LIST: 7 major decisions made by Maranoa Council in 2020
It has been an eventful year for Maranoa Regional Council as many wide-sweeping reforms have been passed in the first year since the last local government election.
Mayor Tyson Golder and his Unity councillors, John Birkett, George Ladbrook, Julie Guthrie, and Mark Edwards, have been advocating for more efficient running of council, lower rates, and growing the region’s population and economy.
But their decisions haven’t been without controversy, with other community leaders and fellow councillors expressing their disapproval throughout the year.
Here are seven of the biggest decisions made by Maranoa Regional Council in 2020, since the March election:
At a Maranoa council meeting on September 9 the majority of Maranoa councillors voted in favour of moving forward with a plan to restructure the entire way council operates and have it work in a similar way to the shire councils pre-amalgamation, at an initial cost of at least $1 million.
Deputy mayor Geoff McMullen believes the appointment of five new ‘directors’ in separate parts of the Maranoa region will be a “vast improvement” if implemented properly.
However the proposed restructure has drawn the ire of other councillors who do not believe they, and 350 council staff, have received adequate feedback, consultation and information to make an informed decision.
The majority of Maranoa councillors could not confirm how much it would cost council to implement five director positions, however Cr McMullen estimates $1 million per annum.
A majority vote to strip all councillors bar mayor Tyson Golder and deputy mayor Geoff McMullen of their authority to publicly speak on behalf of Maranoa Regional Council has been described as “an abomination” and an attempt to “muzzle” councillors in a dramatic meeting.
The resolution, ‘elect the mayor to be the spokesman in press releases and if he is not available, the deputy mayor to be’, was lumped in with four other proposals, passed on a 6-3 vote after a fierce exchange of words and some passionate speeches.
The motion states in Cr Golder’s absence, Cr McMullen will be the only councillor allowed to speak on behalf of council, including in press releases.
Unity Maranoa councillors Golder, Julie Guthrie, Mark Edwards, John Birkett, and George Ladbrook, and independent deputy mayor Geoff McMullen all voted in favour of the motion.
But Crs Johanne Hancock, Cameron O’Neil and Wendy Taylor were not happy about the proposals and sternly voted against it.
Roma is set to become home to a new youth and gaming hub, with the council voting to allow the Maranoa Gaming Community to repurpose the old Neighbourhood Centre.
Founding president of the Gaming Community Daniel Wales wrote to the council proposing a 12 month trial of the project to demonstrate the group’s willingness to establish and maintain the centre.
“The idea of the proposal itself came about when we incorporated formally at the start of the year,” Mr Wales said.
The MGC was formed earlier this year and has already provided fun and exciting services to the community such as board games and Dungeons and Dragons.
He said the proposal was made with mental health in mind, and is hoping that the Maranoa’s avid gamers will be able to get together and form face-to-face relationships with their peers.
Deputy mayor Cr Geoff McMullen, and Unity Maranoa councillors mayor Tyson Golder, Julie Guthrie, John Birkett, Mark Edwards and George Ladbrook all voted in favour of scrapping councillor portfolios.
Cr Golder told the chamber the number one priority is to improve efficiency.
“I believe with this flexibility, we will have the most efficient running of the local government,” he said.
“It’s proven to have worked already in this term and I’m really excited to have all councillors involved in all decisions.
“This is exciting because as part of the local government act, all councillors have the same power, this is harnessing that power.
“I’m definitely in favour of this motion because it gets the most out of the nine elected officials, I believe, and the most efficient running of local government.”
But three councillors vehemently opposed the proposals, including making Cr Golder (and in his absence, Cr McMullen) the only spokespeople for council to be quoted in official press releases, and outright abolishing advisory meetings.
Rate freezes, gas revenue hikes and COVID recovery projects are all part of the Maranoa Regional Council’s 2020/2021 handed down today.
But it wasn’t approved without causing some controversy.
The nine Maranoa councillors gathered at the Ernest Brock Room today on September 2 to formally pass the budget for the 2020-2021 financial year.
One of the key features of this year’s budget is the freeze of large house site and rural rates, as well as reduction of other categories, particularly commercial and industrial, which will be slashed by 65 per cent in a massive boost for business owners.
The budget received a majority vote - six of the nine councillors voted in favour.
All of Unity Maranoa, including mayor Tyson Golder, and independent councillor Geoff McMullen backed the budget.
It was a far cry from the previous three years where Crs Golder and McMullen have been in the minority for voting during budget time.
On Wednesday, April 22 council meeting, mayor Tyson Golder moved the motion to terminate Julie Reitano’s contract, with deputy mayor Geoff McMullen seconding the motion.
Mayor Golder cited the reason for moving to terminate the contract was that council would be taking a new path.
“It is always good in a new term to look for a new direction,” he said.
All councillors bar Cam O’Neil and Joh Hancock voted in favour of Cr Golder’s motion however the council postponed the decision to gather more information.
After the new council was sworn in last Thursday, April 16, Crs Golder and McMullen met with Ms Reitano, leading to the addition in this week’s agenda about her employment contract, despite her contract not ending for another two years.
Cr O’Neil challenged the mayor and questioned whether the meeting with Ms Reitano followed appropriate procedures.
One of the most ambitious industrial projects in Southwest Queensland is yet another step closer with Maranoa Regional Council voting to prepare a report for a publicly owned, private label meatworks.
Councillor Cameron O’Neil said a council briefing of the project happened last week, but there’s no resolution of the report yet.
Mayor Tyson Golder moved that a report be prepared for the establishment of the publicly owned meatworks project.
“I believe we need a private label meatworks,” Cr Golder said.
“I believe that the majority of the people from the Maranoa would like to see the economic development to come from the meatworks.
“I believe this is an opportunity because we have the largest saleyards in Australia, that this will be the model that will grow your own.
“I believe this is the way that we can build up the sector of our economy.”
But the proposition didn’t come without controversy.