Council newcomers given more time to vote on tower appeal
NEW Noosa councillors have been given an extra month to get their heads around what is entailed in defending an appeal against a Cooran NBN tower.
Cr Amelia Lorentson who has just begun her first four-year term successfully moved at the first ordinary meeting of the Mayor Clare Stewart-led council the deferral of a final decision until the May round of meetings.
Two of the newly elected councillors in councillors Karen Finzel and Tom Wegener declared conflicts of interest and did not take part in the debate.
Cr Finzel said prior to her election she signed a petition involving the tower on Tablelands Rd, while Cooroy-based Cr Wegener said he has an NBN tower located on his property and is paid income from a lease arrangement.
Cr Lorentson said the deferral would allow the new councillors to obtain "further information, briefing and advice" in this matter.
"The development application before us is contentious," she said.
"Four councillors have been in their positions for less than three weeks, we have not had the advantage of 18 months consideration on the application before us," she said.
Cr Lorentson wanted more information on council's mediation processes and said given the council's financial constraints "it is important that council adopt a conservative approach when spending public money".
"I would like to be convinced that my vote does not allow council to use the process of planning by appeal as a tactic or strategy. It should be used only as a last resort," Cr Lorentson said.
"I would also like to be convinced that all forms dispute resolution have been exhausted before approving council's right to defend this appeal."
She wanted a further legal briefing and a site inspection before voting.
Council development assessment manager Kerri Coyle said the legal process already in train would not allow this matter to go to trial without going through mediation first "which is a good practice to see if we can resolve the issues".
The long-serving Ms Coyle said she has never seen Noosa Council not defend an appeal "and I don't think it would occur for many other councils".
She said she understood that the new councillors were "not fully across all the issues".
Mayor Stewart said this is the point, that "we (the new councillors) need some more information" to "obtain as much information as we can and have the due diligence and the due process and then make an informed decision".
Council veteran Cr Brian Stockwell said: "I'll never not vote to defend an appeal, but at this stage I accept on this particular application there may be no great rush".
Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie said it was "hard wired in me to always resolve to defend an appeal".
"Noosa Council has always done that, every council in Queensland does that," he said.
He found it entirely reasonable that the matter be deferred for new councillors as "there's got to be a grace period" to "get across a lot of this stuff, it's very complicated".