A photo from a prior Bundaberg Regional Council meeting this year.
A photo from a prior Bundaberg Regional Council meeting this year. Brian Cassidy

BREAKDOWN: 7 things you need to know from council meeting

PERHAPS the most divisive moment of the year among Bundaberg Regional Councillors occurred in the monthly council meeting.

The council meeting began ordinarily enough, with Mayor Jack Dempsey welcoming staff and members of the gallery.

Division 3 councillor Wayne Honor's apology for not attending the council meeting was acknowledged.

Once senior pastor Errol Buckle cautioned councillors on the link between sleep deprivation and regrettable arguments, the meeting was underway:

 

Bill Trevor at the Port of Bundaberg. Cr Trevor was presented with a long service certificate.
Bill Trevor at the Port of Bundaberg. Cr Trevor was presented with a long service certificate.

 

Long service award

CR DEMPSEY presented a long service certificate of service from the Local Government Association of Queensland for Deputy Mayor Bill Trevor.

Cr Trevor had served a total 26 years working in local governments in the Bundaberg region.

"The service given to the community by local government members is a fundamental concept to democracy and is a vital link to the chain of government," Cr Dempsey said.

Attendees applauded as Cr Trevor received his award quietly, except to say "thank you, I appreciate it."

Cr Dempsey said that absent councillor Wayne Honor also received an award.

Cr Judy Peters also recently received an award for 25 years of service.

"We're certainly a very lucky council to have such councillors to lead this community.," Cr Dempsey said.

 

Conflicts of interest were declared in the meeting.
Conflicts of interest were declared in the meeting.

 

Conflicts of interests

TYPICALLY several councillors note any perceived conflicts of interests, and this can test executives and the mayor on what is appropriate procedure.

This time it began with Cr Helen Blackburn, who said she had a perceived conflict to do with a request for a rating concession for a Williams Rd property in Svensson Heights.

The issue would be discussed in the confidential section, but she said by declaring it then she should be able to vote on the subject.

Cr Dempsey had doubts if Cr Blackburn should vote on a confidential matter she declared on.

He sought advice from CEO Steve Johnston, who said that Cr Blackburn should explain why there was a potential conflict of interest.

While Cr Dempsey was advising Cr Blackburn to explain herself while avoiding details on the confidential issue, Cr Blackburn interjected, to which he said "hold on councillor, please sit down" while he finished what he was saying.

Cr Blackburn said she would now leave the room and not vote but was told by Mr Johnston that she would still need to explain the potential conflict anyway.

"The nature of the conflict of interest is to do with a relationship that could be perceived that I may have with the proponent of the motion," she said.

This explanation appeared to satisfy the Mayor and CEO.

Cr John Learmonth also declared a perceived conflict of interest regarding a request for a project to be given an extension to the Bundaberg Open for Development Infrastructure Agreement.

His perceived conflict might come as a business owner.

Cr Trevor said he had a conflict of interest with changes to planning scheme amendments.

A report investigating the amendments refers to the Isis Central Sugar Mill, and he was a shareholder, which is why he would leave the room when the amendments were voted on.

 

Councillor and mayoral candidate Helen Blackburn in the Bundaberg CBD.
Councillor and mayoral candidate Helen Blackburn in the Bundaberg CBD.

 

Write-off on rates and CEO delegation

PROBABLY the most divisive moment within six months of open council meetings occurred.

Normally, in the governance section of the meetings, Cr Blackburn moves the recommended motion. This was not the case this time.

Cr Blackburn said she would not support a motion which would give the CEO more powers to wave water relief requests and to write up debts of up to $5000, under certain conditions, and without the need for those decisions to come before council.

She urged for a future inquiry into the powers that had been passed onto Mr Johnston this year.

Cr Dempsey said that openness and transparency was about doing the work and the hard job of being diligent.

The motion passed with six councillors for, and four against. Cr Dempsey moved the motion, with Cr Jason Bartels seconding it.

 

 

Cr Trevor declared a perceived conflict of interest with the Isis Central Sugar Mill.
Cr Trevor declared a perceived conflict of interest with the Isis Central Sugar Mill.

 

Planning Scheme Amendment

DEPUTY Mayor Bill Trevor left the room because of a perceived conflict of interest with the Isis Central Sugar Mill.

The amendments have been under public consultation and covered areas such as dual-occupancies, the Burnett Heads town centre and marina, Kalkie-Ashfield, and development measures to protect turtles in Burnett Heads.

Cr Greg Barnes already received confirmation that the amendments would not impact on the State Government's TLPI to limit building heights in Bargara, but he repeated the question to ensure it was on public record.

Cr Ross Sommerfeld said there were 55 public submissions regarding the amendments which had been released for public consultation.

There had been some minor changes to the amendments not presented to the public, he said.

He urged that the amendments be sent to the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning for approval. The motion was seconded by Cr Scott Rowleson.

"We are very keen to get this back to the minister prior to the council going into the caretaker period," Cr Sommerfeld said.

"We can tidy up what we have done in the last four years to make this scheme much more better, much more fluid."

 

 

The view from the Bargara Golf Club. The club was awarded a $5000 donation in the lead-up to hosting a new year event.
The view from the Bargara Golf Club. The club was awarded a $5000 donation in the lead-up to hosting a new year event.

 

Sponsorship grants

COUNCILLORS decided to donate $5000 to the Bargara Golf Club, which announced its intention to host a New Year's Eve event.

If fire restrictions allow it, the event will include fireworks.

Cr Judy Peters said the council received the application to help fund the event from the golf club, which had taken on the event.

The Bargara Progress Association no longer had the capacity to run the event on its own, she said.

"The event will include kids and family entertainment, markets and fireworks, at this stage … the family festivities will take place at both the golf club and Christsen Park," she said.

"Given the work we've done at the park there, I think it's a lovely opportunity for families to get together."

Cr Dempsey said that the council did not want to assume that there would be a ban on fireworks, but given the bushfires across Queensland, it did need to consider the possibility that it may continue during the Christmas and New Years holidays.

This was what Cr Peters was alluding to when she said "at this stage".

The Bundaberg Regional Council also agreed to fund $23,000 for temporary lighting across three days of the CycleFest International event held in February.

The Kevin Brogden Velodrome does not have the right level of lighting suited for competitions and practice, as discovered during a recent audit.

Cr Dempsey said the event, coming up to its second consecutive event, was important to the community and would be attracting international visitors who could use the event to collect Olympic points to represent their countries in the upcoming season.

 

The Bundaberg Council Chambers.
The Bundaberg Council Chambers.

 

Confidential items

THE council meeting was closed to the public as councillors discussed nine separate items.

These items included a rating concession request to wave $1700, which Cr Blackburn left the room for, as well as an arrangement for a federally funded Regional Employment Trial (RET) project.

There were two requests for an extension to qualify for the council's Open for Development incentives, which was created to encourage investment.

 

 

Mayor Jack Dempsey, Santa, Harrison Dart, Reece Dart and Ergon Energy's Michael Dart gearing up for Christmas in 2017.
Mayor Jack Dempsey, Santa, Harrison Dart, Reece Dart and Ergon Energy's Michael Dart gearing up for Christmas in 2017.

 

Meeting closure

The meeting closed at 11am. Cr Dempsey observed there was only one more council meeting for the year.

He urged the community to stay safe in the lead-up to the holiday season and said that RACQ stats for the area in the last five years showed there had been 26 lives lost and more than 100 serious injuries. Cr Dempsey did not want to see these numbers even higher during the holiday season.

"Those in the gallery here, please stay safe," he said, as the gallery and councillors dispersed.