Is the Mayoral slip showing: another terrific Council meeting

The Mayoral slip is showing in regards to her plummeting VoxPop polls in the leadup to the 2021 election on September 4th. With Pat McGinlay declaring he won’t run again and Lindsay Brown running around the shire trying to garner preferential votes wherever he can find them to make him mayor again the civic leader at the moment is Anthony Mayne who is taking an active role to bring to the chamber issues of importance such as transparency, accountability and expectation. Anthony Mayne has been building a solid social media presence. He has been openly engaging with the community around issues such as the Araluen Road, questioning the continued backroom secrecy of matters that are determined under the veil of Commercial Confidentiality. He has placed questions around the dislocation of the Audit committee and the disenfranchising of the community around Council intentionally reducing public engagement. When able he has also stood to represent the community around retention of council assets such as park, reserves and public halls while leading the way on questions around open slather development at the cost of the environment.

Above: Clr Anthony Mayne All of that must indeed be irksome to the Mayor who is rapidly falling into disfavour as the community learn more about the workings of council, the reductions of their deliveries and the continued veil of secrecy they choose to operate under. If you have a chance be sure to watch today’s Council meeting when it is loaded to Council’s website in coming days. It isn’t long, just half an hour. Rob Pollock and Maureen Nathan were absent with no explanation. First cab off the rank was a very obvious Dorothy Dix Question on Notice lodged by Clr Maureen Nathan a week or so ago seeking a Council report on the Outcome of NSW Bushfire Inquiry Recommendations. Maybe it would have been best to have waited until the NSW Auditor General’s report just published which found shortcomings in how emergency response agencies are responding to recommendations from previous inquiries into natural disasters like bushfires and floods. The audit looked at how the RSF, SES, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks and Wildlife and Resilience NSW addressed recommendations about how to better respond to natural disasters. The report found that two-thirds of the recommendations haven’t been implemented, or allocated any milestone dates or priority rankings.

The was also a failure to report publicly on progress raising concerns about about accountability. The councillor asked her questions around Council’s role in maintaining asset protection zones and what is the annual cost to be advised that any increase in the scale of asset protection zones by the NSW Government, or any modification in interpretation of the Environmental Guidelines by the RFS, would increase the extent and cost of works required by all landowners including Council. This could require additional tree removal to create canopy separation as well as ground levelling and underscrubbing. Once established the new APZ area would need to be added to the regular program of works. If any changes were to be made to the size of the APZ, then the NSW Government would also need to address the extent of any environmental reviews required to establish any new APZ and take account of how this may conflict with existing legislations and constraints. Pretty much the response was around the budget and future funding required as Clr Nathan was advised in the staff response that the RFS does appear to be seeking additional tree canopy separation works (that is tree removal and/or canopy works), which has rapidly exhausted available fire mitigation funds in 2020-21. We can expect that this will amount to a need to increase rates to cover the compulsory works.

Next came the highlight of the half hour meeting where the Mayor showed her sheer dislike of her Mayoral competitor, Clr Anthony Mayne. Clr Mayne asked a Question on Notice around the role of the Council’s Audit and Risk Committee. As is his right he chose to close the debate while also taking the opportunity to ask a question of the General Manager, Dr Catherine Dale. The rules say 10.20 A councillor who, during a debate at a meeting of the council, moves an original motion, has the right to speak on each amendment to the motion and a right of general reply to all observations that are made during the debate in relation to the motion, and any amendment to it at the conclusion of the debate before the motion (whether amended or not) is finally put. So there was Councillor Mayne closing debate having moved the original motion, as was his right.

Fortunately there is a rule that stops the likes of Clr Brown from waffling on (as he does quite often, and did so later today) that says 10.22 A councillor must not, without the consent of the council, speak more than once on a motion or an amendment, or for longer than five (5) minutes at any one time.

One other rule to consider before we arrive at today’s debate and Mayoral effusion is

8.17 Councillors must put questions directly, succinctly, respectfully and without argument.

As you listen you will hear Clr Mayne speak for three minutes, closing the debate, as is his right, before the Mayor tires of him and declares she knows what the question is and abruptly hands over to the General Manager who hilariously then declares she has no idea of what the question is saying “Through the Mayor, I’m not too sure of the question” The Mayor and General Manager were then advised by Clr Mayne that, before he was cut off, as you can hear in the audio, he was still forming the question.

At this point listen to the audio transcript below that features the Chair and how she addresses a her protagonist mayoral rival.

The Mayor, in shutting down Clr Mayne in such an abrupt and rude fashion, and not abiding by the rules of the Code of Meeting Practice that gave the Councillor a full five minutes, forced him to ask a question on the fly which was not the question he had intended to ask. Had she and the General Manager waited they, along with the public, they might have heard a different question that cut to the quick over the role of the Audit Committee and the role they actually didn't play in the Mackay Park project decision around the tender and the risk of the committal of $19 million of ratepayer funds to the $70 million project.

Observing the rudeness and abruptness being displayed by the Mayor, Councillor Pat McGinlay then took her to task, advising her that the Code of Meeting practice allows a full five minutes asking "Why was he cut short?"

The Mayor responded “Because I believe he had asked his question and made his point”.

It is clear from the General Manager’s perspective that Councillor Mayne had not asked his question by Dr Dale saying “Through the Mayor, I’m not too sure of the question” and with two full minutes left the Mayor had no idea of what Councillor Mayne had in store in making his point and closing debate.

This selective treatment of Clr Mayne by the Mayor, Lindsay Brown and Rob Pollock during Council meetings is only what the public see. Behind closed doors it is well known that Councillor Mayne, along with Councillor McGinlay are treated as Pariah dogs to be shouted at, vilified and bullied for the questions they ask, the opinions they have, and the audacity they show to dare engage with the community.

Clr Lindsay Brown finished the show today with an off topic amble of anecdote and waffle that lasted a full minute (of a 30 minute meeting) without any interjection from the Mayor.

One wonders preference deals have been struck among the voting bloc of six being Innes, Thomson, Brown, Pollock, Tait and Nathan and whether Constable has been left out in the cold by his neo-Liberal colleagues.