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Peter Cormick - 8 July 2014

Peter Cormick made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 8 July 2014.

  • Post-HuntFest evaluation and the future of the event
  • Code of Meeting Practice as it relates to extraordinary meetings of Council – in particular, in relation to the Broulee Bio-certification matter

HuntFest

It has been four weeks since this year's event took place and I would like to know how Council dealt with the matter of the applicant's compliance with the conditions set down in the Lease Agreement and the Development Application: in the same way that Council ensures that other DA's are compiled with, such as those for buildings.

Firstly, are conditions in the Lease Agreement or the Development Application written in specific terms as to what is allowed and what is not allowed during the course of the event?

For example, are there conditions that set out:

  • The maximum number of patrons that would be permitted at the event at any given time? Or
  • What may not be sold at the event – being aware that the Firearms Act 1996 makes clear that merely arranging the supply of a firearm or ammunition constitutes a sale of those items?

Is Council satisfied that the conditions it imposed were complied with?

When and by what means did Council satisfy itself that the conditions were complied with?

If conditions were found to have not been complied with, what actions did Council take?

Looking to the future of the event, when Council reflects on the matter, is it satisfied that the terms of the DA and the Lease Agreement have been sufficiently precise and comprehensive? If not, will they be reviewed prior to the next HuntFest event?

I understand that the organisers of the event are hoping and working towards making the event "bigger and better" into the future. Given those intentions it is reasonable to expect that more space will be required and that an application to expand the area of public land in which it is held will be made. If that occurs, what public participation process will Council undertake? Will a new DA be required? If so, will it be advertised? What are the criteria for deciding whether to advertise or not?

If for instance, the organisers decide that, in future they would prefer to hold the event on private property, what DA process would take place, as far as public participation is concerned? If such an application were made would Council impose the same conditions as it has, or should have, imposed on the event, with regard to the present location?

And in any future process or decision-making by Council on the HuntFest matter, can we be assured that Councillors will be making decisions that are free from the influences of undue lobbying? For example, if as I have been led to believe, the Mayor met over a meal with a member of the Shooters and Fishers party on the weekend of HuntFest, can we be confident that he is dealing with the matter at arm's length – that there is no conflict of interests?

ICAC has the following to say on the matter of lobbying of Councillors:

  • Examples of inappropriate or unlawful conduct by Councillors that could occur during the lobbying process include: fettering discretion by giving undertakings to an interested party prior to considering all the information relevant to a decision.
  • Councillors should exercise judgement when deciding whether to be involved in private meetings with people seeking to influence a council decision. Suspicions of inappropriate lobbying can occur when lobbying is not open to public scrutiny. Regardless of whether such suspicions are justified, they still have the potential to undermine public confidence in council decision-making and adversely affect a councillor's reputation.

And Council's Model Code of Conduct has the following to say:

  • A conflict of interest exists where a reasonable and informed person would perceive that you could be influenced by a private interest when carrying out your public duty.
  • You must avoid situations given rise to the appearance that a person or body, through the provision of gifts, benefits or hospitality of any kind, is attempting to secure favourable treatment from you or from the council.
  • You must not accept any gift or benefit that may create a sense of obligation on your part or may be perceived to be intended or likely to influence you in carrying out your public duty.

Code of Meeting Practice and extraordinary meetings – in relation to the Broulee Biodiversity issue.

I understand that those who needed to know knew that the four ERA councillors had given notice that they would not be available for an extraordinary meeting on 1 July. Why then, was it held?

The Code of Meeting Practice requires that: If the Mayor receives a request in writing signed by at least 2 Councillors, then the Mayor must call an Extraordinary meeting of the Council to held as soon as practicable but in any event within 14 days after receipt of the request.

However, the Code also provides that: A rescission motion will be dealt with at the next meeting of Council after the meeting at which the resolution is carried, unless the Council resolves to the contrary. In other words, the requirements of the Code would have been satisfied in this matter if the rescission motion was simply dealt with at the ordinary meeting to be held today – since today is 14 days after the notice was given.

In the circumstances, that the 1 July meeting commenced in the absence of a quorum and with the knowledge that a quorum would not be achieved, is, in my view a very poor reflection on those involved. I would submit that the Public Forum session that took place at the 1 July meeting should not have taken place – even though it is permitted to conduct the meeting for 30 minutes – because it was known that a quorum would not be formed.

So today's scheduled resumption of the 1 July meeting is, in my view both unnecessary and a nonsense. The rescission motion ought to be dealt with in the Ordinary meeting. The Code also requires that the circumstances relating to the absence of a quorum be recorded in the minutes. But there are no minutes of the 1 July meeting.

And I wonder about the absence of notice of the resumption of the extraordinary meeting. I see none on the website. I understand that the Code requires that notice to be given.

As a result of the shenanigans, those who had hoped to address council on the matter of the rescission motion, in Public Forum, have been denied that opportunity.

Council's Reply 

Council has not provided a response.