Joan van Lieshout
Joan van Lieshout

Planning panel pair appointed

TWEED councillors yesterday appointed two Queensland-employed “experts” to make future decisions on major developments.

The councillors appointed Bond University lecturer in urban planning, assistant professor Ned Wales and Brisbane barrister Robert Quirk, son of Tweed Canegrowers' president Robert Quirk, to a Government-dominated planning panel of five which is due to be officially declared today.

The panel is to make decisions on major developments such as high-rise buildings, shopping centres and subdivisions, taking over a role traditionally held by elected councillors.

As a back-up panel member to replace either appointee, the councillors chose engineer Steven Grimes, the development manager of the Queensland Government's Urban Land Development Authority which was set up to sell off government land considered surplus to needs.

Although they all have homes here, none has a high public profile on the Tweed.

Late yesterday Dr Wales was unavailable for comment and Mr Quirk said he wanted to wait for confirmation about his appointment from the Council before making any comment.

Mr Grimes could not be contacted.

None of the 10 candidates for the positions stayed after a midday interview session to attend the council meeting which made the decision shortly after 2.30pm.

Some did not even turn up in person for the interviews held in a room adjacent to the office of Mayor Joan van Lieshout. Instead it is understood they were granted “tele-conference” interviews with councillors.

The three applicants were selected after a brief debate in which Greens Party councillor Katie Milne trying unsuccessfully to have former Greens councillor Henry James appointed to the third, back-up, position.

“Henry James is an outstanding candidate. I do believe if he had run for council this time... he would have been elected mayor,” she said. “I find it difficult to have Mr Steven Grimes on the panel.

“He is very much associated with the development side of things,”Cr Mile said.

A bid by Cr Kevin Skinner and Cr Phil Younbgblutt to appoint former council general manager Dr John Griffin to the third spot also failed.

Backing Messrs Wales, Quirk and Grimes, Mayor Joan van Liehsout said: “They are all fully qualified and I would like to see something fresh in the shire.”

The decision came despite almost half the other councils in NSW, including neighbouring Byron Shire, refusing to nominate members to the new government planning panels due to be officially set up today.

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