Council maintains division stance

ALL eight Gympie Region councillors and Mayor Ron Dyne declared they had a conflict or potential conflict of interest when it came to discussing divisions at Wednesday's general meeting.

Because the majority of councillors had a conflict, they all remained present to discuss a letter sent by the Local Government Change Commissioner, David Kerslake.

Back in April the deputy premier took the issue of divisions out of the council's hands and appointed the Change Commissioner to look into changing Gympie's electoral arrangements to a divided system.

This came after the council asked the public if they were in favour of divisions after originally telling The Gympie Times in February they would not survey opinions following a Law, Justice and Safety Committee review.

That review suggested councils with a population of more than 30,000 should have divisions.

It went on to say divisions wouldn't be needed if the community demonstrated they were not in its best interest.

The council had already written to the minister for local government saying it was not in favour of an undivided system.

But the majority of locals who answered a survey on the issue said they would like to be represented on a divisional basis.

In an online poll on The Gympie Times website in February, 80% of respondents also said they were in favour of divisions.

Then early in March councillors decided the survey was inaccurate because only 2% of the population had taken part.

They moved a motion to advise the minister once again they were in favour of not having divisions - that's when the Deputy Premier got involved.

In his letter Mr Kerslake asked the council to make comments in relation to the community support for divisions.

In this week's meeting Cr Dyne moved a motion to write to the change commissioner and confirm the stance that councillors want to retain an undivided status.

Cr Jan Watt said she would remove herself from voting because she had been directed that she could not vote against a motion of council. But fellow councillors and the Mayor advised her she was able to vote against the motion if she wished.

Upon hearing this she suggested an amendment to Cr Dyne's motion, that the council provide a rationale for its decision.

The majority of councillors voted in favour of the motion and amendment, except Cr Watt.

But long-standing divisional government advocate Reg Lawler, who was present at the meeting, said he was concerned councillors voted at all.

"It's a matter in which they all have a personal and economic interest in. They are the people most affected," he said.

Mr Lawler said the councillors had a clear conflict and it was vital they did not act for themselves, which they seemed to be doing.

He said the matter was referred to an outside party, and as a council "they should say this is the results of the survey; we have no other view".

The Gympie Times asked to see a copy of the letter that is to be sent to Mr Kerslake, but the council has so far refused.

Gympie Times

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