Monday 7 June 2010

Councillor Pyne to face conduct breach investigation over rates leak

Cairns Regional Council Mayor Val Schier as responded to the disunity and recent budget leaks on CairnsBlog by launching a Code of Conduct complaint against Councillor Rob Pyne.

Pyne has been summoned to explain postings on his electorate website, about Council's confidential proposal to increase rates by 5% at the end of June.

The story was first published on CairnsBlog last Monday, the 31st May.

  • From: Russell Lyn
    Sent: Friday, 4 June 2010 1:21 PM
    To: Pyne Rob
    Cc: Val Schier; Linda Kirchner; Krystyn James; Judith Lawrence

    Hello Cr Pyne

    The Mayor and I request an early meeting with you to discuss actions on your part which may constitute breaches of the Local Government Act and Council's Code of Conduct.

    These actions include the printing of certain information about Council in a recent edition of The Rock Newsletter, and your proposed distribution of a letter relating to planning matters on which you sought and received advice from Mr Tabulo.

    I attach below relevant sections of the Act and Code, and look forward to meeting with you to progress this matter. I will ask Krystyn James to arrange a mutually convenient time.

    Lyn Russell PSM FAIM FLGMA
    Chief Executive Officer

Councillor Pyne says he's more than happy to meet with the CEO, however has asked Ms Russell to take up any issues regarding his website with the editor, Mrs Jenny Pyne.

"You should be aware these 'bully boy' tactics are something 'that I thrive on'. I love it," Rob Pyne told the CEO in an email on Friday.

Pyne told CairnsBlog he's being silenced.

"After more than two years of questioning various decisions made by Cairns Regional Council, and exposing hypocrisy and poor decision-making wherever I have seen it, as well as highlighting many good decisions, it seems the third floor in Spence Street have decided to shut me up," Robert Pyne said. "Unlike the Mayor and CEO, I was born here, have always lived here and fully intend to die here."

"At the end of the day, speaking out for this area and the people who live here is more important to me than anything else, so rest assured, I will not be silenced," Pyne says.

However, Robert Pyne took aim at the allegations over the weekend.

"While I did offer to meet with the CEO and Mayor Schier in good faith, as I lay in bed last night contemplating this meeting, these words wafted through my mind, 'Mr Briggs decision to resign was Mr. Briggs and Mr. Briggs alone,' ” Rob Pyne says, in a reference to Schier's now prolific words when former CEO resigned in June last year.

"My point is, I will not be 'fitted up' to have made certain comments, when I have in fact not made them," Pyne said.

Councillor Pyne says he will now only meet with the CEO and the Mayor if he can bring an independent third party to "verify any comments that are made."

"My independent nominee is Fred Ingles of Bayview Heights, well-respected in the community and has some knowledge of the operation of military tribunals," Pyne says. I wonder if he's been taking pointers from Kevin Byrne?

"Has Val targeted the right councilor in her bid to impose discipline?" Robert Pyne asks. "Time will tell, but the exchange shows I'm up for the fight of my political life."

In June 2008, just three months into the tern of the inaugural Cairns Regional Council, Robert Pryne was the only councillor to vote again the rate rise.

"It's a moment I'm particularly proud of, and that image of me raising my hand opposing that rate rise two years ago, is firmly in my mind now," Pyne told CairnsBlog this morning. "I was voted there to represent my division and it is the people of that area that keep me there or throw me out."

The show-down meeting is scheduled for 11am on Tuesday.


portmultimedia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oliver Redlynch said...

If indeed Councillor Pyne has been stupid enough to leak this information (not yet proven) and subsequently post it on his "wife's website", then these are the action's of an anarchist, and should have no place within a democracy where the councillors have a duty of "corporate responsibility", rather than the undermining of democratic decision making. A code of conduct investigation is therefore only correct.

Is the Cairn's blog covered by Journalist priviledge?

Syd Walker said...

This episode highlights the inappropriateness of the entire 'corporate model' for local governance.

We need root and branch reform so public debate can re-energise local politics.

How utterly absurd when one participant in this saga - the CEO - gets paid several times the average salary to enforce CENSORSHIP on elected councillors? This – while the general community's involvement in decision-making is hamstrung by poor information flow and the community's right-to-know systematically obstructed!

There is no need for all this secrecy, for heaven's sake. Cairns Council doesn't run a standing army. It's only here to do a good job on behalf of the people down the hill who elect it. That's all. Stop pretending to be a petty replica of a modern State.

Far from hunting down leaks, I'd like to know why all budget considerations can't be in the public domain?

What's to keep secret? What's the justification for secrecy? Who benefits from it?

Why aren't Council meetings recorded and streamed live on the internet to encourage greater participation and awareness?

I was struck the other day by a PBS documentary about the Parthenon in Athens.

2,500 years ago, the people of Athens (population then comparable to Cairns now), part of Attica (population then comparable to FNQ now), built that incomparable architectural masterpiece that dominates the Athens skyline to this day. It took them LESS THAN TEN YEARS to build. Citizens had to agree every major expenditure. That's how to galvanise enthusiasm and get things done!

We need local government to unlock the creativity of the community and encorage more citizens to get involved.

The old slogan says it all:

The Secret is Open Government!

Unknown said...

I note with interest the comments of Cr Pyne, questioning various decisions made by CRC and exposing hypocrisy and poor decision making wherever he see it. He states :

"At the end of the day, speaking out for this area and the people who live here is more important to me than anything else, so rest assured, I will not be silenced."

As submitters and local residents of Little Mulgrave, opposing a residential subdivision in our area, we assumed Cr Pyne would speak out for the people of Little Mulgrave and oppose this development in an area that is zoned Rural One. However, this was not the case. In a complete departure from his renown green stance and views against work in environmentally sensitive areas Cr Pyne has decided to support a single developer from Innisfail. Ignoring recommendations from their own planning department, advice from DERM and concerns raised in 20 submissions by locals, Cr Pyne and 5 of his colleagues sucessfully voted to approve this subdivision, 6-5, at a council meeting in February this year. In April, the same concillors approved conditions to allow this development to procede.

Cr. Pyne has offered no credible reason for supporting this application and indeed ignored the concerns of the submitters. The only comments he has made to defend his decision are:

"(the developer) asked me to support it and it appeared to be of little value as agricultural land and on top of this, there is a legitimate demand from the public for these type of properties, and state planning is dramatically limiting supply."

Obviously, Cr Pyne's concept of "speaking out for the area and the people who live here" is vastly different to our notion.

We are now planning to appeal the council's extraordinary decision in the Planning and Environment Court.

Mark Moore, Little Mulgrave

observer said...

Will limit it to one comment. Rob Pyne - consummate politician.

Clifton Ratbags Rule said...

Pyne revealed his "defence" to the Code of Conduct complaint on the radio this morning.

"It's actually my wife's website".

What kind of pussy excuse is that? In one shot Pyne reveals the kind of spineless weasel he's become - a chip off the old Pyne block.

Anonymous said...


This is largely about my ability to speak out against the policy position of Senior Management – and whether it is legitimate to do this.

Your position (correct me if I am wrong) is that the correct behavior for me is to follow the advice of Senior Management.

My position is to listen to the community.

Had you and your neighbors contacted me BEFORE that matter had come to Council my position MAY have been difficult.

My decision was driven by the arguments of the proponent and the fact that I believed (and still do) that the Councilor for that Division is respected by and linked in with his community. Records show I back Gregory and this is based on his long established knowledge of that country.

Mark I know you disagree with my decision, but I hope this helps you understand how I reached it.

Yours Sincerely,

Rob Pyne.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ratbag, at least I do not hide behind a pseudonym. Though I cannot deny yours is accurate!

Unknown said...

Cr. Pyne, you are right, I don't agree with your decision (and I am not alone here) and your comments don't help me understand how you came to your decision.

We expect you to recognize the advice of Senior Management (i.e. Town Planners that recommended refusing the Development Application on no less than seven grounds) AND listen to the community (i.e. submissions from 26 concerned locals, numerous letters and a deputation to the council).....surely it's not difficult to consider both these groups, encompass all the views and act accordingly?

Submissions were lodged at CRC in June 2009, eight months before the matter came to council. The Town Planners' 28 page report which recommended refusing this application, included a 2 page summary of submitters' concerns. I trust you read this report before voting to support a single developer from Innisfail?

Surely you are not suggesting that we should have contacted each councillor individually prior to our matter coming to council and lobbied each of you personally?
We followed the application and submission process to the letter.

OK, we didn't contact you BEFORE the matter came to council in February 2010, but after this meeting:

- there was a story in the Cairns Post, questioning CRC'c decision,
- Letters to the Editor were published,
- a personal letter to each councillor and the mayor from submitters was sent, and
- a Deputation was presented to Council

All of these questioned the council's decision and again raised concerns of local residents.

You stated above your position is to listen to the community. What community are you listening to?

Two months later, in April this year, another council meeting presented conditions allowing this development to procede. Was there any reason to prevent you voting against the development at this stage?

We'd be keen to hear what arguments the proponent used to drive your decision, or is simply that Cr. Gregory asked you for a favour and you said, "Yes"?

Mark Moore, Little Mulgrave

CBD Warrior said...

Rob, what a load of crap! You're turning into every other politician, more interested in yourself than any constituents.

You brag you're "linked in" to your community. Now we find there are parts of your community you won't listen to, and even more stunning is to find out we're actually just "linked in" to your wife. Never saw a pollie run so far from his own words and newsletter!

Anonymous said...

I did not mean to imply that Cr. Gregory has been THE MAIN FACTOR swaying other councillor's judgement on this, as at no time did he do so other than arguing the case on the floor of Council, on a personal opinion of planning merit.

This was always going to be a "lose/lose" situation for the divisional councillor.......oh for the days of a prescriptive planning scheme with prohibited development clearly delineated.
Thanks for letting me clarify.
Rob Pyne.

Balaclava Rd Bandit said...

Let’s take a step back and stop player hating on Mr Pyne.

I wish I had him as a councillor, because he at least gives the appearance of caring about his division, and from what i've heard he actually acts for what is best (in most cases) for his division and Cairns.

What do we get from our councillor in Earlville? Maybe a newsletter once every couple of months (telling us what a great idea Vals Volcano is..) and a dog park... that no one uses...... wish we had a councillor that stood up for things that mattered, rate affordability, service delivery, community safety, etc etc. The only time we see her is at labour party photo ops…………….

Rob you sure we can't tempt you into our division? Or maybe mayor? First you can scrap the Volcano until the economy is working again, secondly, leave rates alone till the avg wage of home owners catches up, thirdly, stop the waste of rate payers money by the council (e.g. the festival cairns debacle that’s going on now)…. Not much to ask? Is it?

Unknown said...

Cr.Pyne, I've read and re-read your posts, and I'm afraid they are not clarifying anything for me.

What is it that you find so clear about the council's decision, that I just can't seem to grasp?
Maybe it's me and I need an explanation in layman's terms from someone.

Can't you please simply answer the questions raised above?

By the way, I didn't ever think that Cr. Gregory "has been THE MAIN FACTOR swaying other councillor's judgement on this", but I am concerned that you would back him "on a personal opinion of planning merit"; against all the evidence presented stop this development.

One other thing; you say this "was always going to be a "lose/lose" situation for the divisional councillor" (and I guess the other councillors who voted in favour of this sub-division).

What is it that you all stand to "lose" if you had NOT supported this single developer from Innisfail and backed the community of Little Mulgrave?

Mark Moore, Little Mulgrave

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

Moorie, yes, it is indeed good to lobby all councillors - by email or personally - when an issue is coming up. When you see the amount of planning decisions they all need to be aware of in a month, it's enormous. We here at Yorkeys Knob have lobbied councillors on a number of matters over the years, & in most cases it has made a differece. Yes, it takes a lot of work, but yes, it can pay off. Mind you, it's often made not a blind bit of difference to our own Cr. Marg Cochrane, who largely ignores that the YK community wants, except if there's a photo-op involved.

I hope Rob's comments above cleared up the matter for you. I can see why Rob took Gregory's lead - he is known in his division for being a reasonable advocate of that part of Cairns.

But hey - whoever came out with the news of 5% rates increase - that's the news. If these bastards have made the decision to increase by 5%, well, the Councillors must be blind, deaf & dumb to what is happening in Council at present. We can hardly afford to hold a chook raffle in Cairns at present, let alone another rates increase. Or perhaps it's the case the Council is stoney broke - and if so, why?

And my mind goes back to when Val was newly-elected, and she promised 'utter and complete transparency' in Council dealings. Now sadly, a couple of years on, well . . . you've only got to look at the code of conduct nonsense above.

Every time I hear 'corporate' in concert with the word 'Council', I get the shivers. The Council should not be a corporate organisation akin to BHP - it should be a functional administrative structure dedicated to providing a positive, healthy existence to as many members of the community as possible. Ditto for water, transport, electricity. The notion of 'corporate' should not enter their structure. Professional, capable, goal-oriented - yes, corporate - no.

Al said...

Pyne's support of the subdivision application (against planning advice and against Cairns Plan) is indefensible. I can't even begin to imagine what possessed him to support it, neither has he been able to satisfactorily explain it. And he now appears to be thrashing around trying to defend what he himself would have previously considered indefensible (and which most ratepayers still do).
My early opinion was that Pyne was one of the new breed we desperately needed in Cairns who would provide a transparency we all craved. It is then so disappointing to find him indulging in the same old Machiavellian games of those before him? And stop with the silly belligerence Rob, you know what your electorate expects. Just do you duty and get on with the job of providing it. And remember; It's not all about you!

Jan from Kewarra said...

Rob and Mark,

Just as a matter of interest, who were the planning consultants on this project?

Anonymous said...

My impression was that it is a small local family and not a 'big developer' or 'consultant' driven project. as is the norm on the northern beaches.

there is no denying there is local opposition though


Unknown said...


The planning consultant for the Little Mulgrave Development Application was Peter Robinson of Projex North Pty. Ltd., T/A PRP Planning.


Smithfield Sam said...

So Rob, your new explanation is that "it's ok for a small local family to rape our community, just not outsiders".

Everytime you open your trap Rob, you dig a deeper and deeper hole. You've turned into an even bigger charlatan than your old man.

Caz said...

Cr Pyne,
Your comments only strengthen my belief that there is no cohesion or communication in local government and their departments, particularly when considerng subdivision developments.

If you had read any of the information that was available about this development, which I naively thought was what Councillors would do before reaching such decissions, I'm sure you would have had second thoughts.

This "local family" based in Innisfail is a (owner's name) Investment Trust Unit & only became "local" after they purchased the property in August 2006, this was after a prelodgement application enquiry to subdivide into 4 lots was refused by the City Assessment Manager & was "unlikely" to be supported by the divisional Councillor. Unheeding of the advice the property was purchased in late August 2006 and a Development Application to subdivide into 6 lots lodged with the council in march 2008.

You consider youself a local, does this sound like a local to you? It will be with interest to see if they are still "locals" in a few years.

And yes, there is huge local opposition to this, and many of these "local opposers" have in fact lived in the valley for many years and some for generations. People who wish preserve the valley's pristine nature in the best & most sustainable way.

hieronymus bosch said...

is it true that the people complaining in little mulgrave are living on the same kind of sub-divided blocks as the approved proposal?

Moorie said...

Hieronymus Bosch, the size of existing blocks in Little Mulgrave is not the issue here. What is at stake is the sustainability of The Pilba Creek which is the only source of water for seven families living here. Local residents are also concerned with the impact on their lifestyle and the environment should this subdivision proceed.

The development site is located on the headwaters of The Pilba Creek and covers much of its catchment area. This creek is a small spring fed water course and it can barely maintain supply for the families totally dependent on it for their survival. The impact of 6 new blocks in the catchment area will impact on the properties downstream. DERM advised the council on this matter and recommended refusing the development application. This area is not “Bore Declared” which means there are no restrictions on bores or limits to amounts of ground water taken. The recent moratorium on bores in our region does not apply to this subdivision.

Living in a rural area such as Little Mulgrave, means water supply is not as simple as turning on a tap and is not a luxury we share with our suburban “neighbours” living in town.

Valley residents have always known what the water situation was and those who have recently moved here were happy to accept this condition as part of our lifestyle. Town planners had guaranteed that further development in this area was impossible, so were reassured that our tenuous water supply could be maintained.

Today the minimum block size in rural areas is limited to 60ha, by the Regional Plan 2031, under the previous scheme, CairnsPlan, it was 40ha.

By voting in favour of this development, Councillors Pyne, Gregory, Blake, Bonneau, Cooper and Cochrane have approved a developer’s request to over-ride the planning scheme and sub-divide to blocks that are a fraction of the size stipulated in the CairnsPlan and the Regional Plan 2031. Local residents are furious with this decision and frustrated that despite repeated requests none of our councillors will give a reasonable explanation justifying their decision to support a single developer in favour of an entire community.

You are right – a number of the blocks in Little Mulgrave are a similar size to the proposed development site. But you must keep in mind that these were created many years ago in the 1980s, before the recent town plans were wisely introduced to protect these environmentally sensitive areas.

Mark Moore, Little Mulgrave

Al said...

The reason (Morrie) that none of the councillors will give you reasonable explanation for this approval, is that there is none. This (again) highlights that Councillors are a bunch of rank amateurs when it comes to such issues, and that's about the best bent you can put on their decision in this case. It really does destroy any faith in our system of local government: We elect citizen ratepayers from amongst our ranks to represent us - and they don't! That stupid dick brain Allan Blake gave his reason as being "well, they haven't got much going for them down there" (True! This is the calibre of the man). Well, having read your account of the water issues down there, you've all got even less going for you now. For our councillors to go against our CRC professional planners should require COMPELLING reasons be given.
All we can do is remember who these councillors were (and their names again: Pyne, Gregory, Blake, Bonneau, Cooper and Cochrane), and whittle away at them from now until elections are next due. And this not a bad forum to do just that.

KitchenSlut said...

"What is at stake is the sustainability of The Pilba Creek which is the only source of water for seven families living here"

Ummm Moorie presumably from what you have said you do not "own" the Pilba Creek resource? So what again do you think our entitlements are to this resource?

I think your claim may be far less than mining companies under the misnamed RSPT where genuine sovereignty and risk issues apply?

Jude Johnston said...

Moorie, those of us in the Northern Beaches, sympathise and understand the frustration you are experiencing.
We all once thought that the Cairns Plan was a planning instrument designed to protect the environment and residents amenity.ROTFL.
The relationship between some councillors, developers and Planning Consultants could be interpreted as being inscestuous.
We are all the "innocents", those who think the Cairns Plan would be an instrument we could all rely on, one interpreted by a "reasonable man". However, there are developers and their planning consultants who know every trick in the book to play a game of power and greed at our and the enviromment's expense.
Councillor Gregory turned up for an onsite meeting with concerned residents at the Glencorp monstrosities and the effect on the creek at Clifton Beach wearing a cap from developers Planning Consultants. I guess it is a case of "if the cap fits".

Anonymous said...


i would be very surprised if Cr. Gregory did that.

I can't say he did not, as I was not at that meeting, but it just does not sound like something he would do.

Any other people remember that meeting???

Warm Regards,


Moorie said...

Kitchen Slut,

Of course I am not suggesting that we (or anyone living along The Pilba Creek) own this vital resource, what a ridiculous idea.

Our entitlements are the same as any other rate payer without access to town or a scheme water supply. Those living on a creek, stream or river are granted a limited water allocation for domestic and stock use from that waterway.

What I am suggesting is that councillors consider the welfare of those residents already living in the area before approving development upstream which will compromise the water supply and threaten the existence of those downstream.

By allowing a developer to over-ride the planning scheme and subdivide in the headwaters and catchment area of the Pilba Creek, councillors have ignored the plight of those living in this area.

I hope you are not implying that by acquiring a block upstream one is given a greater right to the limited water available while ignoring the consequences for those downstream.

Mark Moore, Little Mulgrave.

PS I have absolutely no idea what your reference to the Mining Resources Super Profit Tax means and how it has any relevance in our case.

KitchenSlut said...

Moor ie,

I will be happy to do a more detailed rationale but for a starter can you tell us how much you pay for that limited water allocation from the creek?

You have specifically said that this is your ONLY source of water? We live in the wet tropics have you heard of a tank? Kitchensluts dear old Mum survives on a tank in far drier and more adverse conditions!

You have said that it is ridiculous that I have said you are claiming ownership of this common resource? If you exercise any kind of exclcusive use to the exclusion of others isn't that a form of property rights?

This goes exactly to the core of the current RSPT debate. The justification for this is as a 'resource rent tax' on economic gains from communal property. You are asking for 'rent' from the rest of us!? There should be an expectation that you pay for this? So how much should you pay to restrict others from your own entitlements??

KitchenSlut said...

"councillors have ignored the plight of those living in this area."

Plight? please explain the 'plight'! Sounds more like a paradise for most?