Redland City Council has developed a way of getting through business at general meetings quick smart with little transparency. Matters requiring approval are discussed beforehand in meetings which are not open to the public and which don’t have publicly available minutes of matters discussed and decisions made.
So at general meetings, decisions can be rubber stamped without the need for debate, discussion and deliberation. It’s all been sorted.
Since the election of a new council in March, the agendas for Council’s public general meetings have been notably light and trivial.
The public is treated to discussion about having a military parade in 18 months time, for no obvious reason. Meanwhile, in non-public workshops councillors discuss important matters such as budget preparation, the new planning scheme (is it still called City Plan 2015?) and the Priority Development Areas at Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek.
In Victoria, the Ombudsman Deborah Glass is investigating secrecy and accountability at all Victoria’s local councils including closed council meetings, record keeping practices and confidential decision-making. Ms Glass said recently:
Secrecy in government can create conditions in which improper conduct and poor administration can flourish. It also fuels suspicions of wrongdoing and erodes community trust
31 minutes of transparency
Redland City Council’s general meeting on 8 June commenced at 9:34 am and was closed at 10:05 am, 31 minutes of transparent discussions which included five minutes of public participation where councillors were addressed by a resident.
Lack of council transparency has been a long term problem in the Redlands, particularly when a group of councillors have formed a bloc to get their own way.
At the recent election voters gave six independent councillors control of the council chamber. We should be seeing more business discussed in the chamber in front of and accountable to the community.
Here is a link to the meeting minutes. Normally, a link to the video recording of the meeting would also be available by now – but not this time. When it does eventually get posted you will be able to find it here.
Local heritage listings
At its very brief meeting on Wednesday Council approved local heritage register listing for Willards farm at Birkdale and a 400-year-old tallowood tree at Indigiscapes.
It seems likely that these tentative steps towards an appreciation of the City’s heritage have only occurred with the election of a majority of independent councillors in March.
There is much more to be done, however. Willards Farm urgently needs a heritage management strategy. It should also be re-submitted for consideration by the Queensland Heritage Council. Will Council do this, or once again will the community have to step in and take action?
The Draft City Plan 2015 was woefully inadequate in its treatment of heritage issues which begs the question, has the new council directed officers to fix this?
For more information on the two items added to the local heritage register, here’s a link to the Bulletin’s report.
Fixing planning mistakes
Over the years, Redland City Council has made many errors in approving developments.
A number of minor amendments to the current planning scheme were approved on Wednesday to fix these mistakes. In their report (Item 11.1.4 of the minutes) the officers use the quaint words: “the majority of the proposed minor amendments included in the current package reflect recent development approvals”.
So where once there was “Waterways Overlay”, now there will just be houses.
A learning organisation would be announcing a process to ensure that such mistakes would not be made in future, but we heard no such commitment on Wednesday.