Concerns of undue Council activity in next three months to rush agendas
Due to Covid the NSW Government has postponed the Council election until 4 December. Under normal circumstances the current term of Council was due to move into caretaker mode in the lead up to the September election. Instead the caretaker period will now begin on Friday 5 November. This will allow the this term of Council to move ahead on some of more controversial issues that many hoped might be addressed by a new Council. Across the shire there has been a display of widespread disappointment at the postponement of the Council elections until December 4th. While there is nothing in the legislation that would allow such an action mayoral candidate for December 2021, David Grace, is calling for the council to be immediately put into caretaker mode.
Mr Grace said that while the NSW Government had decided the already delayed 2020 poll proceeding on 4 September in the midst of the COVID-19/Delta variant spread could jeopardise voters, election officials and the wider community, it had failed to order all councils into caretaker mode.
“I am very concerned the new date of 4th of December for the Eurobodalla elections offers even more time to be used by the council, for example, to determine a controversial development application, make a quick land sale, or enter into a substantial contract to which a new mayor and councillors would be bound,” Mr Grace said.
“Caretaker periods are legislated through the Local Government (General) Regulations, and Clause 393B specifically prohibits the council and its general manager (or delegate) from entering into certain agreements and/or making any major staffing or resourcing decisions,” he said. “We already know there were almost 100 local Dalmeny residents who attended a site meeting about the council’s rushed process to sell off 40 hectares (Lot 2 DP1151341) of pristine bushland, with many objecting to the unnecessary haste of the process.
“While affordable housing is essential and appropriate land development is necessary, I object to the indecent speed at which this has been done – especially just before an election. I am also very concerned about the council’s process associated with tenders for the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site.
“This is again another matter which should not proceed while the council is in caretaker mode – which it would be shortly, were it not for the yet-again delayed polling date. Council has already had an extension from September 2020 to September 2021, and without the latest COVID outbreak in Sydney, they would be in caretaker mode from 6 August.
“The next council needs to have the freedom to make its own decisions, and having this council bind the new council's hands is ignoring the will of the people,” Mr Grace said.