OPINION: Leadership Spills in Canberra and Moss Vale

The Shire's new Mayor, Cr Larry Whipper
The Shire’s new Mayor, Cr Larry Whipper

In a week where all eyes were on Canberra as Malcolm Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott for leadership of the Liberal Party and the nation, Wingecarribee Shire’s leadership also faced a coup.

The Mayor Duncan Gair was turfed out in the annual September circus, meaning we’ve now had three mayors in this term of council. Larry Whipper takes up the mayoral chains and said his priorities will be “to ensure councillors work together towards common goals that will benefit and progress our community.”

Given council’s record of code of conduct complaints this term – the most of any council in the state – it seems unlikely that they will be able to pull together under Cr Whipper’s leadership.

The new Deputy Mayor is Ian Scandrett.

The new mayor added: “Just some of the issues I believe our community wants us to action include improving Council infrastructure and services, investigating green initiatives and exploring greater opportunities for our youth.”

Unfortunately for Wingecarribee, it seems only one of the two leadership coups was legal. The Southern Highland News reports that because council did not give notice of the meeting or publish business papers, it may fall foul of the Local Government Act 1992 (NSW).

Cr Garry Turland certainly thought it did, and refused to take part in the vote. The Office of Local Government has reportedly said it is in contact with Wingecarribee Shire Council.

Meanwhile this week, the state government announced it was placing Hurstville Council into administration because the local government minister “has lost confidence in the council’s ability to conduct itself properly.”

Hurstville Councillors will get a three-month breather while an administrator takes over.

Given the apparent contravention of the Local Government Act and the huge waste of resources invested into code of conduct complaints by Wingecarribee, the ability of a council to conduct it’s business properly seems to be at a rather high threshold.

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