By Michael Giles
IT has been going on for years.
People coming on to council, after making big statements to the voters about their intentions, and then ushering through their own applications or personal issues without explanation.
Last week at the South Gippsland Shire Council meeting, we saw two councillors leave the meeting room due to pecuniary interests, Cr Don Hill and Cr Jeremy Rich, both without any explanation.
In Cr Hill’s case, he was the applicant requesting the opening of 211 metres of unused and unmade government road at Mirboo North, to provide access to a farming property (size unspecified) “recently” purchased by him, according to a shire report.
The matter has been before council since January 2016.
Cr Rich also left the council chamber last Wednesday, when a report of actions taken by the CEO needed to be approved by council.
These actions included variations to a water agreement between the shire and Ansevata Nominees Pty Ltd, a firm owned by the Rich family, and approval of the terms of a settlement between the shire and the Rich family company, following a dispute over water in a holding dam at Walkerville.
The settlement is believed to have include a significant payment.
It is understood that the shire may also be liable for remedial works at the dam.
There is nothing wrong with councillors making a living.
And if their everyday lives intersect with the shire’s rules and regulations, there is nothing wrong with those councillors as individuals getting the same treatment as any other ratepayer, land owner or developer.
No problem whatsoever.
But, in the interests of full disclosure, those councillors should be required to make a public statement to the community about their interactions with council.
And any current arrangements between sitting councillors and the shire, whether it be rental payments, planning applications, prosecutions or penalties; these should be placed on a public register during their term of office.
But it’s interesting to note, that while approving a last-minute change to the Councillor Code of Conduct, at the same meeting as these issues of pecuniary interest came up, there was no attempt made to protect the interests of the ratepayers where councillors are concerned.