects or strategic plans’.
‘It’s important that I, as a minister continue to advocate on their behalf and I continue to do so,’ Mrs Tuckerman said.
No regrets from Tuckerman on government’s disaster response
‘Well, I think it’s been a challenge, there’s no doubt about that,’ Mrs Tuckerman said when asked to respond to accusations the government didn’t do enough soon enough in response to flood and landslide disasters earlier this year.
‘This has been an extreme challenge for everyone in the community,’ the minister said.
Mrs Tuckerman said as local government minister she’d worked with local councils ‘to ensure that they’re getting the support that’s needed’.
The coalition has a precarious hold on power under current numbers and the visiting MP said she was ‘looking forward’ to next year’s state election.
She also said she welcomed Premier Dominic Perrottet’s call for a review on grant allocations.
The call comes after a series of Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings highlighting the power of ministers to direct allocations and prompting accusations of pork-barreling.
‘The premier has called for review and those reviews are taking place in regards to the structure of grants going forward,’ Mrs Tuckerman said, ‘and I really welcome that, it’s important that there is transparency and I really thank the premier for his leadership in that role’.
The elected state member for Ballina, The Greens’ Tamara Smith, later told The Echo she wasn’t invited to Mrs Tuckerman’s announcement of the state government grant for the Ballina Shire.