Too close for com­fort?

Mayor de­fends meet­ing in Can­non­vale cafe

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

JUST one day af­ter her coun­cil was re­ferred to the Crime and Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion over is­sues re­lat­ing to the pro­posed Chi­na­town de­vel­op­ment on Water­son Way, Whitsunday Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney and her act­ing CEO, Barry Omund­son, met with the Chi­nese busi­ness­man be­hind the project in a Can­non­vale cafe.

China Aus­tralia En­trepreneurs As­so­ci­a­tion Inc pres­i­dent Ray­mond Wang was ac­com­pa­nied by his in­ter­preter Si­mon Phang and Cr Whit­ney and Mr Omund­son were ac­com­pa­nied by the coun­cil’s cul­tural communications of­fi­cer, Cherry Cai.

Cr Whit­ney has been in the spot­light for declar­ing a con­flict of in­ter­est over the project and step­ping out of coun­cil meet­ings when de­ci­sions on Chi­na­town are made.

But when asked if, un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances, she con­sid­ered last Thurs­day’s meet­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate, Cr Whit­ney said em­phat­i­cally, “no”.

“We did meet with the Chi­nese and we met in pub­lic... be­cause we’re open, ac­count­able and trans­par­ent... we’ve got noth­ing to hide,” she said.

Cr Whit­ney said the dis­cus­sion was not over Water­son Way but about build­ing re­la­tion­ships be­cause, “I don’t want to see th­ese peo­ple walk away when the busi­ness com­mu­nity is cry­ing out for de­vel­op­ment”.

She said part of her job was to meet with busi­ness peo­ple. “And I be­lieve the ma­jor­ity of our ratepay­ers and com­mu­nity know that for us to be able to pro­vide job op­por­tu­ni­ties for our youth and for our peo­ple, Coun­cil has to be more strate­gic and work with in­vestors,” she said, adding that “the peo­ple read­ing more into this – they may have bad morals and val­ues (but) I cer­tainly don’t”.

Mean­while, Mr Omund­son said coun­cil’s le­gal ad­vice af­firmed “we’re do­ing every­thing we need to be”.

PUB­LIC MEET­ING: Whitsunday Re­gional Coun­cil Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney (cen­tre) with act­ing CEO Barry Omund­son, Si­mon Phang, Ray­mond Wang and Coun­cil's cul­tural communications of­fi­cer Cherry Cai at a Can­non­vale restau­rant on Thurs­day morn­ing.

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