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Hot air inflates balloons debate

Geoff Helisma|

It seemed simple enough, endorse the draft ‘Balloons on Council Controlled Lands’ policy and put it on public exhibition for a 28-day public consultation, but Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) councillors were split and, after more than 90 minutes of questions and debate, rejected the draft policy and called for a new one.

Six of nine councillors – councillors Williamson, Baker and Lysaught were opposed –  resolved that the “the General Manager bring [sic] back a policy to the October 2019 meeting that reflects Council’s resolution to the 25 June meeting”.

Councillor Richie Williamson called the item, so he could “vote against it”, saying he “can count the tea leaves”.

Councillor Andrew Baker moved a motion that included “take no further action on prohibiting the possession of helium-filled balloons on Council property” and, instead, called for the preparation of a “draft public awareness information [campaign] on the detrimental effects of balloon release”.

Councillor Greg Clancy called dissent because Cr Baker’s motion had removed the prohibition of helium-filled balloons on CVC property.

The dissent motion was lost – councillors Simmons, Kingsley, Baker, Lysaught and Williamson opposed the dissent motion – however, Cr Baker’s attempts to remove the prohibition of balloons from the eventual decision were defeated.

During questions, before debate had begun, Cr Baker asked the general manager, Ashley Lindsay, why the tabled draft policy had “gone so far away from the intent of the majority of councillors”, pointing out that the tabled draft policy did not include “a draft public awareness campaign about the environmental impacts of balloons, including the estimated costs of this campaign”, as decided at the June CVC meeting.

Mr Lindsay admitted Cr Baker “was right” and that staff had “not delivered” what councillors had asked for.

However, this admission was not heeded as a reason to call off debate until an acceptable draft policy was tabled; instead councillors proceeded to reiterate many of their arguments from previous discussions on the matter.

During debate, Cr Arthur Lysaught pointed out that this “thing has been debated inside out … we’ve spent more time on balloons than things on which millions of dollars are spent”.

Come October, the debate will be had once more.