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Huon Valley Council and Support for Mayor Peter Coad

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Tags: Local Government, Huon Valley

Ms WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise to speak warmly in support of the outgoing mayor of the Huon Valley Council, Peter Coad.  Along with the other eight councillors, he will by now have received a letter from the Minister for Local Government advising that they are all now to be dismissed and there will be a commissioner called in. 

I want to speak very warmly on behalf of the many residents I know in the Huon Valley who highly respect Mayor Coad for what he has done for our community.  He has spoken up consistently.  He stood on a campaign of transparency and accountability and to rid the Huon Valley Council of the unhealthy and dysfunctional culture which ultimately led to a series of complaints being written to the minister calling for him to take action and investigate serious allegations of misconduct.  Ultimately that led to the minister bringing in a board of inquiry to investigate.  That board of inquiry made its findings, which came down in June. 

The minister at that point made a fatal error, in my judgment and in the judgment of many people in the valley.  He did not adopt the main recommendation of the board of inquiry but instead chose another path which the board of inquiry had specifically said would fail.  He instituted a mediation process that was in no way independent and has led to a series of conflict that have been ongoing in the Huon Valley Council since that time.  It has been three months now of residents waiting for change and for more than a ticked box of ministerial directives ostensibly being achieved, and in fact nothing has changed.  It got to the point where the mayor and two other councillors bravely decided to withdraw from the process, having given it their very best and done everything they could to uphold the principles of accountability and transparency they stand for.

I am very pleased to hear today the minister has decided to finally take the advice of the board of inquiry and will be bringing in a commissioner and not holding elections for at least 12 months.  Nobody thinks this is a happy day, but at least it is an independent process people can have confidence in.  I implore the minister to make every effort to ensure the choice of commissioner is independent, and that process is one the people of the Huon Valley can have confidence in and is transparent and accountable, because that is what the people will continue to demand until they get it.  The people of the Huon Valley are very strong willed, like all Tasmanians, and will not put up with bad government.  Now we have the prospect of that changing.

I would like to correct Mr Street's comments.  That is what you get for coming into this place with an open mind and being prepared to listen to what the minister was saying.  That is what I said on the day.  I made sure that my comments were caveated by the fact that I had not read the report of the board of inquiry, that I would be undertaking a comprehensive view after I had done so.  My initial views were, and still are, that what the board of inquiry recommended was good.  Unfortunately, that is not the path the minister took.  I am glad to be here today and hear he has finally made that decision.  I hope the people of the Huon Valley can look forward to better governance in the future.