Gap piques interest

THE disappearance of a Melville council agenda item dealing with tighter disclosure rules was reportedly described by local government minister David Templeman as “curious” this week.

Mr Templeman sat in on Melville’s meeting on Tuesday with one of his staffers and Bicton MLA Lisa O’Malley, who’s a former councillor.

Although Mr Templeman is planning to drop in on a number of councils while coming to grips with issues in his portfolio, Ms O’Malley says Melville was on top of his list because of a litany of complaints to the local government department.

Ms O’Malley says issues around the proposed wave park, development at Canning Bridge, concerns from bowling clubs that face amalgamation or moving, as well as general complaints from the local residents association had come to the minister’s attention.

“Having been off the council for a few months, sitting in the gallery there was so much tension it was palpable,” Ms O’Malley said of the meeting, which was attended by about 50 ratepayers.

Almost 50 questions were submitted to the council prior to the meeting, but only about 15 were read out by mayor Russell Aubrey, with the remainder being declared administrative issues.

That didn’t sit well with former councillor Effie Nicholson, who repeatedly called out for her questions to be answered before Mr Aubrey ordered her from the chamber.

But Ms O’Malley said it was the “aggressive” grilling of wave park opponents Clive Ross and David Maynier by several councillors that left her shocked.

The pair have recently got hold of the council’s risk analysis for the wave park and claimed that many of the recommendations from consultants Price Waterhouse Cooper had been ignored.

The PwC report recommended the council investigate alternative uses for the site to ensure it was getting the best return for the land, which the pair said hadn’t happened.

Messrs Maynier and Ross also pointed to the report’s finding that there were questions about Wave Park Group’s ability to pay the agreed rent because the concept was untried in Australia and that the collaborative approach to the project was an unmanaged conflict of interest for the council.

Ms O’Malley says the pair had questions fired at them that “didn’t have much structure”.

The missing agenda item also piqued her interest and she pointed it out to the minister.

“In the gallery where you sit there are some folders with printed agendas and I was looking about because I couldn’t see the screen and picked one up, and the item was there, but it wasn’t on the screen.

“On the front page it had that it had been printed on June 30, so it must have been before the agenda forum and nobody has removed them.”

The item discussed a new policy which defines the level of disclosure and reporting required when elected members and senior staff have relationships with companies or individuals whose business brushes up against the council.

Ms O’Malley says she was left wondering whether the council had removed the item because of the recent controversy over a manager who’d previously had a business relationship with the wave park proponents. Was it to sanitise the meeting because of the minister’s attendance?

“The policy is great, it needs to come in, as in the act elected members have to disclose interests but officers don’t, but why would you remove it from the agenda?” she pondered.

The Herald understands CEO Shayne Silcox emailed councillors just prior to the item’s removal to say it needed further consideration.

by STEVE GRANT

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