Council’s ‘quickie’ raises transparency questions

Council's 'quickie' meeting raises transparency questions

What goes on behind these closed doors?

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.

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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

Willards Farm

Cr Paul Bishop in front of Willards Farm

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

Muller Street and Isaac Place in Redland Bay

Muller Street and Isaac Place in Redland Bay

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.

Redlands2030 – 12 June 2016

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email thereporter@redlands2030.net

11 thoughts on “Council’s ‘quickie’ raises transparency questions

  1. Hurrah, that’s what I was exploring for, what a information! present hhere at this weeb
    site, thanks admin of this web page.

  2. … Here here! I’m sure our CEO is a perfectly reasonable chap, but as has been pointed out, the Redlands community should not have their democracy delegated out, and by their own Councillors!!! (Cr Paul Bishop exempted) C’mon Cr Hughes, Cr Boglary, Cr Golle, Cr Hewlett, Cr Elliott, Cr Edwards, Cr Talty, Cr Gleeson, Cr Mitchell and Mayor Williams … the Redlands like their democracy transparent and robust! No one voted for a benevolent dictatorship!!!

  3. I attended the Wednesday 8 June General Meeting, and felt like I’d blinked and missed it, except for the moment of gaping shock when I witnessed Councillors instructed to delegate their authority to the Redland City Council CEO. Now I’m sure he’s a presentable bloke, but, and correct me if I’m wrong, I didn’t see Bill Lyon’s name or visage featured on any council Ballots as a representative candidate. Clearly the man wasn’t even in contention to secure this level of authority. Consider the potential conflict this authority now compromises and challenges his core role! The CEO is required to refer incidents of alleged breaches to the appropriate authority. How can the CEO faithfully report himself for his own advice and now authorised actions, or for the very activity which won him Councillor delegated authority? How does this conundrum inspire any degree of stakeholder trust, and how can the CEO remain impartial? What the hell was the entire local election all about, if after all the electioneering, promises and posturing, our elected representatives are only to be advised in Chamber that this direction is “merely housekeeping”, “standard process”, and that it is compliant upon Councillors to surrender their hard won authority to the Mayor’s personal appointee in her CEO? Anyone else challenged by the degree of integrity involved? When challenged by the gallery afterwards, the Councillors protested that they knew what they had voted upon, having been thoroughly led through a workshop prior. How was the workshop content and counsel verified, and what provision was made available to our new, inexperienced and relatively raw councillors to verify what they had been told? Wouldn’t we love to know! I can say with some authority, that this interpretation is not representative or uniform across Queensland Councils at all. On the pro side though, all and any complaints can now be directed personally to the Mayor and her CEO. No one else has the power to address your concerns anymore. Feel free, as a courtesy, to CC your divisional representative to keep them in the loop. It will be quite a job to personally respond and handle all the collective concerns and responsibilities of a city of 150,000 residents with another 40 000- – 50,000 residents proposed, depending on the quality and currency of published reference. We should ask the good Deputy Premier, Minister for Infrastructure, Minister for Transport and Minister of Local Government & Planning to maintain a public register of public inquiries to transparently keep RCC residents reliably informed of how their inquiries are being processed, addressed, and advanced in a queue, in addition to providing a central point of reference for the Mayor and CEO to see if they are up to the task of adequately addressing and quality controlling the entire weight of council correspondence and follow-through via their window of two. It’ll be quite a feat. I wonder if they really thought this action through!
    BTW, I attended in the hope of having the Agenda better explained to me, so I could understand the attendant issues and community collaboration available to me. This new process denied me that opportunity, and everyone else in the gallery and those awaiting an account of events via the Bulletin. I witnessed a vote only and was denied the provisions afforded under the constitution and how the “Public gallery” was awarded its name, so that the public could view democracy in action. I remember being promised that as an impressionable little girl upon her school scheduled visit to Parliament house. How things have changed!

  4. Removing a Waterways Overlay? The overlay is intended to indicate conditions i.e. Waterways means water flows over the land under certain conditions, like during or after rainfall. It should dictate where housing approvals are granted, or refused. Brisbane City Council is upgrading its flood mapping, including properties once excluded or indicating more intense impacts on some properties in line with recent experiences, and predictions. Redland City Council’s removal of the Waterways Overlay to align with recent housing approvals is the height of irresponsibility and dishonesty which leaves home-0wners and rate-payers at risk of financial loss, the former from direct flooding impacts and the latter from litigation against a Council for knowingly approving development in a waterway and then concealing the fact.

    • Well Well! Williams and Her “Muppets” still up to their old tricks, 31 minutes! She thinks she has a “divine right to rule”, but then I am not surprised .

  5. Even before 1994, Councillors were elected to chair the Finance , Parks, Engineering, Planning and Health Committees, these Committees were held in open forum monthly for all residents to attend and listen to debate. The General Meeting were held Monthly to ratify the decisions of the Committees. The General Meeting would take about 2-3 hours of discussion and debate. The only confidential items were usually commercial in confidence for tenders, legal or staff issues. Residents were invited to speak at the start of a committee or during a General Meeting. That all stopped in 2012 when Mayor Williams and her sheep were elected. Most things are now discussed behind closed doors, claimed to be workshops and then the General Meeting is a tick and flick. How can the community feel they are confident the council is open and transparent.

  6. When I was an elected Councillor (not Redlands), all Council and committee meetings were public, except for matters involving staff discipline and legal matters. Why can’t Redlands adopt the same?

    One of the new “community” Councillors should move such a policy and test the mettle of the Council.

    Also, how can a council in a developing area get through its business in half an hour? Must have mighty active committees.

  7. Wow!… Obviously I just blinked, and then I missed it! (maybe that was the idea)
    31 mins … That’s not even enough time for Cr Murray Elliott to make his customary cup of tea!

  8. Retired ex-Deputy Mayor Alan Beard on my attempting to speak up for saving local koalas from extinction, silenced me mid-sentence with the words “done deal Amy”…shows us ratepayers how its done. Deals done behind closed doors is the norm in how business is done in Redlands it seems…so at regular meetings councillors would be in the dark on what was agreed to, apart from Mayor’s followers. In shock…hearing about Lang Walker of Walker Corp, developers of Toondah Harbour, who know nothing about Redlanders environmental values, boasted he could buy any council or government in Australia…& plan to wipe out shorebird habitat oblivious to the fact some endangered species fly non-stop from Russia en route to Manly, Wynnum, and Toondah Harbour shore sites. Signatories between countries under what’s known as the RAMSAR Agreement need to be respected. These developers need to comply with wishes of the Redlands community which is to take one step at a time. Step one is to clean up the entry for ferrying people to destinations, plus tidying up the car parking issue by providing a multi-storey car park….after which high-rise apartment bldgs. and other varying types of buildings can be determined that the community at large agree to. First things first, then move on .

  9. Thank you for keeping me posted on these council matters.

    I am still very disturbed at the free hand developers have had in this city and it is only by publications like yours that can provide some kind of restraint on council approval decisions.

    Don Clegg

  10. unbelievable, minor amendments !! when the whole plan need scrutinizing ….what is going on with this newly elected Council?

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