Improving Redland City Council governance

Good governance

Local resident Debra Henry speaks about the Ombudsman’s report during Council’s general meeting on 19 April 2017

People regularly express concern about the way they are governed but in Australia there is a noticable decline in trust of government and other institutions.

It seems that many vested interests have become very successful at influencing governments to make decisions which yield private benefits rather than being in the public interest.

But ordinary citizens can improve the way governments work by getting just a little more involved in what’s going on.

Is representative democracy working?

Our political system is built on representative government. Put simply, every four years we elect people by a preferential majority who we collectively believe reflect our values and best interests. We then empower and trust these people to make decisions on our behalf that should reflect these values and interests.

But how do we measure these decisions? What constitutes a good decision? In this multi-layered world there is never one perfect decision. All decisions come with compromises, limitations and even lost opportunities, just to name a few factors.

Redlands2030 Inc has questioned many of the decisions of the current and immediate past Redland City Council. Overall these concerns relate to how we are being governed.

Governing in the public interest

Queensland’s Local Government Act makes it clear that decision-making (by Councillors) must be the public interest. But what is the public interest?

It’s not the voters enrolled in a particular councillor’s division. Its not the voters right across the city.

The public interest includes people who don’t even vote for example people under 18, people in adjoining council areas and people not on the electoral roll such as tourists, students and visitors.

What is good governance?

Good governance for local government has been defined to include:

  • Good governance is accountable. Local government has an obligation to report, explain and be answerable for the consequences of decisions it has made on behalf of the community it represents.
  • Good governance is transparent. People should be able to follow and understand the decision-making process so they can clearly see how and why a decision was made. What information, advice and consultation council considered and which legislative requirements (when relevant) council followed.
  • Good governance follows the rule of law. This means that decisions are consistent with relevant legislation or common law and are within the powers of council.
  • Good governance is responsive. Local government should always try to serve the needs of the entire community while balancing competing interests in a timely, appropriate and responsive manner.
  • Good governance is equitable and inclusive. A community’s wellbeing results from all of its members feeling their interests have been considered by council in the decision-making process. This means that all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, should have opportunities to participate in the process.  Recent research resulting in, the book, “The Game of Mates” illustrates the myriad weaknesses in the “system”
  • Good governance is effective and efficient. Local government should implement decisions and follow processes that make the best use of the available people, resources and time to ensure the best possible results for their community.
  • Good governance is participatory. Anyone affected by or interested in a decision should have the opportunity to participate in the process for making that decision.

Redland City Council governance shortfalls

There are some areas where Redlands2030 considers that our local Council has fallen short in recent years.

  • Transparency. A culture has evolved in Redland City Council where major decisions are made regularly behind closed doors at non-public meetings often described as workshops. These decisions then get rubber stamped at public meetings.
  • Accountability. While some things may be outside Council’s control, there many areas where the Council has failed. The steady decline of the Redlands’ koala population is one such issue and increasing traffic congestion with no fix apparent is another.
  • Participation. A progressive organisation would look beyond minimum statutory obligations and try to engage its community in decision making. The lack of an open community discussion about the new City Plan at the early “statement of proposal stage” resulted in layers of poor decision making. The Council talked about having community juries or panels to help with making decisions, before the last local government election. Since the election this idea has been binned.
  • Equity and inclusion. Government should be looking out for those who are disadvantaged and/or disenfranchised. In Redlands the only group that Council formally engages with on a regular basis are large property developers.

Improving the governance

What can we do to fix the City’s governance shortfalls?

Well the more scrutiny and feedback the Council gets the better it will behave.

Most Redland City councillors are accessible to their constituents by phone or email. some engage actively on Facebook and many of them can be met at community activities. So there are plenty of opportunities to discuss with councillors not just the decisions that they are making but also the way that these decisions are arrived at.

If you don’t think that the councillor for your division would adequately deal with your concern you can contact another councillor – they all have city wide responsibility.

Here’s a link to councillors’ contact details. You can find out more about the elected mayor and councillors here.

Watch what happens at meetings (the ones held in public)

Public council meetings give residents an opportunity to watch councillors debate a few issues (the ones that havn’t been decided behind closed doors) so you can form a view about how capable they are and whose interests they seem to be most concerned about.

A full public gallery tends to keep councillors on their toes and residents have an opportunity to make a short speech to councillors during the public participation section of each general meeting. If you are unable to attend council meetings you can find out what happened by watching a video recording.

Participate in public consultation activities

From time to time Council engages in public consultation. While it often appears to be a ‘tick and flick’ exercise, the community should make the most of these opportunities to have a say.

Issues that the Council is currently consulting on include:

Petitions, complaints and Right to Information

Another way to have a say is by raising and submitting a petition to the Council. You only need ten signatures to have your petition considered, but there is a particular format that the Council wants petitions to comply with.

Under Queensland law people are supposed to have access to government information, except where some exemptions apply. In some circumstances the information about actions of the Council e.g. emails, minutes of meetings and other documents can be obtained by lodging a Right to Information request.

If there are concerns about the behaviour, actions or inactions of councillors and/or Councils staff you can submit a complaint. The Local Government Act sets out rules for complaints to be assessed. More information about lodging complaints is available here.

It’s possible that referral to an external agency may be necessary. Examples of such agencies include:

Another institution that can act to improve local governance is the media. Issues or events can be brought to the attention of:

Ultimately people get the government they deserve and if you want good government you may have to do just a bit more than vote every four years.

Redlands2030 – 3 May 2017

 

 

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

7 thoughts on “Improving Redland City Council governance

  1. 10 May 2017, item 16….. what is the action? Why is there no details whatsoever?

  2. Reading some of the comments below makes you wonder how Redland City Council (RCC) can get away with vested interests at the expense of residents of the Redlands. Furthermore, one of these councillors wants to leave RCC and become an LNP member in the same region that is experiencing unsustainable development. Good luck!

  3. Thank you for the mention of the need to participate in public consultation activities.
    Remember public consultation on Toondah? It drew an award! Haha.
    But R2030 public forum and other groups have provided the consultation and information.
    Which brings me to Walker’s latest bid on Toondah
    http://www.redlandcitybulletin.com.au/story/4642252/toondah-harbour-proposal-revamped/?cs=213
    Is this the beginning of the end? How is Walker going to make money if he has to build the terminal with smaller number of boat moorings but the 3600 units in the concrete boxes still go ahead, over 15 to 20 years mind you.
    Time to withdraw the PDA. “six goes at sorting an environmental impact assessment” and “kick start” sounds very shaky.

  4. The challenge in this post seems to be one for the community to respond to as much as our elected officials.

    Perhaps the governance report card would be marked as “Can do better”

    I liked to view on the public interest…more than a sample or even a majority of constituents. That seems to go over the heads of many people (constituents included).

  5. The Redlands 2030 article on Governance is well written but it has all been done before. It’s like communism, it sounds functional, but doesn’t work practically.

    Australia is due for a restructure just the same way as Donald Trump is doing in the US.
    Those that have their snouts in the trough hate his style and plan.
    Those that are realists understand exactly what he is doing and needs to do.
    Currently no political party and let’s face it Councils are just political wings of the main stream parties, are fit to govern State or Federal Govt.

    We have all our Redlands MPs playing politics with the plight of commuters public transport at the moment because they have not done their jobs. We have a failed train system, our representatives lying through their teeth to save their skins.
    Any normal company would have restructured by now, something that the Republican Party is now doing in the US.
    Time for a paradigm shift if Australia doesn’t want to move in with the Third World.

  6. People just have to read the transcripts coming out of the investigation by CCC regarding Councils and Councillors poor conduct. I could not believe that Mayor Tate knowingly knew he had to have an electrion bank account for accountability and didnt and then openly says “well when peiople give large amounts of money you do have a soft spot for them”. Ipswich another Council with major questions hanging over them. In the last term of Redlands Council the decisions made to benefit those who donated to the election campaign, or had friendships were shameful. Knowing that approving a development for 10,000 people in southern Redlands which was not zoned for Residential, and in breach of the Redlands Planning Scheme and the State Regional plan, is up there as the worst decision. Then we hear the Mayor drone on about how she will fix the roads,, and blames the State government. The Mayor has know since 2006 there has been a short fall on sporting facilities, a report was done, and work had started on the process but in 2012 after the election the Mayor stopped the process then approved residentail on the land identified, owned by some who donated and supported her campaign. Now we hear that the penny has dropped and the mayor wants residents to come forward keen to sell their land, this is not the way good planning is done, it is planning on the run. Another missed opportunity for sporting groups to find a home to expand their clubs in a central area, close to public transport and easy access to all. Then lobbying the Newman Government to support putting another 10,000 people on 100 acres of land which is on fill in a marine park and a 400 berth marina. The mayor wanting to sell 23 parks but thanks to the local paper releasing the info the idea died, well not really, as I heard there are parks or open space being sold off, Oaklands Street kindy a good example for unit development.. I think the CCC needs to broaden its investigation into a number of councils including Redlands, I am keen to hear thoughts from others and congratulate Redlands 2030 for their post

    • We used to have a Division 6 Councillor called ‘Toni’. She had an interesting performance while she was in office??

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