MidCoast Council's recent ordinary meeting was far from ordinary with social distancing protocols in play and a group of police officers dropping by.
According to a council spokesperson, officers from the Manning Great Lakes Police District attended Taree council chambers on Wednesday, March 25 after receiving a phone call indicating there were too many people at the meeting.
Both the Federal and State Government's have been recommending the community practise social distance under the advice from the Health Department to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing means reducing the number of close physical and social contacts the community has with one another.
Understanding these guidelines, MidCoast Council decided to proceed with having its ordinary meeting open to the public while implementing the government directives.
On the same day, State Parliament passed the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 which removes the need for people to attend council meetings.
"The meetings may be held remotely by audio visual link or in any other manner approved by the Minister for Local Government. Members of the public are to be given access to the meeting by webcast or in any other manner approved by the minister," the bill states.
As the police must enact on ministerial orders, officers were required to attend the meeting to investigate the claim, according to a spokesperson for the Manning Great Lakes Police District.
According to council, the bill had passed through the State Parliament but had not commenced before the council meeting.
"The social distancing requirements were met by reducing the number of seats available in the public gallery and ensuring they are appropriately spread out," a council spokesperson said. "Four members of the public attended the meeting."
Another contentious issue discussed at the meeting was the resolution to enter into negotiations with a preferred tenderer with a view to award a contract for the conversion of the former Masters site on Biripi Way into council's head office.
However a rescission motion has since been received on this item and it will form the subject of an extraordinary meeting to be held at 1pm on Monday, March 30 in Taree.
Members of the public will not be able to physically attend the meeting, but will be able to view the meeting through a weblink accessed via council's website.
Other matters resolved at the March 25 meeting included:
- The establishment of a Community Recovery Bushfire Reference Group to provide strategic advice and feedback to assist Council to support the community to recover and renew following the bushfire events of late 2019. The reference group will support local recovery efforts and play an important role in helping individuals and communities get back on their feet by identifying and establishing priorities and providing information and advice to affected communities and recovery agencies.
- The engagement of an independent professionally qualified heritage consultant to prepare a conservation management plan for The Bight Cemetery. This plan will be prepared in accordance with the NSW Heritage Office guidelines and the National Trust guidelines for cemetery conservation.
- The audit of the 2018/19 financial statements was also reported to the meeting. The audited statements will now be lodged with the Office of Local Government by the approved extension deadline of 31 March 2020. The Financial Statements will be placed on exhibition during which time the community can make submissions. A date will also be set for the presentation of the annual financial reports by the auditor. This date will be advertised.
An audio recording of the proceedings will be available on the council's website over the coming days for those who wish to follow the process.
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