(back) Katie Milne, Barry Longland, Kevin Skinner (front) Warren Polglase, Joan Van Lieshout and Phil Youngblutt, (inset) Dot Holdom.
(back) Katie Milne, Barry Longland, Kevin Skinner (front) Warren Polglase, Joan Van Lieshout and Phil Youngblutt, (inset) Dot Holdom. File photo

What do you think of our council?

FROM millionaire mayors to morons, the Tweed Shire Council's first twelve months in office have been interesting to say the least.

After four years in the political wilderness, following the sacking of the previous council after the Daly Inquiry, the Tweed elected a new group of local government representatives back in September of 2008.

And from the outset there has been plenty of controversy.

Greens Party ticket leader Katie Milne received 8131 first preference votes in the election, the highest in council's history.

But it was Joan van Lieshout, wife of multi-millionaire developer Peter van Lieshout, who eventually strode unopposed into the top job.

Cr van Lieshout's rise to the top job also raised several eyebrows with fears she would help her husband's new project, Nightcap Village, get ahead.

She declared she would take no part in council decisions on her husband's development, much to the fear of residents she would help get it approved.

Cr Warren Polglase promised that Jack Evans would go ahead no matter what and that council had the funds put aside to make sure that this project happened.

In the end there was not enough money for the redevelopment of the harbour and the project had to be mothballed.

In June, nine months after the new council was elected, councillors approved a 2.5 per cent pay rise for themselves.

In the end, only Cr Milne voted against the increase, which other councillors said they deserved as the money received for long hours and late-night meetings was unfair.

The payrise was an extra $380 a year, or $7.30 a week for councillors.

The Repco Rally Australia, a world-calibre event held in the Tweed, further divided councillors.

In August this year, Cr Milne earned the scorn of her colleagues by making public an internal council report critical of the event.

Council's Conduct Review Committee was called in after the six other councillors lodged complaints against Cr Milne.

At the time Cr van Lieshout said Cr Milne's actions were a rebellion against her colleagues and “as a council, we don't have any room for that type of behaviour.”

Cr van Lieshout drew criticism herself though after publicly revealing she wanted council general manager Mike Rayner to step down from his extra role on the board of Repco Rally Australia.

Approval for the Repco Rally was eventually taken away from council by the New South Wales Government, which introduced special legislation to approve the massive $100 million event.

Cr Milne joined the picket line against the event, both in the council chambers and at public rally functions.

She eventually attempted to gain an injunction against the rally in the Federal Court, just days before the race was set top begin.

However, her bid to stop the event was thrown out of court.

Last month a new mayor was elected from a brown cardboard box after a tied vote between Cr Polglase and Cr Barry Longland.

Cr Polglase, who was Mayor when the council was sacked following the Daly Inquiry, made an astonishing return to power.

The bizarre method to decide the vote drew severe criticism from Tweed residents who called for the mayoral election to be turned over to a public vote.

Days later, new deputy mayor Phil Youngblutt hit out at the shire's voters, describing many of them as “morons” with no idea how council operates.

He said voters could not be trusted if the system was changed to allow the public to elect a new mayor every four years.

Younblutt later apologised for his comments after much public backlash.

This paints a somewhat bleak picture but the sad reality is the controversies of the council's first year have far outweighed the group's achievements.

But we want to know what you, the community, thinks about our council. With a year's worth of drama to reflect on we now want to know who you think has performed in the job.

Who is our most effective councillor, who is our least effective councillor, and the all important question - if the public could vote on it, who would be our next mayor?

The polls have now closed but we will publish your results and how our councillors respond in Friday's edition of the Tweed Daily News.


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