CHAT ROOM: Allan Kemp, the former manager of the now closed Chat Room Café in Depot Hill, owned by mayor, Margaret Strelow who says she hopes to re-establish the cafe to serve the city's homeless
CHAT ROOM: Allan Kemp, the former manager of the now closed Chat Room Café in Depot Hill, owned by mayor, Margaret Strelow who says she hopes to re-establish the cafe to serve the city's homeless Chris Ison ROK270514ccafe1

Mayor's Depot Hill properties - putting the accusations to rest

LAST week, we received a letter to the editor from Alan Cirson asking why The Morning Bulletin article (April 26) disclosing properties Rockhampton mayor, Margaret Strelow owned inside the proposed flood levee, did not include an amendment to the register of interests on February 15 this year.

He suggests she is "still apparently purchasing property within the levee-affected area”.

The short answer to Mr Cirson's question is that the property in question is irrelevant. It is not inside the flood levee.

His question however did draw our attention to the fact that one of the mayor's properties was not included in our list, and I'm quick to add that was our omission, not hers.

Cr Strelow did buy an additional 300sq m property in Depot Hill in May 2015, which she declared on the register of interests, but was missed by our reporter.

She also sold a 2101sq m property in Allenstown in January the same year.

An addition to property register by Cr Strelow
An addition to property register by Cr Strelow Christine Mckee

It takes no further analysis to see that value of properties owned by Cr Strelow, inside the flood levee has decreased since 2013.

Yet we continue to receive largely anonymous SMS messages suggesting she has been speculating on a flood levee and evading disclosure.

She told a recent council meeting, "I will not step back from putting the interest of my community first when what I consider to be cowardly attacks by persistent protagonists who continuously make that point”.

"The fact I have an interest property on Bolsover St and Derby St is old news... also old news is the fact the CEO has publicly declared on earlier occasions I do not have a conflict of interest,” she said.

"All property that councillors own in the area is declared.”

The declaration of interest is freely available on the Rockhampton Regional Council website.

At least Mr Cirson put his name to his letter.

The other issue for some people is CEO Evan Pardon's declaration that the mayor does not have a conflict of interest, despite owning property inside the proposed levee.

Yesterday he told The Morning Bulletin that the matter had been addressed several times and the position remained unchanged.

"Under the Local Government Act 2009 it clearly states there is no Material Person Interest for councillors if 'their interest is no greater than that of other persons in the local government area',” he said.

"The levee is a whole-of-community issue because every time it floods, everyone is affected in some way, as every ratepayer contributes to the clean-up bill.

"Council applied the relevant act and department guidelines and is satisfied there is no conflict of interest or material person interest in this matter.

"In order for the community to have confidence in this decision, I spoke to council's legal advisor and confirmed council's position.

"The Councillors have declared their interests in property and dealings on their register of interest and as required declared their interests at meetings.”

As much as the public have the right to ask questions of elected officials and it is part of our role to investigate these questions, this has now been answered more than once.

I think it's time to end the (largely) anonymous accusations of corruption, which are both legally and morally dangerous.

You may not agree with your elected leaders, but they deserve to be treated with respect.



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