Your recent reports about the Utopia Pet Lodge fiasco (Gaz 10/4) should concern Baw Baw Shire citizens.
The affair itself is history: a costly mistake by the previous council, which current councillors and ratepayers have no choice but to wear. No amount of hand-wringing and blame-gaming can change that.
This doesn’t absolve the present council from coming clean about aspects of the Utopia transaction that raise broader questions of governance:
How can it be claimed that information about Utopia remains commercial-in-confidence when that business no longer exists?
How can a council be bound by a contractor’s ‘disclaimer’, the usual meaning of which would be renunciation of claim to some aspect or implication of work done?
If the ‘disclaimer’ in this case were really a non-disclosure undertaking sought by the ‘independent entity’, why would council agree to it for work commissioned and paid for by council?
Even if it were reasonable that methodology and proprietary information used in the work not be disclosed, is it reasonable to suppress the nature and identity of the ‘independent entity’, and the results of the work, on commercial-in-confidence grounds?
Council is said to have been ‘keen to find if there was a way’ around these purported strictures, but to have been persuaded by legal advice that there isn’t. A different tack might have yielded a different response: ‘Don’t tell us what we can’t do; tell us how we can do what we need to do’.