O’Pray and SCR Council Must Do Better

OCEAN PFAS RELEASE

RTI ITEM 5.3 SUNSHINE COAST ORDINARY MEETING 22 AUGUST 2019 – CONFIDENTIAL REPORT RELEASED IN ENTIRETY

At the meeting organised by community groups at the RSL Maroochydore meeting of 10 September 2019 Cr Jason O’Pray promised to access and provide to the public the report/s that informed their decision to pump the PFAS contaminated water out to sea.

He said he would do this by putting a motion at the next Ordinary Meeting of council.

When no motion was logged on the council agenda I wrote to Cr O’Pray asking if he was going to proceed with the motion. He responded that council was releasing ‘a report’.

A ‘new’ report was released, and on 2 November I emailed Cr O’Pray welcoming its release, but suggested the release of both reports would allay the public concern that is currently rife in the community.” I went on and asked:

    1. Why all Councillors including you voted to close the session given the evident public interest?
    2. Why you didn’t proceed with the Motion as promised for the 17 October meeting?
    3. Why the original reports as requested and promised was not provided to you (us) by council?
    4. Whether Cr O’Pray suggested I jump through RTI hoops and costs to provide this information to the community”

HIS RESPONSE –

“The CEO has provided all the legal and lawful info available on line last Friday week. You have every right to apply for RTI if you wish”.

I ask “who’s day job is it to advocate and get this information to the community?”

I have now received the document under RTI completely unredacted. Council’s RTI staff have deemed that this should be made public and should have been in the first instance.

This means the session should never have been closed to the public  

This is a testament to Sunshine Coast Regional Council’s lack of transparency, failure to properly apply commercial in confidence, and a lack of advocacy on part of Councillors – particularly Councillor O’Pray.

Alarmingly, the report states on p 5 under the heading ‘Community Engagement’:

“It is proposed that the general community be made aware of the proposal only once Council approval to proceed has been obtained”. 

I suggest “this is a staggering example of treating the community with contempt – they knew there would be backlash from the community – a decision was already made and it was a done deal. This flies in the face of meaningful community engagement and best practice consultation”.

I went on to say “Given the report was released in its entirety, it still begs the question why was item 5.2 of the August meeting closed door confidential?. Further why did all councillors vote to do so?“

“Elected representatives are supposed to be the conduit to community sentiment and wishes – not the stonewall of bureaucracy – 15,000 people signed a petition demonstrating significant public interest in the matter – all we got was a brick wall and unanswered questions.”

“This relates to significant public purse expenditure and it’s not good enough.”

“None of this passes the pub test”

“Decisions made in the dark have the potential to be seen as corrupt when there is a lack of public scrutiny.”

I believe that the role of Councillor is a two-way street: explaining the community’s aspirations to the bureaucracy and explaining the outcomes to the community. None of it should be done in secret.”

“If I am elected, I will be looking for like-minded councillor colleagues to join me in reducing closed door meetings” she said.