THE fallout from a leaked email about the issue, and the South Gippsland Shire Council’s failure to properly investigate complaints about nuisance noise levels from the Bald Hills Wind Farm, have continued to dog the South Gippsland Shire Council.
Last Wednesday, January 31, the shire’s lawyers, Maddocks of Collins Street, attended a Supreme Court Directions Hearing initiated by lawyers for the affected Walkerville landowners, Dominique Tannock of DST Legal in Abbotsford.
There they were ordered to have the shire’s CEO, Tim Tamlin, present himself at court next month to say why the investigation, ordered by the Supreme Court in August last year, has not gone ahead.
Mr Tamlin, who arrives back at work today, Tuesday, February 6, after extended holiday leave, is due to be briefed by John Rantino of Maddocks about the outcome of that Directions Hearing.
But it has since been confirmed by the shire that they may seek an adjournment or deferral of court action with a plan for the required investigation due to go to council later this month.
“Yes, we understand that Tim has been asked to appear sometime in March. We are confident however that the independent investigation will be underway by that time,” said a spokesman for the shire this week.
The spokesman claimed the shire had “acted in good faith” after the original investigation was rejected by the complainants and had “intended that a report would come to the December meeting of Council, but due to the nature of the investigation and the time taken to find a suitably qualified investigator, this report will now come to the February meeting”.
“This has been explained to the complainants. Council has been acting in good faith and has at no stage done anything to suggest that it is not.”
The affected Walkerville landowners say, however, that the first investigation attempted by the shire was poorly devised and poorly implemented with the shire’s own staff refusing to engage properly with the landowners or to investigate at times when the noise levels were at their worst.
They say that at certain times of the year and in certain conditions, the noise level can be close to 80 dB inside their homes or about the same as a food blender or garbage disposal unit. Lower levels of constant noise can leave residents with headaches akin to having a hangover, in the morning.
These concerns are now due to be investigated by an independent expert in the field, and the matter is set for discussion in open council on Wednesday, February 28.
Email leak investigated
Meanwhile the shire has had an independent IT investigator in to try and trace the source of the leaked email from shire CEO Tim Tamlin, to councillors and his executive management team about the Bald Hills complaints, which found its way, directly or indirectly, into the hands of the complainants’ lawyers.
The Mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt is under no illusions about who she thinks leaked the confidential and potentially damaging email.
“It is an understatement to say that I am disappointed that one or more of my colleagues – your elected representatives – may have acted inappropriately with information relating to a legal case,” Cr Brunt says in her ‘Mayor’s Message’ this week, a statement that has not been received well by all of her colleagues.
“This self-serving behaviour – if substantiated – goes against all our teachings as councillors and negates our responsibility to one another and to you, the people we are here to represent.
“This is a serious issue and if it is found to be true there could be severe consequences.
“Releasing confidential information to someone in a legal dispute with council undermines the integrity of your local government and exposes each and every South Gippsland resident and ratepayer to greater risk and unnecessarily increased costs. It is inexcusable and will not be taken lightly.”
The shire is yet to receive a report from the IT investigators but with hefty fines and even a jail term a possible sanction, it’s safe to say some councillors will be dreading the outcome.