Monday 4 February 2008

The Death Throes of Mareeba Shire - Part 1

CairnsBlog contributing writer Sid Walker re-visits the story he outlined in ‘Mareeba Council, Myola and the Mushroom Treatment

A Very Special Meeting

To recap, the notorious ‘Special Meeting’ of Mareeba Shire Council on Tuesday 29th January started around 8am and finished by 10.35am.

As CairnsBlog readers will know, when the public was finally allowed in to witness the final part of the meeting just before the end, my worst fears were confirmed.

The meeting had indeed discussed the new Myola Plan (we weren’t sure until then it was even on the agenda). And yes, Council had approved the Plan, in closed session. That’s what we were invited in to hear.

I pondered at the time how quickly our Councilors must have whizzed through their deliberations. Seriously, how could they have considered all the matters raised in the 200+ public submission in just over two hours? Surely they must have skimped?

These speculations, it now turns out, were merely a sign of my extreme naiveté.

The real story of what happened at the meeting is more interesting.

It’s also more alarming.

What Happened to Myola?

On Friday afternoon, three days after first requesting the minutes of last Tuesday’s Special Meeting, I was provided with the web address. I downloaded this 24-page 3mb PDF document and forwarded the URL to a few friends.

Then I honed in on the surprisingly brief section about Myola.

I found no mention at all of the public submissions or the Planning Department’s analysis of these submissions. That was a surprise too! Unless the minutes are grossly deficient, it seems our Council never actually considered the submissions - nor was there any discussion on how to deal with the issues they raised.

Now I’d always thought local Councils were obliged to do that in order to comply with State law. Perhaps the other 200+ submitters were as ignorant as me? Funny really - to have had the quaint idea that our input had to be taken seriously!

This is the crucial part of the Borzi Council’s resolution about Myola:
“Resolved that Council accept the preferred course of action as outlined in the Shire Planner's reports to the 29 January 2008 Special Meeting and, in accordance with Schedule 1, Part 2, section 16(a)(b) of the Integrated Planning Act 1997, to proceed with the proposed amendments to the Planning Scheme for the Mareeba Shire as contained in the document titled "Myola Planning Study - Proposed Amendments to the Mareeba Shire Planning Scheme", as modified.”

So there - that’s what Council decided! Clear now? Did anyone say “What?”

Gift-Wrapped Knowledge

Council's decision might be easier to decipher if we also had the Shire Planner’s reports referenced in the decision. Presumably those reports outline what the ‘preferred course of action’ means.

It’s a shame they weren’t provided with the minutes - but why spoil the game of hide and seek for uppity residents with too many spare minutes to waste?

Right now, we must beg Council for each morsel of information. Like unwrapping a gift with many layers of wrapping paper, the fun just goes on and on. What will we find, eventually, inside the parcel?

The key thing seemed to be that the new Myola Plan was approved, in some manner, with
unspecified qualifications and changes currently known only to those who are in the know.

There was no note in the minutes of any declared conflicts of interest. No fuss at all really - other than a surly swipe at the State Government for going soft.

This is not a Council that wastes its precious minutes.

Borzi Tells the Truth

When Mayor Borzi finally made himself available on ABC Radio on Thrusday last week, two days after the Special Meeting, he opened with some curt remarks about Steve Wettenhall MP and myself, who’d each been interviewed previously.

If I recall correctly, the Mayor said he couldn’t be bothered replying to anything we’d said, because neither of us knew what we were talking about.

I thought at the time this was a choice insult.

Now I can more fully appreciate the Mayor’s comment. He had a point.

Neither the Hon Steve Wettenhall, nor myself, really had a clue what took place at Council’s Special meeting at the time we were interviewed on Wednesday and Thursday morning. We hadn’t any real idea what these guys had got up to that day.

It’s only emerging now, bit by bit.

Layer by layer the wrapping paper is coming off.

What is inside the Box?

Even little parcels may contain surprises. This is one such case.

Like the MP for Barron River, and this humble blogger (last week), you don’t have a clue either about another rather big story concerning the Special Meeting – not unless you’re an Mareeba Shire Council insider or you read the minutes yourself, with a critical eye.

I plan to write a follow up article in CairnsBlog, quite soon.

Don’t switch the channel just yet…

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