Councillors should be 'better informed'

MAYOR Brad Carter admits that, with the value of hindsight, Rockhampton Regional Council could have handled the Milbi issue better.

And he says the misunderstanding and confusion surrounding the decision-making process shows all the councillors need to be better informed about the latest planning legislation.

Cr Carter was heavily criticised by campaigners against the Milbi Indigenous Hostel application to expand the Etna Creek detox centre and formalise its status as a residential institution.

Those campaigners say they were shocked that the council should re-visit the application only two weeks after a democratic vote to reject an officer's recommendation to approve the application.

They believed, as did most councillors, that although the vote was close, it was a clear-cut refusal.

Cr Carter, a supporter of the Milbi proposal, missed that meeting because he was out of the country, attending the LivCom Awards in the Czech Republic.

“There is no doubt that we could have handled it better as a council,” he said. “But I am confident that, in discussing the matter again, and voting to approve the application, that we have acted entirely properly. We have a position we can defend.”

He said the controversial vote on Tuesday was called after the council received legal advice.

“We are required by legislation to have a clear determination of this matter, not simply to reject the officer's advice.

“Part of the reason we got legal advice was that we had not determined the issue concisely and definitively in accordance with legislative requirements.”

He said each of the previous councils had dealt with planning matters differently before amalgamation, and that was part of the confusion.

On Tuesday the vote to approve the planning application was split 5-5 and the Mayor exercised his right as leader of the council to decide the issue with a casting vote.

The resolution included a component requesting meetings with Milbi every six months to review any issues.

It also requests regular meetings with the state and federal agencies that fund programs run at the centre.

The Mayor confirmed he had written to the Government about issues raised by residents and the expectations of council to the future improved operations of Milbi.

“We understand very clearly the concerns raised by residents.”

Campaigners against the proposal say they will mount a legal challenge to the council for the way it mismanaged the decision.

It is also highly likely they will challenge the Milbi application at the planning and environment court.

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