At the April 27 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors voted six to three in favour of reminding Deputy Premier John Barilaro that they were not happy with his response to CVC’s November 2020 resolution, which sought “the support of both state and federal governments to impose a moratorium on further mining exploration licences and to cancel existing licences” in the Clarence River catchment.
The decision was a result of Cr Greg Clancy’s notice of motion (NOM) at the April 27 meeting, in which the councillor said Mr Barilaro “did not acknowledge CVC’s opposition to mining but rather explained how the approval process for mining operated”. The NOM was held over from the March CVC meeting due to that meeting running overtime.
While Cr Clancy’s 290-word-six-point motion covered various related issues (see breakout box), debate took on a political tone. During questions, Cr Andrew Baker called a point of order (POO): “This motion should be ruled out of order for falsely representing [the decision made in] November.” Mayor Jim Simmons called a short adjournment to take advice from senior CVC staff – he ruled that the motion was valid.
Councillor Arthur Lysaught asked, “This is only wall paper … the NSW Government will make the final decision, the council has no ability to stop mining?” General manager Ashley Lindsay concurred and said “it was not council’s role”. Councillor Baker challenged the veracity of the more than 10,000 signature anti-mining petition that will soon be tabled in the NSW Parliament. He said that “the ‘local world petition’ goes online and sends to every corner of the earth and they sign because it sounds like a good cause”.
“…I can imagine Mr Barilaro getting this letter telling him where to get off and he immediately goes out, ‘Oh yes the Clarence valley Council got it right and I got it wrong,” Cr Baker said.
“…There is no truth in this matter there is no representation of the community’s strong opposition.” He said “a number of councillors … might be afraid of what we find out if the “entire community” was consulted.
Councillor Debrah Novak said petitioners had used CVC’s petition template and that the collected signatures were hand-written.
Councillor Richie Williamson said “all of the November resolution is fulfilled” and “to continue on” with writing to Mr Barilaro and the rest of the motion “is just a political agenda”.
Councillor Arthur Lysaught said he “loved the river” and did not want to “see it destroyed”, but struggled with again writing to Mr Barilaro because he wasn’t convinced that the entire community had a “strong opposition to mining”, as stated in Cr Clancy’s motion.
Cr Peter Ellem said, “Of course it’s political, council can take a political stance.
“The Deputy Premier of this state has completely ignored [us], so this is just reiterating back to him and the Premier, to reinforce the strong stand the council and many in the community have taken.”
Mayor Jim Simmons said he also had “concerns that the information has already been conveyed to the Deputy Premier and others, including our local members.” However, the local members, Page MP Kevin Hogan and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis have not responded to the November correspondence, according to CVC’s public record.
Councillor Jason Kingsley said, “In my opinion the Deputy Premier’s response was weak and disrespectful … we have a position and I’m happy to reiterate it … to ensure those in other levels of government know what our environment means to us in the valley”. Councillor Karen Toms said, “Threats of mining along the river is not acceptable to CVC and a lot of local people … I think we have to understand that we [might not] like his response.” Councillor Clancy said, “We need to make it clear that we mean business; we can’t dilly dally around on this … we carried a motion and we will defend the motion for the people of the valley.”