'Inquiry needed into Widgee business injustice'
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I ATTENDED the meeting at Widgee regarding Gympie Regional Council's decision not to grant a Material Change of Use to Widgee Engineering (the applicant).
I took along two extracts from the applicant's planning report prepared by reputable independent surveyors and town planners.
The final paragraph in "Conclusions and Recommendations” based on their investigations reads: "Thus, it is recommended that council issue approval for a Development Permit for Material Change of Use of premises to intensify an Approved Engineering Workshop (High Impact Industry Use) on land described as Lot 1 on RP199738 at Upper Widgee Road, Widgee”.
I showed the extract to three councillors and asked if they had seen the report.
Their response was that they had not.
One councillor asked where I had obtained it.
I told him from council's website. On approaching the Mayor he indicated he had seen the report.
Were any councillors advised that they could access this document?
The applicant's complete submission was never made available to all councillors as part of the planning department's report to council for consideration. If it had been the result may have been very different.
Instances involving Rattler consultants' reports being withheld from some councillors have been raised previously (refer Glen Hartwig's letter The Gympie Times, August 26, 2017).
These reports should have been made available to all councillors to make fully informed decisions.
Now we have a similar instance of selective reporting by the planning department regarding the Widgee Engineering MCU application.
A precedent regarding withholding information from councillors by council staff was highlighted when our CEO was the general manager of Macquarie Hastings Council during the Glasshouse Project where the State Government sacked the council. In part, Inquiry Commissioner Frank Willan said in his conclusion:
"Councillors have not had enough accurate information to make a considered decision in regards to the approving of the Glasshouse to be built on the Civic Centre site.
"The majority of councillors have failed to demand their right to accurate and complete information regarding the development of the Glasshouse on the Civic Centre site.”
The injustice that has been inflicted on the owners of Widgee Engineering because some councillors were not given complete and accurate information should be sufficient for an inquiry into how GRC is managed.