Fireworks at council meeting

A Ballina Shire councillorwas forced to apologise for an outburst in which she called a member of the public a sleazy little weasel after council was asked whether approval had been given for a private airstrip on the councillors property.

Alstonville farmer Paul Worth used last weeks public question time to ask council to confirm if Cr Margaret Howes had consent for the airstrip on her beachfront Empire Vale property and why a boundary fence on her property, which he had claimed was non-complying, was still in place.

A visibly angry Cr Howes interjected, saying the Aboriginals have been stuffing me around referring to the fencing issue and I dont need a DA for an airstrip.

She stood up saying she wasnt going to sit here like a dummy and take this...hes attacked me at too many council sessions.

I dont need a DA for an airstrip in my paddock...Ive got court judgements in my cupboard, she said before resuming her seat and calling Mr Worth a sleazy little weasel.

On hearing the remark, Cr Keith Johnson moved that she be declared out of order and that she should apologise for the comment and Cr Howes then said All right, Ill apologise, but I mean it.

Cr Howes said she would not stand for getting bullets in the back or for someone in the public gallery having a crack at meand that other councillors would not like it if it happened to them.

Cr Johnson then moved to expel her from the meeting when Cr Howes said fine, Id love to go home and apologised again before making a move to leave the chambers just as the public council session closed.

Cr Peter Moore said he was personally offended by Cr Howes earlier comments when referring to the Aboriginal community.

Councils group manager of regulatory services Rod Willis yesterday confirmed there was no development approval for the airstrip on Cr Howes rural property but that council was investigating whether approval was needed or not.

Mr Willis said the other issue of the boundary fence had been a long-standing one and development consent had been previously granted for a range of works on Cr Howes property, including environmental restoration.

As part of those works, a condition on the type of fence to be used at one boundary was put in place, requiring it be built so the adjacent beach area was not opened up to foxes which would impact on wildlife, including the nesting of birds at South Ballina Beach.

However, Mr Willis said the fence was of a different type to that stipulated and Cr Howes was asked to rectify it.

He said she had then applied to vary the consent to allow the existing fence and council was currently assessing whether it should stay or be modified.

Complex fauna and flora issues were involved and the local Aboriginal council had sought consultation over development there because of relics in the dunal area.

After the meeting, Mr Worth, who described himself as a small-time developer but more of a farmer who regularly attended council meetings, said he pursued the issue because he just wants to make sure councillors are held accountable.

Councillors should not only be doing things precisely by the (rule) book but seen to be doing the right thing they should be treated the same as any ratepayer and not get any special treatment, he said.

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