On October 1, 2014, the Independent published a story, ‘Clarence Valley Council’s secret water deal’, which became an issue following the devastating January 2013 floods – last week, councilors decided, in a confidential session, at an extraordinary meeting, “to note the confidential resolution for Item 08.21.006 and will make public that resolution at the completion of point 6”.
Meanwhile, Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC), which is party to a yet-to-be-resolved agreement with Clarence Valley Council (CVC) and Essential Energy (EE), discussed the matter two days later in an open session of council.
The 2014 story posed that when the relevant stakeholders reach an agreement, “they will also be deciding how the valley’s water supply will be managed – but the valley’s ratepayers may not be told of the outcome”.
Progress reports regarding the agreement have, since, been tabled at numerous CVC meetings.
At last week’s extraordinary CVC meeting, Cr Karen Toms was the lone councillor who objected to discussing the matter in a confidential session.
“Why is the information secret … in relation to what’s in the confidential attachment?” she asked.
“…it’s something that we have to do, it’s been on the agenda for some time.”
Cr Toms spoke with the Independent.
She said she’s “looked at information” and that, for her, the issue “has huge public interest”.
“It’s the security of our water … we should be open and transparent – to me, it looks like it’s already approved.”
She said that the resolution of the CHCC councillors on Thursday July 22 “will not impact what we passed in confidential session”.
She hinted that there were “fairly significant financial implications” and that she did “not want someone else having control of our water”, however, she did not talk about what was said in the confidential meeting or what is written in the confidential attachment.
“It should be transparent,” she said, “and it might not become transparent in this term of council.
“I don’t believe it should be confidential, it should not be a secret.”