Industry Reference Group kept secret

RCC IRGbrochure

Industry Reference Group mentioned in Council brochure

Does the Redland City Council have an Industry Reference Group?

In May 2013, Council promoted its “Redlands – Open for Business and investment” campaign with a colour brochure. It includes the following words:

“An Industry Reference Group (IRG) that meets monthly to ensure Council and industry stakeholders are working in partnership to deliver benefits to Redland City.”

Despite several requests to Council, by representatives of Redlands2030, the membership and operation of the Redland City Council IRG remains a mystery.  A couple of senior sources advise that there is no group known as the IRG. Others say it doesn’t meet.  If so, why the reticence in responding to information requests.

But this week (17 February) a member of the public tried to phone a senior officer …..  only to be told the officer  was  unavailable.  It was said he was “upstairs at a meeting of the IRG”.

Given the pivotal role the IRG is tasked with in the Redlands – Open for Business and investment campaign, the status and operation of the IRG should be transparent to the community.

Clues to the existence of an Industry Reference Group

There are very few references to the IRG on the public record. A hint about the IRG and its operation appears in a documentation supporting the controversial Shoreline Development Application.

In this material, Council’s response to the applicant’s request is reported as follows:-

“Presentation of draft Economic Development Strategy as part of Industry Reference Group (IRG) meeting on 14/05/2014. Presentation forwarded to IRG representatives (which includes applicant [Shoreline] reps) post-meeting for comment.”

Redlands2030 became concerned after noting the Council’s response to Shoreline’s request (RFI015) regarding the yet to be released RCC Economic Development Strategy. This concern was heightened when it became apparent that Shoreline had accessed and used Council’s then unreleased URBIS Land Supply Review 2014 in its 2014 Residential Land Supply Preliminary Report  dated May 2014 (refer page 11) in its Development Application lodged in June 2014.

Council only released the draft Economic Development strategy to the public in July 2014. The Urbis Land Supply Review (2014 update) was publicly released in August 2014.  In each case, the public only got access to these documents months after they were apparently made available to members of the IRG (including, it seems, representatives from Shoreline).

Council’s Economic and Land Supply documents are of interest to the whole community.  

It begs the question as to the potential role that the Industry Reference Group may have had in the formulation of the draft Redland City Plan 2015. This planning scheme, which will determine who can build what where for many years to come, is yet to be released to the community.

Given the insights, in terms of access to Council reports, it seems reasonable that the membership of the IRG and the minutes of IRG meetings should be readily available in the interests of transparency.

As highlighted in a previous Redlands2030 post, during the preparation of the new City Plan in 2014 Council maintained a wall of secrecy with the Community. Only after significant lobbying by Redlands2030, other community groups and individual residents, did Council undertake a belated, very limited and very controlled “public consultation” process about the planning process.

Questions about Council’s transparency with the community

Redlands2030 has held back on publishing this post in order to have first confirmed the membership and activities of the IRG. Unfortunately the Council appears reluctant to be transparent with its Community. Redlands2030 first asked for the names of those within the Industry Reference Group on 15 October 2014. When subsequent reminders were ignored, a request was then sent directly to the Council’s CEO, Mr Bill Lyon on 26 November 2014, and then to the Council’s Media Group on the 8 December 2014. To date there is still no response from Council that lifts the veil from the mysterious IRG.

Why are the IRG’s existence, operation and membership being kept secret?

Is this symptomatic of a lack of transparency by the current Redland City Council?

From “Open All Hours” to a closed shop

A quick review of the extent that Council decision making debates are “open to public” scrutiny is enlightening. Since Mayor Williams took office in April 2012 the average weekly hours that Council decision making is done in front of its community has fallen from about ten hours per week to an average of less than two hours per week.

Of even greater concern is the significant increase in decision making by the Mayor and Councillors in “closed” meetings, away from scrutiny by the media and the community.

By contrast,  in the final years of the previous Council a dialogue with the Development Industry was maintained through Development Forums.

To quote the previous Council’s intent. The Development Forums were to provide the opportunity for:-

“the Redlands to become an exciting showcase for excellence in planning and good sustainable urban design” and how a joint partnership between Council and the development industry would ensure the protection of our unique lifestyle and environmental values”

with the hope that

“the forum outcome would result in an appreciation of the perspective, values and opportunities that we all bring here today and a genuine willingness to commit to a dialogue for an exciting and mutually beneficial collaborative partnership”.

The 2010-2011 Development Forums were transparent with reports etc made available to the Community at large. Ironically the background and Reports of those Forums continue to be maintained on Council’s website.

COMMUNITY ACTION: If you have concerns with the transparency and/or processes of your Council representatives then let them know by writing/emailing to your Councillor and/or Mayor. See the Redlands2030 Council Contacts page for details.

Report by Redlands2030 – 23 February 2015

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

8 thoughts on “Industry Reference Group kept secret

  1. Has any FOI Information been sought on this group by anybody and if so has it been published? If paid officials attend regular meetings, official agendas and minutes with recommendations, must exist, – destruction of such documents would then be illegal.

  2. I was formerly a Councillor and Shire President in Sherbrooke, a municipality, like Redlands, of high natural and agricultural value under intense development pressure.

    All formal Council deliberations and all formal committee deliberations were held in public, except for land acquisition and staff matters. It wasn’t that hard, and the development industry came to work within that framework once it became established. The public scrutiny brought discipline and moderation to all negotiations and made factions transparent. I don’t know any reason why a similar policy of openness shouldn’t be mandatory in Queensland.

    • It seems the reasons for secrecy by Redlands, othe Councils and State and local governments are also secret. The next to last sentence of the comment by Geoff is reason enough…public scrutiny brought discipline and moderation to all negotiations and made factions transparent.

      The mystery of the IRG continues…who, why, what is there to hide. Someone should show leadership and lance the boil!

  3. Has anyone considered court actions ?
    Maybe it’s time for a Secombe six type campaign only this time change the targets. I’m thinking the current state members individually. With the numbers so tight in the house neither side is likely to want too many waves.
    There are several other options… all legal available.
    I have no problems in those elected to represent doing their job but I do have issues with them doing it behind closed doors or as it appears non voting, Non human tools dictating the rules. Perhaps some one can explain to me how some one can Represent but never say what they do. The Public meeting are theatre all votes are done in ‘workshops’ (or in Camera). In effect we the public don’t have a say in what they do nor do we get to know whether our Councillor is doing what is in our interests?
    Who believes the cock and bull in the periodic “newsletters” (sic) ? I have seen the same benefit claimed by three separate Councillors. If we don’t know what our representatives are doing in detail how can we judge intelligently when it comes to voting? Believe what they say at polling time ? that worked well with Rudd, Abbott and Newman didn’t it. What exists in our council election is anything but democracy /b> .
    I’d suggest that every candidate be limited to a maximum spend of say $5k audited period. If they can’t muster volunteers then clearly they wouldn’t get elected anyway. Force the businesses to put their names on any ads they place in Big bold letters also citing their pecuniary interests for running the ad. After all their motivation is access= power = profit$.
    But then again the current council wouldn’t let it through because their real masters wouldn’t like it. I’d like to see that voted on and justified by each councillor at a public meeting.

  4. Dear Redlands2030:
    You are raising very serious concerns indeed. Please follow up on that FOI.
    We all know the land planning goes on behind closed doors, but it is the sheer enormity of it now and the sidestepping of anything that gets in the way. Right down to Ministerial call-ins. But the arrogance of Seeney dropped him right down to the bottom. We weren’t stupid and there’s a message in that for the current council: they need to show what they are going to do to safeguard the values that Redlanders hold dear.
    Can council show what thresholds have been set for the limit of environment harm from whole scale development, even small scale as we saw at Ormiston? And having the Co-Ordinator General at State level making decisions will no doubt continue enabling “anything goes” and that simply does nothing to mitigate against harm to environment, needs of people etc. Locally Barro Quarry comes to mind.
    No local development is to be refused we are told because of potential court costs: instead they are conditioned which simply assumes that impacts can be mitigated or “made good”.
    Look at the Ormiston koala tree debacle. What proof is there that koalas will survive with the proposed off-setting?
    And that was aided and abetted by shifting the impact assessment into code assessment.
    No this won’t go away.
    Thank you Redlands2030. Please keep informing the community.

  5. One could possibly assume that members of the IRG would also be donors of councillors election campaigns! Do then said councillors remove themselves from decisions to be made by the IRG? And this council expects us to trust them with our votes?

  6. Redlands2030 to know the truth…request under freedom of information
    the terms of reference
    membership names and what positions they hold
    last agenda
    last endorsed minutes

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