Dot Holdom, Kevin Skinner, Mike Rayner, Joan Van Lieshout, Warren Polglase, Barry Longland, Phil Youngbutt and Katie Milne
Dot Holdom, Kevin Skinner, Mike Rayner, Joan Van Lieshout, Warren Polglase, Barry Longland, Phil Youngbutt and Katie Milne Blainey Woodham

Council split on protest clampdown

MOBILE phones, protest signs and even people wearing kangaroo face masks are to be banned from Tweed Shire Council’s public gallery in a bid to maintain order – even though councillors failed to do just that at their latest meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting developed into a rowdy affair and at one stage was adjourned for 10 minutes after the councillors could not agree on dates for future meetings.

The move to ban signs and masks and order everyone, including the councillors, to turn off their mobile phones in the council chamber was led by Cr Dot Holdom in the wake of public protests at the previous meeting.

But the crackdown split the seven councillors four-three, with former deputy mayor Barry Longland warning the decision was “over the top.”

“It’s getting a bit far fetched,” Cr Longland said. “I can see safety issues on aeroplanes where we have to turn phones off. (But) people should be entitled to put their phone on silent. It’s not going to interfere with the navigation equipment (here).”

The banning of protest signs also caused friction among the councillors with Cr Longland declaring that if any sign was particularly offensive Mayor Warren Polglase could simply ask for it to be removed.

Cr Joan van Leishout supported his stance, declaring people had the right to express their views.

“We have a free democratic society. The character of the Tweed is the fact we allow the community to express itself,” she said.

Greens Party councillor Katie Milne also disagreed with the decision but Deputy Mayor Phil Youngblutt said he there was no place for protest signs in the gallery.

“We are not a venue for protests,” he said.

Cr Holdom said she had been “horrified at some of the signage that has been in the public gallery.”

And having mobile phones turned on during the meeting, she argued was simply “very rude”.

Councillors Longland, van Lieshout and Milne voted against the bans with Milne disappointed by the call to outlaw masks.

“They are not Dracula masks,” she said.

“They are masks about kangaroos and wallabies. The whole point about wearing a mask is that the wildlife is voiceless. People wear those masks to represent wildlife.”

Meanwhile, the council meeting had to be adjourned for 10 minutes during a lengthy and chaotic debate over future meeting dates and times.

Initially councillors voted to conduct community access sessions on the Monday before the council meeting. When Cr Phil Youngblutt made it clear he could not attend a rescission motion was hastily signed so the matter could be debated again.

Future community access meetings are now due to start at 2pm on the third Tuesday of the month, with the council meeting from 5pm.

The decision had its detractors with Cr Youngblutt and Cr Polglase voting against the move.

“It’s too long a day,” Cr Youngblutt said.

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