Despite promise of consultation and transparency when he ran for office, the Mayor continues to operate in back rooms behind a wall of secrecy.
The two latest examples of his clandestine modus operandi concern the ongoing discussions about the former QT pool and the acquisition of the Mossman Golf Course.
You might recall that the owners of the land and infrastructure had approached the previous Council about acquiring the pool (and gym) and operating it as a community asset. Two analyses by Council staff determined that turning the pool into a community asset was not viable as the structure was no longer sound and the cost of repairs were prohibitive.
That did not deter the Mayor, who used a Mayoral Minute at the first Ordinary Council on 28 April, 2020 to insist that the proposal, twice rejected, be revisited by Council staff.
On 15 October 2020, Mayor Kerr suddenly announced that the purchase of the former QT pool would not proceed. Unfortunately, his announcement was not accompanied by a report as to why he decided not to buy the hole in the ground. Until a report is tabled, it is unclear as to how much money was spent on an engineering condition survey, land surveys, land valuation, and Council staff time.
Also on 15 October 2020, Cynthia Lui, the current Member for Cook, announced a $1.5million grant to build a splash pool in Port Douglas. In the 2018 budget, former Mayor Julia Leu added $30K to investigate the possibility of a splash park or zero depth water park. Conversations started with Ms Lui to look at funding possibilities. Cr Abigail Noli confirms that over this time, discussions have continued with the Member for Cook, and she is excited about the funding.
For the proposal for a splash pool to proceed, Council must vote on a resolution to put to rest the proposal to buy the decrepit QT pool. As there was a Council resolution to investigate the QT-pool, there must be a Council resolution to finalise the investigation; anything less would not be transparent, nor good local government principles. Furthermore, as it was elected members who voted to investigate the matter, it can only be a vote of all elected members to decide to continue or not, it cannot be the Mayor alone.
Accordingly, DouglasNews.Network has asked the Council Executive when the resolution will be returned to Council for a vote on the former QT pool. We have also asked why the Mayor took it upon himself to decide the outcome of a valid resolution of Council, without the participation of the other elected Councillors.
The discussions and decisions around the Mossman Golf Club have been equally opaque.
At an Ordinary Meeting of Council on 28 July 2020, the Council voted in a closed session, to purchase the Mossman Golf Club from the Douglas Community and Sports Club.
In a press release, the Mayor explained that the Golf Club would be leased to, and managed by, the Mossman Bowls Club. Within a fortnight, the Mossman Bowls Club announced that it had no intention to lease and manage the Golf Club.
In a meeting on 27 October 2020 to rectify the bludder of the previous hastily conducted meeting, another resolution was sought to rescind the Bowls Club participation, to continue with the purchase and then negotiate an arrangement for the newly formed Mossman Golf Club Incorporated to run the Club on behalf of members. DouglasNews.Network is not making any judgement on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the Council decision to purchase the Golf Club, but we are concerned with the ongoing lack of transparency in making these decision.
During the meeting in October, Cr Noli requested to see the business plan of the newly formed ‘Mossman Golf Club Incorporated’. Her intention was to understand if they had the right credentials and plans to survive. She also requested the financials of the Combined Club, to understand why they were not financially viable when they managed the Golf Club. Both requests were refused. Cr Noli stated that it was her desire for the Golf Club to continue and flourish, but that she felt uneasy making a decision without the requested information. She continued by stating that as an elected member, part of her job is to secure the financial viability of the Council and the broader Shire. In response to this ,the Mayor is quoted as saying that if the newly formed Golf Club does not survive, Council can subdivide the land and sell it off.
DouglasNews.Network has asked the Council Executive to provide the following information:
The total purchase price of the Mossman Golf Club,
Description of land and infrastructure included in the purchase price,
Details of the management agreement with the Golf Club.
Douglas Shire Council has declined to provide further comment.