COUN­CIL DI­VIDED

Mayor’s cast­ing vote used to make ma­jor de­ci­sions

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

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.

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