Councillors vote for new glass partition

THE Gold Coast City Council voted this week to carry out its threat to isolate the public gallery from the council chamber with a floor-to-ceiling glass partition.

The move follows a restless year in council with often heated rows between elected members and cheers and jeers from a protesting public gallery.

The glass partition is seen as one way to remove that particular problem.

Moving the recommendation, councillor Bob La Castra said councillors have a right to conduct their business without constant interruptions from the gallery.

"We have the tell them to be quiet, sit down or remove them," he said.

"It is also the right of people who are really interested in council and want to hear what's going on without reading it in the media to be able to listen without constant rumblings from the protestors."

Cr La Castra slated the acoustics of the twoyear-old chamber as dreadful. It was hard enough for councillors to hear one another without noise and rustles from the gallery.

Supporting the partition, newly-elected councillor Christine Robbins said she had sat in the gallery before her swearing-in and was unable to hear debate because of the gallery protestors.

Cr Robbins said the vocal minority were attention seekers and the only way to curb such behaviour was to isolate them.

The cost of the partition is estimated at about $25,000 but Cr Dawn Crichlow warned the cost could blow out to about $100,000.

"The partition is wrong, the waste of money is wrong, when we have staff at Nerng working in sheds and with no car parking space," Cr Crichlow said.

"Any available money should be spent improving conditions there. We are isolating our- selves from the public gallery for what reason?

"I have been a councillor for nearly 14 years and the only time I've ever witnessed anyone throwing anything from the gallery (at Nerang) was when the former CEO Dr Doug Daines was sacked - people threw him roses," she said.

"In the past few months we've upset a lot of people and the gallery has reacted.

"What's wrong with that? I don't want to be protected from the gallery. They should be protected from us because of some of the decisions we've made."

With news in the air of yet another council chamber to be established elsewhere in the future somewhere, Cr Eddy Sarroff called for the partition not to go ahead until a decision was made on the future chamber. But that would not be for four or five years according to Mayor Ron Clarke.

Cr Daphne McDonald, one of the first to criticise disruptive galleries voted against the recommendation because she said a floor-to-ceiling partition was going to the extreme.

Crs Eddy Sarroff, Dawn Crichlow, Rob Molhoek, also voted against the partition.

Members in the public gallery last Monday sat like little mice. Some carried cloth placards which guaranteed no rustling.

Dr Karen Coates (Ratepayers Association) said she hoped the decision to ban all placards would be rescinded when commonsense prevailed.

Concerned citizens groups reacted with a mixture of anger and some humour at the partition decision.

The glass barrier could be up within weeks.

Across the border, neighbouring Tweed Shire Council Mayor said he thought the placard ban was impinging on the public's democratic right to protest, and a glass partition was going to the extreme.

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