Mayor Glen Hartwig during the first meeting of the new elected council
Mayor Glen Hartwig during the first meeting of the new elected council

Changes to council meetings ‘step in the right direction’

GYMPIE Region councillors have voted to reinstate general business in meetings, four years after the old council controversially axed it.

The return of general business has been discussed several times by the new councillors and during Wednesday’s meeting they voted unanimously to reintroduce it as part of a motion to review standing orders.

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However, it won’t return in the “traditional sense” as there are new conditions; any councillor who wants to raise a matter during general business must notify all councillors and the CEO at least 48 hours email prior to the meeting and provide a description of the matter so councillors are able to consider any potential conflicts of interest.

The Mayor may terminate the raising of the issue if it should be addressed in closed business or is not relevant to the council or region.

The last council had removed general business from standing orders in 2016, during their first meeting and replaced it with a system where all items had to be provided to the CEO seven days in advance.

Councillor Bruce Devereaux would like to see councillors be able to ask questions during general business without having to give notice 48 hours prior.
Councillor Bruce Devereaux would like to see councillors be able to ask questions during general business without having to give notice 48 hours prior.

Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon moved the motion, and it was seconded by Division 5 councillor Dan Stewart.

“I’m quite happy to see that general business will be reintroduced,” Mr Smerdon said.

“To be quite honest councillors should know what their conflicts of interest would be even at short notice.”

Division 4 councillor Bruce Devereaux voted for the motion but said he would like to readdress the conditions at some point.

“I am disappointed it doesn’t allow for questions on the spur of the moment without notice,” he said.

“I’m happy to go along with it today, it at least gives us something and we can look at it again later.”

Mayor Glen Hartwig agreed with Mr Devereaux and said the sentiment of what they were trying to achieve was a “step in the right direction”.

“It doesn’t go back to general business in the traditional sense, that is disappointing however at the same time the implications for failing to declare a conflict are far more serious now than they were even a few years ago,” he said.

“We need to act in the what’s in the best interest of our community and I’m very comfortable with these arrangements.”