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Airport fallout creates rift

Geoff Helisma |

Following Clarence Valley Council’s meeting on Tuesday March 26, Cr Greg Clancy issued a media release titled, ‘Councillor gagged on Aboriginal sites’.

The Independent passed the release onto the mayor, Jim Simmons, seeking comment.

Cr Clancy wrote that the “mayor gagged” him from speaking on “important Aboriginal and environmental issues” – see ‘Lone wolf thrown under us bus’ for what happened.

“It is offensive to breach the rules and stop councillors form being heard,” Cr Clancy wrote.

“Democracy is about listening to all points of view, not just your own.

“The proposed master plan development at Glenugie at the Grafton Regional Airport will have serious impacts on Aboriginal sites and threatened species.

“I strongly disagree with council taking short cuts and proposing to develop this land without commissioning thorough Aboriginal heritage studies and flora and fauna surveys.

“I understand that not all councillors agree with me, but that doesn’t give them the right to breach meeting procedure and gag me.

“I’m calling on the mayor to improve the conduct of council meetings and to insist on respectful and inclusive debate.

“The community of the Clarence Valley deserves to have a council which acts fairly and with respect.”

Mayor Simmons admitted he made an error: “I stuffed up, made a procedural mistake; Cr Clancy spat the dummy and left the chamber.

“He returned to collect some belongings and my error was corrected, Cr Clancy was offered the right of reply, he refused to take it and left the chamber.

Mayor Simmons said he was “very disappointed with Cr Clancy’s choice of heading”, and cited “the commitment of support and promotion of Aboriginal culture by council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, Deputy Mayor Cr Kingsley, myself and our fellow councillors, evident before and after the Scar Tree court case”.

“After Cr Clancy refused to return to the meeting, councillors unanimously carried a resolution to include the Grafton Ngerrie Local Land Council in all areas of planning and consultation in any works contained in the master plan,” the mayor wrote in his response, “to ensure the protection of all cultural aspects relating to the site….

“At the time, councillors were considering the adoption of a master plan for the Clarence Valley Regional Airport.

“Councillors were not the considering a development application for the site, albeit Cr Clancy was probably endeavouring to see some notation on the master plan, as to possible constraints.”