PUB­LIC PROTEST

Com­mu­nity ral­lies against pos­si­ble Coun­cil cuts

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

A RECORD num­ber of people turned out to yes­ter­day’s Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil meet­ing in Bowen where a pub­lic protest was held.

More than 700 people protested about the ru­moured clo­sure of Bowen’s Coun­cil of­fices and the as­so­ci­ated job losses this would bring.

Whit­sun­day mayor Jennifer Whit­ney claims the crowd was whipped into a frenzy by Coun­cil­lor Dave Clark who spoke at a Whit­sun­day Re­gional Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing on Mon­day night.

Coun­cil­lors voted yes­ter­day morn­ing to move the meet­ing to the Bowen PCYC due to the size of the crowd.

Po­lice of­fi­cers were on site to mon­i­tor the hos­til­ity, par­tic­u­larly di­rected at the mayor.

Cr Whit­ney, who was booed on her way into the meet­ing, flatly de­nied that any de­ci­sion about the Bowen Coun­cil of­fice had been made.

“I am not clos­ing the Bowen Coun­cil, nor are we sack­ing the staff,” she said.

The man be­hind the “eco­nomic ra­tio­nale” of the po­ten­tial de­ci­sion was Ger­ard Nel­son, from Aus­tralian Workplace Strate­gies, who was pre­vi­ously em­ployed to con­duct Coun­cil’s ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness re­view.

Mr Nel­son ad­dressed the crowd about why cen­tral­is­ing Coun­cil’s op­er­a­tions had come into his re­port in Novem­ber last year.

Mr Nel­son said from a purely eco­nomic per­spec­tive there was no sense in hav­ing Coun­cil cen­tres in Bowen, Proser­pine and Collinsville.

How­ever, he said his re­port made it clear that the clo­sure of the Bowen of­fice was not one of his rec­om­men­da­tions. He said this was ul­ti­mately a de­ci­sion for all of Coun­cil to make and some­thing for the ratepay­ers to choose whether they were happy to sub­sidise.

The crowd erupted at var­i­ous stages of Mr Nel­son’s pre­sen­ta­tion, with calls for a vote of no con­fi­dence, de- amal­ga­ma­tion and the ap­point­ment of an ad­min­is­tra­tor.

Like Cr Whit­ney, Mr Nel­son warned heav­ily against ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Cr Dave Clark moved to re- ject Mr Nel­son’s re­port, which started a lengthy and at times emo­tional de­bate.

Cr Kevin Collins begged him to ta­ble it so that the is­sues at hand could be prop­erly dis­cussed. Even­tu­ally, an amend­ment to ta­ble the re­port was passed. Fur­ther amend­ments were made, stat­ing that Coun­cil would hold a com­pre­hen­sive work­shop to set eq­ui­table staffing di­rec­tions at all its lo­ca­tions.

PUB­LIC SPEAKS: The crowd calls for a vote of no con­fi­dence in the cur­rent Coun­cil and mayor. Photo Sharon Small­wood / Whit­sun­day Times

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