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Patricia Hellier - 22 March 2016

Patricia Hellier made comments regarding meeting procedures and the Code of Meeting Practice at the Ordinary Council Meeting 22 March 2016.

Council's Reply

Set out below are the responses to the various questions you raised.

1. Council’s Code of Meeting Practice.

Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Code of Meeting Practice is consistent with the requirements of the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act), the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 (Regulation), the NSW Office of Local Government’s Practice Note 16: Meetings (copy attached), and the Code of Conduct.

While the legislation sets out certain requirements and procedures that must be followed in Council meetings, some meeting procedures may vary between councils in accordance with their adopted Code of Meeting Practice. This is the case in regard to having a prayer, some Councils choose to and some do not.

The current Eurobodalla Shire Council Code of Meeting Practice was developed and adopted by Council after public consultation, and, as allowed by the Act, includes some supplementary provisions adopted by Council for the conduct of its meetings. Practice notes were added to the current version of the Code to assist the public in understanding the requirements and adopted procedures.

Council’s current Code of Meeting Practice has also been thoroughly reviewed by Council’s lawyers and meets legislative and “best practice” requirements. It is considered that Council complies with the Act, Regulation and directions of the Office of Local Government in relation to the business which can be discussed and dealt with at Council meetings.

In relation to your query regarding business arising from the previous minutes, there is no requirement in the Act or Regulation for Council to include this as a standing item on the agenda. Council must, however, advertise the agenda for its meetings so the councillors and the public are aware of the business to be discussed at the meeting.

Regulation 240 requires Council to ensure that the agenda for a meeting includes all items to be dealt with, which may include any matters to be dealt with which arose out of the proceedings of previous meetings of Council. If no such business is proposed to be dealt with at the meeting, then Council is not required to include it on the agenda.

However, Council resolutions are monitored by myself and the management team to ensure that they are actioned in a timely manner. In this context, all decisions of Council are implemented.

Clause 5.5 of the Code of Meeting Practice, in compliance with Regulation 241, does not allow Council to transact business at a meeting unless notice of the business has been sent to the councillors in accordance with Section 367 of the Act. This is to best meet the intent of providing all councillors and the public with proper notice of any business to be conducted at a meeting.

In this context, Councillors can place an item of the agenda either by submitting a question on notice or through a Notice of Motion. Clause 5.6 of the Code of Meeting practice further addresses how Council deals with “matters without notice” at a Council meeting. If the business is ruled to be of great urgency, a motion may be passed to have the business transacted at the meeting. An item may be considered as “urgent” if it has come up after preparation of the business paper and needs attention before the next Ordinary Council meeting. As mentioned any non-urgent business that a Councillor wishes to raise can be dealt with via Questions on Notice (Clause 7.2) or Notices of Motion (Clause 8.1).

The Code of Meeting Practice is reviewed on a regular basis. The Code may be updated as necessary when legislation or the Office of Local Government requires it; or Council’s functions, structure or activities change; or when technological advances or new systems change the way Council manages its meeting practices.

In addition, in accordance with Section 165(4) of the Local Government Act, a Code of Meeting Practice is automatically revoked at the expiration of twelve months from the declaration of the poll for the next general local government election. This means that the Council to be elected in September this year, must review the Code within its first twelve months in office.

Any review of the Code, or significant amendments to the Code, must be placed on public exhibition in accordance with the provisions of section 361 of the Local Government Act, with submissions sought from the public on the Draft Code or significant amendments to the Code.

You have raised a number of questions regarding the Rural Lands Strategy. The responses are outlined below as follows:

2. Draft maps not showing property boundaries.

Some of the draft maps placed on public exhibition were of the whole Shire. To make the maps easier to read, the property boundaries were not shown on these maps. Where a land owner requested that maps be provided with property boundaries shown, such a map was provided to the land owner.

3. Who organised the additional meeting?

The response to this question was provided to you in the letter from the Mayor dated 18 March 2016.

4. Mr Wiggins’ Report on the Policy Directions Workshops.

The final report on the Policy Directions Workshops is Mr Wiggin’s report, not a Council staff report. The statement that Mr Wiggin’s did not have the right temperament for the role came from a participant at the workshops, not from Council staff.

5. Many outstanding issues concerning some Rural Land owners in relation to these overlays.

In adopting the Rural Lands Strategy, Council did not accept the consultant’s recommendations regarding the Native Vegetation Overlay. Rather, the Council resolved “that the Native Vegetation Overlay be included in a code and referenced in relevant Development Control Plans as recommended by the Rural Lands Strategy Steering Committee”. This means that a vegetation or biodiversity overlay will not be included in the Eurobodalla LEP and the current Terrestrial Biodiversity Overlay that is now in the Local Environment Plan will be removed through the Rural Land Strategy Planning proposal.

6. Councillors should not take into consideration any reference to this “secret meeting”.

It appears from your submission that at the “secret meeting”, there were views and actions endorsed that are of concern to rural land owners. The meeting was held and focussed on specific food production issues. Detailed notes from the meeting appear in the “Eurobodalla Rural Lands Strategy Report of Public Exhibition” which was an attachment to the Rural Land Strategy agenda item considered at the 23 February Ordinary meeting of Council. This document is also available on Council’s website. Some suggestions from those attending this meeting included the following:

  • Providing buffers to minimise impacts of development adjacent/close to dairy land and rural industries, such as abattoirs;
  • Commencing discussions with the State Government about the current farm dams policy, with a view to potentially increasing the allowable catchment percentage, and in relation to the potential for trading unused river water pumping allocations;
  • Giving a higher profile to local food production in the Strategy;
  • Advocating with the State Government to make rural land consolidation simpler and less costly;
  • Reviewing certain rural land use definitions and exempt development categories.