At last month’s council meeting, chief executive Stuart Wearne declined to answer questions from former mayor Jim O’Neill on the basis that it would divert time away from other council business.
The meeting elected Cr Sian Martin and Cr Dean Nardi to sit on the reference group, which would also comprise six residents of the Town and representatives from each of the organisations based at the site as well as the Town’s planner.
Each question was met with this response: ‘This question is not accepted as I have firstly formed the view that, in order to reply to the question, it would divert a substantial and unreasonable portion of the Council’s resources away from its other functions’.
Mr Wearne also indicated there were some considerations of confidentiality that would prevent him answering.
Questions from Damien Flynn on the Town’s contributions to the upkeep of reserve, the football club and community grants to users of the area were answered.
When asked, Mr Wearne defended the decision, saying the Council’s policy on public question time was voted in unanimously while Mr O’Neill was mayor.
‘It is simply wrong for you to suggest the Town refused to answer some questions because it involved a controversial topic,’ he said.
‘The Town is very supportive of the concept of public question time (for example not limiting questions to items which are on the agenda for that particular meeting, as many local governments do).
‘However, as indicated in my response, the Local Government Act recognises there are limits to what can be expected in terms of the time which would be required to research and provide some information requested by members of the public (the words I used were taken from the Act).’
Mayor Alan Ferris said he was interested in seeing constructive debate about ways to improve the reserve, rather than continue to receive negativity.
‘The frustrating thing is that we’re getting questions that aren’t helpful in the debate,’ he said.
‘I’m not sure of the intention of these questions other than showing council up or claiming that council has done the wrong thing.
‘If the questions are easy to answer we will answer them, but we have got other things going on in this town.’