Carter approves Milbi expansion

ROCKHAMPTON Regional Council is likely to face a legal battle after Mayor Brad Carter used his casting vote to approve a controversial extension to the Milbi detox centre yesterday.

Only two weeks ago councillors voted 5-4 against the proposal, but they were asked to consider the matter for a fifth time after chief executive Alastair Dawson apologised that, on a technicality, the matter had not been properly resolved.

That gave Mayor Carter, who had missed the previous meeting, the opportunity to bring his influence to bear. With Cr Sandra O'Brien, who had previously voted against the application, on leave, a new vote was tied 5-5 and Cr Carter exercised his right as Mayor to decide the application.

A packed gallery reacted angrily and outside the council chamber Trevor Rufus, one of the leaders of an Etna Creek residents' campaign against Milbi, delivered a scathing attack on the council's decision-making process.

“The whole process has been totally inappropriate,” he said.

“I think the decision taken today is un-democratic and illegal. We will raise a legal challenge. Two weeks ago councillors voted properly after a long debate and we thought the whole matter had been settled.

“We have had advice that the process the council has gone through today is full of flaws. How can they change a decision that was properly made?”

Others shouted as they left the gallery that it should be discussed again when Cr O'Brien returns.

The tetchy debate started with an explanation by Mr Dawson.

He said the council had sought legal advice and had been told that while the previous vote was a rejection of officers' recommendations, it did not fulfil all the obligations of the planning act.

Cr Brett Svendsen, the chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, proposed a resolution to adopt the original recommendation, which was seconded by Cr Tony Williams.

But councillors Glenda Mather and Cherie Rutherford questioned the justification for a new vote and spoke against the motion.

Cr Mather said Milbi was established in 1986 and had planning permission to operate as a farm to teach young people how to work the land.

Cr Rutherford said she had respect for the work Milbi staff carried out but it was impossible for the council to impose conditions that would help the people who lived nearby.

And she pointed out that council planners had admitted there was a conflict with the planning scheme.

Milbi's chief executive Lloyd Willie said yesterday: “All our prayers have been answered.

“We have addressed the security issues and put protocols in place. We are thankful for this decision and look forward to providing care for those who are more disadvantaged than ourselves.”

It is such a contentious issue that it is likely to end up in the planning and environment court.

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