Coun­cil finds it­self in fur­ther debt

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WHIT­SUN­DAY Re­gional Coun­cil has been slugged with an­other $10.8mil­lion debt due to the find­ings of an in­de­pen­dent re­port into the 2009 Na­tional Dis­as­ter Re­lief Re­cov­ery Ar­range­ments (NDRRA) pro­gram.

As per the multi-mil­lion dol­lar debt in­curred from the NDRRA pro­gram of 2010, the re­port, con­ducted by Mack­ay­based com­pany Aure­con, found 2009 in­cluded out of scope and in­el­i­gi­ble works.

How­ever, Coun­cil­lors Jennifer Whit­ney and Jan Clif­ford were part of a whistle­blow­ing trip to Townsville where con­cerns about the pro- gram spend were raised with the for­mer State Govern­ment.

At last Wed­nes­day’s Coun­cil meet­ing in Bowen it was re­vealed that in 2009, the Crime and Mis­con­duct Com­mis­sion (CMC) found there was “no case to an­swer” and the mat­ter was dis­missed.

Cr Whit­ney said she per­son­ally trav­elled to Bris­bane on Jan­uary 20 and “cat­e­gor­i­cally told the min­is­ter” that Coun­cil could not af­ford this additional debt and did not be­lieve it was war­ranted un­der the cir­cum­stances.

She said Coun­cil was pre­pared to “fight this to the bone”.

Cr Clif­ford agreed say­ing that if the con­cerns had been acted upon at the time, this wouldn’t be hap­pen­ing.

“I also con­tend that had our con­cerns been lis­tened to, then per­haps they would have kept a closer eye on fu­ture works as well [but] all that Cr Whit­ney and I got for our trou­ble was bul­ly­ing, ha­rass­ment, threats and our [lives] made a bloody mis­ery.”

Cr Clif­ford said she was glad this had all now come to light.

“[Be­cause] for all of you that say, well you were there, what did you do? Now you know what we did – we did ev­ery­thing hu­manly pos­si­ble to pull this up on be­half of the ratepay­ers in the re­gion and we were ridiculed and told there is no case to an­swer.”

Cr John Collins also weighed into the de­bate say­ing Coun­cil could not af­ford to “cop an­other hit” that would set the re­gion back a fur­ther 12-18 months.

Cr Whit­ney said quite sim­ply “we have paid our dues with 2010 and we can­not af­ford to pay any­thing with 2009”.

She said Coun­cil would be tak­ing a very strong stance and would “not lie down on this”.

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