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CVC excludes electronic petitions

Rules regarding how petitions can be lodged with Clarence Valley Council (CVC) were amended at the February council meeting, including the exclusion of electronic petitions such as those generated through Previously, rules regarding the receipt and tabling of petitions at a council meeting were relatively basic; however, a raft of rules have now been implemented. The council will now only accept “written petitions from persons that have a direct interest in the Clarence Valley Local Government Area, such as residents, landowners, and business owners”. This means that tourists, for example, who take an interest in something that affects them directly, will no longer be counted as valid petitioners. Two examples where this has occurred in the past include the tabling of petitions regarding vehicular access to Pippi Beach in Yamba and the retention of the camphor laurel trees at McLachlan in Maclean. Petitions lodged with CVC must now be made on a “prescribed form” available on the council’s website. Each signatory must provide their name, address, phone number or email address and signature in their own handwriting. The principal petitioner must be identified. Other rules include: “If the petition relates to a matter over which Council has no responsibility or influence, it will be returned to the principal petitioner”– CVC will, “where possible, provide information as to where the petition should be re-directed”; and, petitions that are judged to be “vexatious, abusive, propose action that is unlawful, or are otherwise inappropriate will not be considered”. At the council meeting, councillors Karen Toms, Jim Simmons, Sue Hughes, Margaret McKenna (who wanted a minimum of 50 petitioners) spoke in favour of not setting a minimum 100 signatures before a petition could be received. Cr Toms gave an example of where obtaining 100 signatures would be impractical, citing a petition from residents of Crisp Drive at Ashby asking for the road to be widened at a certain point to improve safety. Cr Hughes said small groups should be encouraged “so they can make views heard in the form of a petition; … sometimes that holds a bit more weight” in raising their concerns. Cr Andrew Baker warned that “we will be allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by petitions”. “If it’s just a local interest, there are any number of other ways for … people to lobby councillors … or write to the customer service people … and get the ball rolling for themselves,” he said. “I’m very much against not having a minimum [number of signatures]”. Cr Craig Howe said he had “concerns” about not setting a minimum number of signatures. Cr Arthur Lysaught said dealing with petitions not containing a “reasonable number of signatures was a “frivolous waste of time”. Mayor Richie Williamson said he supported Cr McKenna’s 50-signature minimum. Councillors Toms and Simmons were unsuccessful in rejecting two other proposed changes to the code of meeting practice, only gaining the support of Cr McKenna. As a result, the requirement to keep a record of “reasons for each recommendation of the Committee where the recommendation is contrary to the officer recommendation” and the requirement that councillors who attend meetings as delegates of council submit a subsequent report were deleted from the code of meeting practice. Councillors adopted the draft code of meeting practice, as was exhibited, apart from removing the minimum number of petition signatures and the retention of the open forum. Councillors Williamson, Lysaught and Baker maintained their opposition to those changes and voted against the adopted council resolution.