Latest news from Lismore City Council's meeting

Cathy Adams
Updated July 13 2022 - 11:58am, first published July 12 2022 - 11:34pm

Tuesday night's council meeting left many wondering, "what is going on at Lismore council?".

What is going on at Lismore council?
What is going on at Lismore council?

Calls for the mayor to resign, an abrupt ending, and claims the council was going into "pseudo-administration" were some of the more controversial moments.

But it was a decision to oppose the lease of land at Hepburn Park in Goonellabah to Resilience NSW for temporary housing that will bring the biggest disappointment for many flood impacted people.


The motion put by mayor Steve Krieg for the signing of the lease was not met by a seconder, meaning the project will not go ahead.

Councillor Big Rob argued there was other land better suited to the purpose than sport fields used by the community.

He said while the situation facing flood impacted people was sad, the council needed to consider the needs of the entire community, some of whom he claimed opposed the move.

For the many who remain homeless almost five months after the floods, the decision will not bring comfort, however, news the State Government will automatically pay the rates of flood affected people may bring some relief.

General Manager John Walker said a letter of explanation will be sent to ratepayers with their rates notice.

He said people on council and government data bases who had registered as flood affected would receive the relief automatically as part of a $40 million scheme offered by the State Government to all flood impacted communities. But those who met the criteria and did not get automatic payment, could still apply.

Based on that, the council deferred further discussion on a rates and hardship policy until the August meeting.

The call for the mayor to resign came from Cr Adam Guise, who said he was shocked when Steve Krieg told the ABC's Four Corners program the council should be sacked.

Cr Krieg said he felt the flood recovery was beyond the capabilities of the council, and required an autocratic approach.

"But you actually need to sack the council to make this happen," he said.

Cr Guise was appalled at the comments, challenging the mayor to show leadership or resign.

"You cannot continue to be a figurehead when all you want to do is give away your leadership and have us sacked," he said.

Cr Guise said, "it flies in the face" of the need for leadership during the crisis facing the community.

"You do a disservice to your community and leaves real leadership begging."

Further anger was sparked when councillors were asked to approve a $20 million funding agreement with the Office of Local Government, the conditions of which they received only an hour before the meeting.

Councillor Guise, Ekins, Cook and Rob were outraged they were being asked to enter into an agreement, the terms of which they had only received an hour before the meeting began.

Cr Guise said the agreement would give the OLG control over the council in a way he labelled "pseudo-administration".

He said the conditions of the agreement were based on a report by Morrison Low - one which he claims was made without proper consultation with councillors and unfairly judged them as "incompetent".

Cr Vanessa Ekins said the councillors had not had time to fully inform themselves about the conditions of the agreement before being asked to sign it.

Cr Darlene Cook felt councillors were being "sidelined" and their voices as democratically elected councillors were being ignored.

She called it administration by default, as under the conditions, the project manager did not have to report to the council.

Cr Cook asked the mayor directly if that was what he had in mind when he spoke to Four Corners journalists, to which Cr Krieg said "no".

Cr Andrew Gordon argued it was a $20million grant and the council should welcome it.

"You guys (the previous council) had a roadmap, and you've been reading it upside down," he said.

"Yeah, we're getting $20 million and there's conditions attached. We've got to accept criticism. This Chamber is dysfunctional. We're not making good decisions."

Cr Rob questioned why the document was already signed and dated to June 28, when councillors only received information on July 12.

The General Manager said it was "preparatory" and the document was not officially signed until the councillors endorsed it.

Two representatives from the Office of Local Government were in attendance to observe the meeting, given the large sum of money involved.

Councillors approved the signing of the agreement, with councillors Ekins, Cook, Rob, and Guise opposing.

And, after months of council meetings exceeding six hours, councillors and the public in the galley were shocked when the mayor called an abrupt end to the meeting as it edged past 10.30pm.

Cr Krieg said the rules allowed him to end the meeting after that time had elapsed, even though their were items on the agenda to discuss, and refused to enter into discussion, despite furious objections from councillors and onlookers.

The next general council meeting will be held on August 9.

Cathy Adams

Cathy Adams