Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bob Hawkins

Why Huon Valley Council should still be sacked

*Pic: Simone Watson, Peter Gutwein and Peter Coad

Huon Valley Guessing Games

It’s struggling, yet, kinda-sorta, “dysfunctional” Huon Valley Council is still on the rails as it strives to save itself from destruction at the hands of Peter Gutwein, minister in charge of parish-pump politics. That’s the same man, who, on June 15, gave short-shrift to the expert advice of the board of inquiry he appointed last September to find out what was going on in a council displaying alarming signs of being hopelessly out of control.

Instead of accepting his board’s prime recommendations — that the council should be sacked and a commissioner appointed; that a new election not be called for at least a year; and that consideration be given to providing the Local Government Minister authority to dismiss a council’s general manager — Gutwein chose to give HVC one last chance.

The result? After weeks of hesitation, there has been an almighty flurry of activity by HVC management to find ways of making it look as if it knows what it is doing — and doing it in time.

Before a public gallery of a score of valley residents, a “special meeting” of HVC began at 5pm last Thursday (August 11). The meeting was primarily to deal with management’s progress in chronicling how council was coping in response to Gutwein’s seven deadly directions — deadly because the minister has threatened to kill off council if it doesn’t get its act together within six months.

Only seven councillors turned up, not the anticipated eight: not present were two Heart of the Huon members, Lydia Eastley (leave of absence), and Mike Wilson (who, for the second time in a row, was absent without apology).

Present were Heart of the Huon members Deputy Mayor Ian Paul and Crs Bruce Heron and Pav Ruzicka, all of whom usually back management recommendations; independent councillors Mayor Peter Coad and Liz Smith, and Greens councillor Ian Mackintosh, who usually are the opposition when a controversial issue is at stake; and new councillor James Lange (it was his third public council meeting), who, though notionally a Heart man (he was on the 2014 Heart ticket), has already demonstrated he has a mind of his own. (Signs are promising that Lange will do what any seriously independent councillor should do — consider each issue on its merits.)

General Manager Simone Watson — who had assembled a mass of documentation for the digestion (or indigestion) of councillors — looked in need of a good sleep. The work rate at HVC these days must surely be unprecedented, even when compared with the time that workaholic GM Glenn Doyle was running the show (2009-2013).

From the start, one sensed it was going to be messy — and that’s how it turned out.

Items on the agenda included “Executive Credit Cards” (15.029/16); “Council’s Governance Framework” (15.030/16); “Special Committees of Council Terms of Reference” (15.031/16); “Human Resources Unit Reporting to Council” (15.033/16); and “Implementation of Ministerial Directions” (15.035/16).

CREDIT CARDS were first up. This turned out to be a bit of a circus. Among the hundreds of statements on show, nothing seemed to be amiss. (Not that the revelation of all this data should be the end of the matter. There are those who suggest council, down the years, has had as many as eight active credit cards, and they want to see the details of all of them. Perhaps the minister should suggest that HVC should now show all.)

The main hitch on this item, however, was the recommended media release hanging off the back of about 320 pages of documentation. The trouble there was that a triumphal quote attributed to the mayor had been concocted without consultation with the mayor.

It read: “At no time has the Auditor-General suggested there has been any inappropriate use of the credit cards of the mayor and general manager. This is consistent with the council’s view. This matter can now be put to rest.”

Mayor Coad, not surprisingly, couldn’t imagine himself saying something like that. So he told the meeting he wouldn’t be approving such a release. Instead, he offered a more objective version that did not necessarily allow the matter to “be put to rest”.

How could elected representatives commit themselves to vouching that each and every credit-card transaction had been above board? Sensibly, the wisdom of the mayor’s words was appreciated, and council voted for the mayor’s version ( see http://www.huonvalley.tas.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/HVC-Media-Release-Council-credit-cards.pdf ).

Franklin council watcher Shane Johnson, who attended the August 11 meeting, commented in Tasmanian Times the next day: “The Mercury article by Loretta Lohberger [August 12] falsely claims that the Huon Valley Council ‘endorsed a report that found all credit card . . . transactions were for a purpose approved by the council’. It did no such thing. In fact, a majority of councillors voted to adopt an alternative press release that was written by the mayor, Peter Coad, that specifically excluded this comment. The councillors decided that they had not, and could not, assess each item of expenditure to determine whether each was an appropriate use of council funds ( see http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/weblog/article/before-it-happens-here-is-the-news-from-the-huon-/show_comments/, #15 ).

(HVC management’s tactic of trying to put words into the mayor’s mouth was at work again further down the agenda, where it was still energetically trying to impress the minister just how well it was doing in meeting the demands of his seven commandments.)

THE GOVERNANCE and special committees items didn’t cause much of a problem for councillors. These largely covered the minister’s directions that (1) council’s “portfolio” system should be abandoned (a system that has long attracted criticism, and one not suited to a group of councillors largely not qualified to cope with portfolio responsibilities); (2) all councillors be provided with information by management in a “timely manner”; and (3) that the council establishes “a general manager review committee” that meets at least once a year. That last direction, 6(c), would hardly be music to the ears of a general manager whose contract expires in 2018.

As to the abandonment of the portfolio system, it doesn’t look as if anything has much changed. Instead of having portfolio holders, council “special committees” will be chaired by “a councillor appointed by council”. This will be done by a voting system involving all councillors, whereas, in the past, the mayor (though probably not the present one) had most influence in appointing councillors to specific portfolios.

HUMAN RESOURCES in recent years has become a chronically troubled department at council. Valley talk suggests there have been as many as eight staff departures from this department in the past 15 months; and that no-one who was in HVC HR four years ago remains.

Whereas HVC’s establishment for this department is believed to be five, one source suggests it now has only one active staffer. The position of HR “co-ordinator” was recently advertised. It is not known if it has been, or is about to be, filled.

Minister Gutwein, in his Direction 6(d), has ordered council to “develop a process for reviewing and monitoring the application of all human-resource policies, plans and programs to ensure that councillors are able to perform their collective functions” under 28(2)(b) of the Local Government Act; and, in (e), “requires council to ensure senior management are providing a supportive environment for council staff to come forward with workplace issues and concerns”, this to be effected within 60 days of the ministerial direction.

Now that’s a curly one for a council with a reputation for high churn and staff that would like to leave — if only there were jobs elsewhere.

These directions resulted in a sizeable recommendation from the GM. In it, she asked that “council notes the actions being undertaken by the general manager that have been ongoing for a period of more than twelve months in relation to human resources matters including the culture change process, corporate policy projects, staff training and other initiatives that further the intent of Ministerial Direction 6(d) and (6e)”.

Part (c) of the staff recommendation to the meeting stated that the “draft reporting templates . . . be adopted for the purposes of Human Resources Unit reporting. Periodic reporting to council is to commence from September 2016 and is to include an annual statement to council to confirm policies and procedures are in place which meets the requirements” of the LG Act.

That wasn’t going far enough for Cr Liz Smith. She offered an amendment (seconded by Mackintosh) that, had it been successful, would have appointed an independent consultancy to review council’s HR policies and procedures and come up with a report, by December 1, on all human-resource policies, plans and programs. This was to be followed by the “implementation and application of all human-resource policies, plans and programs that provide for a fair and equitable treatment of employees of council”. Smith’s amendment also allowed for a “policy framework for staff to report workplace issues and council’s workplace bullying and harassment and grievance procedures” and “an assessment of council’s staff development programs and succession plans”.

GM Watson, “through you Mr Mayor”, noted that Smith’s amendment “negatises” the recommended motion. Mayor Coad ruled the amendment could stand if it included (c) from the original motion, which talked about “draft reporting templates” and stuff about “reporting to council”.

Back came the GM talking about “budget”, which sounded very much like the argument that delayed efforts months ago to get credit-card facts out into the open.

Smith argued that her amendment was valid, pointing to a “lot of movement” in the HR department; and that an “independent arbiter” was needed.

Bruce Heron came in with the claim that council had an “independent body” called “the audit panel”, of which he was a member. Muffled guffaws from the public gallery. How “independent” can a council audit panel be (no matter how honourable and ethical its members) when two members are councillors and the other pair are chosen by council’s own governance committee?

It was a close call but, as might be expected, Smith’s amendment went down 4-3 on “party lines”. So it was back to the management recommendation: it passed, with Mackintosh and Smith also voting for it.

The HR debate at HVC, should the council survive, is certain to be revisited: Huon Valley Council, I am convinced, has serious human-resources problems.

SO, ON to the seriously sensitive item on the agenda: approval of council’s first report to the minister, a document designed to convince Minister Gutwein that council is on schedule in meeting the requirements of his directions.

The GM’s recommendation, in conformance with Ministerial Direction 7, was to send council’s “Report to Department of Premier and Cabinet” to the Director of Local Government and to approve the “media release relating to the implementation of the ministerial directions”.

Two issues dominated this debate. First, Mayor Coad was probably still smarting from the story in the Mercury that day that had a strap heading, “Breaches of ministerial direction could lead to removal of Coad”, and a main head saying “Huon mayor in the gun”. To my mind, this was not a truly accurate account of the situation.

The Mercury’s argument centred around an “expected” endorsement by council of 15 breaches by the mayor of Ministerial Direction 3, which says that “beginning immediately . . . [council] ensure that all public statements made regarding council positions and decisions are first approved by the council . . . or endorsed by the mayor and the general manager”.

On page 13 of council management’s report (as presented to council) on the recommended “Report to Department of Premier & Cabinet Local Government Division IMPLEMENTATION OF MINISTERIAL DIRECTIONS 15 June 2016” is a line that reads, “Record of non-compliance with Ministerial Direction 3”. Beneath that line is a list (bluntly stated by management) of 15 instances of non-compliance with Direction 3. Who had been “non-compliant”? Mayor Coad, of course. His offences it seemed ranged across a variety of media — ABC News, the Mercury, Tasmanian Times and Cygnet Classifieds. No ifs and buts. No qualifications. He did them all. (No other councillor got a mention for speaking in a way that GM Watson might consider was in breach of Direction 3.)

Where was the evidence in the attachments that Mayor Coad had erred so much and so often? Nowhere: no audios, no cuttings. Council, one would imagine, should have its pieces of evidence. But, if the public were to want to see the evidence for the GM’s charges against the mayor, it seems they would have to track it down themselves. Not an easy task.

To me, it was clear that it would be difficult to sustain the charges against the mayor if the meaning of Direction 3 is what it seems to be. For example, one charge, for an offence in the Mercury on July 18, had no substance at all: not only could the mayor not be found saying anything; even searching eyes could not find his name anywhere in the issue.

And then there was a charge about something in the July 22 Mercury. That turned out to be a letter Geoffrey Swan had written, the Mercury choosing to place a photograph of Coad alongside it.

Coad, since the minister issued his directions on June 15, has walked a fine line. I have not yet read, or heard, him saying anything that contradicts his council’s “positions or decisions”. However, he hasn’t been as sparing in his criticism of decisions that have come from Gutwein’s office — but that’s not what the minister’s Direction 3 is about. It is Coad’s right to be able to comment on, and criticise, Gutwein’s actions should he feel he has grounds to do so.

Mayor Coad passionately defended his position at the August 11 meeting, claiming that it was “not Peter Coad, it is the position of the mayor that is under challenge here”. He said he had been defamed by the non-compliance allegations — the council report having been made public — and he was considering taking action against the council.

He said the council’s report “clearly defames the mayoral position . . . what you have got in front of you is clearly wrong . . . this sort of behaviour has got to stop. I was prepared to give it a go . . . now this has been made public, how can I pull back from it? I can’t. The situation has been made impossible for me”.

It was an uneasy audience that listened to this impassioned, yet quietly delivered, speech from a man who has put up with the better part of two years of bitter attack from certain sectors of the Huon Valley community. Maintaining his dignity at all times, he has soaked up the libel and slander that has been thrown at him. It now appears he might have reached a stage where he’s just not going to take it any more.

It wasn’t just the non-compliance charges that didn’t go down well with the councillors. Again, at the end of the attachments, page 29 of 29, was another piece of sloppy PR spin in the form of a recommended media release.

And at the end of that proposed release were more words that management had decided it would try to put into the mayor’s mouth. It wanted him to say, in reported speech, that council was “well on track to meeting all of the ministerial directions”. And then it attributed to him a mindless direct quote: “The council is absolutely committed to carrying out these directions to ensure that council continues to represent the community into the future.” Nobody with a bit of sense could utter such nonsense.

From what Mayor Coad had to say about this item, and about the earlier credit-card item, it was clear that he had not been approached by anyone from council as to whether or not he would be willing to put his name to any of the words attributed to him in either of the two recommended releases. The two releases put up on council’s website next day, August 12, varied substantially from what GM Watson had recommended ( see http://www.huonvalley.tas.gov.au/council/reports-and-publications/media-releases/ ).

Council’s final position on the ministerial-directions debate was confusing. With the help of Lange, Mayor Coad, Mackintosh and Wilson were able to vote down, 4-3, the original staff recommendation.

This decision, said GM Watson, left the council in danger of being dismissed for failing to comply with a ministerial direction.

That’s where it all became extra messy, and difficult to fathom. A second motion, which seems never to have been written down, was moved by Lange and seconded by Ruzicka. What that motion was I am not certain enough even to hazard a guess at.

It had something to do with taking out the “non-compliance” line in the proposed report to the government, and with adjusting the recommended media release so that, at least, its grovelling words were no longer attributed to the mayor. I wonder whether even James Lange knew how his motion would end up reading in the meeting minutes.

Here’s Shane Johnson’s TT take on the councillors’ treatment of the staff recommendations on Direction 3: “Council also voted on and rejected the inclusion of alleged breaches by Mayor Coad of Ministerial Direction 3 . . . This highly reasoned and principled support of the mayor by the councillors had the potential to have serious ramifications. It forced the General Manager Simone Watson to intervene and point out that council’s vote would highlight to the minister that they had not met this direction and that this may lead to the dissolution of council. Council then adopted a different wording for the report in relation to Direction 3. But why was this in the public domain in the first place? Why were the draft press releases put into a public space when they clearly did not have the mayor’s support?”

Johnson continues: “It is obvious to me that the inclusion of this information was done solely to isolate the mayor, to manufacture breaches of the direction and to try to force the minister’s hand to sack the mayor. The majority of councillors saw through this Machiavellian play and would have none of it.

“What also should be seen is that mediation between the mayor and general manager will not work. This was the firm view of the minister’s own highly-credentialled board of inquiry. In light of last night’s events, the article in the Mercury should be titled ‘Council supports mayor Coad’, not ‘Minister to rule on Huon Valley Council breach’.”

The wording of the motion designed to save HVC from the minister’s wrath should become clear — though perhaps not even then — when council posts the draft minutes of the August 11 meeting on its website. That should be sometime early this week. They might even be up by tomorrow (Tuesday). They weren’t there this morning.

If the GM is correct in her assertion that the minister’s demands have been met on schedule, all should be well for council’s continued existence, at least in the short term.

More of a problem at the moment is that, among boxes ticked denoting adoption of the minister’s directions are those ticks relating to Direction 1, which requires “formal mediation and conflict resolution”.

When a GM fails to liaise with the mayor when preparing a special meeting’s agenda, and fails to consult in the preparation of media releases, what hope is there that there can be a positive outcome from the mediation demanded by Gutwein between the mayor and the GM?

Very little, I believe.

Thursday evening’s meeting, as I look back on it, summed up for me the hopelessness of the situation at HVC. There it was, thousands of words spread over hundreds of pages, and lots of boxes diligently ticked, all designed by management to persuade the minister that his directions have been taken on board and are being acted on.

In theory, that might be so. In practice, I don’t think anything is likely to change in a hurry inside this secretive, dysfunctional council. I still believe it should be sacked. — Bob Hawkins

*Bob Hawkins has been covering Huon Valley Council for Tasmanian Times since early 2009. He is a friend of Cr Smith, and an admirer of Mayor Coad for doggedly trying to bring reason to a dysfunctional council.

• Bob Hawkins in Comments: CORRECTION: Now you see it. Now you don’t. In my article above, I made this statement: “And then there was a charge about something in the July 22 Mercury. That turned out to be a letter Geoffrey Swan had written, the Mercury choosing to place a photograph of Coad alongside it.” That was an observation on an alleged “non-compliance” by Mayor Coad relating to a directive from Minister Gutwein (Direction 3) that the mayor should make no statements without councillors’ or the GM’s endorsement relating to council’s “positions or decisions” … My question to GM Watson is: How do the comments attributed to Mayor Coad in that July 22 11.34pm article, in any interpretation of them, add up to non-compliance with Minister Gutwein’s direction re mayoral statements and council’s “positions or decisions”? …

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. TV Resident

    August 14, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    The Mayor was democratically elected by the constituents, so in my mind he is there legitimately …

  2. Simon Warriner

    August 14, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    Sounds like exit interviews of all departed staff going back 3 years by a very independent consultant engaged by the Minister might be the quickest route to the bottom of this bucket of sludge. Not that that will ever happen.

  3. Treeger

    August 15, 2016 at 1:09 am

    So where are the publicly available credit card statements? They’re not attached to the draft minutes of the 11 August special meeting on the HVC website. Minister Gutwein’s deadline for publication was 60 days from 15th June.

    Perhaps if the audio for the special meetings on 4th July and 11th August were made available, it would be less confusing about what was said as the minutes do not actually record much of what was said or discussed, despite being very long.

  4. Trish Kyne

    August 15, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Well said Bob, and spot on TV resident.

    Having sat through this meeting I ultimately decided nothing will change while the current group of councillors are in office. Listening to the derogatory remarks of one councillor to another; which caused the mayor to twice demand the comments be withdrawn before that direction was complied with; demonstrates the deep contempt that is held by some councillors for others. A fact recognised and commented on in the Board of Inquiry Report. The very reason mediation won’t work.

    Rolling out policies is no guarantee that they will be implemented and actioned appropriately. How many reports have been commissioned to be left gathering dust on shelves and not actioned?

    Placing press releases on the HVC website days before the special meeting, and then failing to mark them as ‘draft’ has led to an almost untenable position for the mayor; Almost. Remember ‘that which does not kill you makes you stronger’. The mayor continues to demonstrate he has the intestinal fortitude to outlast the bullying behaviours he has been confronted with since he was a candidate for mayor.

    I don’t believe the perpetrators of the ongoing assaults on the mayor’s character, and abilities, realise the growing disgust their actions engender in valley residents. Equally, the valley resident’s support grows exponentially for Mayor Coad.

  5. Rod Macfarlan

    August 15, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    It seems Victoria is teaching us a lesson about insisting on good governance in local government.

    http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/more-than-100-victorian-councillors-face-disqualification-20160815-gqsuzl.html

    Please Peter Gutwein, do something.

  6. Geoffrey Swan

    August 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    #3 As of this morning the Audio recording for August 11th is now on the HVC website… but not July 14th for some reason.

    The credit card statements were initially available on the HVC website as attachments to the Agenda, but now removed. It was a very large 77Mb file which was difficult for some to download pending the capacity of their internet connection.

    The question Bob raises about there being up to eight active cards in the past is very curious indeed. I too have heard similar – I guess someone just needs to pose the question to HVC.

    On the night of the recent Special Meeting there were some 20+ spiral bound handouts made available to the Gallery – some 450+ pages in total per set for which I was most appreciative; saving on my personal printer costs.

    I am waiting on Council advice as to being required to pay $70 for a copy of an Environmental Protection Notice prepared by Council and served on a local business.

    I already have a similar EPN document from 2007 which is only 6 pages long. My thinking therefore at $11.68 per page… the cost for the supplied handouts last week would extrapolate at around $92,800..(Xerox will be very happy..)

    Treeger – if you contact Editor (Lindsay) he can provide you with my email address. I have downloaded the credit card statements complete with the scanned back-up Bendigo bank statements and reduced it to a sensible 22Mb.

    I cannot email this but I will be happy to “dropbox” it to you if you wish – anyone for that matter.

  7. William Boeder

    August 15, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Well done Geoffrey Swan, the presentation of facts allows the truth on many issues in this State to emerge from the dark government history of deluding the people of Tasmania.
    Though the subject matter is of a local government status we note the entry of State government minister Peter Gutwein into a situation where he seems to have no influence or capacity to aid in the resolve of the differences in the HVC.
    From my perspective I would look for the guilty party then instigate a legal initiative against the party that has become the mother of the dissensions between the HVC elected members.

    Any person proved to be engaging in provoking their pedantic petulant disputations would then be offered an alternative position, maybe as the official cleaner of the HVC regional toilet blocks.

  8. henrietta manning

    August 16, 2016 at 2:33 am

    Thank you to Tassie Times for giving the Huon Valley residents a place to express their views and share information, so incredibly vital in times such as now. Thank you to all those people out there that are attempting to sort out the facts from the ‘fiction’, misinformation or lack of information and who share those facts with the rest of us with links to support material that we can then all read. I was not at the last council meetings but i have seen the Mayor at previous council meetings always behaving professionally and courteously in his role. This cannot be said of all i have seen at council , some members of which astonished me with their public display of animosity and disrespect to our publicly elected Mayor. I have no doubt that he is currently under great duress and deserves the support of all who elected him to ensure the voice he was elected for is still able to be heard.

  9. Rod Macfarlan

    August 17, 2016 at 2:32 am

    It says a lot when a Councillor can miss multiple meetings without giving the Mayor the courtesy of a formal apology.

  10. Geoffrey Swan

    August 17, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    #9 Not dissimilar to the behaviour of Cr Ruzicka at the recent HVC meeting..

    I observed Mayor Coad entering into the Chambers through the open glass door – he was part way into the room when Ruzicka bulldozed his way out of the room – almost colliding with our Mayor forcing Mayor Coad to turn side on as he entered the room.

    Cr Ruzicka showed no courtesy, respect or acknowledgement to our Mayor whatsoever, in my view.

    Bullish behaviour indeed – but to his credit I did note Mayor Coad took it all in his stride

  11. William Boeder

    August 17, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    How soon before the next HVC elections which may see the troubling elements within the elected council representatives be left out of contention to a continuing role as members of the HVC Council.
    As for non elected but employed individuals that are prominent in their antagonism toward Mayor Peter Coad, my hat is off to the patience and conduct by the current Mayor Coad, particularly under the circumstances of the exaggerated hostility directed to his elected Mayoral self.
    There must exist a mechanism that can remove troublesome non-elected personnel from a role that creates open hostility whilst engaged as a major player among the dissenting gang of hostiles.

  12. Geoffrey Swan

    August 17, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    #3 again… someone at the Huon Valley Council must be reading Tasmanian Times… it’s a good read!!

    Just noticed that up on the HVC website alongside the Minutes of the recent Special Meeting, are all the original Attachments originally on the website along with the Agenda that then all disappeared… inc the Credit Card statements.

    Transparency, in my view, “appears” to be heading this way….

    Question still remains .. are there still up to 8 Credit Card statements that have not been presented, or is that simply a rumour?

  13. Alan Robson

    August 18, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Council Mediation

    Why are we wasting Council funds on multiple training & mediation consultants when HVC behaviour clearly demonstrates that none of it w ill improve the situation !

    We have already incurred a $60,000 cost for the Board of Inquiry, plus $54,000 odd for legal reports commissioned by the Council. Add to that ongoing legal expenses for Councillors and management during the months of the BOI and since, all resulting in a massive financial burden.

    The placing of unapproved and, to me, misleading press releases on the HVC website without the approval of Council or apparent knowledge of the Mayor, seems to have destroyed any realistic final chance of mediation being able to have any chance of achieving Its desired objective.

  14. Bob Hawkins

    August 22, 2016 at 11:44 am

    CORRECTION: Now you see it. Now you don’t. In my article above, I made this statement: “And then there was a charge about something in the July 22 Mercury. That turned out to be a letter Geoffrey Swan had written, the Mercury choosing to place a photograph of Coad alongside it.”

    That was an observation on an alleged “non-compliance” by Mayor Coad relating to a directive from Minister Gutwein (Direction 3) that the mayor should make no statements without councillors’ or the GM’s endorsement relating to council’s “positions or decisions”.

    The allegations of Direction 3 non-compliance by Mayor Coad appeared in a report presented to council on August 11, the “responsible officer” being GM Watson. In the report, on page 13, was a table headed, “Record of Non-compliance with Ministerial Direction 3”. Fifteen alleged “non-compliances”, each attributed to the mayor, were listed in the table. One was dated “22.07.2016”, and described as being in “The Mercury”. I could find no trace of an article quoting Coad saying anything in The Mercury print issue of that date.

    GM Watson has since supplied a link to an article in “The Mercury” of July 22. It was a piece by Alex Luttrell that appeared not in the print edition but in the online edition — at 11.34pm. That article was re-dated 26 minutes later (midnight) to “July 23, 2016 12.00am”. (Being an oldtimer, I regard “The Mercury” and the online “themercury.com.au” as entirely different publications. Also, I hadn’t happened to be awake between 11.34pm and midnight on July 22 to be able to catch a glimpse of Luttrell’s ephemeral initial offering.)

    It is true there was a reference to Mayor Coad in the Luttrell report timed at 11.34pm July 22. It read, inter alia: “Earlier this week, Huon Valley Mayor Peter Coad said he would call on councillors . . . to back a proposal to engage a hydrologist consultant . . . to investigate . . . Cr Coad said yesterday [presumably July 21] the damage bill form [sic] the floods is not yet known . . .” No other mention of the mayor.

    My question to GM Watson is: How do the comments attributed to Mayor Coad in that July 22 11.34pm article, in any interpretation of them, add up to non-compliance with Minister Gutwein’s direction re mayoral statements and council’s “positions or decisions”?

    As I understand it, HVC had neither a position nor had it made a decision about flooding at Huonville. And, whether Coad was non-compliant or not, I do seem to recall that our valley’s civic leader was the recipient of an accolade from Premier Hodgman for his initiative — which was later rejected by Heart of the Huon councillors at the July 26 meeting.

    So, yes, the mayor did get a mention in the electronic form of the July 22 state capital newspaper. If you happened to be awake at the time, you might have spotted it before ephemera devoured it. Whether it constituted mayoral non-compliance with the minister’s Direction 3 is moot. — Bob Hawkins

  15. Trish Kyne

    August 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    The real travesty in all of this is the supposed breaches firstly going on line before the special meeting and secondly not being marked ‘DRAFT’. This has allowed a further undermining of the mayor in the public eye; especially those who read the headlines and make judgements without sticking around for the truth of the matter.

    The other interesting point in this is the Huon Valley News and Guardian didn’t feature in the ‘list’ at all. Appears to be a case of protect your mates. Under the Local Government Act the only (/b)spokesperson for a council is the mayor. That stands under the current situation with the exception of the minister’s directive 3 – which relates solely to positions and decisions.

  16. mike seabrook

    August 27, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    why address the hvc when the logical decision is for the kingborough council centred on kingston to be merged with huon valley council, with the possible exception of the taroona part of kingborough which should be given a free vote to join with hobart council if they choose.

  17. Bob Hawkins

    August 28, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    #16. Good sense, Mike. But you try telling that to the B4s in the Huon!

    BTW: There a change.org petition to get Gutwein to implement the BoI’s first two main recommendations. You can find it at:

    https://www.change.org/p/implement-the-major-recommendations-of-the-huon-valley-board-of-inquiry?tk=hC4Nlp5AGKD-WuzqV1QYmkrJX91Tb8G6IwT_4tfjDn8&utm_source=petition_update&utm_medium=email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top