From the Newsroom

Maclean Court House. Image: file photo

Fight to extend Maclean Court hours

Rodney Stevens


Clarence Valley Council will lobby the NSW Attorney Generals department to extend the opening hours of Maclean Court in an attempt to prevent a vital Lower Clarence service being axed completely by the state government.

At the December 2023 council meeting a motion was unanimously supported by council to advocate for Maclean Court House to reopen five days a week, after services were reduced in May 2023.

Despite this, the NSW Government said the decision to reduce the opening hours at Maclean Court was based on declining Court House usage data in prior years, and hastened as services were provided in alternate ways including online and phone.  

At the March 26 council meeting, Cr Debrah Novak moved a motion 1. That council note the report from the Attorney General’s department on the reasons for the reduction in hours at Maclean Court and proposed a motion 2. That council makes direct representations to the NSW Attorney General, seeking support of The Member for Clarence, the honourable Richie Williamson, objecting most strongly to the service hours reductions at Maclean Court House, and the Mayor seek to meet the minister to convey these concerns.

The motion was seconded by Cr Ian Tiley, who asked whether council had received a formal response from Attorney General Michael Daley about Maclean Court House.

General Manager, Laura Black advised the response from the minister was tabled for information at the February 2024 ordinary council meeting.

Councillors were briefed before the meeting about the reasons for reduced hours at Maclean Court.

“As a community we’re not accepting that this is good enough, our community deserves better treatment and better services,” Cr Novak said.

Cr Novak said the motion was seeking a face-to-face meeting with the NSW Attorney General, involving Richie Williamson and the Mayor to say, “we’re not happy with what you’ve determined, what you think is in our best interests.”

“It is not in our LGA’s best interest to have the service downgraded, it’s in the state government’s best interests because it’s a cost-saving measure,” she said.

“In the past they have reduced services in areas south of the Clarence Valley and the communities have jumped up and down and those services have been resumed.”

Cr Tiley said it was time to elevate the matter to the Attorney General.

“It’s a matter of great concern, especially to the people of the Lower Clarence, that yet another important service will be lost,” he said.

“If we meekly act with yes, on this, what next will we lose.”

Cr Karen Toms questioned whether council was “having a little tanty” (tantrum) by not accepting the government’s decision and continuing to push the issue.

Cr Steve Pickering said this could lead to the complete closure of Maclean Court and “as a council, we need to stand up for our community.”

“I think it is important that we vote yes for this to show our solidarity as a council, that this is what our community want,” he said.

Cr Greg Clancy said the response from government was straight forward, the reduced hours were due to reduced demand, and council shouldn’t be ignoring the advice from the NSW Government.

Mayor Peter Johnstone said council should be fighting for our community and be seen fighting for the community, otherwise council will be seen as “a soft touch”.

Cr Allison Whaites said Grafton is a busy court and matters that can’t fit there get transferred to Lismore or Coffs Harbour, which isn’t too far for people to travel.

Cr Jeff Smith supported the motion as he was sick of the valley losing services.

The motion was carried 6 votes to 3, with Cr’s Clancy, Toms, and Whaites voting against.