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Greens councillor out on a limb

Geoff Helisma |

Greens councillor Greg Clancy is persistent when comes to his quest for Clarence Valley Council (CVC) to invest in financial institutions that do not lend to fossil fuel sector companies.

He has regularly raised the issue at past CVC meetings, however, at last week’s April 23 meeting he attempted to modify CVC’s monthly investment report to “show the percentage of funds invested with non-fossil fuel funding financial institutions”.

Councillors Deborah Novak and Peter Ellem were in support – the others were opposed.

During questions before debate on Cr Clancy’s amendment, Cr Andrew Baker asked general manager Ashley Lindsay to define a non-fossil fuel institution.

“My interpretation is [they are] financial institutions which class themselves as green [or] renewable funding companies, in that they don’t support coal-based companies,” Mr Lindsay said.

He said there were institutions that “promote that type of investment”.

During debate, Cr Clancy said it was his “intention” for CVC to “invest a percentage” of its investment portfolio with institutions “who do not invest in fossil fuel companies”.

Councillor Baker was of the view that Cr Clancy’s amendment should have been tabled as a notice of motion (NOM).

“With the utmost respect” for mayor Jim Simmons, “for allowing” the amendment, Cr Baker said CVC staff would have “to do a new line of work to bring this to us … and we are not told a reason why”.

“If this is adopted, each month someone will have to verify” if a non-fossil fuel institution has changed to a fossil fuel supporting institution, Cr Baker said.

“If it comes back as a NOM we could have … the opportunity to properly consider … the pros and cons.”

In supporting the amendment, Cr Novak said she “believed we should be accountable and transparent for the people in the valley”.

Councillor Karen Toms said she understood Cr Clancy’s “passion” to invest in non-fossil fuel institutions.

“But I see no benefit to have future reports showing the percentage of funds,” Cr Toms said.

“It does not warrant our staff researching that information.

“Councillor Clancy could do it himself if he’s really interested.”

Councillor Toms also rejected Cr Baker’s suggestion for the item to be tabled as a NOM.

“Motions can happen anywhere, anytime,” she said.

In his right of reply, Cr Clancy said he was “disgusted”.

“But that’s okay; I’m used to being disgusted,” he said.

“But it’s not just my personal view.

“Bendigo Bank [which has a branch in South Grafton] is a non fossil fuel institution.”

The bank’s website states, in part, that “we do not currently lend to projects in the coal and coal seam gas sectors; we are simply taking a pragmatic approach that says it makes no sense to broaden our footprint by starting to do so” – however, oil is not mentioned.

Cr Clancy said “tying up staff” to ascertain the percentages was an “exaggeration”.

“It [would] just keep people up to date with where we are up to in terms of our climate change policy,” he said.

“I’ve raised the issue [in the past] and will continue to raise [it].”

As it turned out, the tabled monthly report could not be adopted due to a procedural error – the amended motion also included the recommendation to receive and note the monthly report.

Councillor Baker called a point of order: “This has been negatived and cannot come back before council.”

After a short break to take advice from staff, Cr Simmons said: “That occurred to me during debate, but at that stage it had gone too far.

“So I am upholding the point of order and this item will be brought back in three months time.

“In this case the regulatory provisions probably have the upper hand over common sense.”