'Democracy attack': Minority councillors reject change
THREE Gympie region councillors have rejected accusations by Mayor Mick Curran that their views on new planning regulations call council integrity into question.
Crs Glen Hartwig and Hilary Smerdon yesterday joined Cr Bob Fredman in rejecting the mayor's comments this week.
Cr Curran said he was disappointed that councillor support had not been unanimous for new rules which lock councillors out of some planning meetings and negotiations.
The mayor said previous rules made it easy for councillors to influence staff and said he had seen this happen.
"It leaves the question open - do councillors want to be having influence over personal developments in this area, which then ultimately will call into question the integrity of the council?” Cr Curran said.
Cr Hartwig said the mayor had "missed the point that we're here to represent the ratepayer.”
"In my two years in council I have never witnessed any councillors putting pressure on staff and the director of planning confirmed in the meeting that I've had a positive impact on those I've attended.”
Cr Smerdon said he voted against the motion because "I believe it restricts our ability to fully represent our community in the planning process.”
He said the new rules had "nothing at all to do with transparency.
"As far as I know we still live in a democracy and therefore can vote in favour or against any motion,” he said.
"I know the community expects me to have a full understanding of any planning matters that come before me and if that means going to official pre-application meetings, then I would like to be present.
"To suggest otherwise is to question my integrity and anyone that knows me knows I am above reproach and will always do the right thing.
"I will never be coerced and bullied into voting for a motion I believe isn't in the best interests of the community.
"Past history has shown what can happen when councillors are not given all the information when making decisions, especially the major decisions,” he said.