Chaotic Council meeting prompts Mayor to act
After the disorder of the last Coffs Harbour City Council meeting some new measures will be put in place.
The rambling, at some times chaotic, meeting on May 14 went for an exhausting six hours.
Long-winded statements parading as questions tested the patience of Council staff there to record the proceedings and answer technical questions.
It was a packed agenda with a number of significance development applications to consider including the $22m upgrade for Aanuka Beach Resort and a 52-unit Catholic Church development for Woolgoolga.
The sale of Council buildings to fund the $76.5m Cultural and Civic Space was also on the agenda, and for the first time in almost six months, Councillors voted unanimously on the matter.
Just before 10.30pm Councillors had to vote on whether or not they would proceed with the meeting. Crs Paul Amos and Michael Adendorff were the only ones who wanted to call it a night, so they all pressed on with business finally wrapping up at 11pm.
The Advocate understands this is one of the longest Coffs Harbour City Council meetings on record.
"It's certainly the longest one I've attended since coming on Council in 2008," Mayor Denise Knight said.
It was the second virtual meeting to be held since the coronavirus hit, with Councillors dialling in either from their homes or separate offices in the Council chambers.
Members of the public can view the proceedings online via Vimeo or listen live via Mixlr.
While these conditions are far from optimal, the conduct of some has been called out as completely unacceptable.
In order to prevent a repeat at this Thursday's meeting Mayor Knight will put a 30 second time limit on questions from Councillors and if this is not adhered to a moderator (a staff member from Council's governance section) will cut the offending Councillor off.
After the shambles of the last meeting she rang the Office of Local Government for advice and they suggested the limit of between 20 and 30 seconds.
"It's about being direct, being succinct and not debating. When we ask a question we have to adhere to the code of meeting practice and show respect for the position of elected member."
Mayor Knight has sent an email to all Councillors informing them of the new regulation.
Tony Judge is a Labor candidate vying for election to Coffs Harbour City Council at the next vote. He's been keeping a close eye on meetings and said the recent one was "embarrassing" and that ratepayers deserve better.
"Councillors were making decisions on matters that have a real affect on people's lives, but some contributions to the debate were flippant, rambling and almost impossible to follow," Mr Judge said.
"Some of the behaviour was so inappropriate that it has been suggested that Councillors should be breathalysed before council meetings. The ratepayers and residents of Coffs Harbour, along with the more diligent and well prepared councillors, deserve more respect."
Mr Judge was referring to Triple M Radio host Moffie's show the next day when he called on General Manager Steve McGrath to implement the use of a breathalyser on participants prior to meetings.