Shhh! The silent council
A NEW Gympie Regional Council meeting system has saved ratepayers money, but apparently at the expense of the much-pledged principles of openness and accountability.
The new system means there are no council committees and therefore no committee chairmen, saving ratepayers the cost of the bonuses previously paid to councillors in the chair on various former committees.
But the system also apparently means fewer public meetings and much less public discussion, even on highly contentious matters before the council.
In theory, all decisions and discussions will happen in public at one council general meeting held every three weeks.
This has prompted concerns of over-long council meetings, in which important issues can easily be lost in the workload.
In practice, yesterday's first business meeting of the new council was over in not much more than an hour.
All resolutions were carried without dissent.
On the basis of previous experience, which involved extensive discussion at public committee meetings, prior to further ratification at a general meeting, the new system was seen as a recipe for longer meetings, not less discussion.
It was also seen as dangerous for public information when combined with the much-questioned past practice of developing consensus at informal discussion meetings, held behind closed doors.
Yesterday's meeting ran smoothly, ripping quickly through an agenda which ran to nearly 200 pages, including charts.
Issues included raised council charges and a contentious Kandanga piggery plan.