Councillors face-off in heated debate over levee
FINGERS were pointed and tables slammed yesterday in a dramatic face-off in Gympie Regional Council which culminated in approval of the next phase of the Gympie CBD levee.
A lengthy speech by Cr Mick Curran accused anti-levee councillor Ian Petersen of frightening Southside residents with false information about floodwater displacement from the proposed wall across the Albert Park touch fields.
One resident had been wrongly led to believe floods would be 4m higher on the Southside, Cr Curran said.
This was completely untrue, he said.
Recent modelling of the water displacement has revealed the flood height will not change at all on the Southside, he said.
Cr Curran asked an outraged Cr Petersen to apologise for publicly alleging that the council "was spreading propaganda on displacement flooding affecting the Southside" and "more importantly, (apologise) to any resident who may have been affected or adversely stressed in wrongly believing Cr Petersen's statements".
A barely contained Cr Petersen vehemently denied the accusations and called for several points of order throughout Cr Curran's address, saying he "really objected to everything" Cr Curran was saying and that he "refused to be denigrated in this way".
"I have never at any stage suggested major displacement of floodwater on the Southside," Cr Petersen said.
"Literally hundreds of people" had voiced their concerns to him, but he had told them all that increased flooding on the Southside would be "absolutely minimal", he said.
"In all my time in council I have never seen anything like this," he said.
"They are talking about marching in the street."
Cr Curran moved the motion yesterday that the council give Aurecon the levee pre-design contract.
"This will progress investigations currently under way in the pre-design stage to ascertain if the construction of the levee is possible to protect this region's CBD from natural disaster, which forms but one part of council's current whole of region flood mitigation plans," he said.
"By moving this motion I certainly expect at least one councillor to speak against this motion. It is this councillor's right to do so and this should, in fact, be encouraged if an opposing view is held.
"This can only promote good governance and inform the electorate of councillors' views and stance on the topic.
"It is my opinion, that the council chamber is the right and proper place for this rigorous debate, where councillors of opposing views have a right of reply.
"I also accept that it is also appropriate for councillors to express their specific views on issues relating to council and related issues in various forms of media.
"What I find unacceptable is the malicious statements against my fellow councillors and myself which have occurred on a number of occasions in the media by Cr Petersen whereby councillors have no right of reply other than to either address the issue personally or alternately through the media.
"I have attempted to resolve this conduct personally with Cr Petersen to no avail.
"I must also advise that I have no appetite to denigrate my position as a councillor by replying to the malicious statements via media.
"I would therefore request Cr Petersen apologise to his fellow councillors for his remarks in the Gympie Times on 31st July 2013, specifically that council was spreading propaganda on displacement flooding affecting the Southside, but more importantly to any resident who may have been affected or adversely stressed in wrongly believing Cr Petersen's statements."