Gympie councillors are divided over the impact new development transparency rules will have on ratepayers.
Gympie councillors are divided over the impact new development transparency rules will have on ratepayers. Phil Coquerand

Mayor 'disappointed' as council split over new rules

THE impact of new rules to increase transparency over developments have been questioned by some councillors who feel their ability to represent ratepayers will be restricted.

The tightened rules were introduced after meeting with the Crime and Corruption Commission and the LGAQ, and outline appropriate practices for councillors when dealing with development applications.

Under the proposed rules, councillors are "not allowed” to attend formal pre-application meetings, or negotiated decision meetings.

Gympie council.
Gympie council. Renee Albrecht

Mayor Mick Curran said he was "disappointed” that the rules were not passed unanimously, with councillors Bob Fredman, Hilary Smerdon and Glen Hartwig voting against it.

He said it was very easy for councillors to "influence” staff, and had witnessed it happen.

"It leaves the questions open - do councillors want to be having influence over personal developments in this area, which then ultimately will call into question the integrity of this council?” Cr Curran said.

Cr Bob Fredman said the rules were "99 per cent there”, but was concerned councillors might be locked out of listening at some meetings and proposed they be allowed as a "silent witness” at the planning director's discretion.

Cr Bob Fredman fears ratepayers could be left without support by the new rules.
Cr Bob Fredman fears ratepayers could be left without support by the new rules. Renee Albrecht

The concern was not for big developers, he said, but "mums and dads” nervous about speaking with a large entity like the council - and would eliminate questions over "who said what”.

He also questioned why he should be expected to vote in favour of a policy he did not think delivered everything it should.

"This all-or-nothing motion compromises the fundamental right of councillors to represent ratepayers,” he said.

Gympie Council 2018 Hilary Smerdon, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Bob Leitch, Mick Curran, Bob Fredman, Mal Gear, Daryl Dodt and Mark McDonald.
Gympie Council 2018 Hilary Smerdon, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Bob Leitch, Mick Curran, Bob Fredman, Mal Gear, Daryl Dodt and Mark McDonald. Renee Albrecht

"If staff feel intimidated, if there's a councillor present at one of these meetings, imagine how a ratepayer feels confronted by all those staff?”

Cr Curran said the new policy "does not preclude” councillors being part of the meeting process.

Gympie Times


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