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Byron Shire
April 20, 2024

Dear meeting diary…

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Rejoice, fair burghers of the Shire, for a teensy weensy bit more accountability has shot forth from the top end of Mullumbimby.

The top end, of course, is where Council offices are located. They are the Shire’s largest employer, and their operations affect many aspects to our leisurely existence. 

Both General Manager (GM) Mark Arnold, and Mayor Michael Lyon have published a summary of their public meeting diaries, from January 1, 2023 to March 31, 2023, on Council’s website.

These published public diary entries are similar to the state government’s MP diaries (available at www.dpc.nsw.gov.au). 

This was done after ICAC scandals and the like. Developers had well and truly embedded themselves into MP office furniture, and it wasn’t a good look.   

Anyway, these local government diaries are a little peek into how both the mayor and GM spend their time, and which community members have their ear. 

Yet, as pointed out on page 5, it’s all a bit of whitewash, given anyone can call the mayor on his publicly available phone number, and thus not recorded. 

Also, if you are going to censor the names of individuals in the diary, as the mayor has chosen to do, there really isn’t much point in the exercise. 

Nonetheless, any improvement in the way Council conducts its communication that provides a little more transparency for the public should be welcomed. 

This is because there are many, many examples where the mayor has not informed the public. His wonderful ‘affordable housing’ plans are one example.

Moving right along…

Moving on – at last Thursday’s Council meeting, Cr Duncan Dey asked the mayor for written delegate reports on his meetings with the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation (NRJO), the peak body representing north coast councils. 

When pressed as to why he had not provided them, the mayor became audibly agitated and replied he ‘didn’t appreciate the framing of the question’. 

He replied with meaningless motherhood transparency statements and that he has ‘made reports on a couple of occasions’.

Given the mayor has an executive assistant, who could assist in such tasks, The Echo asked, ‘Will you, in future, provide council with written delegate reports?’

He replied, ‘I regularly meet with community members to discuss all manner of things, from compliance concerns, issues with DAs, town planning, community and sports groups, grant funding requests, letters of support, committee business, in my role as a Rous councillor etc. I do not intend detailing every meeting or recording the content for this purpose’.

‘Written delegate reports have not been done by any Councillor in my time on Council, other than perhaps a couple of times recently by Cr Dey. For pertinent matters, I will normally talk to or email councillors relevant content as and when appropriate. If there is a public interest item coming from any of the meetings I attend, such as NRJO, then I make a verbal delegate report to a subsequent meeting of Council. The minutes of all meetings such as NRJO, Rous, LGNSW, ALGA etc. are publicly available’.

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