Monday, 11 February 2008

The Death Throes of Mareeba Shire - Part 3

CairnsBlog contributing writer Sid Walker, and candidate for the Tablelands Regional Council, Division 8, continues the tale of the secret meeting.

The first two parts of this series set the scene for this explosive third installment.


The Special Meeting of Mareeba Shire Council has now been the subject of three articles on CairnsBlog:

This is the third in the "Death Throes" series.

We're approaching the end game.


A Clear Rule to follow

Here's an extract from the Model Code of Conduct for Councillors

2.1.2 Exclusion from meeting of councillor with material personal interest

Section 244 of the Local Government Act 1993 provides that a councillor who has a material personal interest in an issue to be considered at a meeting of the local government, or any of its committees:

  • must disclose the interest to the meeting;
  • must not be present at or take part in the meeting while the issue is being considered or voted on; and
  • must not be in the chamber where the meeting is being conducted, including any area set apart for the public.

Hence under Section 244 of the Local Government Act 1993, Mayor Borzi was required, by law, to declare an interest before he participated and voted in the considerations of the Special Meeting on 29th January.
If he had a declarable interest, he should have absented himself from the meeting completely during those discussions and the vote. Even a seat in the public gallery was too close to the action.

Instead, he chaired a Council meeting that decided on - and approved - the new Myola Plan.



An Undeclared Conflict of Interest

It has now been established that Mr Borzi owns a property "near the water tanks" in lower Myola. He said so on ABC radio on Thusday 31st January. But he also suggested on air that the block was irrelevant to the Myola decision.

That's not the case. Mayor Borzi's block, which is at the corner of Kuranda Heights Road and the Myola Road, is inside the Myola Plan area. Check out the current title search record and the map showing Myola Zone C with the block located inside its boundaries.

Whether Mayor Borzi's block would have appreciated in value as a result of the Myola decision is beside the point. The potential conflict of interest should have been declared, formally and in advance. It appears that it was not. The Mayor should have been absent from the discussions and the vote. Again, it appears that he was not. If the Mayor did declare an interest and absented himself from the meeting as required by law, that fact should have been noted in the minutes. It was not.

I have legal advice that these are matters for the Crimes and Misconduct Commission.


Mayor Borzi’s Kuranda Blocks – Where are they?

A week ago on Monday 4th February, accompanied by a friend, I visited the Mareeba Shire Council offices to inspect the Councillors’ Register of Interests.

If the register we saw was accurate, Mayor Borzi has owned EIGHT blocks in Kuranda since at least the year 2000.

Contrary to Section 24 of the Local Government Regulation 2005, no block size is recorded for these eight properties. The register informs us simply that they are in 'Kuranda'. That must mean the greater Kuranda area, because we know at least one of them is in Myola (a district of greater Kuranda). The register also records that these blocks are vacant and for investment purposes.

Two of the blocks have now been identified (one is inside Myola, the other is nearby but across the Kennedy Highway on the Kuranda side). The other six properties remain a mystery. Do they exist? (if not, the register appears to have been inaccurate for 8 years!). If they do exist, where are they? Are any more of Mr Borzi's blocks within the Myola Zone? Were any of these other blocks recorded in the Register of Interests the subject of previous potential conflicts of interest over the last 8 years?

I trust we will learn the answers to these questions eventually.


Justice for the Environment!

I feel no satisfaction that Mayor Borzi may soon be talking to investigators. In general, I find the New Testament’s advice very wise: “Let he who is blameless cast the first stone!”

The Mayor, by his lights, has worked hard for his community and this region during a long career in local government. He's retiring soon.

The key thing is that the decision of the Special Council meeting
appears to have been made improperly, and by shutting the public out it was certainly not made with proper respect toward the community which the Council is meant to serve.”

Council’s decision on Myola taken at its Special Meeting must now be nullified by the State Government. No ifs or buts. No putting the community through further long battles through the planning process.

Consideration of Myola’s future should be a matter for the incoming Tablelands Regional Council and the State Government, uninfluenced by momentum from Mareeba Shire Council’s vote.

If someone commits a crime, they don't expect to profit from it if they’re caught. They don’t expect the authorities to turn a blind eye either. That's not the way the criminal justice system works. It's not natural justice. It's not planning or environmental justice either.

More than 200 people put time and effort into making submissions about the new Myola Plan. Some people put in a lot of time. Their own time, that is. Unpaid. Residents and concerned citizens did this in the belief that the decision makers would take these submissions into account. We knew they didn't need to agree with us, or even take the objections very seriously. We did however believe they had at least to go through a formal process to consider the arguments put to them and address them when making their decision.

It's clear that the meeting which approved the Myola Plan only gave the most cursory consideration to the submissions. There’s no record of discussion or debate over Myola in the minutes. A single consensus view is recorded. That’s all.

Now it is apparent that Mayor Borzi had an undeclared conflict of interest at that meeting.

This goes beyond high-handed, ill-considered Council decision-making and enters the realm of wrong-doing.


Resign!

I also call on Mayor Borzi to resign forthwith.

I also call on the State Government to investigate these matter urgently. I have legal advice that they meet threshold conditions for a Crimes and Misconduct Commission investigation.

Even though there are few weeks remaining before the new Tablelands Regional Council takes over, the State Government should sack Mareeba Shire Council and put in a short-term administrator without delay.

Mareeba Shire Council’s credibility is plummeting. The new Tablelands Regional Council should not have to wear any more decisions – even decisions taken in caretaker mode – by a Council that I believe is thoroughly discredited.


Nemesis

Life has many ironies.

If only Mayor Borzi had come and sat next to 'outsiders' like myself at the 'special' meeting (or let me in to watch the meeting!), things would now be very different.

For one thing, I'd probably never have bothered to ask for the Councillors Register of Interest. I'd vaguely intended to request an inspection for some time, but never got round to asking and probably never would if Mayor Borzi hadn't given me too much idle time sitting in the Council Offices.

What if the Mayor doesn't resign and the Queensland Government doesn't sack him?

We'll cross that bridge if and when it comes. I reserve my option to pursue the matter independently with the appropriate authorities.

That old warrior US President Eisenhower once said that "people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it."

It's the same with protection of our wonderful environment – and the determination of this generation to chart a new and genuinely sustainable course for all significant future developments.

9 comments:

Village Sketcher said...

Why so cynical Sid? I'm sure that small piece of trivial information just slipped the good councillor's mind.
...oh and if you're most generous offer is not accepted then another, not so judicious, Ike-made solution remains - "send in the Goddamn marines"!!!

bunyone said...

For 27 years I have watched Justice denied to our community. From the Cairns International Airport (stolen from Cairns and Regional ratepayers), to the demolition of our Heritage Buildings. Cairns Railway, Aquatic, Cairns Wharves, Marlin Jetty, all destroyed. Politicians of all parties get in on our backs and seem to think we have given them a blank cheque to do what they like, they say it’s a “Mandate”. Money speaks to them. So it’s the carpetbaggers that come into our community and rob us of our life style.
Many people own land that their grandparents spilled blood for, yet when it comes to money they are no better than the corrupt politician who rolls over for the cash. The only thing that stops a revolution is the fact that Australians are too tolerant. In most other countries the people determine what they want and get it.
Mick Borzi is not one of my favourite persons since he and Ron Davis gave the Old Harbour Board Heritage Building to the fire brigade. But who allows these people to keep devastating our life styles and destroying our Culture and Heritage. We all do. The problem is folks, not enough of us stand up and get counted. I believe Mick Borzi should resign or at least stand aside and be judged by his peers over this matter.

Rod Davis said...

Rod Davis did what? iam obviously busy when sleep walking, or some Rod Davis amoungst the 250 of us in Australia is...ah...oops....ah...oh...OK...soory..Ron Davis. Not Rod Davis... OK....they can take me back to the paddock now...

Tony Hillier said...

El Sid the magnifico. If the good burghers of Kuranda fail to select you as their division candidate on March 15th — and they've got rocks in their heads if they don't — you have a future as an investigative journo. Not in Cairns, though, I hasten to add. Only suppine, supping, sons of bitches required here!

S & J Jackson, Koah said...

What a stunning expose lads.. Syd WQalker.. if we had more of you - beavering away digging up - I bet these things only barely scratch the surface.

I'm shocked and embrassed on several fronts.

Firstly - where the "other" media in all this? How come no one from the Post or other outlets have hold this story - or even parts therefo?

Amazing. Every so-caller journalist - they're really on reactive reporters - should be feeling like dickheads over all this.

I bet there's still more to tell on all this.

I for one am so glad that you have taken so much time to spill it out - and you write like a skilled author. Kudo to Syd!

PS: My wife and I will be voting for you - there's no doubt! A Council with you on it Syd, will be a new era of government.

Johnny come lately said...

Man.. and to think I was gunna settle in and watch the Bill on ABC TV tonight.. this blog is more juicer than a 3 day old Mango!

Anonymous said...

You are so right Tony Hillier. What an enlighted story for Mr Walker to share. And his motivation? Money? Election? Fame? No.. simply honest justive and open democracy. That's all.

This regions owes a deep gratitude to him.

Anonymous said...

Syd,

Sorry to burst your bubble, BUT:

Section 244 of the Local Government Act 1993 provides that a councillor who has a material personal interest in an issue to be considered at a meeting of the local government, or any of its committees:

• must disclose the interest to the meeting;
• must not be present at or take part in the meeting while the issue is being considered or voted on; and
• must not be in the chamber where the meeting is being conducted, including any area set apart for the public.

FIRSTLY, as explained previously, Mareeba Shire Council has not adopted the proposed Myola amendments.

The resolution relating to Myola appears to be in accordance with the requirements of Part 2 Section 16 of Schedule 1. This is a decision to proceed with the amendments following consideration of the public submissions under Part 2 Section 14 of Schedule 1.

NOTE: The Special Meeting of 29 Jan 2008 was to consider the SUBMISSIONS.

I assume you have access to the names of all people who made submissions. Surprisingly, Mick Borzi’s name is not amongst them. So at a meeting ONLY to discuss SUBMISSIONS, where Mick Borzi had NOT made a SUBMISSION, how do you get the material personal interest in an issue to be considered?

But then if you bothered to actually find out the facts, you would be reporting that the current Planning Scheme allows 8,000 square metre average allotments on Mick Borzi’s property. Based on the 4.9 hectare (49,000 square metres) area of Mick Borzi’s property, this is potentially 6 lots.

NOW for the EXPLOSIVE revelation, what do the Myola amendments propose for Mick Borzi’s property. They propose it be placed in the Forest Residential Precinct. What does that mean? Well it means 40,000 square metre average allotments. Based on 4.9 hectares, this means NO SUBDIVISION.

That’s right, Mick Borzi’s allotment loses the right to subdivide.

The only shocking part to story is that Mick Borzi DID NOT OBJECT (make a submission) to losing these development rights.

Now please ignore these FACTS and continue with your rant.

Anonymous said...

In reply to Anonymous “sorry to burst your bubble but” Council approved amendments to the planning scheme which in turn approved the Myola Development. The special meeting was to accept the preferred course of action based on the planner’s report which would have (supposedly) taken into account submissions made by the public in response to amendments the council proposed. Whether or not Mayor Borzi made a submission is immaterial. He owns a block of land within that proposed Myola development and therefore has a financial interest.

As a councillor, Mayor Borzi is bound by the Ethics principles for local government councillors pursuant to Section 250G(1), Schedule 1.
Primacy of the public interest (2) “Councillors must take steps to avoid, resolve or disclose conflicts of interest” and
Transparency and scrutiny (1) “It is vital that the public has confidence in the integrity of a local government’s decision-making processes (2) To ensure transparency and public scrutiny of, and public confidence in, those processes, councillors must disclose their financial interests.”