NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge has warned
legislative changes may open the doors to vested
interests at the September 8 local government elections.
Trevor Veale/Coffs Coast Advocate
Visiting Coffs Harbour and Bellingen today to conduct skills workshops for prospective councillors, Mr Shoebridge is concerned the amendment gained Upper House approval after flying under the radar of public scrutiny.
"My fear is this will encourage some with vested interests to seek election to council and try to make themselves very, very rich," he said.
"The changes allow councillors to vote on planning matters where they have direct pecuniary interests which is a step back to the bad old days.
"It opens the doors for carpetbaggers and property developers to act corruptly or for personal gain and against the interests of the community.
"I am stunned there was so little interest when the matter came before the parliament.
"But moving around the country and speaking at meetings, I'm finding more people becoming increasingly alarmed at what is happening to local government."
In March the Upper House passed amendments which opened the doors for councillors to vote on matters where they may have a vested or financial interest.
Previously those with pecuniary interests in a development were required to be "not present or in sight of the meeting" when matters were being discussed.
The amendments were introduced by Nationals Member for Ballina and Local Government Minister Don Page and now allow councillors to be present and vote at meetings in which they have a pecuniary interest if they disclose the interest before the commencement of the meeting or if the matter relates to environmental planning.
Mr Shoebridge has called for the parliament to repeal the measure.
"Allowing councillors to vote on matters where they stand to gain a direct personal financial benefit is just madness," he said.
"This effectively legalises corruption at a local council level.
"The government has been unable to explain why a councillor should be able to vote to rezone their own land and receive windfall profits and it is nothing short of a potential abuse of office.
"It is a bad law that should never have been passed."
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