Mayor’s casting vote used to make major decisions
YESTERDAY’S Whitsunday Regional Council meeting was the first since the resignation of Cr Kevin Collins – making the mayor’s casting vote more important than ever.
The meeting was held at the Proserpine Entertainment Centre rather than the Council chambers, to accommodate a 100-strong crowd, consisting of ratepayers and residents from both ends of the shire.
After the last meeting in Bowen, which mayor Jennifer Whitney likened to “almost riot proportions”, Council had several crowd control measures in place.
Security guards were positioned on site and the meeting was restricted to a maximum of 100 members of the public. Cr Whitney was criticised by some for not allowing more people inside a venue with greater capacity but she defended the decision citing security concerns.
“Our concern first and foremost is for the safety of the community coming to these meetings. Obviously for the community’s safety as well as our own, we need to make sure that people conduct themselves in an appropriate manner... [and] having people crammed in like sardines and yelling and carrying on is not conducive to good governance in our region,” she said.
Cr Whitney said she realised a deepening divide appeared to be developing between the north and south of the shire but she stressed “we’re digging our heads in the sand if we think we’re going to go back to individual shire councils again”.
Inside the meeting the northsouth divide appeared to be very much alive and well around the boardroom table.
Cr Jan Clifford moved a motion to repeal a decision from the last meeting which stated an intention to immediately replace staff lost from the Bowen office.
Cr Clifford said it was her opinion that the staffing levels at all of Council’s locations needed to be looked at - not just Bowen.
It took the mayor’s casting vote for this to be passed after a division was recorded between Cr’s Whitney, Collins and Clifford, against Cr’s Willcox, Ramage and Clark.
A motion to officially receive the controversial efficiency and effectiveness report went exactly the same way.
Cr Ramage openly criticised Cr Clifford, saying now that Cr Kevin Collins had resigned, she knew this would come down to a casting vote.
“I think the politics is really coming out to the forefront here today on this motion... I’ve even had talks with our CEO on the politics that’s going on in Council at the moment and I’ll use his words - it’s got to stop,” Cr Ramage said.
Questions from the public gallery were equally tough, with Bowen resident John Barnes asking what gain had been achieved from the now infamous review, resulting in a turnover of directors and “major upheaval”.
Council’s chief financial officer Matthew McGoldrick was also tasked with answering questions from the last meeting, such as how much Council’s trip to China cost.
Mr McGoldrick said the total cost to Council was $8153.69, which could be broken down into a cost of $372.62 per person per day. He said if the Chinese were successful in their current casino and development bids, the return on that investment would be $613,218.29.
Council’s director of corporate services Graham Jarvis was tasked to answer last week’s questions by Bowen resident Chris Monsour about water charges. He said Council’s water-wise Meet the Murphy’s campaign cost $25,246 to date.
STRONG TURNOUT: The Whitsunday Regional Council meeting was held at the Proserpine Entertainment Centre yesterday to accommodate the 100-strong crowd of ratepayers and residents from both ends of the shire.
MEDIA PRESENCE: There was plenty of media interest in yesterday’s meeting as residents and ratepayers lined up to sign in.